An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St. Joseph’s NS, Mardyke

Corcaigh

Uimhir rolla:  16339F

 

Date of inspection:  30 January 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

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St Joseph’s National School, Mardyke, Cork. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for further development. During the evaluation, the inspectors 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 inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers and examined pupils’ work. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors 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 – school context and background

 

St Joseph Boys’ National School is situated in the centre of Cork City. This long established school serves a wide catchment area with an enrolment of 234 pupils on 30 September 2007. A slight decline in enrolment over the last number of years is noted but the school envisages that enrolment trends will stabilise in the future. St Joseph’s School has long been associated with the Presentation Brothers and has a deep sense of loyalty to their traditions and heritage. Management and staff have an ardent commitment to maintaining the ethos and characteristic spirit of Edmund Rice, founder of the Presentation Brothers. The school’s mission statement confirms that St Joseph’s, a Catholic school, seeks to nurture in the pupils the dignity of the individual and the development of a sense of social awareness. The board and staff wish to continue the strong commitment and dedication of the Presentation Brothers to the provision of an education which fosters the individual development of each pupil in a happy, secure and positive environment.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

The board of management of St. Joseph’s is properly constituted. Meetings are regularly convened, minutes are recorded and an agreed report is compiled for dissemination to staff and parents. It is the intention of the board to furnish a written report of expenditure at future meetings. While specific tasks have not been allocated, individual board members bring a wealth of personal expertise to the decision-making process. The board is familiar with recent legislation in education and is involved in discussing and approving policy documents. It is recommended that all policies brought before the board are signed and dated at ratification stage with review dates included. The chairperson of the board, who maintains regular contact with the principal, wishes to further enhance communication with the staff and, in particular, with the in-school management team. The board are to be commended for their dedication to the further advancement of the school.

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The in-school management team consists of a principal, deputy principal and three special duties teachers. The principal is committed to the progressive development of the school. Daily administrative and organisation tasks are undertaken with diligence and care. School activities are well organised and official records are carefully maintained. The principal has made sincere efforts to advance whole-school planning since his appointment in 2004.

 

The post holder’s duties are carried out conscientiously and contribute positively to the management and organisation of the school. It is advised that current duties be reviewed to include the co-ordination of specific curricular areas in response to the changing needs of the school. Regular in-school management meetings should be convened as a strategy to further promote delegation and to formalise consultation at this level. Similarly, staff meetings should provide a forum for all teachers to engage in the collaborative decision-making process, thereby fostering and developing a collegial whole-school team approach to planning and to relevant school matters. It is recommended that every effort be made to expedite the establishment of effective communication channels among the staff as a whole.

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

The teaching staff consists of an administrative principal, nine mainstream class teachers, one full-time learning support teacher and one shared learning support teacher, one full-time resource teacher, one shared resource teacher, two part-time resource teachers and one part-time language support teacher. Three special needs assistants, who are conscientious and committed to their work, are effectively deployed in supporting classroom activity and learning. The contribution of the secretary in providing administrative support and of the cleaner to the maintenance of the school is acknowledged. The teaching staff has participated in national in-service initiatives and staff members are encouraged by the board to avail of professional development opportunities when possible. Class allocation is decided annually by the principal, taking cognisance of the personal preferences expressed by teachers. Some shared teaching is in operation. However, staff expertise in specific areas of the curriculum could be further exploited.

 

The board of management has invested in a range of resources which is used purposefully to enhance teaching and learning across the curriculum. Teachers are also to be commended for the personally-produced materials and aids used in many classrooms. As curriculum innovation and implementation proceeds, further resources will be required to facilitate an activity-based approach to teaching and learning and to ensure the use of a variety of methodologies and strategies. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is available throughout the school and in some classrooms used to considerable effect. In other classrooms, however, limited use is made of this resource. Consideration should now be given to devising and implementing a school plan that provides clear guidance on the effective use of this resource across all curricular areas.

 

St Joseph’s School was built in 1913. The main school building accommodates nine classrooms, three learning support rooms, a principal’s office and a secretary’s office, a staff room and toilet facilities. While two classrooms provide good-sized accommodation, the remaining rooms are small in size and do not easily facilitate additional furniture, movement, storage or the creation of learning areas. Additional temporary accommodation, to facilitate the provision of learning support, has been provided. A prefabricated unit is also used for conducting extra curricular activities and for the storage of physical education (PE) equipment. The board is to be commended for its commitment to ensuring that the present building is safe and secure. The school’s maintenance plan is carried out on the basis that urgency takes precedence over importance. To date, large sums of money have been invested in rectifying particular structural faults in the fabrication of the building and to improving pathways and the school’s entrance. However, it is recommended that the board of management urgently review current school accommodation with a view to extending and refurbishing the school premises.

 

Despite these accommodation difficulties, most teachers have created neat, well-organised, visually-pleasing classroom environments and have decorated their classrooms attractively with pupils’ writing, artwork and projects. The corridor areas contain displays of work and some historical photographic records of school events and achievements. Outdoor facilities include a playing field and an extensive hard surface play area which incorporates a recently developed soft play area for the younger pupils.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The parents’ association maintains close communication with the principal and meetings are convened regularly to discuss relevant issues. Parents are involved in annual fundraising activities and monies raised are used to supplement ongoing maintenance costs and to acquire additional resources. Parents are to be commended for their contribution to the provision of the soft ground play area. The parents’ association also issues a newsletter twice a term to keep parents informed of all activities. This medium of communication could be further developed by contributions from the school and pupils.

 

An induction meeting of parents of incoming junior infants is held annually. This is complemented by the issuing of a booklet which is currently being updated to include a range of school policies of particular interest to parents. To date, parents have had limited involvement in the development of school policies. In order to progress the collaborative nature of the planning process, emphasis should now be placed on promoting the role of parents in the design and in the development of school policies.

 

Parents value the work of the school and the representatives of the parents’ association reported that they are satisfied with the educational provision therein. Parents receive clear information about their children’s progress and formal parent-teacher meetings are organised annually. Parents meet the principal and other members of staff informally when necessary. The representatives of the parents association acknowledged the efforts of the board to improve school facilities. The ongoing difficulties associated with parking and traffic congestion outside the school gate remain a concern despite the fact that parents have organised a private bus to transport their children to and from the school. Strong links have been established with the wider community particularly with University College Cork and the School of Music who support the school in a range of activities.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

Great care is taken by staff to promote the personal development and well-being of pupils and to foster in them a sense of care and respect for themselves and others. Pupils reciprocate by cooperating willingly with the staff during lessons and by contributing positively to the quality of school life. A very good rapport was evident between pupils and teachers during the inspection process. Pupils are courteous and respectful and display high levels of self-esteem. They engage in discussion with enthusiasm and participate fully in their learning. The school’s code of discipline is effectively implemented and pupils’ good behaviour is noteworthy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1   School planning process and implementation

 

Some work has been carried out over the last number of years to initiate the development of the school plan. Plans have been compiled to inform and direct administrative procedures. Statutory policies have been developed in response to relevant educational legislation including policies on enrolment, health and safety, anti-bullying, internet acceptable use, job sharing and a code of behaviour. However, some of these policies are in draft format and it is important that they are formalised and ratified by the board of management.

 

Confirmation was provided, through minutes of board of management meetings 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 and these people are named in the minutes of a board of management meeting. It is recommended that the board formalise its own policy in which the names of the DLP and deputy DLP are clearly indicated.

