An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Tomgraney National School

Tuamgraney, Co. Clare

Uimhir rolla: 14571W

 

Date of inspection: 20 October 2009

 

 

 

 

 

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

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

 

A whole-school evaluation of Tomgraney National School was undertaken in October, 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, Mathematics and Geography. The board of management of the school 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

 

Tomgraney National School is one of two schools in the parish of Bodyke in East Clare. The school was founded in 1895 and until relatively recent times presented as a typical rural two-room school house. Over the last ten years the pupil population has more than doubled and a number of phases of development have been carried out to deal with the influx of new pupils. The most recent development, the addition of a two-storey extension incorporating two classrooms, learning-support room and storage space, was officially opened in October 2008. Attendance levels are satisfactory.

 

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

83

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

4

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

3

Special needs assistants

2

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Tomgraney NS is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killaloe. The school’s mission statement professes a dedication to maximising the abilities of all pupils and a commitment to cater for their spiritual, intellectual, aesthetic, cultural and physical needs. Pupils of all faiths and cultural backgrounds are welcome at the school.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and conducts its business with commendable efficiency and commitment. The board meets regularly and minutes are accurately recorded. The financial affairs of the board are professionally managed and accounts are certified on an annual basis. Present and previous boards can be justifiably proud of their achievements in developing infrastructure and provision to meet the needs of an expanding and increasingly diverse school population. Sensible use of strategic planning is central to the board’s success in coping with the extent and rate of those developments. Policy development, ratification and review, in both curricular and organisational domains, forms a significant part of the board’s activities. Policies are well researched, comprehensive in nature and reflective of the unique circumstances of this school.

 

Board members identified the key strengths of the school to include the professionalism and dedication of staff, the inclusive and friendly atmosphere that pupils experience, the centrality of pupils’ needs in determining policy, and the promotion of good relations among all stakeholders. Among the key concerns of the board at this time are efforts to acquire additional play space. The board would also like to see an increase in the school’s general allocation of hours for learning support to match the significant increase in enrolment.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal and deputy principal. Together they form a formidable partnership in which they put their considerable experience and talents to very good use in the service of the school. The principal, now in her fifth year in the post, provides dynamic leadership which is underpinned by a comprehensive and current knowledge of the key issues and challenges pertinent to a modern education system. She combines her dual role of principal and class teacher with great commitment and energy. The principal works effectively to keep the needs of pupils and very good standards in teaching and learning at the heart of the educational enterprise. The deputy principal acted as principal of the school for a number of years prior to the appointment of the present incumbent. Her willingness to use her considerable experience, skills and energy in supporting the principal is a key factor in ensuring that the principal and deputy operate in effective partnership in advancing the goals of the school. The deputy’s duties are reviewed regularly and sanctioned by the board.

 

1.4 Management of resources

Staff deployment is geared towards building capacity at all levels. As the school continues to grow the school’s policy on staff rotation will provide even greater opportunities for teachers to gain experience of different contexts and classes within the school. Staff members continue to invest time and effort in their own professional development with consequent benefits for the school. External coaches support provision in Physical Education by providing coaching in Gaelic games and gymnastics. French is taught after school by a class teacher working in collaboration with a native-speaking parent. Two special needs assistants work in a highly effective manner under the guidance of teaching staff as they strive to ensure that pupils with special educational needs are fully included in the daily life of the school. A part-time secretary and part-time cleaner contribute purposefully to the smooth operation of the school.

 

The recently completed extension and general refurbishment of the school building ensures that current accommodation is adequate to meet the schools needs in the foreseeable future. Based on current enrolment, the spare classroom, which is used as a general purpose area, is likely to house a fourth mainstream class in the next school year. Development of outdoor facilities is restricted due to lack of space. In an effort to address this situation the board has leased a small play area from an adjacent land-owner and has developed this ground with the assistance of Clár funding. The school also uses the facilities of Bodyke GAA club and Scariff Community College.

 

The school has used available finances judiciously to provide resources for various curricular areas. Teachers are creative in their efforts to generate additional equipment and materials. Classroom displays are attractive and colourful and celebrate pupils’ work in admirable fashion. Libraries are well stocked and frequently updated. Significant efforts have been made to update the information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure. Plans are in place for further development and much of the preparatory work has been completed in preparation for the launch of the school’s web site. A programme has been devised in which pupils work in groups on a weekly basis in the school’s ICT facility. The school is advised to continue exploring the most effective strategies possible for the use of ICT in teaching and learning. Further investment in maps and globes would help to broaden pupils’ knowledge of human and natural environments.

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Building and maintaining good relationships among all stakeholders is treated with the utmost seriousness in this school community. Communication with parents is effected by letters and notes, newsletters and the school journal. A text-a-parent service is currently being initiated. Parents are encouraged to arrange to meet teachers if the need arises. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held during the first term and written reports are issued at year’s end.

 

The school values the support of a very active and effective parents’ association. The principal attends the meetings of the association and the association is informed of board activities by means of the board’s agreed report. Support by parents for the school is well planned and covers a wide range of activities throughout the school year. Activities include fundraising, help with swimming classes and school events, visiting classes to talk to pupils and involvement in policy development. In their meeting with the inspector prior to this evaluation parents’ representatives praised the staff highly for the creation of a friendly and warm atmosphere in the school and for their commitment to the holistic development of the pupils.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

Pupil management is based on a deep sense of care and respect and is of a high order. Policies governing behaviour, supervision and anti-bullying were devised by staff, board and parents and are implemented in the school in a fair and consistent manner. There is an agreed system for the affirmation of positive behaviour throughout the school. Clearly-understood routines also contribute to the creation of an orderly and happy working environment. Pupils are friendly, confident and caring towards each other and work well with their teachers.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. A broad range of organisational and administrative policies, including those required by legislation, have been developed and ratified by the school. Conscious and worthwhile efforts are made to promote inclusiveness in policy formulation. The views of both parents and pupils were sought through a questionnaire prior to finalising the school’s policy on homework. Board members and parents form ad hoc committees to work on policy development prior to final ratification of these policies by the board. The assistance of the support services has also been pivotal in supporting this process. Comprehensive policy documents in all curricular areas set down key decisions arrived at by staff to ensure breadth, balance and continuity in curriculum implementation. These policies are aimed at meeting the needs of pupils in the unique context of this school. Policies are reviewed as necessary. It is now recommended that the staff and board continue to develop their capacity to evaluate effectively the outcomes of particular policy decisions and activities.

 

The quality of classroom planning is very good. All teachers plan conscientiously using agreed templates. Plans reflect a willingness to engage with the curriculum to the widest possible extent. Curriculum objectives in teachers’ plans are coded and cross-referenced to the Primary School Curriculum.

 

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 English

The quality of teaching and learning in English is very good. During the planning process the staff has given careful consideration to a wide range of strategies geared towards the development of high quality provision in oracy, reading and writing. Time is allocated for discrete oral language classes for which the school has planned a common approach. Additionally, teachers ensure that the five principal contexts for oral language are exploited gainfully. Structured play activities, improvisation, story, poetry and discussion feature prominently across the classroom settings.

 

An integrated approach to developing language skills coupled with print-rich displays and well-used libraries form an effective backdrop to the promotion of high attainment in reading. Early intervention strategies ensure that most pupils progress satisfactorily through the emergent reading phase and develop a range of word identification strategies and a basic sight vocabulary. Concept mapping is used to introduce texts and suitable grouping ensures pupils experience success and enjoyment in reading. Pupils are encouraged to respond to text in a variety of ways. Reading logs, book reviews and the rating of books are among the strategies used. Particular attention is paid to the development of comprehension and prediction skills, and control of the conventions of grammar, punctuation and spelling.

 

Careful attention is paid to developing pupils’ writing skills, in a developmental way throughout the school. Extensive oral language activities and various other stimuli are used effectively as a springboard for writing. Pupils’ work is appropriately celebrated and ICT is used to enhance the presentation of finished scripts. A two-year cycle has been agreed for the introduction of the various writing genres and the more senior pupils engage in free writing as they record their thoughts on the world. A consistent approach to handwriting encourages neat and well-presented work in all classes and this work is monitored and affirmed in a praiseworthy fashion. Staff might now usefully consider an earlier introduction to a cursive style and an even greater emphasis on drafting and editing of pupils’ work.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Teaching and learning in Mathematics is of a very high standard throughout the school. Lessons are well designed and implemented to ensure that a broad and balanced programme is provided.  Teaching is activity based and dynamic and is clearly enjoyed by pupils. Focused oral work, which includes challenging questioning, and the development of estimation and mental strategies are regularly provided for. Constructive use of manipulatives and an appropriate emphasis on mathematical language are prominent features of work in all classes. Frequent reference to the pupils’ experiences and environment make lessons meaningful. Differing ability levels and learning needs are effectively catered for through in-class differentiation and close collaboration between mainstream and support teachers. Pupils record their work neatly and their efforts are regularly monitored and affirmed. Pupils work is collated and displayed attractively in booklet form in first and second class. A review of work completed and of results of assessments carried out indicate highly commendable achievement at all levels.

 

3.3 Geography

The standards of teaching and learning in Geography are high throughout the school. Teachers plan to ensure comprehensive coverage of all three strands of the curriculum. Pupils’ geographical skills are well developed through active methodologies and the promotion of a variety of investigative techniques. Geography-specific cognitive language is effectively emphasised. Story is used as a stimulus in the infant classes in conjunction with helpful teacher -generated resources to explore homes and houses in a theme-based way. In first and second class pupils’ sense of place and space is fostered through engagement with simple maps and becoming familiar with basic directional and locational terms. This work is further developed in middle and senior classes to include work on grid referencing with the more senior pupils. Pupils in the middle and senior classes articulated very well what they had learned about rivers, the rain cycle and the Geography of Ireland. A number of initiatives are promoted on a whole-school basis to inculcate awareness of and care for the environment. Pupils are involved in recycling and composting as they explore environmental awareness and care issues in preparation for the school’s application for a first Green Flag award. Some field work has been done to explore features and processes in the local environment, particularly in Raheen Wood, and it is now recommended that a concerted effort be made to expand on these activities. Investment in a greater supply of suitable maps and globes should also enhance provision in Geography.

 

3.4 Assessment

Assessment practices, which were the subject of a whole-school review in 2008, have been developing over time and are characterised by clearly defined procedures for monitoring and recording pupil progress, the modification of learning programmes and reporting to parents. Assessment for learning is carried out through teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests, work samples, portfolios and projects. Practice regarding the use of checklists and the regular recording of teachers’ observations on pupils is commended. The learning support teacher, in collaboration with individual class teachers, oversees the administration of an array of diagnostic and standardised tests. These include the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile, the Middle Infant Screening Test, Non Reading Intelligence Test, Quest test, Aston Index, Micra-T and Sigma-T. Results of tests are recorded and analysed in an exemplary fashion. An accessible and helpful system of tracking pupils’ performance during their time in school helps to ensure that pupils are monitored carefully with a view to enabling them to maximise their potential. Screening and diagnostic testing is carried out, as appropriate, where teachers or parents have particular concerns for individual pupils. Standardised test results are communicated to parents at parent-teacher meetings and as part of annual written reports. In order to develop further the very good assessment practices in current use staff might now consider extending the range of assessment for learning strategies in line with the National Curriculum and Assessment guidelines.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Staff members employed in support roles include a full-time learning support/resource teacher (LSRT), a shared resource teacher based in a neighbouring school and part-time teacher of pupils for whom English is an additional language. Policy guiding the support of pupils with special educational needs was formally set down in 2007 and reviewed earlier this year. The policy is clear and comprehensive. Early intervention strategies, the implementation of the staged approach and collaboration between teachers and parents are notable features of the policy. At stage two, pupils in need of supplementary teaching are referred to the LSRT or shared resource teacher who prepare individual profile and learning plans with very specific and achievable targets. Parental involvement in the formulation, implementation and review of these plans is a key factor in ensuring that progress is made. Teachers in the special needs team plan their work carefully, assess progress methodically and provide support in class and on a withdrawal basis. Teaching observed in support settings during the evaluation was stimulating, well-structured and well-resourced.

 

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

The teachers and board of management work effectively to ensure that educational provision in this school is tailored appropriately to all pupils’ needs and abilities.

 

 

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, June 2010

 

 

 

 

 Appendix

 

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 of Tuamgraney National School welcomes the recent W.S.E report and its acknowledgement of the very high standard of teaching and learning in the school. The Board of Management also welcomes that the report highlights the many strengths of the school in every aspect of school life. The Board wishes to thank the inspector for the professional manner in which the W.S.E was carried out and the courtesy extended to all the partners in education.

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

·         The Board of Management continues to prioritise enlargement of play areas.

·         Significant investment is planned for ICT and e learning.

·         Resources have been purchased to further enhance the teaching and learning of the geography curriculum and further field work is planned.

·         The school will host a School Development Planning course in July 2010 to facilitate policy review.