An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

 

Aghabullogue National School

Coachford, County Cork

Roll number: 17515E

 

Date of inspection: 8 October 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

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Aghabullogue National School was undertaken in October 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 Drama. 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

Aghabullogue NS, a two teacher co-educational Catholic school under the patronage of the Bishop of Cloyne, is situated approximately 18 miles north of Cork city. The school was built in 1945 and extended in 1990. Staffing levels have remained constant since the last inspection which was conducted in 2001. Enrolment figures have increased sufficiently to warrant the appointment of a third teacher in the forthcoming academic year.

 

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

48

Mainstream classes in the school

2

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

One full-time learning support/resource teacher in this school but based in neighbouring school

1

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school community endeavours to foster a Christian ethos among its pupils. The school “encompasses collective attitudes, beliefs, core values traditions, aspirations and goals” which staff and pupils endeavour to reflect in their actual practices on a daily basis. A caring, happy and secure environment has been created where holistic learning needs are identified and addressed. A very welcoming atmosphere was evident during the period of inspection.

 

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted. Meetings are held approximately four times a year and minutes are carefully recorded. A financial account is furnished at meetings. Some board members have been assigned specific responsibilities while all members display a willingness to discharge their role in a conscientious manner. A review of the school’s health and safety statement was recently initiated. It is advised that the board of management continue this work and become more involved in policy development and review. It is also suggested that policies be signed and dated and that procedures be put in place for the dissemination of policies to parents. The board is to be commended for the standard of maintenance evident in the environs of the school which also includes the excellent sporting facilities that surround the premises. It is timely that the board of management engage in further improvements to the physical fabric of the school to provide additional accommodation for future appointments and increased enrolments. The board of management acknowledges that training, to further assist them in their managerial role, would be beneficial. The provision of secretarial support would also greatly assist the principal in the daily administration of the school.

 

1.2   In-school management

The in-school management structure provides for a principal and a special duties post-holder.  The administrative duties of the principal are carried out in an efficient and competent manner. School registers and records are carefully maintained. The principal has been instrumental in drafting school plans. The special duties post-holder contributes notably to the overall management and organisation of the school and has also been centrally involved in the development of school plans and policies. She is very supportive of the principal and there is an atmosphere of mutual support and of collective responsibility between them. However, it is advised that the special duties post-holder be allocated specific duties in response to the identified needs of the school. Staff meetings should be convened on a more regular basis in order to progress the implementation of the school plan and to engage in ongoing review of policies. It is also advised to minute these meetings in order to establish formal structures of consultation and decision making.

 

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

As the school serves a small community, regular informal contact with parents occurs throughout the year. Formal communication between home and school is facilitated through homework journals, annual written pupil-progress reports, parent-teacher meetings and regular written communication from the school. The practice of convening annual class-meetings to outline the school’s curriculum programme is commendable.

 

At a meeting convened with the parents’ representatives it was reported that parents were satisfied with the educational provision in the school. The parents’ association organise fundraising events, sports days and assist with educational activities such as swimming and transport to matches. Parents are invited to attend courses, such as computer courses, in the school from time to time. Currently there is no formal communication processes between the board and the parents’ association. Therefore, it is advised that formal structures be devised to enable clear communication between all school partners. To date there has been little parental involvement in the formulation of school policies. In the interest of further development it is recommended that clear procedures be established to support and extend the role of parents in policy formulation and in school-based activities. Newsletters and the issuing of information booklets to parents would further inform parents of policy development and other school activities.

 

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The code of behaviour is implemented consistently. The positive approach to behaviour management is commendable. Pupils present as well behaved and confident and a warm rapport was evident between pupils and teachers. Pupils engage in discussion with enthusiasm and participate fully in their learning. Staff are committed to their overall welfare and manage the pastoral needs of pupils intuitively. A spirit of cooperation, collaboration and openness prevails in this positive learning environment.

