An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Náisiúnta Bríd

Eagles’ Nest, Renvyle, County Galway

Roll number:11669B

 

Date of inspection: 10th February 2009

 

 

 

 

Report of whole school evaluation

Introducion – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

The quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

Report of Whole School Evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Eagles’ Nest National School in February 2009.  It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for its further development. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Visual Arts. 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.

 

 

Introducion – school context and background

 

This three teacher school is situated on a picturesque site at the most western point of the Renvyle peninsula overlooking the sea expanse from Renvyle Point to Clew Bay in County Mayo and looking across the bay to Achill and Clare Island to the south-west of Clew Bay. The first national school was opened in this area in 1878 and was replaced when this school building opened in 1965. The school currently comprises two classrooms, ancillary accommodation and a recently completed general purposes room, I.T. centre and a learning support/ resource room which also caters for the accommodation needs of the DEIS. co-ordinator. The original classrooms are spacious and bright with plenty of natural light and hosting colourful displays, reflecting the broad and balanced curriculum being delivered to the pupils. Additional supports are available in Drama, Art, Music and Dance, Physical Education as well as supports to pupils and parents under the DEIS. programme. There is an honourable tradition of teachers being involved in community development in this area. The tradition in this school formed the bedrock of the movement. It was based on self help, interagency supports and determination; it used education and local resources as vehicles for transforming what was a marginalised area into the dynamic forward looking vibrant community that currently exists here. The personnel of this school continues in that vein and the newly developed general purposes room and I.T. centre are offered as resources for community use after school hours.

 

The school grounds and environs are well maintained, with seasonal shrubs, flower beds and hedges and the caretaker takes great pride in ensuring that the school is an attractive place of work for pupils and teachers. A basketball court, a playing field that is currently being re-seeded is at the rear of the school as well as lined playing areas for the junior pupils. It would be worthwhile for the school to procure the small rough area to the rear of the school yard. This area offers potential for the further development of school amenities. The tradition of community development and parental involvement is fostered by the current staff and both parents and past-pupils participate regularly in school activities. There is a recycling centre to the front of the school as part of their green school campaign and the school is currently actively engaged in their effort to attain their fourth green flag in succession. The school also has a proud tradition of organising and developing field sports and swimming skills and the principal is the primary agent for organising inter schools league and championship competitions for the Connemara primary schools. These supportive activities contribute significantly to pupil’s progress at school and parental involvement through the parents’ association is fostered. The multiple activities engaged in by this school have been recorded and celebrated annually in their publication ‘Behind the Grand Gate’. It is intended to continue this practise using the new I.T. centre into the future. There has been a significant drop in population in this area over the preceding years with consequential drop in school enrolment although numbers are set to remain constant at their current level for the next number of years.

 

The table below provides the general information on the staff and pupils registered in the school at the time of this evaluation:

 

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

41

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teacher(s) on the staff of the school

3

Teacher(s) in mainstream classes

2

Teacher(s) assigned to a support role (shared post)

3

Special needs’ assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission and vision of the school

This school is under the trusteeship of the Archdioceses of Tuam and is characterised by a strong Christian ethos with very positive working relationships among the whole school community. There is a warm familial atmosphere in the school and a stimulating personal learning environment is provided for the pupils. The schools’ mission statement encompasses the determination of the board and staff to ensure that the pupils access an effective broad and balanced curriculum, coupled with an individualised programme of personal development to ensure that pupils actualise their potential to a level commensurate with their abilities and interests. Included in this mission statement is the quote ‘ Vision without action is dreaming, action without vision is passing time, vision with action can change the world‘. The school partners see the school as a place where everyone feels safe, secure and valued as individuals and they provides a positive and motivating atmosphere, conducive to fostering a love of learning. To this end the school provides a developmental well-structured curriculum tailored to pupils’ interests and abilities, in partnership with parents and the wider school community.

