An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Corpus Christi Girls’ Primary School
Home Farm Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Uimhir rolla: 16860Q
Date of inspection: 10 October 2007
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Corpus Christi Girls’ Primary 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’ 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, 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 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.
Corpus Christi primary school is a Catholic all girls’ vertical primary school under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. The school was founded in 1931 by the Holy Faith Sisters. Its mission statement commits the school to strive to accommodate shared learning in a happy and safe environment “where everyone is valued, respected and encouraged to do their best”. The building was extended in 1964 and the first lay principal was appointed in 1990. Enrolment has stabilised around 400 over recent years. The majority of pupils come from the school’s traditional catchment area. More recently a number of pupils from diverse national backgrounds have been enrolled. Attendance levels have been consistently high over the years and continue to remain stable.
The board of management is properly constituted and adopts a range of effective procedures to ensure the efficient running of the school. Minutes of all meetings are meticulously maintained and an annual financial report is prepared and presented to the patron’s office for certification. The board has recently appointed a book keeper who will maintain its accounts in consultation with the treasurer. Key roles and responsibilities have been assigned to individual board members and some members have participated in training provided by the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association (CPMSA) for their role. However the board feels that this training is insufficient in light of the responsibilities placed on it, the voluntary nature of its work and its accountability to the Department of Education and Science under the Education Act 1998. The chairperson of the board is particularly supportive of the work of the school and maintains close contact with the principal and staff between board meetings. The board promotes positive relations amongst all members of the school community and has established very good communication and collaboration with the school’s very active parents’ association. The board and parents work closely with the teaching staff in the compilation of a broad range of policies extending beyond the statutory requirements to include organisational and administrative areas that have been identified as relevant to the school context. With regard to the school’s enrolment policy, it is recommended that the proposed review ensure that the section dealing with the enrolment of children with special education needs is in compliance with relevant legislation and the Department of Education and Science procedures and in line with the school’s recently reviewed special needs policy. The board has given an undertaking that the school is in compliance with Department regulations including length of school year, length of school day, deployment of teachers, class size and retention of pupils.
The school building and grounds are maintained to a very high standard by the board. Each year the board completes a maintenance audit and prioritises areas for action. The replacement of floor coverings, window blinds and the painting and replacement of furniture are among recent refurbishment projects undertaken. The day-to-day school maintenance is carried out to a very high standard by the part-time caretaker who is very hard-working and skilled and has given many years service to the school. Local cleaners are employed by the board for 30 hours per week for daily routine cleaning and extra work is done during holiday periods. The board also employs a school secretary who diligently assists the principal and carries out her administrative tasks conscientiously. The board’s main priority at present is to develop the school accommodation to facilitate the increase in enrolment and in anticipation of the projected increase in population in the coming years. A new pre-fabricated classroom was added to the school this year. Board members report that they are very satisfied with teaching and learning in the school and highly commend the commitment of the principal and staff to the welfare of the pupils. The school is dependent on access to the local church hall for Physical Education (PE) and other activities. The hall is available to the school two and a half days per week. The parish committee facilitates the school whenever it can, however, local demand for the hall is very high during school hours, and the board considers its access too limited to meet the needs of the school.
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 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.
The principal is hardworking, highly professional and attends to all her duties with admirable enthusiasm and dedication. She is conscientious, fair and kind in her interactions with staff, pupils and parents and is held in very high regard by the whole school community. Since her appointment in 2004 she has ably led the development and review of a variety of administrative and organisational policies through effective collaboration with the school community. The principal is ably assisted by the in-school management team which consists of the deputy principal and six special duties teachers. Duties for these posts are clearly defined and include specific curricular, organisational and pastoral duties. Curricular responsibilities include the coordination of Irish, English, Music, Science, History, Geography, Mathematics and SPHE. The in-school management team meet on a regular basis and a review of posts will be undertaken during this school year to prioritise areas for action and to finalise aspects of the school plan.
A spirit of collaboration and communication characterises the relationship that exists between all members of staff and a broad range of issues relating to the school is discussed on a daily basis. In addition to this, formal staff meetings are convened five to six times a year where special duties teachers keep staff members informed of developments in their areas of responsibility. Comprehensive minutes of these meetings are maintained and the staff is to be commended on the extent to which curricular, organisational and pastoral issues feature on the agenda for all meetings.
There are 19 teachers on staff including the principal, 15 mainstream classroom teachers, three special education teachers (SETs), a part time language support teacher (LST). Two special needs assistants (SNAs) have qualifications in child care, are very experienced and are suitably deployed. The teaching staff is appropriately deployed to mainstream classes and support teaching positions in the school. A system of class allocation is in place whereby teachers are provided with opportunities to gain experience at various class levels. In addition to their participating in the national in-service programme on the introduction of the revised primary school curriculum provided by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP), attendance at summer courses, conferences and in-school seminars, a number of teachers have undertaken postgraduate studies in special education. The school has also availed of the PCSP cuiditheoir service to assist in the implementation of specific subjects and School Development Planning (SDP) has provided support in the development of strategies for planning since 2005.
Department of Education and Science grants for the purchase of resources to enhance curriculum implementation are appropriately deployed and are complemented by fund raising activities organised jointly by the board of management, the staff and the parents. The wide range of resources available to enhance teaching and learning include well-stocked classroom and staff room libraries, an extensive range of science equipment, and a variety of materials to support the Visual Arts and PE curriculum. Currently the school has twenty one computers, all of which are networked, in a designated computer room and a number of computers in classrooms, which have internet access. Other ICT equipment available includes a data projector, a digital video camera and a number of digital cameras. There is an extensive audiovisual library, which includes a range of videos and DVDs and a comprehensive collection of software to support teaching and learning in a number of curriculum areas. The learning of specific ICT skills to enhance learning in a number of curriculum areas is a feature of the provision in some classes. To further develop the excellent work that is taking place in this area, consideration should be given at staff level to further developing the potential of ICT in the classrooms.
The school building consists of fourteen permanent mainstream classrooms, three learning support rooms, one prefabricated classroom, a computer room, principal’s and secretary’s office, a staff room, and toilet blocks. A cloakroom was converted into a bright spacious learning support room in recent years. This was funded by the parents association and supported by the board. The school has an extensive hard surfaced play area marked out as basketball courts. The board recently purchased a container to provide additional much needed storage space.
A parents’ association works in close collaboration with the board of management and staff in supporting the work of the school. The members of the parents’ association expressed very positive parental attitudes to the school at a meeting held as part of the WSE. They were fulsome in their praise of the professionalism of the principal and staff, the quality of teaching and learning, the availability of staff members to discuss children’s progress, and the quality of home-school correspondence in the form of newsletters and reports. The principal and the parents’ representatives on the board of management serve as the link between the committee and the board of management. The association has actively supported the school in many areas including their involvement in sacramental events, a school’s fun day and very effective fundraising activities that have resulted in the provision of quality accommodation for pupils with special needs, computers and the purchase of many resources for teaching and learning. All members of the school community are to be highly commended for their level of commitment, collaboration and co-operation.
The school’s code of behaviour is clearly laid out in the school plan. The pupils in all classes are thoroughly familiar with the rules and regulations of the school and strategies to promote positive behaviour are in evidence in all classrooms. The pupils are very well motivated, mannerly and courteous and their behaviour during the evaluation was exemplary. Interactions between pupils and teachers and among pupils were at all times pleasant, respectful and caring. The extent to which all pupils, including those with special education needs, contribute confidently to whole-class discussions is noteworthy.
The principal and staff and board of management are actively engaged in the whole-school planning process. The school plan is comprehensive and detailed. Policies have been drawn up and are presented in a number of folders pertinent to administration, procedural matters and curriculum issues. Administrative policies on all major areas such as anti-bullying, admissions and enrolment policy, code of behaviour and health and safety are in place. In addition to these, a number of policies have been developed which include child custody guidelines, the induction of new teachers, the administration of medicines and playground procedures. Curriculum plans in Irish, English, Mathematics, History, Geography, Science, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE), Music and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and a comprehensive special needs strategy have been developed in collaboration with the staff and the board of management. Planning for Physical Education (PE) the Visual Arts (VA) are in draft form and the school has identified the revision of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy and the completion of the Drama and the Visual Arts plans as priorities for the current school year. The plans are strand and strand unit based and specify the diversity of teaching strategies and methodologies to be employed in curriculum delivery. All plans incorporate individual yearly frameworks for each class and give appropriate consideration to the resources to be used in teaching and learning. A number of plans contain provision for cross-curricular exploration of the local environment. These plans reflect the key overall aims of the school. All teachers retain copies of the whole-school plan in their classrooms and in general use it effectively to provide a framework for their long and short-term planning. A schedule has been agreed for prioritising aspects of the school plan for review and development in the current school year.
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.
In general, teachers provide detailed long and short-term planning which shows cognisance of the principles and structure of the Primary School Curriculum. This planning provides evidence of familiarity with subject matter, the use of suitable teaching methodologies and awareness of pupils’ differing ability levels. Careful consideration is given to the integration of curricular areas. The use of effective thematic approaches to learning was observed in some classes. Monthly progress records are maintained by each teacher on a revised school template designed by the staff. This helps to ensure continuity and to allow for the assessment of curricular implementation.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Positive classroom atmosphere and excellent pupil-teacher relations underpin the characteristic spirit of the school. The vast majority of lessons observed during the evaluation were well paced and involved suitable teaching strategies and approaches. Teachers demonstrated a high level of classroom management skills which showed that pupils are well motivated and are engaged in challenging and interesting activities. They strive to achieve a good balance between teacher-centred presentation and the active involvement of pupils. Overall, a considerable degree of curricular progression from class to class is ensured. Active learning experiences, discovery-based approaches and participative methods are used frequently. A very effective emphasis is placed on using the local environment as a learning resource with project work in a number of classes containing a specific focus on the school and the local area. As part of its revision of plans and policies the school intends to draft an intercultural policy based on the recently published guidelines, which the school has adopted in full. The policy will aim to ensure appropriate whole-school provision for pupils of differing ethnic backgrounds and incorporate and reflect the principles of equity and diversity.
Tá plean scoile dea-struchtúrtha curtha ar fáil don Ghaeilge ina dtugtar aghaidh ar na mórcheisteanna a bhaineann le teagasc na teanga. Tá cumas maith teanga ag na hoidí agus saothraíonn siad urlabhra chruinn agus dea-fhoghraíocht. Déanann siad ullmhúchán cuimsitheach do mhúineadh na Gaeilge agus baineann siad feidhm as modhanna múinte éagsúla chun gníomhaíochtaí a sholáthar do na snáitheanna curaclaim uile. Úsáidtear mím, cluichí teanga agus comhrá beirte go torthúil i roinnt ranganna chun deiseanna a sholáthar do na daltaí an teanga a chleachtadh. Cuirtear timpeallacht mhaith phrionta ar fáil sna seomraí don Ghaeilge. Tá an fheidhm a bhaintear as áiseanna mar dhlúthdhioscaí, phóstaeir agus bhileoga saothair le moladh. Ceaptar áfach go bhfuil tionchar an-mhór ag an tsraith fhoilsithe ‘Treo Nua’ ar an ábhar a mhúintear agus go mb’fhiú leathnú a dhéanamh ar ábhar na gceachtanna chun cumas cumarsáide níos muiníní a chothú sna daltaí. B’fhiú ábhar éisteachta mar chaint agus ceol taifeadta, de bhreis ar dhlúthdhioscaí na sraithe a lorg ar mhaithe le héagsúlacht.
Múintear rainn agus dánta go torthúil ag gach leibhéal agus aithrisíonn na daltaí go binn iad. Cleachtas inmholta eile atá bunaithe sa scoil ná abairt na seachtaine agus comhrá neamhfhoirmiúil ar maidin chun bunstruchtúir theanga a dhaingniú. De bhreis air sin bhain múinteoirí feidhm as an nGaeilge mar theanga bhainistíochta ranga agus in achair eile churaclaim ó am go chéile.
Cuirtear tús maith le múineadh na léitheoireachta sna ranganna ísle agus tógtar ar an mbonn sin sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna. Tá cuid mhaith de na daltaí in ann léamh le tuiscint agus brí. Chonacthas an toradh ab fhearr i ranganna inar baineadh feidhm as ábhar léitheoireachta a roghnaigh an t-oide lasmuigh den téacs ranga agus ina ndearnadh plé maith leathan ar an bhfoclóir, ar dhéanamh na bhfocal agus ar ábhar an cheachta. Baintear feidhm thairbheach sna hísealranganna as leabhair mhóra chun ábhar taitneamhach a sholáthar do na daltaí agus chun scéalaíocht a dhéanamh leo. Moltar breis feidhme a bhaint as leabhair leabharlainne shimplí sna ranganna éagsúla chun ábhar spéisiúil a chur faoi bhráid na ndaltaí agus chun dúil sa léitheoireacht a chothú. Baintear caighdeán cuí scríbhneoireachta amach tríd an scoil agus déantar maoirseacht cheart ar an obair.
A well-structured school plan has been developed for Irish in which the major questions relating to teaching the language have been addressed. The teachers possess competent language skills and cultivate accurate pronunciation. They prepare comprehensively for the teaching of Irish and use a variety of teaching methods to provide activities for all the curricular strands. Mime, language games and dialogue are used effectively in some classes to provide opportunities for the pupils to practise the language. The classrooms provide a print-rich environment for the development of Irish. Commendable use of teaching aids such as compact discs, posters and worksheets was observed. It is felt, however, that the published series ‘Treo Nua’ has a major influence on the material taught and that a broadening of lesson content would be worthwhile to develop the pupils confidence and communication skills. It is recommended that the pupils be exposed to more listening materials such as spoken Irish and music to add variety and to complement what is contained in the ‘Treo Nua’ compact disc.
Rhymes and poems are taught successfully at all levels and pupils recite them confidently. Other praiseworthy practices include the weekly sentence throughout the school and informal conversation in the morning to affirm basic language structures. In addition to that, teachers use Irish as a language of class management and occasionally within other subject areas.
A good foundation is laid for the teaching of reading in junior classes and this is built upon in middle and senior classes. Many pupils are capable of reading with understanding and expression. The best results were observed in classes where the teacher chose reading material outside the class text and where there was ample discussion of vocabulary, word construction and content. In junior classes beneficial use is made of large books to provide attractive material for the pupils and for story-telling purposes. It is recommended that greater use be made of simple library books in the various classes to present interesting materials to the pupils and to foster a love of reading. A satisfactory standard of writing is achieved throughout the school and the work is properly monitored.
The standard of teaching and learning in English is high at all class levels and reflects the school’s vision for an integrated approach to the teaching of English as enunciated in the school plan. Pupils at infant level receive a very solid foundation in reading readiness and letter-sound relationships are well taught. Phonological and phonemic awareness is further developed in the junior and middle classes and word recognition skills are extended gradually. There is a plentiful supply of library books in each classroom and pupils are encouraged to read for pleasure and to sample a variety of texts. Pupil progress in reading is closely monitored and reading material is suited to their age and ability levels. The infant class activities for early reading provide a good foundation for the teaching of reading through the use of large-format books, experience charts and age-appropriate reading books. In the higher classes reading skills are well developed and pupils generally read fluently throughout the school. Good use is made of textbooks and class libraries during English lessons. Pupils are grouped in accordance with ability to achieve best progress in the basics of reading. The learning support teachers engage with groups within the English class and this practice is to be commended.There is considerable emphasis on oral language development and pupils express themselves with confidence. A wide variety of poetry is taught and pupils recite their poems and rhymes with good expression and enthusiasm. Pupils in middle and senior classes compose their own poems and they use appropriate vocabulary and good sentence structure to discuss the works of poets and authors. The learning environment in classrooms and along the corridors is print rich and many samples of pupil writing are displayed. The development of a clear style of handwriting is gradually progressed throughout the school. In middle and senior classes, pupils write in a variety of genres and for various audiences. Their work is of a commendable standard and is properly monitored and corrected. The development of drafting and redrafting text, now embarked upon, is in keeping with the best practice suggested in the curriculum. Good use is made of ICT in the development of writing process. Supplementary materials including a wide range of graded reading material, collections of age-appropriate poems and other age appropriate resources are listed in the plan and available in the staffroom.
It is clear that teachers use the school plan and the curriculum documents when drawing up their individual plans for Mathematics. Each teacher’s long-term and short-term schemes of work reflect the vision of the school plan and the excellent range of resources available in the school for the teaching of Mathematics is used to very good effect. All teachers augment this material with worksheets and other resources of their own design, all of which contribute to the very effective implementation of the mathematics programme. Teachers’ planning ensures that all strands of the mathematics programme are covered in a balanced manner. Very detailed monthly progress records are maintained, and these provide useful information for teachers and they facilitate continuity and progression from class to class.
