An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Roxboro National School,Ballinrobe,County Mayo.
Uimhir rolla: 12816Q
Date of inspection: 22 October 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Roxboro National School 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, Irish, Mathematics and Science. 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.
Roxboro National School is a two-teacher co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Ballinrobe, County Mayo. There are 38 pupils enrolled at present. Most of the pupils come from the Roxboro area, with the remainder coming from nearby areas. It is expected that enrolment figures will remain more or less constant over the next few years.
The original school building was constructed in 1887. A substantial extension was completed in 2007. This extension has greatly added to the space and facilities the school offers its pupils. The school building and grounds are very well maintained and provide an attractive and stimulating learning environment. There are two new mainstream classrooms. The former mainstream classrooms are now used as the learning support and resource classroom and the staff room/office respectively. There are also staff and pupil toilets.
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
Roxboro National School is recognised as the focal point of the immediate local community. The school’s mission statement outlines its aspiration to promote the full and harmonious development of all aspects of the child. The school’s vision is to create a learning community where children can safely grow in knowledge and in the acquisition of skills. It is also the school’s stated aim that all of its pupils should leave Roxboro School with many happy memories.
The board of management is very supportive of the work of the school. The board, school staff, parents and pupils work well together in a team spirit. The board of management meets five times a year, or every half-term. Meetings take place more frequently if the need arises. Many meetings were held during the period when the school was being extended. Minutes are kept of all board meetings. The board also contributes to the school planning process by discussing, adjusting and ratifying each policy prior to its inclusion in the school plan. The board’s main priority up till recently has been the successful completion of the extension. The board is at present in the process of developing playing field facilities for the school.
The school’s in-school management team consists of the principal and one special duties teacher. The principal’s duties are carried out conscientiously and competently. Her teaching duties are performed diligently, while her administrative and management duties also receive appropriate attention. The principal is effectively supported by the diligent work of the special duties teacher. The school staff works well as a team and decisions are taken collectively and in an open manner. Staff meetings are held once a term. Both teachers are involved in drawing up the agenda and minutes are kept. The school’s register, attendance book and roll book are carefully maintained.
There is no parents’ association in the school. There are, however, positive relations between the parents and teachers. There is a good level of parental involvement in the school. Parents are very active in helping out with various school activities. At their meeting with the inspector as part of this evaluation, the parents’ representatives on the board of management stated that they were satisfied with the education provided in the school.
Parents are given an oral report on the progress of their children at the formal parent-teacher meetings that are held annually. Written reports on each pupil are posted to parents at the end of the school year. The parents’ representatives feel that the school deals with parents’ concerns in an open way. Parents are always welcome to discuss their concerns with teachers. In this way, potential problems are addressed as soon as possible. The parents receive newsletters and reports on school activities and events regularly throughout the school year. Text messages are also sent to parents to inform or remind them of upcoming events.
All of the pupils in Roxboro School appear to be happy and content in school. They are very willing to engage in the various educational activities prepared for them by their teachers. They hold their teachers in high regard and there are no discipline issues in the school. The pupils are courteous and welcoming to visitors to the school. They are enthusiastic in discussing the work they have done and what they have learned.
The quality of whole-school planning is good. Significant assistance has been received from national in-service training initiatives in this work. The school plan contains plans for each curricular area of the primary school curriculum. There is also a wide range of administrative policies in the school plan. These include an enrolment policy, a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy, a health and safety statement, and an equality statement. Policies are usually initially drafted by the teachers and are then discussed by the board of management before being ratified. The input of parents is sought on a number of policy issues, such as healthy eating and homework. Parents also have access to the school plan at any time. The chairperson of the board of management signs all policies when they have been ratified by the board. The school has set out an action plan for the review of policies and plans over the next few years. It is recommended, however, that the review of the school’s learning support and resource policy be made an immediate priority.
The quality of classroom planning is good overall. Some of the classroom planning is of a very high standard. The mainstream teachers prepare long-term and short-term schemes of work. In some cases, the long-term schemes should contain more detail on the work to be done. A monthly progress record (cuntas míosúil) is also kept by these teachers on the work they have done. The timetables set out by the teachers are based on the suggested minimum time framework in the primary school curriculum.
Individual education plans (IEPs) are developed for the pupils who receive learning support. Copies of the IEPs are kept in the learning support teacher’s files and in the files of the pupils’ classroom teachers. The IEPs are reviewed termly, but parents should be more actively involved in this work, by attending the planning meetings and taking part in devising the plans. They should also receive a copy of the IEP(s) for their child(ren). While short-term notes for this work are reasonably good, there should be a clearer link between this planning and the relevant IEPs. Copies of all relevant records, including test results, on the pupils who receive learning support should be securely maintained in the learning support room.
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.
Tá cáilíocht na foghlama agus an teagaisc sa Ghaeilge i Scoil Cheathrú an Chlochair go maith. Cothaíonn na hoidí dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge i ngach rang. Úsáideann múinteoirí agus daltaí Gaeilge mar theanga caidrimh go rialta i rith an lae. Leagann na hoidí béim ar fhorbairt an teanga labhartha, ach moltar níos mó deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí i gcuid de na ranganna ceisteanna a fhreagairt agus comhrá a dhéanamh as Gaeilge. Is féidir leis na daltaí i gcuid eile de na ranganna labhairt fúthu féin go soiléir as Gaeilge. Éiríonn leis na hoidí foclóir na ndaltaí a leathnú go céimniúil tríd an scoil. D’fhéadfaí, áfach, deiseanna praiticiúla a thabhairt níos minice chun úsáid a bhaint as an bhfoclóir seo. Moltar freisin úsáid an Bhéarla a sheachaint i gcónaí le linn na gceachtanna Gaeilge, mar a shonraítear ó am go chéile i gcuid bheag de na ranganna.
Tá rannpháirtíocht agus gnóthachtáil na ndaltaí sna ceachtanna Gaeilge sa chuid is mó de na ranganna le moladh. Aithrisíonn na daltaí i ngach rang rainn, dánta agus amhráin go bríomhar taitneamhach. Forbraítear an léitheoireacht go héifeachtach ó rang a dó ar aghaidh. Léann beagnach gach dalta os ard go líofa as Gaeilge agus léiríonn siad a dtuiscint trí fhreagairt cheisteanna go cumasach ar an méid atá léite. Tá cló i nGaeilge le feiceáil go forleathan i dtimpeallacht na scoile. Déantar obair inmholta i scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil, ach moltar níos mó béime fós a leagan ar an scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach as seo amach. Tá ardchaighdeán le sonrú i gcóipleabhair agus i leabhair saothair na ndaltaí.
The quality of learning and teaching of Irish in Roxboro School is good. The teachers foster a positive attitude towards Irish in every class. Teachers and pupils use Irish as a conversational language regularly throughout the day. The teachers emphasise the development of oral language, but it is recommended that more opportunities be given to the pupils in some classes to answer questions and to make simple conversations in Irish. The pupils in some other classes can speak about themselves clearly in Irish. The teachers succeed in expanding the pupils’ vocabulary in a graded way through the school. Practical opportunities could be given more often, however, to use this vocabulary. It is also recommended that the use of English should always be avoided during Irish lessons, as is noticed occasionally in a few classes.
The participation and achievement of the pupils in the Irish lessons in most classes is praiseworthy. The pupils in every class recite rhymes, poems and songs in a lively and enjoyable way. Reading [in Irish] is developed effectively from second class onwards. Almost all pupils read aloud fluently in Irish and they show their understanding by answering questions on what they have read. There is a print-rich environment in Irish to be seen throughout the school. Commendable work is done in functional writing, but it is recommended that even more emphasis should be placed on creative writing from now on. A high standard is to be seen in the pupils’ copybooks and workbooks.
The quality of learning and teaching in English is good. The development of pupils’ oral language skills is appropriately emphasised in every class. Most of the pupils can express themselves articulately and enthusiastically and can talk about a variety of topics. The work done on the recitation, study and writing of poetry in every class is particularly impressive.
There is a print-rich environment in all of the mainstream classrooms and in the public areas of the school. The development of phonological awareness is given due attention, as part of the foundation of basic reading skills, but more emphasis should be placed on the introduction, explanation and discussion of new words. The school-wide emphasis placed on developing reading skills and a love of reading, nevertheless, ensures that most pupils achieve a high standard in reading. The pupils in every class read aloud very well and the regular modelling of reading by the teachers clearly helps in this work. There is a wide selection of big books in the junior classes and these are used effectively in reading lessons. Class libraries are well stocked with up-to-date books, both fact and fiction.
The standard of English writing throughout the school is good overall. There are examples of pupils’ functional writing on display in every class. There is also commendable written work showing integration with other curricular areas, for example History, on display in the school passageways. Copybooks and workbooks contain examples of some very good work in functional and creative writing. Overall, however, the writing process should receive more emphasis and creative written work should be edited and published in class even more regularly.
The quality of learning and teaching in Mathematics in Roxboro School is good. The pupils have a good knowledge of mathematical terms. They also have a very good knowledge of number facts (tables). There is commendable emphasis placed on the practical application of the concepts learned. Most of the pupils in every class can solve appropriate mathematical problems. As a means of developing the learning and teaching of Mathematics in the school, however, it is recommended that some Mathematics lessons should be even more clearly differentiated in the future. As part of this work, more emphasis should be placed on setting out specific learning objectives for each class group. This should assist in ensuring that the pupils in different classes are assigned an even richer variety of activities, according to their age and ability.
There is a wide range of mathematical equipment available in the school. This is used effectively as part of teaching and learning in every class. A maths-rich environment is being developed in the school with Mathematics corners and mathematical posters in all classes. It would be worthwhile, however, ensuring that the topics being covered in class be reflected in some aspects of the design and layout of the Mathematics corners/tables. The pupils in every class record their work neatly and carefully. This work is regularly checked and corrected by the teachers.
The quality of learning and teaching in Science throughout the school is very good. The pupils in all classes in the school carry out interesting scientific experiments and record their predictions and results clearly in their worksheets or Science copybooks. Various effective teaching methods are used during Science lessons. The work done on Materials and change, for example the experiments on floating and sinking and on Energy and forces, is particularly praiseworthy. The strand Living things is also very well covered throughout the school. The school is working towards the award of the Green Flag at present.
Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are given to pupils in English and Mathematics once a year. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is given to senior infants pupils once a year. The results of the standardised tests are kept in the classroom teachers’ files and centrally in the office. These results should also, however, be kept in the learning support files to provide an overview of pupil achievement in the school and to provide reference material for learning support and resource planning.
The overall effect and impact of assessment on teaching and learning should be reviewed as part of this renewed emphasis on record-keeping. It is recommended that the use of diagnostic tests, to identify pupils’ specific learning difficulties, should form a crucial part of this review. The entire school staff should be involved in this important work. A clear policy on what specific early intervention strategies are to be adopted in the school should also be developed and implemented as soon as possible.
Other assessment modes used in the school include teacher observation and teacher-designed tasks and tests. There are some particularly good strand-specific tests designed by some of the teachers for Mathematics.
The school has developed a learning support and resource policy. This policy needs to be reviewed, however, to improve the quality of support available for pupils with special educational needs. Learning support is offered to all pupils who need it in English and Mathematics. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving this support. Parents are kept reasonably well informed about the progress of their children as part of the learning support. Nevertheless, more emphasis needs to be placed on parental input and information. For example, parents should meet with all relevant teachers at the annual parent-teachers meetings.
The learning support classroom is decorated to provide a reasonably stimulating educational environment. There is a reasonably print-rich environment, but there should be more samples of the pupils’ work on display and more evidence of Mathematics in the classroom. While at present, learning support is offered on an almost exclusively withdrawal from class basis, increased use of in-class support is being considered.
There are no pupils from disadvantaged or minority groups in the school. All pupils in the school are treated fairly and the school has an open enrolment policy.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· There is a positive and enthusiastic learning atmosphere in Roxboro School.
· The board of management is very supportive of the work of the school.
· The teachers are conscientious and diligent in their work.
· A variety of teaching methods is used in the mainstream classes.
· The school building and grounds are very well maintained.
· The school is attractively decorated with samples of the pupils’ work.
· The school plan is clearly laid out and is based on the needs of the school.
· The standards achieved by most pupils in English reading are very good.
· There is very good work done on number facts and on solving problems in Mathematics.
· In Science, the quality of teaching and learning is highly commendable.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· More emphasis should be placed on creative writing and on the writing process in both Irish and English.
· In Mathematics, clearer learning objectives should be set out for each class group to ensure that some Mathematics lessons are even more effectively differentiated.
· The learning support and resource policy should be reviewed to provide a more effective and efficient service.
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 March 2009