 

Some documentation has been compiled to initiate the planning process of curricular areas. The  school has availed of the support of cuiditheoirí from the national support services to advance the planning process. Many of the curriculum plans examined were unclear and incomplete. It is a matter of priority that the staff proceed with the planning process and produce whole school plans for all aspects of the curriculum. In addition, the formulation of an action plan that gives prominence to the prioritised needs of the school should be undertaken. The adoption and implementation of curricular plans by all teachers would significantly strengthen the impact of the school plan on teaching and learning throughout the school.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

 

Most planning documents are referenced to the various strands and strand units outlined in Primary School Curriculum (1999) and constitute a useful source in the range and appropriateness of topics covered. The style and presentation of individual teachers’ long-term and short-term schemes of work reflect individual preference of teachers. However, in a number of cases they are short in detail and this practice can lead to a diminution of their potential to shape the process of thought in the preparation of the lesson and in the determination of skills to be mastered. It is recommended that teachers should work towards offering a higher level of specificity, particularly in the preparation of short-term schemes of work. This would lend positively to the dual processes of assessment of learning and assessment for learning. Staff might also gainfully consider developing greater links between whole-school planning and the planning process at individual class level, as it is insufficiently clear how the school plan informs classroom planning. In the interests of promoting continuity of service between class and supplementary teaching, it is advised that all staff should have copies of education plans(IEP) in their planning folders. 

 

Completed work is documented in progress records at the end of each month and these are placed on school file. It is recommended that the data arising from these records be used systematically on a whole-school basis, to monitor the impact of planning on pupil learning outcomes. However, it is important that these documents are presented within an agreed timeframe otherwise their effectiveness is diluted.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

 

The quality of teaching throughout the school is good. Teaching approaches adopted by staff may be characterised as a practical blend of the traditional and the progressive. Well-structured whole-class teaching with challenging questioning is a feature of the majority of classrooms observed. In some instances there is evidence of pair and group-work approaches. Classroom climate is positive, interaction between teacher and pupil is lively and purposeful and pupils are open, friendly and eager for challenge. In the further development of classroom practice staff might usefully consider more differentiated teaching approaches to address the individual learning needs of pupils. The quality of pupils’ learning outcomes indicates an appropriate progression that is commensurate with age and ability.

 

4.2 Language

 

Tá iarracht choinsiasach á déanamh timpeallacht Ghaelach a chruthú sna seomraí ranga agus i dtimpeallacht na scoile le frásaí na seachtaine ar taispeáint. Moltar, áfach, plean cinnte uile-scoile a chur i bhfeidhm don Ghaeilge neamhfhoirmiúil chun deis a thabhairt do na daltaí Gaeilge a chloisteáil go rialta agus chun comhthéacs breise a thabhairt dóibh leis an teanga a úsáid taobh amuigh den cheacht Gaeilge.

 

Eagraítear rang theagasc agus obair i mbeirteanna go stuama chun an teanga a mhúineadh do na daltaí agus baintear feidhm fhónta as cairteacha agus as fearas éagsúla chun a dtuiscint ar an teanga a fhorbairt. Bíonn struchtúr maith ar na ceachtanna agus ar an iomlán bíonn ábhar na gceachtanna oiriúnach do chumas teanga na ndaltaí. Déanann formhór na n-oidí iarracht mhacánta Gaeilge a labhairt le linn an teagaisc.

 

Eagraítear gníomhaíochtaí éagsúla chun scileanna éisteachta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt agus chun a dtuiscint ar an teanga a éascú. Múintear éagsúlacht bhreá rann i ranganna éagsúla agus baintear leas éifeachtach as amhráin Ghaeilge i ranganna eile chun forbairt a dhéanamh ar na scileanna éisteachta.  Is gá, áfach, cur chuige uile-scoile a dheimhniú chun na scileanna éisteachta a chothú go céimnithe i ngach rang. Faigheann na daltaí deiseanna an teanga a úsáid agus a shealbhú trí dhruileanna a chleachtadh agus trí cheisteanna a chur agus a fhreagairt. Tá sé ar chumas cuid de na daltaí abairtí simplí a struchtúrú agus cur síos a dhéanamh ar théamaí a eascraíonn as a gcuid eispéiris féin. Is inmholta an bhéim a leagtar ar úsáid na mbriathra sna hardranganna chun tacú leo an Ghaeilge a úsáid i suímh éagsúla. B’fhiú, áfach, níos mó béime a chur ar ionchur teanga  na ndaltaí agus ar straitéisí breise a chruthú chun a gcumas cumarsáide a fhorbairt. Moltar an plean uile-scoile a athbhreithniú le cinntiú go ndéantar forbairt chórasach ar scileanna teanga na ndaltaí.

