An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Scoil An Chroí-Ro Naofa,
Dunhill, County Waterford
Uimhir rolla: 17536M
Date of inspection: 13 March 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil An Chroí Ro-Naofa, Dunhill. 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 inspectors 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 inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given the opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix to this report.
Scoil An Chroí Ro Naofa, Dunhill, is an eight teacher co-educational national school and is situated in a rural setting. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Diocese of Waterford and Lismore and it caters for the education of pupils living in the neighbouring hinterland. The school, as stated in its vision statement, strives to nurture in every child, all the dimensions of his/her life –spiritual, moral, cognitive, creative, emotional, imaginative, aesthetic, social and physical whilst taking into account each individual child’s personality, intelligence and potential for development.
The school has six mainstream class teachers and has a current enrolment of 146. It is expected that the school will lose one mainstream teacher at the end of this school year. Future enrolment projections suggest that, enrolment will grow steadily in the next number of years, as there are plans for the building of a number of houses in the locality. Following from this, it is likely that the school will regain its sixth mainstream teacher, and may indeed grow further.
The school is currently involved in a building project, which will see the construction of three new classrooms.
A strong Board of Management provides committed support to the school. The Board generally meets once a term, but in the last year the board met 14 times to deal with issues such as the appointment of teachers, legal contracts and the school building project. Sub-committees of the board have been established to deal with policies and to manage the building project and the building fund. Various members of the board undertake specific responsibilities and the roles of Secretary, Treasurer and Health and Safety Representative are delegated to board members. Financial reports are prepared on a monthly basis and end of year accounts are produced. It is advised that school accounts should be audited on an annual basis.
Members of the board have attended training for their roles and for the development of specific policies. However the board expressed disappointment with the level of training that its members had received to prepare them for the task of managing the school. The board initiates the development of school policies, the principal writes the policies in consultation with staff and the parents, and the board then ratifies these policies. The board is not involved in monitoring the standards of achievement or monitoring the quality of teaching and learning in the school. The board reports that it has a good working relationship with the parents’ association and with parents in general.
The board highlighted the strengths of the school as the high achievement of its pupils, the pupils’ high levels of interest and motivation, the central involvement of parents in the school and the very committed staff.
It is recommended that the board review the posts of responsibility on an annual basis to ensure that all postholders have a balance of curricular, organisational and pastoral duties that are appropriate to the needs of the school. Duties that could be undertaken by other support personnel should be delegated to these individuals. The employment of a caretaker should be considered, to relieve the principal of the caretaking and maintenance duties that he is currently undertaking, so that his administrative days could be used entirely for curricular leadership and organisational matters.
The principal displays strong organisational leadership skills and spearheads the writing of organisational and curricular policies. He has initiated the building project and the development and equipping of the computer room. He has forged strong links with the parents’ association and the board of management. He holds annual meetings with the in-school management team and holds regular meetings with the staff. These meetings are minuted, have clear agendas and actions are followed through. The promotion of a positive school climate, and the maintenance of good communication among all members of the teaching and ancillary staff, are key priorities of the principal.
The principal assumes responsibility for most aspects of school life and it is recommended that some of these responsibilities be devolved to the members of the in-school management team. Systems for the maintenance and caretaking of the school need to be put in place to relieve the principal of these duties. While much progress has been achieved in relation to the development of the school plan, it is advised that the principal lead the review of the implementation of curricular policies. It is also recommended that a whole-school review of standards in all curricular areas should be undertaken. It is recommended that senior members of the in-school management team attend courses provided by the Leadership Development for Schools initiative, especially the summer courses and continuing professional development courses to further develop their skills.
The in-school management team comprises of the principal, deputy principal and two postholders. They carry out their duties with commitment and dedication. The duties are primarily organisational and administrative in nature and are designed to support the teaching principal. Two postholders have curricular related responsibilities such as the maintenance of equipment, the organisation of visual arts’ days, the co-ordination of resources for special needs, the management of the standardised tests and the recording of whole-school information in relation to these.
The teaching staff comprises six mainstream class teachers, a learning support teacher and a resource teacher based in the school and shared between two other schools. There is one special needs assistant and a secretary. A cleaner is employed for ten hours a week. The secretary provides valuable administrative support to the principal and staff. The SNA supports one pupil and liases effectively with the class teacher and the resource teacher.
The school avails of the services of a dance teacher who takes all classes weekly for eight weeks. The parents and the Parents’ Association pay for this tuition. Coaching is also provided by the GAA for pupils in first to sixth classes and this is generally held once monthly. Pupils in first to sixth classes benefit from swimming lessons in the Waterford Crystal Sports Facility during the first term. The parents and the Parents’ Association subvent this activity.
The school is situated on an elevated site overlooking the River Anne. There are four permanent classrooms, one temporary classroom and the general-purpose room is currently being used as a classroom. A permanent classroom is used as a computer room. There is a small learning support room and the resource teacher uses the computer room. The building is small and the classrooms are inadequate for the needs of the pupils and the teachers and the requirements of the curriculum. There is a secretary’s office, a staffroom and a staff toilet. In general, toilet facilities are limited. There is a lack of storage facilities in the school and the hall and cloakrooms are used to store equipment and materials. Some classrooms are damp and this limits the display of pupils’ work and teachers’ charts. The building is clean and very well maintained. The board, teachers, pupils and the entire school community are commended for their efforts with regard to the maintenance and cleanliness of the school.
The school is well resourced with a wide range of teaching aids and charts to support curricular areas. These are used effectively to assist the teachers in presenting a broad, balanced curriculum. A lack of storage curtails the amount of equipment that can be stored in classrooms. The computer room, which is networked, is used to enhance learning in curricular areas.
The school has a very good relationship with the school community. There is a very active Parents’ Association in Dunhill. Parents are involved in the formulation of a number of school policies and the opinions of parents are sought. The Parents’ Association assists in fundraising, it organises talks and lectures for the parents and it contributes to the organisation of sports activities, after-school activities, and community related activities that are facilitated in the school. The representatives of the Parents’ Association report that there is very good communication between parents and the school, and that there are well-established structures in the school for liaising with parents. They also report that there is excellent educational provision in the school and that their children achieve very good standards. Some parents are involved in school life through contributing occasionally to the history, geography and local studies areas. They are also involved in extra-curricular areas, and have in the past, organised after-school arts and crafts activities.
A very caring and positive climate prevails in the school. The teachers are anxious that pupils maximise their potential and the vast majority of pupils appear confident in their learning environment. During the inspection the pupils displayed courteous, friendly and respectful behaviour towards others, staff and visitors.
Considerable work has been undertaken to date in relation to the development of the school plan. The school plan includes administrative policies and curricular plans. The curricular plans consist of broad statements of content, based on the strands and strand units, and include agreed methodologies. It is recommended that a review of the curricular plans should be undertaken and that plans in each subject area should delineate further what will be taught in different class levels, so as to ensure progression throughout the school. While the local context is reflected in some of the plans, there is a need for a more in-depth treatment of how it will be used at the various class levels.
There is also a school development folder, which outlines the priorities for planning. The staff has initiated an evaluation of the school plan and included in the school review are the strengths and areas for development. The staff discusses aspects of the implementation of the plans informally in the staffroom but no formal review has been undertaken. It is recommended that the school plans be discussed in-depth, and reviewed regularly as a result of their implementation.
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 teachers engage in regular long-term and short-term planning. The short-term planning is good, consistently undertaken, and linked to strands and strand units. A few teachers identify specific objectives for their short-term plans and some teachers detail structures of lessons and outline the methodologies employed. Most teachers plan for differentiation and outline activities and resources, which they will use for pupils with learning difficulties. References to assessment are included in some short-term plans.
Long-term planning is generally satisfactory, with broad statements of methodology and broad aims outlined. It is recommended that all long-term plans should outline specific objectives for each term and detail the content to achieve these objectives. This will ensure progression and continuity from term to term.
Good assessment practices are undertaken throughout the school and it is recommended that assessment information should inform long-term planning. All teachers include Individual Profile and Learning Programmes (IPLPs) in their folders. Monthly progress records are maintained using a commercially produced resource and these outline the activities, topics and sections of the textbooks completed.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
In general the teachers present their lessons in a competent and professional manner and the standard of teaching is good. During the inspection process good lessons were observed across most areas of learning and the teachers displayed commendable teaching skills. The structure and pace of lessons in most classes is good. The teachers are skilful communicators and use a range of questions to reinforce learning and challenge pupils.
Whole class teaching is the most common methodology observed at each class level and this is balanced in most classrooms by teachers’ use of methodologies such as talk and discussion, pair work, group work, activity and discovery methods and drama. Fieldtrips, project work and information and communication technologies are used as effective approaches to learning. A broad curriculum is provided for pupils at each class level. It is recommended that the school review the number of textbooks at each class level and consider their impact on the range of learning activities provided.
The teachers use praise and positive feedback to motivate pupils and to ensure their engagement during activities. In general, the classrooms provide attractive learning environments and samples of pupils’ projects, artwork and writing are displayed.
The teachers give very generously of their time in providing a range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Most teachers are involved in training teams; football, hurling, soccer, camogie, athletics and basketball. Leagues in hurling and soccer are organised for lunch times and there are also lunchtime chess leagues. The school produces a school concert every third year.
Cuireann gach oide pleannanna oibre ar fáil do mhúineadh na Gaeilge ina rang. Baintear úsáid as postaerí, acmhainní oiriúnacha, an drámaíocht agus cluichí cainte chun téamaí an churaclaim a mhúineadh. Feictear go bhfuil líofacht mhaith cainte ag na hoidí sa Ghaeilge agus go n-aithníonn said go bhfuil gá le feabhas a chur ar chaighdeán na cumarsáide Gaeilge i gcoitinne tríd an scoil. Ar an iomlán, is léir nach mbíonn dóthain taithí ag na daltaí in úsáid na Gaeilge mar theanga chumarsáide. Moltar anois béim ar leith a chur ar úsáid na teanga mar theanga bheo, agus na feidhmeanna teanga a mhúintear, a úsáid i gcomhthéacsanna éagsúla. Usáidtear an drámaíocht chun na feidhmeanna teanga a fhorbairt go héifeachtach sna meánranganna agus ní foláir anois an cur chuige éifeachtach seo a scaipeadh tríd an scoil. Léann daltaí sleachta as a dtéascleabhair le líofacht chreidiúnach agus léiríonn said tuiscint bhreá ar a bhfuil á léamh acu. Sna hardranganna úsáidtear úrscéalta mar ábhair léitheoireachta agus is léir go mbaineann na daltaí taitneamh astu. Cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil ina gcóipleabhair atá bunaithe beagnach go hiomlán ar leabhair shaothair na ranganna. Moltar deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí an foclóir atá foghlamtha acu a úsáid i scéalta beaga. Tá cnuasach rann agus amhrán ar eolas ag na daltaí i ngach rang, agus aithrisítear le beocht agus le taitneamh iad.
Each teacher prepares plans for the teaching of Irish. They use posters, suitable resources, drama and language games to enhance their teaching. The teaching staff has a good level of fluency in the Irish language and teachers recognise that, in general, there is a need to improve the pupils’ competence levels in communicating through Irish across the school. On the whole it is evident that pupils do not have sufficient opportunity to practice communicating through Irish. It is recommended that greater emphasis should be given to the use of Irish as a living language with a particular focus on the teaching of the various functional language structures using different contexts. Drama is used effectively in the middle classes to develop pupils’ understanding of various language structures and it would be of benefit to extend this effective approach. Pupils read fluently and with meaning. Novels are used in the senior classes with obvious enjoyment. Pupils complete functional writing activities in their copies, which are largely based on class workbooks. It is recommended that pupils are given the opportunity to use the vocabulary learnt in composing short stories. The pupils can recite and sing a variety of poems and songs and do so with great life and enjoyment.
Teachers, at all class levels, prioritise the teaching of English and the programme consists of reading, writing and oral language. Circle time, group work, and talk and discussion are methodologies that are used effectively by the teachers to engage pupils in oral work. In many classes most pupils express themselves confidently and can express opinions and debate. The work in oral language is integrated with other curricular areas such as Social, Personal and Health Education and Geography. In some classrooms the pupils can recite poems which they have studied, pupils have opportunities to write their own poetry and these poems are displayed in the classroom and in the corridors. It is recommended that the school plan for oral language be reviewed and that discrete oral language lessons are taught on a weekly basis. Emphasis should be placed on the development of the pupils’ higher order thinking skills and on the cultivation of their cognitive, emotional and imaginative responses.
The standard of pupils’ reading is very good and only a very small minority of pupils experience learning difficulties in this area. Children read from a variety of texts. In the infant and junior classes commercial textbooks are supplemented by the use of parallel readers, materials for shared reading, big books and library books. In some junior and middle classes commendable emphasis is placed on the development of word identification strategies. In these classes good emphasis is placed on the development of comprehension skills.
Phonological awareness is developed in the infant classes. A more formal phonic approach is utilised in the junior and middle classes. Attention is given to the development of spelling skills, a graded programme is used in some classes and daily dictation exercises ensure that pupils develop good skills in this area. Pupils are encouraged to read books from the class library and in some classes reading records are maintained. Class novels are introduced to pupils in middle and senior classes.
A comprehensive learning support system is in place for pupils in the junior and middle classes. Pupils with learning difficulties are identified at an early stage and planned intervention programmes are implemented.
Functional and creative writing is undertaken at all class levels. Personal and creative writing commences in the junior classes. Pupils write short personal accounts and undertake simple book reviews. In some classes a wide variety of writing was in evidence in pupils’ copybooks and pupils’ work is displayed in the classrooms and in the corridors. Process writing (drafting and editing) receives some attention. It is recommended that a portfolio of pupils’ work be maintained so that the progression in children’s writing in a variety of genres can be monitored and reviewed at different class levels. In many classes handwriting receives commendable attention and in these classes the written work is neat and well presented.
The school uses successfully a range of suitable strategies and effective teaching to enable pupils acquire proficiency in mathematical skills. Clear procedures for the teaching of mathematics have been agreed on a whole school basis, and a comprehensive plan has been developed. Lessons are well structured and paced, and the emphasis on active learning contributes to the level of pupil interest. Purposeful, focused discussion and relevant concrete materials are used to introduce mathematical concepts in a practical, meaningful way. Mathematical activities are suitably differentiated for pupils with varying levels of ability. The standard of attainment in mental and written computation is generally high with problem solving a focus of many activities. A range of assessment modes is used by teachers, to assess pupil progress and standardised tests are undertaken by the pupils annually. These help to inform planning in the area of learning support.
The skills of the pupils as historians are developed through fieldtrips to areas of interest in the locality, the use of original sources and through specific projects on the history of the school. The pupils interview visitors to the school and review written accounts of people’s experiences of life in Dunhill during the last century. They also access and analyse primary sources of data available online through the use of the broadband technology that is installed in the school. Timelines are in evidence in the classrooms and this is commendable. Pupils discuss aspects of their local area with understanding and they display high levels of interest and engagement in the topics studied. It is recommended that the development of the school plan should include an outline of the fieldtrips that will be undertaken at each class level and the learning experiences that will be provided to support the development of pupils’ historical knowledge, skills and attitudes.
The whole-school plan for Geography is linked to the primary curriculum and the programmes planned include a commendable emphasis on local studies and integrated topics so that the historical, geographical and scientific potential of working in the local area is exploited fully. Pupils have opportunities to study development education topics that are integrated with other areas of the curriculum.
The teachers use a range of methodologies in the geography lessons and these include group work, activity and discovery methods, talk and discussion, and use of the outdoor environment. Resources used in the lessons include photographs, maps, and teacher-designed workcards. Pupils are able to discuss their local area in terms of physical characteristics, built environment and industrial environment with understanding. Graphicacy skills are developed in some classes and the pupils make their own maps and use maps of the local area. It is recommended that the school plan be reviewed and that specific learning experiences for the pupils at each class level are outlined. Further consideration should be given to how the skills of the geographer will be developed through planned learning experiences during the eight year cycle.
In general pupils are enabled to develop a framework of scientific ideas and concepts about Living Things, Energy and Forces, Materials, Environmental Awareness and Care. Experiments and investigations are undertaken at each class level. Good use is made of the available scientific equipment. The range of methodologies employed in the science lessons includes group work, activity/discovery, and project work. The pupils develop a broad range of enquiry skills including, observing, predicting, experimenting, planning and analysing results. Pupils are well-able to discuss their experiments and their underlying concepts and respond enthusiastically to the activities they engage in. Nature tables and investigation tables are organised in the classrooms and fieldtrips in the local environment are undertaken. The skill of fair testing should be developed, and designing and making activities should be incorporated further into the programmes at each class level.
The teachers have embraced the principles of the Visual Arts curriculum in a comprehensive manner. Samples displayed in classrooms, corridors and in pupil portfolios demonstrate that pupils are exposed to a variety of activities including, seasonal friezes, collage, fabric and fibre, drawing, paint work, print, construction and clay. Many of the activities are linked to other curricular areas, which enhance learning across the curriculum. Whole school visual arts days are a feature of the work in this area and these are organised by the Visual Arts Co-ordinator who also oversees the purchase of supplies. The whole school days include days on clay, monoprint and fabric and fibre. Teacher observation is used to assess the pupils’ work and portfolios of pupils work are maintained in some classes.
The pupils sing a repertoire of rhymes and songs, which they have learned for their school concert, with enthusiasm. Some Irish songs have also been taught. Listening skills are nurtured during music classes and pupils are encouraged to use percussion instruments and to move rhythmically to selected pieces of music. Pupils in the middle and senior classes develop music literacy skills and play the tin whistle to a good standard. It is recommended that the school plan should outline the music literacy skills that will be developed at each class level.
Drama is integrated into a range of curricular areas and is also seen as a subject in its own right. A range of strategies were observed which included still pictures, teacher in role, pupil developed dramas and poems and stories used as stimuli. Pupils enjoyed working in groups as part of the activities, and showed a high level of engagement and focus. The drama lessons contribute positively to pupils’ self esteem and facilitate the development of their imaginative processes and creativity. A school concert is held every three years and involves all the pupils in singing, dancing and dramatic activities. This is held over a number of nights in the adjacent community hall.
The physical education programme provides a wide range of developmentally appropriate physical experiences in the areas of athletics, gymnastics, games, aquatics and dance.
The programme is broad and balanced and this is achieved by promoting the development of skills and experiences in each of these strands at each class level. Minor and major skills are developed through the use of games and activities. Both boys and girls are provided with commendable opportunities to play a range of games and to engage in competitive events. Games such as basketball, rugby, Gaelic football and soccer are taught. The teachers, at each class level, display a keen interest in Physical Education and well-structured lessons were presented at all levels. The teachers assume responsibility for an extra-curricular activity and mentor teams at various levels and ensure that the pupils have a wide range of games and sports activities.
There is a good supply of appropriate equipment to assist in the development of skills at each class level.
A warm, caring atmosphere pervades the school, which reflects a firm commitment to the principles of SPHE. Formal lessons in SPHE are based on a selection of themes that are very relevant to the lives of pupils. Teachers use different interesting approaches in teaching lessons. These include oral discussion, story and poems as stimuli, circle time and drama. Group work is a feature of these lessons and the pupils are involved and interested in the work. The school implements the Relationship and Sexuality Education programme. In regard to sexuality education in fifth and sixth classes the principal invites an outside speaker to speak with the parents, and with their permission, talks to the pupils.
Individual class teachers maintain comprehensive records of pupils’ progress. Copies of teacher-devised tests are maintained. Each teacher maintains the Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) for pupils attending both learning support and resource teaching and notes for differentiated class teaching are included. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is undertaken with pupils in senior infants and the Forward Together Programme is being implemented. Micra-T and Sigma-T are undertaken annually and the results of the tests are analysed and pupils’ progress is profiled. This is very commendable practice.
There is very good provision for pupils with special educational needs. A whole-school plan, which was recently devised, guides the work. Teachers are commended for the effort that they make to ensure the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in all classroom and school activities. It is recommended that the policy for SEN should be reviewed, and conditions for the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs should be removed, so that the school adheres to the provisions in the Education Act and the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act
A wide variety of programmes are used to enhance teaching and learning in both literacy and numeracy. The main method of support is withdrawal in small groups or individually. However, some very worthwhile team teaching is also being practised. The learning support teacher supports the development of mathematical problem-solving skills in fourth and fifth classes, and works with the second class teacher in the computer room on literacy programmes. Early intervention is practised in senior infants using a graded phonic programme. The learning support teacher outlines very careful IPLP’s and these are devised, following consideration of the recommendations from psychologists and other professionals, and also following consultation with parents and with the mainstream class teachers. The learning support teacher meets with parents to discuss the IPLP and meets again with them during the review period. Diagnostic testing is undertaken and this information is used to review targets.
Very positive, encouraging and motivating support teaching was observed during the evaluation. All class teachers have copies of IPLPs in respect of their pupils and co-operate with support teachers to achieve the identified targets. The learning support teacher meets with each class teacher formally every five weeks. Both support teachers have attended courses for professional development.
The resource teacher provides individual support, on a withdrawal basis. She engages in a wide variety of activities with her pupils, which includes literacy and numeracy, art and crafts, yoga and work on fine motor skills and physical skills. She liases, on an informal basis, with the class teachers and the special needs assistant. It is recommended that consistency is applied across the activities undertaken by the SEN team and that similar practices are employed in regard to the devising of IPLPs to ensure that all parents are involved
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:
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the Inspection Report
It is felt by the Teaching staff that the Principal has led a review of implementation curricular policies in consultation with the teachers at organized, after school meetings held in the past school year and this review occurred prior to the W.S.E.
Teaching staff felt that formal reviews of the implementations of the school development plan take place annually during a school planning day and evidence of this can be seen in the School Development planning folder.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The Board of Management has asked the principal to ensure there is an audit of school accounts on an annual basis from the current year.
A caretaker has been employed.
Posts of responsibility have been reviewed and each post holder is now leading a curriculum area. (These posts will continue to be reviewed).
A review of textbooks has taken place and the number of texts has been reduced.
The three additional classrooms have been completed and are now fully operational.