An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Náisiúnta Gleann an Ghuail
New Birmingham, Co. Tipperary
Roll number: 17665A
Date of inspection: 14 November 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Gleann an Ghuail. 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, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents on the board of management. 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 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 Gleann an Ghuail is a four-teacher co-educational primary school situated in the parish of New Bermingham, Co. Tipperary. Originally built as a two teacher school in 1950, the school was extended in 1999 and in 2005. There are 49 pupils enrolled and the projections indicate that a very small decrease in enrolment will take place over the next few years. A strong sense of community is evident in the school and the board of management and teachers have established close links with parents, the wider community and local organisations. Pupil attendance is very good. The school is a participant in the Department of Education and Science’s initiative Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) scheme.
The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Cashel and Emly. The board of management is properly constituted and well organised. Regular meetings are held. Minutes of meetings are maintained and were made available for inspection. Over the past number of years the number of meetings has increased significantly with issues relating to the extension of the school dominating the agenda. The board is to be commended for its commitment to the building programme. 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. Tasks are purposefully allocated. At all stages of the evaluation it was clear that this is a supportive and committed board with clear leadership from the chairperson and principal, supported by all other board members.
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 the board members’ understanding of the work of the school.
Further initiatives which are necessary for the board to consider are the ongoing review of the administrative policies of the school with particular reference to the enrolment policy, attendance strategies and the ongoing maintenance of the building. It is also recommended that the board of management be cognisant of the need to review the posts of responsibility regularly, bearing in mind the curricular and organisational needs of the school.
The development of a three-year action plan which would indicate target dates for commencement and completion of prioritised tasks relating to aspects of maintenance, building, administration, organisation, policy development and curriculum development. The board should prioritise the establishment of a Parents’ Assocation as this would consolidate existing relationships between the school and parents. This would provide greater opportunities for parents to assume a formal role as partners in the education process.
The principal of the school carries out her duties in a committed manner. Pupils’ needs are dealt with sensitively and a very positive relationship is evident among the staff. The principal plays a central role in the community and emphasised that the school continues to maintain strong links with the local community. In the last few years significant emphasis has been placed on the planning process and this process is ongoing and well structured. The duties of the teaching principal are specified and with due diligence this principal works to ensure that the work of the school focuses appropriately on the learning process.
There are two special duties post-holders in the school with responsibility for the management of History, Music and the Green Flag initiative in particular. This work is carried out diligently. There is, however, a need for the board of management to be cognisant of the need to review these responsibilities regularly bearing in mind the curricular and organisational needs of the school. There is also a need for the school to formalise the work of the post-holders and to create a template for focused planning and programme delivery. The in-school management team and the breaking the cycle (rural) co-ordinator need to meet formally with the principal on a regular basis. It is important that the principal, the in-school management team and the breaking the cycle (rural) co-ordinator report to the board at appropriate times during the school year in relation to the activities organised to develop the school in a systematic and cohesive manner. It is further recommended that shared staff should attend at least one staff meeting annually.
It is commendable that sport and the organisation of games in general are co-ordinated by the only teacher on staff without a designated special duties post. This work contributes effectively to the running of the school.
There are three mainstream class teachers, a learning support/resource teacher, a shared breaking the cycle (rural) co-ordinator, two special needs assistants, and a part-time language support teacher. During the evaluation an unqualified language support teacher was teaching the foreign national pupils. The school has a part-time caretaker who attends the school one day each week and more often when the need arises. The school has a permanent, well maintained building. Successive boards of management are to be congratulated for their involvement in the building projects and the manner in which the internal and exterior premises are presented is a credit to the whole community. Financial resources are carefully managed in this school. Accounts are kept up to date by the treasurer and presented regularly to the board. The school benefits from a wide range of resources, which is effectively used by teachers and pupils. A large array of teaching materials is available. These include posters for all subject areas, computers, a range of software, Maths, Science and Physical education 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 curricular area.
