An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta 

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St. Cronan’s National School

Roscrea,

Co. Tipperary

Uimhir rolla: 13867P

 

Date of inspection: 14 November 2007

  Date of issue of report:  17 April 2008

 

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 St. Cronan’s NS was undertaken in November 2007. 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 Physical Education [PE].   The board of management 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

St. Cronan’s NS is a four-teacher school situated in the town of Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. The school serves families from the town and surrounding areas. Recent stable enrolment figures are predicted to continue in the medium term. There are no newcomer or minority pupils currently enrolled. Attendance rates at the school are good.

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

51

Mainstream classes in the school

3

Teachers on the school staff

4

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

1

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school is under the patronage of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick. It serves a predominantly Church of Ireland population. The school mission statement seeks to create a safe and secure learning environment where each child can develop to its full potential. The atmosphere in the school is good with the school community striving to work together to promote the welfare of the pupils.

 

1.2 Board of Management

The board of management is properly constituted. It meets regularly with a minimum of five meetings per year. Minutes of meetings are maintained and a financial report is presented at each meeting. Curricular plans and administrative policies are appropriately ratified by the board. The board is compliant with its responsibilities regarding admission, codes of behaviour and management of the school plan. A good relationship is seen to exist between the board and the school community. The board reports that it is satisfied with the quality of the teaching and learning provided in the school. It is now appropriate for the board to inform itself further regarding the standard of achievement of the pupils in each class. Action planning based on this information should assist the board in the identification of supports appropriate for continuous improvement. Board knowledge of and participation in annual reviews of the posts of responsibility will assist this work also.

 

1.3 In-school management

A new principal has recently been appointed since September 1st, 2007. She displays a keen awareness of the importance of the maintenance of the ethos of the school. Under her leadership, it is vital that the school community continues to work together for the benefit of the pupils and that the inevitable changes which arise from new leadership are worked on co-operatively and progressively. It is evident, at this early stage, that a good relationship exists between the principal and the board of management. The challenge for the school community is now to work on the changes arising from the evaluation in a measured and collegiate manner. 

There is a deputy principal post and a special duties post in the school. Both sets of duties are carried out responsibly and diligently. Specific areas of responsibility for curricular, pastoral and organisational issues have been allocated. There is a need to examine the role of the deputy principal post with a view to allocating more specific curricular responsibilities on an ongoing basis. It is also recommended that regular reportage and review of the work of the posts occur between the post holders and the board of management. 

 

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

A positive relationship is evident between the school and the local community. The parents’ association works closely with the school to provide logistical, funding and moral support. It is advised that the parents’ association, board of management and staff develop regular and effective structures to communicate regularly with each other to further the social and educational progress of the pupils. Regular newsletters, building on the current good practice of sharing some curricular information and advice can be used to develop this work. The school should also examine the potential of involving the parents more fully in the activities of the school regarding the learning experiences of the pupils. The development of a parents’ policy is now appropriate.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

During the evaluation, the pupils engaged with the inspector satisfactorily. Behaviour was excellent. Resources were carefully and purposefully manipulated. Questioning and answering opportunities were exploited for the most part. The school should consider the benefit an increased participative role by the pupils in their school would bring. Given the experience of the committee in the Green Schools’ project, the development of a students’ council for the school should be considered. It is vital that the pupils are given a democratic role in their school. The board can also contribute to this work in a meaningful manner.

Currently, some pupils are re-allocated throughout the school for the afternoon. The purpose and real benefit accruing from this practice should be analysed. It is important that appropriate time is allocated to the preparation of lessons and materials for the junior classes. 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

There is a well-developed planning culture in this school. The quality of whole-school planning is  good. Whole school plans are clear, delineated for each standard and link well with the individual planning process. The plans reflect the principles of the Primary School Curriculum 1999 closely. When reviewing the plans in the future, it is recommended that more detail on assessment be included. There is a need for the plans to provide indicators for the class teachers of the various grades of achievement for the different abilities. Linkage with the monthly progress report will assist the school in compiling whole school data on achievement rates across the curriculum. 

The quality of classroom planning is satisfactory. Teachers provide short and long-term plans which outline the intended teaching content. More meaningful reference to the learning outcomes of the pupils should be considered. Teachers should use the curriculum and school plan documents to identify very specific targets for the pupils. Analysis of the achievement rates can then be undertaken. The monthly report and the school plan are appropriate for this analysis. Selected areas can be analysed in depth by the assessment tools available to the school. This information should then be tabulated on a whole school level and appropriate interventions planned and implemented. This linkage between planning, teaching and assessment is essential to ensure that the multi-grade settings provide consistent and appropriate learning outcomes for all pupils.

 

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 coinsiasach sa scoil seo. Déantar iarracht dearcadh dearfach a chur chun cinn trí húsaid a bhaint as cluichí, rannta agus chomhtháthú leis na hábhair eile. Glacann na daltaí go bríomhar leis na cluichí. Sa léitheoireacht, sonraítear cruinneas go gineareálta. Léitear le tuiscint agus feictear go bhfuil suim ag na daltaí san ábhar. Ó thaobh na scríbhneoireachta de, feictear go bhfuil formhór na béime múinteoireachta curtha ar fhoirbairt na scileanna feidhmiúla. Sna hardranganna, scríobhann na daltaí le tuiscint ar structúir ghramadaí. Moltar anois don fhoireann breis béime a chur ar an teanga labhartha tríd an scoil go léir. Is fiú na snáitheanna a bhaineann le Éisteacht agus Labhairt ón gcuraclam a mhúineadh le béim a dhíriú ar chumarsáid idir na daltaí féin. Le gníomhaíochtaí suimiúla os a gcomhair, tiocfaidh na daltaí chuig an bhfoghlaim le dearcadh maith agus bainfidh siad taitneamh aisti bharr.

   

Irish

Irish is taught conscientiously in this school. An effort is made to promote a positive outlook on the language through the use of games, rhymes and integration with the other subjects. The children enjoy the games that are played. In general, they read accurately. They display an understanding and an interest in the reading material. In writing, a majority of the time is spent on functional exercises. In the senior classes, pupils write with an understanding of grammar. It is now recommended that the staff focus its efforts on the Listening and Speaking strands of the curriculum through placing emphasis on pupil’s interactions with each other. With interesting activities provided, the pupils will approach their learning more positively and will enjoy the experience as a result.  

 

English

The quality of the teaching and learning in most of the strands of the curriculum is good. Pupils read efficiently, write accurately and display good comprehension when questioned about the material provided for them. There is good use made of information and communication technologies [ICT] with regard to this aspect of the curriculum with the pupils displaying good competence in the use of computers. However, there are key elements of the curriculum where the methodologies being used should be reviewed immediately. In oral language, the pupils do not display the interest, breadth of vocabulary or understanding of the rationale involved. In general, there is little evidence of a whole school approach to oral language development. It is recommended that the school seek the support of a curriculum facilitator to examine the selection of an appropriate phonics programme for the school. The layout of the classrooms should also be examined, with a view to facilitating significantly greater opportunities for pupils to express themselves, listen to each other and develop their imaginative personalities. There is a need for the school, as a whole, to invest in a wider range of reading material and to seek the promotion of reading as a pleasure pastime to a much greater extent. The school must ensure that the pupils are encouraged, as much as possible, to read, discuss, imagine and express with their teachers and with each other.      

 

 

3.2 Mathematics

The standard of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good. In general, standardised test results and evidence from the evaluation indicate that attainment levels are good. Pupils display a sound understanding of the concepts, a willingness to learn and good mastery of the manipulation of the materials provided. Mathematical language is developed well and the pupils are capable of working independently. There is evidence in the school of the pupils benefiting from a relevant and accessible maths rich environment. This good practice should be extended throughout the entire school.

 

3.3 Physical Education [PE]

The standard of the teaching in PE as provided by the staff of the school is very good. Pupils are encouraged to participate, carry out the physical activities properly and make good use of the resources provided. Currently, the school engages with several external coaches throughout the year. While a need for external coaching in the Aquatics strand of the curriculum is clear, it is important that all pupils are provided with appropriate delivery of the curriculum by the staff of the school. Given the quality of the delivery observed during the evaluation, it is vital that the learning derived from these sessions is sustained and expanded for all pupils. There is also a need to ensure that assessment of the learning outcomes for all pupils in all standards in this area of the curriculum is recorded and reviewed according to the school plan.

 

3.4 Assessment

Assessment of the learning outcomes for pupils occurs regularly in this school. Micra-T, Sigma-T and the Middle Infant Screening Tests (MIST) [Senior Infants] are administered to all pupils at specific times during the school year. This data is compiled and maintained satisfactorily. Individual teachers use classroom observation and the outcome of the activity work to gather assessment information regarding short-term progress. No evidence was presented during the evaluation to show that this assessment work was impacting on the selection of more targeted learning objectives or on the identification of more differentiated activities. Assessment of pupil progress needs to be more formalised in the context of the whole school management of information gathered. The monthly report should be used as an ongoing recording mechanism of pupil achievement. By referring to the specific learning objectives outlined in the individual teachers’ planning documents during this recording, clear evidence can be gathered. This can be used to select more constructive active-learning opportunities for any pupils experiencing difficulty.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school provides both learning support and resource teaching support for a number of pupils. The standard of the work being undertaken in the special education setting is good. Pupils’ needs are catered for through Individual Education Plans [IEPs] and the targets selected are appropriate. The teaching of the pupils is carried out sensitively and with good use being made of ICT, the pupils are engaged with their learning. Effective communication strategies are also in place to support learning. The school has a well-developed learning support and special educational needs policy that identifies the staged approach as the preferred method of identification, analysis and implementation. Parents are regularly informed about their children’s progress. The teaching space allocated for this work is well-maintained, but there is a need for consideration by the board to expand the space available. This would allow for a greater range of strategies to be implemented.

The range of strategies that are utilised in order to engage the pupils is commendable. It is clear that the pupils respond very well to the opportunities provided. It is important for the school, as a whole, to adopt the recommendations of DES Circular 24/03. The development of an in-class delivery of resource and learning support teaching is urgently required. During the visits to the mainstream classes, there was very little evidence that the pupils in receipt of resource and learning support were centrally involved and engaged with the work being carried out. It is now timely that the school creates opportunities for these pupils to link purposefully with the work of the class. The presence of the learning support/resource teacher, in a planned and focused manner, in the room will facilitate greater achievement rates for these pupils. The class teachers must seek to differentiate their work to a greater extent to achieve this. 

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

There are no pupils from minority or other groups attending the school at present.

 

5.     Conclusion

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         A committed teaching staff which manages the educational and social development needs of the pupils satisfactorily. This work is supported by a very knowledgeable board of management and parent body.

·         The special education and learning support teaching in the school is of a good standard.

·         Learning achievement levels in Gaeilge, English and Mathematics are good.

 

 

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

·         The school must seek to develop whole school strategies to promote independent learning, discussion and active learning opportunities. Pupils must be encouraged to offer opinions, ideas and develop their imaginations to a far greater extent than at present. The inclusion of pupils with special educational needs is central to this work.

·         The board of management should develop an action plan for the coming years to put structures in place that will facilitate increased accountability, expand awareness by the local community of the work of the school and continue to promote high achievement rates by the pupils.  

·         The school must ensure that a full programme of Physical Education is delivered by the staff of the school in accordance with the Primary School Curriculum 1999.

·         An annual review of the work of the post-holders needs to occur. Such a review should seek to define the curricular responsibilities more specifically. Greater accountability to the board of management regarding this work is recommended.

·         Planning development needs to focus on the need to specify learning targets and on recording the accurate assessment of pupil achievement rates relating to those targets.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 St. Cronan's N.S welcome the positive comments outlined by the Department's inspectorate and would like in their response to the recent WSE Report to acknowledge the dedication of the staff in the school. They have implemented the Revised Curriculum since 1999 with enthusiasm and as recognised in the report are committed to managing all the needs of the pupils. The Board also identify the strong sense of community and the high level of co-operation among staff, parents and pupils within the school.

 

 

Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

We have considered the report's findings and the following recommendations are currently being implemented to ensure our school goes from strength to strength.

1.        Planning around the curriculum documents is being addressed and common templates will be drawn up. It is hoped that these will be in place in September 2008.These in turn will focus the direction of the monthly progress reports on the learning objectives.

2.   The SOPS & PCSP support team will support the staff in implementing a variety of methodologies in their classroom. Irish and English facilitators have spent time in all classrooms with a view to expanding the range of listening and speaking strands. They will also advise on differentiated learning plans.

3.   Discrete oral language time is timetabled in all classes and opportunities created to encourage the children to talk, discuss and debate. Opportunities for paired work, group work and independent learning are being addressed through an increased variety of methodologies.

4.  Supplementary Reading Resources have been purchased for English and staff and parents are encouraging children to read on a regular basis.

5.  Team teaching between the Class teacher and the Learning Support teacher is currently happening in one classroom. We will seek to expand this throughout the school.

6.  We will continue to keep Parents updated on school activities on a regular basis and include them in activities wherever possible. An information evening will take place in spring 2008 to update the Board and Parents further regarding the curriculum.

We at St.Cronan's N.S. remain committed to developing our strengths and the recommendations made will allow us to maintain and further nurture our happy school environment.