An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St Brigid’s NS

The Coombe, Dublin 8

Uimhir rolla: 16786H

 

Date of inspection:  29 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

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St Brigid’s National School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. 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. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. 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. Brigid’s National School is a nineteen-teacher, Catholic primary school catering for pupils from the Coombe and the Liberties area of Dublin’s inner city. The school is co-educational up to and including first class. Thereafter the school provides education to girls in single-sex classes. The school participates in Band 1 of DEIS, the Department of Education and Science initiative for educational inclusion. A significant number of pupils come from diverse, national backgrounds where English is their second language. School enrolment numbers are stable. The staff comprises many newly-qualified and recently-appointed teachers as well as long-serving, experienced teachers. The school has been in the trusteeship of the Holy Faith religious congregation for 121 years. It is now under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. In very recent times the school population has experienced considerable change due to their move to a new school building. Much praise is due to the principal, staff, pupils, parents and all school personnel for the smooth transfer to the new school.

 

The school’s mission is to develop the children’s full potential in partnership with their parents. It is focused on building the self esteem of all within the school, through the valuing of each person’s talents and through celebrating the rich culture and diversity of the school community. This mission is evident in the broad and balanced curriculum provided and in the delivery of carefully selected initiatives and supports in a welcoming environment. The Christian ethos of the school is manifest in the daily recitation of prayers, the development of sacred spaces within classrooms, morning assemblies and in regular religious observances. The local curate and the chairperson of the board of management visit the school on a regular basis and they are very supportive of the school’s endeavours. The ethos of the Holy Faith congregation is lived out by the school in their care for the individual child.  

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

The board of management functions very effectively. It meets regularly and minutes of its meetings are maintained. It fulfils its legislative obligations regarding the publication of its admissions policy and the monitoring and reporting on school attendance. It ensures that Department of Education and Science regulations regarding the length of the school year and school day, the retention of pupils, and class size are observed. The school’s accounts are audited annually. The board is highly responsive to the school’s needs. Its members are assigned specific roles and have undertaken training for the fulfilment of their overall duties. Their work is carried out in a spirit of collegiality. The board promotes and affirms the work of the staff through attendance at school activities and regular social events.

 

The board has successfully planned for and overseen the opening of the new school building and the transfer of trusteeship to the archdiocese of Dublin. It demonstrates a keen ability to plan and operate strategically. This is evident in its active involvement in policy formulation and ratification. The board plays a key role in devising organisational policies and in contributing to curriculum planning through its engagement with the whole-school planning process. There are established mechanisms in place for the review of school practices and procedures. The board provides a high level of support to teachers in their professional duties. In building upon its successes to date, the board might now reflect on how it can best support teachers in closely monitoring achievement levels in the school’s priority areas for development. There are very good channels of communication in place. The principal presents a report at each board meeting. Staff members are informed of relevant issues through the staff representative. Information is imparted formally and informally to parents by their representatives on the board through notice boards, newsletters and bulletins.

 

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The principal provides excellent leadership. She has extensive knowledge and a deep understanding of the school’s context and of the particular needs of the staff and pupils. This informs all aspects of her work as an effective leader, administrator and manager of change. She carries out her administrative duties in a thorough manner. She plays an active role in advancing the process of whole-school planning and has ably guided the school in setting clear and relevant targets for school improvement. Leading by example, she upholds and promotes the characteristic spirit of the school. The principal is capably supported by the deputy principal who carries out a wide range of duties with dedication. The in-school management team work cohesively and capably. Their posts reflect a balanced remit of duties in organisational, curricular and pastoral responsibilities. They provide curriculum leadership by coordinating the planning process for specific curriculum areas. They meet with the principal regularly–at least once per term–and attend to the present priorities and future needs of the school. In order to advance the process of planning further, it is recommended that curriculum teams be established to review and monitor the school’s priority areas for development.

