An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Shraheen National School
Foxford, County Mayo
Roll number: 12808R
Date of inspection: 17 November 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Shraheen National School, Foxford, Co Mayo. 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Shraheen School is a two-teacher, co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Knockmore, about six kilometres from Foxford, Co Mayo. There are currently 16 pupils enrolled. All of the pupils come from within a few kilometre’s radius of the school. It is expected that enrolment figures will remain constant in the future.
The school building dates from 1885. An extension was added in 1979. The building and school grounds are reasonably well-maintained. There are two mainstream classes in the original building. These are small, but pupils have sufficient space for most activities. Portakabins have recently been added to provide a principal’s office, a secretary’s office and a learning-support and resource classroom. There is no staff room. There is a small storage shed at the rear of the school. There is no general-purposes room and this hinders the comprehensive implementation of some curricular areas.
The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killala. The board of management is properly constituted and meets once or twice a term. Meetings follow agenda, minutes are taken and policies are discussed and ratified at board meetings. The board of management monitors the work of the school and maintains very close contact with all school personnel.
The board is to be commended for its interest, commitment and support for the school and especially for fostering the strong community spirit in Shraheen. The board is also to be commended for encouraging the comprehensive decision-making process in the operation of the school. This ensures that the partners in education are consulted on all relevant school matters, including the school planning process.
Some members of the board have received training on the role and function of boards of management in Ballina, under the auspices of the Catholic Primary School Managers’ Association (CPSMA). The board’s main priority is to ensure that the best services possible are provided for the school. At present, this especially includes the refurbishment of the school toilets. It also includes liaising with Mayo County Council in widening the road outside the school to ensure pupil safety and the smooth flow of traffic at school opening and closing times.
The in-school management team consists of the principal and the special duties teacher. The principal’s administrative and organisational duties are carried out well. The principal has a vision for the school. Roll books, registers and all school records are well maintained. Some of this work has been effectively delegated. There are three formal staff meetings held every year.
The special duties teacher deputises for the principal whenever necessary. All of the duties pertaining to this post are carried out in a conscientious manner. The schedule of duties is provided in the school plan. This schedule should be reviewed, however, to ensure an even balance across curricular, organisational and pastoral duties.
The teaching staff is deployed efficiently. The work of the secretarial and cleaning staff makes a commendable contribution to the running of the school.
The board of management has invested in a range of resources to support the implementation of the curriculum in various curricular areas. The school is reasonably well-equipped with material resources. Classrooms are decorated to provide a stimulating learning environment for pupils.
There is a reasonably good stock of concrete materials for Mathematics and a selection of PE equipment. There is a wide variety of musical instruments in the school. Some of these have been purchased recently to add to the existing stock of percussion instruments. There is a reasonable selection of books available in the school. Most of these resources are well-utilised during teaching and learning activities. Overall, however, there needs to be much more investment in resources and materials to further enhance pupils’ learning experiences.
The school’s toilet facilities are inadequate. It is recommended that the board of management pursue its recent application to the Department of Education and Science (DES) to ensure that toilet conditions are improved without delay.
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 software to support a range of curricular areas.
Very 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 at any time during the school year. Information on school activities is conveyed to parents through letters from the principal and through the parents’ representatives on the board of management.
A parents’ association was established in 2004, but was unable to sustain itself as a formal entity. This is because the parent body is very small and parents enjoy an intimate relationship with school management and personnel. There is regular contact between all parents and the school principal. Parents express their satisfaction with the standard of education provided in the school and the level of support and care for pupils. Parents have been involved in the maintenance and upkeep of the school building, particularly the classrooms. Parents are very active in assisting the school in many ways, for example by helping with various sporting activities and outings.
Respectful and warm teacher-pupil relationships are developed in all classes. The learning environment is orderly overall and pupils eagerly participate in the learning experiences provided. Pupils are 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.
Pupils’ attendance is carefully monitored and pupils display very good attendance patterns. School attendance records are properly maintained and the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is notified of prolonged absences in accordance with the terms of the Education (Welfare) Act (2002).
Much 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.
Parents make a meaningful contribution to the school planning process, as their opinions and suggestions are sought prior to ratification. The board of management then ratifies all administrative policies and curricular plans and includes them in the school plan.
The school plan is reasonably clearly laid out and includes a range of relevant organisational and administrative policies and procedures. The school’s vision, aims and priorities are set out in the school plan. Administrative polices have been developed on enrolment, equality, assessment and homework. A health and safety statement has been put together and a health and safety officer has been nominated. A code of behaviour and an anti-bullying policy are also available.
