An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

  

S.N. Iomair Naofa

Brackloon, Kiltulla, Athenry, Co. Galway.

Roll number: 17529P

  

Date of inspection: 3 April 2006

Date of issue of report:  26 October 2006

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

1.     Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

2.1 Board of management

2.2 In-school management

2.3 Management of resources

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

2.5 Management of pupils

3.     Quality of school planning

3.1 School planning, process and implementation

3.2 Classroom planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.1 Language

4.2 Mathematics

4.3 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

4.4 Arts Education

4.5 Physical Education

4.6 Social, Personal and Health Education

4.7 Assessment and achievement

5.     Quality of support for pupils

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

5.2. Other supports for pupils

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development


Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Iomair Naofa. 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 parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which time the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Iomair Naofa is a co-educational school with an enrolment of 44 pupils. It is located just outside the village of Rafford, approximately 14 kilometres from Athenry. The school is staffed by a teaching principal, two assistant teachers and two special needs assistants. Four support teachers visit the school to provide supplementary teaching for pupils identified with learning difficulties or special educational needs. The school is located in a very settled community and although some single housing development has impacted on neighbouring townlands, the general catchment area of the school has not been affected by development. Since the last school report issued in 1997, there has been a marked decline in enrolments and consequently the staffing level in the school is due to be reduced in the next school year. A number of planning permissions have recently been sought in the area which may impact on pupil numbers in the future.

 

Scoil Iomair Naofa is one of four schools in the parish of Kiltulla and is under the patronage of the Diocese of Clonfert. The school espouses a Catholic ethos while seeking to nurture in the pupils a respect for the diversity of values, beliefs, traditions, language and ways of life in society. A warm family-like atmosphere exists in the school and a strong sense of community spirit prevails with members of the community actively engaging with the board of management, staff and pupils in support of the work of the school. The community’s keen interest in sporting activity is shared by school personnel and participation in games for fun and enjoyment is a facet of daily school life. In keeping with the school’s vision and mission statements, the staff strives to create a healthy, friendly learning environment in which the personal attributes, skills and self-esteem of each pupil can be nurtured.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management 

The current board of management is two years into its term of office. The board meets at least once a term and additional meetings are convened when necessary. Members of the board may contribute items to agenda of meetings and minutes are formally recorded. Pertinent Departmental circulars are brought to the attention of the board by the principal and school policy documents are made available to board members for perusal prior to discussion and ratification at board meetings. It would be of benefit to incorporate into the agenda of meetings periods devoted to the study and discussion of relevant legislation and its implications for schools. Recent meetings have focused mainly on school maintenance as a concerted effort is being made to enhance the physical learning environment in the school. Maintenance as well as the provision of storage facilities for school equipment and materials remains a priority for the board. The board should now consider drawing up a three-year strategy development plan in which priorities relating to all aspects of the work of the school are detailed.

 

The board recognises its statutory obligations and the requirement to comply with Departmental regulations. The school plan is available for viewing and incorporates appropriate policies on health and safety, enrolment, discipline and special educational needs. Specific strategies to encourage good attendance should now be included in the school plan and the board should also explore ways of providing the parent body with an annual report on the operation of the school. The school is complying with regulations as regards length of school year and school day, deployment of teachers, class size and maintenance of pupil attendance records. Aspects regarding retention and the transfer of pupils with special educational needs to second level education were discussed during the evaluation.

 

The board is aware of its responsibilities in relation to fostering positive relationships and communication with the parent body. It supports staff in effecting a number of strategies in this regard. A school calendar is issued annually and parents are kept informed of school activities and forthcoming events through regular notes and letters. Parent-teacher meetings are organised once a year to provide opportunities for parents to engage with staff and to discuss their children’s progress. Noteworthy effort is made to facilitate these meetings at times which are convenient for parents. The school also organises induction meetings to familiarise new parents with school practices and curricular content. Parents are also welcome to meet staff at other times and during the evaluation high praise was expressed for the ‘open door’ policy which operates in the school. Home-school communication could now be further enhanced by establishing a practice of providing parents with written reports on individual pupil progress.

 

The board of management has taken a very active hands-on approach to enhancing the learning environment in the school. This has brought board members into close contact with the teaching staff and with parents who formed a ‘meitheal oibre’ to complete various maintenance tasks. It is suggested that the board build on these established relationships, engage formally in discussing teaching and learning with the full teaching staff during the course of the school year and foster further involvement of the parent body in the education of their children through promoting the formation of a parents’ association. While the size of the school facilitates daily communication among school personnel, the board also supports the organisation of formal staff meetings each term to enable the staff to work collaboratively on all areas concerning the running of the school.

 

The board is very supportive of the principal and staff and is to be commended for its commitment, its interest and its high level of engagement with school affairs. While at the outset the board was properly constituted in accordance with Rules and Procedures of Boards of Management (November 2003), membership of the board no longer complies with the categories detailed in Section 3(a) of the rules. This matter was brought to the attention of the board at the post-evaluation meeting and the board has undertaken to regularise the situation.

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the posts of principal and deputy principal. The principal, who was appointed in 2002, communicates effectively with the board of management and discharges the duties of the post with professionalism and commitment. Administrative tasks are capably performed and official records are carefully and consistently maintained. School activities are very well organised and appropriate school routines and timetables are established and adhered to. A positive work ethic is fostered among the staff and a commendable sense of order is apparent throughout the school day. The principal is actively engaging in progressing curricular and organisational planning on a whole-school basis. To support and further this process, it is suggested that target dates for the commencement and completion of policy formulation and review should be agreed in collaboration with the staff and incorporated into a long-term strategy development statement for the school.

 

The duties attached to the post of deputy principal include such matters as the development of the school’s technological facilities, design and management of the school website, the organisation of school tours and collaboration with church and parents regarding sacramental catechesis. These duties are willingly and capably fulfilled. The in-school management team plays an important role in ensuring that the school functions efficiently and in the context of a small school, the duties of a post holder should encompass appropriate experiences to enable the post holder to be sufficiently prepared to take on the duties of principal if the need arises. The school is advised, therefore, to establish a practice of reviewing duties attached to posts of responsibility at regular intervals and to ensure also that they address over time the changing prioritised needs of the school.

 

2.3 Management of resources

Three teachers are functioning in mainstream classes and 44 pupils are divided among the teachers in dual- or multi-grade classes as follows:

 

Junior Infant / Senior Infants / First Class 12

2nd Class / 3rd Class / 4th Class 13

5th Class / 6th Class 19

 

Four support teachers visit the school to provide supplementary teaching for pupils with learning difficulties or special educational needs. Two of the teachers cater for pupils under the general allocation system and two teachers cater for pupils who have been allocated specific resource-teaching hours. While some in-class support is given, pupils are mainly withdrawn from class and receive supplementary teaching in a one-to-one or small group setting. As difficulties have been encountered in providing continuity of service in certain instances, it is advised that, in line with Special Education Circular SP ED 02/05 and Special Education Circular SP ED 36/06, the school should adopt a fully integrated approach to the organisation of the support services within the school and view the caseload in its totality when allocating teachers and times to pupils.

 

In addition to the teaching staff, two special needs assistants provide very effective levels of care and support for pupils identified with special educational needs. Working in consultation with teachers, pupils are guided through carefully designed programmes and activities and are supported in a manner which enables them to participate in classroom activities and to develop levels of independence in keeping with their abilities. The school avails of the services of a part-time secretary and a part-time cleaner/caretaker who provide on-going support for the principal and staff. As part of local club initiatives and GAA sponsored programmes, external personnel visit the school to coach the skills of team sports. The school also arranges an aquatics programme each year. In organising these activities, the board is cognisant of ensuring provision for all pupils, maintaining appropriate levels of supervision and promoting a balance in curricular provision by complying with suggested curricular timeframes.

