An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Dromagh National School

Dromagh, Mallow, County Cork

Uimhir rolla: 15380U

 

Date of inspection: 5 March 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

1.     Quality of school management

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

1.2 Board of management

1.3 In-school management

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

1.5 Management of pupils

 

2.     Quality of school planning

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

3.1 Language

3.2 Mathematics

3.3 Physical Education

3.4 Assessment

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

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

 

5.     Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Dromagh National School was undertaken in March 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

 

Dromagh NS is a rural, co-educational, three-teacher primary school situated west of Mallow on the Killarney Road. It is one of three schools serving the parish of Dromtariffe. Enrolment figures have remained steady in recent years and projections indicate that this situation should prevail in the medium term. Overall, average attendance rates for pupils compare favourably with published figures nationally. The school was constructed in 1901 and a programme of significant refurbishment was completed in 2002.

 

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

54

Mainstream classes in the school

3

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

3

Special needs assistants

3

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

Dromagh NS is under the patronage of the Bishop of Kerry. Its ethos statement expresses a commitment to enabling pupils to achieve their academic, intellectual, moral, spiritual, social, cultural and physical potentials in a caring environment that promotes respect and personal responsibility. While the school professes a strong commitment to its Catholic ethos, pupils of other denominations and none are welcomed.

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The board of management is properly constituted and provides very effective leadership and guidance to the school. The board meets at least six times a year. Minutes of meetings are carefully maintained and an agreed report for staff and parents is prepared at the end of each meeting. School finances are certified annually. Both principal and chairperson are in regular contact between meetings. Members of the new board have attended training. The board regards  the following as key strength of the school: a dedicated teaching and ancillary staff, the support of parents and parents’ acknowledgement of and pride in the centrality of the school in the community. The school building and grounds are excellently maintained, and there is continuous planning for improvement of the school environment. The board has been proactive in developing and reviewing policies in a range of organisational and administrative areas and it is suggested that it will now begin to engage in curricular policy formulation. The school’s Enrolment Policy should be reviewed to ensure that statutory obligations pertaining to the Education Act (1998) and the Equal Status Act (2000/2004) are observed. Current priorities include finalising various policies and promoting greater use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the school’s curriculum. The board is also concerned at the lack of parking near the school. There is an active and supportive Parents Association (PA) which has strong links with the board, principal and staff.

 

1.3 In-school management

 

Since her appointment in October 2000 the principal’s service has been marked by tremendous dedication, professionalism and a strong commitment to sharing leadership with colleagues and stakeholders in the best interests of the pupils. She has guided significant developments in the school in a sensitive, capable and collegial manner. She acknowledges the excellent support and commitment of the board, parents’ association and general parent body. The principal is ably assisted in the day-to-day running of the school by her two permanent colleagues, both of whom have posts of responsibility. The principal leads learning in the school by example and by engaging with staff in frequent discussion on curricular issues. A part-time school secretary provides valuable assistance to the principal, performing a wide range of clerical and organisational duties in a highly competent manner.

 

The post-holders have curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities and meet regularly. Responsibilities are clearly defined and each member of the in-school management team carries out her duties in a professional and conscientious manner. A regular review of duties of post holders should add even greater cohesion to the functioning of the in-school management team. Such a review would enable post holders to concentrate on a particular curricular area for a specified period, thus facilitating the review and development of that curricular area.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

Considerable and worthwhile effort is expended in cultivating the close links and co-operation which exist between parents and teachers. Frequent written communication, parent/teacher meetings, sport and games, religious ceremonies, outings, school concerts and informal parent/teacher contact are among the many activities providing opportunities to develop trust and co-operation. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held in November and it is planned to issue year-end written reports on pupils’ progress commencing in June 2008.

 

The school has an active and supportive parents’ association with which the principal works closely and effectively. The association contributes to educational provision through financial support for swimming lessons, educational outings, sporting and other equipment, library books and the school book rental scheme. The association hosts a welcome meal for new parents on enrolment day and funds a First Holy Communion party. Parents have organised First Aid training, been involved in promoting healthy eating and help with the organisation of many sporting activities.  Parents have assisted in drafting policies on Nutrition and Relationships and Sexuality Education.

 

The inspector met with representatives of the parents’ association and the parent representatives on the board of management as part of the whole-school evaluation process. The parents expressed unequivocal satisfaction with the overall educational provision offered to their children. They were very pleased with the levels of communication between parents and teachers and were complimentary of the school on the speed with which any parents’ concerns were addressed.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

Pupils in Dromagh NS are well behaved, courteous and respectful. The staff, board and parents have co-operated effectively to put in place an effective code of discipline and an anti-bullying policy. Teachers in particular are to be commended for creating a positive caring learning environment. Classroom rules are clear, simple and prominently displayed. Pupils respond well to the provision of a broad curriculum, a good range of teaching methods, fruitful involvement in a variety of extra curricular activities and they work in a safe, pleasant and caring environment.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. The school is to be commended for its engagement with the planning process in a way that is on-going, collaborative and responsive to identified needs within the school. Staff  have commendably conducted a school review and have outlined a strategic plan which prioritises policy development in curricular, organisational and resource areas over the next five years. The advice of a school development planning advisor proved very useful in putting this plan in place. A range of comprehensive school policies has been developed in organisational and administrative areas. Among the documents compiled and ratified by the board since the last school report are policies on health and safety, enrolment, special educational needs, homework, substance abuse and a policy promoting acceptable internet use. Draft policy documents are sent to parents for comment prior to being ratified by the board. It is planned to have all policy documents signed and dated at board level from now on. Curricular planning at a whole school level has also been comprehensively attended to. When planning for History is complete the school will have policies in place to deal with all areas of the 1999 Curriculum.

 

All teachers approach classroom planning in a conscientious way. They share a commitment to deliver a broad and balanced learning experience to their pupils. Detailed yearly schemes of work are drawn up and staff have adopted a common template for fortnightly planning of work. This template refers to the strands and strand units of the curriculum and the good practice evidenced in short-term planning could be further enhanced by closer alignment of planning with the content objectives in each curricular area. Such an approach would allow for more careful monitoring of continuity and progression in learning.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

 

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

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Moltar dáiríreacht agus díograis na n-oidí maidir le teagasc na Gaeilge. Déantar caidreamh leis na daltaí i nGaeilge go leanúnach le linn na hoibre agus úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go coitianta mar theanga bhainistíochta ranga. Chomh maith leis sin chonacthas an Corpoideachas á mhúineadh trí Ghaeilge sna meán agus ardranganna. Léirítear na ceachtanna go struchtúrtha, bríomhar agus sonraítear ardchaighdeán san obair i gcoitinne ó thaobh tuiscint agus scríobh na teanga de. Múintear na bunmhúnlaí comhrá agus raon leathan foclóra go céimniúil. Aithrisítear rannta agus dánta oiriúnacha ins na ranganna go léir agus moltar an ghníomhaíocht agus an drámaíocht a chuirtear leo siúd go háirithe ins na meánranganna. Spreagtar na daltaí chun labhartha trí chluichí cainte agus obair i bpéirí, agus baintear úsáid fhiúntach as raon leathan áiseanna chun tacú leis an bhfoghlaim. Léann na daltaí le tuiscint agus le cruinneas. Eagraítear gníomhaíochtaí scríbhneoireachta éagsúla go rialta agus déantar monatóireacht inmholta ar shaothar scríofa na ndaltaí.  Déantar an-chúram den pheannaireacht agus den néatacht. Chun barr maitheasa a chur ar an dea-obair sa Ghaeilge, moltar don fhoireann anois díriú isteach ar mhuinín na ndaltaí maidir lena gcumas cainte féin a fhorbairt a thuilleadh ar bhealach níos cumarsáidí.

 

Irish

 

Teachers are commended for the earnest fervour with which they approach the teaching of Irish. Irish is used extensively as the language of classroom management and teachers use Irish frequently in the course of their teaching. In this regard PE was observed being taught through Irish in the middle and senior classes. Lessons are taught in a structured, lively fashion and a high standard is observed, particularly in the areas of understanding and writing. The basic phrasal structures of conversation and an extensive vocabulary are taught incrementally. Suitable rhymes and poems are recited in all classes and the active and dramatic presentation of this work is praiseworthy. Pupils’ conversational ability is encouraged through the use of language games, pair work and a wide range of teaching aids. Pupils read with understanding and accuracy. Writing activities are regularly organised and carefully monitored. Penmanship and neatness are emphasised. To enhance the good work in evidence in the teaching of Irish it is recommended that more focused attention be now directed towards developing further pupils’ confidence and capacity to communicate orally.

 

English

The teaching of English results in very good standards in all classes. Classrooms and corridors are attractively decorated and feature copious amounts of print and graphic material. Oral language development is appropriately emphasised in all curricular areas. Pupils recite and respond to poetry with enthusiasm and understanding. In the junior classes they discuss their ideas in pairs as they prepare to write poetry collaboratively. In the middle classes the dramatic presentation of poetry is particularly commendable. Senior class pupils discuss texts in groups and report their deliberations in whole class discussion. Greater emphasis on provision for discrete oral language lessons should further enhance pupils’ confidence and ability in articulating their feelings and interests.

Reading skills are particularly well taught and the results in standardised tests indicate commendable achievements at all levels. Developing phonological awareness, in the context of teaching basic reading skills, is carefully emphasised in the junior classes. The learning support teacher works productively with the senior infants’ class in implementing an early intervention strategy. This work is very effectively built on as pupils progress through the school. They read widely for pleasure and for information from well-stocked and well-presented class libraries. They discuss their reading knowledgably and with enthusiasm and regularly write book reports. Parents’ representatives have acknowledged the great efforts made by the school to promote reading.

The standard of English writing throughout the school is very good.  Handwriting skills are carefully nurtured and class-work is neatly presented and regularly affirmed through appropriate correction and feedback. Pupils’ written work in a variety of genres is admirably celebrated in attractive word processed booklets. Class booklets of poetry and stories are compiled as well as an impressive Christmas annual which was used to raise funds for charity. Pupils undertake project work on a wide range of interesting topics in the middle and senior classes in a manner that provides valuable opportunities to redraft and publish their work.

3.2 Mathematics

 

Mathematics lessons are presented creatively and are well-structured in all classes. Pupils engage enthusiastically with the subject and their achievements in teacher-designed and standardised tests are impressive. They can recall number facts with ease. Manipulatives are appropriately used to facilitate hands-on learning. Talk and discussion are integral to the learning process and suitably-graded questioning is employed to assist pupils in systematically developing their knowledge of various concepts. Teachers ensure that the language of mathematics is well taught and well understood. Work is carefully differentiated to accommodate varying levels of ability. Written work is neat and well organised and effectively monitored. An enhancement of the excellent work done in mathematics can be achieved by using calculators in the context of developing further pupils’ estimation and problem solving skills.

 

3.3 Physical Education

 

In spite of the absence of indoor facilities, very good provision is made to give pupils access to a broad and balanced curriculum in Physical Education (PE). A comprehensive school plan for PE was finalised in May 2006 and this plan gives clear direction to teachers in the organisation of their schemes of work. All pupils are encouraged to derive maximum benefit and enjoyment from PE. Lessons are taught mainly on the tarmac area of the school grounds and the school also has access to the local hall and GAA field. All pupils are taken to Mallow pool for lessons in aquatics.

 

Classes observed were well structured and due attention was given to suitable warm-up and cool-down routines. The games strand of the PE curriculum is particularly well-catered for. Teachers, parents and local sporting organisations combine to provide an eclectic range of games and sporting activities. Parents and teachers organise after-school coaching in hurling and football. Football is the dominant sport in the area and boys and girls are given equal access to football coaching both during and after school. Kanturk Rugby Club provides coaching in tag-rugby and in the lesson observed appropriate emphasis was placed on developing skills in running, evasion and ball-handling. Commendable work is being done to give pupils experience of dance. Pupils in middle and senior classes were observed performing folk and Irish dance while pupils in junior classes were observed moving creatively in response to stimuli.  The school participates successfully in a wide range of sporting competitions including Cork City Sports and mini sevens hurling and football competitions.

3.4 Assessment

 

Very good practice in assessment has been steadily developing over a number of years and the school is now in the process of finalising policy in this area. Current practice embraces a range of approaches including monitoring and correction of work, teacher-devised tests and tasks and standardised tests in English and Mathematics. Results of Micra-T and Sigma-T tests are meticulously tabulated and analysis of the tests informs teaching on an ongoing basis. Performance in these tests indicates steady progress and overall impressive outcomes on the part of the majority of pupils. Results are effectively used to address the learning deficits of weaker pupils. Teachers carefully explain results to parents at the annual parent/teacher meetings. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) test is administered in senior infants to identify pupils in need of specific intervention in the development of early reading skills.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

Pupils with special educational needs are very well supported and this support is reflected in the steady progress achieved by pupils as a result of well-planned and well-delivered learning interventions. Three pupils with assessed special educational needs receive effective intensive individualised support across each curricular area. A total of 11 pupils are withdrawn for supplementary support, singly or in groups, mainly in English and/or Mathematics. Support is guided by a comprehensive whole-school policy for learning-support and resource teaching which clearly sets out roles, responsibilities and procedures established for the identification and selection of pupils for supplementary teaching and the implementation of early intervention programmes. Support is delivered by a shared learning support teacher and two shared resource teachers, all of whom are based in other schools. These teachers attend the school for a total of 24.5 hours per week. It would be prudent for the board at this time to investigate the possibility of re-organising provision with a view to further improving the service to pupils. One full-time and two part-time special needs assistants contribute significantly in complimenting the service provided. There is a good range of resources available to the support teachers and ICT is used effectively to reinforce basic literacy skills.

 

Purposeful collaboration between mainstream class teachers, support teachers and parents in the development of individual education plans underpins the very good support provided. These plans set clear, specific and relevant learning targets within defined timescales and progress towards identified goals is constantly and meticulously monitored. Teachers and parents meet formally twice yearly to discuss progress and planning. Close links are maintained with outside agencies and professionals in the interests of the pupils.

 

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

 

There are no pupils from minority or other groups attending the school at present.

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

·         The school has a dedicated and energetic principal who is committed to a collaborative vision of instructional leadership.

·         Staff members are enthusiastic, resourceful and skilful and the overall standard of teaching in all areas evaluated is very good.

·         Very good standards are achieved, particularly in Mathematics, and English reading is promoted with particular success throughout the school.

·         The board of management provides dedicated support to the school.

·         Parents and ancillary staff are very supportive in ensuring very good outcomes for pupils.

·         Pupils are well-behaved and courteous and can have justifiable pride in their many achievements.

·         Provision for sporting and extra-curricular activities is particularly impressive.

 

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, September 2008