A good relationship is evident between the school and the parent body. Newsletters are sent out periodically and good support is given to the school by parents in terms of transport to and from various sporting and cultural events. The breaking the cycle (rural) co-ordinator works closely with parents and organises a range of activities including shared reading, toy library, and Summer camp activities. This ensures that the school is at the centre of the community and all community activities revolve around the school. However it is important that the school supports the establishment of a Parents’ Association which will provide a suitable platform for meaningful home school co-operation and further enhance the involvement of parents in the work of the school. The breaking the cycle (rural) co-ordinator will have an important role in this project.
A relaxed relationship based on mutual respect exists between the teachers and the pupils. A real sense of co-operation and diligence has been successfully created and is reflected in the policies formulated by the staff. A positive outlook is promoted in all aspects of the learning process and pupils respond very well to this approach. As part of the school plan for the development of its relationship with the wider community the formation of a student council should now be considered. While a significant amount of time might be required in the initial stages the outcomes attached to such work will be worthwhile and will assist the inclusion of the pupils in all appropriate school related activities.
Very good work has been undertaken to date in relation to the development of school planning documentation, as required by section 21 of the Education Act 1998. The principal, teachers and board of management are to be commended on the professional manner in which they approach the school-planning process. The school plan is clearly written and user-friendly and projects a positive image of the school. The organisational policies are specific to the needs and resources of the school. The policies for curricular areas reflect the structure of the Primary School Curriculum 1999 and address the specific needs of this school. The staff has also engaged with facilitators from Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP), School Development Planning Support (SDPS) and Regional Curriculum Support Services (RCSS) in the sourcing of supports and resources which will underpin change over time. The views of the general parent body in relation to selected areas of policy are obtained through the parents’ representatives on the board of management. The board is encouraged to promote greater understanding of the role of parents in both policy development and curriculum implementation and to seek increased levels of parental involvement in future policy formulation and review. While a number of school policies are disseminated to parents it is recommended that a system for disseminating relevant final policy statements to all parents should be organised.
The schools’ mission statement and aims are clearly articulated in the school plan. Organisational and administrative policies are comprehensively addressed and include policies on Health and Safety, Enrolment, Anti-Bullying, Code of Behaviour, Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), Home-School Community Liaison, Substance Use, Internet Acceptable Use, Yard Supervision, and Homework. Evidence was also 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, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (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 the Departmental guidelines. All policies are ratified by the board and signed by the chairperson.
The school plan identifies whole school approaches to teaching and learning in various curricular areas. A number of these plans are comprehensive and are developed under a wide range of headings including listing resources, methodologies and assessment. The content of the documentation indicates that the staff has gained a broad knowledge and understanding of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and of the teaching methods which are fundamental to full implementation of the curriculum. Teachers monitor the implementation of the curriculum carefully and they record this in their monthly progress reports. It will be necessary to review all curricular policy documents periodically in order to further clarify objectives and content in order to maintain breadth and balance across the strands and strand units of each curricular area and to ensure continuity and progression from class to class. It would be beneficial to include target dates for the commencement and completion of reviews in the school’s long-term development action plan. The curricular area of English is prioritised for immediate review. History and Geography plans have yet to be developed and this work will be undertaken in the next academic year.
All teachers diligently prepare long-term and short-term planning and progress records using school agreed templates. They also provide a commendable range of visual aids, materials and worksheets to support teaching and learning. Long-term planning consists of a list of content to be covered under the headings strand and topic, detailed on a monthly basis. Short-term planning outlines specific content objectives which are identified by numbers, detail content under the strand and strand units. Reference is also made to integration, cross curricular approaches, methodologies assessment and resources. In long-term planning teachers should outline clearly the specific objectives of the curriculum, strand, strand units, methodologies and assessment which are the focus of the work. Specific objectives should also be included in the short-term planning. Reference should also be made as to how differentiation will be incorporated into all subject areas to ensure that pupils are afforded the opportunities to access the curriculum that is appropriate to their level. Specific strategies for assessing the pupils’ achievement of these concepts should be outlined and records of teacher-designed tests and tasks maintained.
It is recommended that the format and content of appropriate planning be further discussed at staff level and be guided by the contents of the curriculum and the whole school plan in each curricular area. Monthly progress reports are also maintained which are largely based on reporting the broad content of lessons taught. A strategy should be devised for conducting an annual school review. To ensure that staff will be enabled to contribute effectively to the information gathered during this annual school-based self-evaluation process, a template for individual progress records might be devised which would include a reflective comment on the objectives achieved in addition to the current emphasis on the broad outline of content taught.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
In general, there is a good standard of teaching and learning in this school. Pupils display a broad knowledge in their answers and teachers make a sincere effort to ensure that all abilities and age ranges are catered for effectively. Class management is good throughout the school and most of the pupils are on task at any given time. In general standards of achievement are high. Questioning is good and pupil responses are appropriate. Teachers need to ensure, however, that very able pupils are more actively engaged in challenging learning activities and are not allowed to dominate proceedings by demonstrating their knowledge of particular topics. More attention should be given to ensuring that these pupils are working towards identified learning targets which are appropriate to their abilities. There is a variety of methodologies undertaken in most classes, including teacher-directed approaches, whole-class teaching, project work and pair work. The varying of teaching strategies to incorporate group work and differentiated learning activities to address pupils’ special educational needs should also be considered. The use of the available space in each classroom needs examination. Pupils must be encouraged to work together and the arrangement of furniture can play an important role in facilitating this goal. The principles of the Primary School Curriculum 1999 are understood and there is a good sense of the need to keep changing strategies and activities in order to facilitate learning for all pupils.
Feictear dearcadh dearfach ar mhúineadh agus ar fhoghlaim na Gaeilge sa scoil seo. I roinnt de na ranganna, tá an teanga in úsáid i rith an lae agus glacann na daltaí páirt bhríomhar san obair seo. Cloistear foghraíocht ard-chaighdeánach ó chuid de na daltaí agus cabhraíonn é seo go mór leis an bhfoghlaim. Oibríonn na hoidí go díograiseach chun grá don teanga a chothú agus tá sé soiléir go n-ullmhaítear na ceachtanna go léir go muiníneach.
Sna ranganna shóisireacha, úsáidtear cluichí, rainn agus amhráin suimiúla chun na páistí a spreagadh chun foghlama. Go ginearalta feictear idirdhealú éifeachtach sa mhúineadh agus tugtar tacaíocht chuí do na daltaí le linn ceistíochta agu freagraíochta. Sna ranganna sinsireacha tá toradh na hoibre seo le sonrú. Labhraíonn na daltaí lena chéile trí cheistíocht agus baintear úsáid as raon leathan de straitéisí a thugann seans do gach dalta an teanga a labhairt.
Maidir le modheolaíocht, moltar don fhoireann gan bheith ag múineadh an Ghaeilge trí Bhéarla. Má fhoghlamaítear go bhfuil an focal Bhéarla ag teacht beidh roinnt de na daltaí sásta feitheamh leis agus ní thiocfaidh an dul chun cinn mar ba chóir. Moltar, freisin, béim níos treise a chur ar Éisteacht mar shnáith den churaclam sna ranganna go léir agus cleachtaí éisteachta agus gníomhaíochtaí scéalaíochta a chur os comhair na ndaltaí ar bhonn rialta. Cuirtear éagsúlacht rann agus filíochta i láthair na bpáistí agus aithrisítear go tuisceanach bríomhar iad.
Feictear caighdeán sasúil sa léitheoireacht. Moltar don scoil anois iarracht a dhéanamh scéim léitheoireachta a chur os comhair na bpáistí atá ceangailte níos géire don saol agus dá taithí foghlama. Tá gá, chomh maith, breis béime a chur ar phrionta sa timpeallacht, go háirithe obair chruthaitheach na ndaltaí féin a thaispeáint ar fud na scoile. Ó thaobh na scríbhneoireachta de, úsáidtear raon d’fhearas réalaíoch chun na daltaí a spreagadh.
There is a positive attitude to the teaching and learning of Irish in this school. In some classes, pupils are using the language throughout the day and they take an active part in the work. A high standard of pronunciation is evident in some pupils and this contributes to the learning. The teachers work diligently to foster a love of the language and lessons are prepared thoroughly.
In the junior classes, games, rhymes and interesting songs are used to encourage pupil’ learning. In general effective differentiation of teaching methods is used and support is given to the pupils for questioning and answering. In the senior classes the results of this effort is evident. The pupils speak through the use of questions and a range of strategies are used to facilitate pupil use of the language.
It is recommended that the staff would not teach Irish though the medium of English. If the pupils learn that the English word will be given then they will be less inclined to use the Irish word. Exercises in listening and activities in story telling should be presented to the pupils on a regular basis. Pupils are afforded the opportunity to engage with a range of rhymes and poetry which they recite enthusiastically and with understanding.
A satisfactory standard in reading is in evidence. A reading scheme more closely linked to the life and experiences of the pupils is needed to maintain relevance for the pupils. A greater emphasis is needed on the provision of a print-rich environment and on the display of pupils’ creative writing around the school. A wide range of resources is used to motivate pupils’ writing and the school must now seek to raise the standard of writing as much as possible.
The standard of English throughout the school is good and teachers at all levels are commended for the manner in which they have adopted the principles of the curriculum. Appropriate attention is given to oral language development in all classes. Particular attention is paid to developing pupils’ receptive language skills and pupils are encouraged to listen attentively to the views of others. The development of a formal whole-school structured oral language programme that is explicitly linked to the oral language objectives as set out in the English curriculum with attention to discrete oral language time and the acquisition of a range of resources would further enhance the current provision. It is recommended that the focus on early intervention in this area of the curriculum be intensified. This may necessitate the deployment of existing personnel in an intervention capacity, in order to ensure the implementation, continuity and progression of a literacy programme in the school. Consideration might also be given to developing an observation framework for the assessment of oral English in the school.
In reading, at infant and junior class level, the focus of the print rich environment is on the labelling of distinct objects and items in the pupils’ immediate learning environment. Some high frequency words from the pupils’ sight vocabulary are also displayed in the classroom. It is recommended that further development in this area would include the display of complete sentences. In the infant classes, a phonological awareness programme is taught. Pupils in all classes are familiar with a wide range of rhymes, action rhymes and poems, which they perform with understanding and enthusiasm.
A shared reading programme is in operation in the school and pupils benefit from reading and discussing a variety of books. Pupils read their stories and are able to answer questions and discuss the stories in a satisfactory manner. This programme should be further developed in conjunction with the parents. The use of large format books for modelling the reading process and the development of higher order thinking skills should be further emphasised in infant and junior classes. The acquisition of additional high quality reading materials, including library books, is recommended for all class levels.
In general children read satisfactorily from a range of texts in the middle and senior classes. In all classes a textbook from a commercially produced reading scheme forms the basis of the reading material. Pupils are afforded the opportunity to engage in reading novels. The pupils are provided with opportunities to respond to characters, situations and story details and in general are given broad experiences in terms of articulating a shared response to fiction. Where this work is undertaken commendable emphasis is placed on the development of higher-order thinking skills among the pupils.
Some evidence of low achievement in literacy was noticed in the middle section of the school. Some pupils were significantly behind in their mastery of basic reading skills and comprehension of reading materials. An analysis of data provided from a range of sources including the teachers own assessment data, confirmed these findings. In order to address this issue it is important to develop individual reading programmes matched to the needs of each child and to utilise a variety of methodologies in English reading classes so that greater emphasis can be placed on smaller reading groups.
Functional and creative writing is undertaken at most class levels. In infant classes pupils record the news. Personal and creative writing commences in the junior classes. Short personal accounts, news, book reviews, recipes, letters and poems form part of the work undertaken. The teachers are cognisant of the importance of the writing process. This skill is further developed and emphasised in middle and senior classes where book reviews, character reviews and a range of writing for different purposes and audiences is undertaken. In some classes children also write their own poetry and are encouraged to write in varying formats. Some teachers use computers skilfully to support and present the work undertaken by the children. There is evidence in some classes of effective integration across a range of curriculum areas. Some samples of children’s completed work are displayed attractively and celebrated in classrooms and on the corridors. This practice should be further extended to include samples of pupils’ writing. In general, handwriting is of a good standard and copies are well monitored.
The teaching of Mathematics in this school is very good. Evidence from a variety of sources including standardised test results show that achievement rates are generally very good. A wide range of relevant and accessible concrete materials is available to all class levels to facilitate mastery of the various concepts. Pupils engage well with the teaching strategies employed which are predominantly based on active learning experiences. Shared activities at pair or group level encourage co-operative learning skills. There is a strong emphasis on the development of oral skills and the pupils display considerable ability in this area. The use of games, rhymes and songs in the junior classes, in particular, complements pupils’ attainment.
Well planned lessons and the use of good questioning techniques consolidate and extended pupil’s knowledge of basic number facts. Operations are well taught and most of the pupils can discuss and solve mathematical problems. In general, mathematical concepts are developed through the use of concrete materials and concepts are linked to the pupils’ own experiences. Suitable emphasis is placed on the development of mathematical language in an incremental fashion from junior infants onwards. In some classes, activities are effectively differentiated. There is a need, however, for the whole school approach to differentiation to be more consistent. Pupils should be allocated tasks according to their ability at all times. This applies to pupils experiencing difficulty and to pupils with higher ability. It is also recommended that the school would concentrate on the creation of clear and relevant maths-rich environments which would provide a focal point for pupils. Regular revision is undertaken and the children record their work neatly and appropriately in textbooks and copybooks.
In general, the teaching of Geography is carried out with commitment and learning experiences are positive. Pupils are enthusiastic and engage with the lessons. A good knowledge of the wider world is evident and there is ample evidence of some interesting project work in most classes. A greater emphasis on the locality and the environmental richness in terms of the learning potential it presents should be more centrally promoted in this subject area. More active and guided discovery learning experiences should be facilitated and pupils acting as geographers need to be at the core of all lessons.
Pupils display a wide range of knowledge around a host of topics in History. The topics selected for teaching and learning here are interesting and appropriate to the ages and abilities of the children. Teachers carry out extensive preparation of the lessons and resources are of a very high quality. There is a need, however, for the pupils to be more actively engageed in their learning experiences. Information sourcing, sharing and presentation need to prioritised more and pupils must be given the freedom to work together to an achievable goal where the development of the skills of the historian are promoted. Subsequent presentation of the findings should be encourgaed through the use of Information and Communications Technology(ICT). There is a need also, for all classes to construct clear and relevant centres of interest where this work can be displayed to maximum effect. The classrooms and the lobby area of the school are appropriate locations for this work.
In Science, the pupils are encouraged to collate information and work co-operatively to analyse it. Field trips are organised to the locality where, following direct and clear instructions, even the youngest pupils are enabled to pariticpate in pair and group activities aimed at developing their understanding of the world around them. Resources are plentiful and easily accessed and the work is recorded. The work completed by pupils should be displayed in the school environment. As with other areas of the Social Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) curriculum, the role of ICT is under utilised.
The teaching of SESE throughout the school results in positive learning outcomes for the pupils. Principally, these include the development of an independent and a co-operative work ethic, an understanding of the scientific process and a worthwhile knowledge of the world.
The Visual Arts plan is compiled under a range of headings. Reference is made to the strand and strand units and to themes derived from activities in other areas of the curriculum, which include seasonal events and festive occasions.The classroom environment supports pupil learning and a range of materials and resources is used appropriately in the delivery of the programme. Samples of pupils’ work are in evidence in classrooms, and these combined with evidence from the school plan and teachers’ long and short-term planning, indicate that pupils have explored a range of themes, topics and media from many of the strands of the Visual Arts curriculum. In some classes emphasis is placed on the development of knitting skills and this is praiseworthy.
Some emphasis is placed on the creative developmental process that affords pupils the opportunity to express their understanding of their world in a creative rather than in a passive or imitative way. However, it is recommended that further emphasis should be placed on the creative process which should continue to be the main focus of the work in all classes and template/replicate art should be avoided. A balance between two dimensional and three dimensional art should also be maintained.
There is also evidence that pupils are encouraged to look and respond to their own work, the work of their peers and the work of artists. It is recommended that further emphasis be placed on Looking and Responding to the work of artists and working in the style of the artist and that resources be provided to teach this strand unit in all six strands.
While teacher observation is used to assess pupils’ work, implementation of a range of assessment strategies would enable teachers to support the progressive development of pupils’ skills. Consideration should be given to the development of digital portfolios, through a photographic record of work, which could be supported by ICT resources.The school plan should be reviewed to include the above recommendations
A commercial music programme forms the core of the Music programme. The curricular strands of performance, listening and responding are developed in classrooms. While there is rhythm work on a regular basis song singing forms the core of the curriculum. The children sing a range of songs tunefully in English and in Irish and respond enthusiastically to the activities organised. In some classes children are given a comfortable starting note from a pitched instrument. Attention should be given to developing pupils’ ability further through the use of appropriate breathing and vocal exercises. Consideration should now be given to the development of a progressive and systematic whole school approach to Music literacy through song-singing, pentatonic tunes, the use of simple rounds, partner songs and hand-signs.
It is recommended that the repertoire of songs and the listening and responding activities engaged in all classes in the school should be outlined in the school plan under the content objectives in order to ensure consistency and progression throughout the whole school. Long-term and short-term planning should also be based on the curriculum objectives.
Further opportunities should be provided to afford pupils the opportunity to accompany stories utilising a wide range of home-made and commercial percussion instruments thus providing them with experiences of engaging with all the musical elements. Further resources should be acquired to provide pupils with opportunities to become ‘active listeners’ thus enabling them to respond to a wide range of Music.
Generally, work in this area of the curriculum is integrated with other subject areas. Pupils respond well to the prompts given. In the lessons observed, pupils were enthusiastic and creative in their learning. Some very good examples were seen of the pupils engaging fully with the dramatic process. Linkage to the English curriculum is good and pupils need to be encouraged as fully as possible to exploit the learning possibilities available to them. The school is to be commended for its commitment to concerts and displays which serve as a purposeful focal point for learning in this area. Given the focus on language and literacy in the school, it is important for the staff to remember the value that formal drama lessons have for all pupils. The identification and regular implementation of specific aims, where the expressive development of pupils regarding their self-esteem is prioritised, will serve to equip them to cope with a wide variety of social interactions.
Commitment and thorough preparation are the cornerstones of the effective teaching observed in this curricular area. Pupils participate enthusiastically and make meaningful use of the wide range of resources available to them. The school yard with a basketball court which is used for most lessons provides ample space for all activities. The school participates in GAA competitions with other schools and coaching is available for pupils in rugby also. Swimming lessons are provided to all pupils during one term in the year and parents are to be commended for the support given to the school to transport the pupils to the local pool.
It is recommended that the school would now seek to build on this good practice further through ensuring the involvement of all pupils in all activities. Through a deliberate policy of promoting equality the school can encourage full participation in the range of activities provided. Also, there is a need for the school to ensure that all strands of the curriculum receive equal attention throughout the year. Excessive exposure to one or two aspects of the 1999 Primary School Curriculum will not result in the delivery of a broad and balanced learning experience for the pupils. The development of a Physical Education plan must address this important issue.
The school’s Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme provides opportunities for children to develop their understanding of themselves and of others. The atmosphere of the school reflects a firm commitment to the development and extension of the pupils’ skills in this subject. In general, the characteristic spirit of the school is also reflected in classroom atmosphere and through pupil/teacher interaction. It is evident that all teachers are committed to fostering a school environment that promotes respect for diversity and mutual understanding. Talk and discussion, circle time, role-play and pair work, are used appropriately to explore many aspects of the SPHE programme.
Topics based on feelings, personal hygiene, food and nutrition, safety and care of the environment are explored. A healthy eating policy is actively implemented and the provision of healthy lunches under the DEIS scheme contributes effectively to pupils development of a healthy approach to eating. The school has become involved in the Green Flag initiative and is very active in creating an awareness of the importance of recycling throughout the school community. Parents are very supportive of these initiatives.
The programme of work undertaken addresses the needs of pupils in an appropriate and effective manner, through personal development activities and the promotion of self esteem.
Responsible behaviour and positive pupil/teacher and pupil/pupil interactions are encouraged. In general pupils are mannerly and respectful in their interactions with each other and with adults and demonstrate good communication and interpersonal skills. The SPHE curriculum is taught in the context of lessons from a range of programmes including the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme, Stay Safe, and Walk Tall.
In general the quality of assessment and achievement in the school is good. Teachers are implementing a variety of assessment modes during teaching and learning activities including teacher observation, teacher-devised tests and homework assignments. These assessment techniques are used to assess pupil achievement and progress in literacy and numeracy. Consideration could now be given to the further development of approaches and strategies to address the ongoing monitoring of pupil progress. These could include extending the use of checklists, pupil profiles and a range of formative assessment practices to all classes. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is used to identify pupils in the infant classes and The Forward Together programme is used as an early intervention programme for pupils experiencing difficulties at an early stage.
Standardised tests, Sigma-T and Micra-T are used to monitor pupils’ achievement in literacy and numeracy. Records of these tests are maintained. Results are presented to parents at the annual parent/teacher meeting. Progress reports are sent annually to parents. It is recommended that further thought should be given to an analysis of standardised test results carried out in the school. Attainment targets should be set on a whole-school basis and differentiation facilitated for pupils experiencing difficulty. The learning support teacher and breaking the cycle (rural) co-ordinator should consider team teaching with mainstream teachers to provide further support for pupils with learning difficulties.
A learning support teacher provides supplementary teaching for 11 pupils receiving learning support in literacy and numeracy and for four pupils in receipt of resource teaching time. The breaking cycle rural co-ordinator also provides supplementary support to a number of pupils once a week. Children are withdrawn from class in small groups and on an individual basis.
The support teacher approaches the duties in a conscientious and professional manner. Individual learning programmes are drawn up for each pupil and these outline broad learning targets for the pupils, resources to be utilised and possible teaching strategies for the mainstream teachers. Records of work undertaken are maintained. Parent/teacher meetings are convened each year and pupils’ progress is discussed. However, parents of pupils in receipt of supplementary support should be encouraged to contribute to their children’s programmes of learning. Parents should also be provided with support and guidance on ways they can support their children’s learning at home.
Close communication is maintained with class teachers and individual pupils’ progress is discussed regularly. The support teacher also liaises closely with outside agencies. The work of the teacher is supported through the provision of suitable resources such as computer software, parallel readers, and high-interest, low-ability readers and language programmes. The teacher works in a classroom that is stimulating and attractive and where some samples of pupils’ work, teacher charts, books and other resources including a desktop computer are provided. The pupils are motivated and making progress according to their ability levels.
Individual pupil profiles are outlined, and these consist of broad learning targets. Further development of these profiles should detail priority learning needs, learning targets for the period, learning support activities provided by the learning support teacher and learning support activities to be provided by the classroom teacher. Reports provided by appropriate professionals are reviewed by the teacher. However it is recommended that needs identified in these reports be included as targets in the pupils’ profiles. Weekly planning and progress records should also be prepared that will outline the familiar reading planned and the learning strategies for revision. This plan will also outline the new reading strategies and the new reading to be undertaken weekly. Weekly progress on the achievement of this plan should also be recorded. Daily planning sheets to record the familiar reading, revisions of learning strategies, new learning strategies and new reading as well as progress should also be maintained.
Specific time has been allocated to provide language support for two foreign-national pupils. The two pupils were absent during the evaluation but the school reports that while this work is still in the developmental stage some good outcomes are evident. Vocabulary is expanding and usage of the language in the classroom is improving. However, having evaluated the planning documents it is now recommended that the service provided to these pupils be reviewed to link more closely with the work of the classroom teacher and to be more specific in relation to the responses which the pupils might use in the school throughout the day. The use of the pupils’ own language in signage around the school would also promote a more inclusive atmosphere for these children.
The breaking the cycle rural co-ordinator is shared among five schools and was appointed to this position in 2004. She is diligent and plans all aspects of the programme in the five schools. She executes her duties conscientiously and keeps well-maintained records. She visits Scoil Náisiúnta Gleann an Ghuail one day each week. The work of the co-ordinator is focused on supporting individual pupils, teaching groups of pupils who require additional supports in personal, social and/or academic areas. The co-ordinator provides in-class support for certain classes in the area of SPHE and Drama. While there is merit in engaging pupils with many aspects of SPHE and Drama, the principal in conjunction with the co-ordinator should evaluate the effectiveness of providing these classes for the full school year. A decrease in the time allocation to this intervention would provide additional time for the further development of literacy skills for a number of pupils who require additional focused support in this area.
In the final term a transition programme for sixth class pupils is organised and the co-ordinator liaises closely with the post primary schools. The co-ordinator also assists and supports a range of extra-curricular activities for targeted pupils throughout the year. A good range of resources is provided and used effectively during the classes.
The co-ordinator visits homes and works with parents to advise them on various aspects of their children’s learning. A toy library has been established and the co-ordinator focuses on involving parents in this initiative and in the shared reading programme. The co-ordinator networks with voluntary and statutory agencies and is involved in a range of projects in the local area which focuses on health promotion, childcare projects and the organisation of summer camps. She also attends family clusters, local clusters and regional cluster meetings.
The provision for pupils in this school is effective. Planning is well organised and progress and attendance records are maintained. It is recommended however that if the co-ordinator is engaged in teaching a subject in a mainstream class that planning should be undertaken for that subject based on content objectives of the Primary School Curriculum 1999. The co-ordinator is still operating under the Breaking the Cycle Scheme Rural Co-ordinator programme as details of their responsibilities under the DEIS scheme were not available during the period of the evaluation. In the interim it is advised that the co-ordinator in collaboration with the teachers conduct a school-based self-evaluation of the Breaking the Cycle Rural Co-ordinator programme in terms of pupil outcomes with specific emphasis on targeted pupils.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The school is managed by a very interested and motivated board of management.
· The duties of the principal and post holders are carried out in a professional and diligent manner.
· The diligent, conscientious, committed staff contributes to the good quality of teaching and learning in the school.
· The teaching and learning across the curriculum is good.
· Pupil behaviour is managed successfully and interactions observed among pupils were considerate and caring.
· The accommodation and its maintenance are of a very good standard.
· The school is well resourced and these resources are used in an effective manner to support teaching and learning.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· A more consultative role for parents is required in the development of the school plan.
· In the school plan for English, the strand of Oral language should be reviewed in order to ensure a cohesive approach throughout the school.
· Further development of a whole school approach when reviewing curricular plans should include differentiation and assessment strategies
· Further development of the monthly progress record should include review and assessment of the objectives achieved
· Assessment of learning outcomes for all pupils, particularly targeted pupils, needs to be detailed in the planning process throughout the school.
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.