An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

 REPORT

 

Garrydoolis National School

 Pallasgreen County Limerick

 Uimhir rolla:  10991B

 

 Date of inspection: 7 February 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

 

A whole-school evaluation of Garrydoolis National School was undertaken in February 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 Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE). 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Garrydoolis National School is a rural two-teacher mainstream school located on the edge of the parish of Nicker and Templebraden. It is situated in County Limerick on the border of County Tipperary. There are currently 29 pupils enrolled and projected figures indicate that future enrolment will remain stable as many new families are arriving into the community. The average attendance patterns for the previous term are very good and the school has a policy on attendance which outlines strategies for the promotion of good attendance. The school participates in the Green Schools initiative. The school receives grants to support pupils as a participant in the Department of Education and Science Initiative Giving Children an Even Break through Tackling Disadvantage Scheme (GCAEBS).

 

 

 

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

29

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

2

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 school is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Cashel and Emly. The school’s vision is clearly outlined in its mission statement in which the school seeks to promote the well-being of each individual child, to develop the talents of all pupils and to create a caring atmosphere which will enable pupils to become responsible citizens in society. The chairperson supports the school effectively by visiting the school regularly. It is evident that there is a strong sense of common purpose among the school community. The valuable contribution of the ancillary staff, in particular the special needs assistant and the secretary is acknowledged.

 

 

 

 

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The board of management is properly constituted and meets once a term and more frequently during the building project and when urgent issues arise. Brief minutes of the meeting are maintained and finances are discussed at every board meeting. The chairperson stated that the board’s financial affairs are accurately recorded and a detailed report of the finances is presented to the board at the beginning of each year. The board has agreed to consider the certification of the accounts every four years. The board’s priority in recent years has been fundraising, the building project and the refurbishment of the school.  The members gave generously of their time and their commitment and support for the building programme which was funded by the Department of Education and Science is acknowledged. The current priorities of the school’s board of management relate to the application to Ceantair Laga Árd-Riachtanais (CLÁR) for a grant to enable them to develop the external school environment and to enhance the pupils’ playground. The board is awaiting a decision from CLÁR but has decided to proceed with the project as it had received funding through the Department’s Minor Capital Works Grant in 2007.

 

The board endeavours to comply with statutory requirements and departmental guidelines and circulars. The school has an enrolment policy. It is recommended that the board of management in collaboration with the staff review the enrolment policy in order to ensure compliance with the Education Act 1998 and the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004. Conditions for enrolment cannot be applied to pupils with special educational needs, to newcomer pupils or Traveller children. The use of the School Development Planning Support (SDPS) prompt document will provide guidance during this review.

 

The principal and staff in collaboration with the board have formulated a range of organisational policies. These policies have been ratified by the board. Board members have been actively engaged in the formulation of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE). It is timely for the RSE committee to review this policy. The principal has attended the RSE training course organised through the Limerick Education Centre. The attendance of other members of the committee at the RSE training would provide further support for the review and implementation of the RSE policy. It is important that all content objectives of the RSE curriculum be implemented under the SPHE curriculum in all classes. It is advised that the dates for review of the policies should be stated and that all policies ratified should be signed by the chairperson of the board.  The board is considering draft policies in relation to Substance use and Anti-bullying. It is advised that the board formulates a long-term strategic development plan. This action plan would enable the board to identify realistic and achievable targets, which would outline how the school’s priorities would be resourced, implemented and evaluated.

 

It is evident that the board is very committed to the school. The board members reported that they were very satisfied with the quality of teaching and learning in the school. They further commented on the readiness of pupils on entry to post primary and on the good levels of behaviour which have been established among the pupils. The board identifies the teaching staff, the pupils attending the school and the community support as the major strengths of the school. The school is maintained to a high standard and is in very good condition. The board, teachers and pupils are commended for their efforts in ensuring that the school and its environs are so well presented.

 

 

 

 

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team includes the teaching principal and the special duties post-holder. The duties are clearly defined and are detailed in the school information form. These duties should be recorded in the school plan and ratified by the board. It is important that duties be reviewed regularly as new priority needs are identified.

 

The principal and post-holder are very committed to the school and carry out their duties in relation to all aspects of the school organisation. Ongoing communication between the post-holder and the principal is informal. It is recommended that staff organise one formal staff meeting per term as outlined in circular 25/03 to provide further opportunity to review and develop curricular and organisational policies which will further enhance pupils’ achievement. It is recommended that agenda be set and the minutes of the staff meetings be recorded.

 

The principal has established a strong team spirit and positive working relationships with staff and is committed to the ongoing development of the school. The principal has a strong vision for the school and stated that it is important that “the rural school has its own place in society and that it is a valuable asset to the community and the country as a whole”. She also stated that she strives to link the life of the school with the life of the community and continually strives to keep the school as a real and enjoyable experience for all. She carries out her teaching duties in a professional and competent manner. She actively promotes good behaviour and attendance by pupils, engages with the special duties post holder in the development of organisational and curricular policies. A very positive atmosphere has been established and effective communication structures are implemented. A culture of collaborative decision-making and team work is promoted and responsibilities are delegated. However the strategic and instructional leadership roles need to be further developed. Strategic planning in terms of the development, implementation and monitoring of the school plan is required and the school based review and self-evaluation should be undertaken and organised by the principal.

 

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The school has established close links with parents, community personnel and local organisations. The school does not have a parents’ association, however the principal and the parents’ representatives on the BOM stated that the parents are very supportive of the school. They provide excellent support to the school in terms of organising a range of fund-raising events and assisting at school concerts, religious ceremonies, socials and prize-giving events. The school is engaged in the Green Schools’ Environmental Project and a parent is an active member of the committee. Parents have been consulted in relation to the formulation of certain policies however it is timely that they should be more widely consulted during the formulation and review of relevant policies. It is recommended that the board should facilitate the establishment of a parents’ association in the school in order that parents can become involved as partners in the school community.

 

Annual parent teacher meetings are organised and written reports are furnished at the end of the year. Teachers are also available to meet with parents at other times when requested. School diaries are used effectively to foster communication between home and school. Teaching staff take parents’ views into account when planning specific targets for pupils experiencing difficulty and for those with special educational needs. Home-school links are strengthened through the publication of the website.

 

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

The management of pupils in this school is very good. The school ethos is further enhanced through the positive interactions which have been established. A good rapport was evident between pupils and teachers during the inspection process. Children were mannerly and well behaved at all times. Pupils were courteous, welcoming, co-operative and well motivated to learn. Pupils with special educational needs are well integrated in the classrooms, and learning support/resource settings. Pupils are actively engaged in the Green Schools Committee. The staff should build on this initiative and in the longer term develop pupils’ council with elected representatives from all classes representing the views of their peers. Furthermore it is recommended that the views of this committee be brought to the attention of the teachers at staff meetings and of board members at board of management meetings.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole school planning is satisfactory. The plan consists of a range of organisational and curricular policies. The principal and the special duties post holder co-ordinate the development of all policies. A commendable Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) policy has been co-ordinated by the post holder in consultation with the principal. The curricular plans reflect the strand and strand units of the curriculum. It is recommended that a review of all plans be undertaken to focus on methodologies, children’s learning, learning outcomes, assessment and differentiation. It is recommended that the SDPS prompt documents and templates be utilised during the review of each subject area. The use of action plans in dealing with priorities also needs to be considered. While the board is engaged with the development of a range of organisational policies the board members have been engaged to a more limited degree in the formulation of curricular policies. In order to fully comply with the Education Act 1998, it is recommended that the board discuss, ratify, sign and review all policies on a systematic basis. Copies of all policies are available for review by parents and other members of the community. Some policies are disseminated to parents. Consideration should now be given to increasing parental engagement with certain aspects of the school’s organisational and curricular policies. It is also important to ensure that the evaluation and review of the implementation of the school’s curricular policies is co-ordinated and monitored in a systematic manner.

 

 

The quality of classroom planning is good; however some possibilities for improvement exist.  All teachers provide long-term and short-term planning which in general, refers to the principles and structures of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and which guides and informs classroom practice. A template for short-term planning and monthly progress records is utilised by the staff. There is not a cohesive approach to long-term planning in the school. Some plans adhere to all aspects of long-term planning and other plans just detail aims, content and resources. It is advised therefore that the staff now agree on common approaches for long- and short-term classroom planning to include objectives, learning experiences, methodologies, integration opportunities, differentiation and assessment strategies. Monthly progress reports are also maintained which are largely based on reporting the broad content of lessons taught. A strategy should be devised for conducting an annual school review. To ensure that staff will be enabled to contribute effectively to the information gathered during this annual school-based self-evaluation process, a school based template for individual progress records might be devised which would include a reflective comment on the objectives achieved in addition to the current emphasis on the broad outline of content taught. 

 

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 dearcadh dearfach á chothú i measc na ndaltaí i leith na Gaeilge agus úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go neamhfhoirmiúil i rith an lae. Baintear úsáid as cluichí, dánta agus rainn go rialta sa teagasc. Is in-mholta an tslí a úsáidtear Teicneolaíocht an Eolais agus na Cumarsáid (TEC) mar áis spreagúla chun an Ghaeilge a mhúineadh. Roghnaítear ábhar cainte atá in oiriúint do chumas na ndaltaí i ngach rang. Déantar cúram breá d’fhoclóir na ndaltaí a chothú agus a leathnú agus scileanna tuisceana a chur chun cinn.  Úsáidtear modh na cumarsaide agus modh na dramaíochta go cumasach. Baintear feidhm freisin as pictiúir, gníomhaíochtaí agus raon acmhainní éagsúla chun foclóir agus cumas cainte na daltaí a leathnú agus a shaibhriú. Tá cnuasach maith de rainn Ghaeilge agus dánta ar eolas acu agus aithrisítear go beoga iad. Cuirtear tús leis an leitheoireacht trí phrionta sa timpeallacht a sholáthar agus trí scéimeanna leitheoireachta a úsáid. Léann formhór na ndaltaí sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna le cruinneas agus le tuiscint. Is fiú a chinntiú anois, áfach, go ndírítear ar scileanna leitheoireachta na ndaltaí a chur chun cinn trí straitéisí focal-briseadh a mhúineadh, trí anailís rialta a dhéanamh ar fhocail agus trí scileanna fóineolaíochta a leathnú go foirimiúil. Eagraítear deiseanna saorscríbhneoireachta do na daltaí. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh ar aird níos treise a dhíriú ar an scríbhneoireacht phearsanta agus chruthaitheach a fhorbairt, ar chineálacha éagsúla scríbhneoireachta a leathnú tríd an scoil agus ar an bpróiséas scríbhneoireachta a chur chun cinn.

 

 

 Irish

A positive attitude to Irish is promoted among the pupils in the school and Irish is used informally throughout the day. Games, poems and rhymes are used regularly in the teaching. The use of ICT as a motivating resource in the teaching of Irish is praiseworthy. Age appropriate conversation topics are selected for pupils at all class levels. Appropriate attention is given to the development of pupils’ vocabulary and comprehension skills are developed competently. Pictures, actions and a range of different concrete resources are also used proficiently to develop and enrich the vocabulary and the communicative ability of the pupils. The pupils have learned a wide range of poems and rhymes in Irish which they recite enthusiastically. Reading is introduced through the provision of print in the environment and through the use of reading schemes. Most of the pupils in middle and senior classes read with accuracy and understanding. It is now worthwhile ensuring, however, that attention is directed at promoting pupils’ reading skills through the teaching of word-attack strategies, regular word analysis and through the formal expansion of phonological skills. Opportunities are provided for pupils to write creatively. Consideration should now be given to directing further attention to the development of personal and creative writing, to expanding a variety of writing genres throughout the school and to the promotion of the process approach to writing.

 

English

The English school plan refers to the oral, reading and writing strands of the curriculum. It details resources for the implementation of oral language and reading schemes for all class levels. It outlines poems and rhymes to be taught.  It is recommended that a programme of work, pertaining to the incremental development of the strand and strand units be detailed in the school’s curricular policy, in order to ensure that there is systematic progression of teaching and learning of English at every class level.

 

The teachers facilitate talk and discussion in all curricular areas, thus promoting the development of oral English skills. Most pupils in infant and junior classes listen well to each other, take turns to speak and share readily in discussion with their teachers. Most senior pupils also display confidence in expressing ideas and in offering opinions during whole class discussions. Good emphasis is placed on rhymes and poems in all classes which pupils recite with expression. Pupils in the middle and senior classes dramatise a number of poems effectively. It was noted during the evaluation that the learning support teacher provides oral language development classes for senior infants. This practice of early intervention is to be commended.  To further enhance the development of oral language skills it is recommended that a discrete oral language programme be introduced that is explicitly linked to the oral language objectives as set out in the English curriculum. Consideration should be given to developing an observation framework for the assessment of oral English in the school.

 

Good pupil competence and fluency in reading was in evidence during classroom observation visits. At infant level, good attention is paid to emergent reading and writing. Large format books are also in use and phonics schemes are implemented productively. Pupils engage in shared reading using a wide range of real books. Sight vocabulary, functional work, phonological awareness activities and grammatical tasks are being developed effectively at all class levels. Commercial text books are in use throughput the school and a range of books is displayed in classroom libraries, while novels are used in middle and senior classes.

 

Functional and creative writing is undertaken at all class levels. Summaries of stories, news, letters and poems form part of the work undertaken in the junior, middle and senior standards. It is recommended that consideration should now be given to ensuring that a wider variety of genres in writing is addressed and further explored throughout the school in a progressive and systematic manner. It s also important to ensure that pupils’ work is displayed frequently and that dedicated writing areas are created in all classrooms. Further development of the process approach to writing should be implemented at all class levels and this process should be supported through the use of the school’s ICT equipment.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The whole school plan for Mathematics details aims, broad objectives, strand, strand unit, content objectives, skills, resources, methodologies and assessment. It is recommended that the plan be reviewed utilising the SDPS documents. The plan should include the further development of mathematical language through the allocation of discrete time during mathematics lessons, the further development through the mathematical concepts, through the use of the local environment, real situations, mathematical workshops and trails.

 

Good attention is given to the development of pupils’ mental mathematical skills. Lessons are structured and developed in an effective manner. Pupils’ application to tasks and activities is managed effectively. A range of approaches is used in the teaching of Mathematics and effective use is made of concrete materials. Good attention is paid to the development of mathematical concepts and language. The collaboration between the mainstream teacher and the learning support /resource teacher in implementing an in-class intervention programme in middle classes is commended. It is advised that the practice of creating maths-rich environments be extended to include concrete materials and investigation areas in all classes. Further emphasis on the ongoing monitoring of pupils’ progress and analysis of class and whole school Sigma T results will provide further insight into pupils’ achievement.

 

3.3 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

The school plan was developed in 2004/2005 academic school year and was ratified by the board. The plan is based on the structure and the principles of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum and it takes account of the three curriculum strands, Myself, Myself and Others and Myself and the Wider World which are implemented over a two year cycle. Many organisational policies support the SPHE plan and these include anti-bullying, RSE, enrolment policy, code of behaviour, discipline, health and safety, healthy eating, attendance, care of the environment, acceptable use policy, ICT policy and homework policy. The board is currently engaged in the review of anti-bullying and substance use. It is recommended that the review of the anti-bullying policy should include a survey of parents and pupils to ascertain their views and opinions.

 

The vision clearly outlined in the SPHE plan states that the development of pupils’ self-worth and self-confidence is a priority. Providing opportunities for pupils to take responsibility for their health and to manage their feelings and relationships is also the focus of the vision. The atmosphere in the school reflects a commitment to the development of a positive caring environment. A range of appropriate topics is planned for and taught throughout the school. Many of the objectives are approached in a cross-curricular manner drawing on a range of programmes and materials available to the staff.

 

An RSE policy is available. The principal and teachers report implementation of the RSE programme particularly at senior level. There remains some difficulty with regard to aspects of the programme at the infant, junior and middle levels about the naming of body parts as outlined in the Growing and Changing strand unit. It is advised that a review of the RSE policy be undertaken in consultation with the partners and that the content objectives for all class levels be clearly outlined in this process, recorded in the plan and disseminated to parents. It is important that all content objectives of the RSE curriculum be implemented under the SPHE curriculum in all classes.

 

It is recommended that all the partners including pupils be involved in the review of the SPHE programme and that a copy of the final plan be disseminated to parents. This review should include whole-school planning for assessment and record-keeping in SPHE. As part of the action plan policies should be developed on the following areas; critical incidents, sexual harassment, intercultural education and gender equality utilising the recently published Departmental publication Equal Measures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.4 Assessment

Most teachers use a range of assessment strategies, including, teacher observation, teacher designed tasks and tests, monitoring of oral and written activities. Standardised tests inform the programmes undertaken in English and these assist teachers when grouping pupils and matching reading materials to the pupils’ needs. The school administers a range of standardised tests including Micra T and SigmaT, Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) and Forward Together Programme (FTP). These are administered by the class teachers and the learning support teacher. The results of these tests are maintained centrally.

 

 

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A Learning Support/Resource Teacher is based in Nicker NS and shared with Garrydoolis NS and Doon NS. The special needs policy outlines how pupils are selected for supports and this is based on the results of standardised tests, diagnostic testing and meeting with class teachers and parents. It is recommended that a review of the policy should include the staged approach as detailed in Circular 02/05.

Support teaching is provided by a teacher who is concerned with the holistic needs of pupils. The teaching was very good, structured, focused on the needs of the pupils and the pupils were fully engaged in learning. A policy of early intervention in literacy is implemented with senior infant pupils. In-class support in Mathematics is provided for pupils in the middle classes and literacy support is provided for senior pupils. Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) are prepared. Support for a pupil with special education needs is provided and an Individual Education Plan (IEP) is prepared. Monthly reviews of content taught are maintained.

In general, the targets in these plans are very broad and in future should be very specific and relevant to the needs of the individual children or groups of children.  The IPLP model outlined in the Learning Support Guidelines 2000 should be used as the basis for planning. Planning for pupils presenting for literacy and language support difficulties should be organised as follows two individual profiles and learning programmes should be devised annually outlining the screening assessment, diagnostic assessment, learning strengths and attainments, priority learning needs, learning targets for the period, learning support activities provided by the support teachers and learning support activities to be provided by the classroom teacher. Weekly planning and progress records should also be prepared that will outline the familiar reading planned and the learning strategies for revision. This plan should also outline the new reading strategies and the new reading to be undertaken weekly. Weekly progress on the achievement of this plan should also be recorded. Attendance records should be maintained. The RT/LST meets with the parents at the start of the academic year. It is recommended that the LST/RT meet with the parents during the annual parent teacher meeting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  December 2008