An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Ballyheada National School

Ballyheada, Ballinhassig, Co Cork

Uimhir rolla: 15550T

 

Date of inspection:  27 November 2009

 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School response to the report

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Ballyheada National School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for its further development. During the evaluation the inspectors 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 inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning records and teachers’ written preparation and met various staff teams where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit the inspectors 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.

 

 

1.        Introduction – school context and background

 

Ballyheada National School is a co-educational school under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross. The school is situated in the parish of Ballinhassig, approximately fifteen kilometres south of Cork city. Pupils attending the school come mainly from the surrounding rural catchment area. Parents speak highly of their local school and show their warm support for the staff and the school activities. The school’s mission statement highlights the individuality of the child, the importance of a positive supportive learning atmosphere, and respect for all partners of the school community. This ethos is similarly encapsulated in the school’s motto Sonas agus Oideachas (Happiness and Education). In keeping with the mission statement, teachers and parents have high expectations for the pupils and seek to develop their full potential through exposure to a wide curriculum in an atmosphere of encouragement and respect. The school has been successfully involved in a number of extra curricular activities such as inter-school sporting events and national projects and initiatives. Enrolments in the school have been increasing steadily in recent years and are expected to remain relatively stable over the next few years. Currently 158 pupils are enrolled in the school. Attendance levels are generally very high throughout the school and this is aided by the school’s positive encouragement of good attendance. When necessary, cases of absenteeism are reported to the National Educational Welfare Board in accordance with legislation. 

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and has a clear understanding of its roles and responsibilities. On average, meetings are convened twice per term. An agenda is circulated beforehand, minutes are maintained and financial accounts are documented routinely.  The school accounts are audited annually. The board is committed to providing a safe and comfortable learning environment for staff and pupils. The chairperson meets with the principal regularly and gives freely of her time in supporting him in his work.

 

The board is involved in the formulation of a number of organisational policies.  It recently oversaw the review of the school’s enrolment policy and health and safety policy, and it plans to review the code of behaviour in the coming year. All policies are discussed and ratified by the board. The majority of school policies are signed, dated and include a review date. It is now recommended that this good practice be extended to all policies as part of the process of ratification.

 

The board expressed its concerns about the ability of staff to sustain effective school management functions as a consequence of the present moratorium on in-school management appointments. The board are also concerned with their ability to pay for water charges in the school. Rain water is currently diverted underground to a bio-cycle unit and the board has investigated the possibility of investing in rain water harvesting.

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team is comprised of the principal and the deputy principal. The principal is diligent and conscientious and is committed to the progressive development of the school. Under his leadership, the day-to-day running of the school is efficient. Decisions are made in a consultative and democratic manner and school policies and documentation are well organised. He is commended for his endeavours in developing current accommodation to good quality standards and is successful in maintaining a positive ethos throughout the school. 

 

The deputy principal provides commendable support to the principal. She has been allocated additional responsibilities which include a range of pastoral, curricular and organisational duties. She carries out these duties attentively and contributes positively to school management and organisation. She has a keen interest in curriculum development and her contribution to Science and Music, together with her contribution to the production of the school plan is laudable. The deputy principal is supportive of the principal; she meets with him on a regular basis and presents a progress report on the completion of her duties at staff meetings.

 

The potential exists to enable the in-school management personnel to develop their instructional leadership roles in guiding future teaching and learning on a whole-school basis. To this end, it is advised that monthly progress records be examined regularly to monitor the progress of curriculum implementation.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The teaching staff consists of the teaching principal, six mainstream class teachers, two of whom are job sharing, and two special-education teachers, one of whom is shared with another school. It is noteworthy that four staff members have been appointed to the school since September 2009 and a fifth was appointed in September 2008. This represents a significant change to the profile of the staff and to the resulting character of the school. The principal and more established staff members are to be congratulated for the way they have welcomed their new colleagues and overseen a very smooth transition. For their part, the newly appointed teachers bring valuable experiences to the school and they have integrated with great enthusiasm and commitment, resulting in a welcoming and collaborative working environment. Teachers are allocated to their teaching duties by the principal in accordance with the needs of the school and he consults with the teachers in this regard. All classes are in compliance with the Department of Education and Science requirements with regard to class size.  In the mainstream classes, there is a logical variety of single-grade and multi-grade classes. Teachers access their own continuing professional development outside school time and a number of teachers have engaged in numerous professional development opportunities. For the future, the principal has identified Information and Communication Technology (ICT) as an area for whole school professional development. This will be of particular assistance in advance of the procurement of additional interactive white boards (IWB) and the anticipated launch of a school website.

 

An external tutor augments the school’s provision in Drama and members of the local GAA club support the training of the school’s hurling, camogie and football teams. Two Special Needs Assistants (SNA), one full-time and one part-time, are employed in the school to support two children with special educational needs. A full-time secretary and a part-time cleaner are also employed by the board. All members of the ancillary staff are greatly valued by the school management and teachers, and their contribution to school-life is appreciated. The school does not employ a caretaker but engages the services of a local person who is readily available when required.

 

A school has been located on this site since 1902. This building was knocked in recent years for safety reasons, resulting in the creation of an enlarged recreational yard. The present building was constructed as a four-teacher school in 1988 and was extended in 2004 and again in 2009. Currently, the school building consists of six classrooms, a general purpose area, two special education rooms, a staffroom and a secretarial office, which also serves as the principal’s office. The school and its grounds are well maintained, and the board of management has developed an action plan for the continued maintenance of the school. Outdoor facilities consist of a large hard-surface recreational area, a large grass area and a school garden. The school also enjoys the benefits of a small sensory garden, which was funded by a local industry.

 

The school is adequately resourced for delivery of the primary curriculum. Teachers share specialised equipment and resources to support teaching and learning in many curriculum areas, and each class has a suitable supply of general resources including a class library and a computer. Recently, the parents’ association purchased one interactive whiteboard (IWB), and is currently raising funds toward the purchase of additional IWBs. Teachers ensure their classrooms are tidy and attractive learning environments. Many feature dedicated curriculum areas and a variety of wall-charts, which reflect and support the pupils’ learning. Samples of pupils’ work are proudly displayed in classrooms and in the corridors. In general, classes are well resourced with a variety of teaching and learning materials and equipment that has been accumulated over time by the teachers.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school has a vibrant parents’ association which is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council. The parents meet approximately seven times a year; minutes are recorded and an end-of-year report is compiled and circulated. Commendably, the chairperson addresses the parents of new junior infants each year and promotes the work of the parents’ association. The principal maintains close relations with parents and attends all meetings of the association.  He routinely keeps the general body of parents informed through issuing a report of school events and activities at each meeting. The impact of parents’ involvement in the work of the school is very positive. Classes in Irish dancing are organised as after-school activities. The organisation of a book and tracksuit sale each year is much appreciated by the wider parent body for its practicality and convenience. Parents involve themselves in fundraising activities in the acquisition of resources and in supporting a wide variety of school and social events. Most recently parents generously gave of their time in painting areas of the school and in the planting of shrubs that adds in no small measure to the aesthetic appearance of the school. At the meeting with representatives of the parents’ association, they expressed their satisfaction with the commitment of staff to the education and welfare of children.  They also expressed their concern for the future development of the school to meet the ongoing needs of the area. Communication systems in the school are effective. Each parent is issued with a booklet detailing pertinent school information and a selection of significant policies. The school recently introduced the text-a-parent service to further improve communication. Parents are kept informed of their children’s progress through formal parent-teacher meetings, which are held in November each year. An end-of-year report is issued to parents, together with a copy of the pupils’ standardised test results. A guide to interpreting these results accompanies this report. Parents are routinely informed of events throughout the year by means of notes and a school newsletter.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils is very good. Systems to promote good behaviour are well established and this is reflected in the cooperation with and courtesy displayed to teachers and others. Teachers are committed to the general welfare and pastoral care of pupils and a respectful and caring atmosphere is cultivated throughout the school. Pupils are highly motivated and are eager to display their talents and achievements.  

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

A comprehensive school plan that reflects the school’s mission statement and characteristic spirit is in place. The school plan incorporates a wide range of organisational and curriculum policies. The school plan has been developed under the leadership of the principal and with the collaboration of teaching staff and the board of management. Individual teachers have taken responsibility for developing curricular sections of the plan including the special-education policy. In the curriculum policies, the various subject areas are well documented and in many cases indicate practice at classroom level. It is recommended that the school would further develop the good whole-school planning by ensuring that curriculum policies are reflected in individual teacher’s classroom planning and practice. The curriculum policies include useful references to special education and to assessment strategies.  While this is good practice, it would be beneficial to produce an overarching policy on school assessment procedures. In addition, the school is advised to prepare a Drama plan and to include more discrete reference to the Relationship and Sexuality Education programme. 

 

In general, curriculum policies are reviewed by staff members. For example, the history and geography plans have recently been reviewed. It is advised that the staff would agree a schedule for the systematic review of curriculum and organisational policies and that board members, teachers and parents be involved in the review process. The school might beneficially employ the Department’s publication, Looking at our School (2003), as an aid to the school review process.

 

The school plan is filed in the main office and is accessible to parents. Relevant policies, including those on enrolment and the school’s code of behaviour, are issued to parents on enrolment of their children. Plans are underway for the launch of a school website, which will gainfully support the school community in accessing relevant policies.

 

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with the Department 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.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers engage in long-term and short-term planning, as required under Rule 126. In general, good-quality detail is documented in long-term planning documents with content for each class level outlined. However, teachers are advised to make greater use of the school plan to inform their long-term classroom planning, and to ensure it is relevant and meaningful to their classroom contexts.

 

A template for documenting short-term plans is used by most teachers. This provides a detailed outline of curriculum content to be covered in a number of cases. Teachers are urged to review current practice in documenting short-term plans, and to ensure greater focus is placed on learning outcomes in terms of the development of pupils’ skills and conceptual understanding. The method of recording the monthly progress report should be reviewed for the purpose of providing clear records of pupils’ learning. To this end, the practice of recording general themes, topics and page numbers should be discontinued and replaced by clear statements of pupils’ learning outcomes. 

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

For the most part, very good standards of pupil achievement were observed during the evaluation and a variety of assessment techniques is used to monitor pupils’ progress. Teachers prepare well for their lessons and are keen to ensure effective learning is taking place. Throughout the school, teachers create an encouraging learning environment and have established positive behaviour and engagement in the lessons among the pupils. During the evaluation, purposeful, focused and well-structured lessons were observed. Teachers display an ability to support their lessons using a variety of resources and, in general, textbooks are employed judiciously. Teaching methodologies adopted by staff are characterised by a blend of innovative, child-centred strategies as well as more traditional strategies with an emphasis on whole-class teaching. In some classes, teacher-directed, whole-class teaching was the predominant methodology observed. A greater emphasis on interactive teaching and cooperative learning practices is recommended whereby pupils will be provided with increased opportunities to take a more active role in their learning. This could be beneficially supported through the extension to all classes of the effective group teaching observed in a number of classes. ICT is utilised by teachers to a limited degree to support the teaching and learning. However, the school has identified the expansion of this resource as a priority area for development in the coming year and this will be supported by the professional development plan for staff..

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá traidisiún Gaeilge á chothú sa scoil seo le fada an lá. Déanann na hoidí tréan iarracht an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn sa scoil mar theanga bheo. Déantar an Ghaeilge a úsáid go forleathan i ngnáthchaint an lae in an-chuid de na ranganna agus moltar an dea-chleachtas seo a chur i bhfeidhm go leanúnach ar bhonn scoil uile. Úsáidtear raon leathan straitéisí mar cluichí teanga, úsáid puipéid agus ról imirt chun rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí a chothú. Eagraítear gníomhaíochtaí go rialta chun scileanna éisteachta agus labhartha a chur chun cinn. Bíonn rainn, dánta agus amhráin Gaeilge á n-aithris go beoga ag mórchuid de na daltaí agus arís moltar an dea-chleachtas seo a chur i bhfeidhm ar bhonn leanúnach. Cothaítear timpeallacht Ghaelach thorthúil sna seomraí ranga le lipéid, le frásaí agus le cairteacha dathúla. Eagraítear cleachtaí foirmiúla léitheoireachta go rialta sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna. Leabhair oibre is mó atá in úsáid mar théacs agus moltar leas sa bhreis a bhaint as fíor leabhair agus as ábhar prionta eile chun na scileanna léitheoireachta a chothú ar bhonn suimiúil sistéamach. Saothraítear an scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil go coinsiasach agus déantar an obair a chlárú go hordúil i gcóipleabhair na bpáistí. B’fhiú anois, tógaint ar an dea-chleachtas seo agus scileanna saorscríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí a chothú a thuilleadh fós.  Is dúshlán anois é d’fhoireann na scoile leanúnachas cainte a chothú i ngach rang agus straitéisí a roghnú chun cumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt a thuilleadh fós.  

 

Irish

There is a long standing tradition of promoting Irish in this school. Teachers make a concerted effort to advance Irish as a vibrant language. Irish is used frequently in every day language and it is recommended that this good practice be adopted consistently on a whole-school basis. A wide range of strategies such as language games, puppetry and role-play is organised to foster the participation of pupils in the learning process. Activities are organised frequently to develop their skills in listening and speaking. Poetry, verse and song are recited with vigour. A productive Irish environment is cultivated in classrooms with labels, phrases and with colourful charts. Formal reading lessons are organised in the middle and senior classes. Workbooks in the main are utilised as text and it is advised to make an increased use of real books and other print material in an effort to develop reading skills in an interesting and systematic fashion. Functional writing tasks are developed conscientiously and work is recorded neatly in copybooks. It is recommended that existing good practice in the teaching of writing be extended in order to develop further the pupils’ independent writing skills. The challenge for staff in the future is to develop in pupils in each class a greater fluency in language and to employ strategies to ensure the further development of pupils’ communication skills.

 

English

The teaching of English is of a high standard and in general pupil achievement is good. Teachers provide and use a wide range of resources to support teaching and learning. Each classroom provides a suitable print-rich environment and the class libraries are well stocked with a variety of books. Samples of pupils’ personal writing and project work are on display in most classes. English is integrated well with many other subject areas throughout the school. In general, the teachers employ a variety of effective teaching approaches to ensure pupils can engage purposefully with all aspects of the subject. Teachers are encouraged to extend the repertoire of methodologies employed by including greater levels of differentiation and increased opportunities for enhanced group work in their lessons

 

A number of very good oral language lessons were observed; particularly those that incorporated focused opportunities for language acquisition and language development among the pupils. Of particular significance is the integrated nature of the lessons observed both within the strands of the English programme and to consolidate learning in other areas of the curriculum. In many classes teachers make effective use of a variety of strategies, including games, group work, discussion and drama to maximise the interactions between pupils. In these lessons, children were observed to be articulate and confident when expressing themselves.

 

Reading skills are appropriately developed throughout the school and, for the most part, pupils are fluent and confident readers. Commendable work in the area of phonological awareness, and word recognition skills was observed in the junior classes and form a firm foundation for the further development of pupils’ reading skills. A number of effective pre-reading activities are employed in junior classes and are supported by rhymes, word games and other suitable resources. A wide variety of reading materials successfully supports the teaching of reading in this school. Large format books are used advantageously in the infant classes. Pupils in middle and senior classes read a variety of genres to a high standard and class novels are a feature of reading programmes from first class to sixth class. To maximise the benefit of the class novel, teachers are encouraged to ensure selected novels are appropriate in terms of content, interest and level of difficulty. Children were observed to engage enthusiastically with these reading materials. A shared-reading programme was recently established in some classes, whereby the pupils and their parents read books together at home. This is commendable practice, the extension of which would gainfully benefit pupils in other classes. A number of effective strategies have been implemented to promote reading among pupils in middle and senior classes, including, Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) and the reading of compilations of pupils’ personal writing.

 

The teaching of writing is systematically developed throughout the school. A variety of pupils’ writing is attractively displayed in each classroom. Pupils’ abilities are appropriately developed from the pre-writing activities in infant classes to the good standard of creative writing in the senior classes. Teachers employ a range of effective methodologies and avail of opportunities to link pupils’ written work with other curricular areas. Pupils are provided with the opportunity to write regularly and creative writing activities include the writing of poetry, the compilation of personal accounts and free writing activities during Drop Everything and Write (DEAW) periods. In a majority of middle and senior classes, pupils are encouraged and supported in the skills of drafting and editing. It is recommended that this commendable practice be extended to all relevant classes and that opportunities to experience a wider variety of writing genres are developed. Pupils’ abilities in functional writing are suitably developed and lessons include the promotion of strategies to support accurate spellings and grammar. Most teachers teach and promote neat handwriting among the pupils and it is recommended that this be extended to all classes through the careful demonstration and modelling of good penmanship skills by teachers.

 

Pupils are exposed to a variety of poems, as well as being afforded opportunities to compose their own poetry. Good linkage between poetry and other areas of the curriculum was observed.

 

4.3 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good. Pupils reach a high standard and are enthusiastic about their work. Classes are well equipped with appropriate mathematical resources which are used effectively. A range of concrete resources is especially well utilised in the junior and middle classes to support the emergent development of number and mathematical concepts. Most classes feature dedicated mathematics areas, which reflect and support the pupils’ knowledge and skills. Lessons are well structured and suitably paced. Teachers adopt a variety of effective teaching methodologies in the teaching of Mathematics. Good attention is given to supporting the acquisition and use of number facts in middle and senior classes and pupils’ abilities in this regard are continually developed during oral mathematics sessions. Pupils perform computation and problem solving, both mentally and in written format, and their written work is well presented and regularly monitored by the teachers. Good work was observed in the teaching of mathematical language associated with the particular concept and pupils discuss problems using the mathematical language taught. Overall, pupil achievement in Mathematics is of a good standard. It is recommended, in order to further develop the current good practice, that greater opportunity is afforded to group work and to the discussion and analysis of mathematical concepts and their application to everyday situations relevant to pupils’ own experiences.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

For the most part, History is well taught, with good attention paid to the acquisition of knowledge and the development of skills among the pupils. Many classes feature discrete history displays, and age-appropriate timelines are on display in the majority of classrooms. It is advised that the display and use of timelines be extended throughout the school so as to enhance pupils’ understanding and appreciation of change over time. Lessons are appropriately structured and paced and pupils participate with enthusiasm.  Many of the lessons observed were very creative and incorporated tremendous opportunities for pupils to work as historians. Teachers employ the textbook judiciously, and, in general, base their lessons on well-sourced resources and suitable methodologies. Lessons are suitably supported by the effective use of historical artefacts, project work, ICT and story. In some classes, pupils beneficially explore aspects of history within their local environment. The study of local history has benefited from the recent production of a DVD by a local historical society on the history of the parish. To further support the good work in the area of local history, it is suggested that greater emphasis be placed on the systematic development of this valuable aspect of the programme throughout the school. Suitable topics are chosen at each class level to focus the pupils’ attention on sequence, chronology and change and to develop an interest and curiosity in their respect and understanding of the past. Pupils’ sense of time and chronology is carefully cultivated in junior classes through the exploration of significant events in their personal lives and in the lives of their families. This sound foundation is expanded upon in middle and senior classes where pupils explore the lives of the individuals, groups, events, cultures, beliefs and values which have affected the lives of people in the past. While pupils document topics taught and engage in written exercises to a good standard, it is recommended that they be provided with greater opportunities to engage in group exercises and project work in the middle and senior classes.

 

Geography

The core elements of Geography are based on textbook content, with judicious use made of charts and other illustrative materials to support the lessons. Topics are introduced and developed through discussion that is relevant to pupils’ lives and experiences. Interest in the locality of the school is exploited to varying degrees. Infants are routinely introduced to the environs of the school through an annual walking tour. As a development point, it is suggested that this local orientation might be usefully extended to embrace the natural environment of the school in greater detail. People and their roles in the community are discussed regularly in the junior classes. Elements of physical and human Geography of Ireland and beyond are examined in the middle and senior classes. Map reading skills are systematically developed and pupils’ sense of place and direction is keenly explored from an early age. Project work is utilised to good effect to widen perspectives and to develop pupils’ research skills. Praiseworthy samples of pupils’ work in Geography are on display in classrooms and in the corridors.  

 

Science

Pupils exhibit a considerable enthusiasm for Science. They are suitably challenged by the activities and their scientific skills are nurtured consistently. Aspects of growth together with characteristics of seasonal change are explored regularly. The senior pupils are involved in very good work on the development of a school vegetable garden and derive valuable experience on aspects of care and cultivation from this work. Pupils are afforded opportunities to engage in simple experiments across a variety of strands. A number of pupils demonstrate an impressive competence in evaluating evidence and in drawing conclusions from experimentation and investigation. Teachers skilfully support pupils to develop higher-order thinking skills, allowing them to devise their own ways of working and problem-solve during group activity. Teachers are commended for the promotion of Science through participation in initiatives such as the Green-Schools programme, the Health Promoting School and Discover Primary Science. Attractive learning environments are created with the provision of nature and investigation tables in classrooms. ICT, including the use of the interactive whiteboard, is recognised by staff as a valuable resource in the teaching of Science. In the further development of Science, staff is encouraged to identify a variety of habitats in the immediate environment of the school and beyond that will facilitate hands-on investigative work.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

Throughout the school, pupils are given opportunities to experience a broad and balanced Visual Arts curriculum through which they explore, respond to, and interpret the visual world around them. Pupils are exposed to a wide array of art media and regularly produce praiseworthy samples of artwork. A good balance is achieved between making art and looking and responding to art and the various elements of art are appropriately explored. Lessons are carefully prepared and well structured, providing pupils with opportunities to respond creatively and imaginatively to their own work as well as to the artistic work of their peers and of famous artists. The Visual Arts programme is regularly and gainfully integrated with other curricular areas. The school is suitably stocked with appropriate materials and resources and decorative samples of the pupils’ work are on display in the classrooms and corridors. 

 

Music

The school is well equipped with a variety of musical resources and teachers make very good use of a commercially produced music scheme. These resources, coupled with effective teaching, ensure that the curriculum strands are appropriately developed and that a good standard is achieved among the pupils. One teacher who has a particular interest and ability in music teaches the recorder to pupils in middle and senior classes. She further deploys her skills effectively through an arrangement with the principal teacher whereby she teaches the music programme to sixth class pupils. Teachers are careful to ensure pupils have successful experiences within the three strands of the curriculum. Rich samples of pupils’ work in the two strands of performing, and listening and responding were observed. In particular, pupils’ abilities in musical literacy were praiseworthy. While pupils are exposed to many good opportunities in the Composing strand, it is recommended that this strand be developed by facilitating pupils to further explore and create their own musical compositions and recordings.  

 

Drama

Drama is taught as a discrete subject area throughout the school, and in many classes it is effectively utilised as a teaching methodology in a variety of subject areas. Though a formal whole-school policy has not yet been devised for this subject, at classroom level teachers are keen to ensure the inclusion of Drama on a very regular basis. Appropriate classroom methodologies are utilised to ensure full participation and effective use is made of a variety of resources. Pupils work well in whole class, group and individual settings and, for the most part, lessons include productive levels of discussion and exploration of feelings, knowledge and ideas by pupils, leading to improved understanding. It is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on this strand of the Drama programme and to the elements of Drama, as outlined in the curriculum, thereby providing pupils with greater opportunities to approach new knowledge through imaginative activity and drama. A visiting speech and drama teacher visits each classroom weekly and supports the development of drama in the classrooms.

 

4.6 Physical Education

The school is well resourced in terms of PE equipment. Facilities for PE include the school’s general purpose hall, a hard surface play area and a spacious grass area. The pupils also have access to the local GAA pitch for training purposes and for competitive matches. Teachers introduce the pupils to a range of enjoyable activities. Commendable attention is given to the development of skills in court and field games, in athletics, in dance and in aquatics. The teachers’ dedication to the promotion of spoken Irish is exemplified in their use of Irish during PE activity and teachers are encouraged to extend this commendable practice throughout the school. The school enjoys the services of coaches for football, hurling and soccer and their contribution to skill development is much appreciated by staff. Pupils partake in a variety of sports and team events, including Sciath na Scol competitions and the Cork Primary School Sports.  The success of the girls’ soccer team is a source of great pride for all as they were All-Ireland runners-up in the Football Association of Ireland soccer competition in 2007. The principal is commended for his commitment to promoting pupils’ participation in sports and for supporting school teams.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

Throughout the school teachers provide many opportunities to foster the personal development, health and well-being of pupils. Teachers are committed to the creation of positive relationships between themselves and pupils. Classroom rules are discussed regularly and class contracts are drawn to promote and maintain good behaviour among pupils. A wide range of opportunities is provided for the development of pupils’ sense of self-worth, personal growth and safety. Teachers draw from a variety of programmes to imbue pupils with respect for peers and adults and to encourage responsible behaviour. The programmes include the Walk Tall, Stay Safe and the Relationships and Sexuality (RSE) programmes, and selected lessons are also chosen from the Earthlink textbooks. A public health nurse from the Health Services Executive delivers a presentation and talk on RSE to the senior pupils each year. Group activity together with Circle time, story and song are used to good effect  for group building purposes and to enable pupils explore and discuss feelings.   

 

4.8 Assessment

The staff is commended on the quality of assessment procedures in operation throughout the school. Teachers use a variety of tools to monitor pupils’ progress and attainment across a wide range of curricular areas. Teacher observation, checklists, portfolios of work, and standardised tests are applied consistently. Class teachers administer the standardised tests annually to pupils from first to sixth class. Results are recorded on the school’s data base and are carefully analysed and utilised to subsequently develop a profile of pupils’ learning needs. Results in literacy indicate that pupils are making good progress in accordance with age and ability. The results in numeracy are equally good. Pupils in senior infant class are administered the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) towards the end of the year. Further diagnostic testing is administered to inform learning programmes for pupils presenting with special educational needs. This range of assessment modes contributes effectively to compiling pupils’ learning profiles.

 

The school is now advised to develop a policy that will inform and guide present and future procedures in the area of assessment. It is recommended that this policy should include an emphasis on the use of assessment information to impact teaching and learning. In this context, teachers are urged to embrace the concept of assessment for learning as outlined in the guidelines on assessment from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Two teachers provide supplementary support to children with special educational needs. The learning-support teacher has efficiently fulfilled this role for a number of years. An additional special-education resource teacher was appointed to the school in October 2009 and is shared with St. Luke’s N.S., in the Cork city suburb of Douglas. The resource teacher and learning-support teacher have developed positive collaborative work practices during the short time they have been working together. They share their caseloads, and provide learning support in small groups to selected pupils and on a one-to-one basis for pupils who have been allocated resource teaching hours. This shared practice is acknowledged as a very positive development as it contributes to the development of a team approach as well as providing a valuable opportunity for both teachers to work with pupils of varying abilities.

 

The school implements the staged approach to the identification and selection of pupils for additional support. Learning support is provided in the areas of literacy and mathematics to pupils from first class to sixth class. Currently, learning support is provided to twenty-two pupils and three pupils have been allocated access to the resource teacher. Pupils in receipt of learning support are identified through a combination of assessment test results and teachers’ recommendations. Pupils in receipt of learning support receive supplementary teaching in groups, on a withdrawal basis from their classrooms. For the most part, the three pupils in receipt of resource teaching are similarly withdrawn from their classrooms for additional support. It is recommended that this situation be reviewed and that elements of in-class support teaching be incorporated into the provision for pupils with special educational needs. As pupils from infant classes are not selected for support teaching, it is recommended that the in-class support programme would include an early identification and prevention strategy in infant classes. This strategy may take the form of station teaching for a defined period of time and would involve a collaborative approach between special-education teachers and class teachers.

 

The teachers prepare conscientiously for their lessons and carefully match the content to pupils’ interests and abilities. Plans of work are devised for pupils attending learning support and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that include clear learning objectives and realistic success criteria are developed for pupils in receipt of resource teaching. There is evidence of collaboration between class teachers and special-education teachers in the development of the IEPs. It is recommended that a more systematic arrangement be developed to ensure the inclusion of parents and relevant special needs assistants in the development and review of IEPs.

 

Special-education teaching is provided in a friendly and supportive environment and the pupils are evidently happy to attend in small groups and individually. There is good interaction between the teachers and the pupils, which contributes significantly to building pupils’ self esteem, knowledge and skills.  The support rooms are well resourced and teachers make effective use of a wide range of creative teaching methodologies, supported by suitable books, games and equipment, including suitable education software on the computer.

 

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

The school promotes policies of inclusion and equality, and welcomes pupils from all backgrounds. The school fulfils the requirements of the Education Welfare Act and teachers are keen to promote the well-being of the pupils. All pupils participate in school activities and equality of access, opportunity and participation is ensured. When required, the particular needs of individual pupils and their families are addressed discreetly and sensitively.

 

The learning-support teacher provides additional support in English as an Additional Language (EAL) to two pupils in junior infants. The teacher utilises resources and guidelines developed nationally for primary schools in addition to the range of resources available in the school.

  

 

6.    Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

For the most part, a high standard in spoken Irish is achieved by pupils.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

 Published, May 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

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.     

 

It is envisaged that in-class support will be implemented from September 2010 and early intervention will also be targeted.

The Board of Management is currently finalising for the installation of Interactive Whiteboards in all class rooms to provide for greater access to interactive lessons and learning.