An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Culmore National School, Swinford, County Mayo.

Uimhir rolla: 16780S


Date of inspection: 7 October 2008




Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of support for pupils


School response to the report





Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of Culmore 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, Irish, Mathematics and Science.  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


Culmore National School is a small rural school in the parish of Swinford. The school caters for boys and girls from infants to sixth class. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Achonry. The school receives funding and the services of a co-ordinator under the Department of Education and Science’s support programme for schools.


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


The school’s mission statement is published in the school plan. The school aims to ‘provide a well-ordered, caring, happy and secure atmosphere where the intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and cultural needs of the pupils are identified and addressed’. Expectations regarding equality, diversity and inclusion are also included in the mission statement.


1.2 Board of management


The board of management is properly constituted. It meets on a regular basis and attendance at meetings is very good. Minutes are kept of each meeting. The board is very active in the maintenance of the school building and its grounds. It has overseen significant development in recent years. A commendable development is that of a playroom on the school grounds to ensure young pupils have access to sand, water and other resources. The board uses available finances in an effective manner to meet the needs of the pupils. It is recommended that the board familiarises itself with Department of Education and Science circulars and guidelines to ensure school compliance at all times.



1.3 In-school management


The principal is effective in leading and managing the school. He has established a very positive school climate and very positive working relationships. Teachers are encouraged to take initiative to bring about school improvement. It is recommended that formal staff meetings be organised on a regular basis to facilitate ongoing school improvement.


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community


The quality of relationships with the school community is very good. Parents participate in school events, meetings and extra-curricular activities. There are flexible arrangements in place for parents to meet with teachers. Parents are confident that any concerns are dealt with fairly and expediently. Parent-teacher meetings are organised on an annual basis. Parents expressed great satisfaction with the quality of education in the school.


1.5 Management of pupils


The standard of pupil management in the school is very high. Pupils are managed with care, sensitivity and humour. They participate fully in school life. Lessons and activities are well prepared. Teachers have high expectations with regard to learning and behaviour. Pupils are respectful in their interactions with others. They demonstrate good levels of confidence and self-esteem. Pupils accept the school’s rules and anti-bullying code and observe them successfully.



2.     Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning


The quality of whole-school planning is good. Organisational policies have been developed to fulfil legislative requirements and to meet the needs of the school. These policies are very clear and are based on the context of the school. A review date for such policies is recommended to ensure they can be updated regularly. Curricular plans show a clear understanding of the aims and principles of the Primary School Curriculum. However, these plans are generic in nature and have insufficient focus on providing high-quality learning experiences to pupils of all abilities. It is recommended that teachers engage in action planning and the use of a planning diary to document planning activities for the school year.


Both teachers plan a schedule of work for their classes but there is a need for a whole-school approach to classroom planning. It is recommended that teachers discuss a common approach to planning to support pupils’ learning throughout the school.


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



Tá caighdeán an-ard sa scoil don Ghaeilge labhartha. Baineann struchtúr cinnte leis na ceachtanna. Cothaítear suim na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge trí cheachtanna a chur i láthair go bríomhar, spreagúil. Baineann na daltaí fíor-thaitneamh as gníomhamhráin, puipéid ranga, cluichí teanga agus luaschártaí. Bunaítear an t-ábhar foghlama ar théamaí a bhaineann le saol na ndaltaí. Sonraítear an Ghaeilge ar taispeáint go flúirseach sa timpeallacht. Baintear úsáid thorthúil as ábhar léirithe agus as fearas corpartha chun na daltaí a spreagadh chun cainte. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go hinmholta mar theanga bhainistíochta an ranga. Bíonn na daltaí in ann iad féin a chur in iúl go creidiúnach le húsáid chruinn na mbriathra. Moltar obair bheirte a dhéanamh leis na daltaí chun an cur chuige cumarsáideach a chur chun cinn. Ba chóir go mbeadh gach dalta páirteach i ngach céim den cheacht.


Cothaítear an léitheoireacht go cúramach agus léann na daltaí go muiníneach. Déantar cleachtadh ar bhriathra agus ar théamaíocht nua agus an léitheoireacht á múineadh. Úsáidtear an clár bán idirghníomhach go tairbheach don léitheoireacht. Múintear straitéisí do na daltaí chun foclóir nua a léamh. Moltar breis béime a chur ar fhoghraíocht na Gaeilge chun cruinneas na léitheoireachta a fhorbairt. Baineann formhór na ngníomhaíochtaí scríbhneoireachta leis an téacsleabhar. Moltar scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach agus próiseas na scríbhneoireachta a chothú.



The standard of oral Irish is very high in the school. Lessons have a definite structure. Pupils’ interest in Irish is stimulated through energetic and motivating lessons. Pupils greatly enjoy action songs, the use of a class puppet, language games and flashcards. The material taught in Irish relates to the lives of the pupils. There is a significant amount of Irish to be seen in the classroom environments. Visual aids and concrete materials are used fruitfully to inspire pupils to speak the language. Irish is used in a praiseworthy manner as the language of the classroom. Pupils are able to express themselves confidently in Irish with accurate use of verbs. It is recommended that pair work be introduced to promote the communicative approach. The participation of all pupils should be encouraged at each stage of the lesson.


Irish reading is carefully promoted and pupils read confidently. Revision of verbs and new vocabulary is undertaken during reading lessons. The interactive white board is used to very good effect in such lessons. Pupils are taught different strategies for reading unfamiliar words. It is recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on phonological awareness in Irish to develop precision in reading. The majority of written activities are textbook-based. It is recommended that more creative writing be undertaken in addition to promoting the writing process.  





The teaching of English is carried out in a proficient manner in all classes, with pupils achieving very high standards. Appropriate emphasis is placed on oral communication and the pupils are willing and able to ask and answer questions. They can express their thoughts and feelings effectively using a wide and varied vocabulary.

All aspects of the English reading programme are developing very well. A good foundation of basic reading skills is laid down in the junior classes. Suitable activities are used to develop the pupils’ phonological awareness. Reading for information and for pleasure is also steadily developed. Class libraries are well stocked, attractively presented and widely used. Pupils are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about books and authors. A very successful ‘buddy reading’ system is in place.

Pupils are encouraged to produce assignments where both creative writing and functional writing are presented to a good standard. Opportunities for pupils to draft and edit their own writing are facilitated by the use of computers. It is recommended that pupils be given opportunities to write in a wider range of genres. Grammar and spellings are taught well across the whole school.

3.2 Mathematics


The standard of Mathematics in the school is high. It is apparent that the quality of learning and teaching is creditable and that the pupils are well advanced. Lessons in Mathematics are carefully structured and sequenced. Teachers are clear in their explanations and successfully promote the language of Mathematics. Pupils display accurate and complete knowledge of various aspects of their programme. They are enthusiastic in their discussion of problems and solutions. Pupils’ questions are welcomed and encouraged during lessons. Material is linked to the pupils’ experiences and to the environment. Both classrooms have designated Mathematics areas. The use of technology to teach mathematical concepts is commendable. It is recommended that the staff devise a whole-school approach to problem-solving, mental Mathematics, mathematical language and the learning of number facts.


3.3 Science


The quality of teaching and learning in Science is very good. Pupils clearly enjoy Science and are motivated in their learning. Active pupil involvement is encouraged during lessons. Pupil knowledge is assessed at the beginning of lessons and teachers build on this knowledge. There is breadth and balance in curriculum implementation. Pupils are enthusiastic in the promotion of recycling, litter management and saving energy. They are currently working towards their second green flag under the Green Schools initiative. Technology is used very effectively to promote scientific knowledge, skills and understanding. Science is linked advantageously to literacy and numeracy across the school. Further refinement of the school plan in Science is required to support the development of the full range of scientific skills. It would also provide clearer guidelines as to how particular themes are to be developed and explored as the pupils progress from class to class.


3.4 Assessment


The quality of assessment is very good. Careful consideration is given to monitoring and recording pupil progress. Formal procedures have been long established to record progress in literacy and numeracy as the pupils move through their respective classes. This information is shared consistently among teachers. Teacher observation, teacher-devised tests and the regular monitoring of pupils’ written work are the informal assessment modes used throughout the school. Further diagnostic testing is carried out by the special-education team.  It is recommended that the staff examine ways of assessing and recording progress in areas of the curriculum where standardised tests are not available.



4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs


The special-education team consists of experienced teachers who ensure the learning needs of pupils are central to all activities. They approach their work in a professional manner and have developed very positive working relationships with the pupils in their care. Pupils are withdrawn for supplementary teaching either in small groups or individually. Support is also provided in mainstream classrooms where appropriate. In keeping with good practice, education plans are devised for each pupil in collaboration with the principal, class teachers, relevant professionals and parents. It is recommended that all parents be given a copy of this plan. Teaching strategies are varied and effective and include discovery learning. Pupils have regular opportunities to engage with concrete materials and computer programmes. They are enthusiastic about all activities undertaken. Teachers provide very stimulating classroom environments in which pupils’ work is displayed. There is clear evidence of pupil progress from term to term. Teachers engage in highly commendable assessment procedures. Much of this assessment has been devised by individual support teachers. It greatly supports the work of class teachers. It is essential that all pupils are placed in age-appropriate classes and that they progress through the school with their peers.



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


The school avails of the services of a rural co-ordinator under the Department’s support programme for schools. The school has a strategic plan to address the areas of literacy, numeracy and attendance. A very good emphasis is placed on early intervention in literacy and numeracy. The co-ordinator takes small groups of children on a withdrawal basis and also provides in-class support. She uses a very good blend of teaching methodologies and shows a clear understanding of the Primary School Curriculum. She has implemented a praiseworthy ‘buddy reading’ programme in the school between pupils in the senior classes and pupils in the junior classes. Her work with the parents of incoming junior infant pupils is commendable. It is recommended that the staff discuss ways to make the services of the co-ordinator better known to parents.



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 March 2009






School Response to the Report


Submitted by the Board of Management





Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report


The members of the Board of Management of Culmore National School welcome the findings of the report of the WSE and would like to convey their gratitude to the inspector for the professional and courteous manner in which the WSE. was conducted.  The Board is particularly satisfied that due recognition has been given to the positive efforts and commitment of teachers, parents, B.O.M. and all others involved.  The report itself reflects the high standard of education being provided for the children through the professionalism and dedication of the teaching staff and portrays an accurate account of the high standard of work being carried out in the school.





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


The Board notes the key recommendations from the inspectorate and is endeavouring to implement these as suggested.