An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Killusty NS

Killusty, Fethard,

County Tipperary

Uimhir Rolla: 16111V

 

Date of inspection: 9 October 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 Killusty NS was undertaken in October 2008. The evaluation covered key aspects of the work of the school in the areas of management, teaching and learning and supports for pupils. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Drama. The representatives of the recently formed parents’ association met with the inspector. The inspector interacted with the pupils, examined pupils’ work, reviewed school planning documentation, observed teaching and learning and provided feedback to individual teachers. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. 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 – school context and background

 

Killusty National School is a two-teacher school, situated in the picturesque village of Killusty, which nestles in the valley of Sliabh na mBan. Built in 1910 it has two permanent classrooms and a converted shelter which serves the dual purpose of a learning support and a staff room. The staff consists of the principal and one other class teacher. The school creates a stimulating environment for the pupils who treat the building and surrounds with great care. Mutual respect between teachers and pupils is readily apparent and is reflective of the Charter of Pupil Rights and Responsibilities as outlined in the school plan.

There is a part-time learning support teacher whose services are shared with a neighbouring school. The school also benefits from a part-time caretaker and part-time secretary. Both work diligently the in discharge of their duties. Two special needs assistants have been appointed to 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

36

Mainstream classes in the school

2

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

2

 

The school’s enrolment on 30 September 2008 was thirty-six, with a stable enrolment in evidence. Pupil attendance levels are excellent.

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

The board of management is properly constituted in accordance with Department of Education and Science (DES) guidelines. In general the board of management meets once a term and it expresses a willingness to convene on a more frequent basis if required. Board members have been assigned specific responsibilities and discharge their duties with commitment. The board ratifies a range of curricular and organisational policies. However, it is recommended that the board take a more proactive role in any proposed review of curricular plans. A number of board members have attended training seminars organised by the patron. The chairperson, in accordance with his supportive role, maintains regular contact with the principal, staff and pupils.

 

The board ensures that maintenance is carried out as the need arises and the school and school grounds are in good order. However, there is a need to improve accommodation in line with modern requirements. Current provision for learning support is not wholly satisfactory as the room used also acts as a storage facility. It is recommended that the board of management endeavour to improve provision in this context.

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The in-school management team consists of the principal and the special duties teacher. The principal is highly commended for her commitment and capacity in curriculum leadership and in school management. She provides visionary leadership in all aspects of school work. Due to her endeavours the school is characterised by a constructive learning atmosphere, in which positive pupil engagement and open communication with the wider school community are cultivated. She is ably assisted in her role by the special duties teacher and a very positive working relationship is in evidence. Special duties posts have been allocated, though review of these posts is recommended. Both teachers have been systematically engaged in school development planning and regularly attend professional development courses, a practice that enhances the work of the school. The process of school self-review has begun and some strategic targets are documented in the school plan.

 

2.3 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The school promotes good communication and builds trust and respect between parents and teachers. Home school links are facilitated through parent-teacher meetings, the frequent distribution of a school newsletter, religious ceremonies and sporting activities. Parent–teacher meetings are held annually and provide an opportunity for parents to discuss their children’s progress. Written reports are provided for parents at the end of the school year and frequent contact is maintained throughout the year.  

 

The recently formed parents’ association is now affiliated to the National Parents’ Council. The representatives of the association reported that they were very satisfied with curriculum provision in the school and that they would welcome the opportunity to engage in future review of school policies.

 

2.4 Management of pupils

 

The management of pupils in this school is excellent. The teaching staff have devised a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policies that are implemented consistently. The school is characterised by open, warm relationships particularly between peers. Pupils are highly praised for the respectful manner in which they engage with pupils and adults. They are commended for their enthusiastic engagement in a range of learning activities and for their ability to work collaboratively and independently.

 

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

A comprehensive school plan, addressing curriculum and organisational areas has been devised by the staff. The adoption of a consistent approach across the school ensures continuity and progression in learning and facilitates a system for the monitoring of progress. Among the range of planning documents there are policies and statements on enrolment, code of behaviour, health and safety and provision for pupils with special educational needs. It is advised that all policies be reviewed in line with current legislation.

 

Conscientious planning and preparation were evident in the work of individual teachers. Suitable methodologies and strategies to be employed in teaching programmes are outlined in detail. Planning is strongly reflective of the school plan and observation of teaching and learning confirms the positive impact of planning in providing a diverse range of learning experiences for pupils.

 

3.2 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.

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Leagtar béim dhearfach ar theagasc na Gaeilge tríd an scoil. Cothaítear atmaisféar spreagúil don Ghaeilge agus úsáidtear í go rialta mar theanga chaidrimh na scoile. Moltar an timpeallacht spreagúil ranga a chothaítear. Déantar pleanáil chuimsitheach chun snáitheanna an churaclaim a nascadh agus bunaítear na ceachtanna ar théamaí oiriúnacha. Sna bunranganna, úsáidtear modh na cumarsáide agus modh na drámaíochta maraon le pictiúir, gníomhaíochtaí agus acmhainní chruthaitheacha chun foclóir agus cumas cainte na ndaltaí a leathnú agus a shaibhriú. Spreagtar na daltaí chun labhartha le cluichí cainte agus le hobair i ngrúpaí. Baintear úsáid thairbheach as raon leathan áiseanna chun tacú leis an bhfoghlaim. Tugtar faoi bhunscileanna na léitheoireachta agus moltar úsáid as fíor–leabhair bheaga sa rang chun a tuilleadh dúshláin a thabhairt do na daltaí. Aithrisíonn agus canann na daltaí uile rainn, dánta agus amhráin go cumasach as Gaeilge. Sna hardranganna eagraítear grúpobair agus obair beirte go ceardúil chun ábhar na gceachtanna a chleachtadh agus líofacht na ndaltaí a chothú. Dírítear aire chuí ar chruinneas gramadaí a fhorbairt. Cothaítear an scríbhneoireacht sa Ghaeilge go córasach. Déantar an obair scríofa go slachtmhar, néata agus baineann na daltaí caighdeán oiriúnach amach san obair seo. Tá samplaí den obair scríofa ar taispeáint sa timpeallacht. Cé go léann formhór na ndaltaí le líofacht oiriúnach, moltar aird a dhíriú ar dhea-fhoghraíocht a cur chun cinn agus béim a leagan ar fhuaimeanna na teanga.

 

Irish

A positive emphasis is placed on the teaching of Irish throughout the school. A stimulating atmosphere is cultivated and Irish is used frequently as the language of communication in the school. The attractive print-rich environments created, are praiseworthy. .Comprehensive planning ensures effective linkage of the curriculum strands and suitable themes are selected for lessons. In the junior room discussion, drama, pictures and creative resources are used to extend and enrich pupil’s vocabulary. Pupils’ conversational ability is encouraged through the use of language games, group work and a wide range of teaching aids. Basic reading and writing skills are suitably developed and use of small books to provide further challenge is commended. All of the pupils can recite and sing rhymes, poems and songs competently in Irish. In the senior room group work and pair work are skilfully organised to provide opportunities to practise new vocabulary and to enhance pupils’ fluency. Attention is focused on appropriate aspects of grammar. Writing is promoted in a systematic manner. This written work is neatly presented and appropriate standards are achieved in this area. Samples of written work are displayed in the environment. Though most pupils read with appropriate fluency, it is recommended that focus be directed to correct pronunciation and that language sounds be taught more formally to some pupils.

 

 

English

The provision for English in this school is of a high standard. Commendable attention is given to the development of pupils’ receptive and expressive language skills. The review of teachers’ individual practice reveals a significant awareness of the cross-curricular contexts for oral language development. Discrete provision for oral language, the judicious use of talk and discussion and a variety of questioning styles are features of observed good practice. The development in the senior class of pupils’ skills in expression of empathy and in recognising humour in poetry is most commendable.

 

The approach taken to reading throughout the school is progressive. Learning outcomes at whole- school level are reflective of emphasis placed on phonics in the junior class. A solid foundation for the teaching of reading is being established through the effective use of big books, teacher-made resources and illustrative material. These reading skills are systematically developed in the senior class where reading for different purposes, for example, reading for information and reading for pleasure is steadily developed. Credible efforts are made throughout the school to provide a print-rich environment. The use of a graded reading programme supports progress in the development of reading skills. The implementation of a paired reading scheme with parents and pupils throughout the school is commended. Comprehension skills are appropriately advanced through the use of a blend of higher and lower order questions, the use of prediction and close procedure exercises.  Writing skills are suitably developed in all classes and pupils are encouraged to write in a variety of genres and for different purposes and audiences. Class-work is presented to a very high standard, reflective of systematic monitoring by teachers.

 

4.2 Mathematics

 

The quality of teaching in Mathematics is commendable. Lessons are presented creatively and in a structured manner. The learning support teacher currently provides instruction to all 5th and 6th class pupils. This practice is deemed appropriate in the short term in response to a particular context. In the junior class pupils engaged enthusiastically in Mathematics trail which was differentiated to accommodate varying levels of ability. This structured learning activity successfully encourages collaborative learning within class groupings, facilitates maximum participation and checks for consolidation of previously taught concepts across strands. The design and use of learning aids by pupils, including number lines, fraction walls, clock faces, shapes and hundred squares is a most commendable and useful practice. Pupils in the middle classes engage enthusiastically where talk and discussion are integral to the learning process. Appropriate and challenging questioning techniques are employed to consolidate and challenge ideas and concepts. Work is differentiated appropriately and monitored effectively. Pupils are competent in manipulation of number and mental number operations. Most pupils in the senior class display a good understanding of concepts across the curriculum. Where differentiated approaches are required these are effectively implemented in individual teaching programmes, in the use of ICT and in appropriate use of a variety of manipulatives. 

 

 

4.3 Drama

 

The curriculum for Drama has been introduced in a structured manner on a school-wide basis. The school has a strong tradition of engagement with Drama through regular theatre visits from groups based locally. The school makes good provision for this area of the curriculum despite space restrictions. When weather permits, Drama is conducted outside. The school plan outlines the timeframe for the introduction of the drama contract, drama games and drama through poetry and story. Talk, discussion, mime, poetry, circle work and role play are successfully used to stimulate interest and to engage pupils in Drama. There is adequate discussion before, during and in the conclusion of drama lessons. The context is appropriate to the class level and full participation is both encouraged and facilitated. Social skills, language skills and communication skills are given appropriate emphasis and pupils respond creatively to the stimulus through a variety of well planned activities. It is evident from the lessons observed in the junior class that pupils derive enjoyment from the mime activities undertaken, while pupils in the senior class discuss, plan, prepare and enthusiastically create drama to explore character, place and time.

 

4.4 Assessment

 

An appropriate assessment policy has been devised and is actively implemented. The policy endeavours to identify at the earliest possible opportunity pupils who are experiencing learning difficulties. The range of assessment modes and their use as a guide to support and inform teaching is commended as they provide detailed information on pupil’s learning strengths and needs. The school makes good use of both screening and diagnostic tests that include MIST, NRIT and Quest. Standardised tests are administered to all pupils from first to sixth class. Relevant information is relayed to parents at the annual parent–teacher meetings and in the annual report on pupil progress. All pupils from junior infants to second class benefit from an early intervention programme in literacy. This practice is most commendable. A profile is kept on each pupil of standardised and diagnostic tests results, school reports and records of intervention programmes undertaken. While records are maintained in a methodical and consistent manner, and as a further development of assessment procedures, the school might usefully direct attention to the plotting of trends and the creation of a whole-school perspective on pupil achievement in literacy and numeracy.

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The quality of provision for pupils with special educational needs is very good. Supplementary support is provided primarily in literacy. Instruction in numeracy in the capacity of general allocation and resource teaching hours is also provided. The special needs assistants ably assist teachers in facilitating pupils’ access to the curriculum in the mainstream setting.

 

While some support is provided on a withdrawal basis, either individually or in small groups this is effectively complemented with in-class support, early intervention and structured team teaching approaches. The learning support classroom is equipped with appropriate resources to effectively support individualised, purposeful teaching strategies. Praise and positive reinforcement are used constructively to motivate successful completion of tasks and achievement of objectives. The rapport established between the learning support teacher and the pupils is praiseworthy. The support teacher works in close collaboration with the mainstream class teachers in compiling and in reviewing comprehensive individual education plans (IEP’s). Pupils engage enthusiastically and industriously in prepared activities. Parents meet the special education teacher to discuss the pupil’s IEP. They are issued with copies of the IEP to facilitate home support in the achievement of learning targets. This is a most commendable practice.

 

6.     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, March 2009