An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Ardagh National School,
Rosscarbery, County Cork
Uimhir rolla: 12598J
Date of inspection: 18 February 2009
A whole-school evaluation of Ardagh NS was undertaken in February 2009. 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.
The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report. 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.
Ardagh NS is a three-teacher primary school under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross. Located in the seaside village of Rosscarbery it is one of four schools serving the local parish. The school building, which caters for boys only from second to sixth class, was constructed in 1884 and renovated in 1987 and again in 1999. The main building consists of three classrooms, a separate toilet block and a staffroom. It is in good condition due to the diligence of successive boards that have successfully operated a structured school maintenance programme over many years. An additional prefabricated classroom provides a suitable space for support teaching and has a designated office space for the principal. The school is well-resourced to support the curriculum. Most notable is the provision of interactive whiteboards in all mainstream classes. All classrooms are attractive and stimulating environments for learning.
Currently, there are 67 pupils enrolled in the school and enrolment figures have grown in recent years. Attendance rates for pupils are consistently high.
The external areas of the school provide limited opportunity for meaningful recreation and little scope for infrastructural development.
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
Ardagh NS is, ‘committed to the Catholic ethos while at the same time respecting the diverse values, beliefs and ways of life of others in a democratic society’
The school presents as an ordered and well managed environment which provides a suitable focus for teaching and learning. An atmosphere of mutual respect and co-operation underpins the work of the school community. The traditions and practices of the school reflect the expectations and values of the community which it serves.
The board of management in Ardagh NS is properly constituted. It meets regularly and minutes of the meetings are kept. Financial reports are furnished at each meeting and the principal’s report keeps the board informed of day-to-day developments in the school. Good practice was observed with regard to the annual auditing of school accounts.
Board members work in partnership with the school principal and staff and mutual respect and trust underpin working and professional relationships. The board expressed high levels of satisfaction with the work of the principal and staff and with the level of achievement of pupils. It has empowered the principal to lead the process of developing curricular plans and has been involved in compiling and ratifying school organisational, administrative and curricular policies. The board effectively discharges its responsibilities in compliance with its statutory obligations and with the Department's regulations regarding the length of the school year, length of the school day, allocation of teachers, class size and retention of pupils.
The principal of Ardagh NS has made a significant contribution to the school and to the local community since his appointment in 1978. He provides consistent, effective leadership and capably articulates the curricular, organisational and pastoral priorities of the school community. He provides direction and guidance to the school and enjoys the support of all partners and stakeholders. He is ably assisted in the day to day running of the school by deputy principal and special duties post-holder. Both post-holders have curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities in line with departmental guidelines and best practice. Collaborative decision making and a team spirit are the cornerstone of the in-school decision making process and the involvement of all staff members is encouraged. Formal staff meetings are held in compliance with departmental regulations and minutes are recorded.
The in-school management process might be further enhanced by the annual review of all posts of responsibility in line with the evolving needs of the school and by individual post-holders reporting to the board on their successes or failures and their future targets.
A part-time school secretary provides valuable assistance to the principal, performing a wide range of clerical and organisational duties in a highly competent manner. One full time special needs assistant contributes positively to the working environment of the school and performs her duties effectively. The school employs a part-time cleaner and standards of hygiene were observed to be satisfactory.
A positive school climate was observed in Ardagh NS. Communication and dialogue underpin the decision making process and all partners are valued equally. Positive behaviour is promoted consistently by the principal and staff and attendance rates are high. Parents value the work of the school in the local community and receive clear information about their children’s progress. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held in compliance with departmental guidelines and best practice. The board values the involvement of parents as a central element in the success of the school.
The inspector met with the parent representatives on the board of management as part of the whole-school evaluation process. They expressed unconditional support for the principal and staff and satisfaction with the overall educational provision offered to their children. Parental support for the school is also evidenced in local fundraising initiatives which cover the annual costs of swimming, traditional music instruction and the provision of a range of suitable resources in support of teaching and learning.
Advice was given to the school on the opportunity of further developing relationships with parents through the formation of an affiliated formal Parents’ Association in line with statutory obligations and best practice.
