An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Náisiúnta Chrónáin

Cill Tiarnáin Cill Cholgáin, Contae Na Gaillimhe

Uimhir rolla: 17645R

 

Date of inspection: 04 Feabhra 2009

 

 

 

 

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

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Chrónáin was undertaken in February 2009. 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 the Visual Arts.  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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Chrónáin is a three-teacher school situated on the main road from Galway to Limerick, in the parish of Ardrahan. For the most part the school serves pupils from the parishes of Ardrahan and Ballinderreen. The original building, which is located on the present site, dates from 1948. A parent-funded all-purposes room was opened in 1997. A major extension, consisting of three new classrooms and ancillary accommodation, was added in 2006, with the aid of devolved funding from the Department of Education and Science and additional funding from parents. In 2007 improvements were made to the external infrastructure. Parents, staff and community are justifiably proud of the completed works.

 

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

70

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Scoil Chrónáin is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Galway. The school’s mission statement emphasises the development of pupils’ awareness of their potential and uniqueness, their confidence and sense of responsibility, as they prepare to engage with the wider world in a manner that gives satisfaction and fulfilment. While the school professes a strong commitment to its Catholic ethos, pupils of other denominations and none are welcomed.

 

1.2 Board of management

 The board of management is properly constituted. The present and previous boards are to be commended for the ongoing development of the school’s infrastructure over the years, culminating in the very fine standard of facilities that now exist. Many challenges have been overcome, including the threat of closure in 1995 due to severe flooding. These challenges have been met by the board and local community with a great sense of determination and commitment. The board plans sensibly for ongoing maintenance and individual board members have taken responsibility for various activities. All board records are diligently maintained. The board has had considerable input into organisational and administrative policy formation and ratification. Greater involvement by the board in curricular policy development merits consideration in the future. Current priorities of the board include the clearing of a Meitheal loan sourced to carry out recent developments and providing ongoing support for the staff in its efforts to maintain and extend the high levels of educational provision already in existence.

 

1.3 In-school management

There is genuine appreciation and admiration among the stakeholders for the very high quality leadership evident in the practice of the principal teacher. In this, her sixth year of principalship, she combines the dual role of principal and class teacher with great energy, ability and commitment.  Crucially, the welfare of pupils is at the core of her vision and she displays a passion for new learning and improvement. Having as her primary focus the creation and maintenance of the conditions necessary for effective learning and teaching, she has been instrumental in developing a community of reflective practitioners where ongoing review and evaluation are becoming routine features of practice. She is facilitated in her role by a supportive and effective board and by the co-operation of parents and efficient ancillary staff. In pursuing the implementation of a broad, balanced and child-centred curriculum the principal is fortunate to have the support of experienced teachers, in whom she encourages the development and exercise of leadership roles reflecting their individual talents and expertise. The deputy (currently on leave), and the  acting deputy support the principal by carrying out clearly defined and annually reviewed duties and responsibilities in a very capable and willing manner. These duties include significant responsibility for curriculum development.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

This school is the focal point of the community which it serves and there is a palpable sense of sincere mutual appreciation between school and community. The officers of the parents’ association expressed their deep appreciation for the manner in which the school provided a happy, safe and effective context for the education of their children. The parents’ association meets regularly and these meetings are generally attended by the principal or one or both parents’ representatives on the board of management. Effective levels of communication between the school and the home are also evident in the frequency of letters sent by the school to parents, the provision made for parent/teacher meetings and annual pupil reports, and the issuing of a comprehensive information pack for all parents of newly enrolled pupils. Parents contribute to the life of the school in many ways. They have raised considerable funds for development and the ongoing purchase of resources. They assist with educational outings and field trips, swimming and games, school concerts, and the celebration of particular occasions such as Green Flag Day and Graduation Day. Members of the parent body have been invited to talk to pupils about their occupations and to read to pupils during book week. They are always willing to assist the school in any way possible and this support is greatly appreciated by staff.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils in this school is very good. The staff and board have devised appropriate policies which promote good behaviour and which assist in opposing bullying. These policies are communicated effectively and implemented consistently. During the evaluation period, pupils behaved in an exemplary manner and demonstrated an admirable capacity for working independently and for collaboration in group tasks. Well-organised school assemblies affirm pupils’ endeavours and contribute further to the promotion of positive behaviour and to the enhancement of self-esteem.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. An examination of school documentation indicates very strongly that effective procedures are in place to review practice on an ongoing basis, to establish priorities for development and to plan for change in a purposeful manner. This process appropriately engages all staff members in sharing the work of planning for organisational and curricular change and for the acquisition of necessary resources. There is clear evidence of engagement with the support services and a willingness to gain maximum benefit from resources provided by these services. A large number of organisational and administrative policies, including those required by legislation, have been developed and ratified by the board. Comprehensive curricular policies have been developed for all subject areas. These policies suitably reflect the context of the school in terms of multi-grade teaching and provide clear guidance for teachers’ individual planning. The staff is midway through the current three-year strategic plan and has prioritised further work on assessment, the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) into teaching and learning and the development of Science, History and Geography trails for immediate attention. It is now recommended that the staff continues to develop its capacity for self-evaluation and planning for change and that this process focus on learning outcomes and the impact of policies generally and that all stake-holders be involved in this process.

 

The quality of classroom planning is impressive. All teachers plan conscientiously for their work. Individual teacher planning is guided by a whole-school policy which involves the utilisation of agreed templates for yearly and fortnightly preparation, for the recording of monthly progress and for the compilation of individual education plans (IEPs). An indicator of the praiseworthy and collaborative approach undertaken by the staff to planning is that particular strands of various subjects are highlighted on the staff notice board for attention on a whole-school basis at different times during the school year. To ensure effective examination of the impact of planning and as a means of ensuring ongoing self-review, the staff might now usefully consider revisiting its current approach to recording learning outcomes and to the use of progress records.

 

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

Sroichtear caighdeán inmholta i dteagasc agus i bhfoghlaim na Gaeilge sa scoil seo. Cabhraíonn dea-thoil agus dúthracht na n-oidí i leith na teanga san obair atá ar siúl. Tá dul chun cinn maith déanta i bhforbairt na fíorchumarsáide sa scoil. Déantar an-iarracht an chumarsáid a fhorbairt trí chluichí teanga a imirt agus trí feidhm a bhaint as modhanna éagsúla i gcur i láthair na gceachtanna. Tá dlúthbhaint ag an rannaireacht, an fhilíocht, an amhránaíocht agus an drámaíocht mar mhodhanna chun saibhreas na teanga a chothú. Bíonn na daltaí gníomhach  sna cleachtaí dea-struchtúrtha seo agus baineann siad taitneamh agus tairbhe astu. Baintear úsáid fiúntach as an dtimpeallacht, as ábhair nithiúla agus as ábhair suime na ndaltaí chun leibhéal na rannpháirtíochta a ardú. Leagtar béim fhóinteach ar phrionta Ghaeilge, idir lipéid agus nathanna cainte, a thaispeáint sa scoil. I rith seachtain na Gaeilge gach Mí Feabhra eagraítear imeachtaí taitneamhacha, tráth na gceist, comórtais ealaíne agus léirmheas a dhéanamh ar leabhair ina measc.

 

Léann na daltaí le brí agus le cruinneas sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna agus déantar iarracht chreidiúnach cur leis an leabhar ranga trí leabhair spéisiúla a chur ar fáil ón leabharlann. Eagraítear gníomhaíochtaí oiriúnacha sa scríbhneoireacht agus dírítear aire chuí ar chruinneas gramadaí a fhorbairt ar bhealach céimnithe agus nascaithe. Cuirtear saothar scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí, idir fheidhmiúil agus chruthaitheach, ar taispeáint ar fud na scoile. Moltar néatacht na hoibre agus an chaoi ina ndéantar monatóireacht air. Anois, chun barr maitheasa a chur ar an dea-obair i nGaeilge moltar ag an bpointe seo go leanfaidh na hoidí ar a n-iarrachtaí ar fhorbairt bhreise ar ghnáthchumarsáid agus líofacht na ndaltaí a bhaint amach.

 

Irish

A commendable standard is achieved in the teaching and learning of Irish in this school. The good will and diligence of teachers towards the language is helpful in this regard. Good progress has been made in developing real conversation. Significant efforts are made to promote communication through the use of language games and through the use of various teaching approaches in the presentation of lessons. Rhyme, poetry, singing and drama as methodologies are integral to the development of a richness of language. Pupils are active in these well-structured activities and they enjoy them and benefit from them. Worthwhile use is made of the environment, concrete materials and the interests of the pupils to increase the level of pupil participation. A helpful emphasis is placed on the presentation of Irish print, through the display of labels and conversational phrases throughout the school. During Irish week, which is held annually in February, enjoyable activities such as quizzes, art competitions and the writing of book reports are organised.

 

Pupils read with meaning and accuracy in the middle and higher classes and a creditable effort is made to supplement class readers with interesting material from the class libraries. Suitable writing activities are organised and appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of grammatical accuracy in a developmental and contextual manner. Pupils’ functional and creative writing is displayed throughout the school. The neatness of written work is praiseworthy as is the manner in which it is monitored by teachers. To build on existing good practice at this point it is recommended that teachers continue their efforts to achieve improvement in the pupils’ conversation and fluency.

 

English

The quality of teaching and learning in English is very good. Whole-school planning for English has involved lengthy consideration of strategies best suited to the delivery of very high standards in oracy, reading and writing. The recognition of oral language as a key contributor to success in reading and writing leads to early diagnosis of difficulties in infants using the Drumcondra Profiles and focused use of the various contexts for development of oral language thereafter. School assemblies and special events are used to afford pupils opportunities to make oral presentations.

 

An integrated approach to language generally and the strong emphasis on developing oral capacity help to ensure that emergent reading skills are very well-developed in the junior classes. Large format books and the language experience approach, together with early intervention strategies, enhance the quality of provision here. In terms of its overall approach to reading the school has decisively opted primarily for real books to facilitate the growth of a reading culture. Well-stocked and frequently replenished libraries of books of different genres, complemented by graded reading series, provide stimulating materials for pupils. Parents assist through paired reading and the annual Book Week and pupils also benefit from writing books and a book club membership. Reader’s Theatre features as part of school assemblies. The teaching of spelling is individualised on the basis of pupils learning spellings corrected in class dictation. Commendably this work is linked to the development of phonological and phonemic awareness.

The writing process is nurtured in the school through drafting, editing and publishing of the outcomes of teacher-structured activities and pupils’ own chosen writing forms and themes. This process is enhanced by the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

 

3.2 Mathematics

A carefully drafted Mathematics plan affords clear guidance to teachers in terms of curricular implementation. Key issues, including approaches and methodologies, differentiation and assessment are outlined in depth. The intention in the plan to develop school Mathematics trails is noted and when realised should add further to pupils’ interest and active participation in the construction of concepts.  Achievement in Mathematics is very high throughout the school as reflected in standardised test outcomes and engagement with pupils during the evaluation period. Purposeful use of a very good stock of teacher-generated and commercial resources and materials features prominently in all classes. Great care is taken to ensure that pupils acquire and master appropriate Mathematical language. Mental Mathematics, focused talk and discussion, active learning and the development of estimation and problem solving skills are give due attention in well-structured lessons. Checklists used at the end of first, fourth and sixth classes have been added to existing strategies for assessment of progress. Impressive activities observed included work on number sentences in junior classes, estimating and measuring in the middle classes and imaginative use of notation boards and Dienes blocks in the teaching of place value in the senior room.

 

3.3 Visual Arts

A comprehensive and detailed Visual Arts plan underpins the very good practice observed in this area. This plan is the fruit of five years’ collaboration and consultation with stakeholders and provides for a two-year overlapping cycle in which four strands are covered each year. The plan highlights the importance of linkage, integration, a theme-based approach and assessment. There is appropriate emphasis on the informal teaching of the elements of Art in the context of making Art and looking at and responding to Art. Displays of work in classrooms and corridors as well as samples in pupils portfolios indicate that all strands receive due attention and that there is progression across the classes. Focused talk and discussion, guided discovery and well-organised and thoughtfully integrated activities were key features of the construction of a mobile collage in the junior classes. The middle and senior classes co-operated on the making of dioramas based on their class novels. Key aspects of this activity and of other activities observed were the use of design sheets to assist each group to plan their work, the use of self-assessment rubrics to guide pupils in evaluating their contributions to the project and the willingness and ability of pupils to talk about their work.

 

3.4 Assessment

Assessment policy has been prioritised for development in the current cycle of strategic planning at Scoil Chrónáin. A draft policy succinctly outlines good practice in this area. This policy provides guidance for teachers on screening, standardised and diagnostic testing, psychological assessment and the recording and subsequent use of test outcomes. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is used to screen for early literacy difficulties. The Drumcondra reading and Mathematics tests are administered at the end of the school year and, after careful analysis of test results, pupils in need of extra support are identified. A range of diagnostic tests, including the Neale Analysis and various checklists, are used as necessary by the learning support and resource teachers. Much good work has been done by staff in exploring the key issue of assessment for learning. Various strategies currently in use to assess learning on an ongoing basis include teacher observation and questioning, the maintenance of profiles, teacher-designed tasks and tests and peer assessment. These strategies are now being extended to include assessment rubrics, self-assessment, and the use of a range of checklists and indicators. Test results are reported to parents using a Sten score and descriptor and are further discussed at parent/teacher meetings. Results are recorded in each pupil’s cumulative report card and in this way provide for essential tracking of pupils’ progress during his/her time in school. A more accessible and co-ordinated method of recording test results would add to existing good practice in this area.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Support for pupils with special needs is delivered on a shared basis for 12.5 hours per week by a teacher based in Scoil Eoin, Gort. The school also employs a part-time resource teacher for 3.5 hours per week. Support for these pupils is carefully planned, features high levels of collaboration between class teachers and support teachers and between teachers and parents and is well-monitored and well-delivered. A range of standardised and diagnostic tests, together with various checklists, are used in the early identification of learning difficulties. Individual Education Plans are carefully drawn up and these plans guide the daily delivery of structured methodical teaching towards the targets identified. Regular assessment and careful record keeping are important features of this work. The major element of support is delivered on a withdrawal basis in two attractive, spacious and well-resourced rooms. An early intervention programme to address phonics’ deficits is being delivered and it is commendable that the provision of more in-class support is under consideration.

 

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

The teaching staff strives to ensure that educational provision in Scoil Chrónáin is tailored appropriately to all pupils’ needs and abilities.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

 

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

 

 

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 May 2009

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

  1. The board welcomes the findings of the report.
  2. The board is delighted that the department’s external evaluation validates the school’s self evaluation.
  3. The board wishes to acknowledge the performance of the staff and the whole school community in achieving such high standards.
  4. It also wishes to express appreciation to the examining inspector for his courteous and professional manner and to assure him that the recommendations outlined will be fulfilled to the best of our ability.

 

 

 Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the   inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection