An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Whole School Evaluation
Mount Pleasant National School
Ballyglass, Claremorris, County Mayo
Uimhir rolla: 13500R
Date of inspection: 15 October 2009
A whole-school evaluation of Mount Pleasant National School was undertaken in October 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 Music. 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.
Mount Pleasant National School is situated in the village of Ballyglass, in the parish of Carnacon, County Mayo. The present school building dates from 1986. Several renovation and improvement projects have been undertaken recently. These improvements to the structure and layout of the school building and grounds are ongoing and are to be commended.
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
The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam. A positive and inclusive atmosphere is fostered in the school. The school’s mission statement outlines the school’s aim “to enable every pupil to discover his/her particular talents, interests and abilities”. Each member of the school staff makes an effort to implement this vision.
The board of management is constituted in accordance with agreed Department of Education and Science regulations. The board meets at least once a term and more often if necessary. Minutes are kept of the proceedings of each meeting. According to the minutes of the most recent board meetings, among the main issues discussed are matters arising from the principal’s report and matters concerning the new childcare facility recently established on a site to the rear of the school.
The chairperson of the board of management visits the school regularly. Members of the board have been allocated tasks and assigned duties to assist in the smooth running of the school. The treasurer gives a financial report at each board meeting. School accounts are audited by an accountant in accordance with section 18 (1) of the Education Act, 1998.
It was confirmed that the board of management’s current priorities include continuing to support the school staff and pupils and continuing to make improvements to the school building and grounds, especially to ensure that health-and-safety matters are addressed. Specifically, the board intends to provide improved insulation in the school building and to install double glazing in all school windows. A further priority of the board of management is to oversee the enhancement of information-and-communication technology (ICT) facilities throughout the school.
The board’s recent achievements include: the modification of the school to cater for pupils with special educational needs; the layout of the attractive school grounds; the purchase of interactive whiteboards for some of the classrooms; the work done in developing the school plan. The summer-works scheme has been used to develop the school building, including installing double-glazed windows and improving insulation.
Some of the members of the board of management have attended training sessions provided by the Catholic Primary School Managers’ Association (CPSMA). At the time of the whole-school evaluation, further training was due to be undertaken by members of the board. Board members expressed their satisfaction with the standards of education provided by the school. They were also satisfied with the achievement of the pupils.
The principal was appointed in 2005. Since that time, in addition to carrying out teaching duties, the principal has sought to implement her vision for the school, to ensure that the school continues to improve for the benefit of all pupils. A good start has been made in this effort. Besides ongoing improvements in the school building, the purchase of teaching aids and educational resources to enhance the teaching and learning process has contributed to the implementation of the principal’s vision.
The principal, deputy principal and one special-duties teacher make up the school’s in-school management team. The duties attached to each of these posts of responsibility are carried out diligently and conscientiously. The contracts for these posts indicate that curricular, administrative and pastoral responsibilities form part of each post.
Staff meetings are held once a term and minutes are kept of the decisions taken at these meetings. The topics most commonly discussed at staff meeting are administrative and curricular issues. The two special-needs assistants, the school secretary and the caretaker make a commendable contribution to the running of the school.
The school has an elected parents’ association. The parents’ association was affiliated to the National Parents’ Council, although this is no longer the case. Meetings of the parents’ association are held when the need arises, for example to discuss school activities that require parental involvement and to organise fund-raising activities.
Regular communication is maintained between the officers of the parents’ association and the principal. It was reported during the whole-school evaluation that parents feel they are kept well-informed on school matters through the text-a-parent service and regular school newsletters. Parents stated that teachers are always available to discuss any matter of concern to them.
Parents are involved in a wide range of school activities. These activities include fund-raising for the purchase of musical instruments and interactive whiteboards, and the organisation of events such as the annual Christmas concert, Halloween party, sports day, and the end-of-year Mass for sixth-class pupils. Commendably, parents also organise a programme of swimming lessons for pupils outside of school hours.
Parents’ views have been sought on some school policies, including the code of discipline and the anti-bullying policy. Parents were also consulted on the school’s healthy-eating policy. The school’s main policies are distributed to new parents at the beginning of the school year and the school plan is available for parents to consult. It is recommended now that the input of parents in the school planning process be extended further to enhance parental involvement in their children’s education.
A formal parent-teacher meeting is held in February each year. These meetings are organised in accordance with Department of Education and Science guidelines. Informal parent-teacher meetings take place as needed. Written reports on the progress of each pupil are sent to parents at the end of each school year.
The pupils at each class level in Mount Pleasant National School are very well behaved. Pupils are respectful of staff members and visitors to the school. Their conduct in the activities observed during the whole-school evaluation was impressive. A notable feature of pupils’ behaviour is their co-operation and friendliness with each other during the various lessons and activities organised.
Pupils are confident in answering questions and are enthusiastic in attempting to solve problems. There is a need, however, to place more emphasis on the presentation of pupils’ work. While formal handwriting exercises are completed neatly, the material covered in copybooks and workbooks indicate that this neatness is not always transferred to other written work. Teachers and special-needs assistants supervise pupils appropriately during activities in class and in the schoolyard.
The quality of whole-school planning in this school is good. The school plan is clearly and neatly laid out in folders. The school has adopted a collaborative approach to planning. Teachers make an initial draft of curricular plans. The board of management then discusses these drafts, suggesting adjustments where necessary. Some draft policies have been sent to parents to seek their opinions and this practice should be further expanded. As each policy comes up for review, for example, it is recommended that parents have an opportunity to comment on the policy and make suggestions for amendments.
The school plan contains a good range of administrative and curricular policies. The administrative policies include an enrolment policy, a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy, and a health-and-safety statement. It is recommended that the school prepare a written school attendance strategy to formally set out the school’s approach to dealing with pupil absences.
Policies are available for all curricular areas. Most of these policies have been formally ratified and signed by the chairperson of the board of management. Policies are reviewed in accordance with the school’s three-year action plan. A whole school plan for Music has been prepared, although there is a need to have this policy formally ratified.
The quality of classroom planning is good overall. Most teachers provide regular long-term and short-term schemes of work. These teachers also maintain a monthly record of the work covered and of the progress of each pupil. Some gaps are evident in the planning documentation presented by some teachers. It is recommended that classroom planning requirements and expectations be discussed at the next staff meeting to ensure that all teachers are aware of the whole-school policy regarding planning and preparation. Timetables in most classes are set out in accordance with the Department’s recommended minimum weekly time framework. Some class timetables should be revised to indicate more clearly when each curricular area is taught.
Individual learning programmes are prepared for pupils who require additional support. These plans provide useful information on pupils’ assessment results and learning targets. Appropriate long-term and short-term schemes of work are provided for each whole-class group taught by the learning-support and resource teachers. Appropriate progress records are maintained by these teachers.
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.
Tá cáilíocht na foghlama agus an teagaisc sa Ghaeilge go maith ar an iomlán. Tá cáilíocht na hoibre i gcuid de na ranganna an-mhaith. Sa phlean scoile don Ghaeilge, sonraítear an bhéim chreidiúnach a chuirtear ar scileanna cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt ag gach leibhéal ranga. Tugtar aitheantas d’fhorbairt scileanna éisteachta, léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí sa phlean scoile freisin.
Tá cumas labhartha na ndaltaí ar fud na scoile le moladh go speisialta. Leagtar béim chreidiúnach ar rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí uile sna ceachtanna sa chuid is mó de na ranganna. Tá formhór na ndaltaí in ann iad féin a chur in iúl go cumasach agus go soiléir. Tá siad sásta ceisteanna a fhreagairt bunaithe ar na topaicí ar a rinneadh staidéar. Úsáidtear drámaíocht go héifeachtach chun an próiséas foghlama a fheabhsú. Baintear úsáid as grúpmhodhanna agus obair bheirte i gcuid mhór de na ranganna freisin. Tugtar faoi deara go mbaintear úsáid as aistriúchán mar mhodh múinte i gcuid de na ranganna. Moltar an cleachtas seo a sheachaint. Aithrisíonn na daltaí i ngach rang rainn agus dánta le brí.
Tá cló sa Ghaeilge le sonrú i mbeagnach gach seomra ranga agus i dtimpeallacht phoiblí na scoile. Ó rang a dó ar aghaidh, tá gnóthachtáil na ndaltaí sa léitheoireacht sa chuid is mó de na ranganna le moladh. Moltar aire níos fearr a thabhairt don léitheoireacht, go háirithe ó thaobh cúrsaí tuisceana de, i gcuid de na ranganna. Ba ghá feabhas a chur ar struchtúr agus luas na gceachtanna léitheoireachta sna ranganna seo chun na daltaí a spreagadh agus chun spéis na ndaltaí a choimeád.
Tá saothar scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge i seánraí éagsúla le sonrú sna cóipleabhair agus ar taispeáint sna seomraí ranga. Déantar maoirseacht rianúil ar an obair seo i mbeagnach gach rang, cé go mb’fhiú níos mó béime a leagan ar néatacht na hoibre ar bhonn scoile-uile.
The quality of teaching and learning of Irish is good overall. The quality of work covered in some classes is very good. The emphasis placed on developing pupils’ conversational skills at each class level is evident in the school plan for Irish. Recognition is also given to the development of pupils’ listening, reading and writing skills in the school plan.
Pupil’s oral Irish skills across the school are especially to be commended. Creditable emphasis is placed on the participation of all pupils in lessons in most classes. The majority of pupils can introduce themselves competently and clearly. They are happy to answer questions on the topics which have been studied. Drama is used effectively to enhance the learning process. Group methods and pair work are employed in many classes also. It is noted that translation is used as a teaching method in some classes. It is recommended that this practice be avoided. Pupils in every class can recite rhymes and poems with expression.
A print-rich environment in Irish is to be found in almost every classroom and in public areas of the school. From second class onwards, the achievement of most pupils in reading is praiseworthy. More attention should be given to reading, especially in terms of comprehension, in some classes. There is a need to improve the structure and pace of reading lessons in these classes to stimulate and maintain pupils’ interest.
Pupils’ written work in Irish in a variety of genres is to be seen in copybooks and on display in classrooms. This work is regularly monitored in almost all classes, although it would be worthwhile placing more emphasis on the neatness of this work on a whole-school basis.
There are many positive aspects to the teaching of English in this school. The school plan for English outlines the strategies that are used to enhance teaching and learning in oral language, reading and writing at each class level. The implementation of the oral-language programme is highly commendable. Pupils are confident and articulate in expressing their opinions and in talking about topics they have studied. Word games, debates and discussions form a useful part of the development of pupils’ oral-language skills in every class. Pupils’ vocabulary is expanded in a graded and structured manner. Effective use is made of dictionaries to assist in this work in the middle and senior classes. Emphasis is placed on the study and recitation of poetry throughout the school. Pupils in the junior classes recite a wide range of action rhymes and jingles with expression and energy.
The school has adopted many praiseworthy strategies in the teaching of English reading, including an effective phonics programme in the junior classes. A shared reading programme has been implemented throughout the school to ensure that each pupil reads a certain number of books each year. Novels are used in a commendable effort to foster an interest in reading by using real books. There is a need, however, to adopt a basic reading-lesson structure in some classes to ensure that reading skills are developed more effectively. As part of a revised approach to the teaching of reading in some classes, it is recommended that resources be chosen judiciously to ensure they are suited to the needs and interests of pupils. A print-rich environment has been developed in the school. Class libraries are well stocked and attractively laid out in most classrooms. It is recommended, however, that the class libraries in some classrooms be reorganised to play a fuller role in raising reading standards by encouraging pupils to read independently and for pleasure.
Much emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ handwriting skills at each class level. Pupils’ handwriting exercises, as seen in their handwriting copybooks and workbooks, are very good and very neat. It is recommended, however, that this high quality of handwriting and presentation of work be transferred to pupils’ creative and functional writing exercises. Pupils are given the opportunity to write in a variety of genres in most classes. Samples of pupils’ written work are on display in every classroom, although, in some cases, more emphasis should be placed on the redrafting and editing of work prior to displaying it.
The overall quality of teaching and learning of Mathematics in this school is good. Problem-solving receives due attention and pupils respond well to challenging questions. In most classes, active and collaborative learning are fostered effectively. The work covered on data and chance is particularly praiseworthy. It is recommended, however, that the presentation of lessons in some classes be improved with a view to fostering greater pupil interest and participation.
Pupils at each class level demonstrate highly commendable mastery of number facts. A stimulating maths-rich environment has been developed in many classrooms, although this work should be expanded in other classrooms to enhance the status of Mathematics at each class level. The board of management has ensured that a wide variety of mathematical resources is available in the school. Concrete materials are used effectively in junior classes to enhance the teaching and learning process. Such aids should be used more regularly in all classes.
The quality of teaching and learning in Music at some class levels is of a high standard. A whole-school plan for Music is available, although this plan needs to be formally ratified. It is recommended that a targeted school-wide review be undertaken to ensure that a clear and specific music programme is implemented at each class level. The standard of music literacy in the junior classes is very good. In particular, the lessons on composition are highly commendable. Effective use is made of percussion and melodic instruments in these classes to enhance pupils’ musical experience.
Pupils in the junior classes sing a wide range of songs in Irish and English very well. Song singing needs to receive more attention in the other classes. Particular emphasis should be placed on vocal development and on selecting the appropriate key, to improve the quality and beauty of the singing in these classes.
Standardised tests are administered to pupils from first class to sixth class once a year in Mathematics and English reading. The Middle-Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to pupils in senior infants each year. Teacher observation, checklists, work samples and project work are among the other methods of assessment used in the school.
Very good assessment records, including detailed individual profiles, are maintained on pupils’ progress in almost all classes. Teacher-designed tests are effectively used to assess pupils’ progress in some classes. The results of these tests inform teaching and learning in these classes, although it is recommended that standardised test results, be maintained in a more systematic manner in some classes, to ensure that teaching methods and approaches are based on pupils’ needs. While pupils’ work is monitored and corrected on a regular basis in most classes, there is a need to engage in more effective monitoring in some classes.
The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs in this school is very good. Planning and preparation for teaching and learning in the learning-support and resource service is good. Useful records of the work covered and of the achievement of pupils are maintained. Diagnostic testing is used on a systematic basis to identify pupils’ specific needs. Parents are kept well informed of their children’s progress and collaboration between parents and teachers is evident in devising individual learning programmes.
Most of the support teaching provided takes place in the learning-support and resource classroom, and occasionally in the secretary’s office. The areas of the school used for support teaching are decorated to provide an attractive and stimulating learning environment. In-class support is also provided by support teachers in the form of effective team teaching for English. This work should be extended.
This school has an open enrolment policy and pupils from all backgrounds and pupils at all levels of ability are welcome to enrol.
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.
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, June 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
We found this to be a very comprehensive report. We are very pleased with the many positive observations. We are disappointed with the amount of recommendations and we feel that some of these should have been taken up with the individual teachers and not noted in the WSE Report. We understand that as a staff we need to accept the findings and we will work on the recommendations.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
· Principal will carry out spot checks on planning in each classroom.
· Principal will carry out spot checks on presentation of pupils work.
· We, as a staff will revisit our music policy and concentrate on song lists for each classroom.
· A maths area will be displayed in each classroom.
· The area of English translation in the teaching of Gaeilge is not commonplace in the school.