An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Náisiúnta Cholmcille,
Castlegar, County Galway
Uimhir rolla: 17221K
Date of inspection: 10 February 2009
A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Cholmcille 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 Visual Arts. 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 Cholmcille is located in Castlegar on the eastern outskirts of Galway city. The school provides education for boys and girls from infants to sixth class. While the school’s catchment area is suburban, the school’s size and physical infrastructure are more typical of a rural school. The school participates in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) an initiative of the Department of Education and Science. This is the base school for a home-school community co-ordinator, who is shared with other local schools. School Cholmcille has a full-time resource teacher for children of the Traveller community and a full-time teacher of English as an additional language. Scoil Cholmcille avails of a wide range of supports to alleviate educational disadvantage. These are described in section 4.2 of this report.
The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation. The fourth mainstream teacher was appointed at the beginning of the current school year.
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
The school is under the patronage of the Bishop of Galway and the schedule for a Catholic school is displayed in the entrance porch. The principal, teachers and board of management have a shared vision of the school’s role in community development and intercultural education. The school is located in a breac-Ghaeltacht and was formerly a recognised Gaeltacht school. The Irish language and Irish culture are important elements of local heritage. It is recommended that the school revise its mission statement with a view to ensuring that this statement reflects the importance of intercultural education and the Irish language and culture in the life of the school community.
The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly in accordance with the Department of Education and Science’s Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure. The minutes of the most recent meetings were available for inspection. Board members report that they are very happy with the work of the school. They are particularly satisfied with the high quality of communication and collaboration within the school community and with the support that the school receives from its parents’ association.
The board is to be commended for recent improvements to the school building and environs. A new entrance porch has been added to the front of the building, windows have been replaced, new floor covering has been fitted and the school has been repainted. Access and toilet facilities for wheelchair users have been provided. An enclosed court for ‘wall-ball’ has been developed on the school grounds. The board and parents’ association have campaigned successfully to have a pedestrian crossing and a speed ramp installed in front of the school. The board has plans in place to improve the drop-off, pick-up and parking area at the front of the school, in the interests of the health and safety of all community members.
Most of the current school building was constructed in the 1940s. The classrooms are small and the quality of insulation against heat-loss and damp would appear to be poor by today’s standards. The absence of a general-purposes room, dedicated rooms for support teachers and storage space provide considerable challenges for the teaching staff. At present two of the support teachers work in the staff room while a third works in a corridor. The school has applied to the Planning and Building Section of the Department of Education and Science for one temporary classroom. It is recommended that the board consider applying for funding for a more comprehensive extension and refurbishment that would address the deficiencies identified above and include drainage and resurfacing works to the recreation area.
The current principal teacher was appointed in early 2007. He has participated in relevant courses provided by the Department of Education and Science’s programme Leadership Development for Schools. The principal oversees the day-to-day operation of the school in a courteous, efficient manner as well as teaching the senior classes. He has overseen significant improvements to the work of the school since his appointment. The principal is committed to ensuring that the school will serve its community well and regards community integration as an important dimension of the work of the school.
The deputy principal and special-duties teacher have whole-school responsibilities in addition to their classroom duties. Each post holder has been delegated certain curricular, organisational and pastoral duties. It is recommended that the curricular aspect of each of these posts be strengthened so that each post can provide effective curricular leadership in particular subjects as required. In the light of the findings of the whole-school evaluation, it is recommended that the deputy principal’s responsibilities regarding the Visual Arts be broadened to include the co-ordination of the teachers’ professional development in this subject, the development and implementation of the school plan for the Visual Arts and the co-ordination of displays in the entrance porch and on corridors. It is recommended that the board provide a contract for each post holder, to be signed by the chairperson and the post holder.
There is evidence that the quality of communication and collaboration within the school community is very good. The school works very closely with various community groups and state agencies in the interests of the pupils. The work of the home-school-community liaison co-ordinator is discussed in section 4.2 of this report.
The level of parental involvement in the work of the school is very good. The school has an active, supportive parents’ association, which organises various programmes and events. There is evidence of effective communication and co-operation between the parents’ association and the school’s principal and board of management. Parents provide valuable assistance with various extra-curricular activities, including a homework club and a music club. Parental involvement in curricular activities has included working with pupils as part of the projects Maths for Fun and Science for Fun. The parents’ association has had an important role in improving road safety at the front of the school.
There is evidence that the school communicates effectively with parents regarding whole-school issues and in relation to the progress of the individual pupils. Various school policies, including the code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy, are circulated to all parents. There is an induction meeting each year for the parents of pupils about to enrol in the school. Parent-teacher meetings are held in the first term and the school sends home a written report on each pupil at the end of the school year. A text-messaging service is now used by the school to communicate news and information to parents.
Although the school day commences at 08.50, it was observed during the evaluation that a significant number of pupils were still arriving up to twenty minutes later. The school should seek to ensure, through communication with parents and through the provision of rewards and incentives, that pupils are present on time for the start of lessons each morning.
Pupils are generally well behaved and there is evidence that parents are supportive in this regard. The school has a code of behaviour and an anti-bullying policy is in place. It is evident that pupils are particularly well behaved in situations where teaching is purposeful and well-differentiated, with clear learning targets.
The principal leads and co-ordinates the teachers in the drafting of whole-school policies. There is consultation with parents before policies are ratified by the board of management. It is recommended that all policies be signed by the chairperson as soon as final versions have been agreed by the board of management.
The school plan contains policies and procedures regarding a wide range of organisational issues. Most of the areas that are required by legislation or by circulars of the Department of Education and Science are addressed in the plan. The school’s child-protection policy is addressed in section 2.2 of this report.
The whole-school plans for English, Gaeilge and Mathematics are generally good. The plan for English includes a three-year action plan arising from the school’s participation in DEIS. It is recommended that the school plan for oral-language development in English be amended so that it supports the implementation of the recommendations in section 3.1 of this report.
The school plan for the Visual Arts has a good, comprehensive section dealing with the making of art. It is recommended that the plan be amended so that it incorporates an equal emphasis on the strand unit Looking and responding.
Each individual teacher prepares long-term and short-term schemes of work and keeps a monthly record of work completed. These documents are generally presented in a professional, reader-friendly manner. There is scope for more effective planning for certain areas, such as oral-language development in English and the adaptation of content and methodologies for pupils for whom English is an additional language. In some cases, there is also a need for teachers to identify clear, measurable learning targets for the pupils, in the interests of purposeful teaching, learning and assessment.
2.2 Child protection policy and procedures
It became evident at the time of the evaluation that there was a lack of clarity regarding the school’s child-protection policy and procedures and the communication of these policies and procedures to management, school staff and parents. By the end of the evaluation a policy statement had been drafted but had not yet been ratified by the board of management.
It is recommended that the board of management formally adopt the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001) in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006. It is recommended that these child-protection procedures be brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures be provided to all staff; and that management ensure that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. It is recommended that a designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP be appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
Úsáidtear cairteacha agus ábhair léirithe eile sna seomraí ranga go léir chun atmaisféar Gaelach a chothú agus chun foghlaim agus úsáid na Gaeilge a éascú do na daltaí. Úsáidtear cluichí, scéalaíocht, drámaíocht agus gníomhaíochtaí simplí eile chun foclóir a mhúineadh agus chun caint a mhealladh ó na daltaí. Déantar dea-chúram freisin d’fhorbairt na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta sa Ghaeilge.
Ar an iomlán, tá teagasc, foghlaim agus úsáid na Gaeilge sa scoil seo go maith. I seomraí áirithe, sonraítear cleachtas an-mhaith. Mar chuid den dea-chleachtas seo, tumtar na daltaí sa Ghaeilge le linn an cheachta agus seachnaítear an t-aistriúchán. Cruthaítear gá le húsáid na Gaeilge i measc na ndaltaí le linn an cheachta agus taobh amuigh de. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as obair bheirte. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go rialta mar theanga chumarsáide i rith an lae scoile.
De thoradh na hoibre seo faigheann na daltaí taithí ar labhairt na Gaeilge i gcomhthéacsanna cumarsáideacha. Bíonn sé ar a gcumas ag formhór acu an teanga a labhairt go muiníneach agus go réasúnta líofa. Bíonn dea-thuiscint ar úsáid na mbriathar ag formhór na ndaltaí sna meánranganna agus na hardranganna. Moltar don scoil féachaint chuige go gcuirfear an dea-chleachtas thuas i bhfeidhm i ngach seomra ranga.
Charts and other illustrative materials are used in all classrooms to foster an Irish atmosphere and to make it easier for pupils to learn and use the Irish language. Games, story, drama and other simple activities are used to teach vocabulary and to elicit talk from the pupils. Appropriate attention is given also to the development of reading and writing in Irish.
Overall, the teaching, learning and use of the Irish language in this school are good. Very good practice was seen in some classrooms. As part of this good practice, pupils are immersed in Irish for the duration of the lesson and translation is avoided. Pupils are required to speak Irish during the lesson and outside of it. There is effective use of pair work. Irish is used regularly as a language of communication during the school day.
As a result of this work, pupils become experienced at speaking Irish in communicative contexts. Most pupils are enabled to speak the language confidently and with reasonable fluency. Pupils in the middle and senior classes demonstrate a good understanding of the use of verbs. It is recommended that the good practice described above be implemented in every classroom.
The school makes very good provision for English writing and aspects of reading. There is scope for improvement regarding oral language and the development of positive attitudes towards books and reading. The school has received support with the implementation of the First Steps language programme as part of its participation in DEIS. It is evident that this has a positive impact on the quality of teaching and learning in English.
The quality of the work done in English writing is very good. Lessons in English writing are well structured and pupils are given opportunities to develop their writing ability in a wide range of forms and genres. Writing lessons are used effectively as a basis for discussion and vocabulary development. The quality of the written work produced by the pupils is generally very good and this work is displayed attractively in classrooms.
Some teachers use very good cross-curricular strategies to develop pupils’ fluency and vocabulary in spoken English. There is a need, however, for a more deliberate, structured whole-school approach to developing the pupils’ oral-language abilities. This would provide a good foundation for the development of literacy, help to offset the effects of educational disadvantage and be of particular benefit to pupils who do not have English as their first language. It is recommended that there be a greater emphasis on developing the pupils’ vocabulary and fluency in English, especially in the junior classes. It is recommended that a dedicated oral-language lesson be included in all weekly class timetables. It is recommended that daily time be given in the infant classes to structured play, including activities with a deliberate, specific oral-language focus.
There is evidence of good practice in the teaching of English reading. The performance of pupils in standardised tests of English reading is close to national norms. The learning-support teacher teaches phonics to the infant classes at present as part of an early-intervention programme. It is recommended that the class teacher be involved in the teaching of this programme so that the work done may be reinforced regularly throughout the school day.
It is recommended that pupils in all classrooms have easy access to an attractive, well-stocked, well-organised pupils’ library. It is recommended also that the school build up a bank of activities to deepen and extend the pupils’ engagement with real books and other authentic reading materials.
The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics varies from class to class. Where teaching and learning is most effective, the following practice is evident. Teachers identify clear learning outcomes prior to the lesson, which leads to purposeful teaching and learning. Lesson objectives, resources and methodologies are adapted as necessary for the various groups and for individual pupils. The teachers prepare appropriate resources and activities to ensure that the pupils have an active role in the lesson. Mathematical language is taught in a deliberate, structured way. There is good use of visual materials to reinforce key language, concepts and operations. The school should ensure that the good practice described here is implemented in all classrooms. The provision of a rota of structured-play activities in the infant classroom would provide very good opportunities to lay the foundations for mathematical language, concepts and skills.
The quality of provision for the Visual Arts varies from class to class. In most classrooms, a range of pupils’ art work is displayed attractively. Where the quality of teaching and learning in the Visual Arts is good, the following elements are present. The teacher places an appropriate emphasis on developing each individual pupil’s creativity in the chosen medium as well as his/her technique. The pupils’ work is discussed, displayed and celebrated in the classroom. Great care is taken in mounting and displaying pupils’ work, which conveys to the pupils the value that the teacher places on the artistic process and on the work produced. It is recommended that this good practice be implemented on a whole-school basis.
In the strand unit Looking and responding, there is scope for development with regard to enabling pupils to talk about elements of art as well as the processes, materials and techniques used by artists in different media. There is scope also for better use of public art, local galleries and visits from local artists to enable the pupils to achieve the objectives of the Looking and responding strand unit. The school may find the support of the Primary Professional Development Service beneficial.
The school administers norm-referenced tests annually in English reading and Mathematics. These are analysed by the teachers with a view to identifying the pupils who have the greatest need for support. The Middle Infant Screening Test is used to identify pupils who would benefit from early intervention. Various other profiling and benchmarking systems are used in English. A range of teacher-generated assessment tools is used in each classroom.
The quality of provision for pupils with special educational needs is good. The school has a full-time resource teacher for children of the Traveller community and a full-time special-educational-needs teacher. Each teacher works with pupils from both target groups. One of the teachers focuses on junior classes, while the other works with senior classes. This innovative arrangement facilitates more effective communication among teachers and enables the school to provide an enhanced service to the target pupils. The teachers are to be commended also on providing supplementary teaching for pupils with high levels of ability. Each teacher prepares and implements specific learning programmes for individual pupils and groups of pupils. These are generally good. There is a need in some cases, however, to broaden the scope of the individual learning programmes so that they address the areas of need identified in the assessments conducted by relevant education and health professionals. It is recommended that each parent of a pupil for whom an individual learning programme is prepared be given a copy of the learning programme.
The quality of the supplementary teaching provided is good. Many of the target pupils leave their classrooms to receive supplementary teaching. Others receive support in the mainstream classroom. There is particularly good provision for the areas of numeracy and literacy. There is scope, in some cases, for an increased emphasis on the motivational aspects of reading through greater opportunities for pupils to appreciate the pleasure and practical benefits that can be gained from books. It is recommended that the school consider how the special-educational needs teacher could contribute to the organisation and management of a structured-play rota in the infant classes.
This is the base school for a home-school-community liaison co-ordinator who also serves other local schools. This post co-ordinates the school’s participation in a wide and varied range of projects, in partnership with local groups and state agencies. The work of the co-ordinator has enabled many parents to gain a better understanding of the nature and value of their children’s education and given them the confidence and the opportunity to take an active role in their children’s education.
Scoil Cholmcille avails of a wide range of supports to alleviate educational disadvantage. It is evident that the school is doing very good work to make school enjoyable for pupils and to provide them with opportunities that they might not have otherwise. The school participates in the Galway East School-Completion Project, which involves a homework club, summer camp, transfer programme and other initiatives aimed at pupils who are at risk of leaving school early. Pupils receive a healthy school lunch under a scheme funded by Department of Social and Family Affairs. Pupils and teachers have participated in educational visits to other countries through the Léargas exchange programme. The DEIS grant is used for various enrichment activities, including a short course in a local sailing school. The school has an extensive extra-curricular programme, including hurling, tag rugby, chess and quiz activities. Lessons in Irish dancing and Spanish are funded by a combination of the DEIS grant and funds raised by the parents’ association.
The school employs a teacher to provide supplementary tuition in English for pupils who do not have English as a first language. The teacher fosters a positive working relationship with the pupils who attend and there is evidence that the support provided is enjoyable and beneficial for pupils. There is a need, however, for a reduced emphasis on literacy work and a more structured approach to developing the pupils’ fluency and vocabulary through focused oral-language activities.
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 June 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management of Schoil Náisiúnta Cholmcille Naofa welcomes the whole school evaluation report. The process was positive and beneficial. The inspector was very professional, thorough, and courteous. We are happy with the affirmation of good practice in our school and we will implement the recommendations ourlined in the 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
The Board has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools
The school is in the process of updating the Looking and responding strand unit for visual arts.
An application to the DES for extension and refurbishment of the school is currently underway.