An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Mhuire

Butlerstown, County Waterford

Uimhir rolla: 14679T

 

Date of inspection:  10 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

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Mhuire, Butlerstown, County Waterford. 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 inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given the 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 to this report.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Mhuire, Butlerstown is situated in a rural hinterland, a short distance from the new western ring road around Waterford city. The school is a co-educational school under the patronage of the Roman Catholic bishop of Waterford and Lismore. The present school building was opened in 1981 and the old school was converted to use as a community centre. Structural problems emerged in the building a number of years after opening and these were addressed with support from the Department of Education and Science’s (DES) summer work schemes. Since September 2004, the school has had a thorough refurbishment which has included replacing the roof and windows, installing a new heating system and new flooring, repainting the interior structure, extending the staff car park and finally resurfacing the junior playground. Due to increased enrolment a three room extension was added to the school in the summer of 2007, with the aid of the DES devolved grant initiative. The upward enrolment trend continues resulting in new appointments over the past number of years and further new appointments in the coming school year. There were 207 pupils enrolled in the school in September 2007, this figure will remain constant in the coming September 2008, but will grow to 214 in 2009 and to 224 in 2010. The board of management’s proactive approach to planning and building is to be commended. The school has avoided installing temporary classrooms for long periods and has ensured its pupils are receiving their education in a permanent, bright and well cared-for building. At present the school has no temporary buildings on campus. The ongoing western development of Waterford city will continue to bring enrolment pressures on the school and the new board will need to monitor developments if it is to maintain its successful avoidance of temporary accommodation.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

A new board was established this year and already board members are taking a proactive approach to their duties. Members have taken on designated roles on the board including the role of treasurer and health and safety officer. As time goes on other roles will be assigned. The board members are to be thanked for their voluntary service to their community and there is no doubt that this board will be as successful as previous boards in catering for the needs of the primary school community of Butlerstown. The Reverend Chairman of the board provides an important link between the work of the new board and the previous board. The chairman is very keen to promote the best possible service for the people of Butlerstown and to this end he maintains regular contact with the school. The chairman called to the school in the course of the WSE and aspects of the work of the school were discussed. It is laudable that the chairman, the board and the principal cooperate fully and conscientiously with each other in order to ensure that the past successes of the school are built on for the future.   

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The primary school community in Butlerstown, is also fortunate in that the principal has given dedicated service to the primary school as a teacher for nearly two decades and as a principal over the past four years. She provides the school with very effective leadership which is very much tied to her clear vision for the development of the school. This vision is underpinned by two key concepts. Firstly, the principal wishes to maintain the inclusive ethos of the school and to ensure that teaching and learning result in all pupils reaching their full potential. To this end the principal is very aware of her role as curriculum leader and seeks to channel the work of the staff on curriculum planning along a steady path of policy development, policy review and implementation. Secondly, the principal is also aware of her managerial role and seeks to manage the physical development of the school in a proactive and dedicated manner. She is very aware of new growth patterns in this part of Waterford and its implications for the school. As has been mentioned, the school has recently completed a four year series of refurbishment and extension projects and the principal, the chairman and the board are now considering how the school will meet projected demand for places in the medium term future. Above all, the principal seeks to ensure with the cooperation of the staff, the board and the ancillary staff that Scoil Mhuire, Butlerstown provides pupils with a modern learning environment in a secure setting where pupils learn and develop happily and contentedly.

