An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Náisiunta Cholmáin Naofa
Terryglass, Nenagh Co. Tipperary
Roll number: 17640 H
Date of inspection: 14 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006
This Whole School Evaluation report
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Cholmáin Naofa. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and the parents’ representatives on the board of management. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management 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.
Scoil Náisiúnta Cholmáin Naofa is a three-teacher school situated in the picturesque village of Terryglass, approximately 20 kilometres north of Nenagh in Co. Tipperary. The school enjoys a central location in the village and serves as a focus point for the community. When the last evaluation was carried out in February 1999 there were 45 pupils enrolled. Currently, this number is 44. The school was opened in 1953 with two classrooms and a temporary partition was added to create a third room with an adequate number of cloakrooms and toilets. Presently, there are two classrooms, one large room and one smaller room. The interior and exterior of the school are well maintained.
The staffing arrangement includes two class teachers, one learning-support teacher based in the school and shared with two neighbouring schools. Currently, there is a part-time resource teacher and one special needs assistant employed who provides additional support for one pupil with special educational needs. The board of management also funds the employment of a Music teacher who visits both classes each week to teach various elements of instrumentation, theory and composition.
The pupils interact well with visitors. Staff displays a genuine pride in the school and environs and there is a very positive sense of engagement among the teachers and pupils. The school community as a whole seems active and diligent with a strong focus on co-operation, friendliness and collegiality.
The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killaloe. The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly. Minutes of meetings are maintained and are made available for inspection. Over the past two years the number of meetings has increased significantly with issues such as policy development dominating the agenda. Attendance at meetings is good and active participation by all members is reported by the chairperson. All statutory obligations are being met and there is a strong commitment to ensure compliance with the Rules for National Schools. At all stages of the evaluation it was clear that this is an active board with clear leadership from the chairperson and principal being competently supported by all other board members. Good communication was seen to exist between the chairperson and the principal.
Policies regarding a range of issues such as health and safety, anti-bullying, homework and healthy eating have been compiled. These documents are clear and detailed. The policies are drawn up by the staff, parents and the board and are ratified by the board and then disseminated to the parent body. A logical step for the board of management now is to increase its involvement in the curricular domain of the school. A greater knowledge of the school curricular plans will enhance its understanding of the work of the school. The board will thus enhance its knowledge of the development of the role of the parent in the education of the pupils.
The principal of the school, appointed in 1997, carries out her duties with great energy and commitment. There is an openness to teaching and learning innovation, and the pupils are assisted in developing their independence skills through a “can-do” approach. This outlook on teaching and learning serves the other teachers well in that experimentation is encouraged. Administratively, the principal demonstrates effective leadership through the regular maintenance of attendance books, roll-books and registers. The planning process is well developed with an ongoing commitment to practical and relevant programme preparation and implementation. On a pastoral level, this principal works diligently to facilitate inclusion. Time is given systematically to prioritising the development of the emotional, intellectual and social intelligences of the pupils. A friendly and open relationship with parents is evident. This is supported by a deep and sensitive knowledge of the family situations of all pupils. Teachers are encouraged to share expertise gained from professional development courses in classes in an effort to provide for all learning needs. Collaborative working relationships are seen to exist among all staff members.
There is one special duties post-holder in the school with responsibility for the management of information and communication technology. This work is carried out diligently. Care is taken to maintain equipment and to provide all pupils with regular access to a range of suitable software, internet sites and self-learning opportunities using this equipment. It is recommended that the duties attaching to this post be reviewed regularly and altered as new priority needs are identified.
Financial resources are carefully and appropriately managed in this school. Accounts are kept up to date by a treasurer and certified annually. Clear procedures are in place for monthly reporting to the board as to current expenditure capacity and the extent of day to day costs. These matters are dealt with by the principal and prudent planning is obvious. The school benefits from a wide range of resources, which is effectively used by teachers and pupils. A large array of concrete materials is available. This includes posters for all subject areas, science equipment, computers and PE equipment. Games, puzzles, library books, teachers’ reference library and a plentiful supply of visual arts materials are also in evidence. A range of musical equipment has been purchased to support learning in this area.
The school is maintained with great care. Cleaning is carried out daily and the overall standard of cleanliness internally and externally is excellent. The school employs a part-time maintenance worker. Given the recommendations made pertaining to school maintenance in the last report, there is great credit due to all connected with the school for the manner in which the campus is presented. On numerous occasions during the evaluation it was obvious that the contribution of the pupils to maintain their clean environment is ongoing and purposeful. It is now appropriate for the school to pursue Green Flag status. There is ample evidence that the necessary communication and leadership mechanisms are in place for this work to occur and it would further enhance the sense of pride in the school among the entire community.
A comprehensive range of planning documents outlining the curricular plans of the school is available. Plans for Gaeilge, Mathematics, English, Physical Education, Visual Arts, Science, Social, Personal and Health Education and Music have been drawn up by the staff. These programmes of work outline clearly the relevant experience the staff intends to provide for each pupil throughout the year. These plans have been well thought out and inform teachers' individual plans. It is important to maintain this planning momentum. The areas of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and the Special Educational Needs policy on inclusion should now be prioritised. Both from the whole school and the individual teacher perspectives, the creation of a curriculum development action plan should be considered. This should identify the key areas for prioritisation. It should also map out the most practical approaches to take in order to reach final document stage.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 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 departmental guidelines.
All teachers present clear and detailed short and long-term plans. These plans are, in general, content-based with relatively sparse reference being made to the learning outcomes for the pupils. The staff, as a whole, should look at its planning methods and review comprehensively the priority given to assessment for learning. Teachers’ individual planning could well benefit from a greater focus on assessment. Work on this important area should commence as soon as possible. The experience of the teachers will be a valuable tool in the process of developing an assessment for learning focus.
The school planning documents highlight key methodologies aimed at facilitating pupil participation in the curriculum. In order to analyse the progress of pupils on a short-term basis these methodologies should be reviewed and expanded.
Feictear go bhfuil dearcadh dearfach á chothú sa Ghaeilge trí úsáid chliste a bhaint as cluichí, gníomhaíochtaí suimiúla agus trí iarracht mhacánta a dhéanamh ócáidí chainte a sholáthar do na daltaí. Úsáidtear raon leathan d’acmhainní oiriúnacha sna ceachtanna a thugann seans do na páistí a bhfoclóir a leathnú. Cé go mbaintear úsáid as an nGaeilge mar theanga bhainisteoireachta i roinnt ranganna, b’fhiú don fhoireann teacht ar chomhthuiscint maidir le húsáid na Gaeilge taobh amuigh de na ceachtanna foirmiúla chun deiseanna a chur ar fáil do na páistí an teanga bheo a chloisint agus a chleachtadh. Is dúshlán anois é don fhoireann úsáid na Gaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh a chur chun cinn ar bhealach sistéamach tríd an scoil.
Tá iarracht choinsiasach déanta prionta i nGaeilge a chur chun cinn ar fud na scoile agus cuirtear lipéidí agus nathanna cainte ar taispeáint go tarraingteach. Éiríonn go stuama le formhór na bpáistí an t-ábhar léitheoireachta a léamh le brí agus le tuiscint. Moltar feidhm níos mó a bhaint as ábhar leathan léitheoireachta a chothodh suim na bpaistí a thuilleadh fós. Cuirtear béim mhór ar scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil, clárú foclóra, líonadh bearnaí agus athscríobh ar scéalta, an nuacht agus scríobhneoireacht sna dialanna sa scoil. Moltar deiseanna a sholáthar do na páistí scríbhneoireacht a chleachtadh ar bhonn níos rialta i ngach rang. Ar an iomlán, is féidir a rá go mbaineann na páistí taitneamh as na ceachtanna ach tá gá le breis dúshláin a chothú dóibh chun a chinntiú go mbíonn forbairt ag teacht ar a gcuid foghlama ó rang go rang.
Cothaítear suim na bpáistí i bhfoghlaim na Gaeilge go stuama agus tá sé mar aidhm inmholta ag an bhfoireann an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn sa scoil. Cláraítear an t-ábhar atá le múineadh go cúramach in ullmhúchán scríofa na n-oidí. Ar an iomlán, bunaítear an t-ábhar teagaisc ar shraith téascleabhar nó ar leabhair shaothair. Sna ceachtanna labhartha, moltar cuspóirí sainiúla na gceachtanna éagsúla a shoiléiriú, rud a chabhródh le leanúnachas agus le forbairt na gceachtanna a chothú. Leagtar béim ar fhoclóir agus ar abairtí a bhaineann le timpeallacht agus le saol na bpáistí ach tá gá le plean cinnte a leagan amach a chinnteodh go leathnófar cumas cainte na bpáistí ó rang go rang. Bheadh sé mar chúnamh an éisteacht a fhorbairt ar bhealach rianúil agus aidhmeanna insroichte a shainniú d’fhonn saoráideacht chainte a fhorbairt. Baineann na páistí taitneamh as aithriseoireacht rann agus dánta. Téitear i muinín na drámaíochta go rialta chun an obair a shaibhriú. Is éifeachtach iad na straitéisí seo.
The teaching of English is carried out with a strong commitment to the development of positive attitudes and appropriate skills in reading. All teachers display a good understanding of the Primary School Curriculum 1999 guidelines and systematically plan for and deliver opportunities for all pupils to develop confidence in their use of language. The plan for the teaching of English in the school impacts practically on the lessons delivered and pupil progress is monitored regularly to highlight any shortfalls in achievement. Particularly commendable in this regard is the significant cross-curricular work carried out between English and the Visual Arts. Innovative techniques to link drawing and grammar exercises are very effective and praiseworthy. Throughout both classrooms, a wide range of interesting and suitable material is provided for all age and ability levels. The school has made a conscious decision to focus primarily on class novels. This strategy is reaping rich rewards. Pupils are eager to read. They are willing and able to discuss the material in a manner which displays core knowledge of character and plot development. The pupils make well-supported arguments for and against particular books and the culture of reading has been very successfully established. Throughout the school, good questioning techniques and interesting group and pair activities are in place to ensure the maintenance of this positive climate.
The pupils display considerable oral prowess. Both in their answering of questions and in their interaction with their peers it is evident that significant work has been undertaken in providing opportunities for language development. Supporting this also is a commitment to the teaching of poetry and recitation in general. All pupils are encouraged to participate in the dramatic activities which are based on aspects of English, SPHE and Gaeilge.
Children engage in a range of writing activities, both functional and creative. Book reviews, letter writing, write-a-book, daily news, poetry and stories are in evidence as well as comprehension and workbook exercises. Some examples of creative writing were noted. It is recommended that children be given further opportunities to write creatively on a regular basis and in a wide variety of genres in all classes. While good handwriting skills present as a notable feature in some classes, it is recommended that a whole school approach to fostering presentation skills should now be adopted. Inclusion of all pupils, especially those with special educational needs (SEN) is essential. Such activities would greatly assist these pupils to develop their co-ordination and co-operative skills and their self-esteem. The availability of ICT infrastructure has the ability to enhance this work.
A wide range of materials is used to support the teaching of Mathematics. Teachers make a genuine effort to provide the pupils with multiple opportunities for activity-based learning, peer-learning and non-book based experiences. The result is that the pupils have a very positive attitude to this aspect of the curriculum. While this positive climate has been successfully created it is now incumbent on the staff as a whole to examine the impact these strategies are having on pupil achievement levels. Currently, the activities are somewhat disjointed and opportunities for exploiting the potential of peer-learning events needs to be more consistent between classes. It is recommended that individual teacher planning in Mathematics would now focus on facilitating activities which are all connected to the topic in question. Given the fact that there are four standards in each classroom, it is vital that all group and pair work is linked in a systematic manner to encourage whole class discussion and review. There is also a need for the construction of dedicated Mathematics areas in each classroom. These areas should be relevant, topical and accessible for the pupils. The display of pupil work in Mathematics in the classrooms and in the corridors should also be prioritised.
A broad and balanced curriculum is being presented, which ensures that the pupils have access to a wide range of geographical ideas and concepts. At all class levels pupils are afforded the opportunity of becoming familiar with the skills, knowledge and concepts that are linked with topics from human and natural environments and with seasonal changes. Pupils are encouraged to develop knowledge and understanding of local, regional and wider environments and to develop a sense of place and spatial awareness. Greater emphasis on the local area would benefit the pupils also. Lessons are presented skilfully and while ensuring that all strands of the Geography curriculum are fittingly developed, these are also well integrated with other curricular areas. The pupils have developed skills in the areas of analysing, observing and questioning and they display a co-operative approach to activity work. Overall, a very good standard of achievement results from the learning processes being presented.
The school has successfully encouraged the pupils to develop an interest in, and curiosity about the past. In all of the classes the teachers use many appropriate approaches including discussion, story, use of timelines and project work. The pupils have studied a range of peoples and events, which has assisted their understanding of family, local, national and world history. In the lessons observed the skills of working as an historian especially those of using evidence, change and continuity are developed. Pupils are provided with opportunities to communicate historical findings and interpretations in a variety of ways. The work is integrated with other areas of the curriculum and very good use is made of the Visual Arts, Music and Drama to communicate and develop an understanding of the past.
The teaching of Science is of an equally high standard. Discovery methods based on group and pair work using a wide range of commercially and home-produced resources are used to promote the enthusiasm of the pupils. Participation rates are consequently high with good language development and concept mastery emerging from this work. Teacher preparation in these lessons is also a significant factor in the overall success of the lessons observed. The presentation of the results of the activities is used effectively to include pupils of all abilities. The overall result for the pupils is that Science is related to their everyday lives and skills of analysis, co-operation and management of information are effectively developed.
The teaching of SESE throughout the school results in very positive learning outcomes for the pupils. Principally, these include the development of independent and co-operative work ethics, an understanding of the scientific process, a worthwhile knowledge of the world and a thorough grasp of the merits of active learning.
The visual arts programme has an important status within the school and is evident in the stimulating and creative displays of children’s work around the school. Corridors, display space and all available wall areas in classrooms and outside classrooms exhibit and celebrate the creative efforts of children. This work indicates that children are exposed to a wide range of media and techniques. Opportunities for integrating the Visual Arts with other curriculum work are exploited to considerable effect. Painting, printing and drawing are complemented by three-dimensional craft and construction work. The development of group designs in project work presents opportunities for creative thinking and for the development of collaborative learning skills. For the most part, art-making is focused correctly on the child as the artist with due emphasis on the consistent development of expression, inventiveness and individuality. Children are encouraged to discuss and critique their own work under the strand of responding to art. Portfolios of children’s work would greatly enhance and support this objective allowing each child the opportunity to review and engage in self-assessment. Learning about the work of artists could also receive greater attention supported by suitable displays of artists’ work in the school environment. The sharing of expertise in this area of the curriculum is a praiseworthy practice and could be extended throughout the school.
There is an excellent delivery of the Music curriculum in this school. Through the combined efforts of a visiting teacher and the teachers in the school, pupils receive a graded, well-balanced and challenging experience. There is a palpable excitement when opportunities for engaging in Music are provided. Pupils respond enthusiastically to the various strands as presented. Lessons are carefully constructed to allow pupils, individually and collectively, to compose, perform and respond.
Shows are regularly organised for parents and the community in general. Especially commendable is the degree of inclusion of pupils with special educational needs in the activities and it is clear that, given the response from these pupils, the benefits gained are obvious. There are some very good examples of integration with other subjects to be found in this work also. Pupils’ self-confidence as promoted formally through Social Personal and Health Education is successfully developed through the clear support for the Listen and Respond strand. The standard of teaching and learning in this area is excellent.
Teachers are aware of the unique contribution of Drama to the self-development of pupils and this is reflected in the regular promotion of dramatic activity in all classes. Generally, the work is employed as an enriching element of language development, it succeeds admirably in the fostering of creativity and children participate with enthusiasm.
High standards of attainment are in evidence in this curricular area. The school does not have the use of a hall at present but uses the outdoor space available to extremely good effect. The teachers have embraced the Primary School Curriculum 1999 enthusiastically despite the infra-structural limitations. Hurling, camogie, football, aquatics, dancing, athletics, basketball, sailing and swimming are all facilitated during the school year for appropriate age groups. This work is supported by the provision of a wide range of carefully maintained resources, which are clearly enjoyed by the children.
The structure of the lessons enhances the active participation of all pupils. Warm-up activities are conducted at a good pace and include a range of stretching and breathing activities. Appropriate drills and the use of non-competitive playing situations form the dominant strategies in these lessons. The result of this strategy is that pupils who may never represent the school in competitive games are as enthusiastic about their learning and achievement as those who do make up the school teams. This focus serves to enhance the learning experience for all and skill development is regarded as the primary goal of all activities.
In this school, commendable care is taken to promote the personal development and well-being of the pupils and to foster in the pupils a sense of care and respect for themselves and others. The promotion of a positive atmosphere in the pupils’ environment is in evidence at all class levels and this nurtures pupils’ self-confidence and self-worth. In both classrooms there is a strong commitment to class discussion and oral presentation of work done. Throughout the school, teachers are intent on helping the children develop a sense of social responsibility, a commitment to active citizenship and an appreciation of a democratic way of life. In particular, this is evident in exhortations to value fair play and in programmes designed to develop an understanding of the local environment. All these strategies form a central part of the school’s SPHE programme. In keeping with the admirable principles inherent in the planning documents, a conscious effort is regularly made to encourage children to respect human and cultural diversity and to appreciate the interdependent nature of the world. In general, the chosen strategy is to integrate SPHE with other areas of the curriculum and a high level of success is evident, following the efforts of the staff in their deployment of circle time.
It is especially commendable that this emphasis on the development of self-esteem is achieved in equal measure in informal interactions with the pupils and in the formal lesson element of the school day. In both classes the strategies employed in all curricular areas are specifically chosen to allow for the development of pupil confidence. By emphasising process learning, the teachers allow all pupils to find their niche in group, pair and individual settings and they celebrate achievement appropriately.
Older pupils are assessed annually using Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests while the infants are assessed using the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) and Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP) tests. Overall, the results for Mathematics are particularly impressive with the English results also very positive. However, in order to deal with pupils who are not reaching their potential, it would be beneficial for teachers to plan more specifically from an assessment perspective. Planning should be informed by the results of annual testing. There is a need to set short-term goals for all pupils especially those with special educational needs and for the school to be able to analyse success or failure in relation to these goals. It is important that the school prioritises the need for all staff to know the level of learning achieved by all pupils on a monthly basis. Given the current structure of the monthly report it is now recommended that the school examine the functionality of this important document. This review should focus on the success of the teaching strategies employed to achieve the learning aims originally identified.
A deep sense of care and a thorough approach to planning underpin the work done with pupils with special educational needs in this school. Individual, pair and small group situations are used effectively to pursue specific goals for these pupils. A wide range of resources complements this work. The support for these pupils is very good and there is ample evidence of the success of the efforts of all teachers in this regard. The school actively encourages participation by the special education teaching personnel in the mainstream class-based activities in the school. This is highly effective work. It is imperative that the school expands this work to facilitate more regular and curricularly diverse interventions by the teachers in order to promote further the strong culture of self-confidence already present. With this in mind, it is recommended that a planning timetable be created where the collaboration currently in evidence between class and specialist teachers can be promoted even more. There is a need to plan more specifically for the in-class work of the support teachers. This should be done on a phased basis so as to allow the school to learn the best way for itself to manage the time constraints on teachers as they seek to maximise the preparation of work aimed at enhancing the learning experience of these pupils. Central to this work is the idea of planning for short periods of time to facilitate regular analysis of progress. Ongoing support from the Special Education Support Service (SESS) should be considered as a means of furthering this aim.
The pupils in this school are from predominantly non-disadvantaged backgrounds. The school reports that, in general, almost all pupils currently enrolled are from stable family situations. However, it is commendable that the school carries out significant work with all pupils during the year to raise awareness and funds for those needing additional financial support.
Currently, there are no Traveller pupils enrolled in the school.
The school enjoys a positive relationship with the parents of the pupils. During the evaluation, it was very much in evidence that parents find the school authorities accessible and reasonable. There is a need, however, to formalise the relationship between home and school. As referred to above, the board must address the role of the parent in a manner that reflects the pivotal nature of this relationship. The dissemination of critical curricular information explaining the work of the classroom is vital. Work in this area can be furthered by the creation of a parents’ association where genuine partnership can be developed. Real structures and frameworks need to put in place to facilitate the creation of meaningful communication mechanisms that will assist the entire school community in the continuing progress of the pupils. Collaboration by all concerned is essential if this process is to succeed.
The following are among the strengths and areas for development of the school as identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address the need for development, the following key recommendations are made: