An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Christ the King Junior Girls’ NS
Annaly Rd, Cabra, Dublin 7
Roll Number: 17459U
Date of inspection: 2 February 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Christ the King was undertaken in February 2008. 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 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 of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Christ the King Girls’ Junior School is a five teacher school. It is situated close to the Church of Christ the King in the heart of Cabra. There are two other schools, a senior girls’ school and a vertical boys’ school on the campus. Christ the King Junior GNS was built in 1934, is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin and has a current enrolment of 67 pupils. Enrolment figures over recent years have remained constant and projected enrolments up to 2010 suggest that the enrolment will be maintained at the present level. The school qualifies under band 2 of the Department of Education and Science, Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative and the school has designated disadvantaged status. The home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator identifies pupils at risk of poor attendance at an early stage. Due to a number of factors, pupil profile in the school has changed dramatically in recent years. The proportion of pupils from diverse ethnic backgrounds accounts for 33% of the current school enrolment.
The following table provides an overview of the current enrolment and staffing in the school:
Total number of pupils enrolled
Total number of teaching staff
Number of teaching staff working in support teaching roles
Number of mainstream classes
Number of special needs assistants
The board of management has recently been appointed and is properly constituted. Minutes of all meetings are maintained and accounts are audited each year and made available to the patron. The board meets about five times a year. Some members of the board have been allocated specific tasks. The board has applied to the Dormant Funds Accounts for finance to build a library, parents’ room and a principal’s office. The board maintains the building and grounds very well. Its main priority is to have the school’s previous allowance of learning support, which it lost as part of the general allocation model two years ago, re-instated. The board supports the school financially through fund raising and it reports that there is open discussion and transparency in its deliberations and that decisions are reached through collaborative discussion and consensus. It has been involved in the school’s planning process and a number of key policies such as those on discipline, attendance and health and safety have already been agreed and ratified. There is regular communication between the board and parents through newsletters, letters from the school, informal meetings and the school website. The high quality of teaching, the strong parental support and the sense of community are highlighted by the board as the school’s strengths. The school shares a part-time caretaker and secretary with the senior school. The board is in compliance with Department of Education and Science regulations regarding the length of the school year, the length of school day, deployment of teachers, class size and the retention of pupils. However the board’s attention is drawn to the terms of Department circular PC_17/00, section 13(b), regarding the deployment of the principal teacher to a special education post.
There are five teachers on the staff including the recently appointed acting principal. The acting principal is hard-working and has undertaken her new role with commendable enthusiasm and dedication. She has given many years of loyal service to the school and knows the pupils very well. Since her appointment she has set about devising a systematic approach to planning in collaboration with the staff. She is ably assisted by the acting deputy principal and an acting special duties teacher, both of whom are members of the in-school management team. Further duties of an organisational and pastoral nature are also undertaken by special duties teachers and these include the storage of resources, organising of homework clubs, files, editing newsletters, managing the school website, organising multicultural events, maintaining the school library, liaising with the local library and other relevant organisations.Two other mainstream class teachers and a part-time teacher of English as an additional language (EAL) complete the staffing in the school. At the time of the evaluation two teachers were substituting for permanent staff members. Staff meetings are held monthly. An agreed agenda is prepared in consultation with the staff. Because most of the staff members are new, meetings in the current year focused on teachers familiarising themselves with practices and procedures throughout the school. It is recommended that the in-school management team meet formally and record decisions taken on a regular basis.
The school has an active parents’ fund-raising committee which communicates with the principal on a regular basis. The parents’ representative presents a report outlining its activities at board of management meetings. The committee supplements school resources through the provision of financial support and regularly provides assistance in extra-curricular activities. Practical help is provided to the school in maintaining the garden, painting the school railings and providing personnel at school concerts and liturgical events. The home-school-community liaison service is an important link between the school and parents and the number of initiatives it has undertaken encourages parental participation in school projects. Community groups use one of the classrooms at night and the school hall is also timetabled for community activities in the evenings.
The quality of the relationships between pupils and staff and among the pupils themselves is a very positive feature of the school. Classroom interactions observed during the evaluation were positive and highly respectful and the pupils participate in all school activities with enthusiasm. Positive discipline strategies are in evidence in each classroom and the behaviour as observed during the evaluation was exemplary. The pupils take pride in their school and are working towards receiving Green Flag status for their commitment to the protection of the environment.
Creditable progress in planning has been made in recent months, comprehensive plans are in place for Irish, English and Mathematics and all other curricular plans area being systematically reviewed and updated. All members of staff have supported the principal and have contributed significantly to reviewing and re-drafting these plans. The school also has a comprehensive assessment policy and a special needs policy. The special duties teachers’ curricular responsibilities include Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE), Music and Physical Education.
