An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

 REPORT

 

Castleiny N.S.

Templemore County Tipperary

Uimhir rolla: 17653Q

 

Date of inspection:    11 February 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Castleiny National School. 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 two day period during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. He reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with the principal. 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 of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

Castleiny National School is a two-teacher, co-educational school, under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, which caters for pupils from junior infants to sixth class. The school is a denominational school and school activities are guided by a Catholic ethos. The school is located in the parish of Castleiny, Loughmore, approximately five kilometres from Templemore, County Tipperary. On 30 September 2007, 25 pupils were enrolled in Castleiny National School. This enrolment figure has remained stable over the past five years and is predicted to remain at the same level over the next three years.

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and is supportive of all school-related activities. It convenes on a regular basis, and endeavours to meet all its statutory obligations through the development and implementation of appropriate policies. It is recommended that the Board of Management in collaboration with the staff review the enrolment policy in order to ensure compliance with the Education Act 1998 and the Equal Status Act 2000-2004. Conditions for enrolment cannot be applied to pupils with special educational needs, to newcomer pupils or Traveller children. The chairperson of the board visits the school regularly and this feature of good practice is commended. The principal is responsible for the daily operation of the school, while another member of the board has been delegated to monitor and organise the financial matters of the school. The school principal acts as secretary to the board and maintains minutes of all meetings.

 

The board perceives its role as engaging in matters relating to the ongoing development and maintenance of the school’s building and accommodation, the appointment of substitute and temporary staff and the ratification of school planning policies in consultation with the staff. The board reports that its current priorities include the provision of improved school accommodation through the building of two new classrooms and the refurbishment and conversion of the existing accommodation to provide support teaching facilities, a staff room and administrative accommodation. Supporting the school in every way possible and implementing the school plan are also recognised as priorities for the board of management.

 

The board of management is commended for the work undertaken and completed to date pertaining to the development of the school’s accommodation and also with regard to the ongoing maintenance of the school’s classrooms and the provision of good quality educational resources in the school.The board expressed its satisfaction with the quality of the education provision in this school and it also praised the diligence of the teaching staff.

 

During the inspection process, it was brought to the attention of the inspector that the parents’ association in the school was not affiliated to the National Parents’ Council. However, it was evident from consultation with the parents’ representatives on the board, the board of management and the principal that many of the parents’ of the pupils in the school play an active role in school activities such as providing transport to sports events, organising the school concert and art exhibitions. It is recommended, therefore, that the board of management consider facilitating the establishment of a formal parents’ association, affiliated to the National Parents’ Council which would assist in supporting the work of the school and promoting links with the general parent body on a formal basis.

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team includes the principal and designated post-holder. The designated post-holder in the school is on career break at present; therefore, a temporary member of the teaching staff has assumed the following duties of the post-holder in an acting capacity. She co-ordinates the development of the school plan in consultation with the principal, is the designated liaison person for Children First Safety Guidelines, opens the school and supervises pupils before and after school and also assists in preparing pupils for the sacraments.  This post also assumes a pastoral element which is implemented through the promotion of a healthy lifestyle for all members of the school community. 

 

No formal staff meetings have been held since the permanent teacher in the school began a career break. Informal meetings are held on an ongoing basis and specific duties have been allocated to the post-holder in the school. It is recommended that formal staff meetings be held between the two teachers in the school to formalise and review aspects of the school plan and to review the effectiveness of their implementation.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The school has a staff of two mainstream class teachers, including the teaching principal. The school has access to the services of a learning support teacher two mornings per week. This teacher is based in Loughmore National School.

The mainstream class teachers, including the teaching principal, are deployed in two composite class groupings of junior infants, senior infants, first and second classes and third, fourth, fifth and sixth classes. The learning support teacher provides supplementary teaching to four pupils in the school. She also provides intervention support for the infant classes. The board of management employs a part-time cleaner, who cleans the school on a daily basis. A caretaker is also employed on a part-time basis in the school. The school provides 11 weeks tuition in swimming in the Garda College in Templemore. An external swimming instructor is hired by the school. Coaching in Gaelic games and basketball is provided by the school staff during school time.

