An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil na Cnocáin
Lios na gCeann, Cill Áirne, Contae Chiarraí
Roll number: 13150Q
Date of inspection: 16 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006
Whole school evaluation
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil na Cnocáin. 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 pupils’ 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.
Scoil na Cnocáin is a small vibrant country school situated 12 miles to the east of Killarney and serving the local hinterland. It overlooks the Flesk valley, the ancient seat of illustrious poets. The school was built in 1887. Prior to 1990 the Board of Works maintained it. Since then it has been vested in St. Brendan’s Trust and is now maintained by the Department of Education and Science grants. The building is one of considerable charm though now quite inadequate in its dimensions to meet the needs of the curriculum. It is exceptionally well preserved indoors and out of doors by the board of management. The current enrolment is 50 and includes 25 boys and 25 girls. There are two mainstream teachers on the staff as well as a shared learning support teacher who is based in the school. The school’s enrolment is increasing and an extra class teacher will be appointed from September 2006. The board has made application for an extension to the building and to the playground and has received a positive reply.
Scoil na Cnocáin is under the patronage of the Bishop of Kerry. The board of management deserves praise for the active and earnest determination with which its members pursue their duties with regard to ensuring a safe and secure school environment for pupils and teachers. A lively and beneficial degree of understanding is evident between the board and the teachers. The board is high in its praise of the teaching and learning so skilfully carried out by the staff members. The board members are aware of their obligations towards the proper running of the school. The board which meets once each term and whenever the need arises, shows its appreciation and regard for the teaching staff and this is apparent in many ways. The members have used their expertise in providing extra facilities for pupils’ recreational activities, for learning activities within the two classrooms and for safety measures that pertain to ensuring safe entry to and exit from the school yard. The school building is very close to the public road. To prevent accidents, the board has put in place a dual-purpose concrete, railed ramp for wheelchair use and to prevent pupils from walking or running directly on to the roadway. This particular expedient is a reflection of the board’s awareness of the health and safety implications as laid out in the school’s comprehensive statement prepared in accordance with the requirements of health and safety.
As is evident from the minutes of the previous three meetings of the board of management safety issues continue to be of paramount importance to all the members. Again and again the meetings were concerned about the lack of cloakroom space, storage space, and in particular the provision of an extra classroom to accommodate an increased enrolment. Another overriding concern relates to the significant problem that exists as regards parking, especially during the mornings and on the departure of the pupils in the evenings. Parents’ cars line an already narrow roadway. Safety matters and the need for extra accommodation dominated the board of management meetings in recent times because of the anticipated enrolment increase. The board has already applied for an extension to the building.
Fire extinguishers are supplied to each classroom and one other is fitted in the porch. A first- aid kit is also provided. Recent works undertaken by the board include the provision of flashing lights on the approaches to the school, upgrading the interior of the building and the laying of a tar macadam surface on the playground. All works were carried out with the help of voluntary assistance. According to the school’s vision statement the staff, in consultation with the board of management and the parents, “hope to instil in the pupils a sense of God, a sense of their own self-worth and their self-esteem with respect for themselves and for others so that they will become valuable members of the community, appreciating their own culture and the culture of others”. It is to the credit of the parents, the teachers and the members of the board all working together that no difficulties arise with regard to the behaviour and management of the pupils. There is a palpable sense of solidarity and unity in the school.
The board is fortunate in the support, enthusiasm and co-operation afforded by the parents and liaises gainfully with them through the parents’ elected representatives. The board also sees to it that the school plans are drawn up according to proper procedures. The plans are duly ratified and signed with review dates included. The board of management has serious concerns regarding the increased need for adequate accommodation within the school and for adequate and safe recreational areas outside. The board of management members deserve credit for the interest and attention they show in making the best use of available facilities. The pupils are keen, cheerful, resourceful and extremely self-confident. The school facilitates close links with the parents through letters and school visits. The board of management and the parents are keenly aware of the solid educational opportunities provided for the pupils. There is general consensus among the board members that the pupils are receiving a comprehensive and worthwhile education. The board of management, staff and parents are to be complimented for their unfailing attention to the maintenance and improvement of the building. The board of management fulfils its duties with commitment and success.
