An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

 Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

 

Saint Mary’s Parochial School

Western Road, Clonmel

 

Uimhir rolla:

17332T

 

Date of inspection: 15 October 2007

  Date of issue of report: 21 February 2008

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

1.     Quality of school management

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

1.2 Board of Management

1.3 In-school management

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

1.5 Management of pupils

2.     Quality of school planning

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

3.1 Language

3.2 Mathematics

3.3 Visual Arts

3.4 Assessment

4.     Quality of support for pupils

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

5.     Conclusion

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of St. Mary’s Parochial School was undertaken in October 2007. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Visual Arts. 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.

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

St. Mary’s Parochial School is a Church of Ireland co-educational primary school serving the catchment area of Clonmel and many outlying districts.

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

38

Mainstream classes in the school

7

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles/Shared/Not the base school

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

There is currently no junior infant class. However, it is expected that there will be a junior infant class next year. Future enrolment projections indicate that the present enrolment will be maintained.

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

The Bishop of Cashel and Ossory is the patron of the school. The school aims to serve its community by providing education of the highest quality within the context of Christian belief and practice. In its school ethos statement, the school is promoted as a community where moral values such as honesty, truthfulness, fairness, sensitivity to others, self-respect, self discipline and civic responsibility along with the need to recognise right and wrong behaviour are nurtured and protected. The pupils’ spiritual, moral and religious development is encouraged along with their intellectual, social and academic development.

 

1.2 Board of Management

 

The Board of Management provides effective leadership and guidance to the school. Meetings are held once or twice a term depending on the need and minutes of meetings are recorded. The chairperson meets with the principal on a weekly basis and also visits the classrooms. Members of the Board have attended training but emphasise that there is a need for additional training to be provided by the Department of Education and Science. The Board regards the strengths of the school as - a dedicated teaching staff, high quality teaching, the happy environment and the mix of cultures. Their priorities include maintaining the ethos of the school and managing its growth. The Board is concerned at the lack of parking near the school, access to the school and the absence of a traffic warden, considering its location on a busy road. There is no Parents Association but the Board reported that there is good listening to and sharing with parents.

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The principal is a very competent leader with a clear vision for the school.  She works very closely with the special duties teacher and there is a good system of sharing of responsibilities.

 

The special duties post is designed to take account of the two-teacher situation and therefore is very much a supportive role to the principal with partnership, co-operation, flexibility and shared planning central to its role.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

Despite the absence of a Parents Association it is reported that parents are very involved in their children’s learning. They are very supportive of the school and parents and teachers enjoy a good working relationship. Notes are written regularly in homework journals and there are parent teacher meetings every February. The principal emphasises that there is an open door policy and that if any issue or concern is brought to the teachers’ attention it is dealt with immediately through discussions and meetings. Parents were also involved in devising the Relationships and Sexuality Education(RSE) policy and are currently working with the school on the Green Flag project. They are also involved in sports activities, school trips and catering for school occasions.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

A caring, positive climate prevails in the school. During the inspection the pupils displayed courteous, friendly and respectful behaviour. Their behaviour and respect for each other enhances the quality of learning in each classroom.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole-school planning is good with a great volume of organisational policies and curricular plans prepared. Generally the plans are devised by the teachers and presented to the Board for ratification. Through their work on school development planning, the teachers have set clear priorities for future planning It is recommended that the ratification date for all plans is clearly stated and that review dates are included in all documents. The organisational documents are carefully considered and very relevant to the school context. It is important that the effectiveness of the curricular plans is reviewed and changes made as necessary so as to ensure the plans are guiding classroom activity. Plans in the curricular areas reflect the principles of the revised curriculum.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good with both teachers preparing long and short-term plans. The teachers have overcome the difficulty of planning for four classes each by careful consideration of discussion around the matter. Great attention has been paid to the content of the programmes ensuring that the needs of all the classes are being met. It is recommended that all long-term plans contain objectives for each class.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

 

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.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Déanann na hoidí an-iarracht dearcadh dearfach a chothú i leith na Gaeilge. Baintear úsáid fhónta as obair bheirte, cluichí, rainn, amhráin agus acmhainní oiriúnacha chun cumas cainte na bpáistí sa teanga labhartha a fhorbairt, ach b’fhiú níos mó deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí an Ghaeilge atá acu a úsáid i gcomhthéascanna difriúla. Tá tús maith curtha le múineadh na léitheoireachta sna bunranganna. Déantar freastal tairbheach ar an réamh-léitheoireacht agus ar an réamh-scríbhneoireacht. Leantar leis an dea-obair seo sna méanranganna agus sna hardranganna. Léann na daltaí le tuiscint agus go cumasach. Usáidtear úrscéalta agus foinsí eile mar ábhair leitheoireachta.  Tá éagsúlacht le sonrú sna cleachtaí scríbhneoireachta agus caighdeán sásúil bainte amach ag na daltaí. Baineann na daltaí mórthaitneamh as na rainn agus na hamhráin atá ar eolas acu.

 

Irish

 

The teachers endeavour to foster positive attitudes in relation to Irish. They make worthwhile use of paired work, games, poems, songs and suitable resources to develop the pupils’ oral language skills. However it is necessary that the pupils be given more opportunities to use their language skills in different situations. A good start has been made in the teaching of reading in the lower classes. Good attention is given to pre-reading and pre-writing activities. This good work is followed in the middle and senior classes. The pupils read with fluency and understanding. Novels and other reading materials are used during reading lessons. Pupils writing tasks are varied and standards are satisfactory. The pupils display obvious enjoyment of the poems and songs, which they have learnt.

 

English

 

The teaching of English in this school is of a very high standard. Careful planning ensures that all classes in this multi-class environment are receiving an interesting and challenging programme of work. Opportunities are provided for pupils to participate in independent learning, project work, library visits and co-operative work. Effective teaching methodologies, including brainstorming, poetry, story and structured play with concrete materials are productively employed.

 

Oral language activity permeates every aspect of the English curriculum and is used to maximise the development of the pupils’ comprehension, response and writing skills through integrated and thematic approaches. In the junior classroom challenging vocabulary is introduced in meaningful ways and integrated effectively with other curricular areas. Pupils enjoy reciting a variety of poems and rhymes. In the senior classroom, topics for discussion are carefully chosen and developed.

 

Reading is effectively taught with a systematic introduction to reading activities in the infant classes. Great attention is given to pre-reading activities with structured play, phonological awareness activities and shared reading. In first and second classes a broad range of supplementary books is available leading to the reading of class novels by the end of second class. Pupils in the middle and senior classes engage in Uninterrupted, Sustained, Silent Reading (USSR) on a daily basis. Pupils also read from class novels with good discussion and questioning preceding the work. Pupils read fluently with expression and understanding.

 

A praiseworthy emphasis is placed on the promotion and implementation of the writing process in all classes. Infants engage in pre-writing activities, which include a tactile and sensory approach. First and second classes engage in some creative writing on a daily basis. In the senior classes the pupils are exposed to a variety of genres and also write frequently in their diaries. A writer of the week is chosen, book reviews are prepared and sixth class produce a weekly newsletter. Pupils’ writing is displayed on the walls and there is an emphasis on a print-rich environment. The pupils are introduced to cursive writing from second class and in general their handwriting is good and well organised. Visits to the library for poetry recitals add an additional motivation for pupils.

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

This school successfully uses a range of suitable strategies to enable pupils acquire proficiency in fundamental mathematical skills. Due care is taken to develop all strands of the Mathematics curriculum and the pupils have acquired a commendable level of understanding across all of the strands. In both classrooms there is an emphasis on activity-based learning and a great variety of concrete materials is available to the pupils to support their learning. Lessons are suitably paced and structured with clear explanations and focus on mathematical language. Great attention is given to mental Mathematics and pupils calculate mentally with high levels of accuracy. Reasoning, estimating and problem solving are all part of lessons and the pupils show good understanding of number and number concepts. Each classroom has displays with mathematical posters and charts. Suitable activity sheets are prepared for the pupils and work is differentiated to accommodate all pupils. The difficulty of the multi-class situation is overcome with careful planning. Written work is neat and well monitored. Standardised tests are undertaken annually, results are tracked and discussed and extra support provided if necessary.

 

 

3.3 Visual Arts

 

Well-structured, imaginative and creative lessons ensure that the pupils enjoy high quality learning in the visual arts. All strands are attended to with looking and responding a key feature of many lessons. Lessons are also cleverly integrated with other curricular areas. Visits to the Arts Centre for exhibitions, for example, are also used as stimuli for creative writing. An archaeology theme in the junior classroom is used as a means of studying line and the creation of clay pots. Good quality discussion precedes the activities and pupils are actively involved in the creative process.  There are attractive displays of pupils’ work in the classrooms and corridors.

 

3.4 Assessment

 

A range of assessment tools including teacher observation, monitoring of written work, teacher designed tests and homework is used by the teachers to inform the teaching and learning in the school. Pupils’ work is regularly corrected and comments made by the teachers are positive and encouraging. Early identification screening tests are used to identify pupils in infants who are experiencing difficulties. Sigma-T and Micra-T are administered on an annual basis and results are tracked.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The school aims to optimise the teaching and learning process so as to enable pupils with learning difficulties to achieve adequate levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy. The learning support programme is integrated into the general organisation of the school with both teachers carefully differentiating their programmes to meet the needs of all their pupils. There is an emphasis on consultation with parents leading to close co-ordination and continuity in the learning programmes offered to pupils by the class and learning support teacher and to the development of strong links between the learning activities of pupils at school and at home. Guidance is given to parents on how they can support their children at home with careful selection of resources to support this. As part of the school policy for learning support there are clear procedures for the identification of children needing supplementary teaching. This begins with preliminary screening followed by diagnostic assessment, programme planning and implementation and programme review.

 

The learning support teacher generally withdraws the pupils and works with them on an individual basis. A broad range of resources is employed including materials to support sensory and auditory development as well as phonics and reading programmes and well chosen games.

Individual Pupil Profiles are devised for each pupil attending learning support with learning objectives and targets clearly outlined. These are reviewed on a monthly and termly basis. The learning support teacher also devises weekly plans for each pupil.

 

It is recommended, in view of the multi-class situation, that alternative means of support be considered. Theses could include, for example, early intervention programmes in infants or the provision of supplementary teaching in problem solving in mathematics in the senior section.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.