An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Rearcross National School

Rearcross,

Newport,

Co. Tipperary

Uimhir rolla: 12124K

 

Date of inspection: 17 October 2007

  Date of issue of report:  21 February 2008

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

1.     Quality of school management

2.     Quality of school planning

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.     Quality of support for pupils

5.     Conclusion

 

Whole-school evaluation

A whole-school evaluation of Rearcross NS was undertaken in October 2007. 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 Physical Education [PE].   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

Rearcross NS is a five-teacher school situated in the village of Rearcross, approximately nine kilometres east of Newport in Co. Tipperary. The school serves a rural area with most of the pupils coming from the immediate environs of Rearcross. Enrolment has remained relatively stable over the recent past. Projections indicate that this situation will prevail in the medium term. The school enrolment is, at present, exclusively Irish. No newcomer pupils are enrolled. The school does not receive any additional resources from the Department of Education and Science to serve pupils coming from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. Attendance rates at the school are extremely good with very little absenteeism in evidence from the roll book records. The school is about to embark on a major extension of the school premises under the Devolved Grant for Smaller Schools scheme. Building is expected to commence in the spring of 2008.

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

65

Mainstream classes in the school

3

Teachers on the school staff

5

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

0

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Cashel and Emly. It serves a predominantly Catholic population. The school mission statement refers to endeavouring to maximise the social, educational and emotional development of each child according to his/her ability in a safe and secure learning environment.

 

1.2 Board of management 

The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly with a minimum of five meetings per year. Minutes of meetings are maintained and a financial report is presented at each meeting. Policies and plans of curricular and administrative issues are appropriately ratified by the board. The board is compliant with its responsibilities regarding admissions, codes of behaviour and management of the school plan. A good relationship is seen to exist between the board and the local community. Little evidence was presented to show that the board is fully engaged with the teaching staff regarding the quality of teaching and learning. Anecdotal reportage is used to describe the board’s knowledge of this work in the school. It is recommended that the board would, on an annual basis at a minimum, seek diagnostic and standardised data to inform itself of the standards of teaching and learning in the school. Action planning based on this information should assist the board in the consequent identification of supports required for the school in order to improve pupil achievement in particular curricular areas. Board knowledge of and participation in annual reviews of the posts of responsibility will assist this process.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal was appointed in 1977. Great commitment, sensitivity and enthusiasm are the hallmarks of his work as a school leader. Great care is taken to ensure that all members of the school community work diligently in a secure and comfortable learning environment. This principal works effectively to promote a deep understanding of the principles of the Primary Curriculum 1999 among all staff. This is achieved through very high standards of instructional leadership, multiple class management and inclusion of pupils with special educational needs in mainstream class learning opportunities. Organisationally, the school has well-developed management systems focusing on curricular development, pastoral care and administrative task distribution. The principal displays very high levels of competence regarding ethical school leadership. This is evident in the time devoted to each home-school relationship, the quality of access afforded to all parents when required and also by the ongoing management of the development of specific curricular areas. The school, as a whole, takes great pride in its work.

There are two posts of responsibility in the school, a deputy principal post and a special duties post. Both posts are carried out responsibly and diligently. Specific areas of responsibility for curricular, pastoral and organisational issues have been allocated. In order to build on the good work in evidence, it is recommended that regular in-school management meetings would now  take place. Reviews of the responsibilities included in the posts should focus on one curricular area at a time. Greater support for the teaching and learning requirements of these areas can then occur. There is a need for greater accountability structures to be put in place between the post-holders and the board of management. 

 

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

A very good relationship is seen to exist between the school and the local community. Pupil participation in a range of local activities and events, enthusiastically supported by the teaching staff, supports this work effectively. The parent body works closely with the school to provide logistical, financial and educational support to the school. It is now timely for the school to encourage the setting up of a formal parents’ association. The development of such a structure would enhance the capacity of the school, both at board of management and teaching staff levels, to communicate fully and regularly with all parents regarding the social and educational progress of their children. Regular newsletters, building on the current good practice of sharing some curricular information and advice, can be initiated.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

Pupils in this school are very motivated and participative in their learning. A high standard of mutual respect exists. The pupils were attentive, engaged and diligent during the evaluation. No discipline problems were in evidence. Clear understanding of the purpose and rationale for the code of behaviour is in place. The code is in accordance with the Equal Status Acts (2000, 2004) and seeks to reward positive behaviour.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning does not reflect the overall high standard of teaching and learning in the school. The range of organisational policies, as ratified by the board, is comprehensive. The administrative documents provided for the evaluation succeed in attending to the organisational needs of the school. However, the school’s curricular plans do not provide appropriate levels of support and information for the classroom environment. The plans are not specific to Rearcross NS. There is a need for all curricular plans to be reviewed systematically as speedily as possible. Plan content should be altered to delineate graded and differentiated programmes of work for all eight standards with the appropriate time allocation included. The aim of this work must be that direct and relevant linkage can be provided for individual teachers’ planning work. The teaching staff now needs to begin the work of deciding why particular curricular strands and strand units are chosen at specific times of the pupil’s learning continuum in Rearcross NS. Collective decision-making around these issues will provide clear instruction for the individual class planning process. Support from the School Development Planning Initiative-Primary [SDPI] should be considered as a means of furthering this important whole school target.    

The quality of classroom planning is largely, satisfactory. Teachers provide short and long-term plans which outline the intended teaching content. Documents provided indicate a strong commitment to the planning process. However, linkage with the whole school curricular plan is poor. The recording of monthly progress does not take into account the learning achievements of the pupils. Little assessment of the progress of individual pupils is in evidence. In order to make the planning process more cohesive and purposeful, it is recommended that specific areas of the curriculum be targeted as assessment priorities. The selected areas can be analysed in depth by the assessment tools available to the school. This information can then be tabulated at a whole school level and appropriate interventions planned and implemented. Assistance from SDPI can focus on how to make the learning goals as specific as possible for the range of learning abilities present in the classrooms.

 

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

Cuirtear an-bhéim ar úsáid na teanga sa scoil seo. I bhformhór na ranganna, feictear dearcadh dearfach á chothú le linn an teagaisc. Sroichtear an ard-chaighdeán seo trí húsáid rialta, neamhfhoirmiúil den teanga ag na múinteoirí leo féin agus leis na daltaí. Glacann na daltaí go bríomhar leis an bhfoghlaim agus déantar an-iarracht spraoi na foghlama a chur chun cinn sna ceachtanna. Úsáidtear drámaíocht, ceol agus chomhtháthú leis na hábhair eile go croíúil chun úsáid na Gaeilge a cheiliúradh. Is iontach na torthaí foghlama atá le feiceáil sna ranganna naíonán maidir le húsáid na teanga go háirithe. Déantar an-iarracht scileanna éisteachta na ndaltaí a chothú trí agallamh beirte agus athráSa léitheoireacht, baintear ard-chaighdeán amach. Léitear altanna casta le cruinneas agus le tuiscint. Cuirtear raon leathan de leabhair oiriúnacha ar fáil. Scríobhtar go foirmiúil le tuiscint mhaith ar an ngramadach agus ar na haimsirí. Moltar breis béime a chur anois ar scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach. ar chumas na ndaltaí sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna scileanna samhlaíochta a fhorbairt leis an obair seo agus an ríomhaire a úsáid mar spreagadh. An dúshlán atá ag an bhfoireann anois caighdeán na hoibre ó bhéal, éisteacht, léitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht atá sroichte amach i dtromlach na ranganna a mhéadú tríd an scoil go léir.    

 

Irish

The use of Irish is promoted thoroughly in this school. In the majority of the classes, a positive outlook is developed during teaching activities. A high standard of Irish is achieved through regular, informal usage of the language by the teachers between the pupils and themselves. The children engage enthusiastically with the learning and a good effort is made to encourage enjoyment of the language in the lessons. Drama, music and integration with other subjects are used wholeheartedly to celebrate the language. The learning outcomes achieved by the pupils at infant class level are particular noteworthy. Listening skills are developed through pupil/pupil interactions and repetition. A high standard of reading is achieved. The pupils read with understanding and clarity. A wide range of suitable reading material is available. Formal writing is taught with good attention to the correct grammar and tenses. It is recommended that a greater emphasis is placed on the promotion of creative writing in Irish. The middle and senior classes can develop their imaginative skills in this work, through using the computer as a motivational tool. The main challenge now for the school is to ensure that the high standards achieved in oral, listening, reading and writing in the majority of the classrooms is expanded to all classes.     

 

English

Very high standards are achieved by a majority of pupils in English. A well developed programme for oral language is in place. Most of the pupils can speak about themselves, their interests and activities with fluency and confidence. The work done on the study, recitation and writing of poetry in all classes is very impressive. Very good work is evident in the teaching of reading. Appropriate emphasis on the development of phonological awareness in the infant classes ensures that a very good foundation is in place. All classes have well stocked libraries. Excellent work was observed in the senior classes where children were encouraged to use interpretive and predictive skills in responding to well-chosen texts. The emphasis placed on developing reading skills and a love of reading ensures that a majority of children achieve a very high standard in reading, as is reflected in the standardised assessments undertaken in the school. English writing is systematically developed throughout the school. Pupils are enthusiastic about engaging in various writing activities. Their work is carefully scaffolded in the junior classes. Pupils are familiar with the skills of drafting, redrafting and editing. It is advised that they now are encouraged to utilise information and communication technologies (ICT) to assist in this process. A very good standard of handwriting is achieved and careful monitoring of the pupils’ work was observed in most classes.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The teaching of Mathematics in this school is very effective. In most classes, pupils are presented with a wide range of active learning opportunities. These activities are carefully selected and differentiated in order for the various ages and abilities to achieve success, develop confidence in the concepts being taught and use the appropriate mathematical language purposefully. Good questioning and a strong emphasis on the promotion of oral mathematical ability are regularly used. A range of relevant and attractive resources is skilfully manipulated by teacher and pupils to facilitate graded learning experiences and independent concept mastery. Opportunities for co-operative learning are provided with complex tasks assigned to groups of various sizes where roles are well understood. Inclusion of pupils with special educational needs in Mathematics lessons is carefully prepared and skilfully expedited. In most of the classrooms, dedicated display space has been allocated to promote the relevant topic.

