An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Christ the King BNS
Annaly Road, Cabra, Dublin 7
Date of inspection: 29 January 2007
Date of issue of report: 8 November 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Christ the King BNS, Annaly Road, Cabra, Dublin 7. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Christ the King Boys’ National School is an eleven teacher school. It is situated close to the Church of Christ the King in the heart of Cabra. There are two other schools, a junior and a senior girls’ school on the campus. Christ the King BNS was built in 1934 and is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. Enrolment has been consistent over the past number of years at around 120 pupils and at present the number is 114. Projected enrolment for 2007 is in excess of 120. International children accounted for more than half of the enrolment in junior infants in 2006 and the overall percentage of international children in the school has increased significantly in the current school year. The school qualifies under band 1 of the Department of Education and Science (DES) DEIS Initiative and the school has designated disadvantaged status. The school has some strategies in place to encourage better attendance by pupils. These include the development of contacts with pupils and their parents, the provision of support and management strategies for them and a school attendance awards scheme. A significant minority of pupils continue to have a pattern of poor attendance. The school identifies children at risk of poor attendance at an early stage. It is recommended that the effectiveness of the monitoring of attendances be reviewed on a regular basis. In light of the positive impact which regular attendance has on pupils’ progress, it is recommended that further strategies be explored to try to improve attendance. Regular reviews of the effectiveness of these strategies should be undertaken by the principal, the post holders and the HSCL co-ordinator.
The board of management (BOM) has been properly constituted and meets at least five times a year. Minutes are carefully recorded and a financial update is prepared for each meeting. Detailed school accounts are kept and are available for examination by the patron annually. The board applies itself diligently to the management of the school and some duties are assigned to members. The chairperson visits the school on a weekly basis, is kept informed of developments and plays an active role in the management of the school. Members carry out their duties conscientiously and relevant legislative and agreed procedures are followed in the employment of teachers, ancillary staff and in the allocation of special duties posts. The board gets involved in the drawing up of organisational and policy documents and oversees the maintenance and upkeep of the school. Major work on the school’s roof and heating system has been undertaken in recent years.
Board members have attended training courses on employment, legislation in the area of education and financial matters provided by the Catholic Primary Schools Management Association. The board’s priorities are the maintenance and raising of standards and the development of strategies to meet the challenge of increasing diversity in the school population. During the whole school evaluation (WSE) it was noted that the average attendance levels were lower than would be expected. An examination of roll books and registers indicated that there were pupils on the roll who had not attended the school for significant periods of time and the whereabouts of many were unknown. The absences noted account for over 10% of the total enrolment and it appears that this is the underlying reason for the discrepancy in attendance figures. This matter has been referred to the Department of Education and Science (DES) and the Education Welfare Board (EWB) for clarification.
The in-school management team consists of the principal, the deputy principal and three special duties post-holders. The principal cultivates a positive school climate where individual staff members feel affirmed and encouraged. She plays a central role in the development of the whole-school plan and assumes responsibility for the compilation of many curricular and administrative documents. She is thoroughly familiar with the pupils and the school community, promotes positive behaviour effectively and facilitates the inclusion of all pupils. She has given a lifetime of service to the education of the pupils at Christ the King, Cabra, as a dedicated and committed teacher initially and as principal for many years. She is respected by the parents and teachers as a person of compassion and fairness. She is kind and fair to the pupils and is highly regarded by the teachers.
Special duties posts have been allocated in planning for Irish, Physical Education (PE) and Science. Duties have also been assigned in organisational areas. These include health and safety, fire drill, information and communications technology (ICT), nutrition schemes, liaising with outside agencies, the free book allocation scheme, school sports, supervision, monitoring and purchasing of Visual Arts supplies and maintaining school equipment. Pastoral duties have been allocated in mentoring, pupil and parent support and drug awareness. Three of the four posts were allocated in 2003 and one acting up post in 2006. There is no formal mechanism for meetings of the in-school management team but the special duties teachers report that frequent informal meetings take place on a regular basis. These meetings are facilitated by the size of the school and the shared understanding that the staff have developed over the years.
It is recommended that an immediate review of the special duties posts take place in accordance with Primary Circular 07/03, Appointments to Posts of Responsibility, in the context of the changing needs of the school. The revised management structures envisaged in this circular were designed to allow schools to “match the responsibilities of the posts more closely to the central tasks of the school.” These tasks have been identified by the school as the prioritisation of literacy and numeracy and they form a central part of the DEIS school development plan. The review should take cognisance of this plan and the principles of the circular to include a wider range of curriculum leadership responsibilities in addition to the organisational and pastoral duties already in place. It is further recommended that the in-school management team meet formally during the school year, that a record of decisions taken at these meetings be kept and that the board of management formally ratify the posts in accordance with Circular 07/03.
The school has a teaching staff of eleven, including an administrative principal, six mainstream class teachers, three special education teachers (SETs), a HSCL co-ordinator and a part time language support teacher (LST). The allocation of teaching duties by the principal is decided in consultation with the teachers, having due regard to their strengths and to needs of the children. In addition to the professional development provided by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP), the School Development Planning (SDP) and Leadership Development for Schools (LDS) initiatives, many of the teachers have availed of a variety of summer courses as part of their continuing professional development. Many have also completed courses in language, special education, Drama and dance, Science, ICT, the Visual Arts and Reading Recovery. The school has two full time special needs assistants (SNAs) who are flexibly deployed according to the needs of pupils with special needs and, under the guidance of the teachers, they make a valuable contribution to the education of these pupils. A cleaner and caretaker are both employed on a part-time basis. The corridors, classrooms, staffroom and toilets are cleaned every day. The caretaker opens the school, does general maintenance, carries out urgent repairs and keeps the school grounds litter free. Gaelic games coaches from the local Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club work to develop the games skills of third to sixth class pupils during school hours.
The school originally consisted of fourteen mainstream classrooms, a staffroom, two blocks of toilets and some storage areas. As enrolments declined, alterations were made to meet the changing needs of the pupils. There are now ten classrooms, a computer room, an all-purpose room which is used for PE and consists of two and a half of the original classrooms, a HSCL room, an office and rooms for the SETs. The school has the use of a large hard-surfaced area and a very well appointed hall, both of which are shared with the two other schools on the campus for play and for Physical Education (PE). The school provides after-school activities for a number of pupils including a homework club three days a week for sixth class. Speech therapy intervention for pupils is facilitated in the school.
A wide variety of curricular resources is available in all classrooms. Some PE equipment is available in the general purposes room and an extensive range of resources is catalogued and kept in a classroom. Science kits are catalogued and stored in a classroom. A suitable range of music resources is available centrally. The school has a well-stocked central library and each classroom has an age-appropriate selection of books including big books and parallel readers. The school corridors and classrooms are brightly coloured with murals and attractive displays of pupils’ Visual Art work. Photographs of a recent concert presented by the school are on display throughout the school. The school has a dedicated ICT room with twelve networked computers which have access to broadband. Each classroom is equipped with one or more computers and these also have access to the internet. There is a projector in the computer room and a range of suitable software packages. The school has redesigned its website which features some of the pupils’ work. It provides new opportunities for the school to share information with the school community. It is recommended that a detailed catalogue of software be drawn up to facilitate more appropriate use of the programmes available.
There is no formal parents’ association in the school but the parents’ representatives on the board of management take an active role in school events. Parents’ representatives expressed satisfaction with the school and the availability of the school staff to meet with parents when the need arises. They expressed concerns, however, that discretionary and in-service closures in the three schools on the campus are not synchronised. Contact with parents is maintained on a regular basis through a variety of initiatives that form part of the HSCL programme. Letters are sent home frequently and key administrative policies are communicated to all parents of new children on enrolment. Parents frequently visit the school and informal contacts are a feature of the welcoming nature of the school. Homework notebooks are also used to communicate with parents on a regular basis. Given the positive impact that the involvement of parents has on their children’s education, it is recommended that consideration be given to establishing a parents’ association in line with the Education Act 1998. It is also recommended that the three schools explore the possibility of synchronising their arrangements for discretionary and in-service days to facilitate the many families who have pupils in more than one school on the campus.
Most pupils are well behaved and respectful and engage with the tasks set for them by their teachers. The vast majority of the pupils are aware of and respect the class rules and the general school procedures. During observation, most teachers’ classroom management and management of pupils were excellent. It is clear that this is a caring school and the commitment of the staff to the pupils’ welfare is apparent in all aspects of school activities. There is a school code of discipline which is ratified and supported by the board of management. The code is made available to parents in booklet form and the pupils are aware of its content.
The school has developed a number of procedural and organisational policies. These include a discipline and anti-bullying code, school rules, a health and safety statement and a school substance use policy. Curriculum plans for Irish, Mathematics, English, Physical Education, Music, the Visual Arts and Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) have been developed. The Social, Environmental and Science Education (SESE) and Drama plans are in process and are being informed by ongoing in-service provision. Much of the content of these plans derives from support material provided by the PCSP and School Development Planning Support (SDPS) and from the Primary School Curriculum documents. The plans provide a framework for staff to build a cohesive and coherent approach to planning at school level so that individual planning reflects the school’s vision for the delivery of the school curriculum in the context of change. A focused approach to planning will facilitate incremental development across the curriculum. It is recommended that a review of curriculum planning be undertaken as soon as possible to reflect the school’s focus on raising standards in numeracy and literacy as outlined in the school’s three year development plan. The Primary Curriculum Support Programme templates were used extensively in drawing up plans to their present status. There is considerable scope now for an incremental development of the school plan. Further work needs to be done in most subject areas to reflect the varied methodologies in the revised curriculum. These include the promotion and facilitation of active learning and teaching in small groups, the encouragement of investigation as an integral part of Science teaching, the development of strategies to facilitate the more extensive use of a communicative approach in Irish, the centrality of local features in the teaching of SESE and the use of process writing as an integral part of the teaching of English from an early stage. Areas for integration should be identified and strategies for differentiated approaches should also be addressed more comprehensively in the school plan. It is important also that all subject areas are included in the school plan. Teachers with special duties posts should play a significant role in this area ensuring that their particular curriculum area is comprehensively planned in collaboration with the principal and staff and disseminated to the school community.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have developed policies in line with some of 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). It is recommended that the board review and update this policy in line with the provisions of these documents with particular reference to section 6.8 of Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children. The board of management should formally ratify all policies for implementation and ensure that a designated liaison person (DLP) has been appointed as required by the Departmental guidelines.
All the teachers comply with Rule 126 governing preparation for schoolwork. Detailed monthly progress records are maintained by the principal. In the majority of cases, teachers set down well thought out long-term and short-term schemes of work. Practice varies, however, and in some cases short-term written plans lacked adequate reference to the strands and strand units of relevant curriculum areas. As planning is reviewed consideration should be given to the use of an agreed template for individual planning with suitable curricular triggers and references to objectives, methodologies, differentiation and assessment. Some teachers devote considerable time and energy to preparing and organising resources for their classrooms, thus ensuring attractive and engaging learning environments for their pupils. Some discussion should take place regarding the most effective and efficient way of recording work completed so that the reports inform teaching and provide information which facilitates curriculum implementation, review and future planning.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Tá polasaí ar theagasc na Gaeilge leagtha amach sa phlean scoile. Sa doiciméad seo, léirítear aidhmeanna na scoile i leith na Gaeilge maraon le roinnt sonraí de na heiseamláirí atá le múineadh i ngach rang. I measc na n-aidhmeanna, luaitear "úsáid na Gaeilge mar theanga chumarsáide a chur chun cinn" agus "dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge agus spéis agus dúil inti a chothú." Cuirtear síos freisin ar na deacrachtaí a bhaineann le teagasc na Gaeilge i gcomhthéacs na scoile. Tá roinnt áiseanna teagaisc atá ag teacht le prionsabail agus le hábhar an churaclaim curtha ar fail, ábhar comhrá agus léitheoireachta, cairteacha, puipéid agus dlúthdhioscaí ina measc, agus tá na múinteoirí ag dul i dtaithí ar a n-úsáid go héifeachtach de réir a chéile. Luaitear chomh maith go ndéanfar athbhreithniú ar an bplean gach cúpla bliain agus, mar chuid den phróiseas seo, moltar forlíonadh a dhéanamh ar ábhar an chláir agus, go háirithe, ar na modhanna múinte agus ar na straitéisí as a mbainfear leas chun cumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt go leanúnach agus chun úsáid na Gaeilge i gcomhthéacs na scoile a leathnú. (Féach Roinn 5 de na Treoirlínte do Mhúinteoirí)
Déanann roinnt mhaith de na múinteoirí pleanáil agus ullmhúchán cuí do theagasc na Gaeilge ina leagtar amach aidhmeanna nó cuspóirí. Ar an iomlán, múineann siad a gceachtanna ar bhealach taitneamhach, gníomhach agus baineann siad dea-úsáid as straitéisí teagaisc agus acmhainní oiriúnacha chun suim na ndaltaí a mhúscailt iontu. Chun go nglacfadh na daltaí páirt níos iomláine sna himeachtaí foghlama seo, meastar gur chóir raon eiseamláirí agus frásaí níos feiliúnaí a mhúineadh dóibh agus deiseanna rialta a thabhairt dóibh iad a úsáid i gcomhthéacsanna cuí. Ní léir go gcleachtaítear an cur chuige céanna trí na ranganna ar fad. Cuirtear ró-bhéim fós i ranganna áirithe ar ábhar na dtéacsleabhar agus ar ionchur teanga agus, cé go gcaitear dua leis an saothar seo, ní léiríonn na daltaí an tsuim chéanna ann agus ní dhéanann siad an iarracht chéanna páirt a ghlacadh ann. B'fhiú do na múinteoirí sna ranganna seo iarracht a dhéanamh cothromaíocht níos fearr a bhaint amach agus níos mó d’ualach na cainte a leagan ar na daltaí le linn a gceachtanna comhrá agus níos mó deiseanna a sholáthar dóibh chun úsáid a bhaint as an teanga i gcomhthéacsanna cumarsáideacha. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as Gaeilge neamhfhoirmiúil ag amanna i rith an lae i ranganna ar leith agus b'fhiú an cleachtas seo a leathnú ar fud na scoile mar a mholtar sa phlean scoile.
