An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills


Whole School Evaluation



Harold Boys’ National School

Dalkey, County Dublin

Uimhir rolla: 15132B


Date of inspection: 2 December 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


School response to the report




Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of Harold Boys’ National School was undertaken in December 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 History.  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the evaluation, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix to this report.



Introduction – school context and background


Harold Boys’ NS is a ninety-pupil, Catholic primary school situated in Dalkey, County Dublin. It caters for boys from second class to sixth class, most of whom transfer from Loreto National School nearby.  The school celebrated its centenary in 2001. The building has recently been substantially refurbished. Enrolment figures have fluctuated somewhat over the years; currently they reflect a steady upward trend. Attendance rates for pupils are excellent.


The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:




Pupils enrolled in the school


Mainstream classes in the school


Teachers on the school staff


Mainstream class teachers


Teachers working in support roles


Special needs assistants




1.     Quality of school management


1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision


This school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. It promotes religious education for the pupils in accordance with the doctrines, practices and ethos of the Catholic Church. This is evident in the preparation of sacred spaces within some classrooms, the recitation of daily prayers, regular religious observances and whole-school assemblies. The school identifies itself strongly with the parish and also with the Diocesan Communities. The ethos of the school is to provide the best possible environment for the boys to develop their abilities and talents to the fullest. The school exemplifies its ethos in the broad, high-quality education provided to the boys; the warm and supportive relations between staff and pupils; the sense of community that is successfully nurtured; and the pursuit of excellence.


1.2 Board of management


The board of management performs all its duties in a highly effective manner. It is properly constituted and meetings are held each month. School accounts are audited annually. Board members undertake a very wide range of individual duties and management roles and carry these out to a very high standard. The board is keenly aware of its legislative obligations and ensures that all policies, procedures and practices comply with the relevant legislation and Departmental circulars. The board plays a very active role in the development of the school plan.  It engages in a highly-collaborative process of whole-school planning. The board ensures that organisational policies and curriculum plans are developed, ratified and reviewed in a systematic and thorough manner. It recently managed a comprehensive refurbishment of the school building and grounds. The current priority for the board is the upgrading of the school’s ICT equipment. All relevant matters pertaining to its work are communicated to parents through the parents’ representative on the board, newsletters, the school’s website and the publication of school policies.


1.3 In-school management


The principal gives excellent leadership to the school. She attends to her management and administrative duties most competently. She keeps abreast of educational developments and ably leads the school staff in incorporating effective teaching strategies into their practice. The work of the principal in leading the whole-school planning process is praiseworthy. She fosters excellent working relations with and among all members of the school community. Her high visibility at reception and departure times facilitates ongoing opportunities for engaging with parents regarding their children and the work of the school.  The in-school management team comprises the deputy principal and a special-duties teacher. They carry out an extensive range of duties in a comprehensive and committed manner. These duties are balanced and are reflective of the school’s needs. The duties are reviewed on a regular basis. The team meets regularly with the principal, often informally, to attend to management issues in the school. All members of staff provide excellent support to the school in a spirit of cooperation and commitment.


1.4 Management of resources


Teaching personnel are managed effectively and deployed appropriately. They are given opportunities to teach in a variety of class levels and settings, both mainstream and special education. The school building and grounds are maintained to a high standard. Classrooms are bright and airy. There are excellent informative and educational displays on view in corridors and classrooms. A wide range of visual and physical teaching resources is available and used productively during instruction. All teachers ensure that an impressive variety of posters, charts, flashcards, artefacts, maps, equipment and reference material are available to support current teaching and learning. Excellent class libraries are established.  A computer room hosts a suite of computers and other ICT equipment. 


1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community


The school succeeds in establishing excellent relations with parents and the wider community. There is an active parents’ association in place. They meet regularly and coordinate a wide range of actions for the benefit of the school. These include practical organisational tasks as well as making a significant contribution to policy formulation, educational initiatives, fundraising, and support for co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Parents are requested to make a voluntary contribution of €250 per family to the school each year. The school has established significant links with the community of Dalkey. The pupils are enabled to undertake regular trails in the locality leading to a strong sense of belonging and identity. There are excellent communications between school and home. Parent/teacher meetings and new-parents meetings are hosted each year. Annual written pupil-progress reports are provided to parents. The school provides a school prospectus and booklet outlining school procedures and important policy matters.  Parents are kept up to date with the work of the school through monthly newsletters, the school’s website and pupil journals. Informal communications with parents are facilitated by the teachers who ensure that they are available as needed or requested.