 

Tá sé ar chumas roinnt daltaí sna meáin agus sna hardranganna sleachta gonta a léamh le cruinneas agus le luas áirithe ach bíonn deacrachtaí ag daltaí eile le tuiscint na dtéacs agus le fuaimniú na bhfocal. B’fhiú, tuilleadh ábhar léitheoireachta a chur ar fáil chun deiseanna breise a thabhairt dóibh léitheoireacht a chleachtadh i gcomhthéacsanna éagsúla agus a scileanna léitheoireachta a fhorbairt go céimniúil. Chuige sin, is gá réimse leathan de leabhair agus d’ábhar léitheoireachta oiriúnacha sa Ghaeilge a sholáthar tríd an scoil.

 

Faigheann na daltaí cleachtadh ar an scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil agus scríobhann siad téacsanna éagsúla ar nós a nuacht phearsanta, cleachtaí tuisceana, cleachtaí gramadaí agus scéalta. Téitear an iomarca i muinín leabhar saothar, áfach, chun iad a chur ag scríobh. Mar gur eispéiris cumarsáideach í an scríbhneoireacht, b’fhiú deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí a bheith ag obair i mbeirteanna agus i ngrúpaí agus iad ag cleachtadh a gcuid cumadóireachta. Moltar scéim córasach a chur i bhfeidhm chun scríbhneoireacht neamhspleách na ndaltaí a fhorbairt tríd an scoil.

 

Tá roinnt beag daltaí sa scoil le díolúine ón nGaeilge. Tugtar faoi deara go bhfuil daltaí i ranganna áirithe nach nglacann páirt sa rang Gaeilge cé nach bhfuil díolúine bronnta orthu. Is den riachtanas go nglacfaidh gach dalta páirt sa rang Gaeilge ach amháin iad siúd a bhfuil díolúine oifigiúil bronnta orthu ag an mbord bainistíochta de réir coinníollacha na n-imlitreach 12/96 agus aitheanta ag an Roinn

 

Irish

The school is making a sincere effort to create an Irish environment in classrooms and around the school displaying phrase of the week. A whole-school plan for incidental Irish should be implemented systematically throughout the school to ensure that constant opportunities are provided for pupils to hear and speak Irish in an informal enjoyable manner.

 

Whole-class teaching and pair work are  used competently to teach the language to pupils and charts and resources are used to further enhance their language skills. Lessons are well structured and in general content is suited to pupils’ ability in the language. Most teachers make a sincere effort to speak Irish during the lesson.

 

Some suitable activities are used to develop pupils’ listening skills and to facilitate their understanding of the language. A variety of rhymes are taught in some classes and effective use is made of Irish songs in other classes to further develop listening skills. It is necessary, however, to establish a whole-school approach to the progressive development of pupils’ listening skills in all classes. Pupils are afforded opportunities to use and extend their language through drills and through the use of questions and answers. Some pupils are capable of structuring simple sentences and describing events that relate to their own experiences. Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on the  use of verbs in the senior classes to assist them speak Irish in a range of contexts. However, greater emphasis should now be placed on relevant language input and on the employment of a range of strategies to ensure progressive development of Irish in every classroom. It is advised that the whole-school plan be designed to guide the systematic development of pupils’ language competencies.

 

Some pupils in the middle and senior classes read simple extracts with certain accuracy while others have difficulty understanding the text and word pronunciation. Additional  materials should be used to afford pupils opportunities to further develop their reading ability. To this end, a wide range of Irish books and reading material should be made available in every classroom.

 

Pupils practise functional writing and write personal news, comprehension, grammar exercises and story. However, in some classes, there is too much dependency on workbook activities by way of promoting pupils’ writing skills. As writing is a communicative exercise, it is advised that more emphasis be placed on pair and group work as pupils engage in written activities. It is recommended that a whole-school policy on pupils’ independent and creative writing be devised and implemented.

 

There are a number of pupils in the school who have been granted an exemption from Irish. It was noted that there are other pupils who have not been granted an exemption from Irish but do not participate in the Irish lesson. In accordance with the terms of circular 12/96 only those pupils who have been officially granted an exemption by the board of management and acknowledged by the Department of Education and Science should be exempt from this subject.

 

English

In the delivery of the English programme, a good range of teaching methodologies is noted including whole-class teaching, group and pair work. Lessons, in general, are well-structured and developed and content is suitably chosen for the age and range of ability of pupils. Some of the work observed was carefully integrated with other areas of the curriculum.

 

Suitable emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ listening skills and they engage with enthusiasm in talk, discussion and debate. In the infant classes, rhyme and song is used productively to enhance oral language development. Pupils in the senior classes display a growing competence in presenting and supporting arguments and most pupils speak articulately. It is recommended that a common approach to oral language development be adopted to further enhance pupils’ oral language competency.

 

Emergent reading skills are developed gainfully in the junior classes. Suitable emphasis is placed on reading readiness activities including knowledge of the conventions of print, basic sight vocabulary, word identification strategies and the development of phonological and phonemic awareness. A level of uncertainty is noted in some classes with regard to the school’s phonological programme. It is recommended that a detailed phonological and phonemic awareness programme be agreed and implemented in a systematic way throughout the school. A repertoire of poems is taught in some classes and pupils are encouraged to respond in different ways through writing and composing poems. A commendable emphasis is placed on learning poetry in some classes.

 

Reading skills are developed through a range of approaches and the employment of various strategies including silent reading and Children and Parents Enjoy Reading (CAPER). These activities foster a positive reading culture throughout the school. Big books, picture books and story-time are imaginatively used to develop various aspects of the reading process. Reading schemes and supplementary readers are used at the emergent reading stage. It is suggested that a more extensive use of a range of reading strategies be employed to eliminate the need for a reading scheme. Other reading texts used in the school include class novels and library books. The productive exploration of the novel in many classes has further developed pupils’ critical and analytical abilities and many pupils read with accuracy and fluency. Shared reading initiatives involving parents are also proving beneficial. An examination of reading scores achieved in standardized tests shows that, in general, pupils are experiencing a good level of success.

 

Pupils engage in both functional and creative writing activities and write in an age-appropriate register of language. Worthwhile writing activities are evidenced in pupils’ copybooks and in samples of work displayed. Daily news, book reviews, poetry and stories are in evidence. From an early age pupils are enabled to compose simple sentences and they engage in a variety of workbook activities. Less emphasis on the use of the workbook would greatly advance pupils’ skill development. The language experience approach, if implemented to a greater degree, would also provide more opportunities for younger pupils to engage in their own compositions. Older pupils display a growing elaboration and sophistication in the use of sentence structures when writing. Process writing features positively in some classrooms and should be extended to further enhance pupils’ skills of drafting and editing. Similarly, pupils should also be exposed to more regular independent writing activities. Pupils are enabled to develop a command of the conventions of grammar and spelling and these aspects are monitored by teachers. Letter formation is keenly developed in junior classes. Penmanship and presentation of work, while praiseworthy in some classes, merits further attention in others. Increased usage of ICT would further enhance and celebrate pupils writing.

 

Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative

The school is participating in the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative. The principal expressed his dissatisfaction with the delivery of this programme and stated that he had suspended it in recent months to allow for a review. It is anticipated that programme delivery will be resumed in the immediate future.

