An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

                                                                                             Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Mhuire

Baile An Chollaigh, Co. Chorcaí

Uimhir rolla: 17755B

 

Date of inspection:  7 April 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report was written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Mhuire, Baile an Chollaigh, Co Chorcaí. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for its further development. 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

 

Scoil Mhuire, Baile an Chollaigh is a twenty two teacher Catholic all girls’ primary school under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Cork and Ross. The school catchment area is the parish of Ballincollig and its environs and there are 397 children enrolled. Eighty four international students, representing twenty percent of the school population, bring an obvious cultural diversity to this school.

 

School admission and enrolment policies are guided by the principles of inclusiveness, equality of access, parental choice and cultural diversity. The characteristic spirit of the school is exemplified by a positive and inclusive atmosphere and by the high quality of relationships which permeate the general school environment.

 

This school is situated in an area which is experiencing a growth phase due to its proximity to Cork city. The board of management is currently engaged in appropriate policy development, re-evaluation of current practices and resource reallocation in order to cater for changed patterns of enrolment and the increased numbers of new pupils.

 

Patterns of attendance in Scoil Mhuire are stable and the board places a high value on and actively encourages and celebrates attendance, as an important cornerstone of a good education.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

The board of management of Scoil Mhuire is properly constituted and provides strong and very effective leadership to the school. The commitment of individual board members is praiseworthy and they provide a broad range of professional expertise and experience. Continuity, consistency and coherence relating to agreed school objectives are very apparent across the broad range of board activity.

 

The board has an effective chairperson whose experience, vision and commitment provides an appropriate guide to the work generally. Meetings are held at regular six weekly intervals and in response to unexpected or unplanned matters which may arise.  All school policies are ratified by the board and reviewed at appropriate intervals as evidenced in the strategic plan set out for Scoil Mhuire. Minutes are recorded and compliance with DES regulations and with relevant legislation is given due priority. The board manages school finances in an efficient manner and a financial report is presented at each board meeting. School accounts are certified professionally. A commitment to partnership underpins the work of this very effective school board and their efficiency is evident from the manner in which the infrastructural needs and the resource requirements of the school and of individual pupils are attended to. Clear lines of communication are in place between the board and the wider school community and the board encourages and supports, where possible, the appropriate professional development of all staff members.

 

Scoil Mhuire is a well resourced, well ordered and secure educational facility providing a very appropriate context for learning within the school community it serves. The broad vision of the board and the clear commitment of its members provide clarity of purpose to all aspects of the work of this effective school board of management. In this context the board’s willingness to be guided by departmental publications such as Looking At Our School is to be commended.

 

Curriculum provision in Scoil Mhuire is in line with the stated learning objectives of the revised curriculum for primary schools and relevant pastoral care practices and special needs provision are provided in response to the needs of individual pupils and the school community, where possible. The establishment of a school web site was recommended during the post-evaluation meetings as a means of further developing these commendable practices.

 

 

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The significant professional contribution of the Principal of Scoil Mhuire is evident in the culture of the school which embraces whole-school planning as a cornerstone of effective teaching and learning. In addition, the Principal plays an appropriate role in the development of an inclusive and democratic school community by carefully monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of learning in all curricular areas and by appropriately supporting staff members to reach best practice in teaching and learning. All staff members are fully cognisant of their professional responsibilities and successfully work together to achieve optimum levels of educational attainment for all of the pupils in their care. The deployment of support staff is subject to annual review and current arrangements for special needs provision involve an appropriate mix of in-class and withdrawal assistance. The terms of Circular 20/2007 were discussed in this context during the evaluation.

 

The contribution of the in-school management team is also a very positive factor in the successful running of Scoil Mhuire where effective delegation and distributed leadership is evident. Posts of responsibility are developed and reviewed in line with school needs and all post holders contribute to the effective management of the curricular, pastoral and administrative challenges of the school. Clear lines of communication exist and information is disseminated efficiently and effectively through a variety of channels.

 

The practice of monthly in-school management meetings, outside of school hours, by the senior and middle management teams is testament to the commitment of the individual staff members involved and, a significant factor in the successful management of the school, as a whole.

 

 

 

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

The teaching staff of Scoil Mhuire comprises twenty two teachers. Two staff members are deployed as full time learning support teachers and three language teaching posts are currently in existence. Classes are allocated in the best interest of the pupils and their welfare and educational needs take precedence over all other considerations. A degree of flexibility pertains with regard to class allocation practices and individual requests are considered, where possible, in this regard. Recent staff changes have provided ample opportunity to re-evaluate class allocation practices and the range and quality of professional experiences of many staff members have been improved as a result.

 

One full-time as well as a part-time Special Needs Assistant  have been appointed in Scoil Mhuire to assist pupils with special educational needs. They provide appropriate and effective supports where required. One full time secretary and one part time secretary provide high quality administrative support to the principal and staff. One full time caretaker maintains the school grounds and buildings to a very high standard and two part time cleaners effectively maintain a very high level of care and hygiene in the school building.

 

There is a central school library in Scoil Mhuire with an adequate range of reading material and reference books. This is timetabled and used to good effect throughout the school. The school has a computer room with 20 computers which is used by all classes on a regular basis and each classroom and teaching support areas are equipped with computers. An indoor hall is available for use when required.

 

There is a comprehensive range of teaching support material across all curricular areas available in Scoil Mhuire. These materials are managed well, used efficiently in support of teaching and learning and added to when necessary.

 

Outdoor recreational facilities in Scoil Mhuire include well maintained, secure playing areas and a basketball court. All surfaces are maintained to a high standard in line with Health & Safety regulations which are afforded due priority by the board, principal and staff.

 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

Relationships with the local community and the parents are exemplary and commendable strategies are in place to promote positive such relationships. Parents are informed regularly with regard to the academic, social, emotional and physical development of their children. The parents’ association is an important source of financial support to the school in relation to the provision of relevant resources and this strong school community link is a model of good practice with regard to effective parental involvement.

  

Parents are encouraged to be actively involved in the education of their children. In this regard the school management and staff acknowledge and support the rights of the parents as the primary educators of their children. Parents, in turn, value the school and the representatives of the parents’ association expressed high levels of satisfaction with educational provision, pastoral care and the openness and inclusiveness which are hallmarks of Scoil Mhuire activities

 

 

 

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

The exemplary behaviour of the pupils at all levels within the school is a feature of  Scoil Mhuire. A calm and positive working atmosphere permeates the school environment and good behaviour, mutual respect and diligence of application were evident in every classroom. The professionalism of the staff contributes significantly to this environment of relaxed alertness where challenging learning tasks are possible in low stress, busy working situations.

 

There is a clear focus on teaching and learning in Scoil Mhuire and the high expectations of teachers with regard to pupil achievement has been an important contributory factor in the creation of an inclusive, learning culture which addresses the individual needs of pupils to good effect. 

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

The school has formulated a comprehensive range of curricular and organisational plans which have been developed in line with official regulations and guidelines. These have been designed collaboratively and are subject to review at regular intervals. Planning is an ongoing process in the school and a strategic plan has been developed which identifies priorities, implements, reviews and monitors all aspects of the school planning process.

 

Curricular and organisational plans are of a high quality and ensure continuity and progression of learning throughout the school. They are comprehensive, relevant, informative and give excellent guidance to the individual teacher in a personal planning context. Roles and responsibilities are identified, priorities and procedures are clarified, resources are listed and clear evidence of decision making and collaboration is apparent from the planning process within the school. The impact of good planning, review and evaluation is particularly evident in the area of special needs education. Advice was provided during the post-evaluation meetings regarding the further up-skilling of staff in the context of continuous professional development.

 

Conscientious planning and preparation were evident in the work of individual teachers throughout the school and schemes of work are developed for each area of the curriculum. In many cases, short-term planning refers to descriptions of activities, differentiation strategies, pupil groupings and staff deployment. In this regard, however, it is now recommended that the school develops common templates to further assist with short-term planning.  

 

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

 

All teachers in the school undertake long-term and short-term planning and present a broad and balanced programme of work. There is a consistency and clarity evident in all classroom planning and the work of individual teachers is informed by school and curricular priorities. The breadth and balance of the curriculum and the continuity and progression of learning is facilitated by focused planning, careful monitoring of pupils progress and excellent record keeping which, contributes to the review of curriculum implementation at class level.

 

The quality of planning and resource preparedness in many classrooms reduces the need to rely on textbooks and creates opportunities for engagement with a range of appropriate teaching methodologies which facilitate differentiation and learning for many individual pupils. The potential of the Monthly Progress Record as an assessment tool was discussed during the evaluation.

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

 

The teachers in Scoil Mhuire are committed, professional practitioners and the quality of teaching within each class is high. They give clear instructions in relation to learning objectives, use of a variety of age-appropriate methodologies.

 

Engagement with pupils in each class indicates a clear picture of achievement and the ability of pupils to communicate is impressive. Standards of literacy and numeracy are of a very satisfactory standard and the breadth and balance of the curriculum is reflected in the pupils’ achievements.

 

Quality of teaching

 

The quality of teaching is of a consistently high standard throughout this school. In this regard pupils are pleasantly motivated and classes are generally well structured and appropriately paced. A range of age-appropriate resources and strategies are used in each class to promote the internalisation of concepts and pupils generally demonstrate mastery of skills taught. Clarity of learning objectives is evident and positive classroom atmospheres were the norm. Undue emphasis on textbooks is avoided and significant efforts are made in all classrooms to embrace the principles of the curriculum for primary schools. Existing good practice in this regard could now be further enhanced by developing the use of Information and Communication Technologies in the school which might include webquests and the publishing of pupils’ work in booklets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Tá plean an-torthúil leagtha amach ag na hoidí a chuireann treoracha inmholta ar fáil do theagasc agus d’fhoghlaim na Gaeilge ar fud na scoile. Moltar go speisialta a oiread is a úsáidtear í mar theanga chaidrimh sa scoil. Dá réir sin baintear an-úsáid go minic as seifteanna cruthaitheacha chun na daltaí a mhealladh chun fíor-chumarsáide. Anuas air sin, moltar go mór na hiarrachtaí a dhéantar chun gnéithe den Cheol agus den Chorpoideachas a theagasc trí mheán na Gaeilge sa scoil.

 

Múintear an teanga go córasach sna ranganna foirmiúla. Cuirtear béim le moladh ar na tréimhsí réamhchumarsáide, cumarsáide agus iarchumarsáide. Chomh maith leis sin eagraítear mórán cluichí teanga agus bíonn an fhoghlaim agus an taitneamh lámh ar láimh go minic. Úsáidtear mím, drámaíocht, scéalaíocht agus rannaireacht chun suim na ndaltaí a mhúscailt freisin. Moltar go sonrach an úsáid a bhaintear as an dtimpeallacht le cabhair na nua-theicneolaíochta chun caint  na ndaltaí a shaibhriú faoi nithe ina gcuireann siad féin suim.

 

Dírítear at theagasc na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta ar bhonn an-struchtúrtha chomh maith. Déantar forbairt bhreá ar na scileanna cuí sa léitheoireacht le cabhair ó raon d’fhoinsí breátha. Toisc an caighdeán atá sroichte cheana féin d’fhéadfaí forbairt bhreise a dhéanamh feasta ar an léitheoireacht mar chaitheamh aimsire. Caitear chomh paiteanta céanna le teagasc na scríbhneoireachta ar bhonn scoile agus chonacthas samplaí breátha de shaothar na ndaltaí sna genres atá molta sa churaclam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irish

The staff  have formulated a very fruitful plan which sets out creditable guidelines for the teaching and learning of Irish throughout the school. In this context the extent to which Irish is used in the school as an ordinary means of communication is particularly commended. In addition a range of imaginative approaches is frequently used to encourage pupils towards real communication.. The school’s policy on partial immersion relating to aspects of the Music and Physical Education programme is highly commended.

 

The language is taught systematically during the formal lessons which are suitably structured in accordance with curricular guidelines. The use of a fine variety of language games ensures that learning occurs in a very pleasant environment. The use of mime, drama, storytelling and poetry also facilitates a very positive learning process. Aspects of the immediate environment presented by technological means are also used effectively to promote real communication.

 

Relevant skills of reading and writing are equally taught in a highly structured manner throughout the school. A variety of sources is used to enhance the skills of reading. Success in this area suggests that additional focus on reading for pleasure could now be introduced. Writing skills are also taught effectively in the school and several samples of the pupils’ work in a variety of genres were noted during the evaluation.             

 

 

 

English

There is appropriate and consistent emphasis on the development of key literacy skills across the curriculum in Scoil Mhuire. Fruitful attention is frequently paid to language enrichment exercises so that the pupils’ quality of utterance is clearly enhanced on an on-going basis. A very attractive range of reading as well as other materials is used to develop appropriate reading skills. Print rich environments at appropriate levels are also particularly helpful. In addition a wide variety of other teaching strategies is used effectively throughout the school in support of high literacy standards.

 

The ethos of the school is exemplified in its policy towards pupils experiencing difficulty in basic literacy. This policy states that ‘no child will be left behind’. A comprehensive programme of intervention is in place regarding language acquisition in the case of newcomer children and its success is evident in the classrooms visited as part of this evaluation. The results of standardised testing reflect very favourably on the school’s overall approach to literacy.

 

Significant progress is also noted in relation to the development of writing skills as set out in the curriculum. The overall quality of writing in a variety of genres is impressive as is the standard of penmanship, particularly in the senior classes.

 

 

 

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

There is a consistent emphasis on concept development in mathematics throughout the school and appropriate methodologies are used to promote understanding of basic operational procedures. A suitable balance between mechanical operations and higher order thinking skills is effectively promoted in many instances. As part of this process the language of mathematics is systematically emphasised on a whole-school basis. The range of resources used throughout the school is impressive.

 

The success of mathematics teaching in the school is underpinned by an overall plan first drawn up in 2004 and reviewed on a yearly basis since. This plan provides clear guidance for teachers’ individual planning and offers particular clarity on issues relating to problem solving, approaches to number facts, provision for more able pupils, the use of calculators and inventories outlining resources available. Analysis of the results of standardised mathematics tests bears testimony to the purposeful delivery of a comprehensive maths programme which caters for all strands of the curriculum. In this regard the agreed approaches to the language used in various operations ensure consistency and continuity throughout the school. Efforts to inform parents of approaches adopted by staff serve to further enhance overall provision in mathematics

 

 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

In Scoil Mhuire pupils acquire a broad and balanced understanding of local, national and world history through the focused study of people and events. This study is structured in a whole school planning context and is in conformity with the principles of the curriculum for primary schools.

 

A range of appropriate teaching methodologies are employed and are facilitated by the effective use of the immediate environment, ICT, project work and archival research. Children are given appropriate opportunities to work as historians so that a commendable value is placed on the past. The use of artefacts, photographic evidence and a class museum also serves to illustrate aspects of history effectively and provides a unique stimulus for enhancing enquiry, observation and appreciation of the past.

 

 

Geography

Geography is taught effectively and in an integrated manner in Scoil Mhuire. There is ample evidence of maps, charts and supportive material being used in all classrooms and there is a breadth and balance to the programme which clearly takes cognisance of the principles of the curriculum for primary schools.

 

Science

 

Estimation, prediction and experimentation are central to the effective teaching of Science in Scoil Mhuire. A wide range of resources are provided in support of the learning objectives and pupils are happily engaged with the learning process

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

Visual Arts education figures prominently in the school. There is a structured, developmental approach to this aspect of the curriculum and relevant resources are provided as required. Pupils are presented with a wide variety of experiences and the resource material accumulated in support of art appreciation exercises is impressive.

 

Music

The standard of Music throughout the school is high. The pupils sing a pleasant variety of songs tunefully in both languages and are provided with many opportunities to listen and respond to music. Music classes are fun and active participation is the norm. Resource provision and planning reflect a very supportive climate for this aspect of the curriculum.

 

 

Drama

The active development of process drama is a feature of school work. All aspects of the Drama curriculum are embraced in an age-appropriate manner and are sequentially developed across the classes. Drama contracts are displayed in all classrooms and the positive approach of teachers and their ongoing commitment to the further development of Drama in the school is commendable.

 

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

All classes engage in PE and a structured approach is evident. The various aspects of the curriculum are covered in six weekly segments and facilities and resources are provided in support of the prescribed learning objectives. Classes observed were structured and progressive in nature but might be further enhanced by the more active participation of a greater number of  pupils.

 

 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

The ethos of the school, the practices therein and the modelling of best practice by the staff and management provide a comprehensive grounding in citizenship for the pupils. Concern for others, fairness, decency and inclusiveness are evident in all aspects of the life of Scoil Mhuire.

