An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



St. Oliver Plunkett NS

Moate, Co. Westmeath

Uimhir rolla:17167H


    Date of inspection: 12 December 2008




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


School response to the report




Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of St Oliver Plunkett National School was undertaken in December, 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English and Mathematics. 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

St. Oliver Plunkett’s is an all boys’ national school situated in the village of Moate, Co. Westmeath. The majority of its pupils enrol in second class having received their earlier education in the local convent national school. Enrolments have increased over recent years and the board of management has updated the accommodation through the conversion of attic space, the addition of a staffroom and toilet facilities, the erection of a prefab to provide for the additional school needs and the removal of asbestos. A further extension, to include new classroom accommodation, has been approved.  The school site is restricted and outdoor facilities comprise a hard-court play space and small grass areas.  The board of management, in its desire to provide for the broad educational needs of pupils, has secured the use of the playing field in the adjacent Community College and the indoor play facilities of Moate Community Centre.                                


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




Pupils enrolled in the school


Mainstream classes in the school


Teachers on the school staff


Mainstream class teachers


Teachers working in support roles


Special needs assistants



1.     Quality of school management


1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

St Oliver Plunkett’s is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise. Its ethos strongly supports  Catholic traditions and values but policies and practice observed highlight the desire to cherish all pupils equally, irrespective of social, religious, ethnic or academic status. The school’s vision, as documented in the school plan is prefaced by the words ‘The most important person in St Oliver Plunkett’s school is the child’. Further commitments to nurture a sense of responsibility, a sense of pride and a sense of achievement, both academically and morally, in all its pupils, set the scene for a caring and well-managed school.


1.2 Board of management

The Board of Management functions effectively and discharges its responsibilities in a sensitive and responsible manner. It is properly constituted and holds regular meetings to address many issues associated with accommodation and facilities, staffing, safety, special needs provision and planning and policy development.  Recent deliberations on the promotion of good conduct among pupils have yielded much success and the engagement of the whole-school community in this initiative is praiseworthy. Good communication is fostered in the school and the board is appreciative of the valuable support and collaboration offered by parents. The chairperson visits the school regularly to keep up to date on developments and to support the principal, staff members and pupils. The board is commended on the ongoing maintenance and refurbishment initiatives, on the provision of equipment and materials to support teaching and learning and on the genuine support for environmental initiatives such as the Green School project. School policies and programmes are discussed and ratified by the board prior to dissemination. Board records reflect careful stewardship of school finances and the accounts are audited annually.


1.3 In-school management

The principal has served in this school for three years during which time he has established good working relationships and developed a strong sense of community with all partners.  He is well known and easily accessible to parents who appreciate his leadership and dedication to duty. Parents were particularly pleased with the high level of communication, the scope of the curriculum and the development and implementation of policies promoting good behaviour amongst pupils. The principal demonstrates great leadership skills which facilitate successful whole-school planning, lively teaching methodologies, provision for pupils with special needs and the promotion of breadth and balance in the curriculum. Under his leadership many policies have been updated and new approaches to curriculum implementation explored. The in-school management team, comprising principal, deputy principal and special duties post holder, functions effectively and holds both formal and informal meetings to address difficulties, to review progress and to plan further educational initiatives.  Further review of the responsibilities assigned to members of the in-school management team is recommended to include a balance of curricular, pastoral and organizational roles.


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Parental and community linkage with the school is very fruitful and the board is determined to build on that communication in the overall interest of improved teaching and learning across the curriculum.  Parents declared their happiness with the smooth running of the school and with the various modes of communication that obtain. They were particularly pleased with the school magazine, text-a-parent and entrance notice board, and with the reporting of pupil achievement and the principal’s attendance at their meetings. Parents support school-based activities such as sports days, concerts, policy development, music, European languages, educational technology, building programmes and the Green Flag initiative. 


1.5 Management of pupils

A generally high standard of pupil behaviour was witnessed during the course of the evaluation and both teachers and parents collaborate in the promotion of good habits amongst the pupils. Good teacher-pupil relationships have been established and many instances of the latter taking on responsibilities and leadership roles were observed throughout the school. Organisational policies place greatest emphasis on fostering good habits of study and conduct and the code of discipline clearly identifies the behaviours expected. All relevant policies are disseminated to parents. Pupils themselves are included in the development of classroom codes of practice and the board supports staff members in their dealings with any incidences of unsavoury behaviour. Most pupils apply themselves to the various school activities with enthusiasm and they present as courteous and self-confident learners.  


2.     Quality of school planning


2.1  Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good and the principal has established a programme of review, taking into account the documented achievement of pupils, for the medium term. Curricular priorities include Music, Geography, Science and Mathematics. Much emphasis is placed on matching the school plan to the circumstance of this school and appropriate teaching methodologies for its implementation are identified. Staff meetings and in-school planning days are used to good effect in policy development and certain preliminary work is delegated to individual staff members who have particular talents and responsibilities. The staff has already availed of support personnel to assist in the planning process and it is intended to seek further assistance from the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS)  The board and parents play an active role in the development of organisational policies and documents are ratified by the board prior to dissemination. All policies required by legislation and many others that support the smooth running and effectiveness of the school are in place. It is recommended that these documents are signed and dated and a review period identified when they are ratified by the board.  



The quality of classroom planning is very good and is suitably based on the strands and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum and within the overall parameters set out in the school plan. Each teacher prepares worthwhile long and short-term documentation and the achievement of pupils is carefully recorded. Classroom planning provides for a wide range of teaching methodologies, giving priority to pupil engagement and motivation. Close collaboration between mainstream and special needs teachers ensures that good provision is made for the assessment of progress, for differentiation and for the purposeful inclusion of all pupils in the various routines of school. A rich supply of illustrative and practical materials to support teaching and learning and to create a pleasant environment is provided in each classroom. Further refinement of the policy on planning, to include teacher planning and record keeping, is recommended. 


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



The quality of teaching and learning in English is very good and reflects the whole-school approach to the subject and the enthusiasm of staff members to provide lively and stimulating environments in the classrooms. Teaching methodologies, in general, provide for maximum pupil engagement in the various lessons and they are modified to suit particular situations. In some instances greater emphasis on pupil talk and engagement in the learning activities is recommended. Much of the success of English teaching can be attributed to its integration with other areas of the curriculum and the opportunities afforded pupils in project research, sharing of information and in classroom displays. A wide range of suitable resources is provided to provoke rich discussion amongst the pupils and to assist them in their learning across the various strands of the subject.   In the middle classes great emphasis is placed on language development through stories, picture books, news bulletins, and through the exploration of topics that appeal to the pupils. Classrooms are tastefully decorated with samples of pupils work across all areas of the curriculum and with illustrative materials and apparatus. The print-rich environment is particularly valuable in the promotion of reading, vocabulary extension and in supporting the different writing genres that are developed. A graded programme to develop phonetic awareness and to extend word-attack skills is implemented throughout the school and pupils’ ability to read independently and to summarise and analyse content is fostered incrementally. Libraries are well stocked and the reading progress of each pupil is systematically monitored and recorded.  As pupils progress towards the senior classes, great use is made of class novels, textbooks, reference books and computer text to develop reading and comprehension. Pupils demonstrate a high standard of oral communication and they read with confidence and understanding. Creative and personal writing is well developed and pupils write very successfully in different genres and for various audiences. Pupils recite poetry confidently and their appreciation and composition is admirable.       


3.2 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good and results of standardised tests are consistent with the high standards demonstrated by pupils in the various strands of the subject. Teachers are commended on the consistency of their approach to methodology, concept development and the language of mathematics. Many opportunities are provided for pupils to engage in group-learning activities and to explore the possibilities of various pieces of apparatus and computer software as an aid to learning. Good use is made of the local and wider environment to bring mathematics into real life settings, to enhance problem-solving activities and to consolidate the learning in many aspects of the subject. This approach also helps to reinforce the involvement of parents in mathematics learning and to further the whole-school approach to integration of Mathematics with other curriculum areas. Leadership responsibilities are often delegated and good examples of pupils working on their own initiative were witnessed during the classroom visits.  Pupils demonstrated great confidence in sharing their mathematical findings with their peers and their command of appropriate language is commendable.


3.4 Assessment

Assessment procedures at St Oliver Plunkett NS are handled very successfully and the progress of each pupil is communicated both formally and informally to parents. Standardised test results reflect the overall high standards achieved by pupils and the determined efforts of staff members to enable each pupil attain his potential in a stress-free environment. At classroom level teacher observation, interaction with pupils, teacher-designed tests, checklists and portfolios of work samples are used to monitor progress in most subjects. Standardised tests in literacy and numeracy are administered annually in conjunction with the special needs teachers. All records of achievement are analysed by the staff and the details are used in planning further lessons, in modifying teaching methodologies and in the selection of pupils for additional learning support. This good record keeping is enhanced through the attractive cross-curricular displays of pupils work as well as through the use of photographs and computer records.  Individual pupil profiles containing valuable information on educational and social development are maintained and these contribute towards more meaningful parent-teacher meetings and to the end of year reports issued to parents.    


4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs  

St Oliver Plunket NS exhibits a very positive and structured approach to the teaching of pupils with special needs and the teachers set very high, yet realistic, goals for their pupils. The special needs team, comprising one learning-support and a shared resource teacher, collaborate very successfully with their mainstream colleagues in identifying the particular needs of each pupil and in designing the most suitable educational response. Individual and group learning plans are developed in collaboration with other teachers, parents and with relevant professional agencies.  Teachers adhere to the Learning-Support Guidelines and their partnership approach secures the goodwill and involvement of parents. All special needs pupils are fully included in mainstream settings and timetabling is arranged so that lessons are co-ordinated to their educational and social advantage. Literacy and numeracy support is offered in small group and in individual settings and, where deemed appropriate, the activities straddle other areas such as Drama, Visual Arts, and Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE). Special education lessons are mainly conducted on a withdrawal basis with some whole-class teaching where the support is dedicated towards a larger group including those with special educational needs. Further development of the in-class support is recommended. More able pupils are accommodated in their mainstream settings where they are given leadership responsibilities and additional and more challenging tasks are assigned.  


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

A small number of pupils from minority backgrounds are enrolled and their presence is fully cherished in line with the vision statement of the school. These pupils are included in all facets of school life and their knowledge, customs and traditions enhance the learning environment for all. Some pupils who need assistance with English are supported through existing school resources and the principal makes good use of additional funding from departmental grants, from parentsassociation fundraising and from charitable organisations. A few cases of challenging behaviour prompted the school to review its policy on discipline and the new initiatives at whole-school level yield favourable results. The school is commended on this work and on the care support provided by special needs assistants.



5. Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas:

  • The board of management is fully supportive of the work of the school and is committed to enhancing the facilities and learning opportunities for the whole-school community.
  • Parents are enthusiastic participants in school business, their support is wholesome and home-school communication is very well nurtured.
  • The principal exhibits great leadership skills and he enjoys the co-operation of all staff members and of the wider school community.
  • Whole-school and teacher planning is well developed, pupil progress is carefully monitored and recorded and an action plan for further planning and development is prepared.
  • Lively and varied methodologies are employed and teachers are committed to the creation of pleasant learning environments for pupils.
  • Special education provision is well co-ordinated and support is targeted at the identified specific needs of pupils.
  • Good attitudes to health, conservation and environmental awareness are fostered and the school community actively supports the Green Flag initiative and the Healthy School programme.


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


  • Whole-school policies should be dated and a review date identified when ratified by the board of management.
  • An agreed policy on teacher planning and record keeping should be developed.
  • Greater emphasis should be placed on pupil talk and engagement during lessons.
  • Posts of responsibility should reflect a reasonable balance of curricular, administrative and pastoral duties.


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.





Published, June 2009






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 would like to extend their gratitude to the inspector for the courteous and professional manner in which the inspection was carried out.
  • The report is a fair and accurate representation of the various aspects of life in the school.




Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          


·         The Board of Management will continue to build on the strengths of the school, highlighted in the report.

·         All of the recommendations have been addressed since the inspection.