An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Kilnadeema, Loughrea, Co. Galway
Roll number: 15071H
Date of inspection: 30 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 October 2006
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Kilnadeema N.S. 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 parents. 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Kilnadeema N.S. is a co-educational primary school located in a scenic rural setting approximately five kilometres from the town of Loughrea. Originally built as a two-teacher school in 1902, the school was extensively renovated and extended in 1994. When the last school report was issued in 1997, the school was staffed by four mainstream teachers. Enrolment figures have increased significantly over the last number of years and the teaching staff now consists of five mainstream teachers, a learning-support teacher and a visiting resource teacher. Enrolment stands at 153 and the school will be entitled to an additional mainstream appointment for the school year 2006/7. As there are proposals for housing development in the area, it is likely that enrolment levels in the school will be maintained for the foreseeable future. While additional temporary accommodation will be provided for the next school year, the board of management is actively pursuing the provision of permanent accommodation to cater for the increased pupil numbers.
Kilnadeema N.S. espouses a Catholic ethos and is under the patronage of the Diocese of Clonfert. An open, friendly and caring atmosphere permeates the life of the school and, in keeping with the school’s stated aims, teachers strive to work collaboratively to create a secure environment in which the intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and cultural needs of the pupils are identified and addressed. A strong sense of community is evident in the school and the board of management and teachers have established close links with parents, community personnel and local organisations. It is evident that all work effectively together to support and enhance the educational provision in the school.
Kilnadeema N.S. has experienced significant staff changes since the commencement of the school year. A new principal was appointed in February and will assume this new role in the school later this term. In the interim period another member of staff has assumed the position of principal in an acting capacity. The former principal with whom initial contact was made regarding the evaluation, the newly appointed principal who attended both the pre- and post- evaluation meetings, the acting principal, the permanent staff members and the substitute staff are to be commended for their support and co-operation during this school evaluation.
The board of management is properly constituted and functions in accordance with the Rules and Procedures of Boards of Management (November 2003). The board meets at least once a term with issues of staffing, policy development, maintenance and accommodation being among the main business of the most recent meetings. Members of the board may contribute items to agenda and relevant Departmental circulars are brought to the attention of the board by the principal. It would be of benefit to incorporate a formal principal’s report into the business of meetings and to engage in studying and discussing the implications of recent legislation on schools and boards of management. The board members bring a wealth of personal expertise to the decision-making process in the school and take responsibility for specific tasks in order to enhance the efficiency of the work of the board. Individual members have availed of training provided by the Catholic Primary Managers’ Association (CPSMA) and express strong support for the provision of further training for boards of management.
The board recognises its statutory obligations and the requirement to comply with Departmental regulations. The school plan is available for viewing and incorporates appropriate policies on health and safety, enrolment, discipline and special educational needs. The school is complying with regulations as regards length of school year and school day, deployment of teachers, retention of pupils and maintenance of pupil attendance records. Strategies to encourage good attendance should now be included in the school plan and the board should also explore ways of providing the parent body with an annual report on the operation of the school. Prioritised tasks for the current school year are coherently set out in a planning diary while tasks to be undertaken in the forthcoming school year form part of a long-term plan. It is suggested that the time frame for the long-term plan be extended to incorporate a three-year planning period, which would indicate proposed target dates for commencement and completion of prioritised tasks relating to aspects of maintenance, building, administration, organisation, policy development and curriculum implementation.
The board consciously strives to foster and maintain open channels of communication with the parent body and the wider community. A school calendar is circulated each year and parents are kept informed of forthcoming school events through the issuing of regular notes and letters. The school organises an annual open evening for parents of new pupils and formal parent-teacher meetings are held once a year to facilitate discussion regarding individual pupil progress. Parents are also welcome to meet teachers at other times. Home-school communication is further enhanced by the effective use of homework journals and by issuing pupil progress reports at the end of the school year.
