An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Kilmurry National School

Lisalway, Castlerea ,County Roscommon

Uimhir rolla: 17492S

 

Date of inspection: 3 December 2009

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

 

A whole-school evaluation of Kilmurry National School was undertaken in December 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 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 – school context and background

 

Kilmurry National School is one of four small schools in the rural parish of Tulsk in county Roscommon. There were only 12 pupils enrolled in this school in 2003 but the numbers enrolling have almost trebled since the appointment of the current teachers. The school participates successfully in a wide range of interesting initiatives that are beyond the scope of this report, particularly in the area of Science. The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation.

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

31

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special-needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Kilmurry National School is under the patronage of the Catholic bishop of Elphin. This is reflected in the school’s ethos statement, which makes reference to the importance of the sacraments and prayer in the life of the school. The ethos statement also records the school’s commitment to providing a safe, happy learning environment, fostering pupils’ respect for people and the environment and developing good relations between the school and the community. The school’s mission statement says that “each child through positive learning experiences will be stimulated to achieve his/her full potential, face life confidently, find fulfilment and be respectful in an ever-changing world”. These values and principles are reflected in the daily life of the school as observed during this evaluation.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and operates in accordance with the Department’s Constitution of Boards of Management and Rules of Procedure. The board meets regularly and minutes of the meetings held by the current board were available for inspection. The school’s finances are managed in a prudent manner and the school’s accounts are certified annually. The board is to be commended on its support for the significant investment that the school has made in resources for teaching and learning, especially in the area of information and communications technology (ICT). It is to be commended also for some improvements that have been made to the recreation area and to the interior of the school building. Section 1.4 of this report contains recommendations for further work in this area.

 

1.3 In-school management

The quality of in-school management is very good. The principal gives strong leadership to the school and her significant pedagogical expertise and experience enables her to provide good curricular leadership in particular. The principal sets high expectations for the school and its pupils. She has overseen considerable investment in the school’s resources for teaching and learning as well as improvements to the interior of the school building. She regards recent increases in the number of pupils enrolling, pupils’ performance in standardised attainment tests and the achievement of past pupils in post-primary schools as positive indicators of school performance. The principal’s future priorities include more extensive development of the school building and increased parental participation in the work of the school.

 

The school’s second mainstream teacher also has the post of special-duties teacher, which involves certain whole-school responsibilities in addition to her teaching duties. It is clear that the principal and the special-duties teacher work together effectively. They demonstrate a commendable commitment to their own professional development in areas that benefit the school and its pupils. The teachers have undertaken courses recently in multi-grade teaching, use of the interactive whiteboard, Visual Arts and environmental education. Both teachers make very good use of ICT in their classrooms and are committed to developing the school’s capacity in this regard.

 

It is recommended that the job description for the post of special-duties teacher be revised with a view to identifying particular curricular areas in which the special-duties teacher would be responsible for providing leadership. It is recommended also that the contract for the special-duties teacher be signed by the chairperson of the board of management.

 

1.4 Management of resources

The school’s most important resource is its teachers, who deserve credit for the very good quality of teaching and learning that was observed in the school. The teachers prepare for their work in a professional manner, show great skill in managing and motivating pupils and use teaching approaches that reflect the principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). The teachers also make very effective use of a wide range of equipment and materials to support teaching and learning in each area of the curriculum. There is very good use, for example, of classroom libraries, suitable mathematical equipment and historical artefacts. There is good use of local historical sites in the teaching of History.

 

The provision and use of ICT in the school is particularly impressive. There is an interactive whiteboard in each of the classrooms. A former cloakroom has been converted to a computer room with six computers. The school also has other computers which are connected to the broadband network. It is clear that the extensive use of ICT in the classrooms makes learning easier and more enjoyable for the pupils.

 

There have been improvements in recent years to the interior of the school and to the school grounds. These include the provision of attic insulation, the upgrading of fire safety, the development of a parking space to the front of the school and the erection of a perimeter fence. There was evidence, at the time of the evaluation, of various deficiencies in the school building and grounds. It is recommended that roof leaks, deterioration of eave gutters, and evidence of dampness within the building be addressed immediately. It is recommended also that the disused outside toilets be removed and that the recreation area be resurfaced in the interests of the health and safety of pupils. This work should be undertaken as part of an overall plan for the maintenance and development of the school building and recreation area. It is recommended that the board of management consider making an application to the Department’s Planning and Building Section with a view to refurbishing and extending the school building.

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The management of relationships and communication with the school community is very good. As part of this evaluation, the inspector met with the parent representatives on the board of management. They commented positively on the work of the school and on the quality of communication between the school and its community. The school has facilitated discussion among parents on the possible establishment of a parents’ association.

 

Parents of pupils enrolling in the school for the first time are invited to attend an open day in June, during which they are given an induction pack that includes key information and policies. A further meeting for parents of junior infants takes place during the first term. Parent-teacher meetings are held in February of each year and the school issues a written report on the educational progress of each pupil at the end of the school year. 

 

Parents assist with a wide range of extra-curricular and co-curricular activities such as sports day, a readathon, the Agri-Aware initiative, Christmas shows and the involvement of school teams in sports competitions. Parents and grandparents of pupils support the implementation of the History curriculum by providing artefacts and other historical evidence, assisting with field trips and giving interviews to pupils.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

The quality of pupil management is very good. The pupils are highly motivated and consequently well behaved. This is largely attributable to the commitment and energy of the teachers, the high quality of their preparation and teaching and their experience and skill in managing pupil behaviour. The school rules and the code of behaviour are stated in positive terms in the school plan. The school also has a very good anti-bullying policy.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1   Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. There is evidence of very good collaboration between teachers in the drafting of policies, which are then ratified by the board of management. There is evidence also of appropriate involvement of parents in the process. The school plan is presented in a professional, reader-friendly format. The organisational section contains all of the policies that are required by legislation or by Department circulars. The policies and programmes for both organisational and curricular areas are specific to the needs and resources of the school. The need to amend some individual policies, including the health-and-safety policy, was discussed at the post-evaluation meeting.

 

The quality of classroom planning and recording is very good. The long-term and short-term planning done by teachers is very practical and adapts the Primary School Curriculum (1999) effectively for the various learning needs of the pupils. Each teacher prepares a practical account of the work completed during each month. All of the classroom planning is presented in a clear, reader-friendly, professional way that facilitates sharing of information with colleagues, including substitute teachers.

 

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 English

The quality of teaching and learning in English is very good.

 

The school’s provision for oral-language development is highly effective. There is a dedicated oral-language period in the weekly timetable in each classroom and it is evident from planning and documentation that this period is used in a focused way to develop particular language skills and vocabulary. Both teachers also use suitable cross-curricular strategies for language development. These include a deliberate focus on vocabulary development and frequent opportunities for structured pupil-pupil interaction in both classrooms. There is effective use of structured play as a vehicle for language development in the infant classes and very good work on the structure of the English language in the middle and senior classes. The pupils’ confidence and competence in speaking English, as observed during the evaluation, is very good. Pupils also have a good repertoire of poems by heart, which they recite clearly and accurately.

 

In the teaching of reading there is very effective use of suitable activities and resources to develop the pupils’ knowledge of the conventions of print, basic sight vocabulary and word-identification strategies. These resources include environmental print, large-format books, language-experience materials, scrapbooks and online resources that are accessed through the interactive whiteboard. Each classroom has a well-stocked pupils’ library and pupils complete a wide range of interesting activities based on books that they have read. Pupils’ achievement in the most recently administered standardised attainment tests in English reading were well above national norms.

