An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Holy Angels National School Clogher
Date of inspection: 10 April 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Holy Angels National School, Clogher, was undertaken in April 2008. 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, Irish, Mathematics and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). The board of management 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.
Holy Angels School is a three-teacher, co-educational primary school situated in Clogher, in the parish of Balla, Co Mayo. Most of the pupils come from the Clogher area, with the remainder coming from other parts of Balla parish and the neighbouring parishes. It is expected that enrolment figures will increase slightly in the future, as there will be a number of new houses built in the area over the next few years.
The core of the school building dates from 1944. A major renovation and extension was completed in 2007. There are two new mainstream classrooms. The older part of the building contains the two former mainstream classrooms. These are now used as the staff room/office and the learning support and resource room respectively. There are pupil and staff toilets. There is no general purposes room. There is a school yard to the side and rear of the building. There is an attractive lawn and garden area to the front of the building. The school building and grounds are very well maintained. They are also continuously developed and improved. Work has commenced on the development of an area on one side of the building for further recreational and educational use.
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
The Catholic Archbishop of Tuam is the patron of the school. The school’s mission statement can be found in the school plan. The school is characterised by very positive working relationships among the entire school community: board of management, school staff, parents and pupils. There is an effective learning atmosphere in the school.
The board of management meets at least once a term, more often if necessary. Minutes are recorded at each board meeting. The board of management is very supportive of the school. The chairperson of the board of management maintains close contact with school personnel, especially the principal. All school policies are discussed and ratified by the board. The board’s current priorities include the maintenance of the school building and the further development of the school grounds. Although the school grounds are already attractively laid out, the board intends to develop some land at the side of the school as a stimulating area to enhance learning across the curriculum, but particularly for Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) and Physical Education (PE).
The in-school management team consists of the principal and the deputy principal. The principal’s management and curricular duties are carried out competently and diligently. The principal has ensured that an effective learning environment has been created in the school.
Every member of the school staff co-operates with one another to ensure that the school operates as efficiently as possible. The work of the special needs assistants, the secretary and the cleaners, has enhanced the service that the school offers. Roll books, registers and all school records are well maintained. Formal staff meetings are held three times a year.
There is no parents’ association in Clogher, but there are very good relations between parents and teachers. Parents are involved in a variety of school activities. Parents are very happy with the quality of education provided in the school.
At the formal parent-teacher meetings that are organised annually, parents are given an oral report on the progress of their children. A written report is sent to parents on each of their children at the end of the school year. If a parent has a concern about his or her child, it is dealt with by the school in an open way. Parents are always welcome in the school. They can discuss pupils’ progress or other issues with the principal or class teacher at any time. The parents receive termly newsletters from the principal about events in the school.
The pupils in Holy Angels School are very well behaved. They work well together and are welcoming and courteous to visitors to the school. There is a stimulating learning atmosphere in the school, where the pupils participate willingly in lessons and other school activities.
The specific needs of Holy Angels School are addressed in the school plan. The teachers praise the support they have received from national in-service training initiatives. This support has made an effective contribution to the school planning process.
The parents in the school are aware that the school plan is available for them to consult at any time. Parents are welcome to contribute their opinions and suggestions on school policies at any time. Nevertheless, it is recommended that a more formal system be implemented to ensure that every opportunity is given to parents to access and contribute to the school plan. The board of management ratifies all administrative policies and curricular plans before they are included in the school plan.
Plans are available for almost all of the curricular areas in which the teachers have received in-service training. The draft plan for Drama is due to be ratified in the near future. A wide range of organisational policies have been developed on school matters. Among these policies are a health and safety statement, an enrolment policy and a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy. An equality statement has also been developed. The recently drafted attendance strategy is due to be ratified by the board of management shortly.
The teachers in Holy Angels School implement a broad and balanced curriculum overall. Teachers’ classroom planning is clear and gives a good overview of the work planned. The mainstream teachers set out long-term and short-term schemes of work. Monthly progress records are also kept. The teachers keep to an appropriate timetable. These are based on the suggested minimum time framework set out in the primary school curriculum.
Individual education plans (IEPs) are developed for pupils attending learning support or in receipt of resource hours. The IEPs are reviewed and updated twice a year. It is recommended that in future the IEPs should contain more specific information on the work to be done during the term. The method of preparing short-term plans for pupils with special educational needs should also be reviewed to provide clearer information. The relevant records are filed in the learning support room. Copies of individual pupils’ education plans are also kept in class teachers’ files.
Confirmation was provided to confirm that, in compliance wiht Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management and staff have formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
Cothaítear dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge i Scoil an Chlochair. Leagann na hoidí béim chuí ar fhorbairt na scileanna labhartha ó naíonáin go rang a sé. Is féidir le beagnach gach dalta sna ranganna éagsúla labhairt fúthu féin go soiléir as Gaeilge. Baineann na hoidí uile úsáid éifeachtach as dráma sna ceachtanna Gaeilge. Cuidíonn an obair seo le foclóir na ndaltaí a leathnú go céimniúil tríd an scoil.
Aithrisíonn na daltaí rainn agus dánta agus canann siad uile amhráin as Gaeilge. Forbraítear an léitheoireacht go réasúnta éifeachtach ó rang a dó ar aghaidh. Léann formhór na ndaltaí os ard go tuisceanach. Freagraíonn siad ceisteanna go réasúnta cumasach bunaithe ar an méid atá léite acu. Déantar obair réasúnta éifeachtach sa scríbhneoireacht. Tá cló i nGaeilge le feiceáil i dtimpeallacht na scoile agus tá samplaí d’obair na ndaltaí ar taispeáint i gcuid de na ranganna. Tá caighdeán inmholta le sonrú i gcóipleabhair agus i leabhair saothair na ndaltaí.
A positive attitude to Irish is fostered in Holy Angels School. The teachers place appropriate emphasis on developing oral language skills from infants to sixth class. Almost all the pupils in the various classes can talk about themselves clearly in Irish. All of the teachers make effective use of drama in Irish lessons. This work helps to expand pupils’ vocabularies in a graded way throughout the school.
The pupils in the school can recite rhymes and poems and they can all sing songs in Irish. Reading is developed reasonably effectively from second class onwards. The majority of pupils read aloud in a way that shows understanding (of what they are reading). They can answer questions reasonably competently based on what they have read. Reasonably effective work has been done in (Irish) writing. There is a print-rich environment in Irish evident throughout the school and there are samples of the pupils’ work on display in some classes. A commendable standard is evident in the pupils’ copybooks and workbooks.
Most pupils in the school attain reasonably high standards in English. The importance of oral language development is understood. While many of the pupils can speak about themselves and other topics fairly articulately and clearly, it is recommended that this work be further developed. The pupils get regular opportunities to write poems and their work is on impressive display in every class. More work should now be done on the recitation of poetry, especially in the senior classes.
There is a print-rich environment throughout the school. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of phonological awareness, as part of the foundation of basic reading skills, in the junior classes. Class libraries are reasonably well stocked and well presented. They provide a fairly good supply of books for readers at all levels of age and ability. It is recommended, however, that new books be purchased more regularly to provide a more varied supply. A systematic way of ensuring that all pupils read a certain number of books each year should be expanded throughout the school.
The standard of English writing throughout the school is high. There are very good examples of pupils’ writing in a wide variety of genres on display in every class. The writing process is appropriately emphasised and written work is carefully edited and displayed throughout the school. Copybooks and workbooks contain commendable work in functional and creative writing.
The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken competently in Clogher. A good foundation in Mathematics is laid in the junior classes. This contributes to the good standards in Mathematics achieved by most pupils in the school. Most of the pupils have a reasonably good knowledge of mathematical terms. Appropriate emphasis is placed on solving mathematical problems in every class.
