An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Doire Bháis, Co. Mhaigh Eo
Uimhir rolla: 13152U
Date of inspection: 21 February 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
A whole-school evaluation of SN Derrywash was undertaken in February, 2007. The evaluation covered key aspects of the work of the school in the areas of management, teaching and learning and supports for pupils. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and History. The representatives of the parents’ association met with the inspector. The inspector interacted with the pupils, examined pupils’ work, reviewed school planning documentation, observed teaching and learning and provided feedback to individual teachers. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. 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.
This five-teacher school is located some four miles south-west of Castlebar, county town for Mayo and it is fast becoming a suburban community. It provides service for pupils coming from the adjoining townlands of Saleen Road, Kilboyne, Mountdaisy, Cloonsunna, Derrywash, Annagh, Cloonkeen, Derrylea and Westport Road. The school is located in a positive socio-economic area with either one or two parents of most families attending this school in full-time employment. The school is the only public or community utility in this area and it operates as the focal point for this community.
The following table provides an overview of the current enrolment and staffing in the school:
Total number of pupils enrolled
Total number of teaching staff
Number of teaching staff working in support teaching roles
Number of mainstream classes
Number of special needs assistants
The board of management is properly constituted according to article 14 of the Education Act, 1998 and the Rules and procedures of Boards of Management (November2003). Board meetings are well attended. Board members display their commitment and dedication through their voluntary activities, their willingness to share their expertise and their diligence in performing their designated roles. Relevant correspondence, policies and agenda are prepared and distributed in advance of each meeting, records of decisions taken are maintained and financial accounts are examined and signed by the chairperson at the end of the school year. The board made a detailed and professional power point presentation on its own work and on the schools’ activities during the pre-evaluation meeting. The school is well resourced generally with curricular support materials including a large quantity of audio-visual and information technology equipment. The chairman and principal meet regularly between meetings on matters of concern and the teaching staff acknowledges the ongoing support they receive from the chairman and the board. A commitment to the pupils and staff is further indicated in their efforts to totally revamp and upgrade the existing school building.
The school building is of a split-level design with the original building dating back to 1887. Although totally refurbished and extended in 1997, and carefully maintained and resourced since then, it now requires further extension and development to meet the needs of local population growth as a commuting suburban area of Castlebar. It is recommended as an integral part of this process, that the board seeks to extend the school site and conducts a structural survey on the current building to ascertain its value in the redevelopment project. The project may require the total replacement of the building in the short-term in order to meet the educational requirements of this community into the future.
The principal is a committed hard-working leader who promotes open communication with all the partners and has a clear coherent vision for the future development of the school. She is highly regarded by the board of management, by parents’ representatives and staff and she displays professionalism and leadership in her promotion of school activities. She is to be commended also for her pioneering work in promoting road safety awareness and in contributing to the national debate on children’s education in the area. The pupils from fifth and sixth classes engaged in active research on the theme entitled ‘Stopping the Carnage’ in their local area, and were aided by An Gárda Síochána, Mayo County Council and parents. Their report was acknowledged by The Road Safety Association of Ireland as a significant and welcome contribution to this debate.
The in-school management team consists of principal, vice- principal and one special duties post-holder, although all of the staff members engage constructively in school decision making and in the development of school policies. Staff meetings are organised regularly, minutes are kept and progress is recorded and a definite structure is identified for implementing decisions. In their current review of the school plan it is important to involve the parents proactively in the process and to have their role formally recorded. During this process, it is important to review the responsibilities allocated to the posts to include a balance of organisational, pastoral and curricular activities. This would enable the post-holders to promote a clear structure of middle management and to influence school development and implementation strategies.
The school has clear procedures for communicating with the parent body, through annual parent-teacher meetings, informal interactions with parents whilst dropping off or collecting children, school notices, induction meetings, school masses and concerts. The involvement of parents in the organisation and support of school activities is actively encouraged in the school. The parents played an active supporting role in the conduct of night-time field-work during the road safety research project and they are also engaged with the Green Flag application process. Parents are also involved in organising fund-raising, field sports, swimming and extra-curricular activities throughout the school year. Parents support all school celebrations such as school concerts and public activities and they acknowledge the school’s place as the centrepiece of the community.