Pupils in Ardagh NS are well behaved, courteous and respectful. Teachers are to be complemented for creating a positive caring learning environment which promotes the principles of fairness and equality and which places appropriate emphasis on the welfare of all pupils. Pupils respond positively to the provision of a broad curriculum and exhibit a developing sense of place and community. A pleasant family atmosphere pervades all the work of the school and the pupils display confidence, humour and maturity commensurate with their age.
A comprehensive school plan was presented for discussion during the course of the whole school evaluation. It was devised through partnership and dialogue by staff, the school board and the general body of parents. The school community exhibits an appropriate awareness of its statutory obligations in this regard.
Curriculum policy development has been led by the principal and developed in line with the schedule of implementation outlined by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme. Support personnel have been used in the development of the school plan, where appropriate, and all policies are subject to review, periodically. A review of Visual Arts planning will take place in 2009-10 and the further development of organisational policies will be prioritised at the May 2009 staff meeting.
All school policies are presented to the board for consideration and ratification. Whole school planning reflects the reality of the unique context of Ardagh NS and impacts positively on individual teacher planning and preparation.
Individual teachers prepare long term plans, short term plans and maintain monthly records of progress in teaching and learning in compliance with Rule 126 governing preparation for schoolwork. These plans are grounded in the reality of the revised curriculum for primary schools and show consistency, continuity and progression across the classes.
Current practice would benefit from the adoption of an agreed common template for individual teacher planning. This would further enhance good practice with regard to planning and build naturally upon the collegiality and co-operation of the teachers in the school.
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.
Cuirtear béim chuí ar theagasc na Gaeilge sa scoil. Moltar an leanúnachas a bhí le sonrú idir an plean scoile don Ghaeilge agus pleananna na n-oidí agus an réimse leathan d’aiseanna úsáideacha a bhí le fáil chun an obair a chur i bhfeidhm. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar theanga chumarsáide agus mar theanga bhainistíochta ranga go leanúnach ar fud na scoile. Bhí caighdeán maith le sonrú i measc na ndaltaí uile ó thaobh labhairt an Ghaeilge de agus moltar iarrachtaí na n-oidí atmaisféar fabhrach don Ghaeilge a chothú ar fud na scoile. Léirítear na ceachtanna go struchtúrtha, bríomhar agus sonraítear ardchaighdeán san obair ó thaobh tuiscint agus scríobh na teanga de. Spreagtar na daltaí chun labhartha trí chluichí cainte agus obair i bpéirí agus déantar gach iarracht an obair a nascadh le taithí agus timpeallacht na ndaltaí. Cuirtear béim ar ionchur teanga agus is léir go bhfuil spriocanna cinnte teanga á mbaint amach ag na daltaí ar fud na scoile. Úsáidtear modhanna múinte oiriúnacha chun an teanga nua a chur i bhfeidhm agus meallann na h-oidí na daltaí chun cainte go tuisceanach. Léann formhór na ndaltaí le tuiscint agus le cruinneas.
Bhí caighdeán na scríbhneoireachta le moladh.
Moltar don fhoireann na dea-chleachtais atá ar bun cheana a fhorbairt a thuilleadh.
Appropriate emphasis is placed on the teaching of Irish in the school. The consistency between whole school planning for Irish and teacher planning is praiseworthy as is the broad range of supporting materials with which work is consolidated. Irish is used consistently as a means of instruction and communication throughout the school. A good standard of spoken Irish was observed amongst pupils and the efforts of the staff to cultivate a favourable environment for Irish were commendable. Lessons were presented in a structured, lively manner and a high standard was observed with regard to understanding and the written word. Pupil interest is stimulated by games, pair work and every effort is made to relate the work to the experience and environment of the pupils. Emphasis is placed on language input and it is clear that specific language objectives are being achieved by pupils throughout the school. Appropriate teaching methods are used to develop language and the teachers motivate pupils to speak in a structured, understanding manner. The majority of pupils read with understanding and precision. The standard of pupils’ written work is commendable.
The staff is advised to further develop existing good practice with regard to the teaching of Irish.
English is taught effectively in Ardagh NS. Oral language development receives appropriate emphasis in all classes. Clear articulation and proper expression are encouraged throughout the school. The contributions of pupils are encouraged and their vocabulary is systematically extended through purposeful dialogue. Pupils are well motivated and display an appropriate ability to discuss issues using higher-order thinking skills. Basic reading skills are well taught and the results in standardised tests indicate satisfactory achievements at all levels. Pupils display a keen interest in reading and an appropriate range of reading material is available in each classroom. They display comprehension skills appropriate to their age and an ability to scan, memorise and analyse material and summarise information. The standard of written material observed during the course of the evaluation was age-appropriate and the conventions of spelling, grammar and handwriting were given appropriate emphasis. A wide variety of methodologies was observed in support of English language instruction and work was carefully differentiated in support of children with special educational needs.