 

The quality of the school’s provision for English writing is good. There is a wide range of writing opportunities provided for pupils and teachers prepare pupils very well for the writing process. There is very good use of the interactive whiteboard during writing lessons in the senior classes. The school has done fine work to develop the pupils’ ability to use ICT in their writing and pupils are generally highly literate regarding ICT. The pupils’ written work is displayed and celebrated in both classrooms. Pupils’ written work in copies is also neatly presented. It is recommended, however, that there be a more consistent whole-school approach to enabling the pupils to use a cursive script.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The overall quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good. The lessons observed were well structured. Teachers’ explanations of concepts and their directions regarding activities were clear. There was very good use made of suitable resources in both classrooms, including mathematical equipment, illustrative materials and interactive whiteboards. There is evidence of very good attention to the development of mathematical language. It is evident from interaction with the pupils that their understanding of concepts regarding fractions, data, time and shape is very good. There is also evidence of good attention to computation and mental arithmetic. There is scope for greater use of classroom displays to consolidate learning in Mathematics in one of the classrooms. The quality of the school’s work in Mathematics is reflected in the good performance of pupils in standardised attainment tests.

 

3.3 History

The overall quality of teaching and learning in History is good. The school makes effective use of local resources. Members of the community with expertise in local history have worked with pupils in the classrooms and have accompanied pupils and teachers on field trips to local historical sites. Visits to the Cruachan Aí interpretive centre, workshops with archaelogists and participation in local festivals such as Siarscéal support teaching and learning in History. It is recommended that this good practice be documented as part of the school plan for History. It is recommended also that the teachers devise History trails based on the resources available and that these be included in the school plan.

 

The pupils do not purchase a History textbook. The teachers are to be commended on their use of a wide range of resources to implement the History programme. These include various sets of textbooks that the school has purchased as well as local resources. There is very good use of ICT in the teaching of History. There is particularly good use of interactive whiteboards to source and present evidence.

 

Each classroom has a dedicated History area, with a collection of artefacts. In the lessons observed, the teachers used these artefacts as well as a good range of documentary and visual evidence. There were good opportunities for pupil participation and interaction. There was also a commendable emphasis on language development in each of the lessons. Very good use of questioning was observed in the senior room. It is evident that the class programmes are broad and varied. Pupils responded well to questioning during the classroom visits. There are timelines on display in each classroom and these were used during the lessons observed. There is evidence from pupils’ responses to questions that they would benefit from more frequent use of the class timelines as part of an increased emphasis on chronology.

 

3.4 Assessment

A range of assessment approaches is used by the class teachers to monitor the progress of individual pupils. These include assessment checklists for various areas of the curriculum, with particular attention being given to tracking pupil’s progress in literacy. Standardised attainment tests are administered annually in English reading and Mathematics. Further diagnostic tests are administered to pupils in receipt of learning support and resource teaching. Each teacher keeps a useful monthly record of the work completed in her class.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Each of the school’s mainstream teachers differentiates effectively for the various learning needs in her classes. The school has the services of a visiting learning-support teacher for two and a half hours per week. This allocation was decided several years ago when the number of pupils enrolled was about one third of the current enrolment. The school looks forward to a review of the allocation. A resource teacher also visits the school for four hours per week to work with one pupil.

 

The overall quality of the work done by the learning-support and resource teachers is very good. There is evidence of positive teacher-pupil relationships. Teaching is purposeful and well-prepared and there is commendable variety in the learning activities and resources provided. The quality of the planning and recording of work done with pupils in receipt of learning support is very good. An individual education plan (IEP) is prepared and implemented for the pupil who is in receipt of resource teaching. The targets and approaches used address the areas of need identified in assessments conducted by the relevant health and education professionals. The implementation of the IEP is supported by good short-term planning and recording.

 

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

At the time of the evaluation no identifiable pupils from these groups were enrolled in Kilmurry National School. The school policies, ethos and culture are inclusive and supportive. Support is provided for all pupils in accordance with their individual needs. This approach would enable the school to make effective provision for pupils from disadvantaged, minority and other groups should the situation arise.

 

 

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, June 2010