There is a wide range of mathematical equipment available in the school. These materials are used regulalry and effectively in every class to enhance pupils’ learning. A stimulating maths-rich environment has been developed throughout the school. There are Mathematics corners and mathematical posters in all classes. The pupils record their work neatly. The teachers supervise, check and correct this work regularly.
Aspects of several programmes are used for SPHE lessons in Holy Angels School. These include Walk Tall and Alive-O. Circle time, drama, co-operative games and discussion are the most common methodologies used during SPHE lessons. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is also covered appropriately. The Stay Safe programme is used as a major part of this area of the curriculum.
Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to pupils in English and Mathematics once a year. The results of the standardised tests are used to compare the achievement of pupils in the school with national averages. They are also used to identify pupils who are in need of learning support. The other main assessment tools used in the school are teacher observation and teacher-designed tests. Portfolios of work done by pupils are also used to assess their progress. There are impressive projects on a wide variety of topics on display in the senior classes.
The learning support teacher uses diagnostic tests to identify the specific needs of pupils with learning difficulties. These tests aid in the development of individual education plans (IEPs), although the link between diagnosis and support should be clearer in these plans. Consideration should also now be given to implementing a wider programme of early intervention to help pupils who are experiencing difficulty as soon and as effectively as possible. The programme for this early intervention work should be clearly set out in teachers’ notes and in the school plan.
The school has developed a reasonably clear learning support and special educational needs policy. The policy addresses the school’s procedures for screening, planning and implementation. The school policy should now be reviewed, however, to provide an even clearer overview of the services the school intends to provide. As part of this work, it is recommended that more imaginative ways of providing support be considered for inclusion in the plan in the future. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving supplementary teaching. Parents are kept regularly informed about their children’s progress. It is recommended that parents should receive a copy of their child’s IEP in the future.
Learning support and resource teaching takes place in one of the former mainstream classroom. The room is decorated attractively, where appropriate, with educational charts and samples of the pupils’ work. All pupils who need support in English and Mathematics are offered learning support on a withdrawal from class basis. It is recommended that the whole school staff should consider developing and adapting the service provided by the learning support and resource teachers. This should help to stimulate ideas to provide an even more effective service in the future.
The pupils in this school are all treated fairly. The school has an open enrolment policy and welcomes pupils of all backgrounds. School funds and grants are used to ensure that no pupil is prevented from participating in school activities.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· There is a positive and enthusiastic learning atmosphere in Holy Angels School.
· The board of management gives effective support to the school.
· The teachers are conscientious and diligent in their work.
· Effective teaching methods are used in all classes.
· The school plan is based on the needs of the school.
· Pupils’ achievement across the curriculum is very good.
· There is a good standard achieved in Irish in the school.
· SPHE is taught in a clear, effective and beneficial way.
· The school building and grounds are very attractive and are constantly being further enhanced and developed.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· Oral language development in English should be emphasised even more in the future.
· As a means of further enhancing pupils’ reading experiences, more books should be purchased for classroom libraries. A system of ensuring that all pupils read a number of books every year should also be introduced.
· The learning support and resource policy should be reviewed to set out how programmes for individual pupils and groups can be implemented more effectively. As part of this, consideration should be given to adopting more imaginative ways of using the learning support and resource service to support learning on a school-wide basis.
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 November 2008
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management of Holy Angels NS would like to thank the inspector for the professional and courteous manner in which the WSE was carried out. The Board welcomes the report as it affirms the very positive working relationships among the entire school community, the effective and stimulating learning atmosphere, the achievement of the pupils and the commitment and dedication of the staff.
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 Board members note the key recommendations in the report and have already begun to implement these.
We have engaged support from the PPDS to assist in the further development of oral language and enhancement of the Learning Support/Resource service. We will continue to add books to class libraries each year with a view to further enhancing pupils’ reading experiences.