An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Port Mhic Aoidh, Contae Chiarraí
Roll number: 11419B
Date of inspection: 30 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 October 2006
Whole School Evaluation
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Bhréanainn. 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 inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, 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 of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Scoil Bhréanainn is situated in the parish of Prior in south Kerry, in the village of Portmagee and overlooking its harbour. There are two other schools in the parish Glen, a two teacher Gaeltacht school and Ballinskelligs also a Gaeltacht school. Scoil Bhréanainn is a two-teacher English-medium school. It also has the services of a visiting learning-support teacher as well as a visiting teacher under Giving Children an Even Break. The school was built in 1984 and has been a two-teacher school since 1999. The enrolment has increased over the past number of years. It now stands at 43 pupils and is expected to remain more or less the same for the foreseeable future. Attendance of pupils is good.
Scoil Bhréanainn is under the patronage of the Bishop of Kerry. Following a period of single manager governance, a new board of management was appointed in 2005. Since then, the board has met three times. By the date of this inspection, the board had met just once during the school year 2005-06. At the pre-evaluation meeting, members of the board expressed serious concern about the infrequency of meetings since the board’s establishment and it was felt that this militated against managing the school effectively. While it appears that the board is attempting to manage the school appropriately, it is evident that there is a particular need to convene meetings more often. There is also a pressing need to appoint a deputy chairperson so that meetings can take place when the chairperson is unable to attend. At the post-evaluation meeting the board of management was informed that the school accounts furnished recently have been referred to the Department of Education and Science for its attention.
The board has reviewed and updated a number of school policies including child protection, substance use and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE). Drafts of these policies were presented to the parents and comments and suggestions were sought. This is good practice. The board is currently working on the school’s safety statement and this is due to be discussed at the next board of management meeting. The code of behaviour and enrolment policies were reviewed by the previous board. All parents receive copies of the discipline, behaviour and enrolment policies. All school documents have been signed by either the previous or current chairperson. They all have specified review dates and this is commendable practice. However, it is advised that the present board familiarise itself with all school documents signed by either a previous single manager or the current chairperson. The school has a mission statement which was developed by the previous board. The school and board might now look at this statement and either endorse or revise it as they see fit.
While the board attempts to comply with its duties as laid down in the Education Act 1998, there appears to be a significant lack of clarity as regards its understanding of its role and function in the school. Since the board has not received any formal training, it is strongly recommended that members of the board should receive training so that the board may discharge its obligations appropriately in the interests of the pupils. The training should include familiarisation with the overall content of the Primary School Curriculum.
At the pre-evaluation meeting, the members of the board with the exception of the principal were reluctant to comment on the quality of education provision in the school. No comment was forthcoming regarding curriculum provision and the balance of subjects being provided in Scoil Bhréanainn. The parents’ representatives on the board felt that they did not have the authority to speak for the general body of parents in the absence of a parents’ association for the school. It is recommended that the board of management, in conjunction with the principal and teachers should seek to facilitate and encourage the re-establishment of a parents’ association as a matter of urgency.
The board is very pleased with the level and type of accommodation provided in the school. The external and internal areas in the school are neat, clean and attractively maintained. The board of management is praised for its interest in the school and for its attention to the maintenance of the school and its environs.
The in-school management team consists of the principal and the special duties teacher. These ensure that the school operates on a day-to-day basis. As this is a small school there are both formal and informal communication systems within the school.
The principal undertakes the administration of the school with the collaboration of the other members of the staff both full-time and part-time. She teaches the middle and senior classes and supervises the work of the school. The organisational and administrative duties of the principal are discharged adequately.. The development of many school policies, in both organisational and curricular areas has been overseen. Roll books are monitored and well kept. The principal encourages the sharing of specific expertise among the staff in the areas of Science, Physical Education, circle time and some aspects of English and Irish reading.
The post-holder has been allocated a broad range of duties and these include organisational, curricular and pastoral aspects. This is very good practice. Duties allocated include responsibility for Physical Education, Science and information and communication technologies (ICT). The post holder carries out the allocated duties adequately. Regular staff meetings are convened and an agenda is prepared in advance.
