An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

 REPORT

 

Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary School

Janesboro

Limerick

Uimhir rolla:17737W

 

Date of inspection:  6 March 2008

 

 

 

 Whole-school evaluation

 Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 


Whole-school evaluation

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary School, Janesboro, Limerick. 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’ association. 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.

 

 

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary School is a nineteen-teacher school situated in the parish of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Janesboro. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Limerick and under the trusteeship of the Presentation Order. There were 217 pupils enrolled in the school on 30 September 2007.

 

The school is part of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity In Schools (DEIS) Initiative (Band 1 – Urban) and it also receives additional resources under the Early Start project, the School Completion Programme and other Department of Education and Science initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage. Our Lady Queen of Peace primary school is also included in the City of Limerick Southside Regeneration Plan. It is a co-educational school from junior infants to first class level, while female pupils only attend from second to sixth class levels, inclusive. This school draws from the immediate catchment area, which includes three local parishes. Pupils from the Travelling community also attend the school. There are no newcomer pupils in the school at present.

 

The school’s Mission Statement refers to the Presentation tradition and the legacy of the foundress, Nano Nagle. The school’s Mission Statement is also reflective of the characteristic spirit and vision of the school. It was evident during the evaluation that there is a general awareness of this aspiration and of the school’s philosophy. A sense of common purpose is also apparent among the school community. This characteristic spirit is outlined in school documentation as follows:

 

‘Reflecting Presentation tradition, we aim to support the development and self-worth of staff, pupils and parents in a happy, integrated and respectful atmosphere, where each child will achieve his/her potential.’

 

Active strategies to encourage regular attendance are undertaken and this feature of good practice is commended. Pupil attendance is well monitored and stable patterns have been established, in general.

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and is supportive of all school-related activities. It convenes at least four times per year and it complies with statutory requirements, departmental guidelines and circulars. It was reported that the school mission statement is reflective of the operation of the entire school community and that the ethos of the Presentation Order reflects the work of the board. Financial matters are managed very effectively, while relevant documentation and records are maintained in a clear and accessible manner. Clear procedures are in place for monthly reporting to the board regarding current expenditure capacity and the extent of daily costs. The school’s financial accounts are certified annually and this feature of good practice is commended.

 

The board reported that it was satisfied with the quality of teaching and learning in the school. The readiness of pupils on transition to post primary school was also highlighted.

 

It is now important to ensure that the board manages the educational provision and standards in the school through overseeing the monitoring, reviewing, planning and tracking of pupil learning outcomes. The provision of a termly report to the board by the principal should also be considered which would advise the board of management on pupil attainment levels, resources and professional development requirements. This would further assist board members in identifying, celebrating, supporting and extending best practice within the school.

 

During the evaluation process, the board reported that the main issues of current concern pertain to the impact of the Limerick Southside Regeneration Plan on the facilities and physical infrastructure of the school, the provision of appropriate training for board of management members and the desire to establish a co-educational setting from second to sixth class levels. It was further outlined that the board plays a collaborative role in the formulation of school planning policies, through discussion, amendment and ratification of documentation. The involvement of parents in the planning process and in the work of the school was emphasised. The board of management also reported that it works proactively with teachers, parents and community partners to shape a common vision for the school.

 

It is recommended that the board now devises a policy on staff rotation which would facilitate the implementation of a rotational teaching policy. In this regard, teachers would have the opportunity to experience a variety of classes and contexts, to optimise their teaching skills and to share expertise at different class levels. This would further ensure that a co-ordinated approach is undertaken to the monitoring of targets and pupil attainment in identified curricular areas throughout the school.

 

It is also recommended that the board of management formulates a long-term strategic development plan for the school. This plan should ensure that the future vision for the school is firmly based on continually improving outcomes for all learners. It should also be ensured that the school’s DEIS action plan becomes the central mechanism for change and that self-evaluation becomes integral to the culture of the school.

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team in Our Lady Queen of Peace primary school comprises the administrative principal, the deputy principal and seven special duties post-holders.

 

As the principal recently assumed leadership of the school in September 2007, he is currently defining and establishing his leadership role in the school.  The principal already manifests a deep knowledge of and interest in the school community. He expresses enthusiasm for initiatives aimed at improving outcomes for pupils and the continued professional development of staff. A broad direction for the work of the school has already been established of which school improvement and working in partnership with all stakeholders are key components.  The principal has developed effective lines of communication and is building on the existing team culture in the school, encouraging members of staff to undertake leadership roles.

 

While the principal has already overseen the continuation of significant school planning activities undertaken by the staff, he should now re-emphasise learning and teaching as the central focus of the school. Fundamentally, the principal needs to give a clear lead to all the partners on the implications of the DEIS action plan for their practice. He should actively support school-based self-evaluation, subsequent action planning and the implementation of plans devised. The evaluation and monitoring of the quality of both planning and outcomes should become central to the principal’s role. He should place a clear emphasis on continuously striving for high standards through professional reflection, mutual challenge and support.  Future direction should be guided by analysis of short-term and medium term outcomes and the principal should continue to identify and to encourage the development of aspects of effective practice.  

 

The impressive and experienced members of the middle management team are committed to fulfilling their responsibilities and have shown exceptional commitment to their tasks. They work well together as a group and are conscious of their leadership responsibilities. Despite the recent review of responsibilities, post-holders, however, are not sufficiently engaged in activities which have a direct bearing on improvement in learning and teaching. Some responsibilities may be too broad or too onerous to have a direct impact. The implementation of the DEIS plan, for example, should be overseen by an active steering committee which would ensure school-wide implementation. It is recommended that the co-ordination of curricular responsibilities would now be extended to include responsibility for overseeing implementation, assessment and review of particular aspects of the curriculum. Post-holders could, in the future, assist in reviewing learning outcomes as detailed in the monthly report (Cuntas Míosúil), co-ordinate assessment measures undertaken by class teachers, tabulate the results of tests administered and, informed by class teachers, draw up a brief annual report on the implementation of the curricular area. This annual report would advise the board of management on attainment levels and on the resources and professional development required for successful ongoing delivery of teaching and learning in the particular area of the curriculum.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The resources, both personnel and material, are employed appropriately in this school. There are nineteen members on the teaching staff. This comprises the administrative principal, eleven mainstream class teachers and five teachers who work in a support capacity. The board of management also facilitated a job-sharing arrangement for two mainstream class teachers during the current 2007-2008 school year. The special needs team consists of four learning support/resource teachers (LSRT), one of whom is shared with another school and a resource teacher for Travellers (RTT). A shared Home-School-Community-Liaison (HSCL) teacher, who is based in this school and a teacher employed to cater for the needs of the pupils in the Early Start initiative also comprise the teaching staff.

 

Five full time special needs assistants are appointed to assist pupils with special educational needs. One part time special needs assistant and one child care assistant cater for the needs of pupils, as appropriate, in the Early Start initiative. There is also a pre-school on the school premises. A secretarial position, which is undertaken between two individuals in a job-sharing capacity, provides valuable administrative support to the principal and the staff. The school grounds, environs and internal accommodation are well-maintained by the caretaking and cleaning personnel.

 

The school enjoys a wide range of resources which is used by teachers and pupils and which is well-maintained and accessible, in general. In most classrooms throughout the school, learning environments are attractively and appropriately organised. At present, the distance between some classrooms and the toilet facilities, however, is a cause for concern. The furniture in some classes at infant level limits the potential for the full implementation of the curriculum and provides little scope for the provision of discrete areas and collaborative activities. Consideration should be given to re-arranging these learning environments to facilitate easy movement and visibility and to further develop interest areas. The provision of more space in some of these classrooms would allow for the further display of children’s project work, ensuring that displays are at children’s eye level, exhibiting information about children’s families, engaging pupils in collaborative/co-operative learning, contributing photos or other materials for display and ensuring that each pupil has some space that is personalised for her/him. Consideration should also be given to developing strategies to ensure the usage of the information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure more centrally in learning throughout the school.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

During the course of the pre-evaluation meeting, the work of the parents’ association was discussed with the members of the inspection team.

 

The parents’ association in this school is not affiliated, at present, with the National Parents’ Council (NPC). It was reported that the parents’ association has recently been re-activated in the school and that it has been instrumental in the organisation of school events, performances and fundraising activities. These activities include a Colours Day, an Easter Parade, a Senior Citizens’ Evening and participation in liturgical events.

 

Meetings of the parents’ association are convened on a weekly basis, while an officer of the parents’ association also attends monthly meetings of the local cluster of parent groups.  The parents’ representatives commented on parental involvement in curricular initiatives including the Shared Reading scheme and the Maths for Fun programme. The parents also participate in the school planning process. Parental input has been invited regarding the formulation and development of school policy on Bullying and Healthy Eating. These features of good practice are commended. The parents’ representatives reported that all parents are very supportive of the work of the school, that parent-teacher meetings are convened on an annual basis and that there is a very high level of parental attendance at these meetings. It was also stated that the teachers are ‘very good…they listen and are approachable’ and that teachers provide support to parents regarding their children’s learning.

 

The parents’ representatives also discussed issues relating to the retention of boys to sixth class level, repairing/replacing the existing toilet facilities and general purposes area. Matters pertaining to the school’s homework club, the Early Start initiative and activities organised by the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) teacher were also discussed during the meeting.

 

It is evident that a close relationship between home and school exists in this school. The strong commitment to the meaningful involvement of the parents in the work of the school results in the school authorities consulting and collaborating with the parents on a regular basis. Both school and parents report a willingness to engage in tasks which are practical and focused in nature and which support the learning experience of pupils. A Parental Involvement Policy is also included in school planning documentation. An action plan for the future where the role of parents as support for the pupils’ learning throughout the entire range of classes would also be of benefit.

 

 

2.5 Management of pupils

The pupils manifest very good attitudes to their school and their work. Parents and pupils are familiar with, and comply with, the orderly schedules that have been put in place for routine activities. Consequently, management of pupils is very good throughout the school. During the inspection process, the pupils displayed courteous, friendly and respectful behaviour. Their behaviour and respect for each other enhances the quality of learning in each classroom. Opportunities for pupils to engage in decision making are enabled through pupils’ engagement in the Green School project.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

The quality of the organisational aspects of whole-school planning is very good, in general. The development of the school planning process is managed collaboratively and it is evident that comprehensive and coherent planning for the organisation of the school has been devised. The school plan includes approximately twenty-four policy statements which deal with specific organisational areas. All policies are reflective of the school context and most plans are signed by the chairperson of the board of management. These features of good practice are commended.

 

Policies for all eleven areas of the curriculum have also been devised. Good curricular plans are formulated in Music, History, Visual Arts, Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), Science, Geography, Physical Education (PE) and Drama. Consideration should now be given to prioritising the review of the curricular policies in English, Gaeilge and Mathematics. It should be ensured that these curricular policies offer clear guidance to teachers in relation to the strands, strand units, objectives and content to be covered at each class level. This practice would ensure that there is continuity, progression, breadth and balance in the programmes provided to the pupils across the curriculum. It is imperative that the precise characteristics of teaching methods which prove to be ineffective with pupils in the school are identified to enable all teachers more rigorously on improving the quality of teaching and learning. An indication of how methodologies, resources and materials might be utilised to ensure that the objectives of the curriculum are achieved by pupils at different class levels should also be included in curricular planning policies. To ensure that key policy decisions are comprehensively addressed in the content of school curricular plans, this content should be informed by a systematic progression through the prompt documentation provided by the school support services.

The board of management, the principal, the teaching staff and the parents have all been engaged to varying degrees in the development of the school plan. Co-ordination of the development of the school plan has been assigned to post-holders. At present, however, the plan is not produced in a format which is accessible by parents and other members of the wider community and it is not clear to what extent stakeholders have acquired a sense of ownership of the plan. Some thought should now be given to the most effective means of disseminating key foci of the school plan particularly, in relation to the school’s curricular plans. It is also important to ensure that all teachers have a copy of the school plan. There is further scope for development of the structures in the school which support the implementation of plans and policies, school self-evaluation and action planning.  In this regard, there is a need, at present, to explicitly reinforce a culture in the school which supports the cyclical process of planning, implementation and review.

 

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

 

3.2 Classroom planning

The quality of classroom planning is good; however, some possibilities for improvement exist. All teachers provide comprehensive long-term and short-term planning, which refers to the principles and structure of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and which guides and informs classroom activity. There is evidence of the thoroughness with which teachers approach planning. In some instances, however, short-term planning would be improved by focusing on a small number of clear objectives.

 

A combined short term and monthly progress record is formulated at present. It is advised that consideration be given to agreeing a practical means of assessing learning outcomes more frequently, through the use of a separate monthly progress record, in both mainstream and support contexts. It is suggested that monthly progress records might now include reflections on the degree of achievement of planned outcomes, particularly in relation to pupil attainment in literacy and numeracy. There is also scope for development in planning for assessment. Greater differentiation in terms of planned outcomes should occur so that teaching is based on pupil needs. This would also ensure that all involved, particularly with those pupils who are underachieving, are clear on the specific outcomes which are being targeted. These agreed approaches should allow for the clarification of specific learning outcomes in the short-term and streamlining the broad learning outcomes in the long-term in relation to each curricular area.

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

Teachers provide motivating learning environments, where a focus on teaching and learning forms an integral part of the day-to-day routine. There is, however, scope for development in the standards reached by the pupils, particularly in relation to literacy and numeracy attainment.

 

Classroom interactions are positive and a good rapport has been established between pupils and teachers in mainstream and support settings. Programme planning caters for individual differences, where a balance of individual, group and whole class activities is provided. To some extent, pupils are involved in decision making within the classroom and in general school activities.  In most classes, classroom practice is developmental, open-ended and incorporates hands-on and real life experiences. Age-appropriate activities are undertaken in the early years and at some class levels, activities are undertaken which actively encourage problem solving and creative thinking skills.

 

During the course of the evaluation, it was evident that pupil application to tasks and behaviour was managed effectively. In general, attractive, well-organised, print-rich learning environments were created, clear lesson structure was observed, there was evidence of effective pacing and development of lessons and pupils were encouraged to work independently. Pupils’ self esteem was promoted so that all children experienced success and knew that their efforts were valued. In some classes, there was an appropriate balance between teacher-directed and the promotion of active discovery and participative methodologies. It is now important to ensure that these features of good practice are extended to all class levels and that a balance in teaching approaches is addressed. Differentiated activities should also be further implemented to ensure that teaching and learning experiences are tailored to individual pupil need, as appropriate. The practice of collaboration between mainstream and support teachers through in-class interventions and models of support should be further extended.

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá cáipéisíocht léirithe sa phlean scoile i leith polasaí na Gaeilge. Bheadh sé den tábhacht anois, áfach, athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an bpolasaí chun cur chuige agus clár teagaisc córasach, céimniúil a chinntiú i snáitheanna éagsúla an churaclaim ar fud na scoile. Bheadh sé den tábhacht chomh maith, spriocanna cinnte foghlama a shonrú ag gach rang leibhéal.

 

Is léir go ndéantar iarrachtaí fiúntacha dearcadh fabhrach don Ghaeilge a chothú sna rangsheomraí agus go bhforbraítear an prionta sa timpeallacht. Léirítear suim, chomh maith ar thionscnaimh bhreise, ar nós Campa Samhraidh, a sholáthar sa scoil.

 

Sna ranganna naíonán agus sna bunranganna, tá caighdeán na múinteoireachta agus na foghlama sa Ghaeilge go han-mhaith i gcomhthéacs na scoile seo. I dteagasc an chomhrá, baintear úsáid thorthúil as ábhar léirithe agus as fearas corpartha chun tuiscint na ndaltaí ar fhoclóir nua a bhunú. Cleachtar gníomhaíochtaí cainte agus obair i bpéirí go héifeachtúil chun an t-ionchur nua teanga a chur abhaile. Bíonn an páiste féin agus a réimse spéise mar thúsphointe ag na múinteoirí agus ábhar an cheachta á roghnú. Cuirtear béim ar thuiscint na bpáistí le gníomhaíochtaí agus le geáitsí nó trí phictiúir a tharraingt agus trí fhreagra a thabhairt. Nuair a bhíonn gníomhaíochtaí cumarsáide ar siúl ag leibhéal na ranganna naíonán agus na mbunranganna, i gcoitinne, imríonn na páistí cluiche cumarsáideach nó glacann said ról i sceitsí nó i suímh ina mbeidh seans acu an teanga a úsáid. Is ina mbeirteanna nó ina ngrúpaí a bhíonn na páistí i gcomhair na gcluichí teanga nó na dtascanna de ghnáth.

Ag leibhéal na méanranganna agus na n-ardranganna, feictear go bhfuil tuiscint chuí ag na daltaí ar an ábhar atá múinte. Is léir freisin, áfach, go bhfuil foclóir na Gaeilge agus scileanna cumarsáide teoranta ina seilbh. Moltar, mar sin, na trí tréimhse cumarsáide a chinntiú i ngach ceacht, deiseanna rialta labhartha a thabhairt do na daltaí agus abairtí iomlána a mhealladh uathu. Is fiú a chinntiú go mbaintear feidhm as éagsúlacht leathan modhanna teagaisc i ngach rang chun scileanna cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt, mar shampla, obair-i-bpéirí, gníomhaíochtaí ról-ghlacaidh agus fearas léirithe spreagúil a thaispeáint. I ranganna áirithe, feictear go mbíonn ceachtanna éifeachtacha agus modheolaíochtaí torthúla á cur-i-bhfeidhm i gcoitinne. Ba chóir a chinntiú freisin go bhfuil cnuasach leathan dánta, filíochta agus amhránaíochta Ghaeilge á foghlaim agus ar eolas ag na daltaí. Is fiú, féachaint, le hábhair eile an churaclaim a mhúineadh trí mhéan na Gaeilge.

 

Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar mhéan teagaisc i rith na geachtanna sa Ghaeilge, i gcoitinne. Ba chóir go gcloítear le húsáid na Gaeilge i ngach rang, áfach agus go seachnaítear modh an aistriúcháin go Béarla chun nathanna agus ábhar a mhíniú i rith na gceachtanna i ranganna áirithe. Ba chóir a chinntiú, freisin, go ndéantar daingniú agus dul siar rialta ar ábhar atá múinte agus foghlamtha cheana féin ag na daltaí.

 

Sa léitheoireacht, ba chóir aird a dhíriú ar scileanna léitheoireachta na ndaltaí a chur chun cinn agus a leathnú go foirmiuil sna méanranganna agus sna hardranganna, trí straitéisí focal-bhriseadh a chur chun cinn, anailís a dhéanamh ar fhocail agus scileanna fóineolaíochta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Sa scríbhneoireacht, is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois ar bhéim níos treise a chur ar chineálacha éagsúla scríbhneoireachta a leathnú tríd an scoil, ar an bpróiseas scríbhneoireachta a chur chun cinn agus ar an scríbhneoireacht phearsanta agus chruthaitheach a fhorbairt. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh freisin ar úsáid níos forleithne a bhaint as áiseanna an ríomhaire chun saothar scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge a fhoilsiú agus a thaispeáint.

 

Irish

Documentation in relation to the curricular policy in Irish is presented in the school plan. It is now important to review this policy, however, to ensure that a systematic and progressive programme is addressed in the various curricular strands throughout the school. It is also important to detail the specific learning targets for each class level.

 

It is evident that worthwhile efforts are made to establish a positive attitude towards Irish in classrooms and to develop a print rich environment. Interest is also shown in providing curricular initiatives in the school, such as the Summer Camp through Irish.

 

In the infant and junior classes, the quality of teaching and learning in Irish is very good, in the context of this school. In conversational instruction, productive use is made of illustrative material and concrete resources to establish pupils’ understanding of new vocabulary. Oral activities and pair work are practised effectively to reinforce new language inputs. The individual child and her/his interest level act as the teaching stimulus for the selection of the lesson topic. Emphasis is placed on pupil comprehension through the provision of activities and actions, through drawing a picture or through the provision of a response. When communicative activities are addressed in the infant and junior classes, the pupils play a communicative game or they participate in sketches or situations where the opportunity for language use is provided. These language games and tasks are generally undertaken in pairs or in groups.

 

At middle and senior class level, it is evident that pupils have an appropriate understanding of the subject matter that has been taught. It is also apparent, however, that they possess limited vocabulary and restricted communication skills in Irish. It is recommended, therefore, that the three phases of communication are ensured in every lesson, that frequent opportunities for oral work practice are provided for the pupils and that full sentences are encouraged. It is also worthwhile ensuring that a wide range of methodologies is employed in every class to develop pupils’ communication skills, such as pair work, role-play activities and the presentation of attractive illustrative material. In some classes, it is evident that effective lessons and productive methodologies are implemented in general. It should also be ensured that a wide repertoire of rhymes, poems and songs is learned and that these are known by the pupils. It is also worthwhile giving consideration to teaching other curricular areas through the medium of Irish.

 

Irish is used as the medium of instruction during lessons in Irish, in general. It should be ensured that Irish is used in every class as the medium of instruction and that translation into English is avoided as a means to explain phrases and material during lessons in some classes. It should also be ensured that regular reinforcement and revision of topics taught and learned by the pupils is undertaken.

 

In reading, attention should be directed at developing and expanding pupils’ reading skills in a formal manner at middle and senior class level, through the promotion of word-attack and word analysis strategies and through developing pupils’ phonological skills. In writing, a stronger emphasis should be placed on extending a variety of writing genres throughout the school, on promoting the writing process and on the development of personal and creative writing. Greater use could also be made of computer resources to publish and display pupils’ written work in Irish.

 

English

The current school plan for English, which shows evidence of a great deal of hard work on the part of a small number of individuals, was drawn up in the current school year as a result of the identified need to revise the previous school plan. Strengths of the current plan include the identification of the language needs of the children, the identification of broad methodologies to support oral work, reading and writing.  The plan includes a phonic programme, policies on the teaching of reading, spelling, grammar and poetry as well as a comprehensive audit of resources existing in the school. A weakness of the present plan is that it does not reflect all of the structure of the primary curriculum in English.

 

Whereas oral work, reading and writing are dealt with in broad terms, there is no in-depth analysis of how the four strand units will be implemented in teaching and learning in the school. Considering the fundamental relationship between language development and progression in thinking skills, a particular omission which should be rectified without delay is the absence of in-depth treatment of the strand unit ‘developing cognitive abilities through language.’ Aspects of the teaching of English which are not dealt with in detail in the present plan are identification of the school’s approach to the teaching of language in the early years, particularly in regard to the curriculum’s emphasis on support for the emergent reader. Considering that the school has identified that a key priority is the intention to ensure improvements in standards of literacy, it is recommended that a systematic review of the present plan should now occur. The trigger questions provided in the support services’ prompt documentation will spark debate which will result in policy formulation on wide-ranging aspects of English. A strategy should be adopted whereby every member of staff is enabled to become involved in this exercise.

 

There are sections of the current plan which do not constitute policy statements and would more appropriately be placed in a teaching resource file. A major expansion of the section on assessment in English should now be facilitated.

 

There is evidence of disappointing results in pupils’ literacy attainment; therefore, a sustained focus should now be placed on raising pupil attainment in literacy throughout the school.

 

While the teachers of classes in the early years are aware of the need to develop the children’s general language ability as a basis for success in literacy and while there is also a general consciousness and focus on the development of the children’s emotional and imaginative lives through oral language, there is a need now to clarify and focus on specific outcomes and to explicitly extend the children’s thinking skills through talk and discussion,  In the early years, every opportunity should be availed of to organise frequent one to one adult/child and adult/small group interaction to facilitate sustained shared thinking.  Similarly throughout the school, every effort should be made to reduce excessive levels of teacher talk and to place greater emphasis on planning for and monitoring the specific outcomes in oral language for each class. This would facilitate more opportunities for pupils to express themselves and would allow for close observation of their responses. In the senior classes, pupils of similar oral ability could be afforded opportunities to work together more frequently. Good attention is paid to poetry and Drama is well integrated into oral language activities.

 

Despite the fact that the school’s approach to emergent reading is not detailed in the school plan, some very good practice in the teaching and learning of reading in English was observed in the early years’ settings in the school. Teachers’ strengths include the variety of approaches they adopt to develop literacy skills. Excellent approaches to introducing and developing concepts of print were observed. Much engagement with language experience materials, collaborative reading of large-format books, shared reading of books and browsing library books was also observed. The resources provided by parents to expand the imaginative development of children in the Early Start programme were particularly impressive and this imaginative approach should be further extended throughout the school.

 

The school should now clarify explicitly its approach to reading in Junior Infants which, by and large, should not involve formal reading of textbooks. A good selection of reading material has been made available throughout the school and there was ample evidence that the pupils are reading this material. Excessive amounts of time were spent on reading aloud in senior classes, however, and there is a need now to maximise teaching time through skilful differentiation and to record a policy in respect of “round robin” reading  in the school plan. Good questioning in terms of the plot, characters and predictions pertaining to the reading material was observed. Consideration should now be given to the creation of more meaningful reading corners in classrooms to further develop positive attitudes towards reading. It should also be ensured that more active responses from pupils regarding their reading experience in whole class, pair and group settings be facilitated and that the greater inclusion of pupils with special educational needs be sought during activities in reading.

 

In infant and junior classes, pupils were being enabled to write on a developmental continuum, varying through scribbles, drawings, labels, to the writing of full sentences. In practice, it is evident that the writing process is effectively scaffolded by the teachers. Some good examples of process writing were in evidence at middle and senior class level, where pupils were provided with opportunities to write about topics appropriate to their interest level. Further assistance should now be given to pupils to construct the beginning, development and conclusion of writing tasks, in some classes. While examples of good handwriting were observed, further consistency regarding the quality and standard of pupils’ handwriting skills should now be agreed and established. Greater attention should also be directed at developing grammar and spelling skills as part of functional writing assignments. Consideration could also be given to further utilising the school’s ICT resources to enhance the writing process and to assist in the display of pupils’ written work.

 

4.3 Mathematics

The work undertaken in formulating a curricular policy in Mathematics is acknowledged. It is now recommended, however, that the school’s curricular policy in Mathematics be reviewed to include a comprehensive and progressive programme of learning in each strand pertaining to all class levels in the school.

 

There is evidence of very disappointing pupil attainment in numeracy; therefore, a sustained focus should now be placed on raising pupil attainment in numeracy throughout the school. It should be ensured that the results of assessment tests continue to be used to inform the implementation of differentiated activities in all classes, which are matched to pupil need and ability, as appropriate. It should also be ensured that benchmarks and expected learning outcomes in relation to pupil attainment are delineated at each class level in the curricular policy for Mathematics. This would assist in facilitating a comprehensive assessment of expected pupil achievement and learning outcomes in numeracy throughout the school.

 

In classes where good practice in relation to the teaching of Mathematics was observed, concrete and structured materials were used productively, activities were differentiated as appropriate to pupil ability and class level, while hands-on/active learning strategies were also promoted. Suitable emphasis was also placed on the acquisition of number concepts. It is now important to ensure that, in all classes, further emphasis is placed on expanding pupils’ problem-solving and higher-order thinking skills and on the development of mathematical language. It should also be ensured that oral maths activities are undertaken on a daily basis, that opportunities are provided for pupils to work collaboratively and that all pupils are enabled to work with concrete materials. The practice of providing an in-class model of support, through collaboration between mainstream and support teachers, to address identified needs at some class levels, is commended. It is advised that this feature of good practice be further extended throughout the school. In general, good presentation in pupils’ written assignments in copybooks was evident.

 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

A good, clear, comprehensive plan is presented, pertaining to the school’s curricular policy in History, which is specific to the school context. Emphasis is placed on local studies, the history of the immediate locality, neighbouring parishes and the city. Personal, family, national and world history projects are emphasised, while skills development and equality of participation and access are also highlighted.

 

During the course of the evaluation, good lessons were observed in History. Pupils were enabled to work collaboratively and good outcomes regarding this work were evident. There was also evidence of good pupil response and knowledge of work covered regarding topics of historical interest. In some classrooms, timelines are displayed, there is effective use made of ICT to present material during lessons and linkage with curricular areas of Geography and Visual Arts is also evident. Pupil learning is productively recorded in copybooks, project work, wall displays and scrapbooks, as appropriate.

 

Geography

In Geography, interesting topic selection, the provision of a wide range of relevant resources and a strong commitment to local geography are key elements of the successful teaching observed in this curricular area. Active learning is promoted in most classes and pupils’ engagement with the topics presented is good. In order to ensure the effective development of the skills of the geographer, pupils should also be afforded sufficient time, space and opportunity to participate in independent learning opportunities. Opportunites are provided for pupils to undertake collaborative work in an productive manner, both in pairs and in groups. In order to maximise the benefit of these strategies, it is important to allow the assessment of the learning to take a more central role in the pupils’ experience of this subject area. It should also be ensured that the grouping of pupils is constructed more deliberately. Resources are effectively employed and activities are well managed.

Science

A clear, comprehensive policy has been devised in relation to the curricular area of Science, where an overview of the work to be undertaken throughout the school is presented in a clear manner. Where the teaching of Science was observed during this evaluation, there was evidence of experimentation based on the strands and strand units of the curriculum. Integration with other curricular areas was also a feature of some lessons. A variety of methodologies was implemented in most classes which focused on the development of process skills, collaborative work, project work, use of the local environment and participation in discovery learning activities. It is important to ensure that in all classes, effective classroom management routines and procedures are in place to facilitate pupils’ regular engagement with discovery learning, hands-on activities and collaborative work.  While resources which have been purchased to support this area of the curriculum are utilised productively, it is advised that the further development of investigation/nature tables be ensured in all classrooms.

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

A good curricular policy is presented in the school plan, which outlines a comprehensive programme of work and which details pupils’ learning objectives in relation to Visual Arts. The learning experiences outlined in this policy are directed towards the provision of a broad programme of work for each class level across the six curricular strands.

 

In the lessons observed during classroom observations, there was evidence of a good balance between making art and looking at and responding to art, while good ‘talk-and discussion’ activities were also undertaken. Procedures were clearly explained and modelled, as appropriate and resources were also skilfully used. Cross-curricular work was undertaken and emphasis was placed on pupil enjoyment and the development of appropriate processes. Attractive displays of pupil work are presented in classrooms and in the school’s public areas. It is evident that pupil effort is celebrated and that work undertaken in a variety of strands is displayed. Consideration should now be given to the creation of digital portfolios, which would assist in maintaining an incremental and photographic record of pupil work.

Music

A very good, clear policy pertaining to Music is outlined in school planning documentation, where expected learning outcomes are detailed in accordance with the relevant strand/strand unit at each class level.

 

In lessons observed, performance, composition, listening, responding and music appreciation activities were developed. Aspects of music literacy including rhythm, notation, beat, pitch were also explored. In some classes, pupils were afforded opportunities of working with a variety of resources, including percussion instruments. It is now important to ensure that pupils know and have the ability to sing a broad repertoire of songs in Irish and English at each class level. Pupils at middle class level are afforded the opportunity of availing of musical tuition on a weekly basis, where instruction in tin whistle is provided under the direct supervision of the mainstream class teacher. Teacher competence in instrumental skills is acknowledged and the sharing of teacher expertise in this regard is recommended. While the school choir is at an early stage of development, the investment of teachers’ time and effort in this activity is affirmed.

 

Drama

A policy pertaining to the curricular area of Drama has been formulated for inclusion in the school plan. The quality of teaching and learning in Drama is very good. During the course of the evaluation, teachers displayed a very strong commitment to the dramatic process. This commitment was further evident in the comprehension, engagement and achievement levels of the pupils. Relevant and developmental themes were chosen for exploration and cross-curricular work was undertaken effectively. Assessment of the processes engaged in planning and expediting the dramatic activity is commended. It is advised that teachers now give consideration to the creation of a permanent space in the classrooms for work in the area of Drama and for the implementation of non desk-bound activities.

 

4.6 Physical Education

The quality of the learning experience for the pupils in Physical Education (PE) is good. The teachers have embraced the principles of the Primary School Curriculum, 1999 competently and enthusiastically. Teacher knowledge of the skill to be developed is good and it is evident that they engage with the activities presented. A good balance between the competitive and participative elements of the programme has been established. This work is supported by the provision of carefully maintained equipment. The school has a wide range of PE resources which is manipulated appropriately and safely. High standards of attainment are in evidence, while activities in hurling, camogie, football, swimming, dancing, athletics, basketball and swimming are all facilitated during the school year for appropriate age groups. Innovative and enjoyable drills which encourage active pupil participation are predominant features of lessons in this area of the curriculum.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

A curricular policy in Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is included in school planning documentation. The school’s mission statement and characteristic spirit also outlines the school’s philosophy in this regard. It is evident that there is a good commitment to the development of a positive school climate and to the promotion of respect for all.  School planning documentation and policies are also presented in the areas of. Child Protection; Pastoral Care; School Discipline; Anti-Bullying; Health and Safety; Substance Control; Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE); Sexual Harassment; Healthy Eating; Smoke-Free Policy; Special Needs Assistants; Supervision; HSCL Plan; Parental Involvement and the Administration of Medicines.

 

Standards of learning and teaching in Social Personal and Health Education are good. It is evident that pupils display a willingness to engage with the topics selected in activities relating to the RSE, Walk Tall and Stay Safe programmes. Consideration should now be given to the development of a student council which would further enhance pupil involvement in school activities.

 

4.8 Assessment

A detailed, comprehensive and very well presented policy on assessment is included in school planning documentation. The responsibilities of teachers are identified at all class levels and a range of assessment strategies is in evidence. It is now important to ensure that informal assessment procedures, in particular teacher observation strategies, are focused on the development of particular pupil skills and competencies.  Formal assessment procedures are undertaken in mainstream and support settings, through the use of standardised and diagnostic tests. These are clearly detailed in the school’s policy on assessment.

 

Consideration should now be given to agreeing a practical means of assessing learning outcomes on a more regular basis in both mainstream and support contexts, so that clarity on the specific outcomes being targeted is ensured. An evaluative commentary could also be provided on the degree of achievement of planned outcomes, particularly in relation to pupil attainment in literacy and numeracy.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of the Special Needs (Learning Support/Resource)Policy is very good. The staged approach is outlined which refers to the range of tests used to identify the needs of each pupil. The inclusion of parents’ central role in the planning process is also commended.

 

The support teaching team in this school consists of four learning support/resource teachers (LSRT), one of whom is shared with another school and a resource teacher for Travellers (RTT). A shared Home-School-Community-Liaison (HSCL) teacher is also based in this school. Five full-time and one part-time special needs assistants are also employed and their work is undertaken in a diligent and sensitive manner.

The quality of the support provision for pupils with special educational needs is very good. It is evident that the school takes great care with its work in this area. Pupils are dealt with sensitively and clear, focused and detailed programmes of work are prepared. The learning environments are well-equipped and it is evident that pupils are comfortable in these support settings. Positive teacher-pupil interactions are addressed and good teacher communication is also ensured. There is good use of teacher affirmation and encouragement, while favourable classroom atmospheres also prevail. Resources are plentiful, relevant and easily manipulated by the pupils. Well-structured teaching and learning activities were observed during the evaluation.

 

Pupils are withdrawn individually and in groups, where appropriate, and the development of literacy, language, Mathematics, social, behavioural and life skills is addressed. A variety of appropriate initiatives including Reading Recovery, Maths Recovery and Maths for Fun are implemented, while early intervention programmes and in-class support provision are also addressed. Regular communication with parents is reported, parental involvement in curricular initiatives is encouraged and individual education plans take parental contribution to pupil progress into account. These features of good practice are commended.

 

It is now important to ensure that the progress of pupils in receipt of support teaching provision is recorded on a more regular and short term basis. The practice of collaboration between mainstream and support teachers through in-class interventions and models of support should also be further extended.

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

Efforts are made to ensure that the education provision in this school is tailored appropriately to all pupils’ needs and abilities. It is evident that strategies are undertaken which aim to facilitate the full inclusion of all pupils. This is manifested through the implementation of special initiatives, through the establishment of parental and community liaisons and through contact with and referral to support agencies, as appropriate.

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

          There is a diligent, committed and skilful teaching staff in this school.

          The principal displays good organisational skills, support for the ethos of the school and also the potential to lead improvement.

          A collaborative work ethic has been established among staff members.

          Concern for the welfare of the pupils is displayed by all staff members.

          There are good levels of pupil behaviour.

          The Trustees of the school, the Presentation Order, provide continued support to the school.

          There is a high level of support given to the school by a proactive board of management.

          The quality of whole-school planning documentation is good.

          There is evidence of local community and parental involvement in and contribution to the work of the school.

          There is a sense of a shared vision for the school, which is apparent among the members of the general school community.

 

 

 

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

 

It is recommended that the board of management:

formulates a long-term strategic development plan which would:

ensure that the future vision for the school is firmly based on continually improving outcomes for all learners

ensure that the DEIS action plan becomes the central mechanism for change;

manage the educational provision and standards in the school;

monitor, review, plan, track learning outcomes;

ensure that self-evaluation becomes integral to the culture of the school;

devises a policy on staff rotation/a policy on the sharing of teacher expertise:

to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the monitoring of targets and pupil attainment in identified curricular areas throughout the school;

to implement a rotational teaching policy, so that teachers would have the opportunity to experience a variety of classes and contexts and to share expertise at different

class levels.

 

It is recommended that the principal:

provides a termly report on the work of the school, which would advise the board of management on attainment levels, resources and professional development

requirements and which would also assist in identifying, celebrating, supporting and extending best practice.

 

It is recommended that the in-school management team:

forms a Steering Committee to ensure school-wide implementation of the DEIS plan, co-opting additional members, as appropriate.

 

It is recommended that the teaching staff:

clarifies specific learning targets in short term planning, differentiates methodologies and prioritises formative assessment as an integral component of teaching and learning.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published November 2008