An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Náisiúnta Páirc na Slinne,
Uimhir rolla: 17242S
Date of inspection: 26 March 2009
A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Páirc na Slinne was undertaken in March 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 Drama. 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.
Páirc na Slinne National School is a three-teacher, Catholic, co-educational primary school situated in the south east of County Galway. Its catchment area includes Moyglass, Marble Hill, Cappaconn, Ballinakill, Lagoo and Killeneena. The school is situated in an elevated rural position and is surrounded by scenic terrain. It is close in proximity to many sites of geographical and historical interest. The school was built in 1940 and following extensive renovation and building works the refurbished building was officially opened in May 2006. The accommodation is spacious and bright and externally, pupils have access to two ample play areas.
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
The school’s Catholic ethos is evident in daily prayers and religious displays. Characteristics of open-mindedness and respect are nurtured by staff members in the course of their work with pupils. They demonstrate a good understanding of the needs and strengths of all pupils. During the course of the evaluation, it was observed that teaching and learning experiences are relaxed and enjoyable. Considerable emphasis is placed on developing a sense of pride in the local environment. This emphasis permeates many curricular areas. The school takes part in the Green Schools programme and has been awarded a green flag for its involvement in this initiative.
The board of management is properly constituted and operates effectively. Board members are dedicated and highly supportive of the work of the school. Meetings are held regularly and minutes are kept. School accounts are maintained and certified annually. Roles have been formally assigned to some members. In addition, members willingly undertake duties as needs arise within the school. There is a strong commitment to the maintenance of the school building and to the development of an attractive, safe, well-resourced environment both externally and internally.
Whole-school events and celebrations are organised and hosted by the board. The annual mini- regatta, for which pupils design and make their own boats, is the highlight of the school year. The school takes part in the annual parish concert. As part of the celebrations to mark the opening of the school building in 2006, a high-quality publication outlining the school’s history was produced. Participation in these events and projects is facilitated by the board.
Formulation of school policies involves some input from the board. This is good practice. Very good efforts are made to support the work of staff in the implementation of curricular areas. Practical assistance is offered and resources are sourced and provided.
Board members share the view that there is a strong sense of community spirit in the school and are proud of the fact that the school has developed as a natural focal point for the community. Its current priorities are ensuring effective implementation in all curricular areas, maintaining and increasing enrolment and retaining the positions of the resource teacher and the special needs assistant (SNA).
The principal is very efficient and is highly commended for his work in the school. Prior to his appointment as principal in 2005, he worked as an assistant teacher in the school for many years. His long-standing connections with the school and the area, combined with the continuity in leadership are positive factors in engendering a sense of stability in the life of the school.
As curriculum leader, he is committed to ensuring good provision in all areas of the curriculum. He sets high standards for pupils and they are motivated by his expectation that each will achieve to their full potential. A commendable emphasis is placed on liaising with the broader community and frequent links are made with other schools for a variety of activities and events.
The principal demonstrates good administrative skills. School policies and documentation are well organised and planning processes are engaged in collaboratively. At this point, it is recommended that the principal focus on ensuring that aspects of individual teachers’ planning and practice are consistent and in line with the clearly stated and agreed whole-school policies.
The deputy principal offers good support to the principal. Together they aim to ensure a climate of collegiality among all staff members as well as maximum parental participation in school activities. The deputy principal undertakes a range of duties in accordance with Circular 07/03. These duties are reviewed at appropriate intervals to ensure that they are in line with the priorities of the school. It is recommended that duties in curricular areas focus more on the progressive development of the school’s priorities. Identification of specific targets and actions would help to ensure that all staff members are involved in addressing these priorities at a whole-school level.
Communication among staff is good. Meetings are held once per term, and an emphasis is placed on ascertaining and respecting the views of all staff.
Communication among the board, principal, staff, and parents is good. The chairperson and the principal meet on a weekly basis to discuss school matters. Information is communicated to parents through formal and informal meetings and through the distribution of newsletters. At whole-school level, good efforts are made to communicate with parents. Annual parent-teacher meetings are held and annual reports are issued. It is reported that in addition to these formal meetings, parents and teachers avail of opportunities for informal meetings at drop-off and collection times.
At present, a parents’ association is not in place in the school. However, over the course of the evaluation it was reported that parents play a very active role in the life of the school. They support the staff in practical ways by accompanying pupils on school tours and walks, and by assisting in the organisation of school and community events. In order to ensure that this worthwhile involvement continues to be fostered and sustained, it is recommended that due consideration be given to the formation of a parents’ association.
In order to enhance communication with the wider school community, consideration should be given to the publication of an annual report on the overall running of the school. The establishment of a school website would also be beneficial.
Over the course of the evaluation, the pupils were very well behaved and mannerly. Their level of participation in lessons is good. Their work and achievements are celebrated through many different media and as a result there is a sense of pride among pupils. Commendably, the school places a deliberate emphasis on the development of self-esteem and oral language skills. Pupils contribute with confidence to class discussions on a broad range of subjects. At sixth class level there is very good emphasis on preparing pupils for second-level education. In the current academic year, there are no pupils enrolled in fifth class.
The quality of whole-school planning is good.
Plans have been outlined in all curricular areas and although the quality of these plans varies, in general they form a good basis for teachers’ planning. Long-term and short-term plans are prepared by teachers in accordance with Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools. Monthly progress records, in the form of Cuntais Mhíosúla, are maintained. Individual teachers’ plans clearly outline the content and outcomes to be achieved. Good links are made with the school plan and with the Primary School Curriculum (1999).
Over the course of the evaluation, it was noted that some difficulties are being experienced by pupils on transition from second to third class. In order to address this, it is recommended that clear statements regarding the outcomes to be achieved on completion of second class be included in whole-school curricular plans. Subsequently, these statements can be used to inform and underpin teachers’ planning and assessment strategies. Careful differentiation will help to address the needs of pupils at this level. More judicious use of questioning and formative assessment would also be beneficial. Adopting these approaches will greatly enhance continuity and progression in pupils’ learning.
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.
Tugtar faoi mhúineadh na Gaeilge go dícheallach sa scoil seo agus mar thoradh air sin, tá caighdeán inmholta bainte amach ag na daltaí. Sa dá sheomra, leagtar an-bhéim ar an nGaeilge labhartha. Baineann na daltaí sna ranganna naíonáin agus sna bunranganna, an-taitneamh as na gníomhaíochtaí teagaisc. Glacann siad páirt i ndrámaí agus i sceitsí agus chomh maith leis sin, baintear usáid suntasach as pictiúir, puipéid agus cluichí traidisiúnta. Sna hardranganna, labhraíonn formhόr na ndaltaí le muinín agus tá a stóras foclóra le moladh. Bíonn deiseanna acu ceisteanna a chur ar a chéile agus ceisteanna a fhreagairt. Faoi threoir an mhúinteora, aithrisíonn siad scéalta gearra le béim ar chleachtadh na mbriathra. Moltar anois, athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar na modheolaíochtaí a bhíonn in úsáid agus tuilleadh deiseanna a sholáthar do na daltaí bheith ag obair go neamhspleách i ngach ceacht; ina n-aonar, i ngrúpaí agus i bpéirí. Chomh maith leis sin, b’fhiú aire a thabhairt don difreálú sna ceachtanna.
Tá caighdeán an-mhaith sa léitheoireacht. Baintear úsáid as raon leathan d’ábhair léitheoireachta idir leabhair mhóra, téacsleabhair, leabhair leabharlainne agus filíocht. Tá an éagsúlacht seo le moladh. Léann tromlach na ndaltaí le líofacht agus le tuiscint agus déantar fogharluach na litreach a fhorbairt go cúramach.
Tugtar deiseanna do na daltaí tabhairt faoi réimsí éagsúla scríbhneoireachta, idir scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil agus scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach. Scríobhann siad leabhair bheaga, altanna faoi théamaí éagsúla agus i ndialann phearsanta. Tá caighdeán maith le sonrú sna samplaí scríbhneoireachta, sna cόipleabhair agus sna téacsleabhair.
