An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Cobh Mixed National School

Bellevue, Cobh, Co. Cork

Uimhir rolla: 10771K

 

Date of inspection: 19 November 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

School response to the report

 

 

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Cobh Mixed NS was undertaken in November, 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, Irish, Mathematics and Physical Education. The board of management of the school 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Cobh Mixed NS is a Church of Ireland school serving the parish of Cobh and Glanmire Union. The school has a long history predating the establishment of the national school system in the 1830’s. The main school building dates from about 1812 and it was established as a parish school accepting all pupils from the parish of Cobh. Within its first decade in existence, it had 90 pupils enrolled, both Roman Catholic and Church of Ireland. In the 1870’s, the school ceased to be a parish school and came under the national school system, under the patronage of the Church of Ireland parish. The triple legacy of original school building, parish patronage and openness to pupils of all religious persuasion continue today. The patron of the school is the Select Vestry of the Church of Ireland parish of Cobh and Glanmire Union and pupils of different religious persuasion are enrolled in the school.

 

The school has two mainstream class teachers and a learning-support teacher based in the school but shared with another school. There are 22 pupils enrolled in the school and the school is now in a stage of transition. There is a new principal in the school who has been a member of staff for a number of years. The previous principal gave 43 years of dedicated service in the school having commenced work in the school in 1966 and retired in 2009. This principal pioneered the integration of special needs pupils into mainstream schooling during her career in the school. The new principal who commenced duties in October 2009, hopes to continue developing this aspect of school life and also to bring the school forward in a number of new directions.

 

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

22

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The characteristic spirit and mission of the school is influenced by its historical context. The school seeks to maintain strong links with the parish community and to this end the pupils are involved in the annual parish fair, carol singing services at the local church and visits to the local old folks home at Christmas. The school also organises a special production for the parents and parish every two years in the school hall. The hall is made available to the local community outside school hours. In addition, the school is aware of its place in the wider world and to this end, it has supported Barretstown Fundraiser for Children, has built two complete classrooms in existing schools in Tanzania through fundraising for World Vision, applied for its first Green Flag, raised funds for the National Council for the Blind of Ireland and for animal welfare organisations. The school received a gold award for its Discovery Science project in 2007 and introduced the Food Dudes programme also in 2007. These initiatives were set in train by the previous principal and it is the intention of the new principal to continue to build on these achievements. Staff members are very supportive of the school ethos.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management provides the school with dedicated support and works conscientiously to ensure that the school operates effectively at every level. The board is properly constituted and holds about five meetings per year. The most frequent items discussed at meetings focus on maintenance of the building, finance and policies. The chairman maintains regular contact with the school. Training for the board has been provided by the Church of Ireland diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross. Specific roles have been assigned to members of the board and these include treasurer, health and safety representative, fund-raising and patron representative. The treasurer gives a financial report at meetings. The accounts are maintained conscientiously but up to now they have not been routinely certified independently. It is recommended that external certification procedures are initiated in line with the requirements of the Education Act. The Department of Education and Science reviewed the accounts in 2007 as part of a random audit. The maintenance of the school’s historic building is a big draw on finances and money must be kept aside for unexpected matters that arise on a regular basis. The board has an ad hoc plan for maintenance of the building but this has not been documented as a long-term plan. It is recommended that such a long-term plan be put in place. The priorities identified by the board for inclusion in such a plan are the development of the school’s IT system, the replacement of windows, the updating of the heating system, the renewal of the wiring system, the renewal of the floor, and fencing of the playground to allow for ball games.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal took over responsibility for leading the school shortly before the WSE commenced and during the evaluation it was very clear that she is leading the school with vision, energy and total commitment. She has given much thought to her new role and in particular to her vision for the future of the school. It is her wish to raise the profile of the school in the area and the WSE provided an opportunity to explore the implementation of that vision. Areas were identified whereby the school could engage with the wider Church of Ireland school community in the diocese and the wider overall school community in Cork through participation in school sports events. The principal is fortunate in that her work and dedication are supported by the board of management, the hard working and open staff and supportive parents. Staff members in this school have always been generous with their time and informal after-school staff meetings have always been a feature of life in Cobh Mixed NS. It is the intention of the new principal to institute formal staff meetings in order to share responsibility for reviews of policies and for developing the school. One of the first priorities of the staff has been to initiate in-class learning support structures.

 

The principal is very ably supported by the deputy principal and together with the principal they comprise the in-school management team. The deputy principal performs her duties with commendable dedication. She ensures roll books are maintained accurately and manages health and safety matters on behalf of the board. There is a policy of a school inspection for safety once per term and the deputy maintains a record of safety matters that arise during the inspection and these are subsequently raised at board of management meetings. School tours and trips are organised by this teacher and she is also in charge of PE equipment. In order to develop the curricular leadership aspect of her duties, she coordinates the Green Flag initiative.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

There are good open relationships between the school and the community that it serves. The parents’ representatives on the board expressed strong support for the school and expressed a high level of satisfaction with the education provided. Parents support the school through help with the school garden, with music for concerts and with fund raising activities. While informal parent teacher meetings were always a feature of life in this school, the principal and staff are to institute formal parent teacher meetings in 2010. This is a very positive step in further enhancing parent teacher communication regarding pupil progress.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

During observed classroom interaction with teachers and the direct interaction with the inspector, the pupils combined courtesy with confidence. The pupils themselves, the teachers and their parents are to be complimented on the orderly, friendly and happy atmosphere that exists in classrooms. The school has its required safety, supervision, discipline and behaviour policies in place to guide the management of the pupils. These policies are implemented in a school environment which is marked by respect for others, engaging teaching and overall community cooperation.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. The vision statement incorporates the school’s Church of Ireland ethos and emphasises respect for all, achievement in learning and openness to different religious faiths and cultures. It is clear from the number of policies held in the school that the board and staff have worked consistently on policy development over the past eight years. The vast majority of the policies are dated and signed by the chairperson of the board. However, a few policies are undated and unsigned and it is recommended that these omissions be rectified. The school has developed a very open enrolment policy in line with its open and welcoming mission statement. The special educational needs policy incorporates the staged approach as recommended in the Department’s guidelines and the child protection policy is comprehensive and lays out procedures and responsibilities clearly. In total, the board has ratified 26 policies over the past eight years.

 

The board has applied equal dedication to ratifying curriculum policies. The policy for English was prepared in 2004 and reviewed in 2009. Aspects of the plan include the introduction of paired reading with the Oxford Reading Tree scheme. Jolly Phonics was introduced from September 2009 and its implementation is being monitored carefully by teachers. In addition useful assessment suggestions for English are made in the plan for each class from first class to sixth class. The Physical Education policy was ratified in 2006 and the plan for Mathematics includes a useful list of resources for the teaching of the plan’s content. The school has also devised a very helpful plan for the teaching of Irish.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good due to the consistent and conscientious approach of the teachers. Each teacher provides long-term plans incorporating aims, content and resources to be employed. It is clear that teachers are planning in advance and are clear about what work is being undertaken in classrooms. Short-term planning is aided by a template but each teacher’s plans are based on the individual needs of each class. The fortnightly schemes and monthly reports are combined and are held in the school for the required time span.

 

Planning for learning support is undertaken with equal dedication. Long-term plans are prepared conscientiously for each term. Use is made of the short-term planning template as is used by class teachers. As with the class teachers, the template is used for individualised contexts. Daily records of progress are maintained and plans for in-class intervention are devised in consultation with the class teachers. The teacher maintains commendable monthly reflections on the progress of each pupil in her care. A copy of the whole-school plan for learning support and resource teaching is maintained by the teacher to ensure that whole school agreed policies are being implemented.

 

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

 

Gaeilge

Tá dul chun cinn maith á dhéanamh i ngach raon de mhúineadh na Gaeilge. Ó thaobh labhairt na Gaeilge de, tá raon leathan de rainn múinte sna ranganna sóisearacha. Tá Gaeilge neamhfhoirmiúil múinte go cúramach agus múintear an teanga forimiúil go cumasach le teagasc ranga. Baintear dea-úsáid as ábhair léirithe chun an teanga a mhúineadh. Cuirtear béim ar Ghaeilge a úsáid an t-am ar fad i rith an cheachta agus tugtar deiseanna labhartha go minic don rang le rainn, le cluichí, le fearas agus le frásaí na seachtaine a chleachtadh. B’fhiú anois smaoineamh a dhéanamh ar chuid d’ábhar eile a mhúineadh le córas dátheangach. Sna ranganna sinsearacha, múintear amhráin, dánta agus foclóir le teagasc ranga éifeachtach. Baineann an t-oide úsáid as ábhar corportha chun foclóir a mhúineadh go díreach. Tugtar deiseanna labhartha do na daltaí tré chleachtadh ar an bhfilíocht, ar an amhránaíocht, ar scéalaíocht agus ar rólghlacadh. Léiríonn na daltaí cumas maith agus iad ag cumadh agus ag cur cheisteanna. Léiríonn na daltaí suim sa teanga agus cuirtear an-bhéim ar Ghaeilge a úsáid an t-am ar fad i rith na gceachtanna. Múintear an léitheoireacht go rianúil sna ranganna uilig. B’fhiú sna hardranganna tuilleadh obair beirte a shníomh isteach sna gníomhaíochtaí léitheoireachta agus b’fhiú tuilleadh béime a chur ar úsáid shuimiúil na dtéacsleabhar agus na teicneolaíochta nuair a chuirtear ríomhairí nua sa scoil. Cleachtaítear an teanga go héifeachtach sa scríbhneoireacht. Tá monatóireacht choinsiasach á dhéanamh ar na cóipleabhair sna ranganna uilig agus tá néatacht ag baint leis an obair scríbhneoireachta tríd an scoil.

 

Irish

Good progress is being made in every aspect of the teaching of Irish. In oral language, a wide range of rhymes is taught in junior classes. Informal language is taught carefully and formal language is taught effectively with whole class methodologies. Good use is made of visual material to teach the language. Emphasis is placed on using the language during the lessons and speaking opportunities are provided frequently for the class through practice of rhyme, language games and phrase of the week. It would be worthwhile now considering some use of Irish to teach other subjects. In the senior classes, songs, poems and vocabulary are taught effectively with whole class methodologies. Practical equipment is used to teach vocabulary directly. Speaking opportunities are provided for pupils through poetry, singing, story-telling and role-play. Pupils demonstrate good ability composing and asking questions. The pupils demonstrate interest in the language and benefit from the emphasis that is placed on using Irish throughout lessons. Irish reading is taught systematically throughout the school and it would be worthwhile making more use of pair work in reading lessons as well as emphasising innovative use of textbooks and communication technology when the new computers are put in place. The language is practised effectively during writing lessons. Copy books are monitored conscientiously in all classes and the pupils’ work is laid out neatly.

 

English

The quality of teaching in this area is of a high standard. The strategies employed ensure that pupils are active and motivated and their cognitive skills are developed assuredly in this subject. The small classes allow for differentiated approaches which benefit pupils greatly. The quality of learning outcomes, including reading skills, written work and oral skills, reflects the pupils’ abilities and pupils are being encouraged to develop their skills to their full potential. In the junior classes very good use is made of rhyme and of big books. There is a good library in the classroom and the teacher prepares extra material, including booklets, to teach specific aspects of language. Large format books are used wisely as a focus for extended work in English in the multi-class situation. Pupils are able to discuss their big books with commendable confidence. Pupils can use their reading skills well in new learning situations. In the senior classes, poems are taught well and a variety of reading material is provided. Pupils are reading regularly and all pupils take home class library books as well as undertaking the individualised reading scheme in class. During the WSE pupils demonstrated strong capabilities of self expression regarding their reading material. Book reviews by pupils are on display in the classroom. Handwriting is neat throughout the school and teachers comment regularly on writing by pupils. It would be worthwhile to encourage pupils to respond in their copybooks to teachers’ comments on their work in order to reinforce learning points.

 

3.2 Mathematics

In the junior classes, pupils are involved in practical mathematical activities while working in pairs. These practical paired activities are followed by practical whole class demonstrations. This is good practice and works well in the multi-class situation. This practice also ensures that different abilities are catered for at an appropriate pace. The teacher is to be commended for the dedication applied to devising materials and worksheets for each topic in Mathematics. These worksheets are used wisely to reinforce learning points raised in the practical teaching sessions. Overall, the teaching and learning is very clear as pupils explore topics in depth, both on practical levels and theoretical levels. In the senior classes, the objectives of lessons are explained clearly. A variety of teaching approaches are employed including, whole-class, group work, pair work and individual learning. The learning-support teacher provides in-class support as part of the intervention programme to help individuals. Overall, lessons are well structured, well paced and developed and include appropriate learning activities with practical demonstrations and with visual material. The classroom interaction is of a high quality, and the atmosphere is positive. The resources prepared by the teacher are used effectively to support learning. Lessons are also based on pupils’ prior achievement and teaching points are reinforced at the end. The pupils’ copies are monitored regularly and mental maths and tables feature regularly in the week’s work.

 

3.3 Physical Education

The school has the use of a small adjacent hall which was built in the 1820’s and served as the original infant school. The hall was totally redecorated under the guidance of the previous chairperson of the board of management. This is now a very useful facility for the school community and it means that PE can be taught throughout the year. This is important as the school has very limited outdoor space. During the WSE, the extension of school involvement in external sports competitions was explored as a means of developing interest and motivation for pupils.

 

The strands and strand units of the curriculum are taught effectively. The school makes good use of the local swimming pool for the aquatics strand of the curriculum. The athletics strand is developed wisely in the school hall using simple equipment and games. For example, pupils are taught how to skip properly using skipping ropes. Lessons observed included practising skipping skills and developing these skills at various levels.

 

3.4 Assessment

Assessment is very much an ongoing activity within classrooms and involves teacher observation, tests and tasks, collecting work samples and administering standardised tests. The results of the standardised tests are summarised and analysed by staff members at formal staff meetings. As a result of this analysis decisions have been taken to reorganise aspects of learning support provision to ensure emphasis is placed on group intervention and in-class intervention. During the WSE, the results of the standardised tests were discussed with the staff and staff members were commended for their commitment to ensuring high standards would be achieved in learning outcomes.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The lessons observed for the WSE included group withdrawal activities in English and Mathematics and a Mathematics intervention activity with a senior class. The lesson objectives for the group activities were described clearly in the short-term notes. The English activities focus on the development of skills for reading. Specific skills are practised using the computer, a phonics programme and a group text. The use of a group text allows the teacher to practise skills such as reading aloud, practising use of comprehension questions and answers, responding to characters and events and drafting and redrafting a story based on the story read. The work on skills is wisely given a context as the teacher chooses a topic or a theme once a week and the activities are focused on that topic. In addition, lots of poems and rhymes are done with the groups. This is very good practice.

 

In the group activities for Mathematics, it is noted that tables are practised every day and use is made of computer software to demonstrate concepts. Further demonstration with visual material on the whiteboard is utilised to reinforce understanding. Practical activities with equipment are then undertaken to further reinforce understanding. The teacher is very careful to ensure pupils’ understanding is clear and it is now advised that mental practice of the four number operations should be incorporated into as much topic work as possible.

 

There is one SNA in the school who provides conscientious support for designated pupils.

 

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

Discrete provision for pupils at risk of disadvantage or for minority groups is not currently required in the school.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report    

 

The Board of Management wishes to thank the members of the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Skills for their courtesy and professionalism during the recent WSE.

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          

 

Recommendations of the Inspection are currently being addressed by the Board of Management.

Since the Whole School Evaluation the school Patronage has been altered and the school is now under the Patronage of Right Reverend Paul Colton Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross.