An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Garadice, County Leitrim
Roll number: 16932P
Date of inspection: 13 November 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Aughawillan 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 parent representatives. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. 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.
Aughawillan N.S. is a three teacher, rural, co-educational primary school situated in Garadice, Co. Leitrim. This Catholic school is under the patronage of the Bishop of Kilmore. It comprises of a two classroom prefabricated structure constructed in 1973. It currently has 30 pupils on roll, an increase of 16 pupils since 1999. The school’s mission statement notes that it promotes the full and harmonious development of all aspects of each pupil. The school aims to enable each child to develop as a social being through living and co-operating with others. The last School Report was filed in 1997.
The board of management is properly constituted and functions in accordance with the requirements of the Education Act 1998. The board fulfils its duties conscientiously and members are actively involved in discussing and approving policies which were originally formulated by staff. This constitutes good practice. It is committed to the provision of a high quality education for all pupils. It values the school and its contribution to the community. Meetings are held regularly and effective procedures are employed. It complies with Section 18 of the Education in keeping accounts and records. It has produced a school brochure to inform parents of the work of the school. The board has worked on a phased maintenance programme over the years and it is cleaned regularly and kept in commendable condition. The board of management has been sanctioned a devolved grant from the Department of Education and Science (DES) for a new building with ancillary facilities and they are in the process of seeking planning permission to proceed with the works. The board is facilitating and assisting parents to establish a parents’ association. The board works diligently for the welfare of the pupils and the staff.
The school principal, appointed in 1994 worked here in what was a one-teacher school until 1999. Aughawillan N.S. was sanctioned an assistant teacher in that year and has retained its two classroom teacher status since then. The principal performs her teaching and administrative duties with dedication and promotes the development of the school with pride. She is hard working and is commended on the high quality of school documents and policies prepared in the school plan. She enjoys the confidence and support of staff and board of management. Careful records are maintained on pupils and filed appropriately. The principal works with her teaching colleagues, ancillary staff in a co-operative and cordial manner. The principal and staff involve the school in all activities in the community.
The principal teacher and the deputy principal form the in-school management team in the school. Duties consist of a mix of organisational, curricular and pastoral tasks. Post holders carry out their duties conscientiously. Roll books are meticulously maintained. The staff plans, implements and monitors school development planning very carefully. There is a high level of consultation and they provide a happy, safe environment for the pupils in their care. The post holders share responsibility and empower their other staff members.
There are currently 30 pupils on rolls. In addition to two mainstream class teachers Aughawillan N.S. is the base for a shared resource teacher who works in one other school. It also avails of the services of a special education teacher based in a neighbouring school. A conscientious cleaner and a diligent and caring secretary complete the staffing roster. Contractors are employed by the board to paint, cut grass and do repairs when needed. The school has availed of various personnel from the Primary Curriculum Support Service (PCSP) and facilitators from the School Development Planning Service (SDPS) over the years. Teachers engage in professional development such as the Reading Recovery course, dyslexia and autism workshops. Teachers were encouraged to avail of the Leadership Development (LDS) service professional development training when possible. Parents have given their expertise to the school in areas such as football and drama.
The prefabricated school building, constructed in 1973, replaced the school building a short distance away which was built in 1933 but was deemed unsuitable in the seventies for teaching and learning due to the lack of toilet facilities. This present building has served the community for thirty-six years. However, due to the increase in population, the prefabricated structure is too small to accommodate the present population of pupils adequately and allow full implementation of the curriculum. The present structure consisted of two rooms and pupils’ toilets when constructed initially. In 2002, when a resource teacher was appointed to the school, the board decided to subdivide one of the classrooms and convert it into a support room. This resulted in one small, irregular shaped classroom, which has proved difficult for teaching any numbers higher than twelve. The board of management plan to build a school, using the devolved grant, which will consist of two classrooms, a general purpose room, ancillary rooms to accommodate the special education team, a staff room, an office, a teachers’ toilet and pupils’ toilets.
Department of Education and Science grants for the purchase of materials and resources to enhance teaching and learning have been appropriately used and recorded. Currently, there are five desktop computers and a laptop available for use in the school. A digital camera is used to good effect in the school for recording educational trips, projects and pupils’ work. Percussion instruments have been accessed and used effectively. Science equipment has been purchased and utilised efficiently in the school. Mathematical resources, posters and games and other visual stimuli are used to enhance the learning environment. Games, activities and materials to support teaching and learning in English have been stored methodically and used frequently in the teaching of reading. Pupils in the junior room have work folders where their worksheets are filed according to subject area. The local environment, which includes hedgerows, the church and the community centre, are all used judiciously in the teaching of the curriculum. Overall, the school has invested in an extensive range of suitable resources.
The school has dedicated parent representatives on the board of management. At present, there is not a parents’ association in the school but the board of management is exploring the possibility of facilitating the establishment of such an association from among its parent population. A parents’ association would be a useful forum to allow parents discuss policies and school procedures. At present, parents are reading the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy and the board will consider this feedback prior to ratification of the policy. Formal parent-teacher meetings take place in November. At the end of the year parents receive a written report on their children’s progress. A homework journal is a forum for daily communication between home and school. The school does not have a school website. However, a website is a useful communication vehicle and could be considered in the future. The school welcomes and encourages the involvement of parents in their children’s education. There are many examples of positive home/school relations where parents give generously of their time to support teaching and learning.
The pupils respond positively to their teachers who are highly vigilant during yard supervision and ensure that all pupils are purposefully engaged in games and activities. There is a good relationship between staff and pupils. Pupils learn in a safe, clean and secure environment. Senior pupils are caring towards the junior pupils. Pupils are very well behaved, co-operative and hardworking and are pleasant, friendly and confident.
The comprehensive school plan has been prepared and the content is of a very high quality. The school’s mission statement is clearly outlined and the school succeeds in fulfilling its aims efficiently. Procedures and practices are clearly stated. The organisation of the school plan is commendable. It is subdivided into sections, which include separate sections for general information, curricular policies, organisational policies, a development section, procedures and a planning section. The layout is superb. The inclusion of a planning diary, a strategic plan, action plans and the quality of the various policies are among the commendable features of this school plan. This is a model of best practice. All policies are formulated in accordance with the guidelines from the SDPS. The overall quality of curricular policies is excellent. Curricular policies are relevant and comprehensive and reflect the 1999 Primary School Curriculum. The quality of the organisational polices reflects the guidelines and recent legislation that exists. These policies are of a very high quality. The staff prepares draft policies and these are then taken to the board of management and discussed and then ratified. The establishment of a parents’ association would allow greater discussion and debate on policies among parents and would add significantly to the collaborative process of involving all the partners. The strategic plan is praiseworthy, as the staff and board of management have succeeded in formulating policies in accordance with timetable outlined in the strategic plan. This is evidence of successful practice.
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.
The teachers create vibrant and stimulating classroom environments for their pupils. The pupils’ work is celebrated on the classroom walls and teacher-designed and commercially designed posters promote pupils’ learning. All teachers prepare long-term and short-term plans of work. The long-term plans of work are of a high quality but need some augmentation. It is recommended that classroom teachers agree on a planning template for their short-term plans that incorporates headings such as methodologies, resources, assessment and differentiation. It is also recommended that teachers plan on paper for differentiation so that pupils’ learning opportunities can be maximised. This will complement the planning as is at present, which outlines content in the main. All teachers compile monthly progress records.
Whole-class teaching is used to good effect in teaching. Many fine examples of group work were evident during the evaluation. Excellent group work was noted during practical science classes and during project work in geography. It is recommended that further pair-work be used during the teaching of Irish. Classroom interaction is of a very high quality. Teacher observation is used effectively. Pupils are given oral feedback and acknowledged for their endeavours. Teachers’ questioning skills are effective. Lessons are adequately explained and instructions are clear. Lessons are consolidated and regular revision is a feature of all classrooms. Teachers are implementing the 1999 curriculum effectively.
Overall, pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the subject matter taught is appropriate to their age and class level. The quality of the pupils’ written work is commendable in some classes but the standard of handwriting and presentation in other classes could be improved through focussed attention to these particular areas. The quality of pupils’ projects and creative writing is of a very high quality. A variety of school-devised tests and samples of pupils’ written work and artistic endeavours are filed systematically. Standardised test results in both Mathematics and English inform teachers as to which pupils need additional support from the special education team. Pupils’ work is monitored and corrected carefully.
Tá dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge sa scoil. Tá téacs sa timpleallacht agus tá raon áiseanna ann le haghaidh an teagaisc. Úsáidtear teagasc ranga, teagasc grúpa agus obair bheirte ach moltar níos mó deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí chun labhairt trí Ghaeilge. Tá éagsúlacht sa chur i láthair agus baineann na daltaí taitneamh agus tairbhe as na himeachtaí. Déantar cúram ar ghníomhaíochtaí éisteachta agus baintear úsáid as rannta, amhráin agus cluichí mar thaca don fhoghlaim. Tá stór leathan focal ag na daltaí sna hardranganna agus tá caighdeán na léitheoireachta go maith sa scoil. Tugann na daltaí faoi réimsí éagsúla scríbhneoireachta idir fheidhmiúil agus chruthaitheach.
There is a positive attitude towards Irish in the school. There is an Irish print environment and there is a range of resources to support the teaching of Irish. Whole-class teaching, group work and pair work is used but it is recommended that pupils are given further opportunities to speak through Irish. A variety of teaching approaches is employed in the teaching and pupils enjoy and derive benefits from the teaching. The strand of listening is attended to and rhymes, songs and games are used to support learning. Pupils in the senior classes have a wide vocabulary and the standard of reading is very good in the school. Pupils engage in a variety of written exercises encompassing functional activities and creative work.
The school is commended for its implementation of the English curriculum. There is effective development of pupils’ oral language skills, reading skills and writing skills. Pupils speak with competence and confidence as they are engaged in many activities to develop this area of oral language such as recitation of poetry, presentation of projects, story and circle time.
Each classroom has libraries of suitable books for the various class levels and abilities. One of the support teachers co-ordinates a book club scheme annually and pupils are encouraged to read for pleasure. In the junior classes reading is promoted through a print–rich environment, pre-reading activities, use of big books, phonological awareness, word games and rhymes. There is a good emphasis on grammar and spelling. Reading strategies such as phonological awareness are very well developed throughout the school and overall pupils’ achievement in reading in the school is of a very high standard.
Pupils are given regular opportunities for personal writing. Pupils’ creative work in poetry and project work adorns the classrooms. Skills such as summarising are taught through ample exposure to project work in other subjects. Pupils write in a variety of genres such as spells at Halloween to poetry on the theme of food. It is recommended that motor skills be further developed in the early years. Pupils from this school were essay winners in the local library competition and participated in a project through the local secondary school. Consideration should be given to participation in projects such as the Pushkin creative writing competition or the Write a Book event in the future as pupils’ written output is excellent.
Planning in Mathematics is based on the appropriate strands and strand units of the curriculum. Suitable resources to support learning are available and utilised. Planning in Mathematics could address individual differences. It is recommended that the special education teacher engage in work supporting the teaching of Mathematics. The development of the language of Mathematics is emphasised in both classrooms. There is evidence of the use of concrete materials during lessons. Effective use if made of the environment as noted during an exemplary lesson on shape. Talk and discussion are features of all Mathematics lessons. Effective learning experiences, which allow discovery learning and activity lessons, are consistently provided. However, it is recommended that teachers plan for differentiation to cater for those pupils who needs supplementary teaching. Overall, pupils’ copies are very well presented but some copies do require further work in this area. Pupils are achieving very well in this subject.
The teaching of this subject is in accordance with curricular guidelines. An effective school policy has been formulated. Teaching methods vary according to the class levels. The junior pupils explore topics such as homes and weather in whole class discussions and groups. Emphasis is placed on developing the concept of place and space. The structure of lessons is very appropriate to the age of the pupils. The local environment is used effectively. High quality project work is undertaken on topics such as Egypt and South Africa. Group work is very effectively managed according to class levels and abilities. Pupils are actively engaged in research and use a variety of reference books, atlases, maps, textbooks and encyclopaedias. The standard of work is excellent. Pupils are guided and succeed in achieving their task in producing a summary of the topic for presentation to the class. Pupils engage in quizzes, which help consolidate content matter covered previously.
Earthlink textbooks provide the core material for the teaching of History. A wide variety of themes are explored in each classroom. Junior pupils explore about themselves, their birthdays and significant personal events in their lives. Story is used to good effect and emphasis is placed on the skill of sequencing during the lesson. Methodologies used include art, drama, mime, story and discussion. Quizzes, photos and first hand evidence are used to enhance the teaching and learning. Pupils undertook a project on their local hero, the late John McGahern, as part of the Building for the Future competition. Pupils and staff worked co-operatively and explored the life of the late author. He attended school in the old Aughawillan School where his mother was a teacher. The pupils walked the same road, visited the place where his house is located and conducted interviews to gather the information required about his life. Pupils engaged in other projects such as life in a monastery and a project on the Celts, which are of a very good standard. Pupils enjoy the legend stories with enthusiasm. Overall the teaching of History is very good.
Pupils are exposed to investigative work in groups and the concept of co-operative learning permeates the learning. Pupils are highly involved in their own learning and receive assigned tasks. Senior pupils are given certain leadership tasks within the group and jobs are assigned based on experience. Pupils explore the local hedgerow with excitement and curiosity. Pupils’ questions are used to generate further discussion. The strand of Living Things is well explored and junior pupils examine trees in the environment. They identify seasonal changes and gather lots of evidence on the bark and study the tree as a habitat for animals. Pupils explore sound and discuss noise pollution. Nature tables feature in both classrooms. Senior pupils complete work on various ecosystems and explore food chains. The local environment is used frequently in the study of science.
A variety of approaches and methodologies are employed in the teaching and learning of Science. Pupils engage in whole-class work, small group work and practical work. A combination of both closed activities and open activities are used to support learning. In the open-ended investigations, teachers use the problem-solving model and pupils learn to use, refine and develop the skills of working scientifically. Excellent investigative work was organised during the inspection and pupils were exploring, investigating, implementing and drawing conclusions. All pupils were actively involved as each was given a specific task. Excellent work in science has been undertaken covering the different strands and strand units.
Much creativity was in evidence throughout the school in the various displays such as the vegetable bouquet print work, the pasta construction, the clay products, the Halloween paintings and the art appreciation drawings. However, teachers need to place further emphasis on the strand of drawing in some classes. Pupils’ work is displayed in the classrooms and school entrance hall. Space is limited and the new school building should afford greater opportunities to work on the three dimensional (3D) strands of the visual arts programme. The pupils create an annual display of artwork in the community centre for the Christmas concert. Pupils participate in Credit Union poster competitions and library art competitions with enthusiasm. Lessons are carefully managed, as space is limited in particular in the junior classroom. Teachers cultivate an appropriate language of art and both classroom teachers promote looking at and responding to the work of famous artists. Pupils are provided with worthwhile activities in an integrated way during visual art lessons.
There is evidence of a supportive environment for music in the school. Percussion instruments are available and used and teachers display competence in teaching music. Due attention is given to the development of all the strands and strand units. Pupils explore the various concepts of music such as pitch and dynamics in a structured manner. Pupils are exposed to music of different styles and cultures and full participation is encouraged and facilitated. A Samba band visited the school and presented a workshop. The standard of singing is appropriate to the class level. Pupils demonstrate an ability to play percussion instruments in rounds and display an understanding of the musical concepts taught. They are capable of recalling rhythmic patterns and singing tunefully while playing accompanying instruments. Pupils display an enthusiasm for music.
Drama as a specific subject has not been taught as a discrete subject to date as the staff are only receiving the in-service in this subject area during this academic year. However, the staff prepare the junior pupils to present a nativity play and the senior pupils to present another play on an annual basis prior to the Christmas holidays. Emphasis is placed on co-operative work, enjoyment and appreciation of drama. The content is appropriate and all pupils participate in the event, which is one of the highlights for the parish at Christmas. Drama is valued in the community as the adults also present a play annually.
There is an emphasis on social and personal development during the teaching of physical education. Teachers encourage interaction and co-operation during the formal lessons and during playtime on the yard and they are successful in achieving this aim. All pupils fully participate in activities and team spirit and fair play are promoted. Teaching methods used in the teaching of physical education include group work, pair work and individual work. The structure and pace of lessons are very good. Instruction is clear and effective use is made of available resources. Safety is carefully adhered to before, during and after lessons.
All pupils are availing of swimming lessons in a nearby pool. Outdoor and adventure activities are organised during the third term and pupils participate in such activities during school tours and planned events. There is an emphasis on rounders, Gaelic football, basketball, athletics and dance in the physical education programme taught during this term to date. The girls won a local basketball blitz and some pupils have represented their area in Mosney. A sports day is organised annually. There is evidence of a broad and balanced plan for this subject in the school policy and the school avails of community centre next door to implement the physical education programme. However, storage of equipment poses a problem as the community hall is limited in space and is used by the community for various events so hence the emphasis on some strands more than others. The purchase of equipment in gymnastics has been postponed until the new building is completed. The school avails of the services of a Gaeilic Athletic Association (GAA) coach and a parent to develop pupils’ skills in Gaelic football. There is a strong GAA tradition in the parish and the school and the parents promote football. Six of the players of the Leitrim Ladies county team who competed in the All-Ireland final in 2006 were from Aughawillan. Pupils demonstrate a positive attitude towards physical education.
The school promotes the full and harmonious development of all aspects of the pupils. The school includes all pupils in activities such as swimming, nature walks, football, drama, music and science. The school community aims through these activities and others to develop each child as a social being through co-operating with others. There was photographic evidence of the recent visit of the patron to the school. This visit is valued by the school community as there are strong links forged between the school, church and parish. Pupils present as happy, contented and confident pupils. They are encouraged to involve themselves in school and community events. Parents are very supportive of the school’s activities and achievements.
Teachers use drama, co-operative games, stories, pictures, photographs, discussion, written activities, surveys and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to enhance teaching and learning in this subject area. Teachers communicate with pupils appropriately and sensitively and the quality of interaction between teachers and pupils is very good. Pupils display good knowledge of the subject matter taught such as the food pyramid and the dangers of medicines. The quality of the learning outcomes is of a very high standard. Pupils in the senior section have compiled a project on the theme of food, which is commendable. The quality of the pupils’ poetry on food is excellent. Provision is made in these classes for individual differences and class differences. A draft school policy has been formulated incorporating the Relationships and Sexuality Education section. The school actively supports charitable causes such as the Shoebox Appeal. Pupils are given opportunities to develop socially in out of school settings when they participate in credit union quizzes, Scór, drama workshops and educational trips.
An excellent policy in both assessment and record-keeping was formulated in 2002, which is reflected in the meticulous records and thorough assessment of pupils. Pupils’ performance is monitored on a continuous basis through spelling tests, checklists and correction of pupils’ assignments. Assessment is based on a combination of teacher observation, discussion, feedback, and quizzes, written tests, work folders, end of year tests, standardised tests and oral tests. Teachers maintain monthly records indicating the programme content covered. Teachers keep samples of group projects completed over the last number of years. Standardised tests, Micra T in English and Sigma T in Mathematics are administered annually and results are filed. Teachers and parents are aware of the achievement of their pupils as good assessment structures and record keeping is in place. Overall, pupils are achieving very well across the curriculum and standardised test results in Mathematics and English support this finding.
The quality of the school policies on learning support and special educational needs is very good. The quality of teaching and learning for the pupils receiving support from these teachers is commendable. The learning support policy outlines the staged approach to supporting pupils. It aims to identify pupils’ needs early in the school system and this school is very good at achieving this aim. Pupils are assessed using standardised tests and other instruments such as the Marino and Schonnel tests. Early intervention is managed very well to date and those pupils identified early are taught on a withdrawal basis and are making satisfactory progress.
The support personnel have worked in classrooms but it is recommended that this practice be extended further at certain times so that the support teacher can work with the pupil or pupils identified with the remainder of the class. This will develop the pupils socially as well as academically. Clear individual plans and appropriately tailored programmes such as the Reading Recovery programme, the Phonological Awareness Training and Jolly Phonics are in place to support pupils. Tests, which the support teachers use, include RAIN, Daniels and Diack and the British Abilities Scale Word Reading Attainment test.
Support is provided in both literacy and numeracy. A shared reading programme is in place with first and sixth class pupils and teachers report that it is proving successful. It is advised that a paired reading programme between home and school be established for certain pupils within the system to increase their reading age. Learning targets are established following assessment and the programme of work is planned to meet individual needs. Pupils are assessed and procedures are in place to liaise with other agencies. Pupils are affirmed and their achievements are sincerely celebrated through display of pupils’ work and acknowledgement of their endeavors. It is recommended that class teachers differentiate in their planning for those pupils who receive supplementary teaching so that these pupils can work at their own pace according to their abilities. The strengths of the provision include the dedicated interest of support staff and teachers, early intervention and the close co-operation between home and school.
The school avails of a grant to support pupils who experience disadvantage. The proportion of such pupils is limited but the school is sensitive to the needs of such pupils and materials and resources are made available to those pupils where appropriate. All pupils are encouraged to participate in activities according to their age and ability.
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.