An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St Louis Infant School

Rathmines, Dublin 6

Uimhir rolla:  17211H

 

Date of inspection: 8 December 2008

 

 

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of supports for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 


 

WHOLE-SCHOOL EVALUATION

 

A whole-school evaluation of St. Louis Infant School was undertaken in December 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on aspects of the school’s provision including management, teaching and learning, planning and supports for pupils, with a particular focus on the provision of English as an Additional Language (EAL).   The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

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

 

 

Number

Total number of teachers on the school staff

20

Number of mainstream class teachers

11

Total number of teachers working in support roles

9

Number of language support teachers

6

Special needs assistants

5

Total number of pupils enrolled in the school

316

Number of pupils with English as an additional language

159

 

 

 

1.             Quality of school management

 

1.1         Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

St. Louis Infant School is situated in the centre of Rathmines in Dublin 6, a busy, urban location.  This Catholic school was founded by the Sisters of St. Louis in 1940 and since 1998 has had a lay principal. The Sisters of St. Louis remain as trustees of the school. This school has a very positive atmosphere. Pupils are regularly affirmed for their participation in school life and for their efforts and achievements.  All pupils, whatever their language, culture or country of origin, are treated equally. Multilingual welcome notices are prominently displayed in the school’s reception area and pupils are encouraged and supported in maintaining links with their own culture. The school’s mission statement asserts that the school strives to provide a well ordered, caring, happy and secure atmosphere. It is evident that the staff members are caring towards each child and are genuinely interested in his/her individual well-being.  A strong sense of purpose is shared among the pupils, the staff, the management and the parents. Mutual respect is fostered between pupils and teachers and the school operates in an orderly and structured manner.

 

1.2         Board of management

The board of management works very effectively and its responsibilities are carried out in a focused and systematic manner. The members of the board are aware of, and very committed to, their duties in supporting the work of the school and in improving the quality of teaching and learning.  The board uses available finances in a very effective manner. The recent upgrading of the school building and the provision of ICT equipment reflect its ongoing commitment to improving and enhancing the school environment. The board’s decision-making procedures are open, clear, and informed. The board takes an active role in developing and reviewing the school polices and plans and makes significant and informed contributions to the procedures and practices in the school. The board complies with statutory requirements, Department guidelines and circulars. It is recommended that the section of the enrolment policy dealing with the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs be revised. The board is currently developing a five-year strategic plan for the school which includes objectives and targets in the curricular, organisational and pastoral areas. The provision of information on pupil achievement and progress to the board at regular intervals should be considered in order to assist in the setting of targets in the school and in the review of the extent to which such targets are being achieved.

 

1.3         In-school management

The principal is diligent and hardworking and has created a culture of team work, order and collaborative planning. Members of staff are encouraged to take leadership roles and are confident in contributing ideas, expressing concerns and making suggestions for improvement. The principal has very good management skills and has managed the whole-school planning process very capably. She has created structures for ongoing collaborative planning and promotes a consistent and agreed approach to individual planning at each class level. She has also managed effectively the provision for EAL pupils in the school. Of particular note in that regard is the attachment of responsibility for co-ordinating EAL provision to one of the special duties posts and the care exercised in relation to placement of pupils in appropriate classes. Together with the board, the principal works diligently to ensure that high quality accommodation and resources are provided for EAL pupils. She has high expectations of the pupils in terms of their behaviour and attendance. The challenge for the school under the leadership of the principal is to focus on the development of specific learning and teaching targets for each class level and to review regularly the extent to which those targets are being achieved.

 

The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal, two assistant principals and the special duties post-holders. The post holders’ duties are clearly defined. Each has an organisational, curricular and pastoral dimension in line with Department guidelines. The duties of the post-holders reflect the needs of the school and are reviewed every three years. A high level of collegiality is evident among the team members and the initial work that has been carried out in curriculum development is praiseworthy. It is recommended that the members of the in-school management team continue to set and monitor targets in the individual curriculum areas for which they have responsibility.

 

1.4         The management of resources

The teachers are deployed according to the class allocation policy of the school. Staff members are encouraged to experience different teaching settings and to identify their preference for a particular class or setting at the end of each school year. Consideration should be given to the revision of the school policy on class allocation/teacher deployment to make provision for changing needs and priorities.  

 

The EAL teachers have an agreed approach as to how support is organised for those pupils whose first language is not English. Pupils with similar needs are withdrawn daily in small groups and each EAL teacher has responsibility for the support of pupils in a specific mainstream class or in a number of classes. Consideration should be given to providing more opportunities for in-class support in the context of the information gained from pupil assessments and individual pupil needs. To date the EAL teachers have engaged in the training that has been made available to them and have agreed an ongoing plan of training for the coming year that will be specific to the needs of the school.

 

The accommodation, including the school building and grounds, is maintained to a high standard, is bright and attractive and provides a safe and stimulating environment for all. A wide range of teaching and learning resources is available and used effectively and creatively to support the development of all pupils’ learning. Word lists, pictorial representations, pupil photographs on resource files, greetings in different languages, information on festivals of different cultures and maps of the world are displayed attractively in the school. A wide range of resources has been acquired to support the teaching of EAL. Those resources are used effectively in the implementation of pupils’ programmes.

 

1.5         Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school has an active parents’ association and parents are involved on both a formal and informal level in the school. Parents participate in school events, meetings and extra-curricular activities. Parent/teacher meetings are held annually and formal meetings are held with the parents of the junior infant pupils at the beginning of September. Teachers are readily available to meet with parents and this accessibility of teachers is much appreciated by the parent body. The school newsletter and website ensure that parents are kept informed of all developments and events in the school.  A group of parents, including some newcomer parents, support the shared reading scheme in the school. These practices are commended. The board has identified the improvement of communication with the diversity of parents as one of its priorities.

 

1.6         Management of pupils

Pupils are very well behaved and show consideration for others. The needs of the pupils, including those pupils with specific learning, emotional or social needs, are well managed and the pupils' holistic development is nurtured. The pupils participate enthusiastically in both curricular and extra-curricular activities. Pupils participate indirectly in school decision-making through participation in the school’s Green Committee. Staff members are sensitive to individual pupil needs and the care and well-being of all is central to their way of working.  

 

 

2.            Quality of school planning

 

2.1         Quality of whole-school planning

The school has comprehensive planning documentation for all areas of the curriculum and for the organisation of the school. An assistant principal has responsibility for the co-ordination of the school planning process and the board, principal and staff members have worked collaboratively to complete all the documentation. Each teacher has a copy of the school plan and a copy is also available in the office for parents.  The policies on behaviour and bullying are posted up in the foyer of the school for ease of access and the details of the behaviour policy are sent home to each parent at the beginning of the school year. These practices are particularly commended. Many of the policies and plans have been developed recently. Priority should now be given to monitoring the implementation of the plans. The identification of specific priorities and targets in an action plan format would assist in this process. It is essential that the principal, together with the assistant principals, take a lead role in this aspect of the planning process.

 

The organisational policies provide clear guidance on practices and procedures for all members of the school community. The documentation includes polices on enrolment, inclusion and communication with parents. Commendable work has already taken place on the development of an intercultural policy. The development of a pastoral care policy has also been prioritised.  

 

The overall school plans for English and Mathematics are consistent with the principles and content of the curriculum. They include the list of content objectives for each curriculum area and a range of appropriate teaching strategies for each class level.  Some agreed approaches for the implementation of particular aspects of the curriculum are included. For example, a whole-school approach to language experience and to the teaching of writing and spellings are included in the English plan while an agreed approach to the teaching of problem-solving and numeral formation is included in the Mathematics plan.  The school has subsequently developed a grid of the content to be taught at each class level for each month in both of these curriculum areas. This is a clear effort to provide a consistent and developmental programme. The grid, in effect, becomes the long-term plan of work for each individual teacher. As a structure, this approach to planning reflects a high level of collaboration, team work and discussion. It is recommended that teachers use this grid as a reference document or guide. Individual teacher planning should take into account individual needs and differing pupil abilities.

 

2.2         Quality of whole-school planning for EAL

The quality of whole-school planning for EAL is excellent.  The school has a clear, agreed policy on the provision for EAL which is in line with Department guidelines. There are clear and transparent arrangements in place for admission, enrolment and the induction of EAL pupils. School policies are developed in an inclusive manner in that they refer to all the pupils and promote equality of treatment. The whole-school curriculum plan for EAL outlines clearly the initial assessments to be carried out, the programme of work to be covered and the assessment tools to be used to determine progress. The content to be taught reflects both the social language needs of the pupils and their curriculum language needs and is based primarily on the IILT curriculum. The EAL teachers ensure that they are familiar with the long-term plans of the class teachers and these evidently inform their own planning. Regular informal meetings between class teachers and the EAL teachers provide opportunities for sharing information and for monitoring individual progress.

 

2.3         Quality of classroom planning including planning for EAL

The teachers use an agreed template for short-term planning and the recording of monthly progress. Included in this individual planning is a general statement on differentiation for the particular class grouping. This practice reflects good efforts to provide a consistent approach to classroom planning among all teachers. The quality of this classroom planning varies considerably throughout the school. Some teachers have taken the praiseworthy step of identifying specific learning objectives in their planning and detailing the methodologies to be used in the implementation of those objectives. Good practice was also noted where assessment was used to identify future learning experiences. It is recommended that the features of the effective planning noted be incorporated into all classroom planning. In particular, regard should be given to specific learning objectives, provision for differentiation and the linkage with assessment.

 

Planning for EAL pupils in support learning contexts

The quality of individual planning for EAL is very good. A detailed programme of work has been devised for each class level which includes language for social contexts and language for accessing the curriculum. The school plan, initial assessments, and input from the class teacher all inform the programme of work. This is commendable practice.  Each EAL teacher works directly to this programme and a high level of consistency is ensured. It is recommended that in the light of the dissemination of the new assessment kits the school programme should include differentiated learning targets which would ensure the consistent meeting of individual needs. Class teachers are in regular contact with the EAL teachers on both a formal and informal basis and a target sheet for pupils is drawn up on a monthly basis for the class teacher to use. The appointment of a language support teacher to a particular class group is helpful in ensuring consistent contact with individual pupils.

 

2.4         Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.            Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1         Teaching of English and English as an Additional Language

A broad and balanced English language programme is in place in the school and much thought has been given to ensuring that all pupils, including those with English as an additional language, are able to access the English curriculum. Poetry is taught very well and consistently through the school. Some very good strategies are in use for fostering independent writing. A structured phonics approach is in place in all classes. Some teachers place very good emphasis on the development of reading skills and are proactive in providing a differentiated approach. In other classes, more emphasis is needed in relation to developing reading skills taking account of individual need. Good efforts are being made to provide a structured and incremental oral language programme. The guidelines in the school plan for oral language are very good. Greater links between the school plan and individual teachers’ planning would be beneficial. Teachers are commended on using active teaching approaches and pictorial representation in their day-to-day teaching which enables EAL pupils to engage with the mainstream curriculum and to re-enforce their language skills. 

 

The pupils’ learning in English varies considerably. Some pupils demonstrate excellent reading skills, can speak very fluently and are very confident in putting their ideas on paper. Among this group are many pupils whose first language is not English. Ongoing close monitoring of individual progress will help teachers to develop approaches to meet individual needs and to adapt overall school planning programmes to suit the wide range of ability levels in the different classes. 

 

3.2         Mathematics

Mathematics is primarily taught on a whole-class basis. Some opportunities are given to pupils to work in pairs. The objectives for the lessons are generally shared with the pupils and concrete materials are used by all teachers. Rhymes and number games are features of the lessons and mathematical problems are related to real life and to the local environment. Overall, teachers are making good individual efforts to teach the language of mathematics. This could be enhanced by devising and implementing a whole-school approach to the teaching of mathematical language. The EAL teachers prepare pupils for the mathematics concepts and the language to be explored and this contributes significantly to their understanding and their ability to access the mathematics curriculum. There are mathematics interest areas in every classroom and pictorial representations of the concepts are helpful in familiarising all pupils with the concepts being taught. The school is commended on the support being given to a group of pupils who have been identified as being more able and in the need of extra challenges. 

 

Pupils generally, including a significant numbers of pupils who learn English as an additional language, have a good understanding of the mathematics concepts taught. They are able to solve simple problems and engage in computation at an appropriate level. Achievement in mathematics among the total cohort of pupils varies considerably from class group to class group. It is recommended that more widespread use of group and individual teaching be made in all classes so that the widely varied needs of pupils in mathematics may be addressed.  Further work on mental mathematics is also recommended.

 

3.3         Assessment

The school has a comprehensive policy on assessment which outlines the modes of assessment to be used across the school, how and when assessments are to be carried out and how assessment results are to be recorded and reported to parents.  Information on achievement is collated on a whole-school basis.  A member of the in-school management team has responsibility for the maintenance of pupil records, test results, and annual progress records. The quality of this record keeping is very high and data is easily accessible. It is recommended that the school focus on analysing the information gathered from assessments in order that teachers can use this information for differentiating the learning experiences for the pupils.

 

The school has an agreed approach to practices and procedures relating to the assessment of EAL pupils. Initial assessment is carried out in three stages and yields very good information. Positive efforts are being made to continually assess progress and achievement according to the criteria that have been established by the school. The progress of the pupils in relation to the school programme is carefully tracked as is their progress in relation to the IILT benchmarks.

 

 

4.            Quality of supports for pupils

 

4.1         Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of the whole-school policy and planning for pupils with special educational needs is excellent. It gives clear direction on the identification of pupils, the organisation of supports, the planning of programmes and on monitoring, assessment and review. The policy prioritises the provision of supplementary teaching for the lowest achieving pupils and for those in junior classes for defined periods. Appropriate and effective teaching approaches are used in the support settings where incremental steps are followed and repeated to ensure consolidation of learning. Pupils are encouraged to learn independently, understanding is regularly checked and material is presented at a level that is suitable for the individual pupils. Teacher expectations are high and teaching takes place at a pace that is suitable for individual pupils. Overall progress is in keeping with the targets set in the Individual Education Programmes (IEP) and the Individual Profile and Learning Programmes (IPLP). The quality of assessment of special education pupils is very good. Comprehensive written records are maintained, test results are recorded systematically and progress is shared with parents and relevant teachers. Outcomes are used to inform the development of individual learning targets and areas of priority.  

 

4.2         Pupils with English as an additional language

The standard of the support teaching for the EAL pupils is very high. Each EAL teacher follows the agreed programme of work that has been devised by the staff. Very clear strategies are employed to develop the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing, and particularly the skill of speaking. The resources are extensive and are used very effectively in the individual class settings. The classroom environments are bright, attractive and print-rich and reflect cultural contexts and an awareness of difference. Space is provided for pupils to engage actively with the language while the seating arrangements allow for pupils to make direct eye contact with the teacher and their peers and to witness good language role modelling. The support team is commended on the emphasis placed on developing pupil confidence in self-expression which is central to all its work. According to the available records of the EAL pupils and the observations both of the principal and the EAL co-ordinator, the majority of EAL pupils are making good progress with some making excellent progress and a minority for whom language acquisition is very difficult. The support team communicates very well with the parents of the EAL pupils and meets them informally on a regular basis. The allocation of a support teacher to a particular class grouping has been significant in fostering ongoing contact with the class teachers.  

 

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

This school is inclusive in its practices and management and the teachers are aware of and address appropriately individual pupil needs. There has been a history of poor attendance among a small cohort of pupils but measures have been taken in the past year to address this issue and some improvements have taken place.

 

 

5.            Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

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

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

  

 

 

 

 

Published November 2009

 

 

 

Appendix

 

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 (BOM) of St Louis INS, Rathmines , Dublin 6 welcomes the content, findings and recommendations of the Whole School Evaluation Report. The BOM particularly welcomes the report’s affirmation of the positive, inclusive and caring atmosphere of the school, where all children are treated equally while their individual needs are also catered for.

 

The Report also highlights the excellent leadership and management skills of the principal, the dedication of teachers and the culture of teamwork and collaborative planning, the support and active involvement of parents, the commitment and effectiveness of the BOM and the shared sense of purpose of all members of the school community.

 

The report recognises the excellent provision for and integration of students who are learning English as an additional language and of pupils with special educational needs in the school. It acknowledges the success of the teaching approaches and models of support which have been developed to cater for the educational needs of these pupils in the context of the inclusive school whereby the educational needs of all pupils are addressed.

 

The report also recognises the richness and diversity of teaching methodologies and approaches to the teaching of English and mathematics throughout the school.

 

The WSE was a very positive and encouraging learning experience for all involved .The BOM thanks the inspection team for their courtesy and professional approach to the WSE.

 

 

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 BOM   and staff are happy to accept the recommendations in the report and to use them as a template for the ongoing process of school development planning in line with the evolving needs of the school.

 

The recommendations to the in-school management team regarding the setting and monitoring of targets for teaching and learning in individual curricular areas in order to ensure greater links between the school plan and individual teachers’ planning are being implemented as part of the ongoing process of school development planning.

 

The school is aware of the need for a differentiated approach to teaching and learning and will continue to develop and refine models for group and individual teaching in order to optimise individual student achievement.

 

The school recognises the importance of assessment as a tool for teaching and learning and the analysis of the information gained to modify teaching methodologies and content as appropriate. The BOM is committed to assisting with the setting and review of targets for teaching and learning.

 

The section of the enrolment policy regarding the enrolment of students with special needs has been revised as recommended.