An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Bekan National School
Claremorris, Co. Mayo
Roll number: 13659I
Date of inspection: 22 March 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Bekan National School, Claremorris, Co Mayo. 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 inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, and the school’s board of management and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Bekan School is a five-teacher, co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Bekan, Co Mayo. It is a very good school. There are 119 pupils enrolled at present. Almost all of the pupils come from the Bekan area. It is expected that enrolment figures will either stay at this level or increase slightly over the next few years. A fifth mainstream teacher is due to be appointed for September 2007.
The present school building, including a prefabricated building at the rear, dates from 1968. There are five mainstream classrooms, one of which is being used as the learning support classroom at the moment. There is a staff room/office and there are pupil and staff toilets in this building. A new classroom was added in 1994, by extending the main school building. There is no general purposes room in the school. The building and school grounds are well maintained. The board of management has applied to the Planning and Building Unit of the Department of Education and Science for an extension to the school. The board of management has also applied to the Department of Community and Rural Affairs for the development of outdoor play facilities.
The Catholic Archbishop of Tuam is the patron of the school. The board of management meets once a term, more often if necessary. Minutes are kept of the proceedings of board meetings. The board of management is to be commended for its support for the school and for the close contact it maintains with school personnel. The board discusses and ratifies all school policies. The board’s current priorities include ensuring that arrangements are in place for the new teacher and providing the best possible facilities and resources for the school.
The in-school management team consists of the principal, the deputy principal and one special duties teacher. The principal’s administrative and curricular duties are carried out competently and conscientiously. The principal is a very effective leader. There is a positive atmosphere in the school and the staff operates successfully as a team. Roll books, registers and all school records are carefully maintained. Formal staff meetings are held once a term.
The roles and responsibilities of the deputy principal and the special duties teacher are outlined clearly and are on display in the staff room. The work involved is carried out competently and diligently and includes curricular, organisational and pastoral duties.
The work of the teachers, the special needs assistant (SNA) and the secretarial and cleaning staff contributes to the smooth running of the school. The school is very clean and tidy both inside and outside.
The board of management has invested in a range of educational resources to support the implementation of the curriculum in various curricular areas, for example in Mathematics, Visual Arts and Physical Education (PE). The school is well equipped overall. Investment in resources should continue to ensure up-to-date and stimulating materials are always available, for example in English. The mainstream classrooms are arranged and decorated attractively. They provide a very stimulating learning environment for pupils.
Considerable emphasis is placed on the development of information and communication technology (ICT) and computers are available in every classroom. ICT is most frequently used in the publishing of pupils’ written work in English and in projects for History and Geography.
There is an active parents’ association in the school. Positive relations exist between parents and teachers and there is a good level of parental involvement in the school. Parents help out by accompanying teachers and pupils on school outings.
Formal parent-teacher meetings are organised annually. The school deals with parents’ concerns in an open way. Parents are welcome to discuss pupils’ progress or other issues with the principal or class teacher at any time. The parents are sent frequent newsletters, as well as text messages, by the principal. This ensures that everyone is kept well informed about events in the school. Parents are sent a written report on the progress of their children at the end of every school year.
The pupils in Bekan School are very well behaved. They have good communication and interpersonal skills. This is seen in the way they conduct themselves with their fellow pupils, with staff members and with visitors to the school. The pupils in every class participate eagerly in lessons and all other school activities.
The work undertaken in the development of the school plan has been very valuable. The support received from cuiditheoirí and facilitators from national in-service training initiatives has contributed in a useful way to the school planning process. The teachers have put a great deal of time and energy into putting together a clear school plan that caters for the specific needs of Bekan school. The input of the principal teacher in this work is particularly commendable.
The school plan is available for parents to consult. Parents are asked to contribute their opinions and suggestions on school policies when they are being drafted. The board of management then ratifies all administrative policies and curricular plans prior to their inclusion in the school plan.
The school’s mission statement is set out in the school plan. The “open door” policy of the school is emphasised in the school plan. Plans are available for all of the curricular areas in which the teachers have received in-service training.
Organisational policies have been developed on a wide range of topics. Specifically, these include a health and safety statement, an enrolment policy and a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy. An equality statement is also available and a formal written attendance strategy is being drawn up.
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, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). 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.
The teachers in Bekan are committed to implementing a broad and balanced curriculum. Teachers’ classroom planning is clearly laid out and gives an effective overview of the work planned. Long-term and short-term schemes of work are prepared and monthly progress records are kept. All of the teachers adhere to an appropriate timetable for their work. These timetables are based on the suggested minimum time framework set out in the primary school curriculum.
Individual learning programmes are developed and regularly reviewed for pupils attending learning support or in receipt of resource hours. These records are filed in the learning support room. The learning support and resource records provide some useful information on the work being done. In future, however, it is recommended that these records should be more clearly laid out. Copies of individual pupils’ education plans are also kept in class teachers’ files.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The overall quality of education offered in Bekan is very good. Most of the pupils achieve high standards in all curricular areas. An effective grounding is given to pupils in Irish, English and Mathematics. The very high standards achieved in History, Geography, Music and the Visual Arts are particularly praiseworthy.
The quality of teaching in all of the mainstream classes is of a high standard. An appropriate variety of teaching methods is used during the school day. These methods include teacher modelling, storytelling, drama, language games, group work, project work and discussion.
Cothaítear dearcadh an-dearfach i leith na Gaeilge sa scoil. Leagann na hoidí an bhéim cheart ar an dteanga labhartha. Is féidir leis na daltaí i ngach rang labhairt fúthu féin agus ceisteanna a fhreagairt, de réir a gcumas, go soiléir as Gaeilge. Úsáideann múinteoirí agus daltaí Gaeilge go rialta mar theanga caidrimh i rith an lae. Baineann na hoidí úsáid éifeachtach as dráma sna ceachtanna Gaeilge. Éiríonn leo foclóir na ndaltaí a leathnú go céimniúil ó naíonáin go rang a sé.
Aithrisíonn agus canann na daltaí ar fud na scoile rainn, dánta agus amhráin as Gaeilge. Forbraítear an léitheoireacht go héifeachtach ó rang a dó ar aghaidh. Léann an chuid is mó de na ndaltaí os ard go líofa agus tuigeann siad an méid atá léite acu. Tá cló i nGaeilge le feiceáil go forleathan i dtimpeallacht na scoile. Déantar obair úsáideach i gcúrsaí scríbhneoireachta freisin agus tugtar moladh do chaighdeán obair na ndaltaí sna cóipleabhair agus sna leabhair saothair.
A very positive attitude to Irish is fostered in the school. The teachers place the correct emphasis on oral language skills. The pupils in all classes can talk about themselves, according to ability, and can answer questions clearly in Irish. Both teachers and pupils regularly use Irish in conversation during the school day. The teachers use drama effectively in Irish lessons. They succeed in expanding pupils’ vocabularies in a graded way from infants to sixth class.
The pupils throughout the school can recite and sing rhymes, poems and songs in Irish. Reading is developed effectively from second class onwards. The majority of pupils read aloud fluently and they understand what they have read. There is a print-rich environment in Irish evident throughout the school. Useful work has been done in the area of writing and the standard of pupils’ work in their copybooks and workbooks is commended.
Very high standards are attained in English in the school. Oral language is appropriately emphasised. Most of the pupils can speak about themselves, their interests and a variety of other topics articulately and enthusiastically. A wide selection of poems and rhymes can be recited by the pupils in every class.
impressive print-rich environment is evident in all the mainstream classrooms and throughout the school. Phonological awareness is developed as part of the foundation of basic reading skills in the junior classes. Much emphasis is placed on developing reading skills in the other classes and this ensures that a very high standard of reading is achieved by most pupils.
Class libraries are well stocked, but they should be more attractively presented and restocked regularly. This should provide a continuous supply of books for avid readers and should encourage reluctant readers. Shared reading takes place in most classes and records are kept to ensure that pupils read a number of books each year.
There are examples of pupils’ writing in a wide variety of genres on display in the mainstream classes. The appropriate emphasis is placed on the writing process. Written work is carefully edited and published in class. Copybooks and workbooks contain very good work in functional and creative writing.
The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken skilfully in every class in the school. This has contributed to the high standards in Mathematics achieved by almost all pupils. The pupils have a good knowledge of mathematical terms. The correct emphasis is placed on solving mathematical problems.
A wide range of mathematical equipment is available in the school and these materials are used effectively to enhance pupils’ learning. Mathematics corners and mathematical posters can be seen in all classes, creating a stimulating maths-rich environment in the school. The pupils record their work neatly and clearly.
History is very well taught in the school and most of the pupils have an impressive knowledge and understanding of the topics they have studied. Creditable emphasis is placed on Local studies and on personal history throughout the school. The work done by the pupils in all classes in this area is of an exceptionally high standard.
The use of artefacts and written materials from the past demonstrates commendable commitment to developing pupils’ skills as historians. Timelines and class museums are on display in every class. This helps to develop pupils’ sense of chronology and gives them a sense of change and continuity over time.
The standards of teaching and learning in Geography are very good. The use of field trips has helped to stimulate pupils’ interest in their local environment and most pupils can talk about where they live confidently and knowledgably, according to their age. Project work is used effectively to enable pupils to develop their geographical, investigative and research skills. There are maps and globes on display in all classrooms. These are used regularly as part of Geography lessons and across many other curricular areas, for example in English lessons.
The pupils in all classes in the school carry out experiments and record their results in a manner suitable to their class level. This work is very praiseworthy. The strand Living things is very well covered in every class. Nature tables have been set up and seeds and bulbs have been planted to give the pupils practical experience of watching things grow and change. The work on Materials and change is particularly impressive from the infants’ classes to the senior classes.
The work done in the Visual Arts throughout the school is excellent. The six strands of the curriculum are covered effectively in every class. There is an impressive balance between two-dimensional and three-dimensional artwork. Samples of the pupils’ work are displayed attractively in every classroom and in public areas of the school.
The standard of Music education in all classes is excellent. Several of the teachers are highly competent in Music. Song-singing is very well covered and the pupils can sing a wide range of songs in both English and Irish. There is good integration with Visual Arts in the junior classes, where percussion instruments have been made by the pupils. These instruments provide accompaniment in the performance of action songs. Commendable emphasis is placed on Music literacy in every class. The pupils are also given opportunities to listen to and respond to Music.
While Drama has yet to be introduced in a formal way on a school-wide basis, an annual school concert is held. Here the pupils have the opportunity to demonstrate their acting and performing skills to their parents. Role play is used very successfully in every class in the teaching of Irish.
4.6 Physical Education (PE)
The school has access to no indoor facilities for the teaching of PE. Despite this, however, the teachers place great emphasis on PE. A comprehensive school plan for this curricular area has been set out. Lessons take place in the schoolyard whenever the weather permits. These lessons follow an appropriate sequence of warm up, skills practice, games and cool down activities.
Bekan School is involved in a variety of sporting competitions and leagues, such as Cumann na mBunscol and has enjoyed great success in these competitions. Swimming lessons have been provided for pupils in Bekan, from senior infants onwards, for the past twenty-five years. The swimming lessons take place during the third term in Claremorris Swimming Pool.
The Walk Tall and Stay Safe programmes, in conjunction with the Earthlinks and the Prim-Ed SPHE schemes, form the basis of lessons in this curricular area in the school. SPHE is well taught and methodologies such as circle time are effectively used to enhance lessons. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) has been introduced effectively.
Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to pupils in English and Mathematics once a year. The results of the standardised tests are filed centrally and in each classroom. They are used to compare pupils in the school with national averages and to identify pupils who are in need of learning support or other supplementary teaching. The other main assessment tools used in the school are teacher observation and teacher-designed tasks and tests. Homework assignments and project work are also used to assess pupils’ progress.
The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to pupils in senior infants once a year. This ensures that early intervention can help pupils experiencing difficulty as soon as possible. Some diagnostic tests are used by the learning support teacher to identify specific difficulties and to aid in the development of individual education plans (IEPs). This work could profitably be expanded in future to provide more specific assessment information on pupils.
The school has developed an impressive and up-to-date learning support and special educational needs policy. The policy clearly sets out the school’s procedures for screening, planning and implementation. The school policy is reasonably effectively implemented. The challenge for the future will be to ensure that the service in practice reflects the ambitious aspirations of the school plan for this area. Part of this work should include further developing the learning support classroom to provide a more stimulating educational environment for pupils. Learning support, mostly on a withdrawal from class basis, is offered to all pupils who need it in English and Mathematics. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving supplementary teaching and parents are kept regularly informed about their children’s progress.
All pupils in the school are treated equally and the school has an open enrolment policy. School funds and grants are used appropriately to ensure that all pupils can participate fully in school activities.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendation is 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.