An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Rathfarnham Parish NS
Washington Lane, Rathfarnham, Dublin 16
Uimhir rolla: 14939T
Date of inspection: 18 April 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Rathfarnham Parish NS. 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 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.
Rathfarnham Parish National School is a nine teacher co-educational Church of Ireland school. At the time of the evaluation enrolment at the school was 242. Enrolment trends at the school are upward but the school is restricted by its accommodation in the number of pupils it can enrol. 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 aim of the school is to give each pupil maximum opportunity to reach his / her potential and to foster self esteem. Success of the school in achieving this aim is evidenced through the wide range of activities at the school, the positive behaviours of the pupils towards each other and pupils’ achievements in a range of curriculum areas.
The board of management is properly constituted. The board meets twice a term and more often if necessary. Minutes of board meetings are maintained. Accounts are audited. Clear roles and duties are assigned. Board members demonstrate good awareness of their roles and responsibilities. A number of board members have attended training for boards of management. Recent concerns of the board have been school accommodation, funding issues and changing enrolment patterns. The board of management gives commendable support to the school. The chairperson maintains regular contact with the principal, staff and pupils and his support is greatly appreciated. The board is involved in the whole school planning process. Elements of the school plan are regularly discussed and the board ratifies all school policies as they are devised. The contribution of parents is welcomed in the development of these policies. Very good relations exist between board members, staff and parents. A classroom assistant funded by the board is employed at the school. The board makes funding available for members of the teaching staff to attend professional development courses.
The principal of the school was appointed in 2005. Since her appointment she has established herself very well in the post. She carries out her duties with commitment, creativity and care for the entire school community. The quality of the principal / parent relationship is very good. It is evident that the principal works consistently to maintain this relationship and encourages parents to be involved in the education of their children. Her management of staff is equally commendable. The principal leads the whole school planning process effectively. All staff members are encouraged to contribute. The organisation of the school is very efficient. There is a discernible sense of good order and work ethic at all times during the school day.
The principal is ably assisted by the deputy principal and four special duties teachers. The duties of the in-school management team are defined clearly and encompass a judicious mix of administrative, pastoral and curriculum leadership roles. The teachers perform these roles conscientiously and enthusiastically. The results of the work of the in-school management team are disseminated successfully through informal meetings, regular staff meetings and school planning documentation. The agenda for all meetings is drawn up in consultation with staff. Minutes of all meetings are recorded and action plans are drawn up.
The teaching staff comprises nine mainstream class teachers, one full-time learning support teacher, one shared learning support teacher, one full-time resource teacher and one part-time resource teacher for pupils with learning disabilities. One mainstream class teacher is deployed to co-teach Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE), Drama, Physical Education and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) within mainstream classes. The duties of this post should be further refined in order to maximise its potential for enriching teaching and learning.
The school has the services of six special needs assistants and one classroom assistant. Their contribution to the care of pupils is commendable. Positive working relationships exist between teachers and support personnel. A formal policy on the roles and responsibilities of support personnel should now be formulated. The board, principal and staff are aware of the importance of continuing professional development. It is evident that staff has benefited greatly from attendance at various courses and from the curriculum support provided by the support services. Opportunities are given to teachers to indicate their class preferences each year and they are encouraged to teach in a variety of class levels. The formalising of the school’s policy regarding the allocation of classes is recommended. A full-time secretary and caretaker provide valuable support to the smooth organisation, maintenance and upkeep of the school and school grounds.
The school is maintained in a commendable state of cleanliness and tidiness. The single storey building comprises eight permanent classrooms, a general purposes room, a computer room, two small adjoining offices for the secretary and principal, a staff room, toilets, a small kitchen and laundry area, two small rooms used by the special education team and a number of indoor and outdoor storage areas. Space restrictions at the school affect the quality of a number of the special education settings. The board of management plans to address this difficulty through a re-organisation of the existing accommodation.
The school has a very good level of resources to support teaching and learning. Particularly impressive is the level of ICT resources which the school has acquired. All classrooms have an interactive white board, up to date computers, television cum video and CD players. In addition, all classrooms have access to concrete materials for Mathematics, books, parallel readers and materials for scientific and geographical investigations, time lines and investigation tables. There is a very good storage system in place which allows for ease of access to materials when required.
The school fosters very good relations and open communication with the school community. Parents are invited regularly to visit the school. Every teacher meets the parents of their class as a group at the beginning of the school year to explain the programme for that year and to clarify homework, rules and procedures. Teachers make themselves available to discuss any issues or concerns a parent may have before or after school. In addition formal individual parent teacher meetings are held once a year and parents receive an annual school report on their child’s progress. Parents are informed of curriculum and organisational developments through the school’s newsletter and website. Copies of curriculum and organisational policies are available to parents in the school. The school has a very active parents’ association. The association contributes significantly to the school and the chairperson and individual members are to be highly commended for this commitment. It is evident that parents value the quality of education provided in the school.
The management of pupils in this school is very good. The board of management and staff have devised a code of behaviour which is implemented consistently. The code of behaviour is circulated to parents. Pupils are encouraged within each class to devise their own rules in accordance with the school’s discipline policy and these are on display in a number of classrooms. The pupils are very well behaved and they display pride and interest in their work and co-operate willingly with their teachers during class activities. They are eager to engage in discussion and participate in guided and discovery-based learning situations. Regular assemblies contribute to the reinforcement of positive behaviours and focus on the development of pupils’ self esteem and self worth.
The principal and staff are commended for the whole school plans developed to date. The whole school planning process is well developed with whole school staff contributions welcomed. Staff have worked collaboratively to develop a wide range of organisational and curriculum policies in an accessible format. Policies and procedures relating to healthy eating, enrolment, discipline, health and safety, special education provision and child protection are in place. Curriculum policies have been developed for all curriculum areas. These policies are in line with the strands and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and are informed by the support services. Review mechanisms are built in to the planning process. There is a strong commitment to action planning. Draft policies are presented to the board and subsequently ratified, dated and signed. Parents are consulted about a number of organisational policies. Copies of policies are published on the school’s website and are made available in hard copy to parents on request.
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, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison and deputy liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The overall quality of teachers’ individual planning is good. Teachers base their planning on the strands and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and, in general, individual plans link well with the school plan. A variety of approaches is adopted to address the planning and recording of work, all of which have useful elements. A number of teachers engage in objectives- based planning while other adopt a more content based approach. In the interest of uniformity and increased team effectiveness, it is recommended that staff give consideration to the drafting of an agreed format for long-term and short-term planning and for the recording of progress in each curriculum area.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Skilful teaching combined with a positive classroom atmosphere foster an effective learning environment. A broad and balanced curriculum is effectively delivered. Teachers display good organisational skills and present well-structured and well-paced lessons which are focussed on the objectives of the curriculum. Activity and discovery methods are successfully incorporated into curriculum delivery. A wide range of teaching resources including ICT is used to enhance lesson presentation and pupils’ learning. The overall standard of learning is very good. The pupils present as motivated and interested learners. They demonstrate an eagerness to engage in class discussion and to perform assigned tasks. Peer tutoring is a notable feature of practice.
Múintear an Ghaeilge go sásúil. Tá plean scoile curtha le chéile le haghaidh múineadh na Gaeilge. Bunaíonn na múinteoirí a gcuid pleanála ar na téamaí agus na hábhair atá breacaithe sa phlean scoile. Tá aidhmeanna soiléire ann le haghaidh éisteacht, léitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht. Tá réimsí maithe 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 dearfa á chothú tríd an scoil. Feictear frásaí na seachtaine ar taispeáint timpeall na scoile agus cuirtear na frásaí seo in iúl dona tuismitheoirí. Díritear aire na ndaltaí ar na frásaí sin gach seachtain ag tionól na scoile. I múineadh na Gaeilge baintear úsáid as cluichí éisteachta, obair bheirte, rólimirt, amhráin agus dánta. Baintear úsáid as an nGaeilge mar theanga caidrimh le linn na gceachtanna. Cuirtear béim ar leathnú foclóra agus tá cúlstór mór foclóra ar eolas ag na daltaí. Tá comhtháthú éifeachtach déanta idir an chomhrá, an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht. Bunaítear an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht ar an iomlán ar na leabhair saothair. Tá sé ar chumas na ndaltaí na leabhair sin a léamh le cruinneas agus le tuiscuint chuí. Sna meánranganna scríobhann na daltaí a leabhairín féin as Gaeilge. Tá an dea-chleachtadh sin le moladh. Déantar cúram ceart den litriú. Aithrisíonn na daltaí i roinnt ranganna cnuasach deas filíochta go taitneamhach agus le dea foghraíocht. Chun breis forbartha a dhéanamh ar shaibhreas teanga na ndaltaí b’fhiú an scéalaíocht a chleachtadh go rialta agus cnuasach filíochta a chur de ghleanmheabhair ag gach rang leibhéal.
Irish is taught competently. There is a school plan for the teaching of Irish. Teachers base their planning on the themes and topics outlined in the school plan. There are clear aims set out for listening, reading and writing. There is a good range of resources available to support learning. Irish is used informally during the day and a positive attitude is cultivated throughout the school. Irish phrases of the week are displayed and these phrases are communicated to parents. Pupils’ attention is directed to these phrases at the school’s weekly assembly. In the teaching of Irish effective use is made of listening games, pair-work, role play, songs and poems. Irish is used as the means of communication during lessons. Emphasis is placed on developing vocabulary and pupils have an extensive vocabulary range. There is effective integration with oral language, reading and writing. Reading and writing are largely based on the workbooks. Pupils can read these books with accuracy and appropriate understanding. In the middle classes pupils write their own books in Irish. This practice is praiseworthy. Appropriate attention is given to spellings. In some classes pupils pleasantly recite a nice selection of poetry with good pronunciation. To further develop pupils’ richness of language regular reading of stories and the memorisation of poetry at every class level are advised.
The teaching of English is effective at all class levels with pupils achieving very good standards across all strands. Oral language is an integral part of lessons and is very suitably developed across all curriculum areas. Appropriate emphasis is placed on oral language development and pupils are able to ask and answer questions and to express their thoughts and feelings effectively using a wide and varied vocabulary. Pupils in the senior classes ably debate and discuss a wide range of topics. All aspects of the reading programme are developing very well. A good foundation of early reading skills is laid down in the infant and junior classes. Suitable activities are used to develop the pupils’ phonological awareness in the infant classes and this is further promoted throughout the school. Reading for information and for pleasure is steadily developed and class libraries are used widely. Creditable efforts are made to create print-rich environments in all classes using an apt range of teacher-generated resources and samples of written work. Pupils can read fluently and most demonstrate very good comprehension levels as they progress through the school. They respond well to a range of novels which are used effectively to supplement the formal reading scheme in use. Writing skills are suitably developed in all classes. Pupils are encouraged to write in different genres, for different purposes and for different audiences. Class work is presented neatly and is regularly corrected by teachers. Very good use is made of ICT in presenting pupils’ individual and class booklets of stories and poetry. Pupils are exposed to a variety of types of poems, as well as being afforded opportunities to compose their own poetry. An agreed spelling programme is implemented from first to sixth class.
The teaching of Mathematics is effective. Methodologies used successfully include whole class teaching, pair and group work. Regular use is made of activity-based learning to assist pupils in developing their understanding of mathematical concepts. Talk and discussion sessions are features of mathematics lessons and concrete materials are used to good effect. Teachers purposefully avail of opportunities to link activities to an exploration of the pupils’ own environments. There is a mathematics-rich environment in all classes in the school with relevant charts, games, visual stimuli and equipment on display. Overall there is an appropriate balance between the strands with very good work in data, shape and space and measures. Overall, pupils demonstrate positive attitudes to Mathematics. They take good care with their written work and compute accurately. In the infant classes pupils participate confidently in early mathematical activities and at all levels appropriate knowledge and understanding of shape and space, measures, data, algebra and suitable numerical ability are displayed. Pupils’ work is monitored systematically. A range of assessment tools is used including teacher observation, questioning, teacher-designed tests and tasks, and standardised tests. As a means of building on current good practice greater emphasis should be placed on developing pupils’ problem-solving skills through the increased use of mental mathematics activities and collaborative-learning methodologies.
The overall quality of teaching in History is high. A broad programme of themes and topics is planned for the teaching of History. A wide range of methodologies is used effectively to enable pupils develop their skills as historians. Most classes have a timeline relevant to the age and development of the pupils. Story is used very effectively to introduce pupils to elements of the lives of a range of people from the past. Pupils in the middle and senior classes display a very good understanding of a variety of national and international events of historical significance. Pupils engage in class projects and the display of artefacts. Achievement in the strand of local studies is particularly commendable. Senior pupils can confidently discuss local historical events and landmarks. Local historians are invited regularly to the school. History is integrated effectively with a range of other subject areas. ICT is used productively to support lesson presentation.
Geography is taught very well in the school. The teachers succeed in arousing the pupils’ curiosity about the world around them, both near and far through a range of lessons across the curriculum. A wide range of resources is used for this purpose, including textbooks, library materials, maps, globes, charts and ICT. Through project work the pupils develop information-retrieval skills for themselves and to present information by combining text and illustration. The pupils display a keen interest in and respect for their environment, they speak knowledgeably about the aspects of Geography which they have studied and senior pupils have been motivated to read widely about the natural world. Pupils are afforded regular opportunities to present the findings of their project work orally, individually and in pairs.
Science is taught effectively. Lessons were clearly structured and pupils participated in carefully-managed experiments where they engaged in working scientifically and developing observation, prediction, investigation and recording skills. Pupils are given opportunities to plant their own individual seeds, bulbs and plants and to monitor and observe their growth. The organisation of purposeful nature walks and out of school visits provide additional opportunities for pupils to apply their scientific knowledge to their own environments. Findings in Science are recorded pictorially and in written form by pupils. Pupils can speak confidently about the outcomes of their investigations using a well-developed scientific vocabulary. Pupils clearly enjoy Science and are motivated in their learning. Consideration should be given to participation in the Green Schools Initiative and the development of a green area in the school grounds.
4.5 Arts Education
The school plan stresses the significance of the process of art and the importance of developing pupils’ individuality and creativity. Samples of pupils’ art work attractively displayed provide evidence of engagement in a wide range of art making activities. Fine examples of work in fabric and fibre, clay, print, construction, drawing and painting were among the art works on display. Pupils are proud of their art work and are keen to describe the processes in which they engaged. In the middle and senior classes pupils refer knowledgably to the work of other artists. Very good records of pupils’ work in various strands are maintained in a number of classes. Consideration should be given to promoting their use throughout the school as a means of assessing development and progress on a whole-school basis.
Music is taught effectively in the school. The programme enables all pupils to participate in a wide range of enjoyable music making activities such as, performance, listening and responding and identification of rhythmic patterns. Pupils are encouraged to listen and respond to Music in a variety of ways, including movement to music, discussion, illustration and singing. Tin whistle is taught to pupils in sixth class. The standard of tin whistle playing is good.
A curriculum policy in Drama has been formulated and is included in the school plan. Techniques in Drama are implemented to establish cross curricular links. Teachers use drama methodologies regularly in the teaching of Irish, English and SPHE. Pupils engage enthusiastically with the range of ideas and topics selected by teachers. Opportunities are afforded to pupils to experiment with Drama and to improvise in order to develop empathy and problem-solving skills through getting into character. Various public performances given by pupils are organised at the school during the year.
The school makes very good provision for this area of the curriculum. Lessons take place in the school play ground and in the general purposes room and the school has a wide range of equipment for use in the teaching of this curriculum area. The programme is broad and varied and includes games, athletics, dance and orienteering. In addition two volunteer tutors teach Morris dancing to pupils in sixth class. Lessons are well organised and followed an appropriate sequence of warm up, development of skills, games and cool down activities. Teachers make effective use of age-appropriate activities and a positive attitude to sport and exercise is promoted. Commendable emphasis is placed on the inclusion and participation of all pupils in PE lessons.
Laudable emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ self esteem, communication skills and respect for others. Pupils are given frequent opportunities to celebrate their achievements through the holding of regular assemblies and “come and see days” for parents. Pupils are very supportive of each other. Rules for good behaviour are on display in a number of classrooms. A variety of suitable teaching methodologies is used successfully to teach SPHE such as whole- class discussion, circle time, cooperative learning, group and pair work. The structure and pace of lessons are very good. Pupils in the middle and senior classes develop cooperative skills through well-planned group work on topics such as our community, world news and decision making. They are actively learning through effective questioning and exposure to research and project work. The quality of pupils’ interactions and contributions is very good. They contribute eagerly and relate topics to their own experience.
All teachers engage in formal and informal assessment. A comprehensive policy on assessment has been devised and is actively implemented. Standardised tests are administered in English and Mathematics from first class upwards. The results of these tests are analysed carefully to identify those in need of further support. Early screening tests are used to identify those in need of additional support at senior infant level. Other assessment procedures used include teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests. Very good practice was observed in compiling checklists and maintaining portfolios of pupils’ work. This good practice should be shared and extended to all classes. It is further recommended that all teachers agree on common assessment approaches across all curriculum areas.
Pupils’ work is regularly monitored and corrected by teachers. Members of the special education team and class teachers regularly exchange assessment information in order to plan appropriate intervention programmes. A commendable level of diagnostic testing is carried out by the special education team to determine further specific needs of identified pupils and to guide the formulation of Individual Education plans (IEPs). Feedback to parents is provided at parent/teacher meetings held in the first term of each year and individual pupil progress reports are issued at the year-end.
The quality of support for pupils with special education needs is very good. A comprehensive whole-school policy on the provision of support for pupils with special educational needs is in place. The policy was reviewed in January 2008 and is in line with Departmental guidelines and Circular 02/05. Clear selection procedures for the identification of pupils with special education needs have been agreed with appropriate emphasis on early-intervention strategies to support pupils in senior infants and first class. Pupils receive support in literacy, numeracy and social skills development. Models of support include team teaching, one-to-one teaching and group teaching. Lessons are well structured and teachers employ a range of teaching methodologies to ensure pupils’ active participation. A variety of resources including ICT are effectively used to support teaching and learning. Pupils’ progress is carefully monitored. Individual education plans (IEPs) are prepared on the basis of a careful diagnosis of needs and these are characterised by a measured degree of detail and relevance. Plans include specific targets and a clear timeframe for review is identified. This strategy is undertaken in collaboration with teachers and parents.
This is an inclusive school. All pupils are wholeheartedly welcomed and fully included in the life of the school.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The principal, board and staff are to be commended for their commitment to the continued development of the school and for the welcoming, supportive and inclusive school atmosphere.
· The school is very well organised by a diligent principal and staff and very good working relationships exist between school staff, board and parents.
· A broad and balanced curriculum is effectively delivered with admirable emphasis placed on the holistic development of each child. The overall standard of pupils’ learning is high.
· Pupils are very well behaved and demonstrate positive attitudes towards each other and display a sense of pride in themselves, the school and their community.
· Parents are actively supportive of the work of the school.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Formal policies on the allocation of classes and the roles and responsibilities of the support staff should be devised.
· It is recommended that a format for individual teacher planning and for the recording of progress on a monthly basis be agreed.
· It is recommended that all teachers agree on common assessment approaches across all curriculum areas. Current good practice in relation to pupil portfolios and checklists should be shared.
· Consideration should be given to participation in the Green Schools Initiative and the development of a green area in the school grounds.
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 April 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management commends the inspectors on making the WSE process a positive and affirming experience for the whole school community.
The Board is satisfied that the report reflects the current good practice, commitment and high standard of education in the school.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
Many of the recommendations in the report are already included in the school development action plan and are been implemented as part of the ongoing development and review process.
· The school has become part of the Green Schools Programme and has begun to develop a school garden
· An SNA policy has been developed and ratified by the board
· The board has addressed the issue of accommodation for the special education/learning support teachers with the conversion of the computer room into two resource/special education rooms
· The board has replaced the computer room with a trolley containing 16 laptops for use in all the classrooms
· The teachers are working on developing an agreed template for individual teacher planning and recording monthly progress
· Assessment will be examined by teachers during the in-school planning day in 2009