An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
St John of God School,
Upper New Street, Kilkenny
Uimhir rolla: 17314R
Date of inspection: 04 October 2007
Date of issue of report: 17 April 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St John of God school. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development. 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 in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
St. John of God National School is a nineteen teacher all girls school under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Ossory. It is located in Kilkenny city and its pupils are drawn from St. Patrick’s parish and its surrounding areas. Enshrined in school documentation is a commitment to recognising the uniqueness of each child and an undertaking to enhance all aspects of their development consistent with their abilities. The effective fulfilment of this commitment is strongly in evidence in the school. The school has an enrolment of 334 girls and attendance is very good.
The school is managed by a proactive, supportive and highly effective board of management which is characterised by its open communication, commitment and teamwork. Members meet a minimum of five times per year and additional meetings are convened as required. The chairman of the board is highly professional and committed and maintains close contact with the school between meetings. Comprehensive minutes of all meetings are maintained and submitted to the patron. Duties are clearly defined and appropriately assigned to all board members and mechanisms have been put in place to ensure that very effective lines of communication are maintained between all of the education partners. The board plays a central role in the development of school policies and drafts of these documents are considered and sent for consultation to relevant parties before being officially ratified. The school has developed a comprehensive suite of curricular and administrative policies. The extent to which proactive measures have been taken to communicate these to the school community is highly commended. The measures include sending particular policies to each home via newsletter and curriculum evenings have been organised for parents in specific subject areas. While a comprehensive admissions policy has been developed, it is advised that this policy be reviewed to ensure that it is in accordance with current relevant legislation. It is also advised that consideration be given to amending the prioritisation criteria being employed in the policy to afford greater priority to children residing in the parish. Observation during the evaluation reveals that care is taken to ensure the school complies with all relevant department regulations. The board expresses its complete satisfaction with all aspects of education provision in the school. The principal, on behalf of the board, provides an annual report to the parents on the workings of the school. Mechanisms are in place to ensure that school issues are reviewed regularly and that new priorities are addressed as they emerge. The needs of the children are central to all decision making and this is highly praised.
The principal of the school is thoroughly familiar with the community, the school and the educational needs of the pupils. She is highly effective in leading and managing the school and attends with assiduous care, integrity, dedication and professionalism to the range of diverse duties inherent in the post. She succeeds, through the cultivation of high-quality relationships with all members of the school community, in developing a shared vision for the school amongst all of the education partners. This ensures that a positive school climate prevails and members of the school community are motivated and involved in collaborative decision making. The principal plays a pivotal role in co-ordinating the development of the whole-school plan and has put a broad range of mechanisms in place to ensure that the expertise of the staff is utilised in a manner that maximises the positive impact on teaching and learning.
She is ably assisted in her role by the deputy principal, assistant principal and six special-duties post holders. An extensive range of curricular, organisational and pastoral duties has been attached to these posts. A very effective consultative process is in place with all staff members to ensure that these duties are regularly reviewed and updated in accordance with the current and emerging needs of the school. Members of the school senior and middle management teams meet formally once per term and a series of informal meetings are convened regularly as needs arise. The dedication of these teams in attending to their specific duties is highly commendable. Of particular note is the level of collaboration that exists both within the team and with other staff members in advancing particular priorities in the school. The extent to which the in-school management team succeeds in incorporating staff insights and expertise into the school planning process is particularly praiseworthy.
The school has the services of twelve classroom teachers, three special education teachers, and has three teachers attached to the Kilkenny city supply panel. All staff members are assigned to mainstream and special education positions appropriately. A clear whole-school policy on the allocation of staff has been agreed which strives to ensure that teachers experience a variety of classes and contexts and a sharing of expertise throughout their time in the school. Individual staff members have engaged in a broad range of professional development opportunities in the recent past which include on-line learning in the areas of the Visual Arts, computers and healthy lifestyles. The staff has identified History, Geography and team teaching as priorities for future development.
The school is the base school for the Kilkenny city supply panel. This scheme is managed very effectively by the principal and good levels of open communication and collaboration with the other schools in the scheme are noted. A very clear system has been developed for the allocation of schools to the members of the panel and the teachers are to be highly commended for the co-operation and collaboration exhibited in the working of this scheme. All teachers have clearly outlined duties in their base schools in the event of them not being required to substitute in classes and they maintain detailed records of these tasks. These teachers therefore make a significant additional contribution to the work of the school.
In addition to the teaching staff, the school is also fortunate to have the services of very dedicated and highly motivated ancillary staff which includes a full-time special-needs assistant, a secretary, two cleaners and a caretaker. All duties associated with these posts are attended to in an enthusiastic and highly effective manner and make a major impact on the overall effectiveness of the school.
An extensive range of external tutors and organisations is invited into the school to enhance aspects of curriculum implementation at particular times during the school year. These include a drama teacher, tutors in Gaelic games, rugby, basketball, dancing and cycling. Representatives from the Gardaí, the fire service and the Health Services Executive are also invited in to address the children at agreed intervals. Practice observed during the evaluation reveals that the support being provided by these external tutors is carefully integrated into teacher’s work programmes and serves to augment the children’s learning in these areas.
The current school building was constructed in 1940 and consists of ten classrooms, special education support rooms, a general purposes room and ancillary accommodation. There are also two prefabricated rooms and two lunch rooms on the site. As a result of a very well-managed maintenance programme and the judicious use of the Department’s minor works grants, the accommodation is in very good condition. In the context of the temporary accommodation, it is advised that the school conduct an audit of its accommodation requirements into the future and communicate its findings to the planning and building unit of the Department. Outdoor facilities include an extensive hard-court playing area and ball courts and the school also has access to the nearby parish playing pitch.
An extensive range of commercially produced learning resources has been procured to enhance teaching and learning most notably in the areas of Physical Education (PE), Visual Arts, Science and Music. In addition to this the teachers are highly commended for the range of high quality teacher and pupil-designed materials that have been procured to enhance teaching and learning. These materials are used very effectively to enhance the children’s active engagement in their learning and serve as useful tools in scaffolding their understanding of concepts. Each classroom has a computer and printer and a good range of software has been procured to enhance learning across a number of subject areas. While some effective use of the content-rich software was noted, further embedding the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in learning would enhance the children’s opportunities to acquire ICT skills in a meaningful and relevant context.
There is an active and vibrant parents’ council in this school. Open, collaborative and very supportive relationships prevail between the staff, the principal, the board and the parents’ council. A meeting with representatives of the parents during the evaluation revealed very positive parental attitudes. The professionalism of the principal and staff, the quality of teaching and learning and the breath and balance of the curriculum on offer were praised. The parents also positively referred to the availability of staff members to discuss children’s progress and the quality of home-school correspondence such as newsletters and reports. In particular, the extent to which the needs of the children are, at all times, kept central to decisions in the school was emphasised. In addition to engaging in a variety of fundraising activities parents also support the school in the areas of shared reading and in providing coaching for specific games. The parents’ council and the staff have collaborated to introduce the general parent body to aspects of the revised curriculum and this is highly commended. In order to further advance this very positive relationship that exists with parents consideration could be given to exploring opportunities for further utilising parents’ skills in the implementation of the curriculum.
The school’s code of behaviour is clearly laid out in the plan. The children in a number of classes are thoroughly familiar with the rules and regulations of the school and strategies to promote positive behaviour are in evidence in all classrooms. The behaviour as exhibited by all pupils during the evaluation was excellent. Interactions between pupils and teachers and pupils and pupils were at all times pleasant and respectful and the extent to which all pupils, including those with special education needs, contribute confidently and enthusiastically to whole-class discussions is noteworthy. The manner in which the children engage in co-operative and collaborative learning activities and the extent to which they assign and fulfil specific roles during group work are also worthy of praise.
The school plan is devised through the collaborative activity of the principal and the teaching staff, with the principal and in-school management team playing a considerable co-ordinating role. Staff meetings and in-school planning days are usefully employed to advance a range of curriculum plans and organisational issues. Both the board of management and the parents’ council also play an active role in the development and review of organisational policies. All completed plans and policies are considered and formally ratified by the board of management. The teachers have copies of the school plan in their rooms and there is considerable evidence from individual teacher planning that the whole school planning process is influencing the work in individual classrooms. General school policies are communicated to the parent body through the school newsletter and all policies are available in the school on request. It is recommended that consideration be given to making school policies available on the school web site. The school is to be highly commended for the effective use that is made of the support services in facilitating an action planning approach to addressing identified priorities.
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 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 provide long and short-term planning which is closely linked to the curriculum and the whole-school plan. The staff has adopted a school-wide template to facilitate classroom planning. In general, learning objectives are clearly stated and due attention is given to the methodologies to be employed when teaching and to the range of resources required to enhance the children’s learning. Attention is given in all classes to differentiation in accordance with the range of needs and abilities of the children. Detailed individual education plans (IEPs) and individual pupil learning profiles (IPLPS) have been formulated for children receiving special education support and these documents also form an integral part of classroom planning. Monthly progress reports are compiled by all teachers and are stored centrally in the school.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
A positive and empowering atmosphere prevails in all classrooms and excellent pupil-teacher relations exist throughout this school. The lessons observed during the evaluation were well-paced and involved a variety of teaching strategies and approaches. Effective classroom management ensures that pupils are challenged and motivated by activities which provide significant cognitive and linguistic challenges. A good balance is achieved between teacher-directed classroom interaction and the active involvement of pupils in the learning process. A broad and balanced curriculum is implemented and high levels of pupil engagement in the learning process were noted.
Cothaíonn na hoidí dearcadh dearfach i leith foghlaim na Gaeilge sa scoil seo. Tá múinteoireacht fhíorshoiléir, le spriocanna cinnte teagaisc agus foghlama, á cleachtadh go rialta agus tá caighdeán ard sroichte ag na daltaí san ábhar seo. Is inmholta mar a dhéantar iarracht an teagasc a chur in oiriúint do raon aoise, éirime agus suime na ndaltaí. Tréaslaítear go mór leis na hoidí as na modhanna múinte spreagúla atá in úsáid go forleathan tríd an scoil agus as úsáid na teanga mar ghnáth-theanga bheo go neamhfhoirmiúil tríd an lae. Déantar obair fhiúntach chun scileanna éisteachta na bpáistí a fhorbairt ar bhonn foirmiúil agus cruthaítear suímh agus comhthéacsanna ina léiríonn na páistí a dtuiscint. Dírítear aird inmholta ar ionchur cinnte, idir fhoclóir, fhrásaí agus struchtúir theanga chun líofacht na ndaltaí a fhorbairt go céimniúil. Baintear úsáid an-mhaith as acmhainní féin-deartha chun brí na bhfocal a mhíniú agus teanga na ndaltaí a shaibhriú. Ag éirí as an teagasc cinnte seo, tá stór leathan de nathanna cainte ar eolas ag na daltaí agus tá siad in ann ceisteanna bunaithe ar théamaí agus ar thopaicí éagsúla a chur agus a fhreagairt go muiníneach. Aithrisíonn na páistí roinnt mhaith dánta, rannta agus amhrán, rud a fhorbraíonn dea-fhoghraíocht, blas, luas agus rithim na teanga. Ó thaobh feasacht cultúir de, b'inmholta an bhéim atá curtha i ranganna áirithe ar chluichí, ar dhamhsaí agus ar cheol Gaelach a thugann comhthéacs níos leithne agus níos réalaíche do mhúineadh agus d'fhoghlaim na Gaeilge.
Cruthaítear timpeallacht a spreagann suim sa léitheoireacht trí ábhar priontáilte agus réimse cuí ábhair léitheoireachta a chur ar fáil. Léann na daltaí na téacsanna ranga go cruinn agus tugtar faoi deara go bhfuil tuiscint ar a bhfuil á léamh acu. B’fhearrde fós an toradh ach an raon ábhar léitheoireachta a leathnú tríd an scoil. Sonraítear go bhfuil caighdeán breá á bhaint amach ag na daltaí sa scríbhneoireacht agus tá samplaí de obair chruthaitheach ar taispeáint i gcuid de na ranganna. Chun a thuilleadh forbartha fós a dhéanamh ar an ngné seo den obair, b’fhiú aird a dhíriú ar chineálacha difriúla scríbhneoireachta a sholáthar do na daltaí i ngach rang.
The teachers in this school succeed in cultivating a very positive attitude toward the learning of Irish. Very clear teaching with definite learning objectives is practiced regularly and the children have reached high standards in this subject area. The manner in which the teaching is designed to suit the age, ability and interest levels of the children is highly praised. The teachers are also commended for the stimulating teaching methodologies that are used throughout the school and also on their use of Irish in their informal interactions throughout the school day. The children’s listening skills are developed through formal lessons and they are provided with a range of situations and contexts within which to illustrate their understanding. Praiseworthy attention is given to making specific inputs in the areas of vocabulary, phraseology and other language structures to develop pupils’ fluency in the language. Very effective use is made of teacher-designed resources to explain the meanings of words and to enrich the children’s vocabulary. Arising out of this effective practice the children have a broad store of phrases and they ask and answer questions based on a wide range of themes confidently. The children recite a range of songs, rhymes and poems confidently and this enhances their pronunciation and fluency when using the language. From a cultural perspective the focus that is placed on Irish games, dances and music in particular classes is highly praised as this gives a broader and more realistic context to the teaching and learning of Irish.
An environment conducive to reading is cultivated in the school through displays of print-rich materials and the use of a range of reading resources. The children read the classroom texts accurately and with understanding. To further enhance work in this area, it is advised, that consideration be given to broadening the scope and range of reading materials available throughout the school. It is noted that the children have reached a good standard in the area of Irish writing and samples of the children’s creative written work is on display in some classrooms. To further develop this approach, it is advised that greater attention be devoted to broadening the range of writing genres in some classrooms thus providing opportunities for the children to write for a range of different purposes and audiences.
The centrality of oral language in the English programme is evident in all classes throughout the school. Due consideration has been given at whole-school level to the various contexts within which the children’s oral competencies can be developed and the teachers facilitate the enrichment of vocabulary across all curriculum areas. In the infant classes, appropriate language topics are chosen to stimulate oral expression and children display a good level of confidence, competence and creativity in the use of language. These skills are further extended in the junior and middle classes in an English programme where oral language, reading and writing are creatively linked and integrated. In the senior classes, attention to the children’s emotional and imaginative development through language is a praiseworthy feature of provision. To further enhance the effective work that is taking place in this area of the curriculum, it is advised that consideration be given at a whole-school level to the identification of clearly stated attainment objectives for each class level that are measurable and assessable on an ongoing basis.
The approach taken to reading throughout the school is progressive. Emergent reading skills are comprehensively attended to and include the effective use of a variety of big books and posters to promote reading readiness. Two different approaches to the development of phonological awareness are used at infant level to encourage the children to develop skills of letter and sound recognition. Having explored the merits of the various approaches, the staff is currently planning to ensure that an agreed school approach to the development of this core area of learning is formulated. The very effective collaboration between the special education team and classroom teachers in attending to this work is highly commended. Story and big books are well used to develop the children’s reading skills throughout the school. In spite of ergonomic limitations, inviting and imaginative reading corners have been established in a number of classrooms. The children have access to graded reading schemes and very well-stocked libraries ensure that there is a plentiful supply of reading materials available for the children. A wide variety of novels is used very effectively in almost all classes. Teachers successfully elicit higher-order responses from the pupils and are also adept at facilitating the pupils to analyse and critique materials that have been read. Very innovative approaches to the management of reading classes were noted in some settings and it is advised that further consideration be given to extending the strategies used in the management of reading classes in the school. All teachers are careful to ensure that reading progress is regularly monitored and good levels of achievement are recorded in this area of learning. Teachers are conscious of the need to actively engage the home in developing and supporting the children’s development in reading and training for the implementation of shared reading programmes is provided annually.
