An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Mháthair Dé

Abbeyfeale

Roll Number: 17060M

 

Date of inspection:  28 February 2007

  Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

1.     Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

3.     Quality of school planning

4.     Quality Of Learning And Teaching

5.     Quality of support for pupils

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Mháthair Dé, Abbeyfeale. 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’ association. 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Mháthair Dé is a mainstream girls’ school situated in the town of Abbeyfeale on the N21 opposite the Catholic church. The school was established by the Mercy Order in 1875 and it continues to operate under the trusteeship of the Mercy order. A new school was built on this site in 1938 and modernised in 1985. The school has six mainstream class teachers, a resource teacher for special educational needs, a learning support teacher and a resource teacher for Travellers. A part-time teacher supports those pupils whose first language is not English. A total of 157 girls were enrolled in the school on 30 September 2006.Scoil Mháthair Dé serves girls from the town of Abbeyfeale and some of its surrounding townlands. The school operates an open enrolment policy and this is reflected in the diversity of pupils attending. The school, in its mission statement, “strives to be a centre of excellence in every sphere within a Christian environment.  It caters for the full and harmonious development of each child making full allowance for individual differences in pupils.” It is evident that this mission statement informs daily practice in the school and that the values it incorporates are reflected in the open and harmonious relationships that exist among parents, board, staff and pupils. Pupil attendance is carefully monitored resulting in very good attendance patterns amongst the majority of the pupils.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board is properly constituted and meets at least four times a year and more frequently if required. Agenda are provided for meetings and minutes are recorded, signed and dated. Roles and responsibilities are assigned to individual board members. All board members have availed of training opportunities and they are to be commended in this regard. The treasurer maintains very good financial records and reports on expenditure and income at each meeting. The board appreciates the generous support it receives from its trustees the Order of the Sisters of Mercy. A balancing statement is presented at the end of each year. It is now recommended that accounts be audited on an annual basis as required by the Education Act (1998).

 

The board is to be commended for the active role it plays in the development of whole school organisational policies. The whole school plan contains policies in relation to health and safety, child protection, substance use, code of behaviour, anti-bullying and attendance. The existence of these policies ensures that the school is compliant with current legislation. Policies and practice in relation to the length of the school year and school day, allocation of teaching staff, class size and retention of pupils are all compliant with Department of Education and Science regulations and circulars. The majority of these policies are ratified, dated and signed prior to their inclusion in the school plan.

Relevant policies are communicated to the parent body by means of a school brochure which is well presented.   The current enrolment policy outlines procedures to be followed following the enrolment of the child into the school. It is recommended that this policy be reviewed in compliance with the Education Act (1998) sections 9, 15 (2), 30 and the Education (Welfare) Act 2000.

 

Board members are very supportive of the work of the school and maintain regular contact with the principal and with each other. Current priorities of the board include the further development of the school grounds and school environment and the maintenance of present good relationships with staff, parents, and the school community. The suggestion that an annual report on the work of the school would be published in the future was discussed and was favourably viewed by the board.

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team includes the principal, deputy principal and three special duties teachers. The work of the principal is characterised by high levels of professionalism and dedication. She articulates a clear vision for the school which focuses on the holistic development of each child and on the creation of a caring and inclusive school atmosphere conducive to teaching and learning. She maintains excellent working relationships with staff, board and parents.

 

The duties of the middle management team are clearly defined and reflect an appropriate balance among curricular, organisational and pastoral duties. The in-school management team meets informally on a daily basis. The members of the team work collaboratively to develop curriculum policies and to ensure that the needs of individual pupils are being met. It is evident that they are committed to the provision of a very good educational experience for all the pupils in the school. Excellent working relationships exist which are characterised by open communication among all staff members. Staff meetings are arranged once a term. Whereas agenda are prepared in advance and a balance of curricular and organisational areas is addressed at these meetings, it is now recommended that formal minutes of staff meetings be recorded to ensure the effective implementation of decisions made. It is further recommended that duties assigned to the in-school management team be reviewed on a more regular basis to reflect emerging school priorities. 

 

2.3 Management of resources

The deployment of school personnel is undertaken in an effective manner. The principal consults widely in regard to the allocation of classes with a view to ensuring that teachers are given the opportunity to teach in a variety of settings. The equitable distribution of pupils, in single and multi-grade classes, is undertaken in accordance with Departmental guidelines. Teaching staff avail of a variety of professional development opportunities and they are to be commended for this interest in their own professional development. A number of external tutors work in the school. A basketball coach, a music teacher, a dancing teacher and a teacher of French and German all contribute at various times during the school year to the development of specific skills in the children in co-operation with class teachers.  The involvement of these external tutors is funded by the board and by the parents’ association as a means of contributing to the continuing professional development of staff and as a  means for developing pupils’ skills and talents.  

 

A part-time secretary provides valuable support to the principal and staff of the school. A caretaker/cleaner is employed on a part-time basis and maintains the school to a good standard of hygiene and cleanliness. One full time and one part time special needs assistant (SNA) are employed to cater for the care needs of a number of pupils in the school. They work efficiently under the direction of the teachers and contribute towards the effective integration of the pupils into all areas of school life. The obligation to provide formal contracts and to define roles and responsibilities for these employees was pointed out during the evaluation.

 

The school is a two-story building adjacent to the convent grounds. There are six permanent classrooms, a staff room, a principal’s office and small general purposes room in the school. The Mercy order donated an additional building to the school last year. The board, using its own funds, converted this building into two spacious and suitable rooms from which the learning support and resource teacher for Travellers work. The language teacher and the resource teacher work from smaller rooms in the main building. Each classroom is well resourced with a wide variety of suitable teaching and learning materials that relate to each subject area. The rooms are comfortable and well furnished. All teachers succeed in creating suitable learning environments within their classrooms. A photographic display, relating to various school related activities, which is updated on a regular basis, is prominent in the school’s main entrance hall. However, ease of access to existing teaching resources is impeded by the lack of storage space in some of the classrooms. The general purposes room is small by modern standards and is used to store school furniture, a factor which further restricts its use. Thought might also be given at this point to the possibility of the development of the external play areas. It is recommended, therefore, that the board might now embark on drafting a strategic plan to address the long term building and maintenance requirements of the school.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The parents’ association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (Primary) and is active at local and national level. It met on six occasions in the last school year. The principal attends all meetings of the parents’ association. It supports the school through fund raising, involvement is swimming, in the school sports’ day, in the school concert, in the organisation of French and German lessons for pupils in sixth class and assists in other school related events. Members of the association are very supportive of the school and report high satisfaction with the quality of education provided to the children. They report that excellent communication and working relationships exist between them, the board and the school.

 

The school fosters very good home-school links. Parents report that they are welcome at any time to approach the principal and class teachers. One to one parent-teacher meetings are organised each March. Homework diaries, pupils’ copies and letters keep parents informed of upcoming events and of pupils’ progress. End-of-year school reports are issued to parents of pupils from fourth to sixth class. This good practice should now be extended to include all pupils attending the school.

 

The school plays an active role in the local community. This positive contribution is evident in the fact that the school choir sings at Sunday mass once a month and by the participation of the children in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. The children also have performed on occasions such as the opening of the local town park, welcoming the special Olympic athletes, the “Fleadh by the Feale”, and at other local events. 

 

2.5 Management of pupils

The board and staff of Scoil Mháthair Dé are to be commended for the creation of an inclusive caring atmosphere which permeates all aspects of school life. A very effective code of behaviour is implemented. Pupil behaviour is excellent and the pupils respect one another, the staff and the school environment.  Teachers use praise and affirmation to promote and reward good behaviour. It is evident that the staff is committed to the pastoral care and overall welfare of the pupils.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

A comprehensive school plan has been developed as a result of a collaborative process involving the board of management, the principal, the in-school management team and the teachers. Minutes of board meetings indicate that plans and policies are monitored on an ongoing basis. Many of the policies have been reviewed since their ratification indicating that the board engages in an ongoing process of continuous review of the school plan. This good practice is praiseworthy. Parents have been consulted in relation to the Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy and healthy lunches. It is recommended that the board now consider means through which parental involvement might be extended so that parents could play a more active part in the planning process.

 

Eleven organisational policies relating to the administration of the school, its functioning on a day to day basis and its general management are stated very clearly. The good practice of including relevant sections of these policies in an information booklet for parents is commended. Also of note is the fact that the school is registered, since 2003, with the Data Commissioner, in compliance with section 18 of the Data Protection Acts (1998 &2003). The school has also ratified a good policy relating to the integration of non English speaking pupils into the school and its curriculum. This policy might now be reviewed to include classroom strategies for the further support of international pupils who are in receipt of language support.

 

The principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) are reflected in the ten very good curriculum plans that the staff has developed. Each plan outlines broad statements of content ensuring progression, continuity, breadth and balance in the programmes provided to the pupils. All plans outline a wide-range of teaching approaches and strategies and indicate how resources and teaching materials can be utilised to support the objectives of the curriculum. It is praiseworthy that each curricular plan includes references to the use of the local environment and the life experiences of the children. The staff is currently in the process of drafting a whole school plan in relation to Drama. Action plans have been devised and are presently being implemented in this area. It is hoped to progress this process during the school year and to present a draft plan for Drama to the board for discussion and ratification in the coming school year. It is recommended, in order to build on current good practice that information on pupil achievement contributes to future reviews of curricular plans.

 

Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with 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). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

The teachers of Scoil Mháthair Dé are to be commended for the quality of long-term and short-term planning which they prepare for the children in their care. Individual teacher planning is informed by the school plan thus ensuring that all pupils will access a broad and balanced curriculum. Specific learning objectives are clearly outlined.  High quality learning experiences and activities are identified which reflect the learning needs of the pupils and the skills and content of the curriculum. Classroom planning also facilitates integration across a wide range of curricular areas, particularly in the infant classes. This contributes greatly to continuity and progression in teaching and learning. Some teachers plan for the differentiation of the curriculum for pupils with learning difficulties and this very good practice is commended. While Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) is identified by some teachers as a teaching resource it is recommended that its use as a learning strategy be further developed in all classrooms.

 

 

 

 

4. QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

The overall quality of learning and teaching in this school is of a very high standard. Pupil attainment across the curriculum is very good. This high quality learning and teaching is supported by a school ethos which values each child and by the creation of positive classroom environments conducive to learning. Lessons observed were well structured and were based on pupils’ prior achievement and interests. Teachers’ communication skills are very effective and pupils, for the most part, are motivated and self-directed in their learning. Resources are effectively employed to support learning and teaching. Skilful whole-class teaching is complemented by opportunities given to pupils to work co-operatively in groups and in pairs. Consolidation and reinforcement of lessons taught was observed to be very good. Written work reflects the pupils’ knowledge and oral responses indicate that pupils are able to apply their learning to new concepts. It is recommended that consideration be given to the provision of appropriately differentiated learning activities within the classroom to ensure that all pupils experience levels of success commensurate with their potential.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá plean cuimsitheach ar fáil do theagasc agus d’fhoghlaim na Gaeilge sa scoil. Cothaíonn na hoidí dearcadh dearfach i leith na teanga. Bunaítear na ceachtanna ar ábhair go bhfuil suim ag na daltaí iontu. Baintear úsáid fhónta as cluichí, drámaíocht, rainn, amhráin agus as acmhainní oiriúnacha chun cumas cainte na ndaltaí sa teanga labhartha a fhorbairt sna ranganna. Saothraítear go díograiseach i múineadh an chomhrá, idir fhoirmiúil agus neamhfhoirmiúil agus déantar iarracht chreidiúnach cumas labhartha na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Tá ard-chaighdeán Gaeilge ag na múinteoirí agus baineann siad úsáid as an nGaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh sna rangsheomraí. Úsáidtear suímh oiriúnacha don chumarsáid i ngach ceacht Gaeilge. Cuireann sé seo le líofacht, le cruinneas foghraíochta agus le saibhreas teanga na ndaltaí. Cuirtear béim láidir ar fhorbairt foclóra agus ar struchtúir na teanga. Baintear úsáid fhorleathan  as ceisteanna agus freagraí agus tá tuiscint an-mhaith ag na daltaí ar an ngné seo den chlár. Is inmholta an bhéim a leagtar ar an bhfilíocht. I ngach rang, glacann na páistí páirt ghníomhach sa cheacht agus is le fonn a úsáideann siad an Ghaeilge atá ar eolas acu.

 

Forbraítear na scileanna léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta go cúramach. Éiríonn go creidiúnach leis na daltaí sa léitheoireacht. Léann siad go cruinn agus léiríonn siad a dtuiscint ar an ábhar léitheoireachta trí cheisteanna a fhreagairt ó bhéal. B’fhiú anois réim leathan d’ábhar léitheoireachta a chur ar fáil do na daltaí ar fud na scoile. Déantar maoirseacht rialta ar obair scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí agus tá caighdeán maith le feiceáil san obair seo. Tá ceangal maith idir an obair ó bhéal, an léitheoireacht agus an obair scríofa. Tá ard-mholadh ag dul d’óidí na scoile seo as an dua a chaitheann siad le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge agus as an dea-thoradh atá ar a gcuid saothar. Is inmholta an caighdeán atá bainte amach ag na daltaí i gcoitinne.

 

Irish

A comprehensive Irish plan informs teaching and learning. The teachers are favourable towards the language. Lessons are based on areas of interest to the children. Good use is made of games, drama, rhymes, songs and suitable resources to develop the oral language of the pupils in the classrooms. Conscientious work is undertaken in the teaching of oral language, formally and informally and a credible effort is made to develop the oral language of the pupils. It is evident that the teachers have a high standard of Irish and that Irish is used as the language of the classroom. Communication is the aim of every lesson. This assists with the fluency, phonological accuracy and richness of the pupil’s language. A strong emphasis is placed on the development of vocabulary and on the structure of the language. Extensive use is made of questioning and answering and the pupils have a very good understanding of this aspect of the programme. A commendable emphasis is placed on the use of poetry as an enjoyable method of enriching the language. Children play an active part in every class and they enjoy using the Irish that they have.

 

Reading and writing skills are carefully developed. Children are making good progress in reading. They read accurately and they display their understanding of reading through answering questions. It is time now to extend the variety of reading materials for pupils throughout the school. The children’s writing is regularly monitored and a good standard of achievement is evident in this work. There is good integration across oral, reading and written work. Teachers are highly praised for the work that they engage in to promote Irish and for the excellent results of their work. They are commended for the excellent standard of Irish that the children have attained.

 

English

The teaching of English is of a very high standard and in general pupil achievement is very good. Careful planning and timetabling ensure that all three strands of the curriculum are addressed. Each classroom provides a suitable print rich environment. Class libraries are well stocked with a variety of factual and fictional books. The libraries however should be organised in a manner which makes them more accessible and attractive to the pupils in an effort to attract the reluctant reader. In all classes teachers keep a record of books read by the pupils and every pupil is encouraged to read for pleasure.

 

Discrete oral language classes allow pupils to develop their oral language skills. In these lessons teachers were observed to utilise a wide range of methodologies. Debates, drama, whole class discussions, group and paired work are effectively utilised. Good emphasis is placed on the development of listening and responding skills. Teacher questioning is of a very high standard. It is evident that the pupils are suitably challenged and that their higher order cognitive skills are well developed orally. Of particular significance is the integrated nature of the lessons observed. Oral language lessons precede reading and writing lessons and are also used to consolidate learning in other areas of the curriculum such as Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). Children are articulate and confident when expressing themselves.

