An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire

Saggart, County Dublin

Uimhir rolla: 17055T


Date of inspection: 20 November 2008





Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of supports for pupils


School response to the report







A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire, Saggart, Co. Dublin 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 as an Additional Language (EAL).  The board of management of the school 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. 



Introduction – school context and background


Scoil Náisiúnta Mhuire is a Catholic, co-educational primary school situated in Saggart, Co. Dublin. This area has experienced extensive housing development and population expansion in recent times. The school’s enrolment and staffing has grown by almost two thirds over the past three years. Newcomer pupils comprise over half of the school population. Due to the significant increase in enrolment the school is temporarily operating on a dual site. Most staff members are based in the original school building, which also consists of five prefabricated classrooms. Five staff members teach in a newly-constructed, prefabricated building less than one kilometre away.


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




Total number of teachers on the school staff


Number of mainstream class teachers


Total number of teachers working in support roles


(1 part time)

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



* One language support position is used in the mainstream setting


1.             Quality of school management


1.1         Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 The school is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. In fulfilment of its mission statement, the staff works cohesively in creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all pupils from a wide variety of religious, cultural and ethnic groups. An annual intercultural day is organised to celebrate diversity and a good range of curricular and extra curricular activities is organised for the pupils. The Catholic ethos of the school is fulfilled through the use of regular assemblies, daily recitation of prayers, displays and religious ceremonies.


1.2         Board of management

 The board of management operates in an effective manner. It is properly constituted and includes members of the international community. Meetings are convened every month and minutes are maintained. The school’s finances are audited annually. The board ensures that Departmental regulations regarding the length of the school year and school day, the retention of pupils and class size are observed. Some members of the board have received training in the past. The board is committed to the development and review of whole-school policies, particularly in relation to organisational issues. Curriculum plans are devised by the staff and brought to the board for discussion and ratification.


The board of management works hard in managing the necessary resources and accommodation requirements to cater for the significant growth in enrolment in recent years. They support the professional development of staff members by facilitating their attendance at in-service courses. The board provides for the inclusion of EAL pupils through the provision of appropriate resources and their support of and attendance at the annual intercultural day. Relationships and communications between the board, staff, parents and the wider community are good. The chairperson meets the principal on a regular basis to discuss school matters. School policies and information are communicated to parents through the school booklet, notices and newsletters. School notices for the Polish and French-speaking community are translated; communication to parents of the remainder of the school community is informally done through the class teacher, EAL teacher or principal. Coffee mornings are also used to share information to EAL parents. The board should now consider ways in which school documentation and communications could be made more accessible to the parents of EAL pupils.


1.3         In-school management

 The principal’s work in leading and managing the work of the school is commended. This effective leader enables the staff and school community to work successfully by supporting them to work collaboratively towards ongoing improvements. She has advanced the process of whole-school planning significantly since her appointment. The principal deals with administrative matters thoroughly and is to be praised for her competent and efficient day-to-day management of the school on a dual site. She places the importance of teaching and learning at the core of her work. The principal’s care and concern for the welfare of all pupils is praiseworthy and she ensures that appropriate supports are provided for them.


The principal is ably supported by the deputy principal, an assistant principal and four special duties teachers. They have a balanced remit of duties in accordance with Circular 07/03. The in-school management team have established a good sense of identity within the school and work cohesively and effectively in fulfilling their posts. They are making consistent progress in leading their curriculum areas in relation to planning, liaising with support services, sharing good practice and accessing resources.


1.4         The management of resources

 The management of staff is good. The principal ensures that all teachers are provided with the opportunity to experience a range of teaching contexts. Newly-appointed teachers are capably supported by a school-based mentor under the National Pilot Programme for Teacher Induction (NPPTI) and a comprehensive school welcome pack. A coordinator for EAL provision is in place. The EAL teachers have accessed a range of courses relating to the teaching of English as an additional language. The school secretary provides valuable support in facilitating the smooth day-to-day running of the school.


The quality of accommodation is satisfactory. The board, staff and caretaker have worked conscientiously to provide a safe and secure environment within the buildings and grounds of the main base of the school. The newly-built temporary accommodation on a nearby site is of a high standard.


Most classrooms have a good variety of resources which are easily accessible and used competently. These include a wide selection of reading material in English and a good array of concrete materials for the teaching of Mathematics. The school has ten interactive whiteboards which are used with confidence. In general, purposeful learning environments are established throughout the school. There are some displays of posters and pictures reflecting cultural and linguistic diversity in the school entrance area and in a number of EAL rooms. To support the teaching of language along the themes outlined in the Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) programme there is a need for all classrooms to enhance the quality of displays and have access to a wider range of suitable EAL resources. It is recommended that the school develops a planned approach for the further promotion of multiculturalism throughout all classrooms.


1.5         Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The quality of parental involvement in the life of the school is good. There is a parents association in place. This hard-working committee supports the school through their fundraising endeavours and their involvement in school activities and events such as sports day, intercultural day, graduation, sacrament preparations and school trips. Parents have been consulted in drawing up some policies. Parent/teacher meetings are held each year and an annual school report is sent out to parents. Ensuring effective communication and encouraging parental involvement in education is a challenge for the school. It is recommended that the school consider ways in which parents could become further involved in their children’s education through their involvement in Individual Education Plans (IEPs) formulation, classroom-based mathematics and language activities and intercultural events.


1.6         Management of pupils

 The management of pupils is very good. Pupils are motivated, happy, and well behaved. Respectful and positive relationships are fostered between pupils and teachers. Newcomer pupils are fully integrated into the life of the school and a formal ‘buddy system’ is in place. EAL pupils are placed in age-appropriate class levels. The school organises and facilitates a range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities including team sports, cultural and musical activities. These enhance the overall educational experiences for all pupils.



2.             Quality of school planning


2.1         Quality of whole-school planning

 The quality of whole-school planning is very good. Through a consultative and collaborative approach involving the principal, in-school management team, board, parents and support services a range of key organisational and curriculum plans has been successfully devised. Most plans have been designed to suit the context of the school and the needs of the pupils it serves.  All teachers have a copy of the school plan. The staff are committed to self evaluation and planning for improvement. They have refined and adapted their practices to meet the needs of the school’s changing context.


The curriculum plans for English and Mathematics are of a high standard. The English plan provides very good guidance to inform teachers’ long-term planning and offers practical direction regarding the teaching of phonological awareness and methodologies for oral language, reading and writing at all class levels. The mathematics plan is clearly laid out and guides provision in key areas such as language, number operations and use of methodologies. This plan is complemented by a recently devised to-do list; this should now be developed into an action plan. Post holders undertake the responsibility for the co-ordination of curricular plans. It is recommended that their roles intensify around the consistent implementation of these plans to include setting, monitoring and evaluating targets in English and Mathematics for each year level.


2.2         Quality of whole-school planning for EAL

 The whole-school plan for EAL shows scope for development. The recently-devised plan provides guidelines around the enrolment, integration and organisation of supplementary teaching for EAL pupils. It is recommended that a more comprehensive whole-school plan for EAL be developed to inform practice in all aspects of provision for EAL. This plan should provide guidelines on individual teacher planning, teaching methodologies, assessment and records management.


2.3         Quality of classroom planning including planning for EAL

 The quality of classroom planning, both long-term and short-term is very good overall. This planning takes full account of the principles of the curriculum and is informed by the school plan. It includes clear learning objectives and a good range of methodologies and resources to support learning. Monthly progress reports are maintained. The teachers’ planning details how the curriculum is differentiated for pupils with additional learning needs. EAL and mainstream teachers meet formally in September and throughout the year where necessary. It is recommended that they engage in more regular collaborative planning to agree on specific targets, team-teaching strategies and assessment procedures for EAL pupils.


2.4         Child protection policy and procedures

 Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, 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.



3.             Quality of learning and teaching


3.1         Teaching of English and English as an Additional Language

 The quality of teaching of English and English as an additional language is good overall. A broad and balanced programme is implemented by teachers who are effective and vibrant communicators. Well-structured lessons are delivered. Teachers model the reading process capably through the use of the novel, large-format books, interactive whiteboards and, in some cases, visual displays. The more widespread use of visual displays to consolidate learning in current topics is recommended. A good range of early-writing and reading activities is experienced in the infant classes. The use of language experience charts will enhance provision in this aspect of their work. Very good practice was observed in the teaching of grammar, punctuation and conventions of spelling. Copybooks are corrected regularly and teachers provide affirmative feedback to pupils.


Pupils are enabled to engage in silent reading, shared-reading and paired-reading of texts. There is a need to ensure that teachers undertake the teaching of reading in a cohesive and progressive manner. It is recommended that the core teaching of reading skills be an intrinsic element in the teaching of reading across the school. Teachers should develop strategies and share expertise regarding the management of reading activities. It is further recommended that the consistent implementation of a sequential phonological awareness programme for each class level be implemented. EAL pupils participate well in lessons. EAL teachers and mainstream teachers should consult and set specific targets for EAL pupils and develop systems for group teaching, team-teaching and assessing and recording pupils’ progress.


The quality of pupils’ learning in English is generally good. Pupils’ contributions are welcomed and overall they are provided with opportunities to extend their vocabulary and oral language skills. Teachers ensure that reading material is differentiated and, for the most part, pupils can read their selected texts with confidence. Pupils can recite a range of rhymes and poems with enthusiasm in infant and junior classes. Pupils in the middle classes can appreciate, recite and write a comprehensive range of poems. There are good writing standards achieved in relation to layout, punctuation and handwriting across a variety of genres in the middle and senior classes.


3.2         Mathematics

 Aspects of Mathematics are competently taught. However, overall there is scope for development in mathematics teaching on a whole-school basis. The teachers are to be commended for prioritising teaching and learning in Mathematics as an area for development. Specific elements of good practice include appropriate use of methodologies; proficient use of resources and a consistent approach to the teaching of mathematics language throughout the school. In some classes an effective model of in-class support is being developed. This good practice involves a high level of communication between the support teacher and mainstream teacher in relation to the setting of targets, use of methodologies and resources, and effective engagement with team teaching to cater for different ability groups. It is recommended that this effective approach to in-class support be used as a model of good practice at all class levels with regard to the teaching of Mathematics.


The quality of pupils’ learning in Mathematics has scope for development. Most pupils in the infant and junior classes display appropriate levels of mathematics achievement. All pupils across the school enjoy Mathematics and participate eagerly in activities. In a number of classes pupils have developed good co-operative skills in undertaking mathematical tasks. There are significant numbers of pupils not achieving to their full potential and lack competence in basic number facts, problem solving and recording skills. In reviewing teaching and learning in Mathematics it is recommended that all lessons incorporate specific oral mathematics time. Regular formative assessment should be used throughout classes to set future targets and inform programmes of learning. Lessons should allow for the thorough consolidation of number facts, tables and development of pupils’ recording and problem-solving skills. More regular communication with parents regarding mathematics language, programmes of learning and operations is advised to support pupils in raising levels of mathematics achievement.


3.3         Assessment

 There is a range of assessment and record-keeping modes in use throughout mainstream classes. Standardised tests are administered annually in English and Mathematics. Individual teachers have developed good practice in assessment including teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests, portfolios, criterion-referenced objectives checklists and monthly progress reports to record pupils’ achievements. It is recommended that this effective practice be disseminated to all teachers. In addition, all teachers should engage in more regular formative assessment in English and Mathematics to assess pupils’ progress incrementally and to inform the teachers’ short-term planning.



4.             Quality of supports for pupils


4.1         Pupils with special educational needs

 A new special educational needs team is emerging in recent times. It comprises two full-time learning support/resource teachers (LSRT) and a part-time resource teacher. Three special needs assistants (SNAs) are employed; they carry out their duties conscientiously. Support mostly takes place on a withdrawal basis with some in-class support. Some appropriate models of consultation and programme planning are in place involving teachers, parents and SNAs. This should be a feature of all support. It is recommended that parents be engaged in the development and review of all programmes of learning for their children. To assist the development of the newly-emerging team a thorough review of practice is recommended. Approaches to planning and records management, use of methodologies and resources, setting of targets and use of a range of assessment tools should be considered as part of this review.


4.2         Pupils with English as an additional language

 Four teaching posts are assigned to the provision of supplementary support for EAL pupils. These pupils are initially assessed using the ‘Up and Away’ language kit from the Integrate Ireland Language and Training material to establish their levels of language proficiency. Positive aspects of support for EAL includes good timetabling for the provision of in-class support and some use of pair-work, visual displays and resources to support learning. Members of the EAL team meet each week; this is good practice. It is recommended that these weekly team meetings be used to set targets, prepare programmes and plan for team teaching in the in-class model. The team should also work towards communicating with the diversity of parents on a regular basis regarding their pupils’ progress, and in relation to the specific content of the language programmes in use, including the language of Mathematics.


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

 Pupils from disadvantaged, minority and other groups are supported in an appropriate manner in keeping with the school’s ethos of inclusion. The board and staff ensure that every pupil is enabled to engage in all curricular and extra-curricular activities. They have an awareness of the pupils’ backgrounds and support funding for books and resources where necessary.



5.             Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas:



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


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 January 2010




School Response to the Report


Submitted by the Board of Management



Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     


The Board of Management and School Staff would like to thank the Inspectors for their professional, courteous and helpful approach to the Whole School Evaluation.


The Board appreciates the recognition that the school has a dynamic, hardworking and enthusiastic staff and that the children are motivated, happy and well behaved.


There are now 328 children enrolled in the school and half the school is now on the 2nd site.



Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection          


In May 2009 a Planning Day was held with the Math Cuideathoir from the PPDS.


Since September class teachers are meeting fortnightly to review the maths programme and develop strategies across all strands of the maths curriculum, in order to omprove achievement levels in maths.


The English School Plan has been revised and a formal approach to core reading skills has been implemented in Senior Infants and First Class.


All staff have been made aware of the School Phonological Awareness Programme and the Principal and the Post-holder for English are monitoring its implementation.


A review of the School approach to assessment will begin in February 2010 and involve all staff.  A Whole School approach to assessment will be developed and implemented from September 2010.


As noted in the report there is good practice in the area of the EAL support.  All staff are involved in the continued and ongoing development of this good practice.


The detailed recommendations throughout this report will be used to form an action plan for school development over the next three years.