An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Lismire National School
Roll number: 17300G
Date of inspection: 19 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Lismire NS. 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, [the trustees] 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. He interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. He reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector 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.
Lismire NS is situated approximately five kilometres from the town of Newmarket, in North Cork. The school was built in 1940 and has undergone considerable refurbishment over the years. Three modern classrooms have been completed recently and have been occupied by the pupils since September. This three-teacher school caters for boys and girls, and pupils in the main are drawn from the immediate locality. The current enrolment is sixty-six and enrolment trends suggest this figure will remain stable over the coming years. The staff endeavours to cater for the full and harmonious development of each child by providing a broad and relevant curriculum which is sufficiently flexible to cater for the children’s varying needs. The school is to be congratulated for its high levels of pupil attendance.
The board of management is committed to the work of the school and its ongoing development. Meetings of the board are convened at least once per term or more frequently as current school building issues necessitate. In addition, in accordance with his supportive role, the chairperson maintains regular contact with the principal and staff. Finances are managed carefully and there is a clearly defined system for tracking income and expenditure. The board ratifies all school policies as they are devised. It is committed to the continuous improvement of facilities within the school and the development of the school play areas is a priority. At the post evaluation meeting the chairperson expressed concern with regard to aspects of health and safety within the school. The board would like to see an improvement in the pupil-teacher ratio in multi-class situations, and the continued funding of the school is a concern in a climate of reducing enrolments. Members of the board have not received training over the years and the sourcing and provision of such training would further enhance their contribution.
The in-school management team consists of the principal, the deputy principal and a special duties teacher. Regular rapport exists between the principal, teachers and other members of staff in their attempts to create a happy and welcoming environment in the school. The principal has the worthy aim of ensuring that the children are happy and achieving and that each receives a firm foundation to prepare them for life. He is ably supported by the deputy principal and post-holder who fulfil their duties conscientiously. Their responsibilities are curricular and organisational in nature and their work contributes positively to the effective operation of the school. General organisational and planning issues are discussed regularly. High levels of co-operation prevail throughout the school and people are generous with their time. As a development issue, it is appropriate that staff has regard for the need to keep posts of responsibility under regular review in accordance with a constantly changing school environment.
The teaching staff comprises the principal, two mainstream class teachers and a learning support/resource teacher. The expertise of individual staff members is effectively deployed in the curricular areas of Music, Drama and Mathematics. Commendably, the teacher of infants teaches Mathematics to fourth class each afternoon. Two special needs assistants have been appointed and one of these is employed on a part-time basis. Their duties are predominantly administrative and the school is advised to review these duties with the support of pupil-learning obtaining greater prominence. The work of ancillary staff is worthy of praise. The school is cleaned regularly and maintenance work is undertaken whenever required. The board does not employ a secretary and this results in the two special needs assistants sharing the secretarial duties. The school employs an external tutor in Dance. This initiative is funded by the parents and all children partake in this activity.
The construction of three new classrooms has created ample space for storage and administrative purposes and these areas have been identified for continued development. The school is well resourced in respect of educational aids and materials. Interactive whiteboards were purchased recently and these are utilised effectively and imaginatively in complementing the learning process. Parents and management are to be highly commended for their generous provision of funding in addressing the equipment needs of staff and children. Each classroom is arranged and decorated to provide an attractive learning environment for pupils. The corridors are utilised effectively for display purposes and contain attractive exhibits of pupil’s work. A greater emphasis on the display of pupils’ written work would further enhance the quality of the school environs.
Parents have been involved in a variety of initiatives to support the school and these include extensive fundraising, and providing enhanced support for specific school events as required. The generous support that they give to the school is most commendable. The considerable monies raised for the school’s building project is worthy of particular mention. Activities are regularly organised, such as a shared reading initiative, to encourage the parents to take an active role in their children’s education. Annual parent/teacher meetings are convened at the end of each school year and parents also visit the school incidentally as the need arises by way of an agreed- appointment procedure. Each year the principal and the infant class teacher convene a meeting for parents of new entrants. There is a consensus among staff that parents have been appropriately consulted on aspects of school planning.
At the meeting with the parents the arrangement of a more convenient time for parent-teacher meetings was discussed, together with the issuing of a periodic newsletter and the provision of an external tutor in Speech and Drama were identified as areas for consideration.
The school aims to provide a caring learning environment which facilitates the nurturing of each child’s potential. This is a school where children are happy and are valued. Teachers demonstrate a thoughtful understanding of the backgrounds and experiences of pupils and have a genuine concern for their progress. Pupils co-operate with their teachers, they eagerly engage in discussion and participate fully in classroom activity.
It is evident that the school plan is being updated in conjunction with the implementation of the Primary Curriculum (1999). While teachers engage regularly in planning of curricular and in organisational areas, the use of school development planning as a tool to promote continuity and progression has not been fully exploited. Whole-school planning in curricular areas is general in its composition and informs individual teacher planning only to a limited extent. It is recommended that practice in this area be reviewed to ensure that the school plan contributes to continuity and progression in pupil’s learning and facilitates the consistent provision of a broad and balanced curriculum in each classroom. The school is advised to devise an action plan with the purpose of developing, reviewing or redrafting of curricular plans and organisational policies in the areas of: English, Irish, Mathematics, Visual Arts, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE), enrolment of pupils with special educational needs, learning support, school attendance, health and safety, and Children First.
Evidence was not 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). A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The style and presentation of individual teachers’ schemes reflects the individual preference of teachers. Some programmes of work are comprehensive in nature and are linked closely to the structure and content of the curriculum. Practice in teacher planning is readily amenable to development, and in this regard the devising of a template on a whole-school basis would bring about greater consistency. Completed work is systematically documented in monthly progress records and these are placed on file. It is recommended that all teachers have copies of individual education plans in their files in providing for the varying abilities of their pupils.
The quality of teaching throughout the school is sound. Teaching approaches blend the traditional and progressive and a praiseworthy measure of success attends the conscientious efforts of every teacher. Well-structured whole class teaching with challenging questioning as a central feature is seen in each classroom and there is evidence of a reliable deployment of group and individual approaches. The teachers cope creditably with the organisational demands of multi-class groupings in each room. A more focussed deployment of the special needs assistants would contribute positively to the organisation of pupil learning in these class settings.
Overall, the interaction between teacher and pupil is lively, the teaching is evenly paced and the children in general appear interested and eager for challenge. There are significant strengths in the way the school is developing a curriculum which provides opportunities for pupils to use Information Communication Technology (ICT) skills in a variety of curricular areas. The staff has worked diligently to identify learning opportunities through the use of ICT across all strands of the curriculum. The quality of pupils’ learning outcomes indicates an appropriate progression that is commensurate with age and ability.
Déantar iarracht chreidiúnach an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn sa scoil le húsáid na teanga chomh minic agus is féidir i ngnáthchúrsaí an lae. Baineann na daltaí taitneamh as na cluichí cainte agus déanann na hoidí iarracht mhacánta leanúnachas cainte a chothú sna daltaí. Meastar go n-oirfeadh sé aird faoi leith a dhíriú ar chothú an leanúnachais ó rang go chéile d’fhonn cumas labhartha na ndaltaí a fheabhsú. Moltar nósanna mar fhrása na seachtaine, nathanna cainte nó feidhmeanna teanga a chur i bhfeidhm. Cothóidh sé seo comhsheasmhacht níos airde in úsáid na teanga agus dul chun cinn sa bhreis in inniúlacht na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge. Aithrisíonn ranganna áirithe cnuasach deas rann agus dánta go soiléir agus go taitneamhach. Téitear i muinín na drámaíochta go rialta chun an obair a shaibhriú. Moltar cnuasach dánta a bhailiú a bheadh in oiriúint d’aois na ndaltaí agus teacht ar chomhthuiscint maidir le méid dánta is cóir do rang a chur de ghlanmheabhair in aghaidh na bliana. Ar an iomlán sroichtear caighdeán sásúil sa léitheoireacht agus tá na daltaí eolach ar na briathra agus ar chruinneas na gramadaí. Is inmholta an úsáid a bhaintear as an dTeicneolaíocht Eolais agus Chumarsáide chun an teanga a chur chun cinn. Is dúshlán anois é don fhoireann úsáid na Gaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh a chur chun cinn ar bhealach sistéamach tríd an scoil.
A creditable attempt is undertaken to promote Irish in the school, with Irish spoken as often as possible throughout the school day. The pupils enjoy their language games and the teachers regularly promote continuity in spoken Irish. It is recommended that particular attention be given to the development of a consistency of practice between classes to improve pupils’ language development. It is suggested that a variety of strategies be introduced, such as phrase of the week among others in each class. This will facilitate a greater consistency in the use of Irish and enable pupils’ to improve their competency in the language. Poetry and verse are recited clearly and pleasantly in some classes. Dramatic activity is utilised regularly to enrich the learning. The staff is advised to compile an assortment of age- appropriate verse for each class and to agree on the number of poems that should be memorised by the pupils. In general the pupils reach an acceptable standard in reading, they are knowledgeable on the use of verbs and on the conventions of grammar. The use of ICT is praiseworthy in promoting Irish in the school. The challenge for staff in the future is to develop Irish as a social language throughout the school on a systematic basis.
The standard of reading throughout the school is good. The school is committed in its efforts to develop pupils’ reading skills. Children acquire a useful sight vocabulary at an early stage and proceed to a generally sound grasp of phonics. Music is successfully linked to the teaching of phonics in the infant classes. A graded reading scheme is appropriately supplemented by use of the novel and by a systematic promotion of library book reading. The younger children receive additional support by means of a shared reading initiative. Formal reading begins in junior infants. This is contrary to the recommendations of the Curriculum (1999) that advises a structured reading programme should begin in senior infants. Staff is advised to develop a consistent approach to the choice of selected reading material for each class with a greater emphasis on choosing real books over published texts. The children are making commendable progress in developing their oral skills across a range of activities. The value of promoting poetry in fostering the enjoyment of language is a feature in some classes. As a developmental point, the staff should consider compiling an assortment of age-appropriate verse for each class. Pupils have opportunities to write in a variety of genres, and punctuation and handwriting are developed appropriately. Pupils’ copybooks indicate that written work is monitored regularly and marked carefully. The majority of pupils write with care and attention and reach a creditable standard. ICT is used creatively and productively to reinforce the pupils’ writing.
Mathematical skills and concepts are taught carefully at all levels in the school and a creditable standard is achieved overall. The use of concrete materials is widespread and purposeful and the pupils are given regular opportunities to use them. Exercises in oral work and the memorisation of number facts are a feature and revision tests are administered regularly. In general the children prove confident at computation and in their understanding of concepts. In every class a number of children exhibited a clear proficiency in their ability to problem solve. The children’s written work is regularly monitored and marked by the teachers, and the importance in ensuring quality in the presentation of children’s written work is noted. It is recommended that planning in this area should facilitate a whole-school approach to the teaching and acquisition of mathematical language.
In general, the older children prove confident and accurate at computation and grow in confidence systematically as they achieve a creditable mastery of the number system. This is clearly evident in written work. However, in general their ability to deal with mathematical problems by applying acquired skills is less impressive; but it is noted that in every class there is a minority who exhibit a proficiency in this area.
Teachers’ notes indicate that a range of suitable topics are examined. Teachers are conscientious in cultivating a lively interest in the past as they proceed through the commercial texts that form the central element of the programmes. Suitable topics are chosen in infant and junior classes to focus the pupils’ attention on sequence, chronology and change within familiar contexts. Photographic evidence is effectively employed in considering these aspects of change and continuity. The teaching of History is enriched by successfully linking it with a number of other curricular areas. Pupils are encouraged to participate through discussion and their engagement in project work is welcomed.
Teachers plan an appropriate programme of geographical activities to allow pupils explore their own immediate environment as well as the world around them. An appropriate blend between textbook and investigative work is pursued and the teachers supplement the lessons with a range of charts and other illustrative materials. Children enjoy their geography studies. Local studies are given particular attention and field trips are arranged from time to time. The effective use of ICT to stimulate discussion is a noteworthy feature of the programme and the pupils display an impressive knowledge of their locality and its immediate environment.
Science lessons are mostly well planned and have clear objectives. Generally, pupils are gaining a sound knowledge and understanding. In junior classes a good foundation knowledge and understanding of the basic skills of scientific enquiry is laid. Pupils show the ability to work together on practical tasks with curiosity and interest. They are well motivated and participate with enthusiasm in a range of appropriate activities, including discussion, practical work and recording of findings. Basic scientific vocabulary is developed gradually and pupils are beginning to learn to formulate questions for investigative purposes. The teaching of Science is successfully integrated with other areas of the SESE programme.
The children in general are afforded regular opportunities to develop their creative and artistic skills. They engage with a range of materials and there are many opportunities for integrating art and craft activities with seasonal aspects and with other elements of the curriculum. This leads to an appreciation of art through exploring and responding to the work of their peers and to the work of the artist. The children’s interesting and colourful work on display throughout the school creates a bright and cheerful environment. However, Art activities are limited in some classes. The development of a balanced programme throughout the school would gainfully extend the range and scope in this curricular area.
