An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Doolin  National School

Doolin, Ennis, Co. Clare

Uimhir rolla:   17517 I


Date of inspection: 29 January 2008

  Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008



Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

1.     Quality of school management

2.     Quality of school planning

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.     Quality of support for pupils

5.     Conclusion




Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of Doolin Mixed National School was undertaken in January 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.   The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.



Introduction – school context and background


Doolin National School is a co-educational school catering for pupils from junior infants to sixth class. It is located in North Clare approximately forty kilometres from the town of Ennis. There are four teachers on the staff of this school, a teaching principal, two class teachers and a support teacher who provides supplementary teaching for this school and Lisdoonvarna National School.  Language support for newcomers is also provided on a part-time basis by a temporary teacher. Pupil enrolment numbers have increased sufficiently in the past year to warrant the appointment of an additional mainstream class teacher for the forthcoming 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



1.     Quality of school management


1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school is under the patronage of the Catholic bishop of Galway, Kilfenora and Kilmacduagh.  The school promotes a Christian philosophy of life. The school’s mission statement advocates the full and harmonious development of all pupils in a holistic way while endeavouring to foster the Catholic faith in the school community.


1.2 Board of management

The current board was formed in December 2007. It is properly constituted with roles and functions of the members clearly defined. The present board has met twice since its inception. The board diligently fulfils all of its statuary obligations.  It is very supportive of the work of the principal, the school staff and the school community. It provides a well-equipped educational setting, which is maintained to a high order. The board is in a good financial position. The board’s priorities include the upgrading of car parking facilities, the provision of a set down area for the bus and the provision of additional accommodation to meet the need for expansion due to increased enrolments. Health and safety concerns due to the lack of car parking facilities at the school are a particular cause of anxiety to the board. The board has acquired land adjacent to the school to develop car-parking facilities and has received planning permission for this development.


1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal and special duties post. A very positive school climate is in evidence in this school. The principal was appointed to this post in September 2006. She is very effective in carrying out all of her obligations. She displays great enthusiasm, energy, and diligence in all of her duties. She has established a very good rapport with all of her colleagues and with the general parent body. There is very good collaboration between all post-holders, staff, pupils and parents. The principal is ably assisted in her work by the post-holders. Duties for these posts have recently been reviewed with the duties assigned taking into consideration administrative, curricular and pastoral roles.  The level of co-operation in evidence between principal and post-holders is commended. 


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community


There is a very good relationship among all of the stakeholders in this school. Parents are actively involved with many of the extra-curricular activities of the school including school games, transport to school events and religious ceremonies.  At present the board of management is investigating the setting up of a parents’ association. The school regularly communicates with parents informing them of upcoming school activities. A parent-teacher meeting is held annually and parents are welcome to discuss school-related matters with the teachers at other times. Written progress reports on pupils are provided annually for parents. It is recommended that the board and teachers seek to further involve parents in the planning and policy formation aspect of school life in areas such as Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), homework and anti-bullying. The board should also consider furnishing an annual school report to all parents.


1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils in this school is of a high order.  Pupils are valued members of the school community and they are treated fairly and with respect. Pupils are well behaved and they operate fully within the school’s rules, code of behaviour and anti-bullying policies. Pupils demonstrate high levels of self-confidence and self-esteem and they engage enthusiastically in all curricular and extra-curricular activities. Very good care is taken to ensure that all pupils develop good academic and social skills. Pupils with special educational needs are well catered for using existing school resources.


2.     Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good.  The principal and teachers are very active in developing a wide range of organisational and curricular policies. All policies are presented to the board of management for approval. The organisational policies are clearly structured and appropriate roles are assigned to the stakeholders. Many of the policies have review dates and this practice should be extended to all policies. It is recommended that the enrolment policy should be amended in order to ensure it meets the criteria as set out in the Equal Status Acts (2000/2004).  The curricular policies outline the school’s vision, aims, objectives, content, approaches and methodologies, assessment strategies, success criteria and resources to be used across all subjects. The school is commended for the thoroughness and clarity of these policies.


The quality of classroom planning is good overall.  All teachers provide long-term and short-term planning that is clear and that appropriately guides the teaching and learning in classrooms. This planning is very well linked to the whole-school plan and policies. The teachers use a common format for the recording of progress on a monthly basis and this provides a very good overview of the work covered.


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



Múintear an Ghaeilge go coinsiasach sa scoil seo. Is léir go ndéanann na hoidí an-iarracht atmaisféar fabhrach don teanga a chruthú sa scoil agus sna seomraí ranga, ionas go mbaineann na daltaí taitneamh as an bhfoghlaim. Saothraíonn na hoidí go díograiseach i múineadh an chomhrá, idir chomhrá foirmiúil agus comhrá neamhfhoirmiúil agus tá caighdeán maith sroichte ag na daltaí i gcoitinne.  Baintear dea-úsáid as rainn, amhráin agus as acmhainní oiriúnacha chun cumas cainte na bpáistí sa teanga labhartha a fhorbairt. Baintear an-úsáid as ceisteanna agus freagraí idir na h-oidí agus na daltaí chun an gné seo den chlár a chur i gcrích.  Baintear dea-úsáid as obair bheirte agus grúpobair i gcuid de na ranganna. Bhainfeadh na páistí  a thuilleadh tairbhe as an dteagasc ach níos mó béime a leagan ar fhorbairt chumais chumarsáide na bpáistí eatarthu féin sna ranganna go léir. 


Baintear feidhm as sraitheanna leabhar saothar mar ábhar léitheoireachta. Léann na daltaí go cruinn agus léiríonn siad tuiscint mhaith ar an ábhar léitheoireachta trí cheisteanna a fhreagairt ó bhéal. Moltar feidhm níos mó a bhaint as ábhair léitheoireachta eile chun cur leis an obair seo. Tugtar aire chuí don ghramadach agus don scríbhneoireacht sna hardranganna. Scríobhtar píosaí cruthaitheacha freisin agus tá caighdeán maith le feiceáil sna samplaí seo.  Déantar maoirseacht rialta ar obair scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí agus tá an obair seo slachtmhar.




Irish is taught in a conscientious manner in this school. It is evident that the teachers make a great effort to create an atmosphere favourable to the language in the school and in the classrooms so that the pupils derive enjoyment from the lessons. Oral language is taught formally and informally in a diligent manner and, in general, the pupils have acquired a good standard. Very good use is made of rhymes, songs and other suitable resources to develop the pupils’ oral language skills. There is very good use made of question and answer techniques between teachers and pupils to accomplish this aspect of the programme.  There is very good use of pair work and group work in some of the classes. The pupils would derive further benefit from the teaching if more emphasis was placed on the development of the inter-pupil communication skills in all classes.


Series of workbooks are used as reading material. The pupils read accurately and they display a good understanding of the reading material through oral questioning. Appropriate care is given to the development of grammar and writing in the senior classes.  It is recommended that greater use is made of other reading materials to add to this work. The pupils also engage in creative writing tasks and there is a good standard achieved in these examples. This writing is monitored regularly and the work is neatly presented.                                    



The whole school plan in English is very well set out and is appropriately structured to enable the development of all three strands.  It gives appropriate guidance on the methodologies to be used, assessment strategies to be employed and on how content should be developed.  Teachers’ planning is linked closely to the school plan and in this planning there is an integrated approach to the development of oral language, reading and writing. Very good use is made of a wide range of charts and the work of the pupils in providing a print-rich environment in the classrooms.


Due diligence is given to the development of the oral language strand of this curricular area. In all classes very good use is made of language games, language charts, word walls, appropriate topics, talk and discussion, poetry, and play and games to enable the pupils to enrich and extend their vocabularies.  Pupils can discuss a range of topics and themes and they use a wide range of vocabulary during all lessons.  Pupils are introduced to a wide range of poetry in all classes and they recite these poems with appropriate expression and voice inflection.


Reading is effectively taught in all classes throughout the school. Commendable emphasis is placed on the systematic development of pupils’ phonological and phonemic awareness skills and on the acquisition of pupils’ emergent reading skills. There is very good use made of graded reading schemes, the novel and of a range of library books to encourage the pupils’ interest in reading and to develop the pupils’ reading abilities. Most pupils read fluently and with understanding. In all classes questioning is differentiated and comprehension skills are taught.  Standardised test results show that a very high level of competency is reached by the majority of pupils. It is reported that a number of pupils in the school have reading difficulties and it is a credit to the class teachers, learning-support teacher, parents and pupils that standards are so good.


Writing skills are well developed in all classes. Due care is taken to develop good handwriting skills. The conventions of grammar, punctuation and spelling are well developed in all classes. Pupils are encouraged to write in different genres and most pupils have achieved a good standard. The school has invested in a number of computers and these are used appropriately to develop the pupils’ editing and word-processing skills. The school should now expand the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) especially in the development of the writing process.


3.2 Mathematics


The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good. The whole-school plan in Mathematics is based on the structure and principles of the mathematics curriculum. There is appropriate balance maintained across all of the strands. Teachers’ classroom planning differentiates the curriculum according to the age and abilities of the pupils. A variety of teaching approaches including whole class teaching, pair work and group work is used successfully during lessons.  All classrooms are equipped with an appropriate range of mathematical equipment. A range of posters and charts promotes a mathematical-rich environment in the classrooms. Lessons are well focused and great care is taken to ensure the successful acquisition and consolidation of mathematical language. Oral mathematics is an integral part of each lesson. Concrete materials are used appropriately to assist pupils to develop mathematical concepts. Pupils are provided with opportunities to engage successfully in a range of estimation strategies and problem-solving tasks using a variety of contexts. During questioning, pupils display proficiency in their mastery of fundamental mathematical skills and in recalling basic number facts.  Pupils’ written work also reflects a very good knowledge and understanding of mathematical concepts and skills. This written work is carefully and regularly monitored. A range of assessment strategies including teacher assessment, homework and teacher-designed tasks and tests is used to monitor pupils’ progress across all strands of the mathematics curriculum. Standardised tests are used annually from first class onwards to monitor the progress of the pupils. Pupils have achieved very high standards in standardised tests in Mathematics.


3.3 Social Personal and Health Education.

There is very good development of all aspects of the SPHE curriculum in all classes.  Planning in SPHE is based on the strands and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and is delivered over a two-year period. The aims and objectives of the curriculum are clearly outlined in this plan and there is an emphasis on the strand Myself in this planning. It is recommended that a greater emphasis should be placed on the strand Myself and the Wider World and that all strands are taught each term. The school also implements a relationships and sexuality education policy which is appropriately linked to the SPHE plan. All classes receive appropriate discrete time for SPHE.


All classes and all areas of the school portray a warm and welcoming atmosphere.  The school environment is bright, clean and well presented. The successes of the pupils are celebrated through displays in the classrooms and in the corridors of the school.  During the lessons observed, teachers successfully use a wide range of approaches and methodologies including circle-time, talk and discussion, story, pictures, photographs and visual images, ICT and co-operative games.  These lessons are well constructed and effectively enable pupils to offer opinions, engage collaboratively in the learning process and make decisions based on the evidence presented.  Teachers have also drawn up their own workbooks based on the Walk Tall, Stay Safe and RSE programmes.


Assessment is carried out mainly through teacher observation and through the maintenance of portfolios of work by the pupils. It is recommended that the school now seeks to expand these assessment strategies by the development of other assessment instruments such as checklists, recording of anecdotal notes and photographic evidence.  


3.4 Assessment

Assessment is an integral part of all the work carried out by the class teachers. Among the strategies used are teacher observation, teacher-devised tests together with regular correction and recording of homework. In addition, standardised testing is carried out annually on pupils from first to sixth classes in English and Mathematics. The results of these tests are used appropriately to inform teachers on the progress of pupils and to identify pupils who may need additional educational support. The school is proactive in ensuring that all pupils who require further professional assessment are catered for. Records of pupils’ progress standardised and diagnostic tests are retained in the school and parents are informed of pupils’ progress at the annual parent-teacher meeting. Teachers make themselves available to meet with parents at other times when requested. Written reports are supplied to parents on an annual basis.



4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has the services of a learning-support teacher for 16 hours a week. The learning-support teacher attends daily and gives support, on a withdrawal basis, to 17 pupils in seven different groupings. One group session is directed towards early intervention for literacy. Nine pupils have psychological reports recommending that they receive learning-support for literacy. In view of these reports the learning-support teacher concentrates on providing assistance in the area of literacy as appropriate.  


Very appropriate interventions are in place for these pupils. Suitable individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) are in place aimed at meeting the specific needs of the pupils involved. These are reviewed each term. All partners are involved in the formation of these IPLPs. Mainstream teachers and the learning-support teacher meet informally to discuss pupils’ progress and to ensure that in-class support succeeds in meeting the priority needs of the pupils. It is now recommended that the school should co-ordinate these support meetings on a more regular basis.


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

Funding is granted to the school through the programme Giving Children an Even Break to address the needs of disadvantaged pupils. Monies received from this initiative are used appropriately. The school receives eight hours weekly assistance for three newcomer pupils for language support.  Lessons in these sessions are based on the Integrate Ireland programme. A range of other resources is also used during lessons which are focused and well directed. International pupils are making very good progress under this initiative.


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.