Sna hardranganna, baintear úsáid an-éifeachtach as téamaí agus eagraítear cleachtaí suimiúla agus tairbheacha do na páistí thar na snáitheanna curaclaim go léir. Léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint mhaith ar na téamaí a chlúdaítear, tá dóthain teanga acu chun a dtuairimí féin a thabhairt ar ábhair éagsúla agus is féidir leo labhairt go leanúnach faoi chaithimh aimsire agus téamaí eile. Is féidir leo sleachta gearra a léamh le tuiscint agus déanann siad cleachtaí scríbhneoireachta oiriúnacha as leabhair shaothair. Baintear dea-úsáid as Drámaíocht le linn na gceachtanna agus glacann na daltaí páirt go toilteanach i sceitsí beaga. Tá fianaise ann go mbíonn deiseanna ag na daltaí scríbhneoireacht phearsanta a dhéanamh agus tugtar aird ar an bpróiseas scríbhneoireachta. B’fhiú anois smaoineamh ar shlite chun an dea-chleachtas a chonacthas sna hardranganna a scaipeadh ar fud na scoile chun go mbeadh leanúnachas agus cothromaíocht tríd an scoil ó thaobh múineadh na Gaeilge de. Tugadh modh an aistriúcháin faoi deara le linn ceachtanna áirithe agus moltar an cleachtas seo a mhaolú. Tá cnuasach deas rann agus amhrán Gaeilge ar eolas ag na daltaí i bhformhór na ranganna agus aithrisítear go taitneamhach, bríomhar iad.
A policy on teaching Irish is laid out in the school plan. In this document, the school’s aims regarding Irish are made clear along with some details of the exemplars that are to be taught at each class level. Among the aims, “the promotion of the use of Irish as a language of communication” is cited as well as “the cultivation of a positive attitude and both an interest in and a liking for the language.” The difficulties encountered in teaching Irish in the school’s context are also described. Some teaching resources that are in accord with the principles and content of the curriculum have been provided, including material for oral and reading lessons, charts, puppets and compact disks and the teachers are gradually learning how to make effective use of them. It is also stated that a review of the plan will be carried out every couple of years and, as part of this process, it is recommended that the content of the programme be further developed with particular reference to the teaching methods and strategies that will be used to develop progressively the pupils’ communicative competence and to extend the use of Irish in the school context. (See Section 5 of the Guidelines for Teachers)
A good number of the teachers carry out appropriate planning and preparation for teaching Irish in which they set out aims or objectives. Overall, they teach their lessons in a pleasant, active manner and they make good use of suitable teaching strategies and resources to arouse the pupils’ interest in them. In order to enable the pupils to take a fuller part in the learning activities, it is considered that they should be taught a more suitable range of exemplars and phrases and that they be given regular opportunities to use these in appropriate contexts. It is not evident that the same approach is taken throughout the school. In certain classes, too great an emphasis is still placed on the content of textbooks and on the input of language and, although a lot of effort is expended on this work, the pupils do not display the same interest in it and they do not make the same effort to take part in it. It would be worthwhile for the teachers in these classrooms to try to achieve a better balance by having the pupils do a greater share of the talking during oral lessons and by providing them with more opportunities to use the language in communicative contexts. In some classes, effective use is made of informal Irish at particular times during the day and it is recommended that this practice be extended throughout the school as is recommended in the school plan.
In the senior classes, very effective use is made of themes and interesting, beneficial learning experiences are provided for the pupils across all of the curriculum strands. They display a good understanding of the themes that are covered, they have sufficient language to give their own opinions on various subjects and they can speak in a connected fashion about pastimes and other themes. They are able to read short extracts with understanding and they complete suitable written exercises from workbooks. Good use is made of Drama during the lessons and the pupils take part willingly in minor sketches. There is evidence that the pupils are given opportunities to engage in personal writing and attention is given to the writing process. Some thought should now be given to ways of spreading the good practice, which was observed in the senior classes, throughout the school so as to bring about continuity and balance in the school in regard to teaching Irish. The use of translation was observed during certain classes and it is recommended that this practice be curtailed. The pupils in most classes know a nice selection of rhymes and songs in Irish and they are recited and sung in a lively and joyful manner.
The school staff attended a summer course on whole school planning in English in 2002. A draft school plan in English was drawn up in June 2003 at an in-school planning day and a review of the plan is proposed for September 2007. The plan lists the broad objectives and aims of the Primary School Curriculum. It lists further broad objectives for oral language and for writing which underline the importance of reading for pleasure, the development of fluency, the ability to write in different styles and to engage in collaborative experiences. The plan lists success criteria, roles and responsibilities of staff and a time-frame for implementation and review.
is timely that a review of the English plan should take place this year particularly
in the context of the commitment given by the school in its three-year
development plan which places a strong emphasis on improving literacy
throughout the school as part of the DEIS programme. The review should have as
its immediate priority the development of a systematic and comprehensive
whole-school plan for English. This plan should map out a wide-ranging approach
which covers the four strand units from junior infants to sixth class. An integrated approach to the
teaching of oral language, reading and writing should be outlined. The plan
should also include strategies for the development of reading skills through
language experience, a range of word identification approaches, the use of a
wide range of reading material to satisfy children's reading needs and
a focus in the writing process on helping the children to become independent writers. The school context should inform the particular approaches and priorities that the school needs to place on different aspects of oral language activity.
As part of the review of special duties posts, responsibility for the development of the school plan in English should be given priority. Working in consultation and collaboration with colleagues the board of management and parents, where feasible, the special duties teacher should undertake the organisation and coordination of the teaching of English in the school. The school library and class libraries provide valuable resources for the development of a reading culture in the school. The role of parents is crucial in children’s language development. In this context, the Talk and Toy project and other initiatives which involve parents help promote an atmosphere conducive to reading.
Lessons observed in the junior classes were well planned and were for the most part well paced. A wide variety of resources were used to scaffold the pupils’ reading and the Language Experience Approach (LEA) is used extensively. Good use of poetry, rhymes and story is made to consolidate both oral and reading work and some of the classrooms are print rich. Checklists are used to monitor progress and samples of pupils’ work are kept in individual portfolios. In middle classes good modelling of reading was observed. The pupils read books of their choice from class libraries. This commendable practice provides a framework for the introduction of process writing. Regular monitoring of reading achievement should, however, be carried out. Some pupils read with confidence and showed a good understanding of the text. However others lacked confidence and would benefit from a more print-rich environment and from further development of their word-attack skills. The pupils should be given more opportunities to write and would benefit from a stronger emphasis on poetry and rhyme. Closer monitoring of written work in copies is also advised. In senior classes, pupils engage in a variety of interesting activities across all strands of the English curriculum. Discrete oral language lessons ensure that all pupils are given opportunities to discuss a range of topics. Appropriate reading material is available in the classroom and children engage with a good range and variety of texts, including readers, novels and non-fiction books and excerpts. Suitable written tasks are set for the children and their copybooks are regularly corrected. Teacher-designed charts give useful pointers to the children on aspects of grammar, spelling and the writing process. Poetry is used very effectively to stimulate discussion and the children respond very willingly to the teacher’s thoughtful questioning. They can recite a commendable selection of poems. The manner in which English lessons are integrated with other subjects is praiseworthy. Useful stimuli are provided to encourage pupils’ oral interaction during lessons across the full range of the curriculum.
In 2002 the school drafted an outline plan which set out its vision for the development of a Mathematics programme. The document commits to ongoing update and review of the plan to ensure that the pupils reach their full potential in numeracy. Many of the aims outlined are referenced to the revised curriculum documents. The plan outlines a range of resources to be used in the teaching of Mathematics and includes lists of content for each class level along with indicative planning samples showing methodologies, approaches and mathematical language for each level. Suggestions for developing estimation and problem solving skills, recording, linkage, integration and assessment are also included. The plan should now be reviewed and extended to show how this approach to the teaching of Mathematics can be applied to all curricular strands and strand units in order to ensure continuity and progression through the school.
All teachers prepare long and short-term schemes of work in Mathematics. All classrooms have a generous supply of mathematical resources. Appropriate text books are used throughout the school. Some well-structured lessons were observed particularly in senior classes and these involved the effective use of resources, an emphasis on appropriate mathematical language and the provision of opportunities for pupils to develop problem-solving skills. At infant level some good use of hands-on methodologies was observed. Suitable use of resources ensures active participation and exploration by the pupils of mathematical concepts. There is a need, to place greater emphasis on hands-on approaches in all classes and to ground mathematical activity in the pupils’ immediate environment in order to make their experience of Mathematics more relevant to their needs. In senior classes a very commendable emphasis is placed on developing correct mathematical language. Teacher-designed and commercially-produced charts covering a wide range of mathematical topics are prominently displayed. Problems are set at a level suitable to the children’s ability levels and appropriate equipment is made available to help the children to explore possible solutions.
The school plan for SESE is currently being developed in conjunction with the PCSP in-service. The guidelines for school based planning are being used as a resource to review current practice in the teaching of History. This review provides an opportunity for the school to develop a comprehensive plan for History in which the pupil is at the centre as historian. The plan should include a description of a wide range of methodologies. The Primary School Curriculum places a strong emphasis on personal and local History where local studies are identified as a central aspect of the curriculum. This emphasis should be reflected in the School Plan where an understanding of family and local History in junior classes is systematically developed and broadened throughout the school to include the study of national and international contexts at senior level. As well as activities planned to foster the pupils’ sense of local, national and European identity, there is a need to acknowledge the contributions of diverse ethnic and cultural groups, which are evident in the school’s changing context. A focus on working as a historian is a principal feature of the curriculum, and appropriate development of the required skills should be carried out to help create a balance between the acquisition of knowledge and the development of these skills. There is need to develop the range of simple historical evidence used in lessons, for example, photographs, letters, artefacts, oral recollections, songs, poems and contemporary accounts.
Planning for SESE in senior classes shows an integrated approach to the teaching of History, Geography and Science. The History programme at this level includes the study of buildings in the area under local studies and a focus on significant historical figures in Irish, European and world history. While many of the topics for study are based on a textbook, excellent use is made of the internet in order to source pictures and additional information on the topics. Lessons are introduced using good visual stimuli and discussion and teacher-designed activity sheets are used to facilitate the development of skills, including the ability to find and use evidence and to analyse cause and effect. Pupils’ oral responses show a good knowledge of topics previously covered in History lessons.
Much of teachers’ short-term planning is content based. A greater emphasis on the development of the pupils’ geographical skills would provide them with more opportunities for a hands-on approach to Geography. During observation some good use was made of the internet to source pictures of a variety of natural environments and these were used to create suitable learning activities for the pupils. Displays of their work around the school also indicate that the human environments and environmental awareness and care strands of the Geography programme are adequately covered.
Planning for Science is being developed as part of the SESE programme at present. The school has a wide range of equipment for the teaching of Science. Resources for teaching lessons in magnetism, electricity, sound, forces and motion concepts and light are catalogued and stored centrally. In general, teachers’ individual planning makes reference to the strand and strand units of the curriculum. Lessons observed focused on healthy eating and featured experiments in floating and sinking. Suitable resources were used and the pupils participated actively in the experiments. Predicting, experimenting and recording are included in teachers’ lesson plans. Development in the area of working scientifically is in its early stages in the school and a useful start has been made in a number of classrooms. It is recommended that teachers venture further into this aspect of the curriculum in order to provide the broad and balanced programme of Science activities envisaged in the SESE programme. In developing the school plan the staff should consider further ways of including more open-ended problem-solving tasks and allowing the children to interact more with materials in their environment. This will help develop their understanding of the scientific method and enhance the quality of science education in the school. Further development of scientific skills, concepts and knowledge by including regular design-and-make activities in science lessons should also be considered.
The school plan details a list of activities under each strand unit of the Visual Arts programme. The plan also contains a list of suggested material supplies for the delivery of the programme. Teachers’ planning for the Visual Arts indicates that all six strands of the programme are covered in each class. Many fine samples of pupils’ completed work are displayed in the classrooms and in the corridors. A suitable range of materials and media for making art is available to each class and pupils also have opportunities to look at and respond to works by famous artists.
The school plan for Music lists a range of aims which are broadly in line with the aims of the curriculum. Some of the planning templates provided during the in-service by PCSP are included in the plan. These templates should be used to develop a comprehensive school plan for music under all the strands and strand units. The plan should also indicate the range of methodologies to be used and provide guidance on integration and on implementing a differentiated approach throughout the school. It should be developmental across all the strands and list suitable pieces of music for listening and responding, a range of suitable songs in both Irish and English for performing and outline the extent to which instrumental music, including percussion work, will feature at the various class levels. A number of musical instruments are available in the school including a keyboard, a guitar, a glockenspiel, a xylophone and a wide range of percussion instruments.
In the music lessons observed, the pupils sang melodically to the accompaniment of a compact disk and were familiar with the instruments of the orchestra. Some work on rhythm was observed. A more systematic approach to the teaching of music throughout the school would ensure that the talent displayed by the pupils in a recent musical production is developed to its full potential.
Drama is integrated with many other areas of the curriculum, particularly with language and History lessons. Children are also afforded opportunities to experiment with Drama and to improvise in order to explore how characters in stories they have encountered felt in given situations and to suggest possible solutions for problems met by the characters. Teachers’ planning indicates how a good range of approaches and methodologies can be used in Drama lessons and an extensive range of resources for Drama, including props, dramatic stimuli, photographs, letters, mirrors, music and costumes, are listed in planning documents.
The school plan on Physical Education (PE) was prepared in 2005 and follows the Primary School Curriculum guidelines in broad terms, emphasising the importance of enjoyment, active participation, and safety across all strands of the curriculum. The plan outlines in template form the progression of activities for each class group and lists the resources available in the school. Junior classes use the general purposes room for most of their indoor activities and the middle and senior classes have the use of the shared school hall. Outdoor activities take place in the hard-surfaced playground. The school has a very wide range of PE equipment, some of which is stored centrally in a classroom and some in the general purposes room. For the most part, effective use is made of the equipment. In order to maximise space for movement and for safety reasons, an alternative storage area should be found, if possible, for the large basketball equipment and the chairs in the general purposes room.
Lessons observed in PE were well organised for the most part and the majority pupils enjoyed participating actively in the tasks set for them. Instructions were clear and suitable differentiated activities were organised in the area of gymnastics. Effective use of equipment was made in the teaching of balance and due regard was given to safety. Pupils wore appropriate footwear and were aware of the importance of safety. The pupils avail of coaching in Gaelic games provided by the local GAA club.
The school provides a supportive and considerate environment for the pupils and they are encouraged to make links with real life situations and to make informed judgments through the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme. Many aspects of SPHE are addressed in the classrooms. The plan for SPHE is being developed at present using the prompts’ template provided by the PCSP. These prompts provide a menu or framework and should be used to draw up a comprehensive plan which is relevant to the school context. The plan should outline a variety of methodologies and approaches to be used with a strong emphasis on pupils being active participants in their own learning and taking account of the objectives of the curriculum.
The school administers a range of standardised tests including Sigma T, Micra T, NRIT, Marino WRT and the Reading Recovery preparatory test. These are administered by the class teachers and the SETs. The MIST is administered in senior infants. The results of these tests are recorded and kept centrally. Modes of informal assessment include spelling tests, checklists, portfolios of work and monitoring written work in copies. In most cases these assessments inform planning for teaching and learning.
The learning support programme in English is focused on the development of oral language, phonemic awareness, word identification skills and oral and silent reading. Though no formal planned learning support is provided in Mathematics, the development of mathematical procedures and concepts are the focus of in-class support for pupils who experience difficulty in this curriculum area. A total of twenty five pupils receive daily learning support in literacy. These pupils are selected in accordance with the Learning Support Guidelines. Priority is given to those whose attainment levels on standardised tests are at or below the twelfth percentile. The learning support teacher observes pupils in their mainstream classes and discusses their learning needs with the class teacher. Group education plans are then formulated for those selected for supplementary teaching. Support is provided by withdrawing pupils in groups. It is recommended that greater use be made of diagnostic forms of assessment in order to ensure that learning activities designed for them are tailored to their specific learning needs. A record of each pupil’s progress is kept and their progress is discussed with class teachers on a regular basis.
A special class based in the school caters for six children from first to sixth class. Parents’ questionnaires and teacher observation are used in the formulation of Individualised Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) and these are created using the template from the Learning Support Guidelines. These plans summarise relevant information about the children, their learning strengths and attainments, their priority learning needs, learning objectives for the period of support, activities to be completed with the teacher and at home and lists of materials to be used. IPLPs are formulated in September each year and are reviewed the following January. The review takes the form of informal teacher assessment of children’s progress. Useful guidance on the formulation of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) is contained in the Guidelines on the Individual Education Plan Process (National Council for Special Education, May, 2006). These guidelines were provided in the hope that they would “form the template for best practice in the future” and advise how the provisions of the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act, 2004, in regard to IEPs might be met. It is recommended that these guidelines be used to re-design the individual plans for children with special educational needs in the school.
In some settings individual planning for pupils with special needs is systematic. Individual assessment folders are kept and include detailed daily observational records. Withdrawal from class is the predominant mode of delivery of support for pupils with special needs. The school policy on special needs should be reviewed and this review should include provision for diagnostic testing and explore the variety of alternative models of support as suggested in chapter four of the Learning Support Guidelines(2000) . Lessons observed were very structured and appropriate and effective use was made of the wide range of suitable teaching resources available for learning support. The pupils respond enthusiastically and engage well with the activities set out for them and good use of ICT was also in evidence.
Christ the King Boys’ School is in band one of Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS). The co-ordination of the initiatives under this scheme is undertaken by the whole school team of teachers in collaboration with the principal. The school recently received confirmation of its inclusion in the School Completion Programme (SCP) as part of a cluster of six primary schools and Coláiste Éanna, a local Vocational Education Committee (VEC) school. A SCP retention plan is being prepared at present and the process of appointment of a facilitator for the seven schools is under way. In the interim, the seven principals manage the SCP locally.
There are five HSCL co-ordinators in the Cabra area who serve eight schools. They work as a team and form part of the Local Committee whose members also include parents, principals and health, education, justice and community representatives. The school policy on home-school-community liaison aims to enhance the nurturing of the whole child through the development of parent-teacher partnerships. The HSCL co-ordinator devises programmes to meet the personal, educational and leisure needs of parents and encourages them to become involved in the school life of their children in partnership with the school. The policy promotes a whole school approach through the development of staff and teacher attitudes so that the school becomes a community resource. The initiatives are focused on adults rather than on pupils to enable parents to influence their children in positive ways and to further their education. The policy also aims to establish dynamic and supportive links between home and school. This is achieved by providing opportunities for parents, teachers and relevant members of the local community to work together as partners and to develop a caring, open environment where information and guidance are provided and shared among the whole school community. The ultimate aim is to enhance the pupils’ engagement with education, their retention in the educational system and their life-long attitudes to learning.
The school has initiated a wide range of effective activities to involve parents in their children’s education. A local teacher facilitates a Talk, Play, Read project and a Parent and Toddler club, where participants learn through activities and example. Aspects of education are highlighted through a Talk and Toy programme for junior classes. A group of parents helps out with library books and reading for other parents to encourage them to be involved in their children’s reading. The range of activities also includes Maths for Fun for parents of first class pupils and basic work with computers to prepare parents for more advanced courses in adult education. Home visits by the HSCL co-ordinator form an integral part of the programme.
A number of pupils from sixth class are given the opportunity to attend a summer club run by the Youth Service at the request of the HSCL co-ordinators and the Local Committee. The participants are drawn from all of the local primary schools and, in the club, emphasis is placed on the development of their social and interpersonal skills in order to prepare them for a successful transition to post-primary school. As part of the programme they engage in both classroom and leisure activities. HSCL personnel also highlight drugs awareness and recently the school used funding provided by the local task force to introduce a Drugs through Drama programme for all classes and horse riding lessons for sixth class pupils. A facilitator was employed to deliver the programme throughout the school and the pupils performed a stage musical when this phase had been completed. The drama formed part of the school’s SPHE curriculum.
The HSCL co-ordinator monitors attendance on a regular basis. An attendance award scheme has been introduced and pupils are given due recognition at the end of a specified period. The pupils receive certificates, which usually have a seasonal theme, in recognition of their achievements. On occasions they receive small prizes. Overall, the HSCL scheme boasts a wide range of activities to promote a positive environment for the pupils, their parents and the local community. In addition to the projects listed earlier, activities such as library ladies, flower arranging, adult computer classes and a grandparent project have all been organised in conjunction with the local Resource Centre and the Cabra Adult Education Committee. Projects on safety, savings and the Science Access Project with Dublin City University (DCU) have also been undertaken.
Eight hours of language support teaching has been allocated to the school for 16 international pupils, 13 of whom are in the junior classes. A two year programme, as recommended by Integrate Ireland Language Training (IILT), is followed and The European Language Portfolio is used with all of these pupils. The portfolio contains a language passport and facilitates the recording of all learning and the use of informal self-assessment tools. The units of work are closely aligned with the Primary School Curriculum and are based on the themes of the IILT programme. Selection for inclusion in the programme is done by initial interview and assessment to decide which level support is most appropriate for each pupil. Support is provided exclusively through withdrawal in groups of three from classes. A programme is drawn up for each of these groups in consultation with class teachers. Informal contacts are made with parents throughout the year and progress reports are made available at parent-teacher meetings. Information and communications technology (ICT) is used effectively as an added resource in teaching English to this these pupils. Detailed assessment of their progress through the use of portfolios, checklists and ongoing observation was noted. The pupils are supported in a room designated for language support. Print-rich materials and teacher-designed charts scaffold the pupils’ language acquisition and the room presents as an attractive learning environment. The teaching observed was very closely aligned to the classroom activities observed in junior infants and consolidated that work effectively, using teacher-made resources. In its review of provision in this area, it is recommended that the school explore the benefits of delivering some of the support in the pupils’ mainstream classrooms, where appropriate.
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.