An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

  

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

  

Scoil Naomh Fhionáin

An Coireán, Contae Chiarraí

Roll number: 16014A

  

Date of inspection: 24 February 2006

Date of issue of report: 15 December 2006

 

 

 

 

Whole School Evaluation

1. Introduction

2. Quality of school management

2.1 Board of management

2.2 In-school management

2.3 Management of resources

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

3. Quality of school planning

3.1 School planning process and implementation

3.2 Classroom planning

4. Quality of learning and teaching in curriculum areas

4.1 Language

4.2 Mathematics

4.3 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE)

4.4 Arts Education

4.5 Physical Education

4.6 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

4.7 Assessment and achievement

5. Quality of support for pupils

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

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

6. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

Whole School Evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Naomh Fhionáin. 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 students 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 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.

 

 

 

 

1. Introduction

 

St Finian’s is a co-educational school situated in the parish of Dromid, adjacent to the village of Waterville.  The school’s catchment area is the village of Waterville and the surrounding area.  The school is in existence since 1913.  Major refurbishment took place in 1987 and these renovations were completed in 1990.  The school now has four classrooms, a learning support room and an office.  The last school report was furnished in 1997.  The present enrolment is 86 pupils and this is expected to remain static or decrease slightly over the next number of years.  Attendance of pupils is very good.  At present there are five teachers on the staff. 

 

 

2. Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

St Finian’s is under the patronage of the Bishop of Kerry.  The board of management is industrious and attends dutifully to its obligations and responsibilities with regard to the operation of the school.  In the recent past, the board has sanctioned the appointment of three new members of staff.  It has also been proactive in overseeing the development and laying of a basketball court.  The board is presently campaigning for the erection of school safety lights outside the school.  Other areas of concern include procedures for the dropping off and picking up of children outside the school and the development of a parking area for teachers’ cars. 

 

Board of management meetings are held termly or more often if required.  The board is most supportive of the principal and staff of the school. It facilitates open and valuable communication with the parental body through the parents’ representatives on the board.  It is especially aware of and satisfied with the curriculum that is provided by the school. Members of the board expressed satisfaction with the teaching and learning that the school provides.  The board discusses school planning documents and ratifies many of them.  However, it is advised that all policies and school documents specify a review date and be signed by the board of management.

 

The staff in consultation with the board of management has developed the school mission statement.  ‘The school strives to provide a well-ordered, caring, and secure atmosphere where the intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and cultural needs of the pupils are identified and addressed.’  This is evidenced by the caring and respectful relationships demonstrated by the whole school community.  The school motto is ‘Déan do dhícheall i gcónaí.’

 

The school is attractively maintained and the grounds are pleasingly enhanced with barrels filled with flowering daffodils.  Internally the rooms and hallways are painted on a cyclical basis.  The board of management is praised for its dedication to the school and its continued attention to the maintenance of the school and its environs.

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team, consisting of the principal, deputy principal and one special duties post-holder, ensures that the school functions efficiently. As this is a small five-teacher school communication between the full in-school management team regarding roles is mainly informal.  However, it is advised that formal arrangements for defining and reviewing duties would assist the process of running the school.  While post-holders have a range of duties allocated to them which they discharge with enthusiasm and dedication, consideration should now be given to a review of the allocation of duties to existing post-holders to include major areas of the curriculum as well as organisational areas. 

 

The teaching principal undertakes the administration of the school with the welcomed collaboration of the other members of the staff.  The principal teacher provides the school community with facilitative and focused leadership and is thorough in fulfilling his organisational, administrative, pastoral and teaching duties. He has overseen the development of all school policies in both organisational and curricular areas.  Roll books are monitored and well kept by the secretary under the stewardship of the principal.  The principal is aware of the special aptitudes of members of the staff and encourages them to share their skills for the benefit of the children and the school.  He has very good interpersonal skills and this is evidenced by the very good rapport that exists in the staff room and is also shown by the high level of esteem in which he is held by the members of the board of management and the representatives of the parents’ association. All the members of the school community know that their work is valued.  An atmosphere of pride and mutual respect pervades the school.

 

Staff meetings take place once a term and all teachers have an input regarding the agenda followed at these meetings. Minutes are kept by the principal and decisions are arrived at collaboratively.  These meetings impact in a most beneficial way on the overall work and educational provision in the school. 

 

2.3 Management of resources

The school teaching team consists of five teachers.  All classes are within Department of Education and Science guidelines as regards enrolment. All necessary resources, both material and personnel, are deployed effectively in St. Finian’s to achieve the aims of the school for all pupils.  As well as the teaching principal there are three class teachers, a learning support teacher who is based in the school and a part-time resource teacher who is also based in the school.  There is also a special needs assistant appointed to cater for the needs of a special needs child.  This person assists the class teacher and provides very valuable support to the special needs pupil by enabling the child to participate in school life as much as possible.  The special needs assistant’s contribution and work with the children is acknowledged and affirmed.

 

The school has the services of a part-time secretary who contributes to the smooth and efficient running of the school.  A part-time caretaker takes care of the inside of the school and a high standard of accommodation is maintained. Their commitment and work are greatly valued by the board and the staff.

 

The Principal is conscious of the need for a consistent policy in regard to the rotation of teachers and every effort is made to allow teachers the experience of teaching in a variety of classes and contexts over a number of years. Each year teachers sign a form expressing their class preference for the following year. Teachers are then consulted concerning deployment preferences and they are offered classes within their preferred range, in so far as is possible.

 

The school consists of four permanent classrooms, a learning support room, a staff room/secretary’s office and staff toilets. The playground has both hard surface and grass play areas.  The building is bright and pleasant both externally and internally. A high standard of hygiene, neatness, décor and order is in evidence throughout the building which contributes to the creation of a welcoming atmosphere and a pleasant working environment.  The hallway inside the main entrance is used as a display area where seasonal montages, collages, presentations of children’s projects and displays of work are a prominent feature. However, it is advised that children’s work be displayed in the corridor leading to the staff room.  It might also be possible to have a specific display area allocated to the parents’ association to allow them display certain posters or communications.

 

A splendid range of teaching and learning resources which include books, visual arts materials, science and musical equipment has been provided.  This apparatus is constructively used for the enhancement of the teaching and learning undertaken in the school.  Each classroom has a considerable range of appropriate charts, maps and posters on display which contribute to the creation of a stimulating learning and teaching environment.  A wide range of reading materials is in plentiful supply.  Class libraries are well stocked with functional and recreational texts.  These books are easily accessed by the pupils who are encouraged to read on a regular basis.

 

The classrooms in the main are very well presented and well organised. By and large the teachers use these resources very effectively in their teaching.  Computers are installed in all classrooms and while the teachers use these occasionally, it is advised that further development of the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in learning and teaching throughout the school be planned for especially in the mainstream classes.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The communication systems between the school, the parents and the wider community are clear and mutually respectful.  The parents receive information regarding their children in many ways, through parent teacher meetings which are held annually, a home school diary, letters and notes which are frequently sent home.   The parents are made aware of the results of teacher-designed tasks which take place weekly and termly.  An end-of-year report is also sent to the parents.

 

Parents are welcome to discuss their child’s education with the staff at any time without appointment.  The parents are in regular consultation with the principal teacher.  Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually.  An induction meeting is held for parents of children who are about to start school.  The booklet that is discussed at this meeting is highly effective in explaining the modus operandi of the school.

 

Parents are involved in the formulation and revision of school policies particularly organisational matters such as bullying, code of behaviour, healthy lunches, use of the internet and the sport code of conduct.  The parents were very involved in the development of the RSE policy that is in the school. The parents’ association supports the school by fundraising for a number of projects and fosters cooperation and mutual respect between parents, teachers and the board of management.  They are also involved in organising social events such as table quizzes. They also take children to sports events. The parents expressed general satisfaction with the school and with the range of academic and extra-curricular activities provided.  They praised the happy learning environment, the caring management of the pupils and the effective means of communication between school and parents. They also praised the school newsletter which they say is most informative.  The principal, staff and board of management recognize the positive contribution made by parents to the overall work of the school.  The parents’ association is praised for its dedication and work.

