An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Lettergesh National School,Renvyle, County Galway

Roll number:09833W

 

Date of inspection: 27th November 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Report of Whole School Evaluation

Introducion – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of School Planning

The quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 


Report of Whole School Evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Lettergesh National School in November 2008.  It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for its further development. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Science. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

 

Introducion – school context and background

 

 

This three teacher school is situated on a picturesque elevated sloping site overlooking the sea expanse from Mannin Bay to the south in County Galway and Clew Bay to the North in County Mayo and overlooking the islands to the south-west of Clew Bay. The site itself is nestled on a coastal enclave and controls a panoramic view of Lettergesh beach and the entrance of the Killary fjord to the north and Renvyle peninsula to the south. The first national school was opened in this area under the patronage of Mitchell Henry in 1868 and school records and photographs are carefully stored and referenced in the current school building opened in 1976, directly across the road from the old school building. The original school was built to educate the children of the estate labourers. There is a mountain track from the school to Kylemore Abbey, the original home of Mitchell Henry, which the pupils walked last year in memory of their forefathers who worked on the estate. The current two classroom building remains much the same as when it was built. A prefabricated learning-support/ resource room was added to the building stock in 1999. The original classrooms are spacious and bright with plenty of natural light and vibrant displays reflecting the broad and balanced curriculum which is being delivered to a high standard. Additional supports are available in Drama, Art, Music and Dance, Physical Education as well as supports under the DEIS programme.

 

The school grounds and environs are well maintained, with seasonal shrubs, flower beds and hedges to the front of the school and basketball court, playing field, climbing frame and swings at the rear of the school. This area has a venerable tradition in education and the schools’ personnel have had a powerful impact on the social, cultural, economic and infrastructural development of north-west Connemara over the years. The long tradition of community development and parental involvement is fostered by the current staff and both parents and past-pupils participate regularly in school activities. These supportive activities contribute significantly to pupils’ progress at school and parental skills are augmented by the adult and second chance education programmes organised through the collaborate efforts of D.E.I.S coordinators and the community education services supported by the Vocational Education Committee. There has been a significant drop in population in this area over the past forty years with a consequential drop in school enrolment to the extent that only twenty three pupils are currently enrolled in the school.

 

The table below provides the general information on the staff and pupils registered in the school at the time of this evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

23

Mainstream classes in the school

7

Teacher(s) on the staff of the school

3

Teacher(s) in mainstream classes

2

Teacher(s) assigned to a support role (shared post)

2

Special needs’ assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission and vision of the school

This school is under the trusteeship of the Archdiocese of Tuam and is characterised by a strong Christian ethos with very positive working relationships among the whole school community. School opens every morning with a general assembly where matters of interest to pupils, teachers and parents are communally discussed and actions agreed. There is a welcoming familial atmosphere in the school and a stimulating personal learning environment is provided for the pupils. The school endeavours to provide an equal opportunities child-centred education for pupils based on their abilities and interests. To this end the school provides a well-structured curriculum tailored to pupils’ interests and abilities, in partnership with parents and the wider school community. The principal of the school is commended for developing the recent school plan and for focusing on raising the achievement standards of the pupils in literacy and numeracy in conjunction with the Education Research Centre. The principal and assistant teacher has been supported in the process by the part-time learning support teacher who is based in the school and through its parental second chance education opportunities organised through the home school coordinator. The level of co-operation among the schools at first and second level in this north–west Connemara area is very effective and it ensures a broad education programme through the D.E.I.S initiative, is delivered to parents and past pupils.    

 

1.2 The board of management

The board of management has been selected in accordance with the regulations of the Department of Education and Science. Records are kept of all proceedings and the key decisions and the actions to be taken are outlined. Officers of the board are formally allocated with specific duties and careful management is kept of expenditure. It was confirmed that the chairperson of the board meets with the principal on a regular basis, correspondence received is usually discussed and decisions are made through this process between meetings. The board ensures that comfortable accommodation is available that meets current health and safety standards and that the classrooms are well resourced with educational materials and equipment. The school is cleaned twice weekly and the caretaker ensures that  the school environs are well maintained. The board is pro-active in the current review of the school plan; it facilitates discussion on the issues and ratifies the agreed documents as a matter of procedure. The review should also include a plan on methodologies specifying the differentiated approach to teaching and learning to be practised, a human resources development plan for board members and staff, a review of the relationship and sexuality programme, prioritising investment for information technology, mathematics and science equipment to support workshops in these areas, and in increasing the broad stock of library books particularly in the Irish language.. The school plan includes a health and safety statement, a code of conduct, policies on school ethos and philosophy, child protection, assessment and reporting, school safety statement, as well as a range of curricular aspects. Discussions took place with the board regarding the various ways in which parents might be included in the ownership of the school plan as well as discussing practices in this regard.  

1.3 In school management

The two class teachers have posts of responsibility as principal and deputy principal and the duties allocated to the post of responsibility of deputy principal are being currently revised. The principal is a committed hard-working leader who promotes open communication with all the partners and has a clear coherent vision for the future development of the school. She is highly regarded by the board of management, by parents’ representatives and staff and she displays professionalism and leadership in her promotion of school activities.  She is professionally supported by all the members of the school staff and they all contribute to ensuring that there is a happy, convivial and safe learning environment in the school as well as providing a progressive education programme for the pupils. They ensure that a welcoming stimulating environment is created for the children, resources and support software are regularly used and school policies emphasise the centrality of pupils in their learning programme. A school policy on the use of technologies in education is in preparation with the assistance of the newly appointed classroom teacher and it is intended to use technology to extend pupil contact to other schools in the area. The teachers invest time and effort in continuous in-career development and they seek to develop independent learning skills in the pupils. Parents are informed of pupils’ progress at least once a year and other informal contacts with parents are welcomed throughout the school year. Written reports on pupils are given to parents at the end of the school year and an annual report on over all school progress is submitted to the board of management.

 

1.4 Managing relationships and communication with the school community

At the pre-evaluation meetings with board of management and parents’ representatives in advance of this evaluation, they acknowledged the professionalism and competence of the teachers. Both parties confirmed that they were satisfied with the way the school was operating. A lot of effort is currently being made to include parents practically in the education of their children through schemes such as DEIS and shared reading and a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere is encouraged in the school. The building is kept neat and tidy, both outside and inside, a structured maintenance plan is in operation. Credit is due to all the partners who care for the school in this exposed climate, particularly to the cleaner and caretaker who take an obvious pride in their work. The classrooms are attractively decorated with samples of the pupils’ work and other project work and the regular use of co-operative planning, educational materials and ICT resources ensure that pupils are engaged and enthused with their learning programme.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The school practises a clear, well defined code of behaviour which promotes a positive school approach with exemplary interpersonal relations between all the parties. This harmonious relationship pervades the school and is manifest in the schools’ positive and constructive ethos that flavours all its activities. A strong spirit of collaboration exists, relationships are open and well managed and every pupil feels cherished and held in high esteem. A code of behaviour and management plan is included in the school plan for a number of years however it has not been necessary to take recourse to its procedures. Although the school has invested in technical resources such as the interactive board in the senior classes, further investment in resources is now required as well as developing the stock of library books available in Irish. The pupils are divided between the two teachers with the senior classes the responsibility of the principal teacher and the junior classes the responsibility of the recently appointed assistant teacher. There is a high level of attendance by the pupils in the school and a broad list of extra curricular activities is available. The teachers ensure that the work programme is interesting and challenging and they foster the pupils’ skills as independent learners. Participation in local competitions and community celebrations is a feature of school life and past pupils frequently visit the school as assistants during their leisure periods.

