An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Náisiúnta Droim an Átha Mhóir
Uimhir rolla: 17132L
Date of inspection: 8 October 2009
A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Droim an Átha Mhóir was undertaken in October 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, Mathematics and History. 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.
Scoil Náisiúnta Droim an Átha Mhóir is a co-educational, rural school located in the parish of Aughavas in County Leitrim. The school caters for sixteen pupils. Enrolment looks set to remain low but stable for the next number of years. The pupils are taught in two multi-grade classrooms; the junior room accommodates twelve pupils up to and including second class and the senior room accommodates four pupils from third to sixth class. The pupils’ attendance levels are satisfactory. A statement of strategy on school attendance has yet to be ratified by the board of management.
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
2 (including the teaching principal)
Teachers working in support roles
1 (based elsewhere)
Special needs assistants
The board employs a part-time secretary who provides careful, competent service to the school. A cleaner attends twice weekly and caretaking services are contracted as the need arises.
The school, under the patronage of the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, has a Roman Catholic ethos. According to the mission statement, the school aims to provide a happy, caring and safe environment where respect for both people and the environment is central. Observation of daily school interactions and routines indicates that the mission statement is being realised successfully. The board and teachers place significant emphasis on the pupils’ spiritual development. Regular opportunities are also provided for the pupils’ involvement in a range of co-curricular and extracurricular activities, for example the National Children’s Choir, Discover Primary Science, Leitrim Floral Pride and the Green-Schools Programme.
The board of management is supportive of the teachers and attends to its current priorities in a competent manner. All board members have attended relevant management training. The board is properly constituted and meets regularly. Minutes are taken of all proceedings. The chairperson displays commendable commitment to her role and remains in close contact with the principal. School finances are managed with care and updated accounts are presented by the treasurer at each meeting. It is advised that accounts are audited periodically.
Upkeep and maintenance of the school are good; the interior is brightly painted and the garden and playing areas are pleasant and both child and nature friendly. For example, each family has a tree planted on the grounds, and there are bird tables, an owl box, composting and recycling facilities and a regularly used polythene tunnel. Since September 2007, in addition to general maintenance matters, the board has provided a staff toilet, dry lined walls, repaired the ceilings and roof, and created some additional storage. The provision of more suitable accommodation for the visiting learning-support teacher should now be a priority for the board as current conditions are unsatisfactory; learning support is provided in the small office area also used as the staffroom.
The board aims to provide the best education possible to the pupils in a happy and safe environment. Members identify the happy, homely atmosphere and the strong, supportive relationships between parents, the community and the school to be a key strength. The board has recently discussed and ratified a number of organisational policies. This is good practice and should be progressed in a consistent manner.
The principal, appointed to the school in 2004, performs her duties efficiently and effectively. She is very committed to the school and her work in managing the school community is commendable. She leads and manages the whole-school planning process diligently. She has established child-friendly and purposeful routines which greatly facilitate the day-to-day life of the school. For example, the pupils sing during line-up and re-entry following break times. The principal has high expectations of the pupils’ behaviour and lines of communication with staff and parents are positive and effective. The assistant teacher has a special-duties post and supports the work of the principal successfully. She attends to general duties in a conscientious manner and contributes beneficially to the overall management of the school.
The mainstream classrooms present as very pleasant learning environments; they are well organised, print and number rich and colourful. The school is generally well-resourced in terms of teaching and learning aids, however the desirability of acquiring additional resources for English, Mathematics and History was discussed with the teachers. Each classroom has a computer and printer. The board intends to develop the information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure. This would be a beneficial development.
The mainstream teachers share-teach for certain activities, for example paired reading and sacramental preparation. Share-teaching should be developed further to ensure that the talents and expertise of teachers are used for the ultimate benefit of the pupils. A class allocation policy should also be devised.
The board and teachers report high levels of co-operation from the parents of the seven families who attend the school and from the local community. Parents are encouraged to help out with sporting and other extra-curricular activities. They support the school’s healthy eating campaign and the successful Green-Schools Programme. Parents’ representatives report that there are very flexible arrangements in place to meet with teachers and that good information is provided about their children’s progress. Other modes of communication with parents include useful end-of-year reports on pupils’ progress and regular information notices about school activities.
The pupils are well behaved, respectful and friendly. They co-operate with their teachers and are keen to engage in discussion. They display interest, pride and enthusiasm in their work. Teachers use praise and affirmation effectively to promote good behaviour. The teachers are commended for their regular use of the Irish language in the general management of pupils.
The quality of whole-school planning is good overall. The teachers have prepared an extensive array of policies and procedures for a range of administrative, pastoral and curricular areas. Curricular plans address the principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and provide useful guidance on content from class to class. Support services are often requested to provide guidance in the areas of classroom practice that the teachers prioritise for development. The implementation of curricular policies is generally successful. It is recommended, however, that teachers use more structured review processes to monitor how well agreed policies are implemented.
The quality of classroom planning is satisfactory. The teachers provide effective long-term planning in support of their teaching. They utilise a commercially produced template for short-term planning and recording monthly process. The templates in their current format are somewhat restrictive and the teachers intend to review their use. It is important that this work progresses.
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.
The quality of teaching and learning in English is good. Teachers provide opportunity for talk and discussion in lessons. In the junior classes, some good practice was noted in the development of listening and responding skills. More opportunities for targeted pupil-pupil discussion would be beneficial. In the senior classes, there is commendable emphasis upon the development of oral language and higher-order thinking skills. To progress the oral development work underway in the school, it is recommended that there is more systematic and progressive use of the oral language curriculum objectives. The allocation of discrete oral language time should be considered. The teaching of poetry is strong in both classrooms. In the senior classes, pupils successfully explore a wide range of poetic styles and genres and their choral-verse work is praiseworthy.
