An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St. Luke's National School

Douglas, Cork

Uimhir rolla: 12012W

 

Date of inspection: 25 February 2009

 

 

 

 

 

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

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School response to the report

 

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St Luke’s National School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. Inspectors interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work and interacted with the class teachers. Inspectors reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

St Luke’s School is under the patronage of the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross and upholds the ethos of the Church of Ireland. This is a ten-teacher co-educational school that serves a wide suburban catchment area. There are currently 217 pupils attending the school and enrolment trends have remained relatively stable over the past number of years. The school maintains close links with the church and embraces partnership with parents and community in fostering attitudes, values and behaviours consistent with the Christian ethos. The school succeeds admirably in creating a well-functioning, happy and safe environment that promotes the dignity and individuality of every pupil. A structured positive atmosphere permeates the school day. The staff work in an assiduous manner to provide a high standard of education for all pupils.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted, functions effectively and has a clear and shared understanding of its responsibilities in the management and development of the school. Meetings are convened regularly, minutes are maintained and accounts of expenditure are presented and audited annually. Individual board members bring a wealth of personal expertise to the decision-making process and take responsibility for specific tasks in order to support the work of the school. The board of management has been assiduous in providing a comfortable, safe and well-resourced environment for pupils. A review of the minutes of meetings confirms that the board makes a very positive contribution to the successful operation of the school. It is also evident that the board of management is committed to the development of a climate of continuous improvement within the school.

 

The board recognises its statutory obligations with regard to planning and the school plan incorporates a wide range of appropriate and well-documented policies. The board has been actively involved in the formulation and ratification of policies. It is recommended, however, that hard copies of all policies be signed and dated at ratification stage. Board members participate in ongoing training organised by the patron and by other agencies. The board duly complies with Department of Education and Science regulations regarding the length of the school year. During the evaluation the importance of maintaining the integrity of the school day was brought to the attention of the board of management. The board has since confirmed full compliance with the requirements of the circular Time in School 11/95. The chairperson of long standing adopts a very active role in the life of the school and maintains regular contact with the principal and staff. The board is intent on fostering good communication with parents and to this end there is effective ongoing communication with parents regarding school matters.

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The principal displays effective organisational and instructional leadership. Her diligence in the discharge of her duties is remarkable and gives due testimony to the success of the school. Her style of leadership is guided by her clear vision for the school which is characterised by strong communication, close familiarity with the school community and ongoing reflection on school improvement. Organisational structures have been created to assist in the effective and efficient management of the day-to-day functioning of the school. Daily administrative and organisational tasks are systematically completed, school activities are efficiently organised and official records are carefully maintained. The principal promotes an open collaborative school climate in which knowledge, expertise and skills of all staff members are valued and fostered. School leadership has successfully progressed a wide range of curricular and organisational priorities through a consultative process which has resulted in a comprehensive suite of school policies and plans.

 

The principal is ably assisted by the deputy principal and three special duties teachers in a productive and collaborative manner. The duties of post-holders are clearly defined and include a range of curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities. Duties are fulfilled in a spirit of mutual support and contribute positively to addressing the priority needs of the school. While a recent review of posts was conducted, it is advised that duties be reviewed on a more regular basis in order to address the changing needs of the school. The practice of each post-holder providing the board of management with an annual summary of work undertaken is highly commendable. In-school management meetings are held monthly. Formal staff meetings are held regularly and all staff meet weekly. A review of minutes maintained of these meetings confirms that emphasis is placed primarily on addressing organisational issues. It is recommended that such meetings would be used to progress curricular as well as organisational priorities. It is also recommended that post-holders further develop their instructional leadership role in the process of monitoring the implementation and on-going review of curriculum delivery.  

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

The teaching staff comprises the administrative principal, eight mainstream class teachers, one full-time and one shared learning-support teacher, one part-time resource teacher and one part-time language teacher. Two special needs assistants are employed to support pupils with special educational needs. They ably assist teachers in the integration and inclusion of these pupils in  classroom activities. A full-time secretary provides valuable administrative support and she is to be commended for her dedication and commitment to the school. The caretaker and cleaner contribute significantly to the maintenance of a clean, safe and attractive learning environment.

