An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Náisiúnta Pádraig Naofa

Corr Gharra, Contae na Gaillimhe

Uimhir rolla:   15228O

 

Date of inspection: 9 October 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Pádraig Naofa was undertaken in October, 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Science. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Náisiúnta Pádraig Naofa is a co-educational primary school situated in a tranquil rural setting in the townland of Corgary, near Mountbellew in County Galway. The school maintains a relatively steady total enrolment figure from year to year and no significant changes are anticipated in the foreseeable future. School records indicate that there is a history of very good attendance on the part of the pupils. Pupils are divided into two multi-grade classes from junior infants to second class and from fourth class to sixth class respectively. 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

29

Mainstream classes in the school

7

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

2

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

S. N. Pádraig Naofa is one of three schools in the parish of Menlough under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Tuam. The school is characterised by a strong spirit of friendliness, respect and cooperation. Particular emphasis is placed on creating a caring and inclusive atmosphere in which all staff members assume a shared responsibility to meet the individual needs of the pupils. The board of management and parent body actively support the staff in providing a broad range of educational experiences with a view to fostering self-esteem, developing communication skills and promoting the concept of life-long learning.  

 

1.2 Board of management

The board meets at least four times a year and more often if necessary. Minutes of meetings are recorded in a manner which clearly details the responsibilities of individual members in relation to agreed future action. The board has been involved in the formulation of some policy statements and is to issue an annual report on the operation of the school this year. The board is encouraged to become more proactive in the area of policy formulation and to continue its efforts in promoting increased levels of parental involvement in policy development and review. A three-year curriculum review plan has been documented and it is recommended that this now be expanded to form a strategy development statement which details proposed timeframes for the completion of work in such areas as maintenance, building, organisation, policy development and review. It would also be of value to circulate draft policy documents to board members in advance of meetings and to dedicate some time to considering recent legislation and its implications for the school. Members of the board have availed of training in the past and all welcome the recently announced training opportunities for new boards provided by the Catholic Primary School Management Association.

 

The board recognises the benefits to be derived from continuing professional development and supports the staff in developing its professional expertise. A staff meeting is organised each term to enable the staff to share ideas, plan activities, review curriculum implementation and identify areas for development. Attendance at courses organised by Leadership Development for Schools and engagement with the Primary Professional Development Service is facilitated. Staff members are currently focussing on developing expertise in the use of information and communication technologies (ICT). The teachers have participated in a number of national initiatives involving the use of technology and are now developing a school website.

 

Another priority for the board is the development of the school premises.  The main school building dates from 1900 and comprises two classrooms, a kitchen area and toilet facilities. The classrooms are small, space for display and storage is limited and neither classroom has a sink. An area between the two classrooms provides kitchen facilities, space for coats and shoes, and also functions as an access to the toilet area. This gives rise to concerns in relation to safety and hygiene. A small prefabricated one-roomed unit, situated close to the main building, functions as a learning-support/resource room, a principal’s office, a secretary’s office and a store. The school has ample play areas including the use of a neighbouring field. The board is currently considering its options in relation to obtaining funding to extend and develop the school’s accommodation.

 

The school is well resourced with equipment to support the curricular areas which form part of this evaluation. The board is to be commended in particular for its interest in supporting staff initiatives in relation to the teaching of Irish and the use of ICT. Irish books, appropriate to all class levels, have been purchased to facilitate the implementation of a paired-reading programme. Board members, parents and the local community have engaged with the staff and pupils in support of project work spanning various areas of the curriculum.

 

1.3 In-school management

In this two-teacher school the in-school management team consists of the principal and the assistant teacher who work together in a very effective manner. A positive, caring, family atmosphere is fostered in the school with both teachers co-operating on specific initiatives which involve regular interaction between the classes. The principal has participated in Forbairt, the national programme for leadership development and is leading the whole-school planning process with interest and diligence. The assistant teacher, who holds a special duties post, assumes responsibility for a wide range of activities including supervision, the production of a school booklet for parents, the organisation of an induction day for parents, the teaching of instrumental music and co-ordination of the Green Schools’ Project. The in-school management team shares a vision for the school and regularly reviews organisational, pastoral and curricular matters.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

While a parents’ association functioned for a number of years, the association is no longer active and is in need of rejuvenation, a venture for which the board and teaching staff express support. Notwithstanding the absence of an association, the parents regularly support the work of the board and of the staff. In collaboration with the board, they have been instrumental in obtaining pull-in areas along the narrow approach road to the school and in procuring road signage and parking facilities. Their attendance at school concerts and open days such as the Discover Science Day and the French Day, their support for fundraising activities and their assistance with the organisation of school masses, walks, tours and extra-curricular activities are indicative of the ways in which they are involved in the life of the school. The parents are also very supportive of the pupils’ participation in sporting activities, competitions and quizzes.

 

The school fosters good relations with the broader school community. Links with the local church are forged through the organisation of religious ceremonies, school masses and parents’ meetings focussing on sacramental catechesis. The school has the use of neighbouring land for field games and local personnel, extended family and past pupils regularly attend school organised events. A high level of engagement with the local community ensued from the school’s Beo heritage award project. Old photographs, artefacts, local knowledge and information were shared with the pupils, and members of the community participated in film-making as part of the project.

 

The school uses a variety of channels to communicate with the parent body. Parents may link with the representatives of the board and are welcome to visit the school at appropriate times. A school calendar, notes and newsletters are issued on a regular basis and a school notice board is used to provide information about ongoing events. An induction day for parents of new pupils is organised when necessary and parent-teacher meetings are held during the first term. Individual pupil reports are issued at the end of the school year.

 

The parents’ representatives express a high level of satisfaction with the work of the school. They praise in particular the emphasis placed on the development of social skills and the manner in which pupils are encouraged to participate in a range of different activities. They report that parental concerns now revolve around the accommodation needs of the school, specifically the need for library facilities, display areas and space for performance and indoor physical activity.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

Teacher-pupil interaction is very respectful and pupils are friendly, mannerly and very well behaved. A caring attitude is nurtured among the pupils and both indoor and outdoor activities are carefully structured and supervised. Pupils of different age groups are provided with regular opportunities to work and play together and to share and discuss their ideas. The use of a variety of grouping strategies, including mixed-age and mixed-ability grouping, and the organisation of inter-classroom activities contribute significantly to the school’s family atmosphere and to the development of good social and communicative skills.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The school avails of the Primary Professional Development Service to assist with whole-school and classroom planning. Draft whole-school policy statements are generally drawn up by the staff and then presented to the board. Some draft documents are circulated to parents but in the main documents are made available for viewing in the school. An open day successfully facilitated a review of the policy for Relationships and Sexuality Education and it is envisaged that this strategy will be used again. The rejuvenation of the parents’ association should also serve to foster higher levels of parental engagement in policy formulation and review in the future.

 

The school plan addresses the policies required under legislation and provides clear guidance in relation to a wide range of organisational procedures. It also incorporates policy statements on all curricular areas. For the most part, the curricular policies identify a comprehensive range of strategies and approaches, and the proposed progression in relation to knowledge acquisition and the development of concepts and skills is very clearly outlined. There is a need to review the policies on enrolment and special education and to reflect more accurately the full extent of the school’s work in the area of Arts Education. The manner in which parents can support curriculum implementation is outlined in some policies and it would be of value to include this aspect in all curricular policies. 

 

The content of the school plan is reflected in the teachers’ detailed long-term planning. Topic webs are used to plan integration and it is suggested that these webs could be shared with the support teachers as a means of informing the planning of cross-curricular support. There is a systematic approach to short-term planning. An agreed template is used for forward planning and for recording the work completed. The activities in some curricular areas and in particular Mathematics are very clearly differentiated for the different class levels. Further refinement of short-term planning should focus on providing a clear statement of objectives in terms of learning outcomes and on linking assessment modes to the stated objectives.  

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language 

 

Gaeilge

Is léir go bhfuil na hoidí báúil don Ghaeilge agus an-tógtha leis an gcur chuige cumarsáideach. Cleachtar straitéisí nua agus cruthaítear suímh go rathúil ina dtugtar faoi labhairt, léamh agus scríobh na teanga ar bhealach comhtháite. Déantar gníomhaíochtaí éisteachta a láimhseáil go ceardúil chun tuiscint a threisiú agus foghraíocht agus dul na teanga a chur ar an gcluas. Múintear dánta agus amhráin ag gach rangleibhéal agus seinntear an fheadóg stáin ó rang a haon ar aghaidh. Tugtar deiseanna rialta do na daltaí páirt a ghlacadh i gcluichí teanga, drámaíocht, scéalaíocht agus rólimirt. Léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint mhaith ar réimse cuí teanga agus mealltar iad chun caint shoiléir a chleachtadh agus abairtí iomlána a chumadh. Tugtar go meabhrach faoi fhorchéimniú a chur i gcrích ó rang go rang agus b’fhiú chuige sin réimse teanga a aimsiú faoi na fo-théamaí atá ceaptha do na rangleibhéil dhifriúla. B’fhiú chomh maith clár gramadaí a leagan amach agus na straitéisí chun é a chur i gcrích a aontú ar bhonn uile-scoile. 

 

Leagtar clár suimiúil réamhléitheoireachta agus léitheoireachta sa scoil. Tá réimse deas leabhar lámhdhéanta curtha le chéile ag na bunranganna bunaithe ar an obair ó bhéal. Eagraítear léitheoireacht pháirtíochta ar bhonn uile-scoile chun suim a mhúscailt sa léitheoireacht sna bunranganna agus cumas léitheoireachta agus ceistithe a chur chun cinn sna hardranganna. Is inmholta mar a chruthaítear comhthéacs nádúrtha cumarsáide agus na daltaí sinsearacha ag léamh leabhar beag do na daltaí óga, ag aimsiú nithe sna pictiúir i bpáirt leo agus á gceistiú. Léitear scéalta, dánta agus ábhar eile sa roinn shinsearach freisin agus léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint mhaith ar a bhfuil á léamh acu. Téann siad i mbun scríbhneoireachta go rialta agus, mar thaca don cheird, ba thairbheach timpeallacht saibhir sa phrionta a chruthú ina n-áirítear liosta d’fhréamhacha briathra. Moltar freisin scagadh a dhéanamh ar théacs na scéalta, na ndánta, agus na n-amhrán agus leas a bhaint as modh na ráite chun raon de nathanna cainte a chur i seilbh na ndaltaí a bhféadfaidís tarraingt orthu agus iad i mbun labhartha agus scríbhneoireachta.

 

Irish

It is clear that the teachers are favourably disposed towards Irish and towards the communicative approach. New strategies are practised and situations are successfully created in which speaking, reading and writing are approached in an integrated manner. Listening activities are skilfully handled to develop understanding and to acclimatise the ear to the sounds and constructs of the language. Poems and songs are taught at all class levels and the tin whistle is played from first class onwards. Frequent opportunities are given to the pupils to participate in language games, drama, story-telling and role-play. The pupils display a good understanding of an appropriate range of language. They are enticed to speak clearly and to form full sentences.  The teachers are mindful of ensuring progression from class to class and, towards this end, they should identify the range of language under the sub-themes formulated for the different classes. They should also lay out a grammar programme and agree a whole-school approach to its implementation.

 

An interesting pre-reading and reading programme is followed in the school. A nice range of handmade books has been put together in the junior classes based on the oral work. Paired reading is organised on a whole-school basis to stimulate interest in reading in the junior classes and to develop pupils’ reading and questioning ability in the senior classes. It is commendable how a natural context for communication is created as the senior pupils read little books for the younger pupils, pick out items in the pictures with them and question them. Stories, poems and other material are also read in the senior section and the pupils display a good understanding of the content. Pupils engage in writing regularly and to support the task, it would be of benefit to cultivate a print-rich environment incorporating a list of the roots of verbs. It is also suggested that the text of stories, poems and songs should be explored and ‘Modh na Ráite’ used to enable the pupils to gain possession of phrases which they can draw on while speaking and writing.

 

English

The work in English reflects the key principals of the curriculum and the content of the school plan. Oral language, reading and writing activities are carefully integrated with other curricular areas. Attractive materials are used to stimulate interest and to facilitate the organisation of differentiated tasks. The teachers are to be commended for the pacing of their teaching and on the variety of their practice in structuring group work in this curricular area.

 

Discrete oral language lessons are taught throughout the school. Early activities are based on traditional rhymes, poems, stories and the content of large-format books. Language enrichment and very good listening skills are fostered through creative, enjoyable activities. Discussions based on current affairs and on local, national and global events are skilfully managed at senior level. Pupils at all levels are questioned effectively and encouraged to retell stories and events from different perspectives as an aid to developing comprehension and higher-order thinking skills. The pupils are exposed to a range of poetry at each class level. Their appreciation of this genre of literature could be further enhanced by guiding them to capture the expressiveness of the poetry in their reading and recitation.

 

Reading materials are carefully chosen to match abilities and to foster confidence and competence. A systematic whole-school approach is taken to the development of phonological awareness. Classroom libraries are well stocked and the use of the mobile library service provides opportunities to vary the selection of books. The organisation of book fairs provides a further means of augmenting the supply of reading materials and of motivating the pupils to broaden their reading experiences. Pupils display a keen interest in reading and capably retell and summarise the content of short stories and novels. The majority of pupils read with fluency and expression. Reading logs are maintained at all class levels and progress in reading is regularly assessed. Assessment results indicate the achievement of consistently good standards of reading.

 

Discussion, questioning and story framing are skilfully used to elicit high levels of pupil engagement in written tasks. A print-rich environment is particularly well focussed on supporting the early stages of reading and writing. Effective cooperation on the part of the staff enables the pupils to develop a neat and legible cursive style of handwriting. The work on display and in copybooks indicates variety and appropriate progression.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The activities in Mathematics are very well differentiated and are regularly integrated with other curricular areas. Despite limited space, early mathematical activities incorporate sand and water-play and the use of a wide range of manipulatives. The teaching of Mathematics is effectively structured at all class levels. Appropriate emphasis is placed on language usage and the development of problem-solving skills. Effective in-class support enables pupils to participate fully in classroom activities and in outdoor mathematical tasks and trails. Pupils are enabled to encounter Mathematics in the environment and to recognise the function of Mathematics in everyday life. A range of successful strategies is used to aid memorisation and recall of number facts, and these should now form part of the whole-school plan.

 

Pupils, in general, display a positive attitude toward Mathematics. They recall number facts swiftly and communicate their mathematical thinking with confidence. They routinely practise estimation and demonstrate a clear understanding of its relevance in everyday situations. The work in copybooks is well laid out and regularly corrected. The staff should now seek to develop a mathematics-rich environment throughout the school ensuring ready access to mathematical resources in all teaching areas including the learning-support/resource room. It is also suggested that the school might review its policy in relation to the teaching of subtraction.

 

3.3 Science

Pupils are enabled through a range of practical activities to engage in scientific investigation and discovery, to enhance their awareness of environmental issues and to deepen their understanding of the technological world in which they live. A suitable whole-school plan spanning a two-year period has been prepared. The teachers frequently adopt a thematic approach with topics being treated at various levels of complexity in the different classrooms. Chosen themes provide a rich source for integration with other curricular areas. The locality is used as a starting point for many investigations and parents are involved in project work and in the organisation of nature trails.

 

There is a very clear sense of progression in the work in Science covered throughout the school. Group activities are very well structured with a mixture of age groups working together and supporting each other in the completion of tasks. Pupils are guided in using criteria ranging from the simple to the complex to identify, sort and classify plant life in the locality. Similarities and differences are observed and recorded with praiseworthy use being made of the senses. Worksheets are carefully designed to support differentiation and to guide discovery. Work displayed on tables of investigation and recorded in copybooks, indicates suitable variety, range and depth of exploration. Copybooks are retained from year to year and this good practice facilitates review, consolidation and progression. The Green Schools Initiative and other project work involve the pupils in recycling, composting, energy conservation and the development of a school garden. Pupils display a high level of interest in their investigations and are knowledgeable about the local environment. Consideration should be given to the use of flipcharts as another means of recording observations.

 

3.4 Assessment

A broad range of suitable assessment modes is used to identify individual needs and to monitor pupil progress across different curricular areas. This includes the use of the Belfield Infant Assessment Profiles, the Middle Infant Screening Test, the Sigma-t for Mathematics, the Drumcondra Attainment Test in English and implementation of the Reading Recovery Programme when appropriate. With regard to Reading Recovery, the school is currently in a review period during which pupils who received intervention last year will be closely monitored to establish whether gains are being maintained. Work in all curricular areas is regularly corrected, samples of work are collected and the teachers have commenced using a digital camera to maintain portfolios of work in the Visual Arts.

 

The size of the school and the level of cooperation among the staff are significant factors in the assessment process. The organisation of in-class support, group work and shared activities across different age groups, ability ranges and classes enables the staff to develop a deep awareness of the individual needs of each child. Teachers regularly discuss their observations in relation to pupil motivation and levels of participation. In conjunction with test results, this information is used to inform the planning of teaching and learning experiences and the provision of support in line with the pupils’ developmental needs. Focussed formal consultation occurs on the transfer of pupils from the junior to the senior division of the school. Parent/teacher meetings are scheduled annually during the first term and individual parents may also arrange to meet teachers at other times.  Pupil progress reports are issued at the end of the school year. It is recommended that the staff should now collate the results of assessments in a manner which readily facilitates the tracking of individual pupil progress.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school avails of the services of a learning-support teacher and a resource teacher who are based in neighbouring schools. Both teachers are very committed and engage in continuing professional development to develop their personal expertise in providing support for pupils with learning difficulties and special educational needs. The teachers visit the school on a daily basis and timetable arrangements have been reviewed recently in the interest of maximising teacher-pupil contact. The provision of support incorporates withdrawal on an individual and group basis as well as the organisation of in-class support in Mathematics in the junior classes. Learning-support focuses on both literacy and numeracy and incorporates Reading Recovery when appropriate.

 

The provision of support teaching is carefully planned. An individual profile and learning programme or an individual education plan is prepared for each pupil based on school-based assessments and professional reports. A range of methodologies, learning activities and resources are identified and clearly matched to the prioritised needs of each pupil. Greater specificity in identifying the base line of competencies from which some of the programmes commence would further assist the evaluation of progress.  The teachers provide short-term planning which is concise and focussed. They regularly avail of opportunities to integrate activities and it is suggested that the topic webs prepared by the class teachers could assist in planning integration which would support the pupils’ participation in classroom activities across a range of curricular areas.   

 

The teachers establish very good rapport with the pupils and considerable effort is expended in preparing and sourcing attractive materials to engage the pupils in structured learning activities suitably matched to their needs. There is regular consultation with class teachers and the level of contact with other professional personnel working with the pupils outside of the school setting is praiseworthy. The support teaching activities are mainly accommodated in the portacabin. There is a need to create areas for display of books, materials and charts and to equip the room with appropriate furniture and writing boards. A school plan on learning support and special education has been prepared. It should now be developed to incorporate the staged approach to provision, to guide early intervention and in-class support practices, and to direct change in preparation for the full implementation of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004.  

 

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

The school receives a grant under the national action plan for educational inclusion, Delivering Quality of Opportunity in Schools. The grant is used to provide literacy resources and to support full pupil participation in all school related activities.

 

5.     Conclusion

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         The board of management, staff and parent body have a shared vision for the school and are committed to providing an inclusive and caring learning environment in which the individual needs of each pupil are addressed.

·         The teachers use very effective and creative methodologies, and provide a broad range of educational experiences which contribute significantly to the achievement of good standards of attainment in each of the curricular areas evaluated. 

·         Praiseworthy attention is focussed on utilising the school’s technological resources as an effective tool for teaching and learning.

·         The support teachers are to be commended for their dedication, commitment and practice, and for their high level of interest in developing their professional expertise for the further enhancement of the service.

·         The pupils in this school are commended for the courtesy and respect they show to one another, to the teachers and to visitors to the school. 

 

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

 

·         The board should prepare a strategy development statement covering a period of at least three years to guide and direct its work in relation to policy formulation and review, curriculum implementation, enhancement of the school premises, development of the pupil-support services and the publication of an annual report on the operation of the school.

·         The planning process and the implementation of future change and development would be enhanced by the formation of a parents’ association affiliated to the National Parents’ Council.

 

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 April 2009