An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Cross National School
Kilrush, Co. Clare
Uimhir rolla: 14111L
Date of inspection: 22 November 2007
Date of issue of report: 17 April 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Cross National School 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. 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.
Cross National School is a two-teacher school located in the parish of Kilballyowen fourteen kilometres west of the town of Kilkee and close to Loop Head. In addition to the mainstream class teachers, the school receives support from a learning-support teacher and a resource teacher. The school is maintained to a very high standard and is in very good condition throughout. The board of management, teachers and pupils are commended for their efforts in ensuring that the school is so well presented.
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 school is under the patronage of the Catholic bishop of the diocese of Killaloe. In its mission statement the school seeks to foster the development of all pupils educationally and socially to the best of their abilities. The mission statement also encourages pupils to partake in a wide range of extra-curricular activities.
The board of management is properly constituted and roles and functions of board members are clearly defined. All board members are assigned specific duties and they carry out these responsibilities effectively. Meetings of the board are held regularly and minutes of these meetings are maintained. A report on each meeting is forwarded to all parents. The board is commended for this practice. The board is in a good financial position. All expenditure is discussed at board meetings before being sanctioned for payment.
The board is involved in the development of school policies. All school policies are discussed at board meetings prior to ratification and signing by the chairperson.
The chairperson and board members effectively support the principal in her role. The board is very active in ensuring that the school is maintained to a high standard. The board also makes funding available for extra-curricular activities for the pupils and supports the use of guest speakers in the development of aspects of the curriculum. The board has also provided temporary accommodation for the learning-support and resource teachers. The board hopes to be in a position to replace this temporary accommodation with a permanent structure in the near future.
The in-school management team consists of the principal and one special duties post-holder. The principal was appointed to this school in September 2004. The principal conscientiously fulfils all of her curricular, organisational and pastoral duties to a high degree of competency. She fulfils all of her obligations under the Rules for National Schools and all relevant Department of Education and Science circulars. She provides very effective leadership across all aspects of school life. There is a very good rapport between the principal and the special duties post-holder. They both work diligently to ensure that the educational and social needs of the pupils under their care are consistently met. Appropriate roles are assigned to the special duties post-holder and these are executed to a very high order. These responsibilities are reviewed regularly to ensure that they meet the current needs of the school.
There is good communication between the school and the school community. Homework diaries and information bulletins are used regularly. The school does not have a parents’ association but parents are involved in many aspects of school life. The board of management should consider initiating the process of establishing a parents’ association. Parent-teacher meetings are arranged annually and teachers make themselves available to meet with parents at other times when requested. There is a very good community spirit in evidence in the school with pupils taking part in a number of church services, community exhibitions and parades as well as Christmas concerts, as well as music song and dance for the elderly. The school is commended for this work.
Pupils in this school are very well behaved at all times. Excellent discipline is in evidence in the classrooms and in the school grounds. The pupils are mannerly, friendly and courteous to teachers, fellow pupils and to visitors. The pupils show great respect for the school and its environs. The school is actively involved in the Green Schools’ Environmental Project and has recently been awarded the Green Flag. Pupils are encouraged to take responsibility for the effective management of their work and to assist in the management of school-related activities.
The quality of whole-school planning is good. The school has developed a wide range of curricular and administrative policies over the past four years in particular. Policy formation is usually carried out by the teachers and reviewed by the board prior to ratification and authorisation. Parental input to policy formation is facilitated through the parent representatives on the board of management. Copies of all policies are available for review by parents and other members of the school community. A number of policies, including the code of discipline and homework policies, are sent to parents annually. It is recommended that the parental input to all policy formation and policy review is expanded further. The school has a policy development action plan in place which reflects the context of the school and the learning needs of the pupils. This ensures that there is appropriate monitoring and review of all policies. It is recommended that the review process be extended to the school’s enrolment policy to ensure it meets with the criteria as set out in the Education Act, 1998 and the Equal Status Acts 2000-2004
All class teachers prepare appropriate long-term and short-term plans for their work and monthly progress records are maintained. The standard of this planning is good and it gives clear direction on the content to be taught as well as the methodologies, resources and assessment strategies to be used during teaching. There is also some good differentiation in evidence in this planning ensuring that the needs of all pupils are taken into account during the teaching process.
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.