The teaching of Irish in this school is undertaken with diligence and as a result of this, the pupils have achieved praiseworthy standards. In both rooms, a considerable emphasis is placed on spoken Irish. The pupils in junior and middle class, greatly enjoy the teaching activities. They take part in dramas and sketches and in addition to this, pictures, puppets and traditional games are used effectively. In the senior classes, the majority of pupils speak with confidence and their range of vocabulary is praiseworthy. They have opportunities to pose questions to each other and to answer questions. Under the guidance of the teacher, they recite short stories with an emphasis on practising verbs. It is now recommended that the teaching methodologies that are in use be reviewed and that more opportunities are provided for pupils to work independently in every lesson; alone, in groups and in pairs. In addition, more careful differentiation of lessons would be worthwhile.
Standards in reading are very good. A wide range of reading materials is used including big books, text books, library books and poetry. This variety is praiseworthy. The majority of pupils read with fluency and understanding and an emphasis is placed on the careful development of the letter and word sounds.
Pupils are given various opportunities to write including functional and creative writing. They write small books, paragraphs about various themes and in personal diaries. A good standard is evident in the writing samples, copies and textbooks.
The teaching of most aspects of English is good.
In oral language, discrete lessons are taught. In practice, however, the quality of these lessons varies. In junior and middle classes, it is recommended that short-term plans for oral language be put in place with immediate effect. This will ensure greater clarity in lesson content and will also lead to an improvement in lesson structure. In senior classes, the teaching of oral language is very good and as a result, most pupils have the ability to discuss a range of issues articulately and confidently. A broad range of contexts is used in the teaching of lessons. The use of newspaper articles as a basis for oral reports is worthwhile.
Standards in reading are good. Pupils engage well with texts and they demonstrate good levels of comprehension. A graded reading scheme is used at each class level. In addition, supplementary readers, big books, novels and newspapers articles are used as appropriate. Parents play an active role by taking part in shared reading. In addition, pupils are motivated to read independently at their own level. They compile lists of books that they have read. In middle classes, pupils critique books by writing book reports. It is recommended that in junior and middle classes, restructuring lessons to ensure maximum engagement by all pupils would be beneficial. The school library is very attractive, well organised and well resourced. A local author and librarian visit the school occasionally and these events extend the reading experience further. In all classes, pupils recite rhymes and poetry with clarity and expression.
The quality of pupils’ written outcomes is good. Work in copy books and text books is regularly monitored. For the most part, pupils’ handwriting is neat. Pupils demonstrate an interest in writing and they write in a wide variety of genres. Topics of local significance form the basis for writing activities. The quality of work which results from this is very good. ICT is used effectively to generate interesting presentations arising from the pupils’ written work. This work is particularly praiseworthy. All pupils contribute to these whole-class projects.
Throughout the school, the quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good.
The whole-school plan in Mathematics is comprehensive and is informed by the Primary School Curriculum, (1999). Teachers’ individual planning is good and expected outcomes are outlined. It is now recommended that short-term plans include an outline of the methodologies that will be used in teaching.
Very good emphasis is placed on the use of active methodologies in all classes. Lessons are well structured. Talk and discussion are used at a whole-class level, in groups and in pairs. This helps pupils to clarify their thoughts and to discuss possible solutions. Mathematical language is appropriately emphasised and consistently developed. Good emphasis is placed on mental and oral work as well as on use of drill and on learning by rote. In junior and middle classes, appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of early mathematical concepts. In senior classes, high standards are set and challenging material is used. In general, pupils respond well to this and they are highly motivated. ICT is used to good effect in consolidating and extending whole-class work. Throughout the school, most pupils demonstrate a good understanding of all areas of the curriculum. Work in copybooks and textbooks is generally neat and of a good standard. Teachers monitor this work carefully.
There is scope now for some development to meet the needs of pupils with varying levels of ability. Further differentiation of questioning and expected outcomes is recommended to ensure participation at a level which is consistent with pupils’ stage of development. The use of more visual cues and concrete materials would also help to achieve this. Provision of in-class support by the learning support teacher would greatly assist some pupils to engage in lessons.
Good efforts are being made to implement the Drama curriculum. There is an appreciation of the value of the subject and a commitment to its development throughout the school. In all classes, pupils explore and make drama and they engage in lessons with enthusiasm. Participation of all pupils is facilitated. In junior and middle classes, lessons are well planned and are a natural extension of the instinct for make-believe and play. Warm–up games and activities are used with effect. The teacher’s engagement in lessons is praiseworthy. In senior classes, age-appropriate themes are explored through role-play. Pupils relate well to each other and this forms a good basis for co-operative work. In addition to this structured work, pupils are given opportunities to freely engage with dramatic activities. This allows pupils to develop characters and to explore and discuss alternative courses of action. Good emphasis is placed on whole-class discussion through the strand unit Reflecting on drama.
It is now recommended that teachers engage further with the curriculum in order to extend their understanding and appreciation of the subject. In whole-school and individual teachers’ planning, placing an increased emphasis on the progressive development of the content objectives of the curriculum is advised.
Pupils are frequently assessed using a broad range of approaches. In mainstream classes, frequent tests in literacy and numeracy as well as end-of- term tests in a range of subjects are carried out. In junior classes, the use of checklists assists in documenting progresses being made by pupils. The Drumcondra Primary Reading and the Drumcondra Primary Mathematics tests are administered each year. Tests results are carefully maintained and tabulated. These results are communicated to parents at the annual parent-teacher meeting. Screening at infant level also helps to identify pupils in need of intervention. The use of a follow-on programme at infant level would be valuable.
In the area of English, a good range of diagnostic tests is used to further identify the specific needs of pupils who are in receipt of learning support. The results of these tests are analysed and used to inform teaching.
The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is good.
Support is provided by a resource teacher, a learning support teacher and a language support teacher. The language support teacher is based in this school. All three teachers are shared with other schools. Learning environments are well organised and attractive.
Analysis of results, teacher observation and regular communication between the class teachers and the learning support teachers help in the identification of pupils who are in need of support in English and Mathematics. As appropriate, Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and Individual Profile and Learning Programmes (IPLPs) are devised for pupils and these are used as a reference point for the provision of support to the pupils.
In English, pupils are withdrawn periodically from the mainstream classroom for intensive support. Diagnostic tests are administered and pupils’ results inform subsequent teaching. Over the course of the evaluation, good standards were observed in the quality of teaching provided. Pupils are encouraged and the materials and approaches used are appropriately matched to their needs. Early intervention is provided in the form of in-class support. In addition, the use of team teaching as a co-operative teaching approach helps to ensure that the needs of individual pupils are addressed.
In Mathematics, active methodologies and concrete materials are used appropriately to allow pupils to engage with concepts in a meaningful way. Lessons are well paced and structured. Good questioning was a feature of the lessons observed. General mathematical skills are developed in conjunction with specific topics.
The work of the resource teacher and the special needs assistant (SNA), respectively, is highly commendable. The skilful use of ICT, as well as other innovative approaches, results in lessons that are stimulating and varied. Very good efforts are made to ensure that the development of self-esteem and self-confidence are central to the programme of work.
It is advised that a review of some aspects of practice in the provision of support for pupils with special educational needs will lead to improved learning outcomes for pupils. A consistent approach to planning should be agreed and adhered to by all support teachers. The school’s Learning Support policy clearly identifies the importance of parental involvement in this area. Accordingly, and in line with best practice, it is recommended that parents be involved in drafting and reviewing IEPs and IPLPs and that practical guidelines which will enable parents to support pupils’ learning be devised and distributed. The sharing of plans and profiles with all personnel who work with the pupil would be advantageous. Taking into consideration the number of support teachers working in the school and the current level of withdrawal of pupils from the mainstream classroom, it is recommended that the amount of in-class support being provided be increased considerably. To help to achieve this, it is advised that the three teachers operate as a special education support team, thereby utilizing the skills of all the teachers without making artificial distinctions between them as advocated in Circular SD ED 24/03
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The school is well established and is a focal point for the broader community.
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
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
This report has been presented to all staff members, Board of Management and Parents’ Representatives. We have studied its content and we are all agreed that for the best interest of the school, its quality of education and smooth running we will adopt its recommendations.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.