An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Slatta NS

Kilglass, Co. Roscommon

Uimhir rolla: 13879W

 

Date of inspection: 28 September 2009

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

 

A whole-school evaluation of Slatta NS was undertaken in September 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Music. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Slatta NS is a small rural school located twenty kilometres from Longford. It caters for boys and girls from infants to sixth class, from a clearly defined catchment area. Enrolment trends are steadily increasing in recent years. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Elphin. The school’s last evaluation was carried out in 1998.

 

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

28

Mainstream classes in the school

7

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school’s mission statement is published in the school plan and is displayed in the school. In this they “endeavour to inculcate in our pupils respect, fairness, honesty, self-esteem and a desire to fulfil one’s potential”. The atmosphere of the school is very pleasant and welcoming.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management work towards the common goal of providing appropriate material resources for the pupils of the school. It has engaged in significant development of the school building over the past number of years including the painting of the school, the replacement of windows and the landscaping of the school grounds. The board has a newly appointed chairperson in recent weeks. This provides the opportunity for the board to familiarise themselves with its roles and duties as outlined in the Education Act (1998) and in the Catholic Primary School Management Association (CPSMA) handbook.  It is recommended that the board adheres to the guidelines of a minimum of five meetings per year and ensures that the school complies with relevant legislation and Department circulars and guidelines.

  

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team comprises the principal and one post holder who has been responsibility for Music and information and communication technologies. The quality of in-school management shows scope for development. A positive school climate has been established and is characterised by positive working relationships. The principal promotes a culture of collaborative decision-making. There has been a recent decision to hold termly staff meeting. While the teachers work conscientiously, there is little emphasis on curriculum leadership, on innovative practices and on whole-school approaches to classroom practice. There is evidence of a lack of understanding of Department circulars and guidelines. It is recommended that the principal familiarise himself with such circulars and guidelines to promote effective leadership. It is further recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on curricular leadership.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The quality of communication with the school community is very good. A school newsletter is published every six weeks which keeps parents informed of all school developments. Parents are invited to attend annual meetings to discuss their child’s progress. While parents are involved in the organisation and management of swimming lessons, it is recommended that the school establishes a number of curricular initiatives which involve parents.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils is very good. Pupils are managed with care and understanding. The pastoral needs of pupils, including those with specific needs, are managed very effectively. Pupils are friendly and courteous in their interactions with peers, teachers and other school staff.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is fair. There is some very good practice established in the school regarding the planning process. This includes the setting out of long-term planning priorities and regular review of current plans and policies. However, policies have not been updated to reflect changes in legislation, guidelines or circulars. In some cases, the practices recorded in the policy statements do not comply with current practice in the school. It is recommended that organisational policies be revised in order to reflect current legislation, guidelines and circulars. The quality of curriculum planning is poor. Plans are generic in nature. There is a lack of guidance on classroom practice and there is generally no reference to whole-school approaches in specific subject areas. It is recommended that curricular plans be redrafted to take account of the context of this particular school, with a focus on providing high-quality learning experiences to enable all pupils to achieve high standards.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good. Conscientious planning and preparation is evident in the work of individual teachers. The school has developed a common template to assist with short-term planning. This is very effective. It ensures continuity and progression in learning and facilitates the development of a system for monitoring progress. It is recommended that closer links with the curriculum documents be forged in long-term planning.

  

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

Tá caighdeán na Gaeilge le forbairt sa scoil. Úsáidtear ábhair léirithe chun foclóir nua a mhúineadh do na daltaí, rud a chuireann go mór lena dtuiscint. Leagann múinteoirí béim chuí ar rainn, dánta agus amhráin. Múintear na ceachtanna go héifeachtach trí Ghaeilge. Cé go n-éisteann na daltaí leis an múinteoir agus lena chéile sa cheacht Gaeilge, moltar gníomhaíochtaí éisteachta formálta a eagrú go rialta, de réir cuspóirí an Churaclam Gaeilge. Tá tuiscint ag na múinteoirí faoin gcur chuige cumarsáideach agus úsáidtear meascán de mhodhanna múinte chun na daltaí a chur ag caint. Moltar, áfach, béim sa bhreis a leagan ar obair bheirte rialta. Bíonn deacrachtaí ag na daltaí sinsireacha le casadh na mbriathra. Ní bhíonn siad in ann ceisteanna a fhreagairt go héifeachtúil. Moltar nós imeachta uile-scoile a leagan amach chun na briathra a mhúineadh go neamhfhoirmiúil trí chuspóirí don snáithe labhairt.

 

Tosaítear leis an léitheoireacht neamhfhoirmiúil go héifeachtúil sna ranganna naíonán trí húsáid a bhaint as ábhair léirithe, luaschartaí agus leabhair mhóra. Cuirtear tús leis an leitheoireacht fhoirmiúil ó rang a haon, rud atá i gcoimhlint le Curaclam na Bunscoile. Moltar níos mó béime a leagan ar obair ó bhéal le rang a haon agus an léitheoireacht a tosú i rang a dó. Sna hardranganna léann na daltaí go líofa i gcoitinne ach is gá aird a dhíriú ar fhoghraíocht chun cruinneas na léitheoireachta a fhorbairt. Moltar chomh maith leabhair éagsúla a úsáid a bhaineann leis an deich téama sa churaclam Gaeilge chun cothromaíocht a chinntiú.

 

Tosaítear le scríbhneoireacht fhoirmiúil i rang a haon. Moltar í a thosnú i rang a dó, mar a mholtar i gCuraclam na Bunscoile. Cé go bhfuil an-taithí ag na daltaí ar bheith ag scríobh a nuacht pearsanta, moltar réimse níos leithne de thascanna scríbhneoireachta a chothú chun suim a mhúscailt sna daltaí agus chun a scileanna a fhorbairt.

 

Irish

The standard of Irish in the school shows scope for development. Visual aids are used to teach new vocabulary to pupils, which greatly aids their comprehension. Teachers place an appropriate emphasis on rhymes, poems and songs. Lessons are taught effectively through the medium of Irish. While the pupils listen to their teacher and to their peers in Irish, it is recommended that formal listening activities be organised on a regular basis in line with the objectives of the Irish curriculum. Teachers understand the communicative approach and use an assortment of methodologies to encourage pupils to speak. It is recommended, however, that teachers place an additional emphasis on the regular use of pair work. Senior pupils experience difficulties with the accurate use of verbs. They are unable to answer questions effectively. It is recommended that a whole-school approach to the informal teaching of verbs be devised, through the objectives of the strand speaking.

 

Informal reading is taught effectively in infant classes using visual aids, flashcards and big books. Formal reading is started in first class, in conflict with the Primary Curriculum. It is recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on oral work in first class and that formal reading would start in second class. In the senior classes pupils generally read well although it is necessary to focus on phonetics to improve pupils’ accuracy in reading. It is also recommended that different books dealing with the ten themes of the Irish curriculum be used to ensure breadth and balance.

 

Formal writing is started in first class. It is recommended that it be started in second class, as recommended in the Primary Curriculum. While pupils have great experience of writing their personal news, it is recommended that a greater variety of writing tasks be assigned to stimulate pupils’ interests and to develop their writing skills.

 

English

The quality of teaching and learning in English is good. Teachers make effective use of resources and ensure a range of methodologies is employed to broaden pupils’ experiences. In the teaching of oral language, there are instances of very good practice where specific vocabulary is planned for and taught. It is recommended that teachers make use of language experience charts and plan for a variety of genres in oral language lessons. Pupils recite poems with energy and vigour. They can discuss poetry effectively. In the junior classes a very good emphasis is placed on nursery rhymes. The young pupils’ listening skills are also consistently developed through the content of the English programme.

 

The quality of English reading is good. Pupils generally read with expression and understanding although additional emphasis should be placed on developing word attack skills. A class novel is used to good effect in the senior classes, while the use of big books and story time is a commendable feature of the junior classes’ programme. Pupils are given opportunities to select and read books from the library. Both class libraries are quite well stocked, although it is recommended that they be presented in a more attractive way to motivate pupils to read more. It is further recommended that the school considers the implementation of a shared-reading programme in conjunction with parents.

 

The quality of pupils’ written work is fair. Pupils display their work in the classroom and senior pupils have experience of publishing their work using information and communication technologies. There is a need to implement a whole-school approach to handwriting to ensure that pupils develop a legible, individual cursive style. It is further recommended that pupils write in a greater variety of genres and that the conventions of each genre are developed consistently through other subject areas.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good. Teachers make very good use of the local environment. Pupils are very involved in discovery learning and a wide range of resources are available for the teaching of different strands. The lesson objectives are clearly identified and lessons are effectively paced and sequenced. Pupils’ questions are encouraged and answered appropriately. A very good emphasis is placed on the language of Mathematics although pupils would benefit from more pair work to use the taught vocabulary in different contexts. The use of games and challenges in Mathematics is praiseworthy. However, pupils experience some degree of difficulty with the acquisition of number facts and with the process of problem-solving. It is recommended that teachers devise a whole-school approach to the learning of number facts and to strategies for problem-solving.

 

3.3 Music

The quality of teaching and learning in Music is good. There is good breadth and balance in the programmes taught, although it is recommended that greater attention be given to the strand composing. Teaching would benefit from the use of curricular objectives in all aspects of planning. Pupils have been exposed to music of different styles, periods and cultures. They listen to music for pleasure and for specific elements. They experience responding to music physically and cognitively. It is recommended that pupils are given opportunities to talk about Music, particularly in pairs, to ensure they understand and process the vocabulary associated with each strand. The school avails of two music teachers for the teaching of Music to the senior pupils. It is recommended that the board of management revises this arrangement to ensure teachers’ skills within the school are fully exploited.

 

3.4 Assessment

The quality of assessment is good. Teachers are generally consistent in the correcting of pupils’ work. In some instances they offer constructive feedback. Pupils undertake standardised testing annually in the areas of reading and Mathematics. The results of such tests form the basis for support teaching. It is recommended that teachers analyse these results fully with the aim of identifying areas for development. It is further recommended that results of such tests be used to differentiate work for individual pupils in the mainstream classroom.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of support for pupils is good. The teaching of the special education team is stimulating and effective. The special education needs teachers work diligently to provide relevant and realistic programmes of work. In general, the individual education plans (IEPs) set out clear targets for each term. It is recommended that the practice of formulating IEPs be extended to include termly reviews with parents and that parents be given a copy of the plan. It is recommended that teachers place a greater emphasis on pupils discussing their work and their thinking processes as an aid to oral-language development. It is imperative that the board of management makes every effort to secure teachers who are qualified for posts in support teaching.

 

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

There are currently no pupils from minority groups enrolled in the school.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

  • The atmosphere of the school is very welcoming and pleasant.
  • The quality of communication with the school community is very good.
  • Pupil behaviour is very good as they are managed with care and understanding.
  • The pastoral needs of pupils, including those with specific needs are managed very effectively.
  • A very positive school climate has been established which is characterised by positive working relationships.
  • The quality of classroom planning is good.
  • The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good.
  • A broad and balanced Music programme is presented to pupils.
  • The teaching staff is diligent and conscientious in their work.
  • The learning-support teacher and resource teacher cater sensitively for pupils with special educational needs.

 

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

 

  • It is recommended that the board familiarise itself with its roles and duties, and ensures that the school complies with relevant legislation and Department circulars and guidelines.
  • It is recommended that the principal familiarises himself with Department circulars and guidelines, and that he place a greater emphasis on curricular leadership.
  • It is recommended that the school engages in whole-school innovative curricular practices such as involving parents in a shared-reading programme.
  • It is recommended that in Irish, formal reading and writing would not commence until second class.
  • It is recommended that a greater variety of reading texts and writing tasks be assigned in Irish and English to ensure breadth and balance, and the development of pupils’ literacy skills.
  • It is recommended that the school plan be reviewed, to take account of current school practice, current circulars and guidelines, and with a view to developing whole-school approaches in curricular areas.

 

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, April 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The Board of Management of Slatta National School welcomes the report of the Inspectorate and the affirmation of so many aspects of our school citied therein:

 

·         The “steadily increasing enrolment trends” of recent years. The school was on the verge of closure four years ago when the current Principal took over (one teacher and eleven pupils). Under his leadership, backed by a determined Board of Management and subsequently by a very able In-school Management Team, the school has been transformed to a thriving one - enrolment is now twenty-eight, there are two full time Teachers, a part-time Resource Teacher and a Special Needs Assistant.

·         Very good communication between the school and its community

·         Very good management of pupils

·         Conscientious and diligent planning by teachers

·         Sensitive and very effective catering for pupils with Special Needs

·         Positive school climate and working relationships

·         Very effective management of the pastoral needs of pupils

 

 Regarding legislation, Circulars and Guidelines;

 

The Principal assures the Inspectorate that he has an excellent knowledge and understanding of current legislation, circulars and guidelines.

 

                            Organisational Policies:

 

-          It is the view of the Board of Management and the In-school Management Team that the majority of organisational policies comply with current legislation, guidelines and circulars. It is also recognised, however, that there is always scope for improvement and the In-school Management Team and Board of Management strive constantly towards such improvement. To this end, Special Educational Needs and Enrolment policies have recently been redrafted, while various others have been amended and a critical Incident policy has been added

Curricular Planning:

-          Curriculum plans are based on the 1999 Primary School Curriculum. They are amended and updated as and when necessary. Again, the Board of Management and In-school Management Team strive to improve the plans on an on-going basis, e.g. through making them more school-specific and less generic as suggested by the Inspectorate.

 

-          The Inspectorate advises in this report that “formal reading and writing would not commence until second class”. However, this view conflicts with the advice given by the Inspectorate three years ago-that in view of the four-grade class and low numbers, first and second class could be grouped together and an appropriate level of reading and writing could be begun thus with first class (mostly pr-reading activities and picture-word association for writing). This approach “takes account of the context of this particular school” and works well.

 

-          A shared-reading programme involving parents’ has now been initiated.

 

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          

 

-          Shared Reading Programme Implemented

-          Enrolment and Special Needs policies re-drafted

-          Handwriting and Maths policies amended

-          Policy-review schedule drafted

-          Various tasks associated with school management have been distributed more equitably among Board of Management members.