An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Fohenagh National School

Fohenagh National School,Fohenagh, Ahascragh, County Galway

Roll number:  17485V

 

Date of inspection: 21 May 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

A whole-school evaluation of Fohenagh National School was undertaken in May 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 Music. 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

Fohenagh School is a three-teacher co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Fohenagh-Killure-Kilgerrill, Co Galway. Almost all of the pupils come from the Fohenagh area. A third mainstream teacher was appointed in 2005, following an increase in enrolment. It is expected that current enrolment patterns will continue for the foreseeable future.

 

The school was built in 1944 and an extension was added in the 1980s. There are three mainstream classrooms, a general purposes room and office. The staff room is also used as the learning support and resource classroom. There is also a kitchen area and there are pupil and staff toilets. The building and school grounds are well maintained overall. There is a maintenance plan for the school building, although this should more specifically identify priority areas for development and improvement.

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

An effective learning environment is created for the pupils.

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

49

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

0

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The Catholic Bishop of Clonfert is the patron of the Fohenagh National School. The school’s mission statement is set out in the school plan. It is recommended that the mission statement should be revised to reflect the specific spirit of the school and the specific vision of the school community. The board of management, teachers, parents and pupils of the school all work well together. There is a welcoming atmosphere in the school and, overall, an appropriate learning environment is provided.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management meets at least once a term. Minutes are kept of the proceedings of board meetings. The board ratifies school policies, following discussion. The board of management maintains close contact with school personnel. While the current board members have yet to attend training to assist them in managing the school, it is planned to avail of such training as soon as it becomes available. The board’s current priorities include the provision of pathways around and outside the school and to set out and decorate yard areas for various games.

 

 

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal has been successful in implementing her vision for the school, since being appointed in 2004. This enthusiasm to enhance pupils’ experience in school and provide an increased variety of educational opportunities for them is very praiseworthy. Nevertheless, some priority areas in planning and in curriculum implementation have not received all the attention they require. For example, more attention should be given to planning for History and Drama. It is recommended that curricular planning and implementation in general should receive more focused attention in future. This should lead to significant improvements in school-wide achievement.

 

The school staff works well together. This positive situation should ensure that whole school planning days will be open, purposeful and fruitful, as curricular questions are addressed into the future. Almost all roll books, registers and school records are carefully maintained. The teachers meet informally almost every day. Formal staff meetings are held once a term, under the guidelines approved by the Department of Education and Science.

 

The school has a part-time secretary and caretaker. Their work contributes to the running of the school.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

There is an active parents’ association in the school. Some members have attended training to assist them in their role. The parents’ association meets several times a term. Parents’ concerns are the commonly raised issues at these meetings. Among these concerns are health and safety issues, particularly road safety. The parents’ association is also keen to see the development of better playground facilities in the schoolyard. The school principal meets regularly with the members of the parents’ association. The broader parent community receives regular newsletters from the parents’ association to inform of developments in the school.

 

Positive relations exist between parents and teachers. There is a good level of parental involvement in the school. The parents’ association has been involved in the Green Schools Project and in developing play areas in the school. The parents’ association was very involved in the development of various parts of the school plan, specifically in devising school policies such as the code of behaviour and the homework policy. The parents express satisfaction with the education provided in the school. The school deals with parents’ concerns in an open way. Parents are welcome to discuss pupils’ progress or other issues with the principal or class teacher at any time.

 

Parents are given an oral report on the progress of their children at the formal parent-teacher meetings that are organised annually. Parents are also sent a written report on their children at the end of the school year. The parents receive regular newsletters from the principal to keep them informed about school matters.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

Most of the pupils in Fohenagh School are well behaved. Almost all of them get on well with each other. They are also very welcoming to visitors to the school. The teachers have a positive relationship with their pupils and there is an understanding of the importance of this relationship among all the school staff. The majority of pupils participate eagerly in lessons and other school activities.

 

 

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

A lot of work has been done in the development of the school plan. Much of this work is good. The teachers have made good use of the support received from cuiditheoirí and facilitators from national in-service training initiatives. Nevertheless, a substantial review of the school plan needs to be undertaken to ensure that it is focused and relevant to the specific needs of Fohenagh School. The drafting process is very important in school planning, but the final draft should be clearly identifiable as such and all members of staff should be aware of the definitive versions of school policies and curricular plans. School planning issues should be a priority for the school to ensure the implementation of a broad and balanced curriculum in all areas.

 

The board of management ratifies administrative and curricular policies prior to their inclusion in the school plan. The school plan is available for parents to consult. Organisational policies have been developed on a wide range of school matters. Among these are a health and safety statement, an enrolment policy and a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy. An equality statement is also available.

 

The quality of some teachers’ classroom planning is highly commendable. Where this is the case, written schemes provide a clear overview of the work planned. Much more emphasis needs to be placed on the provision and quality of long-term and short-term schemes in some classes. Monthly progress records (cuntais mhíosúla) should be completed by every teacher at the end of every month. These records should be carefully maintained by the school principal. The principal has a crucial leadership role to play in ensuring school-wide compliance with planning and preparation regulations. Most of the teachers have set out an appropriate timetable. Some timetables should be revised to ensure that they are based on the suggested minimum time framework set out in the primary school curriculum.

 

Individual education plans (IEPs) have been developed for pupils attending learning support or in receipt of resource hours. The IEPs are reviewed at appropriate intervals, but it is recommended that the process of review should be further formalised with more effective parental involvement. Daily notes record pupils’ progress. Records are kept in the office, but copies of relevant test results should also be kept in the learning support teacher files.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

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.

 

 

 

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Cothaítear dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge i Scoil an Fheothaine. Leagann na hoidí béim ar an dteanga labhartha ó naíonáin go rang a sé. Tá caighdeán inmholta i nGaeilge le sonrú sna bunranganna, ach go háirithe. Is féidir leis na daltaí sna ranganna seo iad féin a chur in iúl go soiléir as Gaeilge. Tá siad in ann ceisteanna simplí a fheagairt go cumasach freisin. I gcuid de na ranganna eile, áfach, d’fhéadfaí níos mó béime a leagan ar an gcuid seo den obair as seo amach. B’fhiú dul siar ar na bunabairtí go rialta sna ranganna seo. Cleachtaítear cúrsaí comhrá (mar shampla i miondrámaí) go héifeachtach i ngach rang, ach b’fhiú na frásaí a fhoghlamaítear anseo a chleachtadh i gnáthsaol na ranga agus na scoile freisin.

 

Aithrisíonn agus canann na daltaí sa chuid is mó de na ranganna rainn, dánta agus amhráin as Gaeilge go cumasach. B’fhiú a thuilleadh béime a leagan ar an obair seo i ranganna eile as seo amach. Leagtar béim ar an léitheoireacht Ghaeilge ó rang a dó ar aghaidh. Léann cuid de na daltaí os ard go réasúnta cumasach. Is féidir leo siúd ceisteanna bunaithe ar an méid atá léite a fhreagairt go réasúnta cruinn. Moltar, go léifeadh na hoidí féin sleachta, roimh léamh na ndaltaí, chun dea-shampla agus dea-chleachtas a thaispeáint. Tá cló i nGaeilge le feiceáil i dtimpeallacht na scoile, ach moltar an obair seo a mhéadú, ach go háirithe i gcuid de na seomraí ranga. Tá samplaí de shaothar na ndaltaí i scríbhneoireacht Ghaeilge le feiceáil ar taispeáint i gcuid de na ranganna. Tá scríbhneoireacht le sonrú i gcóipleabhair agus i leabhair saothair na ndaltaí freisin. Tá an iomarca béime curtha ar an gcuid seo den obair i gcuid de na ranganna, áfach, agus moltar smaoineamh ar fhiúntas na hoibre seo roimh leanúint ar aghaidh leis ar a shon féin.

 

Irish

A positive attitude towards Irish is fostered in Fohenagh School. The teachers emphasise oral language from infants to sixth class. A commendable standard in Irish is especially evident in the junior classes. The pupils in these classes can talk about themselves clearly in Irish. They are also able to answer simple questions competently. In some of the other classes, however, more emphasis should be placed on this area of work. It would be worthwhile revising the basic sentences regularly in these classes. Conversation opportunities (for example in mini-dramas) are practised in every class, but the phrases that are learned here should be practised in real class and school situations also.

