An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St Josephs National School

Killenummery, County Leitrim

Uimhir rolla:  16130C

 

Date of inspection: 30 January 2008

Date of issue of report: 22 May 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 St Josephs National School was undertaken in January, 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 Science.  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

 

St Josephs NS, Killenummery is situated approximately six kilometres from Dromahair, Co. Leitrim. Enrolment trends are consistent and attendance levels are very good.

 

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

51

Mainstream classes in the school

3

Teachers on the school staff

4

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1. Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

St Josephs NS is a co-educational school under the patronage of the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise. The school benefits from a strong sense of community spirit. The school’s mission statement aims to create a happy, well ordered, caring environment where there is emphasis on the holistic development of all pupils. The school succeeds admirably in achieving its aims.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and is supportive of the work of the school. The board meets regularly. Safety and the building project have been the most commonly discussed matters in recent times. The board is proactive and has been successful in receiving funding from the Department of Education and Science towards the refurbishment and extension of the school. The project has gone to tender and building is due to commence shortly.

There is clear, open communication between all of the educational partners. Local personnel are employed to carry out routine maintenance work and a part-time cleaner undertakes daily cleaning duties. Accommodation is limited at present but the new building will realise adequate space for teaching and learning.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal teacher was appointed in September 2005. Her leadership style is empowering and enabling. The principal’s enthusiasm has led to the promotion of Drama, Music and Science in the school. She is meticulous in her administrative duties. Regular staff meetings and planning days have been convened and a collaborative spirit has been fostered among staff. The staff gives undivided support to the principal and together they work as a cohesive unit. They have compiled an entire school plan during the past two and a half years. The content is comprehensive and of a very high quality.

The deputy principal has also been instrumental in the success of Science in the school. She has worked arduously with the principal to raise the profile of the subject. The special duties teacher has attended to record keeping in a methodical manner and together with the staff have carried out a variety of assessments which have added enormously to the profiling of pupils in the school.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

A warm, welcoming atmosphere permeates the school. The raising of the self-esteem of pupils is paramount to all of those involved in the school. The parents formulate a newsletter “Le Chéile” which outlines the activities and events of the school. Some parents are involved in the Green Schools committee. The parents have been highly involved in fundraising activities and are committed to the building project.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

Pupils present as happy and contented individuals and are eager to learn. The teachers know the pupils very well and all children are given equal opportunities to engage in activities. The pupils are actively involved in their own learning as the teachers plan interesting activities for them. Yard supervision is carefully managed.

 

 

2. Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of the school plan is exemplary. The board of management is engaged in discussing and ratifying the policies. In order to fully comply with the Education Act 1998, it is recommended that the parents’ association become even more actively involved in discussing policies as they come up for review in the future. The implementation of the school plan has been facilitated by a committed staff. The inclusion and use of a school planning diary is notable. This tool has assisted the staff in achieving much over a short period of time. This is worthy of dissemination to others. The use of action planning is recommended in dealing with some minor changes to existing policies.

Teachers provide monthly reports, long-term plans and short-term plans to support their work. The staff during a recent school development planning day devised an updated planning template that incorporates all the essential elements of good planning. It is recommended that teachers outline skills as well as content in their monthly reports. The staff needs to attend to modifying the existing templates for use in support teaching. This will conclude the updating of planning templates and bring them in line with best practice.

 

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

Tugtar go dúthrachtach faoi an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn sa scoil. Eagraítear imeachtaí faoi leith chun Seachtain na Gaeilge a cheiliúradh i mí na Márta. Tá plean cuimsitheach don Ghaeilge curtha le chéile ag na hoidí. Úsáidtear modheolaíochtaí mar fhilíocht, drámaíocht agus scéalaíocht go torthúil sa teagasc. Baineann na daltaí tairbhe as na gníomhaíochtaí agus cuirtear béim ar an ngramadach le linn na foghlama. Baintear úsáid as an nGaeilge mar theanga bhainistíocht ranga. Moltar níos mó obair bheirte a dhéanamh leis na daltaí. Is inmholta mar a fheictear prionta go flúirseach sa timpeallacht agus úsáidtear nath na seachtaine agus na feidhmeanna teagaisc go rialta. Tá tascanna éisteachta á ndéanamh go maith sa scoil. Sa scríbhneoireacht, déantar cuid de na tascanna feidmhmiúla bunaithe ar an léitheoireacht. Tugann na daltaí faoi réimsí éagsúla scríbhneoireachta agus déantar dóthain cleachtaí sna leabhair oibre. D’fhéadfaí a thuilleadh béime a chur ar an bhfoghraíocht agus cinneadh a dhéanamh maidir le leagan amach na n-aimsirí ó thaobh teagasc de sa scoil. Tá stór leathan focal ar eolas ag na daltaí agus tá siad in ann tabhairt faoi nuacht, filíocht, amhráin, scéalta, drámaí, cluichí teanga agus rólghlacadh. Múintear an Ghaeilge go héifeachtach.

 

Irish

(Irish is promoted earnestly in the school. Particular activities are organised to celebrate Irish week in March. There is a comprehensive plan formulated by the staff. Methodologies such as poetry, singing, drama and story are used productively in teaching. The pupils benefit from the activities and there is an emphasis placed on grammar in their learning. Irish is used informally in the school. It is recommended that pair work is used more frequently. A print-rich environment and the regular use of phrase of the week and language functions are noteworthy practices. Listening tasks are attended to well in the school. Some of the functional writing tasks are based on the reading material. Pupils engage in a variety of written genres and they complete many exercises in their workbooks. More emphasis should be placed on pronunciation and a decision needs to be made in relation to the manner in which the tenses in Irish are introduced and taught in the school. Pupils have acquired a wide range of vocabulary and they can discuss news, poetry, songs, stories, dramas, language games and role-play. Irish is taught effectively.)

