An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Rathkeale No. 2
Rathkeale, Co. Limerick
Roll number: 10929T
Date of inspection: 7 December 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Rathkeale No.2. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which an inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. She interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. She reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff members, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Rathkeale No. 2 is a two teacher co-educational school situated on the outskirts of the town of Rathkeale. Earliest records of the establishment of the school date back to 1872. The school is under the patronage of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe. There are currently 25 pupils enrolled. Because of its particular religious ethos, the school serves pupils from both Rathkeale town and the broad surrounding rural area. Some of these pupils travel distances in excess of 32 kilometres to the school and public transport is provided for them. Enrolment is stable and it is envisaged that the school will retain its current staffing level in the long term. A shared learning support teacher is based in another school in the parish and attends this school for one and a half hours daily. She provides resource and learning support for children with various learning needs. The characteristic spirit of the school is stated in the mission statement which is communicated to parents prior to the enrolment of their children. This statement is clearly reflected in the general atmosphere of the school and underpins the holistic development of the pupils.
The board of management is properly constituted in accordance with section 14 of the Education Act, 1998. It meets once a term, more often if necessary. Board members are aware of their roles and responsibilities and they undertake these duties effectively. The board ensures that the school’s organisation complies with Department of Education and Science regulations and circulars. Requirements in such areas as the length of the school year and school day, a policy concerning admission to the school and the monitoring and reporting of school attendance are fulfilled. The principal prepares a comprehensive report for each meeting. Financial accounts are meticulously maintained and reported on by the treasurer. The practice of auditing the accounts on an annual basis is to be commended. Members of the board are assigned a particular role based on their skills and these roles are exercised dutifully. Two members of the board have availed of training to prepare them for their role in managing the school and it is recommended that all board members avail of this training when the opportunity arises again. The chairperson visits the school on a weekly basis and is familiar with staff, pupils and parents. This interest and familiarity of the chairperson with the work of the staff and the pupils contributes greatly towards the building of strong links between the school and the school community. In general, the board is not involved in the drafting of whole school plans and policies but devolves this responsibility to the teaching staff. These documents are presented to the board in draft format for discussion and some of them are then ratified and dated. It is recommended that the board would become proactive in the drafting of plans, policies and procedures and adhere to guidelines in relation to ratification and review.
The in-school management team comprises of the principal and the special duties teacher. The principal provides very effective leadership and ensures that teaching and learning are key priorities in the daily practice of the school. She displays commendable commitment toward the development of the individual child and ensures that the principles of the Primary Curriculum (1999) are reflected in the outcomes of the planning process. Effective communication is maintained with the whole school community and this contributes greatly towards the creation of a positive school atmosphere marked by high standards of pupil behaviour.
In-school management makes a very significant contribution towards the development of the school. They are actively involved in the planning process. They are focused on the needs of the pupils and work together in a spirit of collaboration and co-operation. They undertake their duties in a professional manner. They are to be commended for the welcoming atmosphere which they create in the school and for their dedication to their teaching and managerial duties. Staff meetings and planning days are productive and decisions made are effectively implemented. There is a need however to formalise these meetings, by agreeing the agenda in advance and by recording decisions made. It is recommended that the board review and revise the duties of the special duties teacher on an annual basis thereby ensuring that the responsibilities assigned reflect current school priorities.
The school team consists of two permanent teachers. A learning support teacher, who is shared with a neighbouring school, attends for one and a half hours each day. A special needs assistant (SNA) has also been appointed to cater for the needs of two pupils in the school. She has a clear understanding of her role and provides very positive support to the school by meeting the care needs of these pupils and assists in enabling pupils with special educational needs to participate fully in the curriculum and in school life. A part-time caretaker is employed and is effective in her role ensuring that a clean and healthy environment is provided. A music tutor attends the school weekly and contributes very well to the range of musical experiences available to the pupils. The board, however, should be cognisant of the need to ensure that all external tutors work under the direction and supervision of teachers and that pupils are not required to pay for any costs incurred by the employment of such personnel. All staff members contribute to the effective functioning of the school and there is evidence of very open, positive staff relations.
The school is more than a hundred and thirty four years old. It is a listed building. The board has applied under the Summer Works Scheme, for the modernisation of toilet facilities. Teachers ensure that every available space is utilised to create a stimulating learning environment for the pupils. The play area is small but the board is to be commended on the recent purchase and development of land at the back of the building. This is effectively utilised during clement weather for recreational purposes and for physical education classes. The board is conscious of the need to modernise the present accommodation and to ensure that it can adequately support the teaching and learning in the school. It is recommended that the board address the present and future accommodation requirements of the school by devising a development plan.
Department of Education and Science grants for the purchase of curricular resources are appropriately deployed. A range of materials has been made available across the curriculum and this is effectively employed by teachers to support pupils’ active engagement in their own learning. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is particularly well utilised in all classes to provide enhanced opportunities for pupils to advance and consolidate learning. The staff is to be commended for devising a wide range of teacher designed resources based on the learning needs of the pupils and for the display of pupils’ work especially in the areas of the Visual Arts, Science and English. However, the availability of teaching resources in the area of learning support and special educational needs is limited. It is recommended that said resources be provided and that arrangements for ease of access to them would be addressed. There is a need also to ensure that pupils in receipt of supplementary education have ready access to a computer and suitable software.
A parents’ association has not been established in the school. However, discussions with the parent representatives on the board indicate that the parent body is very supportive of the work of the school. They report high satisfaction with the curriculum taught and with the achievement levels of the pupils. It is reported that parents are encouraged to visit the school on an informal basis to discuss the progress of their children. Parent-teacher meetings are convened during the second academic term. Notices of school events and other school news are recorded in pupils’ diaries and these diaries form an essential part of the communication structure between home and school. More formal newsletters are periodically issued and these keep parents informed of school events and projects, of pupil achievements and of school life in general. The parents take an active role in the life of the school. They are involved in the organisation of school sports’ day, nativity plays, Harvest Festivals and they assist with the co-ordination of school tours. The practice of facilitating the involvement of parents and members of the community in the areas of History, Drama and the Visual Arts is highly commended. An informative school brochure is provided to parents on the enrolment of their child into the school. This outlines school policy in respect of certain key areas such as discipline, enrolment procedures, home work and attendance and the school’s mission statement. The school promotes contact between parents and teachers in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect. It is recommended that the board would now facilitate the establishment of a parents’ association which would enable parental involvement in whole school planning.
The school’s welcoming environment and ethos reflect a commitment to the development of an atmosphere which promotes very good relationships. Pupils conduct themselves appropriately at all times and display high levels of confidence and self-esteem. They relate very well with each other, their teachers and with visitors. They engage enthusiastically with the curriculum and display a pride in their school. Very good classroom management skills are evident throughout the school and these contribute greatly to the high levels of pupil co-operation. Procedures and policies are consistently implemented and pupils are encouraged to perform to the best of their ability at all times. Supervision of assembly and dismissal of pupils along with yard supervision were observed as being of a high standard.
The school plan is comprehensive and it is evident that policies and plans in place effectively inform the day to day management of the school and the curriculum. It is clear that the needs of the pupils and the context of the school feature significantly in deliberations and inform planning decisions made. There is clear evidence also of extensive teacher collaboration in the planning process. The board has ratified and dated a number of these documents, particularly in the organisational areas. Some progress has been made in encouraging the involvement of parents in the drafting of plans, notably in the area of Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE).
A wide range of organisational policies is in place. These policies are clear and comprehensive and the majority of them are communicated to parents through the school booklet and the newsletter. Policies in the areas of code of behaviour, anti-bullying, health and safety, attendance, homework are effectively implemented and contribute towards the successful management of the school. The enrolment policy was drafted in 2000 and there is a need to review it, particularly in the area of pupil transfer to and from the school. The special needs policy should also be reviewed in light of circular 02/05.
