An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Chros tSeáin
Bun an tSabhairne, Contae Chorcaí
Roll number: 17363H
Date of inspection: 26 Bealtaine 2006
Date of issue of report: 15 December 2006
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Chros tSeáin. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for 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 an inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector also reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff members, 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Scoil Chros tSeáin is a six teacher boys’ school situated in Crosshaven. It was originally built as a two-teacher school in 1943 and was extended to provide two additional classrooms in the 1960s. It caters for pupils from Crosshaven and the surrounding areas and currently has an enrolment of 134 pupils. Pupil attendance is generally good. It is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Bishop of Cork and Ross. It is evident, as highlighted in the school vision statement, that pupils, teachers and parents work “in an atmosphere of mutual respect”.
As noted in the last report, which was conducted in 1999, pupil numbers in this area declined considerably during the last decade. However there is now significant housing development in the locality. Current trends indicate that enrolments will increase substantially over the next number of years. The need for additional facilities and accommodation to cater for the growing pupil population was highlighted and discussed during the pre-inspection meetings. The board of management is currently investigating the possibility of increasing the school site and has submitted an application to the Department of Education and Science (DES) for grant aid for structural improvements. In the interest of enhancing the educational environment for the pupils, staff and parents, the board has also indicated that it is in favour of exploring the option of amalgamating this school with the local girls’ school.
The board of management is properly constituted and meets at least once a term. Minutes are carefully documented and detailed financial reports are presented at each meeting. The board of management is very supportive of the school and much credit is due to the members for their dedicated work. In particular they are to be commended for the recent refurbishment of the toilet facilities and the significant maintenance work undertaken during the summer holidays. The provision of new windows is among the many current work targets of the board. It is evident that some whole-school policies in key areas such as health and safety have been carefully formulated and formally ratified by the board. However it is recommended that the role of the board in policy formulation should be further developed. The important role of the board in supporting the principal and staff in implementing good practice, through ongoing policy development in curriculum as well as organisational areas, was highlighted and discussed during the evaluation. Particular attention was focused on the issue of class size in the context of Department of Education and Science circulars as the current distribution of pupils in class groupings is uneven. The principal’s proposals in relation to addressing this issue for the next school year were favourably commented on during the post-evaluation meetings.
In addition to carrying out managerial and administrative tasks the principal teaches fifth and sixth classes. He approaches his work in an enthusiastic manner and is to be highly commended for creating a positive, happy school climate where communication between the various partners is open. He maintains regular contact with the teachers through informal meetings at break times and formally at staff meetings. He has frequent communication with the parents and encourages the development of mutually respectful relationships among pupils.
The principal is well-supported in his work by a committed staff, including an acting deputy principal and one special duties post holder. The deputy principal was on leave during the evaluation. Duties which embrace curricular, organisational and pastoral areas are assigned to each middle management post. The middle management team carry out these duties diligently, particularly in relation to tasks of an organisational and administrative nature. However it is recommended that the duties allocated should be more formally reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that they are in keeping with the developing needs of the school particularly in terms of curriculum implementation. In the interest of further development of the middle management structure it is also recommended that each post holder should provide an action plan to clarify priorities for development and facilitate review of progress made. Consideration should also be given to the establishment of agreed procedures to facilitate middle management team meetings to enable the post-holders work collaboratively with the principal with a view to providing support to promote more consistent implementation of curriculum policies. Such a structure will facilitate the further development of curriculum leadership among the staff.
In addition to the principal there are four other teachers engaged in mainstream class teaching. The school has a full-time special education support teacher (SEST) and a shared resource teacher who is based in another school. The principal and staff have considerable levels of experience and expertise and work diligently. In line with good practice the principal allocates classes in consultation with staff and there is evidence that some teachers have taught a range of class levels. However it is evident that some teachers have taught the same class levels for many years. In the interest of enabling all teachers gain a variety of teaching experience that supports their ongoing professional development, it is recommended that consideration should now be given to formulating a policy on staff rotation.
The school benefits from the services of a special needs assistant, secretary and cleaner on a part-time basis. An external teacher, funded by the parent association, is employed to teach speech and drama to all pupils for two and half hours each week. A G.A.A. coach has been assigned to the school to assist in the teaching of hurling and football skills. The importance of reviewing the role of external tutors in the context of the central role of the class teacher in curriculum implementation was highlighted during the evaluation.
Two class levels are taught in three classrooms and the infant classes are taught as single class groupings. However as noted above the current distribution of pupils in classes is uneven. The Fifth and Sixth class group with 38 pupils is more than twice that of the senior infant class with 18 pupils. During the evaluation attention was focused on the need to keep the differential between the largest and the smallest class groups to the minimum in the interest of ensuring an equitable distribution of teacher workload and teacher-pupil contact.
The decorative order of the school is generally good and much credit is due to the board and school community for their dedicated work in this regard. However space is restricted both within the building and in the play area. The mainstream classes are accommodated in three classrooms in the main building and in two classrooms in a pre-fabricated building. The fourth classroom in the main building serves as a staff room cum computer room and storage area for teaching aids. An office and a small room, shared by the learning-support teacher and the resource teacher, are also provided here. An old prefabricated classroom is in use for learning-support and for storage purposes. Proposals to improve the quality of the learning environment in this classroom are a welcome development and merit implementation. The accommodation needs of the school are the subject of a separate report to the DES Building and Planning Unit.
A good supply of teaching and learning resources to support the implementation of the various curriculum areas is available in the school. Much credit is due to the teachers for organising displays of children’s work and visual materials in classrooms and circulation areas as they greatly help to create an attractive learning environment in the school. A considerable investment has been made in science equipment and additional resources for Mathematics were recently acquired. Generous supplies of English language books in a variety of genres are attractively displayed in most classrooms. The skilful use of flip charts at a variety of class levels is to be commended. In some classrooms a praiseworthy emphasis is placed on the provision of teacher-generated, print-rich materials as well as commercially produced teaching aids.
During the evaluation effective use of a variety of materials was observed during hands-on, interactive teaching approaches. In these classrooms the children’s learning was greatly enhanced. It is recommended that such praiseworthy practices should now be further developed on a whole-school basis. In particular there is a need to extend the use of materials to facilitate more consistent implementation of a communicative approach to teaching Irish and more hands-on approaches in the teaching of Mathematics. To promote greater access to resources it is also recommended that the current system of centrally storing equipment should be reviewed. It is further recommended that there is a need to greatly extend the range of reading materials in the middle and senior classes for story telling and formal reading in both English and Irish.
An impressive amount of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment is provided and the Broadband network was recently installed. A creditable policy on the use of ICT has been formulated. This policy clearly outlines the importance of ICT as “a tool to enhance learning in as many areas of the curriculum as possible”. The time and effort invested by teachers in maintaining and organising both hardware and software is acknowledged and commended and it is evident that some use is made of ICT with the children. However in the interest of promoting more consistent pupil skill development from one class level to the next it is recommended that the policy on ICT should be reviewed. Such a review should aim to identify further strategies to ensure more consistent implementation on a whole-school basis. Consideration should also be given to the formulation of agreed learning targets for each class level.
Parental involvement in the school is encouraged by the principal, board and staff. The Parents’ Association is well established and provides ongoing support for the school. They meet regularly with the principal and staff members with a view to identifying areas for development. Fundraising is a major part of their remit and they have contributed significantly to the provision of additional teaching resources. The monies raised are also used to subsidise the cost of activities such as swimming, school matches and to provide speech and drama for all pupils. The association organises a range of other events such as an annual community based “Fun-Day.” Appropriate structures are in place to communicate with parents regarding their children’s learning. In particular it is to be commended that a paired reading programme has been established and that an annual information meeting is organised for the junior infant parents to familiarise them with the curriculum. The importance of further developing this good work with a view to creating a greater awareness among parents of key aspects of the curriculum was highlighted and discussed during the evaluation.
Positive discipline in line with the school Code of Good Behaviour and Discipline is conscientiously promoted in the school. During the evaluation much effective management of pupil behaviour and mutually respectful pupil-teacher and pupil-pupil relationships were observed. Pupils are encouraged to participate in classroom activities and are regularly affirmed. It is evident that the learning climate is greatly enhanced in those classrooms where structured hands-on, interactive teaching approaches are used. However an over-emphasis on whole-class, textbook based teaching greatly limits pupil participation in some instances. It is recommended that existing good practice should be developed and extended with particular reference to the principle of differentiation. Advice and support, in relation to the implementation of this principle, were given during the evaluation.
Creditable work in the formulation of whole-school policies is ongoing. Policies have been carefully developed in a wide range of important organisational areas such as enrolment, discipline, anti-bullying, administration of medicines, drugs, health and safety. A good range of curriculum policies have been formulated by the principal and staff. History and Geography have been identified as priorities for future development planning. Evidence was also provided in the school planning documentation to confirm that the board and staff have adopted and are implementing policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Two designated liaison persons have been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
It is commendable that the support services have been accessed to facilitate the school planning work, that key decisions taken at staff meetings and planning days are noted and that there is evidence that aspects of whole-school policies are implemented. However as the aim of school planning is to bring about consistent improvements in pupil learning and achievement throughout the school, it is recommended that the implementation of all policies, especially in curriculum areas, should be more regularly monitored and reviewed on a whole-school basis. In particular there is a need for a more systematic planning process through the collaborative development of specific action plans to be achieved within agreed time frames.
In this context particular attention was focused during the evaluation on the need to review the plan for teaching Irish. Such a review should aim to provide clear guidelines for classroom practice especially in relation to the implementation of a communicative approach to teaching Irish, as outlined in the curriculum. Advice was given regarding the importance of reducing the emphasis on textbooks and focusing more attention on a targeted language input which pupils would be enabled to use at the end of a defined plan of work. Particular attention was focused on the importance of such a structured approach in the context of maximising the involvement of pupils with low achievement. In this context pertinent issues regarding the exemption of pupils from the teaching of Irish were also highlighted and discussed.
Most teachers prepare both long-term and short-term plans of work for their classes and much credit is due to some for the considerable thought and effort devoted to this work. A common template has been developed for short-term planning which is also used to monitor the monthly progress of work. Such an approach is commended as good practice as it facilitates the implementation of whole-school plans. However different approaches to using the planning template and to preparing the long-term dimension of the work are in evidence. In many classrooms planning is significantly influenced by the textbooks. In some instances a commendable emphasis is placed on the key elements of the strands and strand units of the various curriculum areas. A whole-school review of classroom planning is recommended in order to develop and extend existing good practice and place a greater emphasis on clarifying expected learning outcomes for the children in the context of the curriculum and the school plan. Such an approach would greatly facilitate the further development of collaborative planning between mainstream and support teachers. Attention was focused during the evaluation on the importance of recording monthly progress in the delivery of the curriculum and of the need to ensure that these records can be analysed for whole school purposes. It is recommended that these important records should be retained by the principal on a monthly basis.
Le linn na cigireachta chonacthas roinnt samplaí fónta de mhúineadh agus d’fhoghlaim na Gaeilge ag rangleibhéil ar leith. Sna ranganna seo baintear leas as raon d’áiseanna agus de mhodhanna éifeachtacha chun sprioctheanga chumarsáideach an-chinnte a mhúineadh do na páistí. Moltar go mór an aird a dhírítear ar a gcuid scileanna éisteachta a fhorbairt go céimniúil. Cloítear leis an nGaeilge, faoi mar is cóir, le linn an teagaisc agus glacann na daltaí páirt ghníomhach sa cheacht ar bhonn taitneamhach. Is inmholta an bhéim a leagtar ar an bhfilíocht/rannta mar ionchur teanga atá saibhir taitneamhach. Is mór is fiú an leas a bhaintear as prionta chun cabhrú leis na daltaí frásaí ar leith a fhoghlaim. Is inmholta chomh maith an úsáid a bhaintear as cluichí agus as straiteisí éagsúla chun taithí a thabhairt do na daltaí ar an teanga a fhoghlaimíonn siad a úsáid. Sna ranganna seo glacann formhór na bpáistí páirt ghníomhach sa cheacht agus is le fonn a úsáideann siad an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaimíonn siad.
Ar mhaithe le caighdeán na ndaltaí a fheabsú go córasach ó rang go rang moltar anois na dea-chleachtais atá luaite a fhorbairt agus a chur i bhfeidhm ar bhonn na scoile ina hiomláine. Luaitear go speisialta an tábhacht a bhaineann le spriotheanga chinnte a chur abhaile, modh an aistriúcháin a sheachaint agus trí thréimhse a bheith sa cheacht, mar ní thógtar i gcónaí ar chumas teanga na bpáistí ó rang go rang. B’inmholta chomh maith béim sa bhreis a chur ar an scéalaíocht agus ar fhorbairt fhoirmiúil scileanna éisteachta na ndaltaí. B’fhiú go mór breis comhthéacsanna a chruthú do na daltaí chun an Ghaeilge a úsáid. Ag cur san áireamh an cumas breá Gaeilge atá ag cuid mhaith oidí raghadh sé go mór chun tairbhe na bpáistí dá múinfí gné éigin den churaclam trí mheán na Gaeilge.
Múintear an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht go rialta. Bunaítear cuid mhaith den obair ar na gníomhaíochtaí éagsúla sna téacsleabhair. Meastar áfach gur gá athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an gclár chun go dtabharfaí taithí do na daltaí ar réimse níos leithne téacsanna a léamh agus a scríobh. B’fhiú go mór scil na saorscríbhneoireachta a chothú chomh luath agus is féidir agus an obair seo a bhunú níos mó ar spriotheanga ar leith. Moltar chomh maith béim sa bhreis a chur ar an ngrúptheagasc agus ar scileanna éagsúla na léitheoireachta a mhúineadh go foirmiúil.
During the evaluation some praiseworthy samples of good practice in the teaching and learning of Irish were in evidence at particular class levels. In these classes a variety of resources and effective methodologies are used to teach a specific targeted language input in a communicative manner. Particularly commendable in this regard is the emphasis placed on the systematic development of the children’s listening skills. Irish is used as the language of instruction and pupils are enabled to participate actively in the lessons in an enjoyable manner. A commendable emphasis is placed on poetry/rhymes as an enriched and enjoyable language input. Good use is made of print to enable pupils learn key language structures. Language games and a range of strategies are also effectively used to enable pupils use the language learned. In the classrooms where these effective approaches are in use most children participate actively in the learning and use the Irish they learn with competence and enthusiasm. However pupils’ language skills are not always progressively developed from one class level to the next.
In the interest of systematically improving the children’s standard of Irish from one class level to the next it is recommended that the samples of best practice in evidence should be implemented on a whole-school basis. In particular there is a need to focus more attention on the language input which pupils will be enabled to use, avoid translations to English during lessons and ensure that there are three phases in the language lesson. It is also recommended that a greater emphasis should be placed on storytelling and on the formal cultivation of the children’s listening skills. Consideration should be given to the creation of further opportunities for the pupils to use the language learned. Irish language
Irish reading and writing are taught regularly. Much of the work is based on activities in the textbooks. It is recommended that the approach to reading and writing should be reviewed on a whole-school basis in order to provide the children with more opportunities to read and write a much broader variety of genres. A greater emphasis should be placed on developing the children’s independent writing skills based on targeted oral language work. It is also recommended that a greater emphasis should be placed on group teaching and on direct instruction in specific reading skills.
A creditable plan for the teaching and learning of English has been carefully formulated. It correctly draws attention to key aspects of the curriculum such as oral language. It is commendable that guidelines are provided for classroom practice at the different class levels in key areas such as functional writing, penmanship and phonological awareness. It is recommended that this commendable approach should now be extended to address other important areas such as differentiation of the curriculum and use of class novels.
Provision is made by the teachers for the development of the pupils’ oral language skills. At all class levels pupils are regularly encouraged to participate in talk and discussion on a range of topics. Rhymes, poetry, storytelling and focused language enrichment work feature prominently in the work in some classes. Further attention should now be given to the development of the pupils’ aural, receptive and expressive language skills in line with the school plan and content objectives in the curriculum. In this context the importance of improvisational drama, play and games as key contexts for oral language activity was highlighted. The need for more balance between teacher input and pupil input was also highlighted and discussed.
During the evaluation many effective approaches in the teaching of reading were observed. These included focused word identification activity, use of the language experience approach, good emphasis on the development of phonological and phonemic awareness. A graded reading scheme is used throughout the school. Basic pre-reading skills are well established through the use of a variety of approaches. In keeping with good practice paired reading programmes are in place and carefully monitored in the junior classes. Ready access to a range of reading material in classroom libraries and the skilful use of a range of strategies to actively encourage reading for pleasure and information greatly facilitate the children’s reading ability. Many children throughout the school read fluently. However it is recommended that a greater emphasis should be placed in some classrooms on direct instruction in a range of skills such as word identification and comprehension and on strategies designed to promote reading for pleasure and information. It would be beneficial to select additional reading material directly linked to the content of other curriculum areas such as history. Approaches to differentiating the mainstream programme should also be explored further. It is also recommended that the use of high-quality novels for each class level should be greatly extended.
The children engage in a range of writing activities in all classrooms. Some good samples of work in a range of genres were noted during the evaluation. The emphasis placed at a variety of class levels on compiling and displaying samples of pupils’ writing is commendable. Penmanship skills are emphasised and good standards were observed at particular class levels. It is recommended that these good practices should be further promoted at whole-school level. In particular a further emphasis should be placed on the development of the pupils’ independent writing skills. In this context the importance of the print-rich environment and oral work were highlighted and discussed.
A comprehensive whole-school plan for the teaching of Mathematics has been formulated by the staff and was ratified by the board in June 2004. It is commendable that a common approach to the use of mathematical language for the teaching of number operations has been agreed. This plan highlights many of the key messages in the curriculum such as the importance of active learning and “concrete materials at all levels.” During the evaluation a range of effective methodologies was noted. In many classrooms skilful use was made of concrete materials to actively engage the children in exploring concepts. Mathematical language was well-reinforced during guided discussion. In some classrooms due emphasis was placed on the development of children’s estimation capabilities. Pupils were given opportunities to engage in practical problem solving work and activities designed to consolidate number facts. However the challenge for the school is to extend such samples of best practice and further ensure that they are used systematically throughout the school. While it is evident that many pupils make creditable progress there is a clear need, particularly in some classes, to place a greater emphasis on differentiating mainstream class programmes. In particular it is recommended that strategies to assist pupils develop skills and concepts through interactive hands-on approaches should be discussed at whole-school level and prioritised in the school action plan.
Elements of the History curriculum are taught in all classes. In some classes a commendable emphasis is placed on developing the children’s sense of time and chronology. There is evidence that pupils are given worthwhile opportunities to listen to stories. In some classes a praiseworthy emphasis is placed on aspects of local history and the children have also been given valuable opportunities to engage in project work on a range of topics. During the evaluation many pupils spoke with obvious enthusiasm about their work. It is recommended that the current planning in this area should focus on extending existing best practice with a view to ensuring breadth, balance and continuity in the programme and the use of a wide range of approaches and methodologies throughout the school.
The Geography lessons introduce the children to topics from the human and natural environments. Attention is also focused on environmental awareness and care. While much of the programme is currently taught through the use of textbooks there is also evidence of project and map work. At a variety of class levels the work is appropriately linked with other areas of the curriculum. Some valuable opportunities are provided for pupils to observe weather patterns. This work is commended as good practice and should be further developed as part of the current developmental planning work. It is also recommended that more opportunities should be created for the children to develop geographical skills such as investigative techniques and critical thinking skills especially in relation to the local environment.
A comprehensive whole-school plan has been carefully prepared for Science. This praiseworthy document clearly draws attention to the importance of working scientifically and outlines a detailed programme of work for the various class levels. Further attention should now focus on strategies to promote its implementation and on the methodologies to be used throughout the school. In this context it is commendable that a good store of materials suitable for providing the children with a broad range of scientific experiences was recently acquired. The pupils take pride in their work and display a knowledge of the topics learned. Experimental work is conducted at a variety of class levels. Nature themes are regularly explored and stimulating nature tables greatly enhance the children’s learning in some classrooms. It is evident that nature walks are also organised. During the evaluation some impressive work in relation to the active engagement of pupils in observation and discussion of plant life was noted.
A whole-school plan for the implementation of the Visual Arts curriculum has been formulated. Some key messages in the curriculum are addressed and a range of art-making activities is outlined. The children are given many opportunities to express themselves in a personal way through a variety of art-making activities in all strands. This work is frequently integrated to good effect with other curriculum areas. There is evidence of commendable sharing of expertise between teachers to facilitate the implementation of the visual arts programme at all class levels. A notable strength of the school is the importance the staff place on displaying the children’s art work. Looking and responding to art is carried out in some classrooms. It is recommended that this aspect of the programme should be developed further on a whole-school basis. A review of this area could usefully focus on ensuring progression in pupil skill development from one class level to the next.
A whole-school plan for Music has been formulated. However it is the intention of the principal and staff to further develop the Music programme in the school. The school has acquired an impressive stock of percussion instruments which were used most competently at particular class levels during the evaluation. In those classes observed the children derived a great deal of enjoyment from their music. They sing a range of songs tunefully in both English and Irish. Some children have been instructed in instrumental music. The children were recently given an opportunity to perform publicly in their first ever whole-school show. This is a valuable experience for the children and is commended as good practice.
As previously highlighted funding is provided by the parents’ committee to enable the board employ an external Speech and Drama teacher. This teacher is held in high regard by all.