 

The board of management also recognises the importance of encouraging and enabling staff to pursue continual professional development. A school policy on professional development lists school-based measures for supporting dissemination of new knowledge and practices in curricular areas. Specific areas in which staff members wish to develop expertise are also identified. In the dual- and multi-grade situation in which the school operates, the staff gains experience of teaching a range of classes at particular levels. It is suggested that in such a context, the policy should indicate how staff may be facilitated in gaining experience at different levels and in a variety of roles in the school. It would also be of benefit to include how staff may be supported in undertaking relevant courses of study and to develop a framework to aid the provision of feedback on such courses to the board and to other staff members.

 

The school building dates from 1945 and occupies an elevated position on a substantial corner site. It is approached by a series of wide steps and has been extended and refurbished to provide three classrooms, a general purposes room, an office, a small staffroom, a storeroom and toilet facilities. The two classrooms in the original school building are small in size while the more recently annexed room is large and spacious. Notwithstanding restrictions of space, all teachers are to be commended for the creation of stimulating classroom environments which incorporate well-organised learning corners and very attractive displays of pupils’ art, writing and project work.  The school has good outdoor facilities including a hard-surface play area, a grassed area, a fine pitch and an outdoor shelter. The grounds are carefully maintained and are kept neat and tidy and free from litter. All involved in the maintenance and cleaning of the school and grounds are to be complimented for their contribution towards maintaining a clean, safe learning environment for the pupils in the school.

 

Over the last two years the board of management has steadfastly engaged in an enhancement programme to update the facilities and to improve the physical environment of the school. This work has involved a major overhaul of the school’s heating and electrical system, renewal of carpets, repainting of the premises, provision of storage and shelving units and procurement and erection of a basketball stand. At the outset of the evaluation, shelving was being erected in the general purposes room, which is used mainly as a learning-support/resource/library/computer room. Recommendations made during the evaluation relating to the creation of a suitable environment for learning-support and resource teaching purposes were immediately incorporated into the ongoing work and clear progress in this regard was evident at the post-evaluation meeting. The provision of appropriate furniture to meet the needs of all who use the general purposes room should now be addressed by the staff and board. The board praised highly the community and parental effort involved in completing many of the tasks over the last two years.

 

The board of management has invested in a range of resources to support the implementation of the curriculum in each curricular area. These resources are effectively used in conjunction with a wide array of charts, games and materials designed and produced by the teachers. As curriculum innovation and implementation proceeds, further resources will be required to facilitate activity-based approaches to teaching and learning in each curricular area. A good range of technological resources is also available in the school. Consideration should now be given to incorporating into the school plan guidance on how technology can be used to assist teaching and learning in each of the curricular areas.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

It is evident that the school is fostering positive relations with the parent body and the local community. In addition to involvement in the school’s enhancement programme, parents are highly supportive of the school’s sporting activities and regularly provide transport to sporting venues. Support for work in other areas of the curriculum has involved parents and local personnel in visiting the school to share their work experience and their knowledge of local history with the pupils. Parents have also assisted in facilitating trips to ‘the bog’ and to the ‘big house’ in the locality.

 

In the absence of a parents’ association, home-school links are established mainly through direct school-parent contact or through representatives on the board of management. While the size of the community facilitates dissemination of information among the parent body to some extent, a more meaningful relationship with the school would be achieved through the formation of a parents’ association. This would facilitate greater levels of consultation with regard to school policy development and review, and would also involve parents more directly with the work of the school.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

Pupil activities are managed in an orderly and timely manner. A caring atmosphere is cultivated in the school with older children being encouraged to be attentive to the needs of younger pupils. Pupils are praised regularly and are conscientiously encouraged to react positively to other pupils’ efforts and contributions both at work and at play. Pupils are provided with opportunities to assume responsibility and to develop self-confidence and self-esteem. It is noteworthy that the pupils display very courteous, friendly and respectful behaviour towards each other, towards staff and towards visitors.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning, process and implementation

The board of management and the school staff are the main partners involved in the formulation of school policy. The teachers avail of opportunities to collaborate with other school staff and also avail of support from the School Development Planning Service (SDPS) and the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) in devising organisational and curricular policy documents. Draft policies are circulated to board members prior to evaluation and ratification at board level. While the draft policies are available for parents to view, parental opinion on school policy is mainly obtained through the parents’ representatives on the board of management. In order to progress the consultative nature of the school planning process and to foster an appropriate level of parental involvement, emphasis should now be placed on promoting greater understanding of the role of parents in both policy development and curriculum implementation.

 

The contents of the school plan are presented in an accessible format. The school’s vision statement is clearly articulated and the plan comprehensively addresses a wide range of organisational and administrative policies spanning such areas as supervision, health and safety, enrolment, equality, inclusiveness, learning-support and special needs, homework,  attendance, behaviour, bullying, home-school communication, access to information, complaints, healthy eating, substance abuse, staff development, non-teaching staff, mobile phones, custody/separation issues, administration of medicine and ICT. 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, 2004) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 2004). The guidelines have been discussed at board of management level and the school is currently working with a cluster group in formulating policy. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

As regards the development of curricular policies, the staff has endeavoured to develop curricular policies concurrent with the implementation of the curriculum. Policies are available in English, Irish, Mathematics, Science, Visual Arts, Music, Physical Education and Social, Personal and Health Education. Review of curricular policies has not yet commenced and it is suggested that the staff now prioritise the curricular areas to be reviewed, include review dates on all policy documents and incorporate these dates into a long-term strategic development plan. As curricular planning and review proceeds, it would be important to ensure that curricular policy documents reflect the multi-grade situation in which the school operates. Curricular policies should address the developmental nature of the curriculum at each class level and should clearly identify how the content and the learning experiences are to be differentiated for each class level within the dual- or multi-grade class situation.

 

It is evident that all teachers are endeavouring to reflect the contents of the school plan in their individual planning and classroom practice. Particular emphasis is placed on language and on the use of the immediate environment as a springboard for learning. Group work is very effectively managed throughout the school and pupils are provided with regular opportunities to work in pairs and to engage in individual research. An appropriate variety of strategies and approaches are employed at each class level and teachers are cognisant of the need to differentiate learning activities to accommodate the range of abilities encountered in each class grouping. The manner in which technology is used to support teaching and learning in some curricular areas is to be commended. It would be of benefit to document this practice clearly in the school plan.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers engage in long-term and short-term planning, maintain monthly progress records and provide a range of visual aids, materials and worksheets to support teaching and learning. There is a significant variation in the format and content of individual teacher planning. While some teachers detail content under the strands and strand units, state expected learning outcomes and reference the methodologies, strategies, approaches, assessment techniques and resources to be used, in other instances planning is predominantly based on the content of textbooks. It is proposed that the format and content of appropriate planning be discussed at staff level and be guided by the contents of the curriculum and the school plan in each of the curricular areas.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Language

 

An Ghaeilge

Tá an cur chuige cumarsáideach á láimhseáil go tuisceanach ag foireann na scoile seo agus tugtar faoi réimse breá gníomhaíochtaí ag gach léibhéal ranga chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn. Eagraítear idir rangtheagasc, ghrúptheagasc and obair i mbeirteanna agus léiríonn na daltaí suim sna himeachtaí. Baintear feidhm thairbheach as geáitsíocht, cairteacha, lipéid agus léaráidí chun tuiscint ar fheidhmeanna faoi leith teanga a chur chun cinn. Déantar an fhoghlaim a dhaingniú go héifeachtach trí dheiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí cluichí teanga a imirt, rainn agus amhráin a rá, tascanna a dhéanamh, drámaí a chumadh agus sceitsí beaga a léiriú. Is inmholta mar a chuirtear ar chumas na ndaltaí ceistfhocail a úsáid ag gach rangleibhéal agus mar a leagtar béim shuntasach ar abairtí simplí a chumadh agus caint leanúnach a chleachtadh. Saothraítear dea-fhoghraíocht le linn na hoibre agus tuiscint ar chomhréir na teanga. Cuireann easpa foclóra isteach, áfach, ar chumas na ndaltaí labhairt faoi théamaí ar leith ag rangleibhéil áirithe. Chun réimse cuí foclóra a chinntiú faoi na téamaí agus na daltaí ag dul ó rang go rang, b’fhiú díriú ar an bplean scoile agus fothéamaí faoi na mórthéamaí a leagan amach do gach rangleibhéal. B’fhiú tabhairt faoin athdhéanamh ar bhonn rialta ansin chun tacú leis na daltaí cuimhne a choinneáil ar an ábhar.  