 

The learning support room is situated in a prefabricated room adjacent to the school. The remaining accommodation consists of a shared principal’s/secretary’s office, staff toilet, pupil toilets and external storage area. The school building is maintained to a good standard. Exterior facilities which include outdoor shelters, grassed and hard-surfaced areas, are used during recreational periods. The local community hall’s amenities are also utilised for school concerts and art exhibitions. In general, learning environments in mainstream classrooms and support areas are well-maintained. All the learning environments are neatly organised and decorated in an attractive manner with commercial and teacher-designed resources and pupils’ work samples in evidence. The school has invested in a wide range of educational resources particularly for pupils with special educational needs. These are used effectively to support teaching and learning.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The principal reported that the parents support the work of the school through their involvement in some school events, developing the physical environment of the school and fundraising activities. The teachers are commendably active in engaging with parents and the wider community.

 

The school facilitates parent/teacher communication by implementing an open-door policy and also by convening formal parent/teacher meetings each year. School reports pertaining to pupil progress are forwarded to parents on an annual basis. Parental support is also provided through assistance with school-related activities. Attendance at school performances and fundraising events is also actively encouraged.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

There is a positive atmosphere in the school which is child-friendly and welcoming. This atmosphere is also reflected in the confident attitude of pupils. Pupils are well mannered and interact appropriately with teachers, fellow students and visitors. Classroom rules have been established in consultation with the pupils and they co-operate with the teachers in implementing the school’s code of behaviour. The teachers work collaboratively and are committed to creating a learning environment that fosters pupils’ learning and self-esteem.

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

The developmental nature of whole school planning is recognised and the teachers also acknowledge the ongoing process of policy development, co-ordination and collaboration. The organisational areas of the school plan have been documented in a comprehensive way. Curricular policies have been developed in respect of most of the curriculum areas. The school staff is commended on the planning documentation formulated to date and it is recommended that the further development of curricular policies in this collaborative manner be continued. It is also advised that a school self-evaluation process be put in place to monitor implementation of the curriculum throughout the school.

 

Plans in respect of the Arts area of the curriculum have not yet been formulated and it is recommended that plans in respect of Visual Arts, Music and Drama be developed as soon as possible.Consideration could now be given to the creation of an overall strategic/action plan, where areas relating to the formulation, development and dates for review of policies could be documented.

 

 

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.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

Individual teacher planning is undertaken in the form of long-term and short-term preparation in accordance with Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools. In general the long-term and short-term planning is linked to the strand and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Good work is being undertaken in this regard and there is evidence of effective practice, which ensures cohesion and consistency in the delivery of the curriculum throughout the school. Good preparation is also evident with regard to supplementary teaching and support provision.

 

It is recommended that consideration be given to the further development of the common school-devised template, pertaining to monthly progress records. It is recommended that the monthly progress record might include a balance between content objectives and the pupils’ learning outcomes. The record might also include a section for an evaluative comment regarding pupils’ attainment.

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

There is a broad and balanced curriculum delivered throughout the whole school. This leads to the holistic development of the child. Every effort is made to provide for the individual differences of the children and activity and discovery methods are used appropriately. Integration is used throughout the curriculum and the environment is used in some curriculum areas as a stimulus to learning. Due emphasis is placed on project work throughout the school as well as on discovery based and independent learning. Didactic teaching is the preferred option in most classes but good examples of group work were also noted throughout the school. Good use is also made of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in supporting the implementation of the curriculum particularly in the learning support setting.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá atmaisféar dearfach don Ghaeilge á chothú ar fud na scoile. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar mhionchaint an tseomra agus mar ábhar teagaisc i rith ceachtanna áirithe, i gcoitinne. Freastlaítear ar chumas cumarsáide agus ar scileanna labhartha na bpáistí a fhorbairt, i gcoitinne, agus cuirtear béim cheart ar an Éisteacht mar shnáith den churaclam trí chleachtaí éisteachta a chur os comhair na ndaltaí ar bhonn rialta. Leagtar béim oiriúnach ar thréimhsí réamhchumarsáide, ar thréimhsí cumarsáide agus ar thréimhsí iarchumarsáide a chinntiú le linn na gníomhaíochtaí labhartha.

 

Usáidtear ábhair chorpartha mar thacaíocht don teagasc sna ranganna uile agus baintear leas as modheolaíochtaí taitneamhacha, éifeachtacha sna rangsheomraí, go háirithe, ról-ghlacadh, cluichí, obair i bpéirí agus ceistiúchán. Cuirtear ceachtanna i láthair freisin trí fheidhm a bhaint as puipéid, fearas an mhúinteora, acmhainní léirithe, an clár bán agus luaschártaí. Dírítear béim an mhaith ar an bprionta sa timpeallacht.

