An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
St Patrick’s National School
Uimhir rolla: 13379C
Date of inspection: 13 February 2009
A whole-school evaluation of St. Patrick’s
The school participates in the Pilot Project on Modern Languages in the Primary School funded by the Department of Education and Science. The school is also served by a learning-support teacher, who is based in the other parish school.
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 (shared)
Part-time secretary (on needs basis only)
The well-rounded holistic education provided by staff is embodied in the school’s motto Love to Learn, Learn to Love. The school’s mission statement and governing philosophy are underpinned by a concern for the moral, intellectual, cultural, emotional and social needs of all pupils. These visionary statements are clearly articulated in the school plan and are very evident in the caring, respectful relationships fostered, the very effective teaching and learning experiences provided and the highly motivating learning environments created. A well-ordered, secure and happy atmosphere is provided for all pupils, which is expounded by a strong community spirit and a sense of pride in the achievements and successes of the school.
members are highly committed to the work of the school. The chairperson
maintains regular formal and informal contact with the pupils and staff. Board
members are well informed and display a varied range of skills. Five
of the members are also parents of the school. The board maintains detailed minutes of its meetings
and the clearly laid out financial accounts are audited externally. Agenda and
draft policies are circulated in advance of meetings, in line with best
practice. A number of board members have recently received Department-funded
training on the role of the board as a corporate entity. This training was
organised by the
The board praised the enthusiasm, professionalism and hard-working ethic of staff and the positive relationships nurtured. Board members also paid tribute to the strong community spirit fostered in the school, the openness of staff towards continuous improvement and change, the high expectation set by teachers and the very good educational standards achieved. The board reported that pupils adjust very well in their transition to post-primary school and achieve well subsequently.
The board is cognisant of its statutory obligations and of the requirement to comply with Departmental regulations. The board has been actively involved in the development, review and endorsement of a wide range of administrative and organisational policies and procedures. The safety and risk analysis statement, updated in 2008, is very comprehensive and clearly presented. An annual report was issued from the board to parents at the end of the previous school year, in line with section 20 of the Education Act, 1998. This practice is commended. The board allocates an annual budget towards the ongoing professional development of the teaching staff, in line with its responsibility as outlined in Section 9j of the Education Act, 1998. The possibility of establishing a parents’ association affiliated to the National Parents’ Council should be kept under review to facilitate the ongoing meaningful engagement of parents in the whole-school planning and development process.
The board is commended on the very well maintained accommodation provided for pupils and staff. The minutes of board meetings indicate that the school has been unsuccessful in a recent application for grant aid to complete an extension. Notwithstanding the school’s declining enrolment trends, the board has been considering possibilities with regard to the provision of a learning-support room, general-purposes room and the further development of the playing pitch. In planning the way forward, it is recommended that the board draw up a three-year strategic plan to clearly identify priority goals and strategies to achieve these goals. The possibility of developing a school brochure and school website as a means of highlighting the achievements of the school should be explored.
The quality of leadership in the school is exemplary. The accomplished principal has a long association with the school and performs her teaching and administrative duties with complete commitment, diligence, skill and initiative. She adopts a highly professional, dedicated and most conscientious approach to her duties and places a very strong focus on learning outcomes. Official records are carefully maintained and filed appropriately. She has established open lines of communication within the staff and school community and has fostered very positive working relationships characterised by a culture of shared responsibility. High expectations are set for the staff and pupils, ongoing professional reflection is encouraged and continuous improvement in teaching and learning standards is promoted. School activities are well organised and a discernible sense of routine, order and structure is evident.
The principal is capably assisted by the special duties teacher, who complements the skills of the principal and gives generously and enthusiastically of her time. A proactive approach is embraced and much work has been undertaken in progressing the school development planning and review process. The team meets regularly and works in partnership on all whole-school issues. The recently appointed learning-support teacher, who works in a shared capacity, has embraced the collegial teamwork spirit. There is a shared sense of pride fostered in the work of the school.
The parents regard the school as the focal point of the local community and provide commendable support. Notwithstanding the absence of a parents’ association, due to the small school size, very good channels of communication are nurtured between home and school. General information on school achievements and upcoming school events is communicated to parents through a series of newsletters and by regular correspondence. Parents of new pupils receive an information pack containing a copy of pertinent organisational policies to support their transition to school. Positive links are fostered with the local community through the school’s involvement in a range of environmental initiatives, and handwriting and art competitions. Parents are also encouraged to share their expertise in the classroom. Commendably, the school has produced an impressive publication and accompanying CD containing a whole-school repertoire of songs for primary school children. The additional work involving parents, pupils and staff in this initiative is laudable.
Parents’ representatives from the board of management expressed a high level of satisfaction with the work of the school, the broad curriculum provided, the high standards achieved, the strong affirmation and reward systems in place for pupils, the regular communication between school and home and the school’s positive reputation among parents. Parents praised the highly motivated staff, the inclusive atmosphere, the effective management of school routines and activities and the opportunities provided for pupils to engage in a range of community-based initiatives. Parents also made reference to the declining pupil enrolment, the restricted physical space available in the school for learning-support, and the need for a general-purposes room.
Very good efforts are made by the school to inform parents of pupils’ progress. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually at the beginning of each school year to discuss pupils’ progress and set future goals. Additional informal meetings are arranged as necessary. Plans are in place to issue written progress reports to all parents at the end of the current school year. Parents are also encouraged to communicate with teachers through the use of homework journals. It is recommended that the existing ‘parents as partners’ policy, which is represented graphically, be developed to include a more detailed reference to the approaches and strategies used to facilitate the meaningful involvement of parents in the planning and development work of the school.
The management of pupils in this school is very effective. Supervision rosters and agreed procedures ensure a high level of routine, order and safety at break times. Pupils are very courteous and impeccably behaved, and display a hard-working ethic, high levels of cooperation and a very good interest in their work. Self-discipline, fair play and high standards of responsible behaviour among pupils are expected, encouraged and affirmed. The comprehensive and coherent code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy are familiar to pupils, and are implemented fairly and consistently in collaboration with parents. A spirit of mutual respect is fostered and positive behaviour is rewarded through the ‘well done ticket system.’ This practice is highly commended. Pupils are given equal access and participation and are heavily involved in sport and extra-curricular activities. Pupils’ individual achievements and successes are celebrated. The regular use of whole-school assemblies to build pupils’ self-esteem and confidence levels through performances in drama, song, poetry and dance, is praiseworthy.
The quality of whole-school planning in this school is very good and the school is at an advanced stage of cyclical review. Priority areas are targeted at the commencement of each school year and staff members have availed of external guidance from the national support services on an ongoing basis. A wide range of organisational, administrative and curricular policies is presented in a structured format, indexed clearly and customised to the specific needs of the school. The organisational policies were developed in consultation with the staff, the board and a representative sample of parents. In addition, the greater parent body is invited through written communication to comment and respond to policies drafted. This practice is to be commended. All draft policies are debated, carefully considered and finally agreed and ratified at board level. The school’s enrolment policy should be reviewed to ensure that it complies with legislation regarding the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs.
The curricular policies developed in each subject are comprehensive, user-friendly and reflect the content, strategies, methodologies and principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Very useful guidance is provided on linkage, integration and assessment to support curriculum implementation. It would be beneficial to include details in some curricular policies as to how parents could support pupils’ learning. An audit of the school’s ICT software packages should also be included in the school plan. Consideration should be given to the production of a booklet containing a summarised version of pertinent policies for parents.
The quality of planning and preparation provided by all teachers is of a high standard and has a very positive impact on teaching and learning outcomes. A suitably-designed whole-school planning template is used appropriately to guide short-term planning. The specific learning objectives identified for each class level effectively guide the systematic and progressive development of learning outcomes. A section of the short-term planning template is also utilised to complete the monthly progress records, which are maintained centrally. Learning outcomes are modified for pupils with additional learning difficulties. The attention given to ongoing reflection in self-evaluating the learning outcomes achieved is praiseworthy. An impressive range of teacher-designed visual and concrete aids, differentiated tasks, charts, posters, educational software and interesting reading material is used to support the teaching and learning process.
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. The school’s child protection policy is very clearly set out and is particularly comprehensive.
The whole-school policy provides a comprehensive guide for the teaching of all elements of the English curriculum and has a very positive impact on teaching and learning. Teachers present English lessons in an enthusiastic, structured and effective manner.
An integrated approach to the teaching of oral language is enhanced by discrete oral language lessons and very supportive classroom environments. Very good attention is given to the purposeful development of vocabulary skills and higher-order thinking skills. Pupils can talk confidently and competently on a wide range of topics, which are further developed in their writing. Pupils in infants and junior classes can recite a wide range of nursery rhyme and verse, while pupils in senior classes have learned a rich and varied repertoire of poetry.
The teaching of functional and creative writing is embedded effectively in a language-experience approach to literacy development. Very good attention is given to the development of pupils’ pre-writing skills. This provides a solid foundation for the teaching of formal writing skills. Pupils are given regular meaningful opportunities to draft, redraft and peer-edit their writing samples. There is a commendable emphasis on the teaching of functional and creative writing skills using visual stimuli, and writing frames when appropriate. Each pupil has compiled personal dictionaries of new vocabulary, proverbs and phrases of interest. Pupils produce impressive pieces of writing in a variety of genres and on a wide range of topics of interest to pupils. Very good use is made of ICT to enhance the presentation of writing samples. Pupils have produced a commendable range of individual and class booklets. Valuable exposure is given to the promotion of pupils’ creativity and writing talents through the school’s active participation in various Write-a-Book projects. The development of cursive handwriting skills commences from second class and each new skill is taught sequentially. Standards attained by pupils in cursive handwriting are exemplary. A number of pupils have received national acclaim in various handwriting competitions.
Tá ard-chaighdeán líofachta, tuisceana agus foghlama bainte amach ag na daltaí sa Ghaeilge. Cothaítear dearcadh an-dearfach i leith na Gaeilge sna daltaí agus is spreagúil, bríomhar agus taitneamhach mar a thugtar faoi mhúineadh na Gaeilge. Comhtháthaítear na snáitheanna go han-éifeachtach sna ceachtanna Gaeilge agus tá leanúnachas an-mhaith le sonrú ó rang go rang.
Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar theanga chumarsáide go leanúnach le linn na gceachtanna Gaeilge agus le linn gníomhaíochtaí laethúla na rangsheomraí. Dá thoradh sin, labhraíonn na daltaí go muiníneach sna hardranganna ar thopaicí difriúla ag baint úsáide as stór leathan focal, cumas an-mhaith tuisceana agus líofachta agus ionramháil an-mhaith ar na briathra agus ar na struchtúir theanga. Tá láithreacha suime spreagúla agus timpeallachtaí priontála don Ghaeilge le feiceáil i ngach rangsheomra. Cuirtear béim inmholta ar an gcur chuige cumarsáideach sa Ghaeilge agus ar rannpháirtíocht ghníomhach na ndaltaí, ar úsáid a bhaint as sceitsí drámaíochta, amhráin, scéalta gearra, cluichí teanga agus gníomhaíochtaí éisteachta. Déantar saibhriú an-mhaith ar an nGaeilge, idir fhoclóir agus feidhmeanna teanga, tríd an leathnú úsáide idir na hábhair eile. Leagtar béim mhaith ar fheasacht chultúir na Gaeilge trí dhamhsaí agus amhráin Ghaelacha a mhúineadh agus tríd na deiseanna tairbheacha a sholáthraítear do na daltaí páirt a ghlacadh i bhféiltí ceoldrámaíochta uile-scoile ar bhonn réigiúnach agus náisiúnta. Aithrisíonn na daltaí cnuasach leathan rann, amhrán agus filíochta go muiníneach cumasach.
Baintear feidhm cheardúil as raon leathan d’ábhar léitheoireachta, fíorleabhair agus modhanna éagsúla múinte chun scileanna na léitheoireachta a dhifreálú agus a dhaingniú. Léann na daltaí go cruiinn, muiníneach le tuiscint agus le foghraíocht mhaith. Baineann said úsáid as raon scileanna chun focail, frásaí agus abairtí a aithint, a léamh agus a thuiscint.
Tugtar faoi theagasc na scríbhneoireachta go han-chríochnúil éifeachtach agus léirítear ard-chaighdeán i saothar scríofa na ndaltaí. Tá forbairt agus leanúnachas mhaith le sonrú ó rang go rang. Tugtar deiseanna an-rialta do na daltaí dul i mbun scríbhneoireachta trí theachtaireachtaí, biachláir, scéalta, dialanna, dánta, litreacha agus nótaí a scríobh. Tá ard-mholadh tuillte don réimse leathan samplaí atá déanta, idir scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil agus chruthaitheach.
Pupils have attained very high levels of fluency, understanding and learning in Irish. A very positive attitude towards the Irish language is fostered among pupils. The teaching of Irish is undertaken in a spirited, lively and enjoyable manner. The strands are integrated very effectively and there is very good continuity and progression in evidence from class to class.
Teachers use Irish as the language of communication in Irish lessons and in the daily activities of classrooms. As a result, pupils in senior classes can speak confidently on different topics in Irish using a rich vocabulary, very good levels of understanding and fluency and a very good mastery in the use of verbs and language structures. Stimulating designated interest areas and print-rich environments are to be observed in each classroom. Commendable emphasis is placed on the communicative approach in Irish, the active participation of pupils, the use of dramatic sketches, song, short stories, language games and listening activities. A good emphasis is placed on fostering an understanding of Irish culture through the teaching of Irish dance and song. Beneficial opportunities are provided for pupils through the school’s participation in whole-school musical and drama events at regional and national level. Pupils recite a wide range of rhyme, poetry and song with confidence and competence.
Skilled use is made of a wide range of reading materials, real books and various teaching methodologies to differentiate and consolidate reading skills. Pupils read accurately, confidently, with understanding and good pronunciation. Pupils employ a range of skills to identify, read and comprehend words, phrases and sentences.
The teaching of writing is very thorough and effective and pupils have attained a high standard in their written work. There is very good development and continuity in evidence from class to class. Pupils are given very regular opportunities to write messages, menus, stories, diaries, poetry, letters and notes. The wide range of functional and creative writing samples completed is highly commended.
The school’s participation in the Department-funded pilot project on modern languages since 1997 has given all pupils exposure to the German language and culture for one and a half hours per week. Pupils are fortunate to have access to a native speaker, who adopts a lively, stimulating, communicative approach to the teaching of the language. Very good attention is given to the development of pupils’ listening skills through the use of variation in voice tone and contextual cues. Pupils are encouraged to practise the language through active participation, cooperative games, gesture and some visual prompts. Good attention is given to the teaching of language functions, such as simple greetings and phrases. In order to consolidate learning further, it is recommended that flashcards of commonly used words and phrases be used. It is suggested that pupils be introduced to authentic reading material in German, such as large-format books, recipes, cartoons, timetables, menus, magazines, audio books and computer software. Attention is drawn to the NCCA publication Pilot Project on Modern Languages in the Primary School: Draft Curriculum Guidelines (1999) to guide the development of long-term and whole-school planning.
The quality of teaching in Mathematics is very good and all pupils display commendable progress, relative to their abilities and class levels. When questioned, it was evident that pupils in all classes have attained a very good mastery of all strands of the mathematics curriculum. This is verified by the most recent standardised test scores provided. Pupils’ knowledge of tables, and early mathematical facts and concepts, are of a very high standard in all classes. Pupils in junior classes can recite number rhymes enthusiastically and expressively. The presentation of written work in copy books is of a very high standard and is monitored regularly. Pupils are well supported in Mathematics and are also challenged to the optimum.
A comprehensive whole-school plan informs the effective practice observed in the teaching of Mathematics. The strong emphasis placed on the whole-school systematic development of mathematical language and problem solving strategies are striking features. Pupils are encouraged to invent their own problems. Very good attention is given to differentiation in the range of tasks set and to applying mathematical concepts to real life situations in all classes. Other attributes of very good practice include the use of cooperative games, integration, concrete materials, environmental objects of reference, clearly-labelled mathematics tables, word walls, and the balanced use of pair, individual and group work. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is also used as a tool to consolidate the learning process and to present work in various strands.
3.5 Visual Arts
Visual Arts is taught very effectively in all classes. A thematic and spiral approach is used to develop themes, which are revisited and explored in greater depth as pupils progress through the school. There is a weighted emphasis between making art and responding to art, and a good balance between two-and three-dimensional forms. Pupils experience a wide range of techniques using suitable stimuli and a broad variety of media. The high standard of presentation in classrooms displays is laudable. Parents with particular artistic skills are invited at various times to contribute to the visual arts programme. Visits to local art exhibitions and galleries are another important feature of the visual arts programme.
Pupils’ levels of understanding of the visual elements of art are particularly impressive. Pupils have developed keen observation skills and can talk eloquently through the steps involved in creating different artistic effects. Pupils have developed very good critical and artistic appreciation skills as a result of the commendable work undertaken in the strand Looking and Responding. Pupils can speak confidently and competently about various art styles from different times and cultures using an impressive visual art vocabulary. Pupils make very good connections between the work of a wide range of artists and their own work. The representative art samples, which are either displayed or stored in individual portfolios, are of a very high quality.
The integral role given to the assessment and recording of pupils’ progress in Visual Arts is praiseworthy. Each pupil has developed a personalised art study booklet containing prompt questions to guide their observations of different art works. Very good attention is given to the quality of pupils’ responses, visual expression, imagination and inventiveness. Pupils have experienced much success in a range of local, regional and national competitions, for example K’NEX Challenge, design a computer logo, and design a GAA kit.
The comprehensive whole-school assessment policy indicates that staff has carefully considered the NCCA’s most recent publication on Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum (2007). A strong emphasis is given to class-based early intervention strategies and procedures by developing agreed approaches to language development. There is ongoing systematic evaluation and analysis of learning outcomes. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is used in senior infants as an additional screening measure. The standardised test results, administered annually to pupils from first to sixth classes, are carefully examined to identify patterns in achievement and to inform future planning in English and Mathematics. These results indicate that pupil attainment in English and Mathematics is very high when compared to national data. The development of individual pupil assessment folders is well established as a whole-school measure. These folders contain individual self-profiles, weekly self-assessment checklists, writing samples, teacher-designed tests across a range of curricular areas and progress charts. Such self-assessment and assessment for learning practices are highly commended. Pupils’ work is systematically monitored, regularly corrected and constructive feedback is provided.
Provision for learning-support in this school is very good. At the time of the evaluation, there were no pupils with low incidence disabilities enrolled. Supplementary support is provided for five hours each week to four pupils with learning difficulties using a combination of in-class and withdrawal approaches. The comprehensive learning-support policy statement clearly delineates roles and responsibilities, prevention strategies, identification procedures, communication strategies and procedures for ongoing monitoring and review. Collaborative working arrangements between class teachers and the learning-support teacher are managed very effectively. Short-term lesson plans are shared between teachers to ensure that continuous, consistent and developmental approaches are implemented. This practice is praiseworthy.
Despite the restricted space available in the support room, which also serves as a staff room, pupils’ work and teacher-designed visual aids are displayed appropriately to support pupils’ literacy development. Supplementary support for pupils is currently required by pupils in literacy only. Learning-support lessons are well structured, purposeful and linked to pupils’ learning targets. Very good literal and inferential questioning is used to challenge pupils’ higher-order thinking. Monthly progress records and suitable long-term and short-term planning are maintained documenting clear learning outcomes. Detailed individual pupil learning plans (IPLPs) have been drawn up for each pupil receiving supplementary support in collaboration with all the relevant partners. The individual plans are reviewed biannually, in line with the Learning Support Guidelines (1999). Diagnostic assessments are carefully chosen and results are recorded and analysed meticulously to inform practice. Pupils are provided with effective experiences to develop their information and communication technology (ICT) and creative writing skills. Pupils receiving additional support are making successful progress in their learning.
There are currently no pupils from disadvantaged or minority groups enrolled. Should such a situation arise, the school’s inclusive, caring and respectful approach to its pupils ensures that it is well placed to respond sensitively to the needs of pupils from such backgrounds. The equality policy provides an assurance that all pupils, including pupils of both genders or from different social strata, are cherished equally.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· Members of the board of management are commended for their effective support, commitment and interest in guiding the work of the school and for their efforts in ensuring that the school accommodation is very well maintained.
· The professionalism, teamwork and high levels of commitment, dedication and skill of the teaching staff in promoting effective learning environments are highly commended.
· The principal displays very effective leadership and management skills, sets high expectations and standards, and promotes a culture of open communication, collaboration, self-evaluation and shared decision-making.
· Positive links are fostered with parents and the wider school community and parents provide a high level of support to the school.
· Very good teaching and learning experiences are provided for pupils, which reflect a broad and balanced curriculum and the use of a broad range of teaching methodologies.
· The comprehensive whole-school plans developed impact very positively on the teaching and learning outcomes achieved in mainstream and support classrooms.
· Pupils engage very effectively in the learning process and have attained very high standards of learning in several curriculum areas.
· The quality of pupils’ functional, creative and handwriting is of an exemplary standard.
· The quality of classroom displays is praiseworthy.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· It is recommended that the board of management encourages the establishment of a parents’ association to further progress the meaningful engagement of parents in the whole-school planning and development process.
· It is recommended that the enrolment policy be revised in light of the requirements of legislation regarding the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs.
· It is recommended that priority be given to the development of a whole-school policy and long-term plan to guide the teaching of German.
· Consideration should be given to the publication of an information booklet, school brochure and school website to highlight the achievements and successes of the school.
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 May 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
· The Board would like to thank the Inspector for the professional and courteous manner in which the WSE was carried out
· The Board believes the report accurately reflects and affirms the high level of education being provided by the school
· The Board would like to acknowledge the total commitment and dedication of the members of staff.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
· The Board acknowledges the strengths of the school as endorsed by the Inspector.
· The Board is actively pursuing the recommendations outlined in the report.
· The enrolment policy has been revised, as recommended, and necessary amendments have been made.
· A German whole-school policy and long term plan has been devised and will be implemented in September 2009.
· Work on remaining two recommendations has commenced and will hopefully be established and in place for the new school year.