The school teaching team consists of two teachers. Both personnel and material resources are used to enhance the teaching and learning experiences of the pupils in the school. The school has the services of a teacher who is the co-ordinator under Giving Children an Even Break disadvantage scheme. The school also has the services of a learning support teacher. Both teachers are based in other schools. A part-time secretary helps in the smooth running of the school. The work and contribution of this person is acknowledged by the principal and the board of management.
The school building comprises of three permanent classrooms, a general purpose room, a staff room and a kitchen. One of these classrooms has been divided to provide a room for the visiting teachers while the rest of the space is used as a store for surplus equipment, books and as an exhibition area for science activities. The general purpose room was divided to provide an office area while computers are also placed there. Though the general purpose room is used regularly and beneficially for various activities that include circle time, gymnastics and school celebrations, it is recommended that the general purpose room be restored so that it may be used in its entirety for Physical Education activities. An office area might be created in the divided classroom while the computers might be distributed in all the teaching areas of the school. The school has a staff room and has both hard surface and grass play areas. The decor is bright and pleasant both externally and internally. A high standard of cleanliness, neatness and order is in evidence and this adds to the stimulating environment that is provided for the pupils and staff. Very impressive displays of pupils’ work are in evidence in the classrooms and in the general purpose room. An impressive representation of the local historical site of Illaunloughan made in clay is displayed to great effect in the general purpose room. Pictures celebrating important school events are also displayed.
An excellent range of teaching and learning resources is available in the school. These resources support the teaching and learning of the pupils at all class levels. They are appropriate, accessible, well stored and are managed and used effectively.. Considerable investment has been made in information and communication technology (ICT). The school has a number of networked computers. It is strongly advised that further development of the use of ICT in learning and teaching throughout the school be planned for and that the school’s computer equipment be used consistently to enhance curricular work for all the pupils.
The classrooms are very well presented, bright, comfortable and well organised. Very attractive and stimulating learning and teaching areas are provided through the judicious use of colourful charts and displays. A plentiful supply of reading materials is available in the class libraries. The teachers use these resources to enhance the teaching and learning experiences of the pupils. The board of management and staff are commended for providing a safe, clean, comfortable and enriching environment for the pupils. The pupils are courteous and well-mannered.
If there is an issue of concern regarding their child, parents are requested to make an appointment. This arrangement is said to be in place in view of the multi-class situation and to minimise disruption in the school. At the pre-evaluation meeting, the parents’ representatives expressed concern regarding the time lapse between the request for an appointment and the granting of same, and it appears that in some cases, two weeks might intervene. It is suggested that meetings with parents take place within a more reasonable timescale.
Some members of the board of management expressed the view that there was room for improvement with regard to communication between the home and school and that this required more openness and transparency. There is no parents’ association in the school. The formation of a parents’ association would help in this regard. It is recommended that the board of management and the staff should encourage the formation of an association in the school as recommended earlier in this report. It is advised that when a parents’ association is formed, a specific area be allocated to the parents’ association in a prominent position to allow them display posters or other communications.
The parent-teacher meeting held with the parents of pupils about to start school is most helpful and informative and this initiative by the school is commended. Some of this information might now be put in booklet form and given to parents. Commercial homework diaries, arranged by the school and signed by parents, might also increase and consolidate home-school links. Parents would benefit from information being made available to them regarding the changes of emphases in the curriculum now taught in school. The staff and board might consider the development of some form of curriculum education pack that would be helpful in this regard.
The school community is invited to take part in, amongst other things, the annual Christmas Mass, Christmas events, sixth class graduation ceremony and the reading club. The school came second in the Credit Union quiz in 2006. The principal, staff and board of management recognise the positive contribution made by parents to the overall work of the school.
Very good progress has been achieved to date in respect of the school plan. The principal and teachers, together with the board of management and to a lesser extent parents, have co-operated on the development and review of a number of school policies. A file containing plans and policies that are currently being finalised is maintained in the school.
