An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Kilcoona National School
Headford, County Galway
Roll number: 12782C
Date of inspection: 20 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Kilcoona National School, Headford, Co Galway. 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 inspector 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 the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector 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 school will be found in the appendix of this report. 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.
Kilcoona School is a six-teacher, co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Donaghpatrick-Kilcoona, about seven kilometres from Headford, Co Galway, and about twenty kilometres from Galway City. There are currently 101 pupils enrolled. All of the pupils come from within a few kilometres radius of the school. It is expected that enrolment figures will gradually increase in the future, due to the school’s proximity to Galway and the number of new houses being built in the area. Pupils’ attendance is carefully monitored and pupils display very good attendance patterns.
The present school building dates from 1989. The building and school grounds are very well-maintained. The entrance/reception area of the school is laid out in an attractive manner which gives a homely and welcoming impression. There are four mainstream classrooms, a small resource classroom, an office, and a school library. The learning-support room is also used as the staff room. A major extension to the school is nearing completion and should be ready for occupation in 2007. This extension will provide two mainstream classrooms, two storage rooms and a large hall with adjoining changing rooms and toilets.
The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam. The board of management is properly constituted and meets once or twice a term, more often if necessary. Meetings follow an agenda, minutes are taken and policies are discussed and ratified at board meetings. The board of management supports and monitors the work of the school and maintains close contact with school personnel. The board is to be commended for its interest, commitment and support for the school.
The board funds the work of the external instructors who teach dancing and music to all the pupils in the school. Some members of the board have received training on the role and function of boards of management under the auspices of the Catholic Primary School Managers’ Association (CPSMA). The board’s main priority at present is to oversee the successful completion of the extension and to ensure the safety of the school community during the building works.
The in-school management team consists of the principal, the deputy principal and one special duties teacher. The principal’s administrative and organisational duties are carried out competently and diligently. The principal has a clear vision for the school and skilfully develops the staff as a collaborative team. Roll books, registers and all school records are carefully maintained. There are approximately four formal staff meetings held every year.
Roles have been set out for the deputy principal and the special duties teacher. The duties pertaining to these posts are carried out in a conscientious manner. More emphasis should be given to outlining these duties and the schedules of duties should be included in the school plan. This should help to ensure an appropriate balance between curricular, organisational and pastoral duties in this work.
School personnel is deployed in an efficient manner. The work of the teachers, the special needs assistants (SNAs), the secretarial and cleaning staff contributes to the smooth running of the school.
There is a yard to the front of the school and this has been painted to effectively manage traffic flow during opening and closing times and to encourage pupils’ games and activities during playtime. Pupils also have access to a playing pitch at the rear of the school. The addition of the new extension will not affect this useful facility. The school is very clean and tidy both inside and outside.
The board of management has invested appropriately in a range of resources to support the implementation of the curriculum in various curricular areas, especially English. The school is well equipped with material resources and all classrooms are arranged and decorated to provide a stimulating learning environment for pupils. There is a good stock of concrete materials for Mathematics, a wide selection of PE equipment and a variety of musical instruments available. There is also a very good selection of books available in the school. Most of these resources are very well-utilised during teaching and learning activities.
Some attention is given to the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and there are computers available in each classroom. There is a supply of appropriate software to support a range of curricular areas, especially Geography, Science, Music and Drama. The films and resulting DVDs made by the pupils on various school projects and occasions are commendable.
Positive relationships are fostered with parents and a high level of parental involvement is a feature of the school. Formal parent-teacher meetings are organised annually. Parents are also welcome to discuss pupils’ progress, especially where concerns exist, on an informal basis with teachers throughout the school year. Information on school activities is conveyed to parents through regular letters and information bulletins from the principal and through the parent’s association.
The parents’ association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council and enjoys positive working relations with school management. At present the parents’ association meets once a month. There is regular contact between the parents’ association and the school principal. Parents express their satisfaction with the high standard of education provided in the school and the level of support and care for pupils. The parents’ association is also deeply involved in fund-raising activities. Parents are active in assisting the school in many ways, for example by working in the school library and by helping with various sporting activities.
Respectful and warm teacher-pupil relationships are developed in all classes. Orderly learning environments are evident and pupils eagerly participate in the learning experiences provided. Pupils are very mannerly and respectful in their interactions with each other and they demonstrate good communication and interpersonal skills among themselves, with teachers, and with visitors to the school.
Some commendable work has been undertaken in the development of the school plan. The school has received the support of a number of cuiditheoirí and facilitators from national in-service training initiatives and this support and advice has contributed to the school planning process.
