An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Saint Joseph’s National School

Ballymurray, Co. Roscommon

Uimhir rolla:  12964I


Date of inspection: 21 November 2007

  Date of issue of report:   22 May 2008



Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils






Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of St. Joseph’s National School, Ballymurray was undertaken in November, 2007. 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 Physical Education.  The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.




Introduction – school context and background

St. Joseph’s National School, Ballymurray is a co-educational primary school, located close to the main Roscommon/Athlone road, approximately 7 km from Roscommon town. Enrolments have increased substantially of late resulting in the recent appointment of an additional mainstream teacher. Class organisation reflects the significantly greater number of pupils in the lower half of the school. Dual classes operate from junior infants to second class while pupils from third to sixth class form a multi-grade class. School records indicate very good patterns of attendance typifying an interested and supportive parent body.


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 board of management has accessed funding under the national rural development initiative CLÁR (Ceantair Laga Ard-Riachtanais) and under the Department of Education and Science Summer Works Scheme to finance respectively the enhancement of playground facilities and the completion of site works necessitated by the recent acquisition of a prefabricated classroom.



1.     Quality of school management


1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

St. Joseph’s National School is one of five schools in the parish of Knockcroghery under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Elphin. Its Catholic ethos is supported by regular pastoral visits on the part of the chairperson of the board of management. Its characteristic spirit is exemplified by the emphasis placed on providing a safe, caring, positive learning environment in which pupils’ needs are identified, their strengths are built upon and continuous efforts are made to enable pupils to achieve their full potential.


1.2 Board of management[h1] 

The board of management is properly constituted and meets at least once a term. Minutes of meetings are carefully maintained, school finances are methodically recorded and clear financial statements are presented regularly at board meetings. Appropriate procedures for the election of a new board are currently in progress.


The board participates to some extent in the development of school policy. It is more regularly involved in approving and ratifying policy documents prepared by the principal and staff. While officers of the board have specific roles, board members generally work together to plan and manage school business. To enhance efficiency, consideration should be given to setting up working groups, when appropriate, to take responsibility for specific tasks. The board should also extend the current one-year development plan to form a three-year plan incorporating timeframes for the completion of agreed tasks.


Successive boards of management have overseen regular maintenance of the school premises. A major modernisation programme was completed in 1987. The main school building, which dates from 1886, is very well maintained and provides two small classrooms, a staff room and toilet facilities. A new prefabricated unit provides a third mainstream classroom while an older unit provides accommodation which is used in conjunction with the staffroom for support-teaching purposes. The board of management is seeking to replace the prefabricated units with permanent accommodation and to obtain indoor facilities for Physical Education. In the interim period, the upgrading of some curricular resources, the installation of sinks and shelving, and the provision of appropriate furniture for support-teaching purposes would greatly benefit the staff in their efforts to provide for the learning needs of the pupils.


The board ensures compliance with Departmental regulations and guidelines on admissions, time in school, class size, pupil attendance, discipline and deployment of teachers. Access to the school plan is facilitated and discussions have commenced apropos the issuing of an annual report on the operation of the school. The board is very supportive of staff engaging in continuous professional development. The staff development policy should incorporate details of the nature and extent of the board’s support and should also reflect the staff’s openness to gaining experience in different roles and at different class levels in the school.


The board is cognisant of its role in over-seeing effective provision and in monitoring standards. It reports that pupils develop good social skills, acquire a firm basis in language, literacy and numeracy, and are very well prepared for entry into second level education.


1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal and deputy principal. The duties of the principal are discharged with efficiency and professionalism. The principal is very sensitive to the needs of parents, staff and pupils and encourages communication among all parties. The principal elicits the engagement of all staff members in the planning process and provides a very good role model for the implementation of new curricular approaches. The deputy principal shares many of the daily tasks, actively participates in decision-making and takes responsibility for specific duties. A culture of co-operation and collaboration prevails which contributes significantly to the positive, friendly atmosphere which is evident in the school. The board is advised to review posts of responsibility regularly and to establish a practice whereby post-holders provide a report to the board on developments in relation to their duties.


