An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Naomh Bríd
Ballycastle, County Mayo
Uimhir rolla: 14290O
Date of inspection: 06 December 2007
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Naomh Bríd, Ballycastle was undertaken in December 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.
Scoil Naomh Bríd is a small rural school in north Mayo. The school caters for boys and girls from infants to sixth class. Enrolment trends are currently steady. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killala. The school receives support from Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS). The last inspection 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.
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’s vision is “to provide a well-ordered, caring, happy and secure atmosphere where the intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and cultural needs of the pupils are identified and addressed”. This is evident in the breadth and balance of the taught curriculum. The school organises various events and activities during the school year to promote these aspects of pupil development. While the school acknowledges its Catholic ethos, it has due recognition for all religious beliefs.
The board of management works effectively to support teaching and learning in the school. The newly constituted board has identified a number of priorities, including the development of the recreation area, health-and-safety issues and school planning. The chairperson visits the school at least once a week. He supports the principal in the day-to-day running of the school. The board expressed great satisfaction with the service provided by the school.
The principal is a very dedicated, dynamic leader. She ensures that pupil welfare is central to all decision-making and promotes professional development among her colleagues. She manages the day-to-day operation of the school effectively. The principal has established valuable home-school links and ensures open communication between parents and teachers. She is successful in leading planning activities and in overseeing the implementation of whole-school decisions. She motivates her staff in a sensitive manner, ensuring that the skills and talents of all staff members are utilised and valued.
The quality of relationships and communication within the school community is very high. This is managed very effectively. Parents expressed their satisfaction with the holistic education provided, the level of support given by staff members and the willingness of teachers to address any issue that may impinge on an individual child. Parent-teacher meetings are held once a year and twice for the parents of sixth class children. Parents of the incoming junior infants are met on enrolment and given information on how they can support their child’s learning. There are clear procedures in place for dealing with parental concerns. The wider school community is involved in school life through a variety of activities organised by the staff and the DEIS coordinator.
The management of pupils is very good. The teachers foster enthusiasm for learning among the pupils. An appropriate emphasis is placed on the health and safety of pupils both inside and outside of the classroom. The principal and board of management support teachers in the management of pupils. This whole-school approach to behaviour is implemented successfully.
The quality of whole-school planning is high. The staff follows each stage of the school development planning process. This results in the successful implementation of all plans and policies outlined in the school plan. The staff identifies a number of priorities at the beginning of each school year. This enables the drafting of necessary plans and policies and ensures the review of the school plan on an ongoing basis. Parents and members of the board of management are appropriately involved in various stages of the planning process.
The quality of classroom planning is very high. Teachers have adopted a whole-school approach to long-term and short-term planning. The principal teacher signs off on each teacher’s monthly progress report allowing her to monitor the taught curriculum. All teachers plan for resources, methodologies and for differentiation of learning activities.
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.
Múintear an Ghaeilge go han-éifeachtach. Úsáidtear scéalaíocht, rainn, amhráin, drámaíocht agus mím chun suim a mhúscailt sna daltaí. Baintear feidhm inmholta as obair bheirte agus as grúpobair chun an cur chuige cumarsáideach a chur chun cinn. Bíonn an Ghaeilge in úsáid go héifeachtach mar theanga bhainistíochta na scoile. Leagtar béim leanúnach ar chaint na maidne. Bíonn na daltaí in ann iad féin a chur in iúl go muiníneach trí Ghaeilge. Bíonn siad in ann briathra a úsáid go cuí. Cuireann siad ceisteanna ar a chéile go héifeachtach ó rang na naíonán. Bíonn daltaí sna hardranganna in ann caint go leanúnach ar théamaí éagsúla. Bíonn stór leathan d’fhocail acu. Úsáidtear réimse leathan d’acmhainní chun tuiscint a chur chun cinn.
Tá caighdeán na léitheoireachta ard go leor. Sonraítear neart ábhar clóbhuailte i ngach seomra. Láimhseáltar tús na léitheoireachta go han-éifeachtach. Léann daltaí i ngach rang go muiníneach. Moltar béim a leagan ar fhoghraíocht na Gaeilge agus cleachtas uile-scoile a chur i bhfeidhm don léitheoireacht.
Tá caighdeán na scríbhneoireachta go maith. Is inmholta an raon de thascanna scríbhneoireachta atá á chleachtadh ag na daltaí. Scríobhann na daltaí go rialta ar théamaí éagsúla. Moltar cleachtas uile-scoile a chur i bhfeidhm don scríbhneoireacht. Leagtar béim inmholta ar mhúineadh chultúr na hEireann. Glacann daltaí, tuismitheoirí agus múinteoirí páirt i ndamhsa seit. Seinneann na daltaí poirt Ghaelacha ar an bhfeadóg stáin mar chuid den chlár Ceoil.
Irish is taught very effectively. Storytelling, rhymes, songs, drama and mime are used to inspire the pupils. Exemplary use is made of pair work and group work to promote the communicative approach. Irish is used effectively as the management language of the school. An ongoing emphasis is placed on daily news. Pupils can express themselves confidently through Irish. They can use verbs appropriately. They can ask questions effectively of one another from the infant classes onwards. Pupils in the senior classes can speak at length about different themes. They have a broad vocabulary. A wide range of resources is used to promote understanding.
The standard of reading is quite high. Print-rich environments are provided in each classroom. The introduction to Irish reading is taught very effectively. Pupils in each class read confidently. It is recommended that pronunciation be emphasised in reading and that a whole-school approach to reading be promoted.
The standard of writing is good. A praiseworthy range of writing tasks is undertaken by the pupils. They write regularly on different themes. It is recommended that a whole-school approach to Irish writing be devised. An excellent emphasis is placed on the teaching of the Irish culture. Pupils, parents and teachers take part in set dancing each year. Pupils play Irish tunes on the tin-whistle as part of the Music programme for the tin-whistle.
The teaching of English is very successful. Teachers promote oral language development through appropriate pupil-pupil interaction. Language is also developed effectively across the curriculum. A broad range of poems is presented and pupils enjoy reciting and discussing poetry. It is recommended that the staff devise a whole-school approach to oral language that promotes vocabulary development.
The standard of English reading is very good. All learning environments are rich in print. Pupils are generally confident readers. Infants are given excellent pre-reading activities that involve parents. However, it is recommended that the staff examine further ways of promoting recreational reading among the pupils.
There is good development of English writing through the school. Pupils are proficient at writing in a variety of genres. Written work is carefully monitored and corrected. Teachers promote the writing process across the curriculum. Pupils are given frequent opportunities to publish their work using the computer. Computer skills are developed effectively with pupils proficient at using word-processing software. Pupils’ work is carefully displayed in classrooms and around the school. Senior classes have also published their own newsletter. It is recommended that teachers devise a whole-school approach to cursive handwriting and to the development of spelling.
Mathematics is taught effectively and standards are quite high. Teachers use mathematical games on a regular basis. As a result both boys and girls are stimulated by and interested in a wide range of mathematical activities. Teachers pace the work according to the age level of their pupils. Excellent use is made of mathematical materials. Teachers emphasise the correct use of mathematical language. New concepts are linked effectively with the pupils’ personal experiences. Topics are consolidated and revised effectively. An appropriate emphasis is placed on mental mathematics, estimation and problem-solving. Pupils in some classes are given regular opportunities to discuss mathematical processes with a partner. It is recommended that this very good practice be extended to all classes.
The teaching of Physical Education is very successful. Pupils participate in a broad range of activities. Lessons are characterised by carefully structured activities, maximum pupil participation, the promotion of gender equality and optimal skill development. Teachers give clear instructions to pupils. Some teachers provide visual aids where necessary to remind pupils of a particular sequence of activities or to reinforce new vocabulary. There is skilful integration of Physical Education with other subject areas such as Music, Gaeilge and Geography. Pupils are generally given good opportunities for talk and discussion. Teachers make excellent use of station teaching, small groups and pair work to ensure maximum participation and skill development. Some teachers assess pupil achievement in Physical Education. It is recommended that this good practice be implemented by all teachers.
The staff has devised a whole-school policy on assessment which is implemented in its entirety. All teachers use a broad range of assessment tools. This includes standardised tests, teacher designed tests and tasks, teacher observation, pupil profiles and collections of pupils’ work. Teachers assess pupil achievement in all curricular areas. The excellent practice of engaging pupils in self-assessment across the curriculum is highly commended. The school is currently designing a report card to be sent to parents at the end of the school year as a development of the feedback given to them at parent-teacher meetings. The teachers have analysed results of standardised tests to get an accurate picture of pupil performance. Teaching is adapted in the light of this analysis.
The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is very good. Teachers prepare detailed individual learning programmes based on the needs of each child. Pupils are withdrawn in small groups or individually. Support teachers also work alongside the class teacher in the classroom where appropriate. Lessons are carefully organised using a variety of stimuli, teaching methods and materials. Pupils are presented with welcoming and attractive learning environments in the support setting. While support teachers are in regular contact with parents it is recommended that this structure be formalised to ensure one meeting per term to discuss progress and to review the individual learning programme. It is further recommended that parents be given a copy of their child’s programme.
A DEIS co-ordinator works in the school one day a week. Activities organised include the promotion of Gaeilge within the school and the teaching of local history and nature studies. The co-ordinator has focused on presenting the heritage of north Mayo to the pupils through a variety of successful activities, including the making of a programme for Raidió na Gaeltachta. The co-ordinator has also organised set-dancing classes for parents and other members of the school community. Home visits to all parents are also part of the DEIS co-ordinator’s programme of work.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The school’s board of management, particularly the chairperson, is highly supportive of the work of the teachers.
· The principal is a very successful manager, curricular leader and decision-maker. She is supported by a very committed and hard-working staff.
· All teachers use an exemplary blend of teaching methodologies which ensures maximum pupil participation.
· Gaeilge is used for informal communication within the school. The standard of pupils’ oral Irish is very high.
· Teachers provide highly effective learning environments that support learning throughout the curriculum.
· Teacher planning is exemplary as it follows a whole-school approach. It ensures the Primary School Curriculum is implemented in its entirety. It promotes an appropriate blend of methodologies, the use of appropriate resources, and effective differentiation of lessons for pupils with different learning needs.
· The whole-school planning process is at an advanced level. Each stage of the planning process is followed ensuring the implementation of all plans and policies. There is continuous review of the school plan.
· Standards in all curricular areas are very good.
· Teachers use a broad range of assessment tools effectively.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· It is recommended that the staff devise an early-intervention programme for literacy.
· It is recommended that a whole-school approach to Irish reading and writing be devised.
· It is recommended that the staff devise a whole-school approach to oral language development.
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 members of Scoil Naomh Bríd welcomes the content, findings and recommendations of the Inspection Report. It is a very accurate account of the management, planning, teaching and learning taking place in the school and reflects the high standard of education provided for the children.
· The Board Members would like to acknowledge the courteous and professional manner in which the inspector carried out the thorough and detailed evaluation
· The Board Members welcomed the report as it affirmed the total dedication and commitment of the Principal and her staff, and indeed of the school community.
· The staff also welcomed the inspector’s conclusions that teacher planning and whole school planning was exemplary and at an advanced level. The high standard of Oral Irish was also commended and this was very significant to our school
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The Board members note the key recommendations from the inspectorate and are already endeavouring to implement these as suggested.
(a) The staff are in the process of devising an early intervention programme for literacy, which will see children in senior infants being screened and supported accordingly with the introduction of the Forward Together Programme and access to learning support should the need arise
(b) The staff have begun to plan for a whole school approach to Irish Reading and Writing, by making use of reading material and ideas advised by the inspector. They also plan to purchase more reading material in Irish, therefore stocking our library with more Irish readers and enticing the children to read the attractive Irish readers that are available. Planning for our whole school approach to Irish Writing is currently underway with children writing in all genres in the various classes. Teachers are meeting to discuss how they can increase the already high standard of Irish within the school, through devising a whole school approach to Irish reading and writing.
(c) The Whole School Approach to Oral Language is being revised and updated, with certain times being allocated for discussion of discrete oral language topics, in each classroom. Teachers are also collaborating and planning topics which can and will be re-visited in more senior classes in greater detail. It is envisaged that the Whole School Approach to Oral Language will further increase the already high standard of oral language use within the school in all subject areas.