Mathematics lessons are presented creatively and are well-structured in all classes. Standardised tests indicate satisfactory levels of mathematical achievement. Pupils were observed to enjoy maths classes and high levels of participation occurred at all class levels. Concrete materials are appropriately used to facilitate hands-on learning. Meaningful integration with other curricular areas and the environment was observed to occur during mathematics lessons.
Talk and discussion are integral to the learning process and effective questioning is employed to assist pupils in systematically developing their knowledge of various concepts. Work is differentiated to allow for varying levels of mathematical ability. Teachers ensure that the language of mathematics is well taught and well understood.
Work is well consolidated and reviewed systematically and pupils display confidence and competence with regard to reasoning, estimating, predicting and problem solving.
Written work is neat, well organised and effectively monitored.
Assessment outcomes are used to adapt learning objectives where appropriate.
Despite the absence of adequate indoor or outdoor facilities in Ardagh NS very good provision is made to give pupils access to a broad and balanced curriculum in Physical Education (PE). Effective use is made of community resources and the local sports complex, swimming pool and community play area, all of which are within easy access to the school, are used to good effect. All staff members display confidence and competence in delivering a broad and balanced PE curriculum. All pupils are encouraged to derive maximum benefit and enjoyment from PE.
Classes observed during the course of the evaluation were well structured with a suitable emphasis on the development of specific skills. Due attention was given to suitable warm-up and cool-down routines. Equipment was used effectively and appropriate methodologies and meaningful differentiation of tasks allowed all pupils develop a sense of personal achievement. The PE curriculum offered in the school closely parallels the interests of the local community and parental participation is facilitated by the involvement of the school in a wide range of sporting and athletic competitions and events.
Close links with the local Girls’ national school are fostered and pupil profiles and assessment information is carefully assessed when pupils transfer into second class at Ardagh NS. All such information is carefully stored and made available to all teachers in the context of developing class learning objectives at individual class level. The information is used to effectively screen pupils for supplementary teaching and positive interventions within agreed timeframes are the norm. The development of individual education plans stems from a structured collaborative approach which supports clear communication with parents with regard to their children’s progress in literacy and numeracy and in other curricular areas.
Assessment practices in Ardagh NS are used purposefully to examine the extent to which intended learning outcomes have become actual learning outcomes and to effectively chart rates of progress in learning. Assessment practices are, generally, fit for purpose and educationally valid.
Pupils with special educational needs are very well supported in Ardagh NS. This critical work is co-ordinated by the learning support/resource teacher and underpinned by meaningful collaboration with classroom teachers and the principal. Detailed programmes of work are developed collaboratively and these are subject to bi-annual review.
Adequate resource provision exists to support supplementary teaching and ICT is used purposefully with regard to specific intervention strategies. All departmental grants in support of supplementary teaching have been used for their intended purposes and clear records of expenditure are on file.
Individual or group withdrawal methods are normal practice with regard to supplementary teaching although the advantages of more in-class interventions have been discussed at recent staff meetings. Advice was given with regard to the possibility of developing additional opportunities for co-ordinated in-class support. The assigned school SNA, under the direction of the classroom and learning support/resource teachers, plays an important role in the implementation and delivery of learning objectives and in the social development of pupils with special educational needs.
There are no pupils from minority or other groups attending the school at present.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The school has benefited from strong and consistent leadership over a protracted period of time which has resulted in clarity of purpose and a shared vision.
· The board of management provides dedicated support to the school and expressed unequivocal support for the quality of teaching and learning and the standard of pupil achievement.
· The school has the support of the local community and the parent body and it mirrors local practices, traditions, interests and expectations.
· All staff members are dedicated professionals who work effectively as a team in support of each other and in a spirit of service to their local community.
· The observed quality of teaching and learning and of pupil achievement in the subject areas of mathematics, languages and physical education was of a high standard at the time of this external whole school evaluation.
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, November 2009