An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Coore National School, Mullagh, Ennis, County Clare.

Uimhir rolla:  10191P

 

Date of inspection: 12 November 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Coore National School was undertaken in November, 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and History.  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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Coore National School is a small co-educational two-teacher Catholic school located in a rural setting in the parish of Kilmurray Ibrickane. The school is located in west Clare approximately five kilometres east of Mullagh village and is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killaloe. The school is one of five schools in the parish. The population served by the school comes from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds.

 

Pupil enrolment has fallen significantly from 64 to 17 since the last school inspection and the school has evolved from a three-teacher to a two-teacher school. This decrease in enrolment is reported to be related to the changing demographics in the school’s immediate catchment area. It is anticipated that enrolment will be sustained in the foreseeable future, due to the recent enrolment of new families and the strong community support for the school. Pupil attendance levels are consistently high. The vigilance, perseverance and success of staff in encouraging regular attendance are commended. The clear comprehensive attendance policy developed provides useful guidance for staff.

 

The school is identified for inclusion in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), a  Department of Education and Science scheme to alleviate educational disadvantage. As part of this initiative, the school shares the services of a DEIS co-ordinator with the four other schools in the parish. In addition, two learning-support/resource teachers provide supplementary support for 17.5 hours per week.

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

17

Mainstream classes in the school

7

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistant (infant day)

0

Part-time secretary (on needs basis only)

1

Part-time caretaker

0

Part-time cleaner (10 hours per week)

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Very good emphasis is placed on fostering respect for the dignity of each individual’s background, tradition and beliefs. The school is characterised by its inclusive approach and its strong sense of community. Every effort is made to help pupils develop a healthy self-image and to treat others with tolerance, mutual respect and sensitivity. The focus and concentration of the staff is to provide a holistic education for all pupils focusing on intellectual, emotional, physical, social aspects within a spiritual and moral framework. The school’s vision is clearly articulated in the school plan and on display in the school entrance area. It is communicated effectively to parents through the school information booklet, Mol an Óige agus tiocfaidh siad. The board of management and staff are congratulated for the successful manner in which they promote and maintain this characteristic spirit.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly, in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Education and Science. There is a diverse range of skills and experience among its members. The officers of the board have recently received training on their respective roles. This training, titled the Well Springs Initiative, was organised by the Killaloe diocese in conjunction with the Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA). Members of the board are appropriately assigned roles to include maintenance, and health and safety responsibilities. The school chaplain, who was the previous chairperson of the board, continues to actively serve as a board member. The principal acts as secretary and minutes are carefully maintained. The chairperson communicates regularly with the principal and visits the school, when required. Agenda are circulated in advance of meetings, in line with best practice. Accounts of income and expenditure are maintained by the treasurer and are audited externally on an annual basis, in accordance with Section 18 of the Education Act (1998).

 

This board is well-informed and most attentive to its obligations and responsibilities in actively supporting the needs of the school. Much time at board meetings is spent on the review, drafting and ratifying of whole-school policies and matters relating to the organisational planning of various school activities. Very good efforts have been made by the board to ensure that policies developed are in line with relevant legislation and Department circulars. It is planned to develop a policy on healthy eating and information and communication technology (ICT) in the near future. The board of management is commended for its commitment to discharging its statutory role in relation to supporting the school development planning process in such a positive, responsible and accountable manner.

 

The board effectively oversees the regular upkeep of the school building and external environs, which are maintained to a very high standard. A general-purposes room separate to the main school building was constructed in 2006. The board and staff are to be congratulated on providing this physical resource that greatly enhances the educational opportunities of pupils. Currently, the board is in the process of negotiating the purchase of a neighbouring sports-field, which has been leased by the board for a period in excess of 30 years. The school set-down and car parking area has recently been resurfaced. The development of the surrounding school landscape has been identified as the next area requiring attention as part of the work of the Green School initiative. This development work is praiseworthy.

 

The board articulates its satisfaction with the school’s modern facilities and resources, the very good behaviour and attendance of pupils, the supportive parent body and the effective school-home communication structures in place. Board members also paid tribute to the positive learning environments created, the opportunities provided for pupils to engage in various quiz competitions and the strong links fostered with the local community. The board is supportive of staff engaging in continuous professional development. Consideration should be given to the development of a staff development policy to incorporate details of continuous professional development undertaken by individual staff members.

