An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



St Columba’s National School

North Strand, Dublin 3

Uimhir rolla: 14463T


Date of inspection: 24 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 St Columba’s 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 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.




Introduction – school context and background


St Columba’s NS is situated on the north side of the city less than two kilometres from the centre.  The original school building which dates from the end of the eighteenth century was re-constructed in 1944.  Two large well-maintained classrooms provide the main accommodation for the school.


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


This school which is under the patronage of the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin is part of the local church community and has firm links with the parish.  The school ethos statement promotes the fostering of a climate in which all pupils experience a sense of caring and belonging and of being treated fairly.  The work of the school is conducted in an atmosphere of tolerance and respect for religious differences.  The vision statement aims to enable pupils to have a “sense of fulfilment and direction, knowing their talents, and eager to pursue their lives as citizens, with a keen sense of commitment, justice and joy”.


1.2 Board of management


The board of management meets regularly, is properly constituted and fulfils its statutory obligations effectively.  There is careful management of financial matters with accounts audited annually.  The board is very supportive of the work of the school and its priorities relate in the main to the provision of good educational opportunities for the pupils in a happy school atmosphere.  The board ensures that the school building is well maintained and that there is an ongoing plan of renewal in place.  Individual board members have brought project, financial and information, communication and technology (ICT) skills to bear on work for the school. 



1.3 In-school management


The in-school management team comprises the principal and the assistant teacher who holds a special duties post.  They work together very harmoniously to provide very good educational provision for their pupils and in particular they ensure the smooth day-to-day administration of the school.  The principal who has taken up her position in the relatively recent past brings considerable expertise, energy and enthusiasm to her role.  Both teachers ensure that a very broad and balanced programme of education is imparted to their pupils and are willing and able to adapt their teaching methods to accommodate change and innovation.  The assistant teacher’s special duties straddle organisational, pastoral and curricular areas and are reviewed regularly to meet the needs of the school as required. 


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community


The board of management promotes the involvement of parents in their children’s education and is very supportive of the parents’ association.  Although not affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (NPC) Primary, the parents’ association is strong and reports very good attendance at meetings.  Parents are given relevant administrative policies, especially by way of an information pack when their children are being enrolled and are also consulted on a regular basis.  The parents’ association should consider affiliating to the NPC Primary to develop further the involvement of parents in their own children’s education and in the life of the school.  The principal reported that the parents are very supportive of any initiative that the school undertakes and their involvement in the Maths for Fun programme is about to commence.


1.5 Management of pupils


There is an even distribution of pupils across both classrooms.  The pupils in junior, senior infants and first class are under the care of the assistant teacher and pupils in second, third, fourth and fifth classes are with the principal.  It is noted that there is only one pupil in the senior end of the school.  However the number of pupils in junior infants, namely six, might indicate that the enrolment may increase somewhat in the near future.  Pupils are well behaved, courteous to visitors and to one another and very co-operative for their teachers.  The strategy of having the pupils engage in a contract regarding school rules is very admirable.



2.     Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning


The quality of whole-school planning is good.  The board involves itself in policy formation in relation to administrative and pastoral policies.  Thus policies such as the code of discipline, the health and safety statement and the child protection policy have been devised with significant input from the board of management.  The board ensures that the admissions policy which is about to be reviewed is implemented in a fair and transparent manner.  The board has little involvement with curricular policies all of which are devised and developed by staff but it should review its approach in this regard and become more involved where it is reasonable to do so.  Considerable work has been done by the principal and the assistant teacher over the last year in formulating comprehensive curricular plans in Irish, English, Mathematics and Physical Education and other subjects with realistic review dates having been assigned.



The quality of the teachers’ long-term classroom planning is also comprehensive.  A recently adopted format for short-term preparation and for the monthly progress record of work completed contains all the main headings of good planning, such as content, methods, differentiation, integration and assessment and should be further developed in the future.  There is evidence of very good planning in both classrooms by way of providing a wide range of useful and attractive visual aids, concrete materials and ICT packages.


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



Leagtar béim inmholta sa phlean scoile ar shuim agus ar mheas na ndaltaí a chothú ar an nGaeilge.  Ins na hísealranganna baineann an t-oide úsáid as cluichí, drámaí beaga, rainn, dánta, agus amhráin go rialta sa teagasc.  Tá na modhanna múinte bríomhar, cinnte, glacann na daltaí páirt ghníomhach san obair agus léiríonn siad suim bhreá ins na gníomhaíochtaí éagsúla.  Cuireann an t-oide an-chuid acmhainní ar fail do mhúineadh na Gaeilge.  Léiríonn na daltaí dul chun cinn creidiúnach i bhfoghlaim na Gaeilge maidir le sealbhú foclóra agus nathanna cuí cainte de.  Ins na ranganna eile glacann na daltaí páirt ghníomhach freisin ins na himeachtaí Gaeilge agus baineann siad taitneamh ach go háirithe as na cluichí cainte agus as na  hábhair bhreátha léirithe a chuireann an t-oide ar fail don obair.  Díríonn an t-oide aire cheart ar taithí a thabhairt do na daltaí ar ceisteanna a chur ar a chéile agus ar freagraí iomlána a thabhairt.  Bunaíonn sí na ceachtanna léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta go tuisceanach ag léibhéil chumais na ndaltaí agus déanann siadsan an obair scríofa go néata, cruinn.  Tá moladh ag dul don bheirt oide de bharr nach mbaineann siad ach fíor-bheag úsáid as modh an aistriúcháin i dteagasc na Gaeilge.  B’fhiú breis úsáide fós, áfach, a bhaint as an Ghaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh i rith an lae.




Commendable emphasis is placed in the school plan on developing the pupils’ respect for and interest in Irish.  In the lower classes the teacher employs, games, short dramas, rhymes, poems and songs regularly in her teaching.  Teaching methods are lively and assured, the pupils engage actively in their work and they display admirable interest in the various activities.  The teacher supplies very many resources for the teaching of Irish.  The pupils indicate creditable progress in the learning of Irish with respect to the acquisition of vocabulary and suitable idioms.  In the other classes the pupils also engage actively in the Irish activities and they enjoy in particular the word games and the attractive learning aids provided by the teacher for the work.  The teacher devotes due attention to enabling the pupils to ask questions of one another and to give full responses.  The reading and writing lessons are pitched with understanding at the ability levels of the pupils who present their written work neatly and accurately.  The teachers are commended on the fact that they make very little use of translation methods in the teaching of Irish.  However it would be worthwhile to make more use of Irish as a language of communication during the day.



The comprehensive school plan informs the teaching of English to very good effect.  In the junior end of the school there is very considerable emphasis placed on language development in the pre-reading exercises and in the work on poetry.  The classroom presents as a print-rich environment and as very conducive to promoting an interest in story and reading.  The teacher models reading very effectively by means of the large book format and of particular note are the poetry anthologies prepared by her for her three class groupings.  The pupils engage keenly in the various reading and writing activities and they indicate a good mastery of phonic, spelling and word recognition skills as appropriate.  The work is very well differentiated to cater for the needs of the pupils and they are developing very good penmanship skills.  The practice of enabling the pupils to maintain portfolios of their completed work is commendable.


In the senior end the teacher scaffolds the writing process impressively by means of prompt cards and through skilful use of the whiteboard.  The pupils display much interest and commendable expertise in their efforts to write science fiction, they indicate use of a wide vocabulary and they make very good use of ICT to extend their language skills generally.  They display good independent learning skills in their use of the library and the internet.  The teacher also attaches considerable importance to developing good penmanship skills in her pupils and periods of time are allocated to this activity on a regular basis.  The reading programme is well differentiated to accommodate the needs and abilities of the pupils across the classes, there is appropriate attention devoted to the teaching of phonics as required and the pupils are encouraged to read both fiction and non-fiction books.  A Buddy reading scheme involving pupils and parents has been underway for some time in the senior end of the school.  The pupils read their varied text materials confidently, accurately and with good understanding and they record their written work, both functional and creative, neatly and attractively.  Standardised tests in English are administered on an annual basis.


