An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Canovee Mixed NS
Uimhir rolla: 12292I
Date of inspection: 10 October 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Canovee Mixed NS 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 and Mathematics and on the quality of leadership throughout the school community. 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.
Canovee Mixed NS is a rural, co-educational four teacher school under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross. It is one of three schools serving the rural parish of Kilmurray. The present school was originally built in 1981 and recently refurbished with departmental funding under the devolved grants and the summer works schemes. A high standard of accommodation now pertains in the school.
School enrolment data indicates a continuing upward trend and attendance figures compare favourably with national norms.
The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Mainstream class teachers
Teachers working in support roles
Special needs assistants
Canovee Mixed NS is an important focal point in the community which it serves. It aims to create, ‘… an orderly environment in which children feel secure, in which self-esteem is fostered and in which children can make progress in their work through the provision of a general education which embodies high academic standards allied to a broad range of experiences.’
The school board and staff in partnership with the community work collaboratively to enable pupils to achieve their academic, intellectual, moral, spiritual, social, cultural and physical potentials in a caring environment that promotes respect and personal responsibility.
The current staff expresses a sense of loyalty to the school and its characteristic spirit whilst pupils and parents show a sense of belonging to the school community. High levels of parental satisfaction indicate that the school is true to its mission and characteristic spirit and that teaching and learning are at the heart of all of its activities. Teachers expect their pupils to achieve and challenge them accordingly whilst pupils show an obvious pride in their work.
The value system of the school allows for the meaningful contribution of all partners and stakeholders and the subsequent high morale contributes positively to the holistic development of each individual within this vibrant school community. Individual teachers show a commitment to the school and are given appropriate opportunity to participate in the decision making process.
The board of management of Canovee Mixed NS is properly constituted and meetings are held regularly. Minutes are carefully recorded and correct procedures, as per departmental and diocesan guidelines, are followed. The effectiveness of the board is evident from the quality of the school building and premises and the availability of a comprehensive range of resources in support of teaching and learning. The board continues to be a positive influence on the school and has successfully led the school community through a period of change and development whilst using the opportunity to unite all partners in support of common objectives. High levels of mutual respect between the board and the parents’ association are evident. It is clear that the staff of the school are appreciated and affirmed in their work by the board and that the focus on school improvement is impacting positively on school morale.
The board has also been active in the drafting, review and ratification of a broad range of curricular and organisational policies which inform the work of the whole school community. School policies are consistent with the stated ethos of the school and are in general conformity with the legislative framework in which schools operate. The evolutionary nature of all school documentation and the ongoing process of review are noteworthy features of the work of the board.
Advice was given to the board on the benefits of the annual certification or auditing of school accounts and on best practice with regard to the elimination of potential conflict between enrolment practice and written policy documents.
The principal of Canovee Mixed NS exhibits a democratic and empowering style of leadership and is willing to share both responsibility and power. He engages with colleagues and other partners in an active facilitative manner which allows for the achievement of collective objectives and creates a strong team orientation. All staff members are empowered by the manner in which leadership is distributed throughout the school and high levels of mutual support were in evidence at the time of the external evaluation. All staff members support the curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities of the school and the core values of support, fairness, participation and collegiality underpin the working environment of the school.
In addition to informal collaboration, there are assigned formal responsibilities as per normal departmental procedures. These are clearly defined and each member of the in-school management team carries out his/her duties in a professional and conscientious manner. The team shares curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities and meets informally, on a daily basis, before school commences. Duties are regularly reviewed in line with evolving pupil needs and changing school circumstances.
The effectiveness of the in-school management team and the positive and collegial nature of staff decision-making have instilled in all staff members a confidence that they can influence pupil learning positively and manage pupil behaviour effectively in support of organisational goals. The work of the in-school management team has been a positive factor in building morale through allowing all staff members participate in school decision making without diluting their professional autonomy in accomplishing agreed learning outcomes.
