An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Carrakennedy, Westport, Co Mayo.
Roll number: 15866A
Date of inspection: 25 January 2007
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of SN Carrakennedy. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
SN Carrakennedy is situated adjacent to the N 59 some nine miles south of Westport. It is set in a picturesque progressive and caring community supported by a local development association and sports organisations that take an active role in providing services and opportunities for the community. The development association has recently refurbished the community centre for indoor sports and other community activities and has made the centre available to the school for its regular Christmas concerts and other activities. This caring and supportive spirit is also reflected in the school and it ensures that all of the schools’ activities become community activities. The school for its part provides a developmental and challenging education service to all its pupils in a very inclusive and supportive manner. It presents the pupils with a broad and balanced curriculum and ensures their successful participation in education opportunities commensurate with their interests and abilities. The Board of Management and partners ensure that the pupils can avail of the extra-curricular opportunities and they also provide the financial and human resources necessary to facilitate this engagement.
The mission, ethos and work of the school contribute to the health, well-being and structured development of the pupils, it nurtures openness and wide-spread engagement as well as the promotion of respectful and caring relationships. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
The Board of Management was appointed in accordance with appropriate procedures in October 2003 and generally meets once a term except when pressing business necessitates more frequent meetings. The board operates under the trusteeship of the Archdiocese of Tuam and it makes a significant and effective contribution to the operation of the school. The board has designated officers; it sits to an agreed agenda, records the decisions made and accounts for the expenditure incurred. The board contributes and supports the formulation of policy through submissions and discussions; it facilitates contributions from all the partners and records and signs off on the policy measures agreed. The board ensures progression from meeting to meeting; the chairperson meets the staff on a daily basis and provides proactive and continuous support to the school. The monthly newsletter ‘Eolas’ keeps the community informed of school’s activities. This ensures wider community participation in major events such its centenary celebrations in 2006 and in the presentation of the Green flag as well as numerous other significant milestones that involve this busy school. The newsletter could be further enhanced by regular contributions from the pupils.
The school building dates back to the beginning of the last century and although carefully maintained is no longer suitable to meet the educational needs of this school community. The board outlined its efforts in working diligently and continuously with the Department of Education and Science for the last decade to have the school replaced on an adjoining site. During the pre-evaluation meeting the board recorded its frustrations at the slow rate of progressing this matter.
The principal is a hard-working committed leader who promotes open and direct communication, as well as strong community and in-school links with all the partners. She has a clear vision for the school as outlined in her contribution to the school’s centenary publication and in her guidance of the school plan. She is highly regarded by her colleagues and board of management and displays consideration and professionalism in the running of the school. There is a strong sense of collegiality among the staff members, all members of the team display enthusiasm and openness in meeting the diverse needs of the pupils. The duties attached to the post of responsibilities are of an organisational and pastoral nature primarily. Curricular responsibilities allocated to the posts include Music, Physical Education and the Visual Arts. These need to be reviewed to reflect the need of the school to manage the current pedagogical and curricular change and inline with circular 17/03. Formal staff meetings are held once a term, members are encouraged to contribute to the agenda, recording duties are rotated and definite implementation strategies are agreed.
School policy ensures equal access to the curriculum is provided for all pupils. Prudent investment in resources and teaching materials are tailored to meet the needs of all pupils including pupils availing of learning support services. The board of management and staff have invested wisely for both academic and recreational needs including the provision of library books, text books, visual arts requisites, music, scientific and physical education equipment. Further investment in library books in Irish and in information and communication technology (ICT) would enhance the existing provision. ICT is viewed as a broad curricular tool and enlisting the support of the ICT advisor would further enhance its application particularly after the transfer to the new school building. It is recommended in the review currently being engaged in of the school plan, to allocate an agreed annualised budget to all teachers at the beginning of the school year. This would allow more flexibility in the area of discretionary procurement. A supportive and stimulating environment has been created in each classroom with good quality displays and illustrative materials in the limited space available. Although teachers exchange classes to enhance the utilisation of human resources and talents in this school, a review of class allocation would contribute to the overall professional development and widen the experience of all the teachers.
