An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

 REPORT

 

Ballybrohan National School.

 Ogonnelloe, Scarriff,

Co. Clare

Roll number: 17563P

 

Date of inspection:  26 October 2006

  Date of issue of report:  22 February 2007

 

 

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

4.2 Language

Gaeilge

Irish

English

4.3 Mathematics

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

History

Geography

Science

4.5 Arts Education

Visual Arts

Music

Drama

4.6 Physical Education

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

4.8 Assessment

5.     Quality of support for pupils

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

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

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole- school evaluation of Ballybrohan N.S. 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 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.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Ballybrohan National School is a four-teacher co-educational primary school situated in east Clare approximately half way between the towns of Scarriff and Killaloe. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic bishop of the diocese of Killaloe. The school mission statement, as well as reflecting its Catholic ethos, also promotes partnership between the school, parents and the wider community in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The school serves mainly the families living locally and the number of pupils now attending stands at 105. The school also has a class for pupils on the autistic spectrum with four pupils presently in attendance.  It is expected that the number of pupils seeking enrolment in the school will increase in the immediate future and the expectation that there will be further housing development in this area is likely to put further pressure on the school to expand. Pupils’ attendance at this school is very good. 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management of the school is properly constituted, very active in its role and committed to the continual development of the school. It meets approximately six to eight times per year. The major roles have been delegated and members display an enthusiasm and purposefulness towards all issues presented. Minutes of meetings are recorded and a financial statement is provided at all meetings. The board has ratified all policies presented and continues to play an active role in this work. It is recommended that, as part of this activity, the school’s enrolment policy be re-examined to ensure its compliance with the relevant legislation. All board members reported satisfaction with the quality of teaching provided and the overall standards of learning in the school.

 

The board currently has an application for a major capital building programme with the planning and building section of the Department of Education and Science. It is hoped that the application for a general-purposes room, classrooms and ancillary facilities will progress without undue delay. The board was very anxious to convey its concern over the safety issues surrounding the drop-off and collection of pupils on the main road in front of the school. During the evaluation, it was clear that this concern is not unfounded and this matter requires urgent attention. Attention was also drawn to the difficulties attached to the provision of sufficient multi-disciplinary agency support for the pupils attending the autism class. Currently, the board is encountering significant problems with regard to the appropriate assessment of the needs of these pupils. There is a need, as defined by the board, to plan specifically to cater for the expected significant expansion of housing in the area and to ensure that the school has the capacity to cope with the consequent increase in numbers. 

 

It is recommended that the board, as part of its ongoing management responsibility, now looks at the development of more regular and specific communication with the parent body. An improved co-ordination of parents’ association and board meetings could be put in place to facilitate a more streamlined transmission of information between home and school. It is important to include the curriculum as a source of appropriate information that can be shared between home and school. This matter was discussed with the board and it is hoped that some development in this area will occur over the coming months.

 

It is also recommended that the board would adopt a specific budgetary policy to cover the resource requirements of specific, identified areas over a given period of time. Given the effective management of the school’s finances, there should be little difficulty in targeting funds more deliberately for development in key areas of school activity.

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team includes the principal, the deputy principal and the special duties post-holder.  The principal was appointed to the staff of this school just one year ago in September 2005. Since her appointment she diligently and conscientiously discharges her duties and makes an admirable effort to ensure that the high standards, so long a hallmark of this school, are maintained.  The principal is commended for her efforts in managing the staff changes that have taken place in the past year and for her hard work in developing a team spirit among the teachers in the school. The principal has adopted a proactive role in relation to whole-school planning and priorities for development are identified. The principal has established good communication systems with parents and with the board of management.

 

The principal is assisted in the day-to day management of the school by a deputy principal and a special duties teacher. Responsibilities for these posts include areas connected with curricular, administrative, academic and pastoral matters and these responsibilities were reviewed during the last school year. The specific curricular area to be reviewed is identified on an annual basis. Duties attaching to this post are carried out in a manner that supports the principal and ensures that policies and procedures are followed carefully.  It is recommended that post-holders report on their work to the board of management on an annual basis. Staff meetings take place once a term and agenda are agreed in advance. Minutes of these meetings are maintained.  