Although individual board members meet members of the teaching staff on an informal basis, the board mainly maintains links with the teaching staff through the chairperson, principal and teacher representative. The chairperson of the board keeps in regular contact with the principal, frequently visits the school and provides support to staff in promoting the school’s Catholic ethos. While the size of the school facilitates daily communication among school personnel, the board supports the organisation of formal staff meetings each term to enable the staff to work collaboratively on whole-school policy formulation, curricular planning and organisation. Active participation at these meetings is encouraged through involving teachers in setting agenda and in recording minutes. As a means of further developing the relationship between the board and the teaching staff, it is suggested that the board would meet the staff at some point during each school year and engage collaboratively in discussing aspects of teaching and learning in the school.
The board of management presents as an active, committed and forward-looking board with a clear sense of purpose and vision for the school. The board members are to be commended for their high level of interest in school affairs and for their commitment to working in partnership with the Department of Education and Science (DES), the community, the school staff, parents and pupils.
The in-school management team currently consists of principal, deputy principal and one special duties teacher. The incumbents of these posts of responsibility are functioning in acting capacities and will resume the duties attached to their original posts when the new principal assumes duty. The post holders display great team spirit and collaborate effectively to ensure that all school activities are organised and managed in an orderly and timely manner. The acting principal discharges the duties of the post of principal with a commendable level of commitment and professionalism. Daily administrative tasks are capably performed and official records are carefully maintained. A positive school climate is fostered with open discussion occurring on organisational and curricular matters. The implementation of the Primary School Curriculum (1998) is promoted through models of excellent classroom practice and through engaging collaboratively with other staff members in developing the school plan. The acting principal is ably and willingly supported by the other post holders who contribute significantly to the positive working atmosphere of the school and to the promotion of new curricular practices on a whole-school basis.
The duties assigned to the posts of responsibility relate to such areas as supervision, time-tabling, health and safety, personal insurance, school statistics, teacher absences, the school library, information and communication technologies, assessment, special needs, photographic displays and educational resources. The school is advised to establish a practice of reviewing the duties attached to posts of responsibility at regular intervals in order to ensure that they address, over time, the changing prioritised needs of the school. The duties attached to each post should normally span organisational, pastoral and curricular areas. Curricular duties should serve to enhance professional development and to support curricular change by facilitating dissemination of information regarding new strategies and approaches. It is suggested that the school development plan incorporate review dates for posts of responsibility or dates relating to review of certain aspects of the duties attached to posts.
Pupils are divided among the school’s five mainstream teachers in dual-class groupings. Support for pupils identified with learning difficulties or with special educational needs is provided by a full-time learning-support/resource teacher and a visiting resource teacher. Supplementary teaching is provided mainly on a withdrawal basis in small group settings or on a one-to-one basis. The staff is to be commended for the manner in which a number of in-class intervention programmes are being implemented at different stages in the school. These include an early intervention programme in literacy, a shared reading programme and the ‘Maths is Fun’ programme.
The board of management encourages and assists staff in participating in continual professional development. Teachers are supported in undertaking relevant courses and a preference system in relation to the allocation of classes has accommodated change in the past and has enabled individual staff members to gain experience of teaching at different levels. It is suggested that a policy on staff development be developed which indicates the manner in which staff may be supported in undertaking further courses of study and how staff may be facilitated in developing skills and expertise by teaching at different class levels and in a variety of roles. The staff development policy, as a component of the school plan, should also provide a framework for sharing knowledge and skills and for providing feedback to staff and to the board of management.
In addition to the teaching staff, the school has a part-time secretary who provides very valuable and much appreciated support to the principal and staff in a variety of capacities in the school. External personnel visit the school to augment the programme in Physical Education. Coaching in hurling is provided under a GAA funded scheme with pupils from second to sixth class participating in the scheme at different stages during the school year. A programme in swimming is organised for pupils from fourth to sixth classes. In organising such activities, the school should be cognisant of the suggested curricular timeframes and should also seek to maintain a balance over the curricular strands which the school’s physical resources can support.
