An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh
Date of inspection: 06 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh. 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. 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’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which 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 documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh is a thirteen teacher co-educational school located on the border of the parish of Donoghmore, Knockea and Roxborough approximately eight kilometres from Limerick City and caters for the education of children within a five kilometre radius of the school as defined by the board of management. The school was constructed in 1985 and was extended in 1996 and in 2002. There has been extensive growth and development in this area resulting in the school which once served a rural community now providing an education for pupils from both rural and urban settings. However enrolment in the school has not increased due to the fact that the board of management has a defined catchment area. At present this school has an enrolment of 279 pupils. While pupil attendance is very good, the board of management is considering the introduction of strategies to help foster an appreciation of learning, to ensure that the high levels of attendance are maintained and that regular and punctual attendance will continue to be a feature of the school. Scoil an Spioraid Naoimh is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Limerick and the school’s mission statement supports this Catholic ethos. However, pupils are also welcome regardless of creed, culture or social status. The characteristic spirit of the school, as outlined in the mission statement and as evidenced in the general atmosphere throughout the school, is one of caring inclusiveness, where all pupils are cherished equally. A warm and welcoming atmosphere was evident during the period of inspection and this ethos is reflected in the positive interactions between pupils and teachers. The school is a participant in the Department of Education and Science’s initiative Modern Language Pilot Project.
The board of management is properly constituted and endeavours to fulfil its obligations on behalf of the school in a professional, committed and forward thinking manner. The board meets at least five times a year and proper agenda and minutes of meetings are maintained. Specific roles are allocated to individual members, quarterly financial reports are provided and accounts are certified annually. The board discusses and ratifies a range of school organisational policies and has begun to encourage the involvement of parents in drafting the Anti-Bullying policy. During evaluation meetings held with the Inspection team, strategies for parental involvement in organisational policy development were discussed and agreed with the board.
There is considerable expertise and knowledge of the educational system among individual board members and this is harnessed effectively into a reflective and strategic approach to supporting the work of the school. The board is mindful of its legislative responsibilities and obligations and it is noteworthy that individual board members have undertaken training in this area. A three year plan has been put in place for the development of the school and current priorities include an extension to one of the school’s general purposes rooms and the expansion of the school’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure. The board is using the Department of Education and Science (DES) self-evaluation framework Looking at our school to analyse its own strengths and in this regard, it is recommended that the board focus in particular on the provisions of Section 20 and 21 of the Education Act (1998) in relation to how it communicates aspects of the school’s operation and performance to parents. The current redevelopment of the school’s website should be of considerable assistance in this regard.
The principal demonstrates effective leadership qualities and good organisational skills which contribute to the overall effectiveness of the school in a number of ways. Good structures are in place for the smooth day to day running of the school, good relationships are fostered with the board of management, members of the teaching staff, external agencies and with the parent body generally. Under the leadership of the principal, the school has coped well with the pace of change since the last Tuairisc Scoile (School Report) was issued by the Inspectorate in 1999. In this regard, the recent move towards a more strategic approach to the management of change is to be welcomed. The formulation of annual action plans for the last two years to manage the school’s development is a positive step and this practice should continue. Other achievements include the holding of formal meetings twice a term with the in-school-management team, which commenced in 2006. These meetings facilitate collaborative decision-making and partnership. A pupil-profiling system to monitor individual progress and achievement as pupils advance through the school has recently been introduced. These are positive and proactive initiatives, the progress of which should be reported regularly to the board of management.
The principal is supported effectively by an in-school-management team, which comprises of a deputy principal and four special duties post-holders. The roles attached to these posts are clearly defined and are reviewed regularly on an informal basis to ensure that responsibilities reflect emerging needs and priorities faced by the school. A strong spirit of commitment to the school and collegiate spirit exist between the team and good relationships are fostered with other members of the teaching staff.
The school is indeed fortunate to have a permanent, spacious and well-maintained building at its disposal. Successive boards of management are to be congratulated for the manner in which they have maintained the building in accordance with the changing needs of the school with several extensions of varying vintage having been added when required. Consequently, all classrooms currently present as bright, spacious and very suitable for the delivery of a modern curriculum. Display areas for pupils’ work in the Visual Arts, Science, History and a range of cross-curricular project work are a striking feature in all classrooms and along all corridors. Outdoors, the school has ample hard and soft play space at its disposal and the manner in which the interior and exterior premises are presented is a credit to the whole school community.
