An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Saint Peter and Paul’s Junior National School
Balbriggan, County Dublin
Uimhir rolla: 16972E
Date of inspection: 7 November 2008
A whole-school evaluation of St Peter and Paul’s Junior National School was undertaken in November, 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on aspects of the school’s provision including management, teaching and learning, planning and supports for pupils, with a particular focus on the provision of English, of Mathematics and of English as an Additional Language (EAL).
The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
St Peter and Paul’s Junior National School is a co-educational school situated in Balbriggan, County Dublin. The main school building was constructed in 1933. An infant school was constructed on the campus in 1974. In 1989, the infant school and senior school amalgamated giving rise to the present school which now caters for pupils in classes from junior infants to second. Pupil attendance levels are very good. The school principal and the teaching staff monitor attendance levels carefully. In addition to its teaching staff, the school has four special needs assistants, a caretaker and a secretary who approach their work in an enthusiastic and focused manner. The school has grown rapidly over the past decade. It has a diverse multi-cultural population, with twenty-one different nationalities represented.
Total number of teachers on the school staff
Number of mainstream class teachers
Total number of teachers working in support roles
Number of language support teachers
Special needs assistants
Total number of pupils enrolled in the school
Number of pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL)
St Peter and Paul’s Junior National School is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. While the characteristic spirit of the school is Catholic it welcomes people from other faiths. The school’s mission statement seeks to embrace the uniqueness of each individual. It actively endeavours to promoter gender and ethnic equality within a caring, secure atmosphere where the intellectual, physical and spiritual needs of every pupil are met. The school strives to cultivate an atmosphere of mutual respect which enhances the self-esteem and confidence of its members.
The board of management operates in an effective and proficient manner. Meetings are held on a very regular basis and appropriate minutes are taken. All board members have been assigned roles in support of managing the school. The board’s primary concerns include promoting the school ethos, creating a nurturing and inclusive learning environment, maintaining the school, managing the expansion of the school and providing relevant resources. The board contributes primarily to the development of organisational policies but does make some input into the formulation of curricular policies. The board has actively promoted an inclusive school environment and has developed a number of initiatives to support its EAL pupils. For example, the school information booklet is produced in a range of languages, all parents of EAL pupils are met by school staff on enrolment day and a specific enrolment evening is organised for the parents of all EAL pupils to familiarise parents with the school’s provision. Teachers are commended for their commitment to helping parents in this regard. In recognition of the diverse cultural backgrounds of its parent population, the board takes proactive steps to ensure all are aware of school policies. In the main, such steps involve liaising with the parents’ association and organising that certain parents orally translate particular policies when required.
The in-school management team operates in a purposeful and systematic manner and makes an important contribution to the effective and efficient operation of the school. Members work collaboratively to promote curriculum leadership and to nurture a positive and caring learning environment. In-school management meetings are convened on a monthly basis and minutes are taken at each meeting. Matters arising are discussed at staff meetings and serve to mould and influence team decisions and initiatives. A representative of the in-school management team also makes a report to the board of management.
The principal provides purposeful leadership, approaching her role in a conscientious manner. She promotes high standards of professionalism among the staff, encouraging them to engage in a variety of leadership roles and functions. She diligently sets high standards for learning. The principal is proactive in monitoring the progress of EAL pupils, regularly liaising with the EAL teaching team to ascertain the progress and success of various interventions.
The duties of the in-school management team are appropriately distributed across pastoral, curricular and organisational domains. Reviewed on a yearly basis, duties are practical and offer a range of leadership opportunities. A number of staff members have attended training courses relevant to their responsibilities. The team is specifically commended for its deliberate and inclusive approach to curricular leadership which involves analysing a curriculum area at each in-school management meeting. Members of the team regularly consult with class teachers to inform curricular reviews. Parents are encouraged to become involved in a variety of school activities such as paired reading, recycling initiatives, ‘Food Dudes’ and mathematics week. The in-school management team adopts an informal approach to encouraging parents of EAL pupils to become involved in various school activities and events.
The management of staff is of a high standard. A well-thought out policy of staff rotation provides for teachers to experience a range of classes and teaching contexts. The board of management encourages teachers and staff to undertake professional development courses and a large number of the teachers have availed of such opportunities.
The quality of accommodation is very good and the school has received a number of awards for the quality of its presentation. The work of the school staff and in particular the school’s cleaners and caretaker is highly commended.
The management of resources is of a very good standard. The school has a wide range of interactive, stimulating and colourful resources for all subject areas which are catalogued and stored centrally. The school has a broad selection of resources for EAL teaching and learning, with commendable emphasis on games and visual stimuli. There is an appropriate balance between teacher resources and pupil resources, with suitable emphasis on concrete, hands-on resources for the pupils.
The school’s active and dynamic parents’ association is commended for the structured approach it takes to support the work of the school. The association meets very regularly and communicates effectively with the school community via its termly newsletter, its own website and mobile phone texts. The association stated that it was satisfied with the education provided in the school. It cites, as some of its priorities, its abilities to address queries raised by parents, to support the school in terms of financial funding and to support teaching and learning. It has undertaken a variety of fundraising activities and it organises events and speakers which are of interest to the pupils. For example, a mobile farm visited the school in 2007. The association is consulted on school policies and is invited to comment on them. The association communicates informally with the parents of EAL pupils and endeavours to involve these parents in the life of the school.
The quality of parental involvement in the life of the school is very good. Parents are involved in a wide range of school activities. During the inspection, some very effective use of parental support in the teaching of reading was noted. The school communicates very effectively with the parent population and school community. Teachers regularly communicate with parents in an informal manner. An induction day is held each year to inform parents of newly-enrolled junior infants of school procedures, expectations and mechanisms by which they can support their child’s learning. Parent-teacher meetings are held in the second term of each school year. At the post-evaluation meeting, the school was encouraged to reconsider the benefits of providing an annual written report for parents on the progress of their child. The school endeavours to involve the parents of EAL pupils in various school events during the year.
The management of pupils in this school is of a very high standard and a positive school environment is in evidence. Pupils are clearly content and show respect for school staff, property and their peers. Teachers interact with their pupils in a warm, caring and supportive manner. The school monitors the social integration of EAL pupils carefully, establishing buddy systems, where appropriate. EAL pupils are suitably placed in age-appropriate classes.
The quality of whole-school planning is very good. A purposeful school attendance policy has been formulated. The school plan has been constructed in a collaborative manner. Cuiditheoirí from the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS) were consulted. Subcommittees were established to direct the formation of specific policies, most notably in relation to curricular plans. The school has set out a number of very clear and focused curriculum action plans. In particular, action plans for English and Mathematics set out very specific tasks, aims, roles and responsibilities for the further development of these areas. All plans are reviewed on a regular basis.
The school policy for English was created collaboratively; it is very detailed and provides clear and specific guidelines to class teachers about a variety of approaches and methodologies. It contains suitable guidelines on the development of reading strategies. It is recommended that the school plan for English makes more definitive reference to the overlap between EAL teaching, classroom teaching and literacy support in special education.
The school plan for Mathematics was constructed in a collaborative and focused manner. It provides a very clear, sequential and focused outline of the lesson content for each class level. In addition, the plan provides creative guidelines on the use of methodologies and skill development. The school plan for Mathematics could now make greater reference to the use of mathematics trails. The insertion of an appendix which details how mathematical language is taught would also prove useful.
The school has developed a policy on intercultural education which sets out a very clear and commendable set of aims to promote a fully-inclusive school environment. In particular this policy sets out a range of strategies to cherish and celebrate cultural diversity. Teachers of EAL devise a yearly plan to guide both withdrawal and in-class support. In drawing up these plans, the school makes very good use of the Integrate Ireland Language Teaching (IILT) resource manual and the English Language Learners programme. Each yearly plan is then subdivided into weekly plans with very specific delineation of content to be covered in both withdrawal and in-class support contexts.
The quality of classroom planning is of a good standard. All teachers prepare long and short-term plans to guide teaching and learning. These delineate lesson content very specifically in a sequential and progressive manner. In some cases, short-term planning should make greater reference to differentiation and to the use of a variety of methodologies. References to differentiation should make greater provision for EAL pupils. All teachers complete monthly progress records. There is some variety in the level of detail in these reports across the school. It is recommended that the school examines the degree of detail and the scope for the delineation of skills in monthly reports at a whole-school level. Teachers prepare for the use of active learning approaches, with some exemplary provision in this regard also being noted during the inspection.
Planning for EAL pupils is of a good standard. EAL teachers plan strategically for the sequential development of specific content and for the involvement and stimulation of their pupils. In some cases, teachers plan very effectively to consolidate pupils’ cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP) which helps pupils access the curriculum. It is recommended that all planning makes scope for such provision. Suitable provision is in place for collaborative planning between the classroom teachers and the EAL teachers.
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.
English lessons are delivered in a warm, affirming and supportive manner, making very good provision for active pupil involvement and stimulation. Talk and discussion is promoted in all classes. Drama, ‘show and tell’, brainstorming, games, mime and poetry are used effectively in various classes in the teaching of oral language. However, it is recommended that all teachers plan more specifically for the use of a variety of resources and methodologies. The wider use of pair work and group work would provide additional opportunities for pupils and, in particular, for EAL pupils to speak and to express themselves. The quality of the teaching of listening skills is good. Teachers systematically develop pupils’ receptiveness to language through the use of recall and retell strategies. They use circle time, poetry and listening to stories successfully. Pupils explore nursery rhymes and poetry appropriately but, in some cases, greater scope for the memorisation of poetry should be considered.