 

1.2 The board of management

The board of management has been selected in accordance with the regulations of the Department of Education and Science. Records are kept of all proceedings and the key decisions made and actions to be taken are outlined. Officers of the board are formally allocated specific duties and careful management is kept of expenditure. It was confirmed that the chairperson of the board meets with the principal on a regular basis, correspondence received is usually discussed and decisions are made through this process, between meetings. The board ensures that comfortable accommodation is available that meets current health and safety standards and that the classrooms are well resourced with educational materials and equipment. The school is cleaned twice weekly and the caretaker ensures that that the school environs are well maintained. The board is pro-active in the current review of the school plan; it facilitates discussion on the relevant issues and ratifies the agreed documents as a matter of procedure. The current review should also include a plan on methodologies specifying the differentiated approach to teaching and learning to be used, a board and staff development plan, review of the relationships and sexuality programme, prioritising an investment plan for educational mathematics and science equipment to support workshops in these areas, and in increasing the broad stock of library books particularly in Gaeilge. Discussions took place with the board regarding the various ways in which parents might be included in the current review of the school plans and on strategies to ensure that they access and contribute to the plan.  

 

1.3 In school management

The two class teachers have posts of responsibility as principal and special post holder in the school; they share the management responsibilities of the school on a day-to-day basis. Staff meetings are held regularly to review the work of the teachers and the operation of the school. The part-time teachers have an opportunity to attend these meetings occasionally, as well as other personnel that provide a service to the school. The principal is a diligent, self effacing, hard-working leader who promotes open communication with all the partners. He is highly regarded by the board of management, by parents’ representatives and staff and he displays commitment and industry in the promotion of school activities.  He is professionally and warmly supported by all the members of the school staff. The teachers ensure that a welcoming stimulating environment is created for the children, resources and information technology are regularly used and school policies emphasise the centrality of pupils in their learning programme. The two classroom teachers are both conscientious professionals, they invest time and effort in classroom planning and they seek to develop independent learning skills in the pupils.

 

1.4 Managing relationships and communication with the school community

This school is an integral part in the community, it doubles as a community centre outside of school hours and it operates as a focal point for community activities. At the pre-evaluation meetings all the partners acknowledged the professionalism and competence of the teachers and indicated their appreciation of the contribution they make to the school and community.  Both the parents’ representatives and the board of management members confirmed that they were satisfied with the way the school was operating. A lot of effort is currently being made to include parents practically in the education of their children through schemes such as DEIS. and the welcoming atmosphere evident in the school. The building is kept neat and tidy, both outside and inside, a structured maintenance plan is in operation. Credit is due to all the partners who care for the school in this exposed climate, particularly to the cleaner and caretaker who take an obvious pride in their work. The classrooms are attractively decorated with samples of the pupils’ work and other project work and the regular use of cooperative planning and I.T. resources ensures that pupils are engaged and enthused with their learning programme. Parents are encouraged as partners in school activities and they contribute practically to their children’s education through schemes such as shared reading, mathematics for fun and through monitoring homework on four days per week. Written reports on children are given to parents at the end of the school year and an annual report on school progress is submitted to the board of management.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

A harmonious relationship pervades school activities and this was frequently commented upon during the official opening of its new extension. A strong spirit of collaboration exists, relationships are open and well managed and every pupil feels cherished and held in high esteem. Although a code of behaviour and management plan is included in the school plan for a number of years, it has not been necessary to take recourse to its procedures. The school added a new centre of technology to its resources recently and it is planning to maximise its impact with the pupils and the school community. The pupils are divided between the two teachers with the senior classes currently the responsibility of the principal teacher and the junior classes the responsibility of the recently appointed assistant teacher. There is a high level of attendance by the pupils in the school and strategies have been implemented to ensure that pupils with attendance problems are addressed. The teachers ensure that the work programme is interesting and challenging and they emphasise developing pupil’s skills as independent learners. The teachers also ensure that a broad list of extra curricular activities is available during school term and holiday time. Participation in local competitions and community celebrations is a feature of school life and past pupils frequently visit the school as assistants during their leisure periods.

 

 

2.     Quality of School Planning

 

2.1 Whole school planning and classroom planning

The school plan has been developed by Principal and staff over a number of years and it was agreed during this school evaluation that aspects of the school plan would be amended. It was also agreed that parents would be presented with these changes for their approval. The school plan currently includes organisational, pastoral and curricular elements and it is based on the current school context and on principles of good practice. The school plan is in two sections, one section outlining the organisational and management policies and the second section outlining the curricular areas.  The organisational section includes a health and safety statement, a code of conduct policy, policies on school ethos and philosophy, child protection, assessment and reporting and school safety statement. The second section encompasses plans on the range of curricular aspects available in the school. Curricular elements are referenced to the strands and strand unit’s framework in the curriculum and these also form part of individual teacher planning. Differentiated teaching and learning strategies are adopted in the delivery of the curriculum and a record is kept regularly of the progress of pupils. A plan on differentiated learning should now be included in the school plan together with a plan of engagement with the curriculum support services to guide its implementation in the school. The principal of the school is commended in conjunction with his professional colleagues for focusing on raising the achievement standards of the pupils in literacy and numeracy as participants in the Education Research Centre programme under the DEIS initiative.  Regular meetings are held with parents regarding progress of pupils and home school cooperation is practised through the extensive adult education services provided through the DEIS programme in the area.

 

 

2.2 Policies and practices in regard to child safety

It was confirmed, in accordance with Circular 0061/2006 from the Department of Education and Science, that the board of management has formally accepted the Guidelines for Primary Schools on the Protection of Children (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). It was also confirmed that management, staff and parents were made aware of these practices in regard to child safety; that copies of these practices were provided for all staff members (including new members); and that management has ensured that all staff understand what procedures are to be applied. A designated liaison person and a deputy liaison person have been appointed as required by the guidelines.

 

 

3.     The quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1   Language

 

Gaeilge

Muintear ceachtanna sa Ghaeilge agus múintear gnéithe curaclam trí Ghaeilge go tioncharach sna hard ranganna agus éiríonn leis na daltaí leibhéal maith tuisceana agus úsáide teanga a shroichint. Cothaítear na scileanna macnaimh ard-ord go rialta sa chur chuige agus baineann na daltaí caighdeáin chreidiúnacha amach a thagann lena n’inniúlacht nadúrtha.  Tá sé soiléir go bhfuil na hoidí féin an-bháúil do mhúineadh na  teanga agus go mbíonn tionchar dearfach acu ar mhian foghlama na ndaltaí. Baintear úsáid as beogaireacht agus teicneolaícht nua aimseartha sna ranganna sóisireacha a chuireann go mór le taithneamh na ndaltaí sa phroiséas, An tEarrach agus ainmhhíthe a bhí mar théama le linn na cigireachta seo. Is fiú freisin breis infheistiochta a dhéanamh i léitheoiri leabharlainne agus téacsleabhair nua-aimseartha i nGaeilge agus úsáid a bhaint as ‘Séideán Sí’ sna bunranganna chun scileanna teanga a chothú. Ceanglaítear an scríbhneoireacht le réamh-phlé ó bhéal agus tugtar deiseanna do na daltaí a bpíosaí saothair a chláru i réimsí teoranta. B’fhiú breis deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí a gcuid saothar a chur i láithair pobal níos leithne tríd an idirlíon agus trí fhoillsiúcháin tréimhsiúla ón scoil féin a fhorbairt. Tá spiorad rannpháirtíochta agus sástacht na ndaltaí follasach sa gcur chuige agus cothaítear féin mhuinín agus pearsantachtaí na ndaltaí mar dlúth chuid den obair

 

Irish

Irish classes are taught and other curricular aspects are taught through Irish in the senior classes and the pupils achieve a good level of understanding and language use. Higher order thinking shills are regularly emphasised in the approach and the pupils achieve commendable standards commensurate with their abilities. It is obvious that the teachers favourably disposed to teaching the language and this has a positive influence on the pupils’ motivation in learning the language. Animation and modern informational technology is regularly used in the junior classes which has a good impact on the pupils’ motivation for learning.  It would be worthwhile to further invest in library books in Irish and in modern Irish text-books and the language programme ‘Séidean Sí’ could be used in the junior section to develop language competence. The writing programme is based on previous discussion and the pupils’ written work is practised in limited genres. It would be worthwhile to give the pupils access to a wider readership through the internet and school periodicals. The pupil’s participative spirit and satisfaction with the process is noted and their self-confidence and personalities are intrinsically developed through their experiences.  