 

The pupils in the majority of classes recite and sing rhymes, poems and songs competently in Irish. More emphasis should be placed on this work in other classes from now on. Irish reading is emphasised from second class onwards. Some pupils read aloud reasonably fluently. They can answer questions on what they have read reasonably accurately. It is recommended that teachers themselves model the reading, before the pupils read, to show good example and to demonstrate good practice. A print-rich environment in Irish can be seen in the school, but this work should be expanded, especially in some classes. There are samples of pupils’ work in Irish writing on display in some classes. Writing is evident in pupils’ copybooks and workbooks also. Too much emphasis is placed on this type of work in some classes, however, and it is recommended that the value of such work be thought through before continuing with it for its own sake.

 

English

The standards achieved in English by most pupils in Fohenagh School are good. Work on the development of oral language skills is emphasised in most classes. Most of the pupils can speak about themselves and their interests articulately. The pupils in the middle and senior classes engage in lively discussion and give stimulating presentations on a variety of topics, including the books they have read or films they have seen. The recitation of rhymes and poems, as well as the study of poetry in general, are practised commendably in every class.

 

There are many positive aspects to the teaching of reading in the school. Commendable emphasis is placed on the development of phonological awareness in the junior classes, as part of the foundation of basic reading skills. A shared reading programme also operates very successfully in these classes. The emphasis placed on developing reading skills has ensured that most of the pupils in the school read very well. Some of the teachers model reading very effectively and this helps to foster a love of reading in the pupils. There is a print-rich environment in most parts of the school, but this should be expanded in some areas. There should be more samples of pupils’ writing in different genres on display in some classrooms. Most class libraries are well stocked and some are particularly well presented. There should be a library with a generous supply of up-to-date and stimulating books in every classroom from now on.

 

The standard of English writing throughout the school is good. Some good project work is on display in several classrooms. Copybooks and workbooks in most classes contain reasonably commendable work in functional and creative writing. This work needs to receive much more emphasis throughout the school. Presentation of work, including neatness and handwriting, should receive more attention.

 

 

3.2 Mathematics

The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken reasonably competently throughout the school. The pupils in almost every class have achieved a reasonably good standard in Mathematics. It is evident that pupils in the junior classes receive a good grounding in Mathematics. Emphasis is placed on games to foster a love of Mathematics and the correct emphasis is also placed on mental work. Oral work is given due attention and the pupils have a good knowledge of mathematical terms. The pupils in most classes have a good knowledge of number facts (tables). Appropriate emphasis is also placed on solving mathematical problems in every class.

 

There is a wide range of mathematical equipment available in the school. This equipment is used regularly and effectively in most classes to enable pupils to learn in a practical and concrete way. This work should be expanded further. Some classrooms should develop a much more stimulating maths-rich environment. Mathematics corners and mathematical posters and charts should be organised and displayed to enhance the status of Mathematics in the school. Every class, for example, should have a clock and a calendar on display to help pupils learn the time. The pupils record their work neatly in every class and their work is regularly checked and corrected by the teachers.

 

3.3 Music

Music is taught very well in some classes in Fohenagh School. All of the teachers are committed to providing a high quality education in Music for every pupil. The work done in the junior classes in particular is excellent. The pupils can sing a range of songs in Irish and English. They also play percussion instruments commendably. Very good work is done in the junior and senior classes in musical literacy and composition.

 

In some classes, it is recommended that the range of songs should be expanded beyond the preparation for specific school events. Short-term planning should include a list of songs to be taught. This should ensure that all pupils learn a certain number of songs each year. During school planning days, the expertise of the whole school staff should be used to ensure greater consistency in musical education across the school.

 

The pupils in the senior classes have benefited from their participation in the National Children’s Choir. The variety of singing experiences, for example canonical singing, given to these pupils is impressive. The pupils in the senior classes have also learned about great composers through listening and responding to Music. The annual Christmas concerts held by the school consist of commendable musical dramas.

3.4 Assessment

Micra-T standardised tests are given to pupils in English once a year. The results of these tests are filed centrally. They are used to compare pupils in the school with national averages and to identify pupils who need learning support or other supplementary teaching. The other main assessment tools used in the school are teacher observation and teacher-designed tasks and tests. The use of standardised tests for Mathematics in the school was suspended some years ago. It is recommended that this testing be re-introduced without delay to ensure that similar evidence to that for English is available for Mathematics. This would be of great assistance in deciding on relevant areas for development and in identifying the pupils who need extra support in Mathematics.

 

The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is given annually to pupils in senior infants. This helps to ensure that early intervention can address pupils’ needs as soon as possible. Diagnostic tests, such as the Neale Analysis, are used to identify the specific needs of pupils with learning difficulties. The results of this testing are appropriately used in the development and improvement of individual education plans (IEPs).

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has a clearly written learning support and special educational needs policy. This policy sets out the school’s procedures for screening, planning and implementation. The parts of the policy that deal with Mathematics, however, should be reviewed to provide a more efficient and effective service. This should include the provision of standardised testing in Mathematics and the implementation of a more comprehensive service in learning support for Mathematics.

 

The staff room is used as the learning support classroom. It should be decorated to more appropriately fulfil its role as a stimulating learning environment. Another option might be to consider alternative accommodation for the learning support and resource services. Learning support is provided to all pupils who need it in English. The service should be extended to provide more assistance in Mathematics, where necessary. Consideration should be given to expanding the amount of in-class support given to individual pupils and class groups.

 

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

Every pupil in Fohenagh School is treated equally, fairly and with respect. Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on pastoral care throughout the school. This work is to be commended. The school has an open enrolment policy. School funds are used to ensure that every pupil can participate fully in school activities.

 

5.     Conclusion

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 January 2009

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

1.3     Reference to “Almost” all roll books (One roll book was in the possession of the           Chairperson of the Board of Management having been used for an Offertory procession.  It   has since been retrieved.)

3.1       English: Class libraries in the three mainstream classrooms were newly stocked with a generous supply of up to date and stimulating books at the time of inspection, having gradually built up since 2004 this is ongoing.  There is also a well-stocked library in the Learning Support room including graded Oxford Reading Tree graded readers, “All Stars” and “Treetops”, Ginn 360 graded series, Usborne phonic readers, and Ladybird phonic readers.

Presentation of work is encouraged by the Teachers to be neat, with emphasis on careful handwriting.

3.3   Music: The inspection took place four days before First Communion, when emphasis was 

        on songs required for that special event.

3.4   Assessment: Standardised Testing was suspended for one Year only, in two Classrooms,

        While teachers awaited the revised Sigma_T tests based on the programme in the New

        Revised Curriculum.  End of term “Action Maths” tests in all rooms as part of normal

        routine.

        Revised Tests became available in June 2007 and were carried out in the senior room to

        Provide individual records and a record of Sixth Class standard in Maths before they left the

        School.

4.1      Quality of support for pupils: Standardised testing was done every year for Maths, and  

Used to identify children in need of support (it was suspended for one Year only as stated

above).

 

In Class support was given to children in two Classrooms:

(a)     Junior Room, (infants and first class), Early Learning intervention

(b)     Senior Room, (5th and 6th ), Phonics, Comprehension, thinking skills, and Language

The staff room is decorated for learning support and was at the time of the inspection:-

1.       Letterland A,B,C, and Letterland bells

2.       Hand-made charts for digraph blends, end blends, -nce, a to á, o to ó, i to í, u to ú, Vowel digraphics.

3.       Magnetic board with magnetic letters for word building

4.       Two different kinds of pictures for seasons

5.       Well stocked Library

6.       Filing cabinet for records and Computer.

It is neither practical nor necessary to consider alternative accommodation for learning support as we consider ourselves lucky in the present climate to have the facilities that we already have.

 

 

Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the   inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

1.1    Mission Statement revised to reflect the specific vision of the Fohenagh School community.

1.2    The current board members attended training in Gullanes, Ballinasloe in October 2008 when it was organised by C.P.M.S.A, Clonfert Diocese. In summer 2008, the old pathways around the old School building were re-surfaced and the tarred yard/Basketball court area was re-tarmaced.

 

 

1.3    All subject policies except History and Drama were revised in line with New Revised Curriculum, while those two subjects were taught and developed in line with such. Their policies have been revised to become more focussed and defined.

2.1    School plan is more focussed to relevant needs of Fohenagh N.S.

       Monthly Records are being consistently maintained.