An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Killea National School

Templemore County Tipperary

Uimhir rolla: 14460N

 

          Date of inspection: 05 November 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 


Whole-school evaluation

A whole-school evaluation of Killea National School was undertaken in November 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and History. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

Introduction – school context and background

Killea National School, Templemore, County Tipperary is a two-teacher, co-educational school, under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, which caters for pupils from infants to sixth class. The school is situated in the village of Killea approximately four kilometres from Templemore town.

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

33

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The mission statement of the school states … that Killea N.S. is a Catholic  primary school which strives 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. Killea N.S. will endeavour to enhance the self-esteem of everyone in the school community, to imbue in the pupils respect for people and property and to encourage in them the idea of being responsible.

 

It was evident during the evaluation period through the interactions with the school community that the values outlined in the above statement are shared by all and every attempt is made by the staff to ensure their attainment.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and is supportive of all school-related activities. It convenes at least once per term and more frequently when the need arises. The chairperson of the board visits the school frequently. These features of good practice are commended. The management of the school is devolved in nature. The principal is responsible for the daily operation of the school, while nominated individuals on the board address specific responsibilities in respect of decisions taken at board of management meetings.

 

The board perceives its role as engaging in matters relating to practical school-related issues, school finances, the ratification of school planning policies and the employment of staff. Members of the board have received training in their varied roles. The board has been very successful in achieving the following; the provision of flashing lights on the approach to the school; the upgrading of the water supply in the school, the resurfacing and lining of the school yard; and the ongoing maintenance of the school building and grounds.  While the board is to be commended for the quality of the maintenance in the school, it expressed concern in respect of the dampness in evidence in the walls of the classrooms. The board has applied for grant aid to build larger classrooms and to refurbish the existing accommodation. 

 

The board plays a collaborative and constructive role in the formulation of school planning policies, through consultation, discussion and ratification of documentation. A two year action plan has been prepared outlining the targets of the board and the actions required to achieve these. Circulars from the Department of Education and Science are discussed at board of management meetings and copies of planning documentation are distributed at these meetings. The board expressed that it was satisfied with the quality of the education provision in this school. It was reported that pupils continue to progress very well when they transfer to post-primary school.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal carries out her teaching and administrative duties in a very professional manner. She has a long-standing relationship with the local community. She demonstrates a very caring and sensitive attitude towards the children in the school. She relates well to her teaching colleagues, members of the board of management and the parent’s association. She displays very good qualities of leadership and this is exemplified through the comprehensive school plan that has been developed in collaboration with the other mainstream class teacher, the shared learning support teacher and the board of management.

 

The principal is responsible for the daily operation of the school, while the main responsibilities of the special duties post-holder include deputising for the principal when she is absent. A wide range of curricular and pastoral duties have been assigned including responsibility for the development of Music in the school and organising schools tours, school sports and managing information and communication technologies (ICT) in the school

 

Informal communication is facilitated among members of the school staff. Staff meetings are convened once per term and matters relating to curricular areas, organisational issues, parent/pupil communication are discussed. Minutes of these meetings are recorded and filed and this feature of good practice is commended.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

There is a very good relationship evident between the parent’s association and the school staff. It is reported by the principal that parents are welcome to visit the school whenever the need arises and formal parent-teacher meetings are organised on an annual basis. Written school reports are disseminated each summer. The parents’ association is a long established body and very active in the provision of extra-curricular events for the pupils in the school and fund-raising activities. The parent’s association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council. The association aims to assist in supporting the work of the school and in promoting links with the general parent body. The parent’s association is actively involved in the life of the school through an annual programme of events including fundraising events, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, their representative on the Green flag Committee and organising coffee mornings for parents of children newly enrolled in the school.

 

 

 

 

1.5 Management of pupils

There is a very welcoming and open atmosphere in this school. Pupils are very well mannered and were found to interact in an open and honest way with teachers, fellow students and visitors. The pupils are involved in the Green Flag, An Taisce, Environmental Awareness Project and a committee is in operation to oversee the management of the project. Classroom rules have been established in consultation with the pupils which are focused on the responsibilities of pupils and it is clearly evident that they are willing to co-operate with the teachers in implementing the school’s code of behaviour. The teachers work collaboratively and are committed to creating a learning environment that fosters pupils’ learning and self-esteem.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The school plan outlines very comprehensive policies on organisational and administrative matters and also on curricular areas. It is evident that collaboration between staff and board of management has taken place in the formulation of this documentation and this practice is commended. The signature of the chairperson of the board is recorded on school planning documentation.

School planning policies are ratified by the board and are available to parents on request. A range of general school policies is presented on organisational matters including Enrolment, Code of Behaviour and Discipline, Sports Code of Conduct,  Attendance Policy, Communications Policy, Anti-Bullying, Yard Supervision, Homework, Child Protection, Administration of Medicines Policy,  Safety Statement, Record Keeping, Equality of Opportunity Policy, Assessment Policy, Learning Support and Special Needs, ICT policy and Internet Acceptable Use Policy.

 

Curricular policy documentation is included on Gaeilge, English, Mathematics, Visual Arts, Drama, SESE – (Science, History, Geography) Music and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE).

 

 

 

The teachers are commended on the planning documentation formulated and reviewed to date and also on its recognition of the developmental nature of the whole school planning process. The contribution of the staff to the formulation of these comprehensive policy documents is acknowledged and the level of work completed to date in relation to school planning is highly commended.

 

Individual teacher planning is undertaken in the form of long-term and short-term preparation in accordance with Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools. The teaching staff is commended for the level of work undertaken and for the effective practice which is in evidence throughout the school. Very good work is being undertaken pertaining to individual teacher planning and comprehensive preparation is also evident with regard to supplementary teaching and support provision.

 

Yearly and fortnightly schemes are formulated and supported by the effective use of ICT and there is evidence of linkage between long-term, short-term planning and the principles and structure of Primary School Curriculum (1999). Effective practice in this regard was observed, it was evident that very thorough, focused and comprehensive written preparation was presented, which informed classroom practice in a very productive manner.

 

 

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

 

Gaeilge

Tá ardmholadh tuillte ag na múinteoirí as an obair a dhéantar chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn mar theanga bheo chumarsáide. Éiríonn leis na hoidí suim na ndaltaí i bhfoghlaim na Gaeilge a mhúscailt agus a bpáirtíocht sna ceachtanna a chothú trí úsáid cheardúil a bhaint as straitéisí éagsúla mar shampla drámaíocht, agallaimh beirte, filíocht, rainn, rólghlacadh, puipéad agus cluichí.  De thoradh na hoibre seo, bíonn sé ar chumas na ndaltaí an Ghaeilge a úsáid go muiníneach, líofa i ngnáthchumarsáid an lae. Is inmholta go háirithe an bhéim a leagtar ar an gcur chuige cumarsáideach.

 

Tá iarracht chreidiúnach déanta prionta i nGaeilge a chur ar taispeáint i dtimpeallacht na scoile. Éiríonn go stuama le formhór na bpáistí an t-ábhar léitheoireachta a léamh le brí agus le tuiscint. Tá iarracht inmholta déanta an t-ábhar léitheoireachta sa Ghaeilge a leathnú. Is léir go núllmhaíonn na hoidí ábhar léitheoireachta neamhspleéach bunaithe ar na téamaí atá á mhúineadh. Ba thairbheach, anois freisin, feidhm a bhaint as raon níos leithne d’fhíorleabhair tharraingteacha idir bheag agus mhór, iris agus cineálacha difriúla téacsanna chun a scileanna léitheoireachta a dhaingniíu agus a leathnú a thuilleadh.

 

Éiríonn leis na daltaí scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil de chaighdeán creidiúnach cruinnis a sholáthar. Déantar monatóireacht rialta ar an obair seo. Ní mór, áfach, próiseas na saor scríbhneoireachta a fhorbairt go córasach agus deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí smaointe a ghiniúint agus a dhréachtú le cur lena gcumas cumarsáide scríofa.

 

Irish

The teachers are praised highly for the effort they have made in promoting Irish as a living communicative language. The use of a variety of strategies such as drama, pair work, rhymes, role play, puppets and games enable teachers to awaken pupils’ interest in Irish and promote their involvement in lessons. As a result, pupils’ are capable of using the language confidently and fluently in everyday interactions. The emphasis placed on the communicative approach is praiseworthy.

 

A conscientious effort is made to ensure that a print rich environment is evident in the school environment. The majority of pupils are able to read with expression and understanding. A praiseworthy effort has been made to extend the range of reading material throughout the school. It is evident that the teachers prepare independent reading materials based on the themes that are being taught. It would be beneficial now to utilise a range of stimulating big and small books, magazines and different genres to develop rich vocabulary, children’s independent reading  and to further consolidate the children’s reading skills.

 

Pupils are provided with opportunities to engage in functional writing which is of a good standard.  Pupils’ work is regularly monitored.  However, it is worthwhile to develop the creative writing process in a systematic manner throughout the school in order to provide opportunities for pupils to express their own thoughts and to practice their skills in order to develop their own personal writing styles.

 

English

The standard of literacy in the school is very good with the majority of pupils engaging in oral, reading and writing activities in a very competent manner in all classes. Very good lessons were observed in all classes. Planning is carried out effectively in respect of the teaching of English. There is evidence of direct linkage between the school plan and individual teacher’s preparation and practice. Children express themselves confidently and fluently in English. In all classes children engage in a wide range of oral language activities. This very good practice is commended.

 

A very good programme in reading is organised throughout the school from the emergent reading stage to the senior levels. Emergent reading skills are developed and basic reading skills are established in infant and junior classes through the development of phonological and phonemic awareness. This programme is effectively supported by the learning support teacher who provides early intervention for all pupils at the infant stage. Very good use is made of books in promoting an interest in reading and a very effective shared reading programme is organised in collaboration with the parents in the infant and junior classes. A wide variety of reading material is used including the classroom textbooks. A novel is used to supplement the reading materials and to engage with pupils at a deeper emotional and cognitive level. The teacher also differentiates the reading materials for some pupils. The pupils are given opportunities to respond to characters, situations and story details and in general are given broad experiences in terms of articulating a shared response to poetry and fiction. A wide repertoire of poems is explored and the pupils are encouraged to respond in different ways through dramatising, writing and comparing poems.

There is a good balance achieved between functional and creative writing at all class levels. The quality of writing in the children’s copies is of a good standard. Personal and creative writing commences in the junior classes. Pupils write short personal accounts and undertake book reviews. In general, the teachers are cognisant of the importance of the writing process.  This skill is further developed and emphasised in middle and senior classes.  Children also write their own poetry and the pupils are encouraged to write in varying formats. Some teachers use computers skilfully to support and present the work undertaken by the children. There is evidence of effective integration across a range of curriculum areas. The further development of the pupils’ creative writing skills through the use of the process approach to writing is recommended. Teachers use a range of assessment strategies including teacher observation, teacher designed tests, consistent monitoring of oral and written activities and standardised test results.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Whole school planning documentation, which aims to inform classroom practice in the area of Mathematics, has been formulated in a very comprehensive manner. The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken very effectively throughout the school and all of the pupils’ attainment is at a level appropriate to their age and ability. Overall the standard of teaching and learning in this school is very good. Very good teacher-pupil and pupil/pupil interactions were in evidence during the evaluation period. In general, a wide range of methodologies is utilised and the pupils are provided with opportunities to become active in their own learning.  Group teaching was in use in all classes and effective management of pupil application was observed while pupils were engaged in tasks/activities during lessons. Concrete and structured materials and experiential learning approaches are used productively in all classes.  A range of concrete materials is available at all class levels and all the teachers use a range of resources to support their work including textbooks, charts, number lines and mathematical equipment. The teachers are to be commended for the application of strategies such as mathematical games in their teaching. Activity based learning, skills and problem solving in Mathematics are developed in all classes

 

Elementary mathematical concepts are well taught in the infant classes and this work is supported by the skilful use of concrete materials. In the junior classes, the children understand number and place value and are able to solve simple mathematical problems. During lessons in Mathematics, concrete and structured materials are used in a productive manner and the effective management of pupil application in tasks and activities is also in evidence. Teachers differentiate the curriculum very effectively for the different class levels.

 

In the middle and senior classes, the understanding of number work is consolidated and extended.  Basic number facts and operations are well taught and most of the pupils can discuss and solve mathematical problems. In general, mathematical concepts are developed through the use of concrete materials and concepts are linked to the pupils’ own experiences. Emphasis is placed on the development of mathematical language in an incremental fashion from junior infants onwards particularly mathematical language related to the Number strand in the curriculum. Regular revision is undertaken and the children record their work neatly and appropriately in copybooks.

 

In general, pupils solve problems satisfactorily and continued emphasis on oral problem solving and the development of ‘investigation areas’ is recommended. It is evident from the children’s oral responses and written work observed that they are achieving a very satisfactory standard in this area of the curriculum. Strategies that will further develop children’s mathematical language and problem solving should be considered on a whole school basis.

 

3.3 History

The current school plan outlines the strands and strand units, which are taught at each class level. A section is also included that outlines the methodologies, assessment strategies and resources that will be used in this area of the curriculum. The further development of this plan could include an outline of the learning experiences that will be provided at each class level to support the development of pupils’ historical knowledge, skills and attitudes. The learning experiences provided in this school include studies from local, national and international contexts. In all classes appropriate emphasis is placed on personal and family history drawing on the pupils’ prior knowledge to engage them as historians. Artefacts and photographs are also in evidence. Relevant myths and legends are explored effectively in all standards and this work is effectively integrated with Visual Arts and oral language. It is evident that pupils are provided with relevant and authentic historical learning experiences, with opportunities to work as historians and through the use of artefacts, photographs and materials linked to the local environment and their own families. Very effective project work had been carried out in relation to family trees and local place names.