 

3. Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

All the school staff as well as school planning personnel and primary curriculum support personnel were involved in developing the School Plan.  This plan is contained in two folders.  Policies are stored in a black pocketed folder while curricular areas are kept in a large lever arch folder.  The school has developed a mission statement that encapsulates the underpinning philosophy and ethos of the school. All teachers are mindful of their responsibility to the ongoing development of school policies both organisational and curricular.

 

The organisational section of the school plan contains policies on the following aspects: mission statement, enrolment, code of behaviour and discipline, learning support, class rules, child protection, anti-bullying, safety statement, administration of medicines, internet use, and a sports’ code of conduct.  There are also policies on substance use, alcohol and drugs, custody and separation, adult bullying, school attendance, accidents and homework.  The role and function of the parents’ association is also stated clearly in a policy. Of particular note is the booklet developed for parents of children about to start school for the first time and the letter to parents regarding the letterland programme followed in the school. These are very valuable documents and commendable work has been expended on their development.  A ‘welcoming talk’ is given to the parents when children are about to commence in the school for the first time. Organisational as well as curricular areas are discussed and useful hints are given.  This practice is commended. 

 

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, September 1999) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (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.

 

The curriculum areas addressed in the school plan include English, Mathematics, Gaeilge, Social and Personal Education (SPHE), Science, Visual Arts and draft plans on Music and Physical Education.     In general the board of management has endorsed the plans to cover these areas of the curriculum.  It is apparent that the principal and staff view the School Plan as a document undergoing continuous development and review as some of these plans have already been reviewed and updated. The policies updated include English, Mathematics, and Social and Personal and Health Education (SPHE).  This is very creditable practice.  The school is commended for the work expended to date on the planning undertaken.  However, the area of differentiation might now be addressed and given greater focus in a certain number of these curricular plans.   Some policies are ratified but not dated. Built-in review dates need to be specified on the actual documents and they need to be signed by the board of management.

 

All teachers prepare long-term and short-term schemes of work and all areas of the curriculum are planned for.  The teachers’ long-term planning is based on the school plan and the curriculum.  However, some teachers base their short-term planning on texts rather than on curriculum objectives.  It is advised that all short-term planning be based on curriculum objectives.  All teachers keep detailed and comprehensive monthly progress records.  These are based on a number of templates.  It is advised that a common template be devised for recording the progress of the classes.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers’ timetables are organised to facilitate the implementation of their plans and appropriate attention is provided so that there is linkage and integration within and between subjects.  By and large the children experience a broad and balanced curriculum.  The content of lessons is presented in a competent and professional manner by eager and dedicated staff.

All teachers prepare a plentiful supply of educational materials which underpin the teaching and learning that takes place in the classrooms.  Some of the teachers use active teaching strategies and methodologies such as pair work, group work, drama and discussion. However, in some classes there is an over-dependence on whole class teaching.  A more varied repertoire of teaching methodologies needs to be deployed in all classrooms so that the pupils are active in their own learning. The full and harmonious development of the child is a key principle that is striven for in all classes.  Pupil–teacher and pupil–pupil interactions are respectful and caring.  The children are well-mannered and friendly. 

 

 

4. Quality of learning and teaching in curriculum areas

 

4.1 Language

 

An Ghaeilge

Tá plean scoile don Ghaeilge ina bhfuil pleananna oibre bliantúla do gach leibhéal leagtha amach faoi  snáitheanna agus snáithaonaid an churaclaim. Feictear aidhmeanna agus ábhar na gceachtanna sna pleananna oibre seo agus ainmnítear mórthéamaí, fothéamaí agus frásaí na seachtaine don teagasc.  Tá sé le tabhairt faoi deara go bhfuil Gaeilge líofa ag na múinteoirí agus go bhfuil an Ghaeilge in úsáid cuid mhaith le haghaidh ordaithe agus gnóthaí beaga sna ranganna.  Taobh istigh den scoil, áfach, is fiú féachaint chuige go dtabharfaí deiseanna do na páistí teachtaireachtaí a dhéanamh trí mheán na Gaeilge.

 

Saothraítear go díograiseach i múineadh an chomhrá, idir fhoirmiúil agus neamhfhoirmiúil agus tá iarracht chreidiúnach á déanamh cumas labhartha na bpáistí a fhorbairt trí dhíospoireacht.  Tá béim láidir ar fhorbairt foclóra agus ar struchtúir na teanga.  Baintear dea-úsáid as ábhair léirithe, fearas nithiúil agus modheolaíochtaí éifeachtacha, i gcoitinne, chun ábhar na gceachtanna a chur os comhair na ndaltaí. Cleachtaítear drámaíocht i roinnt ranganna le h-éifeacht agus b’fhiú go mór an ghné seo den obair a fhorbairt agus a leathnú sa scoil.  Tá cnuasach deas dánta roghnaithe ag na hoidí atá in oiriúint do gach aois-ghrúpa.  Is suntasach an fonn a bhíonn ar na páistí páirt a ghlacadh agus aithris á dhéanamh ar a bhfuil foghlamtha acu.  Déantar iarracht an Ghaeilge a chomhtháthú le gnéithe an cheoil agus na drámaíochta.

 

Feictear prionta sa timpeallacht sna rangsheomraí.  Leantar scéim léitheoireachta sa scoil.  Éiríonn go creidiúnach leis na daltaí sa léitheoireacht agus léann a bhformhór le brí agus le tuiscint. Déanann na múinteoirí agus na daltaí cíoradh ceart ar na scéalta agus cuirtear go mór le cumas teanga na ndaltaí trí ainilís agus ceistiúchán.  Léiríonn na daltaí an-thuiscint ar ábhar na dtéacsleabhar.  Déantar nathanna agus cora cainte a chíoradh go structúrtha i gcomhthéacs an ábhair léitheoireachta agus na gceachtanna ginearálta.  Ach d’fhéadfaí tuilleadh grúpobair a chur ar siúl le linn na gceachtanna léitheoireachta agus chuige sin tuilleadh leabhair bheaga a chur ar fáil sna bunranganna agus cineálacha éagsúla téacs a sholáthar sna hardranganna.

 

Déantar cúram den scríbhneoireacht Ghaeilge agus is léir ón obair scríofa go bhfuil caighdeán creidiúnach á shroichint ag na páistí.  San iomlán is spéisiúil iad na haistí gearra a scríobhann siad ó thaobh ábhair.  Cláraítear an obair scríofa go néata agus go cruinn.

 

Tagann cúntóir teangan gach seachtain ar feadh uair a ‘chloig do rang a sé.  Íocann Roinn na Gaeltachta as an tseirbhís seo.

 

 

 

Irish

There is a school plan for Irish in which yearly work plans for every level are laid out under the strands and strand units of the curriculum. The aims and subject matter of the lessons are to be seen in the work plans and general themes, sub-themes and weekly phrases are listed for teaching. It is discernible that the teachers have fluent Irish and that Irish is in use commonly for instructions and converse in the classes. However, it would be worthwhile within the school that the children would be given opportunities to transact certain messages through Irish.

 

Diligent work is committed to the teaching of conversation both formal and informal and creditable effort is devoted to the development of the children’s speaking facility by means of discussion. Strong emphasis is given to vocabulary development and to the structures of the language. Good use is made of display material, concrete equipment and effective methodologies generally to present lessons to the pupils. Dramatisation is used in some of the classes to beneficial effect and it would be worthwhile to develop and extend this aspect in the school.  An attractive range of poetry has been selected by the teachers to suit every age group. It is notable that the children are anxious to participate and to recite material learned. An effort is made to integrate the work in Irish with aspects of music and drama.

 

Print is to be seen in the classroom environments.  A reading scheme is used in the school. The pupils succeed creditably in their reading and the majority of them read with meaning and understanding. The teachers and pupils examine the stories and the language facility of the pupils is greatly enhanced by analysis and questioning. The pupils reveal very good understanding of the content of their textbooks. Sayings and phrases are explored in a structured manner in the context of reading material and in the general lessons.  Additional group work could be arranged during the reading lessons and for this, more small books might be provided for the junior classes and various types of text might be supplied for the senior classes.

 

Written work in Irish is attended to and it is evident from the work samples that a creditable standard is reached by the pupils. Overall the short compositions that are produced are interesting as regards content. The written work is done neatly and accurately.

 

A language assistant comes to sixth class each week for one hour and the Gaeltacht department pays for this service.

 

 

English

The strands and strand units of the English curriculum form the basis of the content of the School Plan for English. Methodologies are specified, assessment procedures are laid down and resources are identified.  Oral language is given due prominence and programmes in reading and writing are planned for with due care and detail.  The plan is well considered and developed with aims, objectives and achievement measures set out for each class level. However, there is scope for development of specific targeted curriculum objectives in some teachers’ short-term plans.

 

The school’s plan for English emphasises the centrality of  oral skills development.  Important emphasis is placed on storytelling in all classrooms. This is evidenced by the use of stories such as ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ in infant classes, ‘Can Jimmy save Toyland’ in junior classes, ‘Charlottes Web’ in middle standards and newspaper articles as well as a class novel in senior classes.  The use of rhymes, jingles, and experience, weather and news charts, and the use of large format books in infant and junior classes is successful in the teaching and learning that takes place at these class levels.  The children in all classes display good oral language development and they express themselves competently and confidently in English. It is advised, however, that more emphasis be placed on pair work.  In the middle and senior classes, discussions and debates take place and these enrich the oracy skills of the children.  Good inferential questions are posed by the teachers in these classes and it is apparent that many of the pupils are very capable in expressing their views and ideas about topics in which they have interest. The choice of good quality poetry in these classes is also highly effective.  Children composing their own poetry is a very important feature of the work undertaken in poetry.

 

English reading throughout the school is of a high standard. The teachers are commended for their effective efforts in promoting literacy. Reading skills are initially fostered through the development of phonological and phonemic awareness, the collaborative reading of large format books and the teaching of sight vocabulary. All classrooms provide a print-rich environment.  The use of puppets and games is highly effective in holding the children’s interest in literacy activities in the infant classes.  Some of the work is integrated with History through the use of sequencing activities. These reading skills are developed further in a structured manner in the junior, middle and senior classes. Reading for different purposes  such as for information and for pleasure is also steadily developed and the class libraries in all classrooms are well stocked and widely used.  Pupils engage with a range of text including graded reading schemes, class novels, library books and newspaper articles such as ‘Papua’s Lost World’.

 

Writing  skills are suitably developed in all classes. Many genres of writing that include both functional and creative aspects are undertaken by the children.  These are presented to a high standard and are corrected consistently by the teachers.  Helpful comments add to the value of the exercises undertaken. In some classes an inordinate number of workbooks was observed. It is advised that less emphasis be placed on the use of these.  While there is a computer in every classroom there is little evidence of the children accessing this very valuable resource.   It is strongly advocated that computers be used to support the writing process and as a means of augmenting the teaching and learning experience. The computers could also be used to effectively enhance children’s completed work for display purposes in chart or book form.  Overall achievements in the teaching and learning of English are commended.

 

4.2 Mathematics

Teachers plan methodically for the teaching of all the strands of the Mathematics’ curriculum. They base their planning on the School Plan which also sets out a range of methodologies that are supported by the availability of a wide range of mathematical resources and equipment throughout the school. The teachers attempt very successfully to implement their programmes in an active and interesting way.   While class texts are used these alone do not form the basis of the programme followed.  The teachers are commended for their use of concrete materials such as digit cards, apples and 3D shapes when developing children’s understanding of mathematical concepts.  Appropriate use is also made of black and white boards.  The use of the children’s own environment is also a commendable feature of the work in the classrooms.  At all class levels the children have an appropriate understanding of mathematical language and concepts.  The children can recall number facts and solve mathematical problems at all levels. 

 

In the infant classes, attention is given to concept formation and language development through early mathematical activities. The children experience a broad variety of work which involves data, number, algebra, shape and measures. Suitable emphasis is placed on oral work to encourage the children to talk about what they are doing and to extend their mathematical thinking. In the junior classes extensive use is made of concrete materials to support learning

In the middle and senior classes, a variety of concrete materials is available and some learning experiences allow for guided discovery methods.  Pupils are encouraged to use appropriate mathematical language.  Written work is corrected methodically and pupils are encouraged to present this work in a neat and ordered manner.  While some teachers display number lines and hundred squares prominently it is advised that such materials are displayed in all classrooms. 

 

4.3 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE)

The implementation of Social, Environmental and Scientific Education is planned for by most mainstream class teachers.  However in the case of History and Geography this planning is primarily based on the content of text books. 

 

 

Science

An appropriate programme has been devised and time has been allocated on the weekly timetable for science teaching. The teachers provide for balance between skill development and the acquisition of facts. The children discuss climatic changes and seasonal changes.  Many interesting experiments that assist in the development of investigative and evaluative skills are undertaken. Lessons include investigations and experiments using magnets, electricity, sound, forces and floating and sinking.  Children’s attention and wonder is developed through their active participation.  Many environmental projects such as the design of a wormery have been undertaken.  However, there is a need to investigate the local environment in more detail.  Some of the activities undertaken are integrated with the construction strand of the Visual Arts curriculum for example the designing of a boat that will float.  While nature and investigation tables are in evidence in some classrooms it is advised that they be maintained in all classrooms. The recording of work undertaken in this area would also benefit from the use of a digital camera.  

 

History

In general the teachers’ planning for History is based on the textbooks in use at the different class levels.  Pupils display an enthusiasm for and interest in the lives of people in the past such as the Aztecs and Irish heroes such as Fionn and Diarmaid.  They also exhibit interest in social accounts as they relate to national and European history. Very effective use is made of a timeline in the senior classes.  It is advised that all classes display a timeline as this would help the children consolidate their understanding of the passage of time and provide frames of reference for their knowledge.  A greater focus also might be placed on project work.  While some teachers place some worthwhile focus on the locality and its historical significance greater consideration might now be given to this important aspect of the History programme at all class levels.  It is also advised that the school now start acquiring the resources (old maps and photographs, newspaper articles etc) needed to develop and facilitate pupil skills as historians.

 

Geography

Some of the teachers’ individual planning is based on the curriculum. However, much of the Geography curriculum is taught with the aid of textbooks.  A wide range of Geography topics is studied and these include the weather, seasonal changes, the school and surrounding areas, the mountains, rivers, headlands and seas of Ireland.  Some European countries as well as areas in America are investigated and discussed.  All children are encouraged to engage in and to speak about the various themes and activities.  The pupils are very well-informed on general knowledge and delight in discussing countries such as New Guinea and Scotland.  The activities are linked to work undertaken in the History, Science and English programmes. These studies are beneficial and the children exhibit great interest in and curiousity about them.  As teachers receive formal in-service training in relation to the Geography curriculum, the school will have opportunities to expand further on planning which will identify how the skills and content of the curriculum for each class level can be developed in relation to the study of the local as well as wider environments.

 

4.4 Arts Education

 

Visual arts

Good progress has been made in implementing the curriculum in the Visual Arts. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the child as the creator and inventor of the artwork. The strands of drawing, paint and colour, construction, fabric and fibre and to a lesser extent print and clay receive suitable attention.  The use of a non-template approach to art making is commended. While some valuable work is completed in the area of print, there is scope for more exploration and experimentation to realise the educational potential of this strand area. The introduction of work in fabric and fibre is very good.

 

As well as making art, children are required to look and respond to works of art. A commendable start has been made in this regard in certain classrooms with the work of Picasso, Kadinsky and Van Gogh being featured. The children’s acquaintance with these artists’ work and their insightful discussions on this work is highly praised. Some teachers keep portfolios of pupils work.  These could now be used as a mechanism for the assessment of pupils’ achievement in this curricular area.  It is advised that all class teachers keep portfolios of pupils’ work and that assessment should take place regularly.  The use of IT and digital cameras could be extended in supporting the valuable work undertaken in the Visual Arts.

 

 

Music

A plan for the development of music within the school has been formulated. This is based on the curriculum.  Work is planned for the performing strand and includes children singing and playing instruments. The pupils enjoy singing in both languages. However, it is recommended that a starting note be given before children commence singing. The children listen to some classical music and explore the structure of these compositions in simple form. This work needs to be extended to all classes.  A more structured plan of work should be devised for the composing and the listening strands of the curriculum.  The areas of musical literacy and percussion also need greater focus.  The school has the services of a Music teacher for one and a half hours per week.  The parents pay for this extra tuition.  There is a necessity for the school to oversee the planning of this teacher’s work so that it incorporates the various strands and strand units of the curriculum.  The issue of the payment of this tutor as well as teachers’ supervision of this person’s work also needs to be considered.  

 

 

Drama

Drama is incorporated into many aspects of the school’s work and provides a significant educational opportunity to reinforce pupils’ self-esteem and enhance oracy and literacy levels.  It is integrated with other subject areas in particular Gaeilge and SPHE.   In some classes, drama activities encourage independent work and positive group communication. Drama techniques, such as role play and mime are used as a methodology by some teachers and this is commended.

 

4.5 Physical Education

In the main the programme in Physical Education incorporates the strands of games, athletics and dance.  It is felt by the parents’ association that the absence of a general purpose hall militates against the greater development of the gymnastics strand as well as other aspects of the Physical Education programme.  An external tutor provides coaching in certain aspects of the Physical Education programme in the school.  This is subsidised by the Gaelic Athletic Association.  All children avail of the services of this tutor.  The class teachers are cognisant of their responsibility with regard to the supervision of these classes.  However, it is advised that the work of all external tutors be monitored carefully to ensure that the programmes followed are in line with the curriculum.  It is hoped to avail of the skills of one of the teachers as well as the excellent local facilities to develop the aquatics strand of the curriculum in the near future.  A teacher who teaches dance attends the school for two hours each week.  The parents pay for this extra tuition. Again teachers are reminded of the need to be aware of the content of the programme followed, the need for supervision and the issue of payment for the tuition. It is recommended that planning be undertaken to broaden the Physical education programme followed in the school to include outdoor and leisure pursuits to a greater degree than heretofore   In general the children enjoy and derive benefit from the activities undertaken.  

 

4.6 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

This subject is timetabled and taught each week by all class teachers.  The school staff provide a secure, safe, and attractive environment for the children in their care. The school has a code of behaviour based on mutually understood rules. The parents sign this code of behaviour document.  The children and the parents also sign a sports’ code of conduct.  Circle time is used by the teachers to deal with and to prevent bullying behaviour happening in the school. The pupils’ appropriate behaviour both inside and outside of the classrooms is a credit to both teachers and pupils. All teachers have class rules and good behaviour is acknowledged and rewarded.  In most classes the pupils help in the smooth running of the classes.

 

Interesting lessons are taught in this curricular area and they include discussions on self-identity, personal goals, feelings, body changes as well as comparing different cultures. The school staff  in conjunction with the parents have developed a detailed RSE programme.  This has been endorsed by the board of management.  This work is highly commended.

 

4.7 Assessment and achievement

The school does not have a separate policy on assessment.  It deals with assessment as part of the curricular subject areas and as part of the learning support policy.  A range of assessment modes is employed by the teachers and these include standardised assessments, teacher observation, teacher-designed tests, checklists of books read and check-ups from textbooks.

 

In Mathematics and English, levels of attainment are assessed on an annual basis by means of standardised tests. Results of standardised tests are kept on file and are used to identify children with learning difficulties. Permission is sought from parents for these children to undergo diagnostic testing. Results of teacher designed tests are sent home annually for all classes in the school. A copy of these results is also kept at school.  Some teachers keep folders containing samples of children’s work and this is creditable practice. It is recommended that more formalised tests and procedures be developed for all subject areas of the curriculum.

 

 

5. Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A whole school plan for learning support and resource teaching has been devised and is being implemented.  The policy is based on the learning support guidelines. This plan is comprehensive and detailed.  The roles and duties of all involved with the child in need of supplementary teaching are clearly laid down. Screening tests and diagnostic tests are listed.  Progress is monitored and resources are noted. While early intervention strategies are mentioned in the policy this needs to be further elaborated upon. The special education team in this school consists of a learning support teacher who is based for eighteen and a half hours in the school and attends to sixteen pupils.  The resource teacher spends three hours in the school and attends to one pupil. The teachers administer diagnostic tests such as Neale Analysis, Jackson phonics, Quest, Rain and Schonell.  These inform the teachers’ planning. An individual education programme (IEP) is devised for each pupil in conjunction with the class teachers and in some cases the child’s parents. It is advised that parents be encouraged to be more involved in the development of their child’s IEP.  These address priority learning needs identified for development and specify targets for attainment.  The targets selected by the teachers are specific and time bound.  The learning support teacher has her own room.  The resource teacher shares the staff room /secretary’s room.  Both teachers have computers with many useful educational programmes such as wordshark, number shark and scrabble programmes.  Both teachers use educational language games to motivate the children and improve their oral language skills. The teachers keep helpful and detailed  records on children’s progress.  Pupils are withdrawn from the mainstream classes in all cases.  It is recommended that some in-class teaching be employed by the special education team.  An SNA supports one of the pupils in integrating into the mainstream setting.  This person also helps with other pupils in the class.  The teaching and learning provided for children attending supplementary teaching in the school is of a very high standard.

 

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

The school has one international pupil.  The class teacher is in the process of developing a detailed programme for this pupil to cater for the child’s specific language and social needs.

 

 

6. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are among the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:

 

The board of management is commended for its management of the school and for the attractive and stimulating learning and teaching environment provided for pupils. 

The positive behaviour and good work patterns of the pupils cultivated by the teachers is acknowledged.

The dedication, diligence and collegiality of the principal and of the teachers are commended.

The good educational provision for special needs pupils made available by the learning support and resource teachers is commended.

The effort and commitment given by the staff to whole school planning, and the reviews undertaken in certain curricular areas are recognised as creditable and valuable.

The good standards that have been achieved in Mathematics, Gaeilge and English are acknowledged especially.  The encouragement of children’s creativity in Visual Arts and the emphasis placed on the looking and responding strand unit are also notable.

It is evident that the parent body has given consistent and essential backing to the work of the school and that parents generally co-operate very fully with the teachers.  This is recognised as a particular strength that underpins all of the work of the school.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

The board of management should review the need for and the arrangements that are in place for paying external tutors. 

All policies in the School Plan should specify review dates and be ratified and signed by the board of management.

It is recommended that post-holders should have both organisational and curricular responsibilities as part of their specified duties.

The staff should develop a school template for the Progress Record.

Greater use should be made of computers in the writing process and in accessing information.

It is recommended that the pupils’ interest in the local environment be further developed in both History and Geography and that the Physical Education and Music programmes be broadened.  

It is recommended that assessment modes for all subjects of the curriculum be developed.

 

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