An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Poulacapple NS

Poulacapple,

Callan, County Kilkenny

Uimhir rolla: 14181J

 

Date of inspection: 6 November  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 Poulacapple NS was undertaken in November 2008. 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 Science. The board of management was given the opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report. 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

 

Poulacapple NS is situated in a rural environment in the parish of Mullinahone on the border of Co. Kilkenny, in the Diocese of Cashel and Emly. The existing school was built in 1966. It is bright and compact with two main classrooms. There is also a large prefabricated building serving as a third classroom and a smaller prefabricated room accommodating learning support. The environs of the school are maintained to a very high standard.

 

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

2

Special needs assistants

2

 

The school’s enrolment on 30 September 2008 was fifty-one with a stable enrolment in evidence. Pupil attendance levels are excellent.

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The holistic development of the child, as outlined in the ethos statement, is clearly in evidence in the day to day practices of the school. Pupils are confident and encouraged to play an active role in all aspects of school life. Interculturalism is not only promoted but clearly cherished where pupils of many faiths and cultures work collaboratively to develop holistically and to reach their full potential as individuals.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and members of the board, particularly the chairperson, are a visible supportive presence in the school. The board operates in a focused manner and is committed to the continuing development of the school. The board of management plays a central role in the consideration and ratification of plans and policies. It meets on average twice a term but more frequently if necessary. The most commonly raised issue at meetings is the difficulty associated with car parking. Road safety is an ongoing concern as the school is situated on a main road. The board has been proactive in addressing this concern and has provided for off-road parking at times of arrival and dismissal. The work of the board of management and its endeavours to improve school safety with further innovative measures is acknowledged. The treasurer manages the accounts carefully but it was reported that they have not been recently certified. It is recommended that accounts be submitted for certification in line with Section 18(1) of the Education Act, 1998.  

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The in-school management team includes the teaching principal, the deputy principal and one special duties teacher. The principal, who has both teaching and administrative duties, operates very effectively and is commended for her professionalism in this regard. An inclusive co-operative atmosphere among the staff is fostered, meaningful involvement of parents in the life of the school is promoted, diversity is celebrated and pupil voice is encouraged. The duties of the deputy principal and special duties teacher are comprehensive and are regularly reviewed to address current school priorities. This practice is praiseworthy and it is recommended that duties continue to be reviewed particularly with regard to curricular responsibilities.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

There is no formal parents’ association. However, the general parent body plays an active role in the life of the school. Many parents volunteer to assist in the maintenance of the school grounds and are involved in the Green School initiative. They share their expertise and experiences by visiting classrooms. Parents express a high level of satisfaction with the quality and standard of teaching and educational progress in the school. Regular written communication provides them with information about school activities. A comprehensive yearbook, prepared annually, documents events and celebrates key achievements.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

The school’s participation in a variety of Department of Education and Science (DES) and local initiatives contributes greatly to enabling pupils reach their full potential. Representatives of the pupil’s council outlined impressively their vision for the council and their proposals for school improvement. A code of behaviour has been drawn up to promote positive behaviour within the school. Most pupils show respect for each other and for adults and there is a pleasant camaraderie in evidence among pupils. It is recommended however, that the school devise strategies to manage more effectively the behaviour of some pupils.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

A commendable whole-school plan has been devised collaboratively by the teaching staff with particular success in the formulation and implementation of a high quality plan for Science. School-based planning days and formal staff meetings have been effectively utilised to advance a range of curricular and organisational policies. Most curricular plans reflect the strands and strand units of the curriculum and include proposed dates for review. All teachers provide long-term and short-term planning and maintain monthly records of the work completed. Teachers adapt the curriculum appropriately to suit the range of abilities in their classes. Planning documents also indicate, in particular, how teaching and learning in Mathematics and in English is differentiated in the multi-grade context. An agreed template is currently in use for short-term planning though variation exists in the detail provided. Teachers are encouraged to link planning more closely with curriculum objectives. Such a practice will facilitate whole-school monitoring of continuity and progression.

 

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

Tá plean scoile don Ghaeilge ann ina rianaítear snáitheanna agus snáthaonaid an churaclaim ach tá gá anois athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an bplean seo. Ba chóir difreálú, measúnú agus acmhainní don Ghaeilge a bheith sonraithe ag leibhéil uile-scoile. Ba cheart, chomh maith, go mbeadh pleanáil aonair na n-oidí bunaithe ar chuspóirí atá leagtha amach sa phlean seo. Cruthaítear timpeallacht Ghaelach sa scoil seo trí ábhar léirithe i nGaeilge a chur ar taispeáint go tarraingteach. Tá raon leathan acmhainní teagaisc ar fáil sa scoil agus baintear dea-úsáid astu chun tacú leis an bhfoghlaim. Cuireann na hoidí an t-ábhar foghlama i láthair na ndaltaí go spreagúil. Baineann siad úsáid as an nGaeilge go leanúnach mar theanga theagaisc, cleachtas a fhorbraíonn cumas tuisceana na ndaltaí. Tugtar deiseanna do na daltaí iad féin a chur in iúl ó bhéil agus is féidir leo ceisteanna a fhreagairt go h-oiriúnach, ag baint úsáide as an bhfoclóir atá foghlamtha acu. B’fhiú béim sa bhreis a leagan ar an gcur chuige cumarsáideach chun líofacht na ndaltaí a fhorbairt trí straitéisí ar nós obair bheirte a chleachtadh. Tá na daltaí báúil don Ghaeilge agus canann siad amhráin agus rainn le brí. Léiríonn siad cumas maith i dtreoranna a leanúint agus baineann siad taitneamh as drámaíocht agus as ról-imirt. Tugtar faoi bhunscileanna na léitheoireachta a mhúineadh agus léann formhór na ndaltaí os ard go líofa. Freagraíonn siad ceisteanna go cumasach bunaithe ar an léitheoireacht. Déantar cúram den obair scríofa agus tá dul chun cinn creidiúnach le sonrú sna cleachtaí éagsúla scríbhneoireachta sna hardranganna. Tá cuid den obair seo cláraithe i gcóipleabhair na ndaltaí agus tá roinnt eile ar fáil clóscrite i nduanaire. I gcoitinne, sonraítear caighdeán maith sa scríbhneoireacht.

 

There is a plan for Irish, in which the strands and strand units of the curriculum are outlined, but there is now a need to review this plan. Differentiation, resources and assessment for Irish should be detailed on a whole-school basis and teachers’ individual planning should be closely linked to the objectives outlined in the revised school plan. An environment which supports the Irish curriculum is created through the attractive display of Irish language posters throughout the school. A variety of teaching resources is available and is purposefully used to support pupils’ learning. Lessons in Irish are presented in a stimulating manner. Irish is used as the language of instruction, contributing significantly to pupils’ understanding. Pupils are afforded opportunities to express themselves orally and they can answer questions using known vocabulary. It is recommended that additional emphasis be placed on the communicative approach and that further opportunities be provided to pupils to develop their fluency through increased emphasis on pair work. Pupils in the junior class are positively disposed towards Irish and perform songs and rhymes with enthusiasm. Pupils show good ability in following instructions and enjoy engagement in drama and role play. Reading is developed skilfully. The majority of pupils read aloud accurately and answer questions competently. Suitable attention is given to written work in Irish and there is evidence of creditable progress in writing in the senior class. Some of this work is presented in pupils’ copybooks while more is presented typed in class anthologies. In general a good standard is attained in Irish written work.

 

 

English

A school plan for English has been in place for some time and a review is recommended to accurately reflect current good practice. The teaching of English is carried out in a proficient manner in all classes with pupils achieving very good standards across all strands. The whole-school emphasis placed on oral communication is reflected in pupils’ willingness to ask and to answer questions and to express their thoughts and feelings articulately using a wide and varied vocabulary. Pupils in the middle class display particular competence in oral presentation, in cognitive and emotional response to poetry, in composition and in the recitation of poetry. All aspects of the English reading programme are developing systematically and an appropriate foundation of basic reading skills is established. Suitable activities are used to develop pupils’ phonological awareness and curiosity is fostered in books. Pupils read widely from a challenging range of reading material including poems, novels and non-fiction texts that are appropriate and suitably challenging to their ability. Credible efforts are made in all classes to provide a print-rich environment. Most pupils experience a broad range of writing activities and have regular opportunities to practise functional and creative writing. Achievement in writing is particularly commendable in the senior room where anthologies of pupils’ work on a diverse range of topics have been collated. Fiction and non-fiction writing is presented, both handwritten and in word-processed short story anthologies. To further develop achievement in writing, it is recommended that “Our News” be complemented at junior level with an emphasis on free writing in a variety of genres. It is further recommended that an agreed approach to handwriting be implemented at whole-school level and that samples of pupils work be displayed in all classes.

 

 

3.2 Mathematics

A focused approach to the teaching of Mathematics is in evidence throughout the school. Due care is taken to develop all strands of the curriculum and most pupils have acquired a very good understanding and mastery of concepts across strands. The school plan for Mathematics has been recently reviewed. It outlines comprehensively the approaches and methodologies to be employed and key curriculum objectives to be achieved in all strands. Classrooms are characterised by a maths-rich environment where commercial and teacher-designed resources are prominently displayed and utilised to scaffold learning. Whole-class teaching was observed and considerable peer learning was facilitated through teachers’ use of challenging higher order questioning. Mathematic lessons are purposefully structured and appropriately paced. Most pupils work well individually, within groups and on a whole-class basis. Clear instructions were given in setting activities to consolidate learning. Junior pupils display competence in early number activities and have good knowledge of 2D shapes. Discussion is central to lessons and pupils are encouraged to build on previous knowledge and to link learning to their immediate environment. Pupils show competence in the use of collaborative problem-solving strategies. Approaches to problem-solving are sequentially developed through the school and senior pupils display competence in verbalising strategies and approaches. Methods used to monitor pupil progress include teacher observation, teacher designed tasks and standardised tests. It is recommended that work in copybooks be extended to provide for further consolidation of concepts and to facilitate practice in presentation. To build on existing good practice, the staff should devise check lists of key concepts to be achieved and skills to be acquired for each class level.

 

3.3 Science

 

The overall quality of teaching and learning in Science is very good. Pupils experience all strands of the curriculum with notable work undertaken in the strands of Living Things and Environmental Awareness and Care. The school garden, planting activities and participation in the Tidy Schools competition greatly adds to pupils’ experiences. The staff and pupils are applauded for their involvement in the Green Schools initiative and their frequent involvement in a variety of science workshops. Science lessons were observed in Materials and Energy and Forces wherein teachers used a wide range of methodologies including whole-class, group and pair-work, individual instruction and demonstration. The constructivist approach, where pupils’ ideas are used as a starting point, was a prominent feature in all classes. An appropriate emphasis on science skills including observing, sorting, classifying and recording materials was observed. Lessons were skilfully introduced and linked to the immediate environment. Pupils were challenged purposefully through higher order questioning. Pupils display competence in individual and group presentation of the processes and outcomes of investigations. Experiments designed by the pupils and their ability and willingness to be challenged on their findings, demonstrate a high level of competence in the skills of both working scientifically and in designing and making. A praise-worthy emphasis is placed on hands-on activity characterised by high levels of pupil collaboration and enthusiasm. Careful attention is given to developing pupils’ understanding of fair testing and they demonstrate a keen understanding of the implications of their findings in every day life and in industry. Pupils present and record their work in a most impressive manner in work sheets, in graphs and through digital camera.

 

3.4 Assessment

 

A wide variety of assessment strategies is used at individual class level and includes teacher observation, teacher designed tests and tasks, work samples, portfolios and projects. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to senior infant pupils.  Standardised assessments in English and in Mathematics are administered annually to all pupils from first to sixth classes. Results are used to identify pupils in need of learning support or other supplementary teaching. Commendable emphasis is placed on early identification of pupils’ learning needs. Preliminary screening measures are undertaken by the class teacher and include proposed use of Belfield Infant Assessment Profiles (BIAP) checklists in the near future.  Diagnostic assessment follows if deemed necessary and is administered by the learning-support teacher. Links with outside agencies have been developed and are overseen by the principal. The school displays a genuine commitment to the staged approach as outlined in Circular 02/05. Teachers demonstrate a clear understanding of individual pupil progress and this information is effectively employed to inform teaching and to provide differentiated learning opportunities in the classroom. Records of progress are centrally stored to facilitate accessibility and use. Pupil progress is productively shared with mainstream teachers, support teachers and with parents. As a further development of assessment procedures the school might usefully direct attention to the plotting of trends and the creation of a whole-school perspective on pupil achievement in literacy and in numeracy.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

There is good provision for pupils with special educational needs, guided by a comprehensive whole-school policy which outlines a collaborative approach to supplementary pupil support. There is one full-time Learning Support/Resource Teacher (LS/RT). Supplementary teaching is targeted at and delivered to pupils in a positive and reassuring environment. Detailed individual education plans (IEPs), devised in collaboration with class teachers, list specific learning targets to be achieved within a defined timeframe. It is advised that consideration be given to formalising IEP review meetings with classroom teachers. The practice of involving parents at the beginning of the instructional term in devising appropriate learning targets is commended. Most support is currently provided on a withdrawal basis. Consideration should now be given to the further development of in-class support particularly in the context of early intervention.

 

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

 

There is one part-time language-support teacher who provides support for three pupils for whom English is not the first language. Language activities are planned and undertaken effectively and pupils are supported in achieving specific learning targets. Informal meetings with class teachers and language support teacher take place at regular intervals. Appropriate use is made of assessment in planning learning programmes. Intercultural education is promoted in a most efficient manner.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

 

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

 

 

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, June 2009

 

 

 

 

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, parents and staff of Poulacapple National School wish to thank the inspector for the courteous and professional manner in which she carried out the Whole School Evaluation.

It was a very thorough process and we are extremely pleased with the subsequent report and are delighted to take on board any recommendations which will further enhance the quality of teaching in our school.

We are delighted that the W.S.E recognises and highlights the excellence of teaching and learning in our school. Among the strengths recognised were, the way in which interculturalism is cherished and actively promoted alongside the holistic development of every child, the professionalism and dedication of the staff, the inclusive cooperative atmosphere evident within the school, the dedication, enthusiasm and positive support shown by the B.O.M and all parents. The report also acknowledges the mutual respect, camaraderie and self confidence evident among the students.

 

 

 

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

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          

 

·         An agreed format regarding the level of detail necessary for Individual Teacher long/ short term planning has been adopted to ensure consistency throughout the school.

·          In class Learning Support has been introduced throughout the school.

·         The Whole School plans for both English and Irish have been reviewed and updated to reflect current good practice, and to include new developments and approaches being adopted in both subject areas.

·         “Lá na Gaeilge” is being introduced once a month to encourage and develop fluency and conversational skills in Irish.

·         School Accounts for 2008/2009 have been audited and certified.