 

Is léir go bhfuil caighdeán ard sroichte ag na daltaí i snáitheanna an churaclaim. Cuirtear tús leis an léitheoireacht trí phrionta sa timpeallacht a sholáthar sna rangsheomraí agus trí fheidhm a bhaint as scéim léitheoireachta ó rang a dó go dtí rang a sé. Feictear go léann formhór na ndaltaí le tuiscint agus le líofacht, i gcoitinne, agus go bhfuil siad an-chumasach ag cur agus ag freagairt ceisteanna. Tá raon leathan d’ábhar léitheoireachta in úsáid tríd an scoil. Moltar an cleachtas go núsáidtear na hiar-scéimeanna léitheoireachta mar áis agus mar thaca do chlár foghlama na Gaeilge ó am go chéile.

 

Tugtar, freisin, faoi chleachtaithhe oiriúnacha sa scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach agus sa scríbhneoireacht phearsanta. Is léir go mbaineann formhór na bpáistí caighdeán ard amach san scríbhneoireacht.

 

 

Irish

A positive atmosphere is developed in respect of the Irish language throughout the school. Irish is used informally during the day and also during the teaching of other subjects. Children’s conversational and speaking skills are developed and appropriate emphasis is placed on listening as a strand of the curriculum through regular listening activities. An appropriate emphasis is placed on the pre-communicative stage, communicative stage and post-communicative stage in oral language activities.

 

Concrete materials are used as a support for teaching in all classes and a range of teaching methodologies is also utilised, especially, role play, games, pair work, and questioning. Puppets, teacher devised materials, illustrative materials, the whiteboard and flashcards are used to present lessons. Very good attention is focused on the provision of a print rich environment.

 

It is clear that pupils have attained a high standard across all strands of the curriculum. Children are introduced to reading informally through print in the classroom environment. A textbook is in use from second class to sixth class. Most pupils read fluently and with understanding and they are very capable of asking and answering questions. A variety of reading materials is in use in the school. The practice of using previous reading schemes from time to time as support to the teaching of the Irish programme is commended.

 

Appropriate creative writing and personal writing activities are organised. Most children have attained a high standard in writing in Irish.

 

English

Evidence gained from a variety of sources indicates that there is very good attainment in this area of the curriculum. Effective lesson implementation was observed in all classes and it is evident that the teaching of English is carried out in a proficient manner throughout the school. 

 

Most pupils display satisfactory speaking and listening skills and engage in effective oral interaction with the teachers. A scheme to enhance pupils’ phonological awareness is also in use. This phonological awareness programme is utilised at infant and junior class level, while early intervention is also being undertaken through collaboration with the learning support teacher. This feature of good practice is commended. It is advised that oral language lessons with specific objectives from the curriculum be identified and implemented on a frequent basis throughout the school.

 

The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered in senior infants. It is recommended, that consideration be given to the implementation of the Forward Together Programme, as an early intervention strategy, in collaboration with parents.

 

 

Classroom libraries have also been created and efforts are made to ensure that classrooms provide a print-rich environment. Cross-curricular integration is in evidence during the implementation of lessons in reading. A wide range of reading materials is provided in each classroom and pupils are provided with opportunities to read independently. Story reading activities are undertaken in infant and junior classes through the use of large-format books. Consideration should be given to the provision of a wider range of storybooks, which would facilitate an interactive storybook reading approach. This would ensure that all children’s receptive and expressive language skills are appropriately developed.

 

Commercial textbooks are employed throughout the school, while novels are also being used in the middle and senior standards. An exploration of the novel is addressed in middle and senior classes, through pupils’ engagement with activities pertaining to character reviews and plot analysis. It is recommended that the development of children’s higher order thinking skills be further promoted at all class levels.

 

A range of poetry is explored and recited with expression. In the middle and senior classes, emphasis is placed on the development of book reviews and creative writing activities. The outcomes in evidence in the copies of the pupils are of a high standard. The teachers monitor pupils’ written work consistently. It is advised that the pupils’ written work be displayed prominently around the school in order to provide an audience for their creative writing.

