An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Náisiúnta Bhaile an Chrosaigh
Ballyduff, Tralee, County Kerry
Uimhir rolla: 09841V
Date of inspection: 13 February 2007
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Ballincrossig NS. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management and parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. 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.
Ballincrossig NS or Scoil Náisiúnta Bhaile an Chrosaigh is situated a few kilometres from Ballyduff in north Kerry. The original national school was founded in 1869. A new school premises was officially opened in 1965 and later extended in 1973. The school has served the Ballincrossig area for a long period and it plays a central and crucial role in the community. There are some twenty-five families represented in the enrolment of thirty pupils and the school staff consists of two full-time teachers and one part-time teacher.
The school is under the patronage of the Bishop of Kerry. The board of management meets once per term and occasionally more often depending on circumstances. The chairperson meets with the staff regularly while certain members of the board take on particular roles to assist the business of the board. The board focuses much of its attention on seeing after the school and its maintenance and it attends to necessary works in a timely fashion. Many improvements have been effected in the recent past and these centre on safety matters and also on the improvement of the facilities for the children. For example, the board has made substantial internal alterations to the school creating two valuable small rooms for learning support and for an office. Outside, an old shelter was removed and the basketball court and entrance to the school were improved. All in all, it is apparent that the board takes considerable trouble to ensure that necessary adjustments are effected and that every effort is made to provide a safe and attractive school environment for the pupils. It is evident that the board takes keen interest in all the affairs of the school and that it gives excellent support to all the activities of the school. Among the activities that are undertaken regularly are school sports, a fashion show and dance, and a school concert that is a particular highlight for the local community.
The principal is assiduous in the discharge of his duties. He provides effective and careful leadership for all the work of the school and devotes full and studied attention to all aspects of school business. The principal has overseen the updating and adjustment of the school’s planning material since his appointment and virtually all of the policy aspects have been revamped and ratified by the board over the past year or so. The principal fosters a positive atmosphere in all the activities of the school and the pupils are well trained to cooperate and give of their best in their school work. The principal and the special duties post-holder collaborate well and share certain responsibilities for curricular aspects. The organisational and curricular aspects of the school are managed capably while supervision and safety are accorded careful attention.
The school has two spacious classrooms, a general purpose room with a fixed stage, storage rooms, an office and a learning support room. There is also a small staff area. Outside there is a hard court play area, a basketball court with nets and safety surrounds for the poles and a wide grassy area. Good use is made of the facilities and these are kept well and renewed as necessary. There is need for some improvement for the staff area. Some new items of furniture such as notice boards and teachers’ desks and chairs would enhance the facilities further.
The school has a good stock of equipment and materials to assist in the implementation of the curriculum. Books, charts, posters, computers, materials and equipment are supplied in good measure and these resources are well used to enhance the work in the classrooms.
The school is maintained very well and cleaning and necessary works are carried out in a careful and effective manner.
Though there is not a formal parents’ association in place, the school has a very strong bond with its parent body. There is a fine tradition of very good community spirit and relations in this locality and it is apparent that the school is in many ways the fulcrum of the community. There are good systems in place for communication generally with parents and homework and other elements are managed with consideration. Parent teacher meetings are provided for in an appropriate and helpful fashion. End of year reports are furnished to the parents. The annual concert and sports day are used very effectively to maintain good relationships and parents are prominently involved in the organisation of these events. The board should give consideration to the setting up of a parents’ association with a view to developing further the good community spirit that obtains.
The pupils are very well trained to work and to cooperate with their teachers. The school has a positive tradition of work and success and the pupils are carefully nurtured in their growth and progression through the classes. The principal and the teachers ensure that the pupils adhere to the school’s rules and general code of behaviour and there is a high degree of respect both for their peers and for adults to be discerned among the pupils.
A substantial School Plan has been developed and this is contained in two large volumes. This is clear and comprehensive and suitably detailed in many of its parts. The plan includes a mission statement, enrolment policy, code of behaviour and discipline, bullying policies, homework policy, substance use policy, equality policy as well as other elements. The school has a thorough safety statement that has been done with the voluntary assistance of a former pupil of the school and this is a feature that is apparent in respect of other aspects of the school’s activities in that parents and others give generous assistance and sponsorship for school-related events.
