An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Náisiúnta Bhrúgh Thuinne,
Churchtown, Mallow, County Cork
Uimhir rolla: 17527L
Date of inspection: 5 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Bhrúgh Thuinne. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. He interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. He reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. 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.
Scoil Náisiúnta Bhrúgh Thuinne is situated in the village of Churchtown, Mallow, in North Cork. The school was built in 1947 and has undergone considerable refurbishment over the years. This two teacher school caters for boys and girls, and pupils in the main are drawn from the immediate locality. The current enrolment is thirty-eight and this figure should increase over the coming years with new housing developments nearing completion. The school receives additional funding from the Department of Education and Science through the grant received under Giving Children an Even Break.
The school aspires to live up to the ideals of a child centred education. The staff endeavours to be professional in its practices and to provide a school environment that is safe, welcoming, collegial, happy and respectful of all its members. The school is to be congratulated on its high levels of pupil attendance.
The board of management constitutes an effective group and its members are committed to the work of the school. Meetings of the board are convened regularly and it has a clear understanding of the school’s needs. In addition, in accordance with his supportive role, the chairperson maintains regular contact with the principal and staff. Finances are managed carefully and there is a clearly defined system for tracking income and expenditure. The board is involved in the whole-school planning process and ratifies school policies as they are devised and welcomes the contribution of the parents’ association to the development of these policies. The board is committed to the continuous improvement of facilities within the school and has identified an extension to the current building as a priority, due to the envisaged rapid growth in the school-going population. Members of the board have not received training over the years and the sourcing and provision of such training would further enhance their contribution.
The in-school management team consists of the principal and a special duties teacher. The principal was appointed to his current position three years ago. A collegial and supportive atmosphere permeates the school. A warm rapport exists between the principal, teachers and other members of staff and together they create a happy and welcoming environment in the school. Interaction between the principal, teachers, staff and pupils is very positive and caring and this helps to ensure high levels of application and dedication to high standards of education throughout the school. There is clear evidence that pupils and staff are valued and that their work is appreciated and acknowledged. The leadership style, which is purposeful and visionary, enables others to contribute meaningfully to school development and fosters a strong sense of ownership among the staff of the school’s aims, policies and achievements.
Roles have been defined for the special duties teacher and these are reviewed regularly. An appropriate balance of curricular, organisational and pastoral duties is evident in her work. She supports the principal in a spirit of partnership and this presents as a productive, collaborative relationship that makes a clear and valuable contribution to the maintenance of high operational standards overall.
The principal and special duties teacher meet regularly, often outside of school hours, and these meetings serve to focus attention on the further development of curricular and organisational issues.
A determined effort is made to ensure that all necessary resources, both personnel and material, are effectively deployed. The teaching staff comprises the principal and one mainstream class teacher. In addition, there are two special education teachers who are based in two neighbouring schools; one of these works in a learning support capacity and the other as a learning support/resource teacher. Two special needs assistants have been appointed with one of these employed on a part-time basis. They make an important contribution to pupil learning in their respective classes under the careful guidance of the class teachers. The school’s additional ancillary staff such as secretary, cleaner and caretaker are effectively deployed and their diligence and valuable contribution in carrying out their duties is duly acknowledged. The school employs external tutors in Dance and Music. These initiatives are funded by the parents’ association and through a variety of fundraising activities. All children partake in these activities.
The school building is well maintained and emphasis is placed on utilising space productively wherever possible. The school is clean and tidy both inside and outside. The hard-surface, the grass areas and the parish playing pitch are routinely utilised for recreational purposes as the weather permits. The board of management has invested generously in a wide range of resources to support the implementation of the curriculum in each curricular area. Each classroom is arranged and decorated to provide an attractive learning environment for pupils. The corridors are utilised effectively for display purposes and contain attractive exhibits of pupils’ work. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is duly recognised as a valuable resource to support pupils’ learning, and the technology is to be further enhanced with the introduction of broadband to the school. Computers are available in each classroom with an accompanying supply of appropriate software to support a range of curricular areas.
A meeting with officers of the parents’ association during the course of the evaluation reveals a very positive relationship between the board of management, the teachers and the general parent body in the school. Parents have been involved in a variety of initiatives to support the school and these include fundraising, the provision of enhanced support, supervision and transport to specific school events as required. The generous support that they give to the school is most commendable. Annual parent/teacher meetings are convened and parents also visit the school incidentally as the need arises and by way of an agreed appointments procedure. An open night for parents, board members and teachers is organised at the beginning of each year. There is a general sense that parents have been appropriately consulted on all aspects of school planning, and the accessibility of the teachers to openly discuss all aspect of the children’s progress is identified as a particularly positive feature of the school.
At the meeting with parents the facility for playtime before school opens, the issuing of a periodic newsletter, the continued upgrading of resources in the school and a shared reading initiative were identified as areas for consideration.
The management of pupils is very good. In consultation with the parents, the board of management and the teaching staff, a code of behaviour has been developed and is implemented consistently in the school. The school aims to provide a caring learning environment which facilitates the nurturing of each child’s potential. This is a school where children are happy and they are valued. Pupils are encouraged to take pride in their school, to respect the adults and fellow pupils. Teachers demonstrate a thoughtful understanding of the backgrounds and experiences of pupils and have a genuine concern for their progress. Pupils are encouraged to be confident, competent and caring individuals. This positive disposition is reciprocated in the respect and co-operation which pupils offer to teachers and to other staff members.
The school plan is devised through the collaborative activity of the principal, the staff and the board of management. The parents have participated in the formulation of a number of organisational plans. This approach to organisational policy formation is particularly welcome as it facilitates the inclusion of the broadest range of perspectives and it encourages commitment to policy implementation. The development of curriculum plans is undertaken primarily by the principal and teaching staff. A number of plans have been devised in collaboration with a cluster of neighbouring schools at in-service days and through school-based planning days. Certain organisational plans are circulated to parents and a full copy of the completed school plan is made available in the school for parents to view on request. The plans, both curricular and organisational, are of high quality, comprehensive and informative. They give guidance to the individual long-term and short-term planning and inform parents about the general approaches to be adopted and the content to be covered. Resources are listed in each curricular area and there is ample evidence of integration with other subject areas. The school plan is evolving and it is intended that its continuing compilation will be paralleled with the delivery of the curriculum in-service programme. The school is advised to devise an action plan with the purpose of developing, reviewing or redrafting a number of curricular plans and organisational policies.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
All the teachers prepare effective individual long and short-term plans for their classes, and monthly progress records are maintained. There is a clear linkage between the objectives as outlined in the school plan, the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and those articulated in individual long-term planning. Teachers’ short-term planning sets out the content to be taught across all curricular areas and includes strands and strand units. Teaching methodologies and the utilisation of resource material are clearly identified in the attainment of objectives. All teachers have copies of individual education plans in their files and ensure that they provide for the varying abilities of their pupils
The staff is diligent in maintaining a high measure of coordination between classes, and a commendable level of continuity and progression is evident from class to class in dealing with individual needs and in the selection of programmes of work. The teachers cope commendably with the organisational demands of having four class groupings in each room. The quality of teaching is of a high standard at all levels. Teachers present lesson content clearly, accompanied by well structured learning activities. Explanation is unambiguously delivered when necessary. A variety of teaching methods is observed at each class level, including whole-class teaching, group work and work with individual pupils.
Classroom climate is positive, interaction between teacher and pupil is lively and the children are open, friendly and eager for challenge. The level of success enjoyed by the children in reading, is significant. Numeracy skills are well developed, and indicate that pupils in general are making good progress. Samples of pupils work in copybooks and on display are presented to a high standard and indicate that considerable progress is made in written work at each class level. Teachers monitor pupils’ work regularly and corrections are made in a positive and constructive manner.
Déantar iarracht chreidiúnach an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn sa scoil le húsáid na teanga chomh minic agus is féidir i ngnáthchúrsaí an lae. Úsáidtear raon straitéisí teagaisc agus modhanna éifeachtacha amhail comhrá beirte, cluichí teanga, úsáid phuipéad agus drámaíochta chun rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí a chothú. Eagraítear gníomhaíochtaí go rialta chun scileanna éisteachta agus labhartha a chur chun cinn. I gcoitinne, múintear stór de ghnáthfhocail ó bhéal atá in oiriúint do chumas agus d’aois na ndaltaí i ngach rang. Bíonn rainn, dánta agus amhráin Gaeilge á
n-aithris go hanamúil ag na daltaí i ngach rang. Tá saibhreas prionta le sonrú timpeall na scoile le fógraí agus le lipéid ar crochadh, cleachtadh a cruthaíonn bunús éifeachtúil do thús na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta. Eagraítear cleachtaí foirmiúla léitheoireachta go rialta sna meánranganna agus na hardranganna. Bunaítear na cleachtaí seo ar théacsleabhair nó ar leabhair shaothair, de ghnáth, agus léann cuid mhaith de na daltaí le brí agus le líofacht. Moltar anois feidhm sa bhreis a bhaint as ábhar léitheoireachta atá in oiriúint d’aois agus do chumas na ndaltaí chun réimse leathan léitheoireachta a chur ar fáil dóibh. Saothraítear an scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil go coinsiasach tríd an scoil agus moltar nósanna sa bhreis a chur i bhfeidhm chun an scríbhneoireacht phearsanta a chur chun cinn.