 

4.3 Mathematics

The quality of learning and teaching of Mathematics throughout the school is very good. Lessons were very well structured and paced accordingly. Elements of very good practice observed included the use of a variety of methodologies and organisational settings, the effective use of concrete materials and the emphasis on the language of Mathematics. Language and discussion are central to the teaching process and learning process. In general, pupils display a good capacity to apply relevant mathematical terminology accurately and confidently while exploring tasks. The range of pupils’ abilities is catered for through appropriate differentiation of materials and tasks. This practice was observed at all class levels. Very good interaction was observed between teachers and pupils in all classrooms. Due emphasis is placed on the language of Mathematics.

 

Lessons in all classrooms were very good and a very well structured approach to the teaching of Mathematics is undertaken. The pupils were provided with opportunities to work collaboratively on mathematical tasks. The majority of pupils displayed age-appropriate ability to perform suitable mental and written computational tasks, to solve problems and to discuss results. Pupils’ written assignments are presented neatly and monitored regularly.

 

The teachers use a variety of assessment methods in Mathematics. These include teacher-devised and commercial tests, teacher observation, standardised tests, worksheets to monitor pupils’ acquisition of knowledge and skills.

 

4.4 Social, Personal and Health Education

The quality of provision in SPHE was evaluated on the basis of observation of teaching and learning, a review of samples of pupils’ work and interaction with the pupils in each of the mainstream classrooms. In Castleiny National School, pupils experience learning in an encouraging and affirming environment. Their self-esteem and self-confidence are actively fostered through the range of school activities. Pupils displayed positive behaviour and engagement in their learning throughout the course of the evaluation.

 

Formal lessons in SPHE are well designed and implemented and address matters of particular importance to the pupils’ holistic development. In all class settings due attention is afforded to the range of strands and strand units.

 

The use of a wide range of active learning strategies was in evidence throughout the course of the evaluation. All pupils engage very enthusiastically in the breadth of SPHE learning activities presented to them. It is evident that they are acquiring knowledge, understanding, values, attitudes and skills and developing a capacity to relate this learning to their own experiences. Pupils are provided with regular opportunities to work collaboratively. Pupils were observed working in pairs, small groups and individually and engaging enthusiastically in the range of learning activities provided for them.

 

A range of co-curricular activities provides opportunities for promoting pupils’ SPHE-related learning. Pupils’ physical health and well-being are promoted through the implementation of the healthy-eating policy based on the Food Dudes programme. The school also encourages pupils to engage in a wide range of sporting activities organised by the teachers in collaboration with the parents. This practice is praiseworthy and teachers are complimented on their involvement in these extra-curricular activities.

 

4.5 Assessment

A range of assessment strategies is in use, including teacher observation, teacher designed tasks and tests and also the monitoring of oral and written activities. The Sigma T and Micra T are administered annually. The Middle Infant Screening Test is used to assess pupils’ attainment in senior infants in the third term. It is recommended that the MIST should be carried out in the second term of senior infants and that the Forward Together Programme be implemented in the third term. The use of The Belfield Infant Assessment Profile as an assessment tool in junior infants is commended.

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A collaborative approach to the provision of support for pupils is in evidence among the principal, mainstream class teacher and the learning support teacher. A Learning Support Policy has been formulated and is included in school planning documentation. Supplementary teaching is provided for six pupils. An Early Intervention programme, provided by the learning support teacher in collaboration with the mainstream class teacher, is implemented in the infant classes on a twice-weekly basis. The integration of support teaching in mainstream classes, through the provision of early intervention activities with pupils at infant level, is commended.

The learning support environment is organised in an attractive and stimulating way.  A range of appropriate teaching strategies and methodologies is also implemented. Pupils are withdrawn for support provision from mainstream classes, both individually and in groups. Effective use is made of ICT and a wide range of educational software is employed to enhance the pupils’ learning experiences.

The programmes of learning formulated for pupils for whom supplementary and support teaching are provided, focus on the development of literacy and Mathematics. The planning is clearly documented through the formulation of Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLP). Weekly plans, daily planning sheets, records of parental meetings, progress reports, daily records of work and timetables are maintained in a methodical manner. Pupil profiles, portfolios and folders are neatly maintained and organised.

There is evidence of effective collaboration and consultation among the principal, mainstream class teachers and learning support teacher in the formulation and development of pupils’ IPLPs. The further development of IPLPs through the inclusion of specific learning targets is recommended. Feedback regarding pupil progress is provided to parents at annual parent/teacher meetings. It is recommended, that parental input towards the formulation and review of IPLPs be extended.

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published September 2008