 

English

The school places due emphasis on all strands of the English programme. There is considerable prominence given to the development of oral language. However, consideration should now be given to placing additional emphasis on listening in the context of oral language. The school facilitates visits from outside personnel which add to the breadth of the pupils’ learning.

Creative writing and the development of process writing is fostered very well in the school. The school participates in the Write a Book project with great success. The quality of the books produced is laudable. Good use is made of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the process. The books are displayed with pride in classrooms alongside book reviews and a variety of genres. The school should contemplate involvement in the Pushkin prizes to allow for a wider audience for the pupils’ notable creative output.

Formal reading is taught competently at all levels. The novel at the senior end and big book at the junior end are both used effectively. Much emphasis is placed on the development of phonological awareness, on grammar, on spelling and on vocabulary acquisition. The new phonics programme is taught in a systematic manner. Pupils in the junior end knew their letter sounds and basic sight words very well. Attention is given to the development of pre-reading activities. However, it is recommended that an even greater emphasis be placed on the development of pre-reading skills such as auditory discrimination, visual discrimination and motor control activities. All teachers create stimulating classrooms which celebrate the pupils’ work and promote print-rich environments. There is due emphasis on word games, poetry and drama. Shared reading and silent reading time have commenced in the school with considerable success. English is taught very well in St Josephs NS.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The pupils experience success in the mathematics activities selected. Tasks are differentiated and the pupils are provided with opportunities to learn using concrete materials. Lessons are well paced and encourage experiential learning. The learning support teacher works collaboratively with some class teachers during lessons to good effect. Consideration should be given to extending it to other classes, where possible. While there is a focus on problem solving, it is recommended that there should be a greater emphasis placed on it in the school. The presence of a support teacher working alongside a class teacher in a multi-class setting will facilitate in this regard. Suitable emphasis is placed on the development of number facts. The pupils are provided with opportunities to use ICT and games in their learning. The pupils show an interest in the subject and display satisfactory knowledge of the content taught. They record their work in their copies and mental maths book accurately. Consideration should be given to the development of mathematical trails, to linkages across the strands and to noting differentiation strategies in the planning templates. Resources for Mathematics are limited and should be expanded when possible.

 

3.3 Science

The quality of teaching and learning in Science is very good. During the last academic year, the class teachers undertook training through the Discover Primary Science (DPS) programme. The teachers adopt a wide range of active methodologies to make the lessons enjoyable and engaging. The school is commended on its involvement in the Green Schools programme. The school will receive a Green Flag later in the year. Parents have supported the work in this area through involvement on the Green Schools committee, assisting pupils and staff in designing, making and painting window boxes. Pupils display a keen interest in Science as they are challenged by lessons. There is an admirable development of skills during lessons. Experiments are recorded carefully in copies, in photographic format, in scrapbooks and on worksheets. Excursions have taken place to Glenveagh National Park in Donegal and to the recycling centre in Manorhamilton.

 

3.4 Assessment

A variety of assessment modes is used throughout the school, most notably teacher observation, work samples, teacher-designed tests, standardised tests and weekly tests. Pupils’ work is regularly monitored and records of standardised tests are carefully maintained. The Belfield Infant Assessment Programme (BIAP) and the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) are used productively to test pupils’ progress in infant classes. The Forward Together programme has been successfully implemented to remediate pupils’ needs. Standardised tests are administered annually in both Mathematics and English to all classes from first to sixth class. Results are carefully noted and those pupils who require additional support are offered supplementary teaching.

 

 

 

4. Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of support for pupils with educational needs is very good. A committed special needs assistant is also employed on a part-time basis in the school. The emphasis in support lessons is on providing additional teaching to pupils who require the help. A variety of teaching methods is used in such lessons such as paired work and individual work. The support focuses on the pupils’ individual needs, on skill development and on the setting of targets to overcome the pupils’ difficulties. It is recommended that emphasis is placed on the development of motor skills through work in the area of Physical Education such as games, gymnastics and dance when possible. The accommodation available for support teaching is very limited at present. However, the new building will provide adequate space for the use of ICT, the creation of a print-rich environment and display of pupils’ work and teaching materials. There are very few pupils overall in the school that fall within the criteria recommended in the Learning Support Guidelines for such support. Therefore, the school has flexibility in deploying the use of the teacher in supporting other pupils in classrooms. In-class support has commenced successfully in Mathematics and further exploration of this is recommended. The strengths of the quality of support for pupils are the experience of the teacher, the openness to share ideas, the collaboration of staff, the flexibility in relation to in-class support and the expertise of the principal in this area.

 

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

The school does not receive any additional resources to combat educational disadvantage and there are no pupils from minority groups.  The welcoming and caring climate in the school ensures that individual pupils are supported appropriately and sensitively. 

 

 

5. Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

·         The school has a very good sense of community spirit as there are good working relations between the board of management, the parents’ association and the staff of the school.

·         The teaching staff are diligent, dedicated and passionate about their work.

·         Leadership in the school is superb.

·         The pupils are eager, enthusiastic and conscientious.

·         The school has a comprehensive school plan.

·         Overall, the standard of teaching and learning is very good in the school.

·         The school is commended for its involved in the Green schools project and the Discover Primary Science initiative.

·         There is very good record keeping and monitoring of pupils’ progress in the school.

 

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

·         The possibility of further in-class support for pupils needs to be explored among the staff.

·         Consideration should be given to a review of the existing templates used in the area of support for pupils.

·         While problem solving is being attended to in Mathematics, a greater emphasis should now be placed on this and on linkages in Mathematics.

 

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.