 

2.3 Management of resources

At present there are four mainstream class teachers, one learning-support/resource teacher and one special class teacher employed in this school. Three of these appointments, including that of principal, have been made within the past year and one of the original mainstream class teachers has taken on the role of learning-support/resource teacher. This has resulted in many staff changes and the school is commended for the management of this change.  It is also important to ensure that there is regular teacher rotation, as decided by the principal and in consultation with staff, in order to ensure that the professional development of teachers and the needs of the pupils and school are met. Each mainstream class teacher is allocated two classes each and classes are divided into infant, junior, middle and senior groups of approximately equal size.  The school has the services of a learning-support/resource teacher on a full-time basis. The school also has a class for four pupils on the autistic spectrum. One special class teacher and three special needs assistants support the work in this classroom. One other special needs assistant supports a pupil in the mainstream classes. There is a part-time secretary employed who provides an efficient and reliable service and carries out her duties conscientiously. The school also has the services of a part-time caretaker who maintains the building to a very high standard. 

 

The main building of the school, constructed in 1995, includes three classrooms, toilet facilities, staff room, office and a small storage area. The three prefabricated structures, located in the grounds of the school provide the fourth classroom, a room for the learning-support/resource teacher and the special class for pupils on the autistic spectrum. The positioning of the prefabricated structures is not conducive to the smooth running of the school due to site-level restrictions, as pupils have some way to walk in the open air to reach the main school building.   The board has applied for a major extension to the school which will include an extra classroom, a general-purposes room, storage area and a suite of amenities for the pupils on the autistic spectrum.  There is an area for parking at the entrance to the school. It is leading out to a very busy road and can become very congested at school opening and closing times. The board of management is seeking ways to reduce this congestion in order to maintain safety. This approach is commended. The board of management has provided very good outdoor facilities for the pupils including a tarmacadam area, hard court area, tennis court, playground area and, in addition, the pupils have ease of access to the local GAA pitch. The school and grounds are maintained to a very high standard.

 

The board of management and teachers have provided very good resources to assist in teaching and learning. All classrooms have developed library areas and a plentiful supply of print is displayed in the classrooms. Games and toys make learning an exciting experience for the younger pupils and each classroom has a nature table or corner of interest. During lessons the teachers effectively use a wide range of charts and other illustrative material to enhance lesson presentation. The efforts of the pupils, especially in the area of Visual Arts, English and Gaeilge are displayed in the classrooms and in the school corridor. The teachers work earnestly in providing a secure and comfortable teaching and learning environment for the pupils.  Overall the school presents a stimulating learning environment which supports the implementation of a broad and balanced curriculum.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

There is a very supportive parents’ association in the school which meets regularly and parental involvement in many of the school’s activities is at a high level. In the past year the parents’ association organised eleven events in total, including sports’ day, sponsored walk, book fair, table quizzes, raffles and Christmas carol singing as well as assisting in organising church and social activities. Parents also support the school by the provision of transport to games and events and by their involvement in fund-raising activities.  Parents have been involved in the formation of a number of school policies particularly in the areas of behaviour, enrolment and homework. The parents’ association officers stated that parents are made welcome in the school and it was reported that the concerns of the members of the association are dealt with promptly by teachers and board of management. Communication among the association, the board of management and the teachers is satisfactory. Communications are good within the school and newsletters, information notes and homework journals are effectively used as tools for communication. A parent-teacher meeting is held once a year but parents have ease of access to teachers at all other times. Parents consider that their children receive a very good education in Ballybrohan National School. The parents’ association consider the education provided in the school as holistic and creative, with care taken to develop the pupils in mind, body and spirit.

 

 

 

 

 2.5 Management of pupils

This school implements a very effective code of behaviour and pupils are courteous and mannerly. All teachers use praise and affirmation to promote and award good behaviour.  There are warm and respectful relations between teachers and pupils, and also between pupils and pupils. An atmosphere conducive to learning is evident in the school.  The staff’s contribution towards the building of confidence and self-esteem levels of the pupils is commendable. The positive attitude and behaviour of the pupils are indeed praiseworthy.

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

The school has expended much time and effort in preparing a comprehensive school plan which sets out the school’s policies in administrative and curricular areas as well as providing essential information on school contact details. In the administrative areas over thirty policy statements are available.  These include the school’s mission statement and its vision for its pupils. All essential policies including enrolment, safety statement, administration of medicines, equal opportunities, gender equality, home-school partnership, special education needs, assessment, substance use, supervision of internet usage, and anti-bullying policies, are available. It is recommended that the board of management review the enrolment policy provided in order to clarify that it meets with the criteria as set out in the Education Act, 1998.  It is also recommended that the internet acceptable use policy (AUP) includes all persons who may have access to the school’s internet. The board of management should also ensure that the conditions of primary circular 11/95 Time in School are implemented.

 

In the curricular areas, plans are provided in Gaeilge, English, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Visual Arts. Draft plans have been prepared for the curricular areas of Science, Geography, History, Music and Physical Education. In drawing up these plans the teachers prepare draft policy statements.  These drafts are discussed at board of management meetings and amendments are made where necessary.  Final policy statements are endorsed by the board and, in some instances, review dates are noted.   It is recommended that the board of management and staff prioritise the areas for future development and review, in order to ensure that the cyclical nature of school planning is maintained and progressed at an appropriate pace.

 

Some policies have been distributed to parents, and the school provides parents with policy statements on areas such as homework, uniform and code of discipline. There is evidence of parental involvement in the formation of a number of policies including SPHE, homework and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE).  However, the role of the general parent body in developing policy should be reviewed in order to afford it a more collaborative role in policy formation. It is also recommended that a system for disseminating final policy statements to parents should be set up.  

 

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, September 2004) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (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. 

 

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers plan diligently and comprehensively. Long and short term plans are based on the school plan and the 1999 Primary School Curriculum. Monthly reports are maintained and these documents outline that portion of the curriculum presented by the teachers during the month. In order to progress the assessment strategies currently in use in the school it is recommended that the school now devise a system to examine the monthly progress reports in order to elicit information regarding achievement rates across all curricular areas. The staff should identify specific elements of the subject areas which merit further analysis and systematically target teacher observation, in-school tests and homework results as tools which can be used to collate information on a whole-school basis. Over specific periods of time the resulting analysis will feed positively into the designation of specific strategies aimed at improving pupil achievement in the identified areas.

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

Throughout the school the principles and methodologies of the 1999 Primary School Curriculum are clearly understood and implemented. There is an evident focus on the capacity of individual pupils to participate in their own learning. This is supported by an awareness of the staff of the school of the various strategies available which enable pupils experiencing difficulty to take a greater part in their learning experiences. Group, pair, whole-class and individual learning opportunities are regularly provided in all classrooms across all curricular areas to assist pupils in grasping the concepts being taught. Pupils’ enthusiastic participation in these activities and their achievement of high standards are clear indicators of the appropriateness and success of the strategies employed.

 

Questioning is of a high standard in general throughout the school. Evidence of differentiation and meaningful integration is found in all classes. A clear effort is made to display pupils’ work purposefully. Rooms are well laid out and most curricular areas are appropriately presented to the pupils from a visual perspective. The school is to be commended for the manner in which pupils with special educational needs are included in all curricular activities in the various classes. An effective recording template is in place to link the work done by the pupils in both the mainstream and specialist learning settings. This template could be further developed by making learning targets even more specific than at present. The school should now consider the potential benefit of using reverse integration as a learning strategy across the curriculum but especially in areas such as Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), English, Physical Education (PE) and Visual Arts.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Múintear an Ghaeilge ar bhealach éifeachtach agus moltar na hoidí as an dea-chúram a thugann siad chun dearcadh fábhrach i leith na Gaeilge a chothú tríd an scoil. Cleachtann na hoidí modhanna feidhmiúla teagaisc agus is léir go gcaitear an-dúthracht le múineadh na teanga ar fud na scoile. Tá foclóir sách leathan bainte amach ag na daltaí agus ar an iomlán baineann na daltaí caighdeán feiliúnach amach. Baineann na hoidí úsáid as raon maith fearas agus léaráidí le linn múineadh na Gaeilge. Baintear feidhm fheiliúnach as rainn, dánta, amhráin, scéalta agus cluichí i rith an teagaisc.   Moltar go mór modh na drámaíochta a chleachtar sna ranganna uile chun beocht agus spéis a chothú. Déanann na hoidí comhtháthú oiriúnach idir an éisteacht, an labhairt, an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht. Leagtar béim ar úsáid na Gaeilge mar theanga bhainistíochta na scoile. Tugtar cúram cuí do thús na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta agus tá focail léirithe i bhfoirm prionta ar taispeáint i ngach seomra ranga. Caitear an-dua le teagasc na léitheoireachta agus léann na daltaí le brí agus le cruinneas.  Sna meánranganna agus sna  hardranganna cothaítear fonn scríbhneoireachta i measc na ndaltaí trí chleachtaí tuisceana agus gramadaí. Leagtar béim ar an scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach freisin, rud a thaitníonn go mór leis na daltaí agus déantar maoirseacht rialta ar an obair.

 Fágtar mar dhúshlán faoin scoil anois an chaint leanúnach a chur chun cinn ar bhealach sistéamach ionas go mbeadh forbairt rialta le sonrú sa chomhrá de réir mar a théann na daltaí ar aghaidh sna ranganna. Bheadh sé tairbheach na tuismitheoirí a spreagadh a bheith páirteach sa Ghaeilge chomh maith trí iad a mhealladh chun frásaí agus foclóir Ghaeilge a úsáid sa bhaile. B’fhiú lá  chun Gaeilge a eagrú sa scoil ó am go chéile chun líofacht na ndaltaí a neartú. 

 

Irish

Irish is taught in an effective way and the teachers are commended for the care taken in promoting an outlook favourable towards Irish in the school. A purposeful approach is adopted in the teaching of the language and it is clear that, Irish is taught in a diligent manner throughout the school. The pupils have acquired a relatively wide vocabulary and, in general, pupils attain an appropriate standard. The teachers use a good range of equipment and illustrations in the teaching of Irish.  Suitable use is made of rhymes, poems, songs, stories and games during the teaching process. The use of drama in all classes to promote interest and enthusiasm is commended. Teachers suitably integrate the areas of listening, oral language, reading and writing. There is an emphasis on the use of Irish daily as a classroom management strategy.   Appropriate care is taken to develop early reading and writing skills and in all classrooms there are printed labels and words on view. A lot of effort is extended in the teaching of reading and the pupils read clearly with understanding. In the middle and senior classes the writing process is promoted through comprehension exercises and grammar. An emphasis is also placed on creative writing which pupils clearly enjoy and copies are corrected regularly. It is now a challenge for the school to progress systematically the pupils’ ability to use oral Irish language as they move from class to class.  It would be beneficial also if parents could be encouraged to participate in the Irish experience by using some Irish words and phrases at home. It would be of benefit to organise, on occasion, an Irish Day in the school.    

 

English

The teaching of English is carried out in a competent and confident manner in this school with due emphasis placed on developing the three strands of the English curriculum, namely oral, reading and writing. Language skills are very well developed and pupils speak confidently and competently on a range of topics. Of particular merit is the degree to which oral discussion is used for the development of the pupils’ cognitive abilities and their receptiveness to language. All pupils are exposed to questioning that appropriately extends higher order thinking and learning.  In all classes a wide range of rhymes, poems and songs are used to foster the emotional and imaginative development of pupils and these activities are often presented effectively using Drama. Comprehension skills are also suitably developed and the development of language skills and vocabulary is an integral part of all lessons taught. 

 

In infant classes all pupils are exposed to a print-rich environment and this is further developed across all classes. During lessons a range of very suitable methodologies is used successfully to enable pupils to develop their basic reading skills. Throughout all classes there is very good use made of language charts, word walls, real books, class novels and indeed the work of the pupils themselves to develop reading skills. Each room has a class library with a good range of fact and fiction books available, suitable for each class cohort. The teachers encourage pupils to read for information and pleasure and it is recommended that this aspect of the curriculum be further expanded. An examination of reading scores achieved in standardised tests shows that the pupils are achieving a very a high level of success in reading and the teachers are commended for their efforts. 

 

Writing skills are capably developed in all classes and yield praiseworthy results. Pupils are appropriately encouraged to write for different purposes and different audiences, in a variety of genres such as reports, poems, songs, biographies, book reviews and stories. Information and communications technology (ICT) is used to good advantage in the presentation of some of the creative writing and this is an area that could be further developed.

 

4.3 Mathematics

Concrete learning experiences and purposeful differentiation of the curriculum form the basis of a very effective mathematical experience for the pupils in this school. In all classes, aims are based on the school plan, and the teaching observed succeeds in building on the current level of pupils’ knowledge. Questioning is carefully planned by all teachers and pupils of all ability levels are afforded the opportunity to participate in the activities provided. A wide range of commercial and teacher-made resources supports the learning process. The inclusion of pupils with special educational needs in the practical aspects of the lessons in Mathematics is noteworthy and effective. The development of mathematical language is monitored diligently and most pupils are able to use the correct terminology appropriately. Levels of achievement in oral mathematics are high and a sense of fun and relevance is built into the strategies employed by the teachers. Group and pair work are regularly used to assist the development of problem-solving skills. Pupils display an ease with the work allocated and the range of abilities present in most classes is effectively accommodated through differentiated questioning.

 

The school should now look at the degree to which maths-rich environments are being created in all classrooms. There is a need to designate a location in all rooms where the relevant topic is clearly represented and supported by the terminology and resources which have been introduced as part of the teaching and learning process. The public areas of the school could also be used to reinforce the concepts covered.

 

The school records show a high standard of achievement in standardised tests in Mathematics. Pupils are tested annually and these scores are shared with parents at parent-teacher meetings.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

Throughout the school pupils study a range of people and events in the past that suitably develops their understanding of family, local, national and world history. Time lines are in evidence in many of the classrooms and these, together with a range of suitable activities, are used successfully to enable pupils to develop a sense of time, sequence and chronology.  Pupils listen to, retell and record a range of stories from the ancient past as well as from the recent past and they engage in exercises to develop their sense of the chronology of events. Pupils explore and record significant personal dates and events and there are collections of items from the pupils’ past which are used effectively to examine the concepts of change and continuity.  Pupils are encouraged to use information they have researched to reconstruct the past and to empathise with the people being studied. Pupils portray their understanding of events through a range of activities including sequencing exercises, the use of story, picture, modelling and drama. It is recommended that a greater emphasis now be placed on the development of local history and that the use of ICT as a tool in the investigation and presentation of findings be further expanded.

 

Geography

In the teaching of Geography, the teachers make a sincere effort to incorporate the development of the skills of the geographer in all classes. Discovery of information is followed by effective questioning aimed at further analysis of what has been found and pupils are encouraged to work together in pairs or groups to formulate fact-based opinions on all aspects of the curricular strands. Practical geographical learning experiences are provided with a focus on regular data collection. This work is usually carried out in project format and the resulting work is nicely displayed and of a high standard. A plentiful and wide range of practical resources is easily accessible for the pupils to use. The school as a whole should now concentrate, to a greater extent, on the rich local sources of geographic learning available. Existing ICT infrastructure should be used for the gathering and presentation of information. The degree to which practical exercises for homework in Geography can be facilitated should also be examined by all teachers. Integration with the English curriculum in particular, could be highlighted in teacher planning.

 

Science

Science is taught to a satisfactory standard in this school. Pupils take part in a range of experiment-based activities covering the various curricular strands. The range of equipment needed for this work is steadily increasing and a scientific culture is being developed. Each classroom should be examined with the purpose of maximising the visual display area allocated to this subject. Science interest areas should be developed in all classrooms and the whole school should consider the feasibility of a science day. In conjunction with the parents’ association the involvement of the parent body in these activities should be promoted in order to link the work done in school with the practical possibilities available at home for scientific learning. The school should also look at the development of a Green Flag project as a further boost to the teaching and learning possibilities in the social, environmental and scientific education curriculum.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

Teachers are responding commendably to the implementation of the visual arts curriculum which is characterised by high levels of variety and practicality. The range of experiences offered is wide and the work observed includes drawing, painting and modelling with a wide range of media. Integration of this subject with other curricular areas is a notable feature of this work. There is evidence that valuable work is done in the area of looking and responding. The work is displayed to good effect in the classrooms and clearly the pupils are being successfully and systematically helped to develop a keen aesthetic sense.

 

Music

This school provides lessons and exercises that enable the pupils to enjoy and understand Music and appreciate it critically. Appropriate care is taken in all classes to develop the curricular strands of performance and composing as well as listening and responding.  Musical concepts of pulse, duration, tempo, pitch and timbre are well developed. Standards of singing within the school are very good and pupils perform a range of songs in harmony in both Gaeilge and English while displaying an awareness of dynamics, phrasing and expression. There is good use of percussion instruments to develop musical concepts and to accompany singing and this work has been extended to include melodic instruments. In addition the pupils are encouraged to create and put their own compositions to music. Regular exercises in listening and responding are very well implemented and overall the school provides a musical education of a very high standard.

 

Drama

Throughout the school Drama is effectively used across many of the curricular areas to engage pupils in the learning process. In particular the use of dramatic techniques such as role-play, hot‑seating and mime are used effectively by teachers to enhance other curricular areas, including Gaeilge, English, Music and History. During discrete drama lessons the three strand units are delivered. The pupils are acquiring techniques that enable them to practise the skills necessary for creative expression and they engage openly and honestly in the activities presented. Overall, in the making drama strand, pupils are successfully developing the ability to co-operate with others in solving out-of-role and in-role problems presented.  The school is commended for its efforts in using drama to explore feelings, knowledge and ideas.

 

4.6 Physical Education

The teaching of Physical Education in this school is of a very high standard. Excellent resources, effective planning, purposeful delegation of tasks to the pupils themselves and the strong commitment of the teaching staff all combine to provide truly meaningful learning experiences for the pupils. A wide range of appropriate activities is provided during the lessons to engage pupils of all abilities. Instructions are specific and realistic and lessons are presented with a clear purpose. Despite the obvious limitations imposed by the lack of a general purposes-room, the teachers and pupils work together to address the entire range of strands represented in the curriculum. The basketball and tennis courts and the adjoining GAA playing field are regularly used by all classes for a wide range of activities. Competitive and non-competitive activities are facilitated for all pupils. The school participates in inter-school competitions and this activity is available to all pupils interested in taking part. Lessons are well-organised with high participation and achievement rates observed. The school has a purpose-built playground on site and this has real cross-curricular potential for the entire school if appropriate safety protocols are put in place for the various age groups.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

Teaching of Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) in this school is carried out effectively and is designed to permeate all other curricular areas. Achievement here is excellent where pupil-pupil, pupil-teacher and whole-school relations are positive, respectful and relaxed. During the evaluation, pupil behaviour was seen to be of a very high standard. Throughout the school notice boards highlighting achievements and affirming learning and mutual respect are to be seen. Discrete time is set aside for SPHE lessons and a range of methodologies, including circle-time activities, enables the pupils to engage in discussion, question and answer sessions and oral presentations. The school itself provides a positive model for the pupils in terms of its overall cleanliness and tidy appearance. This approach obviously has a meaningful impact on pupils’ outlook as the entire school community is seen to approach all activities from a calm and focused perspective.

 

4.8 Assessment

In this school a range of assessment strategies is used to provide teachers with continuous detailed information about pupils’ knowledge, grasp of concepts and skills.  Strategies used include, teacher observation and teacher-designed tasks and tests and the results of these observations and tests are maintained. Homework and exercises in copies are corrected diligently and pupil profiles are maintained for pupils receiving learning-support. This assessment work is complemented by the administration of norm- and criterion-referenced tests. Near the end of each school year the Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to measure attainment in English reading and Mathematics respectively. The results in literacy and numeracy, and indeed across the curriculum, confirm that the pupils, in general, are achieving at a standard that is in keeping with age and ability. In fact, the test scores in reading and Mathematics are particularly impressive. The school administers the Belfield and MIST screening tests at infants’ level and these results assist in the early identification of pupils requiring supplementary teaching. It is recommended that teachers consider the monthly progress record as a method of further developing assessment across class and curricular areas by recording the success in achieving the objectives as set out in their weekly planning.

 

Pupil reports are maintained and updated regularly and written progress reports are sent to parents on an annual basis. In addition, a parent-teacher meeting takes place annually and teachers make themselves available to discuss pupils’ progress with their parents at other times. It is reported that discussions between staff and the special-education teacher occur regularly, usually after school time and at staff meetings. At these meetings suitable interventions are discussed and designed. It is recommended that this laudable practice be formalised within the school setting. Overall, pupils are achieving at or above expected standards across all curricular areas.

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school currently provides services for pupils in need of learning-support, resource teaching and for four pupils on the autistic spectrum in a special class setting. There is a real sense of care, diligence and inclusion evident for pupils receiving support. The teaching and learning opportunities provided show that inclusion of pupils in all school activities is a priority and this policy is to be commended. Parents of pupils with special education needs report a satisfaction with the work carried out. The issue of accessing appropriate assessments for these pupils was raised and efforts to improve this situation are ongoing. A very good range of resources including ICT, book, play and sensory equipment is provided and is used effectively. 

 

Fifteen pupils are in receipt of individual learning-support. In addition group interventions take place in all classes. Genuine and meaningful class teacher liaison was observed where targeted goals were identified and pupil participation in the work of the mainstream class was prioritised. ICT is well used to encourage independent learning and significant elements of the teacher’s work are carried out in the classroom of the pupils concerned in accordance with DES Circular 24/03. There is an awareness of the need for a balance of work and intervention between the curricular areas of English and Mathematics. This balance is very well achieved through the delivery of sensory programmes which aim to approach learning through a cross-curricular, thematic approach. Planning is clear and specific and regular parental liaison is a commendable feature.

 

Pupils on the autistic spectrum divide their time between specific learning experiences in the autism class and participation in planned periods of time in English, Mathematics, Physical Education and Visual Arts in mainstream classes. Pupils are accompanied by the special needs assistants during these periods. It was observed that the work of the special needs assistants greatly complement and support the work of the class teacher. It is clear that a very close relationship exists between the adults in the class and the pupils. On several occasions a very high degree of individualised care and effort was observed and pupils were gently and sensitively encouraged to be active and involved in the various activities and experiences. Long-term individual education plans of work have been drawn up for each pupil and these documents are used to build daily programmes of work which are then implemented by the teacher with support from the special needs assistants. Excellent teacher-made resources aid the pupils in their learning. The classroom is nicely divided into individualised learning areas where the pupils experience appropriate individualised programmes of work. Break-out experiences are carried out using some of the wide range of resources available. Daily home-school notebooks are maintained and it is hoped that all parents will fully support and expand this communication method. 

 

It is recommended that the staff should examine the learning experience of these pupils in the context of the learning outcomes which can be expected and achieved. There is a need for closer collaboration between all class teachers and the staff of the special class in order to identify specific goals which can be implemented in the classroom settings when the pupils on the autistic spectrum attend. These goals then need to be transferred onto the home-school notebooks and activities identified for the parents to work on when the pupils return home. There needs to be a whole-school concerted effort to ensure greater liaison with parents in the short term. The teachers should also devise a reporting strategy on the outcomes of the implementation of the agreed goals. It is also recommended that the pupils in this class receive teaching in Irish. The concept of reverse integration should now be considered to enhance opportunities for all pupils to learn in as varied a climate as possible. It is important that the significant ICT infrastructure available to the pupils in the class is not overlooked in the identification of the strategies needed to promote effective learning for these pupils.       

 

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

There is no level of significant social disadvantage reported among the pupils enrolled in this school. There are no pupils from minority groupings in attendance.

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

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.