An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Fionnbarra Naofa
Cabra West, Dublin 7
Uimhir rolla: 17464N
Date of inspection: 12 November 2009
A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Fionnbarra Naofa was undertaken in November, 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and History. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Scoil Fionnbarra Naofa is an all-boys school, catering for pupils from junior infant to sixth classes, situated in the Dublin suburb of Cabra West. The present two-storey building was constructed in 1943 to cater for the educational needs of boys in the locality. Recent trends indicate a steady decline in enrolment figures and one of the main priorities of the school is to reverse this trend over the coming years. School records indicate that overall attendance is generally good and the intermittent attendance of a minority of pupils is being addressed through interventions under the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme and the school attendance strategy. The school has experienced a number of changes to the teaching staff in recent times and a newly appointed principal and acting deputy principal took up duty at the commencement of the school year.
The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Mainstream class teachers
Teachers working in support roles
Special needs assistants
Scoil Fionnbarra Naofa is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin and is firmly established in the community in which it serves. The school’s policies indicate that it endeavours to promote the holistic development of all pupils in addition to providing for their educational needs. An underlying principle of the school is that it embraces the involvement of parents in the education of their children.
Scoil Fionnbarra Naofa is managed by a board of management which is supportive of the work of the school. At the time of the inspection the board was in a stage of transition as four members including the former principal, chairperson, teachers’ representative and one of the parents’ representatives had recently resigned. The board had succeeded in filling the vacancies created by all members except that of the chairperson. The treasurer informed the inspection team that he had been appointed acting chairperson in addition to fulfilling his role as treasurer. In view of the number of changes that have taken place on the board of management, it is recommended that the present members ensure that it is functioning in accordance with the guidelines set out in the Department of Education and Science’s publication Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure (2007). Consideration should also be given to the provision of training to enable all members to obtain a clear view of their roles and responsibilities in the management and development of the school.
Meetings of the board are held five or six times a year. The key issues discussed include the maintenance of the school, organisational policies and child protection. It is reported in the minutes that a financial statement was not available at recent meetings. It is recommended that this aspect of the work of the board be addressed to ensure that it is in compliance with Section 18 of The Education Act (1998) which outlines the role and responsibilities of the treasurer. The board should also familiarise itself with the specific details in relation to the maintenance of school accounts which are set out in the Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure (2007). It is recommended that an accounting system be put in place to enable the board to track income and expenditure and to ensure that all state grants are used only for the purpose for which they are provided.
The board of management oversees the maintenance of the school and recent projects include the upgrading of the electrical system and the installation of a fire and burglar alarm. A major refurbishment project on the roof of the school was underway at the time of the inspection. It is recommended that the board adopts a planned approach to the ongoing maintenance of the school to ensure that high standards are maintained.
The quality of in-school management is good and the in-school management team is comprised of the principal, the acting deputy principal and two special duties teachers. The newly appointed principal is a committed and experienced teacher with an in-depth understanding of the educational, social and pastoral needs of the pupils and the wider school community. She embraces parental involvement and has the full support of the staff. She is proficient at planning, personnel management and communication and her administrative skills are evident in the meticulous maintenance of the school registers. To further enhance her skills she is participating in the Misneach programme for newly appointed principals, offered by Leadership Development for Schools. She is ably assisted by the other members of the in-school management team whose duties were reviewed recently in line with relevant department guidelines. Members of the team meet regularly after school hours and carry out their duties in an effective manner.
Resources are managed efficiently throughout the school. The majority of teachers assumed new areas of responsibility within the school at the beginning of the school year. While all teachers have settled well into their new roles it is recommended that a policy on the allocation of staff be drawn up in order to provide for change on a more incremental basis. The five special needs assistants (SNAs) capably support pupils in their classrooms. The caretaker and secretary respond with competence to the day-to-day needs of the school and the three cleaners effectively maintain a high standard of cleanliness throughout.
The school has ample classroom accommodation, a spacious school hall, a library, a principal’s office, a staff room and resource rooms. The kitchen facilities in the school cater for the breakfast club. An attractive parents’ room and office accommodation for the home-school-community liaison (HSCL) coordinator were funded from the proceeds of dormant accounts. Outside there is a large hard-surface playground, a green area and a well-tended school garden.
There is an adequate supply of educational resources in the school to support teaching and learning and parents have generously supplied books and story sacks to promote reading. As a result of various fund-raising activities an interactive whiteboard was donated to the school to complement the information and communication technology (ICT) room which was funded by the parish. Attractive displays of pupils’ work enhance classrooms and corridors. There is evidence of a range of suitable materials to support the implementation of the science curriculum. However, there is scope for the further enhancement and updating of resources across all curricular areas. Consideration should be given to the creation of an inventory of all the available materials and the compilation of a prioritised list of resources for replenishment and expansion to support teaching and learning.
The quality of the management of relationships and communication with the school community is very good. Parents report positively on the school’s open door policy and the principal, together with the HSCL coordinator, meet and greet parents and pupils each morning. There is an active parents’ association in the school which is fully supportive of the work of the school and parents report that they can meet with teachers on an informal basis at any time. Parents are involved in a variety of sporting, social and curricular activities such as sports’ days and awards’ nights. A formal parent-teacher meeting is held annually at which parents are informed about all aspects of their children’s progress and an end-of-year written report is also furnished. Newsletters are issued on a frequent basis to keep parents informed of school events and an informative school website has just been launched. Very positive relationships have been fostered with outside agencies such as the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) to support the overall welfare of pupils.
The management of pupils in the school is of a high standard. School rules are stated clearly in the code of behaviour and simple class rules to promote courteous behaviour and to foster a positive learning environment are posted in most classrooms. They are implemented consistently and it is evident that pastoral care encompasses pupil management throughout the school. Regular assemblies are held in the school hall and themes such as volunteering are discussed. Positive affirmation is used consistently throughout the school and awards such as Réalt na Míosa, the Star of the Month, are presented to pupils who have demonstrated high standards of pupil participation and positive behaviour. Pupils present as courteous, respectful and secure in their relationships with peers and teachers.
The quality of whole-school planning is good. A comprehensive school plan has been compiled collaboratively with the assistance of cuiditheoirí from the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS). The administrative and organisational section of the school plan contains all policies required by legislation and they provide guidance on the effective and safe running of the school.
Many of the plans have been ratified and signed by the previous chairperson of the board of management and they outline a date for review. It is recommended that this good practice be extended to all plans and policies as they fall for review. The three-year action plan associated with the DEIS programme is contained in the school plan and this informs practice in relation to key priorities for the school. It sets out learning objectives for literacy and numeracy, outlines specific actions to be taken to enhance the involvement of parents and families in the education of pupils and targets the enhancement of school attendance.
The curriculum plans contain policies which direct and co-ordinate a broad and balanced curriculum throughout the school. The English plan is of a very high standard and gives clear guidance to teachers to enable them to meet the learning needs of pupils. It also skilfully incorporates the range of initiatives being implemented as part of the DEIS programme. This model should be used as a guide for the structure of plans in all other subject areas.
The overall quality of individual teacher planning is good. All teachers diligently prepare long-term and short-term schemes of work and monthly progress records. Long-term plans are clearly presented and are linked both to the curriculum and the school plan. Short-term planning is predominantly topic and textbook based. It is recommended that short-term planning practices be reviewed in order to focus more clearly on the implementation of specific learning objectives. A suitable template should be designed which would include valuable information in on key methodologies and on the differentiation of the curriculum at each class level. Monthly progress records would be more beneficial to teachers if they were linked more closely to the structure and content of the Primary School Curriculum (1999).
