An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Knockadea National School

Knockadea, Ballylanders, Co. Limerick

 

Uimhir rolla: 11809O

 

   Date of inspection: 08 October 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Knockadea National School was undertaken in October, 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Science. 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

39

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

2

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Knockadea National School is a two-teacher school, which is located in a rural area approximately two miles from the village of Ballylanders, Co. Limerick. The ethos of Knockadea National School is clearly outlined in the school’s planning documentation. The school community is defined as one in which ‘each child is treated as an individual…,’ where ‘children experience a safe and happy learning environment…’ and where ‘…staff, parents and children co-operate for the common good.’ The aspirations outlined in the school philosophy were in evidence during the course of the evaluation.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and is supportive of all school-related activities. The board convenes regularly and it is reported that attendance at board of management meetings is very good. Financial matters are managed very effectively by the board and documentation relating to the school’s accounts is accessible and is recorded in a clear, efficient manner. It is anticipated that the practice of certifying accounts will be discussed by the board in the near future.  

 

Current issues of concern for the board include the ongoing maintenance of the school building, in particular ensuring that the quality of the school’s water is satisfactory, the completion of painting tasks, continued provision of support to the school and the ratification of school planning policies. Board members reported that, due to the discovery of asbestos in the past, issues of concern pertained to the replacement of external and internal features of the school building. It was reported that health and safety inspections are undertaken by board members on an annual basis and this feature of good practice is commended. It was further reported that the current priorities of the school’s board of management relate to ensuring that the welfare of all pupils continues to be addressed in an effective manner.

 

The board stated that it was very satisfied with the way the curriculum is taught and with the achievement of pupils. The strengths of the school were cited as the clear communication structures within the school, the happiness of pupils and their readiness on transition to post primary school.

 

It is now important to ensure that the board continues to manage the educational provision and standards in the school through overseeing the review, monitoring, planning and tracking of pupil learning outcomes. The provision of a termly report to the board by the principal should also be considered which would advise the board of management on pupil attainment levels, resources and professional development requirements.

 

It is also advised that the board of management formulate a long-term strategic plan that would enable the school to identify future priorities for development in teaching and learning.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team in Knockadea National School comprises the teaching principal and the deputy principal. The principal is responsible for the daily operation and management of the school and she displays good organisational ability. She is effective in managing the school and she works collaboratively with the entire school community. She reports that the strengths of the school include the positive learning atmosphere, the collegiality of the staff, the supportive board of management and parental co-operation. She oversees the development of the whole-school planning process and the promotion of positive pupil behaviour.

 

The principal is supported productively in her work by the deputy principal and other staff members, who co-ordinate the operation of the school through the appropriate delegation of mutually-agreed, shared tasks. It is now important to ensure that a review of duties occurs on a regular basis, as appropriate. These duties should continue to be matched to the priorities and developing needs of the school and should aim to facilitate the process of school self-evaluation. It is also recommended that the work of the in-school management team would continue to contribute to leading teaching and learning within the school, and would strive to assist in evaluating the effectiveness of pupils’ learning outcomes. 

 

It is reported that regular and informal communication systems exist and that staff meetings are convened on an annual basis. In order to ensure compliance with the Department of Education and Science Circular 14/04: Arrangements for Parent/Teacher and Staff Meetings, it is now advised that staff meetings are convened on a once-per-term basis.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The parents’ association in this school is affiliated with the National Parents’ Council (NPC). Its role is clearly detailed in school planning documentation and is also included in the school’s information booklet.  Recent issues which have been discussed at parents’ association meetings include the organisation of fundraising initiatives and the involvement of parents in the supervision of out-of-school events.

 

It is evident that parents are involved and supportive of the school’s activities. During the pre-evaluation meetings, the parents’ representatives reported that there is an ‘open-door’ policy in the school. It was also stated that communication is clear and that the levels of communication between the home and school are good. School notes and information letters are disseminated appropriately. Parent-teacher meetings are convened on an annual basis and oral reports on pupils’ progress are given. Written reports on pupil progress are also issued at the end of the school-year. The parents’ representatives reported that they are not directly involved in the development of the school plan and that they haven’t requested access to curricular policies. They stated that they are made aware of the school’s Homework Policy and also the school policy pertaining to the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme. It is now recommended that strategies are devised to ensure that parental contribution and input into the school planning process is extended, as appropriate.

 

Parents report that they are very satisfied with the education provision in the school. It was further reported that a happy atmosphere and a sense of great discipline are apparent. The parents’ representatives also stated that pupils have a readiness to cope with the transition to post-primary school.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The mainstream classes in this school are organised in two combined class groupings of junior infants/senior infants/first/second and third/fourth/fifth/sixth class pupils. Pupils are very well-behaved and they are effectively managed in all mainstream and support class settings. It is also evident that favourable interactions and a sense of mutual respect exist. Pupils are courteous and a fair, positive atmosphere prevails throughout the school.

 

Extra- and co-curricular provision is made available to all pupils through the services of external coaches. These coaches provide instruction in Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) activities and rugby skills. Pupils are also afforded the opportunity of availing of tuition in Drama. It should be ensured, however, that all pupils are under the direct supervision of the mainstream class teacher during the delivery and implementation of any co-curricular activities which are provided during the school day.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good, in general. The development of the school planning process is managed collaboratively. Comprehensive policies dealing with specific organisational areas of the school are presented, while plans pertaining to all of the eleven curricular areas have also been devised. All policies are reflective of the school context and most plans are signed by the chairperson of the board of management. These features of good practice are commended.

 

Good curricular plans have been formulated in Mathematics, History, Geography, Science and Drama. Consideration should now be given to prioritising the review of curricular policies in the areas of English, Irish, Visual Arts, Music, Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Physical Education (PE) to ensure that there is continuity, progression, breadth and balance in the programmes provided. It should also be ensured that these curricular policies continue to offer guidance at each class level in relation to the strands, strand units, objectives and content to be covered. A timeframe for review of most of the curricular plans is included in school planning documentation. This feature of good practice is commended. Consideration should now be given to expanding this timeframe to include the formulation of an action plan, which would enable the school to identify and review priorities for development in teaching and learning and to set time-bound targets towards further enhancing pupil achievement.

 

The quality of classroom planning is satisfactory, while some possibilities for improvement exist. Teachers provide comprehensive long-term planning which refers to the principles and structure of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and which guides and informs classroom activity. Use is made of a photocopiable, commercial template to present short term plans and, in general, these plans focus solely on the content of lessons to be taught and on the teaching activities to be undertaken.  Consideration should now be given to devising an approach to long and short-term classroom planning which would allow for the clarification of specific learning objectives and outcomes and which would also facilitate individual teacher planning throughout all class levels. It is also advised that the monthly progress record inform not only the knowledge base and content being taught, but that it would also provide a reflective commentary on the pupils’ skills being developed and an evaluation of the learning outcomes achieved.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Léirítear cáipéisíocht sa phlean scoile i leith polasaí na scoile sa Ghaeilge. Moltar, anois, athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an bpolasaí seo chun cur chuige córasach, céimniúil a chinntiú i snáitheanna éagsúla an churaclaim ag gach rang leibhéal.

 

Is léir go ndéantar iarrachtaí atmaisféar fabhrach don Ghaeilge a chothú tríd an scoil. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar mhéan teagaisc i rith na gceachtanna sa Ghaeilge agus is léir, freisin, go mbaintear feidhm as an nGaeilge le linn gníomhaíochtaí laethúla i ranganna áirithe. Aithnítear an dea-chleachtas seo. Sna ranganna naíonán agus san bunranganna, feictear go bhfuil cnuasach fairsing rainn and amhráin i seilbh na ndaltaí agus go n-aithrisíonn said go fonnmhar iad. Dírítear aird chuí ar scileanna éisteachta agus labhartha na bpáistí a chur chun cinn tríd an scoil. Ag gach rangleibhéal, feictear go mealltar na daltaí chun ceisteanna a chur ar ábhar an cheachta agus go spreagtar a gcuid rannpháirtíochta go rialta.

 

Leagtar béim chuí ar mhodheolaíochtaí torthúla chun ceachtanna sa Ghaeilge a léiriú ar fud na scoile. Cleachtar gníomhaíochtaí ról-ghlacaidh, ceistiúchán agus ionchur oiriúnach teanga chun an t-ábhar a chur i láthair agus i gcoitinne, is léir go bhfuil tuiscint chuí agus foclóir oiriúnach i seilbh na ndaltaí. Ba chóir a chinntiú, áfach, go ndéantar dul siar agus daingniú rialta ar ghnáthchaint, ar fhoclóir agus ar nathanna cainte atá múinte cheana féin i ranganna áirithe. Ba chóir a chinntiú, freisin, go gcuirtear na tréimhsí cumarsáide i bhfeidhm i ngach ceacht. Tá sé den tábhacht go leantar le scileanna cumarsáide na bpáistí a chur chun cinn ag rangleibhéil áirithe agus go dtugtar deiseanna rialta dóibh an Ghaeilge ata foghlamtha acu a úsáid i gcomhthéacsanna éagsúla. Moltar, chomh maith, béim níos treise a leagadh ar bhriathra, ar struchtúir fheidhmiúla agus ar an ngramadach a mhúineadh go rialta, foirmiúil, córasach.

 

Cuirtear tús leis an léitheoireacht trí phrionta sa timpeallacht a sholáthar agus trí scéimeanna léitheoireachta a úsáid. Moltar anois béim níos treise a chur ar an bprionta Gaeilge sa timpeallacht a sholáthar ar fud na scoile. Is fiú a chinntiú freisin, go ndírítear aird ar scileanna léitheoireachta na ndaltaí a chur chun cinn trí straitéisí focal-bhriseadh a mhúineadh, trí anailís rialta a dhéanamh ar fhocail agus trí scileanna fóineolaíochta a leathnú go foirmiúil.

 

Sa scríbhneoireacht, spreagtar cur-i-láthair slachtmhar in obair na gcóipleabhar. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh ar aird níos treise a dhíriú ar an scríbhneoireacht phearsanta agus chruthaitheach a fhorbairt. Ba chóir, freisin, forbairt a dhéanamh ar úsáid áiseanna an ríomhaire chun saothar scríofa na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge a fhoilsiú agus a thaispeáint.

 

Irish

Documentation is presented in the school plan regarding the school’s policy in Irish. It is now recommended that this policy be reviewed so that a systematic and progressive approach to the curricular strands at each class level is ensured.

 

It is evident that efforts are made to foster a positive atmosphere to Irish throughout the school. Irish is used as the language of instruction during lessons in Irish and it is apparent, also, that Irish is utilised during various daily activities in some classes. This feature of good practice is acknowledged. At infant and junior class level, it is evident that pupils possess a large anthology of rhymes and songs, which they recite enthusiastically. Due attention is paid to developing pupils’ listening and speaking skills throughout the school. At every class level, pupils are motivated to ask questions based on the content of the lesson and their regular participation is encouraged.

 

Appropriate emphasis is placed on undertaking productive methodologies to implement Irish lessons throughout the school. Role-play activities, questioning and suitable language inputs are employed to present lessons and in general, it is evident that pupils have acquired an appropriate understanding and a suitable vocabulary. It should be ensured, however, that the phases of communication are implemented in every lesson. It is important that pupils’ communication skills continue to be developed at certain class levels and that they are afforded frequent opportunities to practise the Irish they have learned in various contexts. It is also recommended that further emphasis be placed on teaching verbs, functional structures and grammar on a regular, formal and systematic basis.

 

Reading is introduced through the provision of print in the environment and through the use of reading schemes. It is now advised that greater emphasis be placed on providing a print-rich environment in Irish throughout the school. It is worthwhile ensuring, also, that attention is directed at promoting pupils’ reading skills through the teaching of word-attack strategies, regular word analysis and through the formal expansion of phonological skills.

 

In writing, neat presentation of written work in copybooks is encouraged. Consideration should now be given to directing further attention to the development of personal and creative writing. It should also be ensured that the use of computer resources be further developed to publish and to display pupils’ written work in Irish.

 

English

A curricular policy is outlined in English in school planning documentation. It is recommended that a review of this curricular plan should now be undertaken. It is advised that a programme of work, pertaining to the incremental development of the three strands of oral, reading and writing be detailed in the school’s curricular policy. An analysis of how the four strand units will be incorporated and implemented in teaching and learning in the school should also be included. This would ensure that there is planned, systematic progression in the teaching and learning of English at each class level.

 

Lessons in English are taught in a clear and structured manner, with due attention paid to effective pacing and development of activities. Pupils are encouraged to work independently and their application to tasks, activities and behaviour is effectively managed. During the lessons observed, it was evident that pupils engaged in effective oral interaction with teachers and that most pupils displayed satisfactory oral language and speaking skills. At all class levels, a range of poetry is studied and recited with good expression. Discrete oral language activities are also implemented in classrooms.  

 

At infant level, large format books are in use and phonics schemes are implemented productively. Commercial textbooks are utilised throughout the school, a range of books is displayed in all classroom libraries, while novels are also used in the middle and senior classes. Satisfactory pupil fluency in reading was in evidence during classroom observation visits.  In some classes, it is important to ensure that a variety of strategies is addressed during lessons in order to develop pupil competence in this regard. The practice of collaboration between mainstream and support teachers in developing this activity and in implementing an in-class intervention model of support is now recommended.

 

During the post evaluation meeting with the teaching staff, opportunities were provided to discuss the analysis of pupils’ attainment in literacy throughout the school.  It should now be ensured that the results of assessment tests continue to be used to inform the implementation of differentiated activities and to ensure that these are matched to pupil need and ability, as appropriate.

Pupils’ written work in copybooks is well-presented, with emphasis placed predominantly on functional writing activities at some class levels. It should be ensured that dedicated writing areas are created in all classes and also that the process approach to writing and the development of pupils’ creative and personal writing skills in English are further developed. This activity could also be enhanced and supported by the use of the school’s information and communication technologies (ICT) equipment. The development of pupils’ letter formation and cursive script skills is implemented in a progressive and incremental manner. The quality of these written outcomes is good. It is now important to ensure that regular monitoring and correction of pupil written assignments is undertaken at all class levels.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The curricular policy in Mathematics, presented in the school plan, outlines a comprehensive programme of work in each strand at all class levels in the school.

 

Good practice in relation to the teaching of Mathematics was observed at all class levels. It is now important to ensure that, in all classes, oral mathematics activity continues to be addressed on a daily basis and that maths-rich environments are created. Concrete and structured materials are used appropriately, while active learning strategies are also promoted. Lessons in Mathematics are structured and developed in an effective manner and pupils’ application to tasks and activities is managed productively. Group teaching approaches are undertaken in all classes and suitable emphasis is placed on the implementation of a variety of strands and also on the acquisition of number concepts and skills. Good outcomes are also in evidence in pupils’ mathematical assignments in copybooks. It is important to ensure, however, that these written activities are monitored, corrected and dated on a regular basis.

 

During the post evaluation meeting with the teaching staff, opportunities were provided to discuss the analysis of pupils’ attainment in numeracy. It should be ensured that the results of assessment tests continue to be used to inform teaching and learning activities in Mathematics.

 

The practice of collaboration between mainstream and support teachers in implementing an in-class intervention model of support in Mathematics, where needs have been identified, is also recommended.

 

3.3 Science

A comprehensive policy has been formulated in relation to the curricular area of Science, where an overview of the work to be undertaken throughout the school during this current school year is presented. Where the teaching of Science was observed during this evaluation, there was evidence of experimentation based on the Energy and Forces strand of the curriculum. Good communication skills were modelled, tasks were clearly explained and pupils were enabled to examine and explore the concepts presented in an appropriate manner. A variety of methodologies was implemented. Lessons were focused on the development of experimentation, pupils’ process skills, collaborative work, project work and participation in discovery learning activities. Effective classroom management routines and procedures were in place to facilitate pupils’ regular engagement with discovery learning, hands-on activities and working with peers.  Resources, which have been purchased to support this area of the curriculum, are utilised productively. It is now recommended that the further development of iinvestigation and nature tables be ensured in all classrooms to facilitate pupils’ further interaction and access to scientific resources, as appropriate.

 

3.4 Assessment

A policy on Assessment, referring, in particular, to the Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests which are administered on an annual basis to pupils in second and fifth classes, is included in the school plan.

 

It is evident that a range of informal assessment strategies is utilised during classroom activity, including teacher observation and teacher-designed weekly tests. Diagnostic testing is also undertaken in some settings. These include Rain Reading, Schonell Reading and Schonell Spelling tests. It is now recommended that the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) be administered to pupils at senior infant class level and that consideration be given to the implementation of the Forward Together Programme, as appropriate.

 

Results of assessment tests are recorded methodically and are maintained securely within the school. It is now advised that data collected from standardised tests results be analysed and used as a base upon which to inform planning and to provide differentiated activities in accordance with identified individual pupil need.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A comprehensive Management of Special Needs Policy is presented in the school plan.

 

The school has the services of a learning support teacher, who is based on a full-time basis in this school and who is also shared with Anglesboro National School. One part time resource teacher, who is based in Glenbrohane National School, has recently been appointed and provides twelve and a half hours resource teaching time to pupils in Knockadea National School.

 

During the lessons observed in both support teaching contexts, it was evident that very positive teacher-pupil interactions were being established. Pupils were affirmed for their efforts, effective communication skills were apparent and teaching activities were well-paced and clearly-structured. The support of the ancillary staff in relation to the special needs assistance provision is also acknowledged. Pupils are withdrawn individually and in groups, where appropriate, while productive use is made of commercial resources, concrete materials and ICT equipment.

 

It should now be ensured that the learning environments in support teaching settings be further enhanced to facilitate the display of and access to dedicated pupil areas, print-rich centres of interest, samples of pupil work, photographic resources and illustrative materials.

 

It is also advised that early intervention strategies and a programme of support for pupils at infant and junior class level be undertaken. The practice of collaboration between mainstream and support teachers in planning and implementing an in-class intervention model of support throughout the school is also recommended.

 

In settings where support provision has been fully established, comprehensive planning is formulated and presented. It is evident that focused and clear learning targets have been formulated regarding pupils’ Individual Education Plans (IEPs). Monthly programmes of work, monthly progress accounts, reading diaries, daily records and timetables are documented in a productive manner. Due to a recent staffing appointment to support provision in the early part of the current school year, awareness in relation to the role of resource teaching support is currently being developed. It is important to ensure that planning documentation continues to be formulated and presented, as appropriate to this support provision. It is advised that long-term and short-term preparation continues to be directed at target-based planning and on the attainment of focused learning objectives to be achieved within a specific time-bound period, that a review of pupil progress be undertaken regularly and that the Guidelines for Teachers of Students with General Learning Disabilities, (NCCA, 2002) are utilised, where appropriate, in this resource teaching context. The sharing of teacher expertise and dissemination of good practice among teaching personnel in this regard is recommended.

 

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

Efforts are made to ensure that the education provision in this school is tailored appropriately to all pupils’ needs and abilities.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         The philosophy and characteristic spirit of the school is reflected in the positive school atmosphere.

·         The professional approach and the collaborative work ethos of the teaching staff are evident.

·         The good quality of teaching that is delivered by staff members is apparent.

·         There is evidence of very good pupil behaviour.

·         The board of management, parents and ancillary staff provide high levels of support to the school.

·         The organisational policies and the curricular planning documentation, which have been developed and formulated to date, are comprehensive.

·         The school building and grounds are maintained to a very high standard.

·         The involvement of the parental community and its contribution to the work of the school is evident.

·         The sense of a shared vision for the school and a collective awareness of promoting the welfare of pupils are apparent among the members of the whole school community.

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

·         It is recommended that the board of management formulate a long-term strategic plan that would enable the school to identify future priorities for development in teaching and learning.

·         It should be ensured that all pupils are under the direct supervision of the mainstream class teacher during the delivery and implementation of any co-curricular activities which are provided during the school day.

·         It is recommended that staff meetings are convened on a once-per-term basis, in accordance with Department of Education and Science Circular 14/04: Arrangements for Parent/Teacher and Staff Meetings.

·         It is advised that a review of whole school planning be undertaken on a phased basis, as prioritised and identified.

·         It is recommended that strategies to facilitate consistency in individual teacher planning in each curricular area, which would clarify specific learning outcomes in the short-term and which would streamline the broad learning outcomes in the long-term, be developed.

·         It is advised that the practice of implementing early intervention strategies and in-class models of support be undertaken on a whole-school basis and matched to identified pupil need, as appropriate.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published, June 2009