An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Killocraun National School

   CastlehillBallina, County Mayo

Uimhir rolla: 14865Q  

Date of inspection: 25 September 2007

  Date of issue of report: 19 June 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

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Killocraun NS was undertaken in September, 2007. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Physical Education.  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.

 

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Killocraun NS is a small rural school in the parish of Crossmolina. It is surrounded by state forestry and bog land. The school caters for boys and girls from infants to sixth class.  Enrolment trends are currently steady. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killala.  The last inspection was carried out in 1998. Attendance in the school is excellent, with no pupils missing more than ten days in the last school year.   

 

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

22

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

The school’s mission statement promotes a ‘friendly and secure learning environment’. This aspect of school life was highly praised by representatives of parents in a pre-evaluation meeting.  Pupils experience a very holistic education. Teachers recognise and value the uniqueness of each pupil. This is evident in their respectful interactions with pupils and in the level of support afforded to pupils with different learning needs. The school’s characteristic spirit upholds Catholic values. 

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The board of management works effectively. Roles and responsibilities are clearly defined.  Meetings are held once a term and minutes are kept. Attendance at meetings is excellent.  School maintenance is an ongoing priority. Significant development has been undertaken by the current board. School policies and plans are presented to the board for ratification although board members are generally not part of the planning process. It is recommended that the board play a more central role in policy formation.  Board members expressed satisfaction with the standards attained in the school. With the inception of new boards this year, new members are encouraged to avail of board of management training.

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The principal ensures that all pupils are adequately catered for. She promotes open communication and has established very good relationships with her staff and parent body. She is dedicated and hard-working in her day-to-day running of the school while continuing to teach four classes. It is recommended that the school development planning process be implemented to ensure that school practices and procedures are documented in a structured fashion.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

Relationships with the local community are very good. Parents are very satisfied with the level of communication between home and school. They are aware of procedures for discussing their child’s progress with the class teacher. They are welcomed into the school at any time. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually. Written reports of pupil progress are sent to parents at the end of the school year. New policies are placed on a parents’ notice board in the school for viewing.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

Pupil behaviour and pupil management is excellent. Relationships between pupils and teachers are open and respectful. The school’s code of behaviour documents the existence of a ‘friendly, homely atmosphere’. Pupils present themselves confidently when engaging with adults in the school. Interaction between peers is friendly and considerate. Older pupils in the school display a very good level of independence. They are confident in making choices. They demonstrate an understanding and sensitivity to pupils with different learning needs in their class. 

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole-school planning shows scope for development. While whole-school plans exist for all curricular areas, the majority of plans do not reflect the school’s context. Some of the superior practices observed in the school are not in evidence in the school plan.  A good effort has been made prior to the whole-school evaluation to document practices in organisational areas. Some policies have been shared with the wider parent body. It is recommended that the staff develop a systematic approach to whole-school planning, to ensure ongoing school improvement. 

 

The quality of classroom planning is fair. Class teachers provide written preparation for each curriculum area but learning outcomes for most subject areas are not stated clearly. Though teachers provide a differentiated service to pupils with different learning needs, this is not explicitly documented. It is recommended that the class teachers develop a planning framework to suit the multi-grade context of the school. 

 

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

Múintear an Ghaeilge go héifeachtach. Tá tuiscint mhaith ag na daltaí. Cuirtear gníomhaíochtaí spreagúla éisteachta os comhair na ndaltaí le cuspóirí cinnte iontu. Labhraíonn siad Gaeilge go han-sásúil. Cuirtear an cur chuige cumarsáideach chun cinn sa scoil. Cé go ndírítear aird ar thréimhsí an cheachta, moltar níos mó ama a chaitheamh ar chumarsáid idir na daltaí. Baintear úsáid as réimse leathan de straitéisí agus d’acmhainní chun na daltaí a spreagadh, ina n- áirítear drámaíocht, rannta, seanfhocail agus cluichí teanga.   

 

Tá caighdeán na léitheoireachta Gaeilge ard go leor. Cuirtear cairteacha agus lipéid ar fáil chun léitheoireacht neamhfhoirmiúil a chothú. Baintear úsáid as téacsanna éagsúla chun freastal ar shuim na ndaltaí. Tá na daltaí sinsearacha in ann iad féin a chur in iúl tríd an scríbhneoireacht. Faigheann na daltaí deiseanna chun saghsanna difriúla d’obair scríofa a dhéanamh tríd an scoil.

 

Is inmholta an tslí a nasctar an Ghaeilge le hábhair eile. Déantar cuid den Stair trí Ghaeilge sna hardranganna. Tá nasc á leiriú idir an Cheol agus an Ghaeilge trí fhoghlaim amhrán Gaelacha.  Éiríonn leis na múinteoirí feasacht chultúir agus feasacht teanga a chur chun cinn. 

 

 

Irish

Irish is taught effectively. Pupils have a good understanding of Irish. They are presented with stimulating listening activities with specific learning objectives. Their ability in spoken Irish is very satisfactory. The communicative approach is promoted in the school. While there is a focus on the specific stages of each lesson, it is recommended that more time be spent on pupil-pupil interactions. A wide range of strategies and resources is used to stimulate pupils, including drama, rhymes, proverbs and language games.

 

The standards of Irish reading are quite high. Charts and labels in the classroom promote the informal reading of Irish. A variety of texts is used to meet the interest needs of the pupils. The senior pupils are able to express themselves in writing. Pupils get the opportunity of writing in a variety of genres including letters, personal news, lists and dramas.

 

The integration of Irish with other subject areas is praiseworthy.  Some elements of History are covered through Irish in the senior classes.  Links are forged between Music and Irish through the learning of Irish songs. Cultural awareness and language awareness are promoted successfully. 

 

English

English is taught very competently in the school. The definite structure of lessons coupled with an appropriate lesson pace ensures pupils are stimulated in their learning. Teachers pay particular attention to the individual needs of pupils. Pupils display confidence and competence in their oral work. There are instances of excellent practice in developing vocabulary through use of experience charts. All teachers have provided classrooms rich in print.  It is now recommended that teachers organise their classrooms into designated curricular areas with corresponding displays. 

 

Young pupils are provided with a gentle introduction to reading and writing. Ample time is spent on the reading of big books to pupils. Phonological awareness is taught methodically in the junior classes. Pupils are generally proficient readers. They enjoy discussing books. Some teachers successfully promote higher-order thinking skills, a practice that should be extended to all classes. It is recommended that a review of class libraries take place to ensure newly published books are regularly added.

 

Pupils are presented with an excellent variety of written tasks in the course of the school year. These are produced to a very high standard. They are encouraged to make choices concerning the genre to be used. A good emphasis is placed on the writing process. Senior classes publish their work in the form of projects and small books. A very structured approach to the teaching of handwriting is followed in all classes.

 

Pupils at all class levels enjoy the recitation of poetry and rhymes. Pupils’ own poetry-writing shows imagination and an understanding of the various conventions of poetry. Drama is integrated very successfully with English to reinforce the role of emotion in stories. 

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

Both teachers teach Mathematics very effectively. Lessons are characterised by clear explanations, use of concrete materials and an emphasis on skill development. Teachers have established whole-school approaches to mathematical language and to problem-solving. Pupils are encouraged to discuss their work and to explain their findings.  The calculator is used to excellent effect in the senior classes. Mental mathematics are promoted at each class level. A majority of pupils display a proficiency in each strand unit. The class teachers and support teachers work closely to provide a seamless mathematics programme for their pupils. 

 

3.3 Physical Education

 

Teachers have planned effectively for the introduction of the Physical Education curriculum. All lessons are carefully structured with due regard given to warm-up and cool-down activities. There is praiseworthy use of Gaeilge in these lessons. The principle of equality is evident in all physical activities. Pupils have achieved highly in this curriculum area. The junior classes are very skilful at orienteering, working at a standard beyond what is expected for their class-levels. Senior pupils dance together with confidence and ease. The school arranges for Aquatics to be taught in a local swimming pool for six weeks. Teachers use the school grounds and the classroom very effectively for Physical Education lessons. 

 

3.4 Assessment

 

A range of assessment tools is used by the teaching staff to inform teaching and learning.  Standardised tests are used on an annual basis to assess pupil performance in English and Mathematics. The learning support teacher conducts a wide variety of diagnostic tests. An annual school report is sent to parents at the end of the school year. While teachers engage in observation of pupil progress, there is little evidence of this being done in a systematic way. It is recommended that teachers agree on a common format for recording their observations of pupil progress.    

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The quality of support provided for pupils with special educational needs is praiseworthy. Support teachers plan appropriately and effectively to meet the needs of these pupils. Clear targets are established. Parents are involved in the review of individual education plans on a termly basis. Teaching is sensitive and creative. A multi-sensory approach is used by support teachers. Pupils’ interests are at the heart of teaching and learning. Support is provided within the mainstream classroom and in the support room. The prominence of print in the environment, coupled with displays of pupils’ work is commendable.  A number of schemes such as ‘reading buddies’ has been established in the school, to excellent effect. The learning-support teacher has particular expertise in assessment. It is recommended that regular meetings of the support staff take place to ensure the sharing of good practice. 

 

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

 

The school avails of support from a DEIS co-ordinator. The scheme is working effectively. The co-ordinator executes her duties with energy and enthusiasm. She supports pupils through in-class support and the teaching of Social, Personal and Health Education in small groups.  She carries out an early-intervention programme with the infant classes. A toy library, which promotes the use of mathematical games in the home, has been established. The co-ordinator also meets with parents in their homes and advises them on educational matters. Pupils are given many opportunities through the scheme to participate in cultural and educational programmes, including visits by many specialists to the school.   

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         The board of management has been effective in securing an extension for the school and a new roof in its current term of office.

·         The teaching staff fulfils the mission statement in providing for the holistic development of each child.

·         The taught curriculum is broad and balanced where pupils are afforded very rich learning opportunities.

·         The variety of teaching methodologies used by class teachers and support teachers is praiseworthy. 

·         Standards in each of the assessed curricular areas (Gaeilge, English, Maths and Physical Education) are high.

·         There is due acknowledgement of difference between pupils. Pupils are afforded much individual attention by their class teachers.

·         The special-education team plans in a systematic fashion and carries out regular reviews of progress. 

 

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

 

·         It is recommended that the staff adopt a systematic approach to planning. This should include the organisation of regular staff meetings.

·         It is recommended that the teachers devise a planning template to support their teaching.  Individual planning should state clear learning outcomes and specify the way in which individual pupils are catered for.    

 

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.