An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Chaitríona Naofa,
Eachroim, Co. na Gaillimhe
Date of inspection: 5 December 2007
This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Scoil Chaitríona Naofa. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, and 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 an 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 of this report.
Scoil Chaitríona Naofa is a co-educational school situated in the historic village of Aughrim, Co. Galway. The school caters for 125 pupils and is staffed by a teaching principal, four assistant mainstream teachers, a learning-support teacher, two resource teachers and four special-needs assistants. Staff members working on a part-time basis in the school include a special-needs assistant, a secretary and a cleaner. Accommodation in the school comprises a main building which dates from 1950 and a number of prefabricated units. Enrolments in the school have increased significantly since the last school report of 1998. The provision of appropriate accommodation is now a major concern for the board of management.
The school is under the patronage of the Bishop of Clonfert and espouses a Catholic ethos which is supported by the practices, traditions, beliefs and attitudes of the local community. In keeping with the school’s stated mission, the board of management and staff strive diligently to provide ‘a safe and welcoming environment’. Despite significant accommodation difficulties, a very positive atmosphere prevails in the school. There is a strong spirit of openness and collaboration among staff members and a well-balanced curriculum is delivered in a caring, inclusive learning environment. The pupils, in general, present as happy and interested and have very good patterns of attendance. There is a high level of parental support for all school-related activities.
The board is aware of its statutory obligations regarding the maintenance of attendance records and the length of instructional time during the school day. The board plays an active role in reviewing, amending and ratifying organisational and curricular policies. The school plan appropriately incorporates policies on enrolment, health and safety, discipline, special educational needs and child protection. There is a need to amend the enrolment policy in accordance with Section 15(2) of the Education Act, 1998 and to commence issuing an annual report on the operation of the school in line with Section 20.
The board recognises the importance of continuing professional development. Financial support is provided to enable teachers and special needs assistants to attend relevant courses. Staff meetings are organised each term to facilitate discussion and collaborative work on curricular provision and organisational planning. Teachers are also encouraged to engage with the curriculum support services. Due to relatively recent staff changes, there has been some movement and exchange of roles among the teaching staff. It is suggested that an inventory of the courses already attended and the priorities for future professional development be included in the school plan.
Board members praised the staff for their commitment, dedication and learner-centred approach. Satisfaction was expressed by the board in relation to the open-door, welcoming approach of the staff, the level of communication with parents, the broad education provided for pupils and, in particular, the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs.
The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal and two special duties teachers. The principal works diligently and communicates effectively with the board of management, staff, parents and pupils. Daily administrative and organisational tasks are discharged competently and whole-school planning is afforded appropriate attention. A positive, collaborative school climate is fostered in which the strengths and interests of staff members are acknowledged and developed for the benefit of the pupils. The principal promotes the exploration and adoption of new teaching and learning approaches, and facilitates the staff in engaging with the Regional Curriculum Support Services (RCSS) as a further means of developing the use of activity and discovery-based methodologies in the school.
The duties assigned to post-holders take account of organisational, curricular and pastoral care responsibilities. Informal meetings are held by post-holders to collaborate on decisions in relation to their assigned areas of responsibility. Discussions are also held at whole-school staff meetings. All post-holders adopt a professional, conscientious and responsible approach to their duties and are committed to the continued development of the school. The current contracts relating to each special-duties post should now be amended in order to reflect the full range of duties being carried out by the post-holders. A review of the policy on in-school management should set appropriate review periods and establish the practice of providing an annual account to the board on the work of the post-holders.
The school’s 125 pupils are divided in dual-class groupings among five mainstream teachers as follows:
Junior Infants / Senior Infants 21
Senior Infants / First Class 25
Second / Third Classes 25
Third / Fourth Classes 25
Fifth / Sixth Classes 29
The mainstream staff is supported by a special education team comprising a learning-support teacher, a full-time resource teacher, a part-time resource teacher and five special-needs assistants, one of whom works part-time. Due to space limitations in the mainstream classrooms, supplementary teaching is organised on a withdrawal basis in one-to-one or small group settings. Policy documents clearly define staff roles and organizational procedures in relation to learning support, resource teaching and care of pupils with special educational needs. A review of the documentation should now be undertaken in order to incorporate the staged approach to provision as outlined in Circular 02/05. The school should also seek to establish a temporary special class for autism in order to enhance the current provision for this area of special educational need.
The school has a part-time secretary who provides very valuable support for the work of the school. Due to an insufficient number of auxiliary rooms, the secretary generally works outside of school hours when accommodation becomes available. The school is cleaned on a regular basis and the effort involved in maintaining the good standards observed throughout the premises is acknowledged and praised. The school avails of the services of a coach provided by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) to promote fitness and develop games skills among the pupils. A drama teacher also visits the school and works in conjunction with some of the class teachers to support the implementation of the drama curriculum in the school.
The board is vigilant in its responsibility towards providing a safe and healthy working environment. Grant-aid and funding has been used judiciously to finance painting, sewage works, roof and window replacement, resurfacing of play areas, provision of temporary accommodation and development of parking facilities. The current accommodation, however, has significant shortcomings. Classrooms in the main building are extremely congested, there is a deficit of auxiliary rooms, the staffroom is very restricted and storage poses a major difficulty. Prefabricated units restrict the play area and create a necessity for a high level of supervision at break periods. While the school has a good-sized pitch, it has no indoor games facilities. The board has identified the construction of a new school as its main priority and has entered into communication with the Planning and Building Unit of the Department of Education and Science. It is recommended that a subcommittee of the board be formed to monitor and oversee developments in this regard.
The board has invested in a good range of teaching and learning resources. These resources are used effectively by most teachers to support activity-based learning. The board now intends to upgrade the school’s technological resources.
Strong links exist between the board, staff, parents and school community. The chairperson of the board of management maintains regular contact with the principal and staff, and engages with parents in support of the school’s religious ethos. The school has a very active parents’ association whose chairperson liaises regularly with the school principal. Communication with the board is facilitated by attendance of board members at the association’s meetings. Parents are involved in policy formulation and review, and in fund-raising activities. Parents also attend school sporting events and assist with the organisation of book fairs, field-trips and school celebrations. They are very supportive of the school’s health education programme and of the school’s involvement in national initiatives.
Effective procedures are in place to ensure meaningful communication with the parents and the wider community. An annual calendar, an information booklet for new parents and a school newsletter are issued. Homework journals are used to good effect to maintain regular contact with individual class teachers. Parent-teacher meetings are organised biannually during which oral feedback on pupil progress is provided. It is recommended that the school should now establish a practice of providing written reports on individual pupil progress. The staff may access the website of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) for advice and guidance in this regard.
It was stressed during the evaluation that the attention and energy of the board and of the parents’ association were being absorbed by the issue of school accommodation. Officers of the parents’ association expressed the opinion that if this matter was resolved, attention could be directed to other aspects of life in the school. Both board and parent association members commended the staff for their commitment to providing a full range of curricular activities in the present accommodation and for the attention given to pupils with special educational needs.
Pupils in this school are very well managed and the staff’s commitment to the welfare of pupils is highly praiseworthy. During the inspection process, the pupils were well-behaved, mannerly and friendly at all times. A high degree of mutual respect between staff and pupils was evident. Supervision during break times is exceptionally comprehensive. Worthwhile strategies are in place to ensure that pupils with special needs derive the maximum benefit from integration with their peers. Positive reinforcement of good behaviour is used frequently and it is advised that this good practice be reflected in the school’s code of discipline.
Considerable effort is devoted to engaging all parties in the planning process. The teachers work collaboratively with other school staffs and avail of support from the School Development Planning Services (SDPS) and the Regional Curriculum Support Services (RCSS) to draft certain policy documents. The established practice of individual teachers taking responsibility for leading and co-ordinating planning in selected curricular areas is to be commended. The board involves itself directly in the formulation of policies in such areas as discipline, enrolment, health and safety and child protection. Draft policy documents are issued to parents or to the parents’ association and to board members prior to their consideration and ratification at board level.
The school plan is available for viewing and includes a wide range of administrative and organisational policies of relevance to the welfare of the pupils and to the smooth operation of the school. Policy documents in all areas of the curriculum with the exception of Drama have been compiled. 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.
A number of national reports on curriculum implementation and guidelines on specific areas such as assessment and special needs have been issued since the launch of the curriculum. It is now opportune to commence review of certain curricular policies. In the course of such a review, emphasis should be placed on ensuring a clear statement of content at each class level to guide progression and on specifying the range of methodologies and approaches to be adopted in the dual class teaching context. The board is currently reviewing the policy on health and safety and a number of other policies have been prioritised for review. It is suggested that the board develop a three-year strategic plan incorporating clear timeframes to guide the systematic development and review of both curricular and administrative policies.
Teachers have been provided with copies of whole-school curricular policy documents to assist and guide them in preparing their individual plans of work. All teachers engage in long and short-term planning and provide a broad and balanced delivery of the primary curriculum. A common template, which combines fortnightly preparation and monthly reporting, has been adopted. Short-term plans provide details on strands and strand units of the curriculum as well as direction on content, methodologies, differentiation, assessment and resources. The development of individual educational programmes for children with learning difficulties is an integral part of the planning documentation. As planning and recording of progress are reviewed, the staff ought to consider the use of more specific short-term objectives and a clearer statement of content in some subject areas. This would facilitate easier review of curriculum implementation on a whole-school basis and provide for greater continuity in learning experiences.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Classroom accommodation poses significant challenges in relation to implementing activity and discovery-based approaches to teaching and learning. Nonetheless, most teachers are to be commended for the level and range of activity organised and for their excellent use of carefully prepared resources. While class teaching and group work are used to very good effect, there is scope for greater use of paired work and co-operative learning experiences in some curricular areas, particularly at senior level. Despite space restrictions, considerable effort is made to create stimulating learning environments incorporating displays of learning materials, teaching-aids, photographic records and pupils’ work. Pupils, in general, are well motivated and display high levels of engagement in and enjoyment of the organised activities.
Baintear dea-úsáid as an gcur chuige cumarsáideach chun éisteacht, tuiscint agus labhairt a chur chun cinn. Léiríonn na daltaí dearcadh dearfach i leith na teanga i ngach seomra ranga agus tuiscint ar réimse cuí foclóra. Baintear leas as ábhair nithiúla, léaráidí, gníomhaíocht, cluichí teanga, comhráite réamhdhéanta, amhranaíocht, filíocht agus drámaíocht chun caint a spreagadh. Leagtar béim thairbheach ar cheistfhocail a úsáid i ranganna áirithe agus b’fhiú an dea-chleachtas seo a leathnú ar bhonn uile-scoile. Cloítear go mór, áfach, le slua-aithris nó aithris aonair ar uairibh i gcásanna eile agus moltar níos mó deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí caint leanúnach a chumadh dena ndeoin féin, agus briathra agus foclóir a láimhseáil i gcomhthéacsanna difriúla. Mar thaca le sin, ba thairbheach fothéamaí a leagan amach faoi na mórthéamaí teanga, comhthéacsanna cumarsáide a aimsiú agus an forchéimniú atá i gceist ó rang go rang maidir le foclóir, gramadach agus struchtúr na cainte a léiriú sa phlean scoile.
Déantar an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht a nascadh go tuisceanach leis an obair ó bhéal. Léann na daltaí go cruinn agus is breá an úsáid a bhaintear as leabhairíní beaga ag rangléibhéil áirithe chun suim sa léitheoireacht a chothú. Ba thairbheach an clár léitheoireachta a fhairsingiú anois agus áiseannna suimiúla eile cosúil le pictiúirleabhair, páipéir ghrinn, leabhair mhóra, léitheoirí grádaithe agus fíorleabhair a úsáid go rialta mar ábhar léitheoireachta. Bunaítear an scríbhneoireacht den chuid is mó ar ábhar na cainte agus ar chleachtaí tuisceana agus gramadaí. Moltar réimse na ngníomhaíochtaí scríbhneoireachta a leathnú níos mó fós agus breis béime a leagan ar scríbhneoireacht phearsanta. Mar chuid den chlár déantar scagadh ar logainmneacha, ar sheanfhocail agus ar sheanchas na ndaoine. Ba chóir tagairt a dhéanamh don dea-obair seo sa phlean scoile faoi na teidil ‘Feasacht teanga’ nó ‘Feasacht cultúir’.
The communicative approach is used to good effect to develop language, understanding and speech. The pupils in all classrooms display a positive attitude towards the language and an understanding of an appropriate range of vocabulary. Good use is made of concrete materials, illustrations, activity, language games, prepared conversations, singing, poetry and drama to stimulate talk. Worthwhile emphasis is placed on the use of questioning words in certain classes and it would be very beneficial to extend this practice on a whole-school basis. Whole-class and individual repetition is favoured at times in other cases and it is advised that the pupils be given more opportunities to invent continuous speech of their own accord and to handle vocabulary and verbs in different contexts. In support of this, it would be of benefit to lay out sub-themes under the major themes in the school plan and to clarify the progression that is envisaged at each class level with regard to vocabulary, grammar and language structure.
Reading and writing activities are linked judiciously with oral work. The pupils read accurately and little books are used to good effect at particular class levels to foster an interest in reading. It would be of benefit to expand the reading programme and to use other interesting resources such as picture books, comic strips, big books, graded readers and real books regularly as reading material. Writing is mainly based on the content of conversation and on comprehension and grammar exercises. It is recommended that the range of writing activities be extended further and that greater emphasis be placed on personal writing. As part of the programme, place names, proverbs and traditional lore are examined. Reference should be made to this good work in the school plan under the headings ‘Language appreciation’ and ‘Cultural appreciation’.
A comprehensive school plan for English reflects the determination of staff to continue to achieve very good standards in English. Despite limited classroom space, all teachers have assiduously developed print-rich environments to promote children’s interest in literature. Discrete oral language lessons enhance oral work done in the various curricular areas. Pupils are exposed to an appropriate range of poetry at most class levels. It is advised to place continued emphasis on discrete oral language and in particular to provide more opportunities for debate and discussion at senior level. This should foster greater confidence in pupils’ self-expression.
Pupils demonstrate very good ability and high interest in all aspects of English reading. Basic reading skills are nurtured through careful attention to phonological awareness and word-attack skills. This work is further developed throughout the school where pupils are suitably grouped and given carefully graded reading material. Pupils read with good expression in all classes and achieve very good scores in the standardised tests in use. Good reading habits are in evidence and may be enhanced by regular replenishment of classroom library stocks. Participation in the ‘readathons’ and ‘skipathons’ during the past year is commended and the practice of keeping reading logs might usefully be exploited in all classes. The staff has prioritised paired reading as a vehicle for further improvement of reading standards.
Written work at all class levels is neat, tidy and regularly corrected. Pupils are given frequent opportunities to write in a variety of genres and for different audiences. Writing is celebrated through display and in compiled booklets. In the middle and senior classes, pupils’ efforts to write poetry are particularly praiseworthy. ICT is occasionally used to publish final versions of written work and this practice could be combined with greater emphasis on drafting and editing to enhance the work produced. Handwriting skills are given careful attention on a whole school basis and the stated policy in regard to cursive writing should now be fully implemented.
The school plan in Mathematics places significant emphasis on the importance of understanding mathematical language. This is clearly reflected in the practice at each class level. Pupils are skilfully guided through discussion and questioning to use correct language in explaining procedures and in describing their approaches to problem-solving tasks. Teachers provide very attractive visual aids including charts, clocks, number lines, fraction strips, work-sheets and a good range of concrete materials to aid understanding and to engage the pupils in hands-on activity. Group activities are well structured and paced to address the range of abilities at each class level. Regular opportunities are provided to practice estimation skills and to foster an understanding of the importance of mathematics in real life. Pupils confidently respond to questioning and display a sound understanding of the mathematical concepts covered. Progress in Mathematics is assessed through the use of standardised and teacher-designed tests and the regular monitoring of workbooks, worksheets and the pupils’ neatly laid out copybooks.
A variety of stimulating and enjoyable strategies is used successfully to aid memorisation and recall of number facts. It would be of benefit to include the full range of these strategies in the school plan. While cognisant of storage and space challenges, it would also be of value to extend the range of mathematical resources still further to include, in particular, equipment and materials to facilitate sand and water play at the appropriate class levels.
Creative and imaginative strategies are applied by the staff to the teaching of History. Old school records, artefacts, photographs and newspaper articles are used as a basis for developing the skills of investigation, analysis and deduction. Pupils are guided through the compilation of their personal and family histories as a prelude to exploring other strands of the history curriculum. ICT is used effectively at infant level to introduce the concept of chronology as pupils learn to sequence events in a story. In the junior classes pupils are guided effectively in collaborative examination of historical evidence. Middle and senior class pupils display a keen awareness and knowledge of the historical significance of the local environment. Timelines, interviews, surveys and field-trips are used to very good effect in many classes and the work is skilfully integrated with other curricular areas. The commendable work done in the study of History would be enhanced by the compilation of a school resource pack for local history and by clearer specification in the school plan of the aspects of the historical environment to be explored at each class level.
The pupils display very good knowledge of aspects of all strands of the geography curriculum. Topics studied are gainfully linked with the work in History and Science and there is evidence of integration with various other areas of the curriculum. The themes of place, space and environment are addressed through a broad range of activities. Pupils demonstrate very good recall of their study of habitations in the human environment. The practical work involved in making instruments and the daily measuring and recording of weather statistics promotes a keen interest and awareness of the pupils’ natural environment. Suitable field trips are an integral part of the provision, giving pupils opportunities to explore the natural and human environments at first hand. Pupils are progressively led to acquire a firm knowledge and understanding of the physical features of their own locality and of the country as a whole. Significant progress has been made in the area of environmental awareness and care as the school community strives for its first Green Flag award. In reviewing the whole-school plan for Geography, attention should focus on the specification of content for each class level and on the identification of activities and resources to promote a skills-based approach to the study of Geography throughout the school.
The school plan for Science emphasises the investigative nature of the science curriculum and promotes practical activity as a means of challenging pupils’ existing ideas and of developing understanding. Further refinement of the plan will indicate the aspects of particular strands and strand units to be covered in each class and how the programme is to be approached in the dual class context. Good work is being done to encourage pupils to work scientifically through observation, questioning, analysis of scientific phenomena and design of fair tests. Skilful use of open-ended questions provokes thought and valuable discussion. Pupils are prompted to predict the outcomes of tests and to report their findings appropriately. Pupils proudly display their work in the Designing and Making strand. The use of bird feeders, the cultivation of the school garden and the school’s involvement in the Green Schools Initiative provide further valuable opportunities for pupils to engage in study and exploration. It is noted that the school plans to partake in the Excellence in Science Project in a praiseworthy effort to expand the current provision.
The quality of the work in the Visual Arts is very good. Pupils engage in a wide range of activities spanning all the strand units. Individuality, originality, creativity and development are features of the work on display and there is evidence of regular and fruitful integration with other curricular areas. Classroom activities are well structured and provide opportunities for pupils to develop skills of observation and interpretation. Pupils are encouraged to look at and respond to their own work and the work of others and to explore the techniques favoured by some of the great artists. Talk and discussion and higher-order questioning are used effectively to stimulate thought and elicit responses in relation to the elements of art. In addition to the examples of work on display in the classrooms and corridor, photographic and digital records of work completed are also maintained. Consideration should now be given to a review of the school plan in the Visual Arts so that it reflects the range of activities currently being undertaken at each class level. It should indicate clearly the development and progression in concepts and skills that are envisaged as the pupils proceed from class to class.
Teachers plan a broad range of suitable activities to address the interrelated strands of the music curriculum. Through careful selection of repertoire, pupils are motivated to respond physically, emotionally and cognitively to music. Pupils are provided with opportunities to listen, to explore sound, to use body percussion as an accompaniment to song singing, to play instruments and to create their own music. Musical toys, pictures, charts and ICT are used to very good effect to stimulate interest and to support the classroom activities. A literacy programme has commenced in the infant and junior classes which will provide a very solid foundation for future work at higher class levels. Initial emphasis is appropriately placed on developing a sense of pulse. Pupils are then introduced to graphic and rhythmic notation through a very well structured and effectively paced sequence of activities linked with song singing, movement and percussion work. All classes enjoy singing a range of songs in both Irish and English.
Instruction in playing the tin-whistle commenced this year and pupils in the more senior classes have made considerable progress in the short period involved. Tunes are played with enthusiasm and pupils display a keen interest in continuing to develop instrumental skills in conjunction with their literacy skills. A variety of good quality percussion instruments is available in the school. These could now be augmented to include tuned percussion instruments which would provide a suitable alternative to the tin-whistle for some pupils with special educational needs. Further development of the school plan should seek to clarify the content at each class level in relation to selected repertoire for the strands Listening and Responding, Song-singing and Playing Instruments.
The elements of Drama are explored through a range of activities at each class level. A drama teacher visits the school once a week and works in collaboration with the teachers of infant and junior classes to create situational contexts for the pupils to engage in imaginative play and improvised drama. Collaborative forward planning facilitates preparatory work by the class teachers and effective integration with other curricular areas. Themes such as the seasons, weather and the circus are explored through the medium of poetry and story. Skilful questioning and timely suggestions motivate pupils to explore gesture and tone and to enter into character and role in a make-believe world. The effectiveness of the group work organised, however, is hampered to some extent by the lack of appropriate space. Cross-curricular themes also provide the material for dramatic activity at senior level. Pupils display good skills of collaboration and communication while working in groups and competently assume roles in enacting improvised drama in a historic setting. All classes engage in post-drama discussion to clarify and consolidate the learning. Drama is used very effectively in some classes as a strategy to encourage pupils to communicate through the medium of Irish. The activities explored to date should provide the basis for the development of a school plan in Drama and should inform the build-up of resources including classrooms props to support implementation.
The programme in Physical Education is restricted by the lack of indoor facilities and is weather dependent for the most part. During the course of the evaluation, the school pitch was waterlogged and the planned activities were moved to an area of the yard that functions as a basketball court. The annual programme in Physical Education incorporates playground games, hurling, camogie, football, basketball, athletics, swimming and some outdoor and adventure activities. Lessons are structured to incorporate appropriate warm-up and cool-down exercises. Pupils eagerly engage in a variety of age-appropriate activities including circle games, relays, javelin throwing and ball play. Strong emphasis is placed on skill development and teamwork. Skills pertaining to Gaelic games are developed with the support of a GAA coach. While the pacing of activities could be enhanced in some instances, the pupils display a high level of co-operation and self-discipline during organised group work. A number of teachers use Irish in the course of instruction. This practice is commendable and could be developed further on a whole-school basis. The school participates in inter-school events organised by Cumann na mBunscol and pupils are also encouraged to support local sporting organisations. An annual sports day is organised each year with the support of parents. Pupils with special educational needs are enabled to access the curriculum in Physical Education and participate in a range of modified activities with the care and support of the school’s team of special needs assistants.
The ethos, philosophy and mission statement of the school strongly underpin the programme in this area of the curriculum. An integrated approach is used at each class level in conjunction with discrete lessons to foster the development, health and well-being of the pupils. Teachers strive to create a happy and caring environment in which pupils can achieve their full potential. Learning is facilitated by positive classroom atmospheres where pupils’ efforts are affirmed and respectful, caring relationships are nurtured. Particular attention is directed towards enabling pupils to appreciate their own strengths and abilities and to develop a sense of care and respect for themselves, others and the environment. Teachers draw on the content of a variety of programmes including Stay Safe, Walk Tall, Bí Folláin and Alive-O and link discussions and activities with aspects of the work in Geography and Physical Education in particular. While the dominant methodology involves talk and discussion as part of whole-class teaching, group work is also effectively utilised. Parental support in this area of the curriculum is strong. Parents have been involved in developing and supporting the school’s code of discipline, the relationships and sexuality programme, the anti-bullying policy and the healthy eating policy. Parents also organise end of year ceremonies and festivities at which life in the primary school is celebrated and pupil achievements are acknowledged.
A whole-school assessment policy has been developed in collaboration with a cluster of neighbouring schools. To date commendable progress has been made in the implementation of a wide range of assessment strategies to guide teaching and learning. The main whole-school assessment strategies used include teacher-designed tasks and tests, tables and spelling tests, individual pupil profiles, standardised and diagnostic assessments, photographic records, reading logs, portfolios and teacher observation. In some mainstream classes and supplementary support classes there is very effective use of anecdotal notes and a range of curriculum checklists to monitor the pupils’ progress. This practice is particularly noteworthy. It is recommended that the use of checklists be extended to all classes to review pupils’ progress across each curricular area.
Pupils’ work is monitored regularly throughout the school and the use of anecdotal personalised comments in pupils’ copybook work in many cases is helpful and encourages continuous improvement. This example of best practice is commendable. Levels of attainment are assessed annually in English and Mathematics from first class upwards by means of the Drumcondra standardised reading and mathematics tests. Results are carefully recorded and collated and can easily be compared from year to year. The Non-Reading Intelligence Test (NRIT) is administered to first and fourth class levels to correlate test scores. It would be of benefit if further analysis of pupils’ standardised test scores in literacy and numeracy was undertaken annually to track strengths and common areas of learning difficulties in pupils’ learning. The system of early screening is currently based on the observations of mainstream infant class teachers and the results of The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST), which is administered to pupils during the second term of senior infants. Pupils requiring early intervention have access to the Forward Together Programme. It is recommended that consideration be given to the use of the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP) or the QUEST to provide further assessment information in screening pupils for early intervention. The administration of a standardised spelling test would also be beneficial in tracking pupils’ levels of attainment from class to class.
Opportunities are provided for parents/guardians to discuss their children’s progress at formal parent-teacher meetings. Even though the whole-school policy states that parents have access to all permanent records pertaining to their children, it is recommended that written progress reports be issued to parents/guardians of all pupils at the end of each school year. It would be of benefit to update the whole-school assessment policy accordingly.
The special educational support team comprises three teachers including a full-time learning support teacher and two full-time resource teachers. Pupils with special educational needs also benefit from the services of five special needs assistants, who conscientiously and ably support four pupils with low incidence special educational needs. A total of six pupils with assessed special educational needs receive intensive support mainly in language and literacy. Four pupils receive very effective intensive individualised support across each curricular area. It is recommended that the excellent practice observed in support rooms be extended to ensure that the language across a greater range of curricular themes is identified to support the pupils with SEN in accessing a differentiated curriculum in their respective mainstream classrooms.
A total of 27 pupils with high incidence learning needs receive supplementary support in English or Mathematics, largely in groups of six or seven pupils, albeit that, in accordance with Departmental guidelines, slightly less than half of this cohort of pupils are ineligible for learning-support. Although the pupils attending learning-support are withdrawn due to the restrictive classroom sizes, the inclusive approach adopted is very effective and pupils show commendable progress.
Very good collaboration occurs between mainstream class teachers and support teachers in the development of individual profile and learning programmes and individual education plans (IEPs). The involvement of parents in the IEP process and the organisation of bi-annual multi-disciplinary team meetings to support the needs of pupils with the greatest need, are praiseworthy. The commitment of support teachers in constantly monitoring and reviewing individualised programmes is commendable. Laudable attention is directed towards summarising key information from professional reports and towards ascertaining individual pupils’ strengths and priority learning needs. This information is subsequently used to set clear, specific and relevant learning targets within defined timescales. These learning targets are commendably linked to each curricular area to develop a wide range of practical checklists in one support room. This excellent example of best practice should be extended on a school-wide basis and documented in the school plan.
There is a good range of resources and learning-support material available in each support room. The support room for pupils attending learning-support is located in a prefabricated classroom. Another prefabricated classroom is used to support a pupil with autistic spectrum disorder and severe general learning disability. Negotiations are ongoing in relation to reviewing the suitability of this placement in order to ensure that this pupil’s educational and multi-disciplinary needs are appropriately met.
Despite the very limited space available in one support room, every effort is made by all support teachers to provide stimulating print-rich, learner-focused classroom environments. Attendance records and home-school communication notebooks are maintained, weekly targets are clearly set in teachers’ short-term planning and there is evidence of very good assessment records and progress reports. A wide range of interactive methodologies is used to very good effect to support pupils’ learning and motivation levels. Excellent use is made of direct skills-based teaching, peer and teacher modelling, and kinaesthetic and multi-sensory approaches to learning. Elements of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), intensive interaction, prompting and Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) are used effectively with selected pupils, as required.
Excellent use is made of a range of stimulating teacher-designed visual materials, music, ICT and shared reading. A clear, consistent language of instruction is used to promote optimum engagement. The social, communication, imaginative and sensory deficits associated with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) are addressed during the teaching and learning experiences observed. It would be of benefit to include guidelines for staff in the school plan in to address the triad of impairment and sensory deficits for pupils with ASD.
Scoil Chaitríona Naofa has access to the Departmental Dispersed Disadvantage Funding Scheme and this funding is used appropriately to ensure that all pupils have equal access to extra-curricular activities provided by the school. All pupils have appropriate access to a book rental scheme. Although there is only one international pupil currently enrolled, it is clear that the school is committed to the principles of inclusion. It is recommended that a policy on intercultural education be developed to enhance the welcoming whole-school ethos and further augment pupils’ learning experiences and awareness of the modern multi-cultural society.
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
The Board of Management wishes to acknowledge the professional and courteous manner in which the WSE was carried out. The Board is particularly pleased that the good work being done in the school was recognised and affirmed.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
Arrangements are now in place for the annual auditing of school accounts.
The annual reporting of post-holders’ work in the school is being made to the BOM.
Written reports of students’ progress are being given to parents.
Published September 2008