An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Irishtown National School

 Irishtown, Claremorris,County Mayo

Uimhir rolla: 14808E

 

Date of inspection: 11 March 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

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Irishtown National School was undertaken in March 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, Irish, Mathematics and Visual Arts.  The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

This school is located in Irishtown, a rural village between Ballindine, County Mayo and Dunmore, County Galway. It is one of two schools in the parish of Kilvine. The school is located adjacent to the local community centre and to an outdoor court, track and pitch, all of which are used for educational and recreational purposes. Irishtown NS participates successfully in a range of sporting activities and other inter-school competitions. The school has been awarded a green flag in recognition of its successful participation in An Taisce’s Green Schools programme. The school receives funding under the programme Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools, an initiative of the Department of Education and Science aimed at alleviating educational disadvantage.

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

70

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

4

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

1

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam. The school’s mission statement is included in the school plan. It is evident, from interviews, observations and interactions during the evaluation that the teachers cultivate positive, respectful working relationships with their pupils. Pupils demonstrate very good habits with regard to work and behaviour.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board is properly constituted and meets regularly in accordance with the Department’s Constitution of Boards of Management and Rules of Procedure. Minutes of meetings were made available for inspection. The board’s finances are managed prudently and the accounts are certified annually. Board members have been assigned specific roles and have participated in relevant training. It is evident that the board is supportive of the work of the school. The current board of management and previous boards are to be commended on the manner in which the existing accommodation has been maintained. A very clear maintenance plan is included in the school plan. The board is to be commended also on recent improvements to the building and recreation area.

 

Two of the school’s three classrooms are bright and spacious. The third classroom, however, is very small by today’s standards. A fourth room serves as a staff room, office, learning-support room and storage area. It is recommended that the board consider making an application to the Department’s Planning Section with a view to providing dedicated areas for administration and special educational needs as well as a third classroom of a size that is appropriate for the requirements of the Primary School Curriculum.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal teacher manages the day-to-day operation of the school effectively as well as teaching the senior classes. It is evident that the principal discharges his duties in a conscientious and professional manner. He provides effective leadership on pedagogical and organisational issues. This is reflected in high standards of teaching and learning and in the good morale that is evident within the school community. The principal’s leadership style fosters a sense of ownership of the aims of the school within the staff and allows each staff member to show leadership in certain areas of school life.

 

The deputy principal and special-duties teacher receive allowances for certain whole-school responsibilities that they have been assigned in addition to their teaching duties. It is recommended that the board provide a contract for each post holder, to be signed by the chairperson and the post holder. Each of these posts involves a combination of curricular, pastoral and organisational duties. It is recommended that the curricular aspect of each post be strengthened, with a view to providing effective curricular leadership in particular subjects as required. In the light of the findings of the whole-school evaluation, it is recommended that responsibility for developing and using classroom libraries be prioritised in one of the posts in the immediate future.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school’s parents’ association is affiliated to the National Parents Council (Primary). The association co-ordinates parents’ involvement in the work of the school. Parents assist with the organisation and management of various extra-curricular activities and occasions such as the biennial Christmas play and the annual school Mass. The school has good relations with the local community and is represented in various community events, including the pageant that took place in 2006 to commemorate the village’s historic role in the foundation of the Land League.

 

Parents have the opportunity to meet with the teachers of their children at the annual parent-teacher meetings. They also receive a written report on their child’s educational progress at the end of each school year. When interviewed as part of this evaluation, the officers of the parents’ association reported that parents were very satisfied with the quality of care and education that is offered by the school. It was also observed that pupils of the school are very well motivated with regard to learning and that the principal and teachers are very open and accessible to parents.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils in this school is very good. The school plan contains the school’s code of behaviour, which parents are requested to sign. All of the teachers show considerable skill in motivating and managing the pupils. Pupils are generally courteous, confident and articulate. Pupils’ work, including written work, is completed to a high standard.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The whole-school planning process usually commences with the drafting of policies and programmes by the principal and other teachers. There is consultation with parents before policies are considered and ratified by the board of management. The school plan is presented in two folders. One folder contains policy statements for the various organisational areas, including all of those required by legislation and Department circulars. The other folder contains curricular policies and programmes. It is recommended that a contents page be inserted at the beginning of each folder, with a view to making the school plan more reader-friendly and accessible.

 

The school’s organisational policies generally meet the requirements of the school, the Department and relevant legislation. The need to revise aspects of certain organisational policies, including the school timetable, enrolment policy and policy on division of classes, was discussed at the post-evaluation meeting. The policies and programmes for curriculum subjects are generally good. There was discussion at the post-evaluation meetings of the importance of documenting existing good practice in the school plan, with a view to consolidating and sustaining high standards of teaching and learning even in the event of changes to the teaching staff.

 

The quality of classroom planning is generally very good. Teachers prepare long-term plans for their classes. From these are derived the schemes of work that teachers prepare on a fortnightly basis during the year. Teachers keep practical, useful monthly accounts of the work that has been completed. There is a commendable focus on pupil achievement in these records, which are kept on file in accordance with Department rules.

 

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

Tá teagasc, foghlaim agus úsáid na Gaeilge sa scoil seo an-mhaith. Cloiseann na daltaí Gaeilge chruinn, shaibhir ó na múinteoirí go minic i rith an lae. Is léir go dtéann an dea-shampla seo i bhfeidhm go mór orthu. Sonraítear cleachtas an-éifeachtach sna ceachtanna Gaeilge. Cuireann na múinteoirí an t-ábhar foghlama i láthair go soiléir agus baintear feidhm thairbheach as áiseanna léirithe éagsúla chun an fhoghlaim a éascú do na daltaí. Déantar dul siar go rialta ar na múnlaí éagsúla. Baintear leas as drámaíocht, scéalaíocht, cluichí agus gníomhaíochtaí eile. Sonraítear obair bheirte in úsáid i ngach seomra ranga le linn an cheachta Ghaeilge. Tá moladh ar leith tuillte ag na múinteoirí as seo.

 

Éiríonn leis na múinteoirí neart cainte a mhealladh ó na daltaí le linn na gceachtanna. Cruthaítear gá la húsáid na Gaeilge i measc na ndaltaí taobh amuigh den cheacht fhoirmiúil freisin agus úsáidtear go minic í mar theanga chumarsáide an ranga. Faoin am a shroicheann siad na hardranganna, bíonn formhór na ndaltaí inniúil ar chomhrá a choimeád ar raon leathan ábhar agus is cosúil go mbíonn siad ar a gcompord agus iad ag feidhmiú trí mheán na Gaeilge. Tá ardmholadh tuillte ag an bpríomhoide agus na múinteoirí as dearcadh dearfach na ndaltaí i leith na Gaeilge agus as líofacht agus cruinneas a gcuid cainte.

 

Irish

The teaching, learning and use of the Irish language in this school are very good. The pupils hear accurate, rich Irish from the teachers regularly throughout the school day. It is clear that this good example makes an important impression on the pupils. Very effective practice was observed in Irish lessons. The teachers present the learning material clearly and there is effective use of illustrative materials to make it easier for the pupils to learn. There is regular revision of the various language structures. Drama, story, games and other activities are used successfully. It is evident that pair work is used in every classroom during the Irish lesson. The teachers deserve particular praise for this.

 

The teachers succeed in eliciting a lot of talk from the pupils during lessons. Pupils are also required to speak Irish outside of the Irish lesson and the language is used frequently for communicative purposes in the classroom. By the time they reach the senior classes, most of the pupils are able to converse on a wide range of topics and appear to be comfortable when working in the Irish medium. The principal and teachers deserve immense credit for the pupils’ positive attitude to Irish and for the pupils’ fluency and accuracy when speaking the language.

 

English

The quality of provision for oral language is very good overall. This is mainly due to the consistent use of certain cross-curricular strategies and approaches. The teachers develop very good speaking and listening habits among the pupils in all classes. Pupils are taught and encouraged to speak clearly and audibly. It is also evident from classroom observation and from interaction with pupils that there is very good vocabulary development. The teachers use a register of language that provides an appropriate challenge and good example for the pupils. The teachers show great skill in eliciting talk and discussion from the pupils during lessons. There are examples in the school of very good planning for oral-language development. There is particularly good use of poetry and creative writing as a vehicle for oral-language development.

 

There is very good provision for most aspects of reading. A print-rich environment is provided in all classrooms. Phonics is taught systematically, particularly in the junior classes. This is reflected in pupils’ good levels of performance in standardised tests. Large-format books are used effectively to introduce pupils to the conventions of reading and as a basis for discussion and vocabulary development. Pupils in all classes encounter a good range of appropriate poems and by the time they reach the middle and senior classes they have developed a good understanding and appreciation of the craft of poetry and a lively interest in the form. The only area of English in which there is scope for improvement is the development and use of classroom libraries to promote among the pupils the habits of reading for pleasure and for information. It is recommended that an attractive, well-stocked, well-organised pupils’ library be provided in each classroom.

 

The school’s provision for English writing is very good. Pupils are given opportunities to write in a wide variety of forms and genres. The pupils’ written work is displayed extensively in classrooms. The quality of the pupils’ writing is very good. It is generally characterised by accurate spelling and punctuation, rich vocabulary, expressive use of language and an ability to work within the rules of the various forms and genres.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The quality of teaching in Mathematics is very good. The teaching and use of mathematical language is particularly effective. Teachers show great skill in teaching and reinforcing the target vocabulary and in encouraging the pupils to use it. Mathematical concepts and skills are developed through practical activities. These are differentiated appropriately for the different class groups in each room. There is very good use of illustrative materials to make it easier for pupils to understand and remember key concepts and operations. The standard of pupils’ recording and presentation of written work in Mathematics is good overall and there is evidence that this is monitored carefully by the teachers. Pupils respond very well to questioning on the strands Number, Measures, and Shape and space.

 

3.3 Visual Arts

Each strand in this subject is divided into two strand units. One of these develops the pupils’ ability to make visual art and the other develops the pupils’ ability to respond to visual art. In terms of enabling pupils to make art, there is evidence that provision in this school is good. There are attractive classroom displays of pupils’ work in drawing, clay, paint, construction, print, collage, and fabric and fibre. There is confident use of line, shape and colour in many of the pieces on display and overall there is evidence of a good awareness of the elements of visual art.

 

The school plan includes clear objectives for Looking and responding at each class level. There is evidence that the school’s provision for this area would be enhanced by the identification of whole-school strategies to ensure that pupils achieve the objectives for their class level. Particular consideration should be given to resources such as Mayo County Council’s Artist-in-Residence Scheme, public art in the locality, local exhibitions and visits from local artists. A summary of the agreed strategies should be appended to the school plan for Visual Arts.

 

3.4 Assessment

The school administers standardised tests annually in English reading and Mathematics. The results of these are collated and analysed. A range of further diagnostic tests is administered to pupils in receipt of supplementary teaching. Teacher-designed tests are used regularly in most curricular areas. Each teacher keeps a detailed monthly account of work completed. These are sufficiently clear and detailed to form a basis for assessment by the individual teacher and the school.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is very good. Mainstream class teachers differentiate their programmes appropriately for the various class groups. The teaching approaches and resources used by all of the teachers make it easier for all pupils, including those with special educational needs, to understand and remember what is taught.

 

This is the base school for a special-educational-needs teacher who also serves one other local school. The quality of the interventions made by this teacher is very good. The approach to planning, preparation and teaching for pupils with special educational needs is conscientious, professional and highly effective. The teacher prepares and implements structured learning programmes for individual pupils and groups of pupils. The learning targets set are in accordance with the pupils’ needs as identified by relevant educational and health professionals. They are very good in terms of scope and specificity. The support teacher liaises closely with various health professionals who provide advice regarding aspects of the programmes. The school employs one special-needs assistant, who has a key role in implementing aspects of the individual learning programme for one particular pupil.

 

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

There are no pupils from the above groups enrolled in the school at present. While the school has little experience of dealing with cultural diversity to date, its ethos is very inclusive and supportive. The school aims to develop the whole child and places a strong emphasis on supporting parents in the education of their children. The school’s book-rental scheme reduces the financial burden on parents. The school plan includes strategies to promote pupil attendance.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas.

·         The current board of management and previous boards are to be commended on the manner in which the existing accommodation has been maintained.

·         The principal provides effective leadership on pedagogical and organisational issues.

·         The teachers cultivate positive, respectful working relationships with their pupils. There is evidence that pupils have developed very good habits with regard to work and behaviour.

·         The principal and teachers deserve immense credit for the pupils’ positive attitude to Irish and for the pupils’ fluency and accuracy when speaking the language.

·         The school also makes very good provision for oral-language development, English writing and Mathematics.

·         The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is very good.

 

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

·         It is recommended that the board of management provide a contract for each post of responsibility, to be signed by the chairperson and the post holder.

·         It is recommended that the curricular aspect of each post of responsibility be strengthened with a view to providing effective curricular leadership in particular subjects as required.

·         It is recommended that an attractive, well-stocked, well-organised pupils’ library be provided in each classroom.

·         It is recommended that aspects of certain organisational policies be revised as discussed at the post-evaluation meeting.

 

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 May 2009