Individual classrooms are very well resourced and all represent pleasant and stimulating learning environments for pupils. Teachers demonstrate close attention to the issues of classroom management with attractive display areas, curriculum centres, libraries and tables of interest
prominent in all classes.
Mainstream and supplementary teaching posts and the deployment of support personnel are determined in accordance with the terms and conditions set down in DES circulars. Currently, ten teachers are deployed to mainstream classes with pupils distributed in an optimum manner that creates equitable pupil distribution in single stream and multi-grade classes. The school authorities might consider making the regulations and procedures governing this aspect of school management known to the parents in the form of an agreed policy. Involvement of members of the staff, board of management and parents’ association in the formulation of this policy might be of considerable benefit in clarifying issues relating to the allocation of classes and the distribution of pupils in single and multi-grade classes. This policy would facilitate greater transparency in respect of these issues for the wider school community.
The principal is also conscious of the need for a policy in regard to the rotation of teachers with efforts being made to afford teachers the experience of teaching in a variety of classes and contexts. However, the final decision regarding the deployment of staff is a function of the principal.
Good structures are in place for the development of a sense of home-school partnership among the school’s stakeholders. An active parent’s association is affiliated to the National Parent Council and is currently drawing up a formal constitution. The association, of which the principal is an active member, meets monthly and considers ways in which it can work to support the development of the school. To date, this work has included assisting with the management of ICT access for pupils in the infant classes, paired-reading with pupils in the infant and junior classes. fundraising, providing support at school events and organising a wide range of co-curricular and extra-curricular classes and activities. In the future, the parents stated that they would like to become more involved in the school’s planning process. This is to complement and build on their positive experience of being involved in the development of the school’s Relationships and Sexuality Education and Anti-bullying policies. Strategies for affecting parental involvement in organisational school planning were discussed by the Inspection team with members of the
parents’ association committee. These strategies could include formal meetings between the association’s committee and the board of management to explore the issue.
A very positive and successful approach to the management of pupils is evident throughout the school. Respectful pupil-pupil and pupil-teacher attitudes characterise a positive school climate in which pupils are encouraged to develop their talents and interests. The pupils present as enthusiastic and active learners and are given ample opportunities to engage in independent and collaborative areas of interest through a broad range of curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular experiences. Co-curricular experiences include the DES Modern Languages pilot scheme, Discover Science projects, Write-a-book project, Comenius school-exchanges under the Léargas Socrates programme, the An Taisce Green Flag awards schemes, the National Children’s Choir and regular musical performances. A wide range of extra-curricular activities is also offered including team sports, chess, acting, Irish dancing and Speech and Drama clubs. These combine with the broad approach to curriculum implementation employed by the teaching staff to ensure that pupils are offered appropriate opportunities to develop socially, emotionally and intellectually as they advance through the school.
Good work has been undertaken to date in relation to the development of school planning documentation, as required by section 21 of the Education Act, 1998. The school-planning process involves collaboration among board members, the principal and staff. The staff has also engaged with others, such as Primary Curriculum Support Programme(PCSP) facilitators, School Development Planning Suport (SDPS) facilitators and Regional Curriculum Support Services(RCSS) in the sourcing of supports and resources which will underpin change over time.
Final policy statements are endorsed by the board and in some instances review dates are noted. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The quality of the school plan is good and it is a professionally presented, user-friendly document. It contains two sets of policies. The first set of policies deals with organisational issues and the second with the programmes for curricular areas. In line with DES guidelines, many aspects of policy and procedures relating to the general administration of the school are described in the school plan. The school’s mission statement is clearly articulated and the Health and Safety Statement has been compiled. One of the priorities identified for development includes the review by a consultancy group of the Health and Safety Statement to ensure that it is compliant with section 20 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.
The organisational section also includes sets of policies dealing with general organisation, Behaviour, Enrolment, Anti-Bullying, Equality, Relationships and Sexuality Education, Data Protection, Attendance, Substance Use, Special Needs, Home-School Issues, ICT, Internet use, and Information for Newly Qualified and Substitute Teachers.
The board of management and staff in collaboration with a sub-committee of the parents’ association recently reviewed the Anti-Bullying policy. The principal and staff are also commended for working in collaboration with pupils in order to monitor and track bullying instances. While a number of policies are disseminated through the school prospectus, which is issued to parents of the incoming junior infants, it is recommended that a system for disseminating relevant final policy statements to all parents should be organised. It is also recommended that the role of the general parent body in policy development should be reviewed in order to afford them a more collaborative role in the development of relevant policies.
The school plan identifies whole school approaches to teaching and learning in various curricular areas. In the plans, reference is made to the rationale, aims, equality of participation, staff development, strands and strand units of the curriculum, available resources are listed and some general guidelines on assessment of pupil learning are included. The content of the documentation indicates that the staff has gained a broad knowledge and understanding of the Primary Curriculum (1999) and of the teaching methods which is fundamental to full implementation of the curriculum. Teachers monitor the implementation of the curriculum carefully and they record this in their monthly progress reports. The impact of planning on pupils’ achievement is monitored to some extent, notably in the area of special education and some aspects of English and Mathematics. A two-year school development plan for policy and self- review under a range of headings is also included. The curricular areas of English and the Visual Arts have been prioritised for immediate review.
Valuable work has been done to date in the development of curriculum plans and the principal and staff are to be commended for their collective input. The Music and Social Personal and Health Education(SPHE) plans are comprehensive and contain a sequenced outline of content to be covered in the strands and strand units linked to available resources. The plans also detail other aspects of curricular areas under a range of headings including success criteria, elements of self- assessment and timeframe. Other plans while detailed under a range of headings are more general in nature, and as a result their impact on individual teaching and learning is less extensive. In reviewing the existing curriculum plans, it is recommended that the approach taken to structuring and describing the content in the more comprehensive curriculum plans be adopted. There is a need also to ensure that there is a concerted focus on planning towards the achievement of definite outcomes for pupils at all levels of the school. The school as a whole should renew its commitment to continuous improvement of these key outcomes through the process of planning, teaching, learning and assessment. Consideration should also be given to the broader incorporation in the plan of additional methodologies which will promote active learning, collaborative learning, inquiry-based learning, integrated learning, independent learning and the use of ICT, as recommended in the curriculum.
A clear ICT plan has been developed to address the use of laptop computers in individual classrooms and a network of workstations in a dedicated computer room. As the board is considering expanding the ICT infrastructure in the school, it seems logical that the plan should also be expanded at this time. Specifically, the plan should be developed to include a more curriculum-focused programme of learning activities for pupils at each level in the school. This plan, which will detail further opportunities to develop pupils’ ICT capabilities utilising a cross- curricular approach will consolidate some of the excellent examples of ICT use evidenced during inspection.
All teachers plan diligently and prepare individual long- and short-term plans for their classes. Some schemes presented are very comprehensive in nature and are linked closely to the content objectives of the curriculum and detail assessment strategies. These schemes also provide for the integration of different curricular areas through the use of cross-curricular themes. Very good practice was observed where teachers stated learning objectives, which are clearly linked to the Primary Curriculum (1999). It is recommended that the key learning intentions stated in individual long- and short-term planning should in the future be clearly linked to the broad objectives as stated in the school plan.
Classroom planning is based on the strands and strand units of the curriculum. Long-term and short-term planning ensures that pupils experience a range of learning activities, an appropriate balance between whole-class teaching and group work is maintained, and opportunities are provided for pupils to participate in paired work, group work and project work. Long- and short-term planning should also include a brief description of the topics and content to be covered together with procedures for ICT, differentiation, assessment and evaluation of pupil progress in each curricular area at appropriate stages in the instructional term. To ensure consistency in individual planning, an agreed template might be devised which would provide a focus on the appropriate elements of the planning process.
Monthly progress reports are also maintained which are largely based on reporting the broad content of lessons taught. A strategy should be devised for conducting an annual school review. To ensure that staff will be enabled to contribute effectively to the information gathered during this annual school-based self-evaluation process, a template for individual progress records might be devised which would include a reflective comment on the objectives achieved in addition to the current emphasis on the broad outline of content taught.
The quality of learning and teaching in the curriculum was evaluated on the basis of observation of teaching and a review of samples of work and copybooks in all classrooms. In general the quality of teaching and learning in the school is very good. All lessons were presented in a competent and conscientious manner. A variety of methodologies is undertaken in all classes, through the use of teacher-directed approaches, whole-class teaching, group teaching, project work and pair work. However, the varying of teaching strategies to incorporate group work and differentiated learning activities to address pupils’ special educational needs should be given further consideration in the mainstream context.
The teachers provide charts and illustrative materials, audio-visual equipment which are used effectively to stimulate the interest of the pupils. Some excellent examples of the use of ICT in lessons were observed and it is recommended that this practice should be extended to all classes. Many opportunities are provided for pupils in most classes to undertake experiments and investigations and to engage in independent learning and project work.
Concrete materials are used effectively in the teaching and learning process. Good emphasis is placed on the environment as a resource and as a starting point for learning. The quality of teaching was very good. General achievement in Reading is also very good. Numeracy skills are well developed, and pupils’ achievement is of a very good standard. Samples of pupils’ work in copybooks and on display in the classrooms and in the corridors were found to be of a high standard. Teachers monitor pupils’ work regularly and provide constructive feedback. Teachers succeed in creating secure and attractive classroom environments and they cultivate an atmosphere where the self-esteem of the pupils is fostered.
Tá dul chun cinn maith á dhéanamh ag na daltaí agus ar an iomlán tá cumas maith ag na daltaí i labhairt na dteanga. Tá spéis ag na múinteoirí sa Ghaeilge agus is léir go bhfuil machnamh déanta ag an bhfoireann teagaisc ar straitéisí chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn ar fud na scoile. Éiríonn go breá leo an Ghaeilge a mhúineadh ar bhealach taitneamhach. Baintear úsáid mhaith as straitéisí difrúla le linn na gceachtanna. Musclaítear suim na ndaltaí trí fheidhm fhóinteach a bhaint as puipéid, fearas léirithe, obair-i-bpéirí, agus ábhar nithiúil chun cumarsáid na bpáistí a chur chun cinn. Baintear úsáid as an nGaeilge mar mhéan cumarsáide i rith an lae i ranganna áirithe. Cothaítear suim sa Ghaeilge trí ghníomhaíochtaí dramaíochtaí ag rangleibhéal áirithe. Leagtar béim ar struchtúir na teanga agus ar Ghaeilge fheidhmiúil a fhorbairt. B’fhiú áfach tuilleadh aire a thabhairt do struchtúir an saor-chomhrá agus na daltaí a spreagadh chun cainte níos mó chun an foclóir atá acu a dhaingniú níos doimhne. Moltar chomh maith béim a chur ar an nGhaeilge a mhúineadh trí Ghaeilge i gcónaí agus modh an aistriúchain a sheachaint. Moltar, freisin, béim níos treise a chur ar Éisteacht mar shnáith den churaclam sna ranganna go léir agus cleachtaí éisteachta agus gníomhaíochtaí scéalaíochta a chur os comhair na ndaltaí ar bhonn rialta. Cuirtear éagsúlacht rainn agus filíochta i láthair na bpáistí agus aithrisítear go tuisceanach bríomhar iad.
Tá tús maith curtha leis an léitheoireacht fhoirmiúil. Léann na daltaí as scéim ghrádaithe léitheoireachta sna meánranganna agus ag leibhéal na n-ardranganna agus léiríonn siad tuiscint an-mhaith ar an ábhar i gcoitinne. Freastlaítear go hoiriúnach ar phrionta sa timpeallacht a sholáthar i ranganna áirithe, ach ba chóir a chinntiú anois go leantar leis an gcleachtas seo i ngach rangsheomra. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois, áfach, ar éagsúlacht ábhar léitheoireachta a úsaid tríd an scoil, chun saibhreas foclóra agus léitheoireacht neamhspleách na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil ina gcóipleabhair agus is léir go ndéantar ceartúchan agus monatóireacht rialta ar an saothar seo. Ba chóir béim níos treise a leagadh ar fhorbairt na scríbhneoireachta chruthaithigh.
Overall the pupils are making good progress and they have achieved a good standard in oral language. The teachers have an interest in Irish and it is evident that the teaching staff has reflected on strategies to promote Irish throughout the school. They succeed in teaching Irish in an enjoyable way. In order to engage pupils in the learning of Irish and to further develop their communication skills a range of different strategies including puppets, charts, working in pairs and concrete materials is utilised. In some classes good use is made of Irish as a means of communication throughout the day. Interest in Irish is fostered through the use of dramatic activities in some classes. Emphasis is placed on the structure of the language and on the development of functional Irish. However, it is important that further emphasis be placed on structuring oral Irish language lessons to provide opportunities for pupils to communicate through Irish and to ensure that the vocabulary taught is further consolidated. It is recommended that the Irish language be taught through the medium of Irish and that translation as a teaching method should be avoided. It is also recommended that further emphasis be placed on developing the Listening stand of the curriculum in all classes. Exercises in listening and activities in story telling should be presented to the pupils on a regular basis. Pupils are afforded the opportunity to engage with a range of rhymes and poetry which they recite enthusiastically and with understanding.
A good start has been made in the teaching of formal reading. A graded reading scheme is in use in the middle and senior classes and in general pupils have a very good understanding of the stories read. A print rich environment is evident in some classes and it is recommended that this practice be extended to all classes. It is important also to consider the use of a variety of reading materials throughout the school in order to further develop a rich vocabulary and to develop pupils as independent readers. Pupils record formal writing activities in their copybooks and it is evident that this work is corrected and monitored regularly. It is important now that further emphasis be placed on the development of creative writing.
The quality of teaching and learning in English is very good and teachers at all class levels are commended for the manner in which they have adopted the principles of the curriculum. A commercial oral language development programme is in use throughout the school. Appropriate attention is paid to the development of children’s oral language skills, and opportunities for engaging in discussion across a range of curricular areas is organised. Most pupils express themselves confidently and fluently in English in all classes. In some classes a wide range of oral language activities including debates and a range of cross-curricular themes are planned for very effectively. To ensure consistency across classes, it is recommended that a discrete oral language programme be introduced that is explicitly linked to the oral language objectives as set out in the English curriculum. Consideration might also be given to developing an observation framework for the assessment of oral English in the school. Phonological and phonemic awareness are developed through the use of a commercial programme and a phonics programme in junior and senior infants. To ensure consistency across classes, it is recommended that the principal and staff should collaboratively develop a whole school approach to the teaching of phonics.
Reading skills are well taught and the reading culture that has developed throughout the school is praiseworthy. Very good use is made of books in promoting an interest in reading. Parents undertake a shared reading programme on a daily basis with pupils from infants to third class. The infant class activities for reading readiness provide a foundation for the teaching of reading through the use of large format books, experience charts and a good selection of age-appropriate reading books. The introduction of a formal class reader should be delayed until pupils display competency in oral skills and when a wide range of emergent reading activities has been successfully completed.
Class readers are used extensively and in some classes the novel and the use of graded supplementary materials are utilised. Many pupils are independent readers and read with high levels of fluency. This high standard is reflected in pupils’ achievement on standardized reading tests which are administered annually. Emphasis is placed on reading for pleasure, facilitated by the provision of well-stocked class libraries.
There is a good balance achieved between functional and creative writing at all class levels. Suitable activities are used in infant classrooms to enhance motor skills and manual dexterity. The teachers are cognisant of the importance of the writing process. Basic writing skills are taught using a range of pre-writing activities. Personal and creative writing commences in the junior classes. Pupils write short personal accounts and undertake writing based on topics of interest. This skill is further developed and emphasised in middle and senior classes where a variety of genres using an age-appropriate register of language was also noted. Pupils’ copybooks also indicate that written work is monitored regularly and corrected carefully. The majority of pupils write with care and attention and some reach an impressively high standard. Pupils engage in the draft, redraft process and pupils in some classes are afforded opportunities to use ICT to print selected samples of their work, which are displayed attractively throughout the school.
Pupils in infants and junior classes learn a variety of rhymes, jingles and simple poems and they recite these with great enthusiasm. As they progress through the school, pupils in middle and senior classes become familiar with a wider range of poetry and they are encouraged to compose their own poems and present them to their peers.
Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative
The school is a participant in the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative. French is taught for one hour each week to fifth and sixth classes. Evaluation was not possible in this area at the time of the evaluation as the programme had not yet commenced because the tutor was unavailable. The principal reported that the lessons in French would begin in the week commencing 9 October 2006.
The quality of provision for the teaching and learning of Mathematics is consistently good throughout the school and very good in a number of classes. The curricular policy in Mathematics informs classroom practice and good quality individual classroom planning complements this by allowing for breadth and balance in the pupils’ experience across all five strands of the curriculum. When review of the Mathematics plan takes place, the teachers might usefully develop to a greater extent the areas relating to mathematical language, use of the environment and ICT.
Analysis of standardised test results indicates that pupil achievement levels in Mathematics are high throughout the school. This can be associated with the quality of teaching and learning, with all teachers’ close attention to the oral arithmetic deserving of particular mention. In the infant classes, due attention is given to concept formation and language development through early mathematical activities. In the first and second classes, concrete materials are deployed to extend these mathematical skills and knowledge and most pupils develop a good sense of place-value and strategies for solving problems across all strands. In the middle and senior classes, pupils demonstrate a good knowledge of the number facts and perform computations accurately. They have developed a good sense of place-value and good estimation skills such as rounding off and the manipulation of number. Some very good examples of the use of the environment were witnessed in senior classes with pupils making their own mathematical instruments. But overall, the context for developing problem-solving skills should be more embedded in real-life situations to counteract an over-emphasis on textbook problems. Consideration of a wider range of ICT tools could be of considerable help to the teachers in this regard.
Good individual classroom planning across all four strands of the curriculum indicates that the teachers are successfully adapting to key changes to this area of the curriculum introduced nationally in 2005. Observation of individual lessons also indicates that pupils are provided with the opportunity to examine historical artefacts, photographs and use primary and secondary sources of evidence to act as historians. Time-lines are a feature in most classrooms and teachers employ active learning methodologies including paired and group work. A school plan for History is being put in place and further in-service training being provided nationally during the current school year should help to further inform and advance this work.
All teachers plan for balance across the three strands of the curriculum and a school plan to guide and consolidate this work is in the process of development. Throughout the school, teaching and learning is of good quality and very good quality in some instances where the emphasis on the development of skills such as making and using instruments to record weather data, is commendable. Integration is a feature of teaching at most levels, as is a focus on active learning methodologies and in some instances an emphasis on the development of independent research skills using the internet. Teaching generally reflects most key changes in emphasis which were introduced to teachers through a national programme of in-service training in 2005. However, greater attention to the development of graphical skills at all levels is recommended as is the need to embed teaching content in local, national and international contexts.
The school actively fosters an interest in Science among the pupils. Involvement in the Discover Science programme provides pupils in the senior classes with opportunities to apply science to everyday problems, and to conduct scientific experiments, investigations and research. Pupils’ findings are recorded and presented to a very high standard using ICT and digital photography. Involvement in Science Week and in the An Taisce Green Flag Awards also promotes in the pupils a positive attitude towards their immediate and wider environment and towards the subject generally.
Strategies for promoting the development of scientific thinking to a greater extent in younger pupils were discussed with the teaching staff during the post-evaluation meeting. These strategies might include creating investigation tables to arouse curiosity in the infant and junior classes and introducing pupils to the processes of forming hypotheses and conducting fair-tests in the middle classes. Review of the school plan for Science will provide the teachers with an opportunity to explore these possibilities. An audit of scientific sources available in the immediate school environment to support this work should also be considered along with a system for timetabling access to central resources for each class grouping through the school. Development of a whole-school approach in this area will help consolidate many of the examples of good quality teaching and learning witnessed during the evaluation.
The quality of teaching and learning in the Visual Arts is very good. The teachers have embraced the principles of the Visual Arts curriculum. Planning is based on the structure and content of the curriculum. Appropriate time is allocated to teaching of the Visual Arts. In general there is a good balance between 2D and 3D work. The classroom environment supports pupil learning and a range of materials and resources is used appropriately in the delivery of the programme. Pupil engagement with the activities is effectively organised. The samples of pupils’ work that are displayed in all classrooms, combined with evidence from the school plan and teachers’ long- and short-term planning, indicate that pupils have explored a range of themes, topics and media from the six strands of the Visual Arts curriculum. Many of these are suitably linked with other areas of the curriculum. A selection of the pupils’ work is displayed in the corridors.
A range of effective starting points for purposeful teaching is employed and pupils are afforded opportunities to explore activities through guided discovery methods. On occasions direct teaching methods are employed to enable pupils to develop specific skills. Pupils observed were active in exploring, experimenting and enjoying their class. The teachers encouraged them to make their own decisions. In general, emphasis is placed on the creative developmental process that affords pupils the opportunity to express their understanding of their world in a creative rather than in a passive or imitative way. There is also evidence that pupils, as well as making art, are encouraged to look and respond to their own work, the work of their peers and the work of artists. Talk and discussion are a feature of these classes and pupils develop a visual awareness of the elements of art.
It is recommended that further emphasis be placed on Looking and Responding to the work of artists and working in the style of the artist and that resources be provided to teach this strand unit in all six strands. While teacher observation is used to assess pupils’ work the inclusion of a range of assessment strategies in the school plan and in the long- and short-term planning would extend the progressive development of pupils’ skills as part of a whole school approach. Consideration should be given to the development of digital portfolios, through a photographic record of work, which could be supported by ICT resources.
The school is fortunate in having teachers with a particular competence in this curricular area. There is evidence of excellent practice in the teaching of Music in most classes. In general standards of singing within the school are excellent and the children perform tunefully and with considerable confidence. However, in some classes during these activities it is important that children be given a comfortable starting note from a pitched instrument. There is a strong tradition of instrumental music in this school and pupils perform musical pieces on the recorder to a very high standard. The recorder ensemble also entertains to a very high standard at various events throughout the school year. Aspects of Music literacy including notation, rhythm, beat, pitch and the use of percussion music are explored very effectively in the middle and senior classes. Music appreciation is also being developed in some classes, while integration with other curricular areas is a feature of some classroom practice. Regular activities in listening and responding, performing and composition are conducted very effectively in the middle and senior classes. School concerts, participation in the National Children’s Choir, the Hallelujah Chorus, community events and liturgical ceremonies enhance pupils’ opportunities to perform publicly.
Drama is taught both in formal and informal settings and many of the teachers are commended for their imaginative approach in this area. Drama is used to enhance the work in some areas of the curriculum and the children enjoy the opportunities provided. It is evident from the lessons observed that the drama activities have contributed to the children’s ability to develop confidence in expressing and communicating their own ideas and feelings through imaginative role-play and movement. A range of resources and materials were also used effectively to stimulate pupils’ imagination. Pupils in the senior classes also participated very successfully for the past two years in the “School’s Play Challenge” by the Belltable Arts Centre.
The school views PE as an integral part of the school curriculum and promotes a healthy attitude to sport and exercise. The school provides a broad programme of PE, which includes games, athletics, aquatics, gymnastics, dance and outdoor and adventure activities. It is evident from the teachers’ planning that lessons are well structured with clear objectives and the lessons observed in the games strand were well organised with a particular emphasis on skill development. Staff members provide support for a number of extra-curricular activities and give substantial amounts of their personal free-time to school teams. There are teams in the school for Gaelic football, basketball, tennis, girl’s football, camogie and athletics. Pupils participate in Inter-schools and primary school sports competitions. Pupils also participate in in-school competitions and all pupils are involved in the annual school sports day. While the quality of provision observed in the games strand was of a very high quality, it is important to ensure that a balance be maintained across all strands of the curriculum during the school year.
Provision for the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) of pupils is of good quality throughout the school. A positive school climate exists in which respectful attitudes are cultivated and pupils are encouraged to develop their talents and interests. During inspection, they presented as bright, eager to learn and willing to respond to a challenge. Discrete lessons in SPHE complement this positive climate and pupils are given opportunities to consider choices and make decisions. These lessons are supported with resources from appropriate programmes and a consistent whole school approach to planning provided for breadth and continuity in pupils’ learning as they advance through the school. As a means of giving practical substance and application to many of the skills taught in the SPHE programme, the teaching staff might usefully consider establishing a Student Council. Such an initiative could be used as the context for developing oral language skills, writing skills and higher order thinking as well as recognising the importance of citizenship and the rights of the child.
Teacher observation, teacher-devised tests and monitoring of pupils’ written work are some of the assessment modes used regularly throughout the school. These are complemented by the administration of formal and standardized tests namely Micra-T, Sigma-T, Drumcondra Primary Reading and Mathematics standardised tests from second class upwards. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is also administered to pupils in senior infants to assess pupil attainment in literacy and to identify pupils who may require supplementary support. The Quest Number and Reading diagnostic tests are administered to pupils in first class. Appropriately, parents are consulted and advised of results at the annual parent-teacher meetings. The data on pupil attainment and performance is documented. Records are maintained in a methodical and consistent manner in the school. The principal reports and school documentation indicates that relevant information from the analysis of the assessment data is used to guide teachers and to inform curricular planning.
The teachers exchange assessment information informally with each other on an on-going basis. Pupil profiles are compiled and formal reports are prepared at the end of each school year. Copies of these reports are retained in the school. In addition, teachers maintain records of individual achievement on class tests and other aspects of the curriculum.
Formal procedures have been recently established to forward a file containing class and standardised test results, monthly progress reports and report cards to the next class teacher. As a further development of assessment procedures, the school might usefully direct attention to the plotting of trends and the creation of a whole-school perspective on pupil achievement in literacy and numeracy, and use the analysis to devise future programmes of learning.
A school plan has been developed to clarify the school’s policy in respect of the provision for pupils with special educational needs. The policy on enrolment is consistent with current legislative requirements and the approach to provision has adopted the staged approach to intervention recommended in DES Circular SPED 02/05. The roles of the Special Education Team (SET) teachers and Special Needs Assistants (SNAs) are delineated accordingly. Intervention for pupils at stage two of the DES framework is of good quality, but intervention for pupils at stage one needs to be reviewed to determine how the curriculum is being differentiated in mainstream classes for these pupils. Stage three intervention also needs to be reviewed in some instances to ensure that it is appropriately weighted in accordance with more acute learning disabilities and needs of these pupils.
The individual programme planning and supplementary teaching provided by the SET teachers is sensitive, focused and for the most part effective. In some instances, it is recommended that learning targets are framed in a manner that reflects priority learning needs more closely and in a manner that facilitates assessment more easily. Teaching strategies are adapted appropriately to suit individual needs and intervention takes place through a mixture of pupil withdrawal and in-class support. It is recommended that these strategies are reviewed regularly by the whole teaching staff to ensure that the most appropriate model of support is employed in each instance.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
The teaching and learning across the curriculum is very good.
The school is managed by a very interested and motivated board of management.
The duties of the principal and post holders are carried out in an effective, professional and diligent manner.
The diligent, conscientious, committed, talented staff members contribute to the high quality of teaching and learning in the school.
Pupil behaviour is managed successfully and interactions observed among pupils were considerate and caring.
The accommodation and the maintenance of the accommodation are of a very high standard.
The school is very well resourced and these resources are used in an effective manner to support teaching and learning.
The staff is commended for the involvement in the extensive co-curricular programme of activities provided for the pupils
The Parents’ Association is very supportive of the work of teachers and strong home school links have been established.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
In the school plan for English, the strand of oral language should be reviewed in order to ensure a cohesive approach throughout the school.
While considerable investment has been made in ICT hardware and software, the school plan needs further development to guide teachers on the application of ICT at each class level.
Further development of a whole school approach is recommended when reviewing curricular plans to include differentiation and assessment strategies.
Further development of the monthly progress record to include review and assessment of the objectives achieved is recommended.
A more consultative role for parents is required in the development of the schools’ organisational plans.
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.