An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Chomáin Naofa

 Roundfort, Hollymount, County Mayo

Uimhir rolla:  17082W

 

Date of inspection: 26 February 2009

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Roundfort National School was undertaken in February 2009. 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 the Visual Arts. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

This six-teacher school is situated in the village of Roundfort in the parish of Hollymount, Co Mayo. Most of the pupils come from Roundfort and Hollymount, while some pupils travel from neighbouring parishes. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam.

 

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

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

117

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

6

Mainstream class teachers

5

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

0

 

The school has seen a rise in enrolment figures in the last few years. An additional mainstream teacher was appointed in 2008 because of this increase in enrolment. A temporary portakabin has been provided to accommodate the extra numbers. Enrolment is expected to remain at the present level, or slightly above, for the foreseeable future. The school moved from its original school building to a newly-constructed building in 2007. This new school was built with the assistance of the Small Schools Initiative Scheme. The local community continues to provide funding for the building costs. The new school building provided four mainstream classrooms, two learning-support/resource classrooms, a staff room, and offices for the principal and secretary. The school is well maintained and is clean and tidy inside and outside.

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school’s mission statement prioritises the academic and social development of the children who attend the school and upholds the school’s Catholic ethos. Pupils are encouraged to participate in a wide range of educational and extra-curricular activities. Opportunities are provided for pupils to develop sporting, musical and other abilities through, for example, football training, music lessons organised by the parents’ association, and the development of the school vegetable garden with the assistance of some of the parents. The new building has made a very welcome contribution to the quality of education provided in the school. The board of management, staff and parents are determined to continue to expand and improve on the facilities and services available in the school.

 

1.2 Board of management

The composition of the board of management is in accordance with agreed departmental procedures. Meetings of the board of management are held every six to eight weeks. Meetings are held more regularly if necessary. Many meetings, for example, were held during the construction of the new school building. The chairperson of the board of management maintains regular contact with the school principal.

 

Minutes are kept of all board meetings. The minutes of the most recent board meetings indicate that the development of school policies and various day-to-day administrative matters are among the issues most frequently discussed by the board. It is clear that matters relating to the new school building continue to take up much of the board’s time. Correspondence is dealt with at each meeting of the board and the principal gives a report on the work of the school. A financial report is also given at each board meeting. Various roles have been assigned to members of the board, including those of secretary and treasurer. Members of the board of management have attended training sessions provided by the Catholic Primary School Managers’ Association (CPSMA) to assist them in carrying out their duties.

 

The school has a wide array of new furniture and the board of management has invested in the provision of wide range of teaching resources. The school yard is laid out for playground games and there is also a playing field behind the school. The recently cultivated garden is an attractive and worthwhile addition to school facilities.

 

The board is conscious of its responsibilities in the development, ratification and review of the school plan and has been actively involved in the school planning process. The board has put together an action plan that clearly outlines its priorities in school policy development for the next three years. This proactive approach is to be commended.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal teacher has demonstrated good leadership skills in overseeing the school’s move to its new premises in the recent past. This work is an example of a determination to improve the school and the services it offers to the local community. The principal’s management and administrative duties are carried out conscientiously and diligently. It was confirmed by the principal that the board of management is very supportive of her in the various aspects of their work together. The principal believes that the strengths of the school include the commitment of the staff and the school’s intention to put children first in all school endeavours.

 

Meetings are held with the chairperson of the newly-formed parents’ association as the need arises. There is good communication between the school and parents in general, and commendable efforts have recently been made to improve the sharing of information on school matters. It is recommended that this work continue to be enhanced in the future to further improve communication between the school and parents.

 

The duties of the deputy principal and the special duties teachers are outlined in the school plan. The work of these teachers provides useful assistance to the principal in the smooth operation of the school. It would be worthwhile now, however, to review the schedule of duties pertaining to these posts of responsibility, in accordance with Circular 07/03. Such a review should include the provision of a clearer outline of the curricular, administrative and pastoral duties attached to the posts.

 

Formal staff meetings are held once a term. The issues discussed at these meetings usually relate to the general work of the school, including the formulation of school policies and curriculum implementation.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

A parents’ association has recently been established in the school. Officers of the parents’ association have attended seminars organised by the National Parents’ Council to assist them in their role. The parents’ association plans to meet approximately four times a year. The meetings held in its first year of operation have been well attended and have provided a useful forum for debate on school matters of interest to parents.

 

The officers of the parents’ association stated that there was a welcoming atmosphere in the school. They felt that the establishment of the parents’ association had enhanced dialogue between school staff and parents. Parents are involved in a variety of fundraising activities, especially since the construction of the new school building. Parents have given valuable practical help in maintaining the school grounds since the opening of the new school building.

 

It was stated that overall parents were satisfied with the education provided in the school. There were no major areas that parents would like to see improved, although it was reported that some parents highlighted the need to place more emphasis on physical education (PE) activities and sporting events.

 

Parents are aware that the school plan is available for them to consult at any time. It was confirmed that parents’ representatives were involved in devising the relationships and sexuality education (RSE) policy for the school. It is recommended that parents be more actively involved in the whole-school planning process, including policy development and review, in the future.

 

Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually where parents are given the opportunity to discuss their children’s progress. The provision of annual written reports on the progress of their children has recently been introduced by the school. This is a positive development.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The pupils in Roundfort National School are well behaved. They are respectful towards their teachers and to each other. They cooperate and participate willingly in the various lessons and activities. Visitors are welcomed by the pupils and they are eager to discuss and demonstrate what they have learned in school. Pupils are supervised during all recreation periods.

 

The code of behaviour and the school rules are set out clearly. There is a need, however, to revise some aspects of the rules to ensure that they are more readily understood by pupils. The revised school rules and expectations for good behaviour should be stated in positive language in accordance with Developing a Code of Behaviour: Guidelines for Schools (Department of Education and Science, 2008). Parents should be consulted on this review.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

There are many positive aspects to the whole-school planning process in Roundfort National School. Effective use has been made of the facilitators and advisors available through the national support programmes. Administrative policies and curricular plans are initially developed in draft form by the school staff. These policies are then discussed and ratified by the board of management. The school’s policy for Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is among those that have recently been reviewed. Part of this review included the addition of the school’s RSE policy. Parents’ representatives were involved in this work. It is recommended, as a means of developing parents’ involvement in the school, that parental input should form part of all future policy reviews.

 

The school plan includes an enrolment policy, a health and safety statement, a school attendance and the code of behaviour. These policies are clearly written, emphasise inclusiveness, and are in line with legislation and Department of Education and Science policy. The school’s gender equity policy confirms that equal opportunities exist for boys and girls in all areas of school life. The school has also provided policies on a range matters such as assessment, accidents, administration of medicine, homework, internet use, substance use, school tours, swimming and use of the school premises. All policies are on display in the school reception area, where they are available for consultation.

 

Whole-school plans have been developed for each curricular area and reference is made in most of these plans to the strands and strand units of the curriculum, content to be covered, skills to be developed and teaching methods to be used. Some of the curricular plans need to be further developed to ensure that they contain sufficient information to assist in enhancing the teaching and learning process throughout the school.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good in almost all classes. Teachers have devised a useful common template for their preparation and planning. The template is designed to reflect the content set out in the school plan. Clearer dating of some teachers’ short-term schemes would make this planning more succinct. Monthly progress records are maintained by all teachers and the principal keeps a copy of these records on file centrally. Some teachers have included beneficial notes on how lessons are differentiated to cater for the range of pupil abilities. This practice is praiseworthy and should be beneficially extended.

 

2.2 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 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá cáilíocht na foghlama agus teagaisc sa Ghaeilge i Scoil Náisiúnta Lios na Maol go maith ar an iomlán. Sa phlean scoile don Ghaeilge leagtar béim ar an tábhacht a bhaineann le dearcadh dearfach a chothú don teanga. Úsáideann na hoidí an Ghaeilge mar theanga chumarsáide go rialta ina measc féin agus leis na daltaí taobh amuigh de na ceachtanna Gaeilge foirmiúla. Cabhraíonn an cleachtas inmholta seo le caighdeán Ghaeilge na ndaltaí a fheabhsú. Tá na daltaí i gcuid is mó de na ranganna in ann cumarsáid a dhéanamh ar na téamaí éagsúla den churaclam. Moltar níos mó béime a leagan ar mhúineadh na mbunabairtí i gcuid bheag de na ranganna, áfach, chun a chinntiú go bhfuil na daltaí uile in ann iad féin a chur in iúl go líofa. Moltar sna ranganna seo freisin go dtabharfaí tuilleadh deiseanna do na daltaí labhairt le chéile chun an Ghaeilge agus na feidhmeanna teanga a chleachtadh.

 

Múintear rainn agus dánta ag gach leibhéal ranga agus aithrisíonn na daltaí iad seo le brí agus le fuinneamh. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as áiseanna teagaisc, mar shampla puipéid, cairteacha oideachasúla agus pictiúir, i bhformhór na ranganna chun foclóir a fhorbairt, frásaí nua a mhíniú, agus comhrá a spreagadh.

 

Leagann na hoidí sa chuid is mó de na ranganna béim inmholta ar chothú scileanna léitheoireachta na ndaltaí. Léann na daltaí sna ranganna seo go soiléir tuisceanach. Moltar a thuilleadh béime a leagan ar mhúineadh na bhfocal nua i gcuid bheag de na ranganna, chun na ceachtanna léitheoireachta sna ranganna seo a fheabhsú. Tá caighdeán na scríbhneoireachta sa Ghaeilge go maith. Tá samplaí inmholta de shaothar scríofa na ndaltaí le sonrú sna cóipleabhair agus ar taispeáint sa seomraí ranga.

 

Irish

The quality of learning and teaching in Irish in Roundfort National School is good overall. In the school plan for Irish, emphasis is placed on the importance of fostering a positive attitude towards the language. The teachers regularly speak Irish with each other and with pupils outside formal Irish lessons. This commendable practice assists in improving pupils’ standards in Irish. Pupils in most classes can make basic conversation on the various themes of the curriculum. It is recommended, however, that more emphasis be placed on teaching the basic phrases in a minority of classes to ensure that all pupils are able to talk about themselves fluently. It is recommended that more opportunities be given to pupils to talk with each other to practice the Irish they have learned in these classes also.

 

Rhymes and poems are taught at each class level and pupils recite these with meaning and enthusiasm. Effective use is made of teaching aids, for example puppets, educational charts and pictures, in most classes to develop vocabulary, to explain new phrases and to stimulate conversation.

 

The teachers in most classes place commendable emphasis on the fostering of pupils’ reading skills. The pupils in these classes read clearly and with understanding. It is recommended that more emphasis be placed on teaching new words in a small number of classes, to improve reading lessons in these classes. The standard of written work in Irish is good. Commendable samples of pupils’ written work are seen in their copybooks and on display in the classrooms.

 

English

The school plan for English outlines the content to be covered in oral language, reading and writing, at each class level. The implementation of the pupils’ oral language programme receives due attention at each class level. Pupils are articulate in discussing a wide range of topics and in talking about what they have learned.  A wide range of finger rhymes, action rhymes and poems have been taught in every class and pupils clearly enjoy reciting these.

 

English reading lessons in most classes are well structured and most pupils have achieved a good standard of reading and comprehension. Pupils’ higher-order thinking skills are well developed in these classes. There is a need to devote more attention to questioning strategies, the exploration of new words and teacher modelling in some classes to enhance the learning process for pupils. It is also recommended that large-format books be used more frequently in the junior classes as a means of stimulating pupils’ interest in reading. Classroom libraries provide a wide range of fiction and non-fiction books and these are effectively used in most classes to encourage pupils to read.

The teaching of English writing is undertaken competently at each class level. Pupils have regular opportunities to practise writing in a variety of genres. This work is effectively monitored and corrected by the teachers. Samples of written work are displayed in most classrooms and in pupils’ copybooks. These samples also demonstrate a good standard of handwriting at each class level. Samples of pupils’ written work should be displayed in all classrooms in the future.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The school plan for Mathematics provides a useful outline of the work to be covered in the various strands of the mathematics curriculum at each class level. Appropriate emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ skills in using mathematical language. Most pupils demonstrate commendable knowledge of number facts and mental arithmetic. Effective emphasis is placed on solving mathematical problems in most classes in the school, although more emphasis should be placed on this work in some classes. Pupils record their work neatly and clearly in their copybooks and workbooks and this work is regularly monitored and corrected by the teachers. There is a wide range of concrete materials available in the school. These resources are used in a practical way to enhance the teaching and learning process in most classes. Concrete resources should be used more frequently at each class level in future. A maths-rich environment has been developed in most classrooms, although it is recommended this work should receive more attention in some classrooms.

 

3.3 Visual Arts

The quality of teaching and learning in the Visual Arts in the school is very good overall. A school planning document has been prepared for the Visual Arts. It outlines some information about the strands of the curriculum. It is recommended that this plan be reviewed to ensure that it better reflects the range of work covered at each class level. Most teachers’ individual planning ensures that there is commendable breadth and balance in the artwork completed at almost every class level. A wide range of samples of pupils’ work in the various visual arts strands can be seen in pupils’ portfolios. Pupils’ commendable artwork is also on display in classrooms and public areas of the school. Pupils get regular opportunities to make two-dimensional and three-dimensional art. Very good work is covered on looking at and responding to art. Pupils in some classes demonstrate impressive knowledge of the lives and works of great artists. It is recommended that more emphasis be placed on providing pupils with a stimulus in some classes to further enhance the quality of their work.

 

3.4 Assessment

The main methods of assessment used in the school are teacher observation, teacher-designed tests and tasks, and work samples in pupils’ portfolios and copybooks. Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to pupils once a year. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is used to assess the progress of pupils in senior infants. The results of these tests are analysed to inform teaching and learning and to identify pupils who need additional support. Diagnostic testing is undertaken for pupils requiring supplementary support twice a year to identify their specific needs and to assess their progress. Quest, Jackson Phonics and Error Analysis are among the diagnostic tests used. Records of pupils’ assessment are maintained by class teachers, and learning-support and resource teachers, as appropriate. Parents are provided with annual oral and written reports on their children’s progress.

 

   

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The policy on pupils with learning difficulties or special educational needs is clearly laid out and is based on the specific needs of this school. The policy sets out the school’s procedure for identifying pupils who need additional support and contains useful information on the implementation of learning programmes for these pupils. A full-time learning-support/resource teacher is based in the school and a part-time teacher provides additional learning-support for five hours per week.

 

Learning-support and resource teaching are provided in small groups or individually, according to the needs of the pupils. The learning-support and resource classrooms are comfortable and are attractively decorated on the whole. It is recommended that a print-rich and maths-rich environment be further developed in these rooms to provide a more stimulating learning atmosphere for pupils. More concrete materials should also be used, especially in the provision of learning-support in Mathematics, to enhance the teaching and learning process.

 

Individual learning programmes are provided for each pupil attending learning-support or resource teaching. These programmes contain much useful information on pupils’ needs and learning targets. Emphasis is placed on setting specific and measurable learning targets in most of this planning. In some cases, however, the presentation and layout of the written individual plans should be reorganised to enhance clarity.

 

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

No pupils from disadvantaged, minority or other groups are attending Roundfort National School at present. The school has an inclusive enrolment policy and the school building is wheelchair accessible.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         The staff and board of management are commended for their commitment to improving facilities in the school and for their achievement in managing the successful move from the old school to the new school building.

·         The board of management is very supportive of the school and has provided for the purchase of a wide range of educational resources to enhance pupils’ learning experiences.

·         Teachers demonstrate commendable commitment to improving teaching and learning in the school and are competent and diligent in carrying out their teaching duties.

·         Pupils’ achievement in Mathematics in most classes is commendable. Their knowledge of number facts in these classes is particularly impressive.

·         Good standards of learning are evident throughout the school in various aspects of the teaching and learning of Irish and English.

·         A broad and balanced programme is implemented in the Visual Arts.

   

 

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

 

·         It is recommended that the role of parents in the development of the school plan be further increased in the future. This work should form part of the continuing overall strategy to enhance parents’ involvement in the education of their children. 

·         It is recommended that the structure of Irish and English reading lessons in some classes be reviewed to enhance the learning process.

·         It is recommended that more emphasis should be placed on the development of pupils’ oral Irish skills in some classes.

·         It is recommended that a print-rich and maths-rich environment be further developed throughout 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 October 2009