An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Tavneena National School
Charlestown, County Mayo
Roll number: 12938H
Date of inspection: 10 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006
This Whole School Evaluation Report
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Tavneena National School, Charlestown, 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 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.
Tavneena School is a five-teacher, co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Charlestown, Co Mayo. There are currently 76 pupils enrolled. All of the pupils come from within a few kilometres radius of the school. A small number of pupils come from the town of Charlestown. It is expected that enrolment figures will remain steady in the immediate future. Pupils’ attendance is carefully monitored and pupils display very good attendance patterns.
The school building dates from 1887 and indoor toilets were added in 1994. Two prefabricated structures were also recently added. In this way, accommodation has been provided for a third mainstream class teacher. There is also some office and storage space, a small general-purposes room, and a learning-support/resource classroom. The accommodation is kept in good repair as far as possible, but is not adequate for the long-term needs of the school.
The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Achonry. The board of management is properly constituted and meets once a term, more often if necessary. Agenda are provided, 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’s main priority at present is to secure a new building for 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). Certain members of the board feel that the role of boards of management has become much more onerous in the past few years. At the pre-evaluation meeting held with the board as part of this whole school evaluation, the view was put forward that a review of management structures is needed at national level to address the demands being placed on boards now. It is recommended that the board set out its case and send this to the Primary Administration Section of the Department of Education and Science (DES) and to the CPSMA.
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 provides commendable leadership in all areas of school life. Of particular note is the principal’s commitment to the development of the school plan and support for the methodologies and approaches advocated in the Primary School Curriculum. Roll books, registers and all school records are carefully maintained. Formal staff meetings are held once a term.
Roles have been defined for the deputy principal and the special duties teacher. These are included in the school plan. The duties pertaining to these posts are carried out in a professional and conscientious manner. An appropriate balance among curricular, organisational and pastoral duties is evident in this work.
School personnel is deployed in an efficient manner. The work of the teachers as well as the secretarial and cleaning staff contributes to the smooth running of the school.
While the board of management has been working to secure a new school building, appropriate attention is nevertheless paid to the general maintenance of the present building. The recent addition of prefabricated rooms, as a temporary measure, has contributed significantly to the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum. A limited selection of Physical Education (PE) lessons can now take place indoors and there is a classroom dedicated to the learning-support and resource service. Two of the mainstream classrooms, however, are very restricted in size. The school is to be commended on maximising the use of the sometimes limited physical space available. The school is clean and tidy both inside and outside.
There are yards to the front and rear of the school and these have been attractively painted to encourage games and activities during playtime. Pupils also have access to a playing pitch at the rear of the school and to an outdoor shelter.
The board of management has invested appropriately in a range of resources to support the implementation of the curriculum in each curricular area. 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 good selection of books available in the school. These resources are reasonably 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 as well as a supply of appropriate software to support a range of curricular areas.
Impressive 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 success of 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 most important 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. Parents, however, are kept well informed about school matters through the comprehensive newsletter they receive every month.
A school planning diary sets out priorities for the future, incorporates review procedures and identifies staff development needs. The school plan is clearly laid out and includes a wide range of relevant organisational/administrative policies and procedures, and comprehensive curricular policies in all of the curricular areas in which the school has received in-service training. School policies are clear, focused and relevant to the school’s needs.
The school’s mission statement, philosophy and aims are clearly articulated in the school plan. Administrative polices have been developed on enrolment, administration of medicines, healthy eating, acceptable use of the internet, school attendance and homework. A code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy, as well as a health and safety statement, are also available.
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.
The school plan helps to ensure continuity in curriculum provision throughout the school. Teachers are to be commended for their commitment to implementing a broad and balanced curriculum across most curricular areas. They are to be particularly commended for their willingness to try out new ideas. In two curricular areas, however, Gaeilge and Mathematics, more effective whole school planning is needed to ensure more successful implementation across the school.
Teachers’ classroom planning is appropriate. 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 and individual teachers also keep copies. Classroom timetables should be restructured in accordance with the conditions of Circular 11/95 (Time in School) about recreation times.
Respectful teacher-pupil relationships are developed in all classes. Orderly learning environments are evident and pupils are well behaved and eagerly participate in the learning experiences provided. 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 variety of methodologies used. The range and variety of topics covered in the projects completed by pupils in middle and senior classes is creditable. There is a strong emphasis on the exploration of the local environment in all classes.
Tá dearcadh dearfach á chothú i leith na Gaeilge tríd an scoil. Tá plean úsáideach forbartha don Ghaeilge sa scoil, ach ba chóir a chinntiú go gcuirfí béim chuí ar chur i bhfeidhm éifeachtach i ngach rang. Cuirtear an-bhéim ar an teanga labhartha sna hardranganna ach go háirithe agus úsáidtear Gaeilge mar theanga caidrimh sna ranganna seo go rialta i rith an lae. Moltar an cleachtas seo a leathnú sna ranganna uile chun scileanna labhartha na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Tá cnuasach leathan rann, filíochta agus amhránaíochta ar eolas ag na daltaí tríd an scoil.
Forbraítear scileanna léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta go cúramach sna hardranganna, ach d’fhéadfaí a thuilleadh béime a chur ar na snáitheanna seo i ranganna eile. Moltar gníomhaíochtaí scéalaíochta idirdhealuithe a chur os comhair na ndaltaí ar bhonn rialta agus leabhair léitheoireachta spéisiúla grádaithe a roghnú, maraon le fíor-leabhair, chun an caighdeán tuisceana agus líofachta a ardú, de réir leibhéil chumais na ndaltaí. Moltar feidhm a bhaint as drámaíocht, cluichí agus gníomhaíochtaí éagsúla chun an foclór nua a chur i láthair agus é a chleachtadh i mbeirteanna agus i ngrúpaí. Baintear dea-úsáid as prionta sa timpeallacht i ngach seomra ranga.
The standards attained in English throughout the school are very good. A comprehensive school plan has been developed and this has helped to ensure a whole school approach to the teaching of English. Oral language development is appropriately emphasised and good articulation and proper expression are encouraged. Pupils at all class levels can recite a selection of rhymes and poems, many with actions and movement.
Each classroom provides a suitable print-rich environment. A good foundation of basic reading skills is laid down in the junior classes and is developed further in the other classes. Class novels are used to enrich the reading programme in the middle and senior classes. This work is skilfully integrated with History and with the pupils’ locality. There is a wide variety of library material available in the school. Some of the class libraries are particularly well stocked with both fact and fiction books. Other class libraries, however, should be organised in a more attractive way to further encourage reluctant readers.
Shared reading has been introduced effectively in the junior classes. Pupils’ phonological awareness is appropriately developed and they clearly enjoy the activities based on the phonics programme. The pupils benefit from the emphasis placed on the writing process and there are impressive examples of writing in different genres on display in all classrooms. Good use is made of ICT in some classes to display pupils’ stories and poems. Grammar and spellings are taught well across the whole school.
The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken conscientiously at all class levels. The majority of pupils display commendable 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. More emphasis, nevertheless, should be placed on developing pupils’ problem-solving skills, as, during questioning, pupils in some classes were unclear how to solve simple mathematical problems. Extra care should be taken to ensure that pupils understand that Mathematics is not merely theory, but has practical applications in everyday life.
Pair work and group work are used effectively in some classes to consolidate mathematical concepts. The Mathematics corners that have been assembled and the mathematical posters on display throughout the school contribute to the development of a maths-rich environment. A wide range of mathematical equipment is available and these materials are used skilfully to enhance pupils’ learning during lessons in most classes. The work on estimation and measurement is particularly praiseworthy. A good standard of presentation of written work is evident in all classes with pupils recording their work accurately and neatly.
A broad programme is implemented in History in the middle and senior classes. Pupils demonstrate commendable knowledge and understanding of the range of topics they have studied. There is an especially strong emphasis on project work and the completed projects are of a creditable 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 and pupils can describe nearby sites of historical interest clearly and knowledgably.
Teachers are to be commended for the balanced implementation of the three strands of the Geography curriculum and their efforts to develop pupils’ sense of place and space. 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 their environment. This was shown in their recent successful involvement in the Tidy Schools Environmental Project organised by Mayo County Council. Very good use is made of project work to enable pupils in middle and senior classes to develop their geographical, investigative and research skills. Pupils in these classes also show commendable knowledge of the physical and political geography of Ireland and Europe.
A broad and balanced Science curriculum is effectively implemented throughout the school. Pupils in all classes frequently conduct practical experiments, as part of the strand Energy and Forces in particular. A school garden has been developed. Bird tables have been erected as part of this development and pupils have learned to identify many bird species as a result. Bulbs and seeds have been planted in 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. All strands of the curriculum are covered creditably. There is an appropriate balance between two-dimensional and three-dimensional activities in making art. Even though the school building is limited in space, hindering the ability to create attractive display areas, efforts are made to ensure that pupils’ art samples are displayed as much as possible. Pupils are encouraged to express their ideas and feelings through looking at and responding to art. Portfolios are used to record progress in the Visual Arts and these include photographs and samples of pupils’ work.
The standard of Music education in the school is very high. The strand Performing is particularly well covered. Pupils can sing a wide range of songs in both English and Irish in most classes, and also play percussion instruments and the tin whistle very well. Pupils are given beneficial opportunities to listen, respond to and compare different types of Music. Suitable attention is given to the elements of Music through a range of enjoyable activities in rhythm, tempo, pitch and dynamics. Pupils are also given commendable opportunities to compose their own Music. This work is enhanced by the emphasis placed on Music literacy.
While a whole school programme has not yet been developed in this curricular area, Drama is effectively used as a teaching approach to enhance pupils’ understanding in other curricular areas, for example Gaeilge. 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 effective implementation of a comprehensive PE programme is restricted by the limited indoor facilities, as certain activities, especially in the strand Games, are weather dependent. A whole school plan is being developed and this should further enhance 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, according to pupils’ age and stage of development. 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 Dance is particularly well taught. The school participates in Cumann na mBunscol and parents are involved in assisting in the transport of pupils to matches.
The positive, caring atmosphere cultivated in the school contributes greatly to the development of pupils’ social skills. Commendable work has been undertaken in the development of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy involving all partners. This policy is due to be fully implemented in the current school year. The SPHE curriculum is mostly taught using lessons from the Walk Tall programme. A healthy eating policy has recently been implemented following creditable consultation with parents. Whole class discussion, group work, listening games and circle time are the main methodologies used in SPHE. Pupils are mannerly and respectful in their interactions with each other and they demonstrate good communication and interpersonal skills.
Pupils’ progress in curricular areas is monitored and recorded on a regular basis. Teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests, Action Maths tests, homework assignments, project work, pupils’ self-assessment using Mental Maths and My Spelling Workbook, 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 objectively 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 clearly outlines the school’s procedures for early intervention, screening, planning, implementation and review. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving supplementary teaching. There is evidence of good collaboration between the learning-support service and class teachers.
Pupils attending learning-support are active in their learning and display good progress in the concepts taught. Individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) developed include general information regarding each pupil’s strengths, priority learning needs, objectives, materials and resources. Learning targets are clear, specific and are linked to pupils’ learning needs and are reviewed each term. Classroom teachers are involved in devising these IPLPs. This helps to ensure that identified learning targets are addressed across a range of curricular areas. It is recommended that in future parents should receive a copy of their child’s IPLP. This should assist in ensuring that both parents and teachers are clear about the objectives and learning targets of the learning-support and resource programme.
Tavneena School is a participant school in the Giving Children an Even Break scheme. The grants received under this scheme are appropriately used to facilitate the purchase of resources across a range of curricular areas and to ensure that all pupils participate fully in the life of the school.
A caring, friendly and welcoming atmosphere is created in this school. All pupils are treated equally and the school has an open enrolment policy.
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 encouraged 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 the school’s monthly newsletter 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. Regular contact is maintained between the chairperson of the parents’ association, on behalf of the parent body in general, and the principal. Parents express their satisfaction with the broad range of learning opportunities provided in the school and the high level of support for pupils. The parents’ association is also deeply involved in fund-raising activities and has assisted the school by supporting the football team and by helping to maintain the school building.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development 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 of Tavneena N.S. is very satisfied with the content of the inspection report. All members of the Board, however, expressed the view that parents are already very much involved in school planning.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection