An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Fhiachna Naofa
Eadargóil, Contae Chorcaí
Uimhir rolla: 16885J
Date of inspection: 20 April 2007
Date of issue of report: 4 October 2007
A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Fhiachna Naofa was undertaken in April 2007. The evaluation covered key aspects of the work of the school in the areas of management, teaching and learning and supports for pupils. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Geography. The representatives of the parents met with the inspector. The inspector interacted with the pupils, examined pupils’ work, reviewed school planning documentation, observed teaching and learning and provided feedback to individual teachers. 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.
Scoil Fhiachna Naofa is situated in Adrigole on the Beara Peninsula beside the road leading to the Healy Pass also known as Bealach Scairte. Built in 1932 and opened in January 1933, the school was remodelled some years ago to provide indoor toilet facilities. The building has four medium sized classrooms, two of which are used for mainstream class groups while the other two rooms provide space for special needs provision, filing, storage and a lunch room for pupils. Outside there is a spacious play area with grassy areas, trees, and an attractive tar macadam playground with painted markings for games and educational purposes.
The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Kerry. It serves a rural area and has a relatively stable enrolment with 26 pupils on roll at present. There are two full-time staff members and the school shares a learning support teacher and has a part-time resource teacher.
The board of management is constituted in accordance with the guidelines of the Department of Education and Science and meets normally once per term. The board oversees the work of the school in a regular way and appears to discharge its duties in a careful and conscientious manner. The board is very supportive of the school. Recently the board undertook a major overhaul of the sewage system and provided also a well surfaced and attractive tar macadam playground. Some landscaping work on the grassy areas of the school will soon be undertaken. The board ratifies the plans and policies of the school. The general decor and upkeep of the school is looked after very well and it is apparent that the general fabric of the school is very good.
The school building is seventy-five years old. The two rooms used for mainstream teaching are somewhat small for modern purposes. There is a need to improve the accommodation in line with modern requirements. It is desirable that a suitable learning support/resource teaching area dedicated for the purpose would be provided. A suitable staff room is also needed. Other improvements might also be made. The board should consider applying for inclusion in the devolved grant scheme for small schools as this would enable it to improve significantly the school’s facilities for the future. In the short-term, out of the minor capital grant, the board could improve one room to provide a dedicated corner for learning support and resource teaching.
The principal leads the work and business of the school in a methodical and focused way. She manages the affairs of the school with care and dedication and attends to organisational and curricular aspects in a timely and comprehensive manner. She fosters a positive and stimulating school climate and ensures that the work of the school proceeds appropriately and safely. There is excellent collaboration between the principal and the mainstream class teacher and it is apparent that there is a high degree of cooperation and liaison among the staff. There is a keen sense of expectation for good attainment among the pupils and both full-time members of staff seek high standards from the children under their care. There is a good degree of collaboration with the support teachers and every effort is made to realise fully individual pupil’s potential. All the teachers reveal detailed knowledge of pupils’ particular circumstances and progress. There is a positive school climate to be found and this helps to create an environment that is conducive to teaching and learning.
It is apparent that the school fosters good relations and open communication with the school community. A helpful school prospectus is issued to parents and this provides valuable information concerning many aspects of school business. These include child protection, homework, discipline and school rules. There are regular channels of communication with the parents and it is apparent that there is a positive rapport with the local community.
The pupils manifest high levels of respect for each other and for adults. There is a very pleasant camaraderie in evidence among the children and a palpable sense of community and mutuality is apparent. The teachers give the pupils very good training in habits of behaviour and learning. These provide a basis for all the work of the school and there are many benefits stemming from the good training given to the pupils. Pupils have learned to listen, to participate, to cooperate with others, to play and to be a team player. Most of all, the pupils have learned to give of their best in their work at school and this is apparent at all times. The pupils have great respect for themselves and they show keen interest in all their activities at school. A very pleasant atmosphere pervades all the work of the school and the pupils display confidence, humour and maturity that is commensurate with their age.
The school has a comprehensive plan that has been developed in the last few years. This is kept in one large binder. The plan’s documents and policies have been ratified by the board. The administrative elements of the plan are clear and succinct. These include mission statement, aims, discipline, enrolment, homework, assessment, school attendance and learning support provision. There is comprehensive coverage of the curricular aspects and these have been formulated by the teachers in collaboration taking into account the principles of the curriculum. Many detailed and practical elements are dealt with and an appropriate approach is adopted to implementing the curriculum. It is recommended that the various policies and documents should be signed upon adoption by the board with an inbuilt date for future review.
The teachers individually plan their work carefully and methodically with many detailed provisions for differentiation for the various class groups. Planning is well matched to pupils’ needs and takes overall school policies into account in the day-to-day activities within the classrooms.
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.
Cuirtear béim dhearfach ar theagasc na Gaeilge tríd an scoil. Cothaítear atmaisféar spreagúil don Ghaeilge agus úsáidtear í go rialta sna hordaithe agus mar theanga chaidrimh na scoile. Sna naíranganna agus sna bunranganna, cuirtear na ceachtanna i láthair go bríomhar ceardúil. Baintear feidhm as seifteanna éagsúla chun na daltaí a mhealladh chun cainte. Múintear foclóir agus nathanna cainte go cúramach agus tugtar deiseanna do na daltaí a bheith gníomhach san obair le drámaíocht agus le ról imirt. Tionóltar cluichí teanga ó am go chéile agus baineann na leanaí taitneamh agus sult as na himeachtaí. Úsáidtear dlúthdhiosca chun cleachtaí éisteachta a dhéanamh agus glacann na daltaí leis na treoracha go fonnmhar. Déantar cúram rialta den rannaireacht agus aithrisíonn na daltaí go beoga. Bíonn na daltaí gníomhach san obair agus léiríonn siad dul chun cinn rialta sna ceachtanna. Meastar gur fiú béim sa bhreis a chur ar aithris aonair ionas go mbeadh deiseanna níos mó ag na leanaí iad féin a chur in iúl ós comhair na ndaltaí eile. Sna bunranganna, lorgaítear obair chuí sna cleachtaí scríofa agus tugtar deiseanna éagsúla do na leanaí tabhairt faoin scríbhneoireacht sna cóipleabhair. Aimsítear caighdeán maith san obair.
Sna meán ranganna agus sna hardranganna, múintear na ceachtanna go díograiseach is go táirgiúil. Leathnaítear foclóir agus cumas cainte na ndaltaí ar bhealach foighneach. Taitníonn an obair leis na daltaí agus is breá leo an Ghaeilge. Léiríonn na páistí tuiscint leathan ar an nGaeilge agus pléann siad nuacht, caitheamh aimsire, ceachtanna agus a saol féin go héasca. Déantar idirdhealú inmholta sa teagasc agus cuirtear riachtanais na ndaltaí san áireamh go tuisceanach. Cuirtear an léitheoireacht ar siúl go muiníneach agus baintear feidhm as leabhair a oireann do na ranganna seo. Léann na daltaí go hábalta is go cruinn. Leagtar amach an obair scríofa go néata, slachtmhar. Déantar maoirseacht agus ceartú go rialta agus gnóthaítear caighdeán ard san obair i gcoitinne. Is léir go bhfuil dul chun cinn an-bhreá déanta sa Ghaeilge.
A positive emphasis is laid on the teaching of Irish throughout the school. A stimulating atmosphere is cultivated and Irish is used frequently for instructions and as the language of converse in the school. In the infant and junior classes, lessons are presented in a lively and workmanlike manner. Varied strategies are used to prompt the children to converse. Vocabulary and speech patterns are taught with care and the pupils are given opportunities to be active with dramatisation and role play. Language games are availed of from time to time and the pupils derive pleasure and enjoyment from the work. Recordings are used for listening exercises and the pupils follow the instructions with interest. Regular provision is made for versification and the pupils recite in a lively fashion. The children are active in their work and they reveal good progress in their lessons. Further emphasis on individual recitation is recommended so that the pupils may have additional chances to speak in front of their peers. In the junior classes, suitable written exercises are developed and the pupils are given varied opportunities to present work in their copybooks. A good standard is reached in the written tasks.
In the middle and senior classes, the lessons are taught zealously and productively. The vocabulary and speaking power of the pupils are expanded patiently. The work is pleasant for the pupils and they enjoy their lessons in Irish. The pupils reveal ready understanding and can discuss news, pastimes, lessons and their own circumstances with ease. Creditable differentiation is made in the teaching and specific needs are taken into account with consideration. Reading is taught with assurance and suitable reading books are used for this purpose. The pupils read capably and accurately. Written work is laid out neatly and clearly. Supervision and correction are done regularly and a high standard is achieved in this work overall. It is apparent that creditable progress is achieved in the teaching of Irish.
English is taught with care and attention throughout all the classes. The teachers adapt the lessons to cater for the needs of the children taking into account specific circumstances bearing on many of the pupils. Lessons are implemented with skill and with due regard for the principles of the curriculum.
In the junior group, the work is suitably differentiated for the various subgroups within the class. Oral lessons are well matched to the interests and needs of the children and there is good scope for the pupils to speak and to participate. The classroom has many features to stimulate interest and curiosity. The pupils recite with pleasure in groups and they join actions with particular verses. Individual presentation might be emphasised more overtly to develop skills and confidence further. Reading is managed with care and overall results are creditable. The pupils are given careful training in phonics and word attack skills. Handwriting is taught in a methodical way and the children practise in lined copybooks. The pupils undertake lots of exercise work in their copybooks and this is appropriate and beneficial. It is recommended that some more variety might be added to these with personal and creative pieces such as letters, invitations, diary items, stories and descriptive pieces.
In the senior classes, the pupils converse with confidence and interest. They discuss topics willingly and meaningfully revealing wide knowledge of oral aspects. Some interesting items are displayed to prompt awareness and understanding of former times. Reading is taught with due regard for pupils’ needs and the work is suitably differentiated to match levels of attainment. Class readers and novels are used to teach reading and the pupils display good ability to read with expression and meaning. Spelling, book reviews and exercise material all form part of the work in English and it is evident that there is good progress in the subject generally. Dramas are based on aspects of the work from time to time and the pupils relish these opportunities. Poems are learned and the classes recite with feeling and confidence. A larger focus for individual recitation and presentation is suggested as a means of developing the pupils’ oral skills further. Written work is managed very capably and many of the pupils display a high standard of achievement in their exercise material.
Mathematics is timetabled appropriately for all classes and lessons are conducted with energy and enthusiasm. The school has an appropriate array of equipment and mathematical aids to assist the work and these are on prominent display along with chart and poster display material. The junior classes memorise number facts with care using number lines and hundred squares to assist understanding. The pupils are grouped for instruction and equipment is used regularly to facilitate particular features of the work. The pupils display good understanding of number and they are accurate and precise in mental work. The pupils can solve relational number questions and show their work on paper. Written work is suitably varied and neatly done with appropriate use of squared paper for exercises. The pupils show good progress in their lessons overall.
The older pupils reveal good knowledge and understanding of their work in Mathematics. They enjoy mental questions and the challenge of oral work. They display accurate and complete knowledge of various facets of their programme and they are enthusiastic in their discussion of problems and solutions. Measuring and estimating are well handled and the pupils display good understanding of activities based on mathematics. Lessons are practical and good use is made of tangible elements to assist comprehension. The written work in mathematics is of a high calibre and merits particular praise for its neatness, order and clarity. It is apparent that the quality of learning and teaching is creditable and that the pupils are well advanced in their studies.
Lessons in Geography are featured prominently as part of the overall work in Social, environmental and science education. Maps of Ireland and of various countries are displayed while the school has relief maps of the immediate locality as well as maps showing the townlands on which the pupils show their own homes. Attractive features such as an aquarium and nature displays add interest to certain aspects of lesson work. Lessons are stimulating and well focused. The pupils in the junior division have good knowledge of topics studied and they show enthusiasm and interest in their work. They can list counties and provinces, county colours and associated nicknames as well as local aspects and topics. The pupils have a good understanding of drawing plans and maps. Certain elements of the work are recorded in copies and many aspects of this work are appropriate and suitable. This might be broadened with more illustrations, diagrams, plans and maps.
In the senior division, the pupils have studied various aspects of the European Union, particular countries and many topics related to the environment and weather. The pupils show good understanding and knowledge of aspects studied and they can respond very well on topical issues and challenges. Much of the work is based on a particular social, environmental and science education textbook and associated activity book. The pupils’ written work is similarly linked to this textual material. The written work is of a very good standard with many attractive exercises developed with accuracy and neatness. In addition, files of the pupil’s work include many work pages which have photocopied maps that have been filled in as part of the work in Geography. Local maps are also included with these.
It is recommended that the overall work in Geography, and indeed in Social, Environmental and Science Education generally, might be developed independently of the textbook series and that written work might seek to develop pupils’ independent skills somewhat more.
A good range of test material is used to assist the teachers to keep track of pupil progress. The learning support and resource teachers collaborate well with this work and careful account is maintained of pupils’ progress. File folders are used to keep record of tests and associated material. Micra-T, Sigma-T, the Drumcondra tests and the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile are among the tests used. The teachers keep good notes and records of particular elements related to assessment. This is done in a methodical and useful manner. Parent teacher meetings are arranged in a regular way and it is apparent that there is good communication about pupils’ progress. In particular cases, it is apparent that there is very close liaison concerning special provision for learning needs. It is recommended that in order to enhance the assessment procedures in general the school should consider furnishing a written report on pupils on an annual basis.
Two pupils are given resource teaching hours and receive tuition each day of the week. The work is done in one of the spare classrooms. The work is suitably planned and timetabled. The work is tailored to assist the specific needs of the children concerned. Books, equipment and cards are used to assist teaching and learning. Oral work and stories are used to maintain pupils’ interest and various strategies are used to help concentration. Some of the work involves advance preparation of class work to anticipate certain needs. It is apparent that the pupils are making good progress and benefiting from their instruction.
The learning support teacher also uses one of the spare rooms and gives support to three pupils. Her timetable provides for two visits with a total of six hours per week. The work is planned with care and with due regard for the particular deficits in learning in each pupil’s case. Exercises in phonics, comprehension, word recognition, spelling, dictation and handwriting are among the features used while computer exercises are sometimes availed of to further develop skills. The work is varied and engaging. The pupils are suitably challenged by the lesson items and they are well motivated by their teacher to participate and cooperate. Individual education plans are drawn up in collaboration between class teacher, parent and learning support teacher. It is apparent that the pupils benefit very well from the assistance provided and it is to be noted particularly that self-esteem is boosted effectively by this work.
It is desirable that the area for support work should be improved by the provision of notice boards for the ongoing display of suitable material and the display also of some elements of the pupils’ own work. A dedicated corner or area for resource and support teaching work would benefit the provision for special needs.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The school is very well organised and managed with the provision of good facilities for teaching and learning both indoors and outdoors. The school is maintained in an attractive and comfortable manner.
· A positive and stimulating school climate is provided and there is a high degree of collaboration among all members of staff. High levels of expectation are set for the children and the school has an excellent environment that is conducive to teaching and learning.
· Every effort is made to cater for the learning needs of all the pupils and there is notable success and achievement to be seen in the progress of the pupils and especially of those with special needs. The learning support and resource teaching is beneficial and contributes notably to progress.
· Language is a primary focus of all the work of the school. Irish is taught with enthusiasm and success. Creditable standards of achievement are in evidence in the pupils’ ability to understand and converse in the language. English is accorded careful and diligent teaching. The pupils display confidence and skill in the various facets of their work in English and there are many features of excellence to be found in the work.
· Mathematics is given methodical and disciplined attention and the pupils reveal sound knowledge and understanding of concepts. They are accurate in dealing with number and they manage practical problems capably. The written work is of a high calibre and the pupils are well advanced in their studies.
· Studies in Geography are stimulating and well focused. The pupils benefit very fully from their lessons and progress is creditable.
The following key recommendations are made in order to develop further the quality of education provided by the school:
· It is recommended that the school accommodation and facilities should be improved to meet modern requirements. A dedicated learning support/resource teaching area and a suitable staff room are needed. The board should apply for inclusion in the devolved grant scheme for small schools.
· In Irish and in English, a larger emphasis on individual recitation and presentation is recommended as a means of developing the pupils’ oral skills and confidence further. It is recommended that the written work for the junior pupils in English might be more varied with the inclusion of additional personal and creative pieces.
· It is recommended that the overall work in Geography, and in Social, Environmental and Science Education generally, might be planned and developed independently of the textbook series and that written work might seek to develop pupils’ independent skills somewhat more.
· The area for learning support and resource teaching should be improved by the provision of notice boards for the ongoing display of suitable material and the display also of some elements of the pupils’ own work.