 

 

2.     Quality of School Planning

 

2.1 Whole school planning and classroom planning

The school plan has been developed by Principal and staff over a number of years and it was agreed during this school evaluation that aspects of the school plan would be amended. It was also agreed that parents would be presented with these changes for their approval. The school plan currently includes organisational, pastoral and curricular elements and it is based on the current school context and on principles of good practice. Curricular elements are referenced to the strands and strand units in the curriculum and these also form part of individual teacher planning. Differentiated teaching and learning strategies are adopted in the delivery of the curriculum and a record is kept regularly of the progress of pupils. The range of methodologies used in teaching and learning is stimulating and engaging for the pupils and the teachers make frequent use of material resources and communication technologies during activities. The pupils engage successfully with their learning programmes in the senior classes and are well prepared for post-primary education.  Effective home school co-operation is practiced through the extensive adult education services provided through the D.E.I.S programme in the area.

 

 

2.2 Policies and practices in regard to child safety

It was confirmed, in accordance with Circular 0061/2006 from the Department of Education and Science, that the board of management has formally accepted the Guidelines for Primary Schools on the Protection of Children (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). It was also confirmed that management, staff and parents were made aware of these practices in regard to child safety; that copies of these practices were provided for all staff members (including new members); and that management has ensured that all staff understand what procedures are to be applied. A designated liaison person and a deputy liaison person have been appointed as required by the guidelines.

 

 

3.     The quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1   Language

 

Gaeilge

Muintear ceachtanna sa Ghaeilge go tioncharach sna hardranganna agus éiríonn leis na daltaí leibhéal ard tuisceana agus úsáide teanga a shroichint. Cothaítear na scileanna macnaimh ard-ord go rialta sa chur chuige agus baineann na daltá caighdeáin chreidiúnacha amach a thagann le na n’inniúlacht nadúrtha.   soiléir go bhfuil na hoidí féin an-bháúil do mhúineadh na  teanga agus go mbíonn tionchar dearfach acu ar mhian foghlama na ndaltaí. Is fiú an bhéim seo a choinneal ar chothú scileanna labhartha na teanga san athbhreithniu atá beartaithe i bhfheidhmiú an phlean scoile, go háiríthe sna ranganna sóisireacha. Is fiú freisin breis infheistíochta a dhéanamh i léitheoirí leabharlainne agus téacsleabhair nua-aimseartha i nGaeilge agus úsáid a bhaint as ‘Séideán sna bunranganna chun scileanna teanga a chothú. Ceanglaítear an scríbhneoireacht le réamh-phlé ó bhéal agus tugtar deiseanna do na daltaí a bpíosaí saothair a chláru i réimsí teoranta. B’fhiú breis deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí a gcuid saothar a chur i láithair pobal níos leithne tríd an idirlíon agus trí fhoillsiúcháin tréimhsiúla ón scoil féin. spiorad rannpháirtíochta agus sástacht na ndaltaí follasach sa chur chuige agus cothaítear féin mhuinín agus pearsantachtaí na ndaltaí mar dlúth chuid den obair

 

Irish

Instruction in Irish lessons is effectively presented in the senior classes and the pupils achieve a high level of understanding and language use. Higher order thinking shills are regularly emphasised in the approach and the pupils achieve creditable standards commensurate with their abilities. It is obvious that the teachers are favourably disposed to teaching the language and this has a positive influence on the pupils’ motivation in learning. It is recommended to retain the emphasis on developing fluency in the current review of the school plan in Irish, particularly in the junior section. Further investment in the library stock of books in Irish and on modern Irish text-books should also be included and the language programme ‘Séidean ’ could be used in the junior section to develop language competence. The writing programme is based on previous discussion and the pupils’ written work is practised in limited genres. It would be worthwhile to give the pupils access to a wider readership through the internet and school periodicals. The pupil’s participative spirit and satisfaction with the process is noticeable and their self-confidence and personalities are intrinsically developed through their experiences.