The pupils demonstrate excellent behaviour in school. Respect and courtesy are fostered among pupils and between pupils and adults. The school has prepared a well-defined code of behaviour which promotes a positive approach to pupil management and a supportive stimulating environment is evident throughout the school. Interactions between teachers and pupils are warm and supportive and every effort is made to promote the intrinsic value of each individual. Pupils display confidence and positive self-esteem in their interactions and they take responsibility for litter control and recycling through their involvement in the Green Schools initiative.
A comprehensive whole- school plan has been collated over a number of years and it addresses all of the major issues relevant to the operation of the school. It includes organisational, pastoral and curricular elements and it is based on the current school context and on principles of good practice. Some of the aspects covered in the school plan are currently up for review. It is recommended that structured parental involvement be facilitated as part of this review process. A school booklet includes key messages from some of the policies and this is given to parents of potential school entrants in the community during the enrolment process. Arrangements are being put in place to make the school plan available for perusal to the general parent body and also to facilitate their comments and contributions.
Teachers engage in comprehensive individual planning of a long-term and short-term nature, and they use a wide range of supportive illustrative and concrete resources. The emphasis placed on using primary sources in History during the course of this inspection is particularly commendable. This approach is evident in all classrooms. The documents used were locally sourced and had powerful and effective impact. The staff is to be commended for the quality of presentations generally. The classrooms are stimulating and colourful places of work, the teachers make frequent use of both human and material resources and the pupils engage successfully in their learning programmes. The excellent use of the environment was evident in the cross-curricular themes and in the Continuity and Change strand in History. Monthly progress reports outline the systematic development themes adopted and they indicate general learning outcomes at the various classroom levels.
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, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (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.
Cuirtear béim chreidiúnach ar mhúineadh na Gaeilge sa scoil seo. Is inmholta an úsáid a bhaintear as ócáidí scoile, tionólacha agus deiseanna seachtainiúla comhrá, chun stáitse a thabhairt do na daltaí a ndul chun cinn sa Ghaeilge a léiriú. Tá dearcadh dearfach ag na daltaí orthu féin mar chainteoirí agus bíonn siad sásta dul sa tseans ag úsáid frásaí nua le linn ócáidi cumarsáide. Déantar leathnú forásach ar chláir teanga na ndaltaí sna naíonáin, baintear úsáid as rolphlé, obair bheirte drámaíocht agus grúpobair chun idirchumarsaíd a chothú agus comhghaoltar na téamaí cainte le gnéithe eile curaclaim. Tógtar ar an obair seo go leanúnach. Baintear dea-úsáid as prionta agus léaráidí i ngach seomra ranga chun an teanga a léiriú agus bíonn cúinní spéise agus taispeántais leis an teanga sna seomraí ranga agus ionaid phoiblí. Is fiú anois proifilí aonarach a chruthú chun monatóireacht leanúnach a dhéanamh ar dhul chun cinn na ndaltaí.
Úsáidtear an clár léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta mar chláir tacaíochta teanga agus baintear úsáid as sraith leabhair go príomha mar ábhar léitheoireachta sa teanga. B’fhiú anois breis infheistíochta a dhéanamh i leabhair Ghaeilge sna leabharlainn scoile agus breis cláir teanga a sholáthar chun raon taithí na ndaltaí sa teanga a leathnú
Commendable effort is placed on the teaching of Irish in this school .Excellent use is made of school events to provide pupils with opportunities to positively present their command of the language during assembly times and other school activities. The pupils have a positive view of themselves as Irish speakers, they interact confidently within a restricted language register and they can extend and vary their learned sequences to new and appropriate circumstances. The pupils’ language register is positively extended in the infant section, use is made of role play, pair interactions, drama, and group work to provide language interactive occasions. The practice of their expressive pieces is integrated into other curricular areas. This approach is reflected throughout the school. Print and other visual stimuli are used to showcase language and there are language interest areas in classrooms and in public display areas.
Reading and writing activities are used as supportive learning elements in the language programme and a book scheme is used mainly as the classroom reading material. It is recommended that individual pupil profiles be created to monitor pupils’ progress in this area. Further investment in appropriate and graded reading materials in Irish is recommended, to support the interactive language programme and to extend pupils’ learning experiences.
The English language classes are taught very effectively in this school and pupils are making excellent progress to a level commensurate with their abilities. Considerable emphasis is placed in all classes on developing oral skills and on fostering higher order thinking skills. A variety of approaches is used including circle time, talk and discussion, active learning, mime, drama, play and games. Pupils were appropriately challenged in developing their listening and speaking skills. Pupils display confidence in oral expression and effectively communicate their ideas and opinions. One pupil receives additional language-support in English and is making good progress in integrating and interacting with his peers. There is commendable emphasis on the teaching of phonics through a structured developmental programme. Supplementary and effective learning- support also assists in the development of pupils’ skills in this area.
Almost all pupils read confidently and fluently and pupils’ success is reflected in scores attained on standardised reading tests. Parental involvement in supporting pupils’ interest and competence in reading is encouraged. A wide range of suitably graded library books is available in each classroom for supplementary reading. It was evident that pupils engage in writing in a wide range of genres including factual reporting, book reviews, news items, poems and personal writing. The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) could be further utilised to enhance pupils’ skills generally and for using the World Wide Web as a source for research. Samples of pupils’ writing are attractively displayed and are regularly monitored by the teachers.
A well-developed school plan outlines the work to be undertaken in this curricular area and includes all the strands and strand units as well as a list of the concrete materials available in the school. The development of appropriate mathematical language skills is addressed in each classroom and the range of methodologies observed ensures that pupils experience practical workshops and hands-on learning occasions. Textbooks supplemented by teacher-designed worksheets form the basis and sequence of the topics covered and mathematical areas of interest are evident in every classroom. The pupils display an ability to investigate, recognise, classify and describe mathematical properties and they use charts and tables to interpret population and change in their local community and integrated with the project on road safety. Standardised norm-referenced tests, teacher checklists and teacher-designed problem solving tests are used to measure progress and pupils are attaining above average attainment levels generally.
There is a commendable effort placed on developing pupils’ skills as historians in this school and the rich and colourful background of local history forms the basis for this approach. Local history is linked to national and international events and emphasis is placed on reviewing and interpreting different perspectives. Artefacts and primary materials are gathered and interpreted and the variety and design involved in manifesting the strand Continuity and Change during the inspection process are commendable. Reconstruction of past events using design and fabrication, construction, drama, analysing evidence, fieldwork and exploring alternatives ensured that emphasis was placed on developing thinking skills and on integrating History with the other curricular areas. Pupils’ interest was enhanced through the use of story, legends, folklore and family history, family charts and family correspondence. Pupils speak knowledgeably and enthusiastically about each area studied.
A range of assessment tools is used to assess pupils’ competencies. Progress records are held centrally and shared with parents during parent-teacher meetings. These include standardised tests, spelling and word checklists, teacher questioning, homework and teacher-designed tests and tasks. Monthly progress records are also collated and held centrally as well as individual and personal profiles. Test results are used to identify learning needs of pupils and to guide mainstream teacher and learning-support teacher interventions. It is recommended that individual test results be collated sequentially by class standard and utilised primarily to bolster individual programmes and to deliver a differentiated curriculum. Time is also used during teacher meetings to review case by case progress and to facilitate collective analysis on individual pupils. Consideration should now be given to the development of user-friendly assessment modes across the full range of curricula in order to monitor individual pupil progress and to guide the differentiation principle.
An effective co-ordinated developmental learning-support programme is delivered is this school in accordance with the Learning-Support Guidelines (2000) for teachers. A strong collaborative approach is evident through team teaching and different strategies are implemented following the receipt of various professional development courses. Individual learning and teaching programmes are developed in conjunction with class teachers and priority targets are set and monitored for the individual pupils. More emphasis on parental and pupil involvement could be included in this planning process. Pupils frequently experience success in the process and are fully integrated with their peers in a gradual manner. The range of work modules could be extended to include specific modules on developing self-esteem and confidence to complement existing excellent practices.
A number of pupils from minority groups attend this school and both language-support and special provision for Traveller pupils is offered. All pupils are well integrated into mainstream classes and differences in language and culture are celebrated as a positive learning opportunity. Consideration should be given to identify the specific learning outcomes to be achieved between classroom work and the support services and in the provision of alternative models of support. This should include the use of differentiation and alternative modes of intervention, such as field-work and home visits for individual pupils as appropriate. As part of this development strategy a review of the role and practices of the Visiting Teacher of Travellers should also be undertaken in conjunction with the other principals included in this school cluster. Travellers themselves need to be central in this review process and their changing needs should be reflected in the school plan.
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: