An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Hollyford National School
Hollyford, County Tipperary
Uimhir rolla: 13847J
Date of inspection: 10 February 2009
A whole-school evaluation of Hollyford N.S. was undertaken in February 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 Visual Arts. 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.
Hollyford National School is a two-teacher, co-educational school, under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, which caters for pupils from junior infants to sixth class. The school is a denominational school and school activities are guided by a Catholic ethos. The school is located in the parish of Hollyford, approximately twenty kilometres from Tipperary town, County Tipperary.
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 ethos of the school is clearly stated in the vision statement contained in the school plan: It states….In keeping with the characteristic spirit of our school we hope that our pupils will reach their full potential academically, will be strong and healthy physically, will know right from wrong, will have confidence and self-esteem and will develop a caring attitude to others.
The vision statement in Hollyford National School is realised in the practice of the teachers, the attitude and behaviour of the children and through the support of the whole school community.
The board of management is properly constituted, meets at least once per term and more frequently when the need arises. The board is very supportive of all school-related activities. A number of the board members have availed of training provided by the diocese for board members. Board members give freely of their skills and have assumed responsibility for a range of tasks including the management of the schools accounts and health and safety. The board has been active in fully refurbishing the school over the last number of years, dry-lining the internal walls, upgrading the toilet facilities, resurfacing the external playground thus ensuring that the school building and environs are suitable environments for teaching and learning.
A member of the board chairs the fundraising committee in the school. The board has also provided support in the form of material resources in order to enhance the quality of teaching and learning throughout the school. The board of management is commended for the work undertaken and completed to date pertaining to the development of the school’s accommodation and also with regard to the ongoing maintenance of the school’s classrooms and the provision of good quality educational resources in the school.
At the pre-evaluation meeting the board stated its satisfaction with the academic performance of the pupils in the school and praised the broad based nature of the curriculum being delivered in the school. The board identified a number of key strengths in the school, particularly the open relationship that exists between the pupils and the teachers and the teachers and the wider school community.
The board is properly constituted, convenes on a regular basis, and endeavours to meet all its statutory obligations through the development and implementation of appropriate policies. The board has ratified a very wide range of administrative and curricular policies. It is clear from the comprehensive documentation provided that many of the policies have been developed and reviewed over a long period of time. There is evidence to suggest that the policies are being reviewed on a regular basis and that the board has identified the school’s behaviour policy for review in the coming term. All of the policies have been ratified by the board of management and signed by the chairperson.
Relevant policies are distributed to all new parents when they are enrolling their children in the school. The chairperson of the board visits the school regularly and this feature of good practice is commended. School policies are available to parents who wish to view them on request from the principal. The board expressed its satisfaction with the quality of the education provision in this school and it also praised the diligence of the teaching staff.
During the inspection process, it was brought to the attention of the inspector that there was no active parents’ association in the school. However, it was evident from consultation with the parents’ representatives on the board, the board of management and the principal that many of the parents of the pupils in the school play an active role in school activities such as providing transport to sports events, organising the school concert and many other extra curricular activities. It is recommended, therefore, that the board of management should consider facilitating the establishment of a formal parents’ association, affiliated to the National Parents’ Council which would assist in supporting the work of the school and promoting links with the general parent body on a formal basis.
The in-school management team includes the principal and the designated post-holder. Appropriate organisational, curricular and pastoral tasks have been delegated to the post holder. The principal undertakes her management and teaching duties in a professional and competent manner. She ensures that official documents including the attendance book, roll books and the register are maintained accurately. She monitors the work of the school and ensures that this responsibility is partially fulfilled through compiling and maintaining custody of the teachers’ progress records.
Formal staff meetings are held in the school at least once per term and these meetings are used to provide opportunities to discuss develop and ratify administrative and curricular policies. The staff meetings have also been used to seek the support and advice of facilitators from the Primary Curriculum Support Service. The school is committed to convening at least one staff meeting per term and the dates of these meetings are approved by the board of management.
The principal reported that the parents support the work of the school through their involvement in many school events and activities including fundraising, swimming, Christmas Nativity plays, shared reading, school tours and educational outings. Parents are also invited to a meeting with a Relationships and Sexuality Education tutor on an annual basis. The teachers are commendably active in engaging with parents and the wider community. The school facilitates parent/teacher communication by implementing an open-door policy and also by convening formal parent/teacher meetings once each year. School reports pertaining to pupil progress are forwarded to parents on an annual basis. Parental support is also provided through assistance with school-related activities. Attendance at school performances and fundraising events is also actively encouraged.
Pupils in this school are very well behaved. It is evident that the principal has high expectations in respect of their behaviour. The pupils share these high expectations and there is an atmosphere of respect and trust between the pupils and the teachers in the school. Pupils are very well mannered and interact in an open and honest way with teachers, fellow students and visitors. Classroom rules have been established and it clearly evident that the pupils are willing to co-operate with the teachers in implementing the school’s code of behaviour. The teachers work collaboratively and are committed to creating a learning environment that fosters pupils’ learning and self-esteem.
The developmental nature of whole school planning is recognised and the teachers also acknowledge the ongoing process of policy development, co-ordination and collaboration. The organisational areas of the school plan have been documented in a very comprehensive way. These have been ratified by the board of management. Comprehensive curricular plans have been compiled in respect of all of the six curriculum areas, including Social Environmental and Science Education (Science, History and Geography), Mathematics, Language (Gaeilge and English), Arts (Visual Arts, Drama and Music), Physical Education, Social Personal and Health Education. The plans area formulated in such a way as to ensure compliance with the school development planning process as outlined in Department Guidelines. The school staff is commended on the planning documentation formulated to date. It is also advised that a school self-evaluation process be put in place to monitor the implementation of the curriculum plans throughout the school.
Individual teacher planning is undertaken in the form of long-term and short-term preparation in accordance with Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools. Both teachers link long-term planning to the strand and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). In general, good work is being undertaken in this regard which ensures consistency in the delivery of the curriculum throughout the school. The development of a school devised template for short-term plans which would outline the content objectives in each subject area, learning experiences for the fortnight, resources required for teaching and learning, assessment strategies and differentiation opportunities is recommended. Good preparation is also evident with regard to supplementary teaching and support provision. The planning in this area is broadly in line with the learning Support Guidelines.
It is also recommended that consideration be given to the further development of the common school-devised template, pertaining to monthly progress records. It is recommended that the monthly progress record might include a balance between content objectives and the pupils’ learning outcomes. The record might also include a section for an evaluative comment regarding the pupils’ attainment.
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.
Sa Ghaeilge, feictear go gcuireann na hoidí ullmhúchán fadtréimhseach agus gearrthréimhseach ar fáil. Déantar tagairt do phrionsabail agus do struchtúir an churaclaim i bpleanáil na n-oidí agus feictear go bhfuil pleanáil chuimsitheach á léiriú ag na múinteoirí go léir atá nascaithe le prionsabail Churaclaim na Bunscoile (1999) i gcoitinne. Moltar anois cheangailt níos doimhne a chruthú idir an pleanáil fadtréimhseach agus an pleanáil gearrthréimhseach.
Cuirtear béim ar theagasc na Gaeilge agus ar chumarsáid trí Ghaeilge sa scoil seo. Baintear dea-úsáid as fearas léirithe, obair-i-bpéirí, ábhar nithiúil agus modheolaíochtaí éifeachtacha ar fud na scoile chun cumarsáid na bpáistí a chur chun cinn. Tugtar deiseanna do na daltaí ceisteanna bunúsacha a chur agus a fhreagairt agus i gcoitinne, is léir go ndéantar daingniú cuí ar nathanna na teanga. Tá prionta sa timpeallacht le feiceáil go forleathan agus go ginearálta, dírítear aird céimniúil ar an ngramadach agus ar Ghaeilge fheidhmiúil sa scoil.
Forbraíonn na hoidí scileanna na cumarsáide go structúrtha agus is inmholta cumas labhartha na ndaltaí sa teanga sna meán agus ins na hardranganna. Úsáidtear raon leathan d’áchmhainní mar thaca don chlár teanga sna bunranganna agus éiríonn go maith leis na daltaí na bunscileanna a thabhairt leo. Aithrisíonn na daltaí rainn agus filíocht go taitneamhach agus cuirtear modheolaíochtaí taitneamhacha, éifeachtacha i bhfeidhm sna ranganna naoínáin agus bunranganna, go háirithe, rannaireacht, ról-ghlacadh, cluichí, obair i bpéirí agus ceistiúchán.
Baintear úsáid rialta as scéim grádaithe chun léitheoireacht fheidhmiúil na ndaltaí a chothú agus b’fhiú anois infheistíocht bhreise a dhéanamh sa stoc leabhar Ghaeilge. Is fiú, anois, féachaint le raon níos leithne d’ábhar léitheoireachta a sholáthar tríd an scoil. D’fhéadfaí tabhairt faoi na hiar-scéimeanna léitheoireachta a úsáid mar áis agus mar thaca do chlár foghlama na Gaeilge ó am go chéile. Bheadh sé oiriúnach anois go mbeadh seans ag na daltaí leabhair difriúla a léamh chun na scileanna macnaimh ard-ord a chothú le linn na ceachtanna leitheoireachta.
Bunaítear an saothar scríbhneoireachta ar obair fheidhmiúil sna cóipleabhair. Tugtar, freisin, faoi chleachtaí oiriúnacha sa scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach agus sa scríbhneoireacht phearsanta. Is léir go ndéantar monatóireacht rialta ar an saothar agus go spreagtar na daltaí chun cur-i-láthair slachtmhar a chinntiú.
In Irish the teachers provide long-term and short-term panning. Reference is made to the principles and structures of the curriculum and it is clear that this effective planning is linked to the principles of the Primary Curriculum (1999). It is recommended that deeper linkage be developed between long-term and short-term plans.
Appropriate emphasis is placed on the teaching of Irish and this is achieved through an emphasis on communication in this school. Very effective use is made of illustrative materials, working in pairs, concrete materials and effective methodologies throughout the school to develop the pupils’ communication skills. Children are provided with opportunities to ask and answer basis questions and every effort is made to consolidate language phrases. Print-rich environments are evident throughout the school and appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of formal Irish and grammar in a systematic way throughout the school.
Emphasis is placed on the structured development of the pupils’ communication skills and the pupils’ oral language skills are commendable in the middle and senior standards. A wide range of resources are in use to support the language programme in the infant and middle standards and it is evident that the children succeed in attaining the basic language skills. The children recite rhymes and poems with enthusiasm and effective methodologies are utilised in the infant and junior classes, particularly recitation, role play, games, pair-work and questioning.
A commercial reading scheme is in use throughout the school to teach formal reading. It is recommended that additional investment be provided to purchase a wider range of reading materials. The use of older reading schemes or excerpts from them might be used as an additional resource and support material for the reading programme from time to time. It would be appropriate now to provide pupils with opportunities to read different books to develop their higher order thinking skills during reading lessons.
Writing is based on formal exercises in the children’s copybooks. Opportunities for creative and personal writing are also provided. It is evident that the children’s writing is monitored on a regular basis and that the children are encouraged to write in a neat and orderly fashion.
The teachers presented comprehensive long-term planning in this subject area. The development of a school-based template should be considered to enable the effective linkage of long-term and short-term plans. Oral language is taught as an integrated part of English reading throughout the school. Most pupils express themselves confidently in English in all classes. Oral language skills are developed in both classes and opportunities for engaging in discussion across a wide range of curricular areas are provided. It is recommended that a discrete oral language programme, based on the content objectives of the English curriculum should be developed and taught at all class levels. The use of story should be considered as a strategy for the development of higher order thinking skills particularly in the infant and junior classes. The use of discretionary time for oral language activities is recommended and this will enable pupils to experience structured oral-language activities on a number of occasions during the week.
In general, good English lessons were observed during the evaluation period. In general, the standard of literacy in the school is very good with the majority of pupils engaging in reading and written activities in a competent manner in all classes. A wide range of teaching approaches are used during the teaching of reading including the provision of a print-rich environment, the use of large format books, games, phonological awareness training and word recognition strategies. Phonological awareness is developed in an effective manner in the infant classes and the learning support teacher has initiated an intervention programme in collaboration with the class teacher. This initiative is commended. The school also carries out the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) in the final term in senior infants. It is recommended that the MIST be carried out in the second term of senior infants and that the follow up programme Forward Together be implemented in the third term in collaboration with the parents of the children in senior infants.
Shared reading initiatives involving parents are also undertaken throughout the school. A differentiated approach to English reading is carried out in classes through the use of a differentiated reading programme. This work is commended. The use of a class novel in middle and senior classes is recommended. The school has acquired sets of novels and the principal reported that these are explored by the middle and senior class teacher as part of the English programme. The use of the novel engages pupils in discussion, debate and character analysis. The use of the class novel also provides pupils with opportunities to respond to literature and to engage in higher order thinking. A wide repertoire of poems is explored and the pupils are encouraged to respond in different ways through dramatising, miming, writing and comparing poems.
The pupils engage in a range of writing activities, both functional and creative. Personal and creative writing commences in the junior classes. Pupils write short personal accounts. Children also write their own poetry and are encouraged to write in various formats. All teachers use a range of assessment strategies including teacher observation, monitoring of pupils’ copybooks, teacher designed tests, written activities and standardised test results. The results of standardised tests inform the programmes undertaken in English and assessment information is used to assist teachers when grouping pupils and matching reading materials to the pupils’ needs.
The quality of learning and teaching of Mathematics throughout the school is good. The lessons observed were well structured and paced accordingly. Some very good practice was observed and this included the use of a variety of methodologies and organisational settings, the effective use of concrete materials and the exploration of the language of Mathematics, very effective questioning strategies and linking the pupils’ prior knowledge with the topics being taught. This very good practice is particularly in evidence in the infant and junior classes. Very good focus was observed in respect of the language of Mathematics. Pupils display a good capacity to apply relevant mathematical terminology accurately and confidently while exploring tasks. The range of pupils’ abilities in some classes is catered for through appropriate differentiation of materials and tasks. Good interaction was observed between teachers and pupils in both classrooms. Further emphasis is recommended on the structured development of the language of Mathematics.
Pupils were provided with opportunities to work collaboratively on mathematical tasks. The majority of pupils displayed age-appropriate ability to perform suitable mental and written computational tasks, to solve problems and to discuss results. Pupils’ written assignments are presented neatly and monitored regularly. The inclusion of an introductory phase in each Mathematics lesson is praiseworthy. This short introductory period is utilised to focus on oral Mathematics, the development of the children’s ability to manage number more effectively and also enable the consolidation of concepts already taught through the use of appropriate mathematical problems.
The teachers use a variety of assessment methods in Mathematics. These include teacher-devised and commercial tests, teacher observation, standardised tests and worksheets to monitor pupils’ acquisition of knowledge and skills.
Teachers succeed in implementing a broad programme in Visual Arts which provides pupils with a range of experiences in making, looking at and responding to art. The Visual Arts programme is effectively integrated with other areas of the curriculum. Stimulating and creative displays of children’s work are displayed throughout the school and this work indicates that children experience a wide range of media, techniques and skills. Opportunities for integrating the Visual Arts with other curriculum work are exploited to good effect. Painting, printing and drawing are complemented by three-dimensional craft and construction work. Children are encouraged to discuss their own work under the strand of responding to art. Pupils are encouraged to develop their imagination and creativity in making art. Pupils enjoy the lessons in the Visual Arts and discuss their art work with enthusiasm.
A range of assessment strategies is in use in the school including teacher observation, teacher designed tasks and tests, pupils’ work samples and also the monitoring of oral and written activities. The Sigma T and Micra T standardised tests are administered annually from first to sixth classes. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is used to assess pupils’ attainment in senior infants. It is recommended that the MIST be carried out in the second term of senior infants and that the Forward Together Programme is implemented in the third term. The use of The Belfield Infant Assessment Profile as an assessment tool in junior infants is also recommended. The Drumcondra English Profiles might also be considered when designing assessment instruments, tasks and tests for all class levels.
The school has access to the services of a Learning Support (LST)/Resource Teacher (RT) for nine and a half hours per week. A collaborative approach to the provision of support for pupils is in evidence among the principal, mainstream class teacher and the learning support teacher. A very good Learning Support Policy has been formulated and this is based on the staged approach outlined in Department of Education and Science Circular 02/05 and is included in school planning documentation. The plan outlines the aims and rationale in relation to the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs. The plan outlines the screening and referral procedures to be used in the school. Furthermore, the plan sets out how the staged approach which is outlined in Circular 02/05 will be implemented. The plan states that Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) will be developed in line with the Learning Support Guidelines (Department of Education and Science, 2000) and the provisions made under the EPSEN Act, Disability Bill and Circular 02/05. The plan also notes how parents will be involved in the learning process and also documents how the school interacts with external agencies.
Support teaching is provided for four pupils in literacy. No pupils currently receive support in Mathematics and it is recommended that a review be carried out to ascertain if some pupils could benefit from support teaching in Mathematics. An Early Intervention programme, provided by the learning support teacher in collaboration with the mainstream class teacher, is implemented with senior infant and all first class pupils. The integration of support teaching in mainstream classes, through the provision of early intervention activities with pupils at infant level, is commended.
The learning support environment needs reorganisation and the acquisition of appropriate furniture should be prioritised. A range of appropriate teaching strategies and methodologies is implemented. Pupils are withdrawn for support provision from mainstream classes, both individually and in groups. The LS/RT uses a wide range of educational software to enhance the pupils’ learning experiences.
The programmes of learning formulated for pupils for whom supplementary and support teaching are provided, focus on the development of literacy. In some cases the LS/RT is implementing targets identified by the Speech and Language Therapist and these are the focus of the teachers’ plans. The planning is documented through the formulation of Individual Pupil Learning Profiles. Weekly plans, daily planning sheets, records of parental meetings, progress reports, daily records of work and timetables are maintained in a methodical manner. Pupil profiles, portfolios and folders are neatly maintained and organised.
There is evidence of effective collaboration and consultation among the principal, mainstream class teacher and the LS/RT in the formulation and development of pupils’ IPLPs. The further development of IPLPs through the inclusion of more specific learning targets is recommended. Feedback regarding pupil progress is provided to parents at annual parent/teacher meetings. It is recommended, that parental input towards the formulation and review of IPLPs be extended. It is recommended that a review of the pupils currently receiving support for literacy be carried out with a view to providing support for some pupils who are in need of supplementary teaching in Mathematics.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The school climate reflects the school ethos and characteristic spirit, as outlined in the school’s vision statement.
· The principal and teacher in the school are to be commended for the considerable development work which has been carried out to date on the school plan.
· The behaviour of pupils is commendable and this leads to a respectful and trusting relationship between the teachers and the pupils.
· Very good pupil outcomes were observed in the curricular areas evaluated.
· The board of management and general parent body is very supportive of the work of the school.
· Staff commitment to and pupil participation in sports and extra-curricular activities is praiseworthy.
· The school building and grounds are being maintained to a high standard.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· Consideration should be given to the implementation of the Forward Together Programme, as an early intervention strategy, in collaboration with parents in term three of senior infants.
· The development of a school based template for short-term plans that incorporates content objectives from the curriculum and links short-term plans explicitly to long-term plans should be considered.
· The development of a structured oral language programme throughout the whole-school is recommended.
· The reorganisation of the learning support area should be considered and appropriate furniture for the pupils and teacher should be acquired.
· The board should facilitate the formation of a formal parents’ association.
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 May 2009