Accommodation in Kilnadeema N.S. comprises both permanent and temporary accommodation. As a result of the renovations and extension completed in 1994, the main school building provides two long narrow classrooms, two large comfortable classrooms, a small learning-support room, a small staff room, a storage area and toilet facilities. Two prefabricated units, one of which has been purchased by the board of management, are located side by side at the rear of the school. One unit provides classroom accommodation while the other functions as a computer room with a portion of it also being used for resource teaching purposes. The learning-support room, although attractively furnished and decorated, is too small for learning-support purposes. The school does not have a general-purposes room, an office or a discrete resource teaching room. Further temporary accommodation will be required for the new school year in order to accommodate an additional mainstream class.
The board is very conscious of its responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for both staff and pupils. The school is cleaned three times a week and is well heated. A clear system is in place for reporting faults and items for repair, and a review of security was recently completed. Storage facilities pose a difficulty in the school and the board has provided shelving in a number of areas, including the attic space, to alleviate the situation. Any future building projects in the school should incorporate appropriate classroom accommodation and ancillary rooms, as well as storage facilities for equipment and other resources required to support the full implementation of the curriculum. Care and attention has also been devoted to the development of the school’s outdoor facilities, which include an outdoor shelter, a hard-surface play area, a grass area and a basketball court. A variety of playground games are colourfully painted on the surface of the play area, which successfully promote traditional games and stimulate imaginative play during play periods. The school premises and grounds are very well maintained and are kept neat and free from litter. All involved in the maintenance and cleaning of the school are to be complimented for their contribution towards maintaining a clean, safe and attractive learning environment for the pupils in the school.
The board of management has invested in a wide range of resources, equipment and materials to support teaching and to enhance pupils’ learning experiences in all areas of the curriculum. Teachers themselves are to be commended for the excellent personally produced charts and materials and for the high standard of classroom displays, which incorporate fine examples of the pupils’ art, writing and project work. As curriculum innovation and implementation proceeds, further resources will be required to facilitate an activity-based approach to teaching and learning and to ensure the use of a variety of methodologies and strategies. An extensive range of technological resources is also available in the school and consideration should now be given to incorporating into the school plan guidance on how these technologies can be used to assist teaching and learning in each of the curricular areas.
The school is fostering very positive relationships with the general parent body. Parents engage actively in the work of the school and are reported to be highly supportive of school-organised activities, talks, functions and fundraising events. Parents assist teachers at swimming lessons, run coaching sessions in hurling skills during lunchtime periods, provide transport to sporting events and also help in the organisation of annual events such as the School Book Fair and Sports Day. Parents actively support the school’s involvement in the Green Flag initiative and provide ongoing support for the school’s recycling and environmental care programme.
Home-school links are established mainly through direct school-parent contact or through representatives on the board of management. Although the close nature of this small school community supports dissemination of information in informal contexts and while representatives on the board of management willingly facilitate communication of parental interests at board level, there is no clear structure to support real partnership and effective two-way communication with the general parent body. The formation of a parents’ association would consolidate existing relationships between the school and parents and provide greater opportunities for parents to assume their role as partners in the educational system. The board of management recognises the need for a parents’ association and supports the formation of such an association and its affiliation to the National Parents Council.
The school has also forged beneficial links with the broader community, other schools and local and national organisations. Pupils participate in regional and national quizzes, book-writing competitions, inter-school sporting events and also engage in fundraising for various charitable organisations. The pupils have enjoyed considerable success in national handwriting competitions and have contributed to community spirit both locally and further afield by carol singing at Christmas time. The school is fortunate to be located beside the local community pitch and can avail of the use of its changing facilities and pitch. The school supports and encourages pupils’ involvement in local clubs and community events.
Pupil activities are managed in a very timely and orderly fashion. A positive caring atmosphere is cultivated throughout the school with pupils being encouraged to engage with staff and with each other in a respectful manner at all times. Pupils are praised regularly, their uniqueness and individuality recognised and their efforts and contributions valued. Pupils in general respond in a courteous and confident manner. They are consciously provided with opportunities to assume responsibility and to develop self-discipline. A code of discipline incorporating an anti-bullying policy has been drawn up in consultation with the parent body and during the evaluation parents affirmed the effective operation of this policy.
The school is engaging earnestly in the school planning process and a collaborative approach to the development of the school plan is evolving. Draft policies are initially compiled by the staff and presented to the board of management for consideration. The views of the general parent body are directly sought in relation to selected areas of policy, while in other areas, parental opinion is obtained through the representatives on the board of management. The board is encouraged to promote greater understanding of the role of parents in both policy development and curriculum implementation and to seek increased levels of parental involvement in future policy formulation and review.
The school’s mission statement and aims are clearly articulated in the school plan. Organisational and administrative policies are comprehensively addressed and include statements and policies on health and safety, enrolment, behaviour, anti-bullying, sexual harassment, complaints procedure, learning support and special needs, custody/separation, homework, administration of medicine, supervision, accidents, use of mobile phones, healthy eating, visitors to the school and access to records. The school has a draft policy in RSE and the board of management is in the process of formulating policy 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 and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines and completion of school policy in this regard is an immediate priority of the board.
Considerable progress has been made in developing curricular policies and the work has kept pace with the curriculum implementation programme. Some of the curricular policies have clear statements regarding parental support and this commendable practice should be extended to all. It will be necessary to review all curricular policy documents periodically in order to clarify content, to maintain breadth and balance across the strands of each curricular area, and to ensure appropriate continuity and progression from class to class particularly in the dual class situation. It would be beneficial to include target dates for the commencement and completion of reviews in the school’s long term development statement.
The teachers are working diligently to develop the school plan in line with the Primary School Curriculum 1999 and to reflect its content in their classroom practice. Teachers are to be commended for their commitment to implementing a broad and balanced curriculum across most curricular areas. They are to be particularly commended for their willingness to try out new ideas. The emphasis placed on developing skills and concepts across a range of curricular areas is very impressive. An appropriate variety of methodologies and approaches is used throughout the school including language games, discussion, drama, paired work, circle work, group work, teacher modelling and project work. There is a strong emphasis on the exploration of the local environment in all classes.
All teachers engage in long-term and short-term planning, maintain monthly progress records and provide a commendable range of visual aids, materials and worksheets to support teaching and learning. Individual teacher planning varies to a significant degree in some curricular areas at particular class levels. While most teachers detail content under the strands and strand units, state expected learning outcomes and reference the methodologies, strategies, approaches, assessment techniques and resources to be used, in other instances planning is predominantly based on the content of textbooks. It is proposed that the format and content of appropriate planning be discussed at staff level and be guided by the contents of the curriculum and the school plan in each of the curricular areas.
Tugann na hoidí go díograiseach faoin gcur chuige cumarsáideach a úsáid chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn sa scoil. Leagtar béim thairbheach ar éisteacht ghníomhach agus baintear leas as geáitsíocht, pictiúir, léaráidí, lipéid, puipéid, cluichí, tascanna, drámaí beaga, rainn, filíocht agus amhráin chun spéis a chothú sa teanga agus chun tuiscint agus cumas labhartha na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Baineann struchtúr cinnte le formhór na gceachtanna agus dírítear aird thairbheach ar fheidhmeanna teanga faoi leith i go leor de na ranganna. Cothaítear taitneamh agus spraoi le linn na n-imeachtaí agus is léir go bhfuil dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge á fhorbairt i measc na ndaltaí. Cé go dtugtar faoi réimse breá oibre sna rangsheomraí difriúla, is gá anois an clár labhartha a chomhordú ar bhonn scoile, forbairt chórasach a dhéanamh ar an bhfoclóir ó rang go rang agus daingniú rialta a dhéanamh ar a bhfuil i seilbh na ndaltaí. Ba thairbheach an t-atmaisféar Gaelach a neartú ar bhonn uile-scoile agus straitéisí chuige sin a aimsiú sa phlean scoile le tacaíocht ón mbord bainistíochta agus ó lucht na dtuismitheoirí.
Fítear an chaint, an léitheoireacht agus an scríobhneoireacht lena chéile go ceardúil sa scoil. Baintear dea-úsáid as léamh i mbeirteanna agus as leabhair bheaga chun spéis agus cumas a chothú sa léitheoireacht. Is tairbheach freisin mar a bhaintear feidhm as an bhfhilíocht, idir shean agus nua, agus mar a thugtar deis do na daltaí dul i ngleic le seanfhocail agus rábhlóga i roinnt ranganna mar chuid den ábhar léitheoireachta. Léann na daltaí le tuiscint ar an iomlán agus is inmholta mar a chaitheann na hoidí dua le cumas ceistiúcháin na ndaltaí féin a chur chun cinn le linn na dtréimhsí léitheoireachta. Léiríonn obair scríofa na ndaltaí réimse deas gníomhaíochtaí ar an iomlán ach b’fhiú a thuilleadh béime a chur ar thuairisciú agus ar scríbhneoireacht phearsanta chun deis a thabhairt do na daltaí a smaointe féin a chur i scríbhinn agus neamhspléachas a bhaint amach sa scríbhneoireacht.
The teachers enthusiastically undertake the communicative approach to progress the teaching of Irish in the school. Beneficial emphasis is placed on active listening and actions, pictures, illustrations, labels, puppets, games, tasks, small dramas, rhyme, poetry and song are used to good effect to promote interest in the language and to develop the pupils’ understanding and spoken ability. The majority of lessons are clearly structured and worthwhile attention is directed towards specific language functions in many of the classes. Fun and enjoyment are fostered during the activities and it is apparent that a positive attitude to Irish is being developed among the pupils. Although a lovely range of work is undertaken in the different classrooms, it is now necessary to co-ordinate the language programme on a whole-school basis. There is a need to develop vocabulary in a systematic manner from class to class and to reinforce the learning regularly. It would be advantageous to strengthen the Irish atmosphere on a whole-school basis and to identify strategies for such a purpose in the school plan, with the support of the board of management and the parent body.
Language, reading and writing are skilfully interwoven in the school. Good use is made of paired reading and small books in order to develop interest and competency in reading. Pupils also benefit from the use of both old and new poetry and, in some classes, from opportunities to engage with proverbs and tongue-twisters as part of the reading material. On the whole, pupils read with understanding and, during the reading sessions, the manner in which teachers strive to develop the pupils’ ability to pose questions is praiseworthy. The pupils’ written work, on the whole, indicates a nice range of activities but it would be of value to place further emphasis on report writing and personal writing in order to provide pupils with opportunities to express their own thoughts in writing and to develop independence as writers.
The standards attained in English throughout the school are very good. A comprehensive school plan has been developed and this has helped to ensure a whole school approach to the teaching of English. Oral language development is creditably emphasised throughout the school, good articulation is encouraged, and pupils’ vocabularies are constantly extended. Teachers’ questioning skills in some classes are of a very high standard. Pupils recite an appropriate selection of poetry at all class levels and regularly participate in word games. Pupils’ oral language development and reading skills benefit from teachers’ regular modelling of the reading process. In striving for excellence, teachers at all class levels should read aloud for pupils even more frequently.
Each classroom provides a suitable print-rich environment. A good foundation of basic reading skills is laid down in the junior classes and is developed further in the other classes. Pupils’ phonological awareness is appropriately developed and they clearly enjoy the activities based on the phonics programme. Class novels are effectively used to enrich the reading programme in some classes. There is a wide variety of library materials available in the school. The class libraries are well stocked with both fact and fiction books. These are organised in an attractive way to encourage reluctant readers. Shared reading has been successfully introduced and records are kept to ensure that all pupils read a certain number of books each year. As part of this work, pupils in the middle and senior classes regularly write reviews of the books they have read.
The pupils benefit from the emphasis placed on the writing process and there are impressive examples of writing in different genres on display in almost all classrooms. Writing exercises in some classes should be better differentiated, however, to cater for differences in pupils’ ability. The commendable emphasis placed on poetry includes impressive examples of haiku writing in some classes. Good use is made of ICT in some classes to display pupils’ stories and poems. Grammar and spellings are taught well across the whole school.
A very comprehensive whole-school plan in Mathematics has been developed by the staff in conjunction with the curriculum support services. It identifies, among other things, the mathematical language associated with the strand units at each class level, the agreed language of standard procedures and a range of mathematical trails appropriate for use at different class levels. The contents of the plan are reflected in the planning and classroom practice of most of the teachers in the school.
Maths-rich classroom environments incorporating displays of pupils’ work, appropriate charts, number lines and labelled materials are in evidence throughout the school. Almost all teachers place emphasis on the acquisition of mathematical language and provide opportunities for pupils to manipulate materials. The school has invested in a good range of mathematical resources to support activity-based methodologies. The staff is to be complimented for the quality and range of personally produced materials and games which supplement school resources and are used very effectively to engage pupils in focused worthwhile activity.
The development of computational and problem-solving skills is emphasised throughout the school and a variety of successful strategies is used to aid memorisation and recall of number facts. Pupils, in general, respond confidently to oral questioning, display firm understanding of mathematical concepts, recall number facts swiftly and solve problems competently. The school’s ‘Maths is Fun’ programme involves a high level of collaboration among staff members and is operating very successfully with the support of parents. Very effective in-class support facilitates this programme, provides opportunities for teachers to engage in team-teaching and to use the school’s technological resources efficiently. Appropriate emphasis is also directed towards the presentation of written work. A good standard is evident in all classrooms with pupils recording their work accurately, neatly and tidily.
A broad programme is implemented in History in all classes. Pupils demonstrate commendable knowledge and understanding of the range of topics they have studied. Methodologies used include paired work and group work. There is a strong emphasis on project work in the middle and senior classes and the completed projects are of a creditable standard. Impressive class museums have been assembled in some classrooms.
The development of skills as a historian is emphasised and pupils clearly enjoy and benefit from examining evidence. The use of artefacts in the junior classes to enliven and enrich lessons is particularly praiseworthy. Appropriate use is made of timelines to enhance pupils’ understanding of chronology. Commendable emphasis is placed on the study of local History and most pupils can describe nearby sites of historical interest clearly and knowledgeably. Integration with other curricular areas is evident, for example with Geography, English and the Visual Arts. There is appropriate integration with Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) in the junior classes in the strand Myself and my Family. Pupils in the senior classes show a good understanding of the American Revolution as part of the strand Politics, Conflict and Society.
Teachers are to be commended for the balanced implementation of the three strands of the Geography curriculum. The emphasis placed on developing geographical skills and concepts is very impressive. The work on making and using maps, particularly the development of a sense of aerial perspective, is highly commendable. The work on the strand unit Homes in the junior classes is very good. Pupils’ interest in their own locality is appropriately emphasised in all classes. Field trips and guided nature walks are organised from time to time to further stimulate pupils’ interest in their local environment.
Creditable opportunities are provided for pupils to care for their environment. This is clearly shown by the award of the green flag as part of the Green Schools Project. Very good use is made of project work to enable pupils in middle and senior classes to develop their geographical, investigative and research skills. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the strand Lands, Rivers and Seas of my County. Most pupils in these classes have a good knowledge of the physical Geography of Co. Galway, and also of Ireland, Europe and the world.
It is notable that, throughout the school, pupils display a high level of interest in and enthusiasm for this curricular area. Teachers plan a broad balanced programme for each class grouping and engage pupils regularly in active exploration and investigation. Pupils are provided with opportunities to identify Science in action in their own homes, to view demonstrations, carry out practical investigations, explore properties of materials, predict outcomes and record observations. A range of materials to aid investigation is available and nature/investigation tables or specific Science areas are a feature of each classroom. Pupils display a firm knowledge and understanding of studies and investigations completed. They ably describe project work and enthusiastically detail the planning and design stages of very creative construction work. Activities focusing on the exploration of sound and design tasks involving the use of recyclable materials are skilfully integrated in some classes with work in Music, Geography and the Visual Arts. The school’s participation in the Green School’s Project also links with work on environmental awareness and care and serves to heighten the pupils understanding of their role in caring for the environment. It is suggested that the school continue to build on the current programme placing clear emphasis on developing the full range of scientific skills while providing ample opportunities for pupils to develop their communication and presentation skills.
The quality of work in the Visual Arts in most classes in the school is of a very high standard. All strands of the curriculum are covered and there is an appropriate balance between two-dimensional and three-dimensional activities in making art. The development of an awareness of colour is particularly praiseworthy in the junior classes. There is very good integration with Music in the middle classes, for example in the construction of simple percussion instruments. Similarly, there is very good integration with Science in the senior classes, for example in the construction of battery-operated lighthouses.
Pupils are encouraged to express their ideas and feelings through looking at and responding to art. Pupils’ work in the Visual Arts is celebrated and displayed very attractively throughout the school. Portfolios are used to record progress and include both samples of pupils’ work and photographs. There is scope for development in the variety of work in the Visual Arts in some classes. In striving for excellence as a whole school, it is recommended that the school plan for Visual Arts be reviewed. This should assist in ensuring that the Visual Arts programme is comprehensive in all classes.
The manner in which the staff has taken on board new aspects of the curriculum in Music is praiseworthy. Individual teachers have produced excellent attractive materials to provide the basis for a structured literacy programme in the school. The concepts of pulse and rhythm are explored effectively at different class levels through activities based on rhyme and poetry, through the use of appropriate songs and simple pentatonic tunes, and the playing of percussion instruments. Appropriate attention is given to improving singing tone and breath control as pupils proceed through the school and all classes sing a good range of songs in both Irish and English. Tin-whistle playing is also taught and both teachers and pupils are to be commended for the sweet gentle tones produced while pupils play a repertoire of tunes appropriate to their age and ability.
A lovely range of manufactured percussion instruments is available for shared use in the school and pupils in some classes use their own beautifully decorated hand-made instruments. Pupils are provided with opportunities to explore sound through story and further work in this area and in the area of Listening and Responding to Music has been supplemented by the school’s participation in the Music in the Classroom programme. Teachers display a clear understanding of the interrelated strands of the Music curriculum and opportunities to engage in simple composition are interwoven with the activities in Performing and Listening and Responding. Consideration should now be given to extending the use of pentatonic songs and hand-signs as part of the music literacy programme, incorporating rounds, partner songs and songs with simple ostinati into the song-singing programme and linking the instrumental programme with literacy and song-singing activities where appropriate.
A whole school programme has not yet been developed in Drama. While some teachers allocate discrete time to Drama and productively explore aspects of process Drama, most teachers adopt an integrated approach and use make-believe play, role-play and mime to enhance learning in other curricular areas.
Full implementation of the curriculum in Physical Education is hindered by the lack of indoor facilities as activities are weather dependent. Teachers utilise the school yard, basketball court, school pitch as well as the local community pitch to provide pupils with opportunities to develop co-ordination and physical skills through movement, games, athletics and dance. There is very clear progression and development in the activities planned at the different class levels. Pupils are carefully guided through appropriate warm-up and cool-down exercises and participate willingly in excellently paced routines to develop coordination, ball handling skills, agility and fitness. The games programme includes football, hurling, camogie, basketball and unihoc. Coaching in hurling and camogie is provided by external personnel and school teams participate each year in inter-school competitions. An aquatics programme is organised for pupils from fourth to sixth classes and the school athletics programme involves pupils participating in inter-school cross country events. As part of the programme in Dance some classes are learning Irish dancing as well as exploring dance forms of other cultures. A number of teachers frequently use Irish during the course of the Physical Education lessons and consideration should now be given to extending this practice on a whole-school basis as a further means of developing the communicative approach to teaching Irish in the school.
The positive and caring atmosphere cultivated in the school contributes greatly to the development of pupils’ social skills. The SPHE curriculum is mostly taught using lessons from the Walk Tall and Stay Safe programmes. Work has commenced on the development of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy involving all partners. This policy is almost completed and should be fully implemented shortly.
The strand Myself and Others is appropriately integrated with History and particularly good work has been done in enabling pupils to realise that each person has a place and role within a family. In working to develop self-confidence, teachers skilfully encourage pupils to take into consideration the opinions and feelings of others. Impressive discussion takes place on making decisions in the middle and senior classes. Circle time, whole class discussion, group work and listening games are the main methodologies used in SPHE. Almost all pupils are mannerly and respectful in their interactions with each other and they demonstrate good communication and interpersonal skills.
Teacher observation, checklists, work samples, project work, profiles, individual education plans, teacher-designed tasks, diagnostic tests and standardised tests are among the assessment tools employed by the staff to monitor pupil progress and to provide pertinent information for parents. Some teachers regularly use the results of assessments to evaluate their mediation of the curriculum and to inform future planning of whole class, group and individual work. Results of formal and informal testing are recorded and analysed to assist in the identification of pupils for supplementary teaching and in tracking their achievement levels as they proceed through the school. Parents are provided with opportunities to discuss results and pupil progress at formal parent-teacher meetings organised once each year. Annual pupil progress reports are issued to parents at the end of the school year. Future development of the school policy on assessment should address the role of assessment in tracking the progress of all pupils in each curricular area as regards achievement of objectives, understanding of concepts, skills development and attitude formation. Assessment techniques should be reviewed regularly to ensure that levels of individual pupil participation are assessed as another indicator of appropriate progress as pupils proceed through the school.
The school has developed a policy on the participation of pupils identified with learning difficulties and special educational needs. It clearly outlines the school’s procedures for early intervention, screening, planning, implementation and review. There is commendable application of the staged approach in the provision of the learning-support and resource service in line with Special Education Circular (SP ED 02/06). Under the general allocation system the school has a fulltime learning-support teacher who currently caters for fifteen pupils identified with learning needs at Stage 2. Support is provided in both literacy and numeracy and incorporates an in-class early intervention programme in English to target literacy needs at senior infant level. The resource teacher is based in Kilchreest N.S. and visits Kilnadeema N.S. four days a week to provide support for one pupil identified with learning needs at Stage 3. Pupils are withdrawn from class and receive support on a one-to-basis or in a group setting with the maximum group size of three being dictated by the size of the learning-support room. A wide range of resources including concrete materials, games, graded reading schemes, diagnostic tests, instructional programmes and appropriate software is available to the teachers. There is a clear system in place to support good levels of consultation within the school and with personnel from outside support agencies such as the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the National Council for Special Educational Needs, and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Individual learning programmes informed by results of standardised tests, diagnostic tests and psychological reports are prepared for pupils in consultation with class teachers and parents. Pupils’ strengths, priority learning needs, specific learning targets, necessary resources and the support required from parents and class-teachers are clearly detailed. While content and learning experiences are, in general, very well-defined in short-term planning, the planning of support in the area of Mathematics is particularly praiseworthy. Future development of the support services in the school should seek to address the provision of appropriate accommodation, to extend in-class support where appropriate and to focus on enhancing differentiation across all curricular areas in order to provide all pupils with access to an appropriately broad and balanced curriculum.
The staff and board of management consciously work towards ensuring that all pupils have an equal chance to access, participate and benefit from the educational provision in the school. The school also clearly recognises the important role of parents in this regard and has developed a very worthwhile partnership in promoting the skills of literacy and numeracy. Teachers in the junior classes work collaboratively with the learning-support/resource service to specifically target the literacy needs of pupils at senior infant level and to identify pupils experiencing learning difficulties at an early stage. A shared-reading programme is organised in consultation with parents for pupils from infants to third class while the more senior classes are encouraged to engage in silent reading both in school and at home. A six-week programme, ‘Maths is Fun’, is currently operating in second/third class, again with the support of parents. There are no distinct minority groups in the school and the school is not part of the Deis (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) programme.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development 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.