An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

 

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

 

Togher National School

Togher, Dunmanway, County Cork

Uimhir rolla: 17281F

 

Date of inspection:  28 November 2006

  Date of issue of report:  21 June 2007

 

Whole-school evaluation

1.     Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

2.1 Board of management

2.2 In-school management

2.3 Management of resources

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

2.5 Management of pupils

3.     Quality of school planning

3.1 School planning process and implementation

3.2 Classroom planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

4.2 Language

Gaeilge

Irish

English

4.3 Mathematics

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

History

Geography

Science

4.5 Arts Education

Visual Arts

Music

Drama

4.6 Physical Education

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

4.8 Assessment

5.     Quality of support for pupils

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

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

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Togher 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 inspector 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 inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. She interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. She 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.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Togher National School is a five teacher rural co-educational primary school situated about ten kilometres north of Dunmanway. It was a two-teacher school when the last school report was conducted in 1996. It is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross and currently has an enrolment of 67 pupils. This figure is expected to remain stable over the next number of years. Over two-thirds of the pupils come from a significant diversity of cultural backgrounds. In keeping with its vision statement the school provides “a harmonious, secure, welcoming environment where all experience kindness, understanding, happiness and respect”. Diversity is celebrated and the school ethos is one of inclusion. There is a strong sense of community in the school and it is evident that the principal, staff, board of management and parents work in close collaboration to meet the needs of the pupils. Their efforts have been greatly enhanced in recent years by the additional resources provided by the Department of Education and Science for schools serving areas of educational disadvantage and the school is included in the DEIS initiative.

 

The principal and staff are to be complimented for the considerable efforts they make to provide optimal learning experiences for the pupils in their care. The school has successfully participated in a wide range of projects such as the Films in School initiative and is currently involved in the Health Promoting Schools programme and in the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment’s (NCCA) developmental initiative on reporting to parents.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and manages the school in an effective manner. Meetings are convened at least once a term and whenever the need arises. Minutes are recorded and the agenda is prepared in advance. There is a clearly defined system for tracking income and expenditure and a detailed financial report is presented at each meeting. A commendable maintenance programme is in place. In keeping with best practice the board is directly involved in the whole-school planning process. Both organisational and curriculum policies are discussed and ratified at its meetings. Time is also allocated for the discussion of Department circulars. Specific duties are allocated to the various board members and much credit is due to them for their dedicated work in a range of areas. Many members have attended training events to assist them in their role. The chairperson who is on her second term of office visits the school on a regular basis and maintains ongoing communication with the principal and staff. The board has close links with the parent committee and general parent body and welcomes the contribution of parents on school policies. A key priority for the board at present is to provide additional permanent accommodation for the large support staff and a General Purpose area. An application for funding for this work has been submitted to the Department. The board is keen to ensure that the supports for addressing educational disadvantage are maintained so as to enable the school continue to provide the existing service to its pupils and the community. Concerns were raised by the board regarding the major effort required to secure the necessary resources for children with special needs and the long delays involved.

 

2.2 In-school management

The principal provides very effective leadership to the school and has successfully created a school climate that is characterised by open communication, mutual respect and collaboration. She ably combines her teaching and leadership roles. She discharges her duties in a caring and professional manner and maintains commendable records of school work including her principal release days. She deserves much credit for her commitment to her role as curriculum leader and competently ensures that whole-school policies are regularly reviewed in a focused manner. She is conscious of the special skills of the teaching staff and has put effective procedures in place to facilitate shared leadership. She works tirelessly to ensure the effective inclusion of pupils in the school and to promote parental involvement.

 

The principal is very ably assisted in her role by a committed and highly motivated staff including a deputy principal and one special duties post-holder. Much credit is due to the staff as it is evident that high levels of teamwork underpin the success of the school. The in-school management team capably carry out a wide range of additional duties which embrace organisational, pastoral and curricular areas. In keeping with good practice these duties are clearly outlined and were recently reviewed. In the interest of further development it is recommended that post of responsibility duties should be formally reviewed by the board in consultation with staff on a regular basis. Such a review should aim to ensure that assigned duties are in keeping with the developing needs of the school.

 

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2.3 Management of resources

The teaching staff in this school comprises the principal, two mainstream class teachers and a large support staff because of its disadvantage status. There is one Resource Teacher for Travellers, one shared learning-support teacher and two visiting resource teachers for special education needs. There is also a Home School Community Liaison co-ordinator (HSCL).Taking all contextual factors into account there is an equitable distribution of pupils in mainstream classes. The management and staff are to be highly praised on the commendable levels of sharing of expertise in evidence among staff members. This effective practice ensures that teachers’ expertise is maximised so that they can contribute fully to the children’s learning. During the evaluation the pupils demonstrated high levels of skill in key areas of the curriculum. The teachers are also to be highly commended for their participation in a wide range of continuing professional development courses. The school benefits from the services of two special needs assistants who undertake their duties with great diligence. The board of management also employs cleaning staff and a maintenance person who contribute significantly to the school.

 

In keeping with good practice the principal allocates classes in consultation with staff members. However it is evident that teachers have taught the same class levels for a number of years. In the interest of enabling all teachers gain a variety of teaching experience, it is recommended that consideration should now be given to formulating a policy on class rotation.

 

The physical environment in this school is very well managed and maintained. The building is well heated and regularly cleaned. The board and staff deserve much credit for their dedicated work in this regard.  The school has three mainstream classrooms which have been upgraded to a high standard. Special education support is provided in two small portocabins. The teachers make excellent use of all available space, both inside and outside, and much credit is due in particular to the support teachers who share the use of the prefabricated classrooms. The school has access to a local playing field.

 

The teachers are to be complemented for the considerable efforts they make to provide stimulating learning environments for the children in their care. The school has a fine variety of material resources which are used to good effect to support the children’s learning. The many stimulating centres of interest in evidence significantly enrich the children’s learning and are to be highly commended. Each classroom is equipped with a variety of reading material in both English and Irish. Good strategies are in place to promote the children’s enthusiasm for reading and their continued development will greatly enhance the quality of the children’s learning. A book rental scheme is provided for the children. A wide range of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment is provided and was recently upgraded. During the evaluation both staff and pupils made very impressive use of ICT.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Very effective structures are in place to promote positive relations among the school community and to communicate with parents regarding their children’s education. The school is a focal point for the community and regular use is made of the building for meetings and a wide range of after-school activities and celebrations. Praiseworthy use is made of notice boards. The school has a newsletter which is collaboratively prepared by teachers and parents. The DEIS co-ordinator facilitates the release of class teachers to meet parents. The school has a complaints’ policy in place to ensure parents have channels available to them to bring worries or concerns to the attention of the relevant authorities. It is particularly commendable that in addition to formal individual parent-teacher meetings class meetings are also organised to familiarise parents with changes in emphases in the curriculum. An end of year progress report is furnished for each pupil.

 

The parents’ association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council and is well established in the school. The association contributes significantly to the school and the chairperson and individual members are to be highly commended for their commitment. It is evident that parents greatly value the quality of education provided in the school. The committee meets on a regular basis and the minutes of the meetings are posted on the parents’ notice board. The association has an important input into school policy and works closely with the principal and other members of staff especially the DEIS co-ordinator. An impressive range of social, educational, and fundraising events is organised. A number of parents with expertise in the visual arts also assist class teachers with particular strands of the curriculum and high quality samples of the children’s work were noted during the evaluation.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

The management of pupils is very good and the teachers are to be highly commended for the positive learning atmosphere in the school.  The teachers and board have devised a code of discipline and anti-bullying policies in consultation with parents. The pupils are well behaved and display pride and interest in their work. During the evaluation high levels of focused pupil participation were noted in many contexts particularly during the use of interactive teaching approaches. The wide range of activities organised through the School Completion Programme (SCP) contributes greatly to enabling pupils reach their potential.

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

The school is actively involved in the whole-school planning process and impressive work is in evidence. Policies which provide many clear guidelines for practice have been collaboratively formulated with great care. They are accessible to all partners and copies are regularly given to parents. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

The school has made effective use of the support services. In keeping with best practice key decisions taken at staff meetings and planning sessions are recorded on a rotational basis and policies are regularly reviewed. The policies for English, Irish and Maths are reviewed on an annual basis and other curriculum policies are formally reviewed every two years. Specific areas for development are targeted and are clearly outlined in an annual action plan. It is evident that the whole-school planning work is impacting positively on the quality of pupils’ learning and the principal and teachers are to be highly commended for the praiseworthy structures in place. In order to build on this good work and promote further linkage between whole-school plans and classroom planning it is recommended that clear guidelines for individual planning in both mainstream and support contexts should be outlined in curriculum plans.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

 

All teachers undertake long-term and short-term classroom planning and maintain monthly progress records. During the evaluation there was much evidence of well-thought out programmes of work focused on pupils’ learning outcomes. This is highly commended as good practice. Advice was given during the evaluation regarding the further development of this good work especially in relation to the teaching of Irish. In particular attention was focused on the importance of clear guidelines with a view to ensuring that classroom planning is consistently used to clarify expected learning outcomes and provide for the varying abilities of pupils in the context of the curriculum, school plan and assessment data. Such guidelines would also greatly support newly appointed teachers and further facilitate the development of collaborative planning between mainstream and support teachers.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

A range of effective teaching approaches is skilfully used throughout the school and there is clear evidence of positive pupil learning outcomes. Lessons are presented in a purposeful manner and there is progression in the work undertaken at the various levels. The teachers are to be commended for the considerable efforts they make to differentiate class programmes to meet the varying needs of pupils and work to further develop these methodologies is ongoing. Many commendable samples of pupils’ work in copybooks and on display were noted during the evaluation. Both the mainstream and support classrooms are attractively decorated with visual and print-rich materials. It is particularly commendable that a high standard of teacher-generated resources such as vocabulary enrichment charts and key language structures are provided to support the children’s language learning. It is recommended that a further emphasis on displaying print to support pupils acquire and consolidate specific skills in areas such as penmanship and Irish writing will greatly enhance the work in evidence.  During the evaluation skilful use was made of a range of materials to promote hands-on, interactive teaching approaches and enable pupils develop a wide range of skills. In the interest of promoting further improvement in pupil learning it is recommended that these approaches be further developed on a whole-school basis. In this context it is recommended that the range of textbooks in use at particular class levels be reviewed.

 

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Deineadh athbhreithniú éifeachtach ar an bplean scoile don Ghaeilge le déanaí agus is léir go bhfuil an obair seo ag dul i bhfeidhm go torthúil ar fhoghlaim na ndaltaí. Is mór is fiú mar shampla an bhéim a leagtar dá bharr ar dhrámaí bunaithe ar na téamaí sa churaclam. Le linn na cigireachta chonacthas samplaí fónta de theagasc na Gaeilge. Cloítear go cóir leis an nGaeilge mar theanga theagaisc agus moltar go mór an cumas atá ag a lán páistí ceisteanna a chur agus a fhreagairt. Leagann a lán oidí béim le moladh ar sprioctheanga chumarsáide a mhúineadh ar bhonn taitneamhach idirghníomhach. Is mór is fiú an bhéim a leagtar ar an scéalaíocht, ar an bhfilíocht/rannta agus ar amhráin mar ionchur saibhir taitneamhach. Is le fonn a thugann a lán páistí go cumasach faoin drámaíocht agus faoi na cluichí teanga agus is léir go mbaineann siad an-taitneamh astu.

 

Ar mhaithe le scileanna cumarsáide na bpáistí a chothú níos mó fós ó rang go rang moltar anois na dea-chleachtais atá luaite a chur i bhfeidhm ar bhonn córasach. Luaitear ach go háirithe an tábhacht a bhaineann le béim bhreise a dhíriú ar an ionchur teanga a chuirtear ar chumas na bpáistí a thuiscint agus a úsáid. Moltar chomh maith díriú níos mó fós ar chur chuige cumarsáideach, go háirithe ar an gceacht a roinnt ina thrí thréimhse de réir a bhfuil molta sa churaclam. B’inmholta go mór breis treoracha do chur i bhfeidhm na dtréimhsí sa seomra ranga a chur ar  fáil sa phlean scoile. Ag cur san áireamh an cumas breá Gaeilge atá ag na hoidí raghadh sé go mór chun tairbhe na ndaltaí dá múinfí gné éigin d’ábhar eile trí mheán na Gaeilge chun comhthéacs breise a chruthú d’úsáid na teanga.

 

Múintear an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht go dúthrachtach. Ag rangleibhéil ar leith baintear leas le moladh as prionta den scoth bunaithe ar an gcomhrá chun na bunscileanna a fhorbairt. Ag rangleibhéil ar leith cuirtear raon maith leabhar ar fáil do na na daltaí agus is inmholta go mór iad na tuairiscí a choimeádann siad ar a gcuid léitheoireachta. Chonacthas roinnt samplaí fónta d’obair scríofa na bpáistí le linn na meastóireachta ach is léir go mbíonn deacrachtaí ag daltaí leis an scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach. B’fhiú anois athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar mhúineadh na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta. Luaitear go speisialta an tábhacht a bhaineann le breis téacsanna atá bunaithe ar chomhrá na bpáistí a chur ar fáil agus scil na saorscríbhneoireachta a chothú chomh luath agus is féidir.

 

Irish

An effective review of the school plan for Irish was recently undertaken and it is evident that this good work has a positive impact on the pupils’ learning. As a result an admirable emphasis is placed for example on dramatisation based on the themes outlined in the curriculum. During the evaluation many samples of good practice in the teaching of Irish were observed. In keeping with good practice Irish is used as the language of instruction and it is to be commended that the children are enabled to ask as well as answer a range of questions. Many teachers place a good emphasis on teaching a targeted communicative language input in an enjoyable, interactive manner. A worthwhile emphasis is placed on storytelling, poetry/rhyme, and songs as a rich and enjoyable language input. The pupils clearly enjoy their dramatic activity and language games which they undertake with great enthusiasm and competence.  

 

In the interest of further developing pupils’ language skills in a progressive manner from one class level to the next it is recommended that current samples of best practice are implemented systematically. In particular further attention should be focused on the language input which pupils are required to understand and use. It is also recommended that a consistent emphasis should be placed on a communicative approach particularly with regard to the three phases of the lesson as outlined in the curriculum. It would be worthwhile to provide further guidelines for classroom practice in the school plan to support the implementation of these phases. As the teachers are themselves competent Irish speakers it would provide a very meaningful context for the children to use the language if an aspect of the curriculum was taught through the medium of Irish. Such an approach would greatly facilitate the pupils’ learning.

 

Irish reading and writing are taught diligently in the school. At particular class levels excellent print-rich materials such as key language structures are used effectively to develop the basic skills. At particular class levels a good variety of additional reading material is made available to the pupils and the practice of maintaining reading records is to be commended. Some praiseworthy samples of the pupil’s writing were noted during the evaluation. However it is evident that creative writing poses a particular challenge for the children. A whole-school review of the teaching of reading and writing is recommended. In particular it is recommended that additional texts based on the pupil’s oral work should be provided and that a further emphasis should be placed on encouraging them to write from the start in a way that will facilitate the earlier introduction of independent writing skills.

 

English

The pupils are provided with structured oral language classes and during the evaluation many effective approaches were observed. They are regularly engaged in purposeful talk and discussion. Hearing books and other texts being read to them is a central element of their experience in many classrooms. Valuable opportunities are provided for pupils to engage in language enrichment work, adopt different roles and give presentations on various topics. This good work is frequently linked with other curriculum areas such as SESE.  Many pupils communicate their thoughts clearly and confidently and have good oral language skills.

 

A variety of effective approaches are used to teach reading and it is evident that a significant number of pupils attain good standards. Paired reading programmes and a whole-school approach to teaching phonological awareness are in place. Many print-rich environments are in evidence. Large-format books are effectively used. Lists of appropriate sight vocabulary have been identified and are systematically taught. A graded reading scheme is used throughout the school. A wide range of additional reading material including class novels is also used. Pupils are correctly encouraged to maintain records of their reading. Reading for information as well as pleasure is effectively promoted at a variety of class levels and many children are able to discuss a range of texts knowledgeably.

 

It is to be commended that from an early age structured opportunities are provided for the children to write independently. As the pupils move up through the school there is much evidence of best practice in relation to the development of the writing process. Many excellent samples of pupils’ work in a range of genres were favourably commented on during the evaluation. A good emphasis is also placed on penmanship and presentation skills. However it is recommended that the approach to teaching handwriting should be reviewed with a view to promoting greater consistency in the way the chosen scheme is modelled and taught throughout the school.

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

The school has a comprehensive Mathematics plan which provides a sound basis for teaching and learning in this area. Among the many commendable features of this plan is the emphasis placed on providing pupils with a mathematical education “that is developmentally appropriate as well as relevant to everyday life”. Clear guidelines are provided to support teachers implement common approaches to key areas such as number operations, the language of mathematics and the development of problem solving skills. The plan places a commendable emphasis on “discussion rather than just questioning” as the basis of the interaction between teacher and child. During the evaluation many samples of best practice in teaching and learning were noted. Pupils’ understanding of particular concepts is carefully monitored and there is evidence that many pupils make creditable progress. Well structured early mathematical activities were observed. Skilful use was made of concrete materials during focused interactive sessions. Good emphasis was placed on estimation, on linkage with other curriculum areas such as Social, Environmental and Scientific Education and on the use of real data collected by pupils. A variety of effective strategies are used to help pupils learn number facts by rote and commendably there is evidence that time is devoted to this important work as a key aspect of the mathematics lesson.  Proposals by the staff in a recent review to further develop problem solving and in particular to focus on enabling pupils create problems based on mathematical sentences are to be commended and should aim to ensure regular consolidation and revision of topics taught.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

The school has devised a whole-school plan for History to ensure breadth, balance and continuity in the implementation of the programme throughout the school. The principal and staff have produced a very impressive booklet on local history which was launched at a community evening in the school. This was compiled as a result of involvement in a Schools Integration Project and entailed a comprehensive study of the local environment. The display of a range of visual and print-rich materials based on local history greatly assists the pupils to develop an appreciation of their local environment. It is evident that pupils are provided with many opportunities to engage with History in a variety of ways and to develop appropriate skills such as investigative and research skills. Outings for the children to places of historical interest such as Togher Castle have been organised. During the evaluation impressive use was made of ICT. The work is very well integrated with other areas of the curriculum such as the Visual Arts and English and a commendable emphasis is placed on enabling pupils to record their work.

 

Geography

There is considerable evidence of impressive work in the teaching and learning of Geography. Good additional resources such as Ordinance Survey maps of the local environment were recently acquired and are used very effectively to enable pupils develop key geographical skills. Commendable targets for the teaching of weather, climate and atmosphere were identified as a result of a whole-school review and are emphasised in practice. Pupils are afforded valuable opportunities to make weather predictions and to record the weather using simple equipment. Work on a whole-school policy is currently in progress.

 

Science

A praiseworthy whole-school plan for the teaching of Science was developed over a two year period in collaboration with the support services. A very useful review was recently undertaken. It is to be commended that work on the Green Schools Programme is in progress. The class work observed during the evaluation was of a very high standard. The practical investigations undertaken were carefully planned and pupil participation levels were maximised through the skilful use of group work. An excellent emphasis was placed on developing pupils’ language competence and key scientific skills.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The school acknowledges “the central role of visual arts education in the child’s holistic development” and a whole school plan has been carefully formulated. Many samples of the pupils’ work in a variety of strands are attractively displayed in the classrooms and circulation areas. Impressive work was noted during the evaluation particularly in drawing, clay, paint and colour. It is evident that the pupils are given many opportunities to experiment with the expressive possibilities of a range of suitable materials through guided discovery. Many opportunities to look and respond are also provided. The pupils’ enjoyment of their work was clearly apparent. A number of parents, with expertise in the visual arts, assist class teachers with particular strands of the curriculum and this work was also very favourably commented on during the evaluation.  

 

Music

Key issues in relation to the implementation of the Music curriculum are addressed in a carefully formulated whole school plan for Music. The pupils sing songs from memory in both Irish and English. Many opportunities are given to them to listen and respond to different styles of music. Through the combined efforts of a visiting teacher and the staff, instruction in the tin whistle is provided and the pupils display competency and enthusiasm in the acquisition of these skills. The annual school Christmas shows provide opportunities for pupils to perform publicly. It is particularly commendable that pupils are enabled to write their own scripts for these performances. These are very valuable experiences and the teachers are to be highly commended for their dedication and commitment in preparing the pupils for these occasions.

 

Drama

It is evident that drama is used extensively in the school. A visiting teacher involved in the School Completion Programme assists the teachers to implement this aspect of the curriculum.

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

The unavailability of indoor facilities in the school constrains the work in Physical education. However the outdoor facilities are used to very good effect. The programme includes a large variety of games as well as aquatics. The standard of work observed was of high-quality with an appropriate warm-up phase and clear emphasis on the development of specific skills. The pupils were actively involved and thoroughly enjoyed the activities organised.

 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

Commendable policies have been formulated in the area of Social, Personal and Health education. It is evident that impressive work is undertaken to promote the personal development and well-being of the pupils. The high level of parental involvement and positive school climate greatly contribute to effective teaching and learning in this area. It is commendable that talks for parents regarding pertinent aspects of the programme are regularly organised. Discreet time is allocated in all classes. The school is actively involved in the Health Promoting Schools scheme. A whole-school audit was recently conducted and is displayed prominently in the reception area. A working group, co-ordinated by a parent and co-facilitated by the HSCL co-ordinator, has been set up and will conduct various surveys relating to all aspects of health promotion.

 

 

4.8 Assessment

Praiseworthy work in relation to the development of assessment approaches is ongoing in the school. In keeping with best practice a policy has been formulated. It provides many useful guidelines particularly in relation to procedures governing the end of year assessment. There is evidence of systematic monitoring of pupils’ work and of effective feedback to the pupils. The standardised tests in use include Micra-T, Sigma-T, Drumcondra Reading, Middle Infant Screening Test and Aston Index. The test results are carefully recorded and stored centrally. Impressive templates for recording pupil progress in Mathematics have been carefully prepared and much credit is due to the teachers involved in this praiseworthy work. Teacher designed tests and checklists are regularly used. The test results are used not only to identify pupils in need of intervention but are discussed formally by the staff with a view to planning differentiated programmes within mainstream classrooms. This is commended as good practice. With a view to further developing assessment for learning it is recommended that consideration should be given to the development of pupil profiles which include both formative and summative assessment data. Advice was given in relation to the development of this work.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

It is evident that as outlined in its policy this school “fully supports the ideal of inclusion” and endeavours to help all pupils “reach their personal best”. There is clear evidence that many of the effective strategies outlined in the school plan are implemented. The staged intervention approach to special needs is in place. It is to be commended that time is allocated at staff meetings to discuss pertinent issues in relation to the provision of support for pupils with special education needs. Clear guidelines on how special needs assistants should support pupils are usefully included in the school plan. A variety of assessment tools are used to select children in need of supplementary teaching. Diagnostic tests are also used.

 

The special-needs team approach their work in a professional manner and have developed positive working relations with the pupils in their care. They carefully develop Individual Profile and Learning Programmes (IPLPs) or Individual Education Plans (IEPs), as appropriate, for the pupils withdrawn for supplementary teaching. In keeping with good practice these plans are devised in collaboration with the principal, class teachers, relevant professionals and parents, and all parties are given copies of the plans. The plans are based on the pupils’ identified learning strengths and needs. Priority areas and related learning targets are clearly identified. The pupils are withdrawn for supplementary teaching either in small groups or individually and pupils’ attendance at support sessions is recorded. It is to be commended that some support is also provided in mainstream classrooms. The further development of this approach will greatly enrich the pupils’ learning.

 

An in-depth review of pupils’ progress is organised at the end of each instructional term twice a year. Support is provided in both literacy and numeracy. During the evaluation a variety of effective methodologies were observed during supplementary teaching sessions and there was clear evidence of pupil progress. Some teachers made particularly effective use of hands-on and interactive approaches. However with a view to building on existing good practice there is a need to review the short-term planning and assessment approaches. Such a review should be conducted in accordance with the Learning Support Guidelines and should aim to ensure that the effectiveness of the individual programme planning is systematically underpinned by on-going focused short-term planning and progress records based on the targets outlined. To ensure consistent implementation of the agreed guidelines it is recommended that these approaches be outlined in the school plan. As some pupils receive support in more than one area and attend more than one support teacher further consideration should also be given to issues regarding management of time and co-ordination of the various inputs through the IEP. Taking into account the importance of re-reading of familiar books it is also recommended that the use of the class text in support contexts should be reviewed.

 

 

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

This school is included in the Department of Education and Science DEIS programme and the principal and staff work conscientiously to provide optimal learning experiences for those pupils coming from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. Following its inclusion in this programme and the appointment of a new Home-School Community co-ordinator the school formulated an “Action plan for Educational Inclusion Combating Educational Disadvantage” and a wide range of strategies are clearly identified.  The co-ordinator works in close collaboration with the principal, staff and parents and it is evident that considerable work is capably undertaken. In the context of providing additional support for disadvantaged groups pupils up to and including fourth class are taught as a class unit by a member of the support team. The work observed during the evaluation was of a high standard. Visiting School Completion Programme (SCP) staff  are experts in Drama, Visual Arts and Music. They follow the curriculum planning of each class teacher and work in collaboration with the class teachers in the classrooms. With the assistance of staff members many after school clubs are organised by SCP staff. Proposals to develop additional structured programmes in literacy and numeracy were discussed during the evaluation and will further enrich the quality of the pupils’ learning.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

    

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

 

 

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.