An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Scoil Naomh Mhuire

Castlegal, County Sligo

Uimhir rolla:  15337T


Date of inspection:  27 May 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






Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Naomh Mhuire was undertaken in May, 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 Physical Education. 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.



Introduction – school context and background


Scoil Naomh Mhuire is situated on the main Donegal/Sligo road approximately eight kilometres from Cliffoney in Co. Sligo. Enrolment has doubled since 2001 and attendance levels are very good.


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

Scoil Naomh Mhuire is a two teacher a rural, co-educational school under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Elphin. It is one of two schools in the parish of Cliffoney. The school serves the immediate local area. However a significant number of pupils are now enrolling from the northern extreme of the catchment area. This is due to the increase in population and the new housing developments in Kinlough, Co. Leitrim and in the general area of Tullaghan, Co.Leitrim on the road to Bundoran, Co. Donegal. The school is committed to the holistic development of pupils in a positive and secure learning environment.


1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted, meets regularly and functions in accordance with the requirements of the relevant Department of Education and Science circulars. It is clear that this is a dynamic, conscientious and hard-working board whose members give dedicated support to the principal in dealing with her routine responsibilities. Safety, policy development and a potential building project have been the board’s main priorities in recent times.

Local personnel are employed to carry out routine maintenance work and a part-time cleaner undertakes cleaning duties once a week. Accommodation is limited at present. The school, built in 1950 is located on a small site and comprises two small classrooms, a very small office and an extension consisting of toilets and a sink area. A corridor links all of this space. The principal has to undertake her administrative work during administrative days in the corridor. The sink area is located beside the entrance to the toilets. The board is proactively exploring the options available to improve the school facilities and is working on plans for an extension to the building.


The board actively involves itself in developing, discussing and ratifying a wide range of policies and procedures. The board considers the strengths of the school to be its size, the quality of the teaching and the interest of the teachers in each individual child.


1.3 In-school management

The principal teacher who was appointed in July 2005 shows commendable dedication to her teaching and administrative duties. Her efficiency and high commitment to the post are evidenced by, for example, some notable organisational and administrative developments she has initiated. She is assisted by the deputy principal. Together, they create a happy, caring atmosphere for the pupils and provide a rich, integrated education for them. Both teachers bring tremendous zeal to their teaching and the welfare of the pupils is uppermost in their preparation and implementation of the curriculum. They plan to set up a school website.


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school and its wider community work in collaboration with each other. Arrangements are in place annually for formal parent-teacher meetings. The board has made an attempt to establish a parents’ association but it was unsuccessful. Many pupils are active members of the local GAA club. The school prepares an annual play for the community each Christmas. The performance takes place in a community centre in the parish.


1.5 Management of pupils

The relationship between staff and pupils is open and respectful. Pupils present as happy and contented. They receive individual attention from their teachers which is appreciated by parents. During the evaluation pupils demonstrated a good attitude to learning and were motivated and interested in their work. Supervision is undertaken conscientiously.



2. Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of the school plan is good. It consists of all the key policy areas: organisational and curricular policies and school practices and procedures. The board of management is engaged in discussing and ratifying the policies. It is recommended that its members engage in reviewing the curricular policies, as advised at the post-evaluation meeting. The new phonics programme at the junior end needs to be aligned with the existing policy in the school. Some of the organisational policies also require some minor review. Consideration should be given to inserting review dates in all policies to facilitate the stage-by-stage review of the school plan which is an integral part of the school development planning process and which will need to be provided for. A long-term planning diary would assist in this regard. The school plans to set up a school garden in the future. It is also recommended that policies on both assessment and record-keeping are formulated in line with the school’s own planning schedule.

The quality of classroom planning is very good. Teachers provide monthly reports, long-term plans and short-term plans to support their work. Their use of a common template is praiseworthy. The teachers provide a variety of charts, resources and materials to support their teaching.


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



Múintear an Ghaeilge go héifeachtach. Is inmholta cumas labhartha na ndaltaí. Tá stór leathan focal acu, tá rialacha gramadaí agus tá feidhmeanna teanga ar eolas acu. Cuirtear cairteacha, prionta sa timpeallacht agus léaráidí ar fáil mar thaca don fhoghaim sna hardranganna. Baintear feidhm as an gclár Drochlá Ruairí go héifeachtach sa seomra sinsir. Is inmholta an cur amach cruthaitheach sa scríbhneoireacht atá ag na daltaí. Tá siad in ann tabhairt faoi réimsí éagsúla scríbhneoireachta atá ar taispeáint go tarraingteach sa rangsheomra. Tá caighdeán na léitheoireachta le moladh. Tá muinín agus tuiscint ag na daltaí. Úsáidtear sean téacsleabhair agus cuirtear béim ar an bhfoghraíocht le linn an teagaisc. Moltar don scoil breis ábhar léitheoireachta a dhéanamh atá in oiriúint do na haoisghrúpaí éagsúla. Tá na hoidí in ann ábhar léitheoireachta agus cluichí féin-deartha a ullmhú a chuirfeadh go mór leis an bhfoghlaim. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as amhráin, rannta, scéalaíocht, drámaíocht, agallaimh agus cluichí le linn an teagaisc ar fud na scoile. Úsáidtear an cur chuige cumarsáideach le linn an teagaisc sa scoil. Cuireann an dá oide dóthain deiseanna ar fáil chun an Ghaeilge a chleachtadh. Moltar don scoil plean a dhéanamh amach le haghaidh na briathra a mhúineadh i modh struchtúrtha ar fud na scoile.



Irish is taught effectively. The pupils’ speaking ability is praiseworthy. They have a wide range of vocabulary and have a knowledge of grammar and of language functions. Charts, print environment and diagrams are all provided to support learning in the senior classes. The Drochlá Ruairí programme is used effectively in the senior room. The pupils’ creative writing output is commendable. They produce a wide range of different genres which is displayed attractively in the classroom. The standard of reading is noteworthy. Pupils demonstrate confidence and understanding. Old textbooks are used and an emphasis is placed on pronunciation. It is recommended that the teachers devise supplementary reading material appropriate for the various age groups. The teachers are capable of producing material and games that would augment the learning. The teachers use songs, poems, stories, drama, interviews and games effectively during their teaching. The communicative approach is used in the school. Both teachers provide many opportunities for pupils to practise their Irish. It is recommended that the school devises a plan to teach the Irish verbs in a structured manner.




Oral language, reading and writing are taught very well in the school. Nursery rhymes, phonics, vocabulary and poetry are very well attended to at the junior end. The Big Book format is taught successfully although the range of big books available is limited. It is recommended that a greater emphasis is placed on developing receptive skills and listening skills at the junior end of the school. These can be taught formally through circle time and through focused listening activities. Grammar, phonics, penmanship and spelling are given due emphasis throughout the school. While Drama is used as a teaching methodology it needs to be further developed as a subject. Lots of discussion and brainstorming takes place on oral topics. Consideration should be given to the development of debating. Research and project work are developed.


Pre-reading is attended to with an emphasis on visual discrimination exercises. Pupils engage enthusiastically in reading tasks and games. Reading skills are progressed. However, reading with expression needs to be developed in the school. The integrated teaching of the class novel at the senior end is praiseworthy. The pupils conduct book reviews on a regular basis. Process writing is well developed and pupils write in a variety of genres. The standard of the pupils’ creative writing is commendable.


3.2 Mathematics

The overall quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good. Pupils are taught in class groupings and work is differentiated accordingly. The structure and pace of lessons are very good. The teachers link the subject to the pupils’ experience. The development of mathematical language is appropriately emphasised. There is a commendable use of concrete materials and games to support learning. New concepts are explained very clearly and consolidated appropriately. Pupils responded very well to questioning, oral work and written problems during the evaluation. It is recommended that the learning support teacher provides in-class support in mathematics. Due to the multi-class arrangements support in the area of problem-solving would prove worthwhile. It is recommended that the school considers the development of maths trails in the school grounds.


3.3 Physical Education

The quality of teaching and learning is very good despite the constraints of the school buildings and the site and the consequent dependency on the weather for conducting lessons. External coaches from Youth Sport West support the implementation of Physical Education in the school. The quality of the delivery by the coaches is very good. There is an emphasis in the school on the strands of games, aquatics, dance and athletics and the development of skills within these strands. Basketball as a game is very well developed. There are opportunities provided to engage in competitions with other schools through its involvement in Cumann na mBunscoil. In the lessons observed, the use of equipment was effective. Sports equipment is stored in a shed purchased through funding from Ceantar Laga Árd-Riachtanais (CLÁR). This is a targeted investment programme in rural areas funded by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs. The funding was also used to erect nets in the yard, repair the basketball stands and to secure soccer goalposts. Most of the  sports’ equipment was accessed through previous involvement in the Buntús programme. The school has participated in the Food Dudes programme and there is a promotion of healthy eating in the school. It is recommended that the school develops orienteering which could be linked with the maths trails. During the evaluation visit, an interest and an enthusiasm for sport was evident among the pupils in all classes.


3.4 Assessment

Individual pupils’ work is closely monitored in the school through teacher observation, the use of regular spelling tests, checklists, oral questioning, written tests, table testing and correction of copies. Assessment results are used to plan appropriate programmes of work for the pupils. Standardised tests in Mathematics and English, using the Sigma-T and Micra-T are administered to pupils from first class to sixth class while the middle infant screening test (MIST) is administered to senior infants and records are maintained. The school complies with the requirements of Circular Letter 0138/2006 (Supporting Assessment in Primary Schools) in relation to standardised testing. The school is planning to develop both assessment and record-keeping policies. The teachers intend to develop profiles on each pupil. Consideration should be given to using the Drumcondra profiles as assessment tools in English.



4. Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of support for pupils is very good. The support is focused. A range of valuable resources and materials has been obtained to enhance learning-support provision. There is a commendable emphasis on personal, social and academic development. The support teacher, based in a neighbouring school has a very good rapport with the pupils and staff. The parents are consulted in relation to the development of the learning programmes and class teachers differentiate their approaches and expectations for those pupils receiving support. It is recommended that those pupils be tested at regular intervals. Diagnostic tests were administered between the in-school evaluation and the post-evaluation meetings. It is also recommended that a monthly report on the work of learning support be prepared and filed. Support teaching is conducted in the corridor outside the classrooms. This area is subject to constant disruption due to passers such as visitors to the school and other pupils passing by on their way to the toilet. The support teacher also works in classrooms in areas such as creative writing and literacy work. It is recommended that the support teacher should extend this further. Consideration should be given to making more use of circle time and to the further development of listening skills through the collaboration of the junior class teacher and the support teacher. It is also recommended that the support teacher supplements the development of problem-solving skills in mathematics in the senior room.


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

The school does not receive any additional resources to promote educational inclusion and, at present, there are no pupils from minority groups. The welcoming and caring climate in the school ensures that individual pupils are supported appropriately and sensitively. 



5. Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas:

·         The school has a very good sense of community spirit where all of the educational partners work in collaboration with each other.

·         Members of the teaching staff are committed and dedicated; their planning in preparation for their work is of high quality.

·         The quality of care and support for pupils is very good.

·         The school has a comprehensive school plan.

·         Overall, the standard of teaching and learning is very good in the school.


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

·         The possibility of further in-class learning support for pupils needs to be explored among the staff.

·         Consideration should be given to a review of some existing policies; it is recommended that polices in assessment and record keeping are developed.

·         It is recommended that listening skills are further developed at the junior end of 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 December 2008