An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Mount Bolus NS
Mount Bolus, Tullamore, Co. Offaly
Uimhir rolla: 15395K
Date of inspection: 28 March 2007
Date of issue of report: 4 October 2007
A whole-school evaluation of Mount Bolus NS was undertaken in March 2007. The evaluation covered key aspects of the work of the school in the areas of management, teaching and learning and supports for pupils. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Visual Arts. The representatives of the parents met with the inspector. The inspector interacted with the pupils, examined pupils’ work, reviewed school planning documentation, observed teaching and learning and provided feedback to individual teachers. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Mount Bolus NS is a two-teacher, co-educational school situated on the edge of the small village of Mount Bolus, approximately ten kilometres from Tullamore town. It is a full-vertical, Catholic school, under the patronage of the Bishop of Meath. The school’s mission statement aspires to promote the academic, spiritual, moral, emotional and physical development of the pupils and to equip them with the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and capacity for creative expression, to live happy, fruitful lives as children and later as adults. The school is one of seven small schools in the parish of Kilcormac and serves the closely-knit rural population of the immediate hinterland. The building was constructed in 1910 and a small extension was added in 1997 to provide additional toilets. Enrolment trends signify a slight increase in recent years and school records show that pupils’ attendance is very good.
The formation and operation of the board of management are in accordance with Department of Education and Science (DES) regulations. A minimum of one board meeting is convened each term. A formal agenda is drawn up in advance of each meeting and official minutes are recorded and maintained. A financial report is furnished by the treasurer at each board meeting. The board is pro-active in its attention to internal and external maintenance. This is evidenced in the number of major refurbishment projects that have been completed in recent years. Consequently, to the credit of management and staff, despite the age of the building, it continues to provide an attractive and productive learning environment for the pupils and a pleasant working milieu for the staff. The involvement of both teachers on the board of management accommodates total liaison and cohesion between the teachers and the board. The two parents’ representatives on the board are members of the parents’ association and maintain close communication with the wider body of parents. Thus, parents are kept well informed on all school matters. The board participates appropriately in whole-school planning.
The principal has provided effective leadership since her appointment to the school in 2003. During that time she has established very good working relationships with the management, parents, staff and pupils, and has familiarised herself with the social, contextual and educational circumstances of the school population. A number of educational, sporting and social activities have been initiated to broaden and enrich the pupils’ educational experiences and to promote cohesion and participation of parents in the life of the school. In conjunction with the challenge of teaching a multi-class group, she tends proficiently to the administrative, pastoral and communicative tasks inherent in the role of principal.
The special duties teacher, who was appointed to the school in 2004, provides valuable and competent support for the principal. One senses a strong spirit of co-operation and collaboration between the two teachers in the day-to-day management of the school, and in their endeavours to deliver a comprehensive and balanced curriculum suited to the needs of the pupils. A short staff meeting is held after school one evening each month and one more extensive meeting is held each term. These meetings are utilised to discuss, plan and review procedures with regard to curriculum planning, resources, special needs, discipline, and school activities. Parents’ representatives and board of management members expressed a high level of approval and appreciation of the competent and caring manner in which the school is run.
School policies and practice encourage inclusion and active involvement of parents in their children’s education. A parents’ association was established in 2004. It is not affiliated to National Parents’ Council but makes a constructive contribution to many aspects of school life, and works co-operatively with the teachers and the board of management. Parents undertake fundraising events regularly to assist with the enhancement of structural, educational and recreational amenities in the school. Parents are actively involved in the organisation and administration of school functions such as sports day, inter-school matches, entry in the St. Patrick’s Day parade and green flag activities. Parents also make a positive contribution to the compilation of school policies.
Parents encountered during the evaluation testify that a very positive and productive relationship has been built up between parents and staff. They express unreserved satisfaction with the level of communication and consultation procedures that exist for parents. One formal parent-teacher meeting is held each year. Regular newsletters are issued to parents to keep them informed on issues or events of importance or interest. The cohesive nature of the school population means that many parents have informal contact with teachers almost on a daily basis. More formal meetings between parents and principal or teacher can be initiated by appointment at any time, at the request of either party.
A suitable code of discipline and an anti-bullying policy have been compiled co-operatively by the board of management, teachers and parents. These are stated positively, are focused appropriately to suit the school context, and are implemented consistently and caringly. A positive rapport between teacher and pupils and a constructive work ethic have been established in both classrooms. All pupils are familiar with, and comply with, the orderly schedules that have been put in place for routine activities. Consequently, management of pupils is very good throughout the school. During the evaluation, the pupils presented as well-behaved, mannerly, respectful and earnest in their work.
The quality of whole-school planning is good. Very extensive work has been done in recent years in the collaborative compilation of a whole-school plan. The board of management and parents are involved appropriately in the planning process, and the services of School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) and Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) have been utilised effectively. Policies in the administrative section of the plan comply with statute requirements and DES recommendations and provide essential direction for the smooth and successful running of the school. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines. Comprehensive curriculum policies have been devised for Irish, English, Mathematics, Science, Visual Arts, Physical Education and Social, Personal and Health Education. Work on whole-school planning is ongoing and it is recommended that curriculum plans for the remaining subjects be completed shortly.
The teachers have a professional attitude to preparation and planning for their teaching and the quality of classroom planning is high. Long and short-term schemes of work are prepared for all subjects. Due thought is given to ensuring that all pupils in the multi-class groups are suitably challenged and that varied methodologies accommodate different learning styles. Monthly progress records are completed consistently. As whole-school policies are completed for the remaining curriculum subjects, it is recommended that teachers’ long-term schemes would be aligned more closely to the whole-school plan.
Múintear an Ghaeilge go héifeachtach sa scoil. Is léir go n-oibríonn na hoidí go díograiseach chun dearcadh dearfach a chothú i leith na Gaeilge agus chun cumas na ndaltaí sa teanga a fhorbairt. Déantar pleanáil chuimsitheach chun snáitheanna an churaclaim a cheangailt agus a chomhtháthú le hábhair eile. Bunaítear na ceachtanna ar théamaí oiriúnacha agus tá dul chun cinn an-mhaith á dhéanamh, ar an iomlán. Cothaítear atmaisféar spreagúil sna seomraí ranga do na ceachtanna comhrá. Sna bunranganna, úsáidtear módh na cumarsáide agus módh na drámaíochta maraon le pictiúir, puipéid, gníomhaíochtaí agus acmhainní chruthaitheacha chun foclóir agus cumas cainte na ndaltaí a leathnú agus a shaibhriú. Tá cnuasach maith de rainn Ghaeilge, formhór a ngabhann geaitsíocht leo, ar eolas ag na páistí agus aithrisítear go beoga iad.
Sna hardranganna, méadaítear an Ghaeilge labhartha go críochnúil. Eagraítear grúpobair agus obair bheirte go céardúil chun ábhar na gceachtanna a chleachtadh agus líofacht na ndaltaí a chothú. Dírítear aire chuí ar chruinneas gramadaí a fhorbairt. Déantar comhtháthú éifeachtach idir obair ó bhéal, léitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht. I gcoitinne, tá caighdeán in oiriúint d’aois bainte amach ag na ndaltaí sa léitheoireacht agus is féidir le mórán díobh an t-ábhar a phlé ar leibhéal cuí. Cuirtear gníomhaíochtaí oiriúnacha ar siúl sa scríbhneoireacht. Glacann na daltaí páirt sna ceachtanna Gaeilge go díocasach, toilteanach agus is cosúil go mbaineann said taitneamh as a bhfoghlaim. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go hiomlán mar theanga chaidrimh i múineadh na Gaeilge agus úsáidtear go flúirseach í freisin ag amanna eile i rith an lae.
Irish is taught effectively at all levels. It is evident that the teachers work diligently to cultivate a positive attitude towards Irish and to develop the pupils’ competence in using the language. Comprehensive planning ensures effective linkage of the curriculum strands and integration with other subjects. Suitable themes are selected for lessons and, in general, very satisfactory progress is being made. A stimulating atmosphere is created in classrooms for oral Irish lessons. In the junior room, discussion, drama, pictures, puppets and creative resources are used to extend and enrich the children’s vocabulary. The pupils have a wide range of action rhymes, which they recite eagerly.
In the senior room, the use of oral Irish is extended in effective ways. Group work and pair work are skilfully organised to provide opportunities to practise new vocabulary and to enhance pupils’ fluency. Attention is focused on appropriate aspects of grammar. Reading and writing are linked closely to oral work. In general, standards in reading are age-appropriate and most children display ability to discuss content satisfactorily. A suitable range of activities is undertaken in written work. The pupils participate eagerly and willingly in Irish lessons and appear to enjoy their learning. Irish is used consistently as the medium of communication during Irish lessons and is used extensively at other times throughout the day.
The English curriculum is covered comprehensively throughout the school. All strands of the curriculum are embedded in oral language activities and, consequently, pupils in all classes present as confident, articulate and uninhibited in making oral contribution to lessons. In the junior room, eye-catching displays of print-rich visual aids stimulate an initial awareness of print and an informal introduction to reading. The store of attractive books in the classroom library is used effectively to promote familiarity with the convention of books and to cultivate early enjoyment of story. Phonetic and phonemic awareness is well developed and word-attack skills are gradually extended to increase children’s ability to read independently. In the senior room, a variety of reading material, including class readers, novels, library books, brochures and newspapers, is used to encourage reading for pleasure and information. Pupils show very good ability to read fluently and accurately and to assimilate, analyse, evaluate and summarise the content. Pupils display proficiency in the use of the dictionary to assist with comprehension and spelling.
Writing activities in the junior classes are linked closely to oral and reading exercises. Early focus on accuracy in letter and word formation is gradually extended to encourage basic creative writing of simple captions, groups of sentences, and short passages to represent pupils’ personal ideas. In senior classes, functional and creative writing exercises encompass a variety of genres including stories, articles, descriptive passages, diaries, poems, letters, invitations and responses to art and music. Conventions of punctuation, syntax and structure are introduced at a pace appropriate to the ability of the pupils as they progress through the school. The quality of content and presentation of pupils’ written work displayed in classrooms and in copy books is commendable. Pupils in junior classes enjoy reciting the wide repertoire of rhymes and poems they have memorised, many of which are integrated with other curriculum areas. More extensive opportunity for pupils to explore, appraise and memorise a variety poems, as their mastery of English increases, would help foster a deeper appreciation of poetry. Overall, the teaching of English is very satisfactory.
Teachers’ planning indicates balanced attention to all strands of the Mathematics curriculum. Early mathematical activities, such as matching, classifying, comparing, ordering, and recognition of numbers and shapes, are covered comprehensively in infant classes. As pupils progress to middle classes, they are introduced to more advanced concepts. Pupils in middle classes showed good ability to compose and record number stories and to perform age-appropriate mental and written computation. Pupils’ skills of reasoning, estimating, predicting, calculating and problem-solving are extended appropriately in senior classes. Senior pupils displayed good competence in recalling number facts, solving problems and applying relevant mathematical language to explain processes used. In line with best practice, teaching and learning in Mathematics lessons observed centred on discovery learning, through teacher-guided exploration with concrete materials. Practical and written tasks are prudently chosen, well planned, proficiently organised, suitably paced and adequately differentiated. Focused discussion and purposeful questioning directs pupils’ activities and sustains a high level of engagement.
There is abundant evidence throughout the school of comprehensive and productive coverage of the Visual Arts curriculum. Impressive samples of pupils’ work from all curriculum strands are displayed attractively in both classrooms and in the entrance hall. These show commendable developmental progression in the use of various artistic media from class to class and also demonstrate a high level of individual creativity. Stories, life experiences, pupils’ imagination, works of renowned artists, and themes from other curriculum subjects are used as stimuli for activities. Lessons observed were well organised to give balanced attention to promoting artistic skills, encouraging creativity, motivating enthusiastic participation and extending pupils’ appreciation of art. Pupils clearly enjoy exploring resourcefully with different media to produce various effects, and sharing their experiences with peers. They discuss completed works of art with enthusiasm.
Careful attention is focused on monitoring pupils’ progress at all levels throughout the school. The school policy on assessment recognises the importance of regular assessment, documentation and dissemination of pupils’ progress. A variety of formative and summative modes of assessment is used. Teacher observation and teacher-designed tests are used regularly and teachers share salient information on pupils’ attainment on an ongoing basis. Written work is corrected consistently and constructive feed-back is given to pupils. Diagnostic testing is administered at the end of junior infants to accommodate early intervention for pupils presenting with difficulties. Standardised tests are administered annually to pupils from first to sixth class. The results of these tests are analysed by the class teachers in conjunction with the learning-support teacher and are central in identifying pupils in need of learning support. A parent-teacher meeting is held in December each year, at which parents are given a comprehensive account of all aspects of their children’s progress. Parents receive a written progress report at the end of each school year.
A learning-support teacher, who is based in Scoil Mhuire in Kilcormac, attends at the school from 09:20 to 10:50 daily. She offers support in literacy to nine pupils. Pupils are withdrawn either individually or in small groups, classified by mainstream class to accommodate synchronisation between mainstream teaching and supplementary teaching. Selection of pupils for learning support is based on teacher observation, results of teacher-designed, standardised and diagnostic tests and, where relevant, content of psychological reports. The learning-support teacher works in close co-operation with the mainstream teachers in compiling and reviewing individual education plans (IEPs). Informative long and short-term plans of work are prepared for each group and each pupil’s progress is recorded in a comprehensive individual portfolio. The quality of learning support offered is very good. A wide range of teaching methodologies is employed to accommodate different learning styles. Effective use is made of suitable literacy programmes and concrete materials. The range and quality of teacher-designed materials observed is commendable. It is evident that a very pleasant rapport has been established between teacher and pupils. Support is offered sensitively; tasks are suited to pupils’ specific learning needs; pupils engage attentively; and efforts are affirmed positively. To enhance the quality of learning support, is recommended that copies of IEPs would be provided to parents, to encourage co-operative involvement in supporting their child’s special needs.
School policies and procedures are focused on ensuring that all children are afforded equal opportunities to maximise their capabilities in a happy, safe, productive environment. In the small rural community served by the school, instances of disadvantage or minority groups are not in evidence. The cordial relationship that has been established between the teachers and the school population allows teachers to be constantly aware of any changes in individual circumstances and these are addressed with sensitivity, kindness and confidentiality.
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:
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
School Planning is on going to complete school plan for curriculum areas not yet completed