 

It would be of benefit for the board to prepare a planning diary and three-year action plan incorporating timeframes for the completion of agreed tasks. The board is also reminded of its obligation to issue an annual report, as required by Section 20 of the Education Act, 1998.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team comprises the principal and an assistant teacher with a special duties post. The teaching principal, appointed in 2006, demonstrates a high level of commitment to the pupils, staff, parents and board of management. She has received training from Misneach, an induction course for newly appointed principals, organised by the Department-funded programme Leadership Development for Schools. The principal displays effective leadership and management skills, and in collaboration with the staff, creates a positive school climate. Communication is open, responsibilities are shared, positive relationships are fostered and there is a strong emphasis on collaborative decision-making. Since her appointment, the principal has very successfully advanced the whole-school development and review process to augment the successful operation of the school. She places a strong emphasis on continuously improving teaching and learning in the school and her commitment to meeting the welfare needs of pupils is laudable. Effective lines of communication are established with the wider parent community. As well as effectively leading learning in her own classroom, daily administrative tasks are adeptly completed and official records are carefully maintained. Formal staff meetings are organised once a term, in accordance with Department guidelines. The minutes of these meetings indicate that the main focus of recent meetings relate to curricular and organisational planning. Informal staff meetings occur on a regular basis.

 

The special duties post-holder displays a professionalism, willingness and enthusiasm in carrying out a wide range of duties, which were recently reviewed. In accordance with Circular 17/00, these duties span an appropriate balance of organisational, curricular and pastoral responsibilities, and are clearly defined in the school plan. The principal and special duties post-holder have complementary skills and work respectfully and effectively as a team.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school’s strong family ethos is nurtured through the regular dissemination of information to parents. The practice of issuing copies of the school information booklet to parents of junior infants and new entrants is praiseworthy. This booklet is accessible, comprehensive and all-encompassing and provides a user-friendly and practical guide to school procedures and practices, organisational matters and policies relating to curricula and extra-curricular implementation. A very good foundation has been laid for the ongoing review and development of whole-school self-evaluation practices.

 

Very good efforts are made to inform parents of pupils’ progress. Annual parent-teacher meetings are organised at the beginning of each school year and written end-of-year progress reports are issued annually to all parents.

 

Regardless of the absence of a parents’ association, positive home-school links are fostered through the parent representatives on the board of management. Parents are also involved in various fund‑raising events, such as the annual social with past-pupils. The school maintains regular correspondence with parents and the small school size facilitates frequent informal parent-teacher contact. The establishment of a parents’ association affiliated to the National Parents’ Council should be kept under review. Such an internal school structure would facilitate the meaningful engagement of parents in the whole-school planning process in managing change and ongoing development.

Parents’ representatives from the board of management reported that the wider parent body is very cooperative and highly supportive of the work of the school. The parents interviewed praised the very good communication channels between home and school, the openness of staff and their willingness to discuss and share information on school policy, pupils’ progress and other school-related issues.  Parents are actively encouraged to communicate with class teachers through the use of journals. Parents reported that equal opportunities are provided for boys and girls. They welcomed other initiatives organised such as the speech and drama lessons, swimming classes and quizzes. Particular reference was made to the promotion of reading in the school, the maintenance of reading records and the use of active learning in the teaching of Irish and Mathematics. Parents communicated that pupils adjust very well in their transition to post-primary school and receive good grades in subsequent examinations. Parents interviewed were optimistic that, despite the small school size, a number of parents may be interested in establishing a parents’ association.