In the junior classes, reading is taught in a consistent, successful manner. Pupils have very good phonological awareness and phonemic skills. The use of large-format books, real books and parallel readers form part of the reading programme. Rather than using whole-class texts, individual reading texts are assigned to pupils in accordance with their reading abilities. This approach has been very effective in promoting interest and success in reading. In the senior classes, the pupils’ reading skills are developed appropriately. The pupils read expressively and confidently using a variety of reading texts including graded readers, novels and fact books.
In the junior classes, the pupils’ pre-writing and early writing skills are developed with care. As pupils progress through the school, the writing activities are developed appropriately and pupils write in a wide variety of genres. Written work is monitored diligently. In both classrooms, there is regular instruction in the conventions of grammar, punctuation and spelling and most pupils’ use of these conventions is age-appropriate. The pupils’ writing attainment is satisfactory in terms of its content, organisation and style. However, additional emphasis throughout the school on vocabulary enrichment would benefit the pupils’ writing. Cursive handwriting is introduced in third class. Consideration should be given to introducing cursive script at an earlier stage.
The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good. A broad and balanced programme is delivered across all strands of the curriculum. Teachers promote the use of mathematical language consistently. There is a mathematics-rich environment, with relevant number facts and charts on display and a satisfactory array of mathematical resources.
Oral mathematics is an integral part of lessons in both classrooms. Good use is made of number songs, rhymes and manipulatives in the junior classes and the pupils show a sound understanding of numbers. Learning tasks are differentiated to take full account of individual differences. In the middle and senior classes, pupils benefit from considerable one-to-one teaching support in Mathematics. This support is learner focused and effective. The older pupils have good competency with regard to tables and mental computation and are confident in the four basic number operations. Both class teachers are successful in ensuring that the mathematics programme has relevance and a sound environmental basis. The pupils are enthusiastic about Mathematics and their written work is neatly presented.
Most aspects of teaching and learning in History are progressing well. The majority of pupils show good knowledge and understanding of the topics they have studied. In the junior classes, pupils are introduced to time and chronology through the use of timelines and story. Most pupils can recall the stories of the famous people they have studied such as Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole. While some exploration of family and personal history has been undertaken, there should be additional emphasis on change and continuity in family and local history. More opportunities should be provided for pupils to work as historians and to use simple historical evidence. The planned programme in the senior classes represents a good balance of the various curriculum strands. The pupils apply themselves well in lessons and display appropriate knowledge and understanding. Work in Local studies is very good. The pupils’ knowledge of local place names and places of historical significance is creditable. The pupils are encouraged to work as historians and look at evidence from pictures, records, relevant artefacts and the evidence of change and continuity in the local environment. They have recently been on a trail of historical sites and their discussion following the event illustrates good learning. Historians are invited to speak to the pupils on a variety of topics for example the use of the loy, beekeeping and the Lavareen crannóg. Written work is neat and relevant. Across the school, further use of ICT to support and enhance provision for History is recommended.
The school has a relevant policy on assessment. A range of informal and formal assessment strategies is used in mainstream classrooms. There is evidence of regular correction, testing and monitoring of learning in both classrooms. In accordance with Circular Letter 0138/2006, standardised tests of attainment in reading and Mathematics are administered in second and fifth classes. In the context of this school, it is recommended that annual standardised testing of all pupils from first to sixth classes be considered. Appropriate systems should be adopted to facilitate teachers in tracking and monitoring the pupils’ progress in literacy and numeracy. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to senior infants in order to assess emergent reading development. The screening of junior-infant pupils for indicators of early learning difficulties should be considered also. A useful assessment portfolio is maintained for every pupil in the school and includes the results of standardised tests, teacher-designed tests and samples of written work. Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum, published by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA, 2007) will be a useful resource in assisting teachers to develop their approach to peer and self-assessment and to guide the reporting of standardised test results to parents.
A learning-support teacher, based elsewhere, visits the school thrice weekly for three and a half hours per week. She provides literacy support on a one-to-one basis to three pupils. Planning and recording is purposeful and the quality of teaching is good. The teacher interacts with pupils in a kind and supportive manner. Learning is effective and lessons are implemented in a fun, efficient manner. The pupils’ progress is monitored effectively through the administration of diagnostic tests and a variety of teacher-designed tasks.
To progress learning-support provision, it is recommended that some in-class support and team-teaching approaches are incorporated. Formal meetings with mainstream teachers are also advised which should focus on pupils’ progress in respect of specific learning targets.
Mainstream and support teachers are sensitive to any instances of disadvantage which manifest and endeavour to be as supportive as possible of pupils who may need additional support. A book loan scheme helps to reduce costs for parents.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The board is supportive of the work of the school and, amongst other things, has worked hard to upkeep and maintain the school to a suitable standard.
· Very pleasant relationships have been established between management, teachers and parents.
· The work of the principal is praiseworthy. She is approachable, enthusiastic and very committed to the pupils and the school community.
· Teachers work hard; they are conscientious and diligent in their approach. They are very receptive to adopting new practices in teaching and learning.
· Pupils are well managed in an affirming environment. They present as good humoured and pleasant and engage readily in their work.
· The pupils’ reading and numeracy skills are developed effectively.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· More systematic and progressive use of the oral language curriculum objectives is recommended.
· Further emphasis should be placed on the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) in mainstream classrooms.
· Structured approaches should be developed to monitor implementation of curricular policies throughout the school.
· Further developments in the assessment of learning are recommended.
· The provision of appropriate accommodation for the visiting learning-support teacher is recommended.
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 February 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
Two new laptops have been added to ICT equipment in situ to enhance the use of ICT in the classrooms. Whiteboards are under consideration by staff and B.O.M.
Plans are in place to provide separate accommodation for the visiting learning-support teacher.