A creditable attempt is made to promote Irish in the school, with the children regularly encouraged to use Irish in the normal conducting of events throughout the school day. A range of strategies such as paired activity, word games, puppetry, and Drama are adopted to develop the participation of pupils in the learning process. Activities are organised frequently to develop their skills in listening and speaking. In general, vocabulary appropriate to ability levels in each class is taught orally. Poetry, verse and song are recited with fervour. A print-rich environment is discernible throughout the school, a practice that serves as an effective basis for reading and writing activity. Formal reading lessons are organised in the middle and senior classes. This activity is based on texts or workbooks and in general the pupils read with satisfactory levels of understanding and fluency. It is recommended that a wider range of reading material, appropriate to both age and ability levels be utilised. Functional writing tasks are developed conscientiously in each class. The teachers are advised to develop further strategies to promote the pupils’ personal writing.
The quality of teaching and learning in English is very good and teachers at all class levels are commended for the manner in which all aspects of the curriculum have been developed to a most creditable standard. There is a strong emphasis on language enrichment and vocabulary extension in discrete oral language lessons. Pupils are exposed to a wide range of rhyme and verse in each class and the middle and senior pupils are encouraged to write their own compositions and present them to their peers. All classrooms display a print-rich environment and many samples of pupils’ writing and print from other sources are on display. Pupils’ phonetic and phonemic awareness is well developed in infant classes through a variety of suitable activities. Formal reading begins in junior infants. Large format books and picture books are easily accessible and used frequently. In middle and senior classes, an appropriate range of reading material is used to encourage reading for pleasure and purpose. Class novels complement the graded reading scheme in use, and pupils choose books from the class libraries to read for pleasure. The practice of regular visits to the community library in Mallow is most commendable. The standard of accuracy, fluency and comprehension of reading is generally very high. Basic writing skills are taught carefully with suitable emphasis on correct starting point and direction in letter formation. Writing skills are extended appropriately throughout the school through a range of functional and creative writing activities. Pupils’ copybooks indicate that written work is monitored regularly and marked carefully. The majority of pupils write with care and attention and reach an impressively high standard. Pupils are afforded opportunities to use Information Communication Technology (ICT) to print selected samples of their work and these are displayed attractively throughout the school.
The overall quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good, so pupils achieve to a high standard and are enthusiastic about their work. Teachers plan their lessons wisely, making sure there is good variety in activities that meets pupils’ varying levels of understanding. Exercises in the memorisation of number facts are a feature in all classes and revision tests are regularly administered. The use of concrete material is widespread and purposeful and is recognised by staff as a productive means of developing the pupils’ understanding of mathematical concepts. Early mathematical activities such as matching, classifying, ordering, sequencing and partitioning are comprehensively covered in the infant classes. Understanding of number operations is progressively extended, and facilitated at a pace to suit pupils’ ability as they progress through the school. At all levels, pupils exhibit an age-appropriate ability to perform computation and solve problems mentally and in written format. The children’s written work is very well presented and is regularly monitored and marked by the teachers. In plotting the direction of future mathematics development the staff is urged to engage the pupils in regular discussion to promote their understanding of concepts and to develop their problem solving skills. Planning in this area should also allow for the further development of a whole-school approach to the teaching and acquisition of mathematical language.
The school makes a worthy effort at each level to ground its history programmes on the principles incorporated in Primary School Curriculum (1999). Strands and strand units outlined in teachers’ programmes of work show that they are keen to ensure that children develop an interest and curiosity in respect of times past. Photographic evidence is effectively employed in considering aspects of change and continuity. The pupils’ research and communication skills and their appreciation of the local environment are developed effectively through project work. The senior pupils have recently completed a project on Churchtown to a commendable standard and they discussed their findings in an accomplished manner. Visitors who assist the children to develop an appreciation of their locality are regularly welcomed to the school.
Geography topics are focused closely on the pupils’ immediate surroundings. They are designed to foster knowledge of the physical and human geography of the locality and to inspire in the pupils a sense of pride in their environment and the people within it. Lessons are successfully integrated with other aspects of the SESE programme. Impressive examples of project work are on display in classrooms. Pupils display an in-depth knowledge of the material covered and this is to be commended.
There is a detailed Science programme in place and the work is rooted in the child centred principles embodied in the revised curriculum. Pupils’ ideas are duly recognised as the starting points for scientific enquiry. They develop their skills and knowledge in all strands of the curriculum. There is a particularly strong emphasis on the strand Environmental Awareness and Care. Visitors to the school are regularly entertained and their added knowledge is productively utilised to develop the pupils’ appreciation of their local environment. Pupils are afforded regular opportunities to engage in scientific enquiry. They sort materials by their properties, explore aspects of the materials and record their results systematically.
The strand and strand units of Visual Arts are addressed in a balanced manner and in accordance with the principles outlined in the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Pupils are given many opportunities to develop their skills and creativity in a range of media, with appropriate attention given to 2D and 3D construction work. In all classes elements of art including line, shape, form, colour and tone among others are suitably explored. The pupils foster an appreciation of Art through exploring and responding to the work of peers and to the work of the artist. Commendably, the services of visiting artists are commissioned to add to the teachers’ and to the pupils’ skill base. Even though the school building is limited in space, pupils’ achievements are attractively displayed throughout the classrooms and corridors of the school, reflecting the range of materials and techniques to which the pupils are exposed. The integration of Visual Arts with other curricular areas is duly exploited. Consideration could be given to the maintenance of children’s work in portfolios on a yearly basis to ensure that by the time children reach sixth class a comprehensive collection of artwork for each child is be available.
The music programme enables all pupils participate in a wide range of enjoyable music-making activities, such as performing, listening, responding and identification of rhythmic patterns. The musical elements of pitch, tempo, pulse and timbre are suitably developed through interrelated activities. The introduction of a visiting music teacher has contributed to a great extent to the development of the children’s competence in their playing of the tin-whistle.
The teachers promote dramatic activity on a regular basis and are aware of its unique potential in developing different and personal ways of experiencing life. Drama is aptly used to facilitate activities in oral language in both Irish and English. The staging of the school pageant/concert is much appreciated by parents and their generous support for this activity is regularly forthcoming. Commendably, the schoolchildren perform their pageant for the local nursing home, a gesture that adds considerably to the development of a positive community spirit.
The teachers are limited to conducting activities in the schoolyard and the grass areas as the school lacks an indoor facility capable of accommodating PE lessons. Teachers introduce the children to a range of exercises and games in the PE curriculum that lead to a creative and energetic response. Commendable attention is given to the development of skills in athletics, court and field games and in swimming. School teams participate in inter-school hurling and football leagues. A volunteer GAA coach contributes admirably to the development of these programmes. The generous contribution of personnel to these activities is acknowledged and commended.
The children from junior infants to sixth class perform their routines in Irish dancing with noted pleasure and confidence. These activities are conducted under the competent tutelage of a visiting teacher who is funded directly by the parents’ association.
The staff is committed to the creation of good relations, mutual respect and a positive climate between themselves and between staff and children. Pupils are mannerly and respectful in their interactions with each other and with adults, and demonstrate good communication and interpersonal skills. Teachers make fervent efforts to ensure that pupils enjoy a healthy diet. The school is committed to the welfare of its pupils, as is evidenced in their efforts to curb bullying, to promote a successful transition to post primary and to develop self-esteem. Health education in the school is effectively augmented through visits from the school nurse.
A careful assessment policy has been devised and is actively implemented. The policy allows for a range of assessment approaches including teacher-devised tests. Pupils’ work is systematically monitored and marked by teachers. Assessment information is collated and discussed by teachers and this informs teaching and learning. Relevant information is relayed to parents at parent-teacher meetings and in the annual report on pupil progress which is furnished at the end of the school year.
Standardised literacy and numeracy attainment tests are administered regularly, notably the Drumcondra Reading and Mathematics tests. The results of these tests are used effectively to help identify pupils who require supplementary support. As a development point, the school is advised to extend its range of assessment procedures so that a greater emphasis on the determination of the nature of literacy and numeracy problems will emerge as early as possible. To this end it is advised that the administering of screening tests, focused on pupils in infant classes, will become a more prominent feature of the work.
The school enjoys the services of two capable learning support/resource teachers, who are shared with two other schools. They have responsibility for thirteen pupils in total. They work diligently in contributing to the advancement of children’s learning in the school in the areas of literacy and numeracy. Procedures are in place for regular liaison with class teachers and other agencies. Individual educational plans prepared for individual pupils are of a high standard, they are practical in nature and include specific targets and a clear timeframe for review. Support is provided on a withdrawal basis, either individually or in small groups, and is effectively complemented with in-class support. It is noted that a number of pupils who are selected for support are considerably above the cut-off point specifed in the DES Learning Support Guidelines and it is recommended that the school reviews its selection process in identifying pupils for extra support. The two special needs assistants are deployed to effect in supporting classroom activity and learning.
The school has documented policies on the admission, enrolment and participation of pupils with special educational needs in the school plan. These are informative and are in accordance with the schools’ caring ethos. It is now appropriate that the elements relating to the acceptance of pupils be amended to comply with current legislation under the Equal Status Act (2000).
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· Planning in Mathematics should allow for the further development of a whole-school approach to the teaching and acquisition of mathematical language.
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.