An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
St. Mary’s Boys’ National School
Haddington Road, Dublin 4
Uimhir rolla: 17279S
Date of inspection: 06 March 2009
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St. Mary’s Boys’ National School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
St. Mary’s Boys’ National School is a Catholic primary school that caters for boys from first to sixth class. It is situated in the grounds of St. Mary’s Church on Haddington Road, Dublin 4. St. Brigid’s Girls’ National School is located on the same campus. The school’s catchment area is large. It stretches from Haddington Road to Pearse Street in the city centre and to Ringsend and Sandymount to the east of the school. Children living in a number of other areas around the city also attend the school. St. Mary’s Boys’ National School is designated a DEIS Band 2 school. It participates in the School Completion Programme and the Home-School-Community Liaison initiative. The school is committed to helping every pupil to reach his full educational potential. This is clearly evident in the rich curriculum provided to the pupils, the kindness in teacher-pupil interactions and the overall praiseworthy standard of pupil learning outcomes. Effective school attendance strategies are in place and attendance levels across the school are very good.
The board of management is very committed to the education of the pupils in this school. It is properly constituted and meets regularly. Minutes of its meetings are maintained. It ensures that the school’s statutory obligations are fulfilled and that Department of Education and Science regulations and guidelines pertaining to organisational, administrative and educational matters are followed. The board ratifies school policies. It communicates effectively with the principal and teachers. It recognises the physical limitations of the school building and its surrounding grounds as they are currently used. It is moving towards defining a realisable vision for the school. Of importance in this regard will be considerations of accommodation, outdoor play facilities, and the range of supports potentially available to the school.
The in-school management team comprises the principal, deputy principal and four special duties teachers. This recently-appointed principal has very good leadership skills. She provides definite guidance and practical, highly-effective leadership to the teachers on whole-school curriculum issues. She ensures that very good communication systems are in place and are maintained at several levels. They include communications among staff members, with the board of management, with parents and with and among pupils. The principal succeeds in promoting an environment in which the welfare of the pupils as individuals is always at the core of the work of the school. The members of the in-school management team make a very effective contribution to the high-quality education that the pupils in this school receive. They are commended for the leadership they show in relation to curriculum development and implementation, the fostering of home-school links and the skilled provision of support for pupils with special education needs.
The teaching staff comprises one administrative principal, seven mainstream class teachers, one shared home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator, two learning-support/resource teachers (LS/RTs) for pupils with special educational needs, and two English language support teachers for pupils for whom English is an additional language (EAL pupils). The school has a full-time secretary and caretaker who contribute to the effective day-to-day functioning of the school. The teachers are deployed in line with Department guidelines. They are provided with opportunities to teach a range of class levels and in different educational settings, based on a tradition of indicating from year to year their class preference for the following year. The formalising of that practice by means of a written policy is advised.
The school is well resourced in terms of classroom materials to support teaching and learning in mainstream and in special education (SEN) and EAL support settings. The school receives additional resources from the Department of Education and Science under the DEIS initiative. It actively supports local community initiatives and avails of funding from local organisations such as the Docklands Authority.
The size of classrooms and the lack of a school-owned hall or general purposes room together with the very limited outdoor space place significant restrictions on the full implementation of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Staff and toilet facilities are inadequate for the number of personnel working in and using the school. Notwithstanding the shortcomings of the accommodation in terms of space and facilities, much effort is invested by management, teachers and pupils in the creation of a bright, colourful and well-maintained learning environment. Of particular note in that regard is the commendable effort made to celebrate pupil learning in the arts through high-quality displays of their work and achievements. The cultivation of a small school garden and the incorporation of planting and growing activities into the achievement of particular curriculum objectives are highly commended.
Very good communication exists among and between the staff, parents, pupils and board. That open and effective communication is fostered effectively through parent-teacher meetings, newsletters and the overall availability of teachers to meet one another as well as their availability to meet with parents to address issues as they arise. Praiseworthy work is undertaken by the HSCL co-ordinator in supporting parents and pupils. Very good records are maintained regarding funding and provision of courses. Parents are made welcome on both their formal and informal visits to the school. The pupils, their families and their needs with regard to furthering the pupils’ education are ascertained and addressed within the available resources. Courses for parents are regularly organised. The parents speak highly of the work of the school and the commitment of the teachers. They express concern about the lack of suitable play areas for their children and other school accommodation inadequacies.
A positive code of discipline is very effectively implemented. The pupils are managed respectfully. They are enabled to engage positively with one another in classroom and play activities. A pleasant, positive atmosphere exists in the school.
The quality of school planning is very good. A collaborative, consultative whole-school planning process is in place. An impressive range of organisational and curriculum policies has been compiled. They take due account of the context of the school and the overall needs and capabilities of the pupils. The plans for the individual curriculum areas outline the content and skills to be taught as well as the methods and resources to be used. Provision is made for the review of the whole-school plan at regular intervals. Every teacher has a copy of the school plan. The plans are used effectively by them to inform their individual long-term and short-term planning.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
The quality of the classroom planning undertaken by the teachers is praiseworthy. The approach is consistent among the teachers and contains clear learning objectives for each curriculum area. It facilitates the implementation by all teachers of a broad and balanced curriculum in keeping with the principles, content and approaches of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). All teachers diligently maintain monthly progress records. It is recommended that consideration be given to using a common template for such monthly reports. This will be of assistance in the analysis of the extent to which curriculum objectives within each curriculum area are being achieved.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The overall quality of teaching and learning in this school is very good. There is a positive atmosphere in the classrooms. A stimulating and visually attractive learning environment is provided. Lessons are well organised and teachers display very effective classroom management skills. Resources are well used to enhance lesson presentation. Teachers employ a wide variety of strategies and approaches to deliver the curriculum at different levels. Group work is regularly and ably organised. Pupils are provided with opportunities to engage in guided discovery, project work and independent research. Excellent use is made of the local environment to support learning. Pupil achievement in many areas of the curriculum is very good but is particularly high in the Arts, English and Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE). Linkage and integration of curriculum areas are features of practice in every classroom.
Múintear an Ghaeilge go hábalta. Cothaítear suim na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge trí cheachtanna a chur i bhfeidhm go bríomhar, spreagúil. Tá réimse leathan d’achmhainní ann le haghaidh múineadh na Gaeilge. Baintear úsáid thorthúil as drámaíocht, cluichí teanga agus obair i bpéirí chun seansanna a thabhairt dona daltaí an foclóir nua agus na frásaí a chleachtadh. Tá caighdeán chuí le sonrú i bhfoghlaim na Gaeilge. Tá foclóir maith ar eolas ag cuid mhaith dena daltaí agus éiríonn leo abairtí simplí a chumadh agus ceisteanna a chur agus a fhreagairt ar na téamaí idir lámha. Aithrisíonn an chuid is mó dena daltaí i ngach rang cnuasach deas filíochta agus amhráin go taitneamhach. Freagraíonn siad le líofacht sa chuid is mó de na ranganna. Baineann siad taitneamh agus tairbhe as a bheith páirteach i ndrámaí beaga, i ról imirt agus i gcluichí éagsúla. Léann an chuid is mó de na daltaí sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna le muinín agus le brí. Tá caighdeán ard ann i leith na scríbhneoireachta. Déantar cleachtadh rialta ar an scríbhneoireacht tríd an scoil. Críochnaíonn na daltaí tascanna scríbhneoireachta bunaithe ar an nuacht, ar an ngramadach agus ar a bhfuil léite acu. Sna meánranganna scríobhann na daltaí a leabhairín féin as Gaeilge. Tá an cleachtadh seo le moladh.
Irish is capably taught. The pupils’ interest in Irish is promoted through lively, stimulating lessons. There is a wide range of resources available in the school to support the teaching of Irish. Drama, language games and work in pairs are all used fruitfully to afford pupils opportunities to practise the new vocabulary and phrases. An appropriate standard is evident in the learning of Irish. Many pupils have a good vocabulary, can compose simple sentences and can ask and answer questions based on the themes taught. Most of the pupils can recite a fine selection of poems. They can perform a good range of Irish songs. Pupils in most classes answer questions in Irish fluently. They enjoy and benefit from participation in Drama, role play and various games. Most pupils in the middle and senior classes read with confidence and vigour. There is a high standard in writing. Regular opportunities are afforded to pupils to practise their writing skills in Irish. They complete writing tasks based on the news, grammar and what they have read. In the middle classes pupils write their own small books in Irish. This practice is commended.
The overall quality of teaching in English is very good. A print-rich environment is evident in all classrooms. Lessons in English are well supported by a wide range of resources. Oral language is appropriately emphasised. The teachers’ skilful questioning ensures that most pupils can discuss their interests and a variety of other topics articulately and confidently. Phonological awareness is developed as part of the foundation of reading skills. Different phonics programmes are used throughout the school. The implementation of the agreed phonics programme as outlined in the school plan is advised. Excellent work on novels is undertaken in the middle and senior classes. Through the use of novels the pupils’ interest in reading is skilfully cultivated and higher-order, reading-based work is undertaken enthusiastically by them Reading skills are appropriately developed and pupils generally read with confidence and fluency. The good practice of ability-grouping for reading in the junior classes should be extended to all classes, as required. Pupils’ reading is regularly monitored. Poetry is taught very well. A wide selection of poems and rhymes can be recited with expression by pupils in every class. Excellent analysis of poetry and related language is undertaken in the senior classes. Writing skills are suitably developed in all classes and pupils are encouraged to write in a variety of genres. Class work is presented neatly and regularly corrected by teachers. High-quality feedback is consistently provided to pupils in the senior classes on their creative writing.
The teaching of Mathematics is effective. A stimulating mathematics-rich environment has been developed with mathematics stations in all classes. Lessons are well structured and lesson objectives are explained clearly to pupils. Talk and discussion are features of the lessons. Pupils are afforded opportunities to engage in activity-based learning with effective use of resources. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of mathematical language. The teachers have adopted common approaches to the teaching of problem solving. The overall standard of learning in Mathematics is very good. Pupils engage enthusiastically in lessons. They display good knowledge of number facts. Their estimation skills are well developed. Some very good examples of differentiated learning opportunities in Mathematics for pupils in the junior classes were seen during the evaluation. This very good practice should be extended throughout the school. The written work in the pupils’ mathematics copies includes work on the strands of shape and space, measures and number work. To further develop the pupils’ recording skills pupils should be given greater opportunities to record mathematical operations across all the strands of the Mathematics curriculum.
The quality of teaching in History is impressive. A range of topics from local, national and international history is taught. Very good links are established with the other subjects of SESE. Highly engaging strategies are employed to promote interest in historical enquiry. The pupils are motivated through story, artefacts, photographs, newspapers, old documents and project work. Teachers carefully structure questions to lead pupils to an understanding and appreciation of time and chronology, change and continuity and cause and effect. Myths and legends are explored. Life in early societies and specific events in History are investigated in depth in the middle and senior classes. Pupils are able to discuss similarities between their own lives and the lives of people in the past. Pupils are enthusiastic about their historical research and give very good accounts of the topics explored at each class level.
The standard of teaching and learning in Geography is very good. Geography lessons are integrated effectively with other curriculum areas. Group work is very well organised and it is evident from the pupils’ high level of engagement that a culture of co-operative learning is well established. In some classes pupils have drawn maps of their local area and the route they take to school. Commendable project work is undertaken in several classes and this is attractively displayed. There are maps and globes on display in all classrooms and these are used regularly as part of lessons to further enhance the pupils’ interest in the topics taught. The use of field trips has helped to stimulate the pupils’ interest in their local environment. Most pupils can talk confidently and knowledgably about where they live. The pupils demonstrate good knowledge of the towns, provinces and counties of Ireland as well as natural and human environments.
The teaching of Science is commendable. A broad programme is taught effectively. Very fine examples of cross-curricular work are in evidence in many classrooms. Teachers make excellent use of a wide range of resources, especially the local environment and the school garden. Investigation tables feature throughout the school. The objectives of the lessons are clearly explained. Talk and discussion, demonstration, hands-on investigations and project work are among the strategies used to develop scientific skills, knowledge and concepts. Very good provision is made for individual difference. The pupils are enthusiastic about their learning in Science. They know how to approach investigations scientifically. They demonstrate good knowledge of the strands taught. Pupils are aware of the importance of care for the environment. The pupils and their parents are regularly involved in recycling activities at the school. Positive attitudes to Science are further promoted through the school’s active involvement in a number of national and local initiatives such as the Green- Schools Programme, Agri Aware and K’ Nex Challenge. Pupils from the school regularly visit ENFO where they participate in workshops of a scientific and environmental nature. Guest speakers are regularly invited to the school to speak to the pupils on various aspects of the SESE programme.
The quality of Visual Arts teaching is highly commended. The lessons in this curriculum area provide the pupils with opportunities for expression, affirmation, decision-making and enjoyment. An appreciation and love of art are effectively fostered. Impressive exhibits of the pupils’ art work are on display in the classrooms and in the corridors throughout the school. These exhibits are changed fortnightly and are used to promote the strand of looking at and responding to art. Pupils are exposed to all strands of the curriculum for Visual Arts. Talk and discussion are effectively used at the outset of lessons. Pupils have ongoing opportunities to employ an extensive variety of art media. The individuality and creativity of their efforts are always encouraged. Lessons in the Visual Arts are effectively integrated with other areas of the curriculum. The pupils display an immense pride in their art work. They demonstrate an ability to critique their own work and the work of their peers in tandem with the work of famous artists. A number of pupils at the school have been prize winners in national art competitions.
Teaching and learning in Music are of a very good standard. There is very good provision for the three strands of listening and responding, performing and composing. The lessons observed in Music were characterised by skilled teaching, by reinforcement of the musical elements and by obvious enjoyment of the content by the pupils. Aspects of music literacy including notation, rhythm, pitch and interval training are explored. The pupils sing well and perform a variety of songs in various styles, and in both Irish and English. The pupils in the middle classes can perform rounds and two-part songs. The pupils are provided with opportunities to use tuned instruments and percussion instruments to enhance performance. All pupils from fourth class upwards participate in the school choir. The school choir successfully contributes to whole-school activities including religious services, national events and concerts.
Notwithstanding the absence of a school hall, the school makes good provision for Physical Education (PE). PE lessons take place in a large hall in a former secondary school building. The school also uses, from time to time, a small parish hall that is shared with other community groups. Use is also made of the school’s small yard when weather permits. The school has a good range of equipment that is used effectively. PE lessons are well structured and feature appropriate warm-up, skills development and cool-down activities. The pupils are active in the lessons. There are good linkages with other areas of the curriculum. Aquatics and GAA coaching form part of the broad PE programme delivered. A number of pupils engage in supervised football before school starting-time in the mornings. Pupils from the senior classes engage in basketball and GAA activities after school.
The school’s approach to Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is directly linked to the school’s mission statement and the emphasis on promoting positive behaviour outlined in the school plan. There is a positive climate throughout the school. Teachers demonstrate a caring attitude to the welfare of the pupils. The pupils are guided in developing civic awareness and respectful attitudes toward other people. Class rules are democratically decided and are clearly presented in the classrooms. Pupils’ self-esteem and confidence are nurtured through frequent affirmation of achievements and delegation of responsibility. Relationships and sexuality education (RSE) is thoroughly taught by the teachers as part of the in-class SPHE programme. A variety of teaching methodologies is used in the school to teach this curriculum area. They include whole-class discussion, circle time, co-operative learning and group and pair work. The quality of pupils’ interactions and contributions is very good during lessons. Parents co-operate with the school staff in seeking to implement the school’s healthy eating policy, savings scheme and charitable projects.
There is very good practice in relation to assessment of pupil progress in the school. A comprehensive assessment policy has recently been compiled. Standardised tests in English and in Mathematics are administered to pupils from first to sixth class. The results of those tests are analysed carefully by the special education teachers to assist in identifying pupils needing further support. An early-screening test is administered to pupils in senior infants to identify pupils who may need support teaching. An early-intervention programme in literacy and numeracy is in place to support identified pupils. Members of the special education team and the class teachers regularly exchange assessment information. Modes of assessment used by teachers include teacher observation, checklists, teacher-designed tasks and tests, reading records, pupil profiles and portfolios of pupils’ work. All EAL pupils have been assessed using the Primary School Assessment Kits and clear language-learning targets have been set based on the English Language Proficiency Benchmarks. Parents are invited to meet formally with teachers once a year. Teachers are available to meet with parents to discuss issues they may have on an informal basis throughout the year. A written report on pupil progress is issued to parents annually. The very good practice with regard to assessment could be further enhanced through mainstream class teachers making greater use of the outcomes of assessment to plan for more differentiated learning activities.
The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) is commendable. A detailed SEN policy has been developed. The policy is in line with Department policies, circulars and guidelines. There is very good emphasis on early intervention. Support settings are well resourced and are print-rich and mathematics-rich. Pupils are offered support in literacy, numeracy and social skills. A consultative approach is taken to the drawing up of individual education plans (IEPs). These are based on pupils’ strengths and learning needs. Specific learning targets are set. IEPs are reviewed at appropriate intervals during the year. Lessons are well structured, with teaching methods appropriately tailored to the individual needs and abilities of the pupils. Consolidation and revision are regular features of practice. Games are used effectively to motivate pupils and to reinforce concepts. Pupils are regularly praised and affirmed for their efforts. Support teaching is provided primarily on a withdrawal basis. The potential for developing further models of in-class support such as co-teaching and group-based teaching should be explored.
This is a welcoming school. The principle of inclusion is clearly reflected in the school’s mission statement and in the manner in which the school carries out its work. All pupils are included in the life of the school. Pupils from all classes participate in a very well organised chess club after-school. The school encourages parents to participate in supporting their children’s education and in accessing courses and supports. Effective language support for EAL pupils is provided as necessary. A comprehensive whole-school EAL policy has been developed in line with Department guidelines. Language-support settings are comfortable, print-rich and well-resourced. Lessons are primarily based on the Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) themes. Pupils’ contributions are encouraged. Effective questioning is used and the teachers adjust their questioning according to individual needs. Opportunities are provided for pupils to practise and to reinforce the vocabulary learned through games and meaningful, appropriately-graded activities.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The school is led by a committed and effective principal supported by a skilful, hardworking and enthusiastic teaching team and a very committed board of management.
· The pupils are enthusiastic, motivated and well behaved.
· The overall quality of teaching and learning is very good. The teaching of Arts Education, English and Social Environmental and Scientific education is particularly praiseworthy.
· Effective support for pupils with special educational needs and pupils with English as an additional language is in place.
· High quality whole-school and classroom planning is undertaken.
· Parents are actively involved in supporting the work of the school.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· The board of management should decide on and define a realisable vision for the school. Of importance in this regard will be considerations of accommodation, outdoor play facilities, and the
range of supports potentially available to the school.
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 March 2010