All teachers provide comprehensive short-term and long-term plans. The quality of this individual planning is very high and addresses all strand and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum. An agreed school template for monthly reports is used effectively to record progress. The diligence with which all teachers complete these reports is commended.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff and that management has ensured that all staff members are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
Ni beag an dua a caitear le teagasc na Gaeilge tríd an scoil. Saothraítear struchtúr na teanga go tairbheach le linn ceachtanna agus tá greim so-ghlactha ag cuid mhaith de na daltaí ar na múnlaí atá riachtanach sa ghnáthchaint. Forbhraítear foclóir labhartha na ndaltaí ar bhonn praiticiúil le linn ceachtanna ó bhéal. Chuige seo, baintear úsáid éifeachteach as cluichí teanga, drámaí simplí, rainn le gníomhaíochtaí agus tascanna éisteachta. Úsáidtear tascanna simplí scríofa chun bunstructúr scríofa na teanga a chur í gcrích. Tá machnamh maith déanta ar úsáid acmhainní riachtanacha í dteagasc na Gaeilge. I measc na n-acmhainní a n-úsáitear, mar thaca do chothú na cumarsáide, tá luas cártaí, póstaeir, puipéid agus lipéid. Tá tuiscint shásúil ag formhór na ndaltaí ar an teanga labhartha agus tá cumas cumarsáide sásúil bainte amach ag cuid mhaith díobh chomh maith. Is léir go mbaineann siad taitneamh as na ceachtanna agus glacann fórmhór na ndaltaí páirt iontu. Déantar teagasc sa Ghaeilge a dhifreálú trí thacaíocht sa bhreis a thabhairt do dhaltaí le riachtanais speisialta le linn ceachtanna. Tríd is tríd, sroichtear caighdeán sásúil san obair. Sonraítear straitéisí fóinteacha drámaíochta in úsáid a chuidíonn go maith le cumarsáid an pháiste aonair a chothú go lárnach le linn ceachtanna.
Commendable endeavour is noted in the teaching of Irish throughout the school. Appropriate language structures are taught effectively in an enjoyable way and many of the pupils show a very good understanding of basic phrases suitable to informal communication. The pupils’ vocabulary is developed in a practical and structured way during oral lessons. To this end, effective use is made of drama, language games, active rhymes and listening exercises. Simple writing tasks are given to develop the pupils’ awareness of the written language. Reflective practice is evident in the use of resources for the teaching of Irish. Resources including posters, flash cards, labels and puppets are used skilfully to support the pupils’ communicative skills. Most pupils have a satisfactory understanding of Irish and can communicate in the language at an age appropriate level. Most of the pupils participate enthusiastically in the Irish lessons and clearly enjoy the activities. Pupils with special needs are facilitated and supported through the provision of suitably differentiated teaching during Irish lessons also. Overall the pupils have reached a creditable standard in their work in Irish. A notable feature of the provision is the use of drama which helps considerably in the development of the individual pupil’s communication skills during lessons.
A number of whole-school practices have been adopted incorporating the use of a specific oral language programme and an emphasis on phonics teaching. Overall, there is competent teaching of oral language across the school. Discrete lessons are a feature of practice in all classes and these are informed by the school plan. The range of suitable strategies used includes story time, questioning, vocabulary extension, language games and the daily exploration of news. All teachers emphasise the importance of oral language development across the curriculum.
The school places particular emphasis on addressing the literacy needs of the pupils. All classrooms are print rich which helps support the pupils’ reading very effectively. Well-stocked libraries containing a good range of suitable reading and pre-reading material is provided for all classes. Interest in reading is promoted through the effective use of big books, story books, nursery rhymes and the promotion of a home-school library. Good modelling of reading by teachers was observed in some classes. A number of effective strategies and phonics programmes are used to develop the pupils’ emergent reading skills. Lessons typically consist of appropriate work on phonics and word attack skills. The pupils have reached an appropriate level of reading in keeping with their age. It is reported that the introduction of the new phonics programme has had a significantly positive effect on reading standards throughout the school. A paired reading project with parents has also been effective in the development of positive home-school links.
In junior classes the pupils engage in activities relating to letter formation, free writing and the early writing of words and sentences. Good examples of personal writing are displayed as mini-books in which the pupils take great pride.
The teaching of Mathematics is very good in the school. A mathematics-rich environment is promoted successfully in all classrooms and the centrality of mathematical language is a feature of most lessons. Teachers ensure that there is an appropriate balance between the strands of the mathematics curriculum. There is an excellent selection of resources for the teaching of Mathematics available in the school and these are used to good advantage by all teachers. Displays of charts relevant to the mathematics programme are in evidence in all classes and these help consolidate pupils’ learning. Good use of the newly acquired interactive whiteboards was observed in the teaching of Mathematics.
The pupils attain appropriate standards of learning in relation to conservation of number, measures and shape and space. These concepts are reinforced in a suitable manner through practical tasks. A commendable feature of the Mathematics provision is the cooperation of staff in working with mixed ability groups and the use of a tracking system to monitor progress. In some classes pupils keep samples of their work in individual portfolios.
In the teaching of Geography, emphasis is placed on the pupils familiarising themselves with the layout of the school and exploring the locality in junior and senior infants. Pupils in the more senior classes learn some facts about their counterparts in other countries and they compare lifestyles, homes and traditions. A variety of teaching strategies is used effectively in the teaching of Geography. Emphasis is placed on affording opportunities to the pupils to engage in practical project work, investigation and experimentation. The school has a good range of resources for the teaching of Geography. Excellent use is made of these visual aids to enhance the learning. During the evaluation good practice was observed in most classes and the pupils were given opportunities to explore a variety of aspects of their immediate school environment. Basic weather recording skills are taught and seasonal weather changes are observed and recorded regularly. The school environment is used very successfully to examine and investigate basic geographical and historical concepts. Pupils’ awareness of the importance of caring for their environment is developed in practical ways and pupils take responsibility for recycling and composting waste. Through a variety of activities, the school is actively pursuing the Green Flag initiative. Written activities are undertaken in a commercially produced activity book.
Good quality assessment procedures are in place in the school. Informal assessments are carried out primarily through the use of teacher checklists, teacher-designed tasks and teacher observation. Pupil projects, pupil portfolios and samples of their work are kept as part of informal assessment also. Checklists are used at infants’ level to assess progress and application. Results of this continuous assessment are considered at the annual parent-teacher consultations. Junior infant teachers have checklists for numeracy and literacy. All classes use the assessments at the end of each term from their Action Maths text books. Senior infants have regular assessments based on the Newell Literacy Scheme. First classes have regular assessments based on the reading and dictation pages from the Newell Literacy Scheme. The standardised tests administered are Micra-T, verbal and non-verbal ability tests and the Middle Infants Screening Test (MIST). It is reported that standardised tests in Mathematics will be administered in the last term this year. The Quest Reading and Number tests are administered in first class. Diagnostic tests are then administered as appropriate and typically those scoring at or below the 12th percentile receive priority for supplementary support. The results of these tests contribute to the allocation of pupils to suitable classes and to determine the need for supplementary support. Assessment results are stored centrally.
The learning support policy aims “to optimise the teaching and learning process in order to enable pupils with learning difficulties to achieve adequate levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy before moving to the senior school”. Early intervention generally begins in senior infants or earlier if significant difficulties are observed. All pupils from senior infants and first class are screened annually using standardised tests. The learning support teacher and the relevant class teacher meet to devise individual education plans (IEPs) and group plans in consultation with the principal and the parents. Implementation of the plans is carefully monitored and detailed records of progress, including pupils own checklists and flow charts are kept. Termly tests are administered to track pupils’ progress. A detailed review takes place at the end of the two instructional terms set out by the school. At present fourteen pupils are in receipt of support in Mathematics and English. The close communication between the special education teacher (SET), the class teachers and parents is a commendable feature of the review process. The SET organises and coordinates referral to outside agencies where appropriate. The on-going informal communication with parents and other professionals in relation to programmes being delivered is praised as is the constant monitoring and review of support programmes.
The school has a wide variety of resources including suitable reading and mathematical materials which are used effectively in the delivery of supplementary support. The provision of support for pupils with special needs includes withdrawal of pupils and in-class tuition. Lessons observed during the evaluation were well structured and the pupils engaged actively in the tasks set for them. The classroom dedicated to learning support is bright and well organised. Suitable print and mathematics rich displays support the pupils’ learning and help consolidate the concepts explored.
A teacher of English as an additional language (EAL), who is shared with the senior girls’ school, attends the school daily. Twelve pupils in the junior school are in receipt of this support, which is co-ordinated with class teachers through ongoing informal discussion. Children are selected for EAL using Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) screening materials. Learning targets are identified for each pupil and a suitable range of activities is prepared. Pupils’ learning targets are reviewed each term, using IILT benchmarks. Group and IEPs are drawn up according to need and meetings with parents are held in February or informally as required. A strong emphasis on communicative approaches to teaching English is evident in the teacher’s preparation. An appropriate range of suitable resources is provided to stimulate discussion on everyday topics. The creative use of the internet by the teacher, as a source of visual stimuli for use in lessons, is commended. Overall the provision in this area is good.
The school has the services of a home-school-community liaison (HSCL) coordinator who is shared between the three schools on the campus. The school policy on HSCL focuses on the importance of involving the parents in the educational life of their children. The HSCL co-ordinator monitors attendance on a regular basis. Close communication with parents at the early stages in school is seen as key to developing trust between home and school. An attendance award scheme has been introduced and pupils are given due recognition at the end of a specified period. The pupils receive certificates, which usually have a seasonal theme, in recognition of their achievements. On occasions they receive small prizes. The HSCL co-ordinator initiates a wide range of activities to promote a positive environment for the pupils, their parents and the local community. Among the initiatives coordinated by the HSCL are home visitations, networking with the local community, organising suitable courses for parents, working with local community groups and statutory bodies. Other projects include the toy library and Maths for Fun initiative. The increasing participation of parents in these initiatives indicates that they are having a beneficial and positive effect on the school community.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· The board’s attention is drawn to the terms of circular PC_17/00, section 13(b), regarding the deployment of the principal teacher to a special education post.
· It is recommended that all policies and plans be duly ratified and signed by the board of management.
· It is recommended that the in-school management team meet on a formal basis and record decisions taken.
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.
Published October 2008