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The size of the school facilitates regular contact between board members, staff and parents. In addition to incidental meetings, an information night is organised for parents of new pupils, letters are issued regularly and homework journals are used effectively to maintain communication. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually and end-of-year reports are issued to parents of pupils in the upper half of the school. It is recommended that the practice of providing written pupil reports be extended to all classes. The staff may access the website of the National Curriculum and Assessments Board (NCCA) for guidance in this regard.

The board reports good relations among the parent body. Parents actively support sports days, match fixtures, concerts, tours, book fairs, swimming classes, fundraising and social events. Parents are reported to have contributed significantly to the success of the school’s recent involvement in the Artist in Residence Scheme. The board clearly values the opinion and contribution of parents and would support the formation of a parent’s association affiliated to the National Parents Council.


The school establishes valuable links with community organisations and encourages pupils to develop interests, abilities and confidence through participation in social, sporting and musical activities in the area. During the pre-evaluation meetings, parents praised the school’s ‘open door’ policy, the approachability of teachers and the range of activities organised by the school. 


1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils is very good. Daily routines are executed in a timely and organised fashion and pupils are encouraged to engage in all school activities. The code of discipline is circulated to parents and pupils are very mindful of school rules. Pupil present as happy and confident, they cooperate positively with staff and engage with interest in all classroom activities.



2.     Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The school plan is presented in an accessible format in the form of individually bound documents. It incorporates a clearly articulated mission statement, well-defined aims and a range of organisational and curricular policies. All parties have collaborated in developing some aspects of the plan. There is scope now for the board to take a more active role in policy formulation and development and to foster increased levels of involvement of parents in the planning process. Short-term priorities for whole-school planning have been identified and incorporate the use of information and communication technologies, development of a healthy-eating policy, review of the teaching of English and exploration of team-teaching approaches. The teachers acknowledge the developmental nature of the planning process and its impact on ensuring continuity, progression, depth and balance in curricular provision. Future reviews of curricular policies should focus on clarifying the content at each class level and the manner in which it will be approached in the dual and multi-grade context.


The quality of classroom planning is good. Teachers plan continuously, use agreed templates, detail the range of strategies and approaches to be used and identify integration and linkage across curricular areas. However, in some instances, greater clarity is required in specifying learning objectives and in detailing the differentiation of content and tasks for individual class levels.


2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

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.



3.     Quality of learning and teaching


3.1 Language[h2] 



Tugtar faoin gcur chuige cumarsáideach chun an Ghaeilge a mhúineadh. Baintear leas as ábhair nithiúla, geáitsíocht, cluichí, comhráite réamhdhéanta, sceitsí, filíocht, amhráin agus rainn chun tuiscint agus cumas labhartha a ghnóthú. Leagtar béim inmholta ar chaint leanúnach shoiléir a chleachtadh sna bunranganna. Leathnaítear foclóir agus neartaítear an cumas chun ceist a chur sna meánranganna. Cothaítear tuiscint ar réimse leathan teanga sna ranganna sinsearacha. Cuirtear ar chumas na ndaltaí aidiachtaí agus dobhriathair a úsáid le linn comhráite agus cuirtear ar a gcumas briathra a láimhseáil go muiníneach. Is inmholta mar a bhaintear leas as an nGaeilge ag rangleibhéil áirithe chun gníomhaíochtaí corpoideachais a eagrú.


Nasctar ábhar na cainte go tairbheach le hábhair na léitheoireachta ó rang a dó ar aghaidh  agus tugtar faoi réimse breá tascanna scríbhneoireachta. Déantar scagadh freisin ar scéalta, seanfhocail, rabhlóga, logainmneacha, filíocht agus amhráin agus is inmholta mar a chothaítear suim san amhránaíocht ar an sean-nós. Moltar go ndéanfaí tagairt don obair seo sa phlean scoile faoi na teidil ‘Feasacht teanga’ agus ‘Feasacht cultúir’. Ba thairbheach freisin raon leabhar leabharlainne a chur ar fáil i ngach rangsheomra agus leas a bhaint astu mar ábhar léitheoireachta. Chun an dea-chaighdeán Gaeilge a chosaint agus chun forchéimniú a chinntiú ó rang go rang amach anseo, b’fhiú treoir chinnte a thabhairt sa phlean scoile maidir le réimse na hoibre atá indéanta faoi na mórthéamaí teanga ag gach rangleibhéal.



The communicative approach is used to teach Irish. Concrete materials, movement, games, prepared conversations, sketches, poetry, songs and rhymes are used beneficially to develop understanding and spoken ability. Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on practising clear continuous speech in the lower classes. Vocabulary is extended and the ability to pose questions is strengthened in the middle classes. Understanding of a broad range of language is developed in the senior classes. Pupils are enabled to use adjectives and adverbs during conversations and to handle verbs confidently. The use of Irish during the organisation of physical education activities at some class levels is commendable.


The spoken word is linked beneficially with reading content from second class onwards and a good range of writing activities is undertaken. Stories, proverbs, riddles, place names, poetry and songs are also examined and the manner in which interest in sean-nós singing is fostered is to be commended. It is recommended that reference be made to this work in the school plan under the headings ‘Language appreciation’ and ‘Cultural appreciation’. It would also be of benefit to provide a range of library books in every classroom and to use them as reading material. To maintain the standard of Irish and to ensure progression from class to class in the future, clear direction should be given in the school plan regarding the range of work possible under the main language themes at each class level.



The school has formulated a policy on the teaching of English in which the approach to phonological awareness, spelling and poetry is very comprehensively detailed. English is taught competently at all class levels and activities are, in general, very well structured and paced. Discrete oral language lessons are timetabled, questioning is purposefully differentiated and vocabulary is carefully explored in order to support reading and writing activities. Pupils are provided with opportunities to listen to, read, recite, write and respond to a broad range of poetry.

A book and reading culture is nurtured through the provision of extensive classroom libraries and pupils display an age-appropriate understanding of the conventions of print. A range of strategies including games, big books, paired reading, reading buddies and book fairs is used to promote reading as a pleasurable activity. Early emphasis is placed on fostering phonemic and phonological awareness which contributes to the achievement of good reading standards at all class levels. A developmental approach is taken to the exploration of the novel and story is also explored through the musical genre of ballad-singing, a tradition synonymous with the locality.


Careful attention is given to early letter formation and competency in spelling is developed consistently from class to class. Teachers effectively scaffold writing activities and provide regular opportunities for pupils to engage in drafting, editing and redrafting work. It is suggested that the practice of using flipcharts to support language extension activities, story framing and experiential writing be extended to all class levels. Examples of written work including poems, serialised stories and illustrated texts are attractively displayed and contribute to the development of print-rich classroom environments. While most classes present work neatly and legibly, there is a need to reassess the handwriting programme at some class levels and to agree a whole-school approach to the use of copybooks.


3.2 Mathematics

The programme in Mathematics is clearly and concisely documented in the school plan. All teachers identify mathematical language in their planning and provide opportunities for pupils to discuss strategies and to pose questions. Rhymes, poetry and story are used to trigger mental processing and engaging strategies are employed to aid memorisation and recall of number facts. Problem solving is creatively approached at all class levels and tasks are carefully structured to enable pupils to achieve appropriate levels of success. Group work is a facet of all classroom practice and mixed-pair work is used in some classrooms to provide opportunities for peer-tutoring. Pupils use number lines, ladders, charts, measures and materials with confidence. They display a firm understanding of the mathematical concepts covered and generally record their work very neatly. It would be of benefit to enhance the range and accessibility of resources in some classrooms and to re-evaluate the approach to subtraction.


3.3 Physical Education

The implementation of a full programme in Physical Education is impaired by the lack of indoor facilities. Praiseworthy efforts are made, however, to provide a broad programme of activities which incorporates hurling, camogie, football, basketball, athletics, adventure activities, swimming, folk dancing, creative dance and gymnastics at infant level. Activities are very well organised and strong emphasis is placed on the development of skills, coordination, fitness, stamina and team work. Appropriate warm-up and cool-down activities are used and pupils are carefully guided from an early age to use space effectively and to be aware of the safety issues involved in engaging in physical activity in the classroom setting. The manner in which Irish is used during some activities is to be commended and this practice should be extended to all class levels. The school avails of coaching provided under the Gaelic Athletic Association scheme and participates in Cumann na mBunscol and Community Games activities. A sports day is organised each year with the support of parents.


3.4 Assessment

The whole-school policy on assessment places appropriate emphasis on the early identification of learning needs. A variety of assessment modes is used to monitor pupil progress including observation, questioning, discussion, textbook exercises, teacher-designed tests and tasks and the monitoring of homework assignments. Reading logs, work samples and pupil profiles are among the records maintained and the results of standardised tests are collated to assist the tracking of individual pupil progress in English and Mathematics. The school should now focus on agreeing whole-school assessment procedures to provide for both assessment for learning and assessment of learning in each curricular area. The maintenance of checklists, the use of indicators and clear specification of learning outcomes would benefit this process. It is also suggested that the school extend the practice of providing written reports on pupil progress to include all class levels.



4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has adopted the staged approach to provision for pupils with learning difficulties and special educational needs. Two support teachers visit the school and provide supplementary teaching on a group-withdrawal basis. A special-needs assistant cares effectively for one pupil with special educational needs. Emphasis is placed on early intervention, literacy and the development of social skills. A range of methodologies is employed successfully to develop phonological awareness, memorisation, spelling and writing skills. The school should now explore other approaches to delivery including in-class support, team-teaching and cross-curricular support. The teachers use both the staff-room and the older prefab which is furnished with different sized tables and chairs. There is scope to improve the facilities in the prefab by providing appropriate furniture and developing display areas. It is recommended that every effort be made to co-ordinate timetables in order to ensure optimal use of the prefab. Alternatively consideration should be given to partitioning the prefab to provide separate support areas.


The Middle Infant Screening Test, the Micra-T, the Sigma-T and an appropriate range of diagnostic tests are used to screen pupils and to identify their learning needs. Comprehensive individual learning programmes are compiled and reviewed at regular intervals in consultation with class teachers. In preparation for future legislative requirements, the support team should work towards establishing an agreed approach to the formulation and review of individual programmes and to the formal engagement of parents in the process.


4.2 Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups

The school operates a book loan scheme and facilitates inclusion of all pupils in all school activities. The school is eligible to access funding under the CLÁR programme (Ceantair Laga Ard-Riachtanais).



5.     Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas:

·         The members of the board of management display a high level of commitment and cooperate effectively to manage the affairs of the school.

·         The school is held in high regard in the locality, attracts pupils from a broad geographical area and receives a high level of support from the parent body.

·         All teachers plan diligently and display openness to exploring and adopting new practices.

·         The pupils are very mannerly and respectful, attain good standards in Irish, English and Mathematics and exhibit a high level of interest in physical education activities.

·         Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on the early identification of learning difficulties and on facilitating the inclusion of pupils in all school activities.


The following key commendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

·         The board of management should engage more actively with parents in the formulation and review of school policy.  

·         The board should continue to upgrade school facilities while seeking to obtain permanent accommodation in the long-term.

·         The school should formalise the process of formulating and reviewing individual learning programmes in preparation for future legislative requirements.

·         The teachers should review the assessment and reporting procedures in the school in order to provide written pupil reports at all class levels.


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.



 [h1]Insert blank line after each of the sub headings. I have only done this for this heading – you need to repeat throughout the document.

 [h2]Note changes to language section.