 

An ardent commitment to professional development is noted in the school plan. The teaching staff participates in national in-service initiatives on a regular basis. Individual staff members have availed of professional development opportunities in response to the assessed needs of the school. The sharing of knowledge and skills acquired at these courses is conveyed at staff meetings. Staff mobility is encouraged. It is suggested, however, that a more structured approach to the provision of further opportunities for all teachers to experience a variety of class levels be established.

 

The school was built in 1980 with further extensions in 1985 and 2002. Current accommodation consists of eight classrooms, a learning-support room, resource room, computer room, principal’s and secretary’s office and spacious indoor storage areas. An extended general purpose room with kitchen facilities is also provided. Pupils have access to a hard surface play area which is subdivided for recreation purposes. Built within the school grounds is the local parish hall which the school utilises occasionally. A high standard of hygiene, neatness and order is in evidence throughout the building which contributes to the creation of a most pleasant working environment. The school building and environs are maintained to a high standard.

 

The board of management has invested in an impressive range of resources, equipment, books and materials throughout the school. An inventory of equipment for each curricular area is  documented in the school plan. Resources are effectively employed to support pupils’ active engagement in learning. The attractive physical learning environments in evidence in all classrooms are praiseworthy. Visually attractive corridors are decorated with pupils’ art work and projects. A most impressive range of technological resources including 15 computers in a specifically designed room and an interactive white board in each classroom is due testimony to the commitment of the board and parents to providing high quality resources.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

Positive relationships between school and home are conscientiously and consistently promoted. The board of management and teachers strive to foster effective communication between all partners. An induction meeting for parents of incoming junior infants is held annually. This is complemented by the issuing of an informative booklet which addresses a range of practical issues while also detailing a range of relevant policies. Regular parent-teacher dialogue is conducted through the homework journal. Annual class meetings, recently initiated, are considered most valuable as a further means of communication with parents. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually to facilitate discussion regarding pupil progress and individual progress reports are issued at the end of the school year. Additional meetings are convened between teachers and parents when deemed necessary. The issuing of regular newsletters and the established system of corresponding with parents through e-mail ensures effective dissemination of information regarding all school activities.

 

Parents are very supportive of the work of the school and are very satisfied with the level of communication that exists with both staff and board. Parents’ representatives reported that they are most impressed with and appreciative of the educational provision in the school. In particular, parents commented on their involvement in policy development and indicated that it has been a positive and informative experience. Their engagement with the promotion of literacy in the school and with the Green Flag initiative is also praiseworthy. The staff readily acknowledge and appreciate the considerable input of parents in their children’s education.

 

The parents’ association, affiliated to the National Parents Council, meets regularly to discuss current issues and organise school events. Communication with the board of management is effected through the attendance of parents’ representative at meetings. Staff representatives also attend parents’ association meetings on a rota basis to ensure ongoing effective communication. The parents’ association makes a significant and valuable contribution to school life. Parental involvement in fundraising and in organising school activities is well-established. A structured and highly efficient system operates throughout the year to ensure that pupils are offered a wide range of after-school sporting activities including hockey, soccer, tennis, athletics and swimming. Parents willingly engage in a range of training programmes to support them in this work. The strong focus on the family unit in organising social or fundraising activities is particularly noteworthy.

 

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

The positive approach to behaviour management in the school is commendable and pupils cooperate with school rules and respond in a very respectful caring manner to one another, to staff and to the school environment. Staff manage the pastoral needs of pupils very effectively and are committed to their general welfare. Pupils demonstrate high levels of confidence, which contributes positively to the quality of school life. Regular assemblies acknowledge and reinforce positive behaviour and contribute to the development of pupils’ self-esteem within the wider school community. Pupils are eager to learn, to engage in discussion and to participate fully in all school activities.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

Creditable work is in evidence in relation to whole-school planning. Staff has devised a comprehensive range of organisational and curricular policies which provide a sound basis for the development of effective practice. Policy documents are presented and organised in a most proficient manner and are available to all partners. Commendably, all teachers are provided with electronic copies. In keeping with good practice, parents are involved in policy formulation in key areas such as code of discipline. The school recognises that parental involvement in curricular policy formulation could gainfully be developed further. The good work in evidence in relation to whole-school review is acknowledged. However, it is recommended that more time be systematically allocated to ongoing review and curricular action planning.