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
The quality of teaching and learning in English is good. Classrooms are print-rich and a range of charts and relevant teaching resources are displayed to stimulate pupils’ interest in literacy. Lessons are well structured and paced and include appropriate learning activities. Oral language is prioritised as a basis for the development of literacy skills at all levels. Discrete oral language lessons should play a more prominent role in language learning and a structured oral language programme should be implemented systematically throughout the school to promote pupils’ confidence and competence in the use of language.
In infant and junior classes pupils are engaged in the development of phonological and phonemic awareness. Large-format books and story are used to foster a love of reading among the pupils. In middle and senior classes pupils continue to experience more complex language structures, and books from the school’s library are used in addition to resources from class libraries. Word recognition skills are well taught and are consolidated through the reading of textbooks. Collated results of standardised tests in reading indicate a steady increase in the overall level of pupils’ achievement throughout the school.
In general, the standard of writing in English is good. Pupils engage in a wide range of writing activities in a variety of genres. It is recommended that this work be complemented by a whole-school approach to the presentation and celebration of pupils’ work and it should include a whole-school approach to the use of ICT in the development of the writing process. Pupils engage enthusiastically in all activities relating to poetry and drama and this approach should be further extended throughout the school.
The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good. Classrooms display a range of mathematical resources to support pupils’ learning across all strands and strand units of the curriculum. Early mathematics activities are introduced in infant classes and pupils engage competently in sorting and matching activities. In junior classes, team teaching is used to differentiate lesson content. Mathematics games are used as a stimulus and the Maths for Fun programme is implemented effectively with the assistance of parents. Team teaching is competently used in the middle and senior classes in order to develop a range of pupils’ mathematical skills. Teachers work well together to differentiate programmes of work appropriate to the abilities of pupils. Pupil engagement is good and teachers report that pupil confidence and competence are improving throughout the school as a result of these intensive interventions.
The school’s approach to the teaching of History is commendable and generates a high level of interest in pupils. A whole-school programme in History has been developed in line with the principles of the curriculum and adapted to the specific context of the school. A list of local places of historical interest is outlined in planning documents and further expansion of this work would ensure the spiral and developmental study of local history throughout the school. Appropriate reading materials and photographs of local interest have been sourced.
In infant and junior classes personal and family events are used to establish pupils’ awareness of time. Familiar objects and stories are used to enable pupils to develop a concept of continuity and change. In the middle and senior classes, hands-on activities, field-trips to local places of interest, interviews with older people in the community, photographs and visits from a local history group enable pupils to explore the past. In the senior classes pupils are encouraged to research people and societies from different ages and to explore eras of change in Ireland and other countries.
Timelines are used proficiently in some classes to develop pupils’ concept of time and chronology and it is recommended that the development and use of timelines become a more central feature in all history lessons. Pupils engage well with activities in history and there is evidence of integration with other subject areas such as Geography and Visual Arts. The school should consider the systematic compilation of relevant resources and artefacts to further support teaching and learning in History throughout the school.
A range of formal and informal assessment methods is used to monitor pupil progress and attainment. In general, written work in copies is corrected consistently and appropriate feedback is given to pupils. Teacher-designed tasks and tests are administered on a regular basis. School-designed checklists based on the Drumcondra English Profiles (2000) and other relevant resources are systematically maintained in junior infants to record pupil progress in a range of relevant skills. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to senior infants and is used to identify pupils who would benefit from participation in early intervention programmes. Standardised tests are administered annually from first to fifth class to measure pupils’ reading and mathematics skills and the school’s plan to extend this practice to sixth class is praiseworthy. The school is to be commended for its representation and analysis in electronic format of the results of assessment tests. It is evident that the main focus in the school is on assessment of learning and it is recommended that when the policy on assessment is reviewed it should endeavour to incorporate more practices relating to assessment for learning. This would build on the current good practice in the school. The recent NCCA publication Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum: Guidelines for Schools would assist the school in this task.
The school places a strong emphasis on its work with pupils with special educational needs. The support team consists of two learning support/resource teachers and a part-time teacher of English as an Additional Language (EAL). The school policy clearly outlines approaches for identifying and addressing the different learning needs of pupils and places an emphasis on the implementation of early intervention strategies. Learning support is available both on a withdrawal and on an in-class basis. Teachers from the support team work alongside mainstream class teachers and the openness with which teachers have embraced this arrangement is highly commendable. When pupils are withdrawn from class they receive support in attractive rooms containing a wide variety of resources. The quality of the teaching provided is of a high standard and teachers have a very good rapport with pupils in this context. Interventions in this setting include Reading Recovery. Individual education plans are maintained systematically by the learning support teacher and they contain all relevant information to assist in the compilation of an individual education plan for pupils. These are securely stored in the learning support room. It is recommended that all mainstream class teachers have access to the individual education plans in their classrooms to assist them in planning for differentiation.
In line with the school’s underlying philosophy of inclusiveness and equality, all school procedures are directed at providing a supportive and caring environment for pupils. The school is commended for the effectiveness of the supplementary support systems that are in place to ensure that all pupils experience a comfortable and secure environment and are equipped to avail of maximum participation in all activities.
Pupils learning English as an additional language are supported on a withdrawal and on an in-class basis by the part-time EAL teacher. They are making satisfactory progress in acquiring language skills. English language proficiency is assessed using the Integrate Ireland Language Training (IILT) and Primary School Assessment Kit materials and the programme for language support is based on the range of topics outlined in the IILT manual.
The school community is supported by the diligent HSCL coordinator and courses are organised to encourage the participation of parents in the life of the school and in the education of their children. The HSCL teacher works closely with the School Completion Project (SCP) co-ordinator in the organisation of initiatives in the areas of literacy, extracurricular activities and therapeutic services. These initiatives include the homework club, the photography club, basketball coaching and art therapy. The SCP co-ordinator is also involved in developing the attendance strategy. Policy and practice in the school ensure the inclusion of all pupils from diverse cultures into age-appropriate mainstream classes throughout the school.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, March 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The B.O.M. welcomes the content, findings and recommendations of the whole school evaluation report. The B.O.M. particularly welcomes the report’s affirmation of the school’s holistic approach in the development of all pupils and how the school embraces the involvement of parents into school life. The report also highlights the commitment, dedication and diligence of the school Principal, the in-school management team, and the teachers. The support and active involvement of the parents and the shared sense of purpose of all the members of the school community are also commended in the report. The report recognises the high standard of pupil management and the emphasis placed on the pastoral care of the students. The report commends the pupils, who present as courteous, respectful and secure in their relationships with peers and teachers. The report recognises the high standard of planning which directs and coordinates a broad and balanced curriculum throughout the school. It makes particular reference to the high standard of the school’s English plan which is effective and incorporates the range of initiatives being implemented as part of the D.E.I.S. programme. The report recognises the broad range of supports for the students through the use of the HSCL and the School Completion Programme initiatives which encourage the children and ensure that all pupils experience a comfortable and secure environment and avail of maximum participation in all activities.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
The B.O.M. and staff are happy to accept the recommendations in the report and to use them as a template for the ongoing process of school development planning.
Since the report was written the B.O.M. have appointed a highly effective and experienced chairperson. The school has implemented a school finance package to track income and expenditure. Members of the Board have since signed up for training to enable all members to carry out their duties effectively.
The school is aware of the importance of assessment of learning and are happy to incorporate more strategies relating to assessment for learning.
The recommendation that links be strengthened between the curriculum, the school plan and the individual teacher’s short term planning will be addressed at planning meetings by I.S.M and teachers.
The W.S.E. was a very positive and encouraging learning experience for all involved. The B.O.M. thanks the inspection team for their courtesy, support and professional approach to the W.S.E.