 

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

The school comprises an administrative principal, ten mainstream teachers, an Early Start pre-school teacher, five special education teachers including a part-time resource teacher and a shared learning support/resource teacher (LSRT), and three language support teachers. The school has a shared Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) coordinator, based in Francis St. BNS. Two staff members are trained in Reading Recovery and Mathematics Recovery respectively and provide one-to-one teaching to targeted pupils. The school staff comprises long-term, experienced members of staff combined with a consistently high number of newly-appointed or recently-appointed staff members. Staff rotation is promoted. Teachers are encouraged to teach in a variety of class levels and educational settings over time. A staff member has responsibility for mentoring newly-appointed teachers. This is a significant role for nurturing and supporting cohesion across the school regarding effective teaching and learning strategies.

 

The school employs a special needs assistant and two classroom assistants who work closely with the class teachers and carry out their duties with competence and diligence. The traffic wardens are most attentive to their duties regarding the care and safety of the pupils. The caretaker ensures that the building and grounds are in excellent order and well maintained. The school is cleaned on a daily basis to a high standard. All school administration is carefully attended to by the secretary. An external tutor teaches Irish dancing in a capable manner to all pupils, using funds contributed by parents. Coaching in soccer and swimming is provided to pupils at various times throughout the year. Additional coaching and training is provided after school hours in basketball, football, athletics and music. Funding for these activities is provided by monies from the School Completion Programme. The school has a number of initiatives in place including the Incredible Years project for behaviour management, the Green Schools’ programme and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) projects with the support of the Digital Hub. The staff members are to be praised for their commitment to and support of a diverse range of activities for the pupils.

 

The new school is attractive, spacious and bright. The school buildings comprise a large general purposes room, offices for the principal and secretary, a staff room and parents’ room, a library, toilet facilities, outdoor and indoor storage areas and recreation areas. All classrooms and special education settings are well laid out and provide appropriate accommodation. On the grounds there are two soft play areas, a play yard and a planted area. The school is very well resourced. All rooms are supplied with a good selection of visual materials, physical resources and ICT equipment. Each classroom library is appropriately stocked with a variety of reading material. The teachers ensure that they provide attractive, educational environments with charts, posters, flashcards, word walls, games, equipment and curriculum areas. The teachers display and celebrate the efforts and achievements of their pupils’ work in classrooms, corridors and reception areas.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The school has very good communication channels established, both formal and informal. Regular communication is maintained with parents regarding the work of the school and the pupils’ progress through newsletters, notices annual parent/teacher meetings and end-of-year written reports. The school encourages parents to contribute to school policy and to become involved in decision-making through surveys and meetings. Parents of new entrants are provided with a school booklet containing relevant school information. This booklet is available in different languages, reflecting the commitment of the school to meet the needs of the diverse school population. The school’s HSCL coordinator, together with the School Completion Programme (SCP) coordinator, provides effective support to pupils and their parents. They liaise closely with local committees, dedicated agencies and national statutory bodies. Home-school links are nurtured and strengthened through regular home visits, telephone calls and meetings with parents and guardians. Parents interact on a regular basis with the HSCL coordinator within the school and good use is made of the parents’ room. Parents provide support at school events, concerts and fundraising occasions. They participate in Mathematics for Fun programmes within classrooms. It is praiseworthy that a parents’ group has recently been established to promote and assist the work of the school.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

The pupils are managed very effectively at all class levels. The principal, teachers and all school personnel lead by example. All relationships are characterised by mutual respect and affirmative interactions. The pupils are very well behaved and motivated. Daily assemblies are conducted where pupils and staff are warmly welcomed and key messages are communicated. Individual pupils’ endeavours and achievements are acknowledged and celebrated through class-based and school-wide awards systems. School rules are implemented fairly and consistently. The school also provides a behaviour management programme for targeted pupils. The school is keenly aware of a cohort of pupils with high levels of absenteeism and procedures are in place for rewarding attendance through awards and affirmation. It is advised that the school formalise its policy for the prevention and promotion of attendance.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

The staff displays a high level of engagement with the whole-school planning process. A practical approach to planning is evident, involving consultation with the staff, board and parents. The teachers use their regular staff meetings productively to engage in whole-school planning. They have compiled a comprehensive three-year DEIS action plan to target priority areas for development. Organisational policies are clear, informative and accessible in relation to school practices and procedures. Good work is underway in curriculum planning overall. Some plans, including those for Irish and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) provide particularly good guidance regarding continuity and progression for each class level, as well as reflecting the specific context of the pupils. It is recommended that clear guidance for progressive whole-school programmes be outlined in all curriculum plans. It is further recommended that specific assessment strategies be agreed for each curriculum area. It is commendable that all teachers have copies of the school plan.

