An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
St Laurence’s National School
Chapelizod, Dublin 20
Uimhir rolla: 10653E
Date of inspection: 21 May 2008
A whole-school evaluation of St Laurence’s NS Chapelizod, Dublin 20 was undertaken in May 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 in the Visual Arts. 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.
ntroduction – school context and background
St Laurence’s NS is a two-teacher, co-educational primary school located in the centre of Chapelizod village in Dublin 20. It is under the patronage of the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough and is vested with three local trustees. It caters for pupils within the parish boundaries of Chapelizod which includes Palmerstown and Ballyfermot and extends to the neighbouring parish boundaries of Castleknock and Lucan. The pupils are taught in multi-class settings. The school building dates back to the initial part of the seventeenth century. It was originally constructed as a mass-house for the Roman Catholic community but has operated continuously as a school for the Church of Ireland community since approximately 1890.
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
1 shared post
Special needs assistants
The school’s mission is to strive to provide a well-ordered, caring, happy and secure atmosphere where the intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and cultural needs of the pupils are identified and addressed and where the professional and personal development of teachers are promoted. The school endeavours to enhance the self-esteem of everyone in the school community and to promote the involvement of parents in school activities. It undertakes to imbue pupils with a healthy respect for people and property and to develop and encourage in them the idea of being personally responsible. The characteristic spirit of the school is manifest in the close collaboration between teachers, the board of management and parents and in the participation of the school in community and church events.
1.2 Board of management
The board of management which functions conscientiously and effectively is properly constituted. It is very supportive and contributes significantly to all aspects of school life. It meets once a term to discuss and make decisions on school managerial issues and oversees and reviews the management of the school, its policies and procedures. Minutes of board meetings are maintained and board members take on responsibilities and specific duties and tasks in accordance with their particular skills and experiences. The school’s accounts are audited externally. The board undertakes its responsibility for whole-school planning, it regularly reviews and discusses school plans and policies and it ensures that the school complies with current legislation and with Department circulars and rules. It is recommended that the board should work towards a more collaborative engagement and systematic process of planning and communication with all the partners to accommodate the views of the parents’ association. It should ensure that all policies are ratified and that review dates are established and initiated. The board’s current priority is the ongoing maintenance and refurbishment needs of the very old and rather confined school building. It is commended for availing of the summer works scheme over a three-year period to undertake relatively major projects, including the replacement of the roof and the installation of a more functional and substantial mechanism to partition the one large classroom to create two mainstream teaching areas. Sound proofing and a gas-fired heating system have been installed and extra storage space has been provided. The conversion of a toilet area to a learning-support teaching unit, which was undertaken by a parent on a voluntary basis, has been of major benefit to the school.
1.3 In-school management
The principal who is a highly motivated, energetic and dedicated school leader and manager has completed the ‘Misneach’ school leadership programme and provides effective administrative instructional and pastoral leadership. She has a clear vision for the school and successfully endorses the planning process to ensure continual school improvement. Her meticulous organisational skills ensure the smooth and effective running of the school and her attention to detail and commitment to the pupils lead to high operational standards. She cultivates an environment of openness and accountability and is ably assisted by the board of management, her teaching colleague and the parents’ association. There is much cooperation and collaboration between the principal, her teaching colleague who is the special duties post-holder, and the part-time learning-support teacher. They meet frequently, giving freely of their time, and contribute successfully to sustaining the positive climate and relationships within the school. They collaborate very effectively on all aspects of teaching and learning and their strong commitment to planning has a positive impact on curricular development and implementation in the school. Responsibilities attached to the special duties post, which includes a range of organisational, pastoral and curricular responsibilities appropriate for the two-teacher setting, are diligently undertaken. The school secretary makes a very worthwhile and important contribution to administration and communication and to the day-to-day smooth running of the school. Her expertise in Music is availed of for community and religious events.