The pace of the reading lessons observed was good. The collaborative approach whereby support teachers work in classes is commendable. Overall, pupils read fluently and show interest in their reading. Parents’ support of reading activities at senior infant level is effective and noteworthy. There is good exploration of pictures and vocabulary. Phonological awareness and grammar are well developed. The school has collected a wide range of reading books and materials including large format books, which are used successfully. Most classrooms provide for a print-rich environment. In some cases, is recommended that additional supplementary pre-reading and reading activities and games are developed to consolidate pupils’ reading.
Writing skills are suitably developed in all classes. Pupils engage in a range of pre-writing activities in infant classes and daily writing exercises are organised. Older pupils are taught to write in a variety of genres such as invitations, e-mail, letters and stories. Information and communications technology (ICT) is used to support the presentation of work. Written work is celebrated in classrooms and monitored carefully. The effective use of a dictionary notebook observed in one class could be extended to other classes. The teaching of spelling is differentiated for EAL pupils and this is good practice.
The EAL pupils are integrated fully during English lessons. Some teachers vary their questioning, use more basic language, use pictures and allow more time for the EAL pupils to answer and participate in lessons. This is commendable practice.
Pupils enjoy mathematics lessons and participate enthusiastically. Through the use of games, varied stimuli and concrete resources, pupils are stimulated and engaged. Teachers place very good emphasis on oral mathematics and spend considerable time on associated activities at the commencement of lessons. Early mathematical activities are covered adequately in infant classes. Teachers usually adopt a whole-class approach and in the vast majority of cases, all pupils in the class complete the same exercises. In a number of instances, teachers make creative use of collaborative learning. The school should examine approaches and opportunities for the extension of methodologies involving group and pair work, praiseworthy examples of which were evaluated during different lessons. This would allow for the consolidation of concepts and the more regular use of mathematical language.
Some very notable mathematics-rich environments were found during the inspection. In developing such commendable practice outside of individual classrooms, it is recommended that greater consideration be given to the use of mathematics trails. Pictorial examples, language and posters support pupils’ learning. In some cases, pupils are encouraged to create their own problems. Consideration should be given to the development of such practice. Teachers integrate Mathematics creatively with other subject areas, most notably with Visual Arts. Good provision is in place for linking lesson content to the experience and environment of the pupils. Pupils’ written work is monitored very carefully.
Assessment in this school is guided by a detailed and focused assessment policy. The school currently administers a Middle Infants’ Screening Test (MIST) in all senior infant classes. In addition, the school also administers standardised tests in Mathematics and English in first class. The school also makes use of a wide range of diagnostic tests, with commendable use being made of diagnostic tests for Mathematics such as the Maths Assessment for Learning test and the Basic Number Diagnostic test. All teachers undertake assessment in their classes. The primary methods include teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks, work samples, check-lists and profiles.
Teaching and learning for pupils with special educational needs is guided by a comprehensive and focused school policy. The policy is very detailed, providing clear guidance on a range of intervention and teaching strategies. It includes suggestions for differentiation during in-class work, guidelines on the role of special needs assistants (SNAs), provision for exceptionally able pupils and the role of parents. In particular, the policy clearly outlines the staged approach. The policy for pupils with special educational needs was developed collaboratively with the entire school staff and in consultation with parents.
The special education team comprises one resource teacher, two-full time learning support teachers and one part-time learning support teacher. Its members have engaged in a wide variety of in-service and professional development courses. They are also involved in the Fingal Teachers Support Group which meets approximately three times per year to examine a range of approaches for special education. A report is given at every staff meeting on the progress, opportunities and challenges which pertain to the work of the team. The EAL teachers work collaboratively with the special education team to organise their timetables to ensure programmes and provision do not overlap.
The special education team meets on a weekly basis to plan collaboratively and to discuss teaching strategies and pupil progress. The school is proactive in involving and informing parents about how they can support the work of the special education team. Parents were consulted on the development of Individual Profile and Learning Programmes (IPLPs) and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and are provided with a copy of their child’s individualised plan. The plans are commendable and specific in terms of targets. In a number of cases, they specify the terms of parental support and involvement very clearly. IPLPs and IEPs are constructed on a termly basis and are reviewed regularly. Reviews incorporate careful consideration of pupil progress, the relevant assessment data and parental and teacher opinion in respect of the continuation or discontinuation of support.
Support is provided using a variety of approaches which include in-class support, withdrawal, group withdrawal, one-to-one attention and a combination of the above. Strong emphasis is placed on early intervention teaching strategies and approaches, targeting both numeracy and literacy at all junior and senior infant classes using an in-class support model. Early intervention in the area of literacy adopts a multi-pronged approach, focusing on the development of word-attack skills and phonological awareness. It is planned to enhance the programme of early intervention for numeracy through the use of interventions such as the Maths for Fun programme.
The school has recently commenced provision for very able pupils. At present, such intervention is primarily focused on literacy. It is recommended that the school continues with the development of this commendable initiative and considers greater provision for mathematics also. Provision should be undertaken with reference to the Exceptionally Able Students Draft Guidelines for Teachers, published by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in 2007.
Teaching is very affirming, focusing on self-esteem as well as academic progress. A range of methodological approaches, which includes peer tutoring and paired reading are used. Pupils engage enthusiastically in a range of activities designed to develop and consolidate learning. Within withdrawal contexts, teachers make very effective use of games and visual stimuli to explain and develop pupils’ understanding of concepts.
Learning environments are stimulating and colourful. A broad range of resources is in use, with some teachers making effective use of ICT. The school has a very good selection of resource materials for literacy, with a notably effective and creative selection of games and visual resources. Very good use is made of parallel readers. The school has created a good selection of resources to support numeracy learning. The staff is commended on this endeavour and is encouraged to continue developing its quality range of mathematical resources.
The special education team utilises a range of fine-quality diagnostic and assessment tests to identify and monitor the progress of pupils attending special education classes. During the inspection, it was noted that on an annual basis, very purposeful examination of Sigma T, Micra-T and MIST results takes place, with a particular emphasis on identifying competence in the different strands. This supports focused intervention.
The school has four EAL teachers. Members of the team have undertaken a range of professional development courses. Pupils are assessed for admission to EAL classes using the guidelines developed by the IILT and a set of very good quality criteria designed by the school itself. The EAL team meets on a weekly basis to examine methodological approaches and to discuss teaching and learning strategies.
Individual teacher planning is of a very good quality. EAL teachers plan collaboratively with class teachers and, in so doing, set out specific teaching and learning targets. These targets are set for different ability groupings and are also differentiated for particular pupils within these groupings. Targets are regularly reviewed and re-set. In some cases, very good planning was noted for the consolidation of cognitive academic language proficiency (CALP). It is recommended that such practice be shared and developed with a view to informing all teachers’ planning on provision for CALP.
The school adopts a proactive and focused programme of early in-class intervention in the junior and senior infant classes. In-class support is delivered in a very specific manner and effectively complements the work of the class teacher, most especially in respect of phonological development. Intervention in the other classes involves a well-balanced, combined approach of group, withdrawal and in-class support.
Withdrawal lessons are delivered in a very supportive climate, with teachers endeavouring to build the pupils’ confidence in using English orally. Teachers provide pupils with a range of learning games and activities which ignite their interest and involvement. In addition, songs, drama, action poems, rhymes and non-verbal instructions are used appropriately to present lesson content. In some lessons observed, teachers made very good use of drama to support the development and acquisition of language. Such practice is commended and the further use of drama during these lessons should be investigated. It was evident from classroom interactions with pupils and from their degree of involvement in lessons that they enjoy these lessons and are benefiting fruitfully from them. Pupils’ progress is monitored regularly with continuous and detailed records being maintained. Teachers meet parents formally to provide them with feedback about their children’s learning.
The school endeavours to celebrate the cultural diversity of its pupils at various junctures during the school year. For example, an Olympic parade is organised for the annual Sports Day. This parade celebrates the cultural diversity of the school.
The school receives supports under Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), the action plan of the Department of Education and Science to address educational disadvantage. Decisions regarding how the funding received by the school under DEIS is to be used are made by the board of management. Currently, some of this is used to fund after-school homework clubs and summer camps. The welcoming and caring climate in the school ensures that individual pupils are supported appropriately and sensitively.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
• The school is characterised by a warm and nurturing school environment which affirms and respects the uniqueness of each child.
• The school benefits from the focused and systematic leadership of the principal and in-school management team.
• Curricular leadership in the school is deliberate and purposeful.
• A coordinated and purposeful approach to whole school planning is in place.
• There is evidence of good staff expertise across a range of areas.
• Pupils were found to be enthusiastic and keen to learn.
• Resources and lesson activities are used creatively in Mathematics and English to ignite and focus pupil interest and enthusiasm.
• The quality of support for all pupils including EAL pupils is very good. The school has developed a comprehensive and focused approach to providing for EAL pupils.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· In some cases, teachers’ short-term planning should make greater reference to differentiation and to the use of a variety of methodologies.
· The school should investigate wider opportunities for pair and collaborative learning.
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
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management would like to thank our local Inspector and the visiting Inspector for the courteous and professional manner in which this WSE was conducted.
The B.O.M. is particularly pleased that the report acknowledges the welcoming and caring climate in the school and it also appreciates the endorsement of the excellent work which is ongoing in S.S. Peter and Paul.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The school community welcomes the constructive recommendations made in the report and will strive to implement these as effectively as possible.