Good whole school plans are in place for each of the curriculum areas. There is evidence that these inform teaching and learning and the staff is to be commended for ensuring progression and development from class to class. In all cases plans make reference to aims and objectives, strands and strand units, content, and agreed methodologies. The majority of plans address resources, special educational needs and assessment strategies. It is recommended that a review of the school plan be now undertaken and a development plan be devised outlining a time-line for the reviewing of the prioritised areas.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
All teachers present effective long-term and short-term planning. Monthly reports are also maintained. This planning has a significant impact on the quality of teaching and learning. It is based on the learning needs of the pupils and reflective of the principles and aims of the Primary Curriculum (1999). Teachers are to be commended on the identification of a wide range of learning activities for the pupils which encourage their active participation in classes and which focus on learning outcomes. Every effort is made to ensure that pupils of varying abilities are catered for and that all pupils are appropriately challenged. The teachers maintain good records of individual pupil progress and these records outline pupils’ strengths and areas for development. The monitoring of pupil achievement in areas of the curriculum is commendable.
4.1 Overview of teaching and learning
The quality of learning and teaching is of a very high standard in almost all of the curricular areas. Teachers carefully plan for the delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum, ensuring continuity and development from class to class. A wide range of suitable methodologies is employed which focuses on providing each pupil with opportunities to actively engage in his/her own learning. Concrete materials are employed to good effect by both pupils and teachers. Teaching was observed to focus on the incremental building of knowledge and skills based on the previous learning of the pupils and to centre on the interests and experiences of the pupils. Learning objectives were clear and lessons were very well structured. Teachers are to be commended on their management of the multi-class situation and for the manner in which they integrate the curriculum thereby providing pupils with maximum opportunities to apply knowledge acquired to a variety of new learning experiences. Classroom interaction is of a high quality and pupils are motivated and self-directed in their learning. Teachers were observed to differentiate the curriculum to cater for the variety of learning needs of the pupils in their classes. This assists greatly in ensuring that each pupil progresses in relation to his or her ability. Careful records of pupils’ progress in each curriculum area are maintained.
Tá an-chuid oibre déanta ag na hoidí i múineadh na Gaeilge. Leagtar béim faoi leith ar réimse leathan modheolaíochta agus baintear úsáid mhaith as pictiúir, cairteacha, puipéid, drámaí beaga agus cluichí cainte chun teanga labhartha na ndaltaí a fhorbairt agus a shaibhriú. Cuirtear an t-ábhar teagaisc in oiriúint do raon aoise agus suime na ndaltaí agus glacann siad páirt go fonnmhar san obair. Cuireann na hoidí béim ar an gcumarsáid. Tugtar seans do na páistí an teanga a úsáid go taitneamhach agus an foclóir nua a chleachtadh. Is féidir leo caidreamh bunúsach a dhéanamh. Eagraítear na gníomhaíochtaí léitheoireachta go cúramach agus tá dul chun cinn maith á dhéanamh ag na daltaí sa ghné seo den chlár teagaisc. Tá scéim grádaithe léitheoireachta in úsáid. Múintear foclóir nua na léitheoireachta agus na príomhscileanna léitheoireachta go sistéamach. Léann na daltaí, sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna, go cruinn agus pléann siad ábhar na gceachtanna léitheoireachta go tuisceanach. Déantar cúram d'aithint agus d'fhuaimniú ceart na bhfocal. Tá an scríbhneoireacht, idir phearsanta agus fheidhmiúil, ar chaighdeán sásúil. Cumann na hoidí tascanna scríbhneoireachta go rialta don rang agus déantar monatóireacht mhaith ar an saothar. Tá ag éirí go maith ag na hoidí suim agus samhlaíocht na ndaltaí a fhorbairt agus líofacht mhaith theanga a mhealladh uathu. Aithriseann na daltaí cnuasach maith de rainn Ghaeilge agus dánta go fonnmhar tuisceanach agus cantar na hamhráin go beo, bríomhar. Comhairlítear don fhoireann an Ghaeilge a úsáid níos minice sa chumarsáid leis na daltaí lasmuigh den cheacht fhoirmiúil agus an timpeallacht phrionta a fhorbairt sna rangsheomraí.
Very good work is done by the teachers in teaching Irish. Emphasis is placed on the use of a wide variety of methodologies and good use is made of pictures, charts, puppets, small dramas and games to develop and enrich the oral language of the pupils. Lesson content is suitable to the age and interest of the pupils and they engage enthusiastically in the work.The teachers place an emphasis on communication. Pupils are given an opportunity to use the language in an enjoyable way and to practise new vocabulary. They are able to engage in simple conversations. Reading lessons are carefully organised and the pupils are making good progress in this area of the curriculum. A graded reading scheme is used. New reading vocabulary and reading skills are systematically taught. The pupils in the middle and senior classes read accurately and they discuss the subject of the reading lessons with understanding. Care is taken in regard to word recognition and correct pronunciation. Writing, both personal and formal, is at a satisfactory level. Teachers carefully devise writing activities for their classes and there is good monitoring of pupils’ work. Teachers are effective in developing the interests and imagination of the pupils and in motivating them to use the language fluently. The pupils recite a range of rhymes and poems with pleasure and they sing songs sweetly and with spirit. The teachers are advised to converse with the pupils in Irish outside of the formal Irish lesson and to further develop a print rich environment in Irish in the classrooms.
The quality of learning and teaching in the area of English is very high. Oral language is effectively integrated into all areas of the curriculum and teachers plan for the delivery of lessons which focus on the development of specific strand units. Pupils display excellent listening skills and an ability to initiate and sustain a conversation on a range of topics. They are provided with ample opportunities to use language creatively and in social contexts. Pupils in the middle and senior classes engage in debates and are able to argue a point of view and persuade others to support it. Vocabulary is systematically developed in all classes. All pupils are making very good progress in relation to English reading in accordance with their individual abilities. The management of the emergent reader is particularly noteworthy. The interests of the pupils are very commendably utilised by the teacher to develop the child’s general language ability as a basis for success in reading. Pupils engage in the shared reading of collaboratively devised stories thereby providing them with the necessary skills and the confidence to progress to the challenges presented by structured reading programmes. Newspapers, novels, class and public libraries, poetry, extended readers and supplementary reading schemes are effectively utilised thereby exposing pupils to a variety of reading materials appropriate to their reading abilities and interests. Pupils can retrieve and interpret information presented in a variety of formats and can support arguments and opinions with evidence from texts read. They engage with books individually and in group and class settings. English writing is systematically developed throughout the school. Pupils are familiar with the skills of drafting, redrafting and editing and were observed to utilise information and communication technologies (ICT) to assist in this process. Samples of pupils’ writing are attractively displayed. Pupils in the middle and senior classes write for a particular purpose and with a particular audience in mind. It is now recommended that the range of writing genres, handwriting and copy work be further developed.
In all classes observed, the teaching of Mathematics was of a high standard. Mathematical concepts are very well taught and pupil achievement in this area is very high. Concrete materials are effectively employed in each of the strand units and the lessons observed focused on the development of content, strategies and skills. Pupils display confidence and a willingness to persevere when faced with challenging computations and they utilise a variety of estimation and problem solving strategies. Mathematical concepts are consolidated and revised consistently by the teacher. Pupils’ questions are encouraged and they are motivated to work collaboratively to arrive at successful solutions. Learning tasks are successfully differentiated to take account of individual differences. The development of mathematical language is systematically attended to and pupils display an ability to apply, connect and communicate across the strand units. Pupils, particularly in the senior classes, record and present their work accurately and neatly. A variety of assessment tools is effectively employed to assess individual pupil learning and this information informs planning and teaching. It is recommended that oral mathematical activities feature more prominently in each lesson and that the mathematical environment be further developed by the provision of number strips and hundred squares for each pupil as appropriate.
A good whole school plan successfully informs the teaching of History and pupil achievement in this area is very high. Many appropriate teaching approaches are utilised including discussion, story, project work and the commendable identification of persons from the local community who are willing to share historical experiences with the pupils. The immediate locality is appropriately utilised as a starting point for teaching and learning. Teaching and learning are further enhanced by the integration of strand units with other areas of the curriculum, particularly with the development of oral English and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). Pupils display a commendable ability to place historical events in chronological order and they engage enthusiastically with lessons. They recall and relate historical facts with accuracy and demonstrate an ability to empathise with events and individuals from the past and they also demonstrate a very good understanding of cause and effect. It is recommended that the pupils’ abilities to work as historians and their use of historical artefacts as evidence be now developed.
Geography is taught to very good effect in the school and the achievement of pupils is very high in this area. Human and natural environments along with environmental awareness and care are strands of the curriculum which are attended to in an integrated and comprehensive manner. Field trips feature among the variety of teaching methodologies employed. Pupils record rainfall, wind direction, speed and temperature on an ongoing basis using a variety of instruments. Pupils in the infant and junior classes worked collaboratively in following a map of the school environs to locate a number of strategically placed objects, while pupils in the middle and senior classes display an ability to use the atlas and the globe to locate countries in various continents. Commendable emphasis is placed on the ability of the pupils to recall geographical facts and to associate the life styles of peoples with the geographical areas in which they live.
It is evident that teachers have a highly developed understanding of the science curriculum. Evidence from planning and from the lessons observed indicates that teaching centres around the active engagement of the pupils in experimentation, investigation, observing, predicting and recording. Each lesson involves the use of concrete resources and group and project work. Pupils are familiar with experimentation, working scientifically and designing and making and they apply their acquired knowledge to everyday experiences. Pupils are enthusiastic about science and display very good achievement levels across each of the strand units but particularly in regard to the strand units energy and forces and materials. The school is well resourced with a variety of scientific equipment. Commendable emphasis is placed on health and safety issues and pupils have access to goggles and gloves when required. Very good science investigation areas are provided in each classroom.
Pupils are offered a broad and balanced curriculum in relation to the Visual Arts and all strand units are appropriately addressed. The pupils display a commendable ability to evaluate and respond to their own efforts and to the work of others. Concepts and skills, including an awareness of line, shape, colour and tone, form and texture are very effectively developed. The children are actively encouraged to be creative and to reflect their own individuality in the tasks in which they are asked to engage. Their work is prominently displayed and the samples on display indicate a suitable balance between two dimensional and three dimensional work. Due regard is paid to the integration of the visual arts with other curriculum areas. An example of this integration is the making of puppets depicting the story of Setanta in History and the creation of geometric designs based on a Mathematics lesson. Parents with artistic skills have also contributed to the visual arts curriculum and this good practice is commendable. The school has also availed of the Artist-in-Residence scheme. Pupils display a high sense of achievement and pride in their work and it is evident that they are progressing and that their skills are developing as they advance through the school.
Teaching and learning in the area of music are good. Pupils sing a variety of songs in both English and Irish sweetly and enthusiastically. Singing is supported by the provision of a starting note which is appropriate to the vocal range of the pupils. Morning assembly includes the singing of hymns to the accompaniment of a guitar. Children actively participate in music lessons and are familiar with a variety of sound sources including body percussion. They compose and perform music and are assisted by the lessons provided by an external tutor. They have experience playing and listening to a wide range of musical instruments and display an ability to read music in both tonic solfa and standard notation. It is recommended that the listening and responding strand be further developed and that pupils’ exposure to music of different styles, periods and cultures be addressed.
Drama is very effectively taught throughout the school with the able assistance of members of the parent body where appropriate. Lessons observed in the middle and senior classes involved pupils creating a presentation based on the devising of a weather report. This performance was recorded on digital camcorder and pupils were provided with an opportunity to reflect on it and to discuss possible improvements. Children in the infant and junior classes were observed to collaboratively produce a drama in Irish based on a visit to Santa Claus which involved the use of vocabulary and phrases learnt during the previous Irish lessons. It is evident that the school has succeeded in the creation of an environment which is conducive to pupils learning from drama and which allows them to develop the emotional and imaginative aspects of their personalities.
Evidence suggests that physical education is well taught and that pupil achievement is good. The effective integration of a map reading lesson in geography with an orienteering lesson in physical education was observed. Instructions given were clear and concise and the activity was planned to ensure maximum participation and team building. Pupils were observed to actively participate in the lesson and it is evident that they derive great enjoyment from the planned activities. Planning and pupil feedback indicates that emphasis is placed on the strands of games and athletics. Teachers report that the absence of a general purposes room or access to a community amenity curtails the delivery of lessons in the area of dance and gymnastics. However every effort is made to expose pupils to these strands despite these constraints. Swimming lessons are arranged in the second term. The school has a good supply of physical education equipment.
Pupils display a good understanding of the three strands, myself, myself and others and myself and the wider community. Role play, class discussion, drama, and story are among the methodologies utilised. Pupils were observed to be courteous, respectful and co-operative at all times and to display a pride in their school. Lessons observed indicate that the children have a good understanding of personal safety matters, nutrition and personal hygiene. Planning indicates that due attention is paid to developing a sense of citizenship among the pupils and to promoting respect, tolerance and acceptance of persons regardless of race, creed, gender or ability. Home school communication in this area is particularly good and parents are encouraged to support their children’s learning.
Teachers employ a range of assessment techniques including teacher observation, teacher designed tests and tasks, careful monitoring and evaluating of pupils’ written work and the administration of standardised tests in English and Mathematics. The use of ICT to store and to assist in interpreting the results of standardised tests is commendable. This effective use of ICT assists teachers in identifying pupils who may be experiencing difficulties and in planning intervention programmes. Teachers were observed to assist individual pupils who were in need of encouragement or who were experiencing difficulties in completing tasks in class. Good progress records are maintained and portfolios of completed assignments in a variety of curriculum areas are regularly updated. Written progress reports are sent to parents on an annual basis and a parent-teacher meeting is arranged during the second school term. Additional one to one meetings are arranged with parents where it is deemed necessary.
The Middle Infant Screening Test, Non-Reading Intelligence Test and the Aston Index are among the diagnostic tests utilised in the school. The information generated by these tests is used to identify children who require additional support. It is also used to assist the learning support teacher in devising an individual education plan (IEP) for pupils identified as being in need of assistance. It is recommended that the school would now draft a comprehensive whole school assessment policy based on the current good practice being implemented.
present with special educational needs and six pupils are in receipt of
learning support. The needs of these pupils are met by the learning support teacher
who attends the school for an hour and a half each morning and withdraws the
children for support. She is located in a
utility area in the school, a factor which restricts her access to resources
and limits the range of methodologies she can utilise. This teacher plans her
work carefully placing commendable emphasis on the learning needs of the individual
pupils. She outlines weekly and daily learning activities which incorporate a
variety of teaching methodologies and she systematically records pupils’
progress. A comprehensive portfolio of work completed by the pupils is also
maintained. It is evident from these records that pupils are making
satisfactory progress. The learning support teacher maintains close
communication with class teachers and discusses her work with them at regular
intervals. As a result there is effective integration within the school of the
pupils with special needs. The board is to be commended on its support for the
teacher’s future plans to attend a professional development course to assist
her further in meeting the needs of the pupils in her care. It would appear
that at present parents are not consulted in the drafting of individual
education plans (IEPs) for the pupils. It is recommended that arrangements are
made to facilitate consultation with parents, that consideration be given to
initiating the provision of in-class support as appropriate and that current
policies in relation to learning support and special educational needs be
reviewed at an early date.
The board is supportive of the inclusion of pupils from all backgrounds and the school ethos and enrolment policy promote the integration of all pupils and facilitate their full participation in the daily life of the school.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.