 

English

The school plan identifies the curricular framework and methodologies to be used in the development of pupils’ skills in English, it identifies the programmes to be used and lists various resources. The development of oracy skills is emphasised in the junior section and early language activities are linked with the development of phonic and phonemic awareness. Cloze-procedure activities and flashcard games are used to foster the development of comprehension skills and large format books promote the pupils enjoyment of story in the junior classes. The novel is used to support the reading programme in the senior classes. During this inspection the staff indicated their participation in the improving standards programme in literacy and numeracy organised through the DEIS programme in the school. Both the templates and research methods are being processed through the co-ordinator and a three year process is envisaged for the scheme. Their continued engagement with this programme is recommended. The pupils access an exciting anthology of poetry and rhyme and the pupils provided dramatic presentations of their favourite pieces. Parents are encouraged to engage in shared reading exercises with the pupils and continuous use of library books is a feature of classroom practise. Practical experience is provided for the pupils in the process of drafting, editing and rewriting in a range of genres and examples of pupils’ work is displayed in both classrooms and public areas. Their written pieces are circulated to a wider audience through the schools’ annual ‘Behind the Grand Gate’. Pupils’ progress is carefully monitored through a variety of assessment procedures including teacher observation, questioning, written tasks, correction of copies as well as the use of standardised tests. 

 

3.2 Mathematics

Frequent collaborate activities using concrete materials and practical problem solving in Mathematics are features of practice in the junior section. Due emphasis is placed on developing the language of mathematics and a maths rich environment is created. The teaching of mathematics has been clearly influenced by the approach recommended in the curriculum; a specific programme has been outlined in the school plan and textbooks are used as a guide for exercises on problem solving. Further investment in mathematical resources to support the additional use of workshops is recommended. Mental work is regularly practised as part of the programme and attention is given on an ongoing basis to the use of formal terminology. The school is currently preparing for participating in the improving standard programme in conjunction with the DEIS programme in this school. Pupils have opportunities to develop their prediction and estimation skills and the strategies used to promote higher order thinking skills are commendable.

 

3.3 Visual Arts

Practise and appreciation in the visual arts are featured in this school. The classrooms are attractive and colourful displaying pupils’ work as well as that of local and famous artists. The murals and designs on playground buildings and play area reflect the practice of involving artists and pupils on a collaborative basis, to enhance the school environment. A wide range of facilities and local handwork skills are used to develop different aspects of the programme in the arts curriculum. Attention is drawn to the various strands of the programme and the pupils enjoy and benefit from practising different techniques. The rooms, the public areas and school yard are decorated with fine examples of the pupils’ work and display the strands cohesively. Examples on show also demonstrate appropriate integration with other areas of the curriculum.

 

 

3.4 Assessment

Standardised tests are used to monitor the progress of pupils. Other strategies such as teacher observation, checklists, compilations of work samples, projects as well as teacher designed tests, are also used and analysed at teacher meetings. The results of standardised and criterion referenced tests are recorded on an ongoing basis. New procedures have been identified for collating and analysing assessment data on a sequential basis for each class. The results should be reviewed regularly to update appropriate learning targets for the individual pupils.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The part-time teacher on the staff is responsible for general allocation learning support hours in this school and provides similar service in two other schools in this area. Support is given to four pupils in literacy and to two pupils in numeracy for a combined period of seven and a half hours spread over three days. A staged approach is practised and structured prevention programmes are implemented in conjunction with the junior classes. All pupils attending are above the tenth percentile on standardised tests and the service is delivered in an effective coordinated manner. In reviewing the current delivery model, it was agreed to include modules on developing self-esteem and behaviour modification practises in the programme. The Home school liaison co-ordinator is based in an adjoining school and provides services to pupils and parents in this school on a clustered basis. There is a well structured programme offered in conjunction with colleagues and other agencies at both primary and post primary levels in the area. There is also an effective intervention programme focussed on individual pupils in the school. The part time resource teacher provides well thought out, scaffolded programmes of support to one low incidence special education needs pupil in the school.  The part-time teachers work in tandem with the class teachers and ensure a defined programme of support inclusive of all the education partners.

 

 

4.2 Additional supports for pupils: disadvantaged pupils and pupils from minority or other groupings

It was confirmed by the school that all pupils currently enrolled in the school are of a similar background and are residing in this community.

 

 

5.  Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

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

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

Published June 2009