An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Cahir, Co. Tipperary
Uimhir rolla: 10533R
Date of inspection: 17 October 2007
Date of issue of report: 12 March 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Ballydrehid N.S. was undertaken in October 2007. 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 Physical Education. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Ballydrehid N.S. has undergone a number of significant changes over the last year. The position of chairperson of the board of management has been held by three persons since March of 2007. The current chairperson was appointed in July 2007. A new principal was appointed in May 2007 and a new first assistant was appointed in September 2007. The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Mainstream class teachers
Teachers working in support roles
Special needs assistants
Ballydrehid N.S. is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly. The board of management has not yet devised a mission or vision statement.
The board of management is properly constituted and in general, the board ensures that the school’s organisation complies with Department of Education and Science regulations and circulars. The board ensures that the school building and grounds are well maintained. A number of teaching resources have recently been purchased. Classroom furniture has been replaced. The board has recently submitted an application for a “Summer Works Scheme” and it intends to apply for a “Major Capital Works” grant during this school year. The board, under the leadership of the new chairperson, has begun to identify and address some of the areas in need of development.
In general, however, the board has, to date, provided poor leadership to the school. Meetings are not held regularly and minutes are not recorded. Records of finances are not maintained in accordance with section 18 (1) of the Education Act (1998). The board is not involved in the drafting of whole-school plans and policies and there is no school plan. No duties have been assigned to the post holder and there is no contract of employment in place for the special needs assistant. The board has failed to make available an adequate range of teaching and learning resources to the teachers and pupils in the school. This lack of resources has impacted negatively on the ability of the teachers to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum to the pupils. It is therefore recommended, as a matter of priority, that the board consult the “Boards of Management of National Schools: Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure” (DES 2007) and that the board avails of training opportunities to enable it to discharge its duties and responsibilities in accordance with the Education Act (1998).
The principal discharges her administrative duties effectively. She contributes to the creation of a positive school climate that is characterised by positive relationships within the school community. She has established a high level of personal credibility and has succeeded in creating effective lines of communication and consultation with staff, board and parents. The principal’s instructional leadership skills will be called upon in the immediate future with specific regard to the challenges presented in this school, in particular in relation to the necessary improvement of standards of attainment in literacy and numeracy and the drafting and implementation of whole school plans and policies.
The parents’ association is well established and actively engages in supporting the work of the school through fund raising activities. Representatives of the association report a marked improvement in home school communication, in communication with the board and in parental involvement in the school. Examples mentioned included the involvement of parents in “World Book Day” activities in the school, a graduation ceremony in June for sixth class pupils, the receipt of draft policies for consideration by the association and a letter, issued by the principal, encouraging parents to approach the teachers if they had any concerns in relation to their children’s learning. Parent teacher meetings are held annually. It is now recommended that this increased level of communication would be sustained and that the board would now identify means through which parental involvement in the work of the school and in relation to their children’s learning would be increased.
The management of pupils is very good. Pupils present as being well behaved, enthusiastic and respectful. They co-operate willingly with their teachers and with each other. They are eager to engage in discussion and participate fully in the learning activities arranged for them in class.
The quality of whole-school planning is very poor. The work of the principal in drafting eleven organisational policies and a whole-school plan relating to the teaching of English is acknowledged. However, to date, no curriculum plans or organisational policies have been ratified by the board. Further school planning should be initiated without delay through a collaborative approach involving all staff in consultation with the Board of Management and parents, where appropriate. To advance the plan, it will now be necessary to prioritise some issues. It is recommended, therefore, that the board would engage immediately in a process of whole-school review, aimed at devising a three year development plan. This development plan, in accordance with circular 18/99 and section 21 of the Education Act (1998), should outline a timeframe within which the required plans and polices should be developed and implemented.
The quality of classroom planning is good. The teachers prepare long-term and short term plans and monthly progress records are maintained. Learning objectives are identified and care is taken to identify appropriate activities and teaching methodologies to support pupil learning. It is recommended that greater attention be paid in teachers’ planning to assessing pupils’ progress and to the differentiation of learning outcomes and activities for pupils with learning difficulties.
The board has not ratified the draft Child Protection Policy as required by the Department. This matter was brought to the attention of the board during the evaluation period and at the post-evaluative meeting. It is recommended that the board address this omission as a matter of extreme urgency and that a designated liaison person and deputy designated liaison person be appointed immediately.
Déantar iarrachtaí oiriúnacha atmaisféar fabhrach don Ghaeilge a chothú sna rangsheomraí. Solathraitear dóthain phrionta sa timpeallacht. Baintear dea-úsáid as ábhair chorpartha mar thacaíocht don teagasc agus cuirtear ceachtanna i láthair trí fheidhm a bhaint as puipéid, fearas an mhúinteora agus luaschártaí. Tá éagsúlacht i gcur i láthair na n-oidí sa teagasc ach moltar anois tuilleadh béime a leagan ar fhorbairt chumais chumarsáide na ndaltaí. Comhtháthaítear an Ghaeilge le hábhair eile an churaclaim agus tugtar faoi éagsúlacht rann agus filíochta a mhúineadh go mór mhór ‘sna ranganna shóisearacha. Moltar anois, áfach, forbairt chéimniúil, chórasach a dhéanamh ar an bhfoclóir atá i seilbh na ndaltaí, ó rangleibhéal go rangleibhéal agus daingniú rialta a dhéanamh ar an obair seo. Bheadh sé tábhachtach freisin, an clár foghlama don Ghaeilge a chur in oiriúint do leibhéil éagsúla cumais na ndaltaí i ranganna áirithe agus spriocanna soiléir foghlama a leagadh amach, chun gnóthachtáil na bpáistí a chinntiú thar raon leathan scileanna. Tá caighdeán an-íseal sroichte ag na daltaí san léitheoireacht. Moltar raon níos leithne modhanna múinte a chur i bhfeidhm chun scileanna na léitheoireachta a bhunú, plé a dhéanamh ar bhrí na bhfocal; straitéisí fóineolaíochta a chur i bhfeidhm agus plé rialta a dhéanamh ar chiall an téacsábhair. Cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil ina gcóipleabhair, ach ba chóir a chinntiú go ndéantar ceartúchán agus monatóireacht rialta ar an saothar seo.
Whereas the teaching of English is good at each class level, this good teaching has yet to impact on the quality of pupils’ learning outcomes. Lessons are well structured and address each of the strand units. Differentiated activities are identified for pupils with learning difficulties. Teachers employ a variety of teaching methodologies including group teaching and paired work. Pupils participate enthusiastically in the activities and display good oral language skills. However, the level of achievement of the pupils in reading and writing is very poor. It is recommended that the school prioritise literacy as an area in immediate need of development. The English plan drafted by the principal should be further developed. This plan should include a whole-school approach towards the teaching of phonics and phonological awareness, specific reading strategies to be promoted at each class level and guidelines in the use of assessment results in order to develop individual reading programmes matched to the needs of the pupils. The board should ensure that pupils have access to a broad range of reading materials. The standard of pupils’ written work is very weak. Functional writing activities were, in general, of an unsatisfactory standard with pupils experiencing significant difficulties in spelling and syntax. Little attention is paid to the development of the writing process. The teaching of writing needs to be systematically addressed at all class levels within the context of a whole-school plan.
A wide range of teaching approaches is used in the teaching of Mathematics and effective use is made of the limited amount of concrete materials available. Differentiated learning outcomes are outlined for pupils experiencing significant difficulties. Good attention is paid to the development of mathematical concepts and language. Pupils in the infant classes demonstrate good standards of attainment in the various strands of the curriculum, particularly the strands of measures and number. However, in general, pupils in the junior, middle and senior classes display significant weaknesses in their attainment levels across the strand units in Mathematics. It is recommended that numeracy be prioritised as an area of the curriculum in need of development. A whole-school plan should be devised which addresses the unsatisfactory attainment levels among the pupils and which outlines a programme to meet their learning needs. The board also needs to provide for an increased supply of teaching and learning resources including the provision of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
Very good lessons were observed in the teaching of physical education. Lessons are well paced and structured and specific skills are well developed. All pupils participate enthusiastically in the activities and benefit from them. The school has access to a hard court play area and a green field which is used by the pupils during clement weather. The parents’ association organises swimming lessons for the pupils over an eight week period during school hours and a sports coach delivers a twelve week programme in hurling and football. There is, however, an over-emphasis on games and athletics in the programme offered to the pupils. It is recommended that a whole-school plan be drafted for physical education which ensures that the pupils are enabled to access a broad and balanced physical education programme.
It is reported that standardised tests in English and Mathematics are administered to all pupils from first class to sixth class each June. However, records of the results attained by the pupils prior to June 2006 are not available. Since September 2007, class teachers are recording pupil progress in some areas of the curriculum but to date, these records provide limited information on pupils’ learning and there is little evidence to indicate that assessment results are utilised to devise specific learning programmes for pupils within the classroom context. Teachers are praised for initiating a system of maintaining a portfolio of pupils’ work since the beginning of this school year. These portfolios should, in time, provide evidence of progression and development in pupils’ learning. The special education needs team regularly assesses pupils progress using a limited range of assessment modes. These results are effectively utilised to devise individual education plans (IEPs) for the pupils with identified learning difficulties. It is recommended that a whole-school assessment plan be devised which outlines how pupil progress might be assessed and reported to parents. This plan should also outline how assessment data might be utilised in the interest of progressing pupil learning.
A resource teacher for special educational needs works in the school for five hours a week and a learning support teacher provides support to twelve pupils for a further five hours a week. Good learning activities are organised and a wide range of teaching methodologies is utilised to enable the pupils to make progress in their learning. Diagnostic tests are administered, where appropriate, to ascertain pupil progress. However, teachers need to be mindful of the need to record specific progress made by individual pupils and to ensure that parents are actively encouraged and enabled to support their children’s learning. Pupil progress would be enhanced by the provision of a wider range of suitable resources including ICT. It is recommended that the case load of the learning support teacher be revised in accordance with circular 02/05 thereby enabling those pupils in greatest need to receive the most support. It is further recommended that the provision of in-class support in literacy be considered in the junior classes.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management wish to refer the reader back to the introductory paragraph: School Context and Background ‘Ballydrehid N.S. has undergone a number of significant changes over the last year’
Our vision statement is on display in the hallway.
With reference to
1.2 Board of Management
The B.O.M. has submitted an application for a “Summer Works Scheme” and waited for “Small Schools Scheme” – to our dismay both are not available this year. Details of “Major Capital Works” are still not available from the D.E.S.
The Board holds regular meetings, minutes are recorded and accounts are recorded since January 2007.
The post holder has received her duties and a contract of employment has recently been drafted and is now in place for the SNA.
The Staff and Board have prioritised the areas of literacy and numeracy and have invested in resources for these areas.
The new B.O.M. are committed to improving standards of management and to supporting the teaching staff.
New Board members will be attending training when it is available in our area.
1.3 In-school management
The principal has sought assistance from outside agencies namely PCSP, SDPS, NEPS, SENO, to deal with the challenges presented to her. A Whole School Review is planned for 29th May 2008.
1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community
Parents have been invited to help in our new literacy programme – CPER, World Book Day Activities, Maths Day activities. Parents have offered to source and fund materials to aid teaching and learning.
2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning
Circumstances beyond the BOM control led to the failure of plans and policies drafted by the principal being ratified. These are now ratified. A Three Year Development Plan is already in place, this was devised in March 2007 by the current principal with the help of a facilitator from SDPS. Whole School Review is planned for 29th May 2008 recommendations from this WSE will be prioritised.
Pupils progress is assessed by weekly, monthly tests, daily oral tests. Pupil portfolios and profiles also recorded.
Within each classroom close consultation with the Learning Support Team results in suitable differentiated work for pupils with learning difficulties.
2.2 Child protection policy and procedures
The Board has ratified this policy. A Designated Liaison Person and Deputy have been appointed by the board.
As part of our 3 Year Development Plan, ‘An Phlean Gaeilge’ is a priority for 2008/2009 school year. Attention will be paid to ensure that structured and systematic development be made in relation to pupils vocabulary from class level to class level.
The English Plan is being developed. Team teaching strategies have been adopted focusing on reading and comprehension, grammar, oral language. With regard to phonics the Newell System has been adopted. At present in the junior classes level 2 is in operation, in senior classes level 5.
With regard to reading CAPER is in place and Buddy system (older children help younger children. Our SNA is involved in our reading programmes also Reading material has been supplemented from Tipperary Libraries (School Section) and donations by parents. New books have also been bought. At the moment team teaching is concentrating on functional writing with a view to improving creative writing. Grammar, spelling and comprehension are our main areas receiving attention.
Team teaching in maths is concentrating on concepts of numeracy and acquisition and understanding of number facts. The teaching team is assessing each child’s knowledge and weaknesses. These assessments will be used to develop a maths plan to meet the learning needs of the children. The post holder is taking responsibility for this area.
3.3 Physical Education
With regard to physical education – to date resources have been limited. Staff have registered for the Buntús Programme Training Day. We intend developing the area of movement and dance and have acquired resources for this. Orienteering is planned for summer term. With future funding we hope to acquire mats and other gymnastic equipment. We have registered for World Active Week in March and this years Skipathon in April.
We are currently reviewing our assessment resources with regard to purchasing suitable materials. Sigma T and Micra T are reviewed in the context of each child – making note of strengths and weaknesses not just final scores.
4.1 Pupils with special educational needs
With regard to pupils with special educational needs, it has always been our policy to work closely with parents in devising IEP’ and discussing pupil’s progress. To date money hasn’t been invested in purchasing suitable software. However we have acquired ‘Smart Kids’ phonics programme and a complete set of ‘Reading for Literacy’, ‘Maths Made Easy’, ‘The Computer Classroom’, ‘Word Shark’, ‘Number Shark’.
Recommendations of 02/05 have been taken on board. The caseload of the Learning Support Teacher has been revised which now involves team teaching, early intervention in junior classes. Prioritised children are taken on an individual basis.
The Teaching Staff and Board of Management are committed to implementing the very helpful suggestions that this inspection has put before us.