Considerable and worthwhile effort is expended in cultivating the close links and co-operation which exist between parents and teachers in Canovee Mixed NS. Frequent written communication, parent/teacher meetings, sport and games, religious ceremonies, outings, school concerts and informal parent/teacher contact are among the many activities providing opportunities to develop trust and co-operation. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held and end of year written reports on pupils’ progress are issued to all parents. The school is an obvious focal point in the community and the shared organisational values of the school and the community are a significant factor in the quality of relationships that exist between both institutions.
The school has an active and supportive parents’ association which has played a prominent role in the school refurbishment project. The association contributes to educational provision through financial support for Drama lessons in all classes as well as involvement in a range of social, cultural and sporting events. Parents have assisted in drafting policies on Nutrition and Relationships and Sexuality Education. The parents’ association representatives who were interviewed as part of the whole school evaluation process expressed high levels of satisfaction with the overall educational provision offered to their children. They were satisfied with the levels of communication between parents and teachers and were complimentary of the school on the efficient manner in which parents’ concerns were addressed.
Positive classroom interaction in stimulating classroom environments and the effective use of age-appropriate teaching methods contribute to high standards of pupil behaviour in Canovee Mixed NS. Clear rules exist with regard to behaviour and these are consistently implemented by all staff resulting in a safe, friendly and supportive school climate. Teachers publicly acknowledge and praise pupils’ positive efforts. Pupils demonstrated an obvious pride in their community and showed care and respect for one another and for their school. The school’s commitment to the holistic development of each child through the provision of a broad range of pastoral, social, cultural and religious activities which mirror the habits and practices of the school community is commendable.
School policy with regard to the management of pupils is based on safety and social harmony and was observed to be a positive factor in pupils successfully managing their own behaviour and learning to make appropriate choices.
The school exhibited a pleasant working environment in which appropriate value is place on high standards of behaviour and achievement across a broad range of academic and non-academic areas.
The quality of whole-school planning is praiseworthy in the school. Through a collaborative process a comprehensive range of curricular and organisational plans has been developed in line with Departmental regulations and guidelines. These plans have been ratified by the school board. It is school policy to review plans periodically in line with changing circumstances and evolving school needs. A development plan also exists which identifies short term and medium term school priorities. The current focus on developing ICT and PE policies to reflect improved resource and infrastructural improvements is commendable.
A common approach to classroom planning was observed throughout the school. All teachers presented long term and fortnightly plans of work. In addition, a monthly record of work progress is maintained in the principal’s office and used, periodically, to inform whole school planning in support of improved teaching and learning. Current short term developmental objectives to provide a more suitable instrument of fortnightly planning are commendable.
The long and short term documents presented for review to the inspector were consistent with expressed school objectives, specific in their content, grounded in the principles of the curriculum and useful in the context of classroom practice.
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.
English is taught effectively in a structured, incremental way in Canovee Mixed NS. The language proficiency and confidence levels of pupils are generally commensurate with age. Standardised test scores indicated satisfactory levels of achievement throughout the school. Good practice was also observed in relation to the early identification of pupils with specific literacy needs. Appropriate and carefully guided intervention strategies within specific timeframes were used to good effect in that important context.
General classroom teaching methods are age-appropriate and engaging. Language development was observed to be incremental, structured and differentiated in line with grade levels and individual pupils’ needs. Pupils read with confidence and a wide variety of reading material is available throughout the school and in classroom libraries.
Print rich classrooms provide a suitably stimulating environment and pupils were observed to be engaged and active in the learning process. The quality of pupil’s written work is high and the cumulative efforts of all teachers are apparent in the work of senior pupils. Sufficient emphasis is placed upon the conventions of grammar, punctuation and spelling without negatively impacting on pupil creativity and imagination. An appropriate balance is apparent between the traditional and process approaches to writing.
Appropriate emphasis on literacy development across the curriculum is a consistent and praiseworthy feature of the work of the school and structured whole school planning positively informs this aspect of the work of the teachers.
Mathematical concepts are introduced effectively and appropriate methodologies are used to promote understanding of basic mathematical operations and skills. Standardised test scores reveal satisfactory levels of achievement in mathematics. Age-appropriate methodologies are used throughout the school and the effective use of concrete materials in support of active learning methodologies in junior classes is impressive.
Throughout the school there is an appropriate balance between mechanical operations and higher order thinking skills and the language of maths is given a necessary prominence, when appropriate.
The structured, incremental approach to whole school planning for maths is a factor in the achievement of a satisfactory level of competence and pupil achievement. Pupils exhibit appropriate levels of knowledge and understanding of basic mathematical concepts and engage in problem-solving exercises with enthusiasm when prompted. Pupils in Canovee Mixed NS effectively acquire and use mathematical concepts and display fluency in basic number skills. Teachers were observed to play an active role in stimulating pupil thinking and imparting information in the context of specific tasks. An appropriate balance was observed between student-centred learning and teacher directed instruction in the context of mathematics teaching throughout the school.
There is an appropriate emphasis of attaining high standards in Canovee Mixed NS. This process is supported by good practice in terms of assessment for learning and a range of approaches, including monitoring and correction of work, teacher-devised tests and tasks and standardised tests in English and Mathematics are in use. Results of Micra-T and Sigma-T tests indicate steady progress and overall impressive outcomes on the part of the majority of pupils. Results are carefully monitored and effectively used to inform planning and allow for modification of teaching strategies where appropriate.
The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) test is administered in senior infants to identify pupils in need of specific intervention in the development of early reading skills.
Pupil and teacher expectations with regard to their work are clear and realistic. The pupils’ written work is regularly and consistently marked in ways that highlight individual pupil strengths and identify areas for development. Pupil attainments influence the selection and use of teaching methods and subject content. Homework is appropriate to individual abilities and through consistent monitoring individual pupil strengths are consolidated and their weaknesses are identified and addressed.
The practice in the school to develop individual pupil profiles is to be commended. This procedure might be further enhanced by the inclusion of key performance indicators in terms of quantitative measures of academic development of individual pupils as opposed to broad evaluative descriptive statements.
Advice was given to the staff about the possibility of extending the range of screening tests in the context of early intervention strategies and the value of data driven judgements of individual pupil performance.
Effective teaching methods, with a particular focus on literacy and numeracy, are used in Canovee Mixed NS in support of the different learning needs of pupils with special educational needs. The support team is comprised of a full-time learning support teacher and a part-time resource teacher who is available for 12 hours, weekly. A full time SNA (Infant hours) is available in the school and she, under the direction of the class teacher concerned, provides appropriate levels of support to the individual pupil to which she has been assigned.
Collaborative planning between class teachers, the SEN team and parents, underpins the support for pupils with special educational needs. IEPs provide clear, specific and relevant learning targets within defined timescales and progress towards stated learning objectives is constantly and meticulously monitored. Pupils with assessed special educational needs receive effective intensive individualised support across each curricular area.
The SEN team provide tightly structured programmes of intervention using appropriate teaching methods with an emphasis on mastery of curriculum content at an age-appropriate level. A good balance is maintained between teacher-centred and pupil-centred activities. Tasks and activities are well matched to students’ varying abilities and needs and this work is well scaffolded by the individual teachers. Work observed was controlled and sequenced, adequate opportunity for practice and application was provided, high levels of pupil participation were evident and appropriate use was made of suitable resources, including ICT, to ensure high levels of pupil participation. Positive feedback, reinforcement and correction were provided by the teachers on a regular basis.
The school is to be commended for its policy of using direct teaching methods and explicit instruction in support of student-centred activity approaches in order to provide effective learning opportunities for SEN pupils. Advice was given to the team with regard to the benefits of developing in-class support as a means to further enhance existing good practice.
There were no pupils from disadvantaged, minority or other groups in the school at the time of the whole school evaluation.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
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, April 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The board is extremely happy with the report which reflected the commitment and hard work being undertaken by all partners in the process, mainly pupils, teachers, parents, Board of Management and other staff members.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection