An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Kilbonane National School
Knocknahilan, Aherla, County Cork
Uimhir rolla: 17338I
Date of inspection: 15 March 2007
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
A whole-school evaluation of Kilbonane National School was undertaken in March 2007. The evaluation covered key aspects of the work of the school in the areas of management, teaching and learning and supports for pupils. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Geography. The representatives of the parents’ association met with the inspector. The inspector interacted with the pupils, examined pupils’ work, reviewed school planning documentation, observed teaching and learning and provided feedback to individual teachers. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Kilbonane NS is a co-educational school situated 20km west of Cork city. The school was established in its present location in 1941. Kilbonane school is one of four schools in the parish of Kilmurry and it serves a well-established rural community. Enrolment figures have increased over the last year reflecting changes in demographic trends in the area. At present this two teacher school has an enrolment of 34 pupils. Growth is expected to continue with further housing developments planned for the area.
The school is under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Cork. The school community strives to provide a caring and secure environment for the pupils where their learning needs are identified and addressed in a supportive manner. Pupils’ attendance is high and carefully monitored. The last school report was furnished in 1998 and since then a new principal has been appointed.
The board of management is properly constituted. Meetings are convened regularly, minutes are maintained and written financial statements are presented. The board is committed to developing a climate of continuous improvement within the school. Present priorities include the refurbishment and extension of the building. The school has recently been in receipt of a grant under the Small School Grant Scheme and has initial plans to build additional rooms and refurbish the existing building to include a staff room and principals’ office. The board also intends to incorporate plans to address the parking difficulties that currently exist at the school. It is timely for the board of management to consider the acquisition of new furniture to facilitate the delivery of the curriculum.
The board is aware of its statutory obligations to ensure that policies and plans are in place. To date the board has not been involved in the drafting of whole-school policies but devolves this responsibility to the teaching staff. Prior to the evaluation a number of policies have been ratified. It is recommended that the board engage in a rigorous review of exiting policies with the intent of detailing and updating content and procedures. Positive relations are in evidence between the board, teaching staff and parents. The chairperson visits the school frequently and there is ongoing communication with the parents through their representatives on the board. The duties of the post-holder are not reviewed. To further enhance the contribution of the post-holder to the organisation and management of the school review procedures should be established.
Currently the principal acts as secretary to the board of management, recording the minutes of meetings and setting agendas. It is considered that such duties could be delegated to other members of the board to help alleviate some of the administrative work of the teaching principal. It would also be advantageous if board members could take on specific tasks related to board responsibilities and also avail of formal training to support them in their role as managers of the school.
The in-school management team consists of the principal and a special duties teacher. The principal is to be commended for her innovative leadership style. She discharges her duties in a professional enthusiastic manner, communicating regularly with the board of management, staff, pupils and parents. She plays a pivotal role in the development of the school particularly in relation to the refurbishment of the building. The principal promotes a culture of cooperation and collaboration and reinforces strong links with the local community by fostering a spirit of inclusiveness in all aspects of school life. School leadership has also successfully progressed a number of curricular plans and organisational policies through a collaborative process.
The special duties teacher supports the principal in matters related to the daily life of the school, curriculum development and administration. Duties have been determined through discussion and include a number of organisational and pastoral responsibilities. It is recommended that specific curricular areas be incorporated into the assigned duties as this would serve to augment curricular development. Regular review of the duties associated with the post of responsibility would also facilitate a matching of duties to a constantly changing school environment.
The school endeavours to promote good communication and build trust and respect between parents and teachers. Home school links are promoted through parent/teacher meetings, school concerts, religious ceremonies and sporting activities. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually to provide an opportunity for parents to discuss their children’s progress and written reports are issued at the end of the school year. New parents are provided with a very informative document prior to their children commencing school. While an enrolment day is held annually it is suggested that a more formal induction meeting be organised.
The parents’ association supports the school by fundraising for additional resources, by helping with general maintenance and by assisting the teachers in the training of teams for sporting events, particularly in camogie and hurling. Officers of the parents’ association commented on the openness and welcome afforded to all parents by the staff. They reported that parents are pleased with the overall educational provision offered and commented on the manner in which staff support and encourage their children. Communication with the board of management is effected through the attendance of the parents’ representatives at the parents’ association meetings and through informal meetings with the principal. Officers of the association identified the need for the development of clear ongoing communication strategies with the general parent body. They also noted that, with the expected growth and development of the school, a more formal approach to meetings and to the work of the association would be beneficial.
Parents have recently been provided with opportunities to contribute towards the formulation of school policy and are currently involved in developing particular aspects of the Social, Personal and Health Education policy. Parents also attend Green School committee meetings. To date parents have had little involvement in policy development. In order to further facilitate the consultation process and to foster an appropriate level of parental involvement, consideration should now be given to promoting greater understanding of the role of parents in policy development. Strategies to encourage further parental participation in policy formulation is recommended.
The positive approach in the school to behaviour management is commendable. The constructive attitude and behaviour of pupils is indeed praiseworthy as is their loyalty to both the school and the local community. Pupils are eager to engage in discussion and participate fully in all school activities. Pupils in the senior classes are assigned duties which are undertaken with enthusiasm. Pupils are encouraged to be confident, competent and caring individuals. Teachers demonstrate a genuine concern for the progress of each pupil. This positive disposition is reciprocated in the respect and co-operation which pupils offer to teachers and to visitors to the school. A school code of behaviour has been devised. This policy, along with the homework policy, requires review to ensure that Department of Education and Science(DES) guidelines are been implemented.
The school has a clear mission statement, which encapsulates the aims of the school. Some statutory policies and some organisational plans have been devised. The range of organisational policies include enrolment policy, homework policy, code of discipline, anti-bullying policy and administration of medication policy. It will be necessary to amend the current enrolment policy to ensure that it complies with current legislation. Most policies merit review to ensure that they provide guidance to staff for their implementation. Recently policies have been presented at board of management meetings. These policies should be formally ratified, signed and dated. A comprehensive pack for substitute teachers has also been compiled which provides detailed information on all aspects of school life.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
Considerable progress has been made in developing curricular plans and sincere efforts have been made to keep pace with the curriculum implementation programme. Some curricular plans are well-documented while others lack the same level of detail. It will be necessary to review all curricular plans in order to clarify content, to maintain breadth and balance across the strands of each curricular area and to ensure appropriate continuity and progression from class to class.
Teachers undertake long-term and short-term planning and monthly progress records are maintained. The quality of classroom planning varies. Some programmes of work are comprehensive in nature and are linked to the structure and content of the curriculum. However, some plans lack adequate detail. It is suggested that a whole school approach to short-term planning be adopted.
Baineann taitneamh leis na gníomhaíochtaí sa réimse seo den churaclam agus ar an iomlán tá feidhm thairbheach á baint as an gcur chuige cumarsáideach sa Ghaeilge chun an teanga a chur chun cinn. Bíonn meascán breá de rangtheagasc, de ghrúptheagasc agus d’obair i mbeirteanna ar siúl. Baintear feidhm thairbheach as cairteacha, geáitsíocht, drámaí beaga agus scéalta chun tuiscint teanga agus cumas labhartha na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Ar an iomlán baineann struchtúr cinnte le cur i láthair an teagaisc agus gabhann luas breá leis na ceachtanna. Déantar iarracht chreidiúnach an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn sa scoil le húsáid na teanga chomh minic agus is féidir i ngnáth chúrsaí an lae. Cuireann an dea-chleachtas seo le forbairt tuisceana na ndaltaí agus is fú é a leathnú níos mó fós tríd an scoil. Cuirtear béim ar éisteacht ghníomhach agus léiríonn formhór na ndaltaí an-chumas tuisceana. Múintear cnuasach oiriúnach rann agus amhrán ach b’fhiú béim níos mó a leagan ar an ngné seo den ábhar chun a chinntiú go bhfuil sé ar chumas gach dalta dánta a rá go muiníneach.
Tá cumas maith labhartha ag formhór na ndaltaí . Baintear úsáid bhreá as cluichí teanga agus as obair i bpéirí chun cleachtadh a thabhairt do dhaltaí na heiseamláirí teanga atá foghlamtha acu a úsáid i suímh nádúrtha. Tá foclóir leathan múinte do na daltaí ach ní mór deiseanna leanúnach a sholáthar dóibh chun an foclóir sin a úsáid i gcomhthéacs cumarsáideach. Sna ranganna sinsearacha baintear feidhm fhónta as drámaíocht faoi threoir mar ionchur teanga ach b’fhearrde toradh na hoibre fós muna mbeadh na daltaí ag brath ar an téacs. Moltar anois béim a chur ar chumas labhartha leanúnach na ndaltaí a fhorbairt.
Ullmhaítear na daltaí don litearthacht luath go fónta trí bhéim a chur ar an bhfocal aithint. Múintear na scileanna léitheoireachta go céimiúil agus léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint mhaith ar an ábhar. Cruthaítear timpeallacht shaibhir litearthachta sa rangsheomra. Léann formhór na ndaltaí le cruinneas oiriúnach agus ar an iomlán baintear caighdeán cruinn léitheoireachta amach. Is tairbheach an réimse d’fhíorleabhair tharraingteacha atá curtha ar fáil ach ní mór éagsúlacht téacsanna a chur ós comhair na ndaltaí sna hardranganna chun dúshlán níos mó a chothú dóibh sa ghné seo den chlár.
Déanann na daltaí cleachtaí éagsúla scríbhneoireachta bunaithe ar leabhair saothar agus ar sleachta éagsúla faoi threoir an mhúinteora. Ní mór próiseas na scríbhneoireachta a chleachtadh sa gcaoi is go dtiocfaidh forás ar scileanna na ndaltaí le go mbeidh sé ar a gcumas téacsanna éagsúla a scríobh. Mar gur eispéireas cumarsáideach í an scríbhneoireacht b’fhiú deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí í bheith ag obair i mbeirteanna agus i ngrúpaí.
Pupils enjoy the activities presented in this area of the curriculum and the communicative approach is productively employed to promote the language. A suitable balance between group work, pair work and whole class teaching is achieved. Effective use is made of a range of resources, drama and storytelling to develop pupils’ understanding and ability to communicate in the language. In general, lessons are well structured and suitably paced. Every effort is made to promote the use of the Irish language in the day to day activities of the school. This good practice assists in the development of pupils’ understanding of the language and should be used more extensively throughout the school. Suitable emphasis is placed on active listening and most pupils display very good ability to understand the language. A range of appropriate rhymes and songs is taught. However, greater emphasis on this aspect of the work would ensure that pupils can recite poetry in a confident competent manner.
Most pupils have a good level of competency in the language. Language games and pair work are used effectively to enable pupils to communicate in the language they have learned. Communicative scenes are organised to encourage pupils to use and develop their language. Pupils are taught a wide vocabulary. However, they must be afforded the opportunity to use this vocabulary in a communicative context. In senior classes drama is used to good effect to develop their communicative skills. This strategy would have greater effect if pupils did not have to rely so much on script. It is recommended that greater emphasis should be placed on the development of pupils ability to communicate fluently.
Early literacy skills are developed through word recognition strategies. Pupils’ skills are developed systematically and they display good understanding of the content of the reading material. A print-rich environment is created to assist pupils in their reading. Most pupils read with accuracy and in general a high standard is attained. A suitable range of attractive readers is provided. It is suggested that further reading material be made available to senior classes in order to expose them to a richness and variety of texts and to challenge them even further.
Pupils’ written work is based on workbook exercises and on some lessons developing independent writing skills. Process writing should be developed systematically to enhance pupils’ abilities to write in different genres. Group work and pair work would promote the development of this communicative skill.
In the delivery of the English programme, a good range of teaching methodologies was noted including whole class teaching and group work. Lessons, in general, are well structured and developed and include appropriate learning strategies. Some of the work observed was carefully integrated with experiences in other areas of the curriculum.
Due attention is paid to the development of pupils’ oral language abilities. Language skills are taught through integration across the curriculum and through the reading and writing processes. A commercial oral language programme is used in the higher classes to promote pupils’ oral language competence. To further enhance this work, a whole-school approach should be adopted and greater emphasis should be placed on the discrete oral language lesson. Teachers engage pupils in discussion on topics drawn from the different curricular areas and pupils, in general, respond enthusiastically. This is particularly evident in the senior classes where pupils are growing in competence to present and support arguments and speak articulately. The inclusion and development of specific themes in planning documents would further strengthen oral language development for all pupils and would provide for consistency and progression throughout the school.
Emergent reading skills are developed gainfully in the junior classes. At infant level pupils acquire a useful sight vocabulary. Commercial resources are used purposefully to develop phonological and phonemic awareness. Activities for reading readiness provide a foundation for the teaching of reading through the use of large format books, experience charts and a good selection of age-appropriate reading books. A more extensive use and development of these strategies would possibly eliminate the need to introduce a structured reading programme that is currently in place in junior infants. In the senior classes the novel is used to supplement the structured reading programme. Most pupils read with age-appropriate fluency. However, a small number of pupils are hesitant readers and it is recommended that differentiated learning plans for literacy be devised and implemented for varying ability groups. Library facilities are constantly updated to encourage reading and suitable emphasis is placed on reading for pleasure. Shared reading initiatives involving parents are also undertaken in the junior classes. A commendable emphasis is placed on learning poetry and pupils recite a range of suitable poems with enthusiasm.
Children engage in a range of writing activities, both functional and creative. Daily news, book reviews, poetry and stories are in evidence as well as workbook exercises. It is recommended that pupils be given further opportunities to write creatively on a regular basis and in a wide variety of genres in all classes. This work could be celebrated through oral readings, presentations or through displays. Letter formation and handwriting skills are keenly developed in junior classes. In general good handwriting is a positive feature of all classrooms and the presentation of pupils’ written work is creditable. A clearly documented handwriting policy would enhance the work in this area and develop further consistency in practice. Pupils are afforded opportunities to use Information Communication Technology (ICT) for selected samples of their work.
The overall quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good and pupils are enthusiastic about their work. A structured sequential programme is taught in all classes. Lesson content is presented clearly and emphasis is placed on teaching appropriate mathematical language. Concrete materials and activity learning methods are used purposefully to support pupils’ understanding of concepts. At all levels, pupils present age-appropriate ability to perform computation. To further develop pupils’ mental processing skills it is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on oral Mathematics across all strand and strand units on a regular basis and pupils should be encouraged to make links between concepts already learned. Pupils’ written work is well presented and is monitored regularly. However, most of the written work in the junior classes is based in the maths workbook giving little opportunity for pupils to develop specific skills required to complete written mathematical tasks. It is recommended that pupils be given opportunities to engage in more written exercises in their copybooks. The use of ICT in the teaching of Mathematics is commendable.
In Geography, pupils are developing knowledge and understanding of natural and human environments in the locality, in Ireland and abroad. Pupils display a good level of knowledge of the material covered. A range of resources is utilised to stimulate discussion and to extend pupils experience of Geography. Lessons are well integrated with other subject areas and pupils in the senior classes display a keen interest in their locality and in its preservation as a rural area. Pupils are capable of articulating their views about the future of their locality in a very accomplished manner. In the senior classes pupils’ appreciation of the local environment is developed effectively through project work. However, further exploitation of the immediate environment in the junior classes is recommended to provide a rich source of varied opportunities to develop pupils’ graphical, recording and observational skills. Cross curricular themes are well chosen which provide for a good balance between the acquisition of facts and the development of investigative and analytical skills. A plan for Geography has recently been drafted. Progression and continuity of content from class to class should be clearly delineated in this plan. To ensure that all aspects of the Geography programme are taught, a framework should be devised to support teachers in the delivery of the programme in a multi-class setting. An examination of the monthly report templates indicate that some aspect of the Geography curriculum may not be given an appropriate time allocation and consequently work completed in some strands is limited. It will be necessary to ensure that this subject is timetabled appropriately to meet curriculum guidelines. Most impressive is the use of multi-media and ICT in the delivery of the geography lesson which encourages pupils’ active participation. Group work is used effectively to provide opportunities for pupils to share their insights into what they have learned. Work in this area is recorded and well presented in pupils’ copybooks.
A range of assessment modes is in use in the school which include teacher observation, monitoring of pupils’ written work, teacher-devised tests and homework assignments. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is used to identify pupils in the infant class who are presenting with learning difficulties. Standardized tests are administered annually to assess pupils’ attainment in English and in Mathematics. The results of these tests are used to identify pupils who require supplementary support. However, it is recommended that individual pupils or a cohort of pupils who attain the lowest scores in such tests are given preference for additional support.
The school might usefully direct attention to establishing purposeful recording procedures. This should include the plotting of trends and the creation of a whole-school perspective on pupil achievement in literacy and numeracy. Through the analysis of the assessment data, the school should identify clearly how pupils are progressing from year to year. This information should then be employed at whole-school level to ensure that teaching programmes are designed to meet the needs of pupils. It is recommended that test results should be maintained carefully and that the school should formalise procedures to track pupil progress.
Learning support is delivered by a part-time teacher who attends daily. The school has devised a policy on provision for pupils identified with special educational needs. Support is provided in the area of literacy only and currently operates on a withdrawal basis whereby pupils are taken, either individually or in small groups, for focused tuition. The work of the learning support teacher is well planned and lessons are delivered in a very caring manner, providing pupils with encouragement and a sense of achievement. Detailed individual profiles and learning programmes have been devised for each pupils in receipt of supplementary support. However, such programmes should also include specific time-bound learning targets. It is recommended that pupils’ learning targets and progress are reviewed and documented at suitable intervals in collaboration with class teachers and parents. Limited resources are available in the learning support room. It is considered that the provision of adequate resources would significantly enhance the teaching and learning for pupils with special educational needs. It is also necessary to implement an early intervention programme with particular emphasis on the development of phonological awareness. Opportunities for working in-class alongside mainstream teachers should be explored.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
The close collaboration of all school partners contributes significantly to a familial, caring educational environment for all pupils.
The school grounds are well maintained and pupils are provided with ample space to play and engage in sporting activities.
The behaviour of pupils, their happy responsive disposition and their obvious pride in their work is a noteworthy feature of the school.
Teachers succeed in providing good quality learning experiences for pupils and pupils are enthusiastically engaged in all classroom activities.
Parents and board of management actively support the work of the school and provide a wide range of resources and equipment.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
The development, ratification and review of policies by the board of management, in collaboration with the teaching staff and parents, would gainfully contribute to whole-school planning.
Curricular policies contained in the school plan warrant review and consolidation.
Greater emphasis on the development of pupils’ independent writing skills in both Irish and English would further enhance the work in this area of the curriculum.
It is necessary to ensure that all strands of the Geography programme are taught at all class levels and that teachers strictly adhere to the allocated time for the teaching and learning of this subject.
It is recommended that the school should formalise its mechanisms for recording progress at both the individual pupil level and at class and school levels so that the school may have a clearer account of progress in all subject areas.
The criteria for support education, as determined by the DES, should be adhered to in identifying pupils for learning support. The introduction of an early intervention programme would greatly enhance the overall provision of support education in the school.