The principal and the deputy principal are responsible for the day-to-day running of the school. Between them they ensure the provision of a carefully directed education for all the children. Staff meetings take place at the beginning of the school year and as the need arises. Regular communication with the families is given priority. The principal ensures that the parents are made aware of the school’s policies through parent/teacher meetings and by sending certain policy documents home to be read and signed by parents. The teachers are ever vigilant and attentive to the needs of their pupils and they carry out their duty of care as post-holders thoroughly and consistently. However it is recommended that a review of the allocated duties be considered so as to distribute responsibilities for curricular, organisational and pastoral duties among the post-holders more evenly.
The principal and staff keep school policies up to date and relevant to needs. Official documents including roll books and registers are carefully maintained. Overall, the teachers provide a happy and secure in-school environment. Dedication to duty and a high degree of commitment characterises the work of the staff.
The staff includes three teachers two being mainstream teachers and one being a learning support teacher. The learning support teacher is shared with two other schools but is based in this school. The teachers work in the very best interests of the pupils. They care deeply for the pupil’s well-being and for their future success as responsible adults. The are happy, friendly, and resourceful and they display traits of warmth and generosity. They exhibit a sense of responsibility towards their peers and are mutually supportive in engaging with the activities set out by the teachers. The learning environment created by the staff is vibrant and stimulating.
The building has two permanent classrooms dating from 1887. These rooms are wainscoted and the furniture consists of dual desks. Space is at a premium and movement within the classrooms is severely curtailed. Last year the classrooms were revamped and the attic was insulated. Carpet was laid in the classrooms to improve comfort and warmth for the pupils. There is very limited space in the classrooms for computers, for display tables and for library stocks. A small porch serves a number of usages. The board of management and the parents have reorganised this area in an attempt to provide accommodation for the learning support teacher. It is also used as a computer room and staff room. Shelves for storage have also been provided. A tar macadam area allows the pupils to participate in basketball, football and Physical Education activities in a limited way. A part-time caretaker looks after the cleaning of the building and the maintenance of the school grounds. He works diligently and dutifully and his work is very much appreciated by the board of management, the staff and the parents.
It is apparent that the school has serious shortcomings as regards space and overall facilities to implement the curriculum. There is urgent need for the school to have classroom accommodation, a general purpose room and ancillary facilities to provide appropriately for the education of the pupils of the school.
The parents have not formed an association as yet but very encouraging parental cooperation with the school staff is evident. This is clearly reflected in the daily contact between teachers and parents as they make common cause regarding the success of the pupils in their academic achievements and in the strengthening of their social skills. The involvement of the parents is noted in the way that the speak and interact with their teachers, with each other and with visitors to the school. The pupils are spirited, outgoing and very well behaved in class. The parents’ representatives on the board of management are active and give constructive support to the board, to the staff and to the parents in general.
To show their support for the ongoing needs of the school the parents become involved in the organisational activities such as Scór na bPáistí, the book fair, field games and other sporting events. They convey the pupils to and from such events. The parents deserve credit for the ways in which they endeavour to assist the school. Information giving regarding pupils’ progress is facilitated in a number of ways. These include parent/teacher meetings, homework and copybook work, letters, notes and test results. Information regarding school policies is communicated to the parents during the school year. On the enrolment of pupils for the first time, the parents are asked to read, to complete and to sign off on their acceptance of certain policies. The learning support teacher meets the parents each term. A very positive and enabling collaboration exists between the parents and the school. In order to further develop and strengthen the partnership between parents and the school, it is recommended that a parents’ association be formed in accord with the statutory provisions in this regard.
A practical School Plan has been prepared and the content is very well presented. The staff members have included a mission statement and the aims of the school as a foreword to the hopes and aspirations they harbour. The staff has prepared a number of documents related to specific organisational and curriculum areas. The plan is easily accessible and is divided into a number of separate sections. The organisational section of the plan includes policies on the following elements – school vision and mission statement, school ethos, code of discipline, anti-bullying policy, admission and enrolment policy, safety statement, administration of medication policy, reporting on incidents of child abuse, a policy for the use of the internet, homework policy, substance abuse policy, relationship and sexuality education (RSE) policy, learning support policy and the school policy regarding pupil absences.
