An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Naomh Bhríde

Carns, Moneygold, County Sligo

Uimhir rolla: 17725P

 

Date of inspection: 6 November 2009

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Naomh Bhríde was undertaken in November, 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, Mathematics and History.

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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Naomh Bhríde is a rural two-teacher school, situated north of the village of Grange, in county Sligo. The school provides extra-curricular and co-curricular activities in a range of areas. Each child is taught to play a musical instrument and all pupils partake in the bi-annual school musical. The senior pupils perform an Irish drama and take part in Coirm, a competition that requires pupils to have competency in spoken Irish. The school has invested in information and communication technology (ICT) and uses it effectively. The school is one of a small number of Irish primary schools that records earthquakes on a seismometer as part of the Seismology in Schools programme. The pupils participate in Cumann na mBunscol competitions and other sports programmes and in KidsOwn, an arts scheme funded through the Arts Council and Sligo education centre. A refurbishment and extension of the school was completed in 2008.

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation.

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

       33

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special-needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Scoil Naomh Bhríde is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Elphin. The school community works collaboratively to promote the welfare of all of its pupils. Learning is context-based and learner-centred. Teachers encourage participation and enjoyment in the pupils’ learning.

 

1.2 Board of management

The school is led by a dynamic, progressive and highly effective board of management. The board sanctioned the purchase in 2006 of resources for all curricular areas. The board members are committed to continuous improvement in teaching and learning. They are to be congratulated on the recent refurbishment and extension of the school, a project that required a significant investment of time and effort by board members. The board of management provides effective leadership for the school community and there is good communication among the various stakeholders. The chairperson provides very good pastoral support for the school.

 

1.3 In-school management

The school is led by a proficient and incisive principal, who was appointed to the post in 2006. Her teaching colleague, who commenced in her post in 2007, fulfils her duties willingly and undertook the role of acting principal competently last year during the principal’s absence. Their complementary skills and their productivity are worthy of commendation. They manage their duties with care and commitment. The school secretary makes an important contribution to the work of the school. She is presently participating in a web-design course with a view to establishing a school website later in the academic year.

 

1.4 Management of resources

The school building comprises three classrooms. Two of these are used as mainstream classrooms. The third room is used for the provision of learning support, as well as being the location for the school’s computer equipment and other resources. The school also has a small staff room, office, teachers’ toilet and pupils’ toilets. Available space is very well used. The school has a good recreation area, including an outdoor shelter, which is used regularly by the pupils. A field to the rear of the school has been developed by the board of management for use as a play area. Overall, the school is very well resourced. Resources are stored efficiently and accessed easily. The school’s equipment includes interactive whiteboards as well as a collection of more common resources to support learning in the various subject areas.

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

There is evidence of effective communication within the school community. Parents have been very actively involved in many fundraising activities. They assist with the organisation and management of the school’s sports day and various extra-curricular activities. The parents’ association has been established and is due to be affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (Primary) shortly. Annual parent-teacher meetings take place and other meetings are facilitated when requested.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

The pupils behave in a respectful manner towards each other, towards their teachers and towards visitors. They are enthusiastic, eager and interested in their learning. Yard supervision is managed appropriately.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1  Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. There has been considerable effort and time invested by the staff and board of management in policy formation since the appointment of the current principal teacher. The entire range of organisational and curricular policies have been formulated, discussed and ratified. These policies are practical, vital and relevant. However, some modifications are required in a number of policies. It is recommended that the staff’s planning priorities be documented in the form of a written strategic plan. It is also recommended that the staff formulate an assessment and record-keeping policy that reflects the very good practice that exists in the school.

 

The English curricular policy outlines clearly the programme of work in areas such as grammar, punctuation and poetry. The spelling programme requires some modification to reflect the changes in practice to meet the needs of the pupils. The policy in Mathematics gives a clear outline of the programme for each class level and the work to date is commendable. However, it is recommended that the staff review this policy to include its present priorities and plan for problem solving, linkage, mathematical language and more pair work. The policy in History is very good as it outlines the programme of work, which is taught over a two year cycle. It makes commendable provision for integration and the use of areas of historical interest in the locality.

