An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

  

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

 

SN Cill Mhór Iorrais,

Binghamstown, Co. Mayo

Uimhir rolla: 14258S

 

 

Date of inspection: 07 February 2007

  Date of issue of report: 8 November 2007

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

1.     Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

3.     Quality of school planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

5.     Quality of support for pupils

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Kilmore-Erris NS. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management and representatives of the parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. She interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. She reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff members, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Kilmore-Erris National School is a rural school located in Binghamstown, in the centre of the Mullet peninsula. It is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Bishop of Killala. It caters for boys and girls from junior infants to sixth class.  It has a steady enrolment which is currently at 68 pupils. Despite being located in the Erris region, a largely Gaeltacht area, English is the first language of the majority of pupils and of the school. The teaching staff consists of three mainstream teachers, a shared support teacher and a shared rural co-ordinator under the DEIS initiative. It also has a special needs assistant and avails of a cuiditheoir teanga, funded by Údarás na Gaeltachta.   

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

The board of management of Kilmore-Erris NS is properly constituted and meets on a termly basis. Minutes are kept of these meetings. Maintenance of the school building and the appropriate management of grants are commonly raised issues. The board is currently engaged in upgrading the windows and doors of the school. A number of roles are held by board members, namely that of chairperson, secretary, treasurer and health-and-safety officer. All members have availed of training for boards of management, organised by the Catholic Primary School Managers’ Association (CPSMA). The school secretary gives invaluable assistance to the treasurer by maintaining daily records of income and expenditure. The board is very satisfied with the work of the school and with the standards achieved by pupils.

 

The board has a new chairperson since January. He visits the school on a regular basis, usually to liaise with the principal teacher. The board is aware of the development of the school plan and the chairperson signs all policies. There is scope for the board to become involved with plans and policies at the draft stage of planning. It should also provide an annual report on the operation of the school to the school community. The parent representatives on the board of management have been advised to assess the interest of parents in setting up a parents’ association.

 

 

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The dedicated principal teacher manages the day-to-day running of the school effectively, along with his teaching duties. He places a very good emphasis on staff relations and communication. He promotes an excellent open-door policy with parents. They are encouraged to participate in many school activities to support their children’s education. This includes the organisation of twice yearly parent-teacher meetings and the issuing of annual progress reports on each child. He now needs to focus on leading curricular change in the school.

 

The principal is very ably assisted by a hard-working and committed middle-management team comprising of a deputy principal and a special-duties teacher. They both carry out routine administrative tasks, pastoral duties and valuable communication with the community. They do this with motivation and professionalism. It is recommended that these posts be reviewed on a regular basis to meet the on-going needs of the school and to support curricular development.

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

The current school was built in 1985 and consists of four classrooms (one of which is used for Visual Arts and Music classes), a general-purposes room, a staff room and a learning-support room which is also used as the secretary’s office. It has ample storage space and is maintained to a high level. Three mainstream teachers are supported by a shared learning-support teacher and a shared DEIS co-ordinator. The SNA is shared between classes to ensure a balance between individual support for pupils and the development of their independence. A determined effort is made to ensure staff is deployed effectively and class division is assessed at the beginning of each school year. 

 

The school is well-resourced to support the curriculum. Most notable is the very attractive selection of library books in each classroom. Teachers are inventive and creative with resources to support their teaching. All classrooms are stimulating learning environments, with colourful displays of commercial and teacher-made charts, maps and posters. 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The school has well-established links both with the parent body and with the general community in Binghamstown. Newsletters and notes are sent home on a regular basis to keep parents updated on the running of the school. They are made aware of the school’s complaints procedure through these newsletters. Parents are encouraged to come in to the school with any concerns about their children. They are also involved in school tours and participate in a variety of school activities. 

 

Through the DEIS initiative, an enthusiastic and energetic co-ordinator ensures parental involvement in the school and in their children’s education. He also supports links with other schools in the area and with a variety of community initiatives. Most notable is the link with Údarás na Gaeltachta which funds a cuiditheoir teanga to support the development of the Irish language. It also funds a múinteoir ceardaíochta who teaches knitting and needlework to senior pupils through the medium of Irish. Parents have been supported through the DEIS initiative in setting up an activity hour for infant pupils between two and three o’clock each day. 

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

Pupils are carefully monitored and supervised both within class and during break times. A well defined code of behaviour sets out clear procedures for dealing with minor and major misdemeanours. There is a strong emphasis on positive intervention at all stages. The code of behaviour is supported by open and respectful relationships between pupils and their teachers. The school is characterised by a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Pupils are well behaved at all times. They show respect for the adults in the school while maintaining spontaneity and openness. 

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

The teachers are in the process of producing an excellent school plan. They have a large number of very practical, user-friendly plans and policies in place. The staff uses planning days to develop the school plan further. All teachers are involved in whole-school decisions. A number of curricular plans are being reviewed on an ongoing basis. The school staff has availed of supports from the Primary Curriculum Support Programme and the School Development Planning Initiative. This has furthered efforts in the area of school planning and implementation.

 

Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person and a deputy designated liaison person have been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

It is now recommended that the staff begins a coherent approach to school improvement through the school-planning process. This could be facilitated through the establishment of a long-term plan, the development of action plans and through the use of a planning diary. The planning process could be further enhanced by the involvement of parents and board of management at the draft stage of planning.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

 

All teachers prepare programmes of work for their classes. There is excellent use of the school plan in each teacher’s preparation. Curriculum content is carefully sequenced. It shows continuity and progression. However, planning is often based primarily on the content of pupil textbooks and workbooks. There is some good practice evident where planning consists of expected pupil outcomes with plans for methodologies, resource use and differentiation for pupils. It is recommended that teachers adopt a common framework for planning. Individual teachers also need to plan for Drama on a regular basis. 

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

 

The most commendable aspect of learning and teaching in Kilmore-Erris NS is the focus on the local environment by each class teacher. It is consistently strong throughout each class and in the teaching of every subject. A majority of classrooms are carefully laid out to display attractive and useful teaching supports for different subject areas and pupils’ work. Lessons are generally well paced and well structured. Pupil participation is high and the level of achievement is good in all curricular areas. There is a need to move away from textbook-based teaching as the primary methodology in some classrooms and to promote the use of a wider range of methodologies where pupil-pupil interaction will be more significant. 

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

ardmholadh tuillte ag an bhfoireann as an iarracht a dhéantar chun an Ghaeilge a úsáid go neamhfhoirmiúil i rith an lae. De thoradh sin, dearcadh dearfach á chothú sna daltaí. Bíonn struchtúr maith sna ceachtanna. B’fhiú, áfach, an cur chuige cumarsáideach a chur chun cinn go rialta chun deiseanna sa bhreis a thabhairt do na daltaí foclóir nua a úsáid. Baineann múinteoirí úsáid as luaschartaí, cairteacha agus as an gclár bán i rith an cheachta labhartha. Cuidíonn seo go mór leis an bhfoghlaim. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as nuacht an lae ó bhéal chun na daltaí a chur ag caint faoin a saol féinSna hardranganna forbairt foclóra leanúnach mar chuid de na ceachtanna Gaeilge labhartha. Baineann na daltaí úsáid as foclóir go rialta. caighdeán measartha ard sa scoil maidir leis an nGaeilge labhartha.

 

Leagtar béim chuí ar labhairt na Gaeilge mar thús an phroiséis léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta. Nasctar na snáitheanna go héifeachtach. Tosaítear le leitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht na Gaeilge i rang na naíonán. B’fhiú an bhéim a chur ar na scileanna seo sa chéad teanga agus labhairt na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn sna ranganna Gaeilge. Moltar nós imeachta uile-scoile a leagadh amach do thús na léitheoireachta/scríbhneoireachta Gaeilge.  Léann na daltaí go maith sa dara teanga ach moltar athdhéanamh rialta chun foclóir nua a chleachtadh. Ó thaobh scríbhneoireachta de, leagtar béim inmholta ar nuacht phearsanta a scríobh go minic agus is léir go bhfuil na daltaí in ann iad féin a chur in iúl. B’fhiú áfach réimsí scríbhneoireachta eile a chur chun cinn chun scileanna scríbhneoireachta níos leithne a mhúineadh

 

Tagann cuiditheoir teanga isteach sa scoil gach seachtain chun ríomhaireacht a dhéanamh le rang a trí mheán na Gaeilge. Faightear deontas ó Údarás na Gaeilge chun an tseirbhís sin a chur i bhfeidhm. Chomh maith leis sin, múinteoir ceardaíochta fostaithe go pártaimsireacha ag Údarás na Gaeltachta chun cniotáil agus fúáil a mhúineadh do rang a ceathair go dtí rang a .  Is fiúntach an scéim é. Baineann na daltaí taitneamh agus tairbhe as na ranganna. obair na ndaltaí ar taispeáint sa scoil. Is léir go ndéantar forbairt éifeachtach ar scileanna na ndaltaí

 

Irish

The staff deserves great praise for the efforts invested in the informal use of Irish during the school day.  As a result, a very positive attitude to Irish is promoted among pupils.  Irish lessons are well structured. Use of the communicative approach to give pupils the opportunity to use new vocabulary would further enhance lessons. Visual aids such as flashcards, charts and the whiteboard are used to support learning in oral Irish. Effective use is made of the daily news to get pupils talking about their own lives. In the senior classes, vocabulary development forms an intrinsic part of the oral Irish lessons. Pupils use a dictionary regularly. There is quite a high standard in the school with regard to oral Irish. 

 

An appropriate emphasis is placed on oral Irish as a basis for reading and writing. Effective linkage of the strands is evident. Irish reading and writing are being introduced in infant classes.  It would be more appropriate to focus attention on these skills in the pupils’ first language and to emphasise oral language development during Irish time. A whole-school approach to the introduction of reading and writing in Irish is recommended. Pupils read well in the second language but regular revision of reading tasks is recommended to reinforce new vocabulary. With regard to writing, commendable emphasis is placed on writing personal news on a regular basis. Through this it is evident that pupils can express themselves in Irish.  It is recommended that a variety of genres be used to develop a wider range of writing skills in the second language. 

 

A cuiditheoir teanga comes to the school each week to teach computer skills to sixth class pupils through the medium of Irish. A grant from Údarás na Gaeilge funds this service. It also funds a craft teacher on a part-time basis to teach knitting and needlework to pupils from fourth to sixth class. It is a very worthy scheme. Pupils enjoy the classes and benefit greatly from them. Pupils’ craft work is on display in the school and their skill development over the year is evident. 

 

English

The standard of teaching and learning in English is very good. Pupils at all levels have access to an extensive range of library books, including big books, which are attractively displayed. Oral-language skills are developed at all class levels, generally as a precursor to reading and writing activities. Oral lessons are largely based on teacher-directed talk and discussion. Pupils would benefit from exposure to a regular discrete oral-language class which promotes pupil participation, structured vocabulary development and a variety of oral-language activities. Pupils in general enjoy reciting and discussing poetry. 

 

The reading process is modelled very well by all teachers. Pupils are introduced to the conventions of books at infant level. In middle and senior classes teachers emphasise expression, the development of listening skills and comprehension. Higher-order thinking skills are taught to very good effect by each teacher. Good practice exists in the school in the range of methodologies used in the teaching of English. This includes the use of circle time to enhance discussions, word-webbing to structure material and relating material to the local environment. Pupils at all standards show very good ability at reading. A majority of pupils read with fluency, accuracy and expression. They also show an appropriate understanding of punctuation. Exemplary practice is evident in the shared-reading programme which is organised by the learning-support teacher on a yearly basis. Standardised test results display a wide range of abilities in different classes.  A differentiated approach to reading should now be implemented to support learners. It is also recommended that class novels be introduced at middle and senior standard to further develop reading in the school.

 

The pupils benefit from the wide range of genres they are exposed to during writing activities. This includes fact files, stories, news and letters. A development of each genre is needed to ensure pupils have mastered the conventions of that style. By senior classes, pupils have achieved accuracy and expression in their written work. Some pupils use ICT from time to time to present their work, a practice which could be extended to all pupils. A whole-school approach to handwriting and presentation of written work is recommended.

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

The teaching of Mathematics in the multi-grade classes is very effective. Teachers maximise the opportunity to revisit concepts and operations with older classes as the topics are encountered by the younger classes in the room. Good use is made of concrete materials and all classrooms show displays for Mathematics. Mathematical language is taught well through all standards. Problem-solving is developed to very good effect. There is a very good focus on early mathematical activities, use of number rhymes and songs and activity-based learning in the infant classes. There is an appropriate emphasis on life skills in Mathematics. 

 

 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

History

The teaching and learning in History is consistently very strong in the school, in particular in the area of local History. Achievement in the strand local studies is commendable. Senior pupils can confidently discuss local historical events and landmarks. They are also very proficient in presenting the folklore and story attached to the local area. Pupils engage in class projects and the display of artefacts, which are central elements of the History programme. Most classes have a timeline relevant to the age and development of the pupils. Excellent discussion and associated vocabulary is characteristic of History lessons in this school. History is integrated commendably with a range of other subject areas. 

 

Geography

The Geography curriculum is taught in a very sequential manner. A broad and balanced programme is set out by each teacher. Pupils’ knowledge is central to all lessons and is taken as a starting point for new material. Excellent use is made of visual aids to enhance learning. Middle and senior classes display detailed maps of the Erris region, Mayo, Ireland, Europe and the world. Teachers place an exemplary emphasis on local Geography. Pupils have developed an excellent sense of place and space. They can accurately describe local tourist attractions. They can give directions to any of these attractions from the school and they show immense pride in their local environment. 

 

Science

The Science curriculum is now clearly embedded in the school life of the pupils. Teachers have a structured approach to the teaching of Science. They follow the whole-school plan for the development of strand units. Pupils are allowed to experiment freely with materials to develop their own ideas and theories. A wide range of resources is available to support the teaching of Science. Pupils at all levels show skilful use of scientific vocabulary in explaining and presenting scientific concepts. The local environment is used effectively to explore seasonal changes and to examine local flora and fauna. Some teachers use photographs as a means of documenting local studies, which pupils find motivating. The staff should now consider the development of a nature trail on the school grounds.

 

4.5 Arts Education

Visual Arts

The quality of work in the Visual Arts is good. Samples of pupils’ art are displayed throughout the school. There is a good balance between 2-D and 3-D work. Pupils also maintain portfolios of work samples since the beginning of the school year. Teachers make good efforts to provide stimuli and discussion around a topic before engaging the pupils in the activity to hand. Pupils are adept at describing the processes they have engaged in. In some instances this process is greatly enhanced by the teacher documenting ideas, skills and techniques on a flipchart as children discuss their work. Pupils have many opportunities to learn a variety of artistic skills such as knitting and needlework through the involvement of a cuiditheoir teanga in the school. At present only girls are availing of these opportunities and the staff needs to discuss means of redressing this gender imbalance. It is recommended that the staff develop a whole-school approach to the strand unit looking and responding.

 

Music

There is evidence of team-teaching in the school which ensures a consistent development in Music. However, to date this has prevented class teachers from taking responsibility for the development of Music in their own classes. It has also led to an over-reliance on the teacher with a particular strength in Music. The staff needs to develop a framework on which to base good practice in individual classrooms to support the work of the teacher with responsibility for Music. Lessons observed showed pupils singing tunefully and with a good sense of rhythm. Teachers emphasise the making of percussion instruments and their use during song-singing. Pupils also learn tin-whistle through the school. Music is a subject which is obviously enjoyed by pupils. 

 

Drama

This is an area of the curriculum which is currently being in-serviced. There is little evidence to suggest that all teachers are implementing this subject. It is recommended that teachers plan for Drama on a regular basis. Lessons observed during the course of the evaluation show good skill in mime and dramatisation of nursery rhymes. Activities involve very good development of language and social skills. 

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

The teaching of Physical Education is done in a very structured, systematic way with a good emphasis on warm-up and cool-down activities. Pupils are active for most of the lesson and learn new skills in a sequential manner. Action songs and listening skills are built into the physical activities of the younger pupils. The school has achieved a commendable standard in the gymnastics strand. Senior pupils are able to perform forward and backward rolls, dive rolls headstands and splits. The programme is differentiated appropriately for the various levels of fitness and agility. Pupils clearly enjoy this area of the curriculum and take pride in their achievements. The school has also developed the grounds, including a tarmacadamed area, to promote activity during break times. 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

The teaching of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is supported by the warm and friendly atmosphere that permeates the school. Pupils present themselves as content and confident learners. A majority of teachers emphasises class rules. A number of policies have been devised to support teaching and learning in SPHE such as code of behaviour, substance use, child protection and relationships-and-sexuality education. Activities are best when the teacher ensures clarity around the topic for discussion, the function of the discussion and the rules governing the discussion. Pupils are given opportunities to work with a selection of other pupils of the other gender, different class level and different ages. Language development is emphasised as a key feature of the SPHE lessons. 

 

4.8 Assessment

 

Pupils’ progress is monitored through the correction of copies, workbooks and worksheets although this could be done on a more regular basis. A number of assessments in Mathematics are carried out periodically to assess comprehension of concepts. Pupils also do regular spelling tests and table tests in the middle classes, the results of which are recorded. Standardised tests are administered to pupils annually. These include the Middle-Infant Screening Test for senior infant pupils, Micra-T and Sigma-T for pupils in first to sixth classes. The results are used to identify pupils for support classes in literacy and Mathematics. It is recommended that the results of all standardised tests be analysed by the staff to create a school profile and to ascertain the overall school strengths and concerns in the areas assessed. 

 

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The school has a clear policy on special educational needs which was devised by the teaching staff and reviewed in the light of the Department of Education and Science circular 03/05. Pupils are withdrawn from class in small groups for support in both literacy and Mathematics. They are exposed to a print-rich environment and activity-based lessons in the support class. An age-appropriate novel forms the theme of work carried out in literacy. This provides an excellent context on which reading, comprehension, grammar, spelling and phonological-awareness activities are based. The support teacher works in close contact with the class teacher. She has adopted many of the class-management techniques used by the class teachers. She also promotes the incidental use of Irish. Pupils experience high success rates in the class and receive regular praise and affirmation. Resources are in excellent supply and are arranged in a well organised fashion. 

 

Individual plans are maintained for each pupil and devised through communication with the class teacher, the SNA and the parents. Learning targets are clear, specific and achievable and are based on each child’s needs. The individual plan is reviewed twice yearly. A very structured early-intervention programme is in place in the school. The support teacher teaches alongside the infant teacher twice weekly over a six-week period in the third term. Lessons are based on phonological awareness. Some computer programmes are set up by the support teacher in the mainstream classes. Through this, all pupils experience success in literacy skills using ICT resources. 

 

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

 

The DEIS co-ordinator is shared with five other schools. A policy has been devised by five of the  principals with the co-ordinator. It is now in need of review since a restructuring of the cluster took place in September. The co-ordinator is instrumental in the teaching of Physical Education in the senior classes in Kilmore-Erris NS. He also organises a number of inter-school activities to enhance pupil interaction in the Mullet peninsula before transition to post-primary schools. To date, activities have included a céilí mór in Belmullet for Seachtain na Gaeilge and a sports day. 

 

The co-ordinator balances his interaction with pupils with work with the parent body. This consists of home visits to maintain contact with parents. The school has a supply of educational games and books which are made available to parents. The DEIS co-ordinator presents these in homes to promote skill development. This is an area of the DEIS initiative that has been deemed particularly successful by the teaching staff.  He also organises a number of courses for parents in conjunction with a variety of community groups such as Údarás na Gaeltachta, Local Development Scheme, Ionad Deirbhle, Iorras le Chéile, Rural Social Schemes and the GAA. 

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation.

 

  • The school’s most valuable resource is the highly committed and dedicated staff of teachers, SNA, school secretary and DEIS co-ordinator.  They constantly strive to create worthwhile educational opportunities for the pupils in Kilmore-Erris NS.
  • Parent-teacher communication in the school is excellent, both formal and informal, and parents are very comfortable making contact with the school with queries or concerns.
  • The quality of school planning is excellent as plans and policies are developed to suit the school’s context.  There is evidence to show that these plans are being implemented and reviewed as necessary. 
  • The focus on the local environment in the teaching of History and Geography is exemplary and pupil achievement in this area is very high. 
  • There is evidence of a very strong focus on language development across the curriculum which is very beneficial for the pupils.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made.

 

  • It is recommended that teachers use a wider range of methodologies which promote pupil-pupil interaction, such as pair work and group work.   This will also ensure less reliance on textbooks, which tend to dictate the content and activities of lessons.
  • It is recommended that a review of the introduction of reading and writing in Gaeilge be carried out and a whole-school approach to these aspects of the Gaeilge curriculum should be discussed and implemented.
  • It is recommended that teachers develop a whole-school approach to penmanship and presentation of written work.
  • It is recommended that a review of the Arts, in particular Music and Drama, should be initiated to ensure full implementation and a consistent approach to these subjects throughout the school.

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.