An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

  

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

 Ballyguiltenane National School,

Glin, Co. Limerick

Roll number: 11307N

  

Date of inspection:  7 February 2007

  Date of issue of report: 8 November 2007

 

Whole-school evaluation

1.     Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

3.     Quality of school planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

5.     Quality of support for pupils

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Ballyguiltenane National School. 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’ representatives on the school’s board of management. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors 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, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

Ballyguiltenane National School, Glin, Co. Limerick is a four-teacher, co-educational school, under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Limerick, which caters for pupils from infants to sixth class. The school is located in Ballyguiltenane, which is approximately three miles from the village of Glin, Co. Limerick. The school’s catchments’ area encompasses the parishes of Glin, Moyvane and Athea. There is a current enrolment of 63 pupils in Ballyguiltenane National School and it is expected that this enrolment figure will remain at current levels in the future.

 

The mission statement of Ballyguiltenane National School outlines that the school is a co-educational, Catholic primary school which strives to provide a well-ordered, caring, happy and secure atmosphere where the intellectual, spiritual, physical, cultural and moral needs of the pupils are identified and addressed.’  It also highlights that the school ‘has due recognition for all other religions’ and ‘will strive to promote the personal and professional development of teachers.’  The school’s mission statement also outlines that the school ‘encourages parental involvement’ and ‘endeavours to enhance the self-esteem of everyone in the school community.’ It is further stated that Ballyguiltenane National School promotes gender equality and strives to develop and nurture the Irish language throughout the school.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management (BOM) is properly constituted and it is supportive of all school-related activities. The board convenes on a regular basis and frequent communication has been established between the chairperson of the board and the school principal. It is reported that other members of the BOM make themselves available, as required. These features of good practice are commended. The board endeavours to comply with statutory obligations. It is recommended, however, that the board undertakes a review of the school’s Enrolment Policy as a matter of urgency, to ensure that statutory obligations pertaining to the Education Act (1998) and the Equal Status Act (2000) are fulfilled.

 

The board has identified its priorities as continuing the ethos of the school, the maintenance of the school’s positive atmosphere and ensuring that the full curriculum is implemented. Addressing the restrictions of the school’s current accommodation, the provision of appropriate toilet facilities and suitable amenities pertaining to external sports activities are also cited as matters of priority. Further issues discussed at board meetings include matters relating to enrolment, school planning policies, financial issues and the provision of school resources. School accounts are certified on an annual basis and this feature of good practice is commended. Members of the school’s BOM perceive the school’s strengths as the size of the school, the close-knit, supportive community ethos, the school’s wide catchments’ area, the emphasis placed on local studies and traditions, the positive school atmosphere and the pro-active staff. The board members expressed their satisfaction with the achievement of pupils and the manner in which the curriculum is taught in the school. Board members further stated that they were very supportive of the school’s extra-curricular activities in Music, dancing, swimming and sport.

 

The board perceives its role as engaging in a wide variety of school-related matters. These issues mainly pertain to the general maintenance of the school building. The board has ensured that a variety of projects has been undertaken and completed in the past few years. These include the exterior painting of the school, the installation of a water filter system, the provision of a new water supply, the replacement of the school’s timber floors with concrete floors and the dry lining of internal walls. An application for grant aid through the Summer Works Scheme 2007 for planned improvements to roof and insulation of attic space is currently with the Planning Section of the Department of Education and Science (DES). The school has also applied to the Commission on Schools’ Accommodation with regard to its current accommodation requirements. It is now recommended that the board formulates a long-term strategic development plan.

 

The board reports that communication is facilitated with the general parent body through parental support and assistance regarding fundraising, sports activities and shared reading initiatives. Annual parent/teacher meetings are convened and report cards on pupil progress are issued on a twice-yearly basis. School notes and information letters are also appropriately disseminated and it is reported that there is a general parental awareness of the availability of the school’s planning policies.  During the inspection process, it was brought to the attention of the inspection team that there is no formal parents’ association in the school. It is recommended, therefore, that the BOM consider facilitating the establishment of a parents’ association, which would assist in supporting the work of the school and promoting links with the general parent body on a formal basis.

 

The board further reports that it evaluates its effectiveness through remaining pro-active, through achieving its targets in relation to its vision for the school, through its awareness of members’ enjoyment of participation in the board’s activities and also through the level of integration that has been established within the parish during the past decade.

 

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team

includes the teaching principal, the acting deputy principal and one acting special duties post-holder.

 

The principal, who has both teaching and administrative duties, is responsible for the daily operation and day to day running of the school. She undertakes these tasks in an effective manner and she is commended for her professionalism in this regard. The principal fosters a co-operative atmosphere and team spirit among the staff. It is evident that a favourable school climate is created and also that positive behaviour and attendance by pupils is promoted. The principal demonstrates good organisational ability and is successful in developing the whole-school planning process.

 

The principal is effectively supported by the in-school management team, which comprises the acting deputy principal and one acting special duties post-holder. An informal communication structure exists among staff members and staff meetings are convened on a once per term basis, or as deemed necessary. The staff is commended for the comprehensive manner in which agenda are formulated and records of meetings are minuted and stored in the school.

 

School documentation indicates that the primary responsibilities of the acting deputy principal include assisting the principal in the day-to-day organisation and supervision of the school, co-operating with the chairperson in matters relating to the school, fundraising duties, the care and safe custody of school requisites, equipment and teaching aids. The duties of the acting deputy principal also include taking responsibility for organising the Science and Music areas of the curriculum. Responsibilities incorporated in the acting special duties post include the organisation of the supervision rota, addressing the school’s library needs, organisation of the Book Fair, enrolment duties and overseeing the area of special education throughout the school. The duties of the acting special duties post-holder also include taking responsibility for Physical Education (PE) and organising the area of learning support within the school.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The school has a staff of three mainstream class teachers, including the teaching principal. The school also has the services of a shared learning support teacher and a part-time shared resource teacher.

 

The board of management employs a part-time secretary and a part-time caretaker. Extra- and co-curricular provision is made through the services of external coaches. These coaches provide instruction in Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) activities for all pupils, while tuition in Music is provided to all pupils for a period of six weeks each term. Art tuition is also provided to all pupils during the second term of the school year. Pupils in second to sixth classes are afforded the opportunity of availing of swimming lessons. It is reported that pupils are under the direct supervision of the class teacher during these times. It is advised that consideration be given to the formulation of a policy on staff rotation, so that all teaching staff members have the opportunity of teaching at various class levels within the school.

 

There are three permanent mainstream classrooms within the school building, which was originally constructed in 1876. Refurbishment work was undertaken in 1972. Very good standards are in evidence in relation to the maintenance of the school building. A computer room is in existence in the school and a section of this room accommodates both the learning support/resource teaching and secretarial areas. A staff room was added in the 1980s and this is also used as the area in which part-time resource teaching hours are provided and where baking activities are undertaken by pupils from first to sixth classes on a weekly basis. Staff toilet facilities and pupil cloakrooms also constitute the internal accommodation features of this school. The pupils’ toilet area is currently located outside the main school building. The school has the use of an outdoor shelter, grassed and hard-surfaced areas during recreational periods and these amenities are also used during activities in Physical Education. The school occasionally utilises the facilities of the GAA pitch in Glin for sports activities.

 

Learning environments in mainstream classrooms and support areas are attractive and are well-organised and maintained, in general. It is documented that grants issued by the Department of Education and Science (DES) to the school have been expended in the purchase of Mathematics resources, Science and Geography equipment, Music materials, Visual Arts resources and Physical Education equipment. Resources to support the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) have also been purchased.

 

 

 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

During the pre-evaluation meetings, the parents’ representatives on the board of management met with the inspection team, as there is no formal parents’ association in this school. The parents’ representatives commented on supporting the work of the school through parental assistance in extra-curricular activities, including swimming and set dancing and also through parental participation in ongoing fundraising initiatives.

 

The parents’ representatives reported that they were satisfied with the education provision in the school, that there is an ‘open-door’ policy and that parental concerns are dealt with in an informal manner. It was also stated that parents were kept informed about the life of the school, that parent-teacher meetings are convened and that reports on pupil progress are issued on a twice-yearly basis.

 

During this meeting, the parents’ representatives discussed the need for appropriate accommodation and facilities in the school.

 

The inspectors offered advice to the parents’ representatives regarding the establishment of a Parents’ Association. It was advised that consideration be given to making contact with the National Parents’ Council (NPC) in this regard. The parents’ representatives stated that they were anxious that parental involvement in the school become more formalised.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

During the current school year, pupils have been allocated to mainstream classes in three combined class groupings of junior infant/senior infants, first/second/third classes and fourth/fifth and sixth class pupils. Mainstream class allocations are re-arranged four afternoons per week to facilitate the sharing of teacher expertise in the delivery of a variety of curricular areas. This practice is commended.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

School planning documentation demonstrates that the staff and board of management have agreed on the overall aims of the school, which are in keeping with the overall aims of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). The content of the plan indicates that much thought has been given to ensuring that the curriculum is relevant to the immediate context of the school. However, in the case of some areas of the curriculum, Social Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) in particular, this school context could be elaborated even further.  The school plan shows that the staff intends to adopt active learning, collaborative learning, individual work, enquiry-based learning, including use of ICT, as well as whole-class teaching in the implementation of the curriculum. The documentation included in the school plan further indicates that the teachers plan for differentiation in teaching.