1.6 Management of pupils


There is effective management of pupils at all class levels. The boys conduct themselves in an exemplary manner and are courteous, respectful and friendly. It is evident that the school’s Code of Behaviour and Discipline is implemented consistently and reflects the school’s philosophy of respecting the dignity and aspirations of all concerned.  Of particular note is the high standard of incidental Irish in use by pupils and teachers as they go about their work throughout the day.



2.     Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning


The quality of whole-school planning is high.  A very comprehensive range of organisational policies and curriculum plans has been developed under the capable stewardship of the principal. Acknowledging the extended assistance of the support services, the principal has succeeded in developing a collaborative approach to planning. The teachers, parents and board members all play an active role in devising policies. Through the use of long-term strategic planning, yearly planning diaries, action plans and review mechanisms there is an effective planning process in place. All policies are clear, informative and practical. Curriculum plans are available for all subjects. Curriculum planning for History is outstanding. It provides clear guidance for each class level on content and skills, resource materials, methodologies, assessment and overall school provision. The mathematics plan is well laid out and addresses key school decisions pertaining to important issues including mathematical operations, language, calculators, problem-solving strategies and estimation. Whole-school planning for English makes due provision for the three strands of oral, reading and writing. 


2.2 Child protection policy and procedures


Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Skills Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Skills, 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


The standard of teaching and learning in English is excellent. The teachers ensure that stimulating, print-rich environments are promoted in all classrooms. Lessons are well structured and highly engaging. It is evident that all teachers, in both mainstream and support settings, promote an appreciation of language and a love of reading successfully among their pupils. A comprehensive, progressive oral language programme is taught at all levels. The boys are articulate and well spoken. They discuss local and current affairs with an impressive breadth of knowledge. Their skills of debating, questioning, analysis and review are impressive. New language concepts are carefully and explicitly taught by the teachers and the pupils engage in well-prepared pair work and group tasks to consolidate their learning.


The standard of reading overall is commendable. Pupils from second class upwards read from a wide selection of appropriate reading material. The exploration of class texts is complemented by the use of individual library books and class novels. The skills of reading are taught in a developmental manner up through the school and the pupils read with a high level of expression and understanding. Some very good work was noted during the evaluation on the analysis of poetry and in the writing and recitation of a range of poems.  The pupils participate in local poetry-recitation competitions each year. The pupils attain excellent standards in writing, both functional and creative. The process of writing is integral to the quality teaching underway at all class levels. The pupils are enabled to write in a wide range of genres. The standard of the boys’ work in their copies and folders is excellent with regard to content, punctuation, handwriting and layout.


3.2 Mathematics


The teaching of mathematics is very good. Lessons are well structured with a clear emphasis on teaching fundamental concepts and skills. Classroom environments are excellent and key mathematical principles and topics are displayed effectively to aid the process of learning. The use of appropriate resources was noted during most lessons. Teachers use the mathematics textbooks judiciously and ensure that core curriculum learning objectives are foremost during the lessons at hand. Good use of mathematics games is underway and the pupils are encouraged to pose their own mathematical problems, to devise mathematics trails and to come up with a variety of approaches to solving tasks. A whole-school approach to problem solving is also taught at all levels. Features of good practice in many lessons are the sharing of learning objectives; emphasis on mental and oral mathematics; reinforcement of key mathematical language, symbols and operations; teacher modelling; and the use of stimulating cooperative tasks. Lessons are conducted using whole-class teaching. While overall standards are very good, there are pupils whose attainment levels require attention. It is recommended that the results of standardised- and teacher-designed tests be analysed more closely in order to determine the specific learning difficulties of individual pupils. More focused, group teaching informed by differentiated learning objectives, should be a consistent feature of lessons.


3.3 History


The teaching of history is excellent. The school has done outstanding work in planning for and delivering a rich history programme. Eschewing textbooks, the teachers have researched and compiled comprehensive programmes for each class level, drawn from the relevant curriculum objectives. Each balanced programme is accompanied by excellent resources, with commendable emphasis on local history. The teachers demonstrate a high level of competence in using a wide range of methodologies which centre on active learning. The use of pictures, photographs, oral evidence, artefacts, documentary evidence and story is intrinsic to their teaching. Of particular note is the extent to which the pupils are enabled to empathise with the lives and stories of people, past and present, through the use of interview, drama and role play. Classroom displays and exhibits on corridors are of a high standard. The display and frequent use of a wide variety of timelines and maps is a feature of all classrooms.


Lessons are very well presented and the teachers’ enthusiasm for history is reflected in the quality of the pupils’ learning. A notable feature of all lessons is the depth of learning achieved. When questioned, the boys displayed an impressive ability to discuss, compare, contrast and reflect on a wide range of topics. They undertake research on a regular basis and present imaginative and well-laid out projects and fact files. They are enabled to work cooperatively in groups and pairs. Historical trails and trips are important features of the school’s provision for local history. Each year the school hosts a ‘History Week’ where the boys are encouraged to bring in family artefacts and to engage in enjoyable events pertaining to aspects of the history programme. Local historians and family members are frequent visitors to the school to share their stories and lives. Effective linkages are established between the subjects in Social, Environmental and Scientific Education curriculum area. In addition, teachers ensure that learning in history is skilfully integrated across the curriculum, particularly in the pupils’ arts education and in English.


3.4 Assessment


Good assessment practices are underway in this school. The teachers use a range of assessment approaches to track the pupils’ learning. Among the approaches in use are teacher observation and questioning, teacher-designed tests and tasks, portfolios and concept mapping.  Criterion-referenced mathematics tests, drawn from a commercial scheme, are administered in December and at Easter time. The teachers are to be praised for the quality and consistency of their corrections and feedback to the pupils regarding their written work. Standardised tests in English and Mathematics are administered each year and results are communicated to parents. There is good work underway in the analysis of these mathematics results to determine areas for further teaching and to identify pupils that are in need of additional support. To build on this good practice it is recommended that further assessment and analysis be undertaken to identify the specific learning needs of a targeted pupil or group of pupils and to tailor their individual programmes accordingly. The school’s assessment tracking records will provide rich data in this respect.



4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs


A wide range of very good supports is provided to pupils with special educational needs (SEN). The school has a full-time learning support/resource teacher (recently-appointed) and a part-time resource teacher. A mathematics teacher provides additional support to pupils on a voluntary basis for four hours each week. The duties of the SEN teachers are utilised productively in response to the overall needs of the school and to the specific needs of individual pupils. Three special needs assistants work very closely with the class and SEN teachers. They carry out their support duties competently and are attentive and responsive to their particular pupils. Support for SEN pupils is provided both on an in-class and on a withdrawal basis. In-class models of teaching include provision for subject teaching to a specific class level as well as team teaching. Pupils are selected for learning support based on the outcomes of standardised tests. General and individual programmes of learning are in place, as appropriate. These are compiled in consultation with parents, class teachers and the principal. Where pupils are selected on an individual or group basis for learning support, it is recommended that a range of appropriate diagnostic assessments be used to inform more focused individual education plans and to set attainable learning targets which are reviewed regularly. Support for SEN pupils is characterised by good teaching, well-structured lessons, appropriate use of resources and supportive, warm interactions between teachers and pupils. The needs of gifted pupils are a current priority for the school. In this regard the teachers have successfully adapted their questioning techniques to provide appropriate levels of challenge to these pupils.


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


This is a welcoming school which strives to ensure that all aspects of the boys’ educational, physical and spiritual development are carefully nurtured. The school achieves this through capable leadership; effective teaching and the whole-school promotion of respect, self-esteem and cooperation. The school actively facilitates full participation by the boys in all in-school activities, with funding by the board, where necessary. A book rental scheme is in place. A wide range of co-curricular and after-school activities is underway, many funded by parents or provided free of change. These include football, swimming, soccer, rugby, basketball, French, ICT, Green Schools’ Programme actions, ‘Artist-in-the-Classroom’, Drama and chess.



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 where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.





Published May 2010





School Response to the Report


Submitted by the Board of Management



Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     


The Board of Management wishes to thank the DES inspector for her professional approach to the WSE in Harold Boys’ National School.


The Board appreciates the recognition that:

·         The standard of teaching and learning in English is excellent. 

·         Regarding the teaching of mathematics, classroom environments are excellent and key mathematical principles and topics are displayed effectively to aid the process of learning. 

·         The teaching of history is excellent.  The school has done outstanding work in planning for and delivering a rich history programme.

·         The boys conduct themselves in an exemplary manner and are courteous, respectful and friendly.

·         The principal gives excellent leadership to 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          


·         As stated in our school plan, diagnostic tests were administered in December.

·         A different termly maths test will be administered from next September in the hope that it will yield results which when analysed by teachers, will provide targeted group teaching