 

In senior classes, pupil participation in learning/discovery methods is implemented through group-work and discussion. Very good use is made of local history books and artefacts. It is recommended that the skills of the pupils as historians be further developed through access and analysis of primary sources of data now available online through the use of the broadband technology that is now installed in the school. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) are used very effectively as a mediational tool during the teaching learning process. Further development of this medium can be achieved through project work and pupils presenting their own work to their peers and other audiences through the use of presentation software which is already available on the school’s computers.

 

3.4 Assessment

A very good policy on assessment has been formulated by the school staff which outlines the range of strategies in use in the school. The policy was formulated in consultation with a school planning facilitator from the School Development Planning Service (SDPS). Specific assessment strategies have been identified for different subject areas, including teacher observation, teacher designed tasks and tests and also the monitoring of oral and written activities. The Sigma T and Micra T are administered annually. The Middle Infant Screening Test is used to assess pupils’ attainment in senior infants. The use of The Belfield Infant Assessment Profile as an assessment tool in junior infants is recommended. The data gathered from standardised tests is used to focus the teaching and learning throughout the school.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A very comprehensive Learning Support Policy has been formulated and is included in school planning documentation. A collaborative approach to the provision of support for pupils is in evidence among the principal, mainstream class teachers and learning support teacher. This school has the services of a shared learning support teacher, who provides supplementary teaching for 18 pupils, 11 of whom participate in an early intervention programme in the infant classes. The learning support teacher’s post is based in St. Colmcille’s N.S. in Templemore.

 An Early Intervention programme is provided by the learning support teacher in collaboration with the mainstream class teacher. This programme is implemented in the infant classes on a daily basis. It is focused on early literacy development and delivered in a very structured format. The sessions observed were well paced and the targets in the group IPLPs were appropriate for the children and delivered effectively. The integration of support teaching in mainstream classes, through the provision of early intervention activities with pupils at infant level, is commended. Support is currently provided in literacy only.

The learning support environment is organised in an attractive and stimulating way.  A range of appropriate teaching strategies and methodologies is also implemented. Pupils are withdrawn for support provision from mainstream classes, both individually and in groups. Effective use is made of ICT and a wide range of educational software is employed to enhance the pupils’ learning experiences.

 

The programmes of learning formulated for pupils for whom supplementary and support teaching are provided, focus on the development of literacy. The planning is clearly documented through the formulation of Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLP) or group IPLPs as the situation merits. Weekly plans, daily planning sheets, records of parental meetings, progress reports, daily records of work and timetables are maintained in a methodical manner. Pupil records are neatly maintained and organised.

There is evidence of effective collaboration and consultation among the principal, mainstream class teachers and learning support teacher in the formulation and development of pupils’ IPLPs. Feedback regarding pupil progress is provided to parents at annual parent/teacher meetings. An end of year report is prepared by the learning support teacher and a copy is made available to the principal.

.

 

5.     Conclusion

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         The school has a board of management which is committed to the development of the school as an organisation which will provide the best possible education for the

      children in the community.

·         The school has a staff of highly competent and committed teachers who are innovative and open to change.

·         The teachers use a very wide range of teaching strategies to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum.

·         The school has a dedicated parents’ association which engages in a very broad range of activities to support the work of the school.

·         The children in the school are interested in engaging fully with the teaching and learning process in the school.

·         A wide range of resources is available for use in the school.

 

 

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

·     It is recommended that the board of management review the school’s enrolment policy particularly in respect of the enrolment of children with special educational

    needs.

·     It is recommended that further thought be given to the implementation of strategies to further develop the children’s mathematical language and problem solving

    abilities.

·     The further development of the pupils’ creative writing skills through the use of a process approach to writing is recommended.

·     Ba thairbheach, anois freisin, feidhm a bhaint as raon níos leithne d’fhíorleabhair tharraingteacha idir bheag agus mhór, iris agus cineálacha difriúla téacsanna chun 

    scileanna léitheoireachta na ndaltaí a dhaingniíu agus a leathnú a thuilleadh. It would be beneficial now to utilise a range of stimulating big and small books, magazines

    and different genres to develop rich vocabulary, children’s independent reading  and to further consolidate the children’s reading skills.

·     The further use of ICT as a mediational tool to present pupils’ project work to their peers and wider audiences is recommended.

 

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 February 2009