An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

 

Lisheen Mixed NS,

Church Cross, Skibbereen, County Cork

 

Uimhir rolla: 15563F

 

Date of inspection:  1 May 2008

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Lisheen NS, Church Cross, Skibbereen, Co. Cork. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for further development. During the evaluation, the inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the in-school management team, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning in Gaeilge, English, Mathematics and History. He interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. He reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. 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 was given the 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 to this report.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Lisheen NS is a rural, mixed national school under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Cork and Ross. The school is one of two schools serving the parish of Aughadown. There are 66  children enrolled in Lisheen NS and this has risen consistently since 2000 when 34 pupils were in attendance. School projection figures indicate further increases in the foreseeable future. Consistently high levels of attendance are the norm in Lisheen NS.

 

The teaching staff of Lisheen NS comprises five teachers. There are three full-time and one part-time special needs assistants in the school. A part-time caretaker/cleaner and a part-time secretary are available for ten and six hours, respectively.  School admission and enrolment policies are guided by the principles of inclusiveness, equality of access and parental choice. The main school building which dates back to 1906 was refurbished to a high standard in 2001 with Department of Education & Science (DES) approval and support. The school now presents an attractive, modern learning environment and plans are in place to replace all existing prefabricated structures with permanent accommodation in response to increased patterns of enrolment.

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

The board of management of Lisheen NS is properly constituted in line with DES guidelines. Meetings are held regularly, minutes are recorded and a financial report presented. The board has a clear understanding of its role and contributes effectively to the structural, organisational and curricular development of the school in line with DES regulations and circulars. The practice of auditing annual accounts is to be commended. The board of management has an effective and committed chairperson. The chairperson of the board has reviewed, ratified and signed all school organisational and curricular policies on behalf of the board and in compliance with statutory obligations. A commitment to partnership clearly guides the work of this effective school board and their efficiency is evident from the manner in which the infrastructural needs and the resource requirements of the school and of individual pupils are attended to. Clear and effective lines of communication are in place between the board, the principal and staff and the wider school community. Lisheen NS is a well resourced, properly maintained, well ordered and secure educational facility providing an appropriate context for learning within the unique school community it serves. Curriculum provision is in line with the stated learning objectives of the curriculum for primary schools and relevant pastoral care practices and special needs provision are provided in response to the needs of individual pupils and the school community.

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The vital role of the principal of Lisheen NS, in the articulation of the agreed vision for the school, is widely acknowledged by the board, the parents and the staff. In addition to her teaching role, she plays a significant part in the fostering of a team approach to teaching and learning and in successfully monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of teaching across the curriculum. It became obvious during this external evaluation process that the principal performs her duties to a high standard whilst, at the same time modelling best practice in terms of inclusiveness and  collegiality. Informal staff meetings are held daily, before school commences Formal staff meetings with agreed agendas are held at least once per quarter. The principal is assisted in her work by all other staff members and the in-school management team. Though specific duties with curricular, pastoral and administrative responsibilities have been allocated to individual staff members, a whole school approach to problem solving is evident. The daily challenges of this school are embraced in a positive climate of mutual support and all staff members co-operate purposefully in pursuit of optimum levels of pupil achievement and educational attainment. Leadership was observed at all levels within the school and roles and responsibilities are clearly delineated.

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

There are five teachers in Lisheen NS. Individual teachers are assigned particular classes in order that their collective talents are available to the majority of pupils at the most opportune time. The current staff formation has been consistent for a number of years. A degree of flexibility does pertain with regard to particular teaching duties and where possible individual expertise is spread across the broad range of classes. This practice results in an improved focus on whole school planning and promotes team teaching as a viable alternative to the traditional ‘one teacher one class’ approach. The resource and learning support teachers engage in a variety of effective teaching practices. These include whole-class teaching, focused group work and student withdrawal which enables them to maintain close links with their colleagues in mainstream roles and furthers their ability to analyse their own respective contributions to teaching and learning.  

The four Special Needs Assistants in Lisheen NS under the guidance of the resource teacher and the principal contribute effectively to the general emotional and educational development of the pupils in their care. Their contracts are unambiguous and their respective roles are clearly defined and in the best interest of the pupils. The quality and focus of special needs provision, underpinned by careful planning, review and analysis, is a marked feature of the school.

 

School accommodation consists of two permanent classrooms, a resource room, an office, toilet facilities for staff and pupils, a prefabricated classroom/staff room and a smaller prefabricated learning support room. All classrooms and corridors are decorated with appropriate displays of pupil’s work and the general environment is print rich, attractive and a stimulus to learning and creativity. Plans are underway to replace all existing temporary accommodation with permanent structures and new grounds have been purchased to facilitate this process.  The school grounds, buildings, records and files are maintained to a high standard by the part-time ancillary staff and with community assistance, when appropriate.

 

There is a comprehensive range of support materials and resources available in Lisheen NS. These materials are audited regularly, managed efficiently and used  purposefully in support of teaching and learning. Each classroom has been equipped with a computer and these are used on occasions to enhance the learning of pupils. Outdoor recreational facilities include a well maintained secure playing area, a basketball court and a green field area. All surfaces are maintained to a high standard in line with appropriate Health & Safety regulations.

 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

Lisheen NS is an important focal point in a rural community and a strong sense of pride and of ownership exists. An open door policy is apparent with regard to parental involvement and the quality of relationships that permeates this school are admirable. Parents are, clearly, valued as partners in education and regularly informed with regard to the academic, social, emotional and physical development of their children. The local parents’ association provides an added focus for home school dialogue and it is an important source of financial support to the school. It is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council.  Representatives  expressed high levels of satisfaction with the educational provision in the school and with the breadth and balance of the curriculum on offer.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

A positive busy working atmosphere is evident in the school. Excellent pupil behaviour is the norm. The professionalism of the staff contributes to this positive environment and their use of a wide variety of learning strategies and methodologies allows for maximum levels of pupil participation and achievement. Teachers provide clear instructions and clarify and set high learning objectives. The pupils display a pride in their work and in their school and willingly cooperate with their teachers during class, eagerly taking part in discussion and participating fully in guided and discovery based learning.  A pleasant, agreeable working atmosphere is palpable in Lisheen NS and the pupils display confidence and maturity commensurate with their age.

 

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

Whole school planning is at an advanced stage in Lisheen NS. Through a collaborative process a comprehensive range of curricular and organisational plans has been developed in line with DES regulations and guidelines. These plans have been ratified by the school board and are subject to review at regular intervals in line with best practice. The planning process is well managed and a strategic plan has been developed which identifies priorities, and implements, reviews and monitors all aspects of the school planning process.

 

Curricular and organisational plans have been developed with the assistance of support programme personnel where available, and are both relevant and informative. Curriculum strands and strand units have been identified and teaching methods and resources have been listed in an individual class context. These plans are relevant and clearly influence individual teacher preparation.  The impact of good planning, review and evaluation is also evident in the area of special needs education.

 

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.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

 

At classroom level all teachers present a broad and balanced curriculum and adhere to appropriate timetabling arrangements. Individual teachers undertake long-term and short-term planning which is generally informed by whole school planning documents and school policies. The general focus of individual teacher planning is the monthly record of learning outcomes which is comprehensive and detailed. The process would be further improved by the development of individual planning templates which might ideally identify strands and strand units and make specific reference to learning objectives, differentiation, methodologies, resources and assessment.

 

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

The teachers in Lisheen NS are competent, professional practitioners and share a common purpose to achieve high standards of teaching and learning. Some excellent practice was observed in the course of this external evaluation. Learning objectives were generally clear and teachers were observed using a variety of age-appropriate methodologies which ensured that the vast majority of pupils were on task and actively engaged in the learning process during most of the time. Learning was target driven and outcome focused and the inclusion of children with special educational needs was praiseworthy. All pupils willingly engaged when prompted to do so and a clear picture of calm purposeful activity presented.

 

Print rich classrooms provide a suitably stimulating environment for teaching in the school. The quality of teaching observed was generally high. Pupils were motivated  and actively participating in the learning process. Classes observed were well structured and appropriately paced. Learning was consolidated by appropriate revision and a wide range of age-appropriate resources and strategies was used in each class to promote understanding of concepts.  Whole-class teaching and grade-level teaching are generally used in delivering the curriculum but some very good group-work using differentiated learning tasks was also observed during the evaluation.  The levels of teacher interchange practices brought added diversity and variety to the learning process and facilitated meaningful group work, at appropriate times.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Ta dáiríreacht fhoireann teagaisc na scoile seo faoi theagasc na Gaeilge le moladh agus forbraítear cumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí go torthúil ar fud na scoile. Sna bunranganna spreagtar  na daltaí chun cainte le rainn agus le habairtí a oireann do na haois-ghrúpaí seo. Úsáidtear múinteoireacht dhíreach chun an comhrá a chur i bhfeidhm sna meán agus sna hardranganna. Múintear abairtí oiriúnacha agus cuirtear an teanga i bhfeidhm trí dhrámaíocht go héifeachtach.

Moltar caighdeán na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta sa scoil agus san iomlán bíonn atmaisféar na scoile seo fabhrach don Ghaeilge. B’fhiú, anois, breis béime a chur ar úsáid teanga agus deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí an foclóir agus na frásaí atá ar eolas acu a úsáid chun a líofacht a fhorbairt. Moltar don fhoireann cur leis na deiseanna scríbhneoireachta agus samplaí den obair scríofa a chur ar taispeáint sa timpeallacht. Moltar, chomh maith, ábhar amháin eile gné d’ábhar a mhúineadh trí Ghaeilge chun úsáid teanga a fhorbairt níos .

 

Irish

The dedication of the teaching staff to the teaching of Irish is commendable and the conversational ability of the pupils is developed fruitfully throughout the school. In the junior classes the pupils are encouraged to express themselves through rhyme and age-appropriate phrases. In the middle and senior classes more direct methods are employed which include repetition and group responses. Suitable language is presented and developed  effectively through drama. The standard of reading and writing is satisfactory throughout the school and a favourable attitude to the language is evident. The range of writing genres and displaying such material could be extended. In addition, it would be worth considering teaching another subject area or aspect of a subject area through Irish in order to further develop the use of the language.

 

English

There is appropriate and consistent emphasis on literacy development in Lisheen NS. An emphasis on language development is apparent across the curriculum in all classes. Pupils are  exposed to an appropriate variety of reading material in print rich environments. They generally read fluently and basic reading skills are taught effectively. There is a structured approach to phonological awareness in the junior classes and reading skills are further refined throughout the school by virtue of a wide variety of reading material which is available to all pupils.  Pupils written work in a variety of genres and to a wide selection of audiences is displayed and celebrated and is generally of an impressive standard.  Sufficient emphasis is placed upon the conventions of grammar, punctuation and spelling in the context of English teaching practices in this school.  Standardised tests indicate high levels of achievement in literacy and the results are analysed carefully with a view to appropriate intervention, when necessary.

 

 

4.3 Mathematics

Appropriate mastery of the relevant mathematical concepts and skills at all age levels is apparent in Lisheen NS. A variety of resource material in support of Mathematics was available to all teachers and concrete operations and active learning methodologies were effectively used to further mathematical understanding. The structured incremental approach to whole school planning for Mathematics was a factor in the achievement of a satisfactory level of competence and pupil achievement.  There is a high level of mathematical teaching and learning apparent and concepts are developed incrementally and firmly embedded.

 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

In Lisheen NS pupils acquire a broad and balanced understanding of local and world history through the effective and age-appropriate study of people and events. Local study is given appropriate prominence and lessons are linked to other curricular areas where appropriate. This study is structured in a whole-school planning context and is in conformity with the principles of the curriculum for primary schools.  A range of appropriate teaching methodologies is employed including effective use of the local environment, ICT, project work and archival research.  

 

 

4.5 Assessment

Assessment practices in Lisheen NS are very good and the data gathered is analysed carefully  and used effectively to inform teaching and learning. A range of approaches, including monitoring and correction of work, teacher-devised tests and tasks, diagnostic and standardised tests in English and Mathematics, is used.

 

A wide variety of test instruments is used including BIAP checklists, Middle Infants Screening Test and Checklists, Neale Analysis, Informal Error Analysis in Maths & Reading, Quest, Aston Index, Micra-T, Sigma T, Rain Sentence Test and criteria referenced tests. Results of Micra-T and Sigma-T tests are carefully tabulated and analysis of the tests informs teaching on an ongoing basis. Results are effectively used to address the learning deficits of weaker pupils and parents are regularly informed of progress.

 

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

Pupils with special educational needs are very well supported in Lisheen NS. Purposeful collaboration between mainstream class teachers and support teachers in the development of individual education plans underpins the very good support provided. These plans set clear, specific and relevant learning targets within defined timescales and progress towards identified goals is consistently and carefully monitored. Close links are maintained with outside agencies and professionals in the interests of the pupils.  This excellent practice might be further enhanced by more direct collaboration with parents at the design stage in the future.

 

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

 

There are no pupils from disadvantaged or minority groups currently enrolled in Lisheen NS.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The quality of relationships at all levels within the school are exemplary and a caring and inclusive atmosphere is clearly evident.
  • Leadership is distributed throughout the school and collaboration and collegiality underpin all activity therein.
  • The board of management and the parents’ association are actively involved in all aspects of school life and view the school as an important focal point in their community.
  • There is a focus on learning outcomes in the school and the principal and staff are dedicated and professional in their efforts to enable all children achieve optimum learning.
  • High levels of care are afforded to pupils with learning difficulties and to those with special educational needs.
  • The school principal is a dynamic and conscientious professional who sees opportunity in every challenge and who articulates the vision of this school community with enthusiasm. 

 

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

 

 

  • An agreed template for individual teacher planning would be worth developing to ensure greater clarity, continuity and progression in teaching and learning in the school.
  • Further opportunities to use Irish communicatively would further enhance the good work of the school in language instruction.
  • The development of higher order thinking skills, through a structured whole school approach to problem solving, would further develop mathematical abilities and reasoning skills amongst pupils.
  • The school should consider liaising with their local Education Centre in order to explore and further develop ICT as a teaching and learning tool in their school.
  • A school website, if developed, and an annual school report which formalises existing reporting practice in written form, would be suitable vehicles in which to celebrate school achievements and important developmental milestones.

 

 

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, October 2008

 

 

 

 

Appendix

School Response to the Report

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

           Inspection Report School Response Form

 

 

            Area 1 Observations on the content of the Inspection Report

The Board of Management and staff of Lisheen National School wish to acknowledge the professional approach of the inspector during the whole school evaluation process, and the manner with which he interacted with both the staff and pupils of our school.  The Board also welcomes the positive and constructive nature of the report.

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 agreed template for individual teacher planning, as recommended, has been implemented.

·         The use of Irish in the teaching of a second subject is being explored. The school has arranged for in-school support with the P.P.D.S. for this.

·         A staff planning day, facilitated by the P.P.D.S. will be held in 2009 on the development of higher order thinking skills through a structured whole school approach to problem solving.

·         We have liaised with the West Cork Education Centre on the development of a school website.

·         The further development of I.C.T. as a teaching and learning tool in our school is being explored by the staff.