An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

 REPORT

 

Scoil Eoin Gort

Co Galway

Uimhir rolla:16091S

 

Date of inspection: 6 March 2008

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Eoin, Gort was undertaken in March 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Social Personal and Health Education. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

Scoil Eoin is a boys’ only primary school situated on the outskirts of Gort. It enrols boys from second to sixth class. The majority of the pupils who are enrolled transfer from Gort Convent Primary School. It was stated in the most recent evaluation of the work of the school in 1998 that “serious consideration has been given to the question of amalgamating the two schools…and the finer details are being negotiated”. However, it is noted that no further progress on the proposed amalgamation has been made since the 1998 evaluation. The board stated at the pre-evaluation meeting that it intends to re-visit this issue and that it is agreed in principle to the amalgamation of these two schools.  A significant proportion of the pupils enrolled in this school are of Brazilian origin and their first language is Portuguese. The school is sensitive to the educational, social and emotional needs of these pupils and works diligently at ensuring their effective integration into the life of the school.

 

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

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

77

Mainstream classes in the school

5

Teachers on the school staff

8

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

4

Special needs assistants

2

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Scoil Eoin operates under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Galway. The school has devised a mission statement which states its intention to “award each child an equal chance to attain personal fulfilment and to live a full life as a child”. Five school aims underpin this statement and these inform the day to day running of the school. Current enrolment is stable and pupil attendance is, in general, very good.

 

1.2 Board of management

The current board was established in November of 2007. Board members are to be commended on the frequency and manner in which board meetings are conducted and on ensuring the meticulous maintenance of minutes and financial records. Particular praise is due to the board for ensuring that these financial records are audited annually and for the assignment to board members of specific roles and tasks, commensurate with their individual skills. The board is further commended for the positive and proactive response it has made to the challenges posed by the enrolment of pupils whose first language is not English. The board has overseen the purchasing of resources and the arrangement of school accommodation to meet the cultural and learning needs of these pupils. In addition to its demonstrated understanding of the cultural context in which it operates, the board is currently involved in the discussion and ratification of a number of organisational, administrative and curriculum policies. It is recommended, in order to ensure the progress of its future programme, that the board would now engage the school’s educational partners in a whole-school review leading to the drafting of a long-term strategic plan. This plan should outline the actions required and the time-scales within which the future direction of the school will be addressed.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team comprises the principal, deputy principal and two special duties post holders. The principal discharges his duties in a conscientious and diligent manner. He articulates a clear vision for the school and he provides very effective personal and instructional leadership to the school. Each member of the in-school management team has a defined set of responsibilities which are fulfilled in a spirit of mutual support and of commitment to the school and its pupils. It is now recommended that the duties of members of the in-school management team would be revised in light of priorities arising from the suggested whole-school review and that each member of the team would be assigned a curriculum leadership role which would focus on the implementation of whole-school curriculum plans. Arrangements might also be made for holding formal meetings of the in-school management team together with periodic reporting to the board of progress made in relation to assigned responsibilities.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school’s parents’ association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (NPC). The association has a clearly defined role and meets regularly. Parents are actively involved in the drafting of many organisational policies. They make a valuable and recognised contribution to the school through the provision of transport, the organisation of special events and fund-raising. In addition to annual parent-teacher meetings, other means of maintaining regular contact between the parents and the school include the production of a brochure for the parents of new pupils and the maintenance of homework journals. Newsletters are well utilised to inform parents of upcoming events, school successes and pupil progress. End of year pupil progress reports are issued to all parents. It is evident that open communication and collaboration exists between this school and its parent body.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The overall management of pupils in the school is very good. An atmosphere of mutual respect and courtesy is effectively promoted within the school with the result that pupils are well behaved, motivated and co-operative. The school’s code of behaviour and anti-bullying policies are consistently implemented in a fair and equitable manner. The staff is particularly commended for its contribution towards the building of an inclusive climate within the school where pupils are enabled to build their confidence and self-esteem.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is of a very high standard. The whole-school plan contains policies in relation to a very broad range of organisational areas and good whole school plans have been devised in each of the curriculum areas. These plans have all been ratified by the board and this good practice is commended. Whole-school plans should and will continue to evolve but  for  the immediate future, it is recommended that the focus of whole-school planning activity  in respect of the curriculum, should now be placed on the implementation of  the current plans and on the evaluation of the impact of these plans on pupils’ learning and achievements.

 

All teachers prepare long-term and short-term plans in addition to monthly progress reports. The quality of the planning prepared by the support teachers is of a very high standard and positively influences teaching and learning. There is, however, a need to ensure that mainstream teachers’ short-term planning focuses on specific learning outcomes derived from the Primary School Curriculum 1999 and that teachers identify how programmes will be differentiated to cater for the needs of all pupils within the classroom context. It is therefore recommended that the teachers draw up a common planning framework which would allow for the identification of clear, specific short-term learning objectives and which would ensure the active engagement of every pupil in the learning process. 

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Is léir go bhfuil dearcadh dearfach ag an bhfoireann scoile i leith na Gaeilge. Úsáideann na hoidí an Ghaeilge le linn na gceachtanna agus tá láithreacha suime don Ghaeilge le feiceáil i ngach rang. Moltar na straitéisí seo. Éiríonn leis na hoidí caighdeán an-mhaith a bhaint amach i dteagasc agus i bhfoghlaim na Gaeilge i gcomhthéacs na scoile seo. Leagtar béim inmholta ar chumarsáid sa Ghaeilge agus ar rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí fiú amháin na daltaí nach é an Béarla a gcéad teanga. Glacann gach dalta páirt ghníomhach i rith na gceachtanna agus baineann na daltaí sult agus tairbhe as a bheith ag obair i bpéirí agus i ngrúpaí. Baineann na hoidí úsáid an-éifeachtach as áiseanna chun tuiscint na ndaltaí a fhorbairt agus spreagann siad suim na ndaltaí sna ceachtanna le rainn, amhráin agus drámaíocht. Déantar ceangal maith idir an obair ó bhéal, an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht. Tá stór focal an-mhaith ag an gcuid is mó de na daltaí.  Go ginearálta, tá siad in ann an Ghaeilge a léamh go cruinn agus go líofa sna meánranganna agus éiríonn leo an téacs a phlé go tuisceanach. Tugtar deiseanna do na daltaí, go mór mhór sna hardranganna, scríbhneoireacht pearsanta a dhéanamh agus tá samplaí bhreátha dá saothair le feiceáil timpeall na scoile. Moltar leanúint leis an dea-chleachtas a tugadh faoi ndeara.

 

Irish

It is apparent that the teaching staff has a positive attitude to Irish. Teachers use Irish during the lessons and Irish interest areas are to be observed in every class. These strategies are commended.  The teachers succeed in attaining a very good standard in the teaching and learning of Irish in the context of this school. Commendable emphasis is placed on communication in Irish and on the participation of pupils, including those pupils whose first language is not English.  Every pupil takes an active part in the lessons and the pupils derive great pleasure and benefit from working in pairs and in groups. The teachers make very effective use of resources to develop the pupils’ understanding and they stimulate the interest of the pupils in the lessons through the use of poems, songs and drama. Good linkage is made between oral work, reading and writing. The majority of the pupils have a very good vocabulary. In general, they are able to read Irish accurately and fluently in the middle classes and they succeed in discussing the text with understanding.   Opportunities are provided to the pupils, especially in the senior classes, to engage in personal writing and good examples of their work are displayed throughout the school. It is recommended that the excellent practice observed should be continued.

 

English

 Teachers develop pupils’ oral language skills across all areas of the curriculum with particular emphasis being placed on the development of vocabulary, sentence structure and grammar. Pupils are encouraged to discuss ideas and issues, to question, to advocate and to justify their points of view.  However, more attention needs to be paid to the development of pupils’ listening skills in the junior and middle standards. The majority of teachers plan for the delivery of discrete oral language lessons. It is now recommended that all teachers plan for the provision of a structured progressive oral language programme directly linked to the primary curriculum.  This programme should include focused language objectives for the development of specific communication and expressive language skills.

 

Reading is well taught throughout the school and pupil achievement in reading is, in general, good. A love of reading is fostered and pupils are encouraged to read for pleasure. The availability of reading material in Portuguese for pupils whose first language is not English is particularly praiseworthy.  In the senior classes a range of novels is carefully selected and skilfully utilised to develop pupils’ reading abilities and comprehension skills. It is recommended however, that teachers engage in differentiation and group teaching on a more systematic basis in order to attain a wider range of learning outcomes and to cater specifically for those pupils with learning needs and pupils whose first language is not English. 

 

The quality of pupils’ writing, in a formal and creative context, is of a very high standard. Teachers provide opportunities for pupils to write for a variety of purposes in a range of genres. Attention is given to the writing process, effective use is made of Information Communications Technologies (ICT), work is neatly presented with samples of pupils’ poems, articles and stories being attractively displayed in the classrooms. Differentiated writing activities are identified for pupils’ with learning difficulties and this practice is praiseworthy.

 

3.2 Mathematics

A good whole-school plan effectively informs teaching and learning in Mathematics and pupil attainment is, in general, very good. A Mathematics rich environment has been created in all classrooms and in some classes samples of pupils’ work is displayed. This good practice is commended.  Mathematics lessons are well structured and paced and opportunities are provided for pupils’ active participation in their own learning. Good use is made of concrete resources to reinforce mathematical concepts. Oral Mathematics activities and mathematical language are well developed in all classes. The development of mathematical skills such as problems solving, use of the environment and the application of mathematical knowledge to real life experiences are very well addressed in the senior levels. It is recommended that skills development be systematically addressed at all levels in order to enable the pupils to view Mathematics as practical and relevant to their everyday lives and to construct and apply mathematical understanding and skills in contexts drawn from their own experiences and environments.

 

 

3.3 Social, Personal and Health Education

The school is commended for the inclusive and welcoming ethos which it actively promotes on a daily basis. Of particular note is the celebration of cultural diversity which is evident in the mural in the school play area and through the many signs and posters in Portuguese placed strategically in the school’s corridor. A number of whole-school initiatives contribute to the social, personal and health education (SPHE) of the pupils including school sports, visits to areas of interest in the locality and the participation of the pupils in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The school is committed to the creation of co-operation, open communication between staff and pupils and also among the pupils themselves. Very good integration of the SPHE programme with other subject areas enables the pupils to develop skills, values and attitudes pertaining to issues such as relationships, personal care and pupils’ self-esteem. However, more effective use could be made of discrete SPHE lessons. It is recommended that these lessons could be better utilised to enable pupils to explore other cultures and to deal with issues of a sensitive nature. A broader range of teaching methodologies could now be employed including debate, brainstorming, circle time and group work.

 

3.4 Assessment

The teachers administer a comprehensive range of standardised and diagnostic tests. The results of these tests are analysed to identify pupils in need of learning support. In general, ongoing monitoring of pupil learning takes place within the classes and monitoring and evaluation of pupils’ written work is carried out consistently.  Teachers administer a range of teacher-designed tests and some teachers maintain pupil profiles and systematically record pupils’ progress across the curriculum. It is now recommended that this good practice be adopted on a whole-school basis.

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

In the current academic year staffing provision for children with special needs consists of a full-time permanent resource teacher who is shared with Gort Convent Primary School, a part-time teacher who provides an additional 3.75 resource teaching hours and a learning support teacher. The approach adopted in the school with regard to the identification of pupils with learning difficulties is consistent with departmental guidelines. The support teachers are deployed effectively to meet the needs of the pupils and should be affirmed for being proactive in ensuring their own professional development. They have made particular efforts to identify and acquire developmentally appropriate resources and materials to support the learning of the pupils in their care. Very effective Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) have been drawn up.  Parents are co-involved in the planning and review process. The achievement of time-related goals is effectively monitored and recorded. Teaching in support settings was observed to be empathetic, skilful and aimed at achieving consistent progress. The pupils receiving additional support were observed to be making steady progress commensurate with their identified potential and previous attainment.

 

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

Scoil Eoin is commended for the promotion of a culture of inclusiveness for all pupils in the school and for the quality of support it provides to pupils from disadvantaged and minority groups. Two language support teachers provide support for pupils whose first language is not English. This support is provided mainly on a withdrawal basis though some in-class support is also being provided in the current year. The teachers effectively utilise the “Integrate Ireland Language Training” (IILT)  programme materials together with the “Cool English” programme to support teaching and learning. Very good lessons are delivered utilising a variety of methodologies focused for the most part on active learning and discovery learning activities. Emphasis is placed  on the development of pupils’ social and academic vocabulary acquisition and on language fluency. The programmes of work prepared for these pupils are of a very high standard and it is evident that all pupils are making very good progress. It is recommended that the school would undertake a review of its arrangements for the delivery of language support on an annual basis ensuring that appropriately differentiated activities are organised for these pupils in all classroom settings.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 Published November 2008