An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Kilrush, Co. Clare
Uimhir rolla: 13738E
Date of inspection: 07 November 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Burrane 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, an inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which an 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Burrane National School is a three-teacher co-educational school situated close to the Shannon estuary and adjacent to the car-ferry port of Killimer. The school serves the local village and rural area with pupils attending from approximately a three mile radius of the school. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic bishop of the diocese of Killaloe. Enrolment declined slightly over the past six years and now has stabilised at 63 pupils. It is expected to remain close to this level into the immediate future. Overall attendance at the school is very good. Many of the pupils attending are from a farming background and a number of parents are also employed in the Electricity Supply Board’s generating station located on the Shannon estuary at Moneypoint. A number of families have also moved into the area under the Rural Resettlement Programme.
The board of management meets regularly and is properly constituted and includes the positions of chairperson, secretary and treasurer. Minutes are maintained of all meetings. The board of management makes available resources for teaching and learning as requested by the teachers. All expenditures are discussed prior to approval by the board and a certified financial statement is prepared at the end of the school year. A number of board members have attended training seminars organised by the patron and this is an ongoing process. The board ensures that maintenance of the school is carried out as the need arises and, in general, the school and the school grounds are in good order. The existing school building lacks a general-purposes room, office space, learning–support room and adequate car parking space. In addition, one of the classrooms is too small for the numbers attending. At present the board is examining the existing school structures and it is evaluating how they can be improved. As the school site is very restricted the board may have to consider other options including a possible move to a green-field site.
All policies are presented to the board and discussed and approved by it. Included in the policies approved are the school’s admissions policy, health and safety policy, and a policy on reporting based on the Children First National Guidelines. School policies are available to be viewed by parents at parent-teacher meetings. The board should now consider ways in making these policies more readily available to the general parent body. The board of management is involved in a number of fund-raising activities including a social every May when a raffle is also held for fund-raising purposes. Feedback to parents is achieved through school updates and through parents contacting their representatives on the board. Parent representatives on the board bring pertinent issues to the attention of the board. In general, matters of concern are dealt with swiftly. The board of management praised the diligence of the teachers and their commitment to education. The board discharges its duties in a positive and proactive fashion.
The in-school management team consists of principal, deputy principal and the special duties post-holder. The principal is a long established member of the staff of this school and has given diligent service to education over many years. She conscientiously discharges her duties and has adopted a proactive role in relation to whole-school planning. She has established good working relationships with staff members.
The principal is ably assisted in the day-to day management of the school by a deputy principal and a special duties teacher. Responsibilities for these posts include curricular, organisational and pastoral areas. These responsibilities were reviewed recently and it is recommended that an annual review of duties takes place in order that assigned duties meet the developing needs of the school. It is recommended that all post-holders report on their work on an annual basis to the board of management. Staff meetings take place once a term and the agenda is agreed in advance. Minutes of these meetings are maintained. All the post-holders are commended for their efforts in ensuring that Burrane school continues to exhibit a welcoming ethos.
At present there are three class teachers and one resource teacher based in this school. Classes are organised into three groupings. The first of these groupings consists of junior infants, senior infants and first class which has a cohort of twenty four pupils. The second group consists of second, third and fourth classes totalling twenty seven pupils. There are twelve pupils enrolled in fifth and sixth classes. Pupils in fourth class move to the senior room for Mathematics on a daily basis. There is a disparity between the class sizes assigned to each teacher, but, due to the spread of pupil numbers it is difficult to divide classes on a more equitable basis. Consideration should now be given to ensuring that the infant class size is kept to a minimum to enable the assigned teacher assist pupils develop secure foundations for their future learning. Consideration should also be given to the rotation of classes among teachers in order that all teachers have the opportunity to experience a variety of class levels and contexts. The resource teacher based in this school gives assistance to two pupils for a total of seven and a half hours a week. This teacher caters for pupils in three other schools. The learning-support teacher is based in the other school in the parish and sixteen hours of supplementary support is allocated to this school. There is one special needs assistant appointed to assist one pupil.
