An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Fahy National School

Westport, County Mayo

Uimhir rolla: 13555T

 

Date of inspection: 1 October 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

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Fahy National School was undertaken in September, 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Fahy National School is a four-teacher rural school situated six kilometres northwest of Westport. This is a very effective school, with a strong culture of collaboration and inclusion. The school building, which has been recently extended, is very well maintained and attractively presented. The school participates in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), part of the Department of Education and Science’s programme to alleviate educational disadvantage.

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

108

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

6

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

2

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Fahy National School is a co-educational school under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam. It is the stated aim of the school to provide “a learning environment that is safe and positive, stimulates intellectual curiosity, respects individual differences, encourages parental involvement, and communicates high expectations”. There is clear evidence that the school is earnest in its endeavours to achieve these aims.

 

1.2 Board of management

The school is managed by a committed and enthusiastic board of management. Meetings are convened twice a term and as the need arises. Minutes are recorded and agenda are prepared in advance. There is a clearly defined system for tracking income and expenditure and a financial report is regularly presented to the board. Accounts are certified annually and are audited every five years. In recent years, the board has been active in providing new classrooms and facilities for the school. This progressive board is commended for the support it provides for the work of the school.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal and a special-duties teacher. This highly effective principal inspires and enthuses her staff. She has succeeded in creating a culture that is characterised by co-operation, teamwork and a commitment to ongoing school improvement. As well as effectively leading learning in her own classroom, daily administrative tasks are adeptly completed and official records are carefully maintained.

 

The principal is supported efficiently in her role by the deputy principal and special-duties teacher. Each member of this in-school management team has been assigned organisational, curricular and pastoral duties in accordance with Department of Education and Science Circular 07/03. Provision is made for the annual review of posts of responsibility. In undertaking this review, consideration should be given to a more equitable distribution of responsibilities within some posts.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

There is an active parents’ association which is affiliated to the National Parents Council (Primary). The association contributes significantly to the school and the chairperson and individual members are to be commended for their commitment. A meeting with the representatives of the parents’ association revealed very positive parental attitudes. Parents are appreciative of home-school correspondence such as newsletters and annual written reports. They also referred positively to the availability of staff members to discuss children’s progress, both at the formal parent-teacher meetings and throughout the year. Introductory meetings for parents of new pupils are held annually where a very useful ‘welcome pack’, consisting of key policies and helpful advice is provided.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils is of a very high standard and teachers are to be highly praised for the positive learning atmosphere and sense of community existing in the school.  During the evaluation it was noted that pupils were eager and motivated in their learning, particularly during the use of team-teaching approaches. Initiatives such as school assemblies contribute to the reinforcement of positive pupil behaviour and focus on the development of pupils’ self-esteem and self-worth.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

It is commendable that many of the highly innovative practices developed in the school have been documented in the school plan. A wide range of policies has been developed in organisational and administrative areas. These plans are detailed and specific to the needs of the school. Curricular plans are clear and comprehensive. It is advised that review mechanisms be built into the planning process, with agreed dates for review included in the plans.

 

The quality of classroom planning is very good. All teachers use an agreed template for both short term planning and monthly progress reports. The special education teachers base their very effective individual education plans on data drawn from a number of sources. Realistic time-limited targets are identified and shared with parents, the pupil and the class teacher. Planning for team-teaching is particularly impressive. This collaborative work ensures that differentiated learning experiences are provided in literacy and numeracy and that the needs of all pupils are comprehensively addressed. The quality of the monthly records would be enhanced if they focused on attained objectives as opposed to completed work.

 

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

 

Gaeilge

Múintear an Ghaeilge go héifeachtúil. Labhraíonn na hoidí an Ghaeilge go cruinn, líofa. Tá dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge á chothú tríd an scoil. Cuireann na hoidí an t-ábhar foghlama i láthair na ndaltaí go spreagúil.  Baineann siad úsáid as an nGaeilge go leanúnach mar theanga theagaisc, rud a thugann deis do dhaltaí a gcumais tuisceana a fhorbairt.  Sna hardranganna baintear úsáid éifeachtach as cluichí éisteachta, obair bheirte, rólimirt, amhráin agus dánta. B’fhiú anois béim ar leith a chur ar na modhanna seo i ngach rang tríd an scoil. Aithrisíonn daltaí i roinnt ranganna cnuasach deas filíochta go taitneamhach, le dea-fhoghraíocht. Chun breis forbartha a dhéanamh ar shaibhreas teanga na ndaltaí b’fhiú an scéalaíocht a chleachtadh go rialta ag gach rangleibhéal, cnuasach filíochta a chur de ghlanmheabhair, agus dul siar go rialta ar dhánta atá foghlamtha cheana féin.

 

Déantar cúram breá de theagasc na léitheoireachta.  Léann formhór na ndaltaí le líofacht agus le cruinneas agus léiríonn siad tuiscint bhreá ar ábhar na léitheoireachta. Is inmholta mar a bhaintear úsáid as leabhair bheaga. Sna hardranganna baintear úsáid cliste as roth scéalta chun an scríbhneoireacht a scafall. Leagtar amach an obair scríofa go néata, slachtmhar. Déantar maoirseacht agus ceartú go rialta agus gnóthaítear caighdeán ard san obair i gcoitinne.

 

Irish

Irish is effectively taught. Teachers speak Irish correctly and fluently. A positive attitude to Irish is cultivated throughout the school.  Lessons in Irish are presented in a stimulating manner.  Irish is used as the language of instruction throughout lessons, contributing significantly to pupils’ understanding of the language.  In the senior classes effective use is made of listening games, pair-work, role-play, songs and poems. It is now advised that these methodologies be used in all classes throughout the school.  Pupils in some classes recite a lovely selection of poetry with enjoyment and good pronunciation. To further develop pupils’ richness of language, regular reading of stories, the memorisation of poetry and revision of poems previously taught are advised.

 

Approaches to the teaching of reading are commendable.  The majority of pupils read with fluency and accuracy and they demonstrate positive understanding of their reading material.  The use of small-format books is praised. In the senior classes clever use is made of story wheels to scaffold the writing process.  Written work is laid out neatly and clearly. Supervision and correction are done regularly and a high standard is achieved in this work overall.

 

English

Very effective and innovative practice was observed in the teaching of English. All teachers engage in team teaching to ensure that individual pupil needs are met in the development of literacy skills. Meticulous planning for team teaching ensures that a wide range of learning opportunities is undertaken which results in highly motivated pupil engagement. In the infant classes, commendable practice was observed with emphasis placed on oral-language development as a key literacy skill. The teacher scaffolds pupils’ writing in a very effective manner, enabling very young pupils to produce high-quality independent work. In the middle and senior classes, groundbreaking practices such as peer tutoring are well established, with clearly defined structures and procedures in place which facilitate the improvement of literacy skills for both tutor and tutee. Commendably, assessment of reading ability is undertaken both before and after the peer-tutoring programme to monitor the progress achieved. The recently developed school library is very well stocked and very attractively laid out. This library provides a continuous supply of books for readers at all levels of age and ability. In the middle and senior classes process writing is very effectively undertaken, with very good use being made of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the drafting and editing of the finished product. It is recommended that the school devise a whole-school approach to handwriting to ensure that, by the end of sixth class, pupils have achieved a legible cursive script.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good, as is evidenced by the most recent standardised test results. A broad and balanced programme in Mathematics is provided. The judicious use of team teaching facilitates active learning and encourages pupils to develop problem solving strategies.  The use of the local environment, ICT and the manipulation of concrete materials are all highly commended. The school places a strong emphasis on frequent revision of previously mastered concepts and consequently understanding in numeracy is secure. Regular assessment of pupil attainment is a significant feature of the work of the school. Ongoing analysis of these assessment results is undertaken, with a view to addressing the learning needs that they identify. Clearly differentiated programmes of work are then provided where necessary. This practice is highly commended. Very good work is undertaken in the teaching of mathematical language and highly effective pair work is used to encourage pupils to use newly acquired mathematical terms in context. To build on the existing good practice, it is advised that individual pupil dictionaries of mathematical vocabulary be devised.

 

3.3 Music

The quality of teaching and learning in Music is good. All of the teachers in the school provide a comprehensive music programme. In all classes, pupils sing a selection of songs tunefully and with enjoyment. Particularly good work in composition was observed in the infant classroom. In the middle classes, pupils are encouraged to discuss the elements of music in the strand Listening and Responding. In the senior classes, pupils demonstrated high levels of competence in working with percussion. A visiting tutor is provided by the board and all of the pupils in the school are enabled to learn to play the tin whistle. It is advised that the school plan for Music be reviewed with a view to providing continuity and progression in the Music programme throughout the school.

 

3.4 Assessment

A key strength in this school is the very effective work that is undertaken in assessment. All teachers have a clear understanding that assessment is central to teaching and learning. Assessment data is regularly analysed and used to devise future programmes of work. Pupils are encouraged to participate in self-evaluation. There is a strong commitment to school improvement within the staff, with careful monitoring and review of programme effectiveness.

 

Useful strategies are in place to facilitate the early identification of learning difficulties. High skill levels within the support staff ensure that structures are put in place as early as possible to alleviate difficulties identified. Staff also engage in the identification of gifted pupils and extension programmes and supports are provided where necessary. A wide range of diagnostic assessment tests is used by the support teachers to assess individual learning needs and to monitor progress. Where necessary, pupils are referred to outside agencies for further assessment and appropriate use is made of this assessment data in devising individual education plans.

Records are centrally maintained and are accessible to all staff members. Systems in use facilitate the tracking of progress of each individual pupil as he/she progresses from infants through to sixth class. This meticulous tracking of progress is praiseworthy.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A very high standard of work was observed in special education. Commendably, every teacher has a strong sense of ownership of the special-education programme within the school. It is school policy that pupils are provided with the necessary support with a minimum of segregation and withdrawal from their peers. Provision is well planned and carefully co-ordinated. Regular liaison meetings are held between class teachers and support teachers to ensure effective collaboration. A direct outcome of this level of collaboration is the dissemination of knowledge and skills within the entire staff. Particularly effective use is made of the support provided by the special-needs assistants in the school.

 

All support teachers on the staff are very experienced, highly skilled and have engaged in ongoing professional development to enhance their already considerable teaching ability. A wide range of resources is selected and adapted in achieving targets identified in the individual education plans. Clever use is made of ICT and many teacher-made resources are also in evidence. All members of the school community, including pupils, parents and teachers, have benefited greatly from the enthusiastic and highly skilled input of the special-education team.

 

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

The school is part of a cluster of five schools that are served by a DEIS co-ordinator, funded by the Department of Education and Science. The current co-ordinator, who is based in a neighbouring school, was on leave during the course of the evaluation. It is recommended that the co-ordinator build on the existing good relationship with parents through the provision of structured programmes, such as shared-reading programmes or Maths for Fun to allow for greater parental involvement in literacy and numeracy. Healthy lunches are provided as part of the DEIS scheme.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

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, March 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 


Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report    

The Board of Management of S.N. an Fhaithche welcomes the W.S.E. Report as received from the D.E.S. The Board of Management wish to thank the Inspector for her positivity and professionalism throughout the whole W.S.E. process. The whole school community found the experience to be enriching, encouraging and positive. The Board acknowledges the high quality of teaching and learning and the dedication and commitment of the school Principal, teachers, staff and parents’ as highlighted by the Inspector.

 

 

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 B.O.M. has examined the key recommendations and has drawn up an action plan including the following:

  1. Following the W.S.E. and the recommendations made for the role of the D.E.I.S. Co-ordinator it has been decided by the Principal, members of the teaching staff and the Co-ordinator that the children and parents’ would be best served for the remainder of this school year 2009-2010 by focussing on numeracy. It is proposed that the “Maths for Fun” programme be implemented for both the parents’ and pupils of second class with a view to building on this project in the future.

It is the intention of the Principal and staff, through a collaborative process, identify further aspects of the literacy programme that can be supported by the DEIS Co-ordinator with a view to implementing further programmes in the future.

The DEIS Co-ordinator will also support the relationship between home and school by endeavouring to visit/make contact with all parents’ of the Junior Infant classes by the end of this year.

  1. Beídh na h-oidí ag cur níos mó béime ar labhairt na Gaeilge ar fud na scoile i rith an lae. Bainfear úsáid as obair beirte, cluichí teanga agus araile i ngach rang gach lá. (The teachers will put more emphasis on the speaking of Irish throughout the school day. Language games, pair work and other methodologies will be utilised in the implementation of same.)
  2. The allocation of duties within all posts of responsibilities will be reviewed by all post holders and the Chairperson. A report outlining duties fulfilled is to be sent to the B.O.M. on an annual basis, as is the current practice.

 

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