3.2 Mathematics


The approaches and methodologies outlined in the school plan for Mathematics are commendably implemented by the class and learning-support teachers.  The teachers’ emphasis on encouraging the pupils to talk about their mathematics is especially noteworthy.  In the junior end of the school the pupils engage actively and keenly in various measuring activities which are suitably differentiated to meets the needs of the pupils’ abilities and interests.  They work collaboratively together, acquire the correct mathematical terminologies and approach simple problems with confidence.  They display good knowledge of the appropriate number facts and they compute accurately.  Very good attention is devoted to neatness of presentation in the written recording of their work. The more senior pupils at the time of this evaluation were working on the reading and recording of time using both analogue and digital systems.  The strategy of enabling the pupils to gain an understanding of the history and development of the recording of time over the centuries was particularly commendable.  As in the junior end of the school the pupils made use of a range of learning resources to develop their understanding of the various time-related concepts.  They also indicated good progress in their number work generally and displayed very appropriate understanding of the equivalence and ordering of fractions.  Written work is very carefully corrected.  Mathematics standardised tests are administered annually to the pupils in the school as appropriate.



3.3 Physical Education


The varied nature of the physical education activities in both classrooms is impressive.  Despite the lack of a general purpose room very good lessons were observed in the strands of athletics, games and dance.  The inventory of physical education equipment as outlined in the school plan is comprehensive and very good use is made of mini-apparatus such as bean bags, balls, and hoops to develop various ball skills with the pupils and to give them a sense of enjoyment and of the importance of Physical Education in their lives.  There was very appropriate integration with other areas of the curriculum such as Music and Mathematics, with the pupils in the senior end dancing to music and the pupils in the junior section throwing bean certain metric distances respectively.  The teachers provide opportunities for the pupils to extend their vocabulary during the course of the lessons.  Swimming lessons are also taken by the pupils for a period each year.  The pupils engaged recently in an excellent physical education project whereby the pupils explored some old street games and older pupils taught some of these to their younger peers.  The school also participates in a FAI soccer blitz each year.  The school’s policy on healthy eating which has been enhanced recently with participation in the Food Dudes initiative whereby the pupils eat healthy foods is very much in line with the promotion of fitness and sense of wellbeing among its pupils.  The very good programme being pursued in Physical Education would be further enhanced by the school having access to indoor accommodation for the teaching of the subject.


3.4 Assessment


The school policy on assessment refers admirably to both assessment of learning and assessment for learning.  A range of assessment strategies is used in the school, most notably teacher observation, teacher designed tests, text-based tests, checklists and standardised tests.  The relatively small number of pupils in the school requires the sensitive administration of tests generally and the collaboration of class and the learning support/resource teachers in this regard is commendable.  Standardised tests in Mathematics and English are administered annually and diagnostic tests are administered as an important element of the learning support/resource initiative.  Parents are kept informed of their children’s progress regularly both formally and informally.



4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs


The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is very good.  The school has been allocated 14.5 hours learning support/resource provision which is undertaken by two teachers, one of whom works for twelve hours. An attractive, well resourced support room provides a stimulating environment for the two low incidence pupils and the five other pupils who attend for additional support in English and/or Mathematics. A full-time special needs assistant (SNA), under the guidance of the class teacher, displays much empathy with her pupil and fulfils her duties very competently.


Suitable tests are administered to pupils as appropriate, including early screening tests such as Belfield Infant Assessment Programme (BIAP) and diagnostic tests such as the Jackson phonics tests.  Individual education plans (IEPs) and individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) are formulated in conjunction with class teachers and with parents to meet the targeted needs of pupils.  Support for pupils which is mainly on a withdrawal basis with some in-class support is characterised by a deep sense of care and sensitivity, emphasis on developing the pupils’ self-confidence and self-esteem and very systematic use of a wide range of resource material to support learning. The value of in-class support which would afford opportunities to enhance the attainment levels of the more pupils in the school should be considered further by the staff.


Use is made of the Phonological Awareness Training (PAT) programme in developing the pupils’ phonic and word-attack skills and the pupils are afforded opportunities to read a variety of attractive and stimulating supplementary readers.  The understanding of mathematical concepts is emphasised very well in the support programme for Mathematics. 


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


The school is not involved in any of the Department’s programmes to combat educational disadvantage.  The board of management and teachers are sensitive to any instances of disadvantage which manifest themselves and endeavour to be as supportive as possible of specific family situations.



5.     Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas:




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




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 September 2008






School Response to the Report


Submitted by the Board of Management





Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report


The Board of Management acknowledges the content of the report and is pleased with its conclusions. The Board wishes to thank the inspector for his consideration during the WSE process and in particular his interaction with the Board, staff and teachers 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