 

Tugtar faoi ghníomhaíochtaí cuí réamhléitheoireachta agus baintear úsáid chruthaitheach as scéalta aithnidiúla agus leabhair bheaga chun suim na ndaltaí a spreagadh sa léitheoireacht. Déantar na scileanna léitheoireachta a fhorbairt go rathúil i gcomhar leis na scileanna scríbhneoireachta agus is sainiúil mar a bhaintear úsáid as ábhar na cainte, na drámaíochta agus na filíochta chuige sin i ranganna faoi leith. Roimh fhágáil na scoile dóibh, léann formhór na ndaltaí go cruinn agus léiríonn siad tuiscint mhaith ar ábhar na léitheoireachta. Baineann dea-éagsúlacht leis na gnóthaí scríbhneoireachta i gcoitinne agus déantar monatóireacht rialta orthu. 

 

This school staff handles the communicative approach with understanding and engages the pupils in a good range of activities at each class level to progress the learning of Irish. Class teaching, group work and paired work are organised and the pupils display interest in the activities. Beneficial use is made of actions, charts, labels and illustrations to promote the understanding of particular language functions. Learning is effectively reinforced by providing pupils with opportunities to play language games, recite rhymes, sing songs, complete tasks, create dramas and perform small stetches. It is praiseworthy that pupils at each class level are enabled to use questioning words and that particular emphasis is placed on composing simple sentences and practicing continuous speech. Good pronunciation and an understanding of the syntax of the language is developed during the work. The lack of vocabulary, however, affects the pupils’ ability to speak about certain themes at particular class levels. In order to ensure that the pupils acquire an appropriate range of vocabulary relating to the themes as they procede from class to class, it would be of benefit to focus on the school plan and to outline subthemes for each class level under the major theme headings. It would then be advantageous to engage in revision on a regular basis to aid the pupils’ retention of the material.

 

Appropriate pre-reading activities are engaged in and creative use is made of familiar stories and small books to stimulate the pupils’ interest in reading. Reading skills are successfully developed in conjunction with writing skills and in certain classes, conversational topics and dramatic and poetic material are particularly well-used to develop these skills. Before leaving the school, the majority of pupils read accurately and display good understanding of the reading material. In general, there is good variety in written assignments and they are regularly monitored.

 

English

The pivotal role of oral language as an integrating factor in this curricular area and in the curriculum as a whole is clearly recognised by the staff. Listening skills are carefully developed at all class levels and oral activities incorporate the regular use of news, weather, rhyme, poetry, story, talk, discussion, debate, questioning and response. Significant use is made of large format books to develop receptiveness to language and effective use is made of textbooks, workbooks and worksheets to stimulate further discussion. While pupils participate willingly in oral activity, there is a need to enhance communication skills in general and to develop greater levels of confidence in self-expression. The development of a formal whole-school oral language programme incorporating discrete oral language time would enhance the current provision. Within this programme careful consideration should be given to planning a variety of organisational settings to provide opportunities for pupils to use language in different social contexts and to present ideas and work articulately to a receptive audience.

 

Reading skills are carefully fostered in the school and print-rich displays are a feature of each classroom. Effective use is made of graded reading schemes, library books and a range of supplementary materials to engage pupils in the reading process. Early emphasis is placed on the collaborative reading of large format books, the acquisition of a broad sight vocabulary and the systematic development of phonological and phonemic awareness. Pupils in general display a good knowledge of sound patterns and letter groupings, and a firm understanding of the conventions of print. Reading activities are judiciously organised and appropriately differentiated at all class levels. Most pupils read fluently and commendable emphasis is placed in some classes on encouraging pupils to read clearly and expressively. Silent reading is purposefully structured and good questioning techniques are used to develop higher order thinking skills. Teachers regularly model the reading process and consideration should now be given to exploring a variety of ways of responding to a shared text at appropriate class levels.

