An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Saint Patrick’s Senior National School

Skerries, County Dublin

Uimhir rolla: 16332O


Date of inspection: 24 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


School response to the report





Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of St Patrick’s Senior National School was undertaken in October, 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 and Mathematics. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.



Introduction – school context and background


St Patrick’s Senior National School is a co-educational primary school, catering for pupils from third to sixth classes. Originally opened in 1835, the school has been situated in its present building since 1973. In addition to eighteen teachers there are two special-needs assistants on the staff who provide valuable support to a number of specific pupils. The school has a caretaker and secretary, both of whom approach their work in a diligent and enthusiastic manner. Pupil attendance is very satisfactory.


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




Pupils enrolled in the school


Mainstream classes in the school


Teachers on the school staff


Mainstream class teachers


Teachers working in support roles


Special needs assistants




1           Quality of school management


1.1         Characteristic spirit, mission or vision


St Patrick’s Senior National is under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. The school aims to encourage each child to reach his or her full potential mentally, physically, spiritually and socially in a safe and respectful atmosphere. It was evident during the course of the inspection that a warm and mutually-respectful relationship exists between pupils and staff.


1.2         Board of management


The school is managed by an energetic and dedicated board of management. All members have been assigned duties in support of the management of the school. Clear and concise minutes are maintained for all meetings. Reports on school financial matters are furnished to the board on a monthly basis and a full financial audit is undertaken in each school year. The board reported its satisfaction with the way in which the curriculum is taught and with the standards of achievement of the pupils. The board endeavours to support the work of the school in a variety of ways. It strives to fulfil the relevant legislative requirements and seeks to promote an inclusive and nurturing educational climate for pupils and staff alike. It is involved in the formulation of school policies, most notably organisational policies. It aims to support the professional development needs of the staff and it has set aside a budget for this purpose. It also supports the needs of the teachers and pupils through the purchase of educational equipment and resources.


1.3         In-school management


The school principal provides dedicated leadership. She approaches her role in a conscientious manner, carefully monitoring the effectiveness of the school’s operation, organisation and curriculum delivery. The principal plays a key role in encouraging staff members to adopt leadership roles in the school. She pays careful attention to the progress of pupils and the ability of the school to meet their pastoral and academic needs.


A spirit of collaboration and consultation underpins the operation of the in-school management team which approaches its work in a dedicated and focused manner. Duties are based on the needs of the school at particular junctures and are decided upon through a consultative process involving the school’s staff. These duties are reviewed regularly. It is recommended that in the next review, greater consideration be given to creating a more equitable distribution of responsibilities across curricular, organisational and pastoral domains.


The in-school management team spearheads the review of a curricular and organisational policy each term. This practice is very commendable. It is recommended that use be made of a school development planning diary to assist forward planning and to facilitate the involvement of all the relevant stakeholders. The in-school management team meets regularly and actively seeks to involve parents in a number of school activities, most notably sporting activities. In this regard, the dedication of the team and indeed the entire school staff to undertaking extra-curricular activities deserves specific commendation. The school’s involvement in the National Pilot Project on Teacher Induction promotes staff dialogue on professional development issues and on teacher efficacy and professionalism. 


1.4         Management of relationships and communication with the school community


The staff communicates on a regular basis with the school community. Through the use of newsletters and school fliers, the relevant stakeholders are frequently informed of school activities and events. Parents are provided with a written report on the progress of their child at the end of each year and are also provided with a written progress report when attending the annual parent-teacher meetings. Parent-teacher meetings are held once each year for all classes. The school has developed strong links with the junior school which shares the same grounds. Each year, the two schools host a joint Christmas celebration to which all members of the community are welcomed.


The school has an active and dynamic parents’ association. It meets very regularly and communicates on a frequent basis with the parent population, board of management and school staff. A newsletter is issued on a termly basis. The parents’ association is involved in a variety of fundraising activities and the proceeds are used to subsidise school resources and activities productively. The parents’ association has set out a strategic plan for the immediate future. Features of this plan include the development of the school’s library and garden. The association also aims to develop the school’s information, communications and technology (ICT) resources.  


The parents’ association is involved in a number of school activities such as sports events. During a meeting with the inspectors, its representatives stated that parents were satisfied with the standard of education being provided in the school. The parents’ association plans to further develop its abilities to support the school in relation to the provision of resources and to the promotion of fun learning. The parents’ association also plans to undertake a more significant role in the support of curriculum areas and extra-curricular activities. The local community is encouraged to contribute to and participate in school activities such as sports activities.