 

At present a brief reference is made to the promotion of home-school links in the information booklet issued to parents. It is recommended that a discrete whole-school policy be developed to reflect the school’s continuing efforts in fostering links between school and home.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The clear easily-understood code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy are implemented effectively in collaboration with parents. The caring, supportive and welcoming school environment fostered enables pupils to thrive in a safe environment. Pupils are courteous, well-behaved and display a good interest in learning. Classroom interaction between teachers and pupils is very positive and a spirit of mutual respect exists among pupils, and between pupils and staff. There is a very good level of supervision, which leads to a high level of routine and order at break times. Responsible behaviour is encouraged and affirmed and high standards of behaviour are expected. Rules for appropriate behaviour are clear and consistently implemented. Pupils’ individual achievements and successes are celebrated. Pupils are given responsibility to recycle litter and care for the environment through their involvement in the Green Schools initiative.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The overall quality of whole-school planning is very good. The school plan is indexed clearly and presented in a user-friendly, understandable and rational style. Following her appointment in 2006, the principal conducted a thorough internal review of the existing whole-school plan in collaboration with the staff and board of management. The progress achieved to date on the development and review of a range of organisational and curricular policies is commendable. A professional approach is adopted and appropriate consultation has occurred with the national support services with regard to policy development and curriculum implementation. The policies ratified take into account legislative and Departmental requirements, and are specific to the needs and resources of the school. The policies developed in each curricular area are comprehensive and reflect the structure of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Very useful guidance is provided on content, strategies, methodologies, linkage, integration and assessment to support the implementation of curricular policy.

 

The school plan is available to the greater parent body for viewing in the school and various policies are distributed to parents during the course of the school year. The information booklet provides a clearly-written summary of the school’s vision and relevant school policies on homework, behaviour, gender equality, learning-support and the content and skills to be developed in the curriculum. It is anticipated that the future involvement of parents in the whole-school development planning process will be realised through a parents’ association.

 

All teachers provide useful and relevant written preparation for their work, in compliance with Rule 126, Rules for National Schools. Agreement has been reached on the use of a monthly recording framework incorporating each strand and stand unit of the curriculum, which facilitates the regular and detailed recording of work covered. This development is noteworthy and the detailed records completed by teachers could now be beneficially used as a formative assessment tool.  Copies of these monthly records are completed regularly and stored centrally. The use of visual teaching materials by all teachers enhances the impact of lessons and contributes positively to learning environments created. Very good attention is given to the differentiation of tasks for individual students.

 

There is considerable variation in the layout of long-term planning provided.  The quality of this planning ranges from good to very comprehensive. In instances where the learning targets are focussed and specific, there is a greater impact on the systematic, developmental and progressive delivery of the curriculum. There is a need in some classes to focus on the recording of clear objective-based learning outcomes to be achieved.  It would be of benefit to include a guideline and agreed framework in the school plan regarding long-term and short-term preparation and planning.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines. 

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

English

The whole-school policy in English provides a useful guide for the teaching of all elements of the English curriculum. Further review and analysis are necessary to ensure that this policy influences the systematic implementation of a structured oral language programme and the improvement in the quality of pupils’ imaginative writing.

 

Overall the provision for this curricular area ranges from good to very good. Good attention is given to the development of pupils’ oral language skills throughout the school. The school fosters positive habits with regard to speaking and listening using suitable stimuli. Pupils are exposed to a wide range of rhyme and poetry and enjoy reciting poems in all classes. The early intervention initiatives recently implemented to improve pupils’ oral language skills in junior and senior classes are commendable. Pupils are given valuable opportunities to research topics and express their opinions through the regular class debates organised in senior classes. It is recommended that agreement be reached on the development of a whole-school structured oral language programme across a range of suitable themes to support vocabulary extension and pupils’ writing skills.

 

The reading programme is broad, balanced and successfully implemented. A language experience approach and structured pre-reading programme form the basis of the infant and junior class plan. Very good emphasis is placed on the development of phonological and phonemic awareness skills through the use of a range of large-format books in these classes. Most pupils have attained a very good mastery of phonics. There is effective development of a range of reading and comprehension skills as pupils progress through the school. A number of novels are skilfully explored by the DEIS coordinator in senior classes. A shared-reading programme between parents and pupils is implemented on a school-wide basis in order to target the improvement of pupils’ literacy skills. Much effort is expended on providing pupils with positive experiences of books and reading. Pupils have access to a range of age-appropriate children’s literature in classrooms and in the central library area. Well-known poets and writers are invited to work with pupils and an annual book fair is organised for parents and pupils. By middle and senior classes, most pupils have developed an ardent interest in reading and can read with good to very good levels of fluency and comprehension, commensurate with their ability. Reading records are maintained in all classes.

 

The emphasis placed on developing pupils’ handwriting and presentation skills is variable between classes. Frequent pre-writing and free writing opportunities are provided in junior classes and a high quality is achieved by these pupils. There is scope for development in the quality of pupils’ writing as they progress through the school. It is recommended that a broader range of drafting and redrafting opportunities be provided for pupils to improve their writing skills. The school should give consideration to participating in initiatives such as Write-a-Book Project or by requesting senior pupils to produce books for junior pupils. This would provide additional impetus, stimulation and motivation for pupils to write for an audience and lead to an improvement in the quality of pupils’ writing. Agreement needs to be reached regarding the introduction of cursive handwriting to guide its effective whole-school implementation. The potential of ICT in enhancing pupils’ writing skills should be exploited.

 

3.2 Gaeilge

Tá ardchaighdeán líofachta sa Ghaeilge ag oidí na scoile seo agus cuireann a spéis sa teanga go mór leis an atmaisféar Gaelach atá forbartha sa scoil. Tá moladh ar leith tuillte ag na hoidí don tslí ina úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go teagmhasach sa seomra foirne agus mar theanga bhainisteoireachta ranga. Cuirtear prionsabal an tumoideachais i bhfeidhm go héifeachtach le linn na gceachtanna i ngach rang agus tugtar faoi réimse breá gníomhaíochtaí ag gach leibhéal ranga chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn.

 

Aithrisíonn na daltaí cnuasach maith rann, amhrán agus filíochta go muiníneach tríd an scoil. Is éifeachtach an fheidhm a bhaintear as cairteacha, lipéid, luaschártaí, cluichí cainte, geáitsíocht, foghlaim ghníomhach, rólghlacadh, modh na scéalaíochta agus drámaíocht chun tuiscint ar fheidhmeanna faoi leith teanga a chur chun cinn. Léann formhór na ndaltaí go líofa agus le tuiscint. Ba thairbheach an t‑úsáid a baineadh as luaschártaí sna ceachtanna léitheoireachta le linn na meastóireachta. Léiríonn an plean scoile go leagtar béim mhaith ar fheasacht chultúir i múineadh na Gaeilge trí dhamhsaí Gaelacha agus ceol traidisiúnta a mhúineadh. Moltar an dea-chleachtas seo.

 

Tá stór leathan focal ar eolas ag na daltaí sna bunranganna agus tá said in ann abairtí simplí a chumadh agus comhrá leanúnach a dhéanamh ar théamaí éagsúla. Cé go gcuirtear béim inmholta ar mhúineadh raon leathan foclór agus seanfhocal sna hardranganna, is léir, go bhfuil gá le taithí breise a thabhairt do na daltaí an Ghaeilge a úsáid mar theanga chumarsáide sna ranganna seo. Cuireann an easpa tuisceana i láimhseáil na mbriathra agus na réamhfhocal isteach ar chumas na ndaltaí labhairt faoi théamaí ar leith ag na rangleibhéil seo. B’fhiú tabhairt faoi athdhéanamh ar bhonn rialta chun tacú leis na daltaí smaoineamh ar an ábhar atá déanta. Moltar tascanna, scéalta beaga agus comhráití éagsúla a fhorbairt ina mbeidh ar na daltaí na briathra agus na frásaí Gaeilge atá foghlamtha acu a chleachtadh agus a úsáid i mbeirteanna chun cuspóir éigin cumarsáide a bhaint amach. Moltar úsáid níos leithne a bhaint as ábhar léirithe agus taispeántais spreagúla le ranganna áirithe chun tuiscint na ndaltaí a threisiú agus an fhoghlaim a éascú, a bhuanú agus a leathnú. B’fhiú díriú ar an bplean scoile agus fothéamaí faoi mhórthéamaí an churaclaim a leagan amach do gach rangleibhéal.

 

Tugtar faoi theagasc na scríbhneoireachta go rialta. Cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil sna cóipleabhair ina n‑áirítear cleachtaí tuisceana, cumadh abairtí agus aistí. Tá caighdeán an-mhaith le sonrú i scríobhneoireacht na ndaltaí i ranganna áirithe. Tá gá, áfach, le béim níos treise a leagan ar fhorbairt na scríbhneoireachta pearsanta i ranganna eile. Moltar iarrachtaí cruthaitheacha na ndaltaí a fhorbairt tríd an scoil ar bhonn rialta trí theachtaireachtaí, scéalta gairide, dialanna, dánta, litreacha agus nótaí a scríobh. Ba thairbheach treoirlínte breise a chur san áireamh sa phlean Ghaeilge faoin bpróiseas scríbhneoireachta, ionas go mbeadh leanúnachas agus forbairt cuí le sonrú ó rang go rang.

 

The teachers in this school have a high standard of fluency in the Irish language. Their interest in the language contributes greatly to the development of an Irish atmosphere in the school. The teachers deserve particular credit for the manner in which they use Irish incidentally in the staff room and in classrooms. The immersion principle is implemented effectively during Irish lessons in all classes. Pupils engage in a good range of activities at each class level to develop the learning of Irish.

 

Pupils can recite with confidence a good selection of rhymes, song and poetry throughout the school. There is effective use of charts, labels, flashcards, language games, actions, active learning, role-play, storytelling and drama to promote the understanding of particular language functions. Most pupils read fluently and with understanding. Beneficial use was made of flashcards in reading lessons during the evaluation. The school plan indicates that good attention is given to developing an understanding of Irish culture through the teaching of Irish dance and traditional music. This practice is commended.

 

Pupils in junior classes have mastered a good bank of vocabulary and can compose simple sentences and engage in continuous conversations on various themes. Although commendable emphasis is given to the teaching of a wide range of proverbs and vocabulary in senior classes, it is apparent that there is a need to give further practice to pupils in using Irish as a communicative language in these classes. The lack of understanding in the handling of verbs and prepositions affects the pupils’ ability to speak about certain themes in these classes. It would be advantageous to engage in revision on a regular basis to aid pupils’ retention of the content covered. It is recommended that various tasks, short stories and conversations would be developed to enable pupils to practice and use the verbs and vocabulary learnt using pair work in order to achieve particular communicative objectives. It is recommended that visual aids and various displays be used with particular classes in order to reinforce pupils’ understanding and to simplify, consolidate and extend pupils’ learning. It would be of benefit to focus on the school plan and outline sub-themes for each class level under the main theme headings of the curriculum.

 

The teaching of writing is undertaken on a regular basis. The functional writing activities recorded by pupils in their copybooks include comprehension exercises, sentence formation and essays. Very good standards are achieved in Irish writing in some classes. There is a need, however, to place greater emphasis on the development of pupils’ personal writing in other classes. It is recommended that the pupils’ creative writing experiences should be developed on a regular basis throughout the school to include messages, short stories, diaries, poetry writing, letters and notes. It would be beneficial to include additional guidelines on the writing process in the school plan, to ensure appropriate development and continuity from class to class.

.

3.3 Mathematics

A clearly-indexed whole-school plan informs the effective practice observed in the teaching of Mathematics throughout the school. Good attention is given to addressing the specific learning needs of pupils. A common approach has been adopted in the teaching of mathematical language, symbol names and concept acquisition. Mathematical language is effectively reinforced during instruction. Early mathematical concepts are consolidated and extended effectively through the use of teacher modelling, visual aids, differentiated questioning, active learning, structured talk and discussion, and practical activities.  A good range of equipment is available and used effectively to support early mathematical activities and the acquisition of number concepts. As pupils progress through the school, they are encouraged to explain the mathematical processes using appropriate manipulatives and equipment. Pupils’ knowledge and skills are developed using suitable teacher-designed aids, differentiated activities and mathematical trails.

 

Overall pupils are making good to very good progress in Mathematics. Pupils’ knowledge of tables and mathematical facts are generally good. Very good attention is given to differentiation in the range of tasks set in all classes. In the best practice observed, the pupils had opportunities to use the environment and apply mathematical concepts to real life situations. Very good emphasis is placed on the use of copy work by pupils in some classes to carefully record mathematical concepts and processes. As pupils progress through the school, there is a need to give more systematic attention to the accurate recording of work.

 

3.4 History

The comprehensive whole-school history plan aims to ensure appropriate breadth and balance, and continuity and progression throughout the school. Discussion and examination of evidence using a range of historical artefacts and visual aids are the main strategies and approaches favoured. History lessons observed during the evaluation were well structured and well presented. Story sequencing is effectively used in junior classes to enhance the pupils’ sense of time and chronology. Very good emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ vocabulary, language and curiosity about the past through the examination of a range of interesting artefacts in senior classes. Timelines are a feature of each classroom and contribute to pupils’ depth of understanding concerning the passing of time. All pupils display a good understanding of and interest in the themes studied. Local history is given special attention and pupils display a sense of pride in their school and its surroundings. Flipcharts, flashcards, visual aids, old photographs and newspapers, and environmental items from the past and present are used skilfully to stimulate pupils’ discussion and interest. The school is in the process of developing an historical interest area containing copies of historical documents, old photographs, periodicals, old newspaper articles and various historical artefacts. This will greatly support the development of pupils’ observational, investigation and historical skills. It is recommended that the potential of using project work on a regular basis should be explored to enhance pupils’ ability to analyse and interpret historical findings and concepts. Pupils should also be encouraged to maintain brief summaries of each topic covered or alternatively to create mind maps outlining key historical concepts.

 

3.5 Assessment

A range of formal and informal assessment approaches is used to assess progress in the curricular areas observed. Screening tests are administered to junior and senior infants. In addition, teachers administer objective, norm-referenced tests annually from first class upwards in English and Mathematics. The results are carefully collated, recorded and analysed to identify those pupils needing supplementary support. A range of diagnostic tests is administered by the support team to identify pupils’ specific needs. Various teacher-designed tests, regular discussion and focussed questioning are used in each mainstream classroom. Pupils’ progress is reported at annual formal parent-teacher meetings. A progress report is issued each year to parents. Checklists are effectively used in junior classes to monitor pupils’ progress in English on an ongoing basis. This practice is commended. The regular correction of pupils’ work is variable. In some cases pupils’ copy work is systematically monitored and very good emphasis is placed on the neat presentation of work. There is a need to extend this good practice, as pupils progress through the school.

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The comprehensive learning-support and special education policies developed give clear, practical direction to staff in relation to roles and responsibilities, prevention and early intervention procedures, screening, programme planning, assessment, monitoring, record-keeping and review. The staged approach to the identification of pupils who require support is consistent with the terms of Circular 02/05.

 

The support team comprises two learning-support/resource teachers, one of whom shares her services with the neighbouring base school in Scropul. A part-time resource teacher provides additional support to a small number of pupils. The learning-support room is well stocked and attractively presented. There are clear displays that support pupils’ understanding and ability to memorise new concepts. The staff room, which also serves as a support room, should be equipped with additional teaching and learning resources.

 

Pupils are withdrawn either in small groups or on a one-to-one basis, and support is mainly provided in literacy and numeracy. Currently, a number of pupils are withdrawn from mainstream classes for learning-support, whose inclusion for supplementary support is not justifiable on the basis of pupils’ attainment results on standardised tests. It is recommended, in accordance with inclusive best practice and the Learning-Support Guidelines (2000), that learning-support for this cohort of pupils is discontinued. In line with the current practice of the school, it is appropriate that any surplus support teaching capacity is targeted at early intervention measures to groups of pupils in language, literacy and Mathematics. The good progress made by the school in implementing an integrated model of in-class support in oral language in infants and junior classes is recognised. These lessons are engaging, varied and are well integrated with song and gesture.

 

Lessons in the support rooms are well structured and effectively implemented using appropriate interactive teaching aids to assist learning. Positive relationships are fostered and pupils respond well to the variety of activities prepared. In the lessons observed good attention was given to gross motor coordination activities, reading games, phonics and spelling, grammar and punctuation, comprehension and the careful presentation of writing activities. Pupils are provided with good experiences to develop their information and communication technology (ICT) skills in the support rooms.  Regular consultation occurs between support teachers and class teachers and written records of work completed are shared. Pupil attendance records are maintained. It is recommended that a greater range of formative assessment tools be used to monitor pupils’ ongoing progress. It would be beneficial to include specific advice in relation to assessment for learning strategies in the whole-school plan. 

 

Useful long-term and short-term planning notes and monthly progress records are maintained by each support teacher. Pupils’ specific needs are identified and provided for within defined periods through the development of appropriate individual education programmes (IEPs). The specific needs of pupils identified in professional reports are addressed. A suitable range of diagnostic assessments is undertaken to inform the planning process.  Class teachers, and where relevant multi-disciplinary professionals and parents, are involved in the consultation process. These plans are discussed at the annual parent-teacher meetings.

 

4.2 Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups

The school is part of a cluster of five schools that are served by a DEIS coordinator, funded by the Department of Education and Science. Commendable work has been undertaken in the formulation of a DEIS strategic action plan to focus specific attention on benchmarking pupils’ educational progress and attainment in literacy and numeracy. Roles and responsibilities and specific target dates are clearly identified to ensure that progress is closely monitored. It would be beneficial to include an outline of the role and work of the coordinator in order to inform parents of the operation of the DEIS programme.

 

The coordinator’s role includes visiting homes, supporting teaching and learning in the school and providing a range of supports for pupils and their families. A transition programme is coordinated for sixth class pupils. A number of cluster-based specific initiatives are organised including parenting courses, table quizzes, various sports activities, and relationship and sexuality education (RSE) information talks for parents and sixth class pupils. DEIS funding is also used to subsidise swimming lessons and visits by various speakers on aspects of the curriculum. The DEIS coordinator spends one day each week in the school and provides additional support to pupils in Music, English and Mathematics. The English lesson observed during the evaluation was dynamic, purposeful and engaging and taught with a high level of competency and skill. Pupils responded well and showed a very good understanding of the novel studied.

 

Currently, the school reports that that there are no international pupils or pupils from minority groups enrolled in the school. Equality of access is the key value which determines the enrolment of pupils in the school’s clearly laid out enrolment policy, which has been appropriately ratified by the board of management. The school is committed to the principles of inclusion and equality and every pupil actively participates in all school activities, as articulated in the school’s equal opportunity and gender equality policy. In planning for the future, consideration should be given to the development of an intercultural policy to encapsulate the aims and ethos of the school. Attention is drawn to the Guidelines on Intercultural Education in the Primary School (2005), which may be used to assist in planning for an intercultural environment.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

·         The board of management is commended for its high quality management and its ongoing support for pupils and staff.

·         The school is well resourced and manages its resources efficiently.

·         A positive, friendly and hard-working atmosphere, embodying a strong sense of community, is in evidence in the school.

·         The principal displays strong leadership skills in guiding the whole-school development process forward, in fostering positive relationships and in ensuring that all partners are appropriately consulted and informed.

·         The professionalism and dedication of all members of staff contribute greatly to the collaborative and collegiate atmosphere in the school.

·         The teachers are praised for their effort and commitment in providing stimulating and learner-focused environments.

·         The very good behaviour exhibited by pupils is commended.

·         The ongoing progress made in whole-school development planning and in self-evaluation practices is laudable.

·         There is regular and meaningful communication fostered between school and home.

·         Reading is promoted successfully throughout the school.

·         The standard of curricular provision is generally effective.

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

·         It is recommended that the board of management encourages the establishment of a parents’ association affiliated with the National Parents’ Council.

·         There is a need to increase opportunities to extend the pupils’ writing experiences across the curriculum in a variety of genres. Particular attention should also be given to improving the standard of handwriting in some classes.

·         It is recommended that the range of active learning teaching methodologies in the teaching of Irish be extended in some classes to improve pupils’ expressive skills in Irish and their retention and mastery of the content covered.

·         It is recommended that further emphasis be placed on enhancing the pupils’ regular use of information and communication technology (ICT) as a learning tool.

·         There is a need to develop a standard template to ensure a consistent whole-school approach to teachers’ long-term planning with a focus on learning outcomes to be achieved.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published February 2009