An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Connolly National School, Ennis, County Clare.
Uimhir rolla: 15408Q
A whole-school evaluation of Connolly National School was undertaken in December 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 History. The board of management 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.
Introduction – school context and background
Connolly National School is a four-teacher co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Kilmaley, County Clare. All of the pupils come from the immediate Connolly area or from the western end of Kilmaley parish. It is expected that enrolment figures will remain more or less constant over the medium-term future. It is difficult to predict long-term enrolment figures, as this area of West Clare is affected by natural demographics, resulting in rural depopulation.
The school was built in 1905. The extension that was completed in 1994 added two new mainstream classrooms to the original two classrooms in the school. One of the original classrooms is used at present as an additional resource classroom for Mathematics lessons. There is a staff room and a learning support room in the school, along with staff and pupil toilets. There is no general purposes room or hall in the school. There is an attractively laid-out yard surrounding the school. A pre-school operates in a prefabricated building to the rear of the school.
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
The Catholic Bishop of Killaloe is the patron of Connolly School. The school’s spirit is characterised by its commitment to its place in the local community. The school’s mission statement sets out its desire to provide a broad and balanced education for its pupils and to ensure that they are well prepared for their future lives. Positive relations are evident among all the educational partners (board of management, school staff, parents and pupils). There is a very welcoming and hospitable atmosphere in the school and an appropriate learning environment is provided for pupils.
1.2 Board of management
The board of management meets at least five times a year. Minutes are kept of the proceedings of board meetings. Specific tasks have been assigned to board members. The board’s commitment to and support of the school is commendable. The board discusses and ratifies all school policies. The chairperson is a regular visitor to the school and keeps in close contact with the principal and teachers, as well as the parents and pupils. The board’s current priorities include the provision of improved school facilities, specifically the development of the field behind the school as a playing field for school Physical Education and sports activities.
The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal and one special duties teacher. The principal is a committed and dedicated teacher and is an effective school leader. The principal’s duties are carried out competently and conscientiously. The school register, the attendance book and roll books, as well as relevant school records are carefully maintained. The school staff operates well as a team. Formal staff meetings are held once a term to discuss organisational, curricular and pastoral issues.
While there is no parents’ association in the school, positive relations exist between teachers and parents. There is a good level of parental involvement in the school. A meeting for all parents is held once a year to discuss issues of concern. Parents also receive termly newsletters, as well as text messages, from the principal to keep them informed of events in the school. At their meeting with the inspector as part of this evaluation, the parents’ representatives on the board of management stated that they were satisfied with the quality of education provided in Connolly School.
Parents are given an oral report on their children’s progress at the annual parent-teacher meetings. Written reports are also sent to parents at the end of every school year. At any other time, parents are encouraged and welcome to meet with teachers to discuss any issues of concern they might have about their child(ren).
The pupils in Connolly School are very well behaved. They get on well with each other and work well together during group work and team activities. They are respectful of their teachers and they are welcoming and courteous to visitors to the school. The pupils are conscientious in their work and apply themselves diligently to the tasks that are set for them.
The quality of whole-school planning is good. The school plan contains plans for all of the areas of the primary school curriculum and a wide range of administrative and management policies. These policies include an enrolment policy, a health and safety statement, a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy, and an equality statement. It is recommended that the learning support and resource policy be further reviewed to reflect the current needs of all of the school’s pupils. The school staff values the support and assistance it receives from national in-service training initiatives in the work on school planning.
The quality of classroom planning is good overall. All of the teachers prepare long-term and short-term schemes of work. It is recommended, however, that some teachers’ long-term planning needs to be more clearly laid out. Specifically also, some teachers should include more detail on differentiation in their schemes of work. Every teacher keeps a monthly record (cuntas míosúil) of the work they have done. The school and class timetables are appropriately based on the suggested minimum time framework as set out in the primary school curriculum.
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.
Tá cáilíocht na foghlama agus an teagaisc i nGaeilge i Scoil Náisiúnta Fiach Rua an-mhaith. Leagann na hoidí uile béim inmholta ar rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí uile sna ceachtanna. Úsáideann oidí agus daltaí Gaeilge go rialta mar mheán cumarsáide i rith an lae agus tá spiorad Gaelach láidir sa scoil. I ngach rang, tuigeann na hoidí an tábhacht a bhaineann le forbairt scileanna labhartha na ndaltaí. Ó ranganna na naíonán go rang a sé, tá beagnach gach dalta in ann labhairt fúthú féin go soiléir agus comhrá a dhéanamh ag leibhéil oiriúnach dá gclár foghlama. Baineann na hoidí i gcuid mhór de na ranganna úsáid bhuntáisteach as dráma san obair seo. Aithrisíonn na daltaí uile rainn agus dánta, agus canann siad amhráin, as Gaeilge go muiníneach.
Forbraíonn na hoidí ó rang a dó ar aghaidh an léitheoireacht go cúramach. Léann formhór na ndaltaí sna ranganna seo go líofa agus taispeánann siad a dtuiscint trí fhreagairt cheisteanna ar an méid atá léite acu. Tá cló i nGaeilge le feiceáil go forleathan i dtimpeallacht na scoile. Tá saothar scríofa na ndaltaí i nGaeilge le moladh freisin agus tá ardchaighdeán scríbhneoireachta le sonrú i gcóipleabhair agus i leabhair saothair na ndaltaí.
The quality of learning and teaching in Irish in Connolly National School is very good. All of the teachers place commendable emphasis on the participation of all pupils in [Irish] lessons. Teachers and pupils use Irish regularly as a means of communication during the day and there is a strong Irish spirit in the school. In every class, the teachers understand the importance of developing pupils’ oral skills. From the infant classes to sixth class, almost all of the pupils can speak about themselves clearly and can make conversation at a level suitable to their learning programme. The teachers in many classes make advantageous use of drama in this work. All of the pupils recite rhymes and poems, and sing songs, in Irish confidently.
The teachers from second class onwards develop [Irish] reading carefully. The majority of pupils in these classes read fluently and they show their understanding by answering questions on what they have read. There is a print-rich environment in Irish throughout the school. The pupils’ written work in Irish is also commendable and a high standard of writing is to be found in pupils’ copybooks and workbooks.
The quality of learning and teaching in English is good overall. Oral language is very well developed throughout the school. Almost all of the pupils can express themselves clearly and articulately. Many of the pupils in Connolly School achieve a high standard in English reading. An appropriate emphasis is placed on developing phonological awareness in the junior classes. It is recommended now, however, that a variety of new strategies be employed to enhance the teachers’ work in developing and improving reading skills throughout the school. There is a print-rich environment in some classes and in many parts of the school. This work should be expanded further, however, in some areas of the school. Class libraries are reasonably well stocked and well presented. It is recommended that some class libraries be more attractively presented, as part of a re-organisation of classroom layout to allow for improved group activities. While class libraries are augmented monthly with books from Clare County Library, an further improved supply of up-to-date and stimulating books should be provided for readers at all levels of age and ability. The standard of English writing in the school is good. There are very good examples of pupils’ functional and creative writing to be seen on display and in copybooks in the senior classes in particular.
The quality of learning and teaching in Mathematics is good in several classes in the school. In some of the classes, most of the pupils show a very good understanding of Mathematics and they record their work clearly and accurately in their copybooks. The teachers are aware, however, of the learning difficulties experienced by many of the pupils in some classes. The manner in which this issue has been approached by the school staff demonstrates commendable commitment to addressing the problem. The system of teaching Mathematics in use in the school at present has many strong points. The withdrawal of whole class groups for Mathematics and the increased use of in-class support have been introduced. It is recommended, however, that this system be further refined to ensure that an even more effective programme for tackling learning difficulties in Mathematics is implemented. Some classrooms should be laid out to facilitate more peer tutoring.
There is a range of mathematical equipment available in the school. These resources should be used even more regularly as a teaching aid in some classes. An even more stimulating maths-rich environment also needs to be developed throughout the school, but particularly in the classroom used for class group Mathematics lessons. The pupils in the senior classes have a very good knowledge of number facts (tables) and are adept at using this knowledge to solve mathematical problems.
The quality of learning and teaching in History is very good in every class. Almost all of the pupils are enthusiastic about this curricular area and clearly enjoy demonstrating their knowledge of the topics, periods and events they have studied. The pupils’ knowledge of the Nine Years’ War and the Flight of the Earls is impressive. The teachers in every class place emphasis on the development of pupils’ skills as historians. Particularly good work has been done on local studies and the projects completed show creditable skill in interviewing and gathering evidence. The work on the place names and historical events of Connolly deserves special praise.
The correct emphasis is placed on Story in every class and this helps to inculcate a love of History in the pupils. There are timelines on display in every class and these are regularly used during lessons to develop pupils’ sense of chronology and the passage of time. It is recommended that, in some classes, only one topic at a time should be covered, with content differentiated as appropriate. This should avoid possible fragmentation of the work being done in these classes.
Micra-T English reading tests and the Drumcondra Mathematics tests are given to pupils every year. The results of these tests show how the pupils in Connolly School compare with other pupils throughout the country. The results are also used to identify those pupils who need learning support or who have special educational needs. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is given to pupils in senior infants every year. A wide variety of class-based assessments and teacher-designed tests are also used to check pupils’ progress. QUEST and Neale Analysis are among the diagnostic tests used in the school. It is recommended, however, that the range of such assessment modes, used to identify and address the specific needs of pupils with learning difficulties, should be further expanded. The quality of record keeping and reporting is good overall, but it is recommended that parents receive copies of the Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for their children in future.
The learning support and resource service in this school provides valuable assistance to the pupils using it. All of the teachers in the school are committed to addressing the needs of their pupils who have learning difficulties. There is a small room in the school used for learning support and resource classes. This room is decorated in an attractive and stimulating way. One of the original two mainstream classrooms is used for Mathematics lessons for whole class groups. This room should be laid out in an even more stimulating and maths-rich way. In-class support is frequently used also to assist pupils who need it. The school has put together a learning support and resource policy to cater for the needs of pupils who have learning difficulties. The introduction of this policy has led to intervention programmes being implemented in English and Mathematics. This policy should be further reviewed now, however, to address the specific needs of certain groups of pupils even more effectively.
Connolly School has an open enrolment policy and children from all backgrounds are welcome to enrol.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· There is a positive learning atmosphere in Connolly National School.
· The board of management is very supportive of the work of the school.
· The principal teacher is a committed and competent school leader.
· All of the teachers are conscientious in their work.
· The pupils in Connolly School are well behaved and work very well with their teachers.
· Pupil achievement in Irish (oral, reading and writing) is impressive.
· Almost all of the pupils are confident in talking about themselves and their interests.
· The quality of work done in History is creditable.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· The specific learning needs of certain groups of pupils should be re-addressed through a review of the school’s learning support and resource policy. The manner of the implementation of class group withdrawal and in-class support should form part of this review.
· The layout of some classrooms should be re-organised to better facilitate group activities, encourage peer tutoring, and to allow for the expansion of class libraries.
· A maths-rich environment should be further developed throughout the school and especially in the classroom used for class group Mathematics lessons.
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
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management welcomes the WSE Report and is pleased that the food work being done in the school is recognised and affirmed. It further welcomes recognition of the excellent relations and quality of interaction between all the stakeholders in our school.
The school community found the process to be formative and valuable and a useful tool for reflection on the educational experiences offered in Connolly N.S.
We are delighted that the report highlights both the positive teaching and learning atmosphere in our school and the flexibility of approach and innovative responses of a committed and conscientious teaching team.
The Board is pleased that the pupils are commended for their excellent behaviour and their diligent, co-operative application to learning and notes that the report recognises their achievement.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
A review of the Special Education Policy has been undertaken with particular emphasis on the model of delivery.
We are presently looking at further resourcing and enhancing access to in-Class Libraries.
We have addressed the maths rich environment with specific emphasis on the classroom/general purpose room, designated in the current year for three instructional sessions per week of class group teaching,