An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Uimhir rolla: 16009H
Date of inspection: 5 December 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Carrick N.S. 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, observed teaching and learning, examined pupils’ work and interacted with pupils and teachers. The inspector also reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Carrick N.S. is a four-teacher school located about a kilometre to the west of Ballinlough in west Roscommon. The school’s catchment area consists of Ballinlough and its hinterland. While many of the pupils come from families that have long associations with the school, an increasing number of pupils are from families that have relocated to the area recently from urban areas. The school has a distinctive ethos and cultivates close links with its community. A characteristic feature of the school is an unbroken tradition of celebrating certain festivals, such as St. Bridget’s Day and the May Queen. There are four mainstream teachers here at present as well as a learning-support teacher who is shared with another local school. At the time of the evaluation there are 81 pupils enrolled in the school.
The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly in accordance with the Department of Education and Science’s Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure. It is reported that the board enjoys excellent working relations with the parents’ association. The chairperson of the board is in communication with the principal and/or other teachers several times a week. Board members report that they are particularly proud of the stability and continuity that the school has provided in terms of staffing. Historically, the rate of staff turnover has been very low. Furthermore, teacher absences are often covered by retired members of staff. Among the board’s current priorities are road safety and the provision of additional recreation space for the pupils. While the in-school management will lead the implementation of the recommendations in this report, the support and encouragement of the board will be important for success.
The school principal manages the day-to-day operation of the school as well as teaching the senior classes. He has a commendably clear vision for the school, which is shared by other staff members and expressed in the school’s mission statement. The school’s supportive, caring ethos may be traced partly to the principal’s style of leadership. Other staff members are motivated and empowered to contribute to the development of the school. The deputy principal is to be commended in particular on the major contribution that she makes to the life of the school. The special-duties post has only been put in place recently. It is recommended that the duties of the deputy principal and special-duties teacher be reviewed with a view to ensuring that each post includes a combination of organisational, curricular and pastoral duties.
Most of the current school building was constructed in 1867. The principal, staff and successive boards of management are to be commended on the vigilance and imagination that they have shown in maintaining and developing the existing accommodation. A flat-roofed general-purposes room was built beside the original four-roomed schoolhouse around 1970. In 1990, this room was integrated into the main building. At present there are four mainstream classes. These are taught in three of the original classrooms and in the former general-purposes room. What was formerly an open space between the two buildings is now the school hall. It is used for dance and other curricular activities that require additional space. The fourth of the original classrooms is now used as a staff room/medical room/administrative area. Part of this room has been partitioned off recently as a space for the learning-support teacher. The corridors of the school are brightly decorated with pupils’ work and photographs of recent school activities. The attic has been converted for storage and there is easy access. The school is on a small site, with no grass area. Efficient use is made of the existing recreation area, which has been drained and resurfaced in recent years. Plants have been sown in containers and window boxes by teachers and pupils.
The school has invested in a range of appropriate equipment and materials that enhances the learning of pupils. The school has acquired a good range of computer hardware and software and there is exemplary use of technology in some curricular areas. The school operates a rental scheme for schoolbooks.
The parents’ association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (Primary). A meeting was held with two officers of the association as part of this evaluation. The association is active, meeting about eight times during the school year. The association co-ordinates a wide range of fundraising and social events for the school. Money raised in this way has been used recently, for example, to purchase computers and sports equipment and to refurbish the school building. Parents’ association funds are also used to subsidise certain school activities, such as dancing. It is reported that the parents’ association and the board of management have an excellent working relationship. The parents’ association is consulted on all changes to school policies and procedures. The design and provision, recently, of a new school uniform and crest is an example of the spirit of partnership that exists within the school community. The work of the pupils is shared with parents at concerts and other events. Parents provide valuable assistance with the organisation and management of extra-curricular activities. Officers of the association report that parents are proud of the school’s many achievements and of the school’s caring ethos. Mathematics and Irish are areas in which the school is perceived to provide particularly effective learning opportunities. As well as repeating the board’s concerns regarding the extension of the recreation area and issues of road safety, the officers of the association observed that parents would like to receive an annual written report on the progress of their children.
There is a high standard of pupil management in all classrooms. This is partly due to the teachers’ skills in behaviour management. It is also attributable to the high quality of the learning experiences provided by the school. The teachers prepare and deliver purposeful lessons that involve the pupils actively in interesting, challenging tasks. The school is to be commended for the development of the pupils’ learning and collaborative skills through regular opportunities to work independently in groups.
It is evident that there has been collaboration between staff members and consultation with parents in the development of the school plan. The plan consists of two separate folders that contain the organisational and curricular policies respectively. The organisational folder includes the school’s mission statement, in which a vision of the intended outcomes of the work of the school is presented with commendable clarity. Some of the school’s organisational policies are specific to the needs and resources of the school. Some policies are too brief, however, and several could be presented in a more structured fashion.
The folder with the organisational policies also contains a short introduction to the school’s curricular programme. This is admirably specific to the needs and resources of the school. The sections on Irish, Physical Education and Drama are especially useful. The clarity and practicality of this section of the school plan should be replicated as much as possible when curricular policies are being revised. The curricular folder contains policies and programmes for most curricular areas. It is recommended that these be revised so that they reflect and support existing good practice.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
All teachers prepare short-term and long-term schemes of work for the pupils in their care. These are generally specific and useful. The most useful of the schemes observed, contain clear statements of intended learning outcomes. All teachers prepare a weekly timetable. The timetables for some classes need to be amended so that the time allocations to individual curricular areas are in accordance with the Primary School Curriculum.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The quality of learning and teaching in this school is very high. All of the teachers show great skill in using a variety of teaching approaches. Effective whole-class teaching is complemented by regular use of tasks that require the pupils to work collaboratively in pairs or small groups. Pupils are engaged in active, hands-on work as much as possible. Circle-time is also used widely within the school. The teachers prepare appropriate resources for their lessons and use them effectively to enhance the pupils’ learning. There is evidence of particularly good use of computer and audio-visual technology in several curricular areas.
Sonraítear ardchaighdeán i gcoitinne i dteagasc agus foghlaim na Gaeilge. Is léir go bhfuil dúil ag na múinteoirí sa teanga agus go bhfuil ag éirí leo dearcadh dearfach a chothú ina taobh i measc na ndaltaí. Léiríonn na múinteoirí dea-thuiscint, freisin, ar bhunphrionsabail an churaclaim. Múintear bunmhúnlaí na teanga go cumasach agus baintear úsáid as raon de ghníomhaíochtaí agus d’áiseanna cuí chun an fhoghlaim a bhuanú. Tá na múinteoirí ag fáil taithí ar an gcur chuige cumarsáideach. Éiríonn leo na daltaí a thumadh sa Ghaeilge le linn an cheachta agus úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go rialta i gcomhthéacsanna cumarsáideacha taobh amuigh den cheacht foirmiúil. Baintear feidhm thairbheach as an drámaíocht agus an bhfilíocht sa tréimhse réamhchumarsáide den fhoghlaim. Leagtar béim chuí ar chothú na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta. Is inmholta an úsáid a bhaintear as áiseanna teicneolaíochta agus closamhairc i dteagasc na Gaeilge. Úsáidtear deachtafón, mar shampla, chun deis a thabhairt do na daltaí féinmheasúnú a dhéanamh sna ceachtanna comhrá agus léitheoireachta. I gcuid de na seomraí, taispeántar obair scríofa na ndaltaí i nGaeilge go tarraingteach. De thoradh an dea-chleachtais thuas, éiríonn le formhór na ndaltaí sna ranganna sinsearacha an Ghaeilge a labhairt go muiníneach agus go réasúnta líofa. Tá moladh tuillte ag an scoil freisin as an gcruinneas agus an saibhreas foclóra a chloistear ó chuid de na daltaí sna ranganna sinsearacha. B’fhiú, anois, féachaint chuige go gclárófar an dea-chleachtas a shonraítear tríd an scoil sa phlean scoile, chun an cleachtas sin a bhuanú.
High standards are evident in the teaching and learning of Irish. It is evident that the teachers have a love for the language and that they are fostering a positive attitude towards Irish among the pupils. Irish is taught in a way that reflects the principles of the Primary School Curriculum. The structures of the language are taught effectively and a range of appropriate activities and resources is used to consolidate the pupils’ learning. The teachers are becoming familiar with the communicative approach to teaching Irish. The pupils are immersed in the language for the duration of the lesson and Irish is used regularly in communicative contexts outside of the formal lesson. Drama and verse are used effectively in the pre-communicative phase. An appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of the pupils’ reading and writing skills in Irish. Commendable use is made of computer and audio-visual resources. A Dictaphone is used, for example, to enable the pupils to hear and evaluate their own reading and speech. The pupils’ writing in Irish is displayed attractively in some classrooms. As a consequence of the good practice described here, most pupils in the senior classes are able to speak Irish with confidence and reasonable fluency. The breadth of vocabulary and the accuracy of syntax and grammar that are evident in the language of some of the senior pupils is also a credit to the school. It is recommended that the school plan for Irish be revised to ensure that it reflects and consolidates the good practice seen throughout the school.
The school is to be commended for the fine work that is done in the areas of reading and writing. There is scope for development, however, in the development of the pupils’ oral language.
There is excellent use of appropriate activities and resources to develop the pupils’ phonological awareness in the junior classes. There is commendable collaboration between the class teacher and the learning-support teacher in this work. All teachers provide a print-rich environment so that the pupils encounter text informally throughout the day. There is an abundance of charts, labels and captions, with evidence of a commitment to the language-experience approach. Big books are used effectively to introduce pupils to the conventions of reading. Pupils in some classes tape themselves reading on a regular basis and listen to the recording. This enables them to evaluate and develop their reading skills and also gives them ownership of their learning. The school succeeds in fostering a love of reading and an awareness of the value of literacy among the pupils. All classrooms have well-stocked pupils’ libraries. In most cases, these are also attractively presented, well organised and user-friendly. Comfortable seating is provided in the reading corner of the classrooms. The regular use of audio-books adds variety to the reading programme. Pupils in all classes undertake interesting activities based on books that they have read. The school provides a broad, varied writing programme. Lessons are well structured and skilfully implemented. Pupils’ writing is displayed and celebrated throughout the school.
It is evident, from observation of lessons and from questioning pupils, that there is scope for a more structured approach to oral-language development in English. It is recommended that each teacher include dedicated oral-language time in his/her weekly timetable and that specific outcomes be identified for these lessons. It is recommended that there be an increased focus on vocabulary development in all curricular areas. Flash cards and similar visual aids could be used to introduce and consolidate target vocabulary. It is recommended that the habit of speaking clearly and audibly at all times be fostered among the pupils.
Overall the school makes very good provision for this aspect of the curriculum. There is an appropriate use in junior infants of early mathematical activities to enable the pupils to classify, match, compare and order sets of objects. In all classes, there is extensive use of mathematical equipment and practical activities in the development of mathematical concepts and skills. The teachers show great skill in the preparation and management of tasks for small groups of pupils. The ability of each group to work independently and the quality of the collaboration among the pupils are indicators of a commitment to this teaching approach. There is good use of Mathematics trails and of computer technology. The pupils generally respond very well to questioning on a range of mathematical topics. It is clear that the pupils are given appropriate guidance and support with regard to the organisation and presentation of written work in Mathematics.
It is recommended that there be a more systematic approach to the teaching and use of mathematical language in all classrooms. It is recommended that the mathematical language to be learned by pupils be recorded in the school plan and in the schemes of work prepared by individual teachers. It is recommended that charts to consolidate mathematical vocabulary be displayed in all classrooms and that pupils’ ability to use mathematical language be assessed and monitored regularly.
The school implements a broad, balanced programme in this curricular area. There is an appropriate emphasis on personal history and story in the junior classes. In the middle and senior classes there is an appropriate balance of local, national and international topics for study. There is a collection of historical artefacts from the locality in one classroom. Timelines are displayed and discussed on a regular basis to foster a sense of time and chronology. A retired teacher visits the senior classes occasionally to do presentations on aspects of local history. It is recommended that the school plan for History be revised with a view to ensuring continuity and progression in pupils learning and in the use of resources such as the school museum and local historical sites.
There is evidence of excellent practice in the teaching of Geography. Lessons in this curricular area are frequently practical and highly interactive. There is a commendable focus on the development of geographical investigation skills through local studies. Teachers make effective use of photographs, plans, maps, globes and other illustrative materials to develop the pupils’ sense of place and space.
The school has made a good start in the implementation of this curricular area. Although most of the classroom displays focus on the strand Living Things, it is clear that a balanced programme is taught in most classes. Pupils respond well to questioning on some topics from the strand Energy and Forces. All pupils have opportunities to sow bulbs and seeds and to monitor their growth. Although all of the recreation area has a hard surface, some classes sow and maintain plants outdoors in window boxes and larger containers. Investigations are conducted in senior classes, albeit on a whole-class basis.
It is evident, from questioning pupils and from observation of lessons, that there is a need to provide more hands-on learning opportunities for pupils in order to develop their knowledge of the variety of plants and animals to be found in the locality as well as the life processes of living things. It is recommended that there be a Science display area in all classrooms. It is recommended that pupils in senior classes be given opportunities to plan and conduct investigations in small groups. It is recommended that all pupils get regular opportunities to undertake work from the strand Designing and Making. It is recommended that the school plan for Science be revised to include clear statements on what work is expected to be done on local habitats at each class level and what the intended learning outcomes are.
The pupils get opportunities to work with a wide range of media and techniques. There is a balance of two-dimensional and three-dimensional work. The pupils’ work is displayed attractively in the classrooms and other areas in the school. The work in fabric and fibre is enhanced in the senior classes by the contribution of former teacher who visits the school regularly to provide lessons in crochet and knitting to girls and boys.