1.5         Management of pupils


The quality of management of pupils in the school is of a very high standard. A range of highly- effective and efficient school organisational practices and procedures fosters a climate of order and organisation. Pupils are clearly respectful of school rules and procedures and cooperate readily and enthusiastically with the school’s codes of behaviour.  Through the use of assemblies and various reward systems, pupils are encouraged and empowered to take pride in their school and to celebrate the achievements of their peers.



2           Quality of school planning


2.1         Whole-school and classroom planning


The quality of whole-school planning is good. The school adopts a deliberate and systematic approach to planning. It establishes committees to guide and direct planning, with all staff being consulted on the development of such plans. At times during this process, the input of parents has been sought and support has been obtained from advisors from the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS). The school has developed a wide range of organisational policies which are very specific and focused in design. They provide effective guidelines for the smooth operation of the school. Policies are in place for all aspects of the curriculum. It is recommended that the school now revises its music policy as part of its school development planning.


In the main, the curricular policies are well constructed. However, it is recommended that the plans for English and Mathematics be reviewed with a view to specifying content, methodologies, differentiation, assessment and integration more clearly. In recent times the school has commenced a review of its resource provision across a range of subject areas and the provision of new resources for a number of subjects, including Science, has taken place. It is recommended that this continues and that resource provision in Mathematics and English be reviewed. During this audit of resources it is also recommended that an inventory of resources that specifies their location in the school be compiled.


The quality of classroom planning is good. All teachers prepare long and short term plans to guide their teaching. These plans are very specific in detailing the sequential and progressive development of lesson content. In some cases, the plans also make very creative and effective provision for activities, methodologies, differentiation, assessment and integration. It is recommended that all teachers’ planning make more specific reference to these areas. All teachers maintain detailed monthly progress records which provide a useful summary of work completed.  


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



The standard of teaching and learning in English is very good. Pupils participate enthusiastically during lessons, contributing readily and discussing themes and topics with enthusiasm and competence. Lesson activities are well designed to develop the pupils’ skills as independent learners. Regular, discrete oral language lessons are taught which provide ample opportunity for the expansion of vocabulary and the development of the pupils’ abilities to question, summarise, predict, sequence and compare. In some cases, teachers make very effective and creative provision for the integration of English lessons with Drama.  


Pupils reveal a keen interest in reading and discuss reading material with enthusiasm. They demonstrate effective word attack skills. It is recommended that the school reviews its provision for the development of phonological awareness and phonics skills and establish a whole-school approach for teaching them. Teachers provide pupils with a wide range of reading material. Suitable provision is in place for the study of the novel. The school has a broad selection of library books with a suitable balance between fact and fiction. The practice of holding book fairs over the past number of years serves to celebrate the practice of reading and promotes its status as a leisure-time activity. The school library contains a wide range of book titles and also contains samples of the pupils’ writing. It is recommended that this resource be further utilised with a view to showcasing and celebrating many of the fine samples of the pupils’ creative writing noted during the inspection.


Good provision is in place for the writing process, with some very creative and commendable exemplars of such work being noted during the inspection. Pupils write in a variety of genres and highly imaginative examples of creative writing are in evidence at many class levels. Very good provision is in place for the study of grammar and writing conventions. High standards are noted in this regard. In a number of classes pupils design and write their own newsletter. Such practice is very commendable. It is recommended that the school investigates further opportunities for the extension of such practices and for the sharing of these newsletters with a much wider audience. At some class levels, very effective and creative approaches to the study of spellings are found. Such practice is commended. In all classes, teachers provide comments and insights for the pupils on their written work. The school has recently implemented a uniform handwriting scheme. This scheme is beginning to pay dividends in terms of pupils’ handwriting neatness.


Very good provision is made to develop the pupils’ appreciation of poetry. Teachers adopt the study of poetry in a very creative manner. Pupils are encouraged to write their own poems and these poems are celebrated in many classrooms. In a large number of classrooms, pupils are able to recite poetry with fluency, expression and appreciation. Such capabilities are commended and encouraged.


3.2         Mathematics


Overall, the standards of teaching and learning in Mathematics are very good. Pupils show interest in the subject and enjoy a wide range of mathematical topics. Teachers adopt a variety of teaching methods and lessons observed had very good pace, direction and focus. Lesson content is effectively and creatively linked to the experience and environment of the pupils. Pupils are actively involved in lessons, with very good provision being made for the development of reasoning, estimating and communicating skills. Resources are used to good effect, with pupils being given a range of opportunities to engage in hands-on activities with a good selection of concrete materials. In some cases, teachers make creative use of ICT resources and very creative and effective use of group, pair and collaborative problem solving. Pupils are often encouraged to design and critique their own problems. It is recommended that the school investigates further opportunities for the dissemination and sharing of such practices. Appropriate emphasis is placed on consolidation and review. A number of teachers encourage pupils to question concepts to clarify their understanding.


Lesson activities serve to challenge and motivate the pupils effectively. Teachers place a very good emphasis on mathematical language and pupils reveal strong competence in their use of cognitive language. In a number of cases, teachers also make very good provision for linkage and integration. Pupils show good knowledge of number facts, with some teachers making very creative provision for the study of number facts, most notably through the use of games. Classrooms are very well presented as mathematics-rich environments. It is recommended that further opportunities be investigated for the development of the overall school as a mathematics-rich environment, and in so doing, that the provision of mathematics trails in the general school environment be explored. A range of assessment techniques is in use.


3.3         Assessment


The school makes use of a variety of assessment approaches and instruments. Standardised tests are undertaken in all classes in the autumn of each academic year. In addition, the school makes use of a range of diagnostic tests such as the Bangor Dyslexia Test, the Neale Analysis Reading Assessment Test and the Macmillan Diagnostic Reading Test. The school’s teachers also design and administer their own tests which are delivered at all class levels in English, Irish and Mathematics. Teacher observation, pupil work-samples and teacher-designed tests being the assessment tools mainly used. Satisfactory records on pupil progress are maintained. 



4           Quality of support for pupils


4.1         Pupils with special educational needs


The support for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in this school is characterised by concern to build upon the intellectual and emotional capacities of all children in a caring manner. Planning demonstrates a broad commitment to regular review and assessment that is linked to the content of subsequent teaching. In the main, Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and Individual Profile and Learning Programmes (IPLPs) are well constructed, being very specific in design and focus. In many cases, clear time-bound leaning targets are used to structure teaching and learning. The school should now, however, consider the development of a common approach to planning across the whole area of support for pupils with special educational needs. There is some evidence of informal collaboration with class teachers and it is noted that regular review of children’s progress is part of ongoing practice. A more consistent and formal approach to this collaboration is required.  


There is a plentiful supply of resources to support the needs of the children in a range of areas. Learning environments are very attractive and all activities are clearly laid out and purposefully support children’s learning needs. The work observed during the evaluation revealed the use of a variety of approaches, methodologies and practices. Practical activities are used to encourage understanding in the area of phonics, in particular. Support teachers meet with parents to discuss the outcome of assessment results and the learning targets that are prescribed in individualised plans. Regular contact is also maintained with parents through verbal or written contact throughout the year.


The school makes good use of team-teaching approaches. Some very good in-class support was evaluated during which pupils responded very positively. In those lessons, the class and support teachers operated effectively as a team, carefully monitoring pupil progress. In further developing this approach, it is recommended that more in-class support be considered that incorporates a formal process of recording the work of the class teacher and support teacher and that more specific complementary work is undertaken in the development of phonological awareness. Support for Mathematics is of a particularly high standard. Provision in this area makes very effective use of resources and focused activities. It complements the work of the classroom teacher successfully. Some lessons evaluated were very good in this regard.


Some children are being withdrawn for extended periods of time. It is recommended that the criteria for selection be reviewed, in particular in respect of sixth class pupils. Procedures and criteria that will be applied in deciding whether or not a pupil should continue to receive supplementary support also now need to be put in place. The school has recently embarked on an initiative to cater for very able pupils. This is very commendable. These lessons serve to challenge pupils and draw on a broad range of content stimuli. It is recommended that in developing this initiative further, greater provision be made for extension activities related to numeracy and literacy. Further development should also consider the possible role of parents in supporting their child’s additional learning.


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

There are few pupils in this school for whom English is an additional language. No specific formal teaching practices are in place this year to support these pupils. However, there is a strong sense in this school that linguistic and cultural diversity are celebrated and that the uniqueness of each child is cherished.  



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 April 2009







6           School response to the report


Submitted by the Board of Management





Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report


The Board of Management would like to acknowledge the courtesy, level of co-operation and professionalism of both our own local Inspector and the visiting Inspector throughout the Whole School Evaluation process.


The Board of Management accept the findings of the report as an accurate reflection of the work of the school but feel that some of the recommendations will be difficult to implement, although we will strive to do so, due to the ever increasing demands of the mainstream teacher’s workload (with reference to recommendation two) and that due to financial constraints the purchasing of resources is becoming more and more challenging but we will prioritise (with reference to Section 2.1).



Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the   inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection


School personnel have researched many Phonological Awareness Programmes for implementation throughout each class level. One has been purchased and is currently being monitored with a view to becoming part of our overall English Language Programme.


A clear concise policy with regard to the discontinuation/selection of pupils for Learning Support has been put in place.