An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Náisiúnta Antoine

 Kingstown, Clifden, County Galway

Roll number:12095G

 

Date of inspection: 7th February 2009

 

 

 

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

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

 Whole- School Evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Naomh Antoine 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 Arts Education.  The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

Introducion – school context and background

 

There are six teachers providing professional services in this school, two of them are classroom teachers and the rest of the team provide support services in learning support and resource teaching. There is also a part-time rural co-ordinator for home school development strategies. This school is situated on the Kingstown side of the inlet dividing Streamstown from Kingstown in the Mannin bay estuary some six kilometres north-west of Clifden, the main market town in Connemara.  The school structure is a typically designed Boyd Barrett, two teacher school, built in the early sixties with two small classrooms, toilets and cloakrooms on a very confined site, in terms of space and level. It was confirmed during this evaluation that no possibility for a site extension exists in the current circumstances. The permanent building remains much the same as when it was built although some internal restructuring has taken place to facilitate the additional support services available in the school. A prefabricated classroom with toilets was added during the Christmas holidays of 2008. The playground to the rear of the school is tarmacadamed and lined with a sloped play area to the front of the school, currently being re-seeded, where the schools’ most recently acquired green flag is proudly on display. The school is currently processing an application for the third flag in succession. The school building and school yard are very well kept neat and clean and the existing facilities are utilised to the maximum to ensure a range of curricular and social experiences for the pupils. Both the members of the board of management committee and the parent’s representatives indicated at the preliminary meeting to this whole school evaluation, that school refurbishment and extension were their main priorities over the next few years. This school is the only fulltime public centre functioning in this community and there has been a significant drop in the population of the area over the past forty years. As a consequence there had also been a drop in school enrolment. Although this has recovered somewhat in the last few years to the extent that thirty four pupils are currently enrolled in the school. The school is expected to retain the current enrolment 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

34

Mainstream classes in the school

08

Teacher(s) on the staff of the school

02

Teacher(s) in mainstream classes

02

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

04

Special needs’ assistants

01

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission and vision of the school

The mission statement of the school indicates the schools endeavour to provide a well-ordered, caring, happy and secure atmosphere where the intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and cultural needs of all its pupils are identified and addressed. It is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Archbishop of Tuam and states that it gives due recognition to the different religious beliefs of the pupils attending the school. The school has agreed an arrangement with the parents of pupils of other religions, to give practical effect to this mission statement. The board of management and school staff endeavour to provide an equal opportunities, child centred education for all pupils, based on their abilities and interests. The mission statement includes a comment on the importance of parental support in order to achieve this aim. To support this aim a happy and positive learning environment has been consciously created where all pupils have an opportunity to develop and to learn in preparation for the next phase of their education. The majority of pupils in the school are from this catchment area and a lot of the pupils’ parents are past pupils of the chool and were taught by the principal teacher. The school addresses the effect of its size and isolation through the work of the home-school co-ordinator, through its pro-active programme of extra curricular activities and its participation in locally organised competitions and events, in conjunction with adjacent schools. The school is also making worthwhile efforts to include parents in the learning activities of the school: it engages with parents and community through the intergenerational programme and through organised shared reading activities, maths for fun and homework activities. These initiatives are welcomed by parents and grandparents and it is viewed as a role change from the traditional education partnership model.  The motto for this school is ‘mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí’. The staff members are professional and effective and are commended for focusing on raising standards for all the pupils. They deliver a structured effective developmental programme of education that ensures that the pupils are well prepared for the next stage in their education.  It was indicated during this report that only one pupil from the school had not completed post-primary education in the last ten years and that a trend of progressing to third level is evident among the past-pupils.

  

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 and officers are designated specific duties. Meetings are held at least five times per year and minutes are kept on proceedings and decisions made as well as on ongoing expenditure. The board is aware of its responsibilities in school governance and has participated in the development of the school plan and in training opportunities for board members offered by the dioceses. The school plan is arranged in four parts ranging from general details about the school, organisational policies, curriculum plans and development section. The organisational plan includes a health and safety statement, a code of behaviour, anti-bullying, special education, child protection and policies on school ethos, relationship and sexuality education, equality of opportunity, school safety statement, as well as a wide range of curricular activities in the curriculum plans. The school plan needs revising and updating to include a building development plan to reflect the priority attached to the issue, also a plan on methodologies specifying the differentiated approach to teaching and learning practised in the school. The review should include a personnel development plan inclusive of board members, revision of the relationship and sexuality programme, the admissions policy and pupil assessment plan as well as prioritising an investment plan in information technology, mathematics, science equipment and library books, particularly for books in Irish. It is recommended that the process of review is inclusive of parents and that an agreed framework be identified to ensure that parents can access all of the plans on an ongoing basis. It was confirmed that the chairperson of the board meets with the principal on a regular basis. Correspondence received is usually discussed and reports are received from the principal and from the treasurer at board meetings. An annual report on school progress is orally submitted to the board of management and is recorded in the proceedings.

    

1.3 In school management

The two class teachers have posts of responsibility as principal and special post holder in the school and their duties are agreed with the board of management. It is intended to review the duties of the post-holder at the end of the current year, to reflect the changing curricular needs of the school. The principal is energetic and effective and is committed to providing a Christian, enhancing education service to the pupils under her care. She is ably assisted by the assistant teacher and they both take primary responsibility for giving the students a comprehensive foundation in an appropriate education programme, commensurate with their pupils’ interests and abilities. They are both conscientious professionals, they invest time and effort in their continuous upskilling and they seek to develop independent learning skills in the pupils. They play a key management role and they receive advice and support from the other part-time teachers. They all contribute to ensuring that there is a happy, caring and safe learning environment in Kingston N.S., where pupils’ rights are respected and a progressive education programme is provided for them. To this end good use has been made of the curriculum supports services and an application for additional supports is being planned. Good habits of behaviour are practiced, resources and support software are regularly used and there is a palpable positive relationship among all the parties. Strategies to increase the presence of information technologies in the school programme are agreed and an investment programme is being prioritised although the physical size of the existing classrooms makes this quite challenging.

  

1.4 Managing relationships and communication with the school community

At the meetings with board of management members and parents representatives in advance of this evaluation, the professionalism and competences of the teachers were acknowledged and praised.  Both the parent’s representatives and the board of management members confirmed that they were very satisfied with the way in which the school was operating. They indicated that the school had an open door policy for parents and they were involved constructively in the education of their children. They felt that a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere pervaded all the activities of the school and that all the staff members contributed consciously to this ethos. The building itself is 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 secretary, caretaker and cleaner who take pride in ensuring that the school is an attractive place of work for everybody. The classrooms and corridors are appealing and attractively decorated with samples of pupils’ work as well as project displays and a pictorial record of past pupils some of whom are now parents of the current school children. Parental support is available when required to transport pupils to sports or school events and to engage in their supervision. Parents are informed of pupils’ progress at the end of the year and these are communicated in a written format. Regular informal contacts with parents are welcomed throughout the school year. The church newsletter is used to advise on school events and to also give pupils an additional platform for their literary skills.

  

1.5 Management of pupils

There is an open generous relationship among all the parties in the school. The board of management confirmed that the code of discipline is infrequently used. A mutually respectful and cooperative relationship is evident, a range of opportunities and resources available for pupils thus ensuring that the work programme is interesting and challenging. Pupils are divided into two classrooms with the senior classes being the responsibility of the principal teacher and the junior classes under the care of the assistant teacher. There is a high level of attendance by the pupils and a broad range of extra curricular activities is available. Participation in local competitions and in other events is practised, such as team games, dancing, drama, swimming, concerts and school tours are organised throughout the school year. The older pupils have a caring role for younger pupils in the playground and during these school events. Many of the past pupils return to the school during break times and re-engage with the teachers and the current pupils at the school. They contribute actively to school events.

