An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Náisiúnta an Chaipín
Enniskeane, County Cork
Uimhir rolla: 16876I
Date of inspection: 17 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Coppeen N.S. 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 inspector 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 an inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. She interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. She reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector 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.
Coppeen National School is a four teacher co-educational primary school under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross. Traditionally it was a two teacher school. However pupil numbers in this rural area have increased significantly since the last School Report was furnished in 1996. At that time there were 34 children enrolled. The school currently has an enrolment of 69 pupils and it is likely that this number will grow further. The growth in pupil numbers has led to a shortage of space both within classrooms and in the playground. However the building and grounds are very well maintained and much credit is due to the staff, board of management and parent committee for their dedicated work in this regard. Pupils’ attendance levels are very good.
There has been a significant turnover of staff in the school over the last number of years. The current principal and a member of the middle-management team were on leave during the evaluation and were replaced by two fully qualified teachers.
In keeping with its mission statement the school provides a “well-ordered, caring, happy and secure atmosphere.” In addition the school strives to ensure that the “intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and cultural needs of the pupils are identified and addressed”. The school also aims to promote the professional development of its staff. An important element of the caring ethos of the school is reflected in the close links which have been fostered between the board of management, staff, and parents and in the considerable work which has been undertaken to provide the children with a good quality learning environment.
The board of management is properly constituted and meets at least once a term and whenever the need arises. Minutes are carefully maintained and are made available for inspection. Accounts of monies received and expenditure incurred are maintained. However it is recommended that more formal procedures should be put in place for regular reporting to the board current expenditure and income. Accounts should be audited or certified in accordance with best accounting practice. It is evident that this is a diligent board and much credit is due to them for their commitment to the school. The chairperson visits the school frequently and is in regular communication with the principal and acting principal. Members of the board work in close collaboration with the acting principal and staff. They conscientiously assume responsibility for the completion of various tasks particularly in relation to maintenance of the building. Car parking facilities, footpath and safety barriers have been well-developed. The appointment of new staff members has constituted a considerable investment of time. The board has given careful consideration to the implications of the increasing enrolment and is to be commended on securing additional land with a view to enhancing the children’s playing facilities and classroom space. Among the other current work targets are proposals to address concerns regarding road safety in the immediate school environs. The board is involved in the whole-school planning process and plans have been discussed and formally ratified. However it is recommended that the role of the board in policy formulation particularly in curriculum areas should be developed with a view to further supporting the principal and staff in promoting good practice. During the evaluation attention was focused in particular on the need to review the role of external tutors.
It is clearly evident that the current principal has contributed significantly to the school since her appointment. Much credit is also due to the acting principal who capably manages the day-to-day running of the school in a caring and professional manner. She carefully maintains official school documents including registers and roll books. She is ably assisted by the acting deputy principal and together they work diligently with board, staff and parents to ensure that the needs of the children are met. In keeping with good practice clearly defined duties are allocated to the members of the in-school management team and it is evident that they carry out their duties conscientiously. However it is recommended that the duties allocated should be formally reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that they are in keeping with the developing needs of the school particularly in terms of curriculum implementation. In the interest of further development of the middle management structure it is also recommended that each post holder should provide an action plan to clarify priorities for development and facilitate review of progress made. Consideration should also be given to the establishment of agreed procedures to facilitate middle management team meetings to enable the post-holders work collaboratively with the principal with a view to promoting more consistent implementation of curriculum policies.
The members of the teaching staff are deployed effectively and taking all relevant contextual factors into account there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes. In addition to the acting principal there are two teachers engaged in mainstream class teaching. The school has a full-time special education support teacher (SEST) and a teacher based in another school provides additional learning support hours. The teachers are to be commended for the high levels of co-operation in evidence between them. The school also benefits from the services of a special needs assistant who undertakes her duties with great care. The board of management employs a secretary on a part-time basis who provides valuable support to the school.
A number of external teachers are employed to implement aspects of the curriculum in collaboration with the staff. Two tutors provide instruction in instrumental music and Elocution. Speech and Drama are taught by an external teacher. The parents fund the classes in tin whistle, elocution, speech and drama and the board provide funding for the provision of guitar classes. External tutors also provide support in teaching games. The work observed during the evaluation was of a high-quality. However there is an issue of concern as regards achieving balanced and integrated learning experiences for the children in line with curricular guidelines. In this context and in the interest of ensuring that the class teachers’ role is not displaced to a disproportionate degree it is recommended that the role of external tutors should be reviewed. In the interest of enabling all teachers gain a variety of teaching experience it is also recommended that a policy on staff rotation should be developed.
A good variety of material resources is provided in mainstream and support classrooms to support the children’s learning in the various curriculum areas. Many additional resources are centrally stored. The teachers are to be commended for the considerable efforts they make to provide the children with stimulating learning environments. Each classroom is equipped with a good range of both fiction and non-fiction reading material. Attractive displays of reading material also feature prominently in the reception area. The children have access to a number of computers. During the evaluation many samples of pupils’ work in a range of curriculum areas were attractively displayed in classrooms and circulation areas. Many excellent teacher-devised resources such as hands-on materials and print-rich materials were also observed. Skilful use was made of a range of materials to present lesson content and actively engage the children in their learning. The further development of these good practices and the use of hands-on approaches should be actively promoted on a whole-school basis as an over-emphasis on textbook content, as observed in a number of contexts, greatly limits the children’s participation in their learning. It is also recommended that the display of print-rich materials such as vocabulary enrichment charts, mathematical charts should be extended.
As highlighted above the physical environment in this school is very well managed and maintained. The school has a very impressive garden. The teachers make excellent use of all available space. The building is well heated and regularly cleaned.
The school actively encourages the involvement of parents through the parents’ association and through home/school contacts. It is evident that parents greatly value the educational provision their children receive. The parents’ association makes a major contribution to school life. It is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council and meets on a regular basis. Members of the association have attended training events to assist them in fulfilling their role. A member of the association is also a parent representative on the board. The committee liaises regularly with the staff regarding the planned programme of work and priorities are identified on an annual basis. They are involved in a range of excellent projects such as the school garden and healthy eating. They organise a wide range of events and the success of their work has led to the provision of many additional teaching and learning resources. They also provide funding to subsidise the cost of educational outings for the children.
Suitable structures are in place to communicate with parents regarding their children’s learning. Parent-teacher meetings are organised annually and written school reports are furnished to parents at the end of the academic year. In keeping with good practice paired reading programmes are well established in the school. Parents have also had an input into policy formulation and subcommittees have been formed to work on aspects of the SPHE programme.
The pupils are very well behaved and they co-operate willingly with their teachers. Many children demonstrate a great enthusiasm for their work and show care and respect for one another and for their environment. In keeping with good practice the school code of discipline is regularly circulated to parents and the policy on bullying was recently reviewed. The teachers are to be highly commended for the positive atmosphere which is skilfully cultivated in the school.
It is evident that the principal and staff have undertaken much work to advance the whole-school planning process in a collaborative manner. The staff and board are to be commended on the progress to date. Individual teachers take responsibility for co-ordinating the development and implementation of specific areas and minutes of staff meetings are systematically recorded on a rotational basis. Parents are involved in the formulation of some policies in areas such as healthy eating and substance abuse. The school plan contains a very comprehensive range of both organisational and curriculum policies which are clearly presented and accessible to all partners. Important whole-school procedures and practices are also very usefully outlined. Policies required by legislation such as enrolment, code of discipline, anti-bullying, equality have been carefully formulated. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines. A deputy designated liaison person has also been appointed.
Curriculum policies have been comprehensively developed in the areas of Irish, Mathematics, English, Visual Arts, SPHE and Science. These plans reflect the curriculum and provide many useful guidelines for practice. In keeping with good practice there is evidence of ongoing review. The challenge for the school now is to develop further strategies to promote more linkage between whole school plans and classroom planning with a view to promoting consistent improvement in the children’s learning. In this context it is recommended that clearer guidelines regarding individual planning approaches should be provided in curriculum policies and that the impact of planning on pupils’ achievement should be more regularly monitored on a whole school basis. In order to further ensure progressive development in the pupil skills outlined in the school plan it is also recommended that the use of textbooks particularly in the teaching of the languages should be reviewed
All teachers undertake long-term and short-term classroom planning and maintain monthly progress records. During the evaluation there was much evidence of carefully considered planning which is commended as good practice. However different approaches to preparing both the short-term and long-term dimension are in evidence. In some instances the short-term plans include clearly stated learning outcomes for the pupils, carefully linked to the strands and strand units of the curriculum. In other plans the topics and activities to be undertaken are outlined. It is recommended that the approaches to individual planning should be reviewed on a whole-school basis in order to develop and extend existing good practice and provide clearer guidelines to be included in the school plan. Such guidelines should ensure that classroom planning is consistently used to clarify expected learning outcomes and provide for the varying abilities of pupils in the context of the school plan, curriculum and assessment data. Such guidelines would also inform newly-appointed teachers and facilitate the further development of collaborative planning between mainstream and support teachers. It is also recommended that a further emphasis should be placed on using the monthly progress records to ensure progression in the programme covered and to review the implementation of the curriculum at different levels.
The teachers in this school have significant levels of expertise and experience and work diligently to provide the children with a broad range of learning experiences in all subject areas. During the evaluation a variety of teaching methods were observed. Opportunities for structured play are provided in the infant classes and this practice is commendable. Valuable opportunities are provided for the children to engage in project work, investigation, hands-on approaches, discovery learning and work in the outdoor environment. The high standards of presentation skills in pupils’ written work at particular class levels were very favourably commented on during the evaluation. Some good examples of linkage between subject areas such as the Visual Arts and SESE were effectively used to enable pupils develop key skills and concepts. However it is evident that pupil learning and attainment levels would be greatly enhanced by more focused oral work as outlined in the school plan, with particular reference to the principle of differentiation and a reduced emphasis on textbook content. It is recommended that further attention should be focused on the systematic development of specific oral language skills in both languages. The provision of further opportunities for the children to engage in sustained writing in response to a variety of texts is also recommended.
Tá ardchaighdeán Gaeilge ag na múinteoirí sa scoil seo agus oibríonn siad go dian chun cumas na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge a fhorbairt. Chonacthas go leor samplaí fónta de theagasc agus d’fhoghlaim na Gaeilge labhartha le linn na cigireachta. Ina measc is mór is fiú mar shampla an bhéim a leagtar ag rangleibhéil ar leith ar ghníomhaíochtaí éisteachta agus ar ionchur teanga oiriúnach. Leagtar béim le moladh ar rannta mar ionchur saibhir taitneamhach. Baintear leas as an drámaíocht agus as cluichí teanga éagsúla chun rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí a chur chun cinn agus a gcuid scileanna cumarsáide a fhorbairt go torthúil. Meastar áfach gur gá na dea-chleachtais seo a chur i bhfeidhm go sistéamach ar bhonn na scoile ina hiomláine.
Cé go mbaineann a lán daltaí taitneamh as gnéithe éagsúla d’fhoghlaim na Gaeilge, go n-éiríonn leo stór deas rainn a aithris agus go bhfuil sé ar a gcumas ceisteanna a chur agus a fhreagairt, is léir go bhfuil deacrachtaí acu abairtí simplí a chumadh. Ar mhaithe le scileanna cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt a thuilleadh meastar go bhféadfaí béim bhreise fós a chur ar chur chuige cumarsáideach, go háirithe ar thréimhsí an cheachta, de réir a bhfuil sa phlean scoile. B’fhiú chomh maith béim sa bhreis a chur ar an scéalaíocht agus ar dheiseanna labhartha a chothú do na daltaí chun úsáid a bhaint as an teanga atá foghlamtha acu. Ag cur san áireamh an cumas breá Gaeilge atá ag oidí na scoile, raghadh sé go mór chun tairbhe na ndaltaí dá múinfí gné éigin d’ábhar eile trí mheán na Gaeilge chun comhthéacs breise a chruthú d’úsáid na teanga.
Feidhmíonn an prionta a chruthaítear sna seomrí ranga mar bhonn maith don léitheoireacht agus don scríbhneoireacht. Múintear an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht go rialta. Leagtar béim le moladh ar leabhair bheaga Ghaeilge a chur ar fáil do na páistí. Is mór is fiú chomh maith an bhéim a leagtar an litriú agus ar fhoghlaim na mbriathra. Chonacthas samplaí fónta de scríbhneoireacht na ndaltaí le linn na cigireachta. Meastar áfach gurbh fhiú béim sa bhreis a chur ar scileanna éagsúla na léitheoireachta a mhúineadh go foirmiúil. Moltar chomh maith an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht a bhunú níos mó ar sprioctheanga ar leith agus scil na saorscríbhneoireachta a chothú chomh luath agus is féidir.
The teachers in this school have a high standard of Irish and work diligently to promote the pupils’ competence in the language. During the evaluation many samples of good practice in the teaching and learning of Irish were noted. Particularly commendable in this regard is the emphasis placed on listening activities and on an appropriate language input. A good emphasis is also placed on rhyme as an enjoyable and enriched language input. Drama and language games are used to enable pupils become actively involved in their language learning and develop their communicative skills. However there is a need to promote the consistent use of these good practices and reduce the emphasis on textbook content.
While many children clearly enjoy aspects of their Irish language learning, are able to recite rhymes, ask and answer questions, it is evident that they experience difficulty constructing simple sentences. In the interest of further developing the children’s language skills from one class level to the next it is recommended that a greater emphasis should be placed on the implementation of a communicative approach to language teaching, particularly on the three phases of the language lesson, as set out in the school plan. It is also recommended that a greater emphasis should be placed on storytelling and on creating opportunities for the children to use the language learned. As the teachers are themselves competent speakers it would greatly facilitate the children’s learning and provide a meaningful context for them to use the language if an aspect of the curriculum was taught through the medium of Irish.
The print-rich environment created in the classrooms provides a good basis for the development of reading and writing in Irish. Reading and writing are taught regularly. A commendable emphasis is placed on the use of supplementary reading materials. Commendable practices in relation to the teaching of verbs and spellings were also favourably commented on during the evaluation. Some good samples of children’s writing were in evidence during the evaluation. However there is a need to place a greater emphasis on the formal teaching of specific reading skills. It is also recommended that a further emphasis should be placed on the development of the children’s independent writing skills.
The teachers have carefully prepared a comprehensive whole-school plan for English which clearly outlines many of the key messages in the curriculum. It includes considerable detail in relation to the proposed content and methodologies to be adopted at the various class levels as well as some excellent resources for key areas such as phonological awareness. It provides a sound basis for the implementation of the curriculum. However it is recommended that further attention should now be given to salient school factors such as multi-grade classes, the co-ordination of the implementation of the various strands between mainstream teachers, support staff and an external Speech and Drama teacher and the management of time. Provision is made by many teachers for the development of the children’s oral language skills. Talk and discussion feature prominently in all classes. In some classes a commendable emphasis is placed on focused language enrichment work, storytelling, rhymes/poetry. However it is evident that there is a need to extend this good work on a whole-school basis. In this context it is recommended that the school plan for oral language should be reviewed.
A number of excellent programmes such as paired reading, “buddy reading”, designed to promote a reading culture, are in place in the school and regularly reviewed. Pre-reading skills are well established through the use of a variety of approaches. A whole-school approach to the teaching of phonics has been adopted and is systematically implemented in many classes. A good emphasis is also placed in many classes on word identification skills, reading for meaning and comprehension skills. Easy access to a range of suitable reading materials in classroom libraries greatly facilitates the children’s reading ability. Carefully chosen novels are provided for the middle and senior classes. The teachers also create regular opportunities for the children to develop their writing skills. In some classes an excellent emphasis is placed on presentation and handwriting skills and many samples of good work in a number of genres were observed during the evaluation. In some classes good strategies are in place to encourage children develop the conventions of spelling, grammar and punctuation and opportunities are provided for the children to engage in collaborative project work. It is recommended that these commendable practices should be extended. It is also recommended that a greater emphasis should be placed on encouraging the children to read for information and write at length in response to various texts. Greater consistency on a whole school basis on the implementation of the agreed penmanship scheme through the systematic development of the print-rich environment and a reduction on the reliance on textbooks will further support the successful development of this work.
A comprehensive Mathematics plan which embraces the key principles of the curriculum has been carefully formulated. Problem solving has been identified as a priority for future development. It is especially commendable that the teachers have given careful consideration to areas such as problem solving strategies and the language of mathematics and that clear guidelines for classroom practice have been outlined. The mathematics equipment available is also carefully outlined in the plan and was recently audited. Some good mathematics posters which aid the children’s acquisition of these skills were favourably commented on during the evaluation. However it is recommended that further consideration should be given to developing a mathematics-rich environment in the school.
Mathematics is purposefully taught throughout the school. Samples of best practice observed during the evaluation include due emphasis on estimation activity and the use of hands-on materials during interactive sessions to enable children develop concepts. The children’s written work is carefully recorded in many classrooms and well monitored. During questioning many children demonstrated an enthusiasm for mathematics and an understanding of key concepts. However it is recommended that a greater emphasis should be placed on facilitating pupils to apply concepts learned to practical problem-solving situations. Proposals by the staff to further develop assessment in the school are to be commended and should aim to ensure regular consolidation and revision of topics taught and the provision of differentiated activities.
Work is currently in progress on the development of a whole-school plan for History. It is commendable that the staff have agreed to use a range of resources and limit the use of textbooks in the teaching of Social, Environmental and Scientific Education. Aspects of the history curriculum are taught in all classrooms and there is evidence of the use of a range of approaches and methodologies. During the evaluation pupils spoke with great enthusiasm about their work. At particular class levels work is very effectively linked with other curriculum areas such as English and the Visual Arts and there is a commendable emphasis on local history. Very worthwhile project work on the local environment has been undertaken. The further use of project work with a focus on the development of particular skills as well as knowledge would greatly enrich the quality of the children’s learning
The school implements a varied programme in Geography and this area is also currently under development at whole-school level. The programme introduces the children to topics from the human and natural environments. Some map work is also undertaken. Attention is beneficially focused on environmental awareness and care. Opportunities are created for the children to investigate aspects of their very rich local environment and to observe weather patterns. The current planning work should aim to ensure that current good practice is extended. In particular more opportunities should be created for the children to develop geographical skills such as investigative techniques.
A praiseworthy whole-school plan for Science was recently implemented. Among the central issues fruitfully addressed was the importance of ensuring “continuity and progression in the development of scientific ideas and in the application of investigative skills”. A suitable programme of work to be undertaken with the various class levels over a two-year cycle is clearly outlined. It is to be commended that opportunities are created for some outdoor experience of the local environment through the development of the school garden. Good work in relation to the exploration of magnets was observed during the evaluation. The teachers, parents and pupils are to be commended for their dedicated work in recycling and composting.
Despite the obvious space restrictions, the children’s engagement with the visual arts programme is effectively organised. A creditable whole-school plan for this area has been carefully prepared and a broad programme of work is successfully delivered. In keeping with school policy children’s work is attractively displayed in the classrooms and circulation areas. Pupils are provided with opportunities to experiment with the expressive possibilities of a range of suitable materials through guided discovery and their enjoyment of this work is apparent. In particular impressive work in relation to drawing, paint and colour are observed. It is to be commended that the visual arts is very effectively integrated with other subject areas especially with Social, Environmental and Scientific Education.
Pupils in all classrooms sing songs enthusiastically from memory in both Irish and English. In addition regular worthwhile opportunities are given to pupils to listen and respond to different styles of music. A wide range of sounds is skilfully explored and the children at many class levels are able to create sound stories. An external tutor provides instruction in the tin whistle and the children display competency and enthusiasm in the acquisition of these skills. The senior classes also learn guitar. However as highlighted earlier, there is a need to review the role of the external tutors.
Drama is used extensively in a range of curricular areas. As highlighted earlier an external Speech and Drama teacher assists with the implementation of this area.
It is evident that the unavailability of indoor facilities in the school greatly constrains the work in Physical Education. However good use is made of the outdoor facilities and the programme includes a range of games. The work observed was skilfully organised with a clear focus on skill development and an appropriate warm-up phase. A GAA coach has been assigned to the school to assist in the teaching of football and hurling skills. A rugby coach has also been assigned to the school.
Much credit is due to the teachers and parents for the time invested in after-school sporting activities.
This school is a Health Promoting School and considerable whole-school planning work has been undertaken in the area of Social, Personal and Health Education. The school healthy eating programme was launched in May 2006 and guidelines were drawn up and distributed to each family. Discrete time is allocated in all classrooms and much commendable work is in evidence. The positive school climate greatly contributes to effective teaching and learning in this area..
Both formal and informal methods of assessment are used to monitor the pupils’ progress. Commendably, there is much evidence of regularly corrected written work and of effective feedback being given to pupils. Some teacher designed tests and check lists are also regularly used. Standardised tests are administered annually and the results are carefully recorded and readily available. Diagnostic tests are also used. The results of the various tests are used to inform planning particularly with regard to informing provision for supplementary teaching. Commendably, it is the intention of the staff to further develop assessment approaches and advice in relation to this matter was given during the evaluation. Attention was focused in particular on the need to systematically use assessment data to inform planning, teaching and learning especially with a view to placing a greater emphasis on differentiating mainstream class programmes.
In line with good practice, the staged intervention approach to special needs is in place in the school. The learning support teachers provide supplementary teaching in both literacy and numeracy. They approach their work in a professional and caring manner and have developed positive working relations with the pupils in their care. They liaise regularly with the mainstream teachers and also maintain regular communication with parents and other professionals. Individual education plans (IEPs) are carefully devised for pupils in receipt of supplementary teaching and are reviewed. These IEPs are based on the pupils identified learning needs. Priority areas and related learning targets are clearly outlined. During the evaluation a range of effective methodologies including focused, hands-on interactive approaches were observed and there was clear evidence of pupil progress. Commendable early intervention whole-school literacy and numeracy programmes are in place. These enable pupils work in small class groups on specific skills. Some excellent work was noted during the evaluation. However there is a need to put further strategies in place to co-ordinate this work between mainstream and support teachers. In the interest of promoting consistent implementation it is important that these strategies are outlined in the school plan. As some pupils are withdrawn for support in both literacy and numeracy it is also recommended that consideration should be given to the provision of further in-class support. During the evaluation attention was also focused on the importance of short-term planning and assessment approaches to ensure that agreed learning targets are consistently implemented in both support and mainstream contexts.
This school is not in an area of designated disadvantage.
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:
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.