The writing lessons observed during the evaluation indicate that a fundamental link is being maintained between oral language, reading and writing activities. The children’s written work reaches a high standard in relation to handwriting, layout and presentation. Throughout the school, copies are very well monitored and in a number of classes written work is creatively displayed. Print-rich visual aids are attractively displayed in a number of classrooms to encourage and assist with independent reading and writing. The use of ICT to facilitate a process approach to writing and the practice of displaying compilations of the children’s writing in book format is highly commendable. The earlier introduction of personal writing, making use of approximate spellings as provided for in the school plan, is advised. It is also advised than an ongoing focus be maintained on providing opportunities for the children to write in a variety of genres and for a range of audiences in all classes.
The mathematics programme across the school is effectively supported by the use of a plentiful supply of suitable concrete materials. Strategies and methodologies, incorporating hands-on and discovery methods, are effectively employed and the children’s knowledge across each of the curricular strands indicates that a broad and balanced programme is being implemented. In the infant and junior classes number songs and rhymes are used very effectively to consolidate the children’s learning. Collaborative and co-operative learning activities are used throughout the school and in general the children use appropriate mathematical language when contributing to whole-class problem solving. Activities are suitably linked to the pupils’ immediate environment and context and are creatively integrated with other curriculum subjects. Written assignments are monitored and corrected. Standardised tests and assessments, linked to the commercial schemes in use, are administered regularly. Ongoing analysis of these assessment results is advised to facilitate meeting differentiated needs and abilities in the area of number competencies. Evidence from staff planning reveals that in-class learning support is currently being provided in this area and ongoing development of this support is advised. In addition to this, further extending the role of ICT in supporting this area of learning is advised.
The children are introduced to a varied programme of learning in the provision for History. The very effective focus on the children’s personal histories, in the junior classes, enables them to establish a sense of their personal positions in time and develop a sense of the past. Opportunities for the children to interview extended family members as a means of exploring personal and family histories are also provided. In some classes work is closely linked to the textbooks that are in use. However, the children are also provided with opportunities to develop their skills as historians through the collection and examination of a variety of well-chosen artefacts from various decades and through interpretation of their significance in the context of the period from which they came. Timelines are used effectively in a number of classes to develop the children’s chronological understanding. ICT is used in some settings to record aspects of project work and significant features of field trips. It is also used to some effect in sourcing material designed to enhance the children’s engagement with concepts. A very effective start has been made in this school to the implementation of the history curriculum and further development of the whole-school plan is advised to facilitate the ongoing development of provision in this area.
An outline whole-school plan has been developed for the implementation of the Geography curriculum. Engagement with the children, combined with an analysis of teacher classroom planning, reveals that all strands of the curriculum are addressed. The local human environment is comprehensively studied in the junior and middle classes. The children display an in-depth knowledge of their home, school and other significant places in the environment and of the people who live and work there. The concept of co-operation and interdependence is particularly well developed. Samples of the development of the pupils’ graphical skills in some classrooms are highly commended and due attention is given to integrating aspects of provision in the area of environmental awareness and care with the science programme. Further development of the whole-school plan for Geography should lead to the sequential development of geographical investigation skills through incremental engagement with the content objectives under each strand of the curriculum.
There is evidence that effective methodologies are employed in the implementation of the Science curriculum in the school. A broad range of science equipment has been procured to enhance the children’s learning in this area and the teachers are commended for their resourcefulness and innovation in sourcing equipment to further the children’s understanding of concepts. Lessons begin with the children’s existing knowledge and the children are provided with opportunities to develop their scientific skills as they investigate topics. Whole-class discussions are well managed by the teachers and these are followed by appropriate collaborative group work involving the children as active participants in the process of investigating and interpreting results. The children are accustomed to working in groups and the rotation of specific tasks between group members facilitates effective interaction between the children and materials. Commendable science displays and investigation areas are evident in most classrooms and these are complemented by the growing of plants, the making of wormeries and samples of the children’s work. A school garden has been developed on the complex and this serves as a splendid resource for enhancing the children’s knowledge of a broad variety of shrubs, vegetables, plants, habitats and the impact of differing environmental conditions on vegetation.
The school is involved in the Green School initiative. The Green School committee comprises of representatives from the staff, students and parents and co-ordinates consultation with the school community regarding the development of their environmental action plan. The children in all classes throughout the school display an acute awareness of the importance of respect and care for their environment and the school is to be congratulated for its achievements in being awarded two green flags to date.
The school provides opportunities for the children to develop their creative skills across all strands of the Visual Arts curriculum. The children engage in drawing, paint and colour and printing activities while examples of clay, two-dimensional construction and simple fabric and fibre activity are also in evidence. Samples of the children’s creations are attractively displayed around the school. Work on the visual elements, attuning children to a greater understanding of line, shape and form in particular, is a feature of work in some settings and the children display an ability to confidently transfer this learning to their personal creations. They are given opportunities to examine and respond to the works of a number of renowned and established artists and they articulate a range of different perspectives when comparing and contrasting these works. It is advised that the school maintain a focus on the full implementation of the whole-school plan in this curricular area, maintaining a focus on greater individuality and creativity in the artistic process in some settings. Consideration should also be given to the introduction of art portfolios in each classroom as a means of assessing individual pupils’ progress across the range of strands.
A good range of equipment has been procured to support the music programme which includes activities across all strands of the curriculum. The children perform an extensive variety of songs in both languages which are appropriate to their age and interest levels. The performances in each class reveal good control of pitch, dynamics and rhythm. The children engage competently with a variety of tuned and untuned percussion instruments. They are given beneficial opportunities to listen, respond to and compare different types of Music. Children in some classes are introduced to playing instruments and it is advised that consideration be given to the introduction of instrumental music at a whole-school level. The children’s musical experience is complemented and enhanced by participation in the school choir. All children in fifth and sixth classes are involved in the choir and they have a broad repertoire which varies with regard to style, tempo, language, complexity and technical demands. They perform for a wide range of school events and join with the boys’ school in the parish for certain liturgical events. The teachers are to be highly commended for their work in this area and the performance, as observed during the evaluation, was excellent.
The school has the services of a visiting drama teacher and all children attend classes for one hour each week. Provision is made at a whole-school level to ensure close liaison between the classroom teachers and the drama teacher. During the evaluation, all provision observed indicates that teachers have succeeded in creating a safe environment within which the children confidently and spontaneously engage in dramatic activity. They enthusiastically assume roles which involve entering emotionally and aesthetically into a fictional world and exploring a variety of patterns of human behaviour when shaping the events of that world. The children display good skills of empathy and understanding as they progress from role-playing to characterisation. Good examples of opportunities for the children to reflect on the dramatic activity were also noted. Drama is used in the school as a methodology to enhance the children’s engagement with and understanding of aspects of the history programme and to provide a realistic context for the use of the Irish language. The school also stages an annual concert which provides opportunities for the children to engage in many aspects of the performance elements of Drama. It is advised that close collaboration continue with the visiting teacher to ensure that all teachers are involved in the implementation of the drama curriculum and opportunities for integration with other aspects of the children’s learning are maximised.
The children are introduced to activities across all strands of the Physical Education curriculum. The school has an indoor hall, outdoor tarmacadam courts and access to the nearby parish field. These facilities are complemented by the procurement of a broad range of appropriate sports’ equipment. All lessons observed during the evaluation were very well structured and included an appropriate focus on specific skills’ development and the provision of opportunities for the children to practise these skills in a variety of contexts. A number of specialist tutors attend the school for defined periods during the school year to enhance provision most notably in the areas of rugby, Gaelic games, basketball, cycling and dance. The children are also provided with opportunities to participate in an aquatics training for defined periods during their time in school.
The prevailing climate and atmosphere in this school, combined with the quality of relationships that exist between the teachers and pupils, and amongst the pupils themselves, indicate that the school is very successful in the implementation of the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme. Very well developed listener-speaker relationships are cultivated in each classroom and evidence of the collaborative drafting of classroom rules is noted. The children display an ability and a readiness to accept divergent viewpoints and all, including the children with special education needs, contribute to class discussions confidently and enthusiastically. The “Myself” and “Myself and Others” strands of the curriculum are particularly well covered in the school and the teachers make very good use of talk and discussion, circle time and a variety of other active learning methodologies in the implementation of the programme. Relationships and sexuality education is implemented incrementally throughout the school and the services of external speakers are retained to deliver aspects of the programme. In order to further develop the provision in this subject area it is recommended that an ongoing focus be maintained on the implementation of the “Myself and the Wider Worl” strand.
Pupils’ progress in curricular areas is monitored and recorded on a regular basis. Teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests, homework assignments, project work and mastery records are maintained in a number of classes. Standardised tests in literacy are administered in first, third, fourth and fifth classes and standardised tests in numeracy are implemented in second, third, fifth and sixth classes. Results from these assessments are used to analyse pupils’ progress and to assist in the identification of children requiring supplementary support and teaching. An extensive battery of diagnostic tests is administered by the special education team to children who have been identified for learning support or resource provision and the results of these inform the development of individual education plans (IEPs) and individual pupil learning profiles (IPLPs). Children in junior infants are assessed using the Belfield Infant Assessment Programme and the LARR test of emergent literacy. Arising out of the children’s performance in the Middle Infant Screening Test, the Forward Together programme is implemented in conjunction with parents of children in senior infants. The extent to which teachers have detailed insights into the abilities and learning styles and needs of the children in their care is praiseworthy. In addition to the excellent work that is currently undertaken in screening and diagnostic assessment, it is advised that the school consider the development of a whole-school policy to complement the work that has been completed at individual subject level. This policy may include approaches to assessment at each level in the school and also the provision of opportunities for children to engage in self and peer assessment across a greater range of subjects.
A formal parent/teacher meeting takes place annually and written reports are also sent to parents to keep them informed on all aspects of their children’s progress.
A comprehensive special educational needs (SEN) policy has been developed which clearly outlines the responsibilities of all the education partners in attending to the needs of the children requiring special education support in the school. Children are identified for referral to this support as a result of their scores on standardised tests or by virtue of specific recommendations contained in psychological reports. A broad range of diagnostic tests is employed and the results of these procedures inform the development of specific programmes to target the children’s needs. The teachers in this setting prepare extensively for their work and they provide for each child very impressive IEPs and IPLPs. All plans contain clear and specific learning objectives for each child and indicate defined time-frames for the attainment of these objectives. The respective roles of the class-teachers and the support teachers and the parents in assisting the children to achieve these objectives are clearly defined. The special needs assistant support service is proving very effective. The special education support team convene formal team meetings on a monthly basis where expertise resources and approaches are discussed. The principal facilitates formal meetings between class teachers and support personnel and, in general, a high level of collaboration characterises the provision. During the evaluation examples of highly structured and systematic approaches to meeting the needs of children were noted and all support is provided in an affirming and positive atmosphere. In addition to withdrawal for supplementary teaching, some support personnel also engage in team-teaching activities and this is highly commended.
A number of children from minority ethnic groups attend the school. Observation in classrooms during the evaluation reveals that all children are very well integrated into the social and academic life of the school and avail of support from within existing resources as required. In order to further develop the school’s approach to interculturalism, it is advised that consideration be given to the ways in which intercultural education could be taken into account in school planning, policy development and in shaping the school environment. In addition to this consideration should be given to ensuring that the social and visual environment of the classrooms maximises the intercultural experience of all children in school. Further possibilities could be explored for the integration of intercultural themes such as identity and belonging, similarity and difference, human rights and responsibilities, discrimination and equality and peace and conflict into lesson planning and delivery.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management would like to thank the Inspectorate for the professional and courteous manner in which they conducted the evaluation. The whole school community found the WSE to be a thorough, fair and positive experience.