The board of management ratifies all administrative policies and curricular plans prior to their inclusion in the school plan. While parents’ opinions and suggestions have been sought (through the parents’ association), on some of the school policies, it is recommended that all policies and plans should be sent to parents for comment in future. This should allow parents to make an even more meaningful contribution to the school plan.
The school plan is clearly and attractively laid out and includes a range of relevant organisational/administrative policies and procedures. The school’s mission statement, philosophy and aims are clearly articulated. Administrative polices have been developed on enrolment, administration of medicines, acceptable use of the internet, school attendance, supervision, and homework. The healthy eating policy was developed in consultation with the parents. A health and safety statement has been put together and a health and safety officer has been nominated. A code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy are also available.
Curricular plans are available for Irish, English, Mathematics, Music and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). More work, however, needs to be done on the formulation of policies for all of the curricular areas in which the school has received in-service training. It is recommended also that the school plan should be used more systematically to ensure continuity in curriculum provision throughout the school. In oral Irish and Visual Arts, for example, effective whole school planning is needed to ensure successful implementation across the school. Policies should be clear, focused and relevant to the school’s needs. A school planning diary could help in setting out planning priorities for the future. It should also incorporate review procedures and identify staff development needs.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the departmental guidelines.
Teachers are to be commended for their commitment to implementing a broad and balanced curriculum across most curricular areas. Teachers’ classroom planning is adequate. Long-term and short-term schemes of work are prepared and monthly progress records (cuntais míosúla) are kept.
Individual or group learning programmes are developed and regularly reviewed for pupils with special educational needs and for pupils experiencing learning difficulty. These records are filed in the learning-support and resource classroom. Class teachers should also keep copies of these in their files in future.
The quality of teaching in the school is good overall with most teaching being highly commendable. A suitable variety of methodologies and approaches is used throughout the school. Language games, drama, pair work, circle work, group work, teacher modelling, project work and discussion are among the methodologies used.
Almost all pupils achieve good standards in most curricular areas. Teaching is appropriately differentiated for those who find learning difficult and an effective service of learning-support is available for pupils who need it. Overall standards in English and Mathematics are very high.
Cothaítear dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge ar fud na scoile. Tá plean úsáideach don Ghaeilge forbartha, ach d’fhéadfaí a thuilleadh béime a chur ar chur i bhfeidhm an phlean. Baineann oidí agus daltaí úsáid inmholta rialta as Gaeilge mar theanga caidrimh i rith an lae. Moltar anois níos mó béime a chur ar fhorbairt scileanna labhartha na ndaltaí i ngach rang. B’fhiú aire speisialta a thabhairt do dhul chun cinn na scileanna labhartha ó ranganna naíonán go dtí na hardranganna. Ba cheart aistriúchán ó Bhéarla go Gaeilge chun foclóir na ndaltaí a mhéadú a sheachaint.
Aithrisíonn agus canann na daltaí i ngach rang rainn, dánta agus amhráin as Gaeilge go suntasach. Forbraítear scileanna léitheoireachta go cúramach sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna. Sonraítear cló sa timpeallacht sa chuid is mó de na ranganna agus sna pasáistí. Léann daltaí os ard go líofa, le dea-fhoghraíocht, agus léiríonn siad dea-thuiscint ar an méid atá léite. Tá stór oiriúnach de leabhair Gaeilge ar taispeáint sa leabharlann scoile agus sna leabharlanna ranga. Cé go ndéantar obair bhuntáisteach i bhforbairt scileanna scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí ar bhealaí éagsúla, b’fhiú a thuilleadh béime a chur ar leagan amach na hoibre.
A positive attitude to Irish is fostered throughout the school. A useful plan for Irish has been developed, but more emphasis should be placed on the implementation of the programme of work outlined in the plan. Irish is commendably used as a conversational language frequently during the school day by teachers and pupils. More emphasis should now be placed on developing pupils’ oral Irish skills in every class. Special care should be taken to ensure progression in oral skills from the junior classes to the senior classes. Direct translation from English to Irish as a means of expanding pupils’ vocabulary should be avoided.
Pupils in every class recite and sing Irish rhymes, poems and songs impressively. Reading skills are carefully developed in the middle and senior classes. A print-rich environment in Irish is evident in most classes and in public areas of the school. Pupils read aloud fluently, with good pronunciation, and show a clear understanding of what they have read. There is a suitable selection of books in Irish on display in the school and class libraries. While some useful work has been done to develop pupils’ writing skills in Irish, more emphasis should be placed on the presentation of this work.
The standards attained in English throughout the school are very impressive. Oral language development is creditably emphasised and very clear articulation and proper expression are encouraged throughout the school. Pupils at all class levels can recite a wide selection of rhymes and poems, many with actions and movement. In some classes, pupils have written impressive poems in a variety of styles, for example haiku.
Each classroom provides a suitable print-rich environment and some classes are excellent in this regard. A sound foundation of basic reading skills is laid down in the junior classes. Pupils’ phonological awareness is appropriately developed as part of this foundation. The emphasis on reading is developed further in the other classes leading to a high standard of reading achieved by most pupils.
There is a wide variety of library material available in the school. Class libraries are well stocked with both fact and fiction books. Shared reading has been introduced effectively in the junior classes and as part of the learning-support service. In the pursuit of excellence, consideration should be given to expanding shared reading to include all classes. Class novels could also be used to further enrich the reading programme.
Commendable emphasis is placed on the writing process in some classes. There are impressive examples of writing in different genres on display in these classes. The middle and senior classes are also involved in the Write-a-Book Project every year. As part of this project, famous authors have visited the school to talk about writing. This is still scope, however, for more work to be done across the whole school to develop pupils’ presentation and editing skills. As part of this also, pupils should be provided with even more regular opportunities to practise functional and creative writing.
The teaching of Mathematics is skilfully undertaken at all class levels. The majority of pupils display creditable knowledge of mathematical terms across a range of strands and strand units. Standardised test results from first class upwards also provide evidence of high standards reached in Mathematics by most pupils. Pupils clearly enjoy the challenge of solving mathematical problems. Pair work and group work are used effectively in some classes to consolidate mathematical concepts.
A wide range of mathematical equipment is available and these materials are appropriately used to enhance pupils’ learning during lessons in most classes. The Mathematics corners that have been assembled and the mathematical posters on display in some classes contribute to the development of a maths-rich environment. This work should be further developed across the whole school. The work on the strand Number is particularly praiseworthy. A good standard of presentation of written work is evident in most classes with pupils recording their work neatly.
A broad programme is implemented in History in most classes in the school. Impressive work has been done on developing pupils’ sense of chronology in the junior classes, as part of the strand Story. Pupils demonstrate reasonably good knowledge and understanding of the range of topics they have studied overall, although there is evidence of a need for further consolidation in some classes.
There is a strong emphasis on project work and the completed projects are of a good standard. The use of artefacts in some classes to enliven and enrich lessons is praiseworthy. Appropriate use is made of timelines to enhance pupils’ understanding of chronology. Commendable emphasis is placed on the study of local History, especially the history of the school, and pupils can describe nearby sites of historical interest clearly and knowledgably.
Geography is well taught in this school. Pupils’ interest in their own locality is appropriately emphasised in all classes. Field trips, nature walks and educational trips are organised from time to time. These help to stimulate pupils’ interest in their local environment still further. Creditable opportunities are provided for pupils to care for the environment and the school has participated in the Green Schools Project. Good use is made of project work to enable pupils in middle and senior classes to develop their geographical, investigative and research skills. Maps and globes are used in almost all classes to enhance this work. Pupils in middle and senior classes show commendable knowledge of the physical and political Geography of Ireland and Europe.
The Science curriculum is effectively implemented throughout the school. The school has participated in the Fionn Science Project and in the Discover Primary Science Programme. This has clearly assisted in providing a varied Science programme.
Pupils in all classes frequently conduct practical experiments, for example as part of the strand Energy and forces. Most emphasis is placed on the strand Living things and, for example, pupils have learned to identify many mammal and bird species as a result. Bulbs and seeds have been planted in a few classrooms and this practice should be expanded, as part of the development of Science or discovery tables in all classes.
Pupils display an admirable knowledge, understanding and interest in the topics studied to date and most pupils can communicate well using pertinent and relevant scientific language. Good questioning skills are used to encourage pupils to reflect critically on biological and physical aspects of the world.
The quality of work in the Visual Arts in the school is of a very high standard in some classes. The strands of the curriculum are reasonably well covered in the school, but overall there should be a better balance between two-dimensional and three-dimensional activities in making art in some classses. Pupils’ art samples are displayed attractively in every class. Pupils are encouraged to express their ideas and feelings through looking at and responding to art. Portfolios should be used to record progress in the Visual Arts and these could include photographs of, as well as samples of, pupils’ work.
The standard of Music education in almost all classes is very high. As well as lessons from their class teachers, pupils in all classes are also taught Music by an external instructor. The cost of this tuition is borne by the board of management. The strand Performing is well covered and pupils in every class can sing a wide range of songs in both English and Irish. Pupils also play percussion and melodic instruments very well. Pupils are given beneficial opportunities to listen, respond to and compare different types of Music throughout the school. Suitable attention is given to the elements of Music in some classes through a range of enjoyable activities in rhythm, tempo, pitch and dynamics. A commendable emphasis is also placed on Music literacy.
The annual school concert is a showcase for the pupils of the school and affords them the opportunity to practise their acting and dramatic skills in a highly effective way. Drama is also effectively used as a teaching approach to enhance pupils’ understanding in several curricular areas, for example in Irish. Commendable use is made of mime and role play in the teaching of English, particularly in the junior classes. These learning experiences have contributed to the development of pupils’ self-esteem and co-operative skills.
The school is confined to teaching PE outdoors at present. The completion of the new school hall will ensure that the school will be able to implement a comprehensive PE programme more effectively in the near future. The school plan for PE should be drawn up now to further enhance and co-ordinate the programme on offer in the school.
Lessons are well structured and appropriate emphasis is placed on the routine of warm up, drill and skill practice, games and cool down. The development of a team spirit is carefully nurtured. Good use is made of suitable equipment and pupils enjoy the physical activities provided. The strand Athletics is particularly well taught.
The school participates in Cumann na mBunscol. A football coach comes to the school occasionally, as part of the Rural Social Scheme. An external instructor teaches Dance to all the pupils. This service is paid for by the board of management. The strand Aquatics is covered in the first term, when pupils from first class upwards attend swimming lessons for fifteen sessions in Tuam Leisure Centre.
The positive, caring atmosphere cultivated in the school contributes greatly to the development of pupils’ social skills. Creditable emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ self-esteem throughout the school. SPHE is mostly taught using lessons from the Walk Tall and Stay Safe programmes and whole class discussion, group work, listening games and circle time are the main methodologies used.
A healthy eating policy has recently been implemented following creditable consultation with parents. A committee was set up some time ago to devise a policy for Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE). It is recommended that the implementation this policy should commence as soon as possible.
Pupils’ progress in several curricular areas is monitored and recorded on a regular basis. Teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests, homework assignments, project work, standardised and diagnostic tests are among the assessment tools currently employed to assess pupils’ progress.
Drumcondra standardised tests are administered in English and Mathematics once a year. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to senior infants once a year. The results of the standardised tests are filed centrally and are used to analyse pupils’ progress and to assist in the identification of pupils needing supplementary support. Appropriate emphasis is placed on tracking the progress of pupils experiencing learning difficulty.
School attendance records are diligently maintained and the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is notified of prolonged absences in accordance with the terms of the Education (Welfare) Act (2002).
A learning-support and special-educational-needs policy has been developed and outlines the school’s procedures for early intervention, screening, planning, implementation and review. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving supplementary teaching. The learning-support and resource service should, however, be more co-ordinated. More attention should be paid to discussing how to provide the best service possible, on a school-wide basis, for pupils with special educational needs.
Pupils attending learning-support are active in their learning and display good progress in the concepts taught. Learning-support is provided in English and Mathematics as appropriate. Cognisance is taken of the Learning-Support Guidelines (2000) in this work.
Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are provided for each pupil: those attending learning-support as well as those attending the resource service. These include general information regarding each pupil’s strengths, priority learning needs, objectives, materials and resources. Learning targets are clear and specific. They are linked to pupils’ learning needs and are reviewed each term. Classroom teachers are involved to a certain degree in devising IEPs. This helps to ensure that identified learning targets are addressed across a range of curricular areas.
It is recommended that in future classroom teachers and, especially, parents should be more actively involved in the development of IEPs for pupils attending the resource service. Parents should receive a copy of their child’s IEP. This should assist in ensuring that parents and teachers are clear about the objectives and learning targets of the resource programme.
A caring, friendly, welcoming and homely atmosphere is created in this school. All pupils are treated equally and the school has an open enrolment policy. School funds and grants are appropriately used to ensure that all pupils participate fully in the life of the school.
The following are the main strengths of the school 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 the board of management at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management acknowledges a positive report and the excellent work which is being carried out by the caring and conscientious staff of the 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 teaching staff acknowledges the key recommendations outlined and proposes to:
Place more emphasis on the teaching of oral Irish.
Parents of school going children will be briefed at the draft stage of school policy formulation.
School plans will be further developed and will include plans for all the curricular areas for which in-service has been provided.
Parents of pupils attending the resource service will continue to be closely involved in devising their child’s IEP.
The breadth and balance of work in Visual Arts will be expanded as the school year progresses.