An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Cloughanover National School
Headford, County Galway
Uimhir rolla: 14448A
Date of inspection: 5 February 2009
A whole-school evaluation of Cloughanover National School was undertaken in February 2009. 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 the Visual Arts. 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 of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report. 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.
This five-teacher school is situated in the townland of Cloughanover in the parish of Headford, Co Galway. Almost all of the pupils come from the Cloughanover area and nearby townlands surrounding the school. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam.
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
Pupil enrolment has remained fairly constant over the past few years, following a period of growth which saw the school growing from a two-teacher school to its present size. This growth led to a substantial extension to the original 1965 school building. This extension, completed in 2006, provided two new mainstream classrooms, a resource classroom, a staffroom, and a school hall. It is expected that enrolments will continue at around the current level for the foreseeable future. The school is maintained to a high level of neatness and tidiness inside and outside.
The school’s mission statement refers to the aim of creating “a well-ordered, caring, happy and secure atmosphere” for pupils and for the whole community. The mission statement also refers to the school’s commitment to the promotion of the Irish language. It is clear from the description of the school’s mission, vision and aims that a sincere effort is made to develop pupils’ self-confidence and independence. There are many additional opportunities provided for pupils to develop their abilities in sports through, for example, Cumann na mBunscol competitions. Pupils also engage in a wide range of artistic endeavours and are given responsibility in environmental initiatives such as the Green Flag.
The composition of the board of management is in accordance with agreed Department of Education and Science procedures. It was confirmed that the chairperson of the board meets with the school principal on a regular basis. There is also frequent telephone contact between the chairperson and the principal. Meetings of the board of management are organised at least once a term, with occasional less formal meetings being held when necessary. Such informal meetings were convened frequently when the school extension was being built. The building of the extension was the most commonly discussed issue at board meetings during that time.
Minutes are kept of all board meetings. According to the minutes of the most recent meetings, the issues being discussed include the need to provide hot water in the school, the proposed purchase of interactive whiteboards for classrooms and day-to-day administrative issues. The work covered by the board on the formulation and development of school policies is also recorded in the minutes. Correspondence is discussed at board meetings and the principal gives a report on the work of the school at all meetings. Members of the board have been assigned various roles, such as secretary and treasurer. A financial report is given at each board meeting.
The board is conscious of its responsibilities in the formulation, ratification and review of school policies. Work on school policies forms part of almost all board meetings. The board has created an action plan to outline its priorities in school planning over the next three years.
The classrooms have modern furniture and the board of management has invested in the provision of a wide range of teaching materials. The playground is spacious and laid out for playground games. Both the original parts of the building and the new extension are well maintained. The school has participated in the Grow Potatoes Project and part of the attractive school garden has been given over to this worthwhile project.
The principal has been in charge of Cloughanover National School since 1971 and has worked diligently to improve the school, its organisation and curriculum provision. It was confirmed by the principal that parents’ high expectations have encouraged him in his work and that the board of management is very supportive. The principal believes that the strengths of the school include the team spirit of the school staff and the support of the parent body. In cooperation with these partners, the principal has demonstrated good leadership in overseeing the school’s transition from a two-teacher school with two classrooms to the present five-teacher school with four mainstream classrooms and various additional rooms and facilities.
The principal fulfils his administrative responsibilities appropriately. Formal staff meetings are held in June and September. Minutes are kept as a record of these meetings. Henceforth it is intended to have a staff meeting during each term.
The duties of the deputy principal and the special duties teacher are outlined in the school plan and these include curricular, administrative and pastoral responsibilities. The work attached to these posts is attended to diligently. Beneficial work is completed in liaising with outside agencies for pupils with special educational needs. Useful work is also carried out in organising school files, in the maintenance of school records, and in preparing for the sacraments. It would be worthwhile, however, to regularly review the duties of the deputy principal and special duties post and to consider how the school’s priority needs could be addressed from year to year, in accordance with Circular 07/03.
There is a parents’ association in the school, although it is not affiliated with the National Parents’ Council. Parents’ representatives explained, during the pre-evaluation meeting held with the inspector that the parent body meets every year to discuss Hallowe’en and First Communion activities. The parents provide much support to the school by fund raising and by assisting with after-school activities. It was reported that, at present, the parents are helping to raise funds to purchase interactive whiteboards for the school.
The parents’ representatives articulated that communication among parents and the principal, teachers and board of management was good. It was felt that there was a spirit of openness in the school, and that the teachers were approachable. Many of the parents meet informally with the teachers on a daily basis, as they drop and collect their children at school. Whenever necessary, the parents’ representatives correspond with the wider parent body about school matters.
Parents are aware that the school plan is available for their consultation. Parents confirmed that their opinions and suggestions were sought on the code of behaviour and discipline and on the anti-bullying policy, prior to these policies being ratified by the board of management. The parents’ representatives stated that they were very satisfied with the education provided in the school. They were particularly happy about the good use being made of the new physical facilities available in the school. Parents are kept informed of school events by regular newsletters sent by the principal. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually where parents are given the opportunity to discuss their children’s progress. A written report on pupils’ progress is sent to parents at the end of each school year.
The school rules are set out clearly and they are applied effectively. Pupils are supervised during all recreation periods. Pupils are cooperative and respectful towards their teachers and to each other. The pupils are welcoming to visitors and they are eager to talk about and demonstrate what they have learned across a range of curricular activities.
The quality of whole-school planning is good overall. During the planning process, good use was made of the facilitators and advisors available through the national support programmes. A three-year action plan has been set out to provide a framework for the review of school policies. Administrative policies and curricular plans are usually developed in draft form by staff. All policies are then discussed and recommendations are considered before finally being ratified by the board of management. The practice of involving parents should now be expanded for the review of a wider range of school policies. It is recommended also that, as policies are reviewed, their layout and format be coordinated to form a standardised framework linked to the needs of the school.
The school plan includes an enrolment policy, a health and safety statement, a school attendance strategy and the code of behaviour and discipline. The school’s equality statement confirms that there is equality of opportunity for boys and girls in curricular and extra-curricular activities. The school has also provided policies on matters such as assessment, special educational needs, supervision, the administration of medicine, substance misuse, homework, and class allocation.
Policies have been developed for each curricular area and reference is appropriately made to teaching methods, skill development, assessment methods and school resources. While there is some reference made to the content to be covered at each class level, it is recommended that more detail be included in some plans to ensure greater continuity and progression throughout the school.
The quality of most teachers’ long-term and short-term classroom planning is good. There are differences evident in the presentation and detail of these preparation notes. In almost all classes the planning reflects the strands and strand units of the curriculum. Reference is also made in most of these schemes to the teaching methods, resources, and assessment methods used in particular classes. It is suggested that the staff should agree a common approach to long-term and short-term planning to ensure greater uniformity. Monthly reports from all classes are provided in an agreed format and these outline the strands and strand units of the curriculum with a good level of detail. The monthly reports are maintained by the principal to provide a record of work covered in each class.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
Tá cáilíocht na foghlama agus an teagaisc sa Ghaeilge i Scoil Náisiúnta Cloch an Fhómhair go maith ar an iomlán. Leagann an plean scoile don Ghaeilge béim oiriúnach ar an gcur chuige cumarsáideach agus ar mhodhanna múinte a chothaíonn dearcadh dearfach don teanga. Tá na daltaí in ann cumarsáid bhunúsach a dhéanamh ar na téamaí éagsúla den churaclam. Tá tuiscint inmholta ag cuid de na daltaí agus tá siad seo in ann iad féin a chur in iúl go soiléir muiníneach. I gcuid de na ranganna sonraítear go mbíonn Béarla in úsáid go ró-mhinic chun foclóir nua a mhúineadh agus chun treoracha a thabhairt. Moltar an cleachtas seo a sheachaint as seo amach. Múintear raon leathan rann agus dánta ag gach leibhéal ranga agus aithrisíonn na daltaí iad seo le brí agus fuinneamh. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as puipéid agus cairteacha sa chuid is mó de na ranganna chun foclóir a fhorbairt agus chun cabhair a thabhairt do dhaltaí agallaimh a chur le chéile agus comhrá beirte a bhunú. B’fhiú áiseanna léirithe mar seo a úsáid i ngach rang d’fhonn daltaí a spreagadh chun cainte agus chun scileanna éisteachta agus labhartha a fhorbairt a thuilleadh.
Cothaíonn cuid de na múinteoirí an léitheoireacht Ghaeilge go héifeachtach agus léann na daltaí sna ranganna seo go líofa cruinn. I gcuid eile de na ranganna, áfach, moltar go leagfaí níos mó béime ar mhúineadh na bhfocal nua ionas go dtuigfeadh na daltaí an méid atá le léamh. Chomh maith le sin, moltar do na hoidí sna ranganna seo sleachta léitheoireachta a léamh don rang i dtús báire. Bunaítear na cleachtaí scríbhneoireachta ar na ceachtanna labhartha agus léitheoireachta don chuid is mó. Sna cleachtaí scríbhneoireachta tugtar aitheantas do chumais éagsúla na ndaltaí agus déantar iarracht an obair a idirdhealú más gá. Tá obair inmholta sa scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach le sonrú i gcuid de na ranganna.
The quality of learning and teaching in Irish in Cloughanover National School is good overall. The school plan for Irish places suitable emphasis on the communicative approach and on teaching methods that foster a positive attitude towards the language. The pupils are able to make basic conversation on the various themes of the curriculum. Some pupils display commendable understanding and they are able to talk about themselves clearly and confidently. English is used too frequently in some classes in explaining new words and in giving instructions. It is recommended that this practice be avoided in the future. A wide range of rhymes and poems is taught at every class level and the pupils recite these with expression and enthusiasm. Effective use is made of puppets and charts in most classes to expand vocabulary and to help pupils to construct conversations in pairs. It would be worthwhile to use resources like these in every class to encourage pupils to develop listening and speaking skills further.
Some of the teachers foster Irish reading effectively and the pupils in these classes read fluently and accurately. It is recommended in some classes, however, that more emphasis be placed on the teaching of new words so that pupils understand what they are reading. It is also recommended that the teachers in these classes should first model the reading extracts by reading aloud for the class at the outset. Writing exercises are mostly based on language and reading lessons. Recognition is given to pupils’ varying abilities in their written work and an effort is made to differentiate the work where necessary. Praiseworthy work in creative writing is in evidence in some classes.
The school plan for English is clearly outlined. An appropriate emphasis has been placed on providing breadth and continuity of content at each class level. There is considerable attention given to the development of pupils’ higher-order thinking skills. Oral language is given due attention in the plan. The positive effects of this planning are noticeable in the classrooms where pupils at every class level participate willingly in discussions on a variety of topics. Circle work and language games are used beneficially in the junior and middle classes to promote pupils’ listening and oral skills. Pupils at each class level are encouraged to contribute their views in oral language activities and almost all of them are confident and articulate in expressing their opinions. The daily news, including national and international current affairs, is regularly discussed. Pupils have learned a wide range of rhymes and poems in English in every class and these are recited with meaning and by using actions.
Pupils have achieved a good standard of reading in English and there are many positive aspects to the teaching of reading in the school. Phonological awareness is systematically developed and good use is made of flashcards and of large-format books to reinforce pupils’ knowledge of new vocabulary in the junior classes. Appropriate attention is given to providing pupils with a variety of reading materials throughout the school. In some classes in-class support is provided for pupils who have learning difficulties in reading. While this practice is commendable, there is a need to review the implementation of in-class support to ensure that it is of greater benefit to the pupils. For example, more consideration needs to be given to the timing of reading aloud sessions to encourage improved pupil attention and application.
Pupils are provided with good opportunities to write in a variety of genres. Much of this work is based on oral work and reading in English. Good emphasis is placed on monitoring this work and on teaching spelling and grammar to improve pupils’ writing. It is evident that most pupils have a good standard of handwriting. Samples of the pupils’ work in writing are displayed in each classroom.
The school plan for Mathematics indicates that the staff has agreed to use the same language for the common mathematical operations at each class level. This good practice ensures that there is continuity in the teaching of Mathematics throughout the school. Pupils’ use and understanding of oral Mathematics and their skill in mental arithmetic is commendable. Teaching is differentiated where appropriate. There is also a strong emphasis placed on problem-solving. There is a wide range of concrete materials available in the school. These materials are used in most classes to good effect. In some classes, however, there is a need to increase the use of such resources to reinforce and facilitate learning. Pupils’ work is neatly presented in their copybooks and it is carefully corrected in most classes. A maths-rich environment has been developed in almost all classes. It is recommended that this work be further developed in some classes to enhance the status of Mathematics and further emphasise its importance in the school.
The school’s plan for the Visual Arts was very recently reviewed. This plan provides a useful guideline on teaching approaches and methods for this subject. Teachers’ individual planning provides a more detailed outline of the content that is covered at each class level. Due attention is given to developing pupils’ artistic skills. Pupils are also given regular opportunities to look at and respond to art. Talk and discussion about art form a central part of visual arts lessons. Pupils are exposed to a wide variety of resources when making art and are encouraged to be creative in their work. Teachers use effective starting points to stimulate the pupils’ imagination. The samples of pupils’ artwork on display in classrooms and throughout the school demonstrate the emphasis placed on providing breadth and balance in the visual arts programme. The attractive displays of two-dimensional and three-dimensional visual arts activities in most classes are highly commendable.
The main methods of assessment used in the school are teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks, work samples in copybooks, project work, spelling and table tests. Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to pupils once a year. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) and the Belfield Infant Attainment Profile (BIAP) are used as assessment tools in the infant classes. The results of these assessments inform teaching and learning. Diagnostic testing is undertaken for pupils who need additional support. The Neale Analysis is the main diagnostic assessment tool used. All of the pupils who attend learning-support are assessed in June each year to ascertain whether they need continued support and to identify their specific needs. Records of pupils’ assessment are maintained by class teachers, learning-support and resource teachers as appropriate. Parents are provided with annual oral and written reports on their children’s progress.
The school has developed a learning-support and special educational needs policy. This policy sets out the school’s procedures for the identification of pupils who need additional support and contains some useful information on the implementation of learning programmes for these pupils. It is recommended that the role and input of parents in this service be further clarified in the school’s policy. A shared learning-support teacher, based in Cloughanover, provides support to pupils in English and Mathematics. In addition, the school has also been allocated three and a half resource teaching hours to cater for one pupil with special educational needs. The mainstream teachers’ professional opinions are taken into account when deciding to commence, continue and discontinue learning-support.
Learning-support and resource teaching are provided in small groups or individually, in line with the needs of the pupils. The learning-support and resource rooms are comfortable and attractively decorated on the whole, although some displays should receive further emphasis to provide a more stimulating learning environment. The direct method of teaching is used for the most part and some good use is made of language games and computer software to motivate pupils to learn. In-class support is provided in some classes as part of an early intervention programme. While this work is a positive step, more consideration needs to be given to the implementation of this support to ensure that it is more effective.
Group or individual learning programmes are provided for each pupil attending learning-support or resource teaching, in accordance with their needs. There is a need to ensure, however, that the learning programme devised for pupils with special educational needs should carefully follow the recommendations set out in the relevant psychological reports to ensure more focused teaching and better learning outcomes.
No pupils from disadvantaged, minority or other groups are attending the school at present. The school has an inclusive enrolment policy.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The staff and board of management are commended for their achievements in improving the school building and grounds and in maintaining its clean and neat appearance.
· The board of management has made a wide range of curricular aids available to staff to support the implementation of the curriculum and to enhance the learning experiences and opportunities
provided for pupils.
· Teachers are diligent and competent; display positive attitudes and a willingness to accept and implement change in order to further enhance learning.
· High standards of learning are evident throughout the school in various aspects of English, Mathematics and Irish. The pupils’ achievements in the Visual Arts are particularly praiseworthy.
· Effective work is being done in the development of the school plan.
· Strong emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ higher-order thinking and problem-solving skills.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· It is recommended that the use of English be avoided during Irish lessons, that more teaching aids should be used, and that an improved approach to Irish reading be implemented in some classes.
· It is recommended that the in-class support provided as part of the teaching of English be reviewed to ensure that it is more effective.
· It is recommended that a maths-rich environment be further developed in some classes, with increased use of concrete materials.
· It is recommended that there should be a greater correlation between psychological reports and the individual education plans devised for pupils with special educational needs.
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
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The board of Management is pleased that the departmental inspector recognises the good practices and diligent work that is undertaken in Cloughanover National School by the Board of Management, parents, staff and children
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
We look forward to implementing the recommendations as outlined.