The school has definite procedures for communicating with the parent body and community through the circulation of the newsletter ‘Eolas’ on a regular basis. Annual parent-teacher meetings are held and regular use is made of informal meetings during school openings and closings, induction meetings as well as school masses and concerts to keep the channels of communication open and effective. During the pre-evaluation meeting, parent representatives expressed their appreciation at the accessibility and supportiveness of the teachers and the quality of professionalism they encounter from them on a continuous basis. Further involvement of the parents in the revision of the school plan is desirable. A temporary replacement for the home-school community liaison teacher has recently commenced in the school. This teacher is currently reviewing strategies for developing this role. This review must be included in the school plan and allow contributions from the parents’ association and local community groups as well as the community education officer of Mayo Vocational Educational Committee to impact on its development. The school is involved in numerous in-school and after-school activities such as aquatics in Westport Leisure Centre, The Gaelic Athletic Associations’ Buntús programme for games and athletics, indoor soccer league, inter–school community games and sports day, tag rugby, St Patrick’s Day Parade, drama and music concerts. These activities involve parents, teachers as well as ensuring broad based community engagement in coaching, tutoring or supporting games and field sports at the school or in the local community hall, or indeed at different venues throughout the county.
The school practises a clear, well defined code of behaviour which promotes a positive school approach with exemplary interpersonal relations among all the parties. This harmonious relationship pervades the school and it is manifest in the schools’ positive and constructive ethos that encompasses all its activities. A strong spirit of collaboration exists, relationships are open and well managed and every pupil feels cherished and held in high esteem. Although a code of behaviour and management plan is included in the school plan for a number of years, it has not been necessary to take recourse to its procedures.
A school plan document had been compiled collectively by the board and staff some years ago and it is being reviewed during the course of this year. It is intended to offer parents a structured opportunity to participate in this review and to provide them with a definite time frame for its perusal. It is recommended that a planning diary is created for this purpose that designates responsibilities, timescales and recording procedures and that full use is made of the primary school support services to aid this process. This would enhance the range of influence engaged in the planning process, reduce the role of textbooks and enable the curriculum principles to be revisited and contextualised in the broader local environment. Duties allocated to posts of responsibilities should include the implementation of the revised plan, particularly in the curricular and pedagogical areas.
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. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
Teachers engage in a variety of planning strategies to guide the teaching and learning objectives for pupils in this school. Widespread use is made of text books in the infant and senior classes and these are supplemented by project work, thematic investigations, personal interest tasks and group work. Integrated team-teaching strategies, thematic investigations, specific learning programmes and heuristic methodologies are highlighted in the middle classes. Commendable emphasis is placed on language development and on the development of higher order thinking skills and a broad and balanced curriculum is pursued throughout the school. It is recommend that individual teacher planning, including monthly record keeping and pedagogical approaches, is addressed in the current review of the school plan, and that co-ordination between classroom planning and the support services is included in this process. This would enhance the systematic implementation of curricular principles and allow for more widespread practise of the range of methodologies available in preparation for the new school building.
This school provides an effective well-structured developmental education programme for the pupils to a level commensurate with their abilities. It prepares them well for the post-primary options available to them and creates an expectation in the pupils of participating in third level and other education opportunities. There is a warm supportive atmosphere in this school, individual dignity is respected and dialogue is encouraged as a means of settling contentious issues. The teachers use a variety of methodologies from whole-class teaching to group–work, paired-work and individual instruction. They are to be commended for their patience in enduring unsatisfactory working conditions whilst remaining motivated and enthusiastic in providing their pupils with an education experience based on excellence. The support services are well co-ordinated with class-room activities, particularly in the middle classes, and the pupils generally are well-focused and engage pro-actively in their programme of learning. The pupils achieve excellent standards generally, they show independent learning skills and are immersed in all aspects of school activity.
Forbraítear scileanna na ndaltaí go céimnithe sa Ghaeilge sna hardranganna. Cuirtear béim éifeachtúil ar chur chuige cumarsáideach sna bun agus meán-ranganna agus cotháitear cumas na ndaltaí úsáid na Gaeilge a chleachtadh mar mheán caidrimh sa phróiseas. Tá sé soiléir go bhfuil na hoidí féin an-bháúil do mhúineadh na teanga agus go mbíonn tionchar dearfach acu ar mhian foghlama na ndaltaí. Is fiú an bhéim seo a choinneál ar chothú scileanna labhartha na teanga san athbhreithniú atá beartaithe i bhfheidhmiú an phleanscoile. Tá gá le athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar clár léitheoireachta na ndaltaí i gcoitinne, an bhéim a choinneál ar thacaíocht na léitheoireachta don teanga chumarsáide sna bun agus meán-ranganna agus breis infheistíochta a dhéanamh i léitheoirí leabharlainne agus téacsleabhair nua-aimseartha sna hardranganna. B’fhiú freisin cur chuige sa mhonatóireacht a cheapadh mar chuid den phlean scoile. Ceanglaítear an scríbhneoireacht le réamh-phlé ó bhéal agus léitheoireacht agus tugtar deiseanna do na daltaí a bpíosaí saothair a chláru i réimsí teoranta. Is fiú áfach, breis béime a chur ar scríbhneoireacht phearsanta agus úsáid as saothair leabhair a mhaolú mar chleachtaithe ranga.
Irish language skills are developed constructively in the senior classes. Effective emphasis is placed on the communicative approach in the junior and middle classes and pupils engage purposefully in activities through Irish. The teachers have a strong commitment to the teaching of Irish and they have a direct influence on the pupils’ propensity for learning and in using an appropriate language register. The primacy of oral development should be conserved and extended in the review being currently undertaken of the school plan. The use of Irish textbooks should be reviewed to continue the use of reading as a support to the oracy programme in the junior and middle classes and further investment should be made to enable modern reading programmes and textbooks in the senior classes. These programmes should be supplemented with appropriate library acquisitions. A selection of appropriate monitoring strategies should be developed as part of the school plan. Writing exercises are largely based on discussion and pupils are afforded opportunities to develop their skills in limited genres. Further emphasis should be placed on developing independent writing skills and the influence of work books in class room exercises should be reduced.
The key principles of the curriculum are presented on a structured sequential basis. The school plan identifies the curricular framework and methodologies, it identifies programmes utilised and lists various resources. Effective practise is evidenced in relation to the implementation of many aspects of the English curriculum, including the centrality of oral language on a whole school basis and in cross curricular themes. The pupils are generally confident and competent in displaying their skills and participate enthusiastically and fluently in parallel language activities.
The school engages in the sustained development of the necessary maturational, pre-reading and literacy skills in the junior and middle classes so that senior pupils can engage in independent research. The ability to write clearly and expressively is developed through the writing process and excellent portfolios of pupil written work were noted. Excellent use of brainstorming, drafting, redrafting and editing was practised particularly in the middle section and further use could be made of the monthly newsletter ‘Eolas’ as a platform for pupils’ work. Poetry, including pupil composition is imaginatively explored throughout the school both orally and in print form. Pupil progress is monitored through different assessment strategies that include teacher observation, questioning, teacher designed tasks, homework, projects, work samples, checklists and standardised tests. Pupils’ written work is carefully fostered as well as the structured delivery of appropriate reading and writing programmes.
Understanding of mathematical concepts is systematically and effectively developed and pupils show an ability to explain and clarify these in mathematical language. Due emphasis is placed on using concrete material to support and develop pupils’ understanding. Number concepts are explored in a carefully sequenced programme aided by number line and number charts. Maths-rich environments are promoted in all classrooms and mathematical resources are displayed in mathematics corners. The pupils are afforded regular opportunities to collaborate on tasks and to co-operate in their learning activities. Assessment techniques include teacher observation, teacher designed tests and standardised assessment. Greater emphasis should now be placed on differentiation of tasks during problem solving activities and on the recording and interpretation of assessment results in a sequential manner as a guide for pupil learning.
The use and study of timelines, exploration of personal dates and chronological events, local place names, story and questioning techniques are effectively used to develop understanding of time, context and consequence. Local historical events such as the ambush at Carrakennedy during the ‘troubles’ is used effectively to chain local, national and international events and to develop pupils’ interest in local history. Emphasis is placed on developing the pupils’ abilities to work as historians through interview and project work and their written work is displayed and shared in the restricted display areas around the school. There is ample evidence and a rich heritage on the different strands covered in the history curriculum evident in this locality. These could be further explored to enhance pupils’ skills, understanding and pride in their local community.
A range of topics on the physical and human Geography of Ireland and other countries is investigated through textbooks, library work, the internet and work sheets and pupils display a broad range of knowledge on the areas covered. The inclusion of more specific elements of local studies, particularly in the senior classes would develop pupils’ investigative skills as geographers, as well as an appreciation of the complexity and mystery in their own locality. Opportunities to engage in study of local, natural and human environments should be incorporated at all class levels.
Pupils are encouraged to respect and care for their environment, develop a sense of responsibility and give practical application to the strand Environmental Awareness and Care. It is a matter of great pride to the community at large, that the school was awarded the Green Flag in recognition of its effort and achievement in this area. The school has also compiled a good resource library of science and nature video tapes as well as other materials which support the broad social, scientific and environmental awareness programme. Experiments in the examination and treatment of forces and energy have been conducted. Science corners are evident in all the classrooms, bulbs are cultivated and observed under different growing conditions and other opportunities provided for working under scientific conditions.
A range of effective stimuli and starting points is used to develop explorations and experimentation with concept and construct in the Visual Arts and all the strands are covered in a sequential and developmental fashion. There is evidence of creativity and effective process in the development of two-dimensional and three-dimensional media and the pupils handle a wide variety of materials and tools. School and individual planning is based on the structure and content of the curriculum and there is a balance between the creative process and looking and responding to constructs. Photographs are taken as part of the recording process and pupils talk about their work with enthusiasm and confidence. Activities are integrated with aspects of language, music and Social Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) and all the classrooms pay testimony to breadth and balance in this area.
Excellent practise was evidenced in Music in the middle section of the school that included all the curricular strands being explored in a thorough, creative and supportive manner. The pupils displayed familiarity with and knowledge of music literacy and experimentation. Rhythm and composition were explored and pupils can recall, answer and invent melodic patterns using instrumentation and voice as salient features. Varied and engaging musical experiences are provided throughout this school and the school choirs participate in local festivals and events as community representatives. This curricular area could be further enhanced through the development of a holistic school plan devised within the current school plan reviewing process.
Drama is used to good effect as a teaching methodology in this school although the school’s participation in in-service education is yet to be commence. It is used in exploring the use of Gaeilge in different communication circumstances and the pupils enjoy the discipline involved in role play and in creating scenes requiring continuity and conjecture.
A broad and balanced school plan has been developed in Physical Education in this school although its implementation is hampered by lack of facilities particularly during wet weather. A structured programme of activities is engaged in by the pupils in the playground primarily and use is made occasionally of the nearby community hall and the playing pitch to the rear of the school. The pupils participate in a variety of sports events, clubs and leagues organised in the locality and the pupils from fourth to sixth classes engage in aquatics for a six-week period annually. These include ‘Buntús’ under the auspices of Mayo Sports Partnership, Cuman na mBunscoil activities, Mayo Bounce-athon, badminton. uni-hoc, rounders and other activities organised in conjunction with other local schools.
Elements of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum are offered as discrete areas of study as well as being integrated with other curricular areas. Use is made of national programmes tailored to local school circumstances and mutual respect and personal dignity pervade the communication structures of the school. Parents indicated their pleasure at how the relationship and sexuality element of SPHE was organised using visiting course directors and inclusive of parents. A caring supportive atmosphere pervades the school, pupils are encouraged to be confident, assertive and mindful of other people’s sensitivities and active reinforcement is used to encourage positive behaviour.
A variety of assessment approaches is used to measure pupil progress and these include teacher observations, teacher designed tests, profiles and a variety of standardised tests. Outcomes are used to measure pupils’ grasp of concepts, monitor teaching effectiveness and guide revision approaches to the different curricular areas. Test results are filed and are frequently consulted to form the basis for discussions during parent teacher meetings. The close collaboration between main class teachers and support teacher is commended and should be extended to include differentiated programme planning and implementation, particularly in literacy and numeracy. It is recommended that standardised test results are collated sequentially according to year and class and that analysis of standardised test data be used to identify specific learning objectives for individual pupils.
A commendable approach in supplementary teaching strategies is organised with emphasis being placed on prevention and early intervention. Teachers engage in supportive positive relationships with pupils. Extensive and intensive structured programmes are used to enhance success with learning in the junior section and a guided role for parents is included as part of an early intervention strategy. Additional support through the newly appointed cluster co-ordinator could further enhance this co-operative approach. Detailed files and individual educational plans are developed for each pupil, specific objectives are set and reviewed and work progress and records are carefully maintained. The recent team teaching experiment in the middle section of the school is commended and may be extended to other sections when the effect of this practise is evaluated at the end of the year.
This school is included in the DEIS programme and provides a considered and inclusive programme for all the pupils attending the school. A substitute Rural Co-ordinator has recently been appointed to a local cluster of schools and is currently engaged in consultation with local interest groups to prioritise interventions on a community and a school basis. A home-school partnership policy is being reviewed to identify strategic practical interventions that can enhance the delivery of education services to pupils and for the mutual benefit of home and school.
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.