1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community
Parental involvement and support is an integral part of the life of the school and their active engagement is acknowledged and praised by the board of management and the teachers. The parents’ association issues a newsletter twice yearly and organises talks for parents on topics of current interest. Parents are involved in fundraising activities to provide resources and to subsidise day-to-day running costs and maintenance projects. They have provided a photo-copier and a piano, enhanced library facilities and supported the creation of a book club. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held in January of each year and the willingness of teachers to facilitate further meetings as required is acknowledged. During the pre-evaluation meeting the representatives of the parents’ association raised their concerns about communications between the association and the board in relation to a perceived lack of consultation on policy decisions in the school planning process. They reported concern that a willingness on the part of parents with expertise to teach a modern language on a voluntary basis to senior pupils was not harnessed. The school’s uptake of the generous offer of the nearby Donore Harriers Athletics Club facilities was commended in the context of lack of school facilities for Physical Education on the school site.
1.5 Management of pupils
During observed classroom interaction with teachers, the pupils exhibited good behaviour and combined courtesy with confidence. The school’s code of behaviour which is based on the principles of respect and tolerance is implemented successfully and pupils are very well behaved, mannerly and cooperative. They are respectful towards the staff and towards each other. The school’s anti-bullying policy, which is particularly comprehensive, provides very clear guidelines for the prevention of bullying and clear preventative strategies for countering and promptly dealing with bullying behaviour.
2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning
The quality of whole-school planning is very good. The school has availed of the support of the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PSCP) and School Development Planning Support (SDPS). This support and advice has contributed to the collaborative planning process. A range of relevant organisational policies are outlined in the school plan. These include policy statements on many aspects of school life including enrolment, homework, child protection, learning-support, substance use, equal opportunities, health and safety and the code of behaviour and anti-bullying strategies. Administrative policies with regard to teacher responsibilities for yard-supervision, assessment, record keeping and reporting, the organisation of school tours and the encouragement of healthy eating and good attendance are also included.
Plans for all curricular areas have been developed and contextualised and their implementation reflects some of the excellent practice observed in the school during the evaluation. The quality of classroom planning is very good and all teachers prepare long-term and short-term plans which take full account of the content and principles of the curriculum while reflecting the school’s context and the individual learning needs of its pupils. Curricular aims and broad objective for the strands and strand units in each subject area are clearly stated. Clear learning outcomes are identified and strategies for differentiation and assessment are outlined. Monthly progress reports are maintained in satisfactory detail. Self-evaluation, focussed on school improvement, is embedded in the school’s culture. Constant monitoring and evaluation of teaching, as well as assessment information about the progress in learning guides the on-going review process. Priorities for developing teaching and learning have been identified and incorporated into the school’s action plan.
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.
Tá dáiríreacht na n-oidí faoi theagasc na Gaeilge le moladh agus ar an mórgóir, tá caighdeán maith Gaeilge le sonrú i measc daltaí na scoile. Cuirtear lena stór focal agus lena gcumas chun abairtí a chumadh agus ceisteanna a fhreagairt. Baintear usáid an-mhaith as an nGaeilge mar theanga bhainistíochta ranga agus is inmholta na léaráidí, na postaeir, na luaschártaí agus an cló prionnta shaibhir atá ar taispeáint sna seomraí ranga agus ar fud na scoile chun cur le héifeacht an teagaisc. Tá acmhainní breátha curtha ar fáil do mhúineadh na Gaeilge agus baineann na hoidí úsáid chliste astu chun teacht i gcabhair ar na daltaí agus chun ábhar na gceachtanna a chur in oiriúint dá spéis agus dá gcumais. Scaiptear fothéamaí an churaclaim go hoiriúnach i rith na bliana agus úsáidtear an scéim Treo Núa mar chabhair chun ábhair teagaisc a roghnú. Baineann éagsúlacht le teagaisc na Gaeilge ar fud na scoile. Nuair a cuirtear béim inmholta ar mhodh na cumarsáide, ar agallaimh beirte agus ar an labhairt aonair agus ar ról-ghníomh agus nuair a bhíonn na daltaí gníomhach sna ceachtanna, bíonn ar a gcumas an foclóir a úsaid chun abairtí a chumadh agus chun ceisteanna a chur ar a chéile. Feictear go mbíonn toradh an-mhaith ar shaothar an mhúinteora sna cásanna seo agus go mbaineann na daltaí taitneamh agus tairbhe as na himeachtaí ar fad. Nuair a bhaineann easpa struchtúir leis an gcur chuige áfach, bíonn an iomarca béime ar an rangtheagasc, ar an sluafhreagairt agus ar mhodh an aistriúchain. B’fhiú anois an dea-chleachtas a leathnú agus béim a chur ar an gcur chuige cumarsáide agus ar an obair gníomhach ar fud na scoile.