The curricular elements are provided for with diligence. All aspects of the curriculum are covered and the plans are appropriate and useful. For example, the plan for English outlines the strands, the phonic programme, the approaches that will be used for teaching and promoting reading, and the provisions for a book fair and for the visit of an author to the school. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is provided for and the school has provision for external assistance for particular aspects of this facet of its work. The school has a plan for information and communication technology (ICT) and this includes the provision of a series of ten lessons for classes from senior infants to sixth by an external tutor. The school has a good stock of equipment to assist the pupils with ICT. The plans are signed and ratified by the chairperson and the board and dated with review dates mentioned. Overall, this work is done in a methodical and creditable fashion.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. The principal has been appointed designated liaison person in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The teachers plan their work with careful regard for the curriculum and in accordance with the plan set out for the school. Resources and materials are used to assist classroom work and display areas and samples of pupils’ work are placed appropriately. Books are arranged in an attractive manner and the pupils have good access to all the features that are supplied to aid learning. The teachers maintain careful account of progress. There is good provision for planning in respect of pupils with particular needs.
All members of staff place special emphasis on the work in classrooms and there is a strong commitment towards the fullest realisation of each individual pupil’s potential. Teaching is accorded central importance and energy and vigour are given to the work. Pupils manifest keen interest in their programme of study and there are good levels of achievement in evidence. The pupils enter into their lessons with willingness and alacrity.
Múintear an Ghaeilge le dúthracht agus cuirtear na ceachtanna ar siúl go beoga. Baintear feidhm as an nGaeilge go neamhfhoirmiúil i rith an lae agus tugtar treoracha go minic ionas go gcloisfeadh na leanaí an Ghaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh sa scoil. Labhraíonn na daltaí go misniúil agus aithrisíonn siad rannta agus dánta go muiníneach. Tá tuiscint agus foclóir ag na daltaí agus pléann siad a gceachtanna go hábalta. Leagtar amach cleachtaí scríbhneoireachta go rialta agus léiríonn na daltaí dul chun cinn cuí san obair i gcoitinne. Moltar go ndéanfaí forbairt sa bhreis le prionta níos mó a bheith ar taispeáint sa scoil chun an obair a dhaingniú níos fearr.
Irish is taught with diligence and the lessons are implemented with energy. The language is used informally during the day and instructions are often given in Irish so that the children may hear it as a spoken language in the school. The children speak confidently and they recite rhymes and poems with assurance. The children display understanding of Irish and they have a good store of vocabulary. They discuss their lessons capably. The written exercises are developed regularly and the pupils manifest suitable progress in the work in general. It is recommended that the print display in Irish might be further extended in the school to consolidate the work.
The lessons in English are carefully presented and developed. The pupils are engaged by their work and the material selected for discussion is well suited to the ages and interests of the pupils. News items are given careful treatment and the pupils benefit from the challenge built into the lessons. Phonological awareness is developed with the junior pupils and suitable differentiation is a feature of the work. Rhymes and poems are given appropriate prominence though individual recitation and presentation might be given further emphasis. Dictionary skills are being developed and the pupils display interest in their exercises. Reading is accorded particular emphasis and there is good evidence of fluency and success in reading with beneficial access to a good variety of books. Written work is provided regularly and the skills of writing are being developed with a suitable range of genres in evidence. The pupils’ work is corrected and supervised with care.
Lessons in Mathematics are a regular aspect of work and the teachers give careful attention to the development of knowledge and skills in this area of the curriculum. Number work is given appropriate emphasis and the pupils display good knowledge of tables and mental work. Elements of all of the strands of the programme are to be found in the work completed by the children. Written work is regularly developed and there is careful supervision and correction of work. In the junior division, a lot of the written work is in the pupils’ textbook and it is recommended that independent work in copies needs to be further emphasised and developed. Also, it is recommended that the classrooms should feature somewhat more display and materials for Mathematics especially in designated corners to assist work in this area of the curriculum.
Lessons in history feature regularly. Where sampled, the work is suitably developed and thorough. Appropriate topics are selected and the pupils are given insight and understanding about times past. Elements of the lessons are featured in written work and the pupils manifest good progress in the subject. Timelines, diagrams and illustrations might be used more frequently to assist pupils’ understanding of particular features.
Geography is given due attention in the school. Lessons on particular features of Ireland and of other countries are taught to good effect. Pupils reveal good knowledge of topics studied. The earth and its motions are featured and good use is made of equipment such as maps and the globe to assist understanding. Suitable items are featured in written tasks and local maps are given attention on occasion. The skills of map drawing should be given further emphasis.
Lessons in science are a regular aspect of the work in both divisions of the school. Pupils are keenly interested by the topics that are studied and they have good opportunities for hands-on work with items such as magnets and batteries. Experiments are featured valuably and the pupils benefit from the experiences that are provided. Worksheets and posters are used to consolidate lessons and particular models are constructed to demonstrate applications of particular lessons. Overall, the work in science is well developed in the school.
Varied themes are used for work in visual arts. The pupils have opportunities to participate in individual and group lessons in art and valuable linkages are made with other elements of the curriculum in the promotion of arts education. The pupils illustrate and draw, they paint and they construct, and on occasion they have opportunities for clay modelling. Seasonal aspects are reflected in the work. There are opportunities also for responding to art. The pupils discuss their art work with enthusiasm.
The principal takes responsibility for much of the work in music and the pupils are well trained and practised in musical activities. Percussion, rhythm and sight reading are taught with confidence and success while the pupils show deep interest and enthusiasm for this work. The children have an excellent repertoire of songs and these are rendered with great pleasure and enjoyment. The pupils are actively engaged with movement to music on occasion while the teacher supplies accompaniment on various instruments depending on particular tunes. The pupils also play tin whistle and accordion and solo items and band tunes are played with feeling and with spirit. The work is highly commended and is manifestly a striking aspect of the overall achievement of the school. The work done in music is a central feature of the annual concert and it is apparent that this is a key element of the overall success of the school. The principal sometimes provides instruction in instrumental music after school to pupils who wish to avail of it.
Elements of drama are to be found in several aspects of the work of the school. In Irish and in English, opportunities are availed of to dramatise and present certain lesson elements. The school features dramatic pieces in the annual concert and the children have good opportunities to develop their skills in this aspect of work. The pupils have good exposure to dramatic activity.
The children have varied opportunities for physical activity. Swimming, basketball, football and school sports are among the outlets the children have for activity. The formal lessons in physical education are held in the general purpose room where there is an ample supply of equipment for skills and games. Benches and mats are used to develop certain activities and skills and the pupils benefit from their instruction. Games are played and music is used to provide further scope for lessons. However, there is need for the discipline and training of the pupils to be strengthened so that they may benefit more fully from their work in this aspect of the curriculum.
There are many facets of the work of the school that support the development of the pupils’ knowledge and skills in the area of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). The school promotes healthy lunches and has rules to curtail certain types of containers and materials from use by the pupils. The food pyramid is given suitable prominence in the classrooms and the children have a good understanding of its meaning. Topics in safety, health and interpersonal relations are explored usefully in the formal lessons and the children display good understanding of matters they have studied. Written work is undertaken on occasions to record features that have been examined. It is apparent that the children benefit from their instruction in SPHE.
There is careful provision for assessment in the school. A range of standardised tests is used as well as teacher observation and teacher designed tests to monitor pupils’ progress. The teachers are very well aware of their pupils’ strengths and any difficulties that pupils encounter in learning. The teachers adjust their programmes of work to cater for identified needs. The assessment records are kept with care.
The school shares the services of a learning support teacher who is based in a neighbouring school. She spends 7.5 hours per week here providing one and a half hours tuition per day. A small number of pupils have particular needs. The teacher makes use of the small room that was created in the recent past to provide for special needs. The room is very well stocked with visual display items, books and equipment while shelves and a filing cabinet provide suitable storage for particular pieces. The teacher prepares her work capably and focuses attention on pupils below the 10th percentile in both English and Mathematics in addition to early intervention work for those subject areas and some work with high achievers. Tests and their results are carefully managed and interpreted and interventions are aimed at alleviating particular difficulties. There is good liaison with the class teachers in relation to particular children and every effort is made to give assistance to children in the context of their own class groups. Individual Profiles and Learning Programmes are carefully set out and priority learning needs are well delineated. Word attack strategies, sight vocabulary, phonic work and shared reading are among the elements given attention by the teacher and suitable books to assist literacy development are used for home reading. Lists of books that have been read are posted up to stimulate interest and assist further progress. The work is well matched to the pupils’ needs and the teacher is creative and imaginative in her approach. It is recommended that social Mathematics be accorded special priority in the case of those children whose test results indicate the need for same.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
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.