There is evidence that a broad programme is implemented in the school. There is particularly good work on song-singing. Pupils sing an appropriate repertoire with rhythm and accuracy. Pupils in junior classes play percussion instruments and the tin whistle is taught to all pupils in the senior half of the school. Pupils sing and play at various school and church events. There is an appropriate emphasis on the development of musical literacy.
The school has a tradition of putting on dramatic performances for the community. Alongside this work, there is now an increased emphasis on the process of drama as well as the final production. Drama has a dedicated period on the weekly timetable in all classes. The school has built up a collection of costumes and props. These are used for Christmas concerts and for the various drama activities that are used to enrich lessons in other areas of the curriculum.
The school makes very good provision for this area of the curriculum. The programme is broad and varied and includes opportunities for the pupils to develop their ability in dance. It is clear that the pupils enjoy this immensely and that they are enabled to participate with confidence in a variety of traditional Irish sets as well as contemporary forms of dance. Pupils learn to play a range of games and the school has a very strong record in local and county competitions. The school has a particularly strong tradition of rounders and school teams have been Roscommon county champions on numerous occasions. Pupils participate in a course of swimming lessons for one term each year.
The school implements a structured programme for this area of curriculum, which has a dedicated allocation of time on the weekly timetable. The ethos of the school in general is highly supportive of the pupils’ social and personal development. The school’s mission statement mentions the importance of developing values, interpersonal skills and recreational interests among the pupils. Circle time is used widely throughout the school.
Standardised tests are administered annually in English and Mathematics. A range of further diagnostic tests is administered to pupils in receipt of supplementary teaching. Teacher-designed tests are used regularly in most curricular areas. Each teacher keeps a detailed monthly account of work completed. These are commendably clear and detailed and are a useful assessment tool for the individual teacher and the school.
The school makes very good provision for learning support. This is the base school for a learning-support teacher who also serves one other local school. As well as withdrawing pupils for supplementary teaching, the learning-support teacher collaborates with the infants’ teacher to deliver an early-intervention programme in phonics to senior infants. The purpose of this is to support the work that the class teacher does on phonics with a view to reducing the incidence of reading difficulties as these pupils move up through the school.
The planning and recording done for pupils in receipt of learning-support is excellent. There is a detailed profile of each pupil, which is updated regularly. The individual learning programmes contain specific, measurable learning targets for each pupil. This supports purposeful teaching and facilitates assessment. The pupil’s parents and class teacher are involved in the design of the individual learning programme. A weekly collaboration sheet is completed in liaison with each pupil’s class teacher. From observation of teaching, it is clear that a variety of activities and resources is used in the delivery of the individual learning programmes.
Learning-support is provided in an orderly environment. The school is to be commended for the provision of a dedicated learning-support space that is partitioned off from the rest of the staff room. It is recommended that pupils’ work be displayed more widely in this area. It is recommended also that the learning programmes include the use of real books to develop the pupils’ awareness of the pleasure and the purpose of reading.
While the school has very little experience of cultural diversity to date, its ethos is very inclusive. The nine grounds of the Equal Status Act are mentioned in the school’s mission statement. The school’s book rental scheme reduces the financial burden on parents considerably. While school attendance patterns are positive, it is recommended that a description of strategies to promote positive attendance be included in the school plan.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation.
· The school has a committed, professional in-school management team.
· The school is to be commended for the initiative and creativity that has been shown in the development and use of resources (e.g. the school building, computer technology and the school museum).
· There is commendable consistency in teaching approaches across the school. This helps to ensure continuity and progression in the pupils’ learning.
· The teachers are to be commended on the provision of regular opportunities for pupils to work in pairs and small groups.
· The school makes very good provision for pupils with special educational needs.
· While there is a high standard of provision in most curricular areas, the school is to be commended especially on the work that is done in the areas of Irish, English reading, Mathematics, Geography and Physical Education.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made.
· It is recommended that the curricular sections of the school plan be revised with a view to ensuring that they reflect and consolidate existing good practice.
· It is recommended that the duties of the deputy principal and special-duties teacher be reviewed with a view to ensuring that each post includes a combination of organisational, curricular and pastoral duties.
· It is recommended that the school plan make reference to how resources such as the garden plot and the school museum will be used by each class, as well as a statement of the intended learning outcomes.
· It is recommended that a dedicated period for oral-language development be included on all class timetables and that there be a more explicit focus on vocabulary development in all curricular areas.
· It is recommended that the school consider issuing an annual written report to the parents/guardians of each pupil.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
1. Oral language development has been initiated and included in all classroom timetables.
2. School plan is being revised in line with recommendations.
3. Duties of Deputy Principal and Special Duties Teacher have been addressed.
4. A written report to parents at the end of the present school year is being planned.