An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Bishop O’Brien National School,

Bartlemy, Fermoy, County Cork

Uimhir rolla: 15701O

 

Date of inspection: 10 December 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

  

A whole-school evaluation of Bishop O’Brien N.S., Bartlemy was undertaken in December 2008. 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 Science. 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

 

This is a co-educational mainstream primary school located in a close-knit rural community in the village of Bartlemy where it plays a pivotal role in the area. It caters for pupils from infants to sixth class and is recognised as a Health Promoting School. A new principal was appointed at the beginning of this academic year and the community is currently preparing to honour its previous principal for her thirty seven years of dedicated service. Since the last report was furnished in 2002 pupil numbers have increased substantially. Staff numbers have also grown significantly.

 

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

82

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

7

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

3

Special needs assistants

5

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school presents as a stimulating, well-ordered, learning environment and aims to promote the full and harmonious development of all its pupils. Much credit is due to the staff for their success in providing the pupils with a caring, welcoming school environment. An important element of this caring ethos is reflected in the close links which the staff have fostered with parents and the wider community, especially through time devoted to the work of the parents’ association. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Cloyne. It has a Roman Catholic ethos and demonstrates due recognition for all other religions.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management discharges its duties in an effective and conscientious manner and the members are to be commended for their dedicated work. The board is properly constituted and meetings are convened on a regular basis. Minutes and financial records are maintained carefully and the accounts are certified annually. The board works in close collaboration with all partners and the chairperson visits the school on a regular basis. Commendably, the board is mindful of its important role in supporting teachers’ ongoing professional development. The building, both inside and outside, is maintained to a high standard and the board has applied to the Department of Education and Science for funding to erect an extension and replace the existing prefabricated classroom. The board is also involved in the development of the school plan and is currently reviewing the area of special needs. In order to further develop the role of the board in the promotion of school self-evaluation, it is recommended that curricular policies be reviewed in a more systematic manner.

 

1.3   In-school management

The newly appointed principal combines teaching, leadership and management roles admirably. He has developed positive working relations with staff, board and parents and approaches his work in a professional manner. He maintains a regular visible presence in the school and demonstrates a keen commitment to building on the good work of his predecessor. He is supported ably by a dedicated and competent staff, including a deputy principal and two special duties post-holders. In keeping with best practice, the middle management team meet regularly outside of school time and their duties include curricular, pastoral and organisational areas of responsibility. The post-holders are to be commended for their substantial contribution to the management of the school. As a means of building on existing good practice, it is recommended that the instructional leadership role of the in-school management team be further developed in the process of monitoring the implementation and on-going review of curriculum delivery. In this context it is advised that curricular duties be reviewed formally on a regular basis. Also, it is recommended that post-holders give consideration to the identification of action plans in order to clarify specific priorities for development and facilitate review of progress. The board employs a secretary and a cleaner who contribute significantly to the work of the school.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school has impressive links with the parents and wider community. It has an active parents’ association which contributes extensively to the overall success of the school and provides significant funding for resources. The dedicated work of parents has greatly contributed to the provision of a well-equipped school with high quality indoor and outdoor facilities. The principal and a member of the teaching staff attend the parents’ association meetings and support their work actively. This is an open, welcoming school with many praiseworthy modes of communication with parents in place. The parents are informed about their children’s progress through annual parent-teacher meetings and written school reports. In the interest of further development, it is advised that staff consider the use of the National Council for Curriculum Assessment (NCCA) revised report card templates for reporting pupil progress. Also, it is recommended that the practice of organising formal paired reading programmes be re-established. Parents report that they are happy with the quality of education provided and are grateful to teachers for their dedicated work.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The pupils’ exemplary behaviour patterns are a striking feature of the school and it is evident that much credit is due to the staff for the effective manner in which the code of discipline is implemented. The pupils behave in a polite, courteous manner and exhibit positive dispositions to their learning.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is commendable. Impressive work has been undertaken in a collaborative manner to compile a wide range of policies in both curricular and organisational areas. They are presented to a high-standard, maintained in a central location and are accessible to all partners. Commendably, staff meetings are organised once a term and the key outcomes are recorded. The curricular plans provide some sound guidelines to support the development of good practice. However, in order to develop more linkage between these plans, the curriculum and classroom practice, it is recommended that the data arising from assessment and monthly progress reports be used to inform a more systematic review process and to clarify action plans. Also, it is advised that hard copies of whole-school plans be provided for all staff members. It would be worthwhile to review the number of workbooks in use in some curriculum areas in order to promote a more balanced approach to the use of other resources and to further pupil skill development.

 

The teachers are to be commended for the considerable individual classroom planning work in evidence. Appropriate templates have been agreed for short-term planning and for monthly progress records. Many teachers make impressive use of their Information and Communication Technology (ICT) skills to access high quality resources and prepare work for the pupils in their care. In relation to the content of classroom plans, a variety of approaches is in evidence and in some instances there is a clear need for more differentiation in order to further cater for pupils’ individual needs. It is recommended that the staff review this matter in order to build on existing good practice and further ensure that planning templates are used consistently to clarify expected learning outcomes for pupils in the context of their needs and the curriculum. It is advised that further guidelines for classroom planning be included in whole-school plans to facilitate this work.

 

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. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

I dteagasc na Gaeilge chonacthas samplaí breátha d’fhorbairt scileanna éisteachta agus labhartha na ndaltaí le linn na meastóireachta. Cuireadh ionchur teanga oiriúnach faoi bhráid na ndaltaí ar bhonn taitneamhach ar fud na scoile. Tugadh faoi deara agus moladh an úsáid éifeachtach a baineadh as acmhainní. I gcuid de na seomraí ranga chonacthas leas le moladh á bhaint as obair i bpéirí, scéalaíocht, drámaíocht agus Gaeilge neamhfhoirmiúil le cur ar chumas na ndaltaí an teanga a úsáid ar bhonn cumarsáide, réalaíoch. B’fhiú na modhanna múinte seo a fhorbairt a thuilleadh ar bhonn na scoile ina hiomláine. Léiríonn a lán daltaí tuiscint chreidiúnach ar thopaicí atá á bplé sa rang agus dearcadh dearfach i leith na teanga. Éiríonn le cuid acu an teanga atá múinte a úsáid ar bhonn cumarsáide lena chéile. Meastar, áfach, go gcuirfeadh sé go mór le foghlaim na ndaltaí dá gcuirfí béim bhreise ar bhonn na scoile ina hiomláine ar chur chuige cumarsáideach agus ar dhifreálú a dhéanamh sa teagasc. B’fhiú don bhfoireann na dea-chleachtais atá aitheanta a leathnú tríd an scoil agus breis treoracha a chur ar fáil sa phlean scoile chun tacú lena gcur i bhfeidhm. Luaitear go speisialta an tábhacht a bhaineann le haird sa bhreis a dhíriú ar thrí thréimhse a bheith sa cheacht. Rachadh sé go mór chun tairbhe d’fhoghlaim na ndaltaí dá dtabharfaí breis deiseanna dóibh an Ghaeilge a úsáid i rith an lae. Leagtar bunchloch na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta go héifeachtach. Spreagtar na daltaí go sciliúil chun na frásaí atá foghlamtha acu sa cheacht comhrá a úsáid le haghaidh gníomhaíochtaí scríbhneoireachta agus léitheoireachta. Sna meánranganna agus sa roinn sinsearach léann na daltaí na téacsanna ranga go measartha cruinn agus tugann siad faoi scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil go rialta. Is mór is fiú an t-ábhar léitheoireachta breise a chuirtear ar fáil dóibh. Meastar, áfach gur gá taithí a thabhairt do na daltaí ar réimse níos leithne de chineálacha éagsúla téacsanna a léamh agus a scríobh. B’fhiú, chomh maith, an grúpobair agus teagasc díreach i scileanna ar leith a chur chun cinn níos mó. Tá an-chreidiúint ag dul do na hoidí as an ardchaighdeán slachta a ghabhann le hobair scríofa na ndaltaí sna cóipleabhair.

 

Irish

In the teaching of Irish samples of effective practice in the development of pupils’ oral and listening skills were observed during the evaluation. Throughout the school pupils are exposed to an appropriate language input in an enjoyable manner. Skilful use of a range of resources was noted and commended. In some classrooms particularly effective use was made of pair work, storytelling, drama and the incidental use of Irish to enable pupils use the language in a communicative, meaningful context. It is recommended that these methodologies be developed further on a whole-school basis. Many pupils demonstrate a creditable understanding of the topics discussed in class and positive attitudes to the language. Some succeed in using the language learned to engage communicatively with one another. However, more emphasis on a whole-school basis on the consistent implementation of a communicative approach and on the provision of differentiated programmes would greatly enhance pupils’ learning. It is recommended that staff discuss the samples of good practice in evidence in order to extend their use and provide further guidelines in the school plan to support their implementation. In particular it is advised that more attention be focused on the three phases of the language lesson. The provision of further opportunities for pupils to use the language during the school day would significantly enrich their learning. Fundamental reading and writing skills are established effectively. Pupils are skilfully provided with opportunities to use the language they have acquired orally for writing and reading activities. In the middle and senior classes many pupils read the class texts with a reasonable degree of fluency and engage in a variety of functional writing activities. At particular class levels praiseworthy additional reading material was noted and commended. It is recommended that pupils be given further opportunities to read and write a greater variety of texts. Also, it is advised that the use of group teaching and the provision of direct instruction in specific skills be promoted. The teachers are to be applauded for the high standard of presentation of written work in pupils’ copybooks.

 

English

In the teaching of English good quality whole-class talk and discussion feature prominently and many pupils demonstrate an impressive level of oral competence. Appropriately, specific topics are identified for discrete oral language lessons and there is evidence of effective integration with other subject areas. Teachers read aloud to pupils on a regular basis and rhyme and poetry also feature prominently in the programme. In some classes a commendable balance between whole-class work and collaborative group work was noted. The further development of collaborative learning approaches is recommended. Basic reading skills are taught carefully, and in keeping with good practice, the infant pupils are provided with many opportunities to engage with books. Appropriately, in conjunction with learning to read they are encouraged to construct sentences orally and in writing. The further development of active learning methodologies will greatly enrich the creditable work in progress. Purposeful whole-class teaching of reading with good emphasis on key strategies such as the development of phonological awareness and word identification skills was observed during the evaluation. In addition to a graded reading scheme, the teachers provide pupils with class novels and a variety of good quality reading material. The school’s initiative to date in providing the pupils with a central library as well as attractive class libraries merits much praise. This is indeed a key strength in the provision for English. The pupils also benefit from the services of the mobile library. In many classrooms a range of effective strategies which encourage pupils to read regularly were noted. These are commendable and ought to be continued and further developed. In general, pupils read with accuracy and a good degree of fluency. However, a more systematic development of group teaching approaches and focused attention on the provision of differentiated instruction in specific reading skills would greatly augment the reading culture. Throughout the school pupils engage in a range of writing activities and some commendable samples of their work were observed. It is recommended that pupils be given further opportunities to write in a variety of genres and that, through the systematic development of the writing process, pupils’ language and reading skills be extended and enriched. The teachers are to be lauded for the high standard of penmanship and presentation skills in evidence in pupils’ copybooks and for their commitment to displaying samples of pupils’ writing in classrooms and in circulation areas.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Effective practice in the teaching of Mathematics was observed throughout the school. Learning intentions are communicated clearly to pupils and judicious use is made of a variety of approaches including whole class and group methods. In the junior classes, due attention is given to the recitation of number rhymes. Good emphasis is placed on a problem solving approach and on the memorisation of number facts. Skilful use is made of concrete materials during guided hands-on activities. In some classes ICT is deployed effectively to clarify concepts and to engage pupils actively in their learning.  At a variety of class levels good emphasis is placed on the language of mathematics. In some classrooms the use of print-rich materials to support pupils in acquiring this language is noteworthy and merits further development on a whole-school basis. Good quality talk and discussion is a salient feature of the lessons observed and a suitable emphasis is placed on linking concepts to real-life practical situations. Many pupils demonstrate positive attitudes to Mathematics and a creditable understanding of key concepts. It is recommended that the implementation of differentiated approaches, as outlined in the school plan, be targeted for further development. Also, it is advised that the practice of providing regular teacher-designed tests, to encourage pupils to revise and consolidate their learning, be extended and that the results of these tests be systematically used to inform the provision of differentiated support.  

 

3.3 Science

During the evaluation the work noted in the area of Science was of a high standard. Lessons were observed from the strand of materials and living things. There was much evidence in teacher planning and in the pupils’ assignments of creditable work being undertaken in the strands of energy and forces, and environmental awareness and care. Pupils were provided with worthwhile opportunities to be actively involved in practical investigations and a notable feature of the work was the attention given to exploring pupils’ ideas. The pupils clearly enjoy their learning in this area and demonstrate pride in their work. Commendably, recycling is encouraged in the school. In order to further develop this area of the curriculum, it is recommended that the school plan be reviewed to further ensure breadth, balance and continuity in the development of pupils’ skills and knowledge base. The pupils’ success at national level in the recent BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition is acknowledged and commended.

 

3.4 Assessment

Appropriately, the importance of assessing pupils’ progress in curricular areas on a continuous basis is emphasised clearly in the school plan. Teachers use a variety of approaches to monitor pupil progress and the practice of administering standardised tests is well established. The results are recorded carefully and copies are retained by all teachers. A range of diagnostic tests is in use. At particular class levels commendable work in relation to the development of individual pupil profiles was noted. The further development of this work is recommended. In particular, it is advised that a greater emphasis be placed on a whole-school basis on assessment for learning approaches and on the use of the data arising from these assessments to inform the provision of differentiated teaching and learning in a more systematic manner. The staff is encouraged to review the school plan on assessment in the context of the recent guidelines issued by the NCCA in order to build on existing good practice.

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school currently has two full-time and two shared learning-support/resource teachers (LSRTs) who work in co-operation with the principal and mainstream teachers to provide supplementary teaching for pupils with special education needs in both literacy and numeracy. The teachers work conscientiously and they have developed positive relations with the pupils in their care. In collaboration with class teachers and parents Individual Education Plans are formulated for pupils in receipt of support and appropriate templates are in use for ongoing short-term planning and monitoring of pupil progress. Some commendable approaches to co-ordinating supplementary teaching with mainstream work were noted. During the evaluation well-structured lessons with good levels of pupil engagement were observed. However, support for pupils is, in general, provided through withdrawal from their mainstream classrooms. The principal and staff are currently researching models of providing in-class support. While this is commended, it merits further attention in order to provide a more co-ordinated approach to the education of pupils with special educational needs. It is also recommended that the practice of special needs assistants (SNAs) engaging in individual work with pupils with special needs be reviewed immediately. The staff is advised to increase the provision of targeted support for groups in both mainstream and support contexts, and to provide more opportunities for pupils with special educational needs to take an active role in their learning. Also, it is evident that there is a need for an increased level of early intervention emphasising active learning and structured play approaches. The SNAs work in close co-operation with staff to provide good quality care for pupils with special needs and are to be commended for the dedicated manner in which they undertake their duties.

 

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

This school is not in an area of dedicated disadvantage but is clearly an inclusive school.

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

 

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

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Published, April 2009