Aithrisíonn agus canann na daltaí uile rainn, dánta agus amhráin as Gaeilge. Forbraítear scileanna na léitheoireachta go héifeachtach ó rang a dó ar aghaidh agus dírítear aird ar chruinneas sa léitheoireacht. Baintear úsáid as téacsanna oiriúnacha chun an léitheoireacht a fhorbairt. Léann an chuid is mó de na ndaltaí go líofa agus le tuiscint agus freagraíonn siad ceisteanna go cumasach. Déantar obair réasúnta mhaith sa scríbhneoireacht, go háirithe scríbhneoireacht pearsanta na ndaltaí sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna. Léiríonn na samplaí atá curtha i gcrích sna cóipleabhair go bhfuil éagsúlacht réimsí sna cleachtaí agus déantar próiseas na scríbhneoireachta a chur chun cinn.
The earnestness of the teachers in the teaching of Irish is commendable and by and large, there is a good standard of Irish to be observed among the pupils of the school. Their vocabulary and their abilities to compose sentences and to answer questions are extended. Very good use is made of Irish as the language for class management and the commendable illustrations, posters, flashcards and the print-rich environment exhibited in the classrooms and throughout the school add to the effectiveness of the teaching. Good resources are made available for the teaching of Irish and the teachers use them very cleverly to help the pupils and to adapt the content of the lessons in accordance with their interests and abilities. The supplementary themes of the curriculum are dispersed appropriately throughout the whole year and the Treo Nua scheme is to select teaching content. The teaching of Irish varies throughout the school. Where commendable emphasis is placed on conversational methodology, on pair work, on individual expression and on roleplay and when pupils are actively engaged in the lessons, they are able to use the vocabulary to compose sentences and to question one another. Very good output is seen from the teacher’s work in these cases and the pupils derive pleasure and benefit from all the activities. When there is a lack of structure in the approach, there is excessive emphasis on whole class teaching, on chorus response and on the translation method. It would be worthwhile now to extend the good practice and to put particular emphasis on the conversational approach and on active methodologies throughout the school.
All the pupils recite and sing rhymes, poems and songs in Irish The skills of reading are effectively developed from second class onwards and attention is focused on accuracy in reading. Suitable texts are appropriately used to develop reading. The majority of the pupils read with fluency and with understanding and they answer questions competently. Reasonably good work is completed in writing particularly in personal writing in the middle and senior classes. The samples completed in the copybooks show that there is a variety of range in the lessons and that the writing process is promoted.
The quality of learning and teaching in English is generally very good. Discrete oral language lessons, with specific language objectives, ensure that all pupils are given opportunities to discuss a range of topics. Specific vocabulary and sentence formation skills are developed. Structured programmes and a broad range of poetry and stories for each class level support this.
The emphasis on the development of literacy skills is commendable and pupils’ standard of reading is very good. The school is proactive in developing print rich-environments both within individual classrooms and on school corridors and notice-boards. Pupils are offered a wide selection of reading material. An interest in reading is encouraged through access to the well-stocked school library, supported by Dublin City Library, and through the use of class novels from second to sixth class. Purposeful and successful approaches to developing the pupils’ reading abilities are adopted. In the junior classes, a multi-focused approach to pre-reading includes the structured and systematic development of phonological awareness which forms the basis for the cultivation of emergent reading and writing skills. This is enriched by a strong emphasis on oral language development, an emphasis on a basic sight vocabulary, the development of word attack skills and the development of the pupils’ comprehension strategies. Plans for the establishment of a ‘buddy system’ between junior and senior pupils are well advanced. The developmental and spiral nature of this authentic whole-school approach to English is continued in the middle and senior classes. Good exploration of the class novel takes place in these classes and pupils are given opportunities to explore other texts. Effective emphasis is placed on developing word attack and skimming and scanning skills and pupils can readily decipher new words. This work is supported by quality instruction and by proficient questioning to check for understanding and to extend the children’s input and involvement.
Pupils’ written work is exhibited and celebrated throughout the school and commendable standards are achieved. A structured handwriting programme is in place with clear targets set out for each class. Consequently the quality of presentation of pupils’ work and of penmanship are excellent. Pupils are given very good opportunities to engage in creative writing in a number of different genres and excellent examples of the pupils work on poetry, letters, news items, diaries, reviews and stories are on display. A correct balance is achieved between the teaching of functional literacy skills and imaginative and creative aspects of the subject.
The level of attainment in Mathematics is very good and the pupils demonstrate very good understanding of their programmes of study. Pupils are interested in the subject area and they demonstrate very good reasoning and problem-solving skills when questioned. The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken effectively and the implementation of the curriculum in multi-class settings is very well organised and managed. Both classrooms provide specific display areas for a large array of mathematical resources and manipulatives. Lessons are provided with a good focus on understanding and on prior knowledge. Overall practical approaches, involving both teacher-devised and commercially produced materials and equipment, are practised. Activity-based resources and materials are used in the explanation of concepts and related operations. Oral mathematics is developed through discussion and daily activity in both classrooms. The productive use of mathematical practical tasks and games to arouse interest and apply concepts is to be commended. All strands are covered appropriately. In the infant and junior classes, pupils are engaged in a variety of well-resourced, enjoyable and purposeful pupil-centred mathematical activities which provide them with opportunities to develop mathematical and estimating skills as well as appropriate mathematical language. As a result, pupils’ understanding of concepts and number operations are well developed. In the middle and senior classes this good work is continued. Here there is commendable emphasis on a hands-on approach as pupils are given opportunities to purposefully engage in practical activities such as cutting out shapes or fractions to exemplify particular points to enable discovery learning wherein the skills of estimation and deduction are developed..
Written aspects are managed capably; pupils receive excellent training in laying out their work, which is presented with neatness and order. Excellent differentiation for class groups is evident. In general, very good use is made of precise mathematical language during instruction, which results in high levels of mathematical understanding among the pupils. Their ability to make connections between mathematical topics taught in class and real-life situations is praiseworthy.
Due prominence is given to Visual Arts throughout the school, the work in the subject area is highly commendable and pupils are afforded regular opportunities to engage in activities from the curriculum to develop their creative and artistic skills. Lessons are arranged and conducted with skill and success. Materials are organised with care and although space in classrooms is limited they are easily accessible to provide opportunities for pupils to experiment with a variety of art materials, media and techniques. Fine samples of the pupils’ work attractively exhibited in the classrooms and in corridor spaces are an enhancement of the school surroundings. These displays and a review of pupils’ portfolios provide evidence of the wide range of material and techniques to which the pupils are exposed. The pupils discuss elements of work with assurance and they are fluent and clear in describing their own samples.
In the infant and junior classes pupils are enabled to experiment with line and shape and to make drawings based on familiar objects. They explore effects that can be achieved with mixing colour and simple print-making and become aware of the three dimensional nature of form in manipulating clay. They explore the properties of materials in making structures and examine the possibilities of fabric and fibre as media for imaginative expression. [d1] This programme is extended and skills are refined in the middle and senior classes where pupils closely observe objects and the qualities of line, shape, texture and light and dark. They explore and experiment with the properties and characteristics of materials and make small inventive pieces in fabric and fibre. Pupils are trained to discuss their work and this approach leads to many benefits whereby they can advance to discussing the work of famous artists. The approach allows for an in-depth series of lessons on the work of a particular artist such as Van Gogh. The pupils reflect his work and make wall plaques using clay where discussion focuses on the materials used, how the texture and mood was achieved and the feeling the picture transmits. The training of pupils in the use of the internet to research the work of the artists as an interesting hobby in their free time is at its embryonic stage.