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

The plan for Mathematics is detailed and informative and staff is encouraged to apply the detail therein to guide activity in this curricular area. The quality of teaching and learning overall in classrooms is good. Exercises in the memorisation of number facts and engagement in mental mathematical activities are a noteworthy feature in all classes. Teachers give clear explanation to pupils, present content clearly and, in general, provide appropriate and structured learning activities. A suitable emphasis is placed on linking the work in progress to the pupils’ own experiences and to real life practical situations. Early mathematical activities are carefully taught. In many classes the work is underpinned by purposeful use of concrete materials and this activity approach should be encouraged throughout the school. Problem-solving is attempted with enthusiasm, especially in the higher classes and pupils are competent in the application of acquired skills. At all levels, pupils display age-appropriate ability to perform computation in written format. An examination of mathematical scores attained in standardized tests signal impressive pupil achievement. The pupils’ written work is regularly monitored by teachers and  quality in presentation is promoted. Greater use of copybook activity in the junior classes would consolidate further pupils’ recording skills. In plotting the direction of future mathematics development the staff is urged to extend the practice of engaging pupils in regular discussion and in developing problem-solving strategies. The regular grouping of pupils during mathematical activity is also recommended, particularly in the context of addressing pupils’ diverse learning needs.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

It was noted that there were no discernible plans in place that guide practice in Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE). This lacuna needs to be addressed. Nevertheless, progress was observed with respect to the specific subject areas of this programme.

 

History

Staff makes a worthy effort to ground the History programme on the principles of Primary School Curriculum (1999). Strands and strand units outlined in progress records show teachers are keen to offer pupils a broad and balanced programme. Suitable topics are chosen at each class level to focus the pupils’ attention on sequence, chronology and change and to develop an interest and curiosity in respect of the past. The focus of the work centres, in the main, on themes included in commercial texts. This work is enhanced by the commendable organisation of fieldtrips and through the regular engagement of pupils in projects. The teaching of History is enriched by successfully linking it with a number of other curricular areas.

 

Geography

Teachers plan a varied programme in Geography to develop pupils’ knowledge and understanding of natural and human environments, in the immediate environment and beyond. Current work is suitably integrated with a number of other curricular areas. A blend of textbook material and project work is pursued. The pupils enjoy their geography studies and examples of their work are commendably on display in classrooms. Local studies are given particular attention in the middle classes. Current work undertaken on the study of the Mardyke is of praiseworthy quality. The organisation of fieldtrips adds productively to the geography programme. ICT is used successfully in some classrooms in accessing information through the internet and in adding to displays through digital photography.

 

Science

In Science a wide range of topics is explored at each class level. An awareness and care for the environment is carefully explored and pupils regularly engage in experiments. They are encouraged to observe, recognise patterns, estimate, question and hypothesize with a focus on natural phenomena, life processes (including nutrition) and the wide variety of living organisms (animals and plants). In this way pupils are enabled to develop a valuable framework of scientific skills and concepts. Participation in projects such as Junior Achievement Award promotes an interest in enterprise. Attractive learning environments are created with samples of pupils’ work and with the provision of nature and investigation tables in some classrooms. In developing the pupils investigative skills staff is encouraged to make greater use of  the school environment through the identification of a variety of habitats.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

Pupils are afforded opportunities to develop their skills and creativity in a range of media. The elements of art including line, shape, form, colour and tone among others are suitably explored. A creditable balance is achieved between making Art and looking and responding to Art. Pupils are regularly afforded opportunities to respond to the work of peers and to the work of artists. Visits to galleries and exhibitions are organised to further develop pupils’ skills in art appreciation. Judicious use is made of space in classrooms and corridors to create attractive displays of pupils’ work. ICT is used to good effect in the senior classes in complementing the programme. The integration of the Visual Arts with other curricular areas is regularly exploited. Assessment, in the main, is through teacher observation. It is recommended that the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) guidelines on assessment for learning be considered in the development of an assessment policy in the Visual Arts. Staff might also consider maintaining a selection of pupils’ work in portfolios on a yearly basis. Above all, the staff is advised to develop a whole-school plan that will address the delivery of the Visual Arts programme.

