An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
St. Patrick’s National School
Tibohine, County Roscommon
Date of inspection: 29 April 2009
A whole-school evaluation of St. Patrick’s NS was undertaken in April 2009. 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 Music. 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
St. Patrick’s NS is a rural school located 17 kilometres from Castlerea. The school caters for boys and girls from infants to sixth class. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Elphin. It avails of funding and a co-ordinator under the Delivering Equality of Opportunities in Schools (DEIS) initiative.
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
The school has a mission statement published in the school plan. Efforts are made to cultivate an education which promotes the holistic development of pupils, and one which prepares children for a changing world. While this is a Catholic school, pupils from other religious denominations are welcomed into the school.
The board of management is properly constituted. Meetings are convened regularly and minutes are recorded. Members of the board have been allocated various tasks. They show commitment to their roles and carry out their duties very efficiently. The chairperson of the board has very close communication with the principal, staff and pupils through his frequent visits to the school. However, it is recommended that the board become more proactive in monitoring the quality of teaching and learning in the school, and in formulating school policies and plans. It also needs to ensure that resource use is maximised.
1.3 In-school management
The principal has been in his current position for four years. The leadership style of the principal ensures that there is a relaxed and positive environment in the school. Roll books, registers and all school records are carefully maintained. He has established good staff relations. However, it is recommended that regular staff meetings be organised to ensure adequate professional discussion among staff, particularly regarding the implementation of the curriculum. It is further recommended that in-school management duties be reviewed in line with identified school priorities. The revised duties should place an emphasis on monitoring, implementing and evaluating the impact of the school plan in relation to expected pupil learning outcomes. The management and role of the DEIS co-ordinator was discussed with the principal, as her services are being under-utilised in the school.
The quality of management of relationships and communication with the school community shows scope for development. Home-school links are promoted mainly through annual parent-teacher meetings. Written reports on pupil’s progress are provided for parents at the end of each school year. The school has a parents’ association, affiliated to the National Parents’ Council, which meets regularly. In view of parents’ willingness to be involved in many aspects of school life, it is recommended that the staff examine ways of involving parents. It is further recommended that the DEIS co-ordinator be deployed from teaching duties in the school to establish literacy and numeracy initiatives which involve parents.
The quality of pupil management is good. Pupils are very well behaved and they display pride and interest in their work. They co-operate willingly with their teachers during all class activities.
2. Quality of school Planning
The quality of whole-school planning shows scope for development. Most of the plans and policies required by legislation or department circular are in place. The need for an attendance policy was discussed at the pre-evaluation meeting with the board of management. Curriculum plans are available for Irish, English, Mathematics, Physical Education, the Visual Arts and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). Much of the content of these plans derives from support material provided by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) and School Development Planning Support (SDPS), and from the Primary School Curriculum documents. There is considerable scope for an incremental development of the school plan. Further work needs to be done in all subject areas to reflect the school’s context and the current practice of teachers in the school. It is recommended that the staff devise a cohesive approach to whole-school planning to include the use of a long-term plan, a planning diary, action plans and whole-school reviews.
The quality of classroom planning also shows scope for development. Different approaches are used by mainstream class teachers in their long-term and short-term planning, and the quality of these varies. It is important that long-term planning is the means by which the school plan is implemented on a whole-school basis, a broad and balanced curriculum is delivered in all classes, and continuity and progression in learning are realised for every pupil. Further detail needs to be included in the long-term plans to reflect these principles. It is recommended that a whole-school approach to short-term planning be agreed by staff, which will include the identification of clear, specific learning objectives, the content to be taught in each curriculum area and clear differentiation of this content for pupils with different learning needs. All teachers compile monthly progress reports which are kept on file in the principal’s office.
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
Tá caighdeán na léitheoireachta Gaeilge an-mhaith. Léann na daltaí le brí agus le tuiscint. Bíonn a gcuid léitheoireachta an-chruinn. Leis an gcaighdeán atá bainte amach ag na daltaí moltar leabhair mhóra agus leabhair leabharlainne a úsáid go rialta. Scríobhann na daltaí ar bhonn rialta. Bunaítear formhór na ngníomhaíochtaí scríbhneoireachta ar na téacsleabhair. Tosaítear le léitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht i rang a haon ach b’fhiú iad seo a fhágáil go rang a dó mar atá molta i gCuraclam na Bunscoile. Moltar níos mó deiseanna scríbhneoireachta a chruthú sna hardranganna, chun taithí a thabhairt do dhaltaí téacsanna éagsúla a chumadh, mar shampla nuacht laethúil, litreacha, teachtaireachtaí, ríomhphoist agus scéalta simplí.
The standard of Irish is good. Pupils’ interest in Irish is promoted through lively, motivating lessons. Material is always based on themes which relate to pupils’ lives. During lessons Irish is used, on the whole, as the language of instruction. In certain classes, social contexts for Irish are used during specific times of the day, such as at roll time. This practice is highly commended. Pupils have a rich vocabulary and are able to construct sentences effectively in different tenses. They are able to speak at length about a range of topics. The communicative approach is promoted to great benefit through pair work and group work. To further develop pupils’ rich vocabulary it would be good for pupils to learn a selection of poems by heart and to use Irish as the language of the classroom.
The standard of Irish reading is very good. Pupils read with energy and understanding. They read very accurately. Considering pupils’ standard of reading, it is recommended that regular use be made of big books and library books. Pupils write on a regular basis. The majority of writing tasks are based on the textbooks. Reading and writing are started in first class, however, it would be better to leave these skills to second class, as recommended in the Primary School Curriculum. It is recommended that more opportunities be created for the senior classes to get experience of writing in a variety of genres such as daily news, letters, e-mails, messages and simple stories.
English is reasonably well-taught, overall, in the school. Oral-language development is emphasised to some degree although it is necessary for teachers to plan for discrete vocabulary development and a range of oral genres for each class. It is recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on poetry across the school, both for recitation and for discussion.
A majority of pupils read aloud well and they enjoy reading. Class novels are used in the middle and senior classes to good effect. Pupils’ phonological awareness is developed throughout the school. Some teachers place very good emphasis on the skills of reading and their pupils show proficiency in predicting, analysing and hypothesising. Shared reading takes place in all classes, an initiative which is commended.
The quality of pupils’ handwriting is very good. These skills are appropriately developed in the infant classes and are built on throughout the school. The majority of writing tasks are based on textbook activities. Pupils enjoy expressing themselves through creative writing. Samples of their work are on display in classrooms or are made into class books where pupils experience the writing process. However, it is recommended that teachers develop each genre of writing to a higher level, with a greater emphasis on creative writing.
The quality of Mathematics is good. Teaching is undertaken competently in every class. All lessons observed showed very good structure and pace. Pupils are motivated by and interested in Mathematics. Teachers link new materials to pupils’ lives and experiences. There is good emphasis on the use of concrete materials and discovery learning. It is recommended that all teachers arrange their classrooms to include a display for Mathematics which promotes pupils’ learning and comprehension. Some teachers place very good emphasis on the language of Mathematics, a practice which should be extended to all classes.
The quality of Music shows scope for development. Most strands are addressed by teachers but there is an overall lack of breadth, balance, continuity and progression in individual classes and throughout the school. There are some very good examples of song-singing and instrument playing in certain classes but this is not developed on a whole-school basis. There is good participation of all pupils in Music lessons. Pupils display enthusiasm for all Music tasks. Some teachers differentiate the Music curriculum to include pupils with special educational needs, a practice which is highly commended. It is recommended that teachers ensure that each classroom has a music display, that they promote language development through Music and that they develop the elements of Music through the content of the curriculum.
The quality of assessment is fair. Teachers carry out standardised tests in English and Mathematics. Some teachers also engage in testing of specific areas of the curriculum through teacher-designed tests. However, there is no systematic recording of these results and there is no use of assessment to adapt teaching strategies for individual pupils. It is recommended that the staff discuss an approach to assessment across the curriculum and that they analyse the results of standardised tests with a view to improving standards on an ongoing basis.
4. Quality of support for pupils
The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is good. A shared learning-support service and a shared resource service are delivered in the school. A thorough approach to planning and deep care for and understanding of individual pupils underpin the work carried out by support teachers. Individual, pair and small-group situations are used effectively to pursue specific goals. A very good range of resources complements this work. The support classroom is well-organised and is attractively decorated with visual aids and samples of pupils’ work. Teachers have undertaken a number of courses to develop their knowledge of diagnostic testing, which has improved the quality of service to pupils. While the school has a policy for special education provision, it is recommended that this be reviewed in the light of Department of Education and Science Circular 02/05. Due to the time spent by both teachers travelling between schools it is recommended that both the learning-support and the resource service for the cluster be reviewed.
The quality of other supports for pupils is poor. The school avails of the services of a DEIS co-ordinator. It is evident from meetings with parents that they are unaware of the scope of her role. It is recommended that the school facilitates an assessment of needs of the parent body by the co-ordinator. Her current duties, which involve teaching only the senior pupils in the school, should be developed. It is recommended that the school management ensure that her skills and training are maximised and reflect the full spectrum of her role. The co-ordinator should engage immediately in literacy and numeracy initiatives with pupils at all class levels. It is further recommended that she conduct home visits, early-literacy initiatives and other courses for parents. It is imperative that the staff support all of these initiatives to maximise their results.
The school has strengths in the following areas.
· Members of the board have been allocated various roles and responsibilities which they execute efficiently.
· The staff is very open to school improvement.
· The parents’ association is very willing to be involved in all aspects of school life.
· The quality of pupil management is good.
· The standards achieved in Irish are good.
· The quality of teaching in Mathematics is good.
· The quality of supports for pupils with special educational needs is good.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school.
· It is recommended that the board and staff make arrangements for the DEIS co-ordinator to conduct home visits, literacy and numeracy initiatives and other courses for parents.
· It is recommended that the staff devise an approach to classroom planning to ensure that each curricular area is taught in full, in accordance with the Primary School Curriculum.
· It is recommended that the staff devise a cohesive approach to whole-school planning to include the use of a long-term plan, a planning diary, action plans and whole-school reviews.
· It is recommended that regular reviews of posts of responsibilities be carried out to reflect the changing needs of the school.
· It is recommended that the staff discuss an approach to assessment across the curriculum and that they analyse the results of standardised tests with a view to improving standards on an ongoing basis.
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 November 2009