The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is admirable throughout the school. Lessons are well structured to provide children with a balanced range of oral, practical and written activities. Concrete materials are used to enable the children to investigate mathematical concepts, focused whole-class and group discussion helps to clarify these concepts for the children, and practical problem-solving tasks are set which allow the children to apply their new knowledge purposefully. Teachers use varied and stimulating teaching methodologies which enable all children to participate fully and actively in lessons. Learning tasks are differentiated appropriately to ensure that all children have realistic opportunities to experience success during lessons. They are taught effective problem-solving strategies and they display impressive knowledge of number facts and tables. Teachers monitor children’s engagement in learning tasks attentively, they correct written work regularly and they provide constructive feedback to the children, both orally and in their copybooks. The high quality of teaching and the purposeful engagement of the pupils result in commendable levels of attainment by the pupils in Mathematics.
In the teaching of History the school plan bears a strong influence on the choice of topics and the methodologies to be used at each class level. An excellent range of resources is provided for the teaching of History. A variety of texts and reference material is available to teachers, and all teachers provide additional resources such as photographs, drawings, texts and artefacts, including old toys and clothes, for use in lessons. At infant level, excellent use is made of story and of the available resources to help children to become aware of their family histories. In junior and middle classes the programme is extended to include change and continuity in the children’s lives. A commendable emphasis on the development of the skills of the historian results in children using evidence, discussing in groups and communicating their findings. History lessons are integrated thoughtfully with other subjects, and they include well-structured oral language activities as well as hands-on opportunities for the children to examine evidence. The use of project work in middle and senior classes enables children to investigate early peoples and societies as well as contemporary issues in politics, conflict and society. In all classes, samples of children’s work in History are displayed to very good effect, and the children speak knowledgeably of their work. The school and its immediate surroundings are used well as stimuli for project work, and the children have been able to trace aspects of their own family histories through the use of photographs and documents available in the school. In most classes observed during the evaluation, timelines were included in the display, as recommended in the school plan, and it would be helpful if these were included in all classrooms.
In Geography, the textbook features as a primary source of information and as a means of ensuring continuity from class to class but there is solid evidence that the teachers supplement it with outdoor trips to local areas of geographical and botanical interest. Whole-school planning for Geography provides for the development of a range of skills and concepts throughout the school and this was commendably reflected in the lessons observed. In infant classes, journeys described in stories and illustrated pictorially are used to provide a foundation in map-work. Throughout the school resources such as maps, globes, charts, textbooks and internet are used effectively to support teaching and learning. Pupils show a commendable level of knowledge of the subject matter covered at all levels. The pupils show a good knowledge of the facts learned in Geography, enjoyed the field trips and visits to places of interest.
The quality of teaching and learning in Science is very good. The lessons observed during the evaluation demonstrated that effective teaching methodologies are used and suitable content is selected for the different class levels. Pupils use appropriate vocabulary to discuss the topics they have studied and the experiments they have carried out. There is a strong emphasis on discovery learning, and pupils are challenged to make sense of the things that happen during science lessons. Suitable opportunities are provided for pupils to use basic scientific equipment as part of their activities on field trips. Lessons observed covered a good range of topics including light, magnets, sound, the senses and living things. A comprehensive collection of science equipment suitable for use throughout the school is available from a central storage area and good use is made of these resources. Every opportunity is given to the pupils to participate in practical experiments and activities and, in general, the implementation of the science curriculum by the teachers reflects the aspiration of the school plan to “foster the children’s natural curiosity by enabling them to take an active part in their own learning”.
Very good use is also made of ICT as a research and reporting tool for experiments especially at senior level. There is particularly focused progression and continuity in the environmental awareness and care strand of the programme. The school received a Discover Primary Science award for its participation in a Science project in 2005/2006 and more recently have been involved in a design and engineering challenge which was supported by parents and teachers.
While the school plan for Visual Arts is currently being reviewed, it is clear that the school has sourced a broad selection of suitable resource material which will be of value to the teaching staff as they commence this review. Teachers display a thorough understanding of the visual arts curriculum and of its principles. Teachers ensure that pupils are given frequent opportunities to work in each curriculum strand and with a broad range of media. They work individually, in pairs and in small groups to create very pleasing art work. Diverse stimuli are used to inspire them in their work including their own observations, tools and materials from their own environment, and the work of artists and of craftspeople. Good use is also made of the internet for sourcing stimuli for art lessons, and Visual Arts is linked to lessons in other curricular areas.
Children’s creativity is fostered and encouraged in all classes. They are taught specific skills through direct teaching, and this extends their abilities for self-expression through art. Each classroom includes attractive displays of samples of the children’s work, and corridors and reception areas in the school are also used to show and celebrate children’s art. Striking and colourful paintings on the stairs and corridors reflect the value placed on Visual Arts.
All strands of the music programme are implemented effectively throughout the school. Individual planning is very detailed and reflects the commitment in the school plan to the implementation of a music programme which develops “the child’s aesthetic, intellectual, emotional, creative and cultural development through engagement in positive musical experiences.” The performance strand of the curriculum is particularly well developed and pupils sing tunefully in unison and, in some cases, in harmony in Irish and English. Pupils engage actively in the performance of a suitable range of songs. At infant level pupils perform from a wide repertoire of musical rhymes and songs. Their sense of rhythm is being developed to a level appropriate to their ability. They enjoy interacting with percussion instruments and they use their bodies to express rhythm effectively. All pupils are given opportunities to compose and to respond to a variety of genres in music.
Implementation of the curriculum in Drama is being informed by the recent programme of in-service provided by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme. While discrete time is provided for Drama in the school timetable, teachers frequently adopt an integrated approach to engage pupils in make-believe and role-play. Throughout the school pupils are frequently encouraged to engage in dramatic activities linked to learning experiences. Drama is used regularly as a teaching strategy to encourage pupils to communicate through the medium of Irish. In Social Personal and Health Education, Drama is used effectively to stimulate pupils’ empathy with characters and to explore their own emotions and feelings. Poetry is also well integrated with Drama.
The school does not have a PE hall of its own but uses the adjacent parish hall two and a half days per week. The spacious playground attached to the school which has been marked out for games is a useful resource and is used beneficially when the weather is fine. There is no facility for the teaching of aquatics at present but elements of water safety and hygiene are taught in conjunction with the SPHE programme. The other strands are taught in accordance with the primary curriculum guidelines using blocks of time for games, athletics or dance at all levels. The outdoor and adventure activities strand is integrated with the SESE programme in some instances. The junior classes use the immediate vicinity of the school for orienteering and adventure activities and senior classes use the church grounds and visits to local parks. A visiting teacher provides lessons to all classes in gymnastics. Activities during these lessons are suitably graded and a high standard of performance is achieved by the pupils. The school invites parents to a performance of gymnastics every few years. There is an abundant supply of small equipment available for pupils including balls, hoops, skittles, bean-bags and uni-hoc sticks. Large-scale equipment is stored in the parish hall. Pupils receive well-sequenced instruction in the skills of games. The element of safety is always considered and pupil security and self-confidence is a priority. Instructions are issued with clarity and consistency. Pupils demonstrate good skills relative to their ages in the various strands. Irish dancing is well taught and céilí dancing is organised as part of the Seachtain na Gaeilge activities. With the co-operation and assistance of teachers, parents organise swimming lessons after school for some pupils. There is a plan to have a visiting GAA coach for camogie during a six week block of time in the current school year. A visiting teacher gives lessons in advanced gymnastics skills. It was reported that basketball tuition is sometimes provided for sixth class pupils in the third term as an after school activity.
A comprehensive school plan informs the teaching of Social, Personal and Health Education. The school’s vision for SPHE as intrinsic to the learning and teaching permeates the life of the school and aspects of SPHE appear in a variety of pastoral contexts and in many curricular areas. The board of management, all teachers and other staff members strive to ensure that the school is a secure and caring environment for the children. Children respond well to this care and they treat each other with respect and tolerance. Their behaviour is excellent and they show courtesy to visitors and to their teachers. Their uniqueness as individuals is emphasised and they are taught to be aware of their rights as members of the school community and of society, but they are also conscious of the need for each person to act responsibly for the good of all. The use of active learning methodologies is emphasised in the teaching of SPHE lessons.
Teachers prepare suitable resources for implementing the SPHE programme and all lessons feature a range of methodologies which promote active and co-operative learning. Each curricular strand is taught in a carefully-structured programme that extends from children becoming aware of self-identity and safety issues in infant classes to relating to others, understanding media and developing citizenship in the older classes. This programme is well planned and implemented in a sensitive and purposeful manner by teachers who are eager to give children a framework within which to develop the values, attitudes and skills which will empower them to make decisions sensibly and to act as responsible and caring citizens.
The school’s policy on assessment is clearly outlined as part of the special needs policy and other aspects of formal and informal assessment are highlighted in the various curriculum documents. In the special needs policy a wide variety of assessment tools to evaluate pupil progress is listed. Standardised tests are undertaken each year by class teachers in conjunction with the learning support team in Mathematics and English. Results of these tests are used effectively for parent-teacher meetings and to identify the specific learning needs of individual children. Once identified, pupils with special educational needs receive one-to-one, group or in-class support in English and Mathematics based on need and in consultation with parents and class teachers. Standardised spelling tests are administered in second and fourth classes. These test results are augmented by teacher-designed tests and the use of teacher observation check-lists. Some of the pupils’ work is recorded in portfolios. Records are passed on to new class teachers each year and reports are sent to parents annually. A very commendable range of screening tests are conducted in senior infants which are used to identify pupils in need of learning support and who may be placed on Stage One of the staged approach to special education provision. Teachers are commended for the care and attention they devote to giving pupils regular and formative feedback on the progress of their written and oral work. Very comprehensive and detailed records of pupil progress are maintained throughout the school and these are used effectively to provide guidance for the special education support team.
Suitable programmes of supplementary teaching of twenty-week duration are planned, implemented and reviewed. Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLP), Individual Education Plans (IEP), short-term planning programmes, reading analysis records and test results are carefully stored and used to monitor and review progress and to inform teaching and learning. All parents receive copies of IEPs, and the IPLPs are available on request from the school. Suitable structures are in place for communicating with parents both formally and informally on pupils’ progress. Timetables are drawn up in consultation with class teachers and regularly reviewed to ensure that pupils experience all aspects of the curriculum. Regular reviews of all facets of special needs provision take place. Reviews include pupil selection, pupil progress, timetabling, parental involvement, testing, early intervention, and referral for assessment, resources and the effectiveness of communication with class teachers. It is intended that the school plan for special education needs will be reviewed every three years. A very comprehensive range of resources is available to the SEN team for Mathematics and English. Particularly notable is the range of graded, differentiated reading material catalogued in the staff room and available to all pupils. The school has three very well-appointed resource rooms which are very attractively laid out with suitable displays of print-rich and maths-rich materials. Each room is fully resourced with appropriate materials including a computer.
During the whole-school evaluation the special education teachers were observed teaching in a mainstream class and in individual and group withdrawal settings for English and Mathematics. The SEN team plan together to ensure consistency in their approach to provision. This team possesses considerable classroom experience, are very well motivated, and have an enlightened approach to this area. Some have engaged in advanced studies in special education. Exceptionally able pupils are duly challenged within the classroom setting, and where appropriate, are referred to Dublin City University (DCU) for additional courses. Pupils engaged well with the tasks set for them during the evaluation and teachers reported that many were making satisfactory progress with some reaching the targets set for them.
A part-time language teacher is employed for thirteen pupils whose mother tongue is not English. All such pupils are assessed on enrolment using the Integrate Ireland Language Training (IILT) benchmarks. The structured programme followed is well-planned and resourced and sufficiently challenging. Clear learning targets in language are identified and the pupils are exposed to effective models of spoken language. A welcoming environment is created to give pupils confidence, and to encourage them to participate and contribute. The school has adopted the intercultural education guidelines in full and is in the process of developing a contextualised school policy in this area to reflect the growing cultural and ethnic diversity in the school.
The school’s special needs enrolment policy articulates clearly the right of access for all pupils. Teachers are sensitive to instances of disadvantage among pupils and are careful to ensure that all pupils have access to the full range of school activities.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· B’fhiú leathnú a dhéanamh ar ábhar na gceachtanna Gaeilge chun cumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí a chothú. Moltar freisin, breis feidhme a bhaint as leabhair leabharlainne shimplí sna ranganna éagsúla chun dúil sa léitheoireacht a chothú.
· It is recommended that lesson content in Irish be broadened to cultivate pupils’ communication skills. It is also recommended that greater use be made of simple library books in the various classes to foster a love of reading.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board welcomes the WSE report and agrees that it is fair and accurate representation of the work of the school. The Board of management and the staff are very pleased that the report affirms the excellent practice in the school and that it acknowledges the dedication, commitment and hard work of the work of the whole school community. We would like to thank the team of inspectors for their courtesy during the evaluation and for the professional manner in which the findings were communicated
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 of management notes the key recommendations of the report and is currently addressing the issues raised.