According to the index of the School Plan, policies are outlined in the following curriculum areas – Gaeilge, English, Mathematics, Social, Personal and Health Education, RSE, Physical Education, Music, Science and Visual Arts. The policies have been ratified, signed and dated by the board of management with built-in review dates. Curriculum areas under development are History, Geography, Music and Drama. A music development course has been prioritised for future staff development. Individual teachers make long-term and short-term preparation for all the subject areas as well as drawing up Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for their pupils. The teachers’ record keeping is invaluable as a basic plank in the planning of their individual class schemes. The importance of record keeping to ensure cohesion and useful curriculum progression throughout the school is well understood by the staff members. The principle of subject integration is illustrated by the attention given to coordinating threads of content suitability when planning lessons. This integration helps the pupils to realise the unitary nature of knowledge. Staff meetings are planned at the beginning of the school year. A school calendar is drawn up indicating dates of school closures, parent/teacher meetings, school outings and school masses. Textbook schemes are evaluated at the end of the school year and textbook selections for the coming year are made. Monthly progress records are completed to facilitate ongoing plans.
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, September 1999) 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 Department guidelines.
The teachers create a vibrant and stimulating environment for the pupils in their care. Many aspects of the teachers’ planning are clearly in practice in the school. The pupils are challenged to engage themselves actively in the learning process. Whole class teaching is the predominant methodology. Some group work and individual work are also undertaken but the opportunities for this are restricted by the limitations of space. The social and cultural aspects of the locality are availed of to assist curricular themes. The teaching atmosphere is greatly enhanced by the spirit of endeavour that prevails within the school. The pupils with special needs are suitably supported and encouraged in their learning tasks. They are happily integrated. The principle of differentiation is taken into account by the teachers and the School Plan makes due allowance for individual difference.
Tá an-mheas ag na hoidí ar an nGaeilge agus déanann siad gach iarracht an teanga labhartha a chur chun cinn i measc na ndaltaí. Cothaíonn na múinteoirí saol teaghlaigh sa scoil a thugann muinín agus neamhspleáchas dos na daltaí i dteannta a chéile. Is álainn an rud é díograis na leanaí a thabhairt faoi deara i leith labhairt na Gaeilge agus cé chomh lúcháireach is atá siad i mbun cainte. Is cosúil go bhfuil tacaíocht na dtuismitheoirí dearfach agus láidir i leith na Gaeilge. Tá an Ghaeilge á múineadh le han-dua sa scoil. Leagtar an-bhéim ar an gcomhrá neamhfhoirmiúil i rith an lae scoile agus foghlaimíonn na daltaí bunús na teanga in atmaisféar dearfach, gealgháireach. Tá na daltaí gníomhach, fuinniúil sna ceachtanna Gaeilge agus tá na snáithe ina iomláine á bhhorbairt le toradh rafar. Déantar gach iarracht éisteacht, labhairt, léitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht a fhorbairt ar bhealach comhtháite tríd an scoil.
Sna naíranganna agus sna bunranganna leagtar an-bhéim ar mhodhanna beoga. Déantar gach iarracht spionnadh a chur i modh na drámaíochta agus i modh na scéalaíochta. Baineann bua speisialta ó thaobh na scéalaíochta de le dúchas na dúiche seo ach go háirithe. Tugtar aird ar leith do na daltaí laga agus glacann siad páirt ghníomhach chomh maith leis na daltaí eile sna cleachtais Ghaeilge. Úsáidtear an-chuid áiseanna chun teacht i gcabhair ar na daltaí sna ranganna uile. Ó thús na scolaíochta dóibh baintear feidhm tharraingteach, úsáideach as rannta, dánta, amhráin, scéalta agus cluichí. Moltar go mór modh na drámaíochta a chleachtar sna ranganna uile chun beocht agus spéis a chothú sna hacair dhifriúla. Tugtar an-chúram do thús na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta trí bhéim a leagadh ar úsáid na Gaeilge mar theanga bhainistíochta na scoile maraon le frásaí na seachtaine, dánta, fógraí, ordaithe, abairtí agus focail léirithe i bhfoirm prionta ar taispeáint i ngach seomra ranga.
Tá forbairt rialta le sonrú sa chomhrá, sa léitheoireacht agus sa scríbhneoireacht de réir mar a théann na daltaí ar aghaidh sna ranganna. Mar fhorbairt ar na hábhair seo sna meanranganna agus sna hardranganna leagtar béim ar an scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach rud a thaitníonn go mór leis na daltaí. Is breá leo a bheith ar thóir focla nua chun cur lena gcumas ceapadóireachta agus lena gcumhacht shamhlaíochta. Chomh maith le sin leantar clár aoibhinn i gcúrsaí peannaireachta rud a thugann sásamh agus pléisiúr do gach leanbh.
The School Plan for the teaching of English is ambitious and comprehensive. The various strands of the curriculum are clearly outlined and much thought has been given to the means by which the pupils will engage with the different aspects of the school’s policy in English. The pupils’ various needs and stages of development are considered in relation to their relevance to the literacy syllabus as it is implemented in each classroom. The language policy includes the following elements: oral work, phonics, reading, comprehension, poetry and written work. These elements are carefully integrated. The pupils communicate clearly and confidently and enjoy their engagement with the challenge of appreciating literature, poetry and drama as well as reading for pleasure and for information. The environmental print throughout the school is supportive and challenging. Commendable strategies are used to ensure that all pupils develop their oral language ability and self-confidence.
At the infant and junior level, splendid work is completed in reading and writing activities. Pre-reading activities include developing vocabulary, reading for pleasure, listening to tapes, use of jigsaws, matching pictures and big books. Other activities include predicting, matching cut-up words on flash cards to the words in the big books, listening and responding, character discussion and making up their own stories. The pupils in the infant and junior classes have memorised a varied repertoire of selected rhymes appropriate to their particular class levels. From junior level upwards, carefully chosen novels, suitable for the various classes, are used to instruct pupils in story structure and to become aware of openings, settings, characters, events, and endings. The importance of plot, character, dialogue, emotion and conflict resolution is discussed to help the pupils realise the importance of these elements in writing. Pupils integrate reading and writing in presenting book reviews.
Creative writing and functional writing are attractively integrated with appropriate subject areas.
Information technology is used to enhance presentation and to broaden and extend the audience for personal writing. Drafting and editing skills too are further developed through the use of technology. Pupils read, appreciate, and respond to a wide range of poetry. Some local verse recalls and records happenings from other days. A formal reading scheme is being used and the class library includes narrative, expository and representational text types. Language skills are further strengthened in all classes through the use of drama, story telling, poetry, songs and action stories. Pupils’ copy work is monitored and corrected regularly. In both classrooms the pupil’s style of penmanship is worthy of praise. Great care is taken to promote clear, distinctive, and legible writing. In the past few years the school has held a schoolbook fair. This promotes interest in reading and funds accrued are used to stock the class libraries. Overall the achievements in the teaching of English are meritorious.
A teacher of Spanish under the Department of Education and Science modern languages programme visits the school for two hours per week and provides language lessons for the fifth- and sixth-class pupils.
The School Plan sets out clearly the principles, aims, objectives, and strategies for implementing the Mathematics programme. It sets out to develop appropriate standards for mathematical achievement in the school. It aims to aid the pupils in achieving their true potential in Mathematics and to foster in them a love of the subject. The teachers prepare their lessons carefully and make use of concrete materials to assist their work. These materials are used effectively at the infant and junior class levels and at the middle and senior class levels. Concepts are taught with understanding thus providing a solid beginning which is built upon as pupils pass on from class to class. Discussion forms an important and productive part of the syllabus at the different levels. The language of Mathematics is carefully attended to. A commercially produced series of textbooks and workbooks form the basis of the mathematical syllabus in the middle and senior standards. The teachers endeavour to create a mathematics rich environment. Wall displays include for example, number charts, measuring charts, number lines, hundred squares, fraction illustrations, time, number ladder, ordinal numbers, charts on decimals, percentages, angles and lines to aid the pupils’ awareness of their mathematical surroundings.
The pupils show a noteworthy understanding of counting, sequencing, matching and computational exercises. Experience with concrete materials helps the pupils to develop appropriate mathematical language and to communicate what they are doing and experiencing. It is school policy that mental arithmetic is a feature of daily mathematical activity. Children enjoy this exercise. Estimation skills are developed. Pupils are encouraged to estimate first, write down their estimate, solve the problem and compare their estimate with the actual result. Written work is recorded in copybooks and workbooks. For the senior classes, calculators and computers enhance the implementation of the Mathematics curriculum. Mathematics homework is given every day from Monday to Friday. Parents are provided with a Mathematics information leaflet. The principle of differentiation is adhered to in that the Mathematics programme in the school is flexible to accommodate the needs of pupils with different levels of ability. Regular assessment of pupils’ progress is carried out
through homework, work samples and teacher observation. All written work is neat, accurate and monitored carefully. Overall the pupils enjoy their work in Mathematics.
The Science programme in the school which sets out to foster the child’s natural curiosity, to encourage the child to explore, develop and apply scientific ideas and concepts, is based mainly on the study of nature. Pupils enjoy exploring the magic of magnets, circuits and plant life. The teachers present the pupils with themes appropriate to their interests and ability level. Window sills are used for the display of Science and nature items. Splendid work is completed in making the pupils deeply aware of their own locality especially its flora and fauna. Pupils investigate plant and animal life. They undertake short field trips where they observe and record their findings. The exercises provide the pupils with an understanding of and sensitivity towards the necessity of conservation based on knowledge. Pupils’ attention is directed towards recycling and the proper disposal of litter. They experience group work and the sharing of activities.
A broad and interesting History programme is presented to the pupils. Links are made with the wider world through the use of maps, globes, atlases and well-chosen textbooks. The pupils are encouraged to explore and learn about their own environment. Particular emphasis is placed on local history, folklore and traditions. Pupils have access to a variety of reading materials to help them in their historic explorations of their own place. They also interview the older members of their community who engage with them in recalling memories of life as lived in the past. Through these discussions, the pupils become familiar with their surroundings and they learn to appreciate elements of the past, which have given them and their own locality a sense of identity. Pupils are trained in the art of investigating local history and compiling and recording the information to help them interpret for themselves life as lived long ago. Worthwhile projects have been carried out by pupils on a unique railway line, no longer in operation, and a flooding catastrophe that had immense social implications for the area. Visits are undertaken to areas of historical significance in the locality, such as castle and monastic ruins. The information recorded will become in its own way a resource for pupils in the future and in the meantime it facilitates much fruitful discussion.
Children enjoy their Geography studies. Local studies are given special attention and field trips are arranged from time to time. Pupils are introduced to drawing and illustrating maps, beginning with their own area and expanding further afield as they progress through the classes. They have at their disposal maps, globes, compasses, photographs, charts and atlases. Mythological stories and sagas are used as a method of linking History and Geography studies. In the senior classes more detailed studies are engaged in. As the pupils progress through the classes their geographical awareness is extended to studying about the island of Ireland, Europe and the wider world. Vocabulary extension and pupils’ descriptive powers are further developed through the widening of the pupils’ horizons. Pupils are encouraged to engage in and to speak about the various themes and activities.
The school plan for the visual arts sets out to promote creativity, imagination and aesthetic understanding in line with the school’s vision statement. The teachers plan and implement a broad and varied visual arts syllabus. All the strands are catered for and the subject is suitably integrated with other curricular areas, particularly with the Social and Environmental Studies, English, Irish, and Music. The pupils’ enjoyment as they engage in the various activities is apparent. They explore the elements of art using a variety of art media – painting, print- making, drawing, construction, fabric and fibre and clay. Creditable work is done in the strands of fabric and fibre and construction. For example, imaginative use was made of a plaster cast for the construction of a large scale robot. The pupils have access to a considerable range of materials. Play dough, clay, fabric and fibre, sponges, corks, potatoes, pebbles, shells, leaves, cones are among the materials available. As well as creating art, the pupils are given opportunities to look at and to respond to their own work and to particular works of art.