 

Comprehensive policies on organisational and administrative matters and also on curricular areas are included in school planning documentation. The work of the school staff is acknowledged in this regard. It is evident that collaboration between staff and the board of management has taken place in the formulation of this documentation and this practice is commended. It is now advised that, in order to ensure ongoing collaboration in the whole school planning process, the level of parental involvement in the formulation of planning documentation continue to be developed, as appropriate.

 

A range of general school policies is presented on organisational matters including Enrolment, Child Protection, Code of Behaviour and Discipline, Homework, Parent Teacher Meetings, Health and Safety, Substance Use, Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), Supervision procedures, Yard rules and Teacher Absence. It is recommended that a whole school policy on Assessment be formulated, as a matter of priority.

 

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, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 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.

 

A range of general policies is also presented in the school plan pertaining to whole school documentation on Communication with Staff, Communication with Parents, Attendance, Maintenance of Roll Books, Record Keeping, Class and Classroom Allocation, Uniform, Supervision, School Transport, Car Park, Arrival and Dismissal, Assessment, Policy regarding Books, Textbooks etc., Use of Equipment, Policy for Outings and Fieldtrips, School Tours, Policy on the Environment, Fundraising, Telephone Policy, Contact with other schools, Fire Drill, Acceptable Use Policy, Baking, Administration of Medicines and a  Smoke-Free Policy.

 

Curricular policy documentation is included on Gaeilge, English, Mathematics, Visual Arts, Music, Drama, SESE History, SESE Science, SESE Geography, SPHE (incorporating Relationships and Sexuality Education [RSE]) and Physical Education. School policies are also presented on ICT, Religious Education (RE) and Special Education. The practice of nominating special duties post-holders to oversee programmes of work in Science, Music, PE and Learning Support is commended. Consideration should now be given to extending this good feature of practice in order to ensure the overall co-ordination, implementation and review of all curricular policies. It is advised that consideration be given to ensuring that the chairperson’s signature is included on all school planning documentation and that a date for review be identified in school planning policies. It is also advised that a school self-evaluation process be undertaken to monitor implementation of the school plan throughout the school.

 

In general, the school plan influences teaching and learning in the school. There is a need, however, to be vigilant in regard to the implementation and impact of the current plan. To ensure that all individual planning is firmly founded on decisions taken in regard to whole school implementation of the curriculum, a copy of the school planning documentation should be in every classroom. Some aspects of the plan such as the sections on Gaeilge and English, could be summarised. Teaching resource material, which is at present included in the planning documentation, should be stored elsewhere. It is recommended that a formal approach to developing a cyclical process of curricular planning, implementation in teaching and learning, assessment and review in the school might be agreed at this point. In particular, information on pupil achievement should contribute to the ongoing review of the plan.

 

 

 

3.2 Classroom planning

There is reference in most individual planning to the learning outcomes envisaged in the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Very good practice was observed where the learning objectives, the methods and resources to be utilised and the content of lessons were clearly outlined in both long-and short-term planning. 

Common templates are in use for classroom planning and these have been agreed at staff level. The plans currently focus, in most cases, on the methods to be employed and the content of lessons to be taught. To ensure a focused approach on the outcomes of learning, to ensure clear linkage with the primary curriculum and to streamline the planning process, it is recommended that these templates should allow for clarification of the broad learning outcomes in the long-term and of specific learning outcomes in the short-term for each curricular area. A template for monthly progress records has also been agreed among the staff. These records should enable staff to track progress and should also allow for reflection on the implementation of targets identified in the school plan.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1     Overview of teaching and learning

The teachers provide motivating learning environments where a focus on teaching and learning forms an integral part of the day-to-day routine. In general, the teachers vary their teaching styles and the provision of learning experiences to cater for the different learning styles of their pupils. Teacher expertise is also shared, as appropriate. Clear lesson structure, effective pacing and good lesson development were in evidence in most teaching and learning activities observed.  The teachers provide a balance of individual, group and whole class activities. To some extent, pupils are involved in decision making within the classroom and in general school activities.  