 

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.

 

 

3.2 Classroom planning

 

The overall quality of teachers’ long-term planning is good. This planning is informed by the school plan and gives appropriate guidelines for many aspects of provision. The quality of short-term planning varies considerably. It is recommended that the approach to short-term planning be reviewed on a whole-school basis in order to ensure the consistent and progressive implementation of curriculum programmes. In undertaking this review, close attention should be given to outlining specific learning objectives regarding content and skills, teaching methodologies, differentiation approaches and assessment procedures. Monthly progress records, cuntais mhíosúla, are compiled by all teachers and copies of these are stored centrally and monitored regularly by the principal. This is good practice.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

 

The teachers plan for and deliver a broad curriculum. They are enthusiastic communicators and are supportive of and affirmative towards the pupils. Teachers make appropriate use of ICT to enhance pupils’ learning. Overall, the quality of teaching varies. Some effective teaching was observed involving clear objectives, a range of methodologies, skilful questioning and thorough consolidation. Overall, there is a need for greater cohesion across the school regarding lesson structure, oral language development and differentiation through the teaching of pupils in groups. It is recommended that the school liaise with the available professional supports through their DEIS cuiditheoir to address these specific areas. Teachers are further advised to reflect on how the team of special education teachers can best assist and facilitate more focused group teaching to meet the particular needs and abilities of all pupils.

 

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Sa phlean scríofa tá sár obair déanta ó thaobh na Gaeilge de. Tá gach gné leagtha amach sa phlean chun cabhrú le gach oide ó thaobh dul chun cinn ó rang go rang. Tá dearcadh dearfach cothaithe ag na hoidí i leith na Gaeilge agus úsáideann siad í mar mhodh teagaisc i rith na gceachtanna. Sna ceachtanna baineann na hoidí úsáid chuí as rainn, amhráin, cluichí agus tascanna éisteachta chun cumas éisteachta agus labhartha na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Tá stór breá d’amhráin ag na daltaí agus canann siad iad go binn, beoga. Múintear frásaí agus foclóir nua go rialta agus go muiníneach i rith na gceachtanna. Moltar tuilleadh béime a dhíriú ar fhorbairt chumais cumarsáide na ndaltaí féin agus iad ag obair i bpéirí agus i ngrúpaí le rólghlacadh, agallaimh beirte agus tascanna. Baineann cuid de na hoidí úsáid thairbheach as struchtúr ceachta ina bhfuil trí thréimhse leagtha amach go céimniúil agus moltar an dea-chleachtas seo a úsáid i ngach rang chun an Ghaeilge a dhaingniú. Déantar freastal sásúil ar fhorbairt scileanna réamhléitheoireachta na ndaltaí trí priontáil sa timpeallacht, lipéid aitheantais agus tascanna. Leantar scéim léitheoireachta sa scoil. Déantar forbairt chuí ar scileanna léitheoireachta na ndaltaí le linn na ngníomhaíochtaí léitheoireachta sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna. Déantar cótháthú oiriúnach idir an comhrá agus ábhar na scríbhneoireachta agus na léitheoireachta. Tá dul chun cinn breá le feiceáil maidir le scríbhneoireacht pearsanta na ndaltaí sna leabhair oibre, sna cóipleabhair agus timpeall an ranga.  Gach bliain, glacann pobal na scoile páirt fonnmhar i Seachtain na Gaeilge chun an teanga a cheilliúradh. Chun tacú le n-iarrachtaí na scoile chun an Ghaeilge a threisiú, d’fhéadfaí an Ghaeilge a úsáid mar theanga chaidhrimh nó i mionchaint an lae ar fud na scoile. Chuige seo ní mór don bhfoireann an Ghaeilge a chothú sa timpeallacht le comharthaí, abairtí agus seanfhocail agus béim a dhíriú ar comhthéascanna sonracha–am rolla, am lóin agus amanna eile–chun an teanga a úsáid go nádúrtha.

 

 

Irish

An excellent plan for the teaching of Irish has been compiled. All aspects of the Irish programme have been addressed in the plan to assist each teacher in providing progression from class to class. The teachers promote a positive attitude towards Irish and they use it as the language of instruction during Irish lessons. They employ poems, songs, games and listening tasks appropriately to develop the pupils’ listening and speaking skills. The pupils have a very good range of songs and they sing them sweetly and in a lively manner. New phrases and vocabulary are taught regularly and with confidence during lessons. It is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on developing the pupils’ own communication skills as they work in pairs and groups, engaging in role plays, conversations and tasks. Some teachers employ a suitable lesson structure incorporating three distinct phases, and this good practice should be extended to all classes.  The pupils’ pre-reading skills are developed in a satisfactory manner through the use of print in the environment, labels and activities. A reading scheme is in place in the school. There is suitable development of the pupils’ reading skills during reading activities in the middle and senior classes. Appropriate linkage is fostered between the content of the strands for speaking, reading and writing. There is good progression noted in the pupils’ personal writing in their workbooks, copies and displayed in classrooms. Each year, the school community celebrates the Irish language through its participation in ‘Irish Week’. To assist the school in its efforts to strengthen the Irish language, it is advocated that Irish be spoken incidentally through the school day. To this end, the staff should promote Irish in the school environment through the use of signs, phrases and old Irish sayings as well as using Irish as a natural means of communication during specific periods of the school day, such as roll call, lunch time and other times.

 

 

English

In general, the pupils’ oral language development is facilitated informally through teacher-led discussion during English lessons and other lessons. Teachers actively encourage the pupils to share their opinions, contribute to class discussions, recite poetry and respond to stories. The pupils respond eagerly and with enjoyment. Given the diverse range of language needs of the pupils it is recommended that the school develop a specific oral language programme, with objectives for each class level, based on the pupils’ assessed language needs. This programme should include the development of language learning along certain specified themes, drawing upon the pupils’ context as well as the social language of the school. Discrete oral language lessons should be timetabled and the pupils’ outcomes should be closely monitored and assessed. Close consultation between mainstream teachers and all support teachers will greatly assist this process.

 

In the Early Start class and in the infant classes the pupils are exposed to a wide range of reading material and engage in a variety of appropriate early-reading activities. Through the use of games, flashcards, word walls and big books the infants gain an appropriate understanding of the concepts of print. A range of phonics programmes is in use across the school. It is recommended that a whole-school programme for the teaching and assessment of phonological awareness and phonics be implemented in both mainstream and special education settings. A graded reading scheme is in place. The school also has a wide selection of graded supplementary readers. There are different approaches in use for the teaching of reading. It is advised that the school use a consistent approach to the teaching of reading and ensure that all reading material is at instructional level for pupils. Good practice is underway in the promotion of reading for enjoyment through the use of the novel as well as through shared-reading opportunities.

 

The response of the school to the recommendations of the curriculum in writing is very positive. The school has recently introduced the First Steps writing programme. As with all new programmes, its impact will require close monitoring. Teachers use specific approaches to support and scaffold the pupils’ writing skills and to create meaningful links between oral, reading and writing tasks. Pupils engage in writing in a range of genres including poetry, diary entries, letters, character descriptions, profiles, projects and reviews. Good examples of creative writing are available throughout the school. The pupils participate in the Write a Book competition each year. Good standards are achieved in their personal writing in terms of content, penmanship and layout.

 

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

Teachers plan whole-class programmes for Mathematics. There is a need for teachers to differentiate the programmes of work according to the needs and abilities of groups of pupils within each class and to plan for and set out the targets for these groups. The quality of mathematical displays is satisfactory. In some classes pupils are enabled to use resources and equipment consistently to consolidate concepts. This practice should be intrinsic to mathematics teaching in all classes. Some examples of good practice were observed where the language of Mathematics was taught explicitly and real-life situations were used to illustrate or to challenge pupils to think. The standard of teacher-questioning is good in some classes. Lessons are delivered using the whole-class teaching methodology. Sustained opportunities should be provided for pupils to work cooperatively, and differentiation through group teaching should be a feature in all classes. A considerable number of pupils require focused teaching and sustained engagement with the practical application of place value, equivalence, shape and space, and measures. The staff has reviewed provision in Mathematics and have compiled a detailed DEIS action plan aimed at improving practice and raising attainment levels in Mathematics. It is recommended that the school engage in whole-school planning regarding teaching strategies, use of resources, and differentiated, group-based learning opportunities, involving in-class support from the special education team where possible.  

 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

There is good teaching of History throughout the school. The teachers use artefacts, photographs, timelines and evidence with competence to explore societies, historical characters and events. In the junior classes effective use is made of story to explore chronology. In the middle and senior classes the pupils engage in project work, character analysis, surveys and discussions on a variety of topics. Teachers create meaningful links between curriculum areas as evidenced in the project work completed by many classes. Teachers use drama techniques with confidence to illuminate the human perspective in important historical events. Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on local and family history. The pupils display a high level of awareness about and pride in their locality. Pupils from all classes are escorted on trips around the city and in their locality on a regular basis. There is balance provided in the programme through the celebration of international cultural festivals, reflecting the multicultural population of the school. There are many attractive displays of the pupils’ work as historians around the school.

 

Geography

A broad and balanced programme for Geography is taught. The teachers ensure that the pupils are provided with a range of resources and experiences to explore themes and topics for the geography programme. Appropriate use is made of maps, illustrative resources and reference material in exploring knowledge and concepts. There is good use made of the locality to learn about human and physical environments. The pupils display confidence and understanding when talking about key aspects of their locality. Across the school a high level of sensitivity to the conservation and recycling of materials is successfully nurtured.

 

Science

The provision for many aspects of the Science Curriculum is good. The pupils are knowledgeable about the strand of living things. They investigate natural phenomena and study lifecycles. An area has been set aside in the school grounds for the planting of flowers, vegetables, herbs and plants. Many classrooms host an investigation area or a nature table. Suitable resources including posters, equipment and reference material, are used in a satisfactory manner to reinforce key concepts, skills and scientific terminology. From time to time pupils carry out investigations and experiments in groups and pairs. Their prediction skills are well developed. Consideration should now be given to teaching the skills of fair testing, designing and making, independent recording and reporting as they progress through the school. Very good standards are attained in the strand of environmental care and awareness. This is evident in the high levels of recycling and conservation activities underway. The school was recently awarded its third Green Flag. The Green School committee has done excellent work for the benefit of the school and community.

 

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The pupils receive a good education in the Visual Arts.  They engage in enjoyable, practical art experiences through well-structured lessons. A wide selection of art materials and media is available and in use. The teachers ensure that balance is provided between working with two-dimensional and three-dimensional forms. The process of making art is duly emphasised. Samples of the pupils’ work in drawing, fabric and fibre, clay, print, construction and paint and colour are exhibited attractively around the school and in classrooms. Appropriate looking and responding activities are provided and excellent resources have been compiled by staff for use as stimuli during lessons. 

 

Music

The school achieves very good standards in performance in Music and the quality of the pupils’ singing is very high. The school choir has a long tradition of excellence and has performed at many prestigious events, choral celebrations and competitions. The pupils sing a wide repertoire of songs, reflecting a diverse range of cultures as well as celebrating their own rich heritage. Some classes and individual pupils learn the tin whistle and recorder and they achieve very good standards. The school implements a commercial programme to enable pupils to have appropriate experiences in all aspects of Music. The teachers provide focused listening and responding activities regularly. It is important to closely monitor this programme in terms of learning outcomes for musical literacy and composing and to augment it where deemed necessary. 

 

Drama

Drama is used in many classes as an appropriate teaching methodology across the curriculum. The pupils enjoy entering dramatic roles and participating in fictional contexts. They engage in role-plays, drama games and improvisations with assurance and enjoyment. Particular emphasis is place on exploring the dramatic quality of poetry and story. At all levels the pupils experience the joy of performing together in class and on the stage, and they participate in school concerts on a regular basis. It is advised that discrete lessons for Drama focus on enhancing the pupils’ expressive skills in support of their oral language development and their social education.

 

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

The school provides a broad programme for Physical Education with suitable emphasis on skill development, team work and enjoyment. The school’s playground promotes the playing of games and cooperation through the yard markings and soft play areas. Lessons are appropriately structured and incorporate warm-up activities, clear instruction, demonstration of skill, consolidation through games and cool-down phases. Due attention is given to health and safety issues.  Greater provision for the strand of outdoor and adventure activities is advised. The strand of aquatics is taught to all pupils. The physical education programme is supported and complemented by a range of co-curricular and extra-curricular sporting activities. Tutoring is provided in football, basketball, Irish dancing and Gaelic football and participation levels are consistently high.

 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

The principal, teachers and school personnel are to be commended for their contributions to the creation of a positive classroom and school environment where the children are respected, cared for and valued. Many elements of the social, personal and health education (SPHE) programme are successfully addressed through the various curriculum areas.  Discrete lessons in SPHE are provided each week. Through these, the pupils engage in active-learning contexts, incorporating the use of story, discussion and drama. Pupils contribute eagerly to class activities and demonstrate a good understanding of issues relating to the strands of the programme. At all times, respect for and appreciation of cultural diversity is fostered.

 

 

4.8 Assessment

 

A range of assessment tools is used in the school to monitor the pupils’ progress. The pupils’ written work is consistently corrected and informative feedback is provided by all teachers. Standardised test results in English and Mathematics are carried out annually. The school administers the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) to senior infant pupils and uses the Neale Analysis Reading Assessment (NARA) to determine specific areas of weakness among pupils. Mainstream teachers use various forms of assessment such as teacher observation, teacher-designed tests and tasks to monitor learning. Clear guidance is needed for all staff to assess the specific learning outcomes of pupils in each curriculum area. It is recommended that coordination be provided for the development of assessment approaches to closely monitor the impact of whole-school programmes and teaching methodologies. Detailed analysis of trends emerging from the results of standardised tests will complement the work of the school in raising standards. Information relating to the outcomes of assessments is shared with parents during parent/teacher meetings and in annual progress reports.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

There is very good support for pupils with special educational needs. The special education needs team comprises teachers for learning support/resource teaching, English as a second language teaching, Reading Recovery, Mathematics Recovery and special class provision. All support teachers prepare carefully to meet the individual or group learning needs of their pupils. The learning environments are attractive and educational. A good range of resources is available and in use. The teachers employ effective teaching methodologies. Focused teaching is combined with skilful questioning and practical learning activities. At all times the emphasis is on the development of the pupils’ ability to express their thoughts and ideas competently and appropriately. Support is provided in a variety of ways, though primarily on a withdrawal basis. Some support teachers provide in-class support and participate in co-teaching and group-teaching activities. The potential for developing further models of co-teaching and group-based teaching within classrooms based on the assessed needs of pupils merits exploration. Many excellent programmes and assessment strategies have been devised by these teachers and are in use in special education settings.  Their wider use across mainstream classes is advocated.

 

 

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

 

The school provides excellent pastoral care to the pupils. The school utilises some of the monies from the School Completion Programme to provide art therapy and counselling for targeted pupils. The school has fostered excellent links with local agencies and use established local support networks effectively. Many pupils attend a breakfast club and homework club in the locality on a daily basis. The issue of establishing a pastoral care team was discussed during the evaluation and merits further exploration. The school encourages parents to participate in supporting their children’s education and in accessing courses and supports. Newcomer pupils are welcomed to the school and every effort is made to ensure that their needs and those of their parents are met.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·     The principal provides excellent leadership in close cooperation with an effective board of management.

·     The staff members are highly commended for promoting a positive school environment where the pupils are cared for, respected and valued.

·     The school forms a vibrant part of the community and teachers succeed in fostering a strong sense of pride among pupils in their locality.

·     High standards are achieved in environmental awareness and care.

·     The quality of the pupils’ achievements in the performing arts is praiseworthy.

·     The school provides excellent pastoral care to all pupils.

·     The pupils receive very good special education support.

 

 

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

 

·     It is recommended that the school implement whole-school teaching approaches and programmes to target specific aspects of literacy and Mathematics.

·     The use of coordinators and curriculum teams to review and monitor achievement levels in priority areas is recommended.

·     It is recommended that whole-school assessment approaches are implemented to monitor progress in each curriculum area.

·     It is recommended that the staff compile a comprehensive oral language programme with specific objectives for each class level and that discrete oral language lessons be taught on a regular basis.

·     It is recommended that group teaching be used to facilitate differentiation in all classes.

 

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 February 2009