An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Mhuire

Drumboylan, County Leitrim

Uimhir rolla:  17709R

 

Date of inspection: 24 April 2009

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Mhuire, Drumboylan was undertaken in April 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Social, Personal and Health Education. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Mhuire, Drumboylan is a co-educational, rural primary school located in the parish of Ardcarne in County Roscommon. Pupils are taught in two multi-grade classrooms; the junior room accommodates pupils up to and including second class and the senior room accommodates pupils from third to sixth class. Enrolment figures have remained stable since the last school inspection in 1997. The pupils’ attendance levels are satisfactory, overall.

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

26

Mainstream classrooms in the school

2

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2 (including the teaching principal)

Teachers working in support roles

1 (based elsewhere)

Special needs assistants

0

 

At present, the school does not employ a secretary. Caretaking services are contracted as the need arises. The board of management arranges that the school is cleaned once weekly to a satisfactory standard and a thorough clean-up is arranged during school vacations.

 

1.1  Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school, under the patronage of the Bishop of Elphin, has a Roman Catholic ethos. It provides a well-ordered, caring and happy atmosphere for its pupils and focuses on their holistic development. The board of management, principal and teachers place significant emphasis on the pupils’ spiritual development. Regular opportunities are provided for the pupils’ involvement in a variety of co-curricular and extracurricular activities which include swimming, inter-school sports, computer classes, environmental awareness and science programmes, and involvement in liturgical celebrations. The school staff, board of management and parents are proud of the school and the family-like atmosphere that prevails.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board is very supportive of the work of the school and attends to its current priorities in a careful and considerate manner. The chairperson provides commendable leadership, support and guidance to the board and school staff. The board is properly constituted and meets regularly. Minutes are taken of all proceedings. Financial reports are presented by the treasurer at each meeting. The board is commended on the maintenance of the building and on the priority it assigns to the provision of teaching and learning resources. The school, originally built in 1950, was renovated extensively in recent times and a general-purpose room, staff toilet, and storage facilities were provided. The playing field was also improved. During this academic year, an additional storage area for sports equipment was built. This building and renovation work was realised through community fundraising, local grant aid and voluntary effort. The board discusses and ratifies school policies on an ongoing basis.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team comprises a teaching principal and a special-duties teacher. The principal discharges her duties in a very dedicated and professional manner. She has worked in this school for more than 30 years; initially as an assistant teacher and as principal since 1997. She undertakes her administrative and organisational tasks with great care and all records are maintained meticulously. An affirmative school climate is established that is characterised by positive working relationships. The principal is very committed to the pupils and to the school community. Her efforts in leading the whole-school planning process are commendable. At pre-evaluation meetings, members of the board of management and the parents’ representatives acknowledged the constancy and dedication of the principal who is due to retire at the end of this academic year.

 

The assistant teacher has a special-duties post and supports the work of the principal effectively. She attends to general school duties in a conscientious manner and takes a positive role in the whole-school planning process. It is now recommended that the duties for the special-duties post are formalised in accordance with Primary Circular 07/03 and reviewed regularly.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The board of management and teaching staff welcome the support of parents and report that home-school relationships are good. The school maintains regular communication with parents regarding the work of the school. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually and end-of-year progress reports are issued to parents of pupils from third to sixth class. The teachers issue newsletters to share information with the school community. Further use of the school’s website to facilitate the sharing of information would be beneficial. The parent body has not established a parents’ association but it is reported that parents give willingly of their time to support school initiatives. For example, parents assist with fundraising and sports events. At the pre-evaluation meeting, parents’ representatives reported that they were satisfied with the education provided and the happy school atmosphere.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

There is smooth and orderly management of pupils throughout the school. Pupils are well behaved and demonstrate interest and pride in school activities. Staff members use praise and affirmation effectively to promote good behaviour. A notice on the front door alerts visitors to the fact that the school is a ‘bully-free zone’ and the teachers work very diligently to ensure that this statement remains accurate. Regular assemblies would assist in further strengthening the sense of unity within the school and provide an additional forum for the celebration of local achievements. It is recommended that the board and teachers ensure that Primary Circular 32/03 regarding the retention of pupils in the same grade is implemented fully and consistently.   

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1  Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school organisational and curricular planning is good. The teachers have prepared an extensive array of policies and procedures for a range of administrative, pastoral and curricular areas. Many school policies have been ratified at board level and this process is ongoing. To date, there has not been any systematic involvement by parents in the school development planning process. Structures should be put in place to support the parents’ ongoing participation in the development and review of school policy.

 

The quality of individual classroom planning is satisfactory in most aspects. Mainstream teachers provide both long-term and short-term planning. At present, monthly progress records comprise annotated copies of the teachers’ short-term planning. It is recommended that teachers review the appropriateness of this format of record-keeping in terms of its usefulness for future school self-evaluation.

 

2.2  Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management and school staff; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all 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. School policy regarding child protection procedures has been disseminated among the parents.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

Gaeilge

Múineann na hoidí an Ghaeilge go sásúil agus tugann siad go rialta faoi na snáitheanna Gaeilge uilig. Is breá an tslí ina stiúrann na hoidí ceachtanna Gaeilge sna ranganna trí Ghaeilge amháin. Cuireann siad raon acmhainní oiriúnacha ar fáil agus baineann siad feidhm éifeachtach as na háiseanna chun suim na ndaltaí a mhúscailt agus a chothú. Baineann na hoidí feidhm fhiúntach as rainn agus as amhráin tríd an scoil chun fuaim agus rithim na teanga a chur ar chluasa na ndaltaí. Leathnaíonn siad foclóir na ndaltaí go córasach agus tá stór maith ainmfhocail agus aidiachtaí ar eolas ag na daltaí. B’fhearrde fós an toradh ach breis béime a leagan ar na briathra agus ar na haimsirí tríd an scoil. Cothaíonn na hoidí dearcadh dearfa i leith na teanga sa scoil agus déanann siad iarracht mhacánta an Ghaeilge a úsáid go neamhfhoirmiúil i rith an lae. B’inmholta úsáid na Gaeilge a chleachtadh go leanúnach in ábhar éigin eile den churaclam. Chabhródh an cleachtas seo le feidhm chumarsáide na teanga a chur i gcrích níos éifeachtúla. Moltar an obair mhaith atá ar siúl sna hardranganna chun ceol na hÉireann a fhorbairt agus an fheadóg stain a mhúineadh.

 

Tríd is tríd, léann na daltaí go sásúil. I láthair na huaire, úsáidtear leabhair saothair, agus uaireanta leabhair mhóra, i rith na ngníomhaíochtaí léitheoireachta. Déantar ceangal leis an teanga labhartha de réir mar is cuí. Moltar fíor leabhair a úsáid go rialta don léitheoireacht chun suim na ndaltaí a spreagadh sa litearacht agus taithí níos leithne a thabhairt dóibh. Cleachtann na daltaí téacsanna éagsúla simplí scríbhneoireachta go rialta; ag gluaiseacbt ó chleachtaí faoi threoir sna bunranganna i dtreo deiseanna don saorscríbhneoireacht sna hardranganna. Déantar monatóireacht ar an scríbhneoireacht ar bhonn rialta. Chuirfeadh sé go mór leis an obair mhaith dá mbeadh níos mó béime ar an scríbhneoireacht mar mheán cumarsáide agus go mbeadh fhorbairt bhreise ar phroiséas na scríbhneoireachta. Déantar roinnt measúnaithe sa ghné seo den churaclam. Moltar go mbeadh méadú ar an méid measúnaithe agus é bunaithe ar chuspóirí na foghlama.

 

Irish

The quality of teaching in Irish is satisfactory and the teachers regularly address the various strands of the curriculum. The manner in which the teachers conduct the Irish lessons exclusively through the medium of Irish is commendable. They provide a range of suitable resources and use them effectively to awaken and maintain the pupils’ interest. They make effective use of songs and rhymes to reinforce the sound and the rhythm of the language. They broaden the pupils’ vocabulary systematically and the pupils have acquired a good store of nouns and adjectives. It would be beneficial if further emphasis is placed on verbs and tenses throughout the school. The teachers foster a positive attitude to the Irish language in the school and try earnestly to use Irish informally through the day. It would be worthwhile to consider using Irish consistently in another area of the curriculum. This would help to establish more effective communicative use of the language.

 

Overall, the pupils read well. At present, workbooks, and occasionally large-format books, are used during reading activities. There is appropriate linkage with the spoken word. It is recommended that real books form part of the regular reading programme so as to inspire the pupils further and to widen their reading experience. The pupils regularly practise writing various simple texts: moving from teacher guided writing in the junior classes to opportunities for free writing in the senior classes. Their written efforts are monitored regularly. It would enhance the work if additional emphasis was placed on writing as a means of communication and the writing process approach was developed further. Some assessment is carried out in this area of the curriculum. It is recommended that there be an increase in the amount of assessment conducted and that it be based on learning objectives.

 

English

The quality of teaching and learning in English is good overall. In both classrooms, most aspects of oral language development are handled well. The pupils are eager communicators and most listen patiently and respectfully to others. In the junior classroom, a variety of rhymes and songs has been taught and pupils know these rhymes and songs well. Pupils in the senior classroom recite a repertoire of poems and rhymes in both languages. To develop the pupils’ oral skills further, teachers should implement whole-school targeted activities as part of their discrete language programme.

 

Reading skills are taught successfully beginning with a structured pre-reading programme and built upon step by step as pupils progress through the school. In the junior classroom, the Letterland programme is used effectively to introduce letter names and sounds and this is linked with the development of phonological awareness. In senior classroom there is some very good exploration of new words and appropriate application and consolidation of the skills taught. Teachers draw from a variety of sources for appropriate material and utilise a variety of strategies to enable pupils to read. A good range of resources is used to support the development of reading including literacy schemes, commercial materials to aid the development of phonological and phonemic awareness and spelling capacities, and a selection of large-format books. Teachers read regularly to the pupils and interesting discussions arise out of this work. It is now recommended that a ‘real book’ approach is also introduced throughout the school. Additional large-format books along with their corresponding small-format versions for pupils’ use and comprehension kits would be beneficial and should be considered as resources permit. The pupils’ attainment levels in reading are good. Most pupils read accurately and readily comprehend lesson content. Library books are available in both classrooms and reading for pleasure and information is encouraged in both classrooms. While classrooms display some vocabulary banks, punctuation and grammar rules, and examples of pupils’ writing, there is some scope for development in this area. Additional attention should be paid to classroom presentation including enhanced in-class storage and display facilities.

 

Overall, the teaching of writing is good. Careful attention is paid to pre-writing and early writing activities in the junior classes. As pupils progress through the school, the writing activities are developed appropriately and pupils are provided with regular opportunities to write in various genres. Written work is carefully monitored in both classrooms and the presentation of pupils’ work is generally good. In terms of content, organisation and style, the pupils’ writing attainments are commendable overall. Their use of spelling and punctuation is age-appropriate. Cursive handwriting is introduced to pupils in third class. Consideration should be given to introducing cursive script at an earlier stage. The pupils are regularly encouraged to use information and communications technology (ICT) to edit and publish their writing and their progress in this area is commendable. The school’s involvement in initiatives such as the Write-a-Book Project provides an additional motivation for pupils.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good overall. Using the content of a number of textbooks for the basis of their mathematics programme, teachers plan for an appropriate representation of all strands of the curriculum and promote the use of mathematical language consistently. The teachers have access to a good array of mathematical resources. Regular and good use is made of number songs, rhymes and manipulatives in the junior classes and the pupils show a satisfactory understanding of numbers. In the middle and senior classes, the pupils’ attainment is good overall. Most respond to oral questioning accurately and have good computation skills. Talk and discussion are features of the mathematics lesson in both classrooms. Calculator use has been introduced from fourth class onwards. The teachers should continue to foster the pupils’ problem solving and estimation skills. The development of several mathematics trails should also be considered.

 

3.3 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

Most aspects of the teaching and learning in SPHE are good. Lessons observed during the evaluation dealt with topics such as media education and safety and the focus was on developing pupils’ understanding through discussion. The work undertaken was linked appropriately to events in the pupils’ own experiences. Some good examples of group work, pair work and whole-class teaching were observed. Pupils’ responses were generally well-thought out and indicated that the pupils had a good grasp of the concepts being explored. The pupils were aware of environmental issues and this awareness is promoted through their successful involvement in the Green-Schools programme. A policy for Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), ratified by the board of management, is in place. It is recommended that the content of the RSE programme be appended to the policy. At present, aspects of the RSE programme about the naming of body parts as outlined in the Growing and Changing strand unit are not implemented with sufficient regularity. The principal teaches the RSE objectives on sexuality to senior pupils. Busy Bodies, a resource from the Health Services Executive, is utilised to familiarise parents with the content of the RSE programme for the senior classes.

 

3.4 Assessment

The school has a whole-school policy on assessment. There is evidence of regular correction, testing and monitoring of the pupils’ learning in both classrooms. Standardised tests are administered from first to sixth classes in reading and Mathematics. A suitable screening test is administered to senior infants in order to facilitate the identification of learning difficulties. It is recommended that this screening test is administered earlier in the year. An assessment portfolio is maintained for every pupil in the school and includes the results of standardised tests, some samples of written work and some anecdotal notes on progress. End-of-year reports are issued to parents of pupils from third to sixth classes and give good information to the parents about their children’s performance across the curriculum. It is recommended that reports should also be issued to parents in the junior classes and that the results of standardised assessment tests are sent in writing to parents at the end of the school year. The report card templates that have been developed by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) to support primary schools in issuing written reports on pupils’ progress and achievement to parents should prove helpful in this regard. It is also recommended that assessment for learning strategies be further developed to include the use of peer and self assessment.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has a clear policy on special educational needs. A learning-support/resource teacher, based elsewhere, visits the school thrice weekly for a total of five hours per week. She provides support in literacy and numeracy, as required. At present, she works on a one-to-one basis with four pupils. She provides diligent service to the school and maintains useful records for attending pupils. During the evaluation, kind and supportive teaching was observed in the support room. Lessons were implemented effectively using appropriate resources to assist learning. Pupils’ progress is monitored through the administration of some diagnostic tests and a variety of teacher-designed tasks. It is reported that the support teacher meets with parents on a regular basis.

 

In order to facilitate enhanced learning-support/resource provision, it is recommended that the availability and use of diagnostic testing, and information and communications technologies be increased as resources permit. It is also recommended that some in-class support and team-teaching approaches are incorporated. Formal meetings with mainstream teachers which focus on the pupils’ progress in respect of specific learning targets would also be beneficial. Termly learning targets should be shared with parents and pupils as appropriate. Liaison with teacher professional networks through the local education centre would also prove helpful.  

 

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

Teachers are sensitive to any isolated instances of disadvantage and endeavour to be as supportive as possible of pupils who may need additional support. At the end of each year, teachers encourage pupils to pass on textbooks to pupils in lower classes in order to reduce the costs of school books for parents. A small number of newcomer pupils attend the school. These pupils are supported and very well integrated in all activities.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

·         The board is very supportive of the work of the school and, amongst other things, has worked hard to provide high-quality accommodation. The chairperson provides commendable leadership,

      support and guidance to the board and school staff. 

·         The work of the principal is praiseworthy. She is very committed to the pupils and to the school community. Very pleasant relationships have been established between all school partners.

·         Teachers are very open to adopting new practices in teaching and learning. They are conscientious and diligent in their work.

·         Pupils are well managed in an affirming environment. During the evaluation, the pupils presented as good humoured and pleasant and they engaged well in their work.

·         Commendable progress has been made in whole-school organisational and curricular planning.

 

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

·         Ba chóir don scoil bealaí eile a iniúchadh chun eispéireas na ndaltaí i léitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht na Gaeilge a leathnú. The school should explore other ways of broadening pupils’ experiences

      in Irish reading and writing.

·         Some aspects of the learning-support/resource service should be reviewed to enhance further the provision for pupils.

·         It is recommended that the board and teachers ensure that the terms of Primary Circular 07/03, regarding the formal assignation of duties to the special-duties teacher, and Primary Circular 32/03,

      regarding the retention of pupils in the same grade, are fully and consistently implemented.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published October 2009

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

The Board of Management would like to thank the inspector involved for the professional and courteous manner in which the whole school evaluation was carried out. We are particularly pleased that the report affirms the positive work being undertaken in our school and that the professionalism, commitment and dedication of our staff have been recognised. The many strengths identified have been achieved through the commitment and hard work of a range of people including staff, pupils, parents and Board of Management.

.

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

The Board will facilitate in every way possible the recommendations outlined in our W.S.E. report. The Board is aware that a number of recommendations have already been implemented.