 

The quality of classroom planning is very good. Both teachers use a common template and provide a broad and balanced programme of work for their pupils. They plan for a variety of teaching methods, a diverse range of learning experiences, and effective integration, differentiation and assessment. They also make very good use of available resources.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 English

English is taught very well. There is a clear focus on the teaching of oral language and the development of vocabulary within the school. The staff has secured resources to support oral-language development and is continuing to augment them. It is recommended that the school, in collaboration with the parents place further emphasis on the development of listening skills as part of the school’s oral-language programme. Poetry is well developed. Pupils engage enthusiastically with the poems presented and are given good opportunities to discuss, and respond to the poems. Drama is promoted through the staging of school musicals and concerts.

 

The pupils engage in silent reading at school and shared reading at home. Large-format books are used effectively in the junior classes. However, the school needs to increase its stock of such books.  Reading is well taught by both teachers. They consolidate the learning of new words through games, vocabulary exercises and revision activities. The novel is taught in an integrated manner in the senior classes. Phonics is taught successfully in the junior classes. The phonological awareness training (PAT) programme has been implemented successfully. There has been a strong emphasis on the development of the school’s spelling programme which is commendable. Considerable investment in graded reading materials has proven worthwhile in supporting literacy development. Consideration should be given to using paired reading as a further reading strategy as was discussed at the post evaluation meeting. The school is commended on the large range of materials purchased to improve comprehension skills.

 

The quality of teaching in process writing is very good. The pupils are receiving very good direction from their teachers in the creative-writing process. It is recommended that the school participates in initiatives such as the Write-a- Book project and the Pushkin project in the future to give the pupils a wider audience for their writing. Cursive writing commences in third class. Consideration should be given to beginning this process earlier. It is recommended that the pupils’ attention to neatness and presentation be developed further.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Commendable teaching was observed in both classrooms. The teachers made very good use of the interactive whiteboard and ensured understanding of the concepts prior to proceeding with the lessons. The pupils in the senior room maintain a mathematics journal. Very good use of concrete materials and activities was evident in the lessons observed and there was also very good development of mathematical language. The school environment was used effectively in both lessons and it is recommended that this be developed further through the use of mathematical trails. Tables are taught consistently. There is a very good degree of understanding and accuracy evident in the pupils’ written work in Mathematics. It is recommended, however, that the pupils be given more time to verbalise the written problems and discuss the strategies used to solve them. The staff has identified problem solving as an area for development and has recently invested in materials to support this work.

 

3.3 History

There is very good breadth and balance in the History programme delivered. It is evident that there is very good integration of History with Irish traditional music, Geography, Irish and English. A wide variety of methodologies is employed regularly in the teaching and learning of the subject. The pupils’ investigative ability and related historical skills are addressed in a developmental manner. There is very good used of ICT in the teaching of History. The teachers use the interactive whiteboard effectively and the pupils use computers appropriately when engaging in project works. The pupils are enabled to use PowerPoint to present their projects to the class, which is to be commended. A wide range of resources are used creatively to stimulate interest in the topics under discussion. A number of speakers have visited the school and accompanied the pupils on school trips. The pupils can recall their many visits to places of historical interest locally. Pupils in the infant classes are assessed in their learning of story through cut and paste exercises while pupils in the middle classes are assessed in their knowledge of chronology through the formulation of timelines.

 

3.4 Assessment

A range of assessment modes is employed successfully throughout the school. Standardised testing in both Mathematics and English commenced in 2006 and very good records are maintained. The Sigma-T, Micra-T, Drumcondra Primary Reading Test and the Drumcondra Spelling Test are all conducted annually from first class to sixth class. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to pupils in senior infants. It is recommended that this test be used in the second term as this will allow time for the learning-support teacher to implement the Forward Together programme before the end of the school year. Work samples, test results, and checklists are all carefully maintained. Copies and workbooks are monitored regularly. The quality of record keeping is very good. A written school report on the work of each child is sent to parents annually.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The learning support policy is very well formulated and it reflects the current practice within the school. The pupils benefit from short, fruitful sessions for which they are withdrawn from their mainstream class. The pupils are making progress in accordance with their abilities. The support teachers focus on comprehension skills, the development of oral language, vocabulary development and literacy skills. A variety of strategies, games and resources is used successfully during these sessions. The teachers are conscientious and dedicated. Lessons are of a high quality as the teachers are specific in their targets, realistic in their goals and ensure that each session is relevant to the needs of the pupils. The strengths of the support are the very good liaison between the mainstream-class teachers and the support personnel and the level of available resources to support teaching and learning.  The quality of the teaching observed is very good. 

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published May 2010