An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Brierfield National School

Tuam, County Galway

Uimhir rolla: 14294W


Date of inspection:   11 April 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


School Response to the Report





whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of Brierfield National School was undertaken in April 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 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE).  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.



Introduction – school context and background


Brierfield N.S. is a small rural school about seven kilometres west of Moylough in north-east Galway. The school is in the parish of Abbeyknockmoy but its traditional catchment area also includes parts of the parishes of Moylough-Mountbellew and Killererin. There have been major changes to the school accommodation and to the teaching staff in recent years. The school building has undergone a major extension and refurbishment. It now provides an excellent quality of accommodation, with large bright classrooms, various ancillary rooms and a large sports hall.  Pupil numbers have also increased significantly in recent years and the school has appointed additional teachers.

This school enjoys an excellent reputation in the locality and beyond. It is particularly well-known for its achievements in Music and sports, areas that are beyond the scope of this evaluation. 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




1.     Quality of school management


1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Brierfield National School has a distinctive ethos. The mission statement, which was produced by the principal in collaboration with the other teachers, places a strong emphasis on nurturing independence, responsibility, confidence and a positive work ethic among the pupils. A high value is also placed on fostering a culture of respect and trust within the school community. The ethos that is described in the mission statement is to be witnessed in the positive, purposeful and caring atmosphere that exists in the classrooms.


1.2 Board of management 

The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Education and Science. Minutes of meetings for the past thirty years are on file in the school.The board holds an annual meeting at which the members report to the community on the work of the school. The members of the current and previous boards are to be commended for the time and effort that they have devoted to the acquisition of land adjacent to the school and the planning, management and funding of the recent building project. They are to be congratulated also on their role in developing the excellent relations that exist among teachers, pupils, parents and the wider community. The board of management is actively engaged in the school-planning process and board members are involved in leading groups of parents in the review of various school policies.

The board members consider the school’s provision for music, sports and pupils with special educational needs to be particularly strong. The board’s immediate priority is the increased provision and use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the school. Given the school’s extensive extra-curricular games programme, the lack of a playing pitch within the school grounds is a cause of concern for board members. The school has access, however, to an adjacent field that is used on a daily basis.


1.3 In-school management

The school has a highly effective principal, who manages the day-to-day operation of the school as well as teaching the senior classes. The school’s role in developing the local community is an important element of the principal’s vision for Brierfield National School. It is clear that he possesses the leadership qualities and administrative ability that are necessary to bring this vision to reality.

The principal’s management style empowers other teachers and allows them to practise and develop their leadership skills in various areas of school life. The deputy principal and special-duties teacher have whole-school responsibilities in addition to their teaching duties. These post-holders make a valuable contribution to the development of the school. It is recommended that the post descriptions be revised to ensure that each post includes responsibility for leading the development of particular curricular areas as well as organisational and pastoral duties. Each teacher on the staff has responsibility for co-ordinating the review of certain sections of the school plan.


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The management of relationships and communication with the school community is very good. The board of management and the principal believe that the involvement of parents and the wider community in the life of the school enriches the education provided for the pupils.

It is clear that the local community is very supportive of the development of the school. Parents and the wider community have contributed significantly to the extension and refurbishment of the school building. Local financial contributions have been vital to the project. Moreover, the maintenance and cleaning of the school is currently carried out by parents on a rota basis to reduce expenditure until the debt incurred by the building project has been cleared.

As part of this evaluation, the inspector met with representatives of the school’s parents’ association, which is affiliated to the National Parents Council (Primary). The parents’ association meets at least once a term and it is reported that these meetings are well attended. Further communication with parents takes place through a termly newsletter and notices that are posted in the school. The school is about to introduce a text-messaging service for communicating with parents. The views and suggestions of parents are gathered through meetings and through the use of a suggestion box that is placed in the school. The association co-ordinates the involvement of parents in fund-raising activities and is also actively involved in the school-planning process. This is a positive indication of the trust that exists between the school and its community.

Parents’ representatives report that parents are satisfied with the breadth and variety of the school programme. The school’s provision for Music, Science and the Irish language is identified as being particularly strong.  Parents also express satisfaction with the school’s provision for pupils with special educational needs and the support provided for pupils during the transition to post-primary schools.

The school holds an annual parent-teacher meeting at which parents can discuss their child’s progress with teachers. It is recommended that the school issue an annual written report on the progress of each pupil.


1.5 Management of pupils

The quality of pupil management is excellent. The pupils respond positively to the respectful, caring behaviour that is modelled by the teachers. They are courteous towards teachers and towards each other. A combination of purposeful teaching and effective classroom management has ensured that the procedures for dealing with challenging behaviour that are outlined in the school’s code of discipline are rarely used.



2.     Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

There is evidence that the whole-school planning process is very good, particularly with regard to organisational policies. There is widespread consultation and collaboration between the teachers, the board and parents. At the time of the evaluation, the school management has plans to involve all parents in focus groups to review the school plan.

The school plan contains policies on a range of organisational areas. All of these have been ratified by the board and signed by the chairperson. The organisational policies are specific to the needs and resources of the school. It is clear that they add value by enabling the school to function effectively and efficiently on a sustainable basis. It is recommended that the ICT policy be revised to include statements of the ICT skills to be developed by pupils at each class level. It is recommended also that the school’s existing good practice in supporting the pupils’ transition to post-primary school be recorded in the school plan, so that it will continue even in the event of changes to the teaching staff.

The curricular section of the school plan includes programmes and policy statements for each subject. The school programme for English is broad and varied. There is scope for greater continuity and progression, however, between the different class levels and it is suggested that the programme be reviewed by the teaching staff with this in mind. The school plans for Irish and Mathematics are based on templates provided by the support services for school planning and curriculum implementation. In some cases, further work is needed to adapt these documents so that they record accurately the good practice that exists in the school and provide a means of sustaining this good practice. The school plan for Social Personal and Health Education is good and, along with the policy for Relationships and Sexuality Education, provides evidence of an effective whole-school approach to this area.

The quality of the classroom planning done by individual teachers is good.


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 caighdeán an teagaisc agus na foghlama sa Ghaeilge an-mhaith ar an iomlán sa scoil seo. Tugtar faoi fhorbairt na teanga go héifeachtach ar leibhéal scoile-uile. Tugann an príomhoide agus na múinteoirí dea-shampla do na daltaí trí úsáid rialta na Gaeilge mar theanga chumarsáide. Spreagtar na daltaí chun Gaeilge a labhairt taobh amuigh den cheacht Gaeilge. Cuirtear lipéid le frásaí oiriúnacha ar taispeáint ar fhuinneoga na scoile, mar shampla, chun úsáid na Gaeilge sa chlós a éascú do na daltaí.

Cuireann na múinteoirí an t-ábhar foghlama i láthair na ndaltaí go sciliúil. Úsáideann siad raon d’ábhair léirithe, ina n-áirítear fearas closamhairc agus ríomhaireachta, go héifeachtach. Úsáidtear rainn, cluichí, drámaíocht agus scéalaíocht chun foclóir na ndaltaí a leathnú agus a bhuanú. Déantar dul siar go rialta ar an ábhar atá clúdaithe, rud a chuireann go mór le daingniú na foghlama. Cuirtear an cur chuige cumarsáideach i bhfeidhm go héifeachtach i bhformhór na ranganna. Baintear feidhm thairbeach as obair bheirte. Cuireann stráitéisí ceistiúcháin na múinteoirí go mór le cothú líofachta i measc na ndaltaí. Bíonn foclóir leathan ag na daltaí agus iad ag fágáil na scoile ag deireadh rang a sé, chomh maith le tuiscint mhaith ar úsáid na mbriathra. Bíonn sé ar a gcumas ag formhór acu an teanga a labhairt go muiníneach, leanúnach i gcomhthéacsanna cumarsáideacha.



The standard of teaching and learning in Irish is very good overall in this school. There is an effective whole-school approach to the development of the language. The principal and teachers give a good example to the pupils by using Irish regularly for communicative purposes. The pupils are encouraged to speak Irish outside of the Irish lesson. For example, useful phrases are displayed in the school windows to support the pupils’  use of Irish in the recreation area.

The teachers present lesson content skilfully. They use a range of illustrative materials, including audio-visual and computer equipment. Poems, games, drama and story are used to extend and consolidate the pupils’ vocabulary. There is regular revision of content already covered, which helps to reinforce the learning that has taken place. The communicative approach is implemented effectively in most classes. There is good use of pair work. The teachers’ questioning strategies support the development of fluencyin the pupils’ language. By the time they leave the school at the end of sixth class, the pupils have developed a wide vocabulary as well as as a good understanding of the use of Irish verbs. By this stage, most of the pupils are able to speak Irish in communicative contexts confidently and with reasonable fluency.


The school’s provision for English is good. There is very successful development of the pupils’ skills in reading and writing. There is scope for a more focused approach to oral-language development.

The teaching styles that are prevalent in the school support the development of good speaking and listening habits. There are frequent opportunities for pupils to participate in whole-class discussions and to work in small groups. Pupils in most classes speak clearly and confidently and listen attentively to their teacher and fellow pupils. There is evidence, however, that a more deliberate and focused approach to oral-language lessons would enhance vocabulary development and oral-language performance. The identification of clear oral-language targets in short-term planning would be particularly beneficial.


The teaching of English reading is good. There is an appropriate emphasis on the development of the pupils’ phonological awareness in the infant classes and there is systematic development of the pupils’ sight vocabulary and word-attack skills. Reading is promoted as a recreational activity. Each classroom has a pupils’ library with a collection of age-appropriate children’s literature. Teachers read aloud to their pupils regularly. Various interesting activities are based on books that pupils have read. Pupils speak knowledgeably and enthusiastically about their favourite books, authors and genres. The school organises activities such as shared reading and ‘reading buddies’ to support the development of the pupils’ ability and interest in reading. It is recommended that the school ensure that there is an accessible, attractive well-stocked pupils’ library in every classroom.


The school provides very good opportunities for the pupils to develop their writing skills in a range of contexts. Writing activities are well structured and there is good use of discussion to prepare pupils for writing tasks. There is a commendable emphasis on the development of the pupils’ understanding and skills with regard to drafting, editing and publishing their work. Pupils’ writing is displayed throughout the school. Pupils are involved in the production of a school magazine and some classes have participated in the Write-a-Book project that is organised by the local education centre.


3.2 Mathematics

The teaching of Mathematics is excellent. The school has invested in a range of appropriate mathematical equipment and this is used effectively by the teachers. There is skilful use of a range of resources, including target boards and loop cards. There is also very good use of mini-whiteboards in problem-solving activities. The teachers link concepts effectively with real-life situations. There is successful development of mathematical skills through frequent opportunities for practical work. The teachers adapt their Mathematics programmes and lessons appropriately to cater for the different ability levels. There is excellent use of group work to increase the level of pupil activity and participation.

There is evidence of particularly skilful teaching in the strand Number. The teachers use a variety of interesting, engaging activities to consolidate number facts (tables). Pupils respond very well to questioning in all areas of the Mathematics curriculum and demonstrate a good command of mathematical language. The success of the teachers’ practical approach to the teaching of Mathematics is particularly evident in the pupils’ understanding and skills in the areas of time, measurement and money.


3.3 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

The school places a strong emphasis on this aspect of the pupils’ development. The school implements a structured programme of lessons in Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE). It is evident from classroom observation that this programme is implemented in a conscientious, professional manner by the teachers. Appropriate links are made between the various elements of the programme, including Walk Tall, Stay Safe and Relationships and Sexuality Education. The school receives support with the RSE component from a guest speaker. Most classrooms have visual displays to reinforce the pupils’ learning in SPHE. It is evident from classroom observation that lessons in the subject are well structured and taught effectively. Circle time is used to very good effect to achieve specific SPHE objectives.

The ethos and atmosphere of the school are supportive of SPHE. The ethos is evident in the school’s mission statement and in the quality of interactions and relationships between teachers and pupils. Part of the rationale for the school’s broad curricular and extra-curricular programmes is the opportunities they provide for the development of pupils’ self-esteem and social skills. Respect for the school environment is an important element in the school ethos and pupils are given responsibilities in this area.


3.4 Assessment

Standardised tests are administered annually in English and Mathematics. A range of further diagnostic tests is administered to pupils in receipt of supplementary teaching. Teacher-designed tests are used regularly in most curricular areas. Each teacher keeps a detailed monthly account of work completed. These are commendably clear and detailed and provide a useful assessment tool for individual teachers and the school.



4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Mainstream class teachers differentiate their programmes and lessons effectively for the various levels of ability in their classrooms. The school also has a dedicated special-education team that provides supplementary teaching for particular pupils and implements early-intervention programmes. There is a learning-support/resource teacher who works in the school on a full-time basis, a visiting resource teacher who serves the school as part of a local cluster and a part-time resource teacher.

Provision for special educational needs is of a very high quality. There is effective co-ordination of the work of the three teachers and an effective balance of withdrawal and in-class work. Each teacher prepares an individual learning programme for each pupil with whom he/she works. These programmes identify clear learning targets that address the priority needs that have been identified in assessments by relevant psychological and health professionals. The teachers also prepare effective short-term plans and useful progress records. One of the strengths of the supplementary teaching observed is the commendable emphasis that is placed on language development as a foundation for work in literacy, numeracy and other areas. There is excellent, purposeful use of resources, especially ICT.


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

At present, there are no pupils in the above categories. The school policies, ethos and culture are inclusive and supportive. Support is provided for all pupils in accordance with their individual needs. This approach would enable the school to make effective provision for pupils from disadvantaged, minority and other groups should the situation arise.


5.     Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas.


·         The principal is a very effective leader and manager.

·         The board, principal and staff are to be commended for the professional, conscientious manner in which they serve the school community.

·         The overall quality of teaching throughout the school is very good and reflects the principles of the Primary School Curriculum.

·         There is widespread participation in the whole-school planning process and a strong whole-school culture.

·         The teachers make effective use of a wide range of educational resources, including ICT.

·         The teachers provide regular opportunities for pupils to develop their communicative and collaborative skills through working in pairs and small groups.

·         The school provides a very good, well-co-ordinated service for pupils with special educational needs.

·         Teaching and learning in Mathematics and Irish are of a particularly high quality.

·         There is evidence of very good communication among the school, parents and the wider community.

·         The quality of the school building and facilities is excellent.



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


·         It is recommended that the descriptions of posts of responsibility be revised to ensure that each post includes responsibility for leading the development of particular curricular areas as well as organisational and pastoral duties.

·         It is recommended that the school review the curricular aspects of the school plan, with a view to ensuring that existing good practice is recorded and consolidated.

·         It is recommended that the school issue an annual written report on the progress of each pupil.



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.

















School Response to the Report


Submitted by the Board of Management







Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report


The B.O.M. firstly wishes to acknowledge the professional and courteous manner in which the WSE was carried out.  The Board is particularly pleased that the good work being done in the school was recognised and affirmed.  Overall, the staff, board members and Parents Association agree that the WSE was a very useful self evaluatory tool.  It gave us the opportunity to examine and reflect upon all out school activities as we strive to give the best educational experience possible to the children who attend Brierfield N.S. We continually aspire to making their time at school a truly positive experience for all concerned.  





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 Post Holders duties have been revised to include responsibilities for leading the development of particular curricular areas as well as pastoral and organisational duties.


Over the next three years the Board are undertaking a complete update of our Plean Scoile involving all parents and teachers in focus groups with the task of reviewing and upgrading all curricular and organisational aspects of the plan.


We have decided on a template for a Student Progress Report to be given to parents annually.





Published October 2008