 

 

3.3 Physical Education [PE]

High achievement levels throughout a variety of the curricular strands are evident in the good quality teaching of PE in this school. Pupils engage enthusiastically with the lessons which are particularly well resourced. The school is fortunate to have two local halls and an all-weather pitch at its disposal for the teaching of PE, along with the outdoor green areas around the school. These facilities are regularly and successfully used to deliver the programme of work. Lessons are well-structured and clear achievable targets are set out. An appropriate focus is placed on participation and co-operation rather than on competition. Skills are purposefully developed through a range of activities focusing on the lesson objective. Pupils are encouraged to use terminology appropriate to the concept being taught. Integration with other curricular areas is also in evidence. Music, Drama and Gaeilge are introduced where appropriate and the pupils clearly enjoy the work. Of particular note in some classes is the manner in which care is taken to assess formally the results of the individual lessons taught. The recording of the successes and the identification of the further challenges remaining for the pupils, regarding the concepts being developed, is excellent work. It should be extended throughout the entire school as a model of good practice. 

 

3.4 Assessment

Assessment of the learning outcomes for pupils occurs regularly in this school. Micra-T, Sigma-T and the MIST (Middle Infant Screening Tests) are administered to all pupils at specific times during the school year. This data is compiled and maintained satisfactorily. Individual teachers use classroom observation and activity work outcomes to gather assessment information regarding short-term progress. No evidence was presented during the evaluation to show that this assessment work was impacting on the selection of more targeted learning objectives or on the identification of more differentiated activities. Assessment of pupil progress needs to be more formalised in the context of the whole school management of information gathered. The monthly report should be used as an ongoing recording mechanism of pupil achievement. By referring to the specific learning objectives outlined in the individual teachers’ planning documents during this recording, clear evidence can be gathered and used to select more constructive active-learning opportunities for any pupils experiencing difficulty.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school provides both learning support and resource teaching support for a number of pupils. Excellent work is being undertaken in the provision of support for these pupils. The pupils receiving support are very engaged with and enthusiastic about their work and effective communication strategies are in place to support learning. The school has a well developed learning support and special educational needs policy. The policy clearly sets out the school’s procedures for screening, planning and implementation. The staged approach to learning support is effectively implemented as recommended in the Learning Support Guidelines. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving supplementary teaching. Parents are kept regularly informed about their children’s progress. The school benefits from the services of one part-time learning support teacher and one part-time resource teacher both of whom are based in the school. Currently, the learning support teacher uses the staff room as a teaching area. The board will provide a dedicated learning support room during the current school year.

A range of strategies is utilised including individual and group withdrawal to provide support for pupils. Support is also provided in an integrated way in individual classrooms. During the evaluation, this in-class intervention work was observed. Highly successful learning outcomes were evident. This was due to the purposeful preparation and the effective management of the supervision of the pupils’ work by the class teacher and the resource teacher. Both the learning support and the resource teachers prepare Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) or Individual Education Plans (IEPs), depending on the needs of the child. A wide range of diagnostic tests is systematically used to develop these plans. They are prepared in consultation with parents, class teachers, external agencies and the pupils themselves, where appropriate. They contain specific targets and are reviewed bi-annually. It is advised that copies of the IPLPs are provided for parents.

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

There are no pupils from minority or other groups attending the school at present. Any pupils coming from socially disadvantaged backgrounds are managed sensitively and are included in all school activities.   

 

5.     Conclusion

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

  • A very committed and talented teaching staff manages the needs of all pupils from educational and social development perspectives. This work is ably led by a school principal who leads by example and succeeds in creating a secure and happy learning environment.
  • Special education and learning support teaching in the school is of a very high standard.
  • The staff is supported in its work by a diligent and interested board of management which, along with a knowledgeable and committed parent body, make a very positive contribution to the overall running of the school.
  • The school is very well resourced and this is achieved through purchasing strategies based on identified needs.
  • In general, there is a high standard of teaching and learning in Gaeilge, English, Mathematics and PE.
  • The school’s external environment is attractive and well-maintained.

 

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

 

  • The school should consider reviewing its planning strategies immediately. Graded, differentiated programmes of work are needed in all curricular plans for Rearcross NS. Closer attention needs to be paid to the selection of specific learning targets from the 1999 Primary Curriculum and the Plean Scoile. Assessment of learning outcomes should be included in the monthly progress reports and this work should link with the duties of the posts of responsibility.
  • An annual review of the work of the post-holders needs to occur. Such a review should seek to define the curricular areas more specifically. Greater accountability to the board of management regarding this work is recommended.
  • The challenge for the school now is to expand the very good practice observed in most classes to all classrooms in order to maximise the active learning opportunities for the entire pupil cohort.

 

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.