An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Asicus Naofa

Strandhill, County Sligo

Uimhir rolla:  15004P

 

Date of inspection:  23 November 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 Scoil Asicus Naofa, Strandhill was undertaken in November, 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, Mathematics and  Geography. The board of management 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Asicus Naofa, which was built in 1981, is a co-educational ten-teacher, primary school located in the village of Strandhill and is approximately eight kilometres from Sligo town. Pupil enrolment has increased in recent years, due mainly to the development of new housing estates around the village. The majority of the pupils come from this well-established community and pupil attendance is satisfactory.

 

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

195

Mainstream classes in the school

7

Teachers on the school staff

10

Mainstream class teachers

7

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

2

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Elphin. All of the staff work in a spirit of collaboration and support each other in their work.  The school focuses on the full and harmonious development of all pupils. The school’s characteristic spirit is reflected in the positive and happy atmosphere of the school and in the emphasis placed on providing an inclusive and safe environment for all the pupils.

 

1.2   Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and is supportive of the work of the school. The members have been exceptionally busy over the past school year as they have undertaken major refurbishment tasks. These included the replacement of all external doors and windows, the installation of a new boiler, the fitting of extractor fans, the painting of interior walls and the insulation of cavity walls. The board of management employs a contract cleaning company to clean the school daily. Relevant personnel are employed to carry out routine maintenance tasks. It is recommended that the board of management continue in its efforts to modernise and upgrade the school building and environment.

 

A major review of accounts and finances has been carried out this year which  has included the auditing of accounts. Board members are commended for their involvement in the development of a wide range of school policies and for their ongoing commitment to the work of the school.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team comprises the principal, deputy principal and three special-duties posts. The principal, who was appointed in September 2008, has demonstrated commendable commitment to the enhancement of the school’s environment and building. She leads and manages the school very effectively. She promotes a positive school climate, where there is open communication among the staff and collaborative decision-making. Her co-ordination of the whole-school planning process in the last academic year is noteworthy. She carries out her administrative duties with due care and is ably assisted in these duties by a diligent school secretary, who is employed on a part-time basis.

 

The members of the in-school management team are enthusiastic, committed and work as a team. Effective distributed leadership is reflected in the sharing of responsibility for the development of curricular policies and the purchasing and storage of resources. It is recommended that further attention be given to compiling an inventory of the school’s teaching and learning resources. The work of the team would be enhanced by convening regular meetings.

 

1.4 Management of resources

A key strength of the school is its professional, competent, skilled, experienced and highly dedicated teaching staff. One teacher and her class have been involved in the re-launching of the school web site and are commended on this work. There is evidence of very good practice in the provision, management and use of relevant equipment and materials. Information and communications technology (ICT) is well advanced and used appropriately.

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Parents involve themselves in various activities to support the work of the school. They co-operate willingly in the provision of resources, such as laptop computers and interactive whiteboards. They also assist with extra-curricular activities and fund raising. The school has produced an information booklet for parents. Communication among the partners is very good and regular newsletters have been issued by the new principal. The parents ’association welcomes this format and its members now plan to post a parents’ page on the school’s website.

 

A wide variety of extra-curricular activities is provided. The pupils have a noteworthy record of achievements and participation in inter-school competitions in games and athletics. Students from the local Institute of Technology and Youth Sport West provide coaching as part of the school’s curricular and extra-curricular programmes. The school provides many opportunities to enrich pupils’ learning. The senior pupils of the school participated in the International Barbershop Convention which was held in Sligo recently. The pupils’ involvement in the Green-Schools Programme, in the community art project with the Active Retirement group and in the annual visit to Summerville nursing home provides breadth and balance in the pupils’ learning experiences.

 

The school participates in the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative, through which pupils in fifth and sixth classes learn French. The school choir, under the direction of the principal and an infant teacher, sings at the annual carol service and at liturgical events during the year.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

The pupils are courteous and co-operative. The interactions between staff and pupils are positive, open and respectful. The pupils are motivated in their learning by the provision of stimulating and challenging lessons. The pupils’ involvement in sports and other extra-curricular activities fosters self-esteem and self-confidence. The behaviour of the pupils in this school is a credit to their parents, teachers and school community.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1   Whole-school and classroom planning

The school has a comprehensive school plan, which is arranged in two sections, organisational and curricular. This plan is very well presented and has been developed in accordance with the guidelines from the Department of Education and Science. All policy statements are clear and coherent. The long-term plan outlines the priority curricular, organisational and infrastructural needs of the school and a clear strategic plan has been formulated. The principal has had a central role in facilitating the development of whole-school planning and the subsequent implementation of this planning in classrooms. Whole-school planning in English, Mathematics and Geography provides an excellent framework to support a structured, developmental and integrated approach to the teaching of these subjects. This planning ensures that there is continuity and progression from year to year and consistency in approach and emphasis from class to class.

 

Individual teachers’ planning is highly satisfactory. It is recommended, however, that a common planning template be adopted by all teachers. All teachers provide commendable long-term planning. Noteworthy attention is afforded to linkage and integration. It is recommended that the teachers review the present practice regarding monthly records and consider using an alternative template.

 

The teachers plan for the use of a variety of teaching methodologies and this is evident in classroom practice. They have adapted the curriculum as necessary to meet the diverse needs and abilities of children in their care. Pupils with learning difficulties benefit from the collaboration between the class teachers and the support teachers in the implementation of very good individual learning programmes. More able children are challenged appropriately by a differentiated approach to learning. Very good emphasis is placed on the environment as a resource for learning.

 

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 English

In English talk, discussion and storytelling are used during oral work throughout the school. Pupils are given frequent opportunities to listen to and discuss a variety of stories and novels using appropriate vocabulary. Drama is also used effectively as a means of developing oral language and pupils are encouraged to express their opinions with confidence. In some classes pupils explore the nuances and atmosphere of poetry and this work is praiseworthy. There is scope for further development of the pupils’ ability to recite poems with expression.

 

The pupils’ evident enthusiasm for reading is a strength of this school. Pupils’ reading in English is of a very high standard. In the junior classes, emphasis is placed on emergent reading skills with much attention being paid to the development of phonological awareness, sight vocabulary and on an awareness of rhyme. Reading standards are built upon throughout the school through systematic development of a range of word-identification strategies using class readers, novels and supplementary materials. Recreational reading is carefully promoted through structured library work and activities. A book fair is held in the school every two years which helps foster a love of reading and generate enthusiasm in reading. An open night is organised for parents.

 

Pupils are given the opportunity to explore a wide variety of genres in their writing and very good standards are achieved. The provision of meaningful and varied written responses to a variety of reading material is a positive aspect of the work.  The quality of this creative writing could be even further enhanced by an additional focus on pupil conferencing as part of the writing process. Some well-thought out work on functional writing is also being carried out. Pupils at relevant levels observe the conventions of punctuation, spelling and grammar, although some inconsistency in handwriting styles and presentation is noted. The support teachers have identified spelling as an area for development within the school. A review of the effectiveness of the spelling programme in use at present within the school would be worthwhile. Consideration should be given to participation in initiatives such as the Pushkin project to give the pupils a wider audience for their creative output.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in the Mathematics lessons observed during the evaluation was very good. In all cases, children were very engaged with lesson content. They displayed a high level of achievement in Mathematics. It is clear that this is the result of a consistently high standard of teaching.

 

Classroom practice reveals that all of the strands of the curriculum are well taught. Pupils are taught in whole-class, group and individual settings, as appropriate. The structure of lessons also ensures that a balance is maintained between oral and written work. Lessons are paced skilfully and pupils are provided with opportunities to learn using concrete materials. They are encouraged to learn co-operatively and actively. Estimation skills are emphasised at all levels.

 

Teachers ensure that problem-solving activities are connected with the children’s everyday experience. There is a highly effective emphasis throughout the school on the development of mathematical language. Cross-curricular activities are also effectively used to support and consolidate children’s understanding of Mathematics. The mathematics environment created in all classrooms is very good.

 

Individual records of progress are maintained. A collection of pupils’ work in most of the strands is collated in each class. These collections of work reflect progression in the development of core mathematical concepts and skills. The mathematics circuits, observed during the evaluation, and the mathematics trails undertaken to date are worthy of commendation and should be further developed throughout the school. Consideration could be given to the development of a mathematics journal which might progress from class to class, recording key concepts and basic number facts.

 

3.3 Geography

The quality of teaching and learning in Geography is very good. The pupils engage enthusiastically with the various resources prepared by their teachers to support their learning.  A variety of teaching approaches is employed successfully. The teaching staff prepares comprehensive packs to assist in the efficient management of group work. Commendable use is made of ICT in researching topics, in the delivery of lessons and in the pupils’ activities. The local environment is investigated appropriately and used effectively as a learning resource. There is very good integration and linkage with other subjects.

 

The achievement of pupils in Geography is commendable. Pupils’ mapping skills are effectively developed. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ environmental awareness and care through the schools’ active involvement in the Green-Schools programme.  The school is working diligently towards its third green flag. The pupils’ geographical skills are well developed. The pupils responded confidently to questioning and demonstrated a very good knowledge and understanding of the topics covered to date. The pupils have a very good sense of place and can talk confidently about their local community. Teacher-designed tests and tasks are prepared and administered and the pupils’ achievement in those tasks is very good.

 

3.4 Assessment

The quality of assessment is very good. There is very good assessment data available on individual pupils and the information gleaned from such assessments is used to plan appropriate programmes of work for the pupils. Standardised tests in both English and Mathematics are administered to all pupils from first to sixth class annually. A range of appropriate screening tests is used throughout the school. Other assessments tools in use by teachers include teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks, regular spelling tests, dictation tests, effective feedback to pupils and the monitoring of pupils’ work on a continuous basis. The quality of record-keeping and reporting is commendable. All results are filed appropriately and discussed with the relevant personnel. Parents are issued with an annual school report and formal parent-teacher meetings are held once a year.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of support for pupils with learning difficulties and with special educational needs is very high. A comprehensive school policy guides this support. It lists the diagnostic tests, resources, approaches and strategies used by the support personnel. The quality of expertise and commitment displayed by the support team is very good. There are two learning- support/resource teachers based in the school. Teaching is highly competent. A part-time resource teacher, based in another school, just commenced in her role prior to the evaluation. High-quality teaching environments are provided.

 

The teachers plan programmes of work according to the assessed needs of pupils. They focus on skill development and provide high-quality resources to support the pupils’ learning. The staff devises a variety of games, use suitable software and employ pair work or group work to enhance the pupils’ learning. Teaching and learning takes place in a variety of settings such as field trips, the general purpose room, the support setting, the school environment or the pupils’ classroom. The teachers work on interesting projects and engage the pupils in paired reading to aid skill development. They employ a multi-sensory approach which proves highly effective. At times, they provide movement classes to support motor development. Both teachers based in the school have focused successfully on auditory training.

 

The teachers maintain samples of the pupils’ work and support vocabulary development in both Geography and History in the senior classes. The quality of the teachers’ planning is worthy of the highest commendation. Two dedicated special-needs assistants work co-operatively with the teaching staff and maintain a positive relationship with the pupils. The teachers work collaboratively to provide supplementary teaching on both a withdrawal basis and within the classroom, as appropriate. It is recommended that the laudable team-teaching approaches used by the support teachers be extended to all classes, to include work in the infant classes when required. It is recommended that the support team provide early-intervention programmes in the infant classrooms in accordance with the Department’s Learning-Support Guidelines, when appropriate. The staff might find it useful to consider descriptions of effective team teaching and parallel teaching that are provided in the Department of Education and Science publication Effective Literacy and Numeracy Practices in DEIS  Schools.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas.

 

 

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

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management, at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published May 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

The BOM and staff of Scoil Asicus Naofa wish to acknowledge the professional and courteous manner of the inspectors during their inspection of our school. The entire community is heartened by the very positive outcome of their evaluation.

 

Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the   inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection