An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Rathgar National School

Rathgar Avenue, Dublin 6

Uimhir rolla: 14717B

 

Date of inspection: 15 January 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 Rathgar NS was undertaken in January 2009. The evaluation covered key aspects of the work of the school in the areas of management, teaching and learning and supports for pupils. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Geography. The representatives of parents met with the inspector. The inspector interacted with the pupils, examined pupils’ work, reviewed school planning documentation, observed teaching and learning and provided feedback to individual teachers. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement.  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.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Rathgar National School is a five-teacher co-educational school operating under the patronage of the Methodist Church of Ireland. The ethos of the school is to preserve Christian values especially as reflected by the Methodist church. The aim of the school is to encourage and enable each pupil to attain their optimum potential as individuals. The success of the school in achieving this aim is manifest in many aspects of the functioning of the school.  The teachers and parents have high expectations of the pupils in terms of their educational achievement and behaviour. The individuality of each pupil is nurtured through the school’s provision of a broad curriculum.  Pupil achievement is high across a number of curriculum areas and a very wide range of after-school activities is offered to pupils at the school. Attendance levels at the school are very good with a very small number of pupils missing more than twenty days.  Positive strategies are in place to encourage good attendance and punctuality.      

 

The following table provides an overview of the current enrolment and staffing in the school:

 

Total number of pupils enrolled

89

Total number of teaching staff

5

Number of teaching staff working in support teaching roles

1

Number of mainstream classes

4

Number of special needs assistants

1

Number of classroom assistants (funded by the Board )

1

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly. Minutes of board meetings are carefully maintained. Accounts are audited annually. Clear roles and duties are assigned to members of the board and these roles are carried out in an assured and enthusiastic manner. Board members demonstrate good awareness of their roles and responsibilities. Department of Education and Science regulations regarding class size, retention of pupils and the length of the school year and day are observed. The board must ensure compliance with the terms of Section 14 of Circular 07/03 regarding the deployment of the principal to a special education post. The board is commended for its commitment to the school. Recent concerns of the board have been the school building, funding and enrolment. Very good relations exist between board members, staff and parents. A classroom assistant, funded by the board, is employed at the school. The board is actively involved in the whole-school planning process. Elements of the school plan are discussed at each board meeting. The board ratifies all school policies. The contributions of parents are welcomed in the development of a number of policies. The board communicates with parents through the issuing of regular newsletters and the parents’ representatives on the board.  A communications policy was recently devised.  It is recommended that this policy be amended to include formal measures to deal with conflict should it arise.

 

2.2 In-school management

The school is very well organised and is managed efficiently. The principal, appointed to the school in 2006, carries out her duties diligently.  Her priorities for the school are to ensure high educational standards, the holistic development of pupils and the maintenance of a happy and caring school environment. She effectively leads the school-planning process. Opportunities are given to all staff members to participate in decision-making regarding the development and implementation of the school plan. The principal is ably assisted in her role by the in-school management team comprising one deputy principal and one special duties teacher. Each member of the team has organisational, curricular and pastoral duties in line with Departmental guidelines. The posts of responsibility are regularly reviewed in light of the changing needs of the school. The in-school management team is very committed to the development of the school and assigned duties are carried out effectively. The principal and deputy principal meet formally and informally.  Staff meetings are held regularly. An agenda is drawn up in consultation with staff members and minutes of meetings are maintained. Commendable secretarial support is given to the school.

 

2.3 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school has a very active parents’ association which is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council. Parents’ individual talents are used effectively in enhancing the implementation of a broad after-school activities programme. These include basketball, hockey, athletics, chess and recycling activities. The parents’ association is involved in fundraising and monies raised are used to purchase additional materials to support learning. The association is commended for its ongoing support to the school.

 

2.4 Management of pupils

The school is characterised by a caring, co-operative and happy atmosphere.  An effective code of behaviour, in line with the Equal Status Act (2000) has been devised. Mutual respect is successfully cultivated and this is reflected in the positive rapport that exists between staff and pupils. Pupil behaviour is very good. Regular assemblies create a positive sense of school community. Pupils’ achievements, both within school and outside, are celebrated and affirmed.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

A commendable level of whole-school planning has been undertaken. A wide range of curriculum and organisational policies has been developed. The school plan is easily accessible. The board of management, teachers and parents have been engaged in the whole-school planning process consistently over the years. The organisational policies are clear and comprehensive. Curriculum plans have been developed for all curriculum areas. These plans are general in nature. They should be more specific and relevant to the school context. A review of the school plan has recently been undertaken and an action plan, establishing priorities for curriculum and organisational policy development, has been devised.

 

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.

 

The quality of individual teachers’ planning is good. Teachers complete long-term and short-term planning as required by Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools (1965).  Teachers base their plans on the strands and strand units of the curriculum. All plans conform to an agreed template. Lesson aims and content are set out clearly along with a description of the resources and methodologies to be used. The manner in which the teachers assess the learning outcomes is also set out with, in some cases, particular attention being paid to the type of questions to be asked.  Teachers should ensure that short-term plans provide for the varying abilities of pupils and allow for differentiated learning experiences. Monthly progress reports are carefully recorded and these are centrally stored. Copies of individual education plans (IEPs) for pupils attending support teachers are available in some teachers’ plans. Copies of IEPs for all pupils attending support teachers should be included in the mainstream class teachers’ plans to guide classroom practice.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Ar an iomlán múintear an Ghaeilge go muiníneach agus tá caighdeán maith le feiceáil i leith foghlaim na Gaeilge.  Tá réimsí leathan d’achmhainní ar fáil mar thaca don fhoghlaim. Baineann na hoidí agus na daltaí úsáid as an nGaeilge go neamhfhoirmiúil i rith an lae agus tá dearcadh dearfach á chothú tríd an scoil. I múineadh na Gaeilge cuirtear béim ar an rang theagasc.  Múintear foclóir nua agus nathanna cainte go coinsiasach agus ceistítear na daltaí go rialta.  I gcuid de na ranganna baintear úsáid as rannta, cluichí éisteachta, obair bheirte agus drámaíocht chun na daltaí a mhealladh chun cainte agus chun suim a chothú. B’fhiú anois béim ar leith a chur ar na modhanna seo a chleachtadh i ngach rang tríd an scoil.  Tá roinnt mhaith dánta, rainn agus amhráin ar eolas ag na daltaí i rang na naíonán. Freagraíonn an chuid is mó de na daltaí ceisteanna simplí go cruinn i ngach rang. Léann an chuid is mó de na daltaí sa mheán rang agus san ard rang le líofacht agus le tuiscint óna dtéacsleabhair agus críochnaíonn na daltaí tascanna scríbhneoireachta bunaithe ar a bhfuil léite acu. Sonraítear samplaí deasa de scríbhneoireacht phearsanta i roinnt ranganna. San ardrang scríobhann na daltaí a leabhairín féin as Gaeilge.  Tá an dea-chleactadh sin le moladh.  Déantar cúram ceart den litriú. Tá caighdeán an-mhaith bainte amach ag na daltaí san ardrang ó thaobh labhairt na teanga de.  Léiríonn siad tuiscint leathan ar an nGaeilge agus pléann siad cúrsaí reatha, caitheamh aimsire, ceachtanna agus a saol féin go héasca. Déantar maoirseacht agus ceartú go rialta. Chun breis forbartha a dhéanamh ar shaibhreas teanga b’fhiú an scéalaíocht a chleachtadh go rialta agus cnuasach filíochta a chur de ghleanmheabhair ag gach rang leibhéal.

Irish

Overall Irish is taught confidently and there is a good standard of learning in Irish. There is a wide range of resources available to support learning. Irish is used informally during the day by teachers and pupils and a positive attitude is cultivated throughout the school. There is an overall emphasis on whole-class teaching. Vocabulary and phrases are taught conscientiously and pupils are questioned regularly. In some classes use is made of rhymes, listening games, pair work and drama to encourage the pupils to speak Irish and to stimulate interest. More emphasis should be placed on these methods in all classes in the school. Pupils in the infant class know a good range of poems, rhymes and songs. Most pupils in each class can answer simple questions.  Most of the pupils in the middle and senior classes read fluently and with understanding from their textbooks and pupils complete writing tasks based on what they have read. There are fine examples of personal writing in some classes. In the senior class pupils write their own Irish books. This practice is praiseworthy. Appropriate attention is given to spellings. Pupils in the senior class have achieved a very good standard of spoken Irish.  They display a broad understanding of Irish and discuss current affairs, pastimes, lessons and their own lives with ease. To further develop pupils’ richness of language, the regular reading of stories and the memorisation of poetry at every class level is recommended.

 

English

English is well taught throughout the school with pupils achieving very good standards across all strands. Oral language development is appropriately emphasised. It is an integral part of all lessons and is very suitably developed across a range of curriculum areas. Most of the pupils can speak about themselves, their interests and a variety of other topics articulately and enthusiastically.  Pupils in the senior class ably debate and discuss a wide range of topics.  Pupils in the infant and junior classes can recite a number of poems and rhymes. The teaching of poetry requires further attention in the middle and senior classes. An agreed list of poems for memorisation should be agreed for each class level and pupils should be afforded further opportunities to compose their own poetry. There is a print-rich environment in all the classrooms. Appropriate activities are used to develop pupils’ phonological awareness in the infant class and this is further developed throughout the school.

 

The school is successful in promoting a love of reading. Reading skills are well developed through the use of class readers and novels. Pupils generally achieve a high standard in reading. To ensure that all pupils are reading material at an appropriate level it is recommended that pupils be grouped according to ability for reading. Class libraries are well stocked and well presented. Reading records are maintained in each classroom. Writing skills are suitably developed in all classes. Pupils engage in a range of early-writing activities in infant classes. Pupils in the middle and senior classes are given regular opportunities to write in a variety of genres and for different purposes and audiences.  A good balance is achieved between functional and creative writing and information and communications technology (ICT) is used to support the pupils’ presentation of written work. The pupils’ work is presented neatly and regularly corrected by the teachers. Spelling strategies are taught and reinforced at each class level and incorporate both phonetic spelling lists and dictation.

 

4.2 Mathematics

The teaching of Mathematics is effective. Lessons are well structured. Effective use is made of manipulatives to assist comprehension and appropriate emphasis is placed on the teaching of mathematical language. Focused discussion and purposeful questioning by teachers are features of lessons. Pupils engage enthusiastically in the mathematics activities. There is a mathematics-rich environment in all classrooms with relevant charts, games and equipment on display. The overall standard of achievement in Mathematics is high. Pupils display positive attitudes to Mathematics. Early-mathematical activities such as matching, classifying, comparing, ordering and recognition of numerals and shape are covered comprehensively in the infant and junior classes. Pupils in the middle class show good ability to compose and record number stories and to perform appropriate mental and written computation. Pupils’ skills of reasoning, estimating, predicting and problem-solving are extended appropriately in the senior class. Senior pupils displayed good competence in recalling number facts, solving problems and applying relevant mathematical language to explain processes used. Pupils’ written work is neatly completed and closely monitored by teachers.  It is recommended that the pupils’ learning needs, as identified through correction of work and weekly test results, are met more closely. The provision of regular differentiated teaching is recommended.

 

4.3 Geography

The standard of teaching and learning in Geography is high. Lessons are well structured and suitably paced. These lessons are effectively linked with other curriculum areas. Teachers question pupils effectively and their contributions to lessons are welcomed. While the overall emphasis is on whole-class teaching some very good opportunities for group and collaborative work are afforded to pupils particularly at the senior end of the school. More activity-based learning is recommended at all class levels. Resources for Geography are well used. Story books and pupil-made art materials provide the stimuli for lessons in Geography at the infant and junior classes. Very good use is made of technological resources and the internet to develop lessons in the middle and senior classes. Atlases, maps and globes are in evidence. Pupils in the infants and junior classes demonstrate particularly good knowledge of the seasons and the concept of seasonal change.  Pupils in all classes demonstrate good knowledge of their local environment and demonstrate an awareness of the need for environmental care.  Commendable project work is undertaken at the senior level. The school is justly proud of its Green Flag status acquired in 2008.

 

4.4 Assessment

A wide range of assessment procedures is used by all teachers including teacher observation, checklists, teacher-designed tasks and tests, pupil profiles and portfolios of pupils’ work. Standardised tests in English are administered to pupils from senior infants upwards. Standardised tests in Mathematics are administered to pupils from first class upwards.  Early screening tests are used to identify those in need of additional support at senior infant level. Pupils’ work in copies is regularly monitored and constructive feedback is given to pupils by teachers. It is recommended that class teachers monitor more closely the outcomes of assessment to provide individual and or group-based instruction where appropriate and to set specific learning targets for pupils of different abilities. Parents are invited to meet with teachers on a formal basis once a year and are afforded opportunities to discuss their children’s progress as requested. An annual written pupil report is issued. 

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) is very good. The school has one full-time learning support teaching post and one part-time resource teaching post. A special needs assistant works effectively and considerately with pupils under the guidance of the class teacher. A comprehensive whole-school policy on the provision of support for pupils with SEN has been developed. The policy was recently reviewed and incorporates the staged approach. Pupils receive support in literacy, numeracy and social skills development. Support is provided primarily on a withdrawal basis. The potential for developing further models of co-teaching and group-based teaching within classrooms based on the assessed needs of pupils merits further exploration. Both support teachers prepare carefully to meet the individual or group learning needs of their pupils. Detailed programmes of work are drawn up by the support teachers based on identified areas of need. More consultation with class teachers and parents about the content of these programmes is recommended. A good range of resources is effectively used to support teaching and learning. During well-structured lessons teachers combine focused direct teaching with skilful questioning and practical learning activities. The progress of pupils attending the support teachers is carefully monitored and reviewed at suitable intervals during the year.

 

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

All pupils in the school are treated with fairness and respect. Each pupil is provided with opportunities to take part in all school activities and in a wide range of additional curricular activities. Participation rates by pupils in after-school activities are high.

 

 

6.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         The staff of Rathgar National School is comprised of effective, skilled and diligent personnel.

·         The overall standard of teaching and learning is very good.

·         Pupils are very well behaved and demonstrate respectful attitudes towards each other and to teachers.

·         The school has the support of an effective and committed board of management.

·         A very active parent association provides strong support for the work of the school.

 

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

 

·         The board must ensure compliance with the terms of Section 14 of Circular 07/03 regarding the deployment of the principal in a special education post.

·         Whole-school curriculum plans should be more specific and relevant to the school context.

·         More activity-based learning should be a feature of all classrooms.

·         It is recommended that class teachers monitor more carefully the outcomes of assessment to provide group-based instruction where appropriate and to set specific learning targets

      for pupils of different abilities.

 

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 March 2010

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

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 accepts the findings of the report.  As recommended it has ensured compliance with the terms of Section 14 of Circular 07/03 regarding the deployment of the principal in a special education post.  The board and staff are implementing the recommendations as described.