Plans are available for all the curricular areas as well as for Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and ICT. It is recommended that the school plan should be used more systematically to ensure collaboration and continuity in curriculum provision throughout the school. In English and Mathematics, 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. An action plan and a school planning diary should 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’ classroom planning is adequate. Long-term and short-term schemes of work are prepared and monthly progress records (cuntais míosúla) are kept.
Individual 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 keep copies of the individual education plans (IEPs) in their class files. Consideration should be given to the adoption of a uniform structure, perhaps a template, in the formulation of IEPs.
Overall the quality of teaching in the school is satisfactory, with teaching in some curricular areas being commendable. A variety of methodologies and approaches is used throughout the school. Drama, circle work, teacher modelling, project work and discussion are among the methodologies used. More emphasis should be placed on pair work and group work, to cater more effectively for the different class grades, as well as for the various needs of individual pupils. In particular, teaching should be differentiated much more regularly for those who find learning difficult. As part of this work, the learning-support service should be reviewed to ensure that help is provided, in English and Mathematics, for as many pupils as space and time allow.
Most pupils achieve reasonably good standards in most curricular areas. Pupils show a good understanding of History and Geography in particular. Pupils have also done commendable work in Arts Education (Visual Arts, Music and Drama). The school should now focus its attention on raising standards in English reading and in Mathematics.
Cothaítear dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge ar fud na scoile. Tá plean úsáideach forbartha don Ghaeilge ag an scoil. Baineann múinteoirí agus daltaí úsáid inmholta as Gaeilge mar theanga caidrimh i rith an lae. B’fhiú anois aire speisialta a thabhairt do dhul chun cinn na scileanna labhartha ó na ranganna naíonán go rang a sé.
Aithrisíonn agus canann na daltaí rainn, dánta agus amhráin go creidiúnach, cuid mór dóibh le geáitsíochtaí. Forbraítear scileanna léitheoireachta go réasúnta éifeachtach i ngach rang. Léann daltaí os ard go réasúnta líofa agus tuigeann siad an méid atá léite acu. Tá leabhair as Gaeilge ar taispeáint sna leabharlanna ranga. Déantar obair úsáideach i bhforbairt scileanna scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí.
A positive attitude to Irish is fostered throughout the school. A useful plan for Irish has been developed by the school. Irish is commendably used as a conversational language during the school day by teachers and pupils. Special care should now be taken to ensure progression in oral skills from infants to sixth class.
Pupils recite and sing rhymes, poems and songs creditably, many of these with appropriate actions and movement. Reading skills are developed reasonably effectively in all classes. Pupils read aloud reasonably fluently and they understand what they have read. There are books in Irish on display in class libraries. Some useful work has been done to develop pupils’ writing skills in Irish.
There is scope for improvement in the standards attained in English reading in the school. Oral language development is appropriately emphasised. 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. Pupils have also written impressive poems.
Most pupils read aloud reasonably well and they clearly enjoy reading. Class novels are used in the senior classes to good effect. Each classroom provides a reasonably print-rich environment, but this needs to be further developed throughout the school. Pupils’ phonological awareness is developed throughout the school. This lays a foundation for developing reading skills that should receive even more emphasis in future.
More emphasis should be placed on developing reading skills in the other classes to help achieve higher standards in reading across the school. This task ought to be the school’s main priority for the future. As part of this work, a more co-ordinated and focused approach to the learning-support service needs to be adopted. It is recommended that a significant investment be made into purchasing more books for the class libraries and for the learning-support service. Shared reading takes place in all classes, but this work should be expanded.
Commendable emphasis is placed on writing in all classes. There are impressive examples of pupils’ writing on display. Presentation and editing skills are good and pupils have regular opportunities to practise functional and creative writing.
More attention needs to be given to the teaching of Mathematics at all class levels. Most pupils display some knowledge of mathematical terms across a range of strands and strand units. Many pupils also clearly enjoy the challenge of solving mathematical problems. It is evident, however, that higher standards need to be reached in Mathematics by almost all pupils. Pair work and group work should be used more effectively in all classes to consolidate mathematical concepts.
A range of mathematical equipment is available, but it is recommended that more resources be purchased to promote the status of Mathematics in the school. Some materials are used to enhance pupils’ learning during lessons, but this needs to be done far more often. Mathematics corners and mathematical posters should be developed further to assist in the creation of a maths-rich environment. 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 all classes in the school. Commendable work has been done on developing pupils’ skills as historians. A sense of chronology, for example, is developed in the junior classes, as part of the strand Story. Appropriate use is made of timelines in every class to further enhance pupils’ understanding of chronology. Most pupils demonstrate reasonably good knowledge and understanding of the range of topics they have studied.
There is a strong emphasis on project work and the completed projects are of a good standard. The emphasis placed on the study of local History is creditable, especially local historical figures, such as Admiral William Brown. Nearby sites of historical interest are described clearly and knowledgably.
Geography is well taught in this school. Interest in the locality of the school is appropriately emphasised in all classes and most pupils can talk about their local area confidently. Field trips, nature walks and educational trips are organised regularly. These help to stimulate pupils’ interest in their local environment still further. Good use is made of project work to enable pupils in middle and senior classes to develop their geographical, investigative and research skills.
In the junior classes, pupils have contacted a school in France and consequently have learned about French life and culture. Maps and globes are used very successfully to enhance this work. In middle and senior classes, most of the pupils show commendable knowledge of the physical and political Geography of Ireland and Europe.
The Science curriculum is reasonably effectively implemented throughout the school. Practical experiments are occasionally conducted by pupils, for example the lessons on light and magnetism as part of the strand Energy and forces are taught. Most emphasis is placed on the strand Living things and bulbs and seeds have been planted to form part of the attractive science tables in each room.
The Visual Arts are well covered in the school. There is a balance between two-dimensional and three-dimensional activities in making art in all classes. Pupils’ art samples are displayed in every classroom. The lessons on Clay are particularly well covered and there is commendable integration with History in some of these lessons. Pupils are encouraged to express their ideas and feelings through looking at and responding to art. Portfolios are used to record pupils’ progress in Visual Arts. These include photographs and samples of pupils’ work.
The standard of Music education in all classes is good. The strand Performing is well covered and pupils in every class can sing a wide range of songs in both English and Irish. The tinwhistle is also played very well by pupils. Beneficial opportunities are given to pupils to listen, respond to and compare different types of Music. Suitable attention is given to the elements of Music in some classes through a range of enjoyable activities in rhythm, and dynamics. A commendable emphasis is also placed on Music literacy.
The annual school concert is an opportunity for the pupils of the school to practise their acting and dramatic skills in a highly effective way. Drama is also used as a teaching approach to enhance pupils’ understanding in Irish. Commendable use is made of mime and role play in the teaching of oral English in all 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. Lessons are well structured and appropriate emphasis is placed on the routine of warm up, drill and skill practice, games and cool down. 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 and has been very successful, winning first place in their division in 2005 and 2006. A football coach comes to the school occasionally to develop pupils’ skills as part of the strand Games. This service is paid for by the Mayo Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA). The strand Aquatics is covered in the third term, when all pupils attend swimming lessons in Castlebar Swimming Pool.
The caring atmosphere cultivated in the school contributes to the development of pupils’ social skills. SPHE is mostly taught using lessons from the Look after yourself programme. Whole class discussion, group work, listening games and circle time are the main methodologies used. A policy has been adopted for Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE).
Teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests, homework assignments, project work, and standardised tests are the main assessment tools currently employed to assess pupils’ progress. More diagnostic testing should be undertaken in future to identify and address pupils’ specific learning needs.
Micra-T and Sigma-T 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. This helps to alert teachers to the need for early intervention to tackle learning difficulties as soon as possible. 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. More emphasis should now be placed on effectively tracking the progress of pupils with learning difficulties.
A learning-support and special-educational-needs policy has been developed. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving supplementary teaching. The policy outlines the school’s procedures for screening, planning and implementation. The effectiveness of the implementation of this policy should be reviewed, however, to ensure that the best service possible is available to pupils. As part of this, much more attention should be paid to discussing the needs of pupils with learning difficulties on a school-wide basis.
Pupils attending learning-support are active in their learning and display reasonably good progress in the concepts taught. Learning-support is provided in English and Mathematics, but the way in which this service is provided should be kept under constant review. Cognisance is taken of the Learning-Support Guidelines (2000) in this work.
Individual education plans are provided for pupils attending learning-support. These include general information regarding each pupil’s strengths, priority learning needs, objectives, materials and resources. Learning targets, however, should be clearer and more specific in future. These targets should be linked to pupils’ learning needs. Classroom teachers are involved to a certain degree in devising IEPs, but this work should be better co-ordinated in future. Parents receive a copy of their child’s IEP and this ensures that parents are clear about the objectives and learning targets of the learning-support programme.
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.