Tá dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge sa scoil seo agus tá caighdeán an-mhaith bainte amach ag na daltaí. Cuirtear na ceachtanna Gaeilge i láthair go bríomhar, taitneamhach agus labhraíonn na hoidí i nGaeilge go leanúnach le linn na hoibre. Moltar freisin an timpeallacht spreagúil Ghaelach a chothaítear sna ranganna. Úsáidtear modh na cumarsáide agus modh na drámaíochta go cumasach sna bunranganna. Baintear feidhm freisin as pictiúir, puipéid, gníomhaíochtaí agus acmhainní cruthaitheacha chun foclóir agus cumas cainte na daltaí a leathnú agus a shaibhriú. Tá cnuasach maith de rainn Ghaeilge, formhór acu le geaitsíocht, ar eolas ag na daltaí agus aithrisítear go beoga iad. Forbraítear an léitheoireacht go héifeachtach ó rang a dó ar aghaidh. Léann an chuid is mó de na daltaí go líofa agus freagraíonn siad ceisteanna bunaithe ar an léitheoireacht go cumasach. Tugtar faoi theagasc na scríbhneoireachta ar bhonn foirmeálta, leanúnach. Leagtar amach an obair scríofa go néata, slachtmhar. Déantar maoirseacht go rialta ar an obair seo agus gnóthaítear caighdeán ard i gcoitinne. Chun tógáil ar an dea-shaothar a chonacthas sna bunranganna agus i léitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht na ndaltaí sna hardranganna, b’fhiú don fhoireann cumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí eatarthu féin a fhorbairt níos mó.
A positive outlook in relation to Irish is fostered in this school and a very good standard is achieved by the pupils. The lessons in Irish are presented in an enjoyable lively fashion and the teachers use Irish continuously during this work. The inspirational Irish environment presented in the classroom is deserving of praise. In the junior classes drama and communication methodologies are used. Pictures, puppets, actions and other creative resources are also used proficiently to develop and enrich the vocabulary and the communication ability of the pupils. The pupils have learned a wide range of poems in Irish which they recite in a lively manner using appropriate actions. Reading is promoted effectively from second class onwards. The majority of pupils read fluently and they answer questions based on this reading material. The teaching of writing is undertaken on a formal regular basis. The work is neatly and tidily presented. This work is monitored regularly and a high standard is achieved overall. To further develop the good work that was seen in the junior classes and in the reading and writing experiences provided in senior classes, it would be worthwhile for the staff to further develop the pupils’ communication abilities with each other.
During English lessons the listener/speaker relationship is well-developed and very good emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ higher-order thinking skills. A praiseworthy emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ vocabulary and language on a cross-curricular basis, particularly in the area of Social Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE). Pupils can recite a commendable selection of poetry and rhymes in infant and junior classes. The pupils in all classes get regular opportunities to write poetry and many of these poems are of an exceptionally high standard.
All aspects of the English reading programme are developing very well with pupils achieving excellent standards in this area. A good foundation of basic reading skills is laid down in the junior classes and these reading skills are systematically developed at the senior level. Large format books are regularly used in junior classes and creative strategies such as, character in role, are utilised to respond to stories. Pupils can read fluently and most pupils display very good comprehension levels as they progress through the school. Reading for different purposes, such as for information and for pleasure, is also steadily developed and the class library is used widely. Pupils can discuss confidently the characters, plots and main themes of novels chosen from the class library.
The standard of English writing throughout the school is very high. There are very good examples of pupils’ writing in a variety of genres on display in every class. The writing process is appropriately emphasised and written work is carefully edited and published. Opportunities for children to draft and edit their own writing are facilitated by the use of information and communication technologies (ICT). Pupils are provided with the opportunity to develop their writing skills through the use of appropriate software in junior classes. Data projector, Power-Point presentations and photographs are used as stimuli for writing in senior classes. Copybooks and workbooks contain highly commendable work in functional and creative writing. The writing process could be developed further by allowing pupils to complete stories or poems co-operatively.
The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good with high standards achieved by most pupils in the school. The teachers are highly adept at setting each class a range of suitable practical and written tasks. These tasks are prudently chosen, well planned, proficiently organised, suitably paced and adequately differentiated. Focused discussion and purposeful questioning directs pupils’ activities and sustains a high level of engagement and pupil participation. At infant level, pupils engage in early mathematical activities including matching and pattern-making and at all levels the concept of number and of place value is well taught. Charts, text-books, workbooks, concrete materials and ICT are effectively used to support teaching and learning at senior level. Maths-rich environments are promoted in all classrooms and mathematical resources are displayed in mathematics corners.
Methodologies used include whole-class teaching, pair work and group work. The pupils are afforded regular opportunities to collaborate on tasks and to cooperate in their learning activities. Mathematics is integrated effectively with other aspects of the curriculum. The co-operative approach to constructing shapes from tangrams in PE lessons is highly commended. The whole school is regularly involved in gathering data for the Green Schools Initiative and this information is collated and presented graphically.
Assessment techniques used include teacher observation, teacher designed tests and standardised assessment. The written work in Mathematics is of a high calibre and merits particular praise for its neatness, order and clarity. The teachers are to be complimented on the effective delivery of the mathematics curriculum.
For physical education (PE) lessons the school has access to a general-purposes room and a large yard to the front of the school. A wide range of resources is used very effectively during these lessons. The school has enhanced its PE equipment through its involvement in the Buntús Spórt programme, and through fundraising and grants. PE lessons follow an appropriate sequence of warm-up, skills practice, games and cool-down activities. There is successful use made of station teaching during these lessons. Under the teachers’ careful guidance the pupils are developing their skills of working independently and with others during collaborative learning activities. Teachers’ questioning is skilful and elicits thoughtful responses from pupils about space, techniques and skills. Boys and girls are given equal opportunities to participate in all strands of the physical education curriculum. The integration of PE with Maths and Gaeilge is commendable.
All pupils have access to the aquatics strand of the curriculum once a term and this service is funded by grants and fundraising. A visiting GAA coach provides additional tuition for pupils from second to sixth classes. An annual Sports Day is organised under the supervision of teachers, involving the BOM, parents and the community. The pupils perform a variety of traditional Irish set dances with confidence.
Assessment is an integral part of all the work carried out by the class teachers. Among the strategies used are teacher observation, teacher-devised tests together with correction and recording of homework. In addition, standardised testing is carried out annually on pupils from first to sixth classes inclusive in English and Mathematics. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to pupils in senior infants. The results of these tests are used appropriately to inform teachers on the progress of pupils and to identify pupils requiring additional educational support. Records of standardised and diagnostic tests are retained in the school and parents are kept informed of pupils’ progress at the annual parent-teacher meetings where oral reports are provided to parents. Teachers make themselves available to meet with parents at other times when so requested. The school retains written records of pupil progress. It is recommended that, in addition to oral reporting to parents, written reports be supplied on an annual basis.
The school has access to the services of a learning-support teacher for seven hours a week and a resource teacher on a shared basis for six and a half hours a week. The learning-support and resource teachers were appointed to these positions in September of this year. The learning-support teacher gives daily support to three groups and two individual pupils on a withdrawal basis. Support is mainly directed towards the junior classes and almost all of the support is based on early intervention for literacy. Individual pupil learning profiles (IPLPs) are in place and these are due for review in February. The resource teacher supports two pupils with special educational needs (SEN). All of this support is on a withdrawal basis. Individual education plans (IEPs) are in place for both pupils. It was noted that planning for all pupils with special educational needs was general in composition. To further develop the teaching and learning provided for pupils with special educational needs, it is recommended that there be greater liaison between all partners in the formation of IPLPs and IEPs. Areas to be considered in the formation of these plans should include a reference to the specific interventions scheduled to take place and whether the interventions are class based or on a withdrawal basis. Review dates for these plans should also be included. It is important that these plans are based on the results of testing and psychological reports and are aimed at meeting the specific needs of the pupils involved. It is recommended that both teachers receive assistance from the Primary Curriculum Support Services (PCSP) personnel in the formation of IPLPs and IEPs. The format of the long-term planning, short-term planning and the progress records that the support teachers provide should also be agreed.
The school, in conjunction with a cluster of other schools in the area, receives assistance for one international pupil for language support for two and a half hours a week.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The board of management and teachers are commended for the very high standards achieved by the pupils in the curricular areas of Gaeilge, English, Mathematics and Physical Education.
· The board of management is very supportive of the staff and of all school initiatives and it has provided very good facilities and resources for the education of the pupils.
· The pupils are commended for their very good behaviour and for the diligence that they apply to the learning process.
· The teachers are commended for the range of methodologies which they successfully apply to all aspects of their teaching.
· The board of management, teachers and pupils are commended for the community and inclusive atmosphere in evidence throughout all school activities.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· The school should further develop the area of special education and specifically the individual education plans as well as the individual pupil learning profiles provided for pupils with special educational needs
· In the area of school planning there should be a review of the enrolment policy.
· It is recommended that written reports be supplied to parents on an annual basis.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management welcomes the W.S.E. report as it affirms the great work being done by the children, parents, staff and school community. We found the experience of the Whole School Evaluation to be a fair and a positive one.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
· Our Enrolment Policy has been reviewed.
· Our Learning Support teacher and Resource teacher have requested additional training in the recommended areas of special education.
· Written reports to parents will be issued annually.
Finally, the staff and Board of Management would like to thank both inspectors for the courtesy, respect and sensitivity they showed to the staff and children during their visit to our school. The process was positive, formative and valuable to everyone in the school community. We have learned from the experience as we continue to build on our strengths, we appreciate the continuous learning opportunities this inspection provided.