An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Cloneen N.S.,

Clonmel, County Tipperary

Uimhir rolla: 17694H

 

Date of inspection:  14 April 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

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Cloneen N.S. was undertaken in April 2008. The evaluation covered key aspects of the work of the school in the areas of management, teaching and learning and supports for pupils. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics, History and Physical Education. The representatives of the parents’ association met with the inspector. The inspector interacted with the pupils, examined pupils’ work, reviewed school planning documentation, observed teaching and learning and provided feedback to individual teachers. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The board of management was given the 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 to this report.

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Cloneen N.S. is a co-educational national school, situated under the scenic foothills of Sliabh na mBan, in the small village of Cloneen, Co. Tipperary. The school is under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel and Emly and it caters for pupils living in the village and neighbouring hinterland. The school, as stated in its vision statement, strives to ensure that each child is developed intellectually, socially, spiritually, physically and morally.

 

The following table provides an overview of the current enrolment and staffing in the school:

 

Total number of pupils enrolled

80

Total number of teaching staff

3

Number of teaching staff working in support teaching roles

1 (Shared/Not base school)

Number of mainstream classes

8

Number of special needs assistants

1

 

The school will be eligible for a new appointment in September, which will mean that there will be four classroom teachers. Future enrolment projections indicate that the school will maintain this number of pupils and possibly continue to grow. The school has recently received funding from the Department of Education and Science (DES) for the building of a new classroom and learning support/resource room. Plans are currently being drawn up and will be submitted for planning approval presently.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

The board of management is properly constituted. It meets once a term and more frequently if necessary. The most commonly raised issues at meetings are finance and the raising of money and it is the view of the board that there is a need to increase capitation grants for pupils. A treasurer manages the accounts but it was reported that these are not audited or certified due to lack of resources. It is recommended that the accounts be submitted for certification in line with Section 18(1) of the Education Act, 1998. The board sees the strengths of the school as the fact that everyone knows everyone else, there is a shared sense of identity and belonging and a happy atmosphere in the school. They also acknowledge the support and good will of the parents of the pupils. The chairperson calls to the school regularly on an informal basis. The previous board of management concluded a building project in 2004 and the present board is about to begin another building project. Both the previous and present boards are to be commended for the way in which they have avoided installing temporary accommodation in the school and have instead been proactive in ensuring permanent accommodation is in place when enrolments increased. The school and its grounds are maintained in an attractive manner.

 

The board addresses its statutory obligations in relation to policy formation, which includes the development of an enrolment policy, a code of behaviour, an anti-bullying policy, a health and safety statement and a policy on the reporting of child protection concerns. The Board has officially ratified all documents and they are signed and dated by the chairperson.

 

One of the duties laid upon boards of management by the Education Act (1998) is to ensure that all pupils in the school receive an appropriate education. One method of fulfilling this duty is to discuss at board meetings the report of the principal, which should not only touch on organisational matters, but should also include reference to developments in teaching and learning in the school. Boards should also be kept informed, in a general way, as to trends in pupil achievement. It is recommended that the Board initiate procedures for discussion of a principal’s report so that it heightens its awareness of teaching and learning in the school. This report also raises a number of other management issues and in order to resolve these issues it is recommended that the staff and board formulate a Whole School Development Plan, which sets out priorities and planned actions.

 

It is recognised that a new board has just taken up duty this year. The members of the board are to be thanked for their voluntary service to their community and in order for board members to equip themselves for this role, including the confident articulation of the views of the stakeholders that they represent, it is essential that all board members avail of training.

 

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The in-school management team consists of the principal and the deputy principal. The principal was on sick leave during the evaluation so it was therefore not possible to conduct the interview with the principal to determine the quality of processes in regard to school management. The deputy principal offers strong support to the principal and managed the school effectively during his absence. She liaises closely with the principal and takes an active role in the planning process. She undertakes a range of duties including organisational, curricular and pastoral and carries out these duties with diligence and commitment.

 

 

2.3 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The school is to be praised for the manner in which it has developed a policy and initiatives on home/school communication. The policy states that the school aims to foster close links and good working relationship with parents and lists a number of ways that this can be achieved. These include homework notebooks, parent-teacher meetings, school reports, meeting parents at social, cultural and sporting events, and preparation for sacraments.

 

It is particularly noted that the school also hosts a general information evening each year, during which each teacher makes a brief presentation, outlining their work in the school and how parents can support it. Regular letters are sent to the parents with details of events happening in the school. Parents also offer support and assist with costumes and make-up for the Christmas concert. The school holds a concert and/or Nativity or Carol Service every year and there is a major production every second year, which involves the staging of a musical. A professional orchestra and lighting person work on this production and the backdrop is painted by the local drama players.

 

A parents’ association was initiated in the school in May 2007 and this association has taken an active role in supporting the school.  It has been involved chiefly in fundraising and also works with the school in organising a rota for swimming. The parents acknowledge the open-door policy that exists in the school and the readiness of the school to embrace their suggestions and offers of support. They do, however, stress the need for good communication and openness between the board of management and the association, particularly as the school begins a new building project.

 

 

2.4 Management of pupils

 

The pupils were generally well behaved. There is quite a lot of whole class answering and it is recommended that the pupils are encouraged to raise their hands and wait to be asked for an answer by the teacher. There are no organised activities during lunch break and it is recommended that leagues or games are organised, particularly for the older pupils.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1   Whole-school and classroom planning

 

A whole school plan addressing curriculum and organisational areas has been devised. The draft documents are presented to the board for consideration and subsequently ratified, dated and signed. Personnel from the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) and the School Development Planning Service (SDPS) have assisted in the drafting of these documents. The school also works with another small neighbouring school in regard to planning. Detailed curricular plans have been drawn up for every area of the curriculum. However classroom activity does not fully reflect these plans. It is necessary therefore for the staff to engage in an action planning model as the basis for the ongoing review of the school plan. The starting point for this process should be an analysis of the quality of pupils’ learning outcomes in the different areas of the curriculum. The teachers should collaboratively identify effective teaching strategies and aspects of curriculum implementation that are working well and explore how these might be utilised across the school.

 

The teachers in the junior and middle classes prepare comprehensive long-term and short-term plans. There was no classroom planning produced for the senior classes. This contravenes the provisions of Rule 126 of the Rules for National  Schools, which states clearly that long and short term planning must be undertaken by all teachers. This lack of planning was reflected in the quality of teaching and learning in this classroom and in the learning outcomes for the pupils. Monthly progress reports were also unavailable for work done in the senior classes. They were available in the school for the other classes.

 

Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 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.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Déantar iarrachtaí oiriúnacha atmaisféar fábhrach don Ghaeilge a chothú sna bunranganna agus sna meánrangannaBaintear dea-úsáid as ábhair chorpartha mar thacaíocht don teagasc agus cuirtear ceachtanna i láthair trí fheidhm a bhaint as fearas agus luaschartaí a ullmhaíonn na múinteoirí. Tugtar faoi éagsúlacht rann agus filíochta a mhúineadh. Ullmhaíonn na hoidí ceachtanna a oireannn d’aois agus d’ábaltacht na ndaltaí. Moltar do na hoidí, áfach, foclóir na ndaltaí a chothú agus níos obair beirte a chur ar siúl.

 

Sna hardranganna a lán deacrachtaí ag na daltaí ag cur agus ag freagairt ceisteanna. caighdeán an-íseal sroichte ag na daltaí sa léitheoireacht agus ba chóir an-iarracht a dhéanamh an léitheoireacht a fheabhsú. an leabhar céanna ag na trí ranganna agus raibh ach dhá leathanach déanta acu ag am an MSU. Cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí sa scríbhneoireacht ina gcóipleabhair ach ba chóir a chinntiú go ndéantar ceartúchán agus monatóireacht rialta ar an saothar seo.

 

Irish

 

Suitable efforts are made in the junior and middle classes to develop an appropriate atmosphere for the development of Irish. Good use is made of suitable resources to support teaching and these included teacher designed charts and flashcards. A variety of songs and poems are taught. The teachers prepare lessons that are suitable to the age and ability of the pupils. It is recommended that the pupils’ vocabulary is extended and that greater opportunities are afforded to the pupils to talk in pairs.

 

In the senior classes the pupils have great difficulty asking and answering questions. There is a very low standard of achievement in reading and this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The three classes have the same book and only two pages had been covered in class at the time of the WSE. The pupils engage in writing activities in their copies but it is vital that these are corrected and monitored regularly.

 

English

 

While there is some good work in the junior and middle classes in English there is scope for development overall. A focused systematic approach from infants to sixth would ensure improved learning outcomes for the pupils. While there is a detailed plan in place it is necessary to contextualise it to the school situation. It is recommended, for example, that it clearly indicates when novels are introduced, strategies to be used for approaching the novel at each class level, the variety of writing genres which will be taught at the various class levels and agreed core content for rhymes, poetry, spelling and grammar. This would help to ensure consistent approaches throughout the school. There is a very detailed and useful policy on spelling. However the policy does not mention the use of a spelling book, which was the main tool, mentioned in teachers’ planning for teaching spellings.

 

In the junior and middle classes teachers employ a variety of methodologies including group and paired work. Pupils participate enthusiastically in the activities and display satisfactory oral language skills. The teachers engage in careful questioning to challenge pupils and ensure their interest and engagement with the lessons. Pupils encounter a range of poetry and nursery rhymes at the junior end and respond meaningfully to stories and big books. In the middle and senior classes pupils can recite a number of poems and discuss them appropriately. In the infants classes there is a need for greater use of language experience charts, which are created collaboratively by the teacher and pupils and more focused work on phonological awareness. In general the pupils in the junior and middle classes read competently. However in the senior classes many of the pupils do not read with fluency and understanding and an obvious deterioration in standards was observed. This is a highly unsatisfactory situation and is affecting these pupils’ learning outcomes across the curriculum. Again, this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency so as to ensure that these pupils can achieve their full potential. Paired reading is a feature of school life with parents encouraged to read with their children. They are shown a video of paired reading at the general meeting at the start of the year. The video is made available to any parent who wishes to borrow it throughout the year. There is a wide selection of books to support this activity. Buddy reading is also practised in the school with pupils from the senior classes reading with pupils in the junior classes.

 

Writing activities were generally from the workbooks with ‘Our News’ a regular feature of classroom life.  It is now advised that pupils move away from the ‘our news’ formula and incorporate more variety into writing activities. In the infant to middle classes pupils’ writing is on display with some booklets and compilations of pupils work. Pupils in these classes are encouraged to present their work well and there is an emphasis on handwriting and punctuation. The pupils also use the computer for recording their writing. In the senior classes pupils have written a small number of stories. In general these were poorly presented and there was little evidence of encouraging pupils’ impulse to write and on enabling them to write competently and confidently.  There was no evidence of encouraging the pupils to clarify and refine their thoughts through the process of drafting and redrafting their writing. There was a limited amount of correction of the work. In general, attainment in reading and writing in the senior classes is a cause of concern and there is an urgent need to ensure that the gap between ability and achievement is narrowed.

 

 

4.2 Mathematics

 

In Mathematics provision was generally good in the junior and middle classes but seriously lacking in the senior classes. This poor quality teaching and learning in the senior classes has limited the learning outcomes for the pupils of these classes. There is a need for greater resources in the infant classes, to ensure activity-based learning is central to the delivery of the Mathematics programme.

 

In the junior and middle classes there is an emphasis on teaching mathematical procedures and on the acquisition of mathematical language. Number rhymes are used to enhance junior pupils’ mathematical literacy and understanding. The lessons observed in these standards were interesting with emphasis on pupil engagement. It is recommended that the two infant classes would work on the same themes as this would allow for the coming together of learning groups. This would help the teacher to manage the multi-class situation more effectively.

 

In the senior classes the pupils showed some competence in answering mental Mathematics questions. However they had serious difficulties with number operations, with fourth class unable to do long multiplication and the fifth and sixth classes unable to do long division. It was evident that these operations had not been taught to them. It is recommended that provision in Mathematics in the senior classes is improved. There was little evidence of discovery learning and written tasks were from the textbooks. These were not regularly monitored. The classroom lacked any mathematical displays and a more mathematics-rich environment should be created displaying relevant materials on the walls and ensuring supplementary aids are readily accessible to the pupils.

 

Pupil progress in Mathematics is monitored by means of observation, teacher-designed tests and on a formal basis by means of standardised tests.

 

4.3 Physical Education

 

The lessons observed had clear structure, good pace and pupils participated with enthusiasm. The school grounds include a hard court play area and a green field, which is used for PE during clement weather. The local community hall is only a couple of minutes walk from the school and the school has the unlimited use of the hall for activities including PE. A dance teacher takes the pupils for Irish dancing each week in the hall and these classes are well organised with pupils actively involved and engaged in lessons. All pupils from first to sixth classes attend swimming lessons in Clonmel and the parents association assist in the management of these classes. External GAA coaches visit the school to coach the pupils in football and hurling skills. The school also participates in the Kool Schools initiative. The school has limited PE resources and it is recommended that the school invest in more equipment in order to ensure greater variety of activities. An Active Lunch programme would also benefit the senior pupils.

 

 

4.4 History

 

Cloneen is steeped in history and the school promotes engagement with the locality as part of its history programme. In general the teachers deliver a comprehensive programme with textbooks central to the work in the middle and senior classes. From an early age pupils’ understanding of chronology is developed through story with well-planned activities focussed on recalling and sequencing stories. The pupils engage in devising simple timelines and booklets recording Teddy’s Adventures and important milestones in their own lives. In the middle classes the pupils are encouraged to question their grandparents or older people that they know, about aspects of life when they were young. Personal and family history is explored and artefacts, pictures and photographs are used to stimulate learning. The Internet is also used as a source of information and the skills of examining historical evidence systematically and critically are encouraged. In the senior classes the textbook is central to the work. However on questioning about events from the book the pupils experienced difficulty in recalling details and in retelling stories. History is linked with other curricular areas including PE, Geography, English and Visual Arts.

 

 

 

 

 

4.5 Assessment

 

The MIST test is used for screening at Senior Infant level. The Drumcondra and Sigma tests are undertaken in May of each year. The Special Education Teacher (SET) undertakes further diagnostic testing. These tests include Quest, Neale Analysis, Daniels and Diack, Southgate Reading Test and the Young Reading test. Various teacher-designed tests are used in the junior and middle classrooms. Teachers should now formulate a school tracking system in relation to pupil progress in standardised tests.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs (SEN)

 

The Special Education Teacher prepares conscientiously for her work with pupils and engages the pupils in a variety of activities. Support is in the form of withdrawal and it is recommended that some in-class support and team teaching be considered. The teacher prepares detailed Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for pupils who are receiving low incidence resource hours. These are devised in consultation with class teachers and parents. Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) are prepared for all pupils attending for learning support. Targets are reviewed mid-way during the year and changed as appropriate.

 

Many children in the twentieth percentile and above are receiving support in English while there is no early intervention or support for pupils below the 12th percentile in Mathematics. There is a need for re-evaluation of the support offered in the school and that provision be provided as outlined in the DES Learning Support Guidelines. A revised school policy should refer to how children will be selected for learning support and on the procedures and criteria which will apply in deciding to continue or discontinue learning support.

 

There are limited resources in the school for the teaching of pupils with SEN with a lot of equipment borrowed from the base school. It is recommended that the school invests in this vital area and provides appropriate resources. It would be of value enlisting the support of the Cuiditheoir for SEN to assist in improving the resources.

 

At the general meeting the SEN teacher gives a talk to parents outlining the specific nature of support in the school, the staged approach, IEPs and IPLPS.

 

 

6.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

  • The teachers display interest and commitment as outlined in the report.
  • The deputy principal provides support to the principal.
  • A general information meeting with parents has been in operation for the last four years.
  • There is an active and willing Parents’ Association in the school.
  • The school building and school grounds are well maintained.

 

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

 

  • The Board of Management needs to heighten its awareness of teaching and learning in the school through regular discussion of the principal’s report, and should formulate with the staff a whole school development plan setting out the school’s priorities.
  • The staff needs to engage in action planning as the basis for ongoing review of the school plan, ensuring that the plan guides classroom activity.
  • The concept of core content for curricular areas throughout the whole school, for example, a core set of poetry or songs for the whole school, should be explored.
  • There is a need to embrace the methodologies of the Revised Curriculum with less emphasis on textbooks and more on quality learning experiences ensuring improved learning outcomes for the pupils.
  • Educational provision for the pupils in the senior classes needs to be improved.
  • Greater investment in resources is required for the classrooms, special educational needs and PE
  • The support for pupils with special educational needs should be reviewed and provided in English, Mathematics and Early Intervention as prescribed in the Learning Support Guidelines. In-class support should also be considered.

 

 

 

 

Published, October 2008

 

 

 

 

Appendix

School Response to the Report

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

           Inspection Report School Response Form

 

 

            Area 1 Observations on the content of the Inspection Report

The Board of Management wish to thank the inspectorate for their comprehensive report and guidance given to the school. We are very proud of our school and it was gratifying to see the commitment of the teachers, the hard work of the Board of Management and the Parents Association acknowledged. 

 

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

This is a new era for Cloneen N.S.

The present staff of Cloneen N.S. is happy to take on board the recommendations of the   WSE report of April 2008 and to move forward.  Huge changes have taken place in the school that will greatly enhance the teaching and learning.  

1.         A new principal has been appointed who

a.       Has a strong background in teaching at senior level

b.       Will be delighted to present a principal’s report on the teaching and learning in the school at every Board of Management meeting.

2.       There is a new in-school management structure, involving Principal, Deputy Principal and post holder, with clearly defined areas of responsibilities. Since the WSE report, many meetings have taken place to agree whole school approaches for best practise in the school.

3.       The school has gone from a 3-teacher to a 4-teacher school. Two new teachers have joined the staff.  Consequently there are only 2 classes in each room, significantly reducing class sizes.

4.       A new extension is taking place at the moment to add an additional classroom and a new resource room to the school (Expected date of Completion – January 2009).  This will also give both the staff and the pupils a new lease of life.

5.       A substantial amount of money continues to be spent on resources for the school – ensuring that there are proper resources available to each class teacher and to the learning support teacher as well as a major investment in PE equipment.

6.       An action plan has been formulated by the staff which will involve:

a.       An ongoing review of the School Plan ensuring that methodologies of the revised curriculum are adhered to in every class room.

b.       Creating short, medium and long term goals for the school

c.       Drawing up a core content for curricular areas throughout the school

7.       Every teacher now has a copy of the school plan on a memory stick to ensure the plan guides classroom activity.

8.       Learning Support Guidelines will be strictly adhered to when drawing up our priority list for this year’s learning support programme and for the future years.

9.       A programme of lunch time activities is being piloted: - e.g.  Soccer – league, basketball, rounders, chalk etc.