 

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.

 

3.1   Classroom planning

The progress in evidence in relation to the development of classroom planning is commended. In particular, staff have introduced an agreed approach to recording monthly progress of work. A variety of approaches to long-term and short-term planning was noted. There is evidence of well-thought out programmes clearly linked to the strands and strand units of the curriculum with provision for the use of a range of methodologies and resources. However, in some instances, there is a need for greater focus on the identification of specific learning objectives in planning documents. In order to extend existing good practice, it is recommended that staff devise further guidelines for classroom planning on a whole-school basis. Such an approach would greatly  promote more linkage between classroom and whole-school planning and ensure further continuity in pupil learning. It is also recommended that further use be made of data emanating from monthly progress records to inform review of curricular policies and to monitor pupil learning.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

Curriculum provision is broad and balanced and adapted to the developmental needs of pupils. A wide range of appropriate and varied teaching methodologies was observed during the evaluation. In most instances lessons were well-structured, paced and developed and included appropriate active learning strategies. Purposeful whole-class teaching and the use of group work to promote collaborative learning is commendable. However, in order to cater for the range of pupil ability there is a need for more differentiated learning approaches in mainstream classes. A wide range of resources is used to support curriculum implementation. The immediate school environment is appropriately explored as a learning tool. Lesson content is skilfully integrated across areas of the curriculum and pupils demonstrate a wide range of skills and knowledge.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Is inmholta an cumas cumarsáide sa Ghaeilge atá ag daltaí i gcuid mhaith ranganna. Tá ardmholadh tuillte ag an bhfoireann as an timpeallacht shaibhir theanga a chruthaíonn siad sa scoil. Labhrann siad Gaeilge go rialta agus cuireann siad ábhar prionta tarraingteach ar taispeáint. Baintear úsáid fhónta as straitéisí oiriúnacha chun scileanna éisteachta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Moltar go mór an cumas a léiríonn cuid de na daltaí drámaíocht a dhéanamh trí mheán na Gaeilge. Déanann a lán oidí cúram ceart d’ionchur teanga cumarsáideach a theagasc. Is mór is fiú chomh maith an úsáid chumasach a bhaintear as raon áiseanna, teicneolaíocht faisnéise agus cumarsáide agus puipéid san áireamh chun an scéalaíocht a chur faoi bhráid na ndaltaí ar bhonn fíor-thorthúil, taitneamhach. I gcuid de na ranganna, áfach, tá gá le fócas níos cinnte sa phleanáil agus sa chur i bhfeidhm ar chuspóirí foghlama ar leith d’fhonn scileanna teanga na ndaltaí a fhorbairt a thuilleadh. B’fhiú go mór na dea-chleachtais atá in úsáid sa scoil a fhorbairt níos mó agus breis treoracha a chur sa phlean scoile chun tacú lena gcur i bhfeidhm. Moltar don fhoireann aird ar leith a dhíriú ar thréimhsí cumarsáide an cheachta agus breis deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí an Ghaeilge a chleachtadh. Meastar, chomh maith, go bhféadfaí breis béime fós a leagan ar fhoghlaim na filíochta mar ionchur teanga taitneamhach. Leagtar bunchloch na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta ar dhóigh éifeachtach. Moltar an caighdeán maith léitheoireachta a bhaineann cuid mhaith de na daltaí sinsearacha amach. Aithnítear go bhfuil sé i gceist ag an bhfoireann raon níos leithne de théacsanna léitheoireachta a chur ar fáil agus cuirfidh sé seo go mór le foghlaim na ndaltaí. Chonacthas samplaí deasa den saorscríbhneoireacht ach meastar go bhfuil scóip i gcomhair feabhais sa ghné seo den obair.

