An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire
Ros ó gCairbre, Contae Chorcaí
Roll number: 14813U
Date of inspection: 17 November 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Ros ó gCairbre. 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 inspector 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 inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. He interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. He reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire is a six-teacher primary school which caters for boys until they finish First Class and for girls only thereafter. It is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross and currently has an enrolment of 136 pupils. This figure is likely to remain stable over the immediate future. There is a strong sense of community in the school and it is evident that all the partners in the education process collaborate effectively to meet the needs of the pupils in question. In this regard the acting principal and staff are to be complimented for their efforts in providing an effective learning environment for their pupils.
The board of management is properly constituted and discharges its duties with great dedication. Meetings are convened at least once a term and more frequently when necessary. Minutes are recorded and an appropriate agenda is prepared. School finances are managed with great care. Existing expertise within the board is a significant factor in this regard. A praiseworthy maintenance programme is in place and commendable progress has been made in the recent past in relation to the provision of additional accommodation.
The board is directly involved in some key aspects of whole-school planning process and both organisational and curriculum policies are ratified at its meetings. This role should be now developed and additional consideration should be given to parental involvement in this planning process.
A priority for the board is the provision of a General Purpose room. The board also is of the view that rural disadvantage is a significant issue in its circumstances and that assistance in this context is required. It is very pleased with participation rates regarding after-school care currently provided.
The chairperson maintains regular and effective contact with the acting principal and staff and shows commendable commitment to her work.
The acting principal provides effective leadership in a manner which promotes respect, collaboration and a caring atmosphere within the school. Her efforts in facilitating well-structured and regular staff and in-school management team meetings are to commended.
The acting principal is ably assisted by a well-motivated staff which includes a deputy principal and one special duties post-holder. The in-school management team carry out a wide range of duties effectively which include both organisational and curriculum duties. They also promote parental involvement particularly in relation to Information and Communication Technology, aspects of Physical Education as well as aspects of Arts Education. Class size is a particular challenge for the team and the school generally especially in the context of boys being enrolled until they have completed First Class.
The teaching staff of the school comprises an acting principal, four mainstream teachers and a full-time resource teacher. Significant collaboration is noted among staff members and many pupils displayed praiseworthy levels of skill in key areas of the curriculum during the evaluation. The school also benefits very significantly from the work of a full-time special needs assistant who discharges her duties with much care and diligence. A part-time school secretary provides high quality assistance in a wide variety of areas. Cleaning and maintenance work is carefully attended to as required.
In keeping with best practice suitable arrangements are in place to ensure that teachers get a variety of teaching experience within the school.
The school environment is very well managed and maintained and reflects very clearly the authorities’ commitment to the overall educational provision therein. Additional display boards are now recommended when finances permit.
The staff merit much praise for their efforts in establishing a stimulating learning environment for the pupils. A rich range of teaching resources, including attractive centres of interest, is used consistently to support the learning process. Each classroom offers a pleasant variety of reading material especially in English. Additional material is now being provided in Irish within the context of the school’s language plan.
Useful structures are in place to promote positive relations among the school community. A newsletter is circulated on a termly basis and suitable procedures exist to keep parents informed and to address their concerns. In addition aspects of the school plan are formulated in co-operation with the Parents’ Association. It is now recommended that this aspect of school work be further developed as part of the school’s ongoing planning procedures.
A Parents’ Association has been in existence for a number of years. Its members are to be commended for their efforts in supporting the school on a regular basis through a variety of praiseworthy activities. Parental expertise regarding aspects of the curriculum is availed of and is willingly forthcoming. However the importance of affiliation with the National Parents’ Council was explained during the course of the evaluation so that their key role may be more fully implemented.
The pupils are managed with care and skill and the staff are to be commended for the effective learning atmosphere that was noted during the evaluation. A code of discipline and anti-bullying policies have been drawn up in consultation with parents. High quality pupil engagement was frequently evident during the evaluation and effective activity learning was a feature in many instances.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The school has benefited from the assistance provided by the support services. The policies for English, Mathematics, SPHE, SESE and Arts Education are effectively set out in accordance with the curriculum and the considerable amount of work involved is acknowledged. However the school policy for Irish needs to be reviewed as soon as possible. The importance of regular policy review was discussed to promote further linkage between the whole-school plans and class work.
The entire staff provide relevant long-term and short-term classroom planning together with monthly progress records. The emphasis placed on pupils’ learning outcomes at various class levels is particularly praiseworthy and its development on a whole-school basis is now recommended. It is also recommended that the planning templates provided by the Department’s Support Services be considered for future reference.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
A range of recommended teaching approaches is fruitfully employed at various class levels which facilitates some very positive learning outcomes. The staff is to be commended for their efforts in differentiating various class programmes. An attractive range of pupils work was available during the evaluation which indicates significant progress in many areas of the curriculum. Classrooms are suitably decorated with learning materials including many teacher-produced resources. Such materials are frequently used to promote effective interactive approaches to learning. The development of these approaches on a whole-school basis is now recommended.
Moltar an dua atá caite le hullmhú an phlean scoile don Ghaeilge ach mar atá luaite thuas is gá a bhfuil i gceist a athbhreithniu go luath. Is mór is fiú mar shampla an aire a dhírítear ar ghníomhaíocht na ndaltaí sa bhfoghlaim in áiteanna i gcomhthécs téamaí an churaclaim. Dírítear go cliste ar an dteanga chumarsáideach i ranganna ar leith agus is léir go mbaineann na daltaí an-tairbhe as an gcur chuige seo. Chonacthas obair an-tairbheach in áiteanna chomh maith maidir leis an gcaint leanunach, maidir le teagasc na filíochta agus maidir le tréimhsí na gceachtanna i gcoitinne. Moltar go ndíreofaí a thuilleadh ar na gnéithe seo den obair nauir a bheidh an plean scoile á athbhreithniu.
Dírítear ar fhorbairt scileanna na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta le héifeacht go minic ar fud na scoile. Moltar go speisialta an freastal a dhéantar ar na bunscileanna agus meastar gur gá feasta na dea-chleachtais atá ar bun cheana féin maidir leis an léitheoireacht mar chaitheamh aimsire a fhorbairt ar bhonn scoile. Bhí fáil ar roinnt samplaí tairbheacha de scríbhneoireacht na ndaltaí le linn an mheasunaithe ach meastar gur gá anois an ghné neamhspleách a fhorbairt níos mó.
Significant effort has been made regarding the preparation of a school plan for Irish. However, as already mentioned above the material in question should be reviewed in the short-term. The attention which is paid at some levels to active pupil learning based on the curriculum themes is indeed praiseworthy. Accordingly the pupils enjoy the skilful focus placed on communicative language at certain levels. Sustained speech is also skilfully emphasised at various levels together with the effective teaching of poetry in well-structured lessons as recommended in the curriculum .It is recommended that these aspects of the work be more fully addressed in the revised plan.
The relevant reading and writing skills are taught effectively throughout the school .The development of the elementary skills is particularly praiseworthy, however existing good practice in relation to reading for pleasure should be promoted further on a whole-school basis. Some attractive written work was also noted during the evaluation. However it is felt that the independent nature of this work should now be developed further.
Well structured lessons in oral language development are frequently provided throughout the school. Accordingly language enrichment is carefully promoted in the case of many pupils by means of well-selected teaching resources. Linkage with other areas of the curriculum also serves as a very suitable means of improving their quality of utterance.
Reading skills are also nurtured with commendable care in many instances by means of a range of approaches as recommended in the curriculum. Paired reading programmes as well as a well-focused approach to developing phonological awareness are important features in the teaching of reading as is the use of a print-rich environment at various levels. A graded reading scheme is used and an attractive range of extra reading material is used to promote reading for information and for pleasure. The pupils clearly benefit from these approaches.
The development of the pupils writing skills is promoted in accordance with the curriculum guidelines. Accordingly their mastery of the writing process is carefully nurtured from class to class and many fine examples of their work in the different genres are evident. Due emphasis is placed on penmanship.
Mathematics is taught purposefully throughout the school. Useful guidelines are drawn up in the school plan to ensure a reasonable continuity of approach to the key elements of the overall programme such as language, internalisation of concepts and problem solving. The school authorities are to be commended for the plentiful supply teaching materials available at all class levels. Accordingly due emphasis on purposeful discussion and on the use of concrete materials at different class levels was noted during the evaluation. Lesson content is frequently related to the pupils’ own immediate environment both in relation to the mastery of number facts and to problem solving generally. The pupils record their work neatly, however in some instances undue emphasis on mechanical operations should be avoided.
History is taught carefully at all levels and in some cases a commendable emphasis is placed on developing the pupils’ sense of time and chronology. Worthwhile opportunities are also provided for pupils to listen to stories and in some cases to explore some aspects of local history. Effective project work was also noted during the evaluation which allowed pupils research aspects of the programme they found to be of particular interest. It is now recommended that a more central importance be attached to the region’s rich historical heritage within the school plan for history.
The human and natural environments figure prominently in the school’s Geography plan. The attention that is paid to project work relating to environmental awareness and care is particularly praiseworthy as is the care with which the pupils record their work. It is now recommended that additional opportunities be created so that the pupils may further develop geographical skills such as investigative techniques and critical thinking skills especially in relation to the local environment.
A comprehensive school plan for Science has been well prepared. This fine document highlights the importance of working scientifically and sets out a promising programme of work for the different classes. Effective experimental work is carried out on a regular basis and a number of well established investigation tables greatly enhance the pupils’ learning experiences.
An effective whole-school plan has been formulated to promote the Visual Arts in accordance with curriculum requirements. The pupils are given many opportunities to express themselves through an interesting variety of art making activities in all strands. The manner in which the pupils’ art work is displayed adds significantly to the overall learning atmosphere that is created throughout the school. The pupils are also trained to look at and respond creatively to art in many instances
The school plan for music has been very carefully prepared. The children sing a good variety of songs tunefully in both languages and are provided with many opportunities to listen and respond to different types of music. Instrumental music features at some class levels and the pupils clearly enjoy the experience. The use of percussion instruments at many class levels is highly commended.
Funding is provided to employ an external Speech and Drama teacher. The need for this type of service was discussed during the evaluation and it was agreed to review the position.
The lack of indoor facilities limits the extent to which Physical Education programme in its entirety may be implemented in the school. Yet the programme includes many attractive features such as aquatics, movement to music and games. Additional mats are now recommended so that educational gymnastics may be further promoted throughout the school.
A high quality school plan has been prepared in the area of Social, Personal and Health Education and impressive work is done to promote the personal development and well-being of the pupils.
Some praiseworthy work regarding approaches to assessment is being carried out in the school. There is evidence that pupils’ work is systematically monitored and that useful feedback is offered. The usual standardised tests are used at appropriate intervals and some fine use is also made of diagnostic tests. The test results are carefully recorded and stored. Teacher designed tests and checklists are also used on a regular basis. It is now recommended that additional emphasis be placed on the use of test results from one class level to the next and additional use be made of diagnostic tests on a whole-school basis to inform class work.
There is evidence that many aspects of the school plan regarding special needs are implemented. Individual Profile and Learning Programmes or Individual Education Plans for some pupils are carefully drawn up and circulated to the appropriate personnel. These plans are reviewed each term. The plans are based on the pupils identified needs and learning targets are clearly prepared. Pupils are generally withdrawn in small groups for supplementary teaching but in some cases the support is provided in mainstream classrooms. During the evaluation a variety of fruitful approaches were noted and there was clear evidence of pupil progress It is now recommended however that future support provision be co-ordinated on a more formal basis with class teachers. It is also recommended that Learning Support Guidelines be used when provision for special educational needs is being reviewed on a whole-school basis.
Apart from after-school care no further support is available for the pupils in this school.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
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.