An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
St. Patrick’s NS,
Ballyroebuck, Bunclody, CountyWexford
Uimhir rolla: 12841P
Date of inspection: 06 February 2008
A whole-school evaluation of St. Patrick’s NS, Ballyroebuck was undertaken in February 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 Drama. 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.
St. Patrick’s NS is a rural co-educational primary school in the parish of Kilrush which is under the patronage of the Catholic bishop of Ferns. Enrolments remain stable and are due to increase in the coming years. Overall attendance levels are good and appropriate strategies for promoting attendance are outlined in the school’s attendance policy.
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
The characteristic spirit of the school is encapsulated in its mission statement. It reflects the school’s Catholic ethos while acknowledging and welcoming pupils from all faiths. It endeavours to allow each pupil to maximise his/her potential academically, socially and emotionally. It includes a commitment to ensuring that each pupil will become an active, honest, full and caring member of both the school community and the wider society.
The board of management is properly constituted. Members of the board have clearly defined roles which are undertaken effectively. The chairperson of the board is a supportive presence and maintains weekly contact with the school. The board meets four times a year and more frequently if circumstances warrant. Minutes of meetings are maintained and accounts are audited annually. The board is commended for its on-going maintenance and improvement of the school building and grounds which include the recent provision of car parking facilities. Priorities for the board include the development of the school and its infrastructure and the continued promotion of the school as a central part of the local community. Communication with parents is very effective. There is a commitment at board level to ensuring that an annual report to inform parents of on-going progress about all aspects of the school will issue from June 2008. The board ensures compliance with departmental regulations and guidelines regarding the length of the school day and class size. In light of the extension of the school grounds, the supervision of pupils during recreation times requires re-examination in order to ensure full compliance with rule121 (4) of the Rules for National Schools and section 23(2) of the Education Act. The board is conscious of its role in overseeing the provision of education in the school. Whole-school policies are discussed and ratified at meetings. It is recommended that the board ratify and date all curricular, administrative and organisational policies.
The principal was appointed to the position in September 2006 and undertakes his administrative and teaching duties in a conscientious and effective manner. A positive school climate is established and there is open and collaborative communication among staff members. The commitment of school staff to the welfare of pupils and to the promotion of good relationships between all members of the school community is praiseworthy and is acknowledged by parents and board members. A whole-school survey of parents has recently been undertaken to ensure parental perspective is incorporated in all decision making. Staff meetings are generally held once a term. An agenda is agreed and minutes are recorded. The principal is ably supported by an in-school management team comprising a deputy principal and special duties teacher. The dedication of the in-school management team to the on-going development of the school is evident from their commitment to meet on a bi-monthly basis to plan for future organisational and curricular programmes. Posts of responsibility have been reviewed recently and are in line with departmental guidelines.
The school has an active parents’ association which is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (NPC). Meetings are held regularly and copies of all minutes are given to the principal. The parents’ association makes a significant contribution to school life and is very supportive of the work of the school. They organise a number of fundraising events annually. The proceeds of these activities are used to subsidise the cost of after-school swimming lessons, school tracksuits and transport. A book rental scheme is co-ordinated by the school secretary and parents. Parents’ involvement in the school is laudable and includes providing support for infant pupils in reading. Effective and positive communication structures exist between school staff and parents. An information booklet is issued to all new parents and copies of policies are available in the school. Parents are informed of their children’s’ progress and school developments through monthly newsletters, the homework journal, annual formal parent-teacher meetings and a written report. Additional meetings of school staff and parents are held on request. At the pre-evaluation meeting parents stated that they are very satisfied with the education provided in the school.
The management of pupils is good. The positive school climate helps create a pleasant atmosphere that is conducive to teaching and learning. Pupils show a keen interest in school activities and are well behaved. They demonstrate respect for one another, staff members and the school environment.
The level of whole-school planning is creditable. A five year strategic plan formulated in 2001 identified curricular, organisational and resource priorities. These tasks have now been completed and a new strategic plan is to be developed. The principal leads and manages the whole-school planning process effectively in collaboration with the staff. Parents have been involved in the formulation of a small number of policies including the Relationship and Sexuality Education policy. Consideration should be given to greater parental involvement in the formulation and review of whole-school policies. The school plan includes a mission statement and a comprehensive range of documents relating to organisational, administrative and curriculum areas. Review dates are included in some plans. The school’s enrolment policy requires review to ensure compliance with section 15(2) of the Education Act. The school has identified a review of the code of behaviour as a priority for this year. Policies have been formulated in ten curriculum areas with work on-going in the development of a History policy. Staff members are commended for their work on bringing all plans to their current stage of development. In particular the clear guidance contained in the Mathematics plan is praised. It is advised that this structure should inform the on-going development and review of all curricular policies in the future. A whole-school approach to reviewing and monitoring the implementation and impact of all policies is recommended. This can be facilitated by engagement in action planning, setting out clear targets and agreeing regular review of these targets.