 

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole-school planning is generally good. A range of policies has been devised in response to relevant educational legislation and the evolving needs of the school. In general, policies have been drafted by the staff and, in the life of previous boards, have been presented for  consideration. Some policies now require review to be kept in line with legislation, while others should be further adapted to the context of the school and to the learning needs of pupils. It is advised that revised plans be presented to the current board for their ratification and that a strategic plan be developed to address future curriculum and organisational priorities. This approach should be complemented by the development of a series of action plans to facilitate the implementation of current policies and the review of others.

 

Each teacher prepares long and short-term plans of work and some are differentiated for multi-grade classroom contexts. Some short-term planning is topic or textbook based and requires further elaboration placing greater focus on pupils’ expected learning outcomes in terms of the development of their skills and conceptual understanding. In order to extend existing good practice and reduce an overemphasis on textbook content, it is recommended that approaches to classroom planning be reviewed on a whole-school basis. All teachers compile monthly progress reports. However, consideration might now be given to devising a common approach to recording progress in order to better inform curriculum implementation and to monitor continuity and progression in pupils’ learning.

 

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. However, it is recommended that this policy be signed and dated.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Cothaítear dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge sa scoil agus déantar iarracht mhacánta an teanga a úsáid go neamhfhoirmiúil i rith an lae. Tacaíonn prionta agus póstaeir trí Ghaeilge le timpeallacht Gaelach a chothú. Baintear feidhm as rainn agus as amhráin chun fuaimeanna agus rithim na teanga a chur ar chluasa na ndaltaí sa bhunroinn. B’fhiú, áfach, níos mó béime a leagan ar fhoghlaim na filíochta sna hardranganna. Déantar scileanna éisteachta na ndaltaí a chothú ach ní mór dúshlán níos mó a thabhairt dóibh sna cleachtaí éisteachta seo. Baintear feidhm as fearas oiriúnach agus as straitéisí éagsúla ar nós cluichí cainte chun foclóir na ndaltaí a leathnú agus chun a gcumas cumarsáide a fhorbairt. Is trí cheisteanna is mó a spreagtar iad chun cainte. Tá stór maith ainmfhocail ar eolas ag formhór na ndaltaí ach is gá eiseamláirí teanga a mhúineadh agus a chleachtadh ar bhonn rialta. Tá sé ar chumas cuid de na daltaí san ardroinn abairtí a struchtúrú agus cumarsáid a dhéanamh go hábalta ach is gá anois na heiseamláirí agus na struchtúir theanga a fhorbairt go córasach i gcomhthéacs na dtéamaí ar bhonn uile-scoile.

 

Leagtar béim chuí ar chothú na léitheoireachta. Baintear úsáid den chuid is mó as leabhair saothar mar théacs don léitheoireacht. Léann formhór na ndaltaí sna hardranganna le tuiscint áirithe. Ní mór, áfach, scileanna léitheoireachta a mhúineadh go córasach agus feidhm a bhaint as straitéisí éagsúla chun cur ar a gcumas focail a aithint agus ciall a bhaint as a bhfuil á léamh acu. Moltar téacsanna éagsúla agus fíorleabhair a úsáid chun suim na ndaltaí a spreagadh sa litearthacht agus taithí níos mó léitheoireachta a thabhairt dóibh. B’fhiú clár ullmhúcháin céimnithe a chur ar fáil do thús na litearthachta ina mbeadh cur chuige do bhunscileanna na léitheoireachta a theagasc go céimniúil.

 

Cleachtann na daltaí téacsanna éagsúla scríbhneoireachta, nuacht an lae, freagraí ar cheisteanna agus cleachtaí gramadaí. Baintear feidhm as nuacht an lae sna bunranganna mar ábhar scríbhneoireachta. Ní mór, áfach, eispéireas níos leithne scríbhneoireachta a thabhairt do na daltaí ar fad. Moltar plean cuimsitheach uile-scoile a dhearadh agus a chur i bhfeidhm d’fhorbairt chórasach na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta.

 

 

Irish

A positive attitude to Irish is nurtured among pupils in the school and a conscious effort is made to use the language informally throughout the school day. Print and posters supports the promotion of Irish. Rhyme and poetry is employed to familiarise pupils in the junior classes with the sound of the language. Greater emphasis should now be placed on the learning of poetry in the senior classes. Pupils listening skills are fostered on a regular basis. However, these exercises need to be more challenging for pupils. Appropriate resources and a number of strategies, such as language games are used to develop pupils’ vocabulary and to foster their communicative abilities. It is primarily through questioning that teachers enable pupils to use the language. While pupils in the junior classes display a knowledge of nouns, there is a need to teach and regularly practise language exemplars. Some pupils in the senior classes succeed well in structuring simple sentences and in communicating in the language. To further improve pupils’ oral competency in the language, it is recommended that a whole school approach to the development of language structures and exemplars in the context of the curriculum themes be designed and implemented.

 

Appropriate emphasis is placed on fostering reading. For the most part reading from workbooks to develop reading skills is deployed. Most pupils in the higher classes read with understanding. However, it is recommended that pupils’ reading skills are systematically progressed using a range of strategies to enable pupils to develop word recognition strategies and comprehension skills. A broader range of reading materials would further engage pupils in the reading process. An early literacy programme should be devised where approaches for the development of early reading skills are delineated.

 

Pupils write a variety of texts such as personal news, answers to questions and grammar exercises. Pupils in the junior classes write the daily news regularly. All pupils should be afforded further opportunities to write in Irish.  It is recommended that a whole-school plan for the systematic development of reading and writing should be devised and implemented.

 

 

English

During the evaluation, good practices in the teaching of English were noted. Oral language is suitably integrated with reading and writing processes and developed appropriately across other subjects. Opportunities to extend vocabulary and encourage competent communication are incorporated purposefully into many lessons. Further emphasis on discrete oral language activities is suggested to improve pupils’ oral competency and to target the development of particular language skills.

 

Pupils in the junior classes, are enabled to use a variety of approaches such as word identification strategies, phonological skills and contextual clues to aid them in literacy development. Appropriately, story telling, poetry and rhyme feature prominently in lessons. This good practice should be further extended to all classes to ensure that pupils are afforded opportunities to listen, recite, compose and respond to poetry.

 

A variety of approaches to the teaching of reading is used productively throughout the school. Print-rich environment, word wall displays and the use of flashcard contribute significantly to the development of pupils’ sight vocabulary. Opportunities are provided for pupils to engage in collaborative reading activities using large-format books and shared-reading experiences with parents. In the senior classes, a variety of reading materials including class readers, novels and library books are used to encourage reading and develop pupils’ reading competence. Pupils display an appropriate ability to read accurately and to assimilate and understand the content. Consideration should now be given to further extend the reading strategies used throughout the school.

 

Considerable guidance and scaffolding are given to pupils in the junior room as they engage in early writing activities. Work is carefully monitored. In the senior classes a range of functional writing activities including exercises in the use of the conventions of grammar, punctuation and spelling was noted in pupils’ copybooks. Further attention should now be given to enabling pupils generate ideas, to plan their writing and to draft and edit their work. Exposure to a wider range of genre in pupils’ creative writing activities is recommended. Good penmanship skills is a noteworthy feature throughout the school and the quality of pupils’ presentation of  written work is commendable. Excellent computer facilities are available in the school. However, greater use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the displaying of pupils’ work would greatly enrich pupils’ writing experiences.

 

 

3.2 Mathematics

The overall quality in teaching and learning in Mathematics is good and pupils display a positive attitude to this subject. Early mathematical activities using various materials and strategies are effectively organised. Number rhymes and songs are appropriately taught in the junior classes. Language and discussion are central to the teaching and learning process. A structured programme is taught and purposeful questioning directs pupils’ activities and sustains a high level of engagement. Pupils written assignments reflect a balance of the curriculum strands covered to date. Textbooks and worksheets are employed as main resources. In junior classes skilful use is made of a variety of concrete materials. To further enhance the development of pupils’ mathematical concepts in the senior classes, it is recommended that a wider range of manipulative material and activity learning approaches be employed. The practice of engaging pupils in oral mathematics as a key component of each lesson is also recommended with greater emphasis being placed on development of pupils’ problem-solving skills. Pupils are well trained to present their written work to a high standard.

 

3.3 Drama

An integrated approach to the teaching of Drama is mainly adopted in the school with discrete  time being used in some classes. Good practices were evident in the teaching of Drama, particularly in the junior classes. Mime, conscious alley, role-play and hot-seating are among the strategies skilfully used to integrate dramatic activity with the exploration of topics in other curricular areas.  Pupils are afforded opportunities to participate in make-believe and to explore story through drama activities. Group work is successfully organised to enable pupils communicate through drama and enter into role. Pupils are also encouraged to co-operate and communicate with each other in helping to shape the drama. Pupils develop fictional relationships through their interaction with characters in small group scenes. It is recommended that these good practices be extended to all classes.

 

All pupils participate in a ten-week drama programme under the direction of an external tutor. Teachers are provided with a clear outline of the programme of work planned. The culmination of this weekly drama activity is displayed in the school’s Christmas concert which is performed for parents and the local community annually. To further enhance this Drama programme, it is recommended that the whole-school plan for Drama guide the work of the external tutor. The expertise and experience of the tutor should be used to inform a review of the school’s current drama plan. It is also advised that a whole-school approach to the teaching of Drama be adopted as a discrete activity within the Arts Education programme. To this end it is recommended that teachers’ talents and knowledge should be used more extensively to further promote the teaching and learning of Drama throughout the school.

 

 

3.4 Assessment

Teachers employ a variety of assessment modes including teacher observation, teacher designed tests and ongoing monitoring of pupils’ written assignments. Commendably, there is evidence of constructive feedback being given to pupils. Standardised tests are administered to assess pupils’ progress in literacy and numeracy. Assessment results are maintained and shared with parents at parent/teacher meetings. A more detailed analysis of assessment data would greatly assist teachers in devising pupils’ learning programmes. While some diagnostic tests are administered, it is suggested that more encompassing tests be used to identify pupils specific learning difficulties and therefore enable the design of suitable programmes. Consideration should also be given to the recording of pupils’ progress and achievement as they proceed from one class level to the next.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Pupils with special educational needs are supported by a full-time learning support/resource teacher. A special needs assistant contributes capably to enabling pupils with special educational needs to access the curriculum in the mainstream setting. Considerable effort has been made to ensure that the learning environment is attractive and stimulating. Judicious use is made of some resources to support pupils’ learning. However, it is now necessary to increase the range of resources available to include additional reading and IT material. Support is provided in both literacy and numeracy. The teacher approaches his work in an enthusiastic manner and works in close collaboration with mainstream teachers. Pupils are withdrawn for supplementary teaching and Individual Education Plans (IEP’s) are prepared carefully. In general, the learning targets identified in the individual plans are based on pupils’ priority learning needs. However, further alignment of these targets to the programme of work is necessary to ensure that pupils’ specific learning needs are being addressed methodically. A system of recording progress should also be determined. Models of in-class support should be explored through the use of team and co-operative teaching approaches. This approach will provide greater opportunities to target the specific needs of pupils in an integrated setting. Taking cognisance of the fact that the learning support/resource teacher has been recently appointed, it is timely that consideration be given to the introduction of an early intervention programme to address literacy difficulties at an early stage. It is recommended that the learning support policy be reviewed in order to ensure that the programme of work being delivered caters for the needs of pupils in both literacy and numeracy. A review of this policy should also make reference to in-class support, early intervention, recording of progress and the allocation of homework to pupils attending learning support.

 

 

 

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, March 2009