The pupils in the infant and junior room have fashioned mats from paper and thread. They have plaited thread to make headbands and waistbands in the Kerry colours. They enjoyed working collaboratively in designing a collage representation of the Children of Lir. They experienced the satisfaction of seeing transformed a variety of waste materials into robots and monsters. In the middle and senior classes the pupils make and illustrate their own storybooks. The visual arts programme provides opportunities for all pupils to experience success. Pupils with special needs and talents are encouraged to avail of these opportunities to engage with the school’s programme at the different levels. Mixed-ability group activities are engaged in to foster cooperation and a team spirit. The teachers expect the pupils to benefit from a computer art programme designed to experiment with colour in order to create images.
Music is given a central focus in the school. An appreciation of the musical heritage of the locality is inculcated in the pupils. The school plan for Music seeks to develop the pupils’ awareness of and response to a wide range of musical styles with particular emphasis on Irish Music. It helps the pupils to develop their music potential and to experience the satisfaction of being actively engaged in musical creativity. Listening, responding and performing are musical activities engaged in with fervour.
The pupils participate individually in song singing and in playing instrumental Music. The school band has some accomplished individual singers. Individual and choral singing are taught and developed by the teachers. The pupils play a variety of instruments that include tambourines, bodhráns, accordions, tin whistles and violins. Their performance is tuneful, spirited and cheerful. Music is imaginatively integrated with other curriculum areas. They perform at local religious and civic occasions singing a repertoire of quality songs among them some local ballads. The school has benefited from the DES grants and has added to the stock of Music resources. The teachers deserve praise for their dedication and enthusiasm.
Dramatic activities are engaged in and used as a teaching methodology throughout the classes. Real life experiences, topical news, story themes and folk tales from children’s books are translated into dramatic opportunities of providing all the pupils with an equal voice in the activities. Individual pupils excel at story telling in the time-honoured fashion of this locality. As an aspect of pupils’ preparation for life outside school, the teachers have been innovative in organising a visit by a group with disabilities that through dramatic presentation showed vividly what they do and achieve rather than what they cannot do. To further encourage pupils to see the value of drama, they were given a useful insight into how powerfully drama can enable people to overcome disability through movement and dance. It illustrated for the pupils a real life situation that prompted them to discuss an aspect of the arts that demonstrated to them a practical and useful application of this influential medium in real life. A graphic re-enactment by the pupils enabled them to understand concepts such as being different, acceptance, overcoming fears, and achieving aims. Dramatic opportunities
are linked to and very well integrated with Gaeilge, English, History, Social, Personal and Health Education, Music and the Visual Arts. The pupils benefit from the dramatic activities that are promoted at every class level.
The programme in Physical Education is limited by the lack of indoor facilities and the restricted outdoor facilities. Implementation of the Physical Education programme is dependent to a degree on clement weather conditions prevailing. In so far as activities can be undertaken, the Physical Education programme is based on activities that seek to develop the pupils’ physical skills and coordination. The teachers provide a balanced programme that includes Gaelic football and basketball. External tutors attend the school seasonally and they provide some elements of coaching. The Gaelic Athletic Association sponsors a football coach who visits the school for one hour every fortnight and all pupils participate. Infants to second class get coaching from an external tutor which is paid for by the board of management. The pupils in the infant and junior classes engage in a wide variety of games and exercises and these include gymnastics, dance, skipping and other exercises. The school has a good stock of equipment. The teachers monitor and supervise the coaching of all outside tutors. The pupils participate in tournaments under the auspices of Cumann na mBunscoil. The teachers are particularly careful in ensuring that the pupils are supervised always when engaging in outdoor activities.
There is a most pleasant atmosphere in the school attributable to good rapport and communication between the board of management, the teachers, the parents and the pupils. Pupils in the school are happy and courteous towards school personnel and visitors. The pupils’ social skills are developed in a creative way through the use of language, music, drama, PE and art. The practical use of information technology in the school plays an important role in the personal development of pupils who have difficulty in mastering handwriting skills. Health and safety measures are held to be of optimum importance. The board of management and the staff are aware of their duty of care in this regard. An RSE committee is in place in line with the school’s ethos. The policy states that the parent or guardian is acknowledged as the primary educator of the child and that the school works in a supportive role. Pupils enjoy teamwork and participate in games and Music as forms of communal activities. The development of the pupils’ interpersonal skills and their civic spirit is carefully nurtured within the school.
The school has a policy on assessment and the parents are informed of this. Each year during the last term all the pupils from first class up are assessed. Standardised tests are administered and these include Micra-T, Sigma-T, Mist and the Drumcondra reading tests. In September, at Christmas and at Easter, the learning support teacher and the class teachers administer diagnostic tests. These include Rain, Jackson phonics, Schonell and Diaphon tests. The parents are aware of the routine carrying out of these tests. Some parents come to the school of their own accord to discuss the results. In general when the need arises the parents are invited to discuss the results. Assessment is an essential component of the teaching and learning process in the school. It enables the teachers to identify particular learning needs so that appropriate teaching strategies can be planned. Records on pupil attainment and performance are documented and are kept safely in the school. Apart from the standardised tests, assessment is ongoing and teachers employ a variety of assessment tools. Teacher observation and teacher designed tests along with check lists for particular subjects are among the most common forms of assessment. Spelling tests and Mathematics tests are included also. Teachers keep folders that contain key examples of pupils’ work that act as an informal type of assessment. In general, the teachers keep accurate and informative records on each pupil’s progress.
A whole school plan for learning support has been devised and is being implemented. The learning support teacher is based in the school and is shared with two other schools in the vicinity. The teacher spends nine hours in the base school each week. The school policy states that the principal aim of the learning support service is to optimise the teaching and learning process in order to enable the pupils to achieve adequate levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy before leaving primary school. Literacy is the main focus of these interventions. The learning support guidelines are being implemented. The pupils are selected following identification of needs as a result of screening and diagnostic testing and with the parental permission. Individual and group instruction is practised. The learning support teacher provides in-class teaching with the different classes once or twice a week. The planning is guided by ongoing testing, the monitoring of results and by maintaining regular contact with the class teachers and with the parents. The teacher meets with the parents at the beginning of the school year and at parent/teacher meetings. Daily contact is made with the parents through a homework diary system and a scrapbook record for the infant pupils. The teacher’s planning and preparation is thorough and in keeping with the needs of the pupils. Individual Profile and Learning Programmes are kept for all the pupils. The learning support teacher has gathered a generous supply of materials and equipment along with suitable textbooks and readers. The teacher avails of suitable teaching programmes, for example Wordshark, Starspell, Numbershark, to enrich the lesson content. The pupils are making steady progress.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development as identified in the evaluation:
· The board of management is to be commended for its work and achievement in providing for a high quality education for the pupils of the school.
· The work of the staff is characterised by a high degree of dedication and commitment and pupils are taught with care and sensitivity. Overall standards of work are commendable. The success in Irish, English, Social Environmental and Scientific education, and in Arts Education is particularly noteworthy.
· By using the environment creatively in the curriculum, the school’s work in inculcating in the pupils a sense of pride in their locality ensures that its traditions and customs are being strengthened and revivified.
· The school provision for learning support for pupils with special needs is of great benefit to the pupils and is to be praised for its good organisation and effectiveness.
· The parental involvement with the school contributes notably to the overall success of the school.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that the school accommodation be substantially improved. There is need for greater classroom space, a general purpose room, learning support room, and ancillary rooms and outdoor facilities.
· It is recommended that the post-holders’ duties should be reviewed and that duties should be more evenly distributed.
· It is recommended that the school establish a parents’ association as a matter of priority so that the collaboration between the school and parents may be further strengthened.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.