An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St. Lelia’s Infant School

Kileely, Limerick

Roll number: 17445J

 

Date of inspection:  20 April 2007

Date of issue of report: 8 November 2007

 

This Whole School Evaluation report

Introduction

2. Quality of school management

3. Quality of school planning

4. Quality of learning and teaching

5. Quality of support for pupils

6. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

                                 

 

This Whole School Evaluation report

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St. Lelia’s Infant School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and the parents’ representatives on the board of management. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management.  The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

Introduction

St. Lelia’s JNS is an urban, co-educational, nine-teacher junior primary school situated in the Kileely area on the north side of Limerick city. Since the last evaluation was carried out in 2000, the enrolment figure has decreased. It now stands at 83 pupils. Overall, the daily attendance rates are satisfactory. The school was opened in 1945 with five classrooms. The board of management currently has an application lodged with the Department of Education and Science to extend and refurbish the school. The interior and exterior of the school are well maintained.

 

The current staffing arrangement comprises five mainstream class-teachers, one shared learning support teacher, one resource teacher for children of the travelling community, one resource teacher for pupils with special educational needs and one shared home school community liaison co-ordinator. Two special needs assistants are employed. The school community appears active and interested in the education being provided. A close relationship is seen to exist between all staff and the parents of the pupils. The entire school community makes significant efforts to present a learning environment that is very attractive, clean and safe. Pupil and teacher work is displayed in all public areas. Photographs of the pupils engaged in a range of activities are used effectively to record seasonal events. Important curricular messages are also displayed prominently. This environment serves as a constant reminder to the pupils that they are in a school where they are valued greatly. 

 

2. Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Limerick. The board of management meets regularly. It is committed, sensitive and passionate about its role. A strong sense of pride in the school and the locality is evident. Board members work diligently to support the principal and the staff of the school. The chairperson reports that the board members make a significant contribution to the work of the board. A positive relationship was seen to exist between the chairperson and the principal.

 

The board is not constituted properly at present as there are no parent representatives on the board. The chairperson reports that, despite several attempts during the term of the current board, it has not been successful in appointing two parents’ representatives to the board. This matter was discussed in full during the course of the evaluation. While a positive relationship is evident between the staff and the parents of the pupils, there is a lack of clarity around the role of the parent in the school. It is recommended that the board should continue to tackle this vital aspect of the functioning of the board as a matter of urgency. The development of a whole school community policy on the potential contribution of parents to the management and functioning of the school should be undertaken. If the role of the parents’ representatives can be defined within the context of St. Lelia’s JNS, then the appointment of parents to the board might be possible. This work is best carried out with the involvement of all staff, the board members and the home school community liaison service, in collaboration with parents.

 

There has been significant development in the school since the last evaluation with regard to policy formation. Documents on a range of administrative and curricular issues within the school have been addressed. These documents are created largely by the staff and then ratified by the board. During the evaluation, the awareness of the board in relation to these policies was evident. The board is to be commended for this work. The rationale of the planning documentation should now be shared with the parent body. All parents should be made aware of the reasoning behind the policies and plans and their relevance for the families of the pupils. 

 

 

2.2 In-school management

The principal of the school was appointed in 1998. She carries out all her duties with commitment, creativity and care for the entire school community. The quality of the principal/parent relationship is very good. It is evident that this principal works consistently to maintain this relationship and encourage parents to be involved in the education of their children. Her management of the teaching staff is equally commendable. Excellent relations are seen to exist. The planning process is very well developed with whole staff contribution encouraged. Liaison with the board is also very positive. This principal succeeds in promoting an environment where the welfare of the individual pupil is always at the core of the work. There is evidence of a deep understanding of the role of the school leader. She leads by example instructionally, teaching a variety of different curricular areas in several classes. The organisation of the school is very efficient. Systems have been developed collaboratively and are successful because of the level of involvement by all staff. Review mechanisms are built into all aspects of the school. There is a strong commitment to action planning. The level of commitment by all staff to the welfare of the pupils reflects the quality of this collaboration.

 

There are three post-holders of responsibility in the in-school management team. The duties covered by the posts are varied. They include managing the register, mentoring new staff, management of literacy programmes and information and communication technologies [ICT] as well as organisation of school meals. The work is carried out diligently and thoroughly. There is a need, however, to link the duties of these posts further with the teaching and learning priorities of the school. An annual review of the posts is recommended. This should include ensuring that the board of management is aware of the work of the post-holders. Other staff should also be more involved in the ongoing progress being made in relation to the areas targeted by the in-school management team. When targets have been met, it is important that the duties are renegotiated and the new priorities identified to other staff members.      

 

2.3 Management of resources

This school is well-resourced. The quality of the resources available to the teachers and the pupils is very good. Posters for all subject areas, science equipment, games, books, physical education [PE] equipment and a teachers’ reference library are just some of the wide variety of resources used regularly. There is a very good range of ICT hardware and software. The school is to be commended for the maintenance of this equipment and the degree to which it is utilised by teachers and pupils.

 

Financial management in the school is very efficient. Purchasing processes are well developed and the school manages its finances very successfully. Accounts are kept up to date by the treasurer and are presented to the board regularly.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

This school manages its day-to-day relationship with the school community very well. Parents appear to regard the school as very accessible. The staff deals with most parents on a daily basis. This facilitates the transfer of information around organisational and curricular issues in a relaxed and informal manner. The school sends out a newsletter periodically which is produced in a very attractive format. This document is celebratory in nature, highlighting the positive aspects of school life and the achievements of the school. It also refers to the upcoming events in the school. It is recommended that this document would be produced more regularly. There is an opportunity for the school to use the production process around this newsletter to involve parents in the work of the school. Such an initiative should open up the work of the school to the parent body and contribute to the definition of the role of the parent in the school.

 

2.5 Management of Pupils

The behaviour of the pupils during the evaluation was excellent. Very positive teacher/pupil relationships are evident. The teachers’ decision to be known by their first names facilitates relaxed and meaningful communication with the pupils. While some of the pupils are from backgrounds of significant social disadvantage, it is clear that the agreed standards of engagement and behaviour are understood and implemented by all. The opinions of the pupils are valued and there is a genuine sense of mutual respect present.

 

3. Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

Whole school planning in this school is of a very good quality. The plans presented during the evaluation were clear and comprehensive. Plans have been developed for all the curricular areas. Each curricular plan is divided into a range of the activities which the pupil will experience in relation to the subject area over the course of each year. This is done on a year by year basis. The result is a clear guide for the reader regarding the entire learning experience the pupils will have during their time spent in St. Lelia’s Infant School.  Review mechanisms are built into the planning process. It is now appropriate to link the duties of the posts of responsibilities with these reviews. Plans reviewed recently include the Drama policy, the Child Protection Policy and the Special Education Policy. The school has identified oral language as the key curricular area for further examination in the immediate future. In some of this work, the school has had input from the parent body. The school must endeavour to ensure that all of the plans developed have had such input and that there is clear understanding by the parents regarding the purpose, philosophy and intention of the plans as they are ratified.

 

The school has carried out its organisational work on a similar basis. A whole range of policies ranging from healthy eating to health and safety and behaviour policies is now available for inspection. 

 

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.

 

 

3.2 Classroom planning

The overall standard of individual planning by the class teachers is very good. All plans conform to a recently agreed template. This sets out the aim of the lesson very clearly. The resources, methodologies and content are included. The manner in which the teacher will assess the learning outcomes is also set out with, in some cases, particular attention being paid to the type of questions to be asked. In the long-term plans, each teacher refers regularly to the whole school plan. Meaningful linkage to the overall school plan is very evident with good use being made of the defined experiences for each curricular area. These targets are identified carefully to fit with the teachers’ fortnightly and termly plans. The school is commended for its diligence in ensuring that the whole school plan has genuine relevance for the teacher’s short-term planning. The practical impact of this in the daily work of the classroom serves the pupils’ learning experience very well.

 

All teachers complete a monthly report. These documents are largely content-based. They reflect the subject content as taught by the teacher during the identified time. It is recommended that this report become a valuable assessment tool to gather information for the school as a whole. By linking with the school’s identified priorities, this data can be used to assist further in the selection of appropriate strategies for the teachers and the learners. Management of this work by the in-school management team could make the process as efficient as possible.

 

 

4. Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

The principles of the Primary School Curriculum 1999 are clearly understood by the staff of this school. Standards of teaching are very high. All teachers display a professional competence which is target-driven, relevant and achievable for the pupils and supported through the skilful use of a wide range of appropriate resources. The success with which teachers include pupils with special educational needs in the general work of the classroom is commendable. Meaningful inclusion of all pupils is evident in all rooms. The teachers use group and pair work effectively. All classroom display space is used to portray the breadth of work covered. Pupil work from all curricular areas is clearly on display. Photography is used very effectively by most teachers to reinforce the pupils’ understanding of the purpose of their work. Guided self-discovery methods are in abundance. Pupil movement from one interaction to another aimed at complementing the learning aim is a regular feature. Most teachers use ICT to support learning also.

 

Learning standards have shown a marked improvement over the last number of years. Pupils are consistently on task. Resource usage is facilitated to assist pupils to manipulate the materials independently. Some teachers strongly promote peer presentation of work done and analysis of activities undertaken. This consistent reference to the purpose of pupils’ work makes a significant contribution to their comprehension of what is expected and what has been the learning outcome.

 

It is recommended, as a means of building on the very good work being carried out, that teachers place more emphasis on the oral responses of the pupils. There is a tendency from some of the teaching staff to accept oral responses of a poor quality. Pupils need to be challenged orally to a greater extent in these settings. If the teachers focus more on the type of questions asked and seek to elicit more complex oral responses from the pupils, the learning experience will be enhanced. 

 

  

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Baintear caighdeán sásúil amach sa scoil seo i múineadh na Gaeilge. Déanann gach oide iarracht mhacánta chun dearcadh dearfach ar úsáid na teanga a chothú. Cloistear rainn, amhráin agus scéalta trí Ghaeilge i ngach seomra ranga. Cuirtear raon leathan d’acmhainní oiriúnacha ar fáil chun na páistí a mhealladh chun na foghlama. prionsabail an churaclaim Ghaeilge intuigthe ag an bhfoireann. Úsáidtear drámaíocht, filíocht agus gníomhaíochtaí phéirí agus ghrupaí go héifeachtach chun cumas cumarsáide na bpáistí a fheabhsú. Feictear go bhfuil foclóir chuí ar taispeáint timpeall na scoile. Déantar roinnt oibre chun an fhoclóir sin a leathnú le scéim ghrádaithe tríd an scoil. I mbliana, mar cheann de phríomhaidhmeanna na foirne an teanga a chothú. socraithe breis moladh a bhronnadh ar na páistí trí Ghaeilge, iad a dhíriú trí Ghaeilge agus atmaisféar ghaelach a chothú timpeall na scoile. Le dearcadh dearfach na foirne atá i láthair, tiocfaidh feabhas ar chumas labhartha na ndaltaí.

   

Irish

A satisfactory standard is reached in this school regarding the teaching of Irish. Each teacher make a sincere effort to promote a positive outlook on the use of the language. Rhymes, songs and Irish stories are to be heard in all classrooms. A wide range of relevant resources is made available to foster learning. The principles of the Irish curriculum are clearly understood by the staff. Drama, poetry and pair/group activities are used effectively to improve the conversational ability of the pupils. Appropriate vocabulary is displayed around the school. Significant work is carried out to broaden this vocabulary with a graded scheme throughout the school. This year, the staff has identified the promotion of Irish as one its primary objectives. It has been decided to praise the pupils more through Irish, that directions be given to the children through Irish and that an Irish atmosphere will be cultivated around the school. With the positive outlook of the staff, this work will result in an improvement in the oral ability of the pupils.