The quality of classroom planning is good and the reflective nature of teachers’ planning is praiseworthy. All teachers provide long-term and short-term plans of work based on the curriculum and the school plan. Teachers use a variety of templates to address short-term planning and recording of progress. Features of good practice include detailing of specific objectives, a clear outline of the content and skills to be taught, the identification of a range of learning experiences and provision for the differentiated needs of pupils. Given the variability of approaches it is recommended that the school develops a common template to assist with short-term planning and recording of monthly progress. The adoption of a consistent approach will facilitate the development of a system for monitoring learning outcomes and contribute to the on-going school based self-evaluation process. Monthly progress records should be retained centrally in the school for one school year after the completion of the year to which they relate.
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.
Cuireann na hoidí an t-ábhar foghlama i láthair na ndaltaí go spreagúil. Labhraíonn na hoidí an Ghaeilge ar an iomlán mar theanga teagaisc le linn na gceachtanna. Bunaíonn na hoidí na ceachtanna ar théamaí ón gcuraclam agus ar an gclár foilsithe a úsáidtear sa scoil. Feictear teagasc ranga agus obair bheirte, gníomhaíochtaí éisteachta, cluichí, rainn agus amhrán in úsáid go héifeachtach sna ranganna. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as acmhainní mar phuipéid chun suim agus tuiscint na ndaltaí a chothú.Tá stór foclóra ar eolas ag na daltaí agus tá an chuid is mó díobh in ann ceisteanna simplí a chur agus a fhreagairt. Tá gá béim sa bhreis a chur ar an gcur chuige cumarsáide agus deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí an foclóir agus structúir na teanga a úsáid agus a líofacht a fhorbairt. B’fhiú athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an bplean scoile agus forbairt a dhéanamh ar eiseamláirí agus ar structúir na teanga agus scileanna teagaisc níos soiléire a leagan amach do gach rang mar threoir do na hoidí i múineadh na Gaeilge. Bunaítear an léitheoireacht ar an iomlán ar na leabhair shaothair agus tá sé ar chumas na ndaltaí na leabhair sin a léamh. Déantar cúram cuí don litriú. Bunaítear an scríbhneoireacht ar na leabhair shaothair, ar thascanna bunaithe ar na téamaí agus tugtar roinnt deiseanna scríbhneoireacht phearsanta a chumadh.
Lessons in Irish are presented in a stimulating manner. Irish is used in the main as the language of instruction throughout lessons. Teachers base their lessons on themes from the curriculum and on the published scheme used in the school. A variety of methodologies including the use of whole class teaching, pair work, listening activities, games, songs and poems is effectively used in classrooms. Effectual use is made of resources such as puppets to stimulate pupils’ interest and develop their understanding. Pupils have a suitable range of vocabulary and the majority of them can ask and answer simple questions. Additional emphasis needs to be placed on the communicative approach and opportunities provided for pupils to use the vocabulary and language structures to develop their fluency. The Irish plan requires review in order to develop exemplars and structures of language systematically through the school. Reading is primarily based on the workbooks. Pupils can read these books and demonstrate appropriate understanding. Due attention is paid to spelling. Writing activities are based on the workbooks and on tasks based on the curricular themes with some opportunities provided for pupils to develop their personal writing skills.
The teaching of English is good. Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ oral language skills across a range of curricular areas. Discrete oral language lessons are based on objectives of the curriculum and a published oral language scheme. Talk and discussion forms an integral part of all lessons with some effective use made of brainstorming activities and oral language games. Pupils in general display confidence in discussing themes explored and in most classes recite a range of rhymes and poems with interest. The provision of additional opportunities for the development of pupils’ ability to discuss, debate and present topics is recommended.
Admirable attention is given to the promotion of reading in the school. In the infant classes effective emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ sight vocabulary and phonological awareness. It is advised that clearer guidance on the development of pupils’ phonological skills at all class levels be included in the English policy. The use of an agreed reading scheme throughout the school supports continuity in the development of reading skills. This is supplemented by the use of novels with pupils from first to sixth classes. The use of a shared-reading scheme with parents of pupils from first to sixth classes is commendable and activities are monitored by parents and teachers. Pupils read according to their ability and demonstrate good levels of understanding of materials covered. Reading activities are in the main differentiated to allow for the varying ability levels of pupils. It is recommended that material in some class libraries be extended to include a broader range of fiction and non-fiction materials.
Writing skills are being suitably developed in all classes and pupils are encouraged to write in a variety of genres. Attractive examples of pupils’ written work are on display and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is successfully utilised in the presentation of pupils’ work. Pupils demonstrate good understanding of the organisation of writing and some evidence of the process approach to writing was observed. Extension of the process approach to writing across all class levels is recommended. Pupils’ emergent writing and penmanship skills are appropriately fostered in the infant and junior classes. A cursive handwriting style is fully introduced at second class and most pupils have developed a fluent and legible style of handwriting in senior classes. Spelling strategies are taught at each class level and incorporate both phonetic spelling lists and dictation. The further use of ICT to reinforce and consolidate learning is advised.
Mathematics is taught with competence. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the acquisition and understanding of mathematical language and the development of pupils’ estimation skills. Concepts are well explained and features of good practice include pupils being provided with opportunities to actively engage in tasks and apply their skills. A mathematics-rich environment is created in most classes and some samples of pupils’ work are on display. A range of resources, including mathematical manipulatives, number lines, posters, teacher-designed charts and materials, is used effectively in teaching and the development of understanding of concepts and skills in most classes. Extension of this good practice to all classes is recommended. ICT is aptly utilised to reinforce concepts in a small number of classes. Consideration should be given to further use of ICT in teaching and learning. The provision of in-class support by the learning support/resource teacher (LS/RT) for pupils in the middle and senior classes works effectively and enables pupils to work at a level appropriate to their ability.
Pupils display good levels of interest in activities. In the infant and junior classes strands are linked effectively and pupils participate with confidence in early mathematical activities, conservation of number, ordering, and measures. In all classes pupils demonstrate good understanding of shape and space, measures, data, algebra and number. The increased use of games, engagement in practical, co-operative tasks and the use of the local environment in developing pupils’ oral mathematical and problem-solving skills are recommended.
A good start has been made in the implementation of Drama as a discrete curriculum area and practice is to be reviewed at the end of the school year. The teachers’ interest in the teaching of Drama and their awareness of the pre-requisites of a good Drama lesson are laudable. Discrete lessons are well organised and are successfully integrated with other curricular areas including Social, Personal and Health Education and English. Features of good practice include the use of Drama contracts, evidence of the elements of Drama, effectual use of improvisation and judicious use of strategies such as teacher-in-role, still image and conscience alley. Pupils’ enjoyment of lessons is evident and the element of belief is being fostered and encouraged.
General guidelines on assessment are included in each of the curriculum policies. Teachers are cognisant of the importance of monitoring pupils’ progress and some admirable examples of on-going records of pupils’ performances are in evidence. These include teacher observation notes, spellings and tables test results, mathematics assessments, reading logs and termly tests results. Pupils’ written work is regularly monitored and formative comments are provided. A comprehensive range of early screening tests is administered in the infant classes. Standardised tests are administered annually in English and Mathematics to pupils from first to sixth classes and results of these tests are communicated to parents. The school report template now needs to be amended to include all subject areas. The results of tests are analysed by staff members and the special education team to identify pupils in need of learning support. The implementation of a whole-school approach to assessment is recommended with results being used to guide planning for teaching.
The special education team comprises a full-time LS/RT and a part-time resource teacher. A policy on special education outlines procedures and responsibilities, intervention strategies and preparation of individual pupil learning profiles (IPLPs). An appropriate range of diagnostic tests is used to identify pupils in need of support and to review targets. An effective early intervention programme is provided for pupils in the infant classes. Support for pupils is provided mainly on a withdrawal basis with some in-class support in the area of numeracy. Extension of in-class support for pupils is advised. Provision for pupils with special education needs is good. Lessons are well structured and are focused on pupils’ individual needs. Teachers interact with pupils in an encouraging manner and pupils are making progress. A successful team-based approach is apparent and good communication exists between members of the support team, class teachers and parents. IPLP meetings are held twice a year and copies of plans are given to parents and class teachers. It is recommended that a review of the policy includes documentation of practice in relation to implementation of the staged approach, a policy on supporting the very able pupils and the increased use of ICT.
While there are currently no pupils from minority groups attending the school, the school’s mission articulates its inclusive ethos. All pupils have full access to all school activities.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management welcomes the WSE report in its affirmation of the great work being done by the pupils, parents, staff and the school community. The report affirms many features of good practice currently being implemented. The Board wishes to point out that applications were made to the D.E.S under the Summer Works Scheme 2008 and the Small Schools Building Programme 2007. These issues remain unresolved.
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 following are our responses to the various sections of the report:
Section 1.2 In the light of the extension of the school grounds (ie. New school car park/dry surface play area), the Board has revised the school’s supervision guidelines. The new guidelines have been ratified by the Board and are already being fully implemented.
The Board has undertaken to circulate an annual written report of its work to parents. Current practice is that an agreed report is compiled at the end of each meeting.
Section 2.1 Our enrolment policy has been reviewed to ensure compliance with Section 15(2) of the Education Act.
The Board is currently working on developing a new Action Plan for the next three years, as all targets from the previous plan have now been met.
We envisage increased parental involvement in devising and reviewing policies.
Section 3.1 Irish/Gaeilge:
The Irish policy is being reviewed in line with the recommendation in the report.
In light of the recommendation regarding phonological skills, we are assessing programmes with a view to introducing a continuous scheme of work throughout the school.
The Board has already begun the process of upgrading maths equipment throughout the school. We aim to continue this process, as funds allow.
The Board considers ICT is more widely used to reinforce mathematical concepts than is reflected in the report.
The School Report template has been amended as recommended by the report.
A recent School Development Planning Day was devoted to the development of a whole approach to assessment of learning and particularly assessment for learning. The original school policy on assessment was reviewed on this day, and will be brought to the Board for ratification at it’s next meeting.
Published June 2008