 

English

The key principles of the English curriculum are presented on a structured sequential basis. The school plan identifies the curricular framework and methodologies, it also identifies the programmes utilised and lists the various resources available. Early language activities are linked to the development of pupils’ skills in reading and emphasis is placed on developing phonic and phonemic awareness in this approach. Cloze-procedure activities and flashcard games are used to foster the development of comprehension skills and large format books promote the pupils’ enjoyment of story in the junior classes. The novel is used to support the reading programme in the senior classes and the computerised library system tracks and extends the reading experience of the pupils. This approach supports the policy of continuous investment in appropriate library material adopted in the school. Overall the pupils achieve good standards in reading as is obvious from standardised assessment results.

Practical experience is provided for the pupils in the process of drafting, editing and rewriting in a range of genres and examples of pupils work is on display in both classrooms and public areas. Their written pieces could be circulated to a larger reading public using a school newsletter or local publication. Drama, circle time and discussion are used to develop the communicative approach and an excellent anthology of poetry and rhyme is offered. Parents are encouraged to engage in shared reading exercises with the pupils. Continuous use of library books is a central feature of classroom practise and shared silent reading is practised by all the classes. Pupils’ progress is carefully monitored through a variety of assessment procedures including teacher observation, questioning, written tasks, correction of copies as well as the use of standardised tests. 

 

3.2 Mathematics

The teaching of mathematics has been clearly influenced by the approach recommended in the curriculum; a specific programme has been outlined in the school plan and textbooks are used as a guide for exercises on problem solving. The use of work stations and concrete materials to develop an understanding of the basic concepts is practised. Further investment in mathematical resources to support the additional use of workshops is recommended. Mental work features regularly as part of the programme and attention is given in both classrooms to the terminology of mathematics. Pupils have opportunities to develop their prediction and estimation skills and the strategies used to promote problem solving are commendable. Group-work supporting the range of abilities of pupils in the various classes is organised effectively and pupil activities are guided to achieve the stated teaching objectives.

 

3.3 Science

A structured programme in science is outlined in the school plan and in individual teacher preparation. Life elements are studied as well as energy and forces, materials, as well as knowledge and care of the environment. The programme should be extended to include local marine, climatic and ecological aspects pertinent to living in this coastal region.  Pupils work pro-actively in experimentation and work co-operatively to refine their skills. Pupils participate in construction and have designed and fabricated working models of a periscope in the senior classes during this inspection. Research work and investigative opportunities are utilised to examine items of interest and practical workshops develop the pupil’s experience of a collective scientific approach to problem solving. The curriculum support services should be invited to provide an in-service training programme in science later during this school year.

 

3.4 Assessment

Standardised tests are used to monitor the progress of pupils. Other strategies such as teacher observation, checklists, compilations of work samples, projects as well as teacher designed tests, are also used and analysed at teacher meetings. The results of standardised and criterion referenced tests are recorded on an ongoing basis and the scores are collated sequentially for all class groups. The results should be reviewed regularly to update appropriate learning targets for the individual pupils.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The part-time teacher on the staff is responsible for general allocation learning support hours as well as low incidence resource hours. A well thought out scaffolded programme of support is offered in literacy and numeracy directed at pupils needs and is delivered in an effective co-ordinated manner. Pupils are regularly returned to fulltime class work after a period and remain closely monitored as part of the after care service. The home school liaison coordinator is based in an adjoining school and provides services to pupils and parents in this school on a clustered basis. The coordinator works in close co-operation with health and education agencies in the area and provides structured effective interventions to the focussed groups. The D.E.I.S. programme provides support of a sensitive and developmental nature to pupils with identified needs as well as to parents. 

 

 

4.2 Additional supports for pupils: disadvantaged pupils and pupils from minority or other groupings

 

It was confirmed by the school that all pupils currently enrolled in the school are of a similar background and are indigenous to this community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         The mature behaviour and co-operation of pupils is commendable.

·         The professionalism effectiveness and diligence of the teachers in regard to their work is commendable.

·         A positive learning environment has been created in the school.

·         Good provision is made for pupils with learning difficulties.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

·         The current review of the school plan should include the areas mentioned in this report.

·         Further planned investment in school resources and library is recommended.

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

Published February 2009