 

 

4.8 Assessment

 

Scoil Mhuire has systematically developed and refined its assessment practices over a number of years. Current exemplary practices reflect the importance of assessment as an integral part of the teaching-learning process. In addition it is noted that the school plans to address assessment of learning and for learning as key issues in a planned revision of policy for next school year. A range of assessment strategies is used by teachers to monitor pupils’ progress across the curriculum. Teacher observation, teacher-devised tasks and tests, the maintenance of checklists and work samples in portfolios and the careful monitoring of pupils’ written work are in evidence in all classes.

 

A range of standardised and criterion referenced tests form a significant part of the school’s assessment policy. Early screening for literacy difficulties is comprehensively attended to through the administration of the MIST, BIAP and TOWRE (Test of Word Reading Efficiency) tests. The NRIT is administered in second class as a further check to ensure that pupils’ reading ability at least matches their more general verbal ability. Attainment in reading and mathematics is monitored in all classes from first to sixth through the administration of the appropriate levels of Micra T and Sigma T tests respectively. Test results are carefully used to inform teachers’ planning at class and individual levels.  Results are recorded and analysed on an individual, class and whole school basis and allow for the tracking of pupils’ progress throughout their primary education. Parents are made aware of test results verbally at the annual parent/teacher meeting and the results also inform reporting on reading and mathematics in the annual written report to parents.

 

Standardised test results in reading and mathematics reflect very favourably on the efficacy of strategies used to promote teaching and learning in the school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

A comprehensive review of existing policies on learning support and special needs in 2006-07 resulted in the ratification of a comprehensive policy combining approaches in both areas. The principal assumes direct responsibility for overseeing provision and outcomes indicate high levels of success in maximising the achievement of pupils who experience difficulty.

 

The school places commendable emphasis on having whole school strategies in place that ensure  a minimal percentage of children experience difficulty in class settings and that every effort is made by class teachers to provide for differentiation in learning. Phonological awareness training, systematic phonic teaching, paired reading, an emphasis on penmanship and the use of concrete materials in mathematics are among the key approaches identified to ensure that failure is minimised. Early identification through screening and the adoption of the staged approach to meeting the needs of pupils with special educational needs are integral to school policy. At stage 2 of the staged approach further diagnostic testing is carried out by the LS/RT. Such tests include phonological awareness checklists, Neale analysis, TOWRE, Drumcondra Maths Assessment Tests, Seville Tests, and the Profile of Mathematical Skills. Support for pupils includes, one-to-one assistance, working with a group and/or in-class support as appropriate. Class teachers  complete a “Diagnostic Window” which forms the basis for a collaborative compilation of an IPLP. Stage 3 interventions, carried out in the case of pupils with low incidence special needs, ensure that detailed IEPs are carefully drawn up and that all relevant professional services are facilitated in dealing with the needs of the particular pupil.

 

The school has the services of one full-time and one shared LS/RT. These teachers plan assiduously for their work and record the progress made with pupils with great care. Teaching is effective, stimulating and resourceful and lines of communication between class teachers, parents and other interested parties are excellently maintained. Information and Communication Technologies are used to good effect to support the learning process. Teachers are encouraged to avail of further training and receive support from the Board of Management in accordance with the board’s policy of supporting the continual professional development of teachers.

 

 

 

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

Additional supports provided for pupils include a homework club four afternoons per week. This club operates from October to May each year and provides a supportive environment which allows a number of pupils to complete homework in a structured manner. Funding is provided by means of a DEIS grant and the work is ably co-ordinated by a post-holder.  

 

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The visionary and enthusiastic leadership of the newly appointed principal provides continuity for the excellent leadership the school has enjoyed in the past and should serve to lead the school to even greater levels of excellence in the future.
  • High quality leadership is well distributed throughout the staff so that significant progress is made on a range of agreed priorities simultaneously.
  • The school enjoys the support and guidance of a highly skilled and experienced management structure.
  • Teaching staff have laudably embraced the principles and methodologies of the 1999 curriculum, are highly conscientious and resourceful in their teaching and bring great individuality and flair to their teaching.
  • The participation, co-operation and support of parents is invaluable in the delivery of quality education in this school.
  • Pupils are caring, courteous and responsive

 

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

 

  • It is recommended that further development be considered in relation to Information and Communication Technologies, including the construction of a school web-site
  • The upskilling of staff regarding Physical Education in the context of the school’s policy for continuous professional development is also recommended

 

 

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