An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Curravagh National School

Glangevlin, County Cavan

Uimhir rolla:  16959M

 

Date of inspection: 9 March 2009

 

 

 

 

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 Curravagh National School was undertaken in March 2009. 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 Social, Personal and Health Education. 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

 

Curravagh National School is a co-educational, rural school located in the parish of Killinagh/Glangevlin in County Cavan. Pupils are taught in two multi-grade classes; the junior room accommodates pupils up to and including second class and the senior room accommodates pupils from third to sixth class. Enrolment figures have remained stable since the last school inspection in 1997.

 

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

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

38

Mainstream classrooms in the school

2

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2 (including the teaching principal)

Teachers working in support roles

2 (based elsewhere)

Special needs assistants

1

 

The school participates in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), the action plan of the Department of Education and Science for educational inclusion. However, the school-based position of rural co-ordinator has been vacant since December 2008. The school benefits from the services of a secretary and a cleaner, both on a part-time basis.

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school, under the patronage of the Bishop of Kilmore, has a Roman Catholic ethos. The school provides a well-ordered, caring and secure atmosphere for its pupils and focuses on their holistic development. The board of management, principal and teachers place significant emphasis on the pupils’ spiritual development. Regular opportunities are provided for the pupils’ involvement in a range of co-curricular and extracurricular activities. The pupils’ attendance levels are good and a statement of strategy on school attendance has been ratified by the board.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is supportive of the teachers and attends to its current priorities in a competent and considerate manner. It is conscious of its statutory obligations and is compliant with Department of Education and Science regulations. The board is properly constituted and meets regularly. Minutes are taken of all proceedings. The chairperson offers very good and caring support to the school. Recently, the board has completed a grounds renovation project thereby increasing considerably the playing areas available to pupils. The school, originally built in 1933, requires continuous maintenance and this is an ongoing priority for board members. The board has applied to the Department for financial assistance to replace the original windows. It is recommended that, in the near future, the board also arranges for the refurbishment of the toilets and the classroom foyers. The board intends to develop the information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure in the school as part of its own action planning for improvement. This would be a beneficial development. The board regularly discusses and ratifies organisational and curricular policies drafted by the teaching staff and facilitates the communication of key policies to the parent body. The board’s efforts to involve parents in development committees for both healthy eating and the Green-Schools programme, and previously in preparing a policy for Relationships and Sexuality Education, are commended and should be strengthened further.

 

1.3 In-school management

Since the last school inspection, there has been a complete change of staff. Appointed to the post in 2006, the principal works very effectively. She carries out her administrative duties carefully and efficiently. Registers and roll books are maintained assiduously. Her efforts in leading the whole-school planning process are exemplary. The principal leads and manages in a considerate manner and promotes a culture of collaborative decision-making and collegiality among staff. She is very committed to her pupils and monitors whole-school learning outcomes effectively. The assistant teacher has a special-duties post and supports the principal very admirably through her work. She attends to her duties in a very conscientious manner and takes an active role in the whole-school planning process. The principal and assistant teacher facilitate pupils to work together successfully in quiz competitions, arts and sports activities, Christmas performances, cross-border initiatives, and in environmental and charity work.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The board of management and teaching staff welcome the support of parents and report that home-school relationships are very good. Parent-teacher meetings, both formal and informal, and end-of-year reports are used to inform the parents of their children’s progress. The teachers also use newsletters to share information about pupils’ achievements with the school community. The provision of a school web site would further facilitate the sharing of information. The parent body has not established a parents’ association but it is reported that parents give freely of their time to support school initiatives. For example, they assist in fundraising activities such as Fleadh na Ríochta and book fairs. Parents support the Green-Schools programme and help to maintain the school garden. In the past, assisted by the rural coordinator, parents participated in Maths for Fun, a toy library and reading programmes. It is recommended that the school continues some of these home-school projects into the future.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

A suitable code of behaviour has been devised and the teachers have established a culture of inclusion and positive discipline. During the evaluation, expectations of behaviour were clear and the teachers’ use of praise was well judged and discriminating. Most pupils demonstrated respect in their interactions with teachers and with each other.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1   Whole-school and classroom planning

The overall quality of whole-school planning is very good. An extensive array of documents constitutes the school plan wherein policies and procedures are outlined for a range of administrative, pastoral and curricular areas. An action plan outlines the main priorities for the future and a planning diary is used to monitor targets. While there has been some involvement of parents in reviewing school policies, structures should be put in place to support their ongoing participation in the development and review of school policy. A whole-school ICT programme should be drawn up to ensure more structured use of ICT in teaching and learning in the classrooms.

 

The quality of individual classroom planning is good. Mainstream and support teachers provide clear and useful long-term and short-term planning. Monthly progress records are relevant and indicate appropriate progress. Regular appraisal of completed monthly reports would provide teachers with a rich resource for school self-evaluation.

 

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 and school staff; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all 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. Notification of school policy regarding child protection procedures has been disseminated among the parents.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá gnéithe áirithe de mhúineadh agus fhoghlaim na Gaeilge ag éirí go sásúil. Tugtar faoi mhúineadh na teanga go díograiseach agus baintear úsáid éifeachtach as mórchuid acmhainní sa mhúineadh. Cothaítear dearcadh dearfa i leith na teanga sa scoil agus déantar iarracht an Ghaeilge a úsáid go neamhfhoirmiúil i rith an lae. B’inmholta úsáid na Gaeilge a chleachtadh go leanúnach in ábhar éigin eile den churaclam. Chabhródh an cleachtas seo le feidhm chumarsáide na teanga a chur i gcrích níos éifeachtúla.

 

Tá an chuid is mó de na daltaí ag déanamh dul chun cinn sásúil i labhairt na teanga. Baintear úsáid rialta as cluichí teanga, drámaíocht, dánta agus amhráin chun suim na ndaltaí a mhúscailt sa chomhrá Gaeilge. B’fhearrde fós an toradh ach breis béime a leagan ar na briathra, ar na haimsirí agus ar cheapadóireacht ó bhéal tríd an scoil. Moltar béim leanúnach a chur ar ghnáthchomhrá laethúil (beagán a dhéanamh gach lá ach é a chur i bhfeidhm go maith) agus baint ag an ábhar leis na daltaí féin agus lena dtimpeallacht.  

 

Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as raon d’acmhainní léirithe agus le déanaí de leabhair mhóra chun an léitheoireacht a thosnú sa bhunroinn agus déantar ceangal leis an teanga labhartha de réir mar is cuí. B’fhiú anois abhár foghraíochta breise a chur ar fáil chun éifeacht a chur le múineadh na foghraíochta sna bunranganna. Cuirtear béim rialta ar fhorbairt na léitheoireachta sna meán agus sna hardranganna. Léann na ndaltaí go cruinn i gcoitinne as leabhair saothair agus tuigeann siad a bhfuil a léamh acu. Níor mhiste cur leis an raon agus ábhar léitheoireachta chun breis taithí agus leathnú a dhéanamh ar an bhfíorléitheoireacht. Cleachtann na daltaí téacsanna éagsúla simplí scríbhneoireachta agus déanann siad an obair scríofa go néata, tuisceanach. Déantar monatóireacht ar an scríbhneoireacht ar bhonn rialta. Chuirfeadh sé go mór leis an obair mhaith dá mbeadh níos mó deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí scríobh go cruthaitheach agus go pearsanta.

 

Déantar taifead rialta ar dhul chun cinn na ndaltaí i léitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht na teanga. Baintear úsáid as seicliostaí agus scrúduithe rialta ar na téamaí atá múinte. B’fhiú go mbeadh forbairt air seo ionas go mbeadh measúnú struchtúrtha sna snáitheanna éisteacht, labhairt, léamh agus scríobh ó na naíonáin go rang a sé sa scoil.

 

Irish

Various aspects of teaching and learning in Irish are progressing well. The teaching of the language is undertaken diligently and a large range of resources is used effectively. A positive attitude towards the language is created in the school and efforts are made to use Irish informally throughout the day. It would be worthwhile to consider using Irish consistently in another area of the curriculum. This would help to establish more effective communicative use of the language.

 

The majority of the pupils are making satisfactory progress in speaking the language. Regular use is made of language games, drama, poems and songs to awaken the pupils’ interest in Irish conversation. It would improve results further if additional emphasis was placed on the use of verbs, tenses, and on oral composition throughout the school. It is recommended that consistent emphasis is placed on everyday conversation (a little done every day and it to be reinforced well) and that the subject matter is linked to the pupils themselves and their environment.

 

Good use is made of a range of illustrative resources and recently of big books to introduce reading in the junior section and there is linkage with the spoken language as appropriate.  It would be worthwhile now to make additional resources available to teach phonics in the junior classes. Regular emphasis is placed on the development of reading in the middle and senior classes. In general pupils read accurately from workbooks and they understand what they read. It is necessary to increase the range and subject matter of the reading so that the pupils gain additional experience and that real reading is developed. The pupils practise various simple writing exercises and their work is done neatly and with understanding. The writing is monitored effectively. It would add significantly to the good work underway if the pupils had more chances to write creatively and personally.

 

The pupils’ progress in reading and writing in Irish is assessed on a regular basis. Checklists are used and regular tests are given on the themes taught. This process could be further developed on a whole-school basis so that structured assessment in the strands of listening, speaking, reading and writing is conducted from infants to sixth class.

 

English

The quality of teaching in English is good overall. Teaching methodologies accord with the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and teachers work hard to make the programme interesting for pupils. Most aspects of oral language development are handled well. The pupils are eager communicators and the majority listen patiently and respectfully to others. Some additional emphasis on careful listening and turn-taking would benefit the more junior classes. All classrooms display very useful vocabulary banks and teachers emphasise oral language across the curriculum to good effect. They base their language in literacy programme on a variety of sources and this aspect of oral development is progressing well. Teachers regularly conduct mini-lessons in response to pupils’ specific language development needs. In collaboration with the visiting support teachers, the teachers should consider implementing whole-school targeted activities as part of their discrete language programme. Pupils are given good opportunities to respond to poetry. They recite a repertoire of poems and rhymes in both languages. Continuing focus on recitation skills is recommended. 

 

The pupils’ attainment levels in reading are good overall. Emergent reading is well handled in the junior classes and most pupils’ word attack and identification skills are satisfactory. A good range of resources is used to support the development of reading including early literacy schemes, commercial materials to aid the development of phonological and phonemic awareness and spelling capacities, and a selection of large-format books. In the middle and senior classes, the pupils’ reading skills are progressed appropriately using graded reading schemes, support texts, library books and class novels. Shared reading is promoted between classes. Library books are available in both classrooms and reading for pleasure is cultivated. Additional large-format books along with their corresponding small-format versions for pupils’ use and comprehension kits would be beneficial and should be considered as resources permit. Some reference materials for teachers on the teaching of literacy are available in the school and are complemented by teacher-generated materials.

 

Overall, the teaching of writing is good. Careful attention is paid to pre-writing and early writing activities in the junior classes. As pupils progress through the school, the writing activities are developed appropriately and pupils are provided with regular opportunities to write poetry, menus, lists, expository pieces and imaginative work. Written work is carefully monitored in both classrooms and the presentation of pupils’ work is commendable overall. Samples of work are carefully displayed. In terms of content, organisation and style, the pupils’ writing attainments are commendable overall. Their use of spelling and punctuation is age-appropriate. Cursive handwriting is introduced to pupils in third class. Consideration might be given to introducing cursive script at an earlier stage. From time to time the pupils are encouraged to use ICT to draft, re-draft, edit and publish their writing. The school’s involvement in initiatives such as the Write-a-Book Project provides an additional motivation for pupils.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good overall. Teachers plan for an appropriate representation of all strands of the curriculum and promote the use of mathematical language consistently. There is a mathematics-rich environment, with relevant number facts and charts on display, and a good array of mathematical resources in the school. Good use is made of number songs, rhymes and manipulatives in the junior classes and the pupils show a satisfactory understanding of numbers. In the middle and senior classes, pupils display good competency with regard to tables and mental computation. The pupils display a sound knowledge of place value and most pupils have confidence in the four basic number operations. Both mainstream teachers are successful in ensuring that the mathematics programme has relevance and a sound environmental basis. In action planning for the subject, the teachers have committed to emphasise problem solving and estimation and to create more mathematics trails. Pupils’ overall attainment in Mathematics is satisfactory but assessment results indicate a wide spread of achievement across the school. The pupils’ written work is neatly presented and is monitored carefully by teachers.

 

3.3 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

Overall, the quality of teaching and learning in SPHE is good. The teachers set aside discrete time for the subject weekly and it is evident that during the year, they use their discretionary time to develop aspects of the SPHE curriculum. Classrooms are very well presented and portray a visually stimulating learning environment. Display is used effectively to celebrate and consolidate pupil learning. Lessons observed dealt with topics such as hygiene and nutrition and the focus was on developing pupils’ understanding through discussion. The work undertaken was linked appropriately to events in the pupils’ own experiences. Teachers used a range of active learning methodologies and good use was made of circle time, pair work and whole-class teaching. Pupil responses were generally well-thought out and indicated that the pupils had a good grasp of the concepts being explored. The pupils have a good understanding of environmental issues which are further promoted through the Green-Schools programme. A healthy eating policy is implemented with parental support. A review of pupils’ written work indicates that they have a good understanding of the topics taught and that they have been encouraged to see the implications of this learning for their present and future lives.

 

A policy for Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), ratified by the board of management, has been in place for a number of years. At present, aspects of the RSE programme at the infant, junior and middle levels about the naming of body parts as outlined in the Growing and Changing strand unit are not implemented consistently. Each year, the board of management invites a guest speaker to help familiarise the sixth-class pupils with the RSE objectives on sexuality. It is now recommended that the teachers work closely with the guest speaker to develop their own confidence in delivering all aspects of the RSE programme. It is also recommended that a review of the RSE policy be undertaken and that all content objectives of the RSE curriculum be implemented in all classes.

 

3.4 Assessment

The school has a whole-school policy on assessment and there is ongoing development of this important area of endeavour. A range of informal and formal assessment strategies is used in mainstream classrooms. Standardised tests of attainment in reading and Mathematics are administered to all classes from first to sixth. Both standardised and screening tests are administered to senior infants in order to assess emergent reading development. The learning support and resource teachers, in conjunction with the class teachers analyse the tests results effectively in order to select pupils for additional learning support. A very useful assessment portfolio is maintained for every pupil in the school and includes the results of annual standardised tests in reading and Mathematics, samples of written work and anecdotal notes on progress. The end-of-year reports give clear information to parents about their children’s performance across the curriculum.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has a comprehensive policy on special educational needs. Mainstream teachers are very aware of the pupils’ varying learning needs and are careful to differentiate activities to enhance learning. Two support teachers provide a service to the school. A learning-support teacher visits the school for six hours per week. She provides support, as required, to eight pupils in literacy and numeracy. The learning-support teacher also provides supplementary phonological training to third class. A resource teacher for pupils with special educational needs attends for five hours per week. She works primarily on a one-to-one basis but has initiated some very useful language development work with second class. Both teachers provide relevant learning programmes and maintain useful records for attending pupils. Pupils’ progress is monitored through the administration of diagnostic tests and a variety of teacher-designed tasks. It is reported that the support teachers meet with parents on a regular basis. During the evaluation, commendable practice was witnessed in the support room where pupils worked in small groups and on a one-to-one basis. Lessons were judiciously implemented using appropriate resources to assist learning. Pupils responded well to the variety of lessons and exercises which were devised. In order to facilitate enhanced resource provision, it is recommended that the availability and use of appropriate software be increased, as resources permit. At present, supplementary teaching is provided on a withdrawal basis and it is recommended that consideration be given to incorporating in-class support and team-teaching approaches. Support teaching is currently provided in a prefabricated classroom which also acts as the staffroom and the principal’s office. Although the space is well resourced, it needs some modification so that the various uses of the room are separated. A special needs assistant works full time in the junior classroom. She works well with the mainstream and support teachers and has a positive relationship with the pupils.

 

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

The school is the base for a shared rural co-ordinator post under the DEIS action plan for educational inclusion. However, the post is currently vacant. During pre-evaluation meetings, both the board and the parents’ representatives acknowledged the work undertaken with both parents and pupils by the previous co-ordinator. They believe that her efforts added considerably to the development of the school.

 

Mainstream and support teachers are sensitive to any instances of disadvantage which manifest and endeavour to be as supportive as possible of specific family situations. Departmental grants under DEIS are used in an effective manner. A school book scheme helps to reduce costs for parents.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

·         The board of management is supportive of the teachers and attends to its current priorities in a competent and considerate manner.

·         Interaction between the principal, staff, pupils and the school community is very positive and this helps secure high levels of co-operation, collaboration and commitment.

·         The commitment of the teaching staff is notable. Their preparation of useful school planning documents and their adherence to planning as a means of improving the quality of teaching and learning are

      commended.

·         The quality of teaching is good overall. Teachers work very hard to present interesting programmes of learning and attractive, motivating classrooms for their pupils.

·         The supports available to pupils with learning difficulties and with identified special educational needs are commendable.

·         The ongoing assessment, monitoring and tracking of all pupils’ progress throughout the school in literacy and numeracy is praiseworthy.

 

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

·         A focused whole-school approach to the teaching of communicative Irish is recommended. The quality of teaching and learning in Irish reading and writing would benefit from the introduction of a wider range

      of reading material and a greater emphasis on creative and personal writing.

·         It is recommended that a review is undertaken of the policy for Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and that the content objectives of the RSE curriculum are implemented in all classes.

·         A whole-school information and communications technology (ICT) programme should be drawn up to ensure more structured use of ICT in teaching and learning in the classrooms.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published June 2009