An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Saint Joseph’s National School

Doon Road, Ballybunion,

County  Kerry

Uimhir rolla: 13233U


Date of inspection: 30 April 2009





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


School response to the report



Whole-school evaluation

A whole-school evaluation of St. Joseph’s N.S., Ballybunion was undertaken in April 2009. 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 Visual Arts. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.



Introduction – school context and background

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




1.     Quality of school management


1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

St. Joseph’s N.S. is a mainstream Catholic school under the trusteeship of the Sisters of Mercy and the patronage of the Bishop of Kerry. Boys attend the school until they have completed first class whereupon they transfer to Ballybunion B.N.S. The board of management of each school has agreed to the amalgamation of the two schools once a proposed new building has been erected. St. Joseph’s mission statement outlines the school’s ethos and refers to its commitment to the building of an inclusive school community in which the full potential of each pupil is developed. The school is designated as serving in an area of disadvantage and is part of the School Support Programme (SSP); Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative.


1.2 Board of management

The board of management provides good leadership to the school. Meetings are convened regularly and finances are very carefully managed.  The board has availed of Department of Education grants to develop the school’s accommodation. The building and its grounds are very well maintained and provide a safe, suitable and attractive setting for the pupils and the staff. The board is highly commended in this regard. It is noted that a few pupils are above the recommended age for the classes to which they are assigned. It is therefore recommended that the board comply with rule 64 (6) and (7) of the “Rules for National Schools” and Department circular 11/01 which relate to the valid enrolment of pupils and to the retention and promotion of pupils so as to ensure that they are of an appropriate age when transferring to post-primary school.


1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team comprises a teaching principal, a deputy principal and two special duties post holders. The principal is highly diligent and very organised in the discharging of her duties. She has established very good relationships with the board, parents, staff and wider school community. She combines her teaching and administrative roles very capably and ensures that the needs of the pupils are central to decision making processes. She is ably supported by the deputy principal and the post holders. They work in a highly collaborative manner in the best interests of the pupils and the school. It is now recommended that the board keep the responsibilities assigned to the in-school management team under review on a regular basis thereby ensuring that the duties assigned to them reflect changing school priorities.


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Relationships between the school and the wider school community are of a very high standard. The recently established parents’ association has already begun to make a significant contribution to the school. Representatives of the association report that they are very satisfied with the educational provision made for the pupils. Parents are facilitated in playing an active part in supporting their children’s education and initiatives such as Maths for Fun, Story Sacks and shared reading programmes are regular features of school life. Parents are afforded ample opportunity to secure full information on the progress of their children. End of year school reports are communicated to all parents and parent teacher meetings are held annually. Parental involvement in the planning process is limited, however. It is therefore recommended that the school explore how best it could involve parents in the continuing development of the school plan and all its aspects.


1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils is of a very high quality. The teachers utilise a wide range of very successful classroom management strategies and the pupils were observed to work co-operatively with the teachers and their peers. The code of behaviour and anti-bullying policies are implemented in a consistent manner. The school has established commendable relationships with the two pre-school facilities in the town and with the local post-primary school. This contributes significantly to the smooth transition of pupils between establishments. It is evident that the pupils are valued members of the school community and are treated with fairness and respect.



2.     Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

Whole-school planning is undertaken as a collaborative activity by members of the teaching staff. The quality of the organisational policies is of a very high standard. It is recommended however that the current Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy be reviewed so as to provide teachers and parents with a clear outline of the content of RSE lessons to be addressed at each class level. Comprehensive curriculum plans in all subject areas have also been devised. A very good DEIS plan has been formulated in which specific school improvement targets are outlined. The school is highly commended for the significant progress being made in relation to the attainment of these targets. A whole-school development plan has also been devised. It is now recommended that this plan be further developed, in line with the DEIS plan, and that priority areas, particularly in relation to the review of curriculum plans, be outlined and addressed over an identified period of time.  


All teachers prepare high quality long and short term plans in preparation for their work and progress records are completed on a monthly basis. Teachers are commended in particular for the manner in which this planning assists them in the delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum to the pupils. Very suitable lesson content, appropriate to the ages and abilities of the pupils, is outlined in this planning and care is taken to identify suitable resources to support the learning and teaching process. A range of appropriate teaching approaches is also identified.  It is now recommended that further consideration be given to the identification of a range of activities which promote collaborative and co-operative learning among the pupils.


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



Múintear an Ghaeilge go féiltiúil tríd an scoil agus cothaíonn na hoidí dearcadh dearfach i leith na teanga iarracht chreidiúnach á déanamh ag an bhfoireann cur chuige cumarsáideach a fhorbairt i measc na ndaltaí agus chonacthas mórán samplaí de theagasc a bhí ar ardchaighdeán. Leagtar béim inmholta ar chothú na tuisceana, ar an bhfilíocht agus rainn agus ar an scéalaíocht, agus moltar go mór an bhéim a leagtar ar an drámaíocht. Aithrisíonn na daltaí a lán dánta agus rann agus dírítear aird inmolta ar dhea-fhoghraíocht, ar bhlas, luas agus rithim na teanga. foclóir leathan ag na daltaí agus tuiscint fheidhmiúil ar struchtúr agus ar chuspóir na mbriathra. stór an-leathan de nathanna cainte ar eolas acu freisin. B’fhiú, anois, breis bhéime a chur ar úsáid teanga agus deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí an foclóir agus na frásaí atá ar eolas acu a úsáid chun a líofacht a fhorbairt.


Moltar caighdeán na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta sa GhaeilgeMúintear an léitheoireacht ar bhealach an-struchtúrtha, le húsáid lipéad agus gníomhaíochtaí cuí. Déanann na hoidí cúram breá maidir le scileanna tuisceana, aireachtála agus foclóra a fhorbairt le linn ceachtanna sa léitheoireacht. Léann na daltaí na téacsanna ranga go cruinn agus tugtar faoi deara go bhfuil tuiscint an-sásúil ar fad ag mórchuid acu ar a bhfuil á léamh. Moltar abairtí iomlána i nGaeilge a chur ar taispeáint mórthimpeall na seomraí.


Forbraítear scileanna na scríbhneoireachta go tomhaiste. Ag leibhéil ar leith tugtar neart deiseanna do na daltaí tabhairt faoi réimsí éagsúla scríbhneoireachta faoi mar a mholtar sa churaclam. Cothaítear fonn scríbhneoireachta i measc na ndaltaí trí chleachtaí éagsúla agus trí thaithí spéisiúil i scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil a sholáthar dóibh.Is léir go bhfuil caighdeán le moladh á bhaint amach ag a lán daltaí.  



Irish is taught in a pleasant manner throughout the school and the teachers display a positive attitude towards the language. A credible effort is made by the team to develop a communicative approach among the pupils. Many examples of high quality teaching were observed. Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on the development of the understanding of poetry and rhymes and of stories and the emphasis placed on drama is highly commended. The pupils recite a range of poems and rhymes and laudable attention is being paid to phonetic correctness, phonology, accent, pace and rhythm of the language. Pupils have acquired a wide vocabulary and also have a functional understanding of the structure and purpose of verbs. They also possess a wealth of useful phrases. It is now recommended that increased emphasis be placed on the use of language and that more opportunities are given to pupils to use the vocabulary and phrases acquired to further develop their fluency.


The standard of reading and writing in Irish is commended. Reading is taught in a very structured manner, with the help of appropriate resources and activities. Teachers foster comprehension, auditory skills and vocabulary during reading lessons.  The pupils read classroom texts in a fluent manner and it is noted that many pupils have developed a very good understanding of this reading material. It is recommended that full sentences in Irish be displayed in the classrooms.


Writing skills are developed systematically. At each level the pupils are given ample opportunities to write in a range of different writing contexts as is recommended in the curriculum. The desire to write is developed in the pupils through the provision of interesting formal writing activities. It is evident that the praiseworthy standards are attained by many pupils. 