The school benefits from secretarial assistance for eight hours a week and a caretaker cleans the school regularly. The school avails of the services of Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) personnel for coaching in Gaelic football. This usually takes place over an eight-week period and is attended by all pupils. This activity is funded by the GAA. It was reported that the school avails of the services of tutors for Irish dancing, music and computers. It was reported that these activities take place during the school day and that a charge is levied on the pupils for these services. It is important for the school to ensure that adequate time is allotted to the development of all curricular areas. It is important that the amount of time allocated to such development is not excessive and the school should ensure that all facets of each curricular area are developed. The school must bear in mind that the education delivered to pupils in the national school system is free and that all curricular areas are available to all pupils. It is now recommended that the present system of having tutors giving instruction in the areas of Irish dancing, music and computers be reviewed immediately.
Burrane National School has served the pupils in this area from 1892. It was refurbished in 1992 and an additional classroom was added in 1997. The school consist of three classrooms and a staff room. At present the staff room is also used for learning-support and resource tuition. The school has adequate toilet facilities and some limited storage facilities. There is also a small room situated to the rear of the school which was originally designated for use as a learning-support room but is now used mainly for storage. There is a tarmacadam area around the school. All in all, the present school site is very restricted. The board of management has identified a need for additions to the school. Any such additions to the school would reduce still further the very limited play space available unless the present site can be extended. It is recommended that the board consider all options including the feasibility of amalgamation of the two schools in the parish when pursuing the development of a school extension. Overall the school is in 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.
The board of management has made available an abundant range of resources for all curricular areas. The teachers use a wide range of teaching aids including commercial and teacher-generated charts to support teaching and learning across all curricular areas. Libraries are available in all classrooms and a suite of computers is available in the staff/resource-teacher room. The staff is dependent on suitable weather conditions to implement the physical education programme. The teachers present their classrooms well using very attractive displays of the pupils’ creative work and a range of educational charts.
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. 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 written progress reports are provided annually. There is some parental involvement in school policy development in particular when school policies on organisational matters are being reviewed. During the formulation of the relationships and sexuality education (RSE) policy, the opinions of parents were sought. Parents also help when pupils are preparing for sacramental ceremonies. Parent involvement also occurs in the organisation of book-fairs, quizzes, cross-country running activities, school concerts and during other sporting events. It is recommended that the school devise procedures to further develop parental involvement in the areas of school planning and in the review of policies such as the homework, code of discipline and enrolment policies. It is reported that a good co-operative relationship exists between the school and parents. As a means of further developing home-school communications it is recommended that staff and pupils consider producing occasional newsletters. This would also assist in the development of the English curriculum and the use of information and communications technology (ICT) in the school.
Pupils are properly supervised and discipline is good in this school. Pupils are respectful toward teachers, visitors and fellow pupils. The school’s code of behaviour is being implemented effectively and fairly. The staff contributes appropriately towards the building of the pupils’ confidence and self-esteem and suitable initiatives are in place to counteract bullying behaviour.
A lot of worthwhile effort has been expended in preparing the school plan. In general, all school policies have been prepared by the teachers and submitted to the board of management for ratification. The school plan is presented in two sections dealing with administrative and curricular areas. Among the areas outlined in the administrative section of the school plan are the school’s mission statement and policies on health and safety, code of behaviour and discipline, enrolment, anti-bullying, substance abuse, acceptable use policy (AUP) for internet usage, homework and child protection. It is recommended that the AUP includes not only the obligations of pupils but also guidelines for those who may have access to the school’s internet system. The board of management should also review the enrolment policy in order to ascertain that it is inclusive and meets with the criteria as set out in the Education Act 1998.
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.
A broad range of planning documents outlining the curricular plans of the school is available including plans for Gaeilge, Mathematics, English, Physical Education, Visual Arts, Science, Social, Personal and Health Education and Music. This planning is appropriate to the school’s circumstances and it takes into account the needs, aptitudes and interests of the pupils. These planning documents should take further into account the challenges pertaining to multi-class situations. Further involvement of parents and the board of management in school policy development should now be considered. Both from the whole school and the individual teacher perspectives, the creation of a curriculum development action plan should be considered. This should identify the key areas for prioritisation. It should also map out roles and responsibilities and the most practical approaches to be taken in order to reach final document stage.
All teachers present detailed short and long-term plans and monthly progress records are also maintained. In all plans teachers demonstrate an appropriate familiarity with the Primary School Curriculum 1999, and the school plan. This results in a positive measure of continuity and progress from one class level to the next. In all of the planning there is a strong emphasis on the content of the programmes being taught. It is recommended that teachers’ planning should now focus on the objectives of the lessons and should also include reference to the principal methodologies to be used as well as the assessment for learning strategies to be employed.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The quality of teaching and learning was evaluated on the basis of observation of teaching, discussion with, and questioning of pupils and review of samples of pupils’ work and projects. The quality of teaching across all curricular areas was of a good standard. A range of methodologies and teaching strategies including whole-class teaching, group work and discussion was used successfully during lessons. Teachers presented new material clearly and integration strategies were also in place. Questioning was of a good standard throughout the school and differentiation strategies were in place for a number of curricular areas. Some very good use is made of the pupils’ work and illustrative materials supplied by the teachers, to enrich the classroom learning environment. The quality of pupils’ learning was very good especially in the areas of Gaeilge and Music. Teachers monitor the work of the pupils carefully and pupils’ work is corrected conscientiously and appropriate feedback is given.
Cothaítear dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge sa scoil agus, ar an iomlán, sroichtear caighdeán maith. Múintear an Ghaeilge ar bhealach éifeachtach tríd an scoil. Taispeántar líofacht teanga i gcumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge. Baintear feidhm chreidiúnach as cluichí, fearas, cairteacha, lipéid, obair bheirte, miondrámaíocht agus agallaimh chun leathnú ar fhoclóir na ndaltaí agus daingniú rialta a dhéanamh ar na bunstruchtúir ghramadaí. Leagtar béim chóir ar snáithe na héisteachta sna ranganna uile. Tá réimse leathan rann ar eolas ag na páistí agus déanann siad iad a aithris le brí agus le taitneamh. Baintear úsáid as an nGaeilge go neamhfhoirimiúil mar mhionchaint i rith an lae. Cuirtear béim chuí ar chothú na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna. Léann na daltaí go cruinn agus is féidir leo an t-ábhar léitheoireachta a phlé go tuisceanach. Forbraítear timpeallacht saibhir phrionta sna seomraí ranga uile. Cuirtear cleachtaí oiriúnacha ar na daltaí san obair scríbhneoireachta agus gabhann ord agus eagar le leagan amach na gcóipleabhar. Déantar maoirseacht chúramach ar a saothair.
A positive attitude to Irish is cultivated throughout the school and, in general, a good standard is achieved. Irish is taught in an effective manner throughout the school. Pupils demonstrate a fluency in their ability to communicate in Irish. Games, equipment, charts, labels, paired work, drama and discussion are used creditably to expand the pupils’ vocabulary and to regularly reinforce basic grammatical structures. A suitable emphasis is placed on the listening strand in all classrooms. The pupils recite a wide range of poems in a meaningful and enjoyable way. Irish is used informally during the day. In the middle and senior standards an appropriate emphasis is place on the development of reading and writing. The pupils read accurately and they discuss with understanding the subject matter being read. A print-rich environment is developed in all the classrooms. The pupils engage in appropriate writing exercises and the copies are laid out in an orderly manner. All work is regularly monitored.
A whole-school plan for the teaching of English has been developed. This plan is very comprehensive. It includes objectives from the curriculum across each of the four strands. It also outlines the school’s approach to teaching methodologies, assessment, the development of phonological awareness, the development of emergent reading strategies and the writing process. In reviewing this plan the school should now place greater emphasis on the development of the oral language strand of the English curriculum. The school should also provide further opportunities for pupils to engage in talk and discussion, debates and story telling.
Reading skills are well developed and the pupils read fluently throughout the school. The classrooms present a print-rich environment. There is good use of textbooks and of class libraries during lessons. Comprehension skills are being appropriately developed. There is some differentiation of the curriculum for pupils of differing abilities. It is observed that a greater range of differentiation strategies needs to be implemented. This may be achieved by reviewing the results of standardised tests on a whole-school basis and by having the work of the learning-support and class teacher co-ordinated in a more effective manner. The possibility of having the learning-support teacher engage in group work within the classroom setting should also be explored.
The pupils are successfully encouraged to write on a variety of themes and in different genres. This work is of a good standard. Pupils demonstrate good writing skills. All work is corrected diligently. ICT is effectively used during the writing process especially in the presentation of pupils’ work. The pupils recite a number of poems well and the selection chosen is interesting and varied. Overall the pupils are achieving to a good standard in English.
A positive approach to the teaching of Mathematics is being developed throughout the school. The pupils can apply mathematical concepts and processes and plan and implement solutions to problems in a variety of ways. All strands are being well developed especially the strand of number. The pupils have acquired good estimation skills and problem-solving skills are also being developed satisfactorily. Pupils recall and understand mathematical terminology, facts, definitions and formulae covered. The development of mathematical language in all classes is of a high standard. There is some very good use of concrete materials in a number of classes and this activity-based learning is to be commended. Mathematical interest areas have been developed in all classrooms and these could be further extended to enhance the mathematical environment. The teachers use good questioning techniques and the pupils answer confidently and accurately. More thought could be given to the application of Mathematics in a variety of real-life situations and across the curriculum. Assessment of progress in Mathematics is regular and thorough and all work is corrected diligently. Overall pupils are achieving at a very good standard.
In all classes the local studies strand is appropriately developed. Areas studied include homes, games and pastimes in the past, and feasts and festivals. The school has organised a number of visits to local areas of historical interest. This has assisted the pupils in developing their curiosity and interest in the past. Some good work has been completed across all of the other strands especially in the myths and legends strand and the early peoples and ancient societies strand. Whole-school planning for the teaching of History is under preparation at the moment. It is recommended that the plan places an emphasis on developing the skills of the historian especially those of using evidence, time and chronology and cause and effect. Pupils’ attention should be drawn to the range of primary and secondary sources that can be used to investigate periods and events in the past. The expansion of the range of documents, photographs and artefacts available would enhance the teaching and learning in this area.
The teaching of Geography is effective with pupils developing an appropriate knowledge and understanding of natural and human environments in the locality, Ireland and in different world locations. Maps and other relevant illustrations are used to good effect and there is some good use of the interpretation and analysis of data during lessons. Good use is made of talk and discussion. Information and communications technology is utilised during some lessons and it is recommended that the use of ICT be expanded across all aspects of Social Environmental and Scientific Education. The pupils’ attainment in this curriculum area is satisfactory.
Science is taught to a satisfactory standard in this school. Pupils are appropriately encouraged to explore and cultivate an appreciation of and respect for the diversity of living and non-living things. Pupils take part in a range of experiment-based activities covering the various curricular strands. In the lessons observed the pupils were encouraged to work scientifically and to record and discuss their findings. The range of equipment needed for this work is steadily increasing. The school should look to developing further the areas of working scientifically and designing and making in order to enhance the pupils’ skills in this curricular area.
In all classes pupils are enabled to have enjoyable and purposeful experiences using different art media and to have opportunities to explore and experiment with these media. The range of experiences offered is wide and the work seen includes drawing, painting and modelling. In the strand unit looking and responding the work of the pupils together with the work of artists including Constable and Picasso are reviewed and examined. Much of the work in Visual Arts is integrated across the other curricular areas. The work of the pupils is displayed to good effect in the classrooms and the corridors of the school.
Overall the curricular area of Music is well developed in this school. A very comprehensive school plan outlines expected progression for all class groupings across all strands and strand units. Pupils are enabled to develop their musical potential and to experience the excitement and satisfaction of being actively engaged in musical creativity. All strands are well developed with good use of percussion in evidence to assist in the development of the strand units of exploring sounds and improvising and creating. Pupils perform a range of songs to a high standard and play a number of instruments creditably. Musical literacy is appropriately developed. Great care is taken to ensure that all pupils are actively involved in the lessons and that they are enabled to enjoy and understand Music.
Drama is used by the teachers as a teaching methodology in other curricular areas especially in the development of oral communication in Irish. No discrete time is allocated to this curricular area at present. The school will receive in-service in this area in the near future and it is expected that the school will then develop all of the strands associated with Drama and allocate discrete teaching time to this curricular area.
The school is restricted in the delivery of this curricular area due to the lack of indoor facilities, very limited yard space and the restricted storage facilities for physical education equipment. The board of management has the matter under review at the moment. Despite these restrictions, the teachers make good efforts to deliver a broad curriculum. Good efforts are made to develop the strands of athletics and games. The development of the strand unit on games is developed with assistance from a GAA football coach who works with the school for an eight-week period each year. The school develops the aquatics strand of the curriculum by organising swimming tuition for a period each year. The dance strand is confined to Irish dancing which is delivered by an outside tutor. These lessons are carried out during school time throughout the school year. It is reported that pupils are charged directly for these lessons. It is recommended that all pupils have free access to a balanced curriculum. It is recommended that this practise be immediately reviewed.
The school has prepared a number of policies that assist in the promotion of the social, personal and health education of the pupils. In addition to the SPHE policy, policies on relationships and sexuality education, anti-bullying and healthy lunches have also been developed. Some of these policies had parental input into their formation. Parents should also be consulted when these policies are reviewed. The overall atmosphere in the school attests to a caring and a positive classroom and school environment where all pupils are respected. Many aspects of the social, personal and health education programme are successfully taught. Due care is taken of the strand unit dealing with safety issues.
A range of assessment modes is in use throughout the school which includes teacher observation, teacher-devised tests and tasks, the use of portfolios, the monitoring and correction of the pupils’ written work and the use of standardised tests in English and in Mathematics. In general the focus of assessment is on the curricular areas of English and Mathematics. It is important to ensure that assessment takes place across all curricular areas and that there are some records of these assessments. Pupil reports are maintained and updated regularly. A parent-teacher meeting takes place annually and teachers make themselves available to discuss pupils’ progress with their parents at other times.
The special education team (SET) comprises a learning-support teacher and a resource teacher. The school currently supplies assistance to ten pupils who receive learning-support and to two pupils who are in receipt of a total of seven and a half hours resource tuition. The resource teacher is based in this school. Individual education plans (IEPs) have been developed in consultation with parents and class teachers for the pupils with special educational needs and these plans are implemented successfully. The school is currently allowed an allocation of sixteen hours of learning support under the terms of DES Circular SPED 02/05. Nine pupils are currently in receipt of supplementary teaching provision under the terms of this circular. Analysis of the school’s standardised testing records indicated that these pupils are the lowest achieving in terms of literacy and numeracy skills, but that there is capacity to include additional pupils within the current case-load. The screening procedures employed by the school in the selection process are consistent with the DES Learning Support Guidelines (2000) and the approach to diagnostic testing is also in line with best practice. Pupils receive supplementary teaching on a withdrawal basis in small groups or on an individual basis where appropriate. Teaching is guided and monitored appropriately with Individual Profile and Learning Programmes (IPLPs) but analysis of these records indicates that in some instances, learning targets could be framed in a manner that reflects priority learning needs more closely and in a manner that facilitates assessment more easily.
The pupils in this school come mainly from the local area. There is a very good community spirit in evidence and emphasis is placed on good neighbourliness and on caring for each other. There is no level of significant social disadvantage reported among the pupils enrolled in this school and there are no pupils from minority groupings in attendance. The school has been in receipt of funding from the “Giving Children an Even Break” intervention. The school does not qualify under the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) initiative and funding will continue to be provided in line with the level of disadvantage in the school. It is recommended that the school implements a policy on the disbursement of these funds and that the school keeps a record of monies spent and services provided.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The school has a welcoming, child-friendly and caring atmosphere.
· Pupils demonstrate positive attitudes towards and active participation in learning across the curriculum.
· The high standards being achieved by pupils in Irish and Mathematics are to be commended and there is very good development of the curricular areas of Music and Art.
· The principal has diligently served the pupils of this school over many years and is ably assisted in her work by the staff.
· The board of management and parents are supportive of all school activities. The school has a very good supply of educational resources and these resources are used competently to assist teaching and learning.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· The practice of having paid tutors for the development of certain curricular areas should be reviewed immediately.
· In the area of planning there is a need to draw up an action plan for the development and review of all policies.
· There is a need to further involve parents at an appropriate level in the review and development of school policies and to expand the school’s communication systems with parents.
· Pupils should be given full exposure to the drama curriculum following receipt of in-service during the current school year.
The school should now place a greater emphasis on the development of the oral language strand of the English curriculum and provide further opportunities for pupils to engage in oral activities.
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.