    

English

Teaching and learning standards in English are of a very good quality. All strands of the curriculum are promoted consistently and effectively in every classroom. Objectives selected are specific and are supported through a range of pupil-centred activities. This work is designed to encourage active participation by the pupils in their own learning. Concentration and achievement rates are high. ICT is used in all classrooms. Pupils are competent in their own use of the technology and teachers use it also to promote spelling, sentence construction and creative writing. The teaching of English is also promoted through the other curricular areas. Pupils are consistently asked to discuss, share ideas, listen and write both functionally and creatively. This work is displayed very attractively. Story-time is used skilfully, throughout the school, to encourage an interest in reading and to improve oral language. The wide range of resources available in the school supports the work being carried out. The school has a very good collection of library books. 

 

It is recommended that all teachers examine the quality of oral responses currently being given by the pupils to questions and prompts. There is a need to ensure that the language of the teacher does not obstruct the opportunity to be afforded all pupils to develop this vital element of their linguistic progress. Some pupils will need extra time to form and express their thoughts. This time should be facilitated. Ensuring that the pupils have the necessary vocabulary to participate in the activities is very important. Creating the appropriate environment and sense of self-confidence in all pupils, particularly those with most needs in this area, is another important factor in the school’s efforts to assist pupils to achieve mastery. It is now appropriate for the focus on learning outcomes in oral language development to include assessment of the degree to which all pupils engage with the teacher on this level.

 

4.3 Mathematics

The quality of teaching of Mathematics is very good. There are excellent resources in each room to develop concepts and to facilitate active learning opportunities. The teachers have a clear understanding of the need to guide the pupils in a manner which encourages self-discovery and mental agility. In most classes, attractive maths corners have been created and these areas are kept relevant and accessible for the pupils. Oral mathematical competence levels are good. The pupils enjoy the games played. It is recommended that the focus on the development of the appropriate language in Maths be increased. Pupils should be encouraged further to discuss their findings and to listen to peer explanation of results achieved. Overall, the standard of learning in this curricular area is good. Further improvement should occur if the parents could be encouraged to work with the pupils on relevant concepts at home. Practical advice on how to maintain concept development and interest in Mathematics is already a feature of the work of the Home School Community Liaison Co-ordinator. This occurs in the parent and child classes that are organised during the year. There is a need for all classes to seek to replicate this message in a relevant and manageable format for all pupils. 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE)

 

Geography

Integration with oral language objectives and the effective use of story support the effective teaching and learning standards attained in Geography. Using prompts such as a story or poem helped to assist the pupils in placing themselves in the role of a group member who has a specific task in relation to the information to be gathered. The evaluation of this work clearly showed that the pupils could work together successfully and manipulate information effectively. Linkage with the locally geographic environment, achieved through various excursions during the year, has helped the pupils to develop their sense of place and their skills of analysis and data collection.

 

History

The teaching of History is carried out with reference to the other curricular areas. Pupils are encouraged to gather information and manipulate it. ICT usage is effective in this work. Peer presentation of findings has been formalised in the senior classes. Pupils display genuine interest and competence in their roles as historians. It is commendable that the teaching of this subject includes the gathering of information and data around certain topics in the immediate locality. The pupils are encouraged to interview older people, follow simple instructions and examine artefacts. This feature of good practice is commended.

 

Science

Scientific experiments are carried out regularly. Roles are assigned, resources are plentiful and used well and teamwork is promoted. The purpose of the task is explained and the pupils are clearly shown how to conduct this work. Consistent reference is made to the connection between the life experiences of the pupils and the role of Science in their lives. Pupils enjoy this work immensely. Learning outcomes are very positive and the standard of teaching here is very good.

 

It is recommended that the practice of creating relevant and accessible interest centres present in some classes would be extended throughout the entire school.

 

 

 

 

4.5 Arts education

 

Visual Arts

Very high standards of teaching and learning are achieved in Visual Arts. Throughout the school, there are very good examples of the various curricular strands. The work is displayed effectively. Linkage with several curricular areas is evident. The work carried out also represents the belief of the school that the work can stand alone as an important element in the artistic development of each pupil. The older pupils are very capable of describing the process behind their creations and this linkage to their language development is positive. The sense of self-esteem development in this strategy of peer appreciation has benefit for all pupils.

 

Music

All strands of the music curriculum receive attention. Teaching standards are good. Pupils are provided with opportunities to sing regularly as part of the formal lessons and also as part of other curricular activities. The standard of singing is good. Pace, pitch and rhythm are all promoted to good effect. Pupils engage very enthusiastically in these activities and clearly enjoy the experience. The Listening and Responding strand needs to be included more often in the overall music plan for classroom activity. The school has purchased some good equipment for this area of the curriculum. In some classes, there is a very good focus on instrumentation. It is recommended that the music curriculum should be used more often to develop the pupils’ listening skills. Integration with the English and SPHE curricula, in particular, would provide the pupils with the skills to appreciate their own work and that of their peers.

     

Drama

The teaching of Drama is carried out largely through the inclusion of activities in other curricular areas which facilitate expression of ideas, character portrayal and language development. This is purposeful work. When prompted, the pupils can display a range of emotions and expression which is of a good standard. In all classes, it is clear that Drama can be used by the teachers to promote self-esteem. Linkage with the SPHE and English programmes is regular. Pupils engage enthusiastically with the range of good ideas and topics selected by the teachers in Drama activities. The school has a plentiful supply of dressing up materials and other props which motivate the pupils. It has also facilitated parental involvement in some of this work and the positive outcome for the pupils is clear. This delivery of this area of the curriculum is effective.

 

4.6 Physical Education (PE)

The teaching of PE in this school covers all strands of the curriculum. The school does not have access to a general purposes room. A classroom is available in the afternoons and is used by all teachers. The work is successfully integrated with Music, Drama and SESE into the movement activities that are provided for the pupils. Participation rates are high. In general, non-competitive co-operative game situations are created. The pupils enjoy the activities and display significant competence levels in terms of leadership, co-operation and team building.

 

The school also uses neuro-developmental therapy for some of its pupils to good effect. This work is designed to assist concentration, movement and self-control. Integration with the work of the special education teachers is very worthwhile with very positive feedback being received from the class teachers. The ability of pupils with special educational needs to participate more comprehensively in the mainstream activities has increased. This is very effective work.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

The teaching of SPHE permeates all activities in St. Lelia’s Infant School. As part of all teaching activities, pupils are given opportunities to work, play and communicate together in a spirit of self and mutual respect. Circle time is used regularly by all teachers. It is not only used, however, as part of the formal SPHE lessons. Most teachers construct their rooms to facilitate regular interaction in the circle time setting. Pupils are closer to the teacher and can hear and participate in ICT work, reading and a host of other activities more effectively in this setting. This is due to the strong commitment of the staff to place the pupil always at the centre of the learning experience. The result is extremely positive. High participation and achievement rates can, in some part, be attributed to this promotion of the development of emotional intelligence as the vehicle for learning. The staff is commended for its efforts in this regard.

 

4.8 Assessment

Assessment of the learning outcomes for pupils takes place regularly in this school. From a whole school perspective, assessment occurs formally through the administration of Micra-T and Sigma-T tests, the Middle Infant Screening Test MIST, the Bury Infant Check and the British Picture Vocabulary Scale. This data is compiled and maintained well. The school’s participation in the Reading Recovery programme is also providing vital information about pupil progress. Individual teachers use classroom observation, pupil portfolios and lesson-based assignments to assess short-term progress. All of this information is recorded. It is recommended that the monthly report be used as the vehicle for this data. Through more effective management of this assessment information, more targeted strategies and activities can be identified to assist pupil learning even more. Regular collaboration with the parents provides a mechanism for the dissemination of this information. The impact of the learning message from the school should be given with greater regularity and consistency. 

 

During the evaluation process, it was highlighted in the school that more directed teacher observation, if linked to the compilation of the monthly report, can be a useful analytical tool. Carrying out this work on an ongoing basis will support the continuing progress of each pupil.

 

5. Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of provision for the pupils with special educational needs in this school is very good. Effective teaching is achieved through the combination of a number of elements. Collaborative planning, professional development of the staff, a wide range of useful resources and a strong commitment to the analysis of the capacity of the pupils concerned to learn are all present. Class and specialist teacher liaise daily on agreed specific targets. Some staff members are very well qualified to deliver specific programmes of support. The school has developed a commendable competence in relation to the Reading Recovery programme. Pupils with the most significant levels of learning difficulties are identified and given intensive support. The inclusion of pupils from the Travelling community in this work is resulting in very positive outcomes. The results are now showing that this work is having a significant impact. Clear and sustainable improvements in reading, oral language development and concentration levels are all evident. This is highly effective practice.

 

The school has developed an effective system to maintain consistency of approach between the mainstream classroom and the special educational setting. The work being carried out for these pupils is relevant, targeted and achievable. The special needs assistants are involved in this provision and work very effectively to assist the pupils in their learning experience.

 

5.2 Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups

There are significant numbers of the school population who come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds and the Travelling community. The home school community liaison co-ordinator [HSCL] and the resource teacher for Travellers [RTT] work effectively to support the learning needs of these pupils. Throughout the school year, the HSCL co-ordinator organises highly successful classes for parents and children that are aimed at assisting understanding in reading, writing, numeracy and concentration for the pupils. This is good work. In order to build on this, it is recommended that the role of the HSCL service be defined in relation to the ongoing priorities of the school. There is a need for greater linkage between the service and the identified needs of the school to ensure that the most marginalised pupils are included and supported as much as possible. This work also has relevance in defining the parent role in the school.

 

The inclusion of Traveller pupils in the Reading Recovery programme of the school is showing very positive results. In general, the school seeks to implement a policy of inclusiveness for all pupils. It does this very successfully.

 

6. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         An enthusiastic, talented and diligent staff is led by a principal who has a deep understanding of pragmatic, sensitive and objective-led education principles.

·         A hard-working and supportive board of management is founded in a strong sense of pride in their locality and works closely with the staff and parents of the school.

·         An extensive range of useful resources are accessible and easy to manipulate by all, which facilitate a very good quality of curriculum delivery.

·         Very good standards of teaching and learning are evident in English, with substantial progress being made in relation to reading and oral language attainment.

·         Clear and effective planning processes are in place, especially in relation to pupils with special educational needs.

 

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

·         The board of management should, as a matter if urgency, strive to complete the full complement of board membership. This should be done through the formulation of a clearer understanding of the role of the parents in St. Lelia’s Infant School. Affiliation to the National Parents’ Council can be encouraged as a means of assisting this work.

·         The teaching staff should seek to expand pupils’ questioning skills further by examining the quality of the pupil/teacher interactions. Challenging the pupils to verbalise their responses in a more complex way than at present, should facilitate a better standard of oral competence.

·         The monthly report should be used to compile specific data about the learning outcomes in order to support the advancement of whole school policies on all aspects of the curriculum.

·         Posts of responsibility should reflect a closer link to the teaching and learning needs of the school.