The organisational section of the school plan contains policies on the following aspects: enrolment, a code of behaviour, anti-bullying, harassment, substance use, differentiation, administration of medicines and an RSE policy. The plan contains information sheets regarding the availability of Department and Education and Science (DES) circulars. Parents have received information regarding the Education Welfare Act 2000, the Children First Guidelines and reporting procedures. The school in consultation with the parents has been proactive in developing a policy on the promotion of health and healthy eating choices in the school. The board is currently reviewing the school’s safety statement.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken 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, September 1999) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). This consists of a one page document which has been signed by the chairperson of the board of management. However, this policy needs to be more detailed and contain information on such areas as confidentiality, a definition of child abuse, how disclosures are handled and so on. The school has not appointed a designated liaison person as is required by the Departmental guidelines. It is recommended that the board of management review this policy as a matter of urgency.
The school has a homework policy. However, the policy lacks specific outlines of what is intended for the various levels within the school and does not offer an appropriate overall guideline for school practice. During the evaluation, it emerged that parents have differing views as to how much homework pupils should be given. It is apparent that the school needs to revise and update the homework policy. It is recommended that the board of management in consultation with the staff and parents undertake this task as a matter of urgency and in a spirit of openness and collaboration with all the partners involved. The policy for learning support is in the file for policies currently being worked on. The policy needs to be endorsed by the board of management.
The School Plan contains the policies for all curricular areas. It is evident that the plan is being updated in conjunction with the implementation of the Primary School Curriculum. Plans of work have been developed in Gaeilge, Mathematics, English, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Science. While very valuable work has been expended on these policies to date, there is a need for more specific detail particularly in the areas of differentiation, methodologies, assessment and the listing of the resources used in the teaching of English. All the prepared policies have an impact and have contributed to ensuring progression in terms of curriculum content and in the use of generally appropriate methodologies at the different class levels. The board is to be praised for the inclusion of review dates on all policies.
All teachers prepare long-term and short-term schemes of work and all areas of the curriculum are planned for. In the main the teachers’ long-term planning is content based and textbook driven. For the most part the teachers base their short-term planning on textbooks rather than on curriculum objectives. It is advised that this planning should include strands, strand units, the main instructional objective, brief descriptions of the methodologies, content, resources and assessment. There should be a clear linkage between the objectives as stated in the school plan, the Primary School Curriculum and those stated in individual long and short-term plans. The class teachers keep detailed and helpful monthly progress records.
All teachers have timetables and these are organised to facilitate the implementation of their plans. There is evidence of linkage and integration within and between subjects in their plans. .The teachers prepare an ample supply of educational resources which support the teaching and learning that takes place in the classrooms. Some of the teachers use active teaching strategies and methodologies. However, in some classes there is an over dependence on whole class teaching and this should be modified.
Sa Ghaeilge déantar tagairt do phrionsabail agus do struchtúir an churaclaim i gcoitinne. Feictear go gcuireann na hoidí ullmhúchán fadtréimhseach agus gearrthréimhseach cóir ar fáil. Feictear aidhmeanna agus ábhar na gceachtanna sna pleananna oibre seo agus ainmnítear mórthéamaí, fothéamaí agus frásaí na seachtaine don teagasc. Tá dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge á chothú sa scoil agus saothraítear go díograiseach i múineadh an chomhrá, idir fhoirmiúil agus neamhfhoirmiúil le cabhair fearais agus léaraidí. Úsáidtear rainn agus filíocht go héiféachtúil agus aithrisítear an fhilíocht go bríomhar taitneamhach. Déanann na h-oidí comhtháthú oiriúnach idir an obair ó bhéal, an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht. Cleachtaítear drámaíocht i roinnt ranganna le h-éifeacht agus b’fhiú go mór an ghné seo den obair a fhorbairt agus a leathnú sa scoil. Dírítear ar theagasc na léitheoireachta go torthúil sa scoil. Feictear prionta sa timpeallacht sna rangsheomraí. Leantar scéim léitheoireachta sa scoil. Léann formhór na ndaltaí go beacht agus is féidir leo an t-ábhar léitheoireachta a phlé go tuisceanach. B’fhiú, áfach, réimse níos fairsinge de leabhair Ghaeilge a chur ar fáil sa scoil chun a chinntiú go bhfuil eispéiris leathan léitheoireachta sa Ghaeilge ag gach dalta. D’fhéadfaí, freisin, tuilleadh grúpobair a chur ar siúl le linn na gceachtanna léitheoireachta. Cláraítear an obair scríofa go slachtmhar agus déantar monatóireacht ar an saothar. B'fhiú leathnú agus forbairt a dhéanamh ar an obair scríofa i ranganna áirithe. Tagann cúntóir teangan gach seachtain ar feadh uair a ‘chloig do rang a cúig agus a sé. Íocann Roinn na Gaeltachta as an tseirbhís seo.
In Irish the principles and the structures of the curriculum are referred to generally. The teachers provide suitable preparation both long-term and short-term. The aims and content of lessons are to be found in the work plans and overall themes as well as minor themes and weekly phrases are identified for instruction. A positive outlook towards Irish is nurtured in the school and earnest work is devoted to the teaching of conversation both formally and informally with the help of equipment and illustrations. The children in all the classes are able to communicate with understanding. Rhymes and poetry are used effectively and recitation is lively and pleasant. The teachers integrate the oral work, the reading and the writing suitably. Drama is featured to good effect in some of the classes and it would be especially worthwhile to develop and extend this aspect of the work in the school.
The teaching of reading is attended to fruitfully in the school and modern resources are availed of. Print in the environment is to be seen in the classrooms. A reading scheme is used in the school. The majority of the pupils read with accuracy and they can discuss the content of the material with understanding. Good progress is being made by the pupils in general in reading. However, a wider range of Irish books should be provided in the school to ensure that every child would have a broad experience of reading in Irish. Also, more group work could be done during the reading lessons. The written work is presented neatly and is monitored. In the middle and senior classes, the written work should be broadened and developed in respect of certain pupils. For one hour each week a language assistant paid for by the Gaeltacht department visits the school and provides help for fifth and sixth classes.
The teachers have devised a school policy that acknowledges the recent changes in emphases in the English curriculum. The use of story, drama, rhymes, poetry and games in the infant and junior classes is commendable. The pupils in the infant and junior classes effectively use different voices and moods when saying rhymes and poetry. However, it is advised that some of these poems might be learned off by heart by the pupils. While the teachers emphasise the centrality of oral skills development and many interesting and challenging oral language activities are undertaken, the pupils’ ability to respond to questions asked about books read, their locality and particular science activities is only fair at best throughout the school. There is serious need for the teachers to focus on the objectives for oral language as set out for the different class levels in the English curriculum. The use of newspaper articles for oral language development is a worthwhile feature of the work undertaken in some classes. However, it is advised, that more emphasis be placed on pair work and that pupils be encouraged to ask more questions.
In the infant and junior classes due emphasis is placed on phonological awareness, the provision of a print-rich environment and the development of sight vocabulary. The collaborative reading of large format books takes place and reading for pleasure is encouraged from an early age through the use of shared reading activities. The involvement of parents in the school’s paired reading project contributes positively to the pupil’s progress in reading. Commercial readers are utilised and are supplemented by games and parallel readers. Reading skills are developed further in a structured manner in the middle and senior classes. Good inferential questions are posed by the teachers in all classes. Class novels as well as newspaper articles are introduced to compliment the formal reading scheme and this is very good practice. Reading for pleasure is also steadily encouraged. The pupils are involved in readathons. The standard of reading among the pupils is good.
There is a good balance achieved between functional and creative writing at all class levels. In the infant and junior classes pupils write about their news and give short personal accounts based on activities undertaken in the classroom. The pupils in the middle and senior classes were keenly interested in the teaching of a sonnet and they read some of the limericks that they had composed. The pupils write in a variety of genre. However, a limited amount of drafting and redrafting is in evidence in these classes. While computers are used to some extent in the school, there is no evidence that they are used for drafting and redrafting some of the pupils’ written work. Consideration now needs to be given to ensure that progression in pupil’s personal writing is developed as a whole-school approach and that ICT is used to help this progression.
A comprehensive and well thought out school policy has been formulated by the teachers in Mathematics. This plan includes reference to resources, differentiation, methodologies and assessment modes. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the use of concrete material. Skill development is highlighted as is problem solving. The teachers endeavour very successfully to implement their programmes in an active and interesting way. In the infant and junior classes number lines are prominently displayed on the walls and on the pupils’ desks. Appropriate attention is given to concept formation and language development through early mathematical activities. The pupils’ own environment is used to pose problems and to help in seeking solutions.
In the middle and senior classes, number lines and hundred squares are to be seen in prominent positions and concrete materials are used to teach and reinforce concepts. While class textbooks are used, the teachers also use other materials to reinforce concept development. The pupils have a very good understanding of mathematical language and concepts. The pupils are well able to solve problems orally and in written form. Purposeful, practical activities and participative methodologies are constructively organised to enhance the teaching and learning experience. Written work is corrected and pupils are encouraged to present this work in a neat and ordered manner.
The implementation of Social, Environmental and Scientific Education is planned for by the mainstream class teachers. However in the case of History and Geography this planning is primarily based on the content of textbooks.
The planning in this curricular area is based on the strands and strand units of the Science curriculum. The plan specifies broad objectives, aims, approaches and methodologies, assessment procedures and resources to be used. The school is involved in the South Kerry Science Project and in the Discovery Primary Science Programme. Funds have been made available to the school from the Irish American Partnership for the development of Science. The teachers list activities under the specific strands for the different class levels. Each teacher allocates time on timetables for the teaching of this subject. One teacher has the responsibility for teaching Science to all the classes in the school. An appropriate programme is set out that includes lessons on volcanoes, light, sound, floating and sinking, shadows, electricity, magnets and heat. Some aspects of the local environment have also been explored and bulbs and plants have been set. However, there is a need to investigate the local environment in more detail and to feature it more in subject content. With this in mind it is suggested that an environmental corridor be set up in the grounds of the school. There is also a necessity for more project work to be undertaken in this important subject area. The investigation and nature tables in the infant and junior classes were particularly interesting. However, the pupils were reticent about discussing experiments undertaken. There is a need for more oral presentation by the pupils and more talk and discussion so that the confidence and responsiveness of the pupils is developed more systematically through the classes.
The teachers have long-term and short-term plans for this subject. These for the most part are based on textbooks and list the content to be studied. Pupils are introduced to the study of History in an informal way in the infant and junior classes. They gradually become familiar with their personal history and that of their families through the use of time lines. They are involved in story sequencing. In the middle and senior classes, changes over time are studied using available textbooks and in some instances other resources. Aspects studied include the Egyptians, games, the Fianna, the American Revolution, food and the first farmers. Further emphasis now needs to be placed on the consolidation of knowledge acquired. The teachers are attempting to introduce the changes of emphasis that are in the curriculum and this is to be commended. The project work undertaken on Illaunloughan (a little island which is situated very close to the school) is impressive. It is recommended that more project work like this be undertaken so that the pupils’ investigative and recording skills are developed further. It is also advised that pupils be afforded greater opportunity to discuss what has been studied and to internalise its significance.
All teachers plan their own individual long and short-term schemes in this subject area. Educational visits outside the classroom are used to enhance the pupil’s understanding and skill development and to provide meaningful contexts for their learning. However, much of the Geography programme is textbook based. In the infant and junior classes, weather, road signs, school environment, day and night as well as drawing maps form an important part of the programme. Some projects have also been undertaken. In the middle and senior classes, topics such as rainfall, communities, European Union, aerial images, latitude and longitude as well as aspects of Ireland’s physical features are studied. The local environment receives attention and reference is made to the local slate quarry, Valentia Island and the bridge. It is advised that the pupils be given additional time and encouraged to discuss and debate the information that they have collected so as to develop and consolidate geographical concepts and skills. The digital camera is used beneficially to record lesson content as well as skill development.
A school plan for Visual Arts is in place and proper emphasis has been given to ensuring that it is underpinned by the principles and spirit of the curriculum and best practice. However greater emphasis needs to be placed on the looking and responding strand unit of this plan. The creativity of the pupils is given primary importance and this is commended. Fine examples of work in the strands of clay, construction, fabric and fibre, and paint and colour are displayed throughout the school. To a lesser extent there is evidence of print and drawing. Looking and responding also needs greater emphasis in classroom practice. The teachers have commenced the collection of portfolios for each of the pupils. This is good practice and pupils might now be encouraged to evaluate their own art work. The pupils received puppet-making classes from an external tutor. This was financed by the Giving Children an Even Break grant.
A worthwhile plan for the development of Music within the school has been formulated. This is based on the curriculum. Work is planned for the performing and responding to music strand units. Some composition is also undertaken The quality of music education provided in all classes is good. Pupils experience a curriculum, which includes rhythm, song-singing and aspects of music literacy. The pupils sing tunefully in both languages. They play percussion instruments and perform a varied repertoire of songs on the tin whistle. Opportunities for all pupils to listen to and respond to music are provided and this work is undertaken frequently. The pupils enjoyed listening to Haydn’s Surprise Symphony and discussed this classical piece of music during the course of the inspection visit.
Some planning both long-term and short-term takes place for the teaching of Drama. The teachers use drama as a pedagogical tool in their classrooms. In the infant and junior classes it is incorporated into aspects of teaching Irish. Drama techniques such as role play and thought tracking help pupils act out situations in English and SPHE.
The school plan does not include a policy outline for Physical Education. However, the teachers have both long-term and short-term plans for this subject area. These are planned under the strands of the curriculum. Strands are allocated specific terms with the result that some strands appear not to receive their due time allowance. An inordinate amount of time is spent on the games strand and in particular on football skills. The school qualified as one of the finalists in Cumann na mBunscoil in 2005. However, while some aspects of gymnastics, dance and athletics are taught, they do not receive their due allocation of time. Outdoor and leisure pursuits and aquatics receive very little attention.
The general purpose room is used to teach some gymnastics. The removal of the computer equipment and the partitions would restore the full general purpose room area and provide scope so that a wider programme of Physical Education can be delivered. An external tutor teaches particular games’ skills. It is advised that the work of all external tutors be monitored carefully to ensure that the programmes followed are in line with the curriculum and that the lessons are supervised by the class teachers at all times. The school qualified as one of the finalists in Cumann na mBunscoil in 2005. It is recommended that planning be undertaken to broaden the Physical Education programme followed in the school so that all strands receive a proper allocation of time.
The school has a plan for SPHE. It details how SPHE is taught in the school. This has been ratified by the board of management. The SPHE policy needs to be simplified as it contains constant referencing to appendices which are not readily available. The teachers have long-term and short-term plans for this subject. The school has developed many policies that impinge upon and influence the teaching of SPHE in the school and these include the healthy eating policy, code of behaviour, substance use, children first, bullying and RSE. The school is commended for the development of these plans. The teachers have classroom rules and the pupils assist in the smooth running of the classrooms. Circle time is used by one of the teachers with all the classes in the school. It is used consistently as a behavioural system and such topics as self-image, dangers, rules, decision making, being part of a group, feelings, listening skills and friendship receive very good attention. The pupils’ behaviour both inside and outside the school seems creditable and may be attributed to their families and to the school.
The school does not have a separate policy on assessment. It deals with assessment as part of the curricular subject areas and as part of the learning support policy. In Mathematics and English levels of attainment are assessed on an annual basis by means of standardised tests. Results of standardised tests are used to identify pupils with learning difficulties. A range of other assessment modes is employed by the teachers and these include teacher observation, teacher-designed tests, checklists of books read and check-up lists from textbooks. There is scope for the use of portfolios and curriculum profiles, particularly in the areas of English oral language in order to assess pupil’s levels of achievement. In the middle and senior classes progress copybooks are kept. In this copybook there is evidence of different teacher designed tasks which have been administered in different subjects. This progress copybook goes home each term for the parents to sign. This is good practice but there is a need to have more samples of pupil’s work in these copybooks and some of this work needs to be differentiated to a greater extent. The teachers have commenced maintaining files for each individual pupil containing samples of the pupil’s work. This is good practice. It is recommended that more formalised tests and procedures be developed for all subject areas of the curriculum.
A whole-school policy for learning support has been devised and is being implemented but has not been adopted and signed by the board of management. The policy is based on the learning support guidelines and is comprehensive and detailed. It is advised that all tests used in the school both screening and diagnostic as well as resources and types of interventions used be listed in the policy itself. The teacher spends seven and a half hours per week in Scoil Bhréanainn and caters for a case load of seven pupils in the school. The teacher has a wealth of experience that she brings to her role.
Standardised tests are administered by the class teachers. Pupils identified as needing supplementary support are then diagnostically tested. The learning support teacher uses the RAIN, Quest, Stile starter and Startrack tests. These inform the teacher’s planning. An individual education programme (IEP) is devised for each pupil in conjunction with the class teachers and in most cases the pupil’s parents. A very commendable feature of the work is the involvement of the pupils themselves in the development of their own IEP. This partnership model is commended. The targets selected by the teacher are specific and time-bound.
The teacher has a room that is also used by the Giving Children an Even Break co-ordinator. The teacher at the moment does not have access to a computer in the designated learning support room but this is to be rectified in the near future. Pupils are withdrawn from the mainstream classes in all cases. These are seen singly and in groups. Full class groups are withdrawn as for example in the case of the pupils in fifth class all of whom are sent for support in Mathematics. This is not an appropriate arrangement and it is recommended that only those in need of learning support be withdrawn to attend the learning support teacher. It is also recommended that more in-class teaching be undertaken as this would minimise the disruption to classes.
After an instructional term the pupil’s progress is reviewed. This is creditable practice. Detailed records of pupils’ progress are maintained. The setting up of more formal systems of communication between the class teachers and the learning support teacher would benefit the teaching and learning of the pupils attending supplementary teaching. There is also a need for some high interest, low reading level books for some of the pupils attending learning support. A small filing cabinet might also be provided in the room for the safe storage of certain materials. The pupils who attend enjoy and benefit from the well thought-out programme of work set out by the teacher. The level of provision for pupils attending supplementary teaching in the school is very good.
There is no school policy regarding provision for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is advised that this matter be rectified as a policy would give greater direction to the work undertaken in this school and specific needs could be better addressed.
The school has the services of a Co-ordinator under the Giving Children an Even Break. There are four schools in the cluster. The teacher spends one day per week in each school. She has a designated room that is also used by the learning support teacher. The teacher sees everyone in the school in class groupings. She devises a wide-ranging and interesting programme of activities to provide for the needs of pupils and families in the district. The teacher teaches SPHE to all the classes in the school and this is integrated with other subject areas particularly oral English and Drama.
She liaises with parents of these pupils and visits their homes and initiates and oversees courses specifically designed to involve parents in the education of their children. The teacher has overseen the setting up of many informative courses for parents and these include courses on first aid, paediatrics, drugs awareness and a drama workshop. She has initiated a language play course for parents of pupils up to the age of five.
Funding granted to the school under the Giving Children an Even Break initiative is used to purchase supplementary learning materials for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and to pay for courses for parents. Money has been allocated to provide computer courses and puppet making courses for the pupils in the school. A reading club has also been established by the teacher whereby parents take turns in coming to the school and reading to the pupils. This is undertaken with first and second classes. This has been a very successful programme. Certain activities are undertaken in conjunction with the South Kerry Development Partnership and this includes home tuition provision in certain instances. The teacher keeps monthly progress records of the work completed. It is advised that space for a notice board be set aside so that communication flyers and interesting leaflets can be displayed for the parents. The pupils benefit greatly from the instruction and programmes provided by this teacher.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
The board of management is commended for ensuring a clean, safe educational environment for the pupils.
The staff is praised for the effort and commitment given to school planning and the reviews undertaken in certain curricular areas.
The teachers are praised for the attractive and stimulating classroom environments that they provide for the pupils in their care.
The appropriate behaviour exhibited by the pupils is acknowledged.
The good educational provision that is available for special needs pupils in the school is recognised.
The work and the effort of the teachers in the achievement of good standards in Mathematics, Gaeilge and Music is praised.
The encouragement of pupil’s creativity in Visual Arts especially in clay is deemed very worthwhile.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
It is recommended that the board of management should receive training so that it may discharge its obligations in accordance with statutory and other requirements. Familiarisation with the Primary School Curriculum should be part of that training.
The board of management should meet more frequently to update and review some of the policy matters that are in need of attention. In particular, the school’s homework policy should be reviewed and redrawn in partnership with parents and staff as a matter of urgency.
It is recommended that the board of management, in conjunction with the staff, should initiate steps to re-establish a parents’ association as soon as practicable.
It is recommended that oral English across the curriculum be strengthened.
Greater emphasis be placed on the study of the locality and local vents and features should be given greater significance in Science, History and Geography.
The Physical Education programme should be broadened.
Greater use should be made of computer equipment in the writing process and in accessing information.
It is recommended that the full area of the general purpose room should be restored and that an office space should be developed in the divided classroom.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.