 

Irish

In many classrooms pupils exhibit an impressive communicative competence in Irish. Much credit is due to the staff for the rich language environment which they create in the school. They speak Irish on a regular basis and display attractive print-rich materials. Teachers make use of praiseworthy strategies to develop pupils’ listening skills. Particularly commendable is the able manner in which many pupils participate in drama activity through the medium of Irish. Many teachers teach a communicative language input in a most effective manner. Also commendable is the competent manner in which a range of resources, including ICT and puppets is deployed to expose pupils to storytelling in a most fruitful, enjoyable manner. However, in some classrooms, there is a need for a sharper focus on specific learning objectives, in both planning and teaching in order to further develop pupils’ language skills. It is recommended that the effective practices in evidence in the school be extended and further guidelines be provided to support their implementation. It is advised that staff focus particular attention on the communicative phases of the language lesson and provide more opportunities for pupils to communicate in Irish. Also, it is recommended that further emphasis could gainfully be placed on learning poetry as an enjoyable language input. Fundamental reading and writing skills are established in a most effective manner. The good standard of reading in evidence amongst some senior pupils is to be commended. Proposals from staff to provide pupils with a wider range of reading material will greatly enrich their learning. Some creditable samples of pupils’ independent writing were noted but it is considered that there is scope for further development in this aspect of the work. 

 

English

A detailed English policy has been devised. It is now timely to consider a review of this policy in order to provide clear guidelines for teaching and learning. Teachers place due emphasis on oral language development during reading and writing activities. Language is also appropriately explored and developed through cross-curricular approaches. Suitable oral language activities are organised to motivate discussion, dialogue and debate in whole-class settings. Pupils’ higher order thinking skills are appropriately developed through teachers’ judicious questioning. While variable abilities were noted in this area of learning, the majority of pupils display a good standard of competence and confidence in the use of language. The development of a discrete whole-school oral language programme would ensure further continuity and progression in the development of all pupils’ language skills and would provide for consistency of approach throughout the school. Pupils’ response to and appreciation of poetry is actively nurtured and pupils are skilfully facilitated in creating their own poetry. However, greater emphasis could beneficially be placed on learning poetry and to this end a compilation of suitable poems for all class levels would further promote poetry recitation.

 

Emergent reading skills are developed gainfully in the junior classes. Suitable emphasis is placed on reading readiness activities including knowledge of the conventions of print, basic sight vocabulary and word identification strategies. Pupils are exposed to a print-rich environment where high-frequency and common words are displayed. Commercial resources are used purposefully in the development of pupils’ phonological and phonemic awareness. It is advised, however, to devise a phonological awareness  programme to be taught at all class levels. Reading skills are methodically developed. The use of graded reading schemes support the development of pupils’ reading skills. A variety of parallel readers and library books are used productively to extend pupils’ accuracy, fluency and comprehension. Libraries, with an extensive and varied range of attractive reading material, is a central feature of all classrooms. Pupils are also exposed to a wide selection of class novels. The involvement of parents in the implementation of a shared reading scheme greatly contributes to the creation of positive attitudes to reading from an early age. It is recommended, however, that differentiated group work be further developed to cater for varying ranges of ability in reading.

 

In the teaching of writing, letter formation and handwriting skills are taught systematically. An examination of copybooks indicates that, in general, pupils’ skills are being developed in a progressive manner. In most instances the quality of pupils’ presentation of written work is commendable and pupils are encouraged to observe the conventions of writing. These good practices should be extended to all classes. Worthwhile writing activities such as daily news, book reviews, poetry and story demonstrate pupils’ ability to write in an age-appropriate register of language. Additional emphasis on the use of the language experience approach in the junior classes would assist in further developing pupils’ ability to write independently. Process writing is purposefully cultivated in the middle and senior classes and writing in a range of genre and for a variety of purposes is undertaken. However, greater opportunity should be provided to all pupils to engage in independent writing activities on a more regular basis. This should also include increased writing opportunities in other curricular areas.

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

Overall, creditable standards are in evidence in Mathematics. Among the many praiseworthy features of the school plan is the emphasis placed on the important link between language and concept development. Appropriately, staff have agreed on a common approach to mathematics language and many teachers outline the language to be taught in their classroom planning. Throughout the school pupils are provided with a balanced programme in the various strands. Teachers make use of a range of effective methodologies, including hands-on and collaborative approaches. Skilful use of ICT and of a wide range of manipulative materials was observed. Some good mathematics games were noted and it is advised that their use be further promoted, particularly in the context of extending active learning. Teachers communicate learning intentions clearly and promote good quality talk and discussion during the lesson. Many pupils display a creditable understanding of key skills and concepts. Generally, work is recorded in a well-ordered fashion and is systematically monitored. In some classes a greater emphasis on recording of work in copybooks is advised. In order to further cater for pupils at different levels of ability, it is recommended that the practice of administering regular teacher-designed tests be extended and that the information on pupil progress arising from testing be used systematically to differentiate the class curriculum. Such an approach would also greatly support the provision of regular revision and consolidation. Further emphasis on mental maths and on problem-solving is  suggested.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

Lessons in History are well-structured and every effort is made to maintain a balance between the development of skill and the acquisition of knowledge. A sense of time and chronology is carefully cultivated by engaging pupils from an early stage in appropriate story-sequencing activities and in chronicling significant events in their personal lives and in the lives of their families. Pupils are guided in identifying evidence of change and continuity in their local environment and in exploring sites of local interest. The display of time lines in classrooms would greatly assist pupils in their understanding of change over time. Discussion, interview, storytelling, book research and internet usage are among approaches employed judiciously as a means of promoting pupils’ historical awareness. Project and group work feature prominently in the teaching of History and pupils are afforded opportunities to work collaboratively. Work in History is integrated purposefully with other curricular areas, notably the Visual Arts. A wide range of support materials, including a selection of historical artefacts and photographs, is available and used to good effect. While pupils engage in some documenting of topics taught, it is suggested that greater emphasis be placed on recording information for the purpose of consolidation. Teacher questioning, written tasks, the completion of worksheets and teacher-designed tests are the main modes of assessment in History. Effective use of ICT in the delivery of the History programme is noteworthy.

 

Geography

A comprehensive school plan in Geography is supplemented by a geographical environmental audit, a list of resources, books and websites to support its implementation. Teachers judiciously plan a variety of learning experiences in addition to the study and completion of text-based materials and tasks. A broad and balanced programme of work is delivered where due emphasis is placed on the development of skills and knowledge. A wide range of resources is available and used purposefully. Maps are prominently displayed in most classrooms. Various effective active learning methodologies are employed to further develop pupils’ geographical skills. Classroom work incorporates discussion, project work, simple mapping and practical tasks. The maintenance of pupils’ diaries to regularly record changes in climate is commendable. Pupils are also afforded the opportunity to explore some human and natural features of the immediate environment thus facilitating the development of a sense of space and place. Pupil progress in Geography is monitored through teacher observation and questioning, teacher-designed tests and the completion of tasks. For the purpose of consolidation, greater emphasis should be placed on  recording of topics completed. ICT is deployed effectively to enhance pupil learning in this area of the curriculum. 

 

Science

The staff is to be commended for the impressive work in evidence in the area of Science. The plan provides clear guidelines to support curriculum implementation in a manner that promotes breadth, balance and continuity in pupils’ learning. Skilful use is made of a variety of suitable resources, including ICT, teacher-made materials and the local environment to facilitate hands-on learning. Good quality talk and discussion was a notable feature of most lessons observed. Many pupils exhibit a keen understanding of scientific concepts and a good ability to work scientifically. Teachers, pupils and parents are to be applauded for the considerable work they undertake to promote environmental awareness and on their success in securing Green Flag recognition. The involvement of the school in the Discover Science Programme is praiseworthy. Pupils in the senior classes are provided with valuable opportunities to engage in project work and to record their learning. It is recommended, however, that greater emphasis be placed on documenting the learning to further promote consolidation.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Art

The Visual Arts programme is accorded an important status within the school. Pupils are provided with regular opportunities to explore, investigate, design and create using a range of materials, media and techniques. Painting, printing and drawing is complemented by impressive three-dimensional craft and construction work. A suitable balance is achieved between Making Art and Looking and Responding to Art. Pupils are encouraged to look at and respond to their own work and the work of others. Discussion is a central feature of all lessons and particular attention is focused on enabling pupils use the language of art. Pupils’ work is celebrated through attractive displays. Opportunities for integrating the Visual Arts with other curriculum areas are exploited to considerable effect. The promotion of Irish during the art lesson is highly commendable. ICT is used most effectively in stimulating pupils’ imagination and creativity. Opportunities afforded to pupils to visit art galleries and regular visits of guest artists to the school augment the delivery of the Visual Arts programme. Assessment, in the main, is through teacher observation and in some cases through portfolios of pupils’ work. Further consideration should be given to the implementation of assessment procedures in the Visual Arts on a whole-school basis.

 

Music

The high standard of provision for Music is a key strength in the school. The delivery of a broad and balanced programme, incorporating all strands, was evidenced throughout the school. Teachers make skilful use of ICT and a wide range of resources to further enhance teaching and learning in Music. Lessons observed were well-structured and integrated effectively with other areas of the curriculum. Tin whistle is taught to the senior classes and the quality of the performance observed merits much praise. This aspect of the programme could gainfully be extended to other classes. It is commendable that all pupils participate in either the junior or senior choir as appropriate on a weekly basis. This work greatly complements classroom practice and the standard of choir singing is impressive. Much credit is due to teachers for their collaborative work in this area and for the generous manner in which they share their talents. Regular opportunities are afforded to pupils to perform at school assemblies, at competition and at national events.

 

Drama

Much high-quality work in the area of Drama was observed. While the school has a long tradition of employing an external drama tutor to assist with the teaching of Drama, the school plan appropriately draws attention to the important role of the class teacher. Pupils are provided with a broad range of dramatic experiences and there is clear evidence of progressive skill development. Teachers skilfully facilitate high levels of pupil participation and make use of a range of effective, enjoyable stimuli such as stories and poetry. Many pupils demonstrate an impressive ability to enter into the drama world with enthusiasm and confidence. Drama is integrated gainfully with other curriculum areas such as English, Irish and History. Pupils are provided with valuable opportunities to participate in school concerts and in Feiseanna.

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

Good quality sports facilities and equipment are available in the school and are used in a most effective manner both for formal lessons and during playtime. Pupils benefit from a broad and varied curriculum in Physical Education. Teachers are to be commended for the delivery of a balanced programme of work. Best practice noted, included well-structured, competently paced lessons with a clear focus on suitably challenging skill development. Pupils were active in exploring and enjoying their physical activity. They demonstrate a strong sense of achievement and mastery of skills taught. It is recommended that further opportunities be provided for staff to share skills and expertise in this area of the curriculum. It is also recommended that pertinent health and safety issues be further clarified.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

A comprehensive whole-school plan for Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) has been devised which reflects the characteristic spirit of the school and the developmental needs of  pupils. It also details policy on healthy eating, substance use, bullying and many other related policies. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), Walk Tall and Stay Safe programmes are an integral part of the SPHE programme and are competently implemented. The content of the programme is clearly delineated and communicated to parents.

 

A positive, respectful and caring school atmosphere permeates the school community where individuals are valued, cared for and respected. Teachers are vigilant in providing a well-ordered, secure, safe and healthy environment for pupils and a strong sense of mutual respect exists between teachers and pupils. A keen emphasis is placed on the development of a sense of social responsibility and pupils respond positively to the interest which teachers show in their personal development, educational progress and good behaviour.

 

A wide variety of teaching approaches and active learning strategies are used in discrete SPHE lessons. Story, role play, discussion and circle time are used effectively to enable pupils explore and discuss relevant topics. Pupils are enabled to make informed decisions and choices about SPHE dimensions of their lives and are encouraged to respect differences. Many of the objectives of individual class programmes are approached in a cross-curricular manner. A review of records of work in this area indicates that emphasis is placed on the strand of Myself and Myself and Others. In order to ensure the delivery of a more balanced programme of SPHE greater attention should be directed to the teaching of the strand Myself and the Wider World. A notable feature of the work of the school is the Squaddies and Buddy programmes whereby pupils in senior classes engage in a wide range of games and activities with younger pupils. These activities benefit pupils greatly and provide them with opportunities to develop a wide range of skills including leadership, decision-making and communication skills.

 

4.8 Assessment

 

A comprehensive assessment policy has been documented which delineates clearly the procedures for effective assessment of learning and for learning. Pupil records are maintained centrally and updated regularly. A range of assessment modes is used to assess pupils’ progress including teacher observation, monitoring of pupils’ written work, teacher-designed tests and tasks and pupils’ projects. Diagnostic testing is also used as a tool to ascertain the nature of the support required and to determine appropriate learning strategies for pupils with learning difficulties. Teachers maintain records of individual achievement on class tests and some teachers also retain portfolios of pupils’ work. Standardized tests are administered in literacy and in numeracy while the Middle Infants Screening Test is used to identify pupils with specific learning needs at an early age. While standardized tests’ results are recorded, a more detailed analysis of these results would further inform and determine learning programmes for both whole classes and for individual pupils. It would also assist teachers to evaluate the mediation of the curriculum. Assessment results are usefully shared between class teachers as pupils progress from class to class. Consideration should now be given to extending formal assessment across all curriculum areas. Staff should now be encouraged to embrace the concept of assessment for learning as outlined in the guidelines from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA).

 

 

5 Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The special education support team consists of a full-time learning-support teacher and three part-time teachers, including a resource teacher, a language-support teacher and a learning-support teacher. These teachers are committed to working with all partners to cater for the special educational needs of pupils in a conscientious manner. There are clearly stated whole-school policies and procedures in the school plan that demonstrate the commitment of the school to meeting the needs of pupils with special educational needs. Appropriately, these procedures incorporate the staged approach. Supplementary teaching is provided in both literacy and numeracy either in pupils’ mainstream classrooms or by withdrawal. A wide range of excellent resources has been accessed and prepared carefully. The learning-support room presents as a stimulating print-rich environment. Commendably, teachers liaise regularly with parents regarding individual pupil progress and useful records of meetings are maintained. Effective screening processes are in place to identify pupils for learning support and a good range of diagnostic assessments are in use. During the evaluation a variety of approaches was in evidence in relation to planning and delivery of supplementary teaching. Productive use of a range of appropriate methodologies and resources during well-structured lessons is commended. Recognition is due for the creditable system in place regarding individual programme planning, ongoing assessment and recording of pupil progress. However, there is a need to extend and co-ordinate these good practices on a whole-school basis to all support contexts. It is recommended that guidelines regarding the process used to formulate and review individual education plans (IEPs) and individual profiles and learning programmes (IPLPs) be included in the school plan and implemented consistently. Broader and more challenging programmes of work should also be prepared and implemented for some pupils. It is also recommended that the practice of pupils attending more than one support teacher be discontinued and that the length of some withdrawal sessions be reviewed. It is further recommended that increased provision be made for targeted in-class support and early intervention programmes.

 

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

 

This school is not in an area of dedicated disadvantage but is clearly an inclusive school. Language support is provided to a small number of pupils. Language activities are planned and undertaken effectively and pupils are supported in further developing their language skills.

 

 

6.     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

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

The Board of Management wishes to thank the members of the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Science for their courtesy and professionalism during the recent Whole School Evaluation.

 

 

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

 

The staff  is currently addressing the recommendations made in the report.