 

Writing skills are developed through a variety of tasks which incorporate personal, functional and creative writing. Pupils regularly engage in the process of drafting, redrafting and editing and are encouraged to write for a variety of purposes and in a range of genres. Praiseworthy attention is given to establishing an appreciative audience with whom work is shared and positively evaluated. Samples of pupils’ writing including poetry, story, book reviews and project work are attractively displayed and neatly presented. To further enhance writing and presentation skills, the school is advised to consolidate its approach to developing a cursive style of handwriting by formulating a policy which outlines a staged approach to the development of the agreed style as the pupils proceed through the school.

 

 

4.2 Mathematics

The teaching of Mathematics is appropriately differentiated for each class level in the school. Mathematical concepts, computational procedures and problem solving skills are developed through practical experience, well-organised group work, guided discussion and the use of concrete materials, textbooks and worksheets. Due emphasis is placed on the acquisition of mathematical language and a range of commercially produced and teacher-produced materials is available to support classroom activity. These materials are used to very good effect to challenge pupils’ thinking and to consolidate understanding. Through games and the manipulation of materials, pupils develop firm concepts of place value and develop quick recall of numbers facts. Pupils display a positive attitude towards Mathematics, respond well to oral questioning and confidently engage in mathematical activities. A good standard of presentation is achieved in all classes with pupils recording their work accurately, neatly and tidily. Further refinement and development of the school plan in Mathematics is required in order to reflect clearly the current successful practices in the school and to provide guidance in relation to the language of common procedures, the use of mathematical trails and the range of mathematical resources available in the school.

 

4.3 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

All teachers implement a programme in History and encourage pupils to develop an interest in the past. Discussion, story, interviews, examination of evidence, field trips, work based on textbooks and project work are among the strategies and approaches favoured. Pupils are enabled to examine significant events in their lives, to trace change in their family’s lives and to identify aspects of change and continuity in the locality. Suitable emphasis is placed on local sites of historical interests. Pupils give good account of the ‘Turoe Stone’ and some have had the opportunity to visit ‘Rafford House’. Praiseworthy efforts have also been made to provide opportunities for pupils to develop and practise historical investigation skills through handling and manipulating artefacts. While the choice of studies in national and international History tends to be limited by the content of textbooks, very effective use is made of ICT and project work to present the knowledge acquired. The staff is currently participating in in-service in this curricular area and it is intended that a whole-school policy in History will be developed shortly. The school plan in History should guide the spiral approach to the teaching of History in the school and should aim to ensure appropriate breadth and balance across each of the strands and strand units. The gradual acquisition of copies of historical documents, photographs, periodicals, old newspaper articles, appropriate books, charts and old maps will be necessary to support the development of the pupils’ observational and investigation skills.

 

Geography

Whole-school planning in Geography is being informed by the current programme of in-service provided by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP). While much of the content of individual class programmes has been determined by textbooks, pupils are afforded opportunities to engage in field activities in order to develop a sense of place and space and to deepen their awareness of the local environment. Classroom work incorporates discussion of life in the community and in lands afar, observation and recording of local weather patterns, simple mapping, the study of seasonal change and some physical geography. Studies based on bog land and forested areas are used effectively to develop the pupils’ understanding of the linkage between natural and human environments and to focus their attention on environmental care issues. Pupils display a strong interest in and a firm understanding of the topics studied. Future planning on a whole-school basis should focus on the identification of content, activities and resources to promote a skills-based approach to the study of Geography and to ensure depth and breadth of knowledge at each class level.

 

Science

Science skills, concepts and knowledge are developed through integrated themes which link closely with the programme in Geography and with the construction strand of the Visual Arts programme. Human, animal and plant life are explored and natural phenomena observed and studied. A range of materials is available to enable pupils to engage in simple scientific investigations and to actively explore the properties and characteristics of everyday materials. Fieldwork and nature walks provide opportunities for pupils to observe trees, plants and mini-beasts in the immediate environment. Nature/investigation tables are used effectively to support observation, prediction and recording of findings. Classroom displays bear testimony to a creditable range of activities at each class level with commendable work being undertaken in the area of Designing and Making. This latter area of work serves also to heighten the pupils’ awareness of the purposes and benefits of recycling initiatives. Further refinement of the school plan in Science is required to support the development of the full range of scientific skills and to provide clearer guidance in relation to the content of the programme at each class level.

 

4.4 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

Teachers plan a range of activities in the Visual Arts to enable pupils to explore, investigate, invent, design and create using a variety of materials, media and techniques. All strands of the curriculum are covered and activities are purposely integrated with other curricular areas to give pupils added opportunities to develop their creativity and inventiveness. An appropriate balance is achieved between two-dimensional and three-dimensional activities in making art and pupils are sensitively encouraged to look at and respond to their own work, the work of others and the work of great artists. To further expand the opportunities to look at and respond to the Visual Arts, such resources as prints of art works are required as well as art books with appropriate illustrations and sections on artists and different art forms. The potential for using ICT in this regard should also be explored. Attractive classroom displays and portfolios of work reflect a broad range of experiences and a high level of individual creativity.  Pupils talk about their work with enthusiasm and demonstrate an admirable understanding of concepts and skills.

 

Music

The teachers are addressing all strands of the Music curriculum in their classroom practice and are availing of the support of a Music cuiditheoir in developing the school plan. The elements of Music are developed through enjoyable and well structured musical activities which incorporate echo clapping and singing, the use of handsigns and pentatonic tunes, and exercises in rhythmic and vocal composition. Pupils are also provided with opportunities to listen to and respond to Music through movement, story, art and written work. A literacy programme incorporating appropriate rhythm and pitch activities has commenced in the school and will provide the basis for the development of a whole-school approach to Music literacy.  The school repertoire of songs includes unison and 2-part songs, songs in Irish and English and songs in a variety of musical styles. Song-singing is sometimes accompanied by guitar or by pupils playing their own personally designed percussion instruments. A range of commercially produced percussion instruments is also available in the school and is used to support activities in Composition and in Listening and Responding. To enhance the current programme, future collaborative planning should address the extended use of pentatonic tunes as part of a whole-school approach to music literacy, the inclusion of simple rounds and partner songs in the repertoire of songs, the introduction of instrumental music and the provision of further resources for Listening and Responding.

 

Drama

While whole-school planning in Drama has not yet commenced, many aspects of the Drama curriculum are being explored in the school and the curriculum is being fully implemented at some class levels. Teachers use discrete periods of time or an integrated approach to enable pupils to enter into imaginative play and to use space and objects to create a make-believe world. Pupils are encouraged to assume roles and to communicate thoughts and feelings through dramatic activity. Mime and role-play are successfully used to enrich learning in other curricular areas such as English, Gaeilge, Physical Education and SPHE. The manner in which gesture, tone and expression enhances communication is very effectively explored through poetry and story in some classes. This practice should be extended to all classes and developed to enhance communication and presentation skills in general throughout the school.

 

4.5 Physical Education

Although the programme in Physical Education is restricted by the lack of indoor facilities, the staff organises a wide variety of activities to enhance the pupils’ physical health and well-being. Hurling, camogie, football, rugby, basketball, athletics, dancing and swimming are all facilitated during the school year for appropriate age groups. This work is supported by the provision of a wide range of resources. Commendable emphasis is placed on participation in all aspects of physical activity. Pupils arrive in school each day equipped to engage in sporting activity. They clearly enjoy participating in playground games and in team sports on the grassed area and school pitch.  It is noteworthy that simple equipment is available to the pupils during daily scheduled break periods to encourage the development of throwing, catching and batting skills. All activities are carefully organised and appropriately supervised. The games programme is further supplemented with coaching sessions in hurling and camogie, which are provided by external personnel. All pupils are encouraged to participate in inter-school competitions in which the school has enjoyed considerable success. The school also strongly supports the pupils’ involvement in sporting activity in the community.

 

4.6 Social, Personal and Health Education

A positive atmosphere is cultivated throughout the school in keeping with the specific aims and objectives of this area of the curriculum. Commendable effort is made to promote the personal development and well-being of all pupils. Particular attention is directed toward fostering in the pupils a sense of care and respect for themselves and others. Teachers draw on a range of programmes specially designed to develop the skills, knowledge and attitudes which inform the pupils’ decision making in the social, personal and health dimensions of their lives. Work is also skilfully integrated with other areas of the curriculum. Parental support in this area of the curriculum is strong and parents have been instrumental in the design of programmes and in developing and supporting the school’s code of discipline, anti-bullying policy and healthy eating policy.

 

4.7 Assessment and achievement

Teacher observation, checklists, work samples, project work, profiles, individual education plans, teacher-designed tasks, diagnostic tests and standardised tests are among the assessment tools employed by the staff to monitor pupil progress and to provide pertinent information for parents. Teachers regularly use the results of assessments to evaluate their mediation of the curriculum and to inform future planning of whole class, group and individual work. Results of formal and informal testing are recorded and analysed to assist in the identification of pupils for supplementary teaching and in tracking their achievement levels as they proceed through the school. Parents are provided with opportunities to discuss results and pupil progress at formal parent-teacher meetings organised each year. Future development of the school policy on assessment should address the role of assessment in tracking pupils’ progress as regards achievement of objectives, understanding of concepts, skills development and attitude formation. Such information could provide the basis for a written report to parents on the progress of their children.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Under the general allocation system two support teachers visit the school to provide supplementary teaching in literacy and/or numeracy to seven pupils. Two other support teachers and two special needs assistants provide individual support for two further pupils in the school who have been identified with special educational needs in the low incidence category. While some in-class support is given, supplementary teaching is organised mainly on a withdrawal basis with pupils receiving support in one-to-one or small group settings. Consideration should now be given to developing the system of in-class support in order to enhance access to a broad and balanced curriculum and to facilitate differentiation in all curricular areas.

 

Learning programmes informed by results of standardised tests, diagnostic tests or psychological reports are prepared for each pupil in consultation with class teachers. Parents have been formally consulted in relation to the formulation of some of these programmes. A range of diagnostic tests, instructional programmes, appropriate software and teaching materials is available in the school and these resources are used effectively by the support teachers to identify pupils’ learning needs. The teachers are to be commended also for the very attractive visual aids and learning materials which are made specifically to cater for the learning needs of the pupils.

 

Many examples of excellent practice were observed as the teachers interacted with the pupils. Activities in most instances were appropriately structured and very well paced; cross-curricular support was effectively provided; a range of suitable strategies was employed to aid understanding and pupil progress was carefully monitored and recorded. There is some variation, however, in the level of specificity in the learning programmes prepared by the various teachers. It is advised that the support teachers should consult closely with one another and agree a format which would support best practice in relation to formulating and implementing learning programmes.  

 

The school has documented a policy on provision for pupils identified with learning difficulties and special educational needs. There is a need to develop this policy to incorporate the staged approach to provision as detailed in Special Education Circular, 02/05. The school is also advised to consult the terms of Special Education Circular, 36/06 and to review the organisation of the support services for the forthcoming school year. Future development of the services should include the introduction of early intervention programmes, expansion of in-class support and the formalisation of the consultation process with parents.

 

5.2. Other supports for pupils

The staff and board of management consciously work towards ensuring that all pupils have an equal chance to access, participate and benefit from the educational provision in the school. The school also clearly recognises the important role of parents in this regard and is developing very positive relationships with the parent body. Mainstream teachers work collaboratively with the learning-support/resource services to identify pupils experiencing learning difficulties at an early stage. The staff should consider introducing a shared-reading programme or the ‘Maths is Fun’ programme with the co-operation of parents as further supports for pupils in the school.  There are no distinct minority groups in the school and the school is not part of the DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) programme.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.