Some very good work is done in the development of pupils’ oral language abilities and all pupils display satisfactory oral language and speaking skills. A wide range of poetry is studied at all class levels. Pupils’ listening skills are very well addressed. All teachers commendably avail of cross-curricular opportunities to develop and extend pupils’ vocabulary. Very good drama activities allow pupils to become familiar with the use of gesture and movement to extend meaning and they respond through mime and role-playing to stories, rhymes and songs heard and learnt. This good practise is commended. It is recommended however, that discrete language lessons be organised at all class levels and that these lessons focus on the objectives as outlined in the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Pupils might also be provided with an increased range of opportunities to engage in pupil-pupil discussions, debates and collaborative working activities so as to further their cognitive abilities and to develop their emotional and imaginative responses to language


Reading is very well taught throughout the school and pupils are, in general, achieving very good standards in literacy. A commendable emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ phonological and phonemic awareness skills. Pupils utilise a wide variety of word identification strategies and they read with fluency, accuracy and understanding. In the lower classes the teachers read stories aloud to pupils on a regular basis and the effective use of large-format books successfully develops pupils’ awareness of the conventions of print. More emphasis however might be placed at these levels on the use of language experience materials. Consideration might also be given to delaying the introduction of a structured reading scheme until the pupils’ language competence is advanced enough to support reading development. In the middle and senior classes, the novel is effectively utilised to promote pupils’ ability to reflect on literature and to develop their comprehension skills. The home-school-community liaison teacher plays an active role in the promotion of literacy through home/school links.  In order to support the good work observed, it is now recommended that the school purchase a graded reading scheme so as to ensure that all pupils are provided with reading material commensurate to their abilities.


The quality of teaching and learning of writing is of a very good standard. The pupils write for a variety of purposes and in a variety of different genres. They display a commendable ability to organise, clarify, interpret and extend experience though writing. Organised activities are well integrated with other curriculum areas and there is evidence of good use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the development of the writing process. An increased emphasis might however be placed on the organisation of free-writing activities for the pupils.


3.2 Mathematics

The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken effectively throughout the school and pupil attainment in Mathematics is good. Lessons are well structured and paced and learning outcomes are clearly identified. Mathematical resources, posters and other visual stimuli are used to enhance the learning environment and, in a few classrooms, mathematical investigation areas are organised and pupil work is displayed. Age-appropriate concrete materials are effectively employed to support learning and a well-structured range of early mathematical activities is provided in the infant classrooms. Good use is made of active methodologies which provide the pupils with opportunities to develop their mathematical skills. Learning tasks are differentiated to take account of individual differences and teachers provide individual assistance to those pupils experiencing difficulties. This good practice is highly commended. Pupils display a good knowledge of mathematical concepts and they apply these appropriately. Pupils’ written work is neatly presented and in some cases the inclusion of illustrative diagrams was noted. This good practice might now be further developed and extended to all class levels. It is recommended that an increased range of learning experiences, which provide pupils with regular opportunities to collaborate on tasks and to co-operate in their learning, be provided.


3.3 Visual Arts

Very good teaching and learning are evident in the Visual Arts. All strands and strand units of the curriculum are systematically addressed. The pupils are provided with regular opportunities to explore a wide range of suitable media in arts activities and a very appropriate balance is struck between the creation of two and three-dimensional art. Lessons are organised which facilitate the pupils to develop the skills of looking and responding to art and they present as confident and able when asked to discuss and reflect on their own work and the work of others. Teachers display a commendable understanding of the need to develop the pupils’ knowledge of the Elements of Art and, as a result, significant progress in pupil learning in the Visual Arts is noted. Attractive displays of pupils’ work are organised in the classroom and many teachers maintain a portfolio of samples of work completed.


3.4 Assessment

A range of assessment modes is used in the school. Teachers regularly verify pupils’ learning during the lessons observed. Homework assigned supports the attainment of teaching and learning objectives. Pupils’ written work is regularly monitored and the quality of the work is commented upon. Consideration might now be given to the writing of evaluative comments which outline strategies through which pupils might be assisted to further improve their work. Standardised tests in literacy and numeracy are administered annually and computerised records are carefully maintained. These are effectively utilised to identify pupils in need of support and to track pupil progress at class and individual pupil level. This good practice is highly commended. In the recording of pupil progress, some teachers maintain a profile on pupil attainment while others record pupil progress in tests administered. It is now recommended that the school’s assessment policy be reviewed. This review should outline the school’s approach to assessment for and of learning and address a means through which pupil progress across the curriculum areas might be recorded.



4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The support team consists of a learning support teacher who is shared with another school in the parish and a home-school-community co-ordinator who provides support to the school for seven hours and twenty minutes each week. Support for pupils with special educational needs and learning difficulties is of a very high standard in this school. The early identification of pupils in need of support is prioritised by the school. Through a combination of teacher observation and the administration of the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST), pupils in the infant classes, who may be experiencing difficulties, are identified and very effective support initiatives in literacy are organised. The learning support teacher administers a range of diagnostic tests to identify the specific difficulties of those pupils selected for support. Using the data generated from these tests, she devises very good Individual Education Programmes (IEPs). In the lessons observed specific learning objectives, which address the pupils’ identified areas in need of development, were very effectively addressed. It is apparent that this targeted support is of significant benefit to the pupils and that they are making very good progress in their learning. Some support is also provided to pupils in the senior classes. It is recommended that consideration be given to the cessation of this intervention to allow for more intensive support in the infant and junior levels and increased support in the area of numeracy.  


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

The quality of the support provided to pupils and parents by the rural home-school community co-ordinator is highly commended. An extensive range of initiatives and courses is organised and parental participation in these events is very high. Parents are welcomed as partners and are encouraged and supported in taking an active role in their children’s education. It is evident that parents, pupils and the school benefit from their engagement in the arranged interventions.



5.     Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas:

  • The board of management, the staff, the parents and the wider school community work collaboratively in the best interests of the school and its pupils
  • The quality of teaching in the school is of a very high standard. Teachers display a keen sense of professionalism and they interact in a caring manner with the pupils while keeping their best interests in mind
  • The quality of pupil learning is very good and it is evident that all pupils are making significant progress in their learning commensurate with their abilities.
  • The quality of support for pupils is highly commended and the interventions organised by the rural co-ordinator and the learning support teacher are of a very high standard and contribute significantly to the overall success of the school


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

  • It is recommended that the present oral language plan be reviewed and that discrete oral language lessons, which focus on the development of identified objectives across the four strand units of the oral language curriculum, be developed
  • It is recommended that the school’s assessment policy be reviewed. This review should outline the school’s approach to assessment for and of learning more clearly and address a means through which pupil progress across the curriculum areas might be recorded.
  • It is recommended that pupils be provided with an increased range of opportunities to collaborate on tasks and to co-operate in learning activities. This might include the organisation of more activities which promote pupil-pupil discussions, debates and project work


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.





Published, November 2009







                                                                                                                            School response to the report


Submitted by the Board of Management





Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

  1. The Board of Management should comply with Rule 64 Sections 6&7.
  2. We note the need to allocate more discrete time to Oral Language paying due attention to the objectives across the 4 strand units.
  3. It is recommended that we provide an increased range of opportunities for pupils to collaborate & co-operate on learning tasks.
  4. We observe the need to review our schools Assessment policy.



Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          


  1. Parents’ will be made aware of Rules for National Schools Rule 64 sections (6) & (7) prior to the enrolment of their child.
  2. Upon review of our English Plean Scoile, greater emphasis will be placed on discrete Oral Language Lessons at each class level.
  3. We have compiled a list of activities to promote co-operative and collaborative learning across the curriculum. We have recently acquired additional resources to facilitate the teaching of oral language in every class.
  4. The Assessment policy of our school will be reviewed on our In-School Planning Day.