A policy for Physical Education is included in the school plan and was ratified by the board in December 2005. Good use is made of the outdoor facilities and the school also has access to facilities in the local secondary school. The programme includes a range of games, athletics and swimming. The lessons observed were competently organised with a clear focus on skill development. However it is evident that the unavailability of indoor facilities in the school constrains the work. It is recommended that this key context issue should be further discussed by the staff and addressed in the school plan particularly in the context of ensuring breadth and balance in the programme provided at each class level.
The positive school climate greatly contributes to effective teaching and learning in this area. Aspects of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme are taught in all classrooms. It is highly commendable that this is a health promoting school and that a wide range of praiseworthy activities such as the recent skipathon are regularly organised for the pupils. Resources in use include the Stay Safe and Walk Tall programmes.
Both formal and informal methods of assessment are used to monitor pupil progress. Informal approaches include teacher assessment and regular correction of pupils’ work. There is evidence that effective feedback on their work is given to the pupils in some classrooms. Teacher-designed tests are used regularly in many classrooms. Standardised testing in Mathematics and English is carried out annually and the test scores are retained and accessible to teachers. Proposals to use the data arising from these standardised tests to set up individual pupil profiles merit implementation and are to be commended. In the interest of further promoting the pupils’ progress it is recommended that existing good practice regarding assessment approaches should be discussed and further developed at a whole-school level. During the evaluation attention was focused in particular on the need to consistently use assessment data to inform planning, teaching and learning especially with a view to placing a greater emphasis on differentiating mainstream classroom programmes to meet the needs of all pupils.
A policy on learning-support is currently under review. As highlighted above the school now benefits from the services of a full-time learning-support teacher who provides supplementary teaching in both literacy and numeracy. A shared resource teacher caters for the special education needs of a small number of pupils. It is commendable that additional professional support in learning-support will be availed of during the coming school year. The pupils in receipt of support teaching are withdrawn either individually or in small groups. There is also evidence that some in-class support is provided. The teachers approach their work in a professional and caring manner and have developed positive working relationships with the pupils in their care. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or group IEPs, as appropriate, have been devised for the pupils in receipt of supplementary teaching and have been reviewed during the current school year. A range of assessment tools including diagnostic tests are used to identify pupils’ learning needs. Priority areas and related learning targets are clearly identified in the IEPs. The support teachers liaise regularly with the mainstream teachers regarding the programmes of work and are also in frequent communication with parents and other professionals. During the evaluation effective hands-on, interactive teaching approaches were skilfully used to enable pupils consolidate key skills. However a significant emphasis is currently placed on the withdrawal method. The need to identify other models of support with a view to providing a more co-ordinated approach to meeting the special needs of pupils was highlighted and discussed during the evaluation. In particular it is recommended that a staged intervention approach, as outlined in Circular 24/03, should be further clarified during the current review of the learning-support policy. The need to review the length of the withdrawal period for some pupils was also highlighted. It is also recommended that in accordance with the Learning-Support Guidelines further attention should be focused on early intervention and whole-school strategies designed to prevent or alleviate learning difficulties. The importance of consistently taking account of pupils’ current performance levels during the review of IEPs, of ensuring that the learning targets identified are specific, and implemented in both mainstream and support contexts were also highlighted and discussed.
This school does not have disadvantaged status.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
The principal provides caring leadership and fosters an open, positive working environment in the school.
The middle management team work in close collaboration with the principal and are committed to the school.
The principal and staff work diligently and have considerable levels of experience and expertise.
The pupils are well-behaved and there is much evidence of mutually respectful relationships between staff members and pupils.
There were many impressive samples of good practice in evidence during the evaluation.
The school has an active and supportive board of management.
The parents are involved in the school and provide significant levels of support.
Samples of the pupils’ work are displayed in many classrooms and in the circulation areas.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
The approaches to individual planning and assessment should be reviewed on a whole-school basis with a view to placing a greater emphasis on the expected learning outcomes for the pupils.
A greater emphasis should be placed on monitoring and reviewing the implementation of curriculum policies on a whole-school basis, to further ensure progression in pupil skill development from one class level to the next.
There is a need to consistently implement a communicative approach to teaching Irish, with particular reference to the specific language input and the three phases of the lesson. Additional opportunities should be created on a whole-school basis for the pupils to use the Irish they learn in a communicative context.
There is a need to develop further strategies to ensure more purposeful differentiation of mainstream classroom programmes and the use of interactive teaching approaches which maximise pupil participation levels.
The range of material available to the middle and senior classes for formal reading in both English and Irish should be extended.
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.