 

Music

Musical activities incorporate rhythm work, instrumental work, unison singing and composition. Pupils are provided with opportunities to listen and respond to music. They competently sing a  range of songs in Irish and in English sometimes accompanied with gestures, instrumental percussion or guitar. Recently purchased percussion instruments are used to further develop pupils’ understanding of musical elements. In some classes, music is productively integrated with other curricular areas. It is reported that pupils participate in liturgical ceremonies and in school events. Music lessons are offered as part of the after-school activities programme and the school is to be commended for the promotion of the bodhrán during these sessions. Music is further advanced in the school by visits from students attending the School of Music. However, in the absence of a plan for Music, future collaborative planning should address the development of a whole school approach to all elements of the music curriculum.

 

Drama

A range of strategies is exploited that includes role-play, games, still image, montage and hot-seating, among others. These strategies promote imaginative and emotional development and foster pupil enthusiasm. The school employs an external tutor in Speech and Drama and her expertise has contributed considerably to the development of pupils’ confidence in communication and in self-expression. She plays a key role in staging the Christmas concert, an event that is much appreciated by parents. To further enhance teaching and learning, a whole-school plan for Drama should be devised and implemented.

 

 4.6 Physical Education

 

Pupils’ physical development is fostered through a wide range of experiences that are organised in the school yard or playing field. Of necessity, the delivery of the Physical Education programme is subject to the influence of weather since the school does not currently have an indoor facility. Pupils experience enjoyment and achievement through the planned activities of the physical education programme. The use of Gaeilge, in some instances, in organising and in directing the activities is commendable and the extension of this practice should be encouraged. Lessons are well organised and are carefully structured to include appropriate warm-up and cool-down activities. Specific skill development is promoted and pupils are provided with the opportunity to further develop these skills through a range of collaborative activities. Teachers are encouraged to observe pupils while attempting specific skills and provide direction when necessary. Partner work, group activities and games are capably managed to promote full participation. An ample range of equipment is available. Due care is taken with regard to safety. Pupils’ successful participation in competitions and sports days augments the school’s provision for physical education. Aquatic lessons are also organised in the nearby swimming pool. Visiting tutors provide additional coaching in tag rugby, hurling, football and cricket. The school also provides an extensive after-school sports programme especially in the area of Gaelic games and teachers are to be complemented for their dedication and commitment to this work. The playing of chess is also actively promoted among the pupil cohort and their achievements at national level are noteworthy. To ensure that pupils experience a balance of strands in the physical education programme, it is recommended that greater attention be given to the strands of dance and gymnastics.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

Staff is conscientious in promoting healthy relationships and in encouraging healthy patterns of behaviour. Valuable lessons, which focus on awareness of self, respect for others both in the community and in the wider world are a feature. Circle time is productively utilised in some instances to promote teaching and learning. Pupils are mannerly and respectful in their interactions with each other and with adults. Pupils’ awareness of safety is further promoted through their participation in the cycling safety programme. It is now required that staff develop a whole-school policy in SPHE that will lead to the delivery of a broad and balanced programme on a consistent basis.

 

 

 

4.8 Assessment

 

The school’s policy on assessment outlines a range of modes in use. These include teacher-observation, monitoring of pupils’ work, maintenance of portfolios and teacher-devised tests. Some teachers maintain worthy records of pupil achievement across a number of curricular areas. In order to build on existing good practice, it is recommended that the recording of pupil achievement be established on a whole-school basis and results should be routinely shared among staff to ensure continuity and progression throughout the school. Standardized tests are administered annually, namely Micra-T and Sigma-T to assess the literacy and numeracy levels of pupils from first to sixth class.  A further school-devised literacy test is administered to pupils in the senior infant class. Appropriately, parents are regularly consulted and advised of results at the annual parent-teacher meetings and in the school’s annual report issued at end of the year.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The school has documented policies on admission, enrolment and participation of pupils with special educational needs. These policies are informative and are in accordance with the school’s caring ethos. Commendably, they incorporate a programme of early intervention and the staged approach as outlined in Special Education Circular 02/05.

 

A full-time learning support teacher and a shared learning support teacher have responsibility for thirty five pupils in total. Both teachers are diligent and committed to the advancement of pupils’ learning in the school. Supplementary support is provided in literacy, in numeracy and in language. In addressing the individual needs of pupils, detailed education plans are compiled and effective progress records are maintained. Learning targets are set and are reviewed at the beginning of the second term. Teaching strategies are adapted appropriately and suitable resources, including ICT, are utilised productively to support learning. Support, in the main is provided on a withdrawal basis, either individually or in small groups and is complemented with in-class support to a limited extent. Staff is now encouraged to make greater provision for in-class support. Pupils are making good progress in accordance with their own competencies and abilities. Lessons in the development of skills in phonics and literacy are taught separately. It is recommended that these lessons be taught in an integrated manner. Within the context of the evolving school plan in supporting pupils with special educational needs, it is desirable that the following issues are considered: the administering of diagnostic testing to afford a more comprehensive picture of pupils’ learning needs; a greater involvement of parents in the process of supporting children, to include an agreed policy on the issuing of homework; the identification of formal structured time at the beginning of the school year for meeting as a team and with class teachers; an increased level of coordination between supplementary teaching and the work in the classroom; maintaining continuity of service to pupils throughout the school year; developing a consistent approach to short-term planning.

 

One full-time resource teacher, one shared and two part-time resource teachers engage with those pupils who have been allocated resource hours. Support for these pupils is provided primarily in the areas of literacy and numeracy offering focused tuition on a withdrawal basis. Teaching staff might consider extending this mode of delivery to include in-class support. Careful individual educational plans are prepared and some records of progress are maintained. In general, targets identified in the individual plans are based on pupils’ priority learning needs and should be reviewed within a shorter timeframe. While resource teachers and mainstream class teachers work collaboratively, greater emphasis should now be placed on consolidating agreed learning targets in both settings. Structured and purposeful teaching strategies are adopted and suitable resources are deployed. In some settings, additional and varied materials would greatly enhance the overall delivery of this programme. A systematic approach to detailing and recording pupil progress and the achievement of their learning targets is recommended.

 

A number of newcomer pupils whose home language is not English attend the school. Additional support in English is provided to nine pupils by a part-time language support teacher. While  some use is made of the Integrate Ireland Programme, planning documentation should be further developed. The progress of work is recorded by listing the topics covered during the term. It is recommended that a more systematic approach to planning and to detailing the progress of individual pupils and the achievement of their learning targets be employed. Completed worksheets are maintained on file. However, the creation of a language portfolio for each pupil would help to determine their specific language needs and inform teaching and learning.

 

It is recommended that a greater level of collaboration and consultation be established between the members of the special educational  team to develop consistency in approaches and to ensure more effective teaching and learning.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

  • The school is characterised by a caring and respectful community.
  • The staff is committed to providing positive educational experiences for the pupils.
  • Pupils display exceptional mannerly behaviour and demonstrate positive attitudes to learning.
  • A wide range of extra-curricular activities contributes positively to the holistic development of pupils.
  • Effective teaching in the area of Mathematics, Visual Arts and Physical Education is identified.
  • The school community benefits positively from the ongoing support of the board of management and the parents’ association.

 

 

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

 

  • There is a need to establish clear structures, procedures and modes of communication to foster an effective communication system throughout the school.

 

  • The development of whole-school approaches to planning, to delivery and to the implementation and review of the curriculum should be addressed as a matter of priority.

 

  • Regular review of in-school management structures and responsibilities is necessary to keep pace with the changing priorities of the school.

 

  • I dteagasc na Gaeilge b’fhiú na scileanna teanga a fhorbairt go córasach agus béim a chur ar an nGaeilge labhartha (In the teaching of Irish, it is recommended that language skills be developed appropriately, with emphasis  placed on spoken Irish).

 

  • It is recommended that a whole-school structured oral language programme be introduced and further emphasis be placed on the development of pupils’ independent and creative writing skills.

 

  • A review of the current support system is advised to ensure that a comprehensive programme for pupils with special educational needs is delivered.

 

  • In the interest of continuous improvement, it is recommended that the board of management review current classroom provision with a view to procuring improved accommodation.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published, October 2008