An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Náisiúnta Chill Coscáin

The Ward, Co. Dublin

Uimhir rolla:   17595F

 

Date of inspection: 29 February 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Chill Coscáin (Kilcoskan National School) was undertaken in February 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Science. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Kilcoskan National School is a three-teacher co-educational school located in north Co. Dublin. The school in under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. Enrolment levels have increased substantially over the past four years and this trend is expected to continue in the short-term. An additional mainstream teaching post has been sanctioned for September 2008 and this appointment is expected to result in a lower number of pupils in some class groupings. Daily pupil attendance levels are high.

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

77

Mainstream classes in the school

3

Teachers on the school staff

5

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

3 (part-time)

Special needs assistants

2

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

A very pleasant, caring and inclusive atmosphere is evident in the school. The strong sense of community that has been actively developed over the years reflects the stated philosophy of the school as “the focal point of the community, keenly aware of the educational, social and moral expectation of that community.” Mutual respect and a shared sense of purpose characterise interactions between partners in education. The uniqueness of each child is valued and there is a very good awareness of the variety of abilities they possess and the responsibility of the school to support pupils in reaching their potential.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management meets regularly and displays a strong sense of commitment to supporting the work of the school. An examination of the minutes of recent meetings indicated that the board functions effectively. The board is very pro-active and liaises with the staff regularly in relation to school matters and the provision of resources. The board provides an annual budget to support the continuing professional development of teachers. A financial report is furnished at each meeting and accounts are audited annually. Consideration could now be given to including a written financial statement and a written principal’s report in the record of board meetings.

 

A new board of management was formed shortly before the evaluation. It intends to draw up an action plan to guide its work during its term of office. The current priorities of the board are the provision of suitable accommodation and the health and safety implications of an increase in traffic that will arise when a new prison is built close to the school. The board is also aware of the need to maintain the sense of community as the school expands. Members take on specific tasks as required and give generously of their personal and professional skills for the betterment of the school.

 

The board ensures that the school grounds and the building are well maintained. The work of the school caretaker is very much appreciated in this regard. The day-to-day functioning of the school is enhanced through the support of the part-time secretary. Families are requested to make a voluntary contribution to support the financing of the school, as the board stated that it finds it difficult to meet all the costs associated with running a small school. The board provides parents with an account of how funds are spent.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal displays effective leadership qualities and through his dedicated service to the school over the past fifteen years he has earned the respect of parents and the local community. He has effectively managed a challenging situation during the current year where four of the six teachers working in the school are newly recruited. He inspires a shared sense of purpose among the staff and works in close collaboration with them. He is very supportive of all staff, in particular the newly qualified teachers, and promotes a positive learning climate in the school. No teacher holds a post of responsibility at the present time even though the post of deputy principal has been advertised. The principal relates very well with parents. He genuinely values parents as partners in the education of their children and works in close collaboration with them, in an open and transparent manner. He carries out his administrative and managerial duties competently.  

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school is held in high regard locally as a result of the shared sense of purpose among members of the school community. A very active parents’ association, which has been functioning for many years, has recently affiliated to National Parents’ Council (Primary) and is currently setting up formal structures to guide its work. Channels of communication have been established between the parents’ association and the school, and a report from the association is provided for the principal after each meeting. The recent introduction of a school newsletter provided a further vehicle of communication between the school and home and has been welcomed by parents. A public notice board at the school gate facilitates on-going communication about day-to-day school matters, and notices from the parents’ association. Representatives of the parents’ association met with the inspector and expressed the satisfaction of parents with the quality of education being provided in the school. Parent volunteers currently assist with shared-reading activities in the school, and organise a variety of extra-curricular activities for pupils. They stated that the school always welcomes assistance from parents. Parents expressed concern about the inadequate accommodation in the school, class-size and the limited supplementary support available for pupils. While formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually, usually with full attendance, parents are happy that they can meet with the teachers if they wish to discuss any issue relating to their children.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The mutual respect evident among all members of the school community underpins the approaches to managing pupils. The code of discipline promotes positive behaviour and the high standard of behaviour among pupils, evident during the evaluation, attests to the effectiveness of its implementation. The funding by the parents’ association and the board of a workshop on anti-bullying displays the commitment of the school community to providing a safe and secure environment for pupils. The expectation among parents that their children will behave and work well in school contributes in no small way to the realisation of a shared understanding of the function of the school.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is generally good. A wide range of policies has been drawn up to facilitate the smooth functioning of the school and to respond to the requirements of relevant current legislation. A selection of school policies is included in a pack given to parents of new pupils on induction day. In general, curriculum policies were drawn up in tandem with the implementation of various aspects of the curriculum, with support from the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP), and the School Development Planning Support Service (SDPS). There is a need now to distil the collection of resources in the school plan, and to prepare short user-friendly documents that will assist teachers in preparing their own programmes of work. A review of curriculum policies is now recommended and this review should focus on current practice in the school and lead to an action plan that will inform the development of teaching and learning. Plans are already in place to avail of assistance from the cuiditheoir service in relation to reviewing policies for specific curricular areas. It is recommended that, in the whole-school planning process, attention should focus on how the potential of information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance teaching and learning for all pupils can be fully exploited in the context of the resources available to the school.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good. Short-term and long-term plans are prepared that differentiate learning objectives for pupils in various classes within teaching groups. A broad and balanced programme of work covering all aspects of the curriculum is taught. Significant work is done by teachers in acquiring and preparing resource materials to support teaching and learning. Teachers are to be commended for their work in creating very stimulating learning environments in classrooms and in special education rooms.  

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Cuirtear deiseanna rialta ar fáil do dhaltaí an Ghaeilge a chloisint á labhairt go nádúrtha de bharr an nós atá ag na hoidí úsáid a bhaint as an teanga i mbainistiú gníomhaíochtaí ranga agus scoile. Léiríonn daltaí tríd an scoil tuiscint mhaith ar an nGaeilge ó bhéal. Baintear feidhm éifeachtach as an scéalaíocht sna meanranganna agus sna bunranganna chun eispéaras teanga na ndaltaí a leathnú. Cothaítear tuiscint na ndaltaí le linn na gceachtanna ach tá gá le breis béime a leagan ar thascanna foirmeálta éisteachta a chleachtadh chun a chur ar cumas na daltaí dul i ngleic le réimse níos leithne teanga. Baintear dea-úsaid as raon leathan ábhar léirithe chun an t-ionchur nua teanga a theagasc agus san iomlán baineann dea-struchtúr leis na ceachtanna. Tugtar deiseanna labhartha do dhaltaí le linn rólghlactha, agus i bhfreagairt ceisteanna. B’fhiú deiseanna breise a chur ar fáil do dhaltaí an teanga a úsáid go nádúrtha i suímh fíor-chumarsáideacha.

 

Múintear an fhilíocht go cumasach sna ranganna go léir agus aithrisíonn na daltaí cnuasach breá rann agus dán le dea-fhoghraíocht. Déantar cúram oiriúnach de theagasc na léitheoireachta sna meanranganna agus sna hardranganna. Le linn na meastóireachta thug daltaí sna ranganna sinsearacha faoi ábhar nua a léamh le tuiscint agus le líofacht inmholta. Chun freastal ar an raon chumais i measc na ndaltaí b’fhiú cur leis an taithí léitheoireachta atá ag daltaí trí ábhar dílis a léamh ar bhonn rialta. Tá cúram maith á dhéanamh de theagasc scileanna scríbhneoireachta i nGaeilge. Is léir ó iniúchadh a dhéanamh ar shamplaí scríbhneoireachta pearsanta sna ranganna sinsearacha go bhfuil daltaí breá ábalta a dtuairimí a chur in iúl i gcineálacha éagsúla scríbhneoireachta.

 

Irish

The teachers’ practice of using Irish in managing class and whole-school activities provides regular opportunities for pupils to hear the language being spoken naturally. Pupils throughout the school display a good understanding of spoken Irish. Effective use is made of story-telling in the junior and middle classes to broaden pupils’ language experience. While listening skills are fostered during lessons, further emphasis on formal listening activities is required to enable pupils to grapple with a wider range of language. Good use is made of a variety of visual resources to teach new language, and in general, lessons are well structured. Opportunities are provided for pupils to speak the language during role-play activities and in responding to questions. Further opportunities could be provided for pupils to use the language naturally in real communicative settings.

 

Poetry is taught competently in all classes, and pupils recite a fine repertoire of rhymes and poems with good pronunciation. Suitable attention is paid to teaching reading skills in middle and senior classes. During the evaluation pupils in senior classes read unprepared text fluently and with understanding. To meet the various needs of all pupils in the class groupings reading experience could be extended through the regular use of genuine books. Good attention is paid to teaching writing skills in Irish. A review of samples of creative writing in the senior classes provides evidence that pupils are well able to communicate their ideas in a range of genres.

 

English

Significant emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ receptive and expressive language skills during talk and discussion activities across a range of curricular areas and during discrete English language lessons where higher order thinking skills are fostered. Effective use is made of large format books in junior classes as a stimulus for discussion and for developing pupils’ comprehension skills and their ability to sequence stories.

 

Early reading skills are well taught and opportunities for reading are provided through a shared-reading project that has recently been introduced. Class libraries are well stocked and the weekly visit of the mobile library from Fingal Co. Council provides further resources for personal reading. Reading skills are developed as pupils progress through the school and good use is made of novels in middle and senior classes to develop pupils’ emotional response to text. Pupils in middle classes are introduced to dictionary work to support independent reading. In general, pupils read with fluency and understanding, although some pupils were noted to be reading text that was too difficult for them. Care should be taken to match reading material to pupils’ abilities and where appropriate pupils could be grouped across classes in order to make the best use of time in the multi-grade classes.

 

Poetry is used effectively as a stimulus for exploring language and thought. Pupils’ own poems are very well presented in a recently produced school anthology. Early writing skills are well taught and writing tasks are differentiated for the various classes within teaching groups. Opportunities are provided for pupils to write in a variety of genres from an early age. Print-rich environments are created to support the development of early reading and writing skills. Pupils’ written work is very carefully monitored in all classes. A high standard is achieved in pupils’ personal writing in senior classes.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good with most pupils displaying good attainments in a range of mathematical skills. Pupils’ thinking skills and mental processing skills are suitably developed during oral questioning activities. Concrete materials are used effectively to support pupils’ understanding of concepts. The use of a variety of teacher-designed games to consolidate learning and to encourage the active participation of pupils is to be commended. Teachers’ planning indicates that provision is made for the delivery of all strands of the curriculum. Lessons in shape and space, data and lines and angles were observed during the evaluation. Considerable emphasis was placed on linking learning to the pupils’ own experiences and to their environment. Discrete mathematical language was well taught and used during discussion. Written work is very carefully recorded and well monitored. To support pupils experiencing difficulties in Mathematics, supplementary support should be provided in the context of the school’s resources.

 

3.3 Science

A broad and balanced programme in Science is delivered to pupils throughout the school. Lessons observed were well structured, were informed by clear expected learning outcomes and pupils’ previous knowledge of concepts formed the starting point for lessons. The development of scientific working skills is central to the teaching methodologies that are used. During well-organised experiments pupils predict, test and record outcomes. Teachers succeed in motivating pupils during lessons and very good collaboration among pupils was observed, with pupils participating purposefully in experiments. Evidence from teachers’ planning, from progress reports and from pupils’ copybooks confirms that all strands of the science curriculum are taught. Significant emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ awareness of the environment and pupils are currently working towards attaining the school’s third Green Flag. Recent developments in this area include the preparation of a wormery, and nesting boxes for birds.

 

3.4 Assessment

An assessment policy has been formulated in which the specific tests to be administered and the criteria by which pupils’ progress is evaluated are outlined. Standardised tests in English and Mathematics are administered annually to pupils from first to sixth classes and so, the school meets the requirements of Circular Letter 0138/2006. The Non Reading Intelligence Test (NRIT) is administered to pupils in first, third and fifth classes. A range of diagnostic tests is used by support teachers to identify pupils’ specific learning needs. The Middle Infants Screening Test (MIST) is used to support the early identification of pupils experiencing difficulties with reading. Teachers design tests based on specific aspects of the curriculum to assist them in modifying learning programmes to suit individual pupils’ learning needs. Particular attention is paid by all teachers to monitoring pupils’ written work.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The learning support policy has recently been revised and ratified by the board. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved in assisting pupils and provides for regular consultation with parents regarding their children’s progress. Two part-time teachers provide supplementary teaching for pupils with learning needs. The learning support teacher who is based in a neighbouring school supports pupils experiencing difficulties with English and provides limited additional support to pupils with learning needs in Mathematics. A part-time resource teacher provides supplementary tuition for two pupils. Special needs assistants work in close collaboration with class teachers to support these pupils in the mainstream setting. There is a need to monitor the implementation of the learning support policy to ensure that pupils most in need of additional support, both in English and in Mathematics, are targeted and that the selection and discontinuation of pupils for supplementary teaching are in line with the policy.

 

Regular liaison between class teachers and support teachers regarding pupils’ progress and learning needs supports the integration of pupils in mainstream classes. Individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) that focus on specific learning needs are prepared for pupils who receive supplementary support and they are reviewed after each instructional term. Learning activities are very well organised and a positive, supportive learning climate was clearly in evidence during the evaluation. Significant emphasis is placed on learning through doing and pupils engage actively in the learning process. Evidence from assessment tests confirms that some pupils availing of supplementary teaching are making significant advances in learning.

 

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

English language support is being provided for five newcomer pupils. Current provision is very well structured and takes place in both withdrawal and in-class settings as most appropriate to individual pupils’ needs. A small number of traveller pupils have recently enrolled in the school. Every effort is being made within the resources available to the school to provide targeted support for individual pupils and an application for the services of a resource teacher for travellers has been made to the Department of Education and Science. While no additional funding is given to the school to support pupils experiencing disadvantage, assistance with the purchase of school books and participation in school activities is given sensitively and discretely to ensure that all pupils can avail of the full range of activities provided in the school.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         The sense of purpose and effective collaboration among all partners in the school community results in a shared vision for the school.

·         The effective leadership of the principal over a long period of time, and the support provided for newly qualified teachers underpin the professionalism with which teachers carry out their work.

·         The inclusive, caring atmosphere in the school ensures that individual pupils’ abilities are recognised and that pupils are supported in realising their potential.  

·         High standards are attained by pupils notably in personal writing in English, in Mathematics and in their understanding of spoken and written Irish.

·         Active learning methods are used effectively across the range of curriculum areas to foster pupil participation.

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

·         A review of curriculum policies should focus on current practice in the school and lead to the development of an action plan that will inform teaching and learning.

·         The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) as a regular learning tool should be extended to facilitate further differentiation of learning programmes and so enhance the quality of learning for

      pupils.

·         The implementation of the recently revised learning support policy should be reviewed to ensure that supplementary tuition in both English and Mathematics is provided for pupils most in need of support.

·         To ensure the continuous development of pupils’ reading skills on a structured basis, reading material in English needs to be carefully selected to match individual pupils’ abilities.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published December 2008