An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Lisgriffin National School

Lisgriffin, Buttevant, County Cork

Uimhir rolla:  16945B

 

Date of inspection: 22 September 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Lisgriffin NS was undertaken in September 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Drama. 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Lisgriffin National School is a small rural mixed school six kilometres west of Buttevant in Co. Cork. The school has a Catholic ethos and operates under the patronage of the Bishop of Cloyne. Enrolment figures have remained consistently around current levels since the last school report was issued in 2001. Average annual attendance is in excess of ninety four percent. The school was constructed in 1933 and has received devolved funding from the Department of Education and Science to construct significant additions to and refurbishment of the existing building. This work is under way and is due to be completed in February 2009.

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

36

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

This school serves its local community very well. It remains admirably true to its mission to have teachers and parents working harmoniously to create a happy and stimulating atmosphere where the self-esteem of all is fostered.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and effectively discharges its duties in the best interests of the staff and pupils for whom it is responsible. Meetings are held frequently during which  matters within the board’s jurisdiction are carefully considered and acted upon. Minutes of recent meetings indicate the board’s commitment to ensuring the completion of the current building project to the highest standard. The board’s engagement with the whole school planning process reflects a commitment to the careful consideration of drafted policies prior to their ratification and circulation to parents. Individual members assume responsibility for various tasks and are generous in taking responsibility for areas in which they have particular expertise. Accounts are carefully and systematically maintained and it is planned to have these accounts certified annually from now on. The board is currently considering  its policy on pastoral care and hopes that the completed document will adequately reflect what presents as excellent practice in this area. The board also plans to improve provision for ICT and is concerned with providing more play space for its pupils. In this regard it is hoped that Cork County Council will consider a lease arrangement for a small field adjacent to the school. It is recommended that the school’s Enrolment Policy be reviewed to ensure that statutory obligations pertaining to the Education Act (1998), the Equal Status Act (2000/2004) the Education Welfare Act (2000), the Education for Persons with Special Education Needs Act (2004) and all relevant equality legislation are complied with.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal provides highly effective leadership to the school and espouses a sincere dedication to the overall development of every pupil in an atmosphere characterised by a deep sense of caring and concern. She is committed to ensuring that staff, parents, pupils and the wider community co-operate effectively and harmoniously for the benefit of all pupils. The principal has worked assiduously to implement the Primary School Curriculum and leads teaching and learning through a process of regular review and planning for improvement.

 

The principal is ably assisted by a deputy principal who supports her unstintingly in her work. Together they form an effective and hard-working team in which teaching, learning and pupil welfare are regular topics for consideration. The deputy has particular responsibility for Physical Education, pupil records and supervision, healthy eating, first aid and the Green School project. The inclusion, with board sanction, of responsibility for the review of curricular areas in the deputy’s duties would further enhance existing good practice. The board, at the request of staff,  has sanctioned greater frequency of staff meetings to enable teachers to address planning issues in a more formal and systematic way.

 

The principal acknowledges the dedicated support of an efficient part-time secretary whose work includes the maintenance of accounts in co-operation with the board treasurer. The secretary also provides instrumental music tuition to all pupils from second class upwards.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The support and co-operation of parents is vital to the successful operation of this school. The school has an active and supportive parents’ association. The association organises parties for Christmas and for First Holy Communion as well as the annual school sports. It has raised significant funds for projects such as the drainage of the grass area, provision of safety traffic lights and the subsidisation of books and swimming lessons. Communication with the general parent body is effected by letter, church newsletter and the local newspaper.

 

Pupils’ progress is reported to parents at the annual parent teacher meetings, by an end of year written report and through meetings at other times as the need arises. A school newsletter, Doras na Scoile is issued a number of times each year and pupils occasionally contribute to this publication. Through this publication and by way of  special booklets, parents are commendably informed about curricular issues. Common approaches to Mathematics operations and encouraging reading for pleasure have been dealt with in this way. Policy information on  health and safety, discipline, anti-bullying, the administration of medicine, homework, relationships and sexuality, internet use, music, religious formation, sport as well as routines and procedures is also circulated. Parents and pupils co-sign an anti-bullying contract.

 

There is an open door policy for parents, their issues are dealt with sensitively and a complaints procedure has been ratified.  

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils is excellent. They are well-behaved and present as happy, confident, articulate and well–adjusted. Pupils respond very positively to the teachers’ efforts to promote self esteem and to provide interesting and vibrant learning experiences. Yard supervision is effectively organised and strenuous efforts are made by teachers to ensure that pupils treat each other with respect.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. Collaboration and consultation among the partners is a commendable feature of this work. All curriculum areas have finalised policy documents except for Drama which is in draft form and in the process of being developed. These policies effectively guide teaching and learning, allow for continuity and progression and provide for ongoing review and prioritisation. Science was given priority for development in the previous school year and intensive and fruitful work in this area culminated in the school achieving an award for Science.

 

In drafting curricular policy staff have made praiseworthy efforts to base their work on the context of the school environment. With this in mind the teachers availed of inservice training at Cork Education Support Centre on multi-grade teaching. This one-year course has reinforced the need to adapt teaching strategies to the unique demands of a multi-grade setting and the insights gained should suitably inform future engagement with curricular planning. Initiatives to inform parents on curricular issues have been acknowledged heretofore and it is now recommended that a process of involving the board in curricular policy review be commenced as soon as possible.

 

A comprehensive list of organisational policies has been appropriately ratified and disseminated by the board. Individual board members undertake preparatory work before presenting a document on a particular policy to the board.

 

Strategic planning documentation indicates a commitment to planning and review over many years and delineates records of planning outcomes in the areas of organisation, curriculum, internal resources and infrastructural improvements. The staff has availed of assistance from the support services in planning and curricular implementation and co-operates productively with local schools in drafting policy documents.

 

The quality of classroom planning is very good. Teachers use an agreed template for fortnightly planning and the recording of progress on a monthly basis. This documentation indicates the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum for the pupils and reflects the principles and structure of the Primary School Curriculum.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá pleanáil chúramach, idir fhadtéarmach agus ghearrthéarmach, déanta ag na múinteoirí do mhúineadh na Gaeilge.  Is léir ón bpleanáil sin agus ón gcleachtas a léiríodh le linn an mheasúnaithe go bhfuil tréaniarracht á dhéanamh sa scoil chun meon dearfach i leith na Gaeilge a chothú agus chun cumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí  a fheabhsú. B’fhiú anois cúrsaí pleanála na Gaeilge, go háirithe i dtaobh gnáthchumarsáide agus líofacht na ndaltaí, a chur faoi bhráid an bhoird agus na dtuismitheoirí chun a dtacaíocht siúd a fháil do chur chun cinn na Gaeilge agus chun barr maitheasa a chur ar obair na scoile.

 

Feictear dea-chleachtas i múineadh na Gaeilge tríd an scoil. Sa bhunroinn cuirtear béim fhiúntach ar rainn agus amhráin tharraingteacha, ar rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí agus ar an nGaeilge a úsáid go minic i ngnáth chumarsáid an ranga.  Sna hardranganna is léir go bhfuil taitneamh agus tairbhe á bhaint ag  na daltaí as na rainn agus na drámaí beaga a léiríonn siad. Léann na daltaí le tuiscint agus le cruinneas. Ullmhaítear an scríbhneoireacht go cumasach agus tá an pheannaireacht go néata slachtmhar.

 

Irish

Careful long and short-term planning indicates a reflective approach by the teachers to the teaching of Irish. It is evident from planning documentation and from the practice observed during the evaluation that significant effort is invested in the promotion of positive attitudes to Irish and to the improvement of the pupils’ facility to speak the language. It is recommended that involvement by the board and general parent body in planning for Irish should now be sought, so that such support may enhance the good work) undertaken by the school, particularly in terms of further developing conversational and fluency skills.

 

Very good practice in the teaching of Irish is evident throughout the school. In the junior section worthwhile emphasis is placed on the recitation of engaging songs and rhymes, activity based learning predominates and there is frequent use of spoken Irish in the normal discourse between teacher and pupils. In the senior section of the school pupils clearly enjoy and benefit from reciting rhymes and presenting sketches . Pupils read accurately and with understanding. Written  work is carefully prepared by the teacher and neatly presented by the pupils. 

 

 

English

The teaching of English in the school is of a high standard. Practice is guided by clear and comprehensive planning. A broad and balanced programme of learning experiences is provided and the results of standardised testing of classes from first to sixth indicate excellent achievement on the part of the majority of pupils.

 

An integrated approach to the teaching of oral language which is enhanced by discrete oral language activities in a supportive classroom environment has enabled pupils to express themselves confidently and competently over a wide range of topics. The listener/speaker relationship is well-developed and very good emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ higher-order thinking skills. Greater emphasis on the exploration of poetry can add further to pupils’ language skills.

 

Reading skills are systematically developed at all levels. A developmental and structured approach to the teaching of phonics and phonological awareness is implemented throughout the school. The use of story and large-format books in infants are useful strategies for developing pupils’ vocabulary, comprehension and prediction skills. Pupils read fluently from a wide variety of texts and there is a well-developed system of pupils taking home library books and parents’ support for reading is invaluable. In addition to formal reading schemes class novels and well-stocked class libraries provide rich material for pupils. The new classrooms, when completed, will provide opportunities for more attractive displays of books and the creation of dedicated reading areas. A print-rich environment is evident and features a variety of commercial charts and teacher-prepared materials. The publishing and celebration of pupils’ writing merits further attention in this regard.

 

Pupils’ written work is well presented and systematically monitored by the teachers. Pupils are introduced to writing through suitable pre-writing activities. A cursive style of penmanship is developed as pupils progress through the classes and it would be of benefit to pupils to ensure its full implementation as early as possible. Strategies for teaching spelling have been very successful as indicated by the results of standardised spelling tests. In the junior classes pupils’ written work is compiled in booklet form and further extension of this practice of celebrating their writing can add further value to the work already being done. Pupils in the middle and senior classes are given opportunities to write in a wide variety of genres. Brainstorming strategies and appropriate scaffolding of written work are in evidence throughout the school. Upgrading of the school’s ICT infrastructure should provide greater possibilities for the celebration of pupils’ writing through the use of word processing and desktop publishing software.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Standards of Mathematics in the school are very high. Much excellent work has been done in planning for Mathematics and in informing parents of key issues around the standardisation of approaches to certain mathematical procedures. Observation of work in the junior section of the school provided evidence of effective use of concrete materials, excellent development of mathematical language  and a suitably differentiated approach to accommodate the broad range of abilities in a multi-grade classroom. Learning is linked to the environment and experiences of pupils.

 

In the senior section of the school pupils’ skills of reasoning, estimating, predicting, calculating and problem-solving are purposefully developed through teacher-guided discussion and exploration using concrete materials. Lessons are well-structured and suitably-paced and intensive efforts are made to ensure that pupils experiencing difficulty are given every assistance. Outcomes of standardised testing indicate that pupils’ achievement in Mathematics is maximised throughout the school

 

3.3 Drama

Teachers have begun to engage with the formal drama curriculum and are doing so quite successfully. Prior to this Drama was taught in an integrated manner as a means of enhancing work in other curricular areas and the work previously done is a useful foundation for the full implementation of the drama curriculum. Work observed in the junior section was highly effective in helping pupils to develop their instinct for make-believe, to play in role and to co-operate and communicate with their teacher and peers. In the senior section  a well-structured lesson involved consideration of the drama contract, introductory drama games and the development by groups of pupils of various scenarios for presentation using mime. The class concluded with a circle-time reflection on activities in the class.

 

3.4 Assessment

Assessment practices, both formative and summative are well-established in the school. A range of informal assessment strategies is utilised during classroom activity, including homework, teacher designed tests, monitoring of written work and teacher observation. The school plan on assessment also underlines the importance of assessing and recording progress in the areas of creativity and physical and social development. The Middle Infant Screening Test is administered in Senior infants. Towards the end of each academic year the Micra T, Sigma T and Drumcondra Primary Spelling tests are administered and results are carefully collated and analysed. Results of tests enable teachers to adapt teaching and curricula to the particular needs of the pupils and are also used to help determine which pupils should receive learning support. Results of tests are reported to parents and it is now recommended that the existing format for issuing reports be reviewed with a view to implementing the NCCA guidelines on reporting to parents. A system of individual tracking of pupils would also enhance existing good practice.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A comprehensive whole-school plan for pupils with special educational needs has been developed by staff. It outlines the various roles of the partners involved in the pupils’ learning and details strategies for early intervention, the criteria for the selection and discontinuation of pupils for supplementary teaching and protocols for dealing with outside agencies. Support for pupils with special educational needs is provided primarily in the areas of literacy and numeracy. An early intervention strategy aimed at developing phonological awareness and handwriting skills is currently being implemented in the Junior Infants class. End of year reviews indicate the significant progress achieved by pupils designated for resource and learning support teaching. Pupils are currently withdrawn for support in appropriately chosen groups. In-class support should be considered when the spacious new classrooms are ready for occupancy.

 

A detailed individual profile and learning programmes (IPLP) has been devised for the  pupil in receipt of resource teaching. The clarity of both the learning targets that are based on the pupil’s priority needs and the teaching and learning approaches employed is to be commended, as is the consultation with the pupil’s parents and class teacher in its development. It is recommended that similar documentation would be put in place for the various groups attending for support teaching and that progress is regularly recorded as outlined in the school policy. Pupils in the support setting are affirmed and encouraged and lessons observed were well structured and stimulating.

 

Overall the quality of the support for pupils with special educational needs is good.

 

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

There are no pupils from minority groups currently enrolled in the school. Staff are quite familiar with all family circumstances and deal sensitively with any instances of hardship or disadvantage that may arise.  

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

 

 

 

 

Published, January 2009