An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
SN Ard Raithin
Ardrahan National School
Ardrahan County Galway
Uimhir rolla: 17007I
Date of inspection: 12 February 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Ardrahan N.S. was undertaken in February 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and in Social, Personal and Health Education. 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.
This Co. Galway school is situated on an elevated site overlooking the main Limerick to Galway road. The school has recently been extensively refurbished.
The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Mainstream class teachers
Teachers working in support roles
2 (1 not on school staff)
Special needs assistants
2 (1 part-time)
The school has defined its ethos and it has also drawn up a mission statement which includes the intention to inculcate clearly stated values of an inclusive nature. The mission statement sets out clear expectations for equality, diversity and inclusion. The statement is supportive of academic values and lifelong learning.
The board of management is properly constituted and operates effectively, its members being very committed to the physical development of the school. They have enthusiastically overseen the recent refurbishment of the building. The school’s finances are well managed and decision-making occurs in the best interests of the school community. The board identifies the teaching staff, the high calibre of the pupils attending the school and community support as the major strengths of the school. Some attention should now be paid to fulfilment of departmental requirements. In this regard, the board’s attention is drawn to its obligations under circular 11/95 Time in School particularly in relation to the necessity to ensure the appropriate amount of teacher/pupil class contact time and to update the school’s enrolment policy. There is also a need, at this juncture, for the board to more actively engage in management of whole-school planning process. It should encourage a climate of school self-evaluation by regularly seeking reports of learning outcomes and pupil performance thus monitoring teaching and learning in the school on an ongoing basis to ensure continuous school improvement and development. An action plan in this regard should be drawn up.
The roles and responsibilities of the in-school management team have been well-defined. They include pastoral and curricular responsibilities. Members of the team work well together and share the principal’s interest in school improvement and in continuing to build relationships with the school community
The views of parents on the work of the school are taken into account in policy making. Indeed relationships across the school community are positive and are founded on a climate of trust and respect. Annual parent teacher meetings are organised and the principal reports that the parents are welcome to visit the school and meet members of the staff when they wish. Fund-raising events are regularly organised and are extremely well supported.
1.5 Management of pupils
A warm friendly atmosphere pervades Ardrahan N.S. Teacher/pupil and pupil/pupil relationships in the school are characterised by mutual respect. The pupils exhibit excellent behaviour patterns inside and outside the classrooms. There is a positive approach and commitment by the staff to the pastoral care and overall welfare of the pupils. The code of behaviour is understood and implemented throughout the school.
The quality of whole-school planning varies between good whole-school planning and whole-school planning where there is scope for development. The organisational policies which have been developed provide guidance and ensure consistency in the operation of the school, on the whole. It is understood that the health and safety and enrolment policies are currently being updated.
Whole school curricular plans have been drawn up and these reflect the principles and structure of the primary school curriculum. Whereas the plan for Mathematics reflects decisions and discussion undertaken at local level, other whole-school curricular plans, in particular the plan for English, tend to be generic in nature. Aspects of whole-school planning which should be reviewed by the board of management, at this juncture, are the processes adopted in leading and managing whole-school planning, identification of the personnel responsible for implementation of plans and policies and of methods of sharing the plans with the school community. In this respect, it is recommended that thought be given to presentation of the plans in a format which is accessible to parents and other members of the wider community. Increased emphasis should be placed on the impact of planning on teaching and learning. The board should oversee the drawing up of a long-term action plan which will set challenging but achievable targets for teaching and learning and which will indicate who will be responsible for implementation of the identified actions. The school should commit to a policy of rigorous periodic self-evaluation.
As a result of the adoption of a whole-school template for classroom planning fully appropriate classroom planning is in place. Some possibilities for improvement exist however, particularly in terms of identification of clear learning outcomes and for basing future planning on objectives achieved. It is recommended that the existing template might be re-examined with a view to overcoming these shortcomings and that the monthly progress record might now take a central role in the evaluation made by individual teachers on the impact of their own work.
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.
Tá caighdeán na múinteoireachta agus na foghlama sa Ghaeilge go maith. Tá plean scoile curtha le chéile atá cabhrach. Cuireann na h-oidí pleanáil cuimsitheach fadtréimhseach agus gearrthréimhseach ar fáil. Caitheann siad an-dúthracht le teagasc na Gaeilge agus labhrann siad an Ghaeilge lena chéile ar bhonn laethúil. Eagraítear “Coichís na Gaeilge” go bliantúil agus eagraítear gníomhaíochtaí eile, mar shampla “Tráth na gCeist” agus rince Gaelach chun tacaíocht a thabhairt d’fhorbairt na teanga sa scoil. Úsáidtear comhrá beirte, drámaíocht agus cluichí i measc na modhanna teagaisc chun cumas tuisceana na ndaltaí a dhaingniú. Úsáidtear ábhar léirithe go seiftiúil chun ábhar na gceachtanna a neartú agus spreagtar na daltaí chun úsáid a bhaint as an teanga i gcomhthéacsannna cumarsáideacha. Leathnaítear foclóir na ndaltaí go céimniúil agus caitear dua le múineadh na feidhmeanna teanga. Déantar iarracht chreidiúnach fonn léitheoireachta a chothú sna daltaí. Cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil ina gcóipleabhair ach moltar anois béim a chur ar fhorbairt na scríbhneoireachta chruthaithigh freisin. Déantar cúram maith de mhúineadh na gramadaí sa scoil. Aithrisítear rainn agus filíocht le brí agus le mothú i bhformhór na ranganna.
The standard of teaching and learning in Irish is good. A helpful school plan has been drawn up.
The teachers provide comprehensive long and short-term preparation. They make a major effort at teaching Irish and they speak Irish to one another on a daily basis. An “Irish Fortnight” is organised annually and other activities, for example, “Question Time” and Irish dancing are organised to support the promotion of Irish in the school. Paired conversation, drama and games are utilised among a wide range of teaching methodologies to consolidate the pupils’ understanding. Concrete materials are skilfully utilised to reinforce the content of the lessons and the pupils are encouraged to use the language in communicative contexts. The pupils’ vocabulary is broadened systematically and emphasis is placed on the teaching of language functions. Credible efforts are made to encourage a love of reading in the pupils. The pupils complete formal writing exercises in their copybooks but it is now recommended that an emphasis be placed on the development of creative writing also. Very good care is taken in the teaching of grammar in the school. In the majority of classes a wide range of rhymes, songs and poems are recited energetically and with feeling.
The quality of teaching and learning of many aspects of English are good but overall there is scope for development in teaching and learning in English.Classroom organisation for English currently involves whole class teaching, some pair work and individual work. Cognisance is taken of pupils with special educational needs in planning. The current supply of books is very good as it is wide-ranging and includes fact and fiction. The school library constitutes an excellent resource.
Formal reading and formal homework is introduced too early in infant classes and therefore many young children may not receive a full opportunity to have the development of their overall literacy skills based on a sound broad fundamental programme of language development. There is some emphasis on listening and responding to story and on the use of word games. Poetry and drama are given due attention in teaching. Reading is taught throughout the school using published material and novels. There is planned development of the pupils’ phonological awareness and most pupils have mastered a range of reading strategies. In writing, there is development of grammar, spelling and handwriting and pupils’ work is regularly corrected.
The school plan should be revisited and a systematic approach should be taken to its review using the prompt documentation supplied by the support services. As the infant classes in particular are very large, there is a need to consider possible variations in classroom organisation for language work at this level. An even greater involvement of the learning support teacher in working with the younger children on oral language development and other language activities during this crucial learning period is suggested. Most classrooms could be enhanced by the provision of designated areas for writing and reading. A revised school plan for English should allow for the teaching of discrete oral language lessons aimed at achieving the outcomes specified in the curriculum. Greater emphasis on the process of writing should now take place particularly in the senior classes. The development of cognitive abilities through language and the pupils’ emotional development should be assisted to a greater extent by encouraging the pupils to clarify and refine their thoughts through the process of drafting and redrafting their writing.
In revising the school plan for English, the English curriculum should be used as a starting point. Clear learning outcomes in oral work, reading and writing should be specified in short-term planning. Strategies to develop the four strand units in oral work, reading and writing should be briefly outlined. There is a need now to explicitly focus on comprehension strategies (recall, retell, analysis, synthesis, inference, prediction, deduction, summarisation, evaluation, correlation) at an age appropriate level. In summary, there is a need to ensure that the English curriculum is fully implemented in the school.
Good teaching and learning was observed in this area of the curriculum in the school. Well structured lessons were observed throughout the school. Where good practice was observed, the language of Mathematics was emphasised, consolidation and review were carried out and oral work in mathematics was undertaken frequently to improve pupils’ computational abilities. Overall pupils displayed a good understanding of the concepts taught. Classroom interaction was good and pupils responded and participated in the lessons. It was also observed that links with the pupils’ everyday environment and experiences were established. Teachers make an excellent effort to incorporate the use of concrete materials and active learning in lessons.
Teaching and learning in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is of a good standard. Teachers’ planning ensures that there is good integration of the SPHE programme with other subject areas. Each teacher has timetabled the allocated discrete time of 30 minutes per week to the teaching of SPHE. The teachers draw upon a range of programmes to support curriculum implementation. A wide variety of effective teaching methodologies is employed including class discussions, group work, debates and role play. The promotion of a positive school atmosphere within the school and the classroom effectively supports the development of a sense of self and of belonging among the pupils. Equal opportunities are awarded to boys and girls to contribute orally to class discussions and all pupils are encouraged to listen to and to respect different points of view. The Relationship and Sexuality policy is particularly praiseworthy.
The quality of assessment in the school varies from being fair to good. Portfolios of children’s work are maintained in classes. Regular correction occurs and assistance is given to pupils experiencing difficulties. Standardised tests in literacy and numeracy are administered annually and pupil attainment in these tests is reported to parents at the parent-teacher meeting. All teachers maintain a written record of pupil progress in some strands of literacy and numeracy. However, this assessment data is summative in nature and there is little evidence to indicate that it is utilised to inform whole-school planning or that it informs classroom teaching and learning. It is therefore recommended that a whole-school assessment and record keeping policy be drafted which should ensure that the assessment of pupil progress features regularly across the curriculum and that assessment data impacts positively on the quality of pupils’ learning outcomes. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) document Assessment in the Primary School: Guidelines for Schools should be consulted in this endeavour.
Provision for pupils with special needs is undertaken by a resource teacher who works full-time in the school in the current year and a part-time learning support teacher who is based in a neighbouring school. A policy statement sets out broad aims for provision for these pupils in relation to identification procedures, organisation of supports, consultation and collaboration, planning of programmes and procedures for ongoing monitoring and review. Two Special Needs Assistants are also appropriately deployed in the classroom.
The current school policy should be updated from year to year so that it becomes less generic and that the procedures to be adopted in this school specifically in regard aspects of the service are detailed. The resources now available such as Guidelines on the Individual Education Plan Process published by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Primary Curriculum Support Programme Service should all be drawn upon in drawing up the school policy. The pupils in receipt of learning support teaching are selected with reference to the use of standardised testing. The learning targets and the procedures, criteria and timescale which will apply from year to year should be clarified. There is a need to broaden the approaches to diagnostic assessment in order to generate a wider spread of information in identifying pupil strengths and areas for development. An Individual Pupil Learning Plan should be drawn up in respect of every child receiving supplementary teaching in line with the guidelines in the DES Learning Support Guidelines. While good resources have already been sourced, a greater variety of resources should now support the teaching. It is recommended that the scope of early intervention would be broadened to include actions such as involving the learning support teacher in ongoing observation and assessment in the early years.
Lessons are well structured and contain an appropriate range of elements that are linked to pupil learning targets. Short-term planning, as recommended in the Learning Support Guidelines should be used to record these elements and other learning strategies. Overall, positive levels of pupil achievement are in evidence.
4.2 Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups
Should educational disadvantage present among any pupils, the staff deals with such issues sensitively. In such instances grant aid provided by the Department and board of management resources are used to defray costs so that all pupils have equality of access to the full range of school activities. There are currently no pupils from minority groups enrolled in the school.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The school is well managed by a committed and effective board of management
· The staff of the school is dedicated and enthusiastic.
· The pupils are well-behaved and well motivated and their parents are very supportive of the school.
· A unified familial atmosphere pervades the school in its day to day activity
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· The board of management should, in collaboration with the staff, outline the strategies to be adopted in future whole-school planning particularly in curricular planning.
· The school plans for English, assessment and on support for children with special needs should be prioritised for review.
· A focus on school-based self evaluation should underpin all planning and assessment activity in the future.
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 September 2008
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board acknowledges the report and is pleased to recognise the success in whole school planning and implementation in the areas of Maths and S.P.H.E. The advice we sought and received in the curriculum area of English will take precedence in our 5 year plan in collaboration with parental support.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
1. A new assessment policy has been drawn up after planning with the School Development Planning Support Service Facilitator.
2. The Board is awaiting the new draft template for admissions and enrolment procedures in Catholic National Schools by the C.P.S.M.A. before proceeding with revising the present enrolment policy.
3. The school is changing some aspects of the original short term planning template given to the school by the School Development Planning Support Service. The changes will include the Inspectors own templates and this will overcome the shortcomings found by the Inspector in that template.