An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Bilboa National School

Bilboa, Cappamore, Co. Limerick

Uimhir rolla:   15692Q

 

Date of inspection:  27 November 2007

  Date of issue of report: 22 May  2008

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

1.     Quality of school management

2.     Quality of school planning

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.     Quality of support for pupils

5.     Conclusion

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Bilboa National School, Cappamore, Co. Limerick was undertaken in November 2007. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Physical Education.   The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

Introduction – school context and background

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

101

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

6

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

2

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The characteristic spirit and vision of Bilboa National School is clearly outlined in the school plan. The school motto is displayed on entry to the school and this mission statement is outlined as follows: ‘that our children may grow, blossom and flourish and all in God’s light’. It was evident during the evaluation that there is a general awareness of this aspiration and of the school’s philosophy. A sense of common purpose is also apparent among the school community.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and is supportive of all school-related activities. The board convenes regularly and it endeavours to comply with statutory requirements, departmental guidelines and circulars. It was reported that attendance at board of management meetings is ‘excellent’. Financial matters are managed very effectively by the board, the school’s financial accounts are audited annually and relevant documentation is also maintained meticulously. This feature of good practice is commended. It is now recommended that a review of the school’s Enrolment Policy and Special Education Policy is undertaken to ensure that statutory obligations pertaining to the Education Act (1998) and the Equal Status Acts (2004) are fulfilled. It is also advised that, when future decisions regarding the placement of pupils in mainstream classes are being made, the board should ensure the age-appropriate placement of all pupils, particularly in the case of pupils with special educational needs.

 

The board reported that it was satisfied with the way the curriculum is taught and with the achievement of pupils. The readiness of pupils on entry to post primary school and the good levels of pupil behaviour were also highlighted. The board of management also reported that it plays a collaborative role in the formulation of school planning policies, through discussion, amendment and ratification of documentation. It is now important to ensure that all curricular plans and organisational policies are signed and dated by the chairperson of the board of management. Board members reported that the main issues of recent concern pertained to the construction of the new school building. This board was responsible for the beginning and completion of the school’s large-scale building project. Current issues of concern include the possibility of obtaining security cameras for the school and the provision of car-parking facilities. Planning permission is now being sought, through the Department of Education and Science, for the construction of a school hall. The current priorities of the school’s board of management relate to the continued effectiveness of the board, maintaining the parents’ confidence in the school and ensuring the stability of pupil enrolment. The strengths of the school were cited as the community involvement, the quality of the teaching staff and the ‘happy’ pupils. It is now advised that the board of management formulate an action plan which would identify realistic and achievable targets and which would outline how the school’s priorities would be resourced, implemented and evaluated. A timescale for achieving these objectives could also be devised by the board.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team in Bilboa National School comprises the teaching principal, the deputy principal and one special duties post-holder. The principal demonstrates very good professional standards. He is responsible for the daily operation and management of the school and displays very good organisational ability. He is effective in leading and managing the school, while also fostering a shared vision for the school community. He oversees and develops the whole-school planning process; he promotes positive behaviour and attendance by pupils and also provides access to appropriate support for pupils. The principal is supported productively in his work by the in-school management team, whose duties include curricular, organisational/administrative and pastoral responsibilities. Regular communication systems exist, while staff meetings are also convened on a termly basis and as necessary. Curriculum co-ordinators in the areas of Gaeilge, Geography, English, and Music are identified and this feature of good practice is acknowledged. It is now important to ensure that the review of duties occurs on a regular basis and that these duties continue to be matched to the priorities and developing needs of the school. It is advised that the work of the in-school management team continues to contribute towards leading teaching and learning within the school, to assist in evaluating the effectiveness of learning outcomes and to facilitate the process of school self-evaluation.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

A ‘Policy for Parental/Community Involvement’ is included in school planning documentation and the parents’ association in this school is affiliated with the National Parents’ Council (NPC). It is evident that parents are very involved in the work of the school and that there is a general parental awareness of the availability of the school’s planning policies. School notes and information letters are disseminated appropriately. The parents’ association has had an involvement in discussing school car parking issues and the construction of a mast in the locality. The provision of appropriate physical education facilities in the school, the implementation of aspects of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme, pupil safety on transportation to community events and other school-related matters were also discussed during the pre-evaluation meetings.  Parents’ representatives stated that parents are very satisfied with the education provision in the school. It was further reported that parents of new pupils are welcomed and that pupils have the confidence and ability to cope with the transition to post-primary school. Parental input towards the formulation of pupils’ Individual Education Plans (IEPs) is also ensured, through the organisation of IEP meetings. Oral reports on pupil progress are provided during parent/teacher meetings and detailed written reports on pupil progress are also issued.

