An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Baldoyle Boys’ National School
Brookstone Road, Baldoyle, Dublin 13
Uimhir rolla: 17284L
Date of inspection: 18 February 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Baldoyle 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.
Baldoyle Boys’ National School is an all-boys school in the village of Baldoyle, Dublin 13. The school is a Catholic school, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. Current staffing comprises an administrative principal, nine classroom teachers, one learning support teacher, one resource teacher and one part-time resource teacher. The school also has a language-support teacher who works on a part-time basis. It has a school secretary, two caretakers and two special needs assistants. Baldoyle Boys’ NS serves the parish of Baldoyle and its hinterland. The school currently has an enrolment of 231 pupils. Pupil attendance levels are at a very satisfactory level.
The school is managed by a committed and active board of management. Meetings are held on a regular basis with minutes being taken in a consistent and careful manner. School accounts are audited on an annual basis with financial reports being presented to the board at each meeting. The chairperson of the board meets the school’s staff on a regular but informal basis. Duties and offices of the board are distributed equitably, with a strong sense of teamwork characterising the approach to certain duties. The board cites as its priorities: the training of staff; health and safety issues; the upkeep and maintenance of the school building; the support of teaching and learning and the management of resources. The board is involved in the review and ratification of all organisational policies and some curricular policies. It is recommended that in reviewing curricular policies, greater involvement from the board and the general school community be elicited. The board readily encourages parental involvement in the school.
The school is led by a committed in-school management team consisting of the principal, deputy principal and four special duties teachers. Duties attaching to these posts are distributed equitably across the areas of curricular leadership, pastoral care and organisational responsibilities. These duties are decided in consultation with the school staff and are designed to maximise the unique expertise of each post holder. Duties are reviewed at the commencement of each school year, with responsibilities attaching to each post being discussed at staff meetings where relevant. It is recommended that in the next review of these posts, more specific delineation of curricular responsibilities be undertaken. The in-school management team makes an important contribution to the smooth and efficient operation of the school. The team also liaises regularly with other staff members to discern and address issues which concern them. A very strong sense of collaboration exists within the in-school management team.
The school principal provides capable and committed leadership for the school’s staff, carefully monitoring the atmosphere of the school and continuously striving to create a positive and affirming learning environment therein. The principal is proactive in addressing pupil and parental concerns and queries if and when they arise. The school principal is also commended for the manner in which various school systems have been established and the important contribution they make to the smooth operation of the school.
The school staff is provided with opportunities to experience a variety of classes and teaching contexts. Such practice is commended and it is recommended that further opportunities for such mobility among teaching contexts be explored. Teachers are encouraged to undertake professional development courses, with a number of teachers attending different courses in recent times such as Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapy and Hermes training. The school also makes effective use of outside personnel. Trainers from the local football, basketball and tennis clubs regularly provide coaching for the pupils. Speakers are also invited from Accord, from secondary schools, from Swords/Baldoyle Youth service, from An Garda Síochána, while performers with musical, dramatic and artistic backgrounds are also invited to give talks to the pupils.
The school has a comprehensive range of resources, most especially in the curriculum area of Physical Education and in the information and communication technology (ICT) domain. The school has access to a wide range of local facilities such as a swimming pool, tennis courts, badminton courts, the local Youth Club, all-weather pitches and football pitches. School resources are stored both in the classrooms and in a central storage facility. It is recommended that the school compiles an inventory of its resources and of their locations for use in resource audits and to facilitate ease of access. The school is commended for its approach to recycling school textbooks through the establishment of opportunities for pupils to purchase second-hand school textbooks. The school’s involvement in the Hermes information and communication technology (ICT) project deserves specific mention. This project provides pupils and teachers with a wide range of highly stimulating and engaging ICT resources. Training has been provided for all of the school’s teachers in this regard. In engaging with this project, the school has developed a computer room which has thirty-two networked computers. This suite is also complemented by four laptops, four digital projectors, an interactive white board and classroom computers.
The school is supported by a vibrant and active parents’ association. The association has its own constitution with members elected to various offices. The association meets very regularly, with the school principal attending all meetings. It is primarily concerned with fundraising issues. To this end, it engages in a wide range of activities such as book fairs, raffles, soccer marathons, and the organisation of voluntary contributions to the school. The association aims to continue with these fundraising activities in the future with a view to amassing monies which can be used to augment current school resources, such as interactive whiteboards and to finance school activities, speakers and trips.
The school has a very well constructed code of behaviour. Yard supervision is undertaken competently. Many highly commendable organisational and procedural practices are in place, which serve to create a very effective and organised school learning environment. The school plan is commended for the specific and detailed manner in which it sets out these organisational practices. Pupils show familiarity with and respect for these procedures and practices. Teachers take a very proactive role in managing and providing lunch time and after-school activities which challenge and interest the pupils. Pupils are clearly content and happy within this environment. They are friendly and courteous and are very respectful of fellow-pupils, school staff and school property. Teachers interact with pupils in a respectful, warm and affirming manner. The style and nature of these interactions serves to create a school atmosphere which is very positive and nurturing.
Overall, the standard of planning in the whole school plan is of a very good quality. The school has created a large number of organisational plans which are detailed and precise on procedures and practice. These plans are important in contributing to the smooth, effective and professional operation of the school. Similarly, the school has created plans for all aspects of the curriculum. These plans are of a very good standard, providing detailed and comprehensive information for each curricular area.
The school plan was devised by the school’s teaching staff in consultation with facilitators from the School Development Planning Service (SDPS) and cuiditheoirí from the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP). In devising the plan, each particular component was discussed at staff meetings, with the specific expertise of staff members being utilised to develop particular parts of the plan. The plan is regularly reviewed at staff meetings, with the school reviewing curricular and organisational plans at regular interviews. It is recommended that to assist the school in this endeavour, a school planning diary as outlined by the SDPS be created. Most of the plans contain a date of ratification and a review date. It is recommended that ratification and review dates be included in all plans.
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.
All teachers complete short-term and long-term plans. Teachers’ long-term plans are informed by the school plan. These plans provide a very structured and progressional overview of the lesson content to be covered. A large number of them also detail methodologies, assessment practices, approaches to differentiation, resource usage and integration and linkage strategies. Such practice is commended. Teachers’ short-term plans provide a very clear outline of lesson content. These plans show continuity and progression. In a large number of cases, these plans also detail the activities and organisational considerations attaching to the delivery of this lesson content. It is recommended that in some cases, teachers’ planning needs to make more definitive reference to differentiation, integration and assessment practices. All teachers furnish a monthly report on work completed. It is recommended that, in developing these reports further, greater provision be made for the delineation of skills and teacher comments.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Teaching and learning occurs in a very supportive and warm school climate. Teachers make very deliberate and enthusiastic efforts to create stimulating lessons which challenge and interest the pupils. In so doing, lesson content is effectively related to the experience and environment of the pupils. Lessons have very good pace and structure providing varied activities for pupils to consolidate and engage with lesson content. In delivering these lessons, teachers make use of a number of approaches and methodologies, most notably talk and discussion. Resources are used effectively by teachers and pupils alike. Pupils engage enthusiastically in these lessons and show pride in their work. Progress in their written work is carefully and consistently monitored.
Tá polasaí Gaeilge curtha le chéile ag an bhfoireann le meon dearfach chun an t-ábhar a chur chun cinn. Luaitear go dtógtar aoícheoltóírí agus iománaithe isteach chun an cultúr Gaelach a chur chun cinn chomh maith. Úsáidtear cluichí chun atmaisféar dearfach i leith na Gaeilge a chothú agus chun foghlaim na Gaeilge a dhéanamh taitneamhach do na daltaí. Baintear úsáid as pictiúrchártaí, dlúthdhioscaí agus luaschártaí chun suim na ndaltaí a spreagadh chun cainte. Tá éagsúlacht ag baint le straitéisí teagaisc ó rang go rang chun scileanna éisteachta agus labhartha na ndaltaí a chur chun cinn. Baineann na daltaí taitneamh agus tairbhe as na ceachtanna. Tá luas agus struchtúr éifeachtach ag baint leo. Glacann na daltaí páirt fhonnmhar iontu. Bunaítear an-chuid de na ceachtanna ar na téacsleabhair atá ag na daltaí. Úsáidtear modheolaíochtaí mar fhilíocht, chluichí agus amhráin go héifeachtach sa teagasc. I dtaca le comhrá de, moltar níos mó béime a dhíriú ar obair bheirte agus ar obair ghrúpa ar mhaithe le cumarsáid níos nádúrtha a spreagadh fé mar a úsáidtear i gcuid de na seomraí.
Ar an iomlán cuirtear béim ar an ngramadach le linn na foghlama. Sa scríbhneoireacht, déantar tascanna feidhmhiúla bunaithe ar an léitheoireacht agus ar ábhar atá sna leabhair oibre. Moltar go dtabharfadh na daltaí faoi níos mó réimsí éagsúla scríbhneoireachta. I gcásanna áirithe, moltar timpeallacht a chruthú sna seomraí a spreagfadh na daltaí chun scileanna ceapadóíreachta a fhorbairt. Ar an iomlán, léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint ar an ábhar atá clúdaithe trí ghníomhaíochtaí agus trí na freagraí a thugann siad.
The staff has formulated a policy in Irish to promote Irish in a positive manner. It is noted in the policy that talented musicians and hurlers are also brought into the school to promote the Irish culture. Games are used to develop a positive atmosphere for Irish and to make learning in Irish enjoyable for the pupils. Picture cards, CDs and flashcards are used to stimulate the pupils to talk in Irish. A variety of teaching strategies is used from class to class to develop the pupils’ listening and speaking skills. Pupils derive enjoyment and benefit from the classes. They have effective structure and pace. Children partake enthusiastically in them. A large number of the lessons are based on the pupils’ textbooks. Methodologies such as poetry, games and singing are used effectively in the teaching of the subject. In relation to conversation, it is recommended that more emphasis be placed on pair work and group work to stimulate more natural communication as is used in some of the classrooms.
Overall, emphasis is placed on grammar during the learning. In the strand of writing, functional tasks are undertaken based on the reading material and on the content of the workbooks. It is recommended that pupils embark on more varied writing exercises. In certain instances, it is recommended that environments be created in classrooms that motivate the pupils to develop their creative writing skills. Overall, the pupils demonstrate understanding of the subject matter covered through activities and the answers that they present.
Overall, the school plan for English has been formulated in a detailed and wide ranging manner. It provides concrete and practical suggestions for the implementation of the English curriculum, with a notably commendable outline of approaches to developing the pupils’ writing and phonetic skills. Teachers’ plans make a very clear outline of the lesson content to be covered and associated activities. In the main, teachers adopt a whole class approach to teaching which serves to attract and nurture pupil interest in the subject. The lessons observed had very good pace and structure. Pupils participated enthusiastically in these lessons and clearly enjoyed the lesson content.
There is good emphasis on oral language development, with some teachers making very effective use of group work to this end. In many classes, pupils were encouraged to offer opinions and to discuss particular themes and topics. Teachers make effective use of visual stimuli and poetry to this end. The school has recently revised its approach to the teaching of phonics. In the more junior classes, this revised approach is translating into effective and well structured lessons on phonic development, and in particular on the development of the pupils’ word-attack skills. In the main, classrooms are presented as stimulating print-rich environments, with word-walls, phonic lists, labels, language charts and samples of the pupils’ writing on display. It is recommended that further opportunities for building on such praiseworthy practice be considered on a school-wide basis. Pupils show interest in their reading and read with fluency. A number of teachers make use of a selection of reading activities and tasks to develop the pupils’ comprehension skills and reading fluency. It is recommended that the school further develops this approach. All classrooms have a designated library area with a good selection of library books, equitably balanced between fact and fiction. The school has a room designated as a library with an extensive range of library books. It is recommended that this library could be used to a greater degree to display and celebrate samples of the pupils’ writing. Pupils are given appropriate time to read and enjoy these books, with teachers making suitable provision for the use of DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time. In some classrooms, teachers make very good use of group work to differentiate reading material and to monitor pupil progress in their reading. In a large number of classrooms, pupils write insightful book reviews on books they have read. Teachers make good provision for the use of the novel to promote pupil interest in reading. Parents are also involved in listening to their children’s reading, in checking spellings and in assisting with writing activities. ‘Shared Reading’ is adopted in some classrooms. It is recommended that the school considers further opportunities for the development of such commendable practice.
The quality of the pupils’ handwriting is very good, with some excellent samples of such work being noted. Pupils are encouraged to write in a variety of genres, with many teachers making very effective use of the writing process. The school partakes in the ‘Write a Book Competition’. In developing the pupils’ interest in creative writing, the school organises for visiting authors to speak with the pupils. Such practice is noteworthy. Pupils reveal pride and interest in their creative writing. Samples of the pupils’ creative writing are on display in all classrooms. Teachers approach the teaching of English grammar and punctuation in a very structured and progressive manner. Teachers are commended for the creative manner in which poetry is used on a cross-curricular basis. Pupils reveal a strong appreciation for and interest in poetry. In all classrooms, pupils were able to recite poems with meaning and enthusiasm. Teachers correct pupils’ written work in a very diligent and careful manner. A variety of assessment practices are in use to monitor the pupils’ progress in reading and writing.
The school plan for Mathematics is of a high standard. It makes very good provision for integration, estimation, discovery learning, pupils’ ideas, the use of the environment, differentiation, success criteria and mathematical games. Teachers’ planning outlines lesson content in a progressive and developmental manner. In those lessons observed, it was evident that pupils enjoyed the content, participating enthusiastically in discussions and examinations of the mathematical concepts in question. Teachers make very good use of resources and the pupils’ ideas to explain these concepts. Pupils are also given varied opportunities to use concrete resources. The lessons observed made very good provision for mental arithmetic and estimation exercises. In most lessons, mathematical concepts were linked to the environment and life experience of the pupils. Lessons provided appropriate activities for the development of concepts, with some teachers adopting creative approaches to the design of such activities. Some classes are presented as very stimulating maths-rich environments. Throughout the school, there are some displays of mathematical projects undertaken by the pupils. It is recommended that in building on such laudable endeavours, greater opportunities for developing the school as a maths-rich environment be investigated. In so doing, greater opportunities for using maths-trails in the local environment could also be examined.
In some cases, excellent cross-curricular and cross-strand linkage and integration was observed. It is recommended that the school investigates further strategies for developing such practice on a school-wide basis. In some classes, commendable differentiation practices were observed for very able pupils and also, for pupils who were experiencing difficulties. It is recommended that this practice be further extended throughout the school. Pupils’ written work is of a high standard. Teachers correct this work in a very regular and careful manner. Lessons observed made good provision for the development of the pupils’ problem-solving skills, with some highly commendable examples of such practice also being observed. It is recommended that even greater provision be made for the development of the pupils’ problem-solving strategies. Pupil progress is regularly monitored with teachers administering tests on a regular basis to monitor pupil competency of various concepts.
The school plan for History is detailed and comprehensive. It serves as a very appropriate guide for the implementation of the curriculum within the unique context of the school. In particular, the plan makes good provision for approaches and methodologies to delivering the curriculum, with detailed guidelines on the use of story, artefacts, drama, the environment, pictures, photographs, ICT and local historians being provided. Teacher planning provides a clear outline of the content to be covered. Teachers adopt a variety of approaches to the teaching of History, with whole-class teaching being the predominant method. Pupils display a keen interest in historical topics. In those lessons observed, pupils revealed enthusiasm and curiosity for the subject matter being taught and showed strong subject knowledge in so doing. In delivering these lessons, teachers show strong subject knowledge and make very good use of resources, most notably, artefacts, pictures and ICT. In particular, teachers are commended for encouraging the pupils to question topics and to search for themes based on cause and effect. Lessons observed also made very good provision for the study of time, chronology and empathy. In some classrooms, teachers have a designated table of interest for History. In building on such praiseworthy endeavours, it is recommended that the school considers the development of a history museum, possibly within the context of its library facilities. History lessons also make commendable provision for integration and linkage. Pupils are encouraged to undertake projects with a historical theme. They display these projects in both the classroom and broader school environment. Teachers carefully monitor the pupils’ work, providing regular and affirming feedback.
The school plan for Geography is comprehensive. It makes a clear outline of the content to be covered, with very good provision for the use of resources, differentiation, parental involvement, community links, success criteria and individual teacher planning. Overall, teacher planning in this area is good, providing a clear and progressional outline of the lesson content to be covered. Lessons in Geography serve to motivate and stimulate the pupils’ curiosity in geographical concepts and knowledge. These lessons also make good provision for the development of the pupils’ skills as geographers, with notably commendable emphasis on the natural and human environment. In delivering these lessons, teachers make good use of resources such as globes, maps and the internet to provide pupils with a strong sense of place and space. Pupils are encouraged to undertake research projects on these environments and display strong knowledge of same as a result. In particular, pupils display extensive knowledge of the natural and physical features of a number of environments. The school also makes good provision for strand units dealing with Environmental Awareness and Care. It participates in the Green Schools project and was recently awarded a green flag. The school is congratulated on this recent achievement. As part of this Green Schools project, the school very actively seeks to promote environmental awareness and care in its own surroundings. To this end, a number of recycling initiatives and pupil committees have been established.
The school plan for Science is of a high standard. In particular it provides detailed guidelines on the use of children’s ideas, practical investigations, key methodologies, conservation codes and the use of the local environment. The plan makes good provision for the use of the school grounds, the local park, trees, hedgerows and the seashore for scientific investigations. It also details plans to develop a wildflower area and compost heap. In light of the planting exercises noted during the inspection, it is recommended that the school expands such exercises, with the possible inclusion of a school garden. The school plan also makes a very practical outline of approaches to developing the pupils’ skills as scientists with due recognition of the needs of different learners and of the health and safety implications pertaining to science experiments and investigations. Overall, teacher planning is of a good standard, with some long-term plans making appropriate provision for differentiation and integration. Teachers’ short-term plans provide a clear outline of the lesson content to be covered.
The school has a good selection of resources for Science. A number of resources were in evidence in the classrooms, such as fish bowls, stethoscopes and electrical circuits. It is recommended that such resource provision be augmented by reviewing the current stocks for all strands of the curriculum, but with specific reference to Living Things and Materials. On occasion, external resources are availed of, such as the visiting ‘Science Bus’. The school also makes effective use of outside experts who provide talks for the pupils. In a large number of classrooms, teachers have created science investigation tables which promote and nurture pupil curiosity in scientific principles and phenomena. Pupils attend a Science Day in the local library. Displays of the pupils’ work in Science are also evident around the school. These endeavours serve to celebrate and promote interest in the subject.
Science lessons are delivered in a structured manner, with very good provision for discussion and for the use of children’s ideas as the starting points of the lesson. Teachers make effective use of resources and afford pupils opportunities to interact with these resources. Content was related very effectively to the life experience and environment of the pupils. In those science lessons observed, excellent cross-strand and cross-curricular integration was observed. Pupils participate enthusiastically in these lessons and are encouraged to question and analyse scientific concepts. Such questioning served to develop their skills in the areas of observation, questioning, predicting and analysing. Pupils also demonstrated strong subject knowledge of topics covered to date. It was noted during the inspection that pupils have engaged in a variety of experiments throughout the school year. Such practice serves to develop many of their skills as scientists, most notably those skills related to observation, prediction, recording and analysing.
The teachers use a variety of methods such as pair work, group work and individual teaching during visual arts lessons. A range of effective stimuli is utilised in lessons which include working from observation, visual stimuli, integration with other subject areas and looking at the work of famous artists. Excellent work was in progress during the evaluation which involved the use of ICT and a data projector to talk and discuss the work of Kadinsky. The pupils replicated very good paintings based on the looking and responding experience. Concepts of art are carefully explored in the classes observed and there is evidence of a range of techniques being explored during the teaching of the subject. Consideration needs to be given to ensuring breadth and balance across the various strands. The majority of the strands displayed during the evaluation incorporated the four strands of clay, paint and colour, drawing and print.
The school is fortunate to have a room in the old school adjacent to the school building dedicated to art. Consideration needs to be given to the development of structures for its frequent use, the organisation of art displays to enhance its environment and the co-ordination of resources within the room. Pupils in the school enter art competitions such as the ‘Texaco Art Competition’ and the local credit union competition. The teachers display a considerable amount of the pupils’ work in classrooms and on corridors. The pupils are active in exploring, expressing and enjoying art.
Teaching and learning in Music is informed by a well constructed whole school plan. The plan provides a clear outline of the content to be covered. It is recommended that the school plan makes more definitive references to the development of listening activities and to the progressive development of a literacy programme. Teachers’ planning is of a satisfactory nature, with all teachers making reference to particular strand units. However, an imbalance in favour of performance exists. The standard of teaching and learning in the lessons observed was of a high quality. Teachers adopt a creative approach to the teaching of music, encouraging pupils to listen and respond to particular musical pieces in an imaginative manner. Teachers make good use of resources, with some teachers playing musical instruments as part of their lesson. Lessons observed made good provision for active pupil involvement. Pupils participate enthusiastically in these lessons and clearly enjoy the lesson content. Pupils sing a wide repertoire of songs with confidence and competence. In a number of instances, the music curriculum was integrated in an excellent manner with other subjects such as Irish, Drama, Visual Arts and Physical Education. Pupils learn the tin whistle from second class upwards and showed competence in playing a variety of pieces.
The quality of teaching and learning in Drama is good. Emphasis is placed on exploring and making drama and co-operating and communicating in so doing. Teachers employ a range of strategies, which include circle time, games, improvisation, partner work, story and dialogue. Teachers create an atmosphere where feelings are expressed and opportunities are given to develop adaptability, creativity, co-operation and imagination. A drama teacher visits the school each Wednesday and pupils from first to sixth classes participate in these drama lessons. A programme of work is planned for each of the class levels. It is recommended that this plan be more closely aligned to the curriculum objectives. The teacher is interested in making drama fun. The programme was initiated by using games to develop trust and concentration among the boys. From there it developed to the wider use of co-operative work. This proved successful.
The school plan for Physical Education is detailed and comprehensive. Teachers’ planning for the subject makes a very clear delineation of lesson content. The school caters satisfactorily for all strands of the physical education curriculum. It has an extensive selection of physical education resources, with access to an all-weather pitch, a basketball court, a football pitch and a swimming pool. Teachers make good provision for all strands of the curriculum. In those lessons observed, pupils showed good competence in the Dance, Athletics, Gymnastics and Games strands. These lessons are delivered in a structured manner. Teachers model the relevant skills effectively and organise appropriate activities to develop these skills. Lesson are characterised by the appropriate warm-up and cool-down exercises. Pupils clearly enjoy these lessons and demonstrate a positive attitude towards Physical Education.
The school is proactive in promoting physical education on a number of fronts. Pupils are involved in table tennis leagues, basketball leagues, soccer leagues and Gaelic football leagues. Opportunities are also provided for orienteering exercises and for participation in athletics. The school’s staff is highly commended for the time, energy and enthusiasm devoted to organising these activities, many of which are conducted outside of school hours. In particular, the school is also praised for the manner in which the senior pupils are given responsibilities for managing and organising the mini-soccer league. Parental involvement is actively encouraged with many parents being present at school-based league matches. Physical Education is integrated with other curriculum areas; some exceptional integration with Gaeilge was observed during the course of the inspection. The school also avails of the expertise of local sports people such as a badminton coach, a Gaelic football coach from An Dubhghall, a coach from Tennis Ireland and coaches from the Football Association of Ireland and the Sutonian’s Rugby Club.
The school has created a comprehensive plan for the implementation of Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE). The plan provides very good guidelines on the teaching of the programme both in an integrated and a discrete manner. The school plan also makes provision for specific programmes such as ‘Walk Tall’, ‘Stay Safe’ and the Relationships and Sexuality Education programme. Teachers’ planning for SPHE is of a satisfactory nature. SPHE lessons are delivered in an effective manner, with teachers making very good use of resources to present lesson content and to stimulate discussion. Content is connected to the life experience and environment of the pupils. The subject is taught in an integrated manner, with teachers making reference to various strands of the SPHE curriculum throughout the school day. Teachers make
good use of talk and discussion in discrete SPHE lessons, with pupils engaging readily and enthusiastically. Pupils show strong subject knowledge particularly in relation to strands dealing with ‘Myself’. Pupils address a wide range of topics such as ‘Taking Care of my Body’, ‘Safety and Protection’, ‘Developing Citizenship’ and ‘My Friends and Other People’. The quality of written outcomes is of a high standard.
Assessment is envisaged in the school plan as an ongoing process which is shaped by both the pupil’s age and learning experience. In so doing, the plan makes provision for assessment in a formative and summative manner. Assessment practices in the school take place at both a formal and informal level. On a whole school level, standardised test are undertaken in Mathematics and English every year. Parents in second and fifth classes are informed of the significance of the test results for their children’s education. At a formal level, the school uses a variety of tests such as the Belfield Infant Assessment Programme (BIAP), Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST), the Micra-T and Sigma-T tests, the Schonell test and the Marino GWR tests. In addition to these tests, teachers conduct their own assessments of pupil learning through the use of teacher-designed tests, teacher observation and teacher examination of the pupils’ work. Teachers maintain continuous records of pupil progress most especially in the areas of Mathematics, Irish and English. In a number of classrooms, excellent examples of such practice were noted. The school has a well constructed policy on the storage and use of test results.
The special education team consists of a resource teacher, a learning support teacher and a part-time resource teacher. Two special needs assistants have been allocated to the school. A range of screening tests is in use in the school to identify pupils in need of supplementary teaching. Results of standardised tests assist class teachers in selecting pupils for support. The Forward Together programme is used effectively as a follow through programme following analysis of the MIST results. Further diagnostic testing is carried out when the pupils attend support sessions to identify the children’s specific learning strengths and needs. Samples of the pupils’ work are carefully maintained. A well documented policy guides the implementation of support for pupils in the school. Support in both literacy and numeracy is given to those pupils identified as being in need of supplementary teaching. Some in-class support is provided in the area of numeracy. It is recommended that this be extended where possible, and that teachers plan collaboratively and work with assigned pupils and groups to ensure maximum benefit as was noted during the evaluation. Individualised plans are drawn up for these pupils and include learning objectives which are identified following diagnostic testing.
The learning support teachers provide focused support for children with learning difficulties from senior infants onwards. The literacy programme includes structured activities to develop children’s phonological awareness and carefully chosen reading material to develop children’s basic sight vocabulary. Lessons in both English and Mathematics feature initial talk and discussion, a session where children are engaged in practical activities and learning games and a written activity to consolidate the intended learning. Some good use of ICT to create final drafts of pupils’ written work was observed.
The two resource teachers also provide support for pupils in Mathematics and English. Two of the classrooms are bright, spacious and attractively presented. Print-rich visual stimuli, including teacher-designed and commercially produced charts, stimulate pupils as they engage in the support sessions. Oral language and reading lessons are carefully structured and well paced with suitable emphasis on the teaching of strategies for reading and spelling. There is an integrated approach to the teaching of English. The lessons observed were of a very high quality. Pupils were actively involved and the sessions were tailored to meet the pupils’ needs. ICT is used regularly and effectively during lessons. The school has access to a whole range of software through the Hermes project which the teachers are using creatively. The use of the interactive white board to support teaching and learning is commendable. The support team adopt a practical, concerted and flexible approach to meeting the needs of the pupils. They show a genuine interest in the pupils’ learning.
The school avails of the service of a dedicated part-time language support teacher to support the newcomer pupils to the school who do not have English as their first language. Support is given on a withdrawal basis but consideration might be given at some stage to providing some in-class support also. Individual and group programmes of work have been formulated to meet the needs of the members of the group. Very good use is made of a multi-sensory approach which is well planned and structured. The use of a DVD with a particular programme is working effectively for the pupils. Learning experiences for the pupils are fun and positive and there is an emphasis on the development of pupils’ self-esteem.
Pupils are very happy and highly motivated to learn. They are benefiting from these highly structured lessons. A variety of methodologies and resources is used appropriately. There is very good liaison between the member of staff who provided language support last year and the teacher who does so this year. Pupils are achieving very well based on records of work and content covered. However, consideration should be given to devising a policy on interculturalism. It is recommended that greater use of the local environment should be made in the pupils’ learning, as discussed during the post-evaluation meeting. The further use of the digital camera, excursions to the shops, exploration of activities in the locality and making the learning relevant to the pupils should be considered. This would add enormously to the pupils’ experiences. Newcomer pupils are achieving very well in their English.
The school currently receives a DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) grant which is used to target support for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The school benefits from the committed leadership of the school principal and the other members of the in-school management team.
· The board of management and the parents’ association give dedicated support to the school.
· The school has a very well constructed school plan which provides clear guidelines on the implementation of the curriculum.
· The teachers are committed to providing a positive learning experience for their pupils.
· A positive school atmosphere exists, characterised by mutual respect among school staff and pupils.
· The lessons observed had very good structure and serve to promote pupil interest.
· Lesson content is effectively related to the life experience and environment of the pupils.
· Pupils show pride and enthusiasm in their work.
· A large variety of activities is provided for the pupils both during and after school hours.
· The quality of support for pupils is very good.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· In some cases, teachers’ planning needs to make more definitive reference to integration, differentiation and assessment.
· The school should consider further opportunities for developing the pupils’ problem-solving skills in Mathematics.
· Consideration should be given to the extension of further in-class learning support where resources allow.
· It is recommended that pair work be used to a greater degree in promoting conversational Irish.
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 October 2008