 

 

2.     Quality of School Planning

 

2.1 Whole school planning and classroom planning

It was agreed during this school evaluation that aspects of the school plan would be revised and amended and that parents would be included in this process. It was also agreed that individual education plans would be submitted to parents and that case conferences would be inclusive of all the parties, including the pupils, when appropriate. A structured whole- school plan has been collated over a number of years, it includes organisational, pastoral and curricular elements and it is based on the current school context and on principles of good practice. Some of the aspects covered in the school plan are currently up for review.  The teachers are highly commended for the initiative they have taken to date in regard to this work and for the inclusive way they intend to conduct the review. It is also necessary to invest significantly in the school library, particularly in regard to Irish books as well as resources for I.T., science, mathematics and assessment in the school.

 

The curricular plans reflect the stated strands and strand units in the curriculum frameworks that form part of individual planning; a variety of methodologies is practised and effective teaching and learning take place in the delivery of the curriculum. Monthly progress reports are kept centrally and individual profiles of pupils with special needs are updated regularly. The classrooms, although very restricted in space, are stimulating and colourful places of work and the teachers make frequent use of both human and material resources during activities. The pupils engage successfully in their learning programmes and are achieving results in standardised tests commensurate with their abilities.

  

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

Cuirtear béim ar theagasc na Gaeilge mar úirlís foghlama agus déantar saibhriú agus forleithniú ar soifisticúlacht cumarsáide na ndaltaí trí chlár leathan oibre a sholáthar dóibh. Tá spiorad rannpháirtíochta agus sástacht na ndaltaí follasach sa chur chuige agus cothaítear féin mhuinín agus pearsantachtaí na ndaltaí mar dlúth chuid den obair. B’ fhiú úsáid a bhaint as ‘Séidean Sí’ agus as raon téacsleabhar nua aimseartha chun scileanna léitheoireachta a chothú agus moltar úsáid na leabharlainne scoile chun léitheoireacht thaoitheanach a threisiú. Chuige sin is fiú infheistíocht suntasach a dhéanamh sa chnuasach leabhair Ghaeilge nua-aimseartha atá sa leabharlann. Éiríonn leis na daltaí caighdeán maith a shroichint i léitheoireacht agus i scríobh na Gaeilge agus is inmholta an cur chuige teagasc agus foghlama a chruthaítear trí chluichí agus cleachtais eile gníomhaíochta sna ranganna. Cothaítear na scileanna macnaimh ard-ord go rialta sa chur chuige agus baineann na daltaí caighdeáin amach a thagann lena n’inniúlacht nadúrtha. Tugtar faoi raon leathan ábhair ceapadóireachta agus scríbhneoireachta sa scoil, dírítear aire ar na meicnicí agus baintear úsáid as tionscadail agus téamaí taighde comhghaolaithe sna teamaí curaclaim. D’fhéadfaidh breis deiseanna a thabhairt dóibh a gcuid saothar a chur i láithair pobal níos leithne tríd an idirlíon agus foillsiúcháin tréimhsiúla ón scoil féin.

 

Irish

Emphasis is placed on the teaching of Irish as a learning medium and a broad programme of learning ensures the enrichment and sophistication of the pupils’ communication skills. The pupils’ spirit of participation and enjoyment is evident in the way the language is taught and the pupils’ confidence and development of personal qualities are integral to the practise. ‘Séidean Sí’ could be used as a resource to support the language programme as well as using more modern Irish text books. It would be worthwhile investing significantly in contemporary Irish books for the library to develop recreational reading. Overall the pupils achieve a good standard in reading and writing skill and teaching and learning strategies are practised through interactive games, role play and other activities. Higher order thinking skills are regularly developed in the approach to teaching language and pupils achieve creditable standards relative to their abilities. A wide range of composition and writing topics is selected and the focus is on the mechanics of writing and topics and research areas are selected from related curriculum themes. It would be of value to have more opportunities for pupils to present their work to wider audiences through the internet and through periodical publications from the school.

 

English

A structured English programme is taught in the school which places due emphasis on developing oral language skills, phonological awareness as well as structured reading and writing programmes of work. Drama, circletime and discussion are used to develop the communicative approach and an excellent anthology of poetry and rhyme is offered and recited in both classrooms. Parents are encouraged to engage is shared reading exercises with the pupils. Continuous use of library books is a central feature of classroom practise and personal reading through a drop everything and read approach is practised. Writing is taught in a developmental fashion with editing and re-editing being a feature with emphasis placed on early skills such as hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor skills. Pupils’ progress is monitored through a variety of assessment procedures including teacher observation, questioning, written tasks, correction of copies and standardised tests. 

 

3.2 Mathematics

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. Mental work is regularly practised as part of the programme and attention is given on an ongoing basis to the terminology of mathematics. The use of work stations and concrete materials to develop an understanding of the basic concepts is commendable. Group-work supporting the range of abilities of pupils in the various classes is organised effectively and pupil activities are guided to achieve the stated learning objectives. Pupils have opportunities to develop their prediction and estimation skills and the strategies used to promote problem solving are commendable.  

 

3.3 Visual Arts

It is evident that the philosophy of the Primary Curriculum has been embraced comprehensively in this school through impressive work in the Visual arts. Although classroom space is at a premium a range of effective stimuli and starting points is employed for purposeful teaching. Pupils handle a wide variety of art materials and tools and they are active in exploring, experimenting, expressing and enjoying art through the six strands. School and individual planning is based on the structure and content of the curriculum. There is evidence of creativity and effective practice in the balance between making art and opportunities to look and respond to art. Activities and lessons are successfully integrated with aspects of language, music and social, environmental and scientific education. Pupils talk about and discuss their work with enthusiasm and confidence and demonstrate an admirable understanding of concepts and skills. They also love listening to music and deriving meaning from contemporary music as well as listening to classical composers.

 

3.4 Assessment

A number of strategies such as teacher observation, checklists, compilations of work, projects, profiles, pupil tasks, standardised tests as well as teacher designed tests are used to assess pupils’ progress. The frequency, type and use of the assessment strategies need to be formalised in the school plan. Further investment in the range of tests being used as well as identifyng their function, administration and analysis by the support services and in classrooms, needs to be reviewed. Results of standardised and criterion referenced tests need to be collated on a sequential basis, to facilitate analysis on both individual and class base.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

There are four pupils currently attending school with low incidence special education support needs. This service is provided by a permanent teacher from a cluster of schools providing nine hours per week and a part-time teacher working for seven hours per week. The service model is being reviewed as part of the ongoing school review process. The programme should include in class provision as well as work in withdrawn settings of group work and individual work, modules on the development of self esteem, behaviour modification strategies, decision making and review as well as access and practise in using information technology. The learning support teacher provides additional support in English and Mathematics for seven hours and thirty minutes per week for pupils with learning difficulties. A considerable number of commercially produced programmes are followed in developing literacy and numeracy skills and regular reviews of IEP’s are undertaken. Pupils could be included with their parents in the reviewing process where appropriate as well as including elements on personal development and behaviour modification strategies in the programme. The D.E.I.S. coordinator operates on a shared basis with other primary schools in the area and provides support of a sensitive and developmental nature to specific pupils and parents in this school. A balanced programme of second chance education service is also provided in conjunction with other education and para-medical colleagues in this general area and a member from this school community is on the steering committee to reflect local interests.

  

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 from the local area.

 

 

5.  Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         The good behaviour and cooperation of pupils is commendable.

·         The attitude, effectiveness and diligence of the teachers in regard to their work are commendable.

·         A positive learning environment has been created in the school.

·         Good provision is made for pupils with learning difficulties.

 

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

·         The school plan should be upgraded.

·         A plan to upgrade the school building should be developed.

·         Review of current practices in regard to pupil evaluation and provision in special education services should be undertaken.

 

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 November 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 welcomes the findings of the report and would like to thank the inspector involved for his professionalism and courtesy during the evaluation process.  The Board appreciates the affirmation of the work that is being carried out on a day to day basis in our school.

   

 

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 recommendations outlined in the report will be fulfilled to the best of our ability.  The Principal and staff together with the B.O.M. will review the school plan on an ongoing basis over the coming years.  A time-table for this review has been put in place.  Communication between the B.O.M. and DES with regard to school extension is continuing on an on-going basis, but without success to date.