Assessment is regarded as an important aspect of cyclical planning in the school and the quality of assessment and recording is very good. The teachers use a wide range of assessment tools and techniques to evaluate and provide information on individual pupil achievement and progress. These include checklists, reading logs, spelling and dictation tests, homework assignments, collections of work samples, portfolios, teacher-designed tests and tasks, and focused teacher observation in all subject areas. Information about the pupils is clearly organised and is used strategically to track their achievements over time. Formative and summative results are used to inform planning. Teachers have a thorough knowledge of the pupils, and use informal assessment constantly during the lessons to ensure understanding.
Early screening and profiling of infant pupils’ individual strengths and weaknesses is undertaken through the administration of the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) in senior infants. Standardised assessment in English and Mathematics through the Micra-T and Sigma-T is administered in May each year, with the results being used for the selection of pupils for supplementary teaching. The support teacher administers various diagnostic tests such as the Aston Index and the Jackson Test to ensure planning programmes are in line with pupils’ educational needs.
4.1 Pupils with special educational needs
There is very good provision for pupils with learning-support needs. This support is provided by a shared learning-support teacher who liaises on an ongoing basis with each of the class teachers. Regular informal and formalised meetings are held and an up-to-date learning-support policy, in line with Department guidelines, reflects all aspects of whole-school provision and responsibilities for learning-support education. Four pupils are in receipt of additional support and there is provision for pupils with learning needs in literacy and numeracy. Support is provided on a withdrawal basis, involving small group and one-to-one teaching. A supportive learning environment is provided.
Detailed individual pupil learning profiles (IPLP) are compiled for all pupils in receipt of learning support and these are supported by appropriate, short-term plans. Teachers and parents are consulted and kept informed about the progress of pupils in the development of IPLPs. There is a common approach to the review and assessment of the pupils’ specific learning targets at the end of each instructional term. The quality of teaching is very good. Lessons are well prepared and the teaching is focused and engaging. The available resources are used effectively and the pupils are making good progress in relation to their learning needs and competencies.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The board of management is totally committed to managing the repair, upkeep and maintenance of the school building, they are interested in supporting and enhancing the quality of education provided, and they have a responsible attitude towards ensuring that a wide range of resources are available for teaching and learning .
· The commendable sense of shared responsibility and the supportive and collaborative professional relationships between the two teaching colleagues contributes positively to the collegiate atmosphere, good order, organisation and sense of community in the school.
· The parents’ association is totally dedicated to supporting the development of the teaching and learning process in the school .
· The warm and respectful welcoming atmosphere in the school, to which all the partners have willingly contributed, benefits the self-esteem and good behaviour of pupils who conduct themselves in an exemplary manner and who portray confidence in their interactions with their peers and teachers.
· Good work has been accomplished in the provision of a cohesive, comprehensive and user-friendly school plan.
· The consistency of approach, the spiral nature of the curricular development and the manner in which the teachers strive to adopt and adapt innovative and active methodologies in their teaching are praiseworthy.
· The quality and high standards achieved in Mathematics, English and the Visual Arts are commendable and a love and interest in reading is fostered in the school.
· The assessment procedures and the systematic and reflective self-evaluation engaged in by the staff contribute significantly to the improvement of the quality of pupils’ experiences and to the high standards of attainment.
· The quality of special education provision is very good.
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 accommodate the views of the parents’ association in the school planning process. The board should ensure that all policies are formally ratified and that review dates are established and adhered to.
· It is recommended that some thought should be given to managing the weekly discretionary curricular period to avail of the parental offer of teaching modern languages in order to enhance the curriculum for senior pupils.
· B’fhiú anois béim ar leith a chur ar an gcur chuige cumarsáide agus ar obair gníomhach i dteagasc na Gaeilge chun an dea-chleachtas a leathnú ar fud na scoile.
· It would be worthwhile now to put particular emphasis on the conversational approach and on active engagement in the teaching of Irish to extend good practice throughout 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 October 2008