 

 

In order to fulfil her role and implement her vision the principal sets out priorities each year for the school and in working through her priorities the principal is assisted by the in-school management team. The management team consists of principal, deputy principal and three post-holders. As the staff has grown in recent years, the support of the in-school management team has become more and more important for the running of the school. Principal and deputy principal have regular informal meetings to deal with issues as they arise. In addition, the general in-school management team has formalised meetings for the first time this year on a regular basis. Issues such as budgets are discussed and post-holders report to staff meetings. Staff meetings are held every six weeks. The meetings discuss the school plan, upcoming events and certain ongoing issues. All teachers are asked to contribute to the agenda of the staff meetings. The main emphasis in the work of the in-school management team in recent years has been to gather and organise resources and make educational packages available for use by the whole staff. In addition, individual teachers within the in-school management team assume responsibility for Seachtain na Gaeilge, discipline, duty rotas, organising the involvement of the school in sports leagues and competitions, sports blitzes, sport promotion, lunch-time games, stocking of class libraries, write-a-book projects, reading and writing competitions in English, ICT and Science. The whole-school policies on posts of responsibility, while helpful, do not fully reflect all these duties undertaken by the teachers. The policy on posts of responsibility includes provision for an annual review to take account of the changing needs of the school and amendments to duties are undertaken in agreement with the post-holder.

 

 

 

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

The talents of the staff are managed effectively by the principal to ensure that valuable skills are spread evenly throughout the school. In addition the secretary and the caretaker provide the school with an invaluable service. The secretary is for many people the first point of contact with the school and all visitors are treated with a courteous and warm welcome. There are three special needs assistants in the school and they contribute to the work of supporting integration in a helpful and beneficial manner. As has been mentioned, this school is very committed to the development of worthwhile resources for teaching and learning. This area has a special role in posts of responsibility and the push to develop exciting learning packages is to be commended. In addition, within the past year a special resource room has been created to hold the resources that have been both collected and created and this is an invaluable aid to teaching and learning. The school is currently developing its ICT resources and a special computer room has been refurbished allowing teachers work on computers with a whole class.  The school now plans to concentrate on the development of pupil and teacher skills in this area.

 

 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The principal is very keen to promote good and open communication strategies with parents and to this end she attends some meetings of the parents’ association. In addition, the parents’ association sends emails to the principal on issues that arise at meetings where she is not present. The parents fund resources, help to run sports day and the school library.  The principal has approached parents to help with reading in class and it is planned to organise parental involvement in Mathematics games. Yearly parent-teacher meetings are held.

 

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

It was evident that the principal and staff had succeeded in creating a happy and secure learning environment for all the pupils of the school. During the WSE, the pupils were at all times both courteous and friendly. During classroom visits the pupils were confident in their answers and were at all times anxious to share their knowledge of facts, their understanding of concepts and their general learning with the Inspectors. Overall, the commitment and pride that pupils displayed in their work was discernible in a very positive way.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

The whole school organisational plan is a very comprehensive plan consisting of 39 separate policy documents. These documents cover all the main areas of school organisation including enrolment policy, code of behaviour, child protection, safety statement, anti-bullying policies, administration of medicines, a strategy to ensure good attendance, internet acceptable use policy and a welcome pack for substitute teachers. Of note among the suite of policies are the policies on enrolment, special needs assistants (SNA), and posts of responsibility. The plan is discussed regularly at staff meetings and is under constant review as the school and circumstances change.

 

The enrolment policy has 9 criteria set out in order of priority. The policy also has clear and supportive criteria for the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs. The board has delegated to itself the power to defer the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs if certain criteria are not met. While acknowledging the right of the board to manage its pupil intake in the best interests of all its pupils, it would be wise of the board to review this provision in the light of its obligations under the Education Act, 1998. In practice, this school is very supportive of pupils with special educational needs. The school has a very helpful policy on the role of the special needs assistant (SNA). Of particular note is the section where teachers and SNA’s are urged to plan for their daily work outside class contact time. The policy lays particular emphasis on protecting class teaching time and seeks to ensure that any coordination is done outside this time. There are a number of after-school activities listed in the plan and these include Irish dancing, choir, chess, basketball, arts and crafts. These activities take place between 3.00pm to 4.00pm and there is one activity per day. Both teachers and parents are involved in the organisation of these activities. Overall, polices refer constantly to relevant Acts of the Oireachtas, including the Education Act, and to DES circulars.

 

Curricular plans have been completed for many areas and the current priority for the staff is to build up resources in the school in order to meet the requirements of these curricular plans. It is commendable that these plans have been distributed to all teachers and that many elements of the plans have been incorporated into the teachers’ personal long and short term planning. It is now advisable that the school staff should begin to review some of the curricular plans that have been completed with a view to ensuring that these plans encompass and reflect more elements of the good practice that was observed in the classrooms during the WSE. Plans for curricular areas are an invaluable method of documenting and preserving good practice, thus ensuring that this is maintained as teachers change classes or as new teachers come to the school. More recent planning in the areas of History and Science has been based on this type of approach and this should be used as a benchmark for future work. As well as recording the existing good practice in the school, plans should give guidance on the implementation of all subject areas and facilitate the application and development of the spiral curriculum throughout the school.  The school plan sets a four year priority review programme for the curriculum covering the school years, 2005-2009. The curricular areas to be reviewed by the end of this period include Mathematics, Gaeilge, History, Geography and ICT. The individual teachers and groups responsible for leading these reviews are listed in the whole school plan.

 

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.

 

 

 

3.2 Classroom planning

 

Teachers approach classroom planning with dedication. The school has recently adopted a template for short term planning, which also has a column for recording the completion of work. The inclusion of this column means that the school uses the same template for both fortnightly planning and for the monthly report. Much of the long term planning observed during the evaluation comprised of notes and curricular reference. In evaluating the long-term and short-term plans, a number of worthwhile approaches were noted. These included the incorporation of useful material from curriculum support services into individual planning. It would be advisable now to include curricular objectives and content outlines in long-term planning as this would facilitate continuity in the event of a changeover in staff and would also enable a teacher to pace work for the course of the school year. Good practice around this recommendation was observed, for example, in short-term planning, where some teachers incorporated curricular objectives into the newly adopted planning template which enables them to monitor their implementation of the curriculum more carefully. It would be valuable if templates for both long-term and short-term planning were aligned around learning objectives and content. A helpful example of this approach as regards content was noted for a particular class, where a poetry booklet was made out for the English poems to be covered during the year. This approach could be developed for other curricular areas including Music (songs) and Gaeilge (dánta, rainn, amhráin). Photocopies of the relevant parts of the Primary School curriculum are also included in plans by some teachers.  It is advisable that the current template be kept under review to ensure its effectiveness and usefulness

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Sna naoináin agus sna bunranganna múintear rainn agus amhráin Ghaeilge go tuisceanach suimiúil.  Cuirtear éagsúlacht rann agus filíochta os comhair na ndaltaí agus is féidir leo aithris bríomhar, cumasach a dhéanamh orthu. Baintear úsáid as cluichí, mion-drámaíochtaí agus réimse d’acmhainní difriúla chun suim na ndaltaí a mhúscailt agus chun iad a spreagadh chun cainte. soiléir go mbaineannn na daltaí lán-taitneamh agus tairbhe astu. I ranganna áirithe comhairlíodh breis úsáide a bhaint as scéalaíocht chomh maith le béim a leagan ar chleachtadh ranga agus obair beirte chun an scéalaíocht a mhúineadh. I ranganna eile baintear dea-úsáid as comhráití ar chairteacha chun an teanga a mhúineadh don rang agus chun an teanga sin a chleachtadh le hobair beirte. Éiríonn go geal les an gcóras seo chun an teanga a mhúineadh. Sna ranganna seo, ina iomlán, múintear an teanga go cruinn agus ullmhaíonn na hoidí raon éagsúil de ghníomhaíochtaí do na ceachtanna chomh maith le raon suimiúil d’acmhainní. imshaoil na seomraí ranga geal le prionta as Gaeilge chomh maith le scríbhneoireacht na ndaltaí.

 

Sna meán ranganna agus sna hardranganna, tosaíonn na ranganna le ceisteanna simplí bunaithe ar na daltaí féin, an aimsir agus an scoil agus úsáidtear cluichí chomh maith chun na daltaí a spreagadh chun cainte. siad in ann ceisteanna a thuiscint agus a fhreagairt go muiníneach agus léiríonn siad tuiscint mhaith ar chruinn-úsáid na n-aimsirí difriúla de na briathra. Múintear an ghramadach go foirmiúil, ach i gcomhthéacs na gceachtanna atá ar siúl. Oibríonn na daltaí go coinsiasach i mbeirteanna agus éiríonn go maith leo i mbun agallaimh agus cómhrá. I ranganna áirithe, leagtar béim inmholta ar dhánta agus ar amhráin a fhoghlaim. Cabhraíonn seo go mór le leanúnachas ó tháobh múineadh na teanga de. Léann na daltaí as úrscéalta simplí agus dul chun cinn maith á dhéanamh acu. I roinnt ranganna moltar a thuilleadh deiseanna cainte a chruthú agus gan dearmad a dhéanamh ar an ‘dtréimhse cumarsáideatá mar chuid lárnach den chur chuige cumarsáideach. Cuirtear an modh seo i bhfeidhm go sciliúil i ranganna áirithe. Nótaíodh i gcás amháin go raibh daltaí ag cur cheisteanna ar an oide as Gaeilge agus cuireadh béim i gceistiúchán an oide ar fhreagraí críochnúla. struchtúr beacht ag baint leis na ceachtanna seo le cuspóirí soiléire agus is léir go gcabhraíonn an struchtúr le foghlaim agus forbairt na teanga. Sampla eile a nótaíodh an slí a chum oide comhráití bunaithe ar ábhar léitheoireachta na ndaltaí agus ansin chleachtaigh na daltaí na comhráití i ngrúpaí.  Sa scríbhneoireacht, tógtar roinnt mhaith den obair as na leabhair saothair i gcásanna áirithe agus i gcásanna eile scríobhann na daltaí giotaí leanúnacha go rialta. torthaí na hoibre seo ar taispeáint sna seomraí ranga. D’fhéadfaí an obair sa scríbhneoireachta a fhorbairt a thuilleadh le breis béime a chur ar scríbhneoireacht phearsanta sa rang.

 

 

 

Irish

In infants and junior classes, rhymes and songs are taught in Irish lessons in an interesting and purposeful manner. Pupils recite the rhymes and poems in a lively confident manner. Games, little dramas and a wide range of resources are used to develop interest and to inspire the pupils to use the language. It is clear that the pupils derive enjoyment and benefit from this. In certain cases it was advised that more use could be made of narrative story in Irish and more emphasis placed on learning the narrative through whole class and pair work. In other classes, Irish conversations were put on charts and pupils practised this scaffolded language both as a class and in pairs. This work was very successful. Throughout the infants and junior classes the language was taught with accuracy and teachers prepare a variety of activities and of interesting materials to support the lessons. The environment is decorated brightly with Irish print and with pupils’ writing in Irish.

 

In the middle and senior classes, lessons begin with simple questions based on the pupils themselves, the weather, the school and games are used to inspire the pupils to converse. Pupils are able to understand questions asked of them, answer confidently and they display ability to use the different tenses accurately. Grammar is taught formally and in the context of the lessons being taught. Pupils work conscientiously in pairs and achieve creditable results in both dialogue and narrative language activities. In certain classes there is a laudable emphasis on learning poems and songs in Irish. This is particularly beneficial in promoting continuity between the work of the junior and middle classes. Pupils read from simplified Irish novels and make good progress in reading. In some classes it is recommended that more opportunities for pupil-talk in Irish are created and the ‘communication period’ which is a fundamental part of the communicative method should not be forgotten. This particular method is applied skilfully in some classes. It was noted in one class that pupils practise asking the teacher questions in Irish and then teacher questioning of the class is designed to encourage more developed answers from the pupils. In this context as well, lessons are well structured with definite teaching points and pupils are enabled to learn and develop within a definite structure. It was noted as well that pupils composed scripts based on reading material and pupils practised these scripts in groups. This approach was very successful. In some classes workbooks are used to generate writing activities and in others, pupils write freely. This work is on display in the classrooms. This latter approach to personal writing and narrative could be now developed further in all the senior classes.

 

 

 

 

English

In the infant and junior levels, oral language skills are being well developed through the use of a variety of appropriate strategies. A variety of rhymes and songs have been taught and pupils know these rhymes and songs well. In order to develop this work further in some classes, more use could be made of rhyme to develop phonological awareness and more use also could be made of discrete oral language classes focusing on different skills and competencies.

 

There was evidence of very good work in developing independent writing skills at infant level. Pupils were given opportunities to engage in simple book reviews and production of their own books. In the junior classes, pupils have taken part in a school ‘Write a Book Project’ and have written and illustrated some fascinating books. These books have been used effectively as a basis for developing interesting approaches to reading lessons. It is advised that in the instances where the practice of writing daily news is prominent as a writing activity, this approach should be reviewed in order to develop more challenging writing activities. It would be important to stress that such writing activities should be preceded by a strong emphasis on discussion. Pupils’ handwriting is very neat. In the middle classes notable work has been undertaken in the area of writing. Pupils have written a class book on the adventures of a pupil’s pet who went missing for 13 months. It is commendable that use is made of such an event to promote highly creative and imaginative writing. Overall, a wise emphasis is placed on a creative approach to writing in the senior classes and pupils are encouraged to write poetry. This work is celebrated in the classrooms. Wise emphases are also placed on the development of neat handwriting skills and on regular sustained writing which is read and commented on by teachers.

 

With regard to reading in the infant and junior classrooms, word recognition skills are well taught. In infant classrooms, the ‘Letterland’ programme is used effectively to introduce letter names and sounds and this is linked with the development of phonological awareness. In middle classes there is some very good exploration of new words and the application and consolidation of the skills taught. Teachers draw from a variety of sources for appropriate material and utilise a variety of strategies to enable pupils to read, either individually, in pairs or choral reading in groups. Very good use is made of class novels. Interesting discussions arise out of work on the class novel, pupils engage in focused silent reading and in paired follow-on discussion activities. The pupils have engaged in focused prediction work on the class novel and the pupils’ predictions have been written up and put on display. The pupils have also engaged in ‘Write a Book’ projects and have succeeded admirably in producing books for the classroom. In order to encourage reading further, work is not only done on class novels but copies of the books mentioned in extracts for the class readers are in the class library and pupils are encouraged to read these books. A poetry booklet has been compiled for one of the middle classes which covering all the poems for the year. Pupils enjoy reciting from this booklet and it is an initiative worth replicating. Overall reading is very much encouraged in these classes and pupils when questioned during the WSE displayed commendable knowledge and understanding about material read. In the senior classes, work on class novels is undertaken in tandem with further reading from the class library and the school library. Pupils displayed a strong interest in reading when questioned during the WSE. The work of the parents who organise the school library was also observed and great credit is due to the parent volunteers who come to the school to run the library and credit is also due to the board and to the staff for facilitating such an important initiative. The pupils in this school are trained to read reflectively and to discriminate in their reading choices. These skills are supported by the volunteers in the class library as well as by the teachers in the classroom.  In light of the reading levels achieved by many pupils and the levels of engagement in novels, it may be worth considering the value of the reading scheme for the middle and senior end of the school. While interesting and developmental work with poetry has been done in various middle and senior classes, it may be worth while to conduct more detailed exploration of both the poem and poet in some instances with the senior pupils.

 

 

 

4.3 Mathematics

Provision for the teaching of Mathematics is consistently good throughout the school. The close attention paid to the development of mathematical language across the school is to be commended. In the infants and junior classes good use is made of practical equipment for teaching Mathematics.  In these classes, active approaches are used in the teaching of basic addition facts to great avail. In some classes, good use is made of the environment and a number of mathematical trails have been developed.  In the senior classes, good use is made of the data projector. Number games are initiated using the data projector to develop facility with mental arithmetic. Overall, there is due emphasis on the development of mental skills and of skills in tables in senior classes. Calculators are used to aid the development of computation skills. Simple mathematical problems have also been devised for pupils and discussion prior to pupils’ solving problems is useful. It would be advisable to encourage pupils to work in pairs during some problem solving activities. Pupils who are weak at Mathematics are supported to enable them to keep up with the class as much as possible. Mathematics copies are laid out neatly. When a review of the Mathematics plan takes place, it may be worth formalising such items as the Mathematical language in a format that is easily applied and accessible to all teachers, including new teachers on the staff. This would help to ensure consistent practice across the school.

 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

A very good plan for History is currently being implemented in the school which allows for the implementation of a carefully planned spiral curriculum. While there is much flexibility from infants to second class, the yearly plan for third to sixth class is presented in grid form to ensure continuity and progression. In infant and junior classes, the emphasis is on the personal lives of the pupils as well as the school and its environs. In the junior classes pupils have written up History projects on their own family stories. In addition, a very interesting topic on toys from the past was on display in one classroom. Work in history was contextualised for pupils by the use that was made of timelines. Overall, both an examination of classrooms and observation of individual lessons demonstrate that pupils are provided with opportunities to work as historians through the examination of historical artefacts and photographs, and the use of primary and secondary sources of evidence.

 

Lessons in the middle and senior classes are very well planned and are organised to ensure maximum interest and participation. Visitors are invited to talk to pupils on historical subjects arising from lessons. External visits are linked in a natural way to internal class work as, for example, a trip to Dunbrody and the famine ship followed on from a series of lessons on the Great Famine of 1848. Very interesting local studies and other project work have been undertaken including a topic on dry stone walls in Ireland and local History trails. The results are on display in the classrooms. Active methodologies including paired and group work are utilised effectively during lessons. A wide selection of resources has been compiled for the teaching of History and these have been catalogued and are stored centrally. Comprehensive packs have been put together for the teaching of certain areas of the history curriculum, including Toys from the past, Ancient Rome and Italy and local history.  The dedication around the creation of resource packs on different topics is highly commendable.

 

 

 

 

Geography

The school plan for Geography contains a suggested list of topics for each class under the strands and strand units of the curriculum. A list of useful CD Roms as well as details of a number of packs that have been put together for the exploration of a number of countries are also included. The Environmental audit outlines the features of the local environment that link with various aspects of the Geography curriculum. There is good quality teaching and learning in many classes with pupils being encouraged to develop skills such as recording of weather data. In the infants and junior classes, teachers have broadened the horizons of pupils with interesting work on both Japan and life in India. A very interesting lesson observed during the WSE, focused on a simple map of a local town. This was used for discussion and also formed the basis for other cross-curricular links. In the middle classes, internal lessons are combined in an interesting way with external visits. Examples include a study trip to Waterford Crystal and a study project on Africa where someone with first hand experience of working in Africa was invited into the class to discuss the project with pupils. This project was integrated very successfully with displays of African Art work. Pupils have also engaged in individual Geography projects. The pupils speak confidently about this work and atlases and maps are prominent in the classrooms. In the senior classes, studies have been undertaken of local different rock types and fossil fuels. The project work that has been undertaken by many classes is to be commended and many fine examples were on display both within classrooms and in corridor areas.

 

 

Science

The school follows a two-year cycle in their Science plan. The promotion of Science in the school ensures that an active interest is fostered amongst many of the pupils. Science week is an opportunity to heighten pupils’ exposure to and involvement in various aspects of Science. Some very good practice was observed throughout the school. In the junior classes, interesting work on Magnets and the solar system are on display. During the WSE, science experiments were undertaken in a commendably organised manner in a number of classes. At infant and junior level, pupils record some of the simple experiments that they have conducted in their own science books. Pupils in middle and senior classes engage in a wide range of simple experiments and lessons centre on very interesting science projects. Science lessons are prepared very carefully and experiments are done and resources used in an exciting way. Overall, the resources used are interesting and encourage participation.

 

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

Visual Arts is well tended to in this school and the quality of teaching and learning is very good. Most teachers have embraced the principles of the Primary Curriculum and it is clear from teacher planning and from work displays that pupils are experiencing a broad and balanced curriculum. Pupil work in many of the strand areas is celebrated through attractive and colourful displays in classrooms and in corridor areas. During lessons observed, new techniques and approaches were demonstrated purposefully and pupils engaged enthusiastically in their tasks. Pupils are also given opportunities to explore and respond to the work of a number of artists.

 

In the infants and junior classes, the work in Visual Arts is integrated well with aspects of SESE. In one instance a teacher made very good use of her stay in Japan to develop integrated Geography and Visual Arts lessons, the results of which were on display in the classroom. In the middle classes, striking examples of Art integration were on display centred on the African topic in one classroom and Spain in another, being studied in Geography. In the senior classes, very interesting work has been done in various media to make Egyptian masks, matchstick caravans, design motifs and colour for plates and tiles and illustrate family crests. Very interesting charcoal drawings have been done in lessons and pupils have designed clothes for a fashion show. Photographs of this show were on display during the WSE and the efforts of both pupils and teachers were commendable.

 

 

Music

In all classes pupils sing a variety of songs with enthusiasm. In the middle classes, a newly purchased mobile data projector is used wisely for teaching aspects of the Curriculum. For the WSE an interesting lesson was taught using this technology with the objective of familiarising pupils with the image and sound of the instruments of the Orchestra. The combination of visual and auditory elements on the data projector is ideal for teaching this aspect of the Music programme.

 

 

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

The school enlists support from outside experts for Physical Education. Lessons are provided by an independent group trained in Waterford Institute of Technology. The school piloted this project beforehand and parents were given a presentation after the pilot. The external teachers come to the school once a week. This work was observed during the WSE and was found to be of a good standard. Teachers were present during the lessons given by the external tutors. These external tutors have specific skills in the teaching of gymnastics and such specialised activity would not normally be undertaken by the class teachers. However, the board is reminded that the teaching of the full curriculum is the responsibility of the class teachers in a school and the board should be mindful that all pupils are entitled to tuition in the full curriculum. In addition, teachers are involved in PE activities after school on a voluntary basis. They teach sport and games two days a week after school. The teachers are to be complimented for their commitment to these after school activities.

 

 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

As has already been mentioned in this report, the principal and staff have succeeded in creating a happy and secure learning environment for all the pupils of the school. During classroom visits the pupils were confident in their answers and were at all times anxious to share their knowledge of facts, their understanding of concepts and their general learning with the Inspectors. The contentment and confidence of pupils can be attributed to the important opportunities for reflection and discussion provided by teachers in well planned SPHE lessons.

 

 

4.8 Assessment

 

A range of assessment tools are used by teachers to track the progress of pupils across many subject areas of the curriculum. Teacher observation, checklists, teacher devised tests and monitoring of pupils written work are used widely by teachers. In some classes, teachers use a pupil portfolio which contains samples of work completed by each pupil in writing, Mathematics, spelling and other areas. In one instance observed, a teacher maintains tracking sheets for pupils. In another instance a teacher maintained a very detailed and comprehensive system of recording including:

1.       Ongoing records on individual pupils which are written up four times per year.

2.       The maintenance of an observation sheet on each pupil.

3.       Portfolio samples of work done.

4.       Results of tests.

These approaches are complemented by the use of standardised tests for English and Mathematics. The Drumcondra Primary Reading and Mathematics Tests are administered each May from first to sixth class. These are subsequently analysed and trends are discussed at staff meetings. The Middle Infants Screening Test is used as a screening measure for literacy at Senior Infant level and pupils in need of supplementary teaching are selected. 

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

Throughout the current school year staffing changes have had a particular impact on Learning Support in the school. Both illness and movement of staff resulted in certain logistical problems which the principal sought to tackle, guided by the important principle of ensuring the least disruption for the pupils involved and bearing in mind the overall welfare of all the pupils in the school. To this end the principal with the consent of the board filled a special needs post in the school. The principal is aware that this approach contravenes the provisions of Circular 07/03. During discussion around this issue, the principal made clear to the Inspectors that this was an emergency response to ensure that no class would have an inordinately high enrolment and to ensure continuity for special needs pupils for the academic year. It was also stated that the situation was now resolved and that extra staffing next year and a return to normal in the special needs context meant that the principal would withdraw from her special needs role.

 

Directly prior to the commencement of the WSE, there had been a change of learning support teachers in the school. Detailed education plans were put in place by the previous teacher. The teacher who now has this duty is familiarising himself with the needs of the pupils and is preparing his own plans based on perceptions of these needs, discussions with class teachers plus the information given in the plans of the previous teacher. On a whole school basis, the needs of pupils in Learning Support are reviewed twice a year (April and November) and adjustments are made to the caseload in accordance with the results of these reviews. This is helpful in the current transition situation. The education plans of the previous teacher are very helpful and laid out very well. These plans should be incorporated into the plans that are devised after the review. The learning support teacher (LST) works with groups of pupils on aspects of language and development of skills around language. Most of the work is based on the withdrawal model but the teacher works in-class with pupils in the infants section of the school. A daily record of what is being done with each group of pupils is maintained.

 

The school also has part-time resource hours and the teacher fulfilling this role is following a specific literacy programme. The teacher is part-time for 7 hours per week. The programme involves beginning with simple exercises of ear, eye and coordinated movement. This is followed by decoding practice, dictation and the teaching of sight vocabulary. The work on sight vocabulary is geared to using colour and pictures with words. The words are always put in the context of sentences. The combined use of colour, picture and sentence should help pupils retain the words in visual memory. Emphasis is also placed on analysing sounds, letters and combination of letters. It would be important that these methodologies are shared at staff meetings to enable teachers to engage in follow-up practice with the pupils in the classroom.

 

Overall, the school is very supportive of pupils with learning support needs and with special educational needs. The school acknowledges that it receives a good service from the National Educational Psychological Service. The school has developed its expertise in dealing with Asperger’s syndrome as the school has had pupils with this syndrome over the past few years on a continuous basis. The school places wise emphasis on in-classroom support in meeting the needs of pupils with this condition. In meeting those needs the school’s special needs assistants play valuable support roles and thereby ensuring the goal of integration of special needs pupils with mainstream class work is always to the forefront of activity.

 

 

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

 

There are no specific disadvantaged nor minority groups in the school.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • Overall high standards of teaching and learning are in evidence.
  • There is clear curricular and administrative leadership coming from the principal.
  • There is very good cooperation between the chairperson, the principal and the board of management.
  • Teaching staff give freely of their personal time to school activities outside normal duty.
  • In English, the encouragement of reading through class novels and the school library is to be complimented and the emphasis on independent writing is also to be praised.
  • The emphasis on the development of skills in mental arithmetic is noted.
  • The work in SESE is of a noteworthy standard due to good planning, a strong local emphasis, organisation of resources, the use of project work and the development of activities such as Science Week.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

  • The school should continue to build on its positive approach to curricular and administrative planning.
  • The school should implement the advice contained in the body of this report.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Published, November 2008

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

           Inspection Report School Response Form

 

 

           

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

 

  1. The situation in relation to special education has returned to designated status. The principal no longer fills a special education post.
  2. Compilation of content resources continues.
  3. Recommendations contained in the body of the report are being implemented.