 

In most classes, pupil tasks and activities are effectively managed and classroom practice is developmental, open-ended and incorporates both hands-on and real life experiences. Age-appropriate activities are undertaken in the early years. In the senior classes, activities are undertaken which actively encourage problem solving and creative thinking skills.  It is now important to ensure that these features of good practice are extended to all class levels and that effective strategies to manage pupil attentiveness be frequently implemented, as appropriate. Programme planning caters for individual differences.  It is evident that good efforts are made to implement an integrated model of support to assist the learning needs of pupils in the mainstream class context. Pupils’ self esteem is promoted so that all children experience success and know that their efforts are valued.  

 

There is evidence of cross-curricular integration during classroom activities and it is now important to ensure that the use of pupils’ immediate and local environment be further developed. The use of ICT should also be further explored during mainstream and support teaching class activity, in order to ensure that this resource continues to support areas of the curriculum effectively. It is also advised that a greater variety of assessment approaches be used, which would inform teaching and learning programmes at all class levels.

 

 

4.1 Language

Irish

cáipéisíocht léirithe sa phlean scoile agus i bpleánáil oidí aonair i leith polasaí na Gaeilge a dhéanann tagairt do struchtúir Churaclam na Bunscoile (1999). Feictear go ndéantar iarrachtaí fiúntacha atmaisféar fabhrach don Ghaeilge a chothú sna rangsheomraí agus go bhfuil caighdeán maith sroichte ag daltaí i leibhéil áirthe i snáitheanna an churaclaim.

 

Is léir go bhfuil cumas maith tuisceana agus labhartha ag na daltaí i ranganna áirithe. Baintear leas, tríd an scoil, as modheolaíochtaí taitneamhacha éifeachtacha agus úsáidtear fearas léirithe, ábhair chorportha, rannaireacht, gníomhaíochtaí ról-ghlacaidh, cluichí, grúp-obair, obair i bpéirí agus ceistiúchán go torthúil, i gcoitinne. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois ar an scéalaíocht a chur chun cinn tríd an scoil, ar chleachtaí éisteachta a chur os comhair na ndaltaí go minic agus ar bhéim níos treise a chur ar Éisteacht mar shnáith den churaclam. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go seiftiúil mar theanga teagaisc, mar mhionchaint an tseomra i rith am rolla agus mar mhéan cumarsáide i rith ceachtanna áirithe. Moltar an dea-chleachtas seo. Ba chóir a chinntiú, ag rangleibhéil áirithe, áfach, go ndéantar athbhreithniú, dul siar agus daingniú rialta ar fhoclóir, nathanna agus ar bhunstruchtúir le linn na gceachtanna, go seachnaítear an tsluafhreagairt agus go ndírítear aird ar chumas cumarsáide daltaí aonair a fhorbairt.

 

Déantar monatóireacht rialta ar ábhar scríbhneoireachta agus spreagtar na daltaí chun cur-i-láthair slachtmhar a léiriú. I rangleibhéil áirithe, léann na daltaí le tuiscint agus líofacht trí fheidhm a bhaint as scéim léitheoireachta. Soláthraítear prionta sa timpeallacht i rangsheomraí áirithe chun tacú le tús agus le forbairt na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta. Aithnítear an dea-chleachtas seo. Ba chóir a chinntiú, go bhféachtar chuig an bprionta Gaeilge sa timpeallacht a fhorbairt ar fud na scoile, go gcuirtear saothar scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge ar taispeáint agus freisin go bhforbraítear a gcuid scileanna scríbhneoireachta chruthaithigh. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois ar bhéim níos treise a chur ar úsáid a bhaint as áiseanna an ríomhaire chun cineálacha éagsúlacha scríbhneoireachta a fhorbairt tríd an scoil agus chun an próiseas scríbhneoireachta a chur chun cinn.

 

Irish

Documentation pertaining to the curricular policy of Irish is presented in the school plan and in individual teacher planning, which makes reference to the structures of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). It is evident that worthwhile efforts are being made to foster a positive atmosphere towards the Irish language in the classrooms and that a good standard has been achieved by pupils in some class levels across the strands of the curriculum.

 

It is apparent that a good level of achievement has been attained in relation to pupils’ comprehension and oral skills in some classes. Enjoyable and effective teaching methodologies are implemented throughout the school and illustrative resources, concrete materials, rhyming activities, role-play experiences, games, group work, pair work and questioning are used productively, in general. Consideration should now be given to promoting storytelling throughout the school, to ensuring that pupils are presented with listening activities on a frequent basis and to ensuring that greater emphasis is placed on developing the Listening (Éisteacht) strand of the curriculum. Irish is used effectively as a medium of instruction, during incidental discussion when the roll-book is being completed and as the medium of communication during certain lessons. This feature of good practice is commended. It should be ensured at some class levels, however, that regular review, revision and consolidation of vocabulary, phraseology and grammatical structures is undertaken during lessons, that chorus responses are avoided and that attention be paid to developing individual pupils’ communicative competence.

 

Regular monitoring of written work is undertaken and pupils are encouraged to display neat presentations. In some classes, pupils read with understanding and fluency through the use of a reading scheme. Print-rich environments are provided in some classrooms to support the introduction and development of reading and writing. This feature of good practice is acknowledged. It should be ensured that a print-rich environment in Irish is developed throughout the school, that pupils’ written work in Irish is displayed and also that their creative writing skills are developed. Consideration should also be given to placing greater emphasis on the use of computer resources to develop a variety of writing genres throughout the school and to promote the process approach to writing.

 

English

In the curricular area of English, good lessons were observed in all classes. Activities were clearly structured and paced in an appropriate manner, while pupils’ application to tasks was also managed effectively. There is evidence, from a variety of sources, that good pupil attainment has been achieved in this area of the curriculum. 

 

It is evident that most pupils display very satisfactory oral language skills and that they engage in effective oral interaction with teachers. Consideration might now be given to using the Drumcondra English Profiles as a resource to assist in monitoring pupil progress in the oral language strand of the curriculum. While planning for oral language topics is in evidence in individual teacher preparation, it is recommended that a discrete oral language programme, which is explicitly linked to the oral language objectives in the English curriculum, be further developed and implemented in all classes throughout the school.

 

A scheme to enhance pupils’ phonological awareness is in use in infant and junior classes, through the implementation of the Newell Literacy programme. Sight vocabulary is developed in a productive manner in infant classes, large-format books are in use, while shared reading initiatives are also in operation in the school. Commercial textbooks are employed and novels are also utilised at middle and senior class level. While separate reading programmes are presented in teachers’ planning in relation to teaching in multi-class contexts, it is advised that further differentiated activities be implemented as appropriate, so that programmes of work in reading are matched to individual pupils’ competence.  Print-rich environments are developed appropriately in all classrooms. Class libraries facilitate pupil access to a wide range of books and this feature of good practice is commended.

 

Pupils have a good grasp of spellings and phonic work throughout the school and it is evident that appropriate emphasis is placed on pupils’ understanding of grammatical structures. A range of poetry is taught and recited with expression and it is noted that pupils have learned a wide and appropriate anthology. There is evidence of good outcomes in relation to pupils’ written work in copybooks and pupils’ ability to work independently is encouraged. Written work is recorded and presented in a neat manner and regular correction is undertaken. It is now important to ensure that the process approach to writing be further developed and implemented at all class levels and that pupil work in this regard be displayed. Consideration might also be given to ensuring that a wider variety of genres in writing be addressed and further explored throughout the school in a progressive and systematic manner, through the support and use of the school’s ICT equipment.

 

4.2 Mathematics

In Mathematics, whole school planning documentation and individual teacher preparation, reflect the principles and structure of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Good pupil competency was observed across the strands of the Mathematics curriculum and this was evidenced, in particular, from pupils’ responses at senior class level.

 

Group teaching activities are undertaken in all classes and, in general, effective management of pupils’ application to tasks was observed during lessons. Good teacher-pupil and co-operative pupil/pupil interactions were also in evidence. It is now important to ensure that differentiated activities are implemented, which are tailored appropriately to pupils’ mathematical ability.

 

Concrete and structured materials are used productively and active learning strategies are also promoted. While suitable emphasis is placed on the acquisition of number concepts and skills, it is important to ensure, at some class levels, that the frequent consolidation of number work is undertaken and that oral mathematics activity continues to be addressed on a daily basis in all classes. This would assist in further developing pupils’ problem solving abilities and higher order thinking skills. Increased emphasis should also be placed on the acquisition and development of mathematical language.

 

4.3 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

The History programme in this school is planned to ensure that the pupils acquire knowledge of past human experiences at family, local, national and international levels. It is also planned that pupils will develop an understanding, appropriate to their age, of time and chronology, change and continuity, cause and effect. The programme is designed to ensure progression and continuity so that the pupils will acquire skills appropriate to their developmental stages. The planned content involves personal social and local history. It is planned to deal with aspects of technological, scientific, cultural, artistic and leisure activities from the past. The school curriculum also refers to the lives of people from different social, cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds in Ireland, Europe and the wider world as well as some elements of political history.

In dealing with historical themes and topics the pupils have developed empathy with other people and an understanding of past and of current social, political and economic interactions. The younger children are enabled to arrive at their first impressions of the concept of time and of aspects of life which have remained unchanged by comparing their school as it is today with the school of the past. The use of time lines was seen to be enabling the more senior pupils to develop a sense of sequence and chronology.

Pupils have been involved in the study of aspects of personal and local history. There may be a need for the school to expand on its present repository of information on local history to ensure that the whole school programme emanates from the history of the local area. It is planned to invite knowledgeable local residents to the school to assist in this activity. Further work should now focus on enabling the pupils to develop as historians and to interpret much of the available evidence in a critical way. To further their communicative skills in history, pupils should be enabled to synthesise accounts from several pieces of evidence and to create imaginative reconstruction of the past using various media.

Geography

The content of the school plan indicates that the staff has given consideration to the main strands of the Geography curriculum in the school. The teachers have planned to emphasise the three strands of human environments, natural environments and environmental awareness and care. The plan has outlined in broad terms the methods the teachers will use to develop a sense of place and space, maps, globes, graphical skills and geographical investigation skills. The school plan in Geography also indicates that the teachers have decided that geographical activities will be based on the local environment and that the pupils will have the opportunity to explore and investigate the environment systematically and thoroughly. To ensure that continuity and progression occur on a whole-school basis, the staff might revisit the plan to ensure that some geographical topics are explored in increasing detail at a number of levels. Further expansion on the plan with clear identification of the aspects of the local environment, which will become the catalyst for further exploration, should be detailed.  Opportunities to integrate Geography with other areas of the curriculum are outlined in planning documentation.

 

Classroom planning is varied in the extent to which long-term learning outcomes, in keeping with the principles and structure of the Geography curriculum, are identified. Some excellent practice was observed where the teacher stated long-term and short-term teaching objectives, which reflected the three strands of the Geography curriculum. It is now recommended that the existing school and classroom planning in Geography be revisited with a view to ensuring that, both on a whole school and an in-class basis, geographical activities will be based on the local environment and that the pupils will have the opportunity to explore and investigate the environment systematically and thoroughly.

Observation of classroom activity in this school indicates that a wide variety of methodologies is implemented. Teachers make good efforts to adapt the Geography curriculum to the needs of the pupils in their classes. Resources such as the data projector, maps and globes, pictures and stories were well utilised in these instances. There is a need to source some ordnance survey maps to support this area of the curriculum. Whole class and group discussion were observed. Due to the inclement weather, no outdoor exploration of the immediate environment was observed on this occasion. Global environments were well explored and clear linkage should now be made between the global and the immediate environment. The newly acquired ICT equipment in the school should be of assistance in this endeavour. The children have acquired a very good knowledge of natural environments. It was also observed that reference was made to the immediate school environment in terms of environmental care.

It should be ensured that geographical concepts and skills be developed through explorations in the immediate environment, wherever possible, with subsequent extension to regional, national and global environments. From the earliest years, map-making should focus on familiar locations. The potential of exploring the geographical features of Limerick County and the Shannon estuary during teaching and learning activities should be fully exploited.

 

Science

It is evident that appropriate resources have been purchased to support this area of the curriculum and that these materials are well utilised. The provision of interest tables in some classrooms enables the pupils to take an individual approach to investigation and experimentation. Investigation/nature tables are attractively displayed in some learning environments and experimentation is undertaken in mainstream classrooms. The pupils in the senior classes enjoyed describing the experiments which they had undertaken. It was observed that one group of pupils had made a model lifeboat and were thus encouraged to explore, develop and apply scientific ideas and concepts through designing and making activities. Planning for the teaching of Science indicates that the teachers aim to deliver a broad and balanced programme, which refers to all the strands of the Science curriculum.

 

4.4 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

In the implementation of the Visual Arts curriculum in this school, learning experiences are directed towards the provision of a broad programme of work for each class level across the six curricular strands. A detailed and very comprehensive programme of work is outlined in the school plan, where curricular documentation and the teachers’ programmes of work are presented. 

 

Attractive displays of pupil work, undertaken in a variety of strands, are developed in classrooms and a celebration of pupil effort is also in evidence. In the lessons observed, Looking and Responding activities were also undertaken. Cross-curricular work is addressed in an effective manner, while emphasis is placed on pupil enjoyment and on the developmental process. Tuition in Visual Arts is also provided on a weekly basis by an external tutor during the second term of the school year and all pupils are afforded the opportunity of availing of this instruction, which is undertaken under the direct supervision of the class teacher.

 

Consideration should now be given to extending the use of the school’s ICT resources, which could support the ongoing assessment, the creation of digital portfolios and the photographic recording of pupils’ work in Visual Arts.

 

Music

A comprehensive and clear policy regarding the curricular area of Music is presented in school planning documentation. In the classes where the teaching of Music was observed, it is evident that Music is taught in a very competent manner. Aspects of music literacy including rhythm, notation, beat and pitch are explored and music appreciation activities are also developed. In the lessons observed, activities dedicated to developing pupils’ performance, composition, listening and responding skills were effectively undertaken. Lessons were also implemented in a clear, structured manner. It is evident that very good standards have been attained in relation to pupils’ singing ability in both Irish and English. The pupils have a wide and appropriate repertoire of songs and instrumental music. Very good standards are also in evidence with regard to pupils’ performance on tin whistle and competence in instrumental skills. In some classes, pupils are enabled to play the accordion, violin, guitar and bodhrán. Music tuition is also provided by an external tutor, on a weekly basis for a period of six weeks each term. All pupils are afforded the opportunity of availing of this instruction, which is undertaken under the direct supervision of the class teacher. A variety of resources is used in an effective manner to support this curricular area, including percussion instruments, appropriate textbooks, tapes, compact discs and audio-visual equipment.

 

Drama

A curricular policy in Drama has been formulated and is included in the school plan. It is evident from the lessons observed that pupils derive enjoyment from the activities undertaken. Techniques in Drama are implemented to establish cross-curricular links and to enhance learning experiences in oral language activities and in the exploration of poetry. Strategies undertaken in this curricular area also support the programme of work in Irish, English and SPHE. All pupils are afforded the opportunity of participating in the school’s Christmas concerts.

 

 

4.5 Physical Education

Planning documentation for Physical Education is presented in the school plan. It is also evident that very comprehensive individual teacher preparation is formulated in relation to this curricular area. In the lessons observed, productive strategies were implemented to ensure integration with other areas of the curriculum, while effective organisation and implementation of PE activities were in evidence. It was also observed that appropriate skill development and use of equipment were addressed. At present, the school does not have the facilities of a general purposes area, however, good use is made of the school’s external facilities and recreational areas, with regard to the programme of work undertaken in PE. The school also has the use of an outdoor pitch. The teaching staff is commended for the investment of time in and commitment to activities in Physical Education. Extra- and co-curricular provision is addressed through the services of an external coach from the GAA, who provides instruction in Gaelic games to all pupils on a weekly basis. It is reported that pupils are under the direct supervision of a mainstream class teacher during this time. Lessons in swimming are also organised for pupils in second to sixth classes.

 

 

 

 

4.6 Social, Personal and Health Education

The characteristic spirit of the school is reflected through the favourable classroom atmosphere and also through positive pupil/teacher interactions. Programmes of work undertaken to support this curricular area include Folláin, Walk Tall, Stay Safe and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programmes. A Healthy Eating Policy is being implemented in the school, in collaboration with parents and the pupils are also enabled to undertake baking activities. These features of good practice are commended. Policies in relation to SPHE incorporated in school planning documentation include the school’s Child Protection Policy, Code of Behaviour and Discipline, Homework Policy, Health and Safety, Substance Use, Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), Supervision Procedures and Administration of Medicines. In classes where the teaching of SPHE was observed, effective teaching strategies and appropriate methodologies were implemented, which incorporated teacher-led questioning/discussion, role-playing scenarios/strategies and personal development activities.

 

 

4.7 Assessment

In the school as a whole, assessment is regularly undertaken and ongoing and effective feedback is given to children. A range of assessment strategies is in evidence, including teacher observation, monitoring of written work, teacher-designed tests and weekly spelling tests. Procedures regarding assessment are also included in school planning documentation. Reports on pupil progress are completed and sent home on a twice-yearly basis and this feature of good practice is commended. The use of a greater variety of assessment approaches, including the use of monthly progress records to inform teaching and learning throughout all class levels, is advised.

 

Formal assessment procedures are addressed through the use of teacher-designed tests and through the annual administration of standardised tests, including the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) and the MICRA-T. While Mathemagic Maths Assessment Tests are undertaken, it is anticipated that the SIGMA-T will be administered before the end of the current school year. The results of these tests are reviewed at staff meetings and are filed and stored methodically in the school. Diagnostic testing materials utilised include QUEST and the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability. It is advised that consideration be given to the use of a computerised system, which would further facilitate the analysis of assessment data by mainstream class teachers, the support teachers and the principal. Consideration might also be given to the development of a digital portfolio to facilitate the storage of individual children’s work samples.

It is further recommended that teachers might routinely use data collected as a result of standardised testing as a base upon which to make decisions for improvement in regard to teaching and learning experiences. A culture of self-assessment might now be inculcated, whereby both pupils and teachers are encouraged to self-assess their individual and collective progress.  It is now recommended that a whole school policy on Assessment be formulated, as a matter of priority.

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1     Pupils with special educational needs

A collaborative approach to the provision of support for pupils is in evidence among the principal, mainstream class teachers and support teaching staff. The support teaching staff consists of two teachers. One of these teachers is a learning support/resource teacher, who is based in this school and who is also shared with St. Fergus’ National School, Glin. This teacher teaches in this school for fifteen hours per week. In addition, a part-time resource teacher provides resource teaching for two pupils who are diagnosed with low incidence learning needs. This part time resource teacher is shared with three other schools and teaches in this school for four and a half hours per week.

 

Pupils are withdrawn for support provision from mainstream classes, both individually and in groups. A range of teaching strategies is implemented in these settings. The programmes of learning focus on the development of language, literacy, numeracy, social and behavioural skills. Practical activities are undertaken and a range of educational software is used in a productive manner. Despite the space constraints within the school, the main learning environment in the support setting is well-organised and is attractively decorated.

 

A combination of in-class support and a withdrawal model of supplementary teaching is provided to support the needs of pupils with learning difficulties and special educational needs. Good efforts are made to implement an integrated approach to supporting the learning needs of pupils in the mainstream context. It is now recommended that consideration be given to further developing this integrated model of provision, as appropriate.

 

A policy on Special Needs Education is documented in the school’s whole school planning documentation.  This documentation has been drawn up in line with the Learning Support Guidelines (DES, 2000) and Special Education Circular 02/05. The advice of a ‘cuiditheoir’ was obtained in drawing up the plan and it is evident that much whole-school discussion was involved in the collaborative formulation of this policy. Detailed guidance is provided in this policy on such aspects as the selection of pupils for support, procedures for early identification, screening and referral, information regarding testing and results, intervention programmes and ongoing assessment practices and procedures. Both the resource teacher and the learning support/resource teacher undertake individual teacher planning.  This is documented through the comprehensive formulation and recording of pupil individual education plans (IEPs), short-term plans, timetables, evaluations of pupil progress and summaries of work completed.

 

There is evidence of effective collaboration and consultation among the principal, mainstream class teachers and support teaching staff in the formulation and development of pupils’ IEPs. Strategies are in place to initiate and foster communication between parents and mainstream class teachers. Feedback regarding pupil progress is provided to parents at annual parent/teacher meetings and pupils’ work is effectively organised.

 

 

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

The teachers strive to ensure that the education provision in this school is tailored appropriately to all pupils’ needs and abilities.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The positive climate, which is evident in the school, reflects the school ethos and characteristic spirit as outlined in the school’s mission statement.
  • The professionalism and commitment of all staff is evident.
  • There is evidence of good quality of teaching and learning in this school.
  • Good pupil achievement is also in evidence in curricular areas.
  • The comprehensive level of whole school planning and individual teacher preparation undertaken to date is commended.
  • Collaborative management and ancillary structures are operating in the school and it is evident that the involvement of the teaching staff, board of management, ancillary staff and parents effectively assists in the work of the school.
  • The staff is commended for its commitment to extra and co-curricular activities.
  • The school building and school grounds are maintained to a high standard.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

  • The school’s Enrolment Policy should be reviewed as a matter of priority, to ensure that statutory obligations pertaining to the Education Act (1998) and the Equal Status Act (2000) are observed.
  • A whole school policy on Assessment should be formulated as a matter of priority. Consideration should also be given to developing a policy on staff rotation and to formulating a long-term strategic development plan.
  • Consideration should be given to initiating strategies to facilitate the establishment of a parents’ association, which would assist in supporting the work of the school and promoting links with the general parent body on a formal basis.
  • The continued development and review of whole school curricular planning on a phased basis, as identified by staff, should be ensured.
  • The further development of strategies to facilitate consistency in and a common approach to individual teacher planning, which is reflective of the structure and principles of Primary School Curriculum (1999), should be undertaken.
  • Extending the practice of implementing differentiated activities, as appropriate and expanding on the school’s present repository of information on local studies should be ensured.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

  

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

 

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

 

The Board has since reviewed the school’s Enrolment Policy to ensure that statutory obligations pertaining to the Education Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000 are observed.   Teachers have met with a cuiditheoir from the Regional Curriculum support service for advice on the formulation of a Whole School Policy on Assessment.