An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Náisiúnta Naomh Conla
Cill Chonla, Tuaim
Co. na Gaillimhe
Roll number: 15475I
Date of inspection: 9 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006
This Whole School Evaluation report
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Naomh Conla, Kilconly. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. The inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days, during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers and examined pupils’ work. The inspector reviewed school-planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and interviewed holders of posts of responsibility. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. 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.
This school is located in the village of Kilconly, about 15km north-west of Tuam. It caters for boys and girls from infants to sixth class. The school serves a rural community and many of the pupils come from families that have a long association with the school. The teaching staff consists of three mainstream class teachers and a learning-support teacher who also serves another local school. There is also a part-time secretary. The current enrolment is 75.
The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly, in accordance with the Department’s Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure. The board is supportive of the work of the principal and teachers. The board is actively involved in policy formulation and consults with parents when new policies are being considered. The board also co-ordinates regular fundraising events for the school.
The principal manages the day-to-day operation of the school as well as teaching three classes. He shows strong leadership qualities and organisational skills and is to be commended especially for the high morale and positive energy that is evident among teachers and pupils in the school.
The professionalism and commitment of the deputy principal and assistant principal are important factors in the success of this school. The areas of responsibility attached to these posts include the recording of attendance, supervision of recreation, school libraries, special educational needs and aspects of Arts Education. It is recommended that the duties attached to the posts be reviewed with a view to eliminating duplication of work and ensuring that each post has curricular, organisational and pastoral dimensions.
It is evident that the teaching staff functions successfully as a team, to the benefit of the pupils. The effective use of team teaching in certain curricular areas enables the pupils to benefit from the broad range of expertise and competences on the team. It also fosters a whole-school responsibility for the pupils’ learning.
The current school building was constructed in 1975/76 and extended in 1980. There are four large classrooms and a general-purposes room, reflecting the fact that this was once a five-teacher school. The extra classrooms enable the school to have dedicated areas for computers, a museum, exhibition areas and a central library. There are also a number of smaller rooms, one of which is used for learning support. The school community is to be commended on the manner in which the building has been maintained.
The school has an extensive outdoor recreation area that includes a games pitch and a hard court. A school garden has been developed recently. This has the potential to be a valuable learning resource. The school uses the local community centre regularly for Physical Education. A recommendation regarding the development of the school grounds is to be found in Section 3.3 of this report.
The school has invested wisely in a range of materials and equipment. These resources are managed wisely and used effectively by the teachers to enhance the learning opportunities available to the pupils. The school is to be commended especially on the widespread use of ICT in learning and teaching.
It is evident that the school-planning process involves collaboration between board members and members of the teaching staff. There is also consultation with parents. The School Plan is a professionally presented, user-friendly document. It contains two sets of policies. The first of these deals with organisational issues and the second with the programmes for curricular areas.
The organisational section of the School Plan includes the mission statement as well as sets of policies dealing with general organisation, behaviour, safety and protection, enrolment, special needs, home-school issues, information technology and record keeping. There is evidence to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in accordance with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). It is also evident that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in accordance with the Department’s guidelines.
The second section of the School Plan consists of policy statements and programmes for curricular areas. Some of these policies and programmes are specific to the needs and resources of the school. Others are more generic and, consequently, less likely to enhance pupil learning. The programmes for the curricular areas generally reflect the content and language of the Primary School Curriculum. However, they do not always reflect accurately the good practice that is evident in the classrooms. It is recommended that the curricular section of the School Plan be revised to ensure that it accurately reflects existing good practice.
The school’s most valuable resource is its team of dedicated, highly skilled teachers. They provide a stimulating, orderly environment in which pupils acquire a range of valuable knowledge, skills and attitudes. The teachers’ excellent work is reflected in the confidence, courtesy and diligence of the pupils. The teachers prepare professionally for their lessons and use a wide range of teaching resources that make it easier for the pupils to understand and remember what is taught. Each teacher uses a variety of teaching approaches, with an effective balance of whole-class teaching and pairwork. There is a high level of purposeful pupil-pupil interaction, which supports the development of communicative and collaborative skills. It is recommended that there be more widespread use of visual materials to reinforce learning of mathematical concepts and to support the development of mathematical vocabulary.
Tá ardmholadh tuillte ag na múinteoirí as an obair a dhéantar chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn mar theanga bheo chumarsáide. De thoradh na hoibre seo, bíonn sé ar chumas na ndaltaí an Ghaeilge a úsáid go muiníneach, líofa i ngnáthchumarsáid an lae. Is inmholta go háirithe an bhéim a leagtar ar an gcur chuige cumarsáideach.
Baineann na múinteoirí feidhm thairbheach as raon leathan d’áiseanna chun foghlaim na Gaeilge a éascú agus a bhuanú. Taispeántar flúirse de chairteacha agus lipéid sna seomraí ranga. Úsáidtear puipéid, cártaí oibre agus neart áiseanna eile le linn an cheachta. Sa tréimhse chumarsáide den fhoghlaim, tugtar tascanna do na daltaí ina mbíonn gá le húsáid an fhoclóra nua chun cuspóir éigin a bhaint amach. Baintear úsáid inmholta as obair bheirte. Úsáidtear an drámaíocht go héifeachtach agus tugann na daltaí faoin rólimirt go muiníneach, cumasach. Bíonn stór mór rann ag na daltaí i ngach rang. Is léir go gcabhraíonn an bhéim láidir a leagtar ar chothú na teanga labhartha go mór leis na daltaí agus iad ag tabhairt faoi fhoghlaim na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta. Taispeántar obair scríofa na ndaltaí go tarraingteach sna seomraí ranga.
The school makes excellent provision generally for this aspect of the curriculum. The teachers foster the development of positive speaking and listening habits among the pupils. Communicative and collaborative skills are enhanced further by regular use of pairwork. There is commendable continuity and progression in the development of the pupils’ oral language as they move from class to class. Pupils in the senior classes have experience of preparing Powerpoint presentations and delivering them to their peers.
The school’s reading programme ensures that the pupils develop the habit of reading for pleasure and information as well as acquiring a range of reading and comprehension skills. The language-experience approach is used effectively in the junior classes and a print-rich environment is provided in all classrooms. All pupils have easy access to attractive, well-stocked pupils’ libraries. The pupils encounter poetry regularly and enjoy recitation.
The school provides opportunities for the pupils to develop their creative writing skills in a range of genres, including stories, poems and letters. There is effective use of information and communications technology in the writing programme. Samples of the pupils’ written work are displayed attractively throughout the school.
Mathematics lessons are well-structured and differentiated appropriately for the various ability levels within the multiple-class groups. The pupils are given an active role in the lessons and there is effective use of a broad range of equipment and materials. Concepts are illustrated and reinforced by reference to the pupils’ experience and their immediate environment. The pupils generally respond well to questioning on a range of mathematical topics. It is evident, however, that more widespread use of Mathematics charts and displays in classrooms would facilitate and reinforce the development of concepts and language in this curricular area.
The school implements a broad, balanced programme in History. There is an appropriate emphasis on personal history in the junior classes. In the middle and senior classes, there is a well-judged balance of local, national and international topics. History is taught in a stimulating way, with effective use of documents, artefacts and costumes. The school is to be commended especially on the effort that is devoted to local history. This involves field trips to the local cemetery and other historical sites. The school has its own museum with a permanent display that is used to stimulate pupils’ curiosity and reinforce learning about the past.
There are many examples of good practice in this aspect of the curriculum. These include the use of simple mapping resources in the junior classes, the development of research skills through project work and the measurement and recording of rainfall, temperature and wind speed and direction. There is evidence of scope for development in the area of environmental awareness and care. It is recommended that the school consider an initiative such as the Green Flag scheme to enhance its provision in this area.
The school has made a positive start to the implementation of the Science curriculum, especially the strand Living Things. There is effective use of seasonal displays to stimulate curiosity and reinforce learning. Pupils have experience of sowing plants indoors and the school has recently developed a vegetable garden. This has the potential to be a valuable learning resource for the school. Pupils are given opportunities to become actively involved in exploring their natural environment. Pooters, bug jars and other equipment are used to collect and observe minibeasts. Ways of using these activities to better effect may be found in Primary School Curriculum, SESE:Science, Teacher Guidelines (pages 57 to 85). There is evidence of progress also in the other strands of the Science curriculum. Pupils have been given the opportunity to plan and conduct investigations.
It is recommended that the school grounds be developed further as a resource for the teaching of science. This might include planting of native trees, creating wildlife habitats and feeding birds at the classroom windows.
The school provides opportunities for pupils to develop their creative skills in a broad range of media. Pupils’ work in print, collage, paint, construction, clay and fabric and fibre is displayed attractively throughout the school. Pupils are also enabled to look at the work of established artists and articulate a personal response to the work.
The school provides a high-quality musical programme. Pupils in all classes have an extensive repertoire of songs in both English and Irish. Pupils also learn to play the tin whistle, and to compose, record and read simple rhythms and melodies. There are regular opportunities for pupils to listen and respond to music in various traditions and styles. Choirs from the school have participated in the National Children’s Choir and in the East-Galway Choral Festival.
Drama is included on the weekly timetable. This work is well-integrated with the oral-language programme in English. Drama is also used extensively to enrich learning in other aspects of the curriculum.
The school provides a broad programme of PE, which includes games, athletics, swimming and movement and dance. The teachers make effective use of age-appropriate activities and equipment. The school promotes a healthy attitude to sport and exercise. There are regular in-school leagues and an annual sports day. At present, boys in the middle and senior classes are allowed to opt out of dance, thus missing out on an important aspect of their physical development. It is recommended that boys and girls be given equal opportunities to experience all strands of the PE curriculum.
The school ethos is highly supportive of the pupils’ social and personal development. The SPHE curriculum is implemented conscientiously in all classes.
A range of assessment approaches is used by the class teachers to monitor the progress of individual pupils. Standardised attainment tests are administered annually. Further diagnostic tests are administered to pupils in receipt of learning support. Each teacher keeps a monthly record of the work completed in his/her class.
The teachers of mainstream classes generally differentiate lesson content and teaching methods effectively to cater for the range of learning needs in their rooms. Supplementary teaching is provided by the learning-support teacher, who prepares and implements individual learning programmes for each pupil. These programmes are delivered in pleasant, orderly surroundings. Preparation and recording are completed in a professional manner. It is recommended that the scope of the individual learning programmes be increased to include targets relating to the pupil’s personal and social development.
The school receives funding from the Department of Education and Science’s School Support Programme. This is used to ensure that pupils have equal access to school activities. The school has also used this funding in the past to provide a homework club. The school operates a book rental scheme, which reduces book bills considerably.
While there are no pupils from minority cultures enrolled in the school at present, the school has an inclusive ethos that is reflected in its policy documents.
All parents are given an information booklet on their first contact with the school. Parent-teacher meetings are held in the middle of the school year and a written report on each pupil is also provided at this time. The pupils’ homework journals are used on a regular basis to communicate with parents. On the first day of each school week, the parents of infant pupils are informed of each night’s homework for that week. Parents are actively involved in extra-curricular activities. They also contribute to the organisation of events such as the school show and the end-of-year Mass.
As part of this evaluation, a meeting was held with the parents’ representatives on the board of management. The parents identified a number of strengths in the school. These included the effective communication that takes place with parents through homework journals, formal meetings and the presence of the principal at the school gate at arrival and departure times. The parents also stated that children were well prepared for their post-primary education, that teachers were considerate and appreciative of the difficulties facing parents, and that there is a high level of parental involvement in the school.
The parents also commented that the current school transport arrangements require some pupils to leave home early in the morning and arrive at the school well in advance of school opening time. The parents identified this as an aspect where change could be beneficial.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following recommendations are made.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management accepts the findings of the report. It portrays an accurate picture of the school and reflects the high standard of education provided for the children.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The curricular section of the school plan will be reviewed and will be revised where necessary so that it reflects the existing good practice within the school
Further development of school grounds will include the planting of native trees and the development of a wild flower garden.