An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Uimhir Rolla: 16955E
Date of inspection: 26 April 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
This report has been written following a whole school
The management and staff of
The board of management is properly constituted and meetings are regularly convened. It is reported that the agenda for meetings is agreed in advance and circulated to board members. Financial statements are furnished and minutes are maintained. Meetings in the past concluded with agreement as regards matters to be communicated to teachers and parents. The board acknowledges the benefits of such a practise and intends to establish clear procedures to enhance communication with parents.
It is evident that the board of management is keenly interested in promoting the welfare of the school. The board recognises its statutory obligations and has directed its attention to the development of organisational policies. School policy documents are made available to board members for perusal prior to board meetings. Both organisational policies and curricular plans are discussed, ratified and signed.
The in-school management team consists of the principal and the special duties teacher. A collegial and supportive atmosphere permeates the school. A warm rapport exists between principal and teachers. There is clear evidence that staff, pupils and parents are valued and that their work is appreciated and acknowledged. The leadership style, which is purposeful and visionary, enables others to contribute meaningfully to school life.
The special duties teacher supports the principal in matters related to the daily life of the school, curriculum development and administration. Duties have been determined through discussion and include a number of organisation and pastoral responsibilities. Regular review and full documentation of duties associated with the post of responsibility would facilitate the matching of duties to the changing needs of the school. It is also recommended that the practice of formal meetings between in-school management personnel be re-established. The shared commitment and dedication of the staff is a most notable and commendable feature of the school. This collaborative team atmosphere positively influences the attitudes of pupils, parents and board members alike.
The teaching staff comprises two mainstream teachers including the principal and two special education support teachers. A special needs assistant is employed to support a pupil with special educational needs and she makes a significant contribution to the inclusion of this child in the mainstream setting. However, every opportunity should be availed of to further develop the independence of special needs pupils while engaging in classroom activities. A part-time secretary provides valuable administrative support to the school in the day-to-day organisation of school matters. A cleaner and a caretaker contribute to the maintenance of a clean and safe environment. The board of management also employs a music teacher and a speech and drama tutor on a part-time basis to enrich the school’s arts education programme.
The teaching staff has participated in national in-service initiatives and individual staff members have availed of professional development opportunities in response to the assessed needs of the school. The two mainstream class teachers rotate classes every two years and each has gained valuable experiences of teaching all class levels. Consideration might now be given to extending this good practise by facilitating a sharing of teachers’ expertise in particular curricular areas.
Originally built in 1933, the school was extended in 1999. It now has two classrooms, a spacious staff room which is also used as a learning support room and some outside storage space. The reception area to the front of the school accommodates some of the Information and Communication Technology(ICT) equipment. It is suggested that all computers be more appropriately placed in this area to provide additional space in already congested classrooms. The suitable location of ICT equipment will facilitate its greater use as a learning tool. A spacious hard core and green area provides space for games and recreation. The board of management have recently been successful in acquiring a grant from Ceantair Laga Ard-Riachtanais (CLÁR) which will now assist them in making further improvements to the play area. While both classrooms are well maintained, it is considered that the senior room in particular is not adequate in terms of space or suitability for its purpose. It is recommended that the board of management review current accommodation with a view to extending the classroom provision. The school environs are particularly attractive and very well maintained. Necessary improvements are carried out on a regular basis.
A wide range of teaching and learning resources is available in the school and is used skillfully to support pupils’ active engagement in learning. Each classroom has a supply of suitable charts, maps and posters on display which contribute to the creation of a pleasant learning environment.
The school endeavours to promote good communication and build trust and respect between parents, teachers and board. A notable feature of the school community is the willingness shown by parents to share their expertise in a wide range of activities. Staff welcome and actively encourage parental involvement in the delivery of the curriculum. Home-school links are also promoted through parent/teacher meetings, school concerts, religious ceremonies, sporting activities and informal meetings between teachers and parents. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually and written reports on pupil’s progress are provided for parents at the end of each school year. The teaching staff, in recent times, have organised meetings with parents to inform them of changes with regard to the implementation of the curriculum. Building on this successful initiative it is suggested that an induction meeting with parents of incoming junior infants would take place annually. The school’s valuable information booklet could be presented to parents at this meeting.
There is no parents association in the school despite the endeavours of the board of management to establish such a forum for parents’ participation. However, it has been proposed that the parents’ representatives on the board will conduct an annual general meeting to keep the parent body abreast of all school business and to consult them on school matters. Pupils have been afforded opportunities to meet with pupils from neighbouring schools through sporting and other after school activities. Links with the wider community are established through competitions, participation in local events and pupils’ investigation of the historical and environmental features of the locality.
Good relationships exist between pupils and school staff. Teachers demonstrate a genuine concern for the progress of each pupil and pupils respond positively to the interest which teachers show in their development. This positive disposition is reciprocated in the respect and co-operation which pupils offer to teachers. Classroom atmosphere is positive and pupils are most co-operative and participate willingly in all school activities. Pupils are encouraged to take pride in the school and to respect adults and fellow pupils. They are also encouraged to be confident, competent and caring individuals.
The school plan is devised through the collaborative activity of the staff and the board of management. The school has a clear mission statement which encapsulates the aims of the school. A range of statutory and organisational policies have been devised systematically which include policies on health and safety, enrolment, anti-bullying, homework, administration of medication. A full copy of the completed school plan is made available for parents to view on request while certain organisational plans are circulated annually. Recently parents have been provided with opportunities to contribute to the formulation of school policies and are currently involved in developing particular aspects of the Social, Personal and Health Education policy. Increased parental involvement in school planning should be further explored and appropriate structures put in place to facilitate its promotion. 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 development of curricular plans is undertaken primarily by the teaching staff who are to be commended for their work in this area. A number of plans have been devised in collaboration with a cluster of neighbouring schools at in-service days and through school-based planning days. The school plan is evolving and it is intended that its continuing compilation will be paralleled with the delivery of the curriculum in-service programme. While some plans are comprehensive and clearly documented, a number of curricular plans and organisational policies require review. The school is advised to formulate an action plan for the purpose of developing and reviewing a range of plans and policies.
Individual teacher’s planning is undertaken in the form of long-term and short-term preparation. It is evident from individual teacher planning that pupils experience a broad and balanced curriculum and appropriate attention is afforded to linkage and integration with and between subjects. A whole-school approach to recording monthly progress has been adopted which clearly delineates continuity of learning. It is recommended that a similar approach be adopted with respect to short-term planning. Teachers have copies of individual education plans in their files to ensure that they provide for the varying abilities of their pupils.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Curriculum provision is broad and balanced and adapted to the developmental needs of pupils. The pedagogical principles of activity and discovery methods and an integrated curriculum characterise teaching and learning in the school. Lessons are well-structured and well-managed and in general pupils display commitment to their work and undertake tasks with enthusiasm. Many pupils have satisfactory levels of achievement for their abilities in areas of the curriculum.
Baintear feidhm fhónta as rainn, amhráin agus scéalaíocht chun fuaim agus rithim na Gaeilge a chur ar chluasa na ndaltaí sna ranganna naíonán agus baineann taitneamh lena bhfoghlaim. Forbraítear scileanna éisteachta na ndaltaí go creidiúnach trí úsáid a bhaint as cluichí teanga agus as obair i bpéirí. Cothaíonn na múinteoirí dearcadh fábhrach i leith na Gaeilge sna daltaí ach b’fhiú go mór a thuilleadh béime a leagan ar úsáid na Gaeilge go neamhfhoirmiúil i rith gnáth imeachtaí an lae. Úsáidtear cairteacha agus fearas éagsúla go torthúil chun ionchur teanga a thabhairt do na daltaí ach ní mór straitéisí breise a úsáid chun cur le cumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí. Is gá deiseanna fíorchumarsáide a sholáthar dóibh chun a dteanga a chleachtadh agus a leathnú. B’inmhianaithe bunús maith a bheith faoi chumas cainte na ndaltaí sula dtugtar faoi ghramadach fhoirmiúil a mhúineadh.
Tá sé ar chumas formhór na ndaltaí sna hardranganna léitheoireacht a dhéanamh trí mheán na Gaeilge le luas áirithe. Tá gá, áfach, go mbeadh sé ar chumas na ndaltaí sna meán ranganna focail a fhuaimniú go cruinn agus a thuiscint i gceart agus iad i mbun léitheoireachta. B’fhiú a chinntiú go bhfuil an téacs léitheoireachta feiliúnach dá gcumas teanga agus dá leibhéil suime agus go bhfuil na scileanna léitheoireachta á bhforbairt go céimiúil. Aithnítear go bhfuil dua caite le téacsanna nua a chur ar fáil ach is gá ábhar níos oiriúnaí a sholáthar chun eispéiris leathan léitheoireachta a sholáthar dóibh.
Déanann na daltaí cleachtaí éagsúla bunaithe cuid mhaith ar leabhair saothar agus scríobhann siad sleachta áirithe go neamhspleách. Tá gá, áfach, le deiseanna rialta a sholáthar do na daltaí chun forbairt a dhéanamh ar a scileanna scríbhneoireachta. Mar gur eispéiris cumarsáideach í an scríbhneoireacht b’fhiú deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí a bheith ag obair i mbeirteanna agus i ngrúpaí agus iad ag cleachtadh a gcuid cumadóireachta.
In the infant classes songs and rhymes are used to good effect to familiarise pupils with the sounds of the language and pupils enjoy their learning. Formal tasks are designed to develop pupils listening skills through the use of language games and pair work. Teachers foster a positive attitude to Irish by using it informally in school activities but more regular and extensive use of the language would further support its acquisition. Resources such as charts are used productively to teach the language to the pupils. Further strategies should be used to ensure that pupils are active in their learning and that communication is cultivated among them. Every opportunity for pupils to engage in communication exercises should be promoted. Formal grammar need not be introduced until pupils have a good proficiency in the spoken language.
Most pupils in the senior classes read with fluency in Irish. However, pupils in the middle classes need to improve their enunciation and understanding of the text they read. To this end, it is necessary to develop reading skills systematically and to procure reading texts appropriate to pupils’ abilities and interests. It is noted that a variety of books and reading texts have been sourced. However, it is necessary that pupils are exposed to a wide reading experience to enable them to regularly practise the various reading skills.
Pupils’ written work is based on workbook exercises as well as some independent writing activities. To further develop their ability to write in Irish more opportunities for writing independently should be explored. As writing is a communicative exercise it is advised that more emphasis be placed on pair and group work as pupils engage in written activities.
Appropriate attention is paid to the development of pupils’ oral language skills. Classroom discussion is based to a considerable extent on various aspects of the school curriculum and on pupils’ own experiences. Positive emphasis is placed on enriching pupils’ vocabulary and on developing expressive skills. In general greater emphasis should be placed on the focused approach of the discrete oral language lesson to enhance pupils’ overall language ability. Pupils in the junior classes enjoy a wide repertoire of rhyme and poetry appropriate to their age and stage of development.
Considerable effort is devoted to preparing a print-rich learning environment in the junior section of the school. A structured programme with emphasis on developing pupils’ phonological and phonemic awareness is used. A range of word identification strategies and the use of large format books allows for an integrated language experience approach for the pupils. In the senior classes many pupils display a positive understanding of reading conventions. The encouragement of pupils to engage in extensive personal reading through the regular use of parallel readers is praiseworthy. Productive exploration of a range of texts and novels effectively develops pupils’ critical and analytical abilities. The reading of the novel is conducted during the third term. This positive practice could be extended beyond just one term of the school year.
Pupils engage in both functional and creative writing activities. They write in an age-appropriate register of language and in general observe the conventions of grammar and punctuation. It is suggested that pupils in all classes be given further opportunities to write independently on a more regular basis. It is recommended that pupils be exposed to the experience of drafting, editing and redrafting through the writing process. Pupils in the middle and senior classes engage productively in project work where emphasis is placed on the development of research skills through the use of ICT. In general greater use could be made of the computer in the overall presentation of pupils’ work. Good handwriting is, in general, a positive feature of pupils’ work. However, there are some instances where presentation of written work could be improved.
All strands and strand units within the Mathematics curriculum are being addressed on a systematic and structured basis. The provision of a maths-rich environment is a noteworthy feature of classrooms. Lesson content is presented clearly and emphasis is placed on teaching appropriate mathematical language. Well-structured discussion is employed effectively to explore a broad range of mathematical concepts. Teachers purposefully avail of opportunities to ensure that activities are rooted in pupils’ every day experiences. Mathematical trails facilitate an integrated approach and support pupils’ development across a range of competencies and cross-curricular activities. Concrete materials and activity learning methods are used purposefully in the junior classes to support pupils’ understanding of concepts. It is suggested that pupils in the senior classes have greater exposure to manipulative materials to further consolidate mathematical conceptual development. At all levels pupils present age-appropriate ability to perform computation. While mathematical games were observed in some classes it is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on oral Mathematics across all strand and strand units on a regular basis to further develop pupils’ mental processing skills. In general, written work is presented carefully and this is regularly monitored by teachers.
The teaching of history is supported by the use and display of artefacts. Pupils develop an understanding of change and continuity by exploring similarities between past and present and through visits to the school by people from the locality. A number of projects, with an appropriate focus on local history, have been researched. Greater emphasis on the reinforcement of local history will further enhance pupils’ understanding of historical concepts. Productive use is made of story, song and poetry to extend and enrich historical concepts. Themes from History are successfully linked with other areas of the curriculum. The work in classrooms is supported through the careful use of textbooks and reference materials. Work in this area is well documented in pupils’ copybooks in an age-appropriate manner.
pupils are developing knowledge and understanding of natural and human
environments in the locality, in
Teachers plan a broad and comprehensive programme of scientific activity for pupils and they are developing a knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas particularly through the study of their local environment. The school grounds are very well resourced for the teaching of Science and pupils are afforded opportunities to actively explore and investigate the school environment. The acquisition of a tunnel for the growing of fruit and vegetables has generated considerable interest in this area among pupils. The planting of native trees and the creation of wildlife habitats on school grounds encourage pupils to observe and explore ways in which the behaviour of plants and animals is influenced by environmental conditions. Of particular interest to pupils is the development of the school pond as a wild life habitat. The curriculum strand of Environmental Awareness has been enhanced through the school’s involvement in the Green Flag initiative. The school’s participation in the Discover Science project earned them an award for excellence in this area. Learning is also enriched through appropriate integration of the various stands of the SESE curriculum. Parents have contributed positively to the development of pupils scientific skills. The school is to be highly commended for their work in the Science programme.
Pupils participate in a broad and balanced Visual Arts programme. A range of effective stimuli is employed for purposeful teaching and pupils are active in exploring, experimenting, expressing and enjoying art. Emphasis is placed on the creative process of making art. Pupils explore a wide range of themes, topics and media from the different strands of the Visual Arts curriculum and their creative achievements are celebrated through displays in classrooms. Creativity and originality are notable features of pupils’ work in art. Learning about the work of artists merits greater attention supported by suitable displays of artist’s work in the school environment. Further development of the strand Looking and responding to art would further develop pupils sensitivity to their visual surroundings and help them make connections between what they observe and their own work. The involvement of parents in this area of the curriculum is praiseworthy.
The Music programme enables pupils participate in a range of enjoyable music-making activities such as performing, listening, responding and identification of rhythmic patterns. Pupils participate enthusiastically in the music lesson and teachers afford them regular opportunities to engage in musical exploration through the use of percussion instruments, some of which they have made themselves. Pupils competently sing a range of songs in Irish and in English. As a developmental issue, staff might undertake a review of songs taught throughout the school and decide on a core compilation to become part of each child’s repertoire. An external tutor provides tuition in tin whistle to pupils in some classes.
An integrated approach to Drama is adopted. Mime and role-play are among the strategies used to skilfully integrate dramatic activity with the exploration of topics in other curricular areas. The school is to be commended for its participation in local events, such as the St. Patrick’s Day parade for which they have won many prizes. The annual school concerts also provide opportunities for every pupil to engage in dramatic activity in a purposeful way. The teaching of Drama is also supported by an external tutor who engages the pupils in choral verse. It is anticipated that a whole-school approach will be adopted to the teaching of Drama as a discrete activity with suitable emphasis on the process of drama as teachers engage in the national programme of in-service and have had the opportunity to complete the drama plan.
4.6 Physical Education
Pupils’ physical development is fostered through a range of experiences that are organised in the school yard or playing field. The delivery of the Physical Education curriculum is of necessity subject to the influence of weather. Pupils experience enjoyment and achievement through the planned activities of the physical education programme. A well-organised lesson was observed during the evaluation. This lesson promoted the development of specific skills and ensured the utilisation of such skills in a broad range of collaborative activities. Clear instructions for tasks are given and active participation of all pupils is encouraged. A range of suitable equipment is used to considerable effect and safety issues are addressed. Pupils participation in competitions and local sports days augments the school’s provision for Physical Education as does an eight-week programme of aquatics.
The school ethos is characterised by a caring relationship between teachers and pupils. A keen emphasis is placed on the development of pupils sense of social responsibility. A respectful and caring school atmosphere infuses the school community. In line with the school’s vision, pupils are afforded opportunities through Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) to develop a framework of values, attitudes, understanding and skills. Teachers are conscientious in ensuring a secure, safe and healthy environment for pupils.
Teachers employ participative teaching and learning approaches such as mime, role play and circle time. Story is used to good effect to elicit listening skills and to enable pupils explore and discuss a range of issues. Language skills are developed appropriately to enable pupils examine social, personal and health aspects of their lives. Topics are explored in a sensitive and caring manner. The development of a healthy eating policy with the cooperation and involvement of parents has been beneficial. Teachers strive to promote pupils’ confidence, independence and self-worth in a positive manner.
A range of assessment modes is in use throughout the school, with teacher observation, monitoring of pupils’ written work, teacher-devised tests and homework assignments. These are complemented by the administration of standardized tests namely Micra-T. Staff are considering the re-introduction of standardized testing in the area of numeracy. The MIST test is also administered to pupils in senior infants to assess pupil attainment in literacy and to identify those pupils who may require supplementary support. In addition, a range of diagnostic tests is administered regularly by the support teachers to determine appropriate learning programmes for those pupils with special educational needs. While some procedures have been established to record pupil progress, a system of detailing progress would greatly enhance the monitoring of the overall development of each individual pupil as they progress from class to class. As a further development of assessment procedures, the school might usefully direct attention to the plotting of trends and the creation of a whole-school perspective on pupil achievement in literacy and numeracy, and use the analysis to devise future programmes of learning.
The school enjoys the services of a shared learning support teacher and a part-time resource teacher. The integration of pupils with special educational needs in the school community is noteworthy. Teachers planning is aimed at addressing the needs of individual pupils and a range of school-based testing and psychological reports is used effectively to determine these needs. Suitable education plans are prepared in consultation with class teachers and parents and some records of progress are maintained. It is recommended that educational plans could be further developed to include specific learning targets. It is also suggested that pupils’ learning targets and progress are reviewed and documented at suitable intervals in collaboration with class teachers and parents. Structured teaching strategies are adapted appropriately and suitable resources are deployed in the teaching and learning process. Pupils are withdrawn from mainstream classes for support education. However, opportunities for working in-class should be explored particularly where an individual pupil or a group of pupils may be experiencing difficulties in some area of literacy or numeracy. The caseload of the learning support teacher requires review and to this end procedures regarding continuation and/or discontinuation should be devised.
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.