An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Gortjordan National School
Kilmaine, Co. Mayo
Roll number: 14534Q
Date of inspection: 20 April 2007
Date of issue of report: 4 October 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Gortjordan National School, Kilmaine, Claremorris, Co Mayo. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, and the school’s board of management and representatives of the parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. 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 chose to accept the report without response.
Gortjordan School is a four-teacher, co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Kilmaine, Co Mayo. It is an excellent school. There are 59 pupils enrolled at present. Most of the pupils come from the Gortjordan area, with the remainder coming from other parts of Kilmaine parish and the neighbouring parishes. It is expected that enrolment figures will increase slightly over the next few years, due to increased house building in the area.
The core of the school building dates from 1896. A major renovation and extension was completed in 2005. The original three classrooms have now become the school library and a spacious general purposes room. There are three newly-built mainstream classrooms and a learning-support classroom in the extension. There is also a staffroom/office and there are pupil and staff toilets. The building and school grounds are very well maintained.
The Catholic Archbishop of Tuam is the patron of the school. The board of management meets at least once a term. Many meetings were necessary during the preparation and construction phases of the new extension. Minutes are kept of the proceedings of board meetings. The board of management is to be commended for its support for the school and for the close contact it maintains with school personnel. The board discusses and ratifies all school policies. The board’s current priorities include the creation of a nature walk and the development of raised beds in the space behind the football pitch to grow vegetables.
The in-school management team consists of the principal, the deputy principal and one special duties teacher. The principal’s management and curricular duties are carried out enthusiastically and very competently. The principal’s vision of a happy, homely learning environment has been impressively realised.
The school staff operates extremely well as a team. The work of the deputy principal and the special duties teacher is carried out competently and diligently. Roll books, registers and all school records are carefully maintained. The staff meets informally at the beginning and end of every school day. Formal meetings are usually planning days. These are held at the beginning and end of each school year.
The diligent work of the teachers has been crucial in establishing Gortjordan S chool’s excellent reputation in the local community and beyond. The school is very clean and tidy both inside and outside. A parent provides voluntary secretarial assistance to the school. This generous contribution to the smooth running of the school is highly commendable.
The board of management has invested in a wide range of educational resources to support the implementation of the curriculum in all curricular areas. This is especially noteworthy in Visual Arts, English, Mathematics and Physical Education (PE). The school is very well equipped. The mainstream classrooms are arranged and decorated to provide a very stimulating learning environment for pupils.
The school grounds are exceptionally well laid out. The thoughtful design, landscaping and planting have led to the creation of an impressive child-friendly environment. One of the most remarkable features is the generously equipped playground. The schoolyard is colourfully painted to encourage children’s games. There is also attractive seating arranged adjacent to a bird feeding area. Playing pitches and wide green spaces complete the pleasant surroundings of the school.
Information and communication technology (ICT) is emphasised in the school and computers are available in every classroom. The staff has decided that placing more emphasis on ICT and developing a school website are to be priorities for the future.
While there is no parents’ association in the school, very positive relations exist between parents and teachers. There is a good level of parental involvement in the school. The parents are very satisfied with the education provided in the school.
Parents are given an oral report on the progress of their children at the formal parent-teacher meetings that are organised annually. The school deals with parents’ concerns in an open way. Parents are welcome to discuss pupils’ progress or other issues with the principal or class teacher at any time. The parents receive newsletters from the principal to keep them informed about events in the school.
The pupils in Gortjordan School, and consequently their parents, hold their teachers in the highest regard. They are very well behaved. They get on well with each other and are welcoming and courteous to visitors to the school. The standard of pastoral care in the school is exceptionally high. The teachers have a very warm and approachable relationship with their pupils. This has led to the creation of a homely and friendly atmosphere in the school. This is very effectively combined with a vibrant learning atmosphere. The pupils participate eagerly in lessons and the other school activities provided for them. The teachers also maintain a close relationship with their past pupils. Many of these are regular and welcome visitors to the school, when they share their new experiences with current pupils.
The school plan has been put together to cater for the specific needs of Gortjordan school. The teachers value the support received from cuiditheoirí and facilitators from national in-service training initiatives. This support has contributed in a useful way to the school planning process.
The school plan is available for parents to consult. Parents are welcome to contribute their opinions and suggestions on school policies at any time. The board of management ratifies all administrative policies and curricular plans prior to their inclusion in the school plan.
The school’s mission statement is set out in the school plan. Plans are available for all of the curricular areas in which the teachers have received in-service training. The school’s current curricular planning priority is to draft a plan for Drama.
Appropriate organisational policies have been developed on a wide range of school matters. Among these policies are a health and safety statement, an enrolment policy and a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy. An equality statement has also been developed.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The teachers in Gortjordan School implement a very broad and balanced curriculum. Teachers’ classroom planning is clear and gives a good overview of the work planned. Long-term and short-term schemes of work are prepared and monthly progress records are kept. The teachers keep to an appropriate timetable. The timetables are based on the suggested minimum time framework set out in the primary school curriculum.
Individual education plans (IEPs) are developed for pupils attending learning support or in receipt of resource hours. The IEPs are regularly reviewed. All relevant records are filed in the learning support room. Copies of individual pupils’ education plans are also kept in class teachers’ files.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The overall quality of education offered in Gortjordan is very good. Most of the pupils achieve high standards in all curricular areas. A very effective grounding is given to pupils in Irish, English and Mathematics. The very high standards achieved in the Visual Arts and Social, Environmental and Sceintific Education (SESE) are particularly praiseworthy.
The quality of teaching in all of the mainstream classes is of an exceptionally high standard. Various teaching methods are used successfully during the school day. Among the methods used are teacher modelling, discussion, project work, storytelling, drama and group work.
Cothaítear dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge i Scoil Ghort an t-Siúrdáin. Leagann na hoidí an bhéim cheart ar an dteanga labhartha ó naíonáin go rang a sé. Is féidir leis na daltaí i ngach rang labhairt fúthu féin go soiléir as Gaeilge. Úsáideann múinteoirí agus daltaí Gaeilge go rialta mar theanga caidrimh i rith an lae. Baineann na hoidí úsáid chreidiúnach as dráma sna ceachtanna Gaeilge. Éiríonn leo foclóir na ndaltaí a leathnú go céimniúil tríd an scoil.
Aithrisíonn agus canann na daltaí uile rainn, dánta agus amhráin as Gaeilge. Forbraítear an léitheoireacht go héifeachtach ó rang a dó ar aghaidh. Léann an chuid is mó de na ndaltaí os ard go líofa agus freagraíonn siad ceisteanna go cumasach bunaithe ar an léitheoireacht. Tá cló i nGaeilge le feiceáil go forleathan i dtimpeallacht na scoile. Déantar obair inmholta sa scríbhneoireacht. Tá ardchaighdeán le sonrú i gcóipleabhair agus sna leabhair saothair na ndaltaí.
A positive attitude to Irish is fostered in Gortjordan School. The teachers place the correct emphasis on oral language skills from infants to sixth class. The pupils in all classes can talk about themselves clearly in Irish. Both teachers and pupils regularly use Irish in conversation during the school day. The teachers use drama creditably in Irish lessons. They succeed in expanding pupils’ vocabularies in a graded way throughout the school.
All of the pupils in the school can recite and sing rhymes, poems and songs in Irish. Reading is developed effectively from second class onwards. The majority of pupils read aloud fluently and they answer questions competently based on their reading. There is a print-rich environment in Irish evident throughout the school. Commendable work has been done in writing. A high standard is evident in the pupils’ copybooks and workbooks.
Most pupils attain very high standards in English. Oral language development is appropriately emphasised. Most of the pupils can speak about themselves, their interests and a variety of other topics articulately and enthusiastically. The work done on the recitation, study and writing of poetry in every class is particularly impressive.
There is a print-rich environment in all the mainstream classrooms and throughout the school. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of phonological awareness, as part of the foundation of basic reading skills, in the junior classes. The emphasis placed on developing reading skills and on developing a love of reading in the school ensures that a very high standard of reading is achieved by most pupils.
Class libraries are well stocked and well presented. The school library is very well stocked and very attractively laid out. This library provides a continuous supply of books for readers at all levels of age and ability. Shared reading takes place in most classes and records are kept to ensure that pupils read a number of books each year.
The standard of English writing throughout the school is very high. There are very good examples of pupils’ writing in a wide variety of genres on display in every class. The writing process is appropriately emphasised and written work is carefully edited and published in class. Copybooks and workbooks contain highly commendable work in functional and creative writing.
The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken competently in every class. The particularly good foundation in Mathematics laid in the junior classes has contributed significantly to the high standards in Mathematics achieved by most pupils in the school. The pupils have a good knowledge of mathematical terms. The correct emphasis is placed on solving mathematical problems.
A wide range of mathematical equipment is available in the school and these materials are used effectively to enhance pupils’ learning. A stimulating maths-rich environment has been developed in the school with Mathematics corners and mathematical posters in all classes. The pupils record their work very neatly. This work is regularly checked and corrected by the teachers.
History is very well taught in the school. Almost all of the pupils have an impressive knowledge and understanding of the topics they have studied. Creditable emphasis is placed on Local studies and on personal history throughout the school. There are timelines on display in most classes and the pupils in some classes have put together very impressive folders recording the main events of their lives. There is very good integration with the Visual Arts in several classes, where some of the pupils, for example, have constructed impressive models of Viking longboats and the Spanish Armada.
The standards of teaching and learning in Geography are very good. The use of field trips has helped to stimulate pupils’ interest in their local environment and most pupils can talk about where they live confidently and knowledgably. The pupils in the senior classes received a commendation from Independent newspapers for their work on the Water Towers in Ballinrobe for the My Favourite Building project. Commendable project work has also been done in several classes on countries of the world. There are maps and globes on display in all classrooms and these are used regularly as part of Geography lessons. The work done on the Solar System and on time zones is skilfully integrated with Mathematics.
The pupils in all classes in the school carry out experiments and record their results clearly in their impressive Science copybooks. The work on Materials and change and on Energy and forces is commendable, while the strand Living things is particularly well covered in every class. Nature tables have been set up in most classes. Seeds and bulbs have been planted to give the pupils practical experience of watching things grow and change. Most of the pupils can identify several species of birds, as a result of the bird tables that are visible from all of the classrooms.
The work done in the Visual Arts in Gortjordan School is excellent. The six strands of the curriculum are covered comprehensively and there is a commendable balance between two-dimensional and three-dimensional artwork. Outstanding samples of the pupils’ work are displayed very attractively in every classroom and throughout all the public areas of the school. A large number of pupils have been successful in a variety of national and local art competitions.
The standard of Music education in the school is very good. Song-singing is well covered and the pupils in most classes can sing a wide selection of songs in both English and Irish. Percussion instruments provide accompaniment in the performance of impressive miniature music dramas in the junior classes. Music literacy is given due attention, with commendable work being done on rhythm and intervals. Composing activities begin at infant class level and are developed further in the other classes. The pupils in every class are given regular opportunities to listen to and respond to Music.
Drama has yet to be introduced in a formal way on a school-wide basis. A school concert is held every year. The pupils have the opportunity to show their acting and performing skills to their parents at these events. Role play is used very successfully in most classes to teach Irish. The teachers intend to compile a whole school plan for Drama in the near future.
4.6 Physical Education (PE)
The school has access to generous indoor and outdoor facilities for the teaching of PE. There is a basketball and football court in the schoolyard. Lessons take place there or on the school’s playing pitch whenever appropriate. These lessons follow the correct sequence of warm up, skills practice, games and cool down activities. All of the strands are covered in the school’s PE plan, but particularly noteworthy emphasis is placed on walking, orienteering and outdoor trails. This work is regularly integrated with Geography.
Gortjordan School is involved in several sporting competitions and leagues, for example Cumann na mBunscol. Swimming lessons have been provided for pupils in Gortjordan in Claremorris Swimming Pool.
The recently-produced Making the Links programme is used as the basis of SPHE lessons in Gortjordan School. This programme integrates the Walk Tall and Stay Safe programmes and is used effectively in every class. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is also covered appropriately.
Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to pupils in English and Mathematics once a year. The results of the standardised tests are filed centrally. They are used to compare pupils in the school with national averages and to identify pupils who are in need of learning support or other supplementary teaching. The other main assessment tools used in the school are teacher observation and teacher-designed tasks and tests. The impressive project work done by pupils in a wide range of curricular areas is also used to assess pupils’ progress.
The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to pupils in senior infants once a year. This ensures that early intervention can help pupils experiencing difficulty as soon as possible. The learning-support teacher uses a variety of diagnostic tests. These tests help to identify the specific needs of pupils with learning difficulties. They also aid in the development of individual education plans (IEPs).
The school has developed an appropriate learning support and special educational needs policy. The policy clearly sets out the school’s procedures for screening, planning and implementation. The school policy is effectively implemented. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving supplementary teaching. Parents are kept regularly informed about their children’s progress.
The learning support classroom is attractively decorated and provides a stimulating educational environment for pupils. There is a print-rich environment, with appropriate educational charts and samples of pupils’ work on display. Learning support, on a withdrawal from class basis, is offered to all pupils who need it in English and Mathematics.
Sometimes a whole class group is withdrawn to the learning support room for tuition. This enables the mainstream teacher and the learning support teacher to focus on the specific needs of each class group.
All pupils in the school are treated equally and fairly. The school has an open enrolment policy. School funds and grants are generously used to ensure that every pupil can participate fully in school activities.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendation is made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.