 

 

 

1.5 Management of pupils

Pupil behaviour is very effectively managed in all mainstream and support class settings. It is evident that positive interactions, mutual fairness and respect prevail throughout the school.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very good, in general. The development of the school planning process is managed collaboratively. Comprehensive and coherent policies for the organisation of the school and for all of the eleven curricular areas have been devised. The school plan includes twelve policy statements which deal with specific organisational areas. All policies are reflective of the school context. It is now advised that consideration also be given to the formulation and implementation of a rotational teaching policy, which would enable teachers to have the opportunity to experience a variety of contexts and to share expertise at different class levels. Very good curricular plans have been devised in English, Visual Arts, SPHE, Science, History, Geography and Music. It is now recommended that the curricular policies for Irish and Mathematics be reviewed to ensure that there is continuity, progression, breadth and balance in the programmes provided. It should be ensured that these curricular policies continue to offer clear guidance to teachers in relation to the strands, strand units, objectives and content to be covered at each class level. These polices could also present a suitable range of teaching approaches, assessment strategies and could indicate how resources and materials might be utilised to ensure that the objectives of the curriculum are achieved by pupils throughout the school. A timeframe for review of curricular plans is included in school planning documentation. This feature of good practice is commended. Consideration should now be given to expanding this timeframe to include the formulation of an action plan, which would enable the school to identify and review priorities for development in teaching and learning, to set time-bound targets towards further enhancing pupil achievement and to evaluate the criteria for the success of these plans. It is also important to ensure that all teachers have a copy of the school plan.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good, while some possibilities for improvement exist. All teachers provide comprehensive long-term and short-term planning, which refers to the principles and structure of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and which guides and informs classroom activity. Short term plans, in general, focus solely on the teaching activities and on the content of lessons to be taught.  Good practice was observed in individual teacher preparation where the learning objectives, the methods and resources to be utilised and the content of lessons were clearly outlined.  A common approach for long and short-term classroom planning is recommended, which should allow for the clarification of specific learning outcomes and which would facilitate individual teacher planning throughout all class levels. Monthly progress records are also presented and teachers provide reflective commentary on progress achieved. This feature of good practice is acknowledged.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

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. It is now important to ensure that a designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines and that these individuals are identified and named in the school’s Policy on Child Protection.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

cáipéisíocht léirithe sa phlean scoile i leith polasaí na Gaeilge agus tá ráiteas faoi chomhthéacs agus faoi shuíomh na Gaeilge sa scoil curtha san áireamh freisin. Moltar anois athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an bpolasaí seo chun cur chuige córasach, céimniúil a chinntiú sna snáitheanna éagsúla ag gach rang leibhéal. Déantar iarrachtaí fiúntacha atmaisféar fabhrach don Ghaeilge a chothú sna rangsheomraí agus úsáidtear í mar theanga teagaisc i rith na geachtanna sa Ghaeilge. Tuairiscítear go gcuirtear béim ar an bhfeasacht cultúir trí cheol agus amhránaíocht Ghaeilge a chothú sa scoil. Tá caighdeán an-mhaith sroichte ag na daltaí i gceol uirlise agus spreagtar a gcuid rannpháirtíochta in imeachtaí peile, iománaíochta agus sa rince Gaelach. Feictear go bhfuil eolas agus tuiscint chuí ag na daltaí ar an ábhar atá múinte sa Ghaeilge agus go bhfuil foclóir oiriúnach ina seilbh. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois ar bhéim níos treise a chur ar Éisteacht a fhorbairt go foirmiúil mar shnáith den churaclam agus ar an scéalaíocht a chur chun cinn tríd an scoil. Tá ceachtanna éifeachtacha agus modheolaíochtaí torthúla á gcur-i-bhfeidhm i gcoitinne. Baintear dea-úsáid as áiseanna agus straitéisí éagsúla teagaisc i ranganna áirithe. Is fiú a chinntiú go mbaintear feidhm as éagsúlacht leathan modhanna teagaisc i ngach rang chun scileanna cumarsáide agus labhartha na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Ba chóir, freisin, a chinntiú go gcuirtear na tréimhsí cumarsáide i bhfeidhm i ngach ceacht. Cothaítear suim sa léitheoireacht trí phrionta sa timpeallacht a sholáthar agus trí scéimeanna léitheoireachta a úsáid go cuí. Is fiú a chinntiú anois go ndírítear aird ar scileanna léitheoireachta na ndaltaí a threisiú trí straitéisí focal-bhriseadh, anailís ar fhocail agus scileanna fóineolaíochta a leathnú go foirmiúil. Feictear obair scríofa i gcóipleabhair na ndaltaí agus is léir go spreagtar cur-i-láthair slachtmhar. Ba chóir béim níos treise a chur ar chineálacha éagsúla scríbhneoireachta a leathnú tríd an scoil, ar phróiseas na scríbhneoireachta a chur chun cinn agus ar an scríbhneoireacht phearsanta agus chruthaitheach a fhorbairt. D’fhéadfaí úsáid níos forleithne a bhaint as áiseanna an ríomhaire chun saothar scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge a fhoilsiú, a thaispeáint agus a chur chun cinn.

 

Irish

Documentation is presented in the school plan regarding the Irish curricular policy and a statement pertaining to the context and status of Irish in the school is also included. It is now recommended that this policy be reviewed so that a systematic and progressive approach to the curricular strands at each class level is ensured. Worthwhile efforts are made to nurture a favourable atmosphere towards Irish in classrooms and it is used as the language of instruction during lessons in Irish. It is reported that emphasis is placed on cultural awareness through the promotion of Irish music and singing activities in the school. Pupils have attained a very good standard in instrumental music and their participation in football, hurling and Irish dancing activities is encouraged. It is evident that pupils have an appropriate knowledge and understanding of the content that has been taught in Irish and that they have acquired a suitable vocabulary. Consideration should now be given to placing greater emphasis on developing the Listening strand of the curriculum in a formal manner and on promoting storytelling throughout the school. Effective lessons and productive methodologies are implemented, in general. Good use is made of resources and a variety of teaching strategies in some classrooms. It is important to ensure that a wide variety of teaching methodologies is employed in all classes to develop the pupils’ communicative and oral language skills. It should also be ensured that the phases of communication are implemented in every lesson. Interest in reading is fostered through the provision of print-rich environments and through the use of appropriate reading schemes. It is now worthwhile ensuring, however, that attention is directed at reinforcing pupils’ reading skills through the teaching of word-attack strategies, regular word analysis and through the formal expansion of phonological skills. Pupils’ written assignments are evident in copybooks and it is apparent that neat presentation is encouraged. Further emphasis should be placed on extending a variety of writing genres throughout the school, on promoting the writing process and on the development of personal and creative writing. Greater use could also be made of computer resources to publish, display and promote pupils’ written work in Irish.

 

English

A very structured and comprehensive policy in the curricular area of English has been formulated. Clear reference is made to the curricular strands and strand units and there is evidence of systematic progression regarding the programme of work at each class level. Learning environments are well organised in a print-rich and attractive manner. During the course of this evaluation, clear lesson structure was observed during lessons in English and there was evidence of effective management, pacing and development of activities. There is collaboration between mainstream and support teachers regarding the in-class intervention model of support in English and this feature of good practice is commended. Good levels of pupil attainment in literacy are in evidence and during the post evaluation meeting with the teaching staff, opportunities were provided to discuss and analyse pupils’ outcomes in this regard. It should now be ensured that the results of assessment tests continue to be used to inform the implementation of differentiated activities and to ensure that these are matched to pupil need and ability, as appropriate. Discrete oral language activities are implemented in classrooms and most pupils engaged in effective oral interaction during the evaluation. Consideration should now be given to developing a system which will assess and monitor pupil progress in this strand of the curriculum. There is evidence of good pupil competence and fluency in reading. At infant class level, large format books are in use and good attention is also paid to the development of emergent reading and writing skills. Activities addressing phonic work, functional work and grammar are also being effectively developed at junior, middle and senior class level. Commercial textbooks are used throughout the school, novels are also utilised and an appropriate range of books is provided in classroom libraries. Shared reading initiatives are implemented through the Children and Parents Enjoying Reading scheme (CAPER) at junior class level. This practice is commended and the commitment of those involved is also acknowledged. There are good outcomes in evidence regarding pupils’ written work and the regular correction and monitoring of this work is ensured. Very good samples of pupils’ personal and creative writing are on display in some classrooms, a variety of writing genres is explored and good emphasis is placed on the writing process. It should be ensured that dedicated writing areas are created in all classes and also that the process approach to writing in English is further supported by the use of the school’s information and communication technologies (ICT) equipment. A range of poetry is recited with expression and it is evident that pupils have explored and learned an appropriate anthology. Poetry is also used as a stimulus for discussion and in some class settings, pupils are enabled to write their own poetry.

 

3.2 Mathematics

A curricular policy in Mathematics is presented in whole school planning documentation. It is now recommended that this curricular policy be reviewed to ensure the formulation of a progressive programme of work in each strand, pertaining to all class levels. There is evidence of very good pupil attainment in numeracy and during the post evaluation meeting with the teaching staff, opportunities were provided to discuss and analyse pupils’ attainment in this regard.  Good outcomes are also in evidence in pupils’ mathematical assignments in copybooks. In classes where good practice was observed in relation to the teaching of Mathematics, concrete and structured materials were used productively, activities were differentiated as appropriate to pupil ability and class level, while active learning strategies were also promoted. Group teaching activities were undertaken in all classes and very good levels of pupil participation were observed. While suitable emphasis is placed on the acquisition of number concepts and problem-solving skills, it is now important to ensure that, in all classes, further emphasis is placed on expanding pupils’ higher-order thinking skills and on the development of mathematical language. An in-class intervention model of support in Mathematics is evident at some class levels and this feature of good practice is commended.

 

3.3 Physical Education

A curricular policy in Physical Education (PE) is included in the school plan. In all lessons observed, there was evidence of effective organisation and implementation of lessons. A variety of teaching methods was utilised including the use of stations, teamwork and whole class activity. Very good skill development was also ensured. Pupils displayed competence in a variety of skills and there is evidence of high levels of pupil participation and activity. The effective support given by the special needs assistance provision is acknowledged. Appropriate procedures and attention to safety are in evidence, in general, and productive use is also made of PE resources and equipment. Equality of participation in all activities is ensured. Pupils from first to sixth classes are enabled to avail of lessons in swimming. The school currently uses its external recreational facilities during lessons in PE. Members of the teaching staff are also commended for the investment of time and effort in organising, assisting and attending sporting activities outside of school time.

 

3.4 Assessment

A policy on Assessment is included in the school plan. A range of assessment strategies is in evidence, while standardised tests including the Micra-T and Sigma-T are administered on an annual basis. Results of assessment tests are recorded methodically and are maintained securely within the school. The development of a digital portfolio to facilitate the storage of pupil work samples might now be considered. Diagnostic testing is also undertaken in some settings. These include the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST), the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability and Quest tests. The Forward Together Programme is also implemented, as appropriate.

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A comprehensive Learning Support/Special Education Policy is presented in the school plan. Learning support and resource teaching support are provided in this school and very attractively-organised learning environments have been created. Good quality planning is presented regarding support teaching provision. It is evident that focused, comprehensive and clear learning targets have been formulated regarding pupils’ IEPs and Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs). It is reported that a copy of IEP documentation is also furnished to parents. It is now important to ensure that the progress of pupils in receipt of supplementary teaching is recorded on a monthly basis. In relation to resource teaching provision, it is important to ensure that the Guidelines for Teachers of Students with General Learning Disabilities, (NCCA, 2002) are utilised, where appropriate. A range of teaching strategies is implemented in the support settings and effective use is made of ICT. Pupil folders are well organised and structured teaching and learning activities are undertaken. Pupil effort is affirmed and encouraged, while a positive atmosphere also prevails in classrooms. Pupils are withdrawn individually and in groups, where appropriate, and the development of literacy, language, Mathematics, social, behavioural and life skills is addressed. Early intervention and in-class support provision are also undertaken by the learning support teacher and this feature of good practice is commended.

 

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

Efforts are made to ensure that the education provision in this school is tailored appropriately to all pupils’ needs and abilities.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         The characteristic spirit of the school, as outlined in the school motto/mission statement, is reflected in the favourable atmosphere and positive school climate.

·         The professional approach of the teaching staff is apparent.

·         There is evidence of a collaborative work ethos among staff members.

·         The good quality of teaching that is delivered by staff members is apparent.

·         There is evidence of good levels of pupil learning in the curricular area of English and there is evidence of very good levels of pupil achievement in Mathematics.

·         The board of management, parents and ancillary staff provide high levels of support to the school.

·         Very good quality whole-school planning documentation has been formulated.

·         The involvement of the local community and its contribution to the work of the school is evident.

·         Opportunities are provided for pupils to participate in community-related events, school concerts and extra-curricular activities.

·         There is evidence of very good pupil behaviour.

·         The new school building and grounds are maintained to a high standard.

·         The sense of a shared vision for the school is apparent among the members of the general school community.

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

·         It is now recommended that the board of management undertakes a review of the school’s Enrolment Policy and Special Education Policy, to ensure that statutory obligations pertaining to the Education Act (1998) and the Equal Status Acts (2004) are fulfilled. It is also advised that, when future decisions regarding the placement of pupils in mainstream classes are being made, the board should ensure the age-appropriate placement of all pupils, particularly in the case of pupils with special educational needs.

 

·         It is also advised that the board of management formulate a long-term strategic plan. This action plan

§         would outline a timescale for the identification of realistic and achievable targets and would further outline how the school’s priorities could be resourced, implemented

      and evaluated;

§         would enable the school to identify priorities for development in teaching and learning, set challenging, achievable and time-bound targets towards further enhancing

      pupil achievement and evaluate the criteria for the success of these plans.

·         The further development of agreed approaches and strategies to facilitate consistency in individual teacher planning is recommended.

 

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