Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Kilmurry Mc Mahon, Kilrush, Co. Clare
Roll number: 13478E
Date of inspection: 15 June 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 October 2006
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Droimdiogach N.S. 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 inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors 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 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.
Drumdiogach National School is a three-teacher co-educational national school situated in the parish of Kilmurry Mc Mahon and is located approximately nine miles east of the town of Kilrush. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic bishop of the diocese of Killaloe and it mainly serves the rural population of its hinterland. Due to falling numbers the school will revert to a two-teacher school in September 2006. It is expected that numbers attending this school will continue to decline over the next number of years but will remain sufficiently high to maintain a two-teacher status. Decline in numbers is due to a general population reduction in the immediate area of the school and the lack of housing development generally in west Clare.
The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly throughout the school year. An agenda is provided for all meetings, minutes are recorded and accounts are maintained. The board of management is very supportive of the teachers in the school and it provides a commendable range of suitable resources to enhance the delivery of a broad curriculum. The board of management reviews relevant circulars and documentation received from the Department of Education and Science. The board of management ensures that the Rules for National Schools, as well as the conditions governing the running of schools, as set out in legislation, are implemented. The board of management, in conjunction with the teachers, regularly reviews school policies and all new policies are formally adopted by the board. Communication with the parent body occurs mainly through their representatives on the board of management. The board ensures that the school is well maintained both inside and out and, in general, the grounds are in good order. The board of management is commended for its willingness to discharge its role in a positive and proactive fashion.
The in-school management team consists of principal and deputy principal. The deputy principal has carried out the duties of principal on a number of occasions in the past and also for a period during the current school year ending shortly before this whole school evaluation. Both post holders carry out their duties in a collegiate fashion and this co-operation has resulted in a management structure which is of a very high standard and is a major contributing factor to the success of the school.
The duties of the principal are fulfilled in accordance with the Rules for National Schools and are in line with relevant Department of Education and Science circulars. Management and teaching duties are undertaken by the principal in a very professional and competent manner. Official documents including the attendance book, roll books and the registers are maintained accurately. Very positive working relationships have also been created with the parents and board of management.
The areas of responsibility attached to the post of deputy principal are clearly defined in the school plan and a contract is in place. These duties incorporate organisational and some curricular role. It is recommended that, following consultation with the post holder, a greater curricular development role be ascribed to this post. This new role should be substituted for some of the duties currently carried out by the post holder. It is expected that this change of emphasis in the duties of the post-holder would be of assistance to the school in advancing the curricular areas under review in the school plan.
The present school was built in the mid 1960s and is in good decorative order. It is comprised of three classrooms with adjacent toilet facilities, a staff room, which is also used for tuition purposes by the learning-support teacher, and a store room. There is a grass area and a yard to the front of the school together with a play shelter, which is decorated with a number of murals. A concrete yard together with a grassy play area is located to the rear of the school. This area is on different levels and needs some development in the immediate future. It is recommended that the board of management take steps to rectify the deficiencies inherent in this physical area. Overall the school is in a very good condition and the board of management is commended for its efforts in ensuring that the school is cleaned and maintained to a high standard.
There are 44 pupils enrolled in this three-teacher school with junior and senior infants classes having 9 pupils, classes one to three having 16 pupils and classes four to six having a total of 19 pupils. The numbers attending have declined in the past two years and it is expected that this decline will continue in the immediate future resulting in one of the teaching posts being suppressed from September 2006. As a consequence the remaining teachers will need to adjust to teaching four class groupings each. When this extra classroom becomes available it is intended that this additional space will be used as a general purpose area to support the implementation of aspects of the curriculum.
The school is very well equipped with a wide range of teaching aids and charts to support all curricular areas. These are used effectively to assist the teachers present a broad, balanced curriculum. All classrooms have well stocked libraries and computers are available in all classrooms. The school has availed of the Department of Education and Science grant to establish broadband connectivity and it is expected that this will be used effectively to assist in curriculum delivery.
The school has a very good relationship with the school community. 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. Decisions of the board of management are transmitted to the school community through their respective representatives on the board. The school communicates in writing on a regular basis with parents informing them of upcoming school activities. A parent-teacher meeting is held annually and parents are welcome to discuss school related matters with the teachers by appointment. Homework journals are signed regularly by parents and these are used to update the parents on the progress of the pupils. In addition written progress reports are provided annually. During the formulation of a number of school policies the opinions of parents are sought. It is recommended that the school extends this practice and devise procedures to further develop this good practice. Parents have helped to develop some of the school facilities in the past and parents also provide transport for pupils to games and other school related activities. Parents are also involved in the school’s recycling initiative and in the development of projects such as the Green School Flag initiative. A parents’ association was in existence up to recently and plans are now being formalise to revitalise this association. In order to further assist the development of a parents’ association it is recommended that, in conjunction with the parents, the school organises a number of school based events each year as a means of further developing the very good relationships and co-operation between school and parents that now exists.
Pupils in this school are very considerate and well behaved. Pupils willingly engage in all of the learning activities and all concerned are commended for the propriety and courtesy shown by them to teachers, fellow pupils and visitors. Principal and staff take a keen interest in the educational and social development of all pupils. Class rules are on display in all teaching areas and pupils have an input into the formulation of these rules. Classes are set out to ensure that pupils are in age appropriate settings for their learning activities and pupils are encouraged to assist each other across many curricular and social activities. The school has embarked on a project to obtain Green School Flag status and pupils take an active part in all of these activities.
The school planning process is well developed in this school. From a whole school perspective and also from the individual teacher level, detailed, relevant and comprehensive planning documents are presented. A sincere effort has been made to include the parent body in the process with some success. With assistance from the board of management, it can be expected that parents will, in future, have a greater involvement in the drawing up of administrative and curricular plans.
The school plan is an impressive document and is implemented successfully. A great deal of work has been undertaken in the drawing up of the documents presented and it is clear that these plans have been diligently put into practice in the classroom setting. Administrative plans are formulated for a range of areas such as healthy eating, homework, anti-bullying and enrolment. These documents prioritise the capacity of the pupil to relate to their environment in a reasonable and measured way. The combined attention of the entire school community must continue to be harnessed in order to progress this ongoing work. In the area of curriculum, detailed plans are available for Gaeilge, English, Mathematics and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). The completed plans are differentiated with graduated learning experiences laid out for each age group. Planning in Music, Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) and Visual Arts are included in the development plan of work being done by the staff. With regard to these plans in progress, there is a need to highlight, to a greater extent, the appropriate levels of achievement for the two class groupings of junior infants to second class and of third class to sixth class. Teachers must ensure that all subjects are differentiated sufficiently to allow for appropriate assessment of pupil achievement.
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, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). 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.
Teachers’ individual plans are very detailed. Currently, there is a strong emphasis on the content of the programmes being taught. It is a key recommendation of this report that teachers would now refocus their planning process to reflect on the achievement of individual pupils on a regular basis. In order to do this, agreed areas of the curriculum need to be identified and assessed systematically so as to gain a breadth of whole school data which will inform future curricular and methodological direction. Staff concentration for the medium-term must now be directed towards the achievement of differentiated learning outcomes. In the area of assessment teacher observation needs a specific curricular focus agreed at a whole school level. This assessment should be included in the monthly report and, when sufficient evidence is gathered, decisions regarding the development of these curricular areas must be taken. It is clear that the teachers devote considerable amount of time to the planning process. It is recommended that a portion of this time should now be spent on trying to analyse the rate of success of the teaching strategies employed and the extent to which all pupils are developing their capacity to learn. It is important not to over extend the focus of this work at this stage. Success in a single curricular area or, indeed, an element of one of these areas must be assessed carefully and in due course all curricular areas should be considered for selection for this analysis. Progress in this area will be attained when the staff can see clear results relating to the achievement criteria which have been set out.
Tá ardmholadh tuillte ag na h-oidí as an obair a dhéantar chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn mar theanga bheo chumarsáide agus is léir go ndéanann siad an-iarracht atmaisféar fabhrach don teanga a chruthú sa scoil. Déanann na hoidí comhtháthú oiriúnach idir an éisteacht, an labhairt, an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht. Forbraítear an teanga le modhanna díreacha a chothaíonn tuiscint, cruinneas agus cumas labhartha. Is inmholta ach go háirithe an bhéim a leagtar ar an gcur chuige cumarsáideach. Úsáidtear puipéid, cártaí oibre agus neart áiseanna eile le linn na gceachtanna agus baintear feidhm thairbheach as na háiseanna seo chun foghlaim na Gaeilge a éascú agus a bhuanú. Sna naíonáin bhí na páistí in ann ceisteanna a chur agus orduithe a thuiscint agus tríd an scoil ar fad tá foclóir leathan bainte amach ag na daltaí. Moltar go mór an t-úsáid a bhaintear as an drámaíocht mar áis thábhachtach chun an rannpháirtíocht a spreagadh go tarraingteach. Tá raon an-leathan de rannta múinte ag na hoidí agus aithrisítear cnuasach deas dóibh go beoga. Caitear an-dua le teagasc na léitheoireachta. Léann na daltaí le brí agus le cruinneas agus pléann siad ábhar na léitheoireachta go cumasach. Cothaítear fonn scríbhneoireachta i measc na ndaltaí trí chleachtaí éagsúla agus trí thaithí spéisiúil i scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil a sholáthar dóibh. Déantar maoirseacht rialta ar an obair agus is inmholta an méid Gaeilge scríofa atá ar taispeáint sna seomraí ranga. Moltar na hoidí as an dea-chúram a thugann siad chun dearcadh fabhrach i leith na Gaeilge a chothú tríd an scoil.
The teachers are highly commended for their work in promoting the Irish language and it is evident that they make a very good effort in ensuring that an atmosphere favourable to the language is created in the school. While presenting the language as a vibrant means of communication the teachers suitably integrate the strands of listening, speaking, reading and writing. Excellent progress is achieved through the use of appropriate methodologies in developing the pupils understanding, accuracy and ability to use Irish as a means of communication. The use of puppets, work-cards and a range of other resources during lessons assist the pupils in consolidating their Irish language skills. In the infant classes the pupils were able to ask questions give and understand orders and throughout the school as a whole the pupils have achieved mastery of a wide vocabulary. Of special merit is the use made of drama as an attractive means of enabling pupil participation in the Irish lessons. The teachers have taught a wide range of poetry which the pupils recite with fervour. Great care is paid to the teaching of reading. The pupils read with accuracy and understanding and they debate the subject matter read capably. The pupils’ writing abilities are very well promoted through formal activities that are interesting and functional. This work is corrected diligently and the school is commended for the amount of Irish writing on view in the classrooms. The teachers are commended for the very great care that they take to promote Irish throughout the school.
This school is commended for its efforts in effectively prompting all aspects of the English curriculum. Pupils successfully engage in listener-speaker relationships and all pupils are successfully developing confidence and competence in oral language, reading and writing. In all classes a range of methodologies including, debate and discussion, presentation of talks and formulating and replying to questioning is used to enable pupils organise, clarify, interpret and extend experiences at an appropriate level. Language is very well developed across all curricular areas and pupils have reached a commendable level in their command of vocabulary and usage. A wide range of poetry is studied, recited and written by the pupils which assists in the development of their imagination and creativity.
All aspects of the English reading programme are developing very well. In the junior classes pupils listen and respond to a range of stories, nursery rhymes, poems and songs. The reading process is well modelled by the teachers and collaborative reading of large-format books ably develops competence and confidence in using language. In addition, a very good foundation of basic reading skills is laid down with due care taken to building up a sight vocabulary of common words from the personal experiences of the pupils. These skills are systematically developed throughout all of the classes with appropriate differentiation in evidence. All classes use a range of text books, novels, stories and articles from newspapers and magazines to assist pupils develop their reading skills and to promote an interest in the world of literature. All classrooms have a supply of books appropriate to the reading levels of the pupils. Pupils are encouraged, from an early age, to read for pleasure and for information. It is now recommended that these reading corners and stations are further expanded. Individual reading schemes have been developed by the resource teachers for pupils needing assistance. It is recommended that the school explores ways of extending the use of these schemes into the classroom setting by the extension of team-teaching practices.
Writing skills are very well developed in all classes. Pupils are given regular opportunities for personal writing and writing in different genres is very well promoted. The standard reached in creative writing by many of the pupils is commendable. Class work is presented very neatly and corrected conscientiously by the teachers. Samples of children’s completed work are displayed attractively and celebrated in all classes. In the area of personal writing, the use of word processing should be expanded especially taking into account the excellent strategies now in use by the pupils in refining ideas through drafting and re-drafting.
This school successfully uses a range of very suitable strategies to enable pupils acquire proficiency in fundamental mathematical skills. Due care is taken to develop all strands of the Mathematics curriculum and the pupils have acquired a commendable level of understanding across all of the strands. Throughout the school regular use is made of activity-based learning and of concrete materials to assist pupils develops an appropriate understanding of mathematical concepts. Number facts are readily recalled by the pupils and many pupils calculate mentally with high levels of accuracy. Pupils understand mathematical terminology and definitions and they use fractions and graphical representation competently. Tasks are well matched to pupils’ abilities and needs and they can communicate and express mathematical ideas, processes and results accurately in oral and written form. Pupils display commendable strategies in planning and implementing solutions to problems in a variety of real life situations and across the curriculum. A range of assessment modes is used by teachers to assess pupil progress. The pupils’ copybooks are very well monitored and teachers give regular tests in Mathematics. Standardised testing in Mathematics is undertaken annually. The results are discussed at staff meetings and plans of action are devised accordingly.
Excellent teaching of History is evident in this school. Pupils are consistently exposed to a multi-disciplinary approach where investigation, co-operative and comprehension skills are developed in a climate of support and enjoyment. The use of Drama in this regard is particularly noteworthy. There is skilful development of the language associated with this curricular area. Pupils’ project work is attractively displayed and greatly enhances pupils’ learning outcomes. Resources are well chosen and deployed. Pupils display a commendable understanding of the topics.
The teaching of Geography is carried out efficiently and in accordance with curricular guidelines. Pupils experience the full range of strands and are knowledgeable of the subject. Methodologies are based on discovery learning with group work, peer presentation and class discussion encouraged. Predominantly global issues are prioritised and pupils are well-informed regarding social and environmental geographical issues. Attractive class displays of the project work completed are constructed. Pupils speak willingly and positively of their learning experiences. Future work in this area should focus to a more significant extent on the rich local geographical learning experience available. The incorporation of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in this work would be crucial to develop interest and promote co-operative skills further. Given the current ICT infrastructure available in the school, consideration should be given to the purchase of a digital projector which pupils could use to benefit their learning.
Pupils study a range of topics suitably identified to assist them develop knowledge and understanding of scientific and technological concepts drawn from the natural and human environments. The programme of scientific work is linked to other SESE subjects as well as being successfully integrated with other areas of the curriculum. The skills of questioning observing, predicting, analysing, recording and communicating are appropriately developed. The provision of a wide range of resources to support the teaching of Science enables the setting up of simple investigations in which the pupils are actively and enjoyably engaged. The pupils explore the topics through group-work, discussion and involvement in scientific experimentation, thus enabling them develop their skills as scientists. There is very good use of illustrative and concrete materials during lessons and pupils are actively engaged in the learning process. Pupils confidently discuss the outcomes of their investigations and they use an appropriate vocabulary to describe the work undertaken. All classrooms throughout the school have attractive nature tables and beautiful seasonal displays and these enhance the Science programme.
The Visual Arts programme provides opportunities for all pupils to experience success and all the strands are appropriately developed. Art is used to illustrate topics in other subject areas and this approach provides good cross-curricular links. The range of experiences offered is wide and the work observed includes drawing, painting, printing and modelling using a wide range of media. The displays in the classrooms and in the corridors demonstrate care with the tasks undertaken and high standards of achievement. The pupils are successfully and systematically helped to develop a keen aesthetic sense. 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. Talk and discussion is a feature of these classes and pupils develop a visual language and a visual awareness of the elements of art. Teacher observation is used to assess the pupils’ work and portfolios of children’s work are maintained.
Pupils’ attitude to Music in this school is very positive. The teaching of this subject is carried out both as an individual subject within the curriculum and also as a means of adding to the learning experience in other curricular areas. Pupils sing sweetly and in tune and their abilities and competence levels in instrumental playing are commendable. Of particular note is the willingness of the pupils to display their considerable skills in this part of the curriculum. The school also has a strong commitment to the promotion of Irish traditional music. Pupils are also taught how to read Music and progress in this area is impressive. The commitment of the school to this aspect of the curriculum and the extent to which this work has resulted in significant progress is to be commended. To complement the learning experience further, the development of the Listening and Responding strand of the curriculum should now be prioritised.
Throughout the school, pupils are consistently encouraged to engage in dramatic activities linked to learning experiences in all curricular areas. This work is highly effective. Resources are widely available to the pupils and, combined with the whole school commitment to this important subject, achievement rates are very high. Particularly commendable is the manner in which the dramatic experience of the junior pupils is continued throughout the school with older pupils participating just as enthusiastically. As a result, pupil self-esteem is good and positive teacher/pupil and pupil/pupil interactions are in evidence.
In this school, a wide range of quality resources, a strong commitment to the development of co-operation and leadership skills and a thorough understanding of the curricular principles underpinning the teaching of this subject result in high quality learning outcomes. These are achieved despite the poor condition of the area at the back of the school. Lesson preparation and organisation levels are high. Pupils are consistently on task and active. Participation rates are good and there is a keen awareness of the gender issues relevant to the development of skills among all pupils. A focus on aerobic activities where good warm-up and cool-down exercises are facilitated is noteworthy.
The poor condition of the playing yard and green area to the rear of the school is an important issue for the school. Assessment of the safety of this area for the students and teachers, as a place suitable for the teaching and learning of the Physical Education programme needs to be carried out as a matter of priority. Currently, this area is unsuitable for this work. Given that the school does not have a general purposes room, the continued success of this area of the curriculum must be supported through the provision of appropriate ground facilities. The board of management should pursue the acquisition of such infrastructure as soon as possible.
All concerned are commended for the very pleasant, learning-centred atmosphere in the school. The pupils demonstrate courtesy towards teachers, fellow pupils and visitors. The school’s Social Personal and Health Education programme provides useful opportunities for the pupils to develop interpersonal skills and self esteem. The staff is conscientious in promoting healthy relationships and in encouraging healthy patterns of behaviour. Work is supplemented in SPHE with relevant material from a variety of associated programmes. Lessons in this curricular area are profitably integrated with other curricular areas.
The staff uses a variety of assessment modes on a systematic basis. These include teacher observation, teacher generated tests and careful monitoring of written work. Standardised tests in English and Mathematics are carried out annually. Programmes directly centred on recognised weaknesses are prepared and followed by class teachers and, where appropriate, by the special education teacher. The results in literacy and numeracy, and indeed across the curriculum, confirm that the children in general are achieving at a standard that is well in keeping with age and ability.
The support provided for pupils experiencing difficulty in this school is sensitive, well-planned and has resulted in a steady improvement rate. Teaching of these pupils is usually carried out in the staff room due to a shortage of space. This is due to change in the coming year, however, when the school reverts to a two-classroom facility. The ensuing available space will provide further opportunity for the teacher and pupils to achieve even greater progress.
A total of 16 hours learning-support and resource teaching time is provided for the school. Currently, one pupil receives resource teaching and seven pupils attend learning-support. Individual education plans (IEPs) are detailed and relevant. In conjunction with these documents, daily notes are prepared for each child and progress is monitored carefully. Regular communication with parents is evident. Resources are plentiful and pupils are encouraged to use the range of materials and computer software available.
While some in-class work is currently carried out, it is recommended that this element of the support provided for pupils experiencing difficulty should be extended considerably. There is a need for pupil learning outcomes to be measured in relation to the work of the mainstream class setting. Given the low numbers of pupils currently enrolled, the school should now embark on a series of planned pilot in-class experiences. This work should be targeted on specific areas of the curriculum where pupil success can be expected. Preparatory work should be done by the support teacher in collaboration with the class teacher to maximise participation and achievement of targeted pupils. Analysis of the success of this work should then follow and successful strategies should continue or be altered appropriately.
The socio-economic profile of the school indicates that there is a very low level of genuine social disadvantage in the area. Thus, provision for pupils from such backgrounds is not a current issue for the school. Currently, the school reports that no pupils from minority groups are enrolled in the school.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection