An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Dromerin National School

Dromerin, Listowel, Co. Kerry

Uimhir rolla: 10531N

 

Date of inspection: 02 December 2009

 

 

 

 

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 Dromerin N.S. was undertaken in December 2009. 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, 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

 

Dromerin N.S. is a rural, two teacher, mainstream school situated in the townland of Dromerin. It is one of three primary schools in the parish of Ballydonogue. Overall pupil enrolment has remained stable over the last three years. Pupil attendance is poor with a significant number of pupils absent for more than 20 school days in a school year. It is recommended that the board of management identify a means through which pupils’ attendance is improved in the short-term. The board should communicate to parents the importance of regular pupil attendance and outline strategies to encourage regular pupil attendance at school.

 

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

16

Mainstream classes in the school

6

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Dromerin N.S. is a co-educational Catholic school under the patronage of the Bishop of Kerry. The school has articulated a mission statement in which due recognition is given to pupils from all other religions. Eleven school aims outline the aspirations of the school. The mission statement and school aims are contained in the whole-school plan. However, these have not been shaped or reviewed by the school community nor are they displayed in a common area. It is recommended that the mission statement and school aims be reviewed by the school community in order to build an enhanced sense of common purpose among the educational partners.  

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and it meets at least three times a year. Minutes of meetings are recorded. A financial statement is provided at each meeting and finances are certified on an annual basis. This good practice is praised. However, members of the board do not display a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities in relation to the management of the whole-school planning process, staff, communication and teaching and learning. Decision-making procedures at board level are not fully inclusive or transparent and the decisions taken are not always communicated effectively to the school community. The board has few structures in place to support and encourage the active participation of parents, pupils and other members of the school community in the whole-school planning process. While some plans for improving the work of the school are devised, these are not focused sufficiently on improving the quality of learning and maximising pupils’ attainment.  The board rarely engages with the teaching staff in relation to the quality of teaching and learning and members of the board have little awareness of pupils’ performance across curriculum areas. The board is not sufficiently aware of the strengths and weaknesses of the school and has not focused its attention adequately on the improvement of teaching and learning. It is recommended therefore that the board, as a matter of priority, familiarise itself with the rules and procedures governing the work of the board of management, with the Education Act (1998) and with other relevant legislation and Department circulars pertaining to the management of schools. It is further recommended that the board avail of training opportunities offered to it at the earliest possible opportunity to enable it to fully comply with its obligations.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team comprises a principal and a privileged assistant. At the time of the evaluation the privileged assistant was absent. The principal was appointed to the position in September of 2008. She discharges her administrative duties effectively and has established good relationships with the board, staff and parents. She has, in collaboration with the privileged assistant, drafted and reviewed a wide range of curriculum and organisational policies and this good practice is commended. She avails of a wide range of professional development opportunities to assist her in discharging her duties as a principal and as a teacher. It is now recommended that an emphasis be placed by the principal on leading school improvement and on the systematic evaluation of the quality of the school’s provision for its pupils. This will necessitate the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of whole-school plans and policies and the setting of targets for improvement for the school as a whole. A narrow range of duties has been assigned to the privileged assistant. It is recommended that these duties be reviewed at the earliest possible opportunity in line with circular 07/03.

 

1.4 Management of resources

The board supports the professional development of the staff and it facilitates the attendance of teachers at continuing professional development activities. However, teachers are not deployed effectively in accordance with Departmental requirements, specifically circular 02/09. It is recommended that the imbalance of pupil numbers assigned to individual teachers should be addressed at the earliest possible opportunity in order to ensure an equitable division of pupil numbers. The school building and grounds are clean, well-maintained and provide a safe environment for the pupils. An appropriate range of teaching and learning resources are provided.

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Parent representatives on the board of management report that parent-teacher meetings are held annually and that parents are welcome to discuss their child’s progress with teachers. Annual end-of-year progress reports are issued to the parents of all pupils. However, there is significant scope for development in relation to the management of relationships and communication with the school community. The board of management has not actively promoted or encouraged the establishment of a parents’ association. Parents, and groups representing parents, do not play an active role in school life. While parents receive some information on the work of the school, its organisation and its educational provision, the school does not engage consistently with parents or seek out their views and opinions. Parent representatives on the board of management report that many parents have voiced concerns about the lack of communication between the parents and the school. It is therefore recommended that the board, in compliance with Section 26(3) of the Education Act (1998), actively facilitate the establishment of a parents’ association and that it identify procedures through which parents can be facilitated to play a more active role in contributing to their children’s educational provision.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

During the evaluation period the pupils were observed to work co-operatively with their peers and teachers. The code of behaviour is effectively implemented and in general, pupil behaviour is of a good standard.  Pupils are well supervised during break times and they play collectively in a spirit of fairness and friendship. The school manages the pastoral needs of the pupils effectively and it is committed to the general welfare of pupils. A range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities are organised and parents are appreciative of this aspect of their children’s development.  Increased focus might now be placed on the further development of pupils’ self esteem and on the further promotion of the active engagement of the pupils in their own learning.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

   2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is of a fair standard. Curriculum plans have been formulated for all subject areas. However, care should be taken to ensure that these plans reflect the context of the school, particularly the need to outline how the curriculum is managed within a multi-class setting. Increased focus should also be placed on ensuring that the plans reflect the principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) namely the emphasis on pupils’ active participation in the learning process and on the utilisation of a wide range of teaching and learning methodologies and approaches. Systems whereby the implementation of the plans can be monitored and evaluated should also be outlined in more detail and clear criteria against which their implementation can be measured should be stated.  A very wide range of organisational policies has been drafted and these are of a good to very good quality. The principal has outlined a strategic plan in which she has prioritised areas for development and this good practice is highly praised. It is now recommended that the board devise a strategic plan in which curriculum priorities for development are identified.

 

Both teachers develop planning documents in preparation for their teaching. The long-term plans viewed during the evaluation period were of a good standard. Both teachers prepare short-term plans. In this planning, some teachers utilise curriculum objectives and this practice is highly commended. It is recommended that a common agreed approach to teachers’ long and short-term planning and to the completion of monthly reports be devised. This should ensure that the learning needs of all pupils are addressed, that the pupils experience a broad and balanced curriculum and that a variety of appropriate teaching and learning methodologies and resources are utilised.

 

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 English

There is significant scope for development in the quality of pupils’ learning in English. During the evaluation period it was noted that the pupils’ receptiveness to language and their expressive language is in urgent need of development. Pupils are reticent to participate in discussion or to initiate and sustain a conversation on a given topic. In the senior classes, pupils experience difficulty in providing further information in response to prompting, in asking questions in order to further explore a topic and in conversing freely and confidently on a given theme. In the infant and junior classes story is well explored using large-format books and the recitation of a variety of rhymes and poems assists in developing the pupils’ competence and confidence in using language. However, there is a pressing need to address the development of pupils’ oral language skills through a whole-school approach. It is recommended that a systematic oral language programme be devised as a matter of priority. This programme should address the identified oral language needs of the pupils across the four strand units of the English curriculum and outline how these skills might be further developed in an integrated manner across each curriculum area.

 

The standards achieved by pupils in reading are less than satisfactory. The quality of the teaching of reading in the infant and junior classes is of a good standard. At these levels the pupils experience the reading process being modelled and they engage in meaningful shared reading activities. Phonics and phonological awareness are well addressed and the pupils are acquiring some of the skills required to enable them to use their knowledge of letter-sound relationships and to develop their reading skills. However, they possess a poor sight vocabulary and many pupils are hesitant in their approach to reading familiar texts and words. In the senior classes, the pupils have acquired some reading strategies and most pupils have achieved proficiency in word identification skills. However, they explore a restricted range of reading material and little focus is placed on the development of their cognitive abilities through language or of their emotional and imaginative development through language. It is therefore recommended that the school review current provision for the teaching of English reading. Such a review should take due cognisance of pupils individual learning needs, assessment data and of the English reading objectives as outlined in the Primary School Curriculum (1998).

 

The quality of English writing in the infant and junior classes is good and pupils’ achievement is of a fair to good standard. A supportive print-rich environment has been created and pupils’ personal writing is displayed to good effect. Letter formation is well addressed and pupils are provided with opportunities to write in a variety of genres and for an increasingly varied audience. At all class levels, pupils’ written work is regularly monitored and helpful evaluative comments are noted with the intention of assisting the pupils to improve. This good practice is highly praised. In the senior classes, pupils’ writing samples are of a fair standard. The writing process is addressed and pupils are encouraged to redraft and edit their work. They are sometimes facilitated to write for a particular purpose with a particular audience in mind. However, their ability to observe the conventions of grammar and punctuation in their writing assignments should be further developed. The range of genres which they experience should be extended to include narrative prose, poetry, instructions and recipes as outlined in the curriculum documents. Increased emphasis should also be placed on enabling the pupils to experience a wider range of interesting and relevant writing challenges, to the promotion of co-operative writing activities and to the development of their use of information and communication technology in the writing process.

 

3.2 Mathematics

In general, the quality of pupils’ learning and achievement in Mathematics is of a fair to good standard with some pupils in the senior classes attaining very high standards of achievement.  Pupils at all class levels have a clear knowledge and understanding of number and number operations. Very good attention is placed on the acquisition of mathematical language in the infant and junior classes. Pupils at these levels are enabled to engage with concrete materials to further their understanding of the concepts being developed and they are provided with some opportunities to engage in active learning and guided discovery methods. In the senior classes pupils’ copybooks reflect a wide range of methods of recording their work including the use of pictorial and diagrammatic illustrations and this feature of pupil learning is praised.  However, at all class levels there is a need to place increased emphasis on the development of the pupils’ mathematical skills within all strands of the curriculum. The Mathematics programme at each level should be sufficiently flexible to accommodate pupils of different levels of ability. Increased focus should be placed on real-life examples of the application of mathematical processes in order to enable the pupils to apply their learning to areas relevant to their own lives. Care should also be taken in the senior classes to ensure that the pupils experience a balanced mathematics’ curriculum. It is recommended that a review of present practice in the teaching and learning in Mathematics be conducted in which a focus is placed on outlining a programme of work which meets the identified needs of the pupils. An emphasis should be placed on ensuring that a variety of teaching styles, methods and approaches, as outlined in the curriculum, is utilised throughout the school. It is important that this programme address the need to ensure that all pupils experience a broad and balanced Mathematics’ curriculum in which the related mathematical skills are developed through the content taught.

 

3.3 History

Very good lessons in the teaching of History were observed during the evaluation period. In these lessons the children’s knowledge of the topics taught was improved while their skills of working as historians were also developed. However, in general, while it is recognised that the pupils have a good general knowledge of some aspects of historical events there remains significant weaknesses in the manner in which the History curriculum is implemented on a whole-school basis. Throughout the school an emphasis should be placed on enabling the pupils to develop an understanding, appropriate to their age, of time and chronology, change and continuity, cause and effect and to develop these skills so that they may interpret evidence in a critical way. The history curriculum at senior level should ensure that the pupils explore the past from a range of perspectives and should include episodes from a range of historical periods. A balance should be maintained between the development of skills and the acquisition of knowledge and consideration should also be given to how the exploration of the local environment could best be organised in which teachers, pupils, parents and others could facilitate pupils’ access to items of historical interest. It is therefore recommended that the whole-school History plan be reviewed to ensure that it provides for continuity and progression between class levels. More efficient use of the flexibility provided within the curriculum in the selection of strand units should ensure that the pupils acquire an understanding of the broad sweep of history and that significant gaps and undue repetition are avoided.

 

3.4 Assessment

A range of assessment strategies is utilised to assess pupil progress across the curriculum areas particularly in the infant and junior classes. Teacher designed tests are administered and records of pupil progress are maintained. This work would be further supported through the compilation of pupil portfolios in which samples of pupils’ work across the curriculum areas might be compiled. An individual running record might also be maintained in which events or observations of significance to pupil progress might be recorded. The Middle-Infant-Screening-Test (MIST) is administered to pupils in their fifth term at school and the results of this test, coupled with teacher observations, are utilised to select pupils who are experiencing learning difficulties, for additional support. Standardised tests are administered to all pupils from first to sixth class and the results of these tests are communicated to parents in the end of year reports. This good practice is commended. In order to further develop this practice, it is recommended that the school map clearly how individual pupils are progressing from year to year, especially in the area of literacy and numeracy. This data should then be used at whole-school level to assist in the formulation of differentiated programmes of work for individual pupils thus ensuring that teaching programmes enable each pupil to achieve to the greatest extent possible.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A teacher, based in a neighbouring school, provides daily support to those pupils with special educational needs. Part-time hours have been allocated by the board to another teacher who provides support to pupils in need of learning support each Monday and Tuesday. Over the last five years the support provided to pupils with special educational needs has been somewhat disjointed and the pupils have experienced a number of different teachers. It is therefore recommended that the board make every reasonable effort to ensure that there is continuity and progression in the provision made to meet the needs of these pupils into the future.  The lessons observed in the special educational needs settings during the evaluation period were of a very high standard. Both teachers have familiarised themselves with the available assessment data pertaining to the pupils in their care, and they have utilised this effectively to plan an appropriate programme of work to meet the identified needs of their pupils. In devising Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) for the pupils, parents are consulted and are kept informed of their child’s progress during the school year. Specific learning targets are outlined and records of pupils’ progress are maintained. Very good learning activities are organised in which the pupils play an active part and which address specific learning objectives. It is now recommended that the board purchase a computer and an appropriate range of software for the learning support room. It is further recommended that the organisation of in-class support and team teaching be considered as a means of addressing the learning needs of the pupils in receipt of support.

 

 

5.        Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

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

 

 

 

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, June 2010