The pupils demonstrate a keen interest in Music and engage with enthusiasm in the activities provided. Pupils sing a wide range of songs in Irish and in English sweetly. A range of musical elements is purposefully introduced in lessons, with pupils displaying a keen ability to engage in a variety of rhythmic activities. Pupils’ tin-whistle playing is commendable, as are their developing literacy skills. The inclusion of listening and responding exercises is also praiseworthy.
The teachers promote dramatic activity on a regular basis and are aware of its unique potential in developing different and personal ways of experiencing life. Drama is aptly used to facilitate activities in oral language in both Irish and in English and to explore feelings and ideas. The staging of the school play/concert is a valued activity in the school and the contribution of all staff members is laudable. The annual staging of this event is much appreciated by parents and their generous support for this is regularly forthcoming.
It is evident from teachers’ planning that PE lessons are well-structured and clear objectives are outlined. Children are exposed to a wide variety of physical activity to enable them develop their skills and coordination. Clear and precise instruction is given and due attention is paid to pupil involvement, safety and organisation. PE activity is conducted in the school yard and field and in the general-purpose hall. Commendable attention is given to the development of skills in athletics, in court and field games and in swimming. Teams are prepared for participation in inter-schools and in-parish competitions. A number of volunteer coaches contribute admirably to the development of these programmes and success has been enjoyed regularly over the years. The generous contribution of personnel to these activities is acknowledged and praised. The children from junior infants to sixth class perform their routines in Irish dancing with noted pleasure and confidence. These activities are conducted under the competent tuition of an external tutor.
The school’s Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme provides opportunities for children to develop their understanding of themselves. The SPHE syllabus is drawn mainly from associated programmes such as Walk Tall and RSE. Staff is advised to develop a whole-school policy in SPHE that will lead to the delivery of a broad and balanced programme on a consistent basis. The staff is conscientious in promoting healthy relationships and in encouraging healthy patterns of behaviour. Pupils are mannerly and respectful in their interactions with each other and with adults. Teachers make a keen effort to ensure that pupils enjoy a healthy diet. The school is committed to the welfare of its pupils as is evidenced in their efforts to curb bullying behaviour, in the successful transition to post-primary and in the promotion of self esteem.
Careful consideration is given to monitoring and recording pupil progress. Formal procedures are long established to record progress in literacy and numeracy as the pupils move through their respective classes. This information is shared consistently among teachers.
Teacher observation, teacher-devised tests and the regular monitoring of pupils’ written work are some of the assessment modes used throughout the school. These are complemented by the judicious use of formal and standardised tests, namely Micra-T and Sigma-T. Quest is also administered by the learning support/resource teacher in assessing the learning needs of pupils who require supplementary support. As a development point, the school is advised to extent its range of assessment procedures so that a greater emphasis on the determination of the nature of literacy and numeracy problems will emerge. To this end it is hoped that criterion-referenced assessment, focused on the children in infants, will become a more prominent feature of the work. The school is advised to administer the MIST at senior infant level to help identify those children who are experiencing difficulty at an early age.
The learning support/resource teacher is full-time in this school and caters for thirteen pupils in total. This teacher provides supplementary support in both literacy and numeracy that is characterised by high levels of effectiveness and relevance. She presents detailed planning aimed at addressing the identified needs of individual pupils. Comprehensive individual education plans are prepared and effective progress records are maintained. Individualised, structured and purposeful teaching strategies are adapted appropriately and suitable resources are deployed to support learning. Pupils are making good progress in accordance with their own competencies and abilities. Learning targets are set and reviewed at regular intervals in collaboration with class teachers and parents. Diagnostic tests are used purposefully to aid in the identification of learning difficulties and to support the preparation of specific learning programmes. The staged approach to assessment, identification and programme implementation is utilised appropriately. Support is provided both on a withdrawal basis, either individually or in small groups, and is effectively complemented with in-class support.
The two special needs assistants are conscientious and committed to their work. A review of current practice should identify for them a greater focus on the support and scaffolding of children’s learning.
The school has documented policies on the admission, enrolment and participation of pupils with special educational needs in the school plan. These are informative and are in accordance with the school’s caring ethos. It is now appropriate that the elements relating to the acceptance of pupils be amended to comply with current legislation under the Equal Status Act (2000).
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.