An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Athea N.S. Athea,
Roll number: 15685T
Date of inspection: 19 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Athea, Co. Limerick. 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
This eight-teacher school is situated in the heart of Athea, a village in West Limerick which has a strong tradition of interest in Irish culture and music. The school caters for children from the village and a rural catchment area which borders on the Kilmorna, Carrickerry, Ballyguiltenane and Abbeyfeale areas. The school operates under the patronage of the Roman Catholic bishop of Limerick. The school’s enrolment has been falling gradually in recent years, the current enrolment standing at 150 pupils. Should the enrolment fall further, the school may not retain the current staffing numbers. Attendance is generally very good.
The age of the school building, the original school having been built in 1921, is significant. During the 1960s the school was amalgamated with a number of smaller schools in the parish. The board of management is currently in discussion with the Department of Education and Science in regard to the proposed refurbishment and extension of the school building. The detached nature and isolation of some of the school’s accommodation from the main building warrants consideration. The location of the school beside an increasingly busy road and the resultant safety concerns is also a matter which has been given consideration by the board of management. The school utilises a large community centre, the Con Colbert Community Hall located on the opposite side of this road. It also uses a local park which is similarly reached by crossing this road. During the evaluation period, Limerick County Council was laying down markings outside the school which it is hoped, will alleviate some of the anxiety arising from the presence of traffic.
The board of management is properly constituted in accordance with section fourteen of the Education Act 1998. The board is effective in meeting its statutory requirements. Board of management members are committed to their roles and responsibilities as members of a board. It is significant that the board has received training as an entire board. In addition the secretary and treasurer of the board have availed of training specific to these roles. The keen interest of board members in the school is manifested in the ongoing care and attention paid by the board to the building and its decoration. There is a specific maintenance plan which involves paying regular attention to heating, painting, wiring and other matters. The enthusiasm of board members is also manifested in the fact that the board meets formally twice a term. The board has examined and ratified most school policies and it has ensured that most school policies have been constantly reviewed and updated. The work of the board is presently focused on its negotiations with the building section of the Department of Education and Science and in terms of its concerns with the safety of the pupils, with the acquisition of a pedestrian crossing and bus parking area at the entrance to the school.
The ethos of the school is clearly articulated in the school’s mission statement which indicates the intention that all involved in the school will work in partnership to provide a happy, secure, friendly learning environment for the children. This mission statement underpins the working relationship between the board of management and the principal and staff of the school. This working relationship is characterised by mutual trust, shared values and sense of purpose and by excellent communication followed by practical action. The chairperson of the board meets with the principal regularly and calls to the school to meet informally with staff and pupils on many occasions during the school week.
It is suggested therefore that it would now be appropriate for the board to build on the interest and commitment of its members and of the wider local community by initiating the process of shaping the longer term future direction of the school. In addition to planning for the refurbishment and extension of the school building, the board should become involved in drawing up a challenging but realistic school development plan which would prioritise the school’s areas for development and which would contain relevant time scales, costings and criteria by which success could be judged. The scope of the initiatives operating under the Equal Opportunities Childcare Programme as outlined in circular 27/05 was brought to the attention of the board.
The principal of the school exhibits excellent leadership qualities, in terms of both administrative and curricular leadership. As a result of the clear administrative procedures which she has put in place, the school operates very efficiently with the support of a part-time secretary. As a principal with full-time teaching duties, this principal contributes exceedingly well to the realisation of the school’s vision statement by prioritising teaching and learning and by setting high standards for performance. In her interaction with parents, staff and pupils and with other members of the school community, this principal values and clearly and consistently articulates the core principles of the curriculum. Among her staff she similarly inspires and supports openness to new ideas as well as a corresponding drive to develop each pupil to achieve his or her potential.
The responsibilities of the in-school management team are clearly defined and involve delegation of both curricular and administrative duties. Excellent collaboration exists between the principal and the teaching members of this team and it is evident that these teachers are valued as key members of the leadership of the school. The members of the in-school management team are, in turn, proactive and committed to their roles and they also focus on continuous improvement in their tasks. Decisions are made in partnership in a democratic manner. In summary, the organisation and practice of in-school management in this school is very successful in achieving the school’s articulated aim of facilitating all in the school to reach their full potential in a positive supportive environment where the uniqueness of the individual is valued and respected.
The skilled teaching staff in this school is effectively deployed and the expertise of individual teachers is well utilised. Regular rotation of class responsibility occurs. A particularly praiseworthy aspect of practice, which is in keeping with the culture of continuous improvement already embedded in the school, is the support given to each staff member to improve his or her own practice through continuous professional development. It is expected that each member of staff will communicate to fellow staff members the key messages conveyed during professional development initiatives. Resources acquired at courses attended by staff are catalogued and made accessible to all in a centrally located staff library. In addition to the teaching staff, a special-needs assistant works in close collaboration with a mainstream teacher and this teamwork contributes very well to the full inclusion of the pupil in her care in the mainstream classroom. As well as the part-time secretary, the caretaker provides excellent ancillary support. Aspects of the curriculum which are further supported by visiting external tutors include the teaching of tin whistle and the further development of information technology skills among the pupils.
There are 6 mainstream classrooms in the school. Most of the school’s classrooms, which are housed in the original school building, comprise rooms of varying dimensions. Two additional classes are housed in “stand alone” prefabricated classrooms. In addition, there is a small permanent classroom, used by the learning support teacher, which is also detached from the main building. The staff room and the school office are situated in a third separate building which is also prefabricated. The school playground comprises a number of separate playing areas which are divided by low walls. Recently the board of management acquired some land at the rear of the school and it has developed part of this land into a basketball court. The community centre used by the school includes facilities for all indoor sports activities.
An excellent range of teaching and learning resources is available in the school. Considerable investment has been made in information technology and one of the classrooms has been fully dedicated to the use of computers. With the assistance of the skilled visiting tutor, very good use is being made of this technology to support the teaching and learning process. The development of a website for the school is being considered. It is planned to extend pupils’ and teachers’ knowledge of and use of I.T. even further in the immediate future. In this undertaking, it is recommended that the pupils’ awareness of the European dimension in education might now be extended through encouraging live conferencing with pupils in other countries and through the development of skills in the use of on-line information sources.
The exemplary use of other resources observed in the school included the use of the digital camera to provide a photographic record of visits and projects undertaken. The use of a data projector by pupils to present on aspects of their work in the school is an innovation also worthy of high commendation. All classrooms have a considerable range of appropriate charts, maps and posters on display, which contribute to a stimulating learning environment. The school has a range of videos covering topics in history, nature study, safety, health, religion and school concerts and events. There is an extensive range of physical education, science and mathematics equipment, percussion instruments, videos, CDs and visual arts supplies in the school. The teachers use these resources very effectively in their teaching. Teacher-devised materials are also in evidence and records and displays of pupils’ work are on display in the classroom and corridors.
No parents’ association exists in the school. The principal means of communication with parents is through the homework diary. In addition parents can visit the school if the need arises and these visits are readily accommodated. A meeting of parents and their children in the school is organised prior to enrolment. On behalf of the parent body, the parent representatives with whom a meeting was held during the evaluation expressed clear satisfaction with the welcoming attitude of teachers to parents, with the manner in which their concerns received attention and with the progress of their children. They were also satisfied with the school’s assessment and reporting procedures and with the level of preparedness of their children for transition to second-level education. Parent representatives at board level are consulted in the school planning process. Parent/teacher meetings are held once annually and a report on each pupil is provided at the each of the school year. Parents are involved in fund-raising for the school and they were satisfied with this broad level of involvement.
There is scope now for development of the existing booklet for parents by expanding on the guidelines given to parents in regard to the key messages of the curriculum and by outlining age appropriate means of assisting their children at home particularly in the early years. Perhaps the proposed school website could also be utilised effectively by incorporating helpful links for parents.
The ethos of mutual respect underpinning the work in this school results in excellent teacher/pupil relationships and pupil/pupil relationships. The pupils showed consideration in their interaction with one another, with members of the staff, and in the manner in which they cared for the school environment. They exhibited excellent levels of confidence and self-esteem. The school’s well-grounded code of behaviour and the teachers’ commitment to the pastoral care and overall general welfare of the pupils contributes positively to the overall atmosphere of the school.
The school plan is at an advanced stage of development. It has been made accessible to all members of the school community through its location in the staff room in clearly labelled folders. The school deserves high praise for the fact that in all, thirty five organisational policies have been ratified on aspects such as behaviour, health and safety, homework, equality, anti-bullying, school attendance, learning support, resource teaching and assessment. It is evident that these policies were drafted with the involvement and collaboration of staff, the board, support services and where appropriate, with parents. They are duly influenced by the school’s mission statement and are underpinned by the principle of due process. They provide clear unambiguous guidance in relation to procedures to be followed in each of the areas addressed and as such contribute to the effective and efficient running of the school. At present, organisational plans are communicated to parents by means of the comprehensive school brochure. A list of policies is also circulated to parents who are welcome to procure a copy from the school secretary by appointment. The existing information given on the enrolment of pupils is very comprehensive. However, it is recommended that the board would now draft a formal enrolment policy and would review the learning support and resource policy in light of circular 02/05. It is also recommended that the existing assessment policy might be amended to incorporate an emerging focus on assessment for learning as well as the existing focus on assessment of learning.
The whole school plans which have been formulated in all of the curriculum areas display a familiarity with and a fundamental understanding of the principles and content objectives of the primary curriculum (1999). The plans in mathematics, physical education and music are of a particularly high standard and offer good direction on the utilisation of a range of methodologies and agreed whole school approaches. Very good reference is made to the use of the local environment in the various plans. The practice of dating and ratifying of policies and plans presently in progress should be extended to all documentation produced and the school plan for English should be prioritised for review.
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, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. However a designated liaison person has not been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines. This matter needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency, in the short term.
3.2 Classroom planning
At classroom level the teachers are focused on delivering a broad and balanced curriculum which is rich and challenging and which develops the imagination of pupils and the creative use of media and materials. Individually, all teachers diligently prepare long and short term plans and record progress in each of the curriculum areas. Classroom planning reflects an awareness of whole school curricular plans and of the principles of the primary curriculum. The majority of teachers organise their planning in line with the respective strands and strand units of the curricular areas. In most cases teachers make reference to specific learning objectives, differentiation, resources, teaching strategies and assessment. Teachers use a variety of templates to address the planning and recording of work, all of which have commendable elements. However, in the interest of uniformity and increased team effectiveness, it is recommended that staff would now consider the drafting of an agreed format for long and short term planning and for the recording of progress in each curriculum area. Currently some monthly progress records contribute effectively to the review of the implementation of the school by being focused on the achievement of learning outcomes. Ideally all monthly progress records should allow for similar reflection on outcomes so that further planning can be focused on the development and extension of pupil learning as opposed to the content of lessons to be taught.
Teaching and learning in this school are clearly underpinned by a dynamic planning process which gives formal and informal opportunities to the staff to discuss and gain familiarity with the curriculum. Thus individual members of staff have arrived at a shared understanding about progression in the curriculum and about the skills attitudes and values they are seeking to develop in the pupils to enable them to live a full life as children and to realise their full potential.
The teaching approaches vary between involving pupils in group work, whole class learning, pair work and individual work. Pupils were observed to be learning while being active and working collaboratively with their peers. Many of the lessons observed had an excellent pace and the teachers utilised challenging questioning skills which led to lively and purposeful teacher/pupil interaction and response in general. The teachers clearly focus on the development of optimum literacy and numeracy levels, higher order thinking skills, on the emotional, imaginative and physical development of the children and on developing aesthetic responses. As a result of the teachers’ understanding of the integrated nature of the curriculum, very natural linkage occurs between curricular areas and cross-curricular skills such as those of problem-solving and investigation are developed not only in the areas of social environmental and scientific education but are also applied across the curriculum to aspects such as finding out the meaning of words through the use of a dictionary or thesaurus.
The teachers have high expectations of their pupils and expect high standards of work. Pupils receive excellent support from the teachers and they are encouraged through the use of appropriate praise and feedback. A feature of teaching and learning in the school is the broad and varied manner in which pupils are encouraged to present their work. There is a sense of pride in pupil achievement which is celebrated through displays of artwork, writing and photographs as well as through the use of digital presentation.
Fothaítear timpeallachtaí sna rangsheomraí i gcoitinne atá fabhrach do mhúineadh agus d’fhoghlaim na Gaeilge. Saothraíonn na hoidí go han-díograiseach i múineadh na Gaeilge, baineann na daltaí an-taitneamh as na ceachtanna, déantar bainistíocht éifeachtach ar obair an ranga agus tá dearcadh an-deimhneach á chothú i measc na ndaltaí i leith foghlaim na teanga.
Baintear dea-fheidhm as modhanna éagsúla múinte sna rangsheomraí chun ceachtanna na Gaeilge a chur i láthair na ndaltaí. Spreagtar rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí agus mealltar iad chun cumarsáide go cumasach, trí fheidhm thorthúil a bhaint as ceistiúchán, cluichí cumarsáide, obair-i-bpéirí, agallaimh, gníomhaíochtaí ról-ghlacaidh, amhránaíocht, drámaíocht agus imeachtaí éagsúla eile. Cleachtar grúptheasgasc le linn tréimhsí áirithe an cheachta chomh maith, de réir mar oireann. Comhtháthaítear ceachtanna na Gaeilge le hábhair eile an churaclaim. Déantar sár-iarrachtaí suímh oiriúnacha a chothú chun fíorchumarsáid na ndaltaí a spreagadh, ionas go mbeadh deiseanna ag na páistí an Ghaeilge atá foghlamtha acu a chleachtadh. Clúdaítear na snáthanna go léir sa Ghaeilge and is féidir leis na daltaí sna hardranganna ceisteanna a chur agus a fhreagairt.
Tá sár-thús curtha leis an léitheoireacht fhoirmiúil, feictear go léann na daltaí go cumasach, líofa agus léiríonn siad tuiscint iomlán ar an ábhar atá léite. Cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil ina gcóipleabhair go cumasach. Sna hardranganna faigheann said deis go minic topaicí go bhfuil suim faoi leith acu iontu a chruthú tré scribhneoireacht phearsanta.
Classroom environments which are broadly conducive to the teaching and learning of Irish are provided. Teachers work very diligently in teaching Irish. The children enjoy the lessons very much. Classroom management is effectively undertaken and very positive attitudes towards learning Irish are being developed among the pupils. Very good use of a variety of teaching methodologies is made in presenting the Irish lessons to the pupils. Pupil involvement is encouraged and pupils are competently motivated to participate through the use of questioning, language games, pair work, interviews, role-play, singing, drama and various other activities. Group work is also undertaken at appropriate periods during the lessons. Irish lessons are linked to other areas of the curriculum. A major effort is made to create suitable contexts for the development of authentic communication so that the children will have opportunities to practise the Irish they have learned. All of the strands are covered and the children in senior classes are able to pose and answer questions.
Formal Irish reading has been initiated very well. It is obvious that the children read the material ably and fluently and that they demonstrate a full understanding of the reading material. The children skilfully undertake written work in copybooks and in the senior classes during time allocated to personal writing, they are given opportunities to write about specific topics of particular interest to them.
In the development of oral language, use is made of a variety of approaches to extend the children’s thinking skills through talk and discussion. There is also a general consciousness and focus on the development of the children’s emotional and imaginative lives through oral language. As a result, the pupils’ oral language skills have been well developed.
In the early years, the teachers undertake developmentally appropriate practice and are aware of the need to develop the child’s general language ability as a basis for success in reading. In the infant classes, the children are given opportunities to develop concepts of print and to engage with books through language experience materials, collaborative reading of large-format books, shared ‘reading’ of books and browsing and ‘reading’ in the library corner. Very good emphasis is placed on allowing them opportunities to listen and to respond to story. However, a greater amount of time needs to be allocated to this process, particularly at junior infant level. In keeping with the recommendations of the curriculum, which were further expanded upon in 2001 and in keeping with current research findings on the negative impact of inappropriate methodologies at this age level, it is broadly advisable not to begin formal reading until senior infant level.
From first class upwards, reading is based on a wide range of varied reading material including novels and reading material which includes narrative, expository and representational text. Throughout the school, various strategies are used to develop pupils’ reading fluency and accuracy. These strategies include the development of phonological and phonemic awareness and the use of semantic and syntactic cues. Higher order comprehension strategies are actively developed. The pupils are encouraged to read for pleasure and for information and visits to the local library are regularly organised. The pupils communicate their emotional and imaginative responses to literature in varying ways and through the use of a variety of media.
The strategies used in the development of writing are broadly focused on fostering the pupils’ impulse to write and enabling them to write competently, confidently and independently. The development of cognitive abilities through language is assisted by encouraging the pupils to clarify and refine their thoughts through the process of drafting and redrafting their writing. This use of information technology in this process is being well developed. Pupils are encouraged to write personal responses to a variety of stimuli and to write for real purposes and real audiences in a variety of genres. The writing process is effectively scaffolded by the teachers and by the visiting tutor. The children are helped to develop a command of the conventions of grammar, punctuation and spelling, aspects which are occasionally but not always, taught as they arise in the context of the oral, reading and writing work. Overall, the quality of the children’s learning in English is commensurate with their unique developmental stages, abilities, learning processes and backgrounds.
Whereas at a broad level breadth, depth and linkage to the primary curriculum are implicit in the planned English curriculum in the school, this plan, which was developed in 2002, needs review at this point. Clear learning outcomes for the teaching of English should now be explicitly stated in the whole-school plan as well as in classroom planning. A balance should be struck between the planned development of oral language, reading and writing. The planned learning outcomes should refer to the intention to develop the pupils’ receptiveness to language, the pupils’ use of language, the development of pupils’ abilities to think and learn through language and the development of pupils’ abilities to respond emotionally and imaginatively through language. The expected learning outcomes should be differentiated in accordance with pupils’ stage of language development and needs. A particular review should be undertaken of the approaches in regard to emergent reading and the rationale for these approaches should be clearly communicated to all members of the school community.
A feature of the work in the senior classes is the involvement of the school for one hour per week in the Modern Languages in Primary School Initiative. The teacher is a native French speaker and the classes address elements of French culture, food, geography and music. Some of the teaching involves listening to audio tapes and the children have acquired knowledge of French vocabulary and phrases and of French words in common usage. The pupils reported enjoyment of these lessons and gave consideration to how a facility in another language prepares them for their lives in the future.
The school’s policy in Mathematics is very well devised and it is evident that whole staff agreement has been delineated in regard to the recommended approaches and methodologies inherent in the primary mathematics curriculum. Among these aspects are the fundamental principle of constructivism and learning through guided discovery, the use of talk and discussion and active learning, estimation and the refinement of “guesswork”, mental work and knowing when and how to use the calculator. Emphasis is placed on presenting a variety of problems to the pupils in mathematics. Particular affirmation is deserved for thought given to aspects of mathematics in the environment and life in general as discussed in the school plan.
A wide range of well-sourced mathematical equipment is provided throughout the school and used effectively by both teachers and pupils. Opportunities are provided for pupils to engage in worthwhile practical tasks and whole-class, group and individual settings are employed. The children are encouraged to record their work in a variety of ways using concrete materials, orally, pictorially and in diagrammatic and written formats.
Pupils’ skills are well consolidated and keen questioning skills ensure constant revision of concepts taught. Written work is well presented and regularly monitored.
A particularly strong element of the curriculum in history is the emphasis placed in the school on the exploration of elements of personal, family and local history providing the children with crucial opportunities to develop awareness of the past and of its impact on the lives of individuals known to them. Every effort is made to identify suitable topics and themes and to capitalise on the aspects of the local environment which support the teaching of this element of the SESE curriculum. There is excellent use of the local environment, of walks and of observation as starting points for the development of topics. As a result the pupils’ knowledge of matters of local historical significance is excellent and they identify fully with “my home place.” For example, they delight in relating the story of the local giant and his mother. They are encouraged to become involved in group projects with cross-curricular emphases. Much development of skills is in evidence such as the development of an awareness of time, chronology, cause/effect, use of evidence and empathy with the past. In several classes, collected historical artefacts were on display. There was evidence of parents becoming spontaneously involved in historical investigations. Visitors are invited to the school to relate their experiences of the past. Overall, practice in this school in the teaching of history fully supports the fundamental principles of the history curriculum.
Skills and concepts development receive due emphasis in the development of the geography curriculum throughout the school. From a geographical perspective, their sense of place and space is further consolidated among the pupils. Resources such as maps and charts have been made available and are used very effectively. A particular feature of the work is map-making and children in the junior classes have been involved in making a map of their local area. Visitors are invited to the school to explain their own work. Special attention is paid to environmental awareness and care. There is an appropriate emphasis on the local natural environment, on the land, rivers and seas of Ireland and on the physical features of Europe and the world. In the future the use of information technology will further broaden the pupils’ perspective on human environments worldwide.
At whole school and classroom level, planned learning outcomes in Science are linked to the objectives of the Primary Curriculum and involve the development of the children’s science process skills and of their designing and making skills. Investigation tables are in place in many classrooms. Teachers use appropriate and challenging teaching methods which are focused on actively developing the children’s scientific skills. Pupils’ contributions are welcomed and excellent dialogue results from the pupils’ questions. Evidence gained from lessons observed, from discussion with the children and from their written work, suggests that the development of pupils’ abilities to design, make and work collaboratively is fully emphasised. The topics chosen by the teachers involve a broad and balanced approach to the study of living things, energy and forces, materials and environmental awareness and care. Much of the work is delivered through themes or topics that are integrated with other areas of the curriculum. The children’s work and level of interest shows that the planned learning outcomes are being achieved in accordance with the children’s innate ability.
Policy documents are in existence in which policy in regard to SESE is delineated. School strategy in the development of SESE might now be further expanded upon on a thematic basis in the future, reflecting the integrated nature of the SESE curriculum in the future.
The Visual Arts programme has been developed in a manner that promotes the provision of a wide range of suitable activities across all the strands of the curriculum and pupils’ work as observed in portfolios and on display in the classroom is of a very good standard. Work involving painting, construction, printing, drawing and fabric is being undertaken by the pupils. Lessons observed were suitably organised and the visual arts are fully resourced in the school. The teachers judiciously prepare material in advance of lessons and also plan activities that afford a greater degree of expression. The pupils are encouraged to look at and respond to works of art and to the their own work and the work of peers.Pupils are encouraged to talk about and discuss their work using appropriate language. Furthermore, opportunities for integrating art and crafts activities with local customs and with other elements of the curriculum are exploited to good effect.
A whole school plan has been prepared for Music where policy in regard to the whole-school approach is delineated. It is evident that teachers’ planning makes comprehensive provision for all three strands of the Music Curriculum. Concepts of music, such as rhythm and pitch are well developed. Song-singing and musical appreciation are components of the work at all class levels and the quality of singing is commendable. A visiting tutor teaches tin whistle and the pupils engage enthusiastically in this activity. Some pupils provide additional instrumental accompaniment to the musical activities. A particular feature is the emphasis on Irish traditional music. Pupils are encouraged to respond imaginatively to music in other areas of the curriculum and one such activity has involved the making of instruments. Activities involving listening to and playing music are strongly supported by a wide range of resources, including a variety of CDs and percussion instruments which are easily accessible and which are widely used by pupils and teachers alike. It is evident that teachers creatively integrate music with other areas of the curriculum. Percussion instruments are in place to support the teaching of improvisation and composition of music. An excellent school choir is in place which performs at many parish activities.
Dramatic activity is undertaken at classroom level and is also employed as an effective strategy throughout the school to enhance learning experiences in a variety of curricular areas. Dramatic activity was observed during the teaching of Gaeilge, English, physical education and social personal and health education. The teachers are aware of the unique potential of drama in developing different and personal ways of experiencing life.
The facilities in the Con Colbert Community Hall include two large halls, one of which is used by the school for athletics and drama. There are four basketball courts in the second hall. In addition the school uses its own external basketball court. As a result of the availability of these facilities, the school is in a position to support the strands of athletics, dance, gymnastics and games. The games which are supported include badminton, basketball, football and soccer. To ensure that the strand of aquatics is taught, pupils from each class from second to sixth class attend Ballyloughran Leisure Centre for a six week block of swimming lessons annually. Lessons in Physical Education are well organised and are suitably integrated with the other areas of the curriculum.
The behaviour and mutual respect of teachers and pupils for each other reflects the success of the school’s approach to social personal and health education. The whole-school focus on pupils’ personal development and well-being is exemplary. The social development of the pupils is excellent. The pupils are well motivated and this leads to a high level of self-discipline. Pupils appear to like being at school and are very proud of their school and their achievements. They are very self-confident and respond very well in lessons, join enthusiastically in activities and form excellent relationships. The staff draws upon programmes such as Walk Tall, the Department of Education and Science RSE programme, the Stay Safe Programme, Bí Folláin and other material in delivering the social personal and health education programme.
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.
Provision for pupils with special educational needs is of a high standard. Policies in the areas of assessment, learning support and special needs underpin daily practice. The board adheres to appropriate procedures in relation to the integration of pupils with special needs and they are encouraged and facilitated in participating fully in the life of the school. The school has the services of a full time learning support and resource teacher. Each of these teachers has a dedicated room which is very well resourced. The teachers have been facilitated by the board to avail of continuous professional development in the area of special education and the practice of disseminating the knowledge gained to other members of staff is praiseworthy.
These teachers are professional in exercising their duties and they display a dedication to providing for the holistic development of the individual pupils in their care.
Every effort is made to liaise with the appropriate external support agencies in meeting the needs of pupils who present with specific learning disabilities. A wide range of information on pupil needs is generated through the administration of a variety of diagnostic and standardised tests. This enables intervention to be initiated at an early stage. There is evidence of extensive collaboration and communication among the special educational needs team, parents, class teachers, the principal and the board. The practice of recording the outcomes of such consultations is to be commended.
Individual education plans (IEPs) are prepared for each child in receipt of learning support and resource teaching. These plans are of a very high quality and are based on identified pupil learning priorities. They detail specific learning objectives, teaching methodologies, resources and assessment procedures employed. These IEPs are reviewed on a termly basis in consultation with parents and class teachers. Very good daily progress records are maintained which detail the progress made by the child in the specified areas.
The quality of teaching pupils with special needs is very good. In the lessons observed emphasis was placed on the active engagement of the pupil in his or her own learning and on the provision of a variety of tasks which addressed a suitable range of the learning priorities identified for the children. Appropriate teaching methodologies were selected to complement the learning activity. Concrete materials were suitably employed. Information and communication technology (ICT) is extensively utilised to good effect. It is evident that the pupils are progressing according to their innate abilities.
At present pupils are withdrawn from class activities for additional learning activities. Further consideration should be given to developing practical means of delivering this support within the class setting. The delivery of early intervention programmes in the infant classes particularly in the areas of the development of phonological awareness and phonological programmes should also be considered. The present learning support and resource teaching policies should also be reviewed in light of circular 02/05.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following 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.