 

A wide variety of reading materials successfully supports the teaching of reading in this school. Class texts, newspapers, graded reading schemes, poetry and library books are effectively utilised. Big books are used advantageously in the infant classes and class novels are used with good effect from the junior level to senior level. Children were observed to engage enthusiastically with these reading materials. This good practice is commended. Emergent reading skills are comprehensively attended to in the infant classes. Reading readiness is promoted through the effective use of flipcharts, pupil-generated stories, and a print rich environment. The skilful development of pupils’ phonological and phonemic awareness coupled with word identification strategies throughout the school is highly praised. All teachers effectively model the reading process and pupils display a good understanding of reading conventions. In general, very good standards are achieved in English reading. It is now recommended that in-class provision for pupils identified as having reading difficulties be addressed through the use of differentiated learning activities and group teaching.

 

The teaching of writing is systematically developed throughout the school. A variety of pupils’ writing is attractively displayed in each classroom and this good practice is commended. Letter formation and handwriting skills are well developed and pupil handwriting and presentation are of a very high quality throughout the school. Pupils’ work is regularly monitored and evaluated and particular attention is paid to grammar, spelling and punctuation. A range of written activities is engaged in on a school-wide basis, including the writing of poetry, the compilation of personal dictionaries, involvement in creative writing and the writing of poetry. It is recommended however that pupils be given increased opportunities to develop the skills of drafting, redrafting and editing in the middle and senior classes and that opportunities to experience a wider variety of writing genres be developed at each class level.

 

4.3. Mathematics

A very good whole school plan in Mathematics informs teacher planning and practice. Common approaches and specific objectives are outlined for each class level. Commendable emphasis is placed on the use of concrete materials to reinforce the teaching of mathematical concepts. Teacher planning indicates a suitable balance among the strand units. Good use of the environment and life experiences of the pupils feature in the development of mathematical concepts. Pupils, when questioned, displayed a very good ability to apply mathematical concepts to real life situations. In the lessons observed pupils engaged with concrete materials to support learning and  were observed to use real money, graph paper, lengths of string and unifix cubes to assist them in acquiring knowledge and in problem solving.  Methodologies employed include guided discovery, active learning and group work. Very good work was observed in the teaching of mathematical language associated with the particular mathematical concept. Mathematical skills are also well developed and pupils discuss and analyse problems using the mathematical language taught. Oral mathematics feature in all lessons and pupils enjoy this aspect of the lesson. Regular opportunities are provided for pupils to consolidate their learning. Written work is very neatly presented and is regularly monitored and evaluated. Extra assistance is provided to pupils experiencing difficulties. Overall pupil achievement in Mathematics is of a very high standard. It is recommended, in order to further develop the current good practice, that the mathematical classroom learning environments might be enhanced to include mathematical investigation tables where appropriate.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

History

The teaching of History in this school is marked by a commendable emphasis on the active exploration and investigation of the pupil’s local and national environment. Pupils are facilitated to investigate and critically examine significant events in their own immediate past, the past history of their families and of the local communities and the histories of people in Ireland and in the wider world. Teachers have compiled a comprehensive collection of local historical data and this is effectively utilised to devise a number of very impressive historical trails. Pupils are facilitated to develop an understanding, appropriate to their age, of time and chronology, change and continuity and cause and effect. An important emphasis is placed in the infant and junior classes on the exploration of personal and family history. Throughout the school, opportunities are provided for the examination of a wide range of artefacts, photographs, newspaper articles and stories. Children were highly engaged in the lessons observed and displayed a commendable ability to discuss, in context, the knowledge which they have acquired.

 

Geography

Teaching and learning in Geography is good. Pupils explore and learn about features in human and natural environments and good use of atlases and globes was observed in some classes. Lessons are presented in a clear and well-structured manner. Pupils are encouraged to participate through whole class discussion and they engage in some project work. This thematic approach could be deployed more extensively at all class levels. Pupils in the senior classes show commendable knowledge of the physical and political geography of Ireland and Europe. Attention is also focused on environmental awareness and care, supported by the engagement of the school in the Green Flag project. Increased use of the local environment in Geography, where appropriate, should be given further consideration, along with the wider application of active learning methodologies.

 

Science

A very good whole school plan in Science effectively informs the teaching of this subject. In all lessons observed the pupils were actively participating in their own learning. Lessons result in enhancing pupils knowledge and understanding of themselves and the world in which they live. A scientific approach to investigations fosters the development of important scientific skills, concepts and knowledge in the pupils. The skills of questioning, observing, predicting, recording and communicating are appropriately developed. Pupils are confident when discussing the outcomes of their investigations. It is recommended that teachers would now develop an investigation table in each of the classrooms thereby enabling pupils to reflect on their findings and facilitating the consolidation of learning.

 

4.5 Arts Education

Visual Arts

Pupils are given opportunities to experience a broad and balanced Visual Arts curriculum. Samples of pupils’ work in all six strands are attractively displayed in the classrooms. These displays indicate a suitable balance between two-dimensional and three-dimensional work. Planning indicates that appropriate emphasis in paid to the strand unit Looking and Responding. Lessons are well integrated with other areas of the curriculum. Individual pupil profiles contain examples of Celtic designs, spring flowers and geometric patterns. There is also evidence of pupils having engaging in group work during visual arts’ lessons. Pupils in the senior classes constructed a famine village based on photographic evidence examined in a history class. It is recommended that teachers now facilitate the development of increased opportunities for pupils to respond creatively and imaginatively to their own work and to the artistic work of others.

 

Music

Teaching and learning in the area of Music is of a very high standard. The school has a very strong tradition in Irish music and the school band is asked on many occasions to take part in local civic and religious events. The school has, on numerous occasions, experienced significant success in the annual Slógadh competitions. Emphasis is commendably placed on the active participation of all pupils in these events. Pupils sing a wide variety of songs sweetly. All pupils are taught to read music and to play a musical instrument. They are also awarded many opportunities to listen to and respond to a wide repertoire of Music. The school is very well resourced with a variety of musical instruments. These resources, coupled with effective teaching, ensure that all strand units are well developed and that pupil achievement is high.

 

Drama

The school is in the process of drafting a whole school plan in Drama. Commendable progress is noted in the implementation of action plans aimed at the full implementation of this area of the curriculum.  One teacher has assumed responsibility for monitoring the progress in this area. Drama contracts have been devised. In some classes pupils engage in the writing of drama and in other classrooms it is effectively utilised as a teaching methodology in a variety of subject areas. All pupils are given the opportunity to engage in Drama in the annual Christmas concert. Pupils clearly enjoy this aspect of the curriculum and they benefit greatly from it, displaying good self-confidence and excellent presentation skills.

 

Physical Education

Lessons in Physical Education are well structured to enable all pupils to actively participate in a variety of activities. Each of the strand units is developed and pupils were observed to engage in orienteering and ball games. A variety of equipment is effectively utilised. Lessons are structured to encourage activity and co-operation among the pupils and they clearly derive great pleasure from them. Swimming lessons are organised each term for pupils from junior level upwards. Parents assist teachers in supervising these trips to the pool. Team sports are also encouraged with the focus being placed on basketball in the current academic year. A coach is employed to assist the girls in developing their basketball skills. A sports day is organised in co-operation with the parents each summer term.

 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

A very good Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme is implemented in the school. Pupils are confident when expressing themselves and are encouraged to actively participate in class discussions. They display respect towards their peers, school and community. A healthy lunch policy is effectively implemented. Issues relating to substance abuse are addressed at each class level and pupils are encouraged to take a healthy approach to their lifestyles. Children, when questioned, were knowledgeable in regard to a variety of personal safety strategies. Media studies feature strongly in the senior classes and pupils are encouraged to critically examine newspaper reports and television advertisements. The RSE programme is also effectively implemented and a guest speaker addresses the parents and senior pupils each May/June. The school should now consider the development of a school environment which reflects the diversity of the pupil population and incorporates recommendations contained in the Intercultural Education in the Primary School Guidelines(2005).

 

4.8 Assessment

The school has not devised a whole school policy in relation to assessment. A range of assessment modes to be implemented is identified however, in the whole school curriculum plans. This includes teacher observation, teacher designed tasks and tests and the administration of commercially produced tests. The learning support policy also lists a number of diagnostic tests administered in the area of English and Mathematics. These include the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST), the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP), Neale Analysis, Aston Index, Schonell,  QUEST, Jackson Phonics, SPAR, Sound Linkage, RAIN, Marino, Dolch Lists and Maths Mastery tests. Tests from the Integrate Ireland Language Training programme (IILT) are also administered, as appropriate.

 

Standardised tests in English and Mathematics are administered each year. The good practice of electronically recording the results of these tests and their utilisation to identify pupils in need of support is praised. Teachers were observed to regularly and actively monitor pupils as they engage in tasks and to offer assistance to those experiencing difficulties. In some support settings, weekly tests are administered and checklists are completed on a regular basis. In all mainstream classes, pupils are encouraged to maintain a portfolio of work samples and tests completed. Written work is of a very high standard and is systematically corrected in each class. Helpful evaluative comments are given to encourage pupils to improve and to praise good efforts. This good practice is commended. The recording of pupil achievement in many of the curriculum areas however is weak. It is recommended, therefore, that a review of assessment across all curriculum areas be undertaken and that a whole school policy on assessment be formulated, as a matter of priority. This should enable the school to undertake both formative and summative assessment thus enabling the teachers to identify more effectively the pupils’ levels of achievement in each curriculum area and to organise appropriate and timely intervention and in-class support.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has the services of a learning support teacher and a resource teacher for Travellers (RTT), who are employed on a full-time basis in this school. One resource teacher (RT), who provides five hours resource teaching time, is also based in this school and is shared with Knocknasna National School.

 

There are currently five foreign-national pupils who are in receipt of language support in English on a withdrawal basis. Language support is undertaken through the provision of six hours teaching time per week. The Integrate Ireland Language and Training Programme (IILT) is effectively used to support pupils’ oral language and literacy needs.

 

Very attractively-organised learning environments have been created in this school’s support settings. It is evident that each room is well resourced, with a wide variety of suitable teaching and learning materials being effectively utilised. All teachers succeed in creating attractive, organised and suitable learning environments within these support settings.

 

Whole school policies in relation to Learning Support, Resource Teaching and English Language Support are presented in the school’s planning documentation.

 

Individual teacher planning in support teaching areas is documented through the very comprehensive formulation of weekly plans, daily plans, folders pertaining to diagnostic testing, resource folders, records of progress and portfolios of pupils’ work samples. Clear, focused and detailed Individual Education Plans (IEP) are also presented, which are tailored appropriately to pupil need and which identify very clearly-defined learning targets.The programmes of learning formulated for pupils for whom supplementary and support teaching are provided, focus on the development of language, literacy, numeracy, social and behavioural skills. Structured, well-developed teaching and learning activities are undertaken, while very good pacing and development of lessons was observed. It is now recommended that consideration be given to providing a combination of in-class support and a withdrawal model of supplementary teaching, as appropriate, to support pupils with learning difficulty and special educational needs. An integrated model of provision would further enhance and support the needs of these pupils in the mainstream class context.

 

A wide range of teaching strategies is implemented in the support settings and very good use is made of concrete materials, appropriate teaching aids and teacher-made resources. Practical activities are provided, while educational software and ICT also support pupil work. In some settings, a Buddy System programme is in operation and Brain Gym activities are undertaken. Pupils are very well-behaved and they display an enthusiasm for and an interest in the activities provided, while positive interactions are also in evidence between the teachers and pupils.

 

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

The school has the services of a part time language support teacher and also a resource teacher for Travellers (RTT), who is employed on a full-time basis in this school. The teaching staff strives to ensure that the education provision in this school is tailored appropriately to all pupils’ needs and abilities. The school ethos is supportive of the inclusion of pupils from all backgrounds. A positive school climate facilitates the full inclusion of all pupils and assures equality of access and participation in all areas of the curriculum and school life. The school is to be commended in this regard.

 

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

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.