An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Dalkey NS (2),

Harbour Road, Dalkey, County Dublin

Uimhir rolla: 14647G

 

Date of inspection: 22 November 2007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Dalkey NS (2) was undertaken in November 2007. 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 of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

Introduction – school context and background

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

98

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

5

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Dalkey NS (2) is a Church of Ireland co-educational school under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. The school’s ethos is committed to providing a caring environment for pupils and to enabling their holistic development. The characteristic spirit of the school is manifest in the welcoming atmosphere and the supportive interactions between teachers and pupils and pupils and their peers. The characteristic spirit of the school reflects the important role of the parish community while acknowledging and respecting pupils of other denominations. While pupil attendance levels are generally good, consideration needs to be given to the implementation of strategies for encouraging pupil attendance in accordance with the Education Welfare Act (2000).

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted. Board members have clearly defined roles and responsibilities which they undertake conscientiously.  The members of the board bring a wealth of personal expertise to the management of the school and are commended for their commitment. Meetings of the board are held five times a year. Minutes of meetings are carefully maintained and accounts are certified annually. Decisions are made in the best interests of the whole-school community. The board ensures compliance with departmental guidelines and regulations regarding the length of the school day, class size and retention of pupils. The board takes its maintenance role seriously and ensures that a safe and well-maintained environment is created for staff and pupils. The board is cognisant of its role in overseeing the provision of education in the school. Whole-school policies are discussed, amended as necessary and ratified at meetings. It is recommended that all policies are signed and dated on ratification. Communication between the board, staff and parents is very effective. Consideration should now be given to the production of an annual report to inform parents about on-going progress on all aspects of the school.

 

1.3 In-school management

The school is led effectively by a dedicated principal who discharges his duties in a conscientious and professional manner. He provides very effectual personal and organisational leadership and purposefully leads the whole-school planning process. The principal’s vision for the school includes the provision of a caring, happy environment in which pupils are motivated to learn. The principal is ably supported in his role by an in-school management team comprising a deputy principal and a special-duties teacher. Regular meetings of the principal and members of the in-school management team are held on an informal basis and staff meetings take place once a term.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Parents make a very positive contribution to the work of the school. They organise a comprehensive range of after-school activities and fundraise regularly to finance them. Parents also assist in class activities such as reading and computers and give of their talents to complement curriculum provision. Meetings of the parent-teacher association committee are held four times a year and are attended by the principal and deputy principal. At the pre-evaluation meetings parents expressed satisfaction with the standard of education provided in the school. Parents have been actively involved in the development of some school policies including the substance abuse policy and have attended workshops on the Stay Safe and the Social, Personal and Health Education programmes.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The school’s code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy outline clearly the mode in which pupil behaviour is managed. The management of pupils is very good and a happy atmosphere is apparent. High levels of self-confidence and self-esteem are successfully promoted. This is reflected in the pupils’ positive attitudes and co-operative manner. Pupils are very well behaved and show respect for one another, the staff and the school environment. They are commended for their positive engagement in learning.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality and level of whole-school planning is creditable. A school plan has been devised collaboratively by the teaching staff and co-ordinated by the principal. The plan includes a comprehensive range of documents relating to organisational, administrative and curriculum areas. Members of the in-school management team are responsible for the development of a number of curriculum policies. Staff members have engaged with the support services in the formulation of policies. Copies of all plans are available to parents on request. It is recommended that a statement on equality of access and participation should now be fully developed in order to comply with the Equal Status Act (2000) and relevant enacted legislation. Policies have been formulated in all curriculum areas and provide general guidance to individual teachers in relation to planning. It is recommended that a strategic plan be devised for the systematic review of the implementation and impact of all school policies.

 

The quality of classroom planning is generally good. All teachers undertake appropriate long-term and short-term plans of work. Features of good practice include referencing the strand and strand units of the curriculum, the identification of clear learning objectives and differentiated learning opportunities for individual class groups. To assist in clarifying short-term plans of work, due attention needs to be given to the identification of a diverse range of learning experiences, resource provision and assessment strategies. A common template is used in recording monthly progress and records are centrally stored.

 

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

Cuireann na múinteoirí teagasc na Gaeilge i láthair na ndaltaí go spreagúil. Labhraíonn na hoidí an Ghaeilge mar theanga chumarsáide le linn na gceachtanna. Tá an dearcadh dearfach a léiríonn siad i leith múineadh na Gaeilge le moladh. Tá láithreáin suime don Ghaeilge i bhformhór de na ranganna. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as acmhainní mar phuipéid agus cairteacha chun tuiscint na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Baintear úsáid oiriúnach as raon straitéisí mar rólghlacadh, obair bheirte agus cluichí teanga chun deiseanna cainte a chruthú do dhaltaí. Tá an dea-chleachtadh seo le moladh. Tá stór focal cuí ar eolas ag na daltaí agus tá sé ar chumas an chuid is mó díobh ceisteanna simplí a chur agus a fhreagairt. Chun breis forbartha a dhéanamh ar a scileanna labhartha, moltar  athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar na scéimeanna teagaisc atá in úsáid ag díriú aire ar fhorbairt agus leanúnachas ó rang go rang agus  béim sa bhreis a chur ar dheiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí an teanga iomlán a chleachtadh go cumarsáideach. Aithrisíonn na daltaí cnuasach cuí rann agus amhrán le brí agus le taitneamh. Bunaítear an léitheoireacht, ar an iomlán, ar na leabhair shaothair. Tá sé ar chumas na ndaltaí na leabhair sin a léamh agus léiríonn formhór díobh tuiscint bhreá ar ábhar na léitheoireachta. Scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil is mó a chleachtar ach sonraítear roinnt samplaí maithe de scríbhneoireacht phearsanta. Moltar cur leis na deiseanna a bhíonn ag daltaí scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach a chumadh.

 

Irish

Irish is taught in a stimulating manner. The teachers communicate in Irish during lessons. Their positive attitude to the teaching of Irish is praiseworthy. Interest areas in Irish are created in most classrooms. Resources such as puppets and posters are effectively utilised in developing pupils’ understanding. Strategies including role-play, pair-work and language games are appropriately used in fostering pupils’ oral language development. This good practice is praiseworthy. Pupils demonstrate suitable vocabulary development and the majority of them can ask and answer simple questions. To further develop pupils’ oral language skills, it is recommended that a review of the language programmes currently in use be undertaken, to ensure continuity and progression throughout the school, and that additional opportunities be provided for the development of their communicative skills. Pupils recite a suitable range of poems and songs with understanding and interest. Reading is principally based on the workbooks. Pupils can read these books and the majority of them demonstrate positive understanding of reading material. Functional writing exercises are practised in the main with some good examples of pupils’ creative writing in evidence. The provision of additional opportunities for pupils to develop their creative writing skills is advised.

 

English

The teaching of English is good. Pupils’ oral language skills are developed across a range of curriculum areas and talk and discussion form an integral part of all lessons. Pupils in all classes speak with confidence and demonstrate an ability to discuss matters of interest to them. In the infant and junior classes the use of a published programme for oral language assists in ensuring progression and continuity. In the middle and senior classes oral language skills are developed through discussion and brainstorming activities with some opportunities provided for pupils to present their book reviews and project work. A more widespread and consistent provision for oral language across the school is recommended. Pupils in all classes recite poems and rhymes with interest.

 

Well-stocked class libraries and the school library are successfully utilised in fostering an interest in reading among all pupils. Pupils’ reading is regularly monitored and they read fluently and with confidence according to their ability. In the infant and junior classes commendable attention is given to the development of the pupils’ phonological awareness. A broader range of approaches is recommended in the development of pupils’ emergent reading skills. Paired-reading activities with parents are promoted and supplementary graded readers are successfully utilised. Stories are used to good effect in developing pupils’ ability to sequence events and respond to text. The use of novels in the middle and senior classes enriches the pupils’ reading experiences. Sustained silent reading time is aptly utilised in encouraging pupils to become independent readers.

 

An appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ handwriting and penmanship skills in the infant classes with some development of their independent writing skills. In the junior, middle and the senior classes, pupils undertake a suitable range of writing activities. Valuable opportunities are provided for pupils to explore story frameworks, develop plots and sequence events. Attractive examples of pupils’ work in a range of genres are displayed in some classrooms and on school corridors. Extension of this good practice is recommended to include the process approach to writing across all class levels. The use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the writing process is advised. Written work is marked in a formative manner and a cursive penmanship style is consistently promoted.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The teaching of Mathematics is good. Features of effective practice include structured talk and discussion, focused questioning and clear explanations of concepts. The promotion of suitable group work and pupils’ active engagement with tasks were observed in a number of classes. A suitable range of mathematical equipment is available to support teaching and learning. Mathematical posters and interest areas are presented in most classrooms. The creation of more stimulating mathematics-rich environments across all classes is recommended. Pupils demonstrate positive attitudes to Mathematics and readily engage in written and oral tasks with interest. In the infant classes pupils participate confidently in early mathematical activities and at all levels pupils display appropriate levels of knowledge and  understanding of shape and space, measures, algebra, data and suitable numerical ability.  As a means of building on current practice greater emphasis needs to be placed on developing pupils’ problem solving skills through increased use of mental mathematics activities and active and collaborative learning methodologies. The use of ICT to reinforce and consolidate learning is advised.

 

3.3 History

History is taught with competence. Lessons are creatively integrated with other curriculum areas and good use is made of ICT as a research tool. School trips to local and national areas of historical interest and visits by local historians complement and enhance provision. In the infant and junior classes, story and family histories are used successfully to develop an understanding of continuity and change over time. In the middle and senior classes, reference books, photographs and historical posters are utilised effectually in developing pupils’ skills as historians. A timeline is displayed in the corridor. Pupils are provided with opportunities to work collaboratively on group projects in many classes. These features of good practice are commended. Pupils demonstrate good understanding of topics and discuss them with interest.

 

3.4 Assessment

The whole-school policy on assessment outlines the range of diagnostic and standardised tests in use and details storing arrangements and access to data procedures. Standardised tests are administered annually in English, Mathematics and spellings. Pupil progress is monitored by individual teachers through a variety of assessment strategies. These include teacher observation, questioning, teacher-designed tasks, homework, projects, work samples and checklists. Pupils’ written work is regularly monitored. Teachers report formally to parents on their child’s progress at annual parent-teacher meetings and through an annual written report. A whole-school approach to monitoring pupil progress in a more systematic manner across all curriculum areas is recommended. It is advised that additional use should be made of assessment results in adapting learning tasks for the different abilities of pupils, including the very able. Consideration should also be given to analysis of standardised spelling results in guiding phonics and spelling programmes.

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of provision for pupils with special education needs is good. Effective teaching is achieved through the combination of structured lessons, clear learning targets and continuing professional development. Some use is made of ICT to support teaching and learning. Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) for all pupils have been devised by the learning support/ resource teacher (LS/RT) in consultation with the class teacher and are reviewed regularly. A range of diagnostic tests is used in the identification of pupils in need of support and to review learning targets. An early intervention programme is provided for pupils in senior infants identified as being in need of learning support. Support for pupils is provided mainly on a withdrawal basis with some in-class support in numeracy and literacy. A review of the special education needs policy is recommended. This review should include documentation of evolving practice in relation to in-class provision, extension of support for pupils in the area of numeracy, greater parental involvement in the formulation and review of IPLPs and the involvement of pupils, particularly at senior level, in the development of their own IPLPs. Formal collaborative planning opportunities for mainstream and support staff in the delivery of targeted support teaching should also form part of this process.

 

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

The school’s commitment to the inclusion of all pupils is outlined in its mission statement and is discernible in the inclusive learning environment. Currently, a very small number of pupils whose first language is not English attend the school. Language support is provided by the LS/RT and emphasis is placed appropriately on development of pupils’ social and academic vocabulary and language fluency.

 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

Published June 2008