An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

An Chúirt Dóite,

Burncourt, Cahir, County Tipperary

Uimhir rolla: 17783G

 

 

Date of inspection:  19 April 2007

  Date of issue of report: 4 October 2007

 

Whole-school evaluation

1.     Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

3.     Quality of school planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

5.     Quality of support for pupils

6.     Conclusion

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of SN An Chuirt Dóite was undertaken in April 2007. The evaluation covered key aspects of the work of the school in the areas of management, teaching and learning and supports for pupils. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Music. The representatives of the parents’ association met with the inspector. The inspector interacted with the pupils, examined pupils’ work, reviewed school planning documentation, observed teaching and learning and provided feedback to individual teachers. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

This school occupies an attractive, spacious site in the village of Burncourt.  Built in 1956, it has three classrooms and serves a well-established rural population and caters for boys and girls from infants to sixth class. The school is under the patronage of the Bishop of Waterford and the central ethos is based on principles of inclusiveness and respect for others. The grounds are tastefully laid out, well-maintained and appropriately fenced.  At the rear there is a sportsfield of generous proportions, and at the front there is a hard-surfaced play area that encloses an attractive shrubbery. The school creates a stimulating environment for its children who treat the buildings and surrounds with due care and respect, and the decorative order and overall maintenance are very good. The staff consists of principal and one teacher, and there is also a part-time learning support teacher whose services are shared with two neighbouring schools.  There is neither a caretaker nor a secretary and the duties normally undertaken by these are discharged by the teachers themselves in respect of the secretarial dimensions, and by outside operatives who are hired for the specific purpose of maintenance.

 

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

 

Total number of pupils enrolled

27

Total number of teaching staff

2

Number of teaching staff working in support teaching roles

0

Number of mainstream classes

8

Number of special needs assistants

0

 

The total of 27 is in marked contrast with the total of fifty-two recorded in the 1996-1997 school year, but it appears that the enrolment is set to increase to forty within four years.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

In general, the board of management meets once per term and it expresses a willingness to convene on a more frequent basis when circumstances warrant it. Board members have not been assigned specific responsibilities but, instead, prefer to address specific matters as they arise. In doing so they discharge their duties with commitment and the chairperson contributes in a supportive but detached manner. It appears that the principal is the vital agent of school management and he discharges this role to effect. Given that the board of management is interested in promoting the success of the school and is clearly willing to discharge its evolving role in a positive and worthwhile fashion, it is now opportune that the functioning of the board be reviewed and developed. This should have as its primary objective the promotion of a collaborative ethos that includes all members of the board in a vibrant, evolving context of shared ownership.

 

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The principal is conscientious in the discharge of his duties and is ably supported by a willing colleague. Both have direct responsibility for four classes, a factor that of necessity limits their discretion in satisfying administrative demands, but they both succeed admirably in satisfying the priority issues that arise throughout the day. The deputy principal offers valuable support, not only in the area of general administration but also in the review of school policies, in the purchase of print materials and in the promotion of good order throughout the school. Working in a close collaboration that is underscored by a high level of mutual respect, both teachers are worthy of high commendation for their success in maintaining a safe and secure environment. The shared learning support resource teacher also makes a significant contribution to the maintenance of a praiseworthy learning atmosphere, and his deployment in the area of literacy and numeracy is having a significant effect in the promotion of high standards.

 

 

2.3 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

Links between school and community are close and harmonious. Parents are justly proud of their school and are especially appreciative of teachers’ willingness to meet with them on an individual basis at mutually suitable times when issues of concern arise. In addition, they find the annual consultative meeting informative and constructive. For their part, they undertake a variety of fundraising activities to supplement resources and they provide valuable support in respect of extra-curricular activities such as swimming. They are prepared to welcome a development of their role and see that this might be usefully centred in collaboration with staff in the production of a school prospectus. This would seek to outline in concise and clear terms critical elements of the school plan, together with a detailing of organisational arrangements for the particular school year in question.

 

2.4 Management of pupils

 

 The management of pupils is most commendable.  The school’s code of behaviour underpins a happy and harmonious learning environment that has at its core the development of each child’s potential.  There is a busy atmosphere about the school and the children are friendly, enthusiastic, well-mannered and eager for challenge. All this is reflected in high attendance levels that are rooted in a warm and mutually respectful interaction between teacher and pupil in both classrooms.

 

 


3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole-school planning is good overall. There is a school plan that contains clear statements of school policy in the essential areas, together with a detailing of aims and objectives in curricular areas. By its nature, the plan is evolving and in accordance with this process it would be advantageous if staff were to set itself the objective of outlining certain curricular areas, such as English and Mathematics, in a more concise fashion; and the work would be enhanced further if the various documents were compiled into one compact, accessible volume rather than in loose sheet fashion. Board and parents have had sight of the documents and have made a modest contribution to their compilation, especially in respect of Social, Personal and Health Education. In the coming months as the work is reassessed, they should be encouraged to play a more active role and should be party to the specification of definite review dates. Further, in accordance with the principles of whole school development planning, specific time-related development targets might gainfully be identified in respect of modifying and expanding policy in the areas of  enrolment, health and safety and code of discipline, for example.

 

The quality of classroom planning is also good. A sincere effort is being made by all members of staff to implement the school plan in a purposeful way and, in general, the work is usefully referenced to Primary School Curriculum (1999). Teachers prepare long and short-term schemes of work for all curricular areas and this planning is regularly enhanced by the production of a variety of worksheets and illustrative materials together with useful support documentation.

 

Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person, the principal, has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Caitear dua le teagasc na Gaeilge sa dá sheomra agus tá moladh tuillte ag an bhfoireann as ardchaighdeán na hoibre i gcoitinne ó thaobh labhairt agus scríobh na teanga de. Léirítear na ceachtanna go bríomhar cuspóireach, mealltar na daltaí chun cainte ar bhealach samhlaíoch tarraingteach and aithriseann siadsan na bunmhúnlaí comhrá, mar aon le rannta oiriúnacha, le muinín. Baintear úsáid fhiúntach as an drámaíocht go rianúil chun an obair a shaibhriú agus suim sa teanga a ghiniúint, agus chonacthas an-idirghníomhaíocht sa chás. Cothaítear an léitheoireacht go cúramach agus léann na daltaí i gcoitinne le brí agus le cruinneas. Cuirtear cleachtaí scríbhneoireachta orthu go tráthrialta agus ar an iomlán sroichtear caighdeán creidiúnach. Meastar gurb é an dúshlán is mó faoin fhoireann chun an caighdeán a ardú a thuilleadh amach anseo ná úsáid na Gaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh a chur chun cinn ar bhealach cinnte cuspóireach.

 

 

 

Irish

In both classrooms considerable effort is devoted to the teaching of Irish and staff is worthy of praise for the high general standard achieved, especially in respect of the oral and written dimensions. Lessons are presented in a lively, purposeful fashion, and in an imaginative and attractive way pupils are encouraged to engage in conversation. Also, they recite basic conversation phrases as well as suitable poems with confidence. Drama is used to effect in a methodical way to enrich the work and to create an interest in the language, and some very good interaction was seen here. Reading is cultivated carefully and pupils read with understanding and accuracy. Writing exercises are set for them at frequent intervals and on the whole a creditable standard is achieved. In its efforts to raise standards still further, it is considered that the purposeful promotion of Irish as a means of communication constitutes the greatest challenge for the staff.

 

 

English

The teaching of English is a key strength of this school. Oral interaction in English features prominently in each classroom and the children in general exhibit an impressive level of competence. On the whole, they express themselves with confidence and fluency and they recite their poetry with enthusiasm and expression. Careful attention is paid to the development of reading throughout the school.  Children acquire a useful sight vocabulary at an early stage and then proceed to a sound grasp of phonics and a praiseworthy competence in the basic skills. The children in general exhibit a keen interest in fiction and to a very significant degree this can be attributed to a concerted and successful effort by staff to demonstrate that reading can be a rich source of pleasure and resource for life. The fruit of their efforts is seen to striking effect in the standard test scores which are highly impressive for every class. Opportunities for writing in English are systematically provided and overall the standard is creditable. In both classrooms there were compilations of carefully marked exercises usually drawn from different areas of the curriculum, and much of the work is usefully correlated with Visual Art. At senior level the commonly seen recollection of experience tasks were usefully complemented by a systematic promotion of writing for different purposes and the work is regularly monitored. As a development point within the context of the evolving school plan, it is recommended that the school now directs attention to the adoption of interactive writing and that the computer be used to greater effect in motivating and enhancing effort still further.

 

4.2 Mathematics

 

The standard of mathematics achievement is generally sound and this is reflected in impressive standardised test results. Given that each teacher has responsibility for four classes, group teaching must of necessity prevail, and does so to impressive effect. Both teachers prove highly adept at setting each class a range of suitable tasks and in seeking out common themes that allow for a frequent coming together of learning groups. In effect, this leads to some children gaining a mastery of concepts that are normally not encountered until they have reached a higher class level. In broad outline, at infant level the children are introduced to an appropriate mathematical vocabulary and much of the learning is presented during play activities where the work is underpinned by a purposeful use of concrete materials. In every class the work follows the content and sequence outlined in a commercially produced scheme and this facilitates a systematic treatment of the various topics prescribed in the curriculum. Further, this is supplemented by a range of worksheets and materials produced by staff and the learning is recorded in generally well ordered and systematically monitored copybooks.

4.3 Music

 

In Music, the curricular strands of performance, listening and responding feature in both classrooms. Encountering a new curriculum in recent times, the teachers have made a deliberate and creditable effort to master the range of novel approaches, musical concepts and strand units. They have systematically introduced the various elements in a purposeful fashion, to the effect that pupils can demonstrate a creditable knowledge of the aims and objectives enshrined in Primary School Curriculum (1999). Pupils are developing a growing repertoire of suitable songs, and in general they sing their songs sweetly and with no little enthusiasm. They are regularly exposed to the works of great composers and are developing positive attitudes to quality music. Also, they have begun to learn the tin whistle in the lower classes and it is envisaged that they will grow in mastery as they proceed to the higher classes.

 

 

4.4 Assessment

 

Pupil progress is assessed on a systematic basis. As each lesson unfolds teachers pose a series of questions designed to elicit levels of understanding, and pace and challenge are adjusted on the basis of pupil response. Appropriately, higher order questioning forms an integral element of the process. Written tasks are regularly set and in each classroom there is a variety of written work drawn from the different areas of the curriculum. Mostly these are presented in copybook form and all serve to provide teachers with an insight into progress leading to an adjustment of pace and planning. In addition to informal assessment, formal assessment also features. Specifically, the Micra-T is administered to measure attainment in English reading and the Sigma-T in Mathematics. In addition, MIST is used at infant level as a useful diagnostic test, and to a lesser degree Quest features. Test scores are highly impressive, especially in English, and the staff is highly commended for its success in achieving an overall standard of which the whole school community can be justly proud.

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school enjoys the unique position of having no pupil who is functioning below the level that up to recent times entitled a school to learning support: that is, the standardised test scores give testimony to a general achievement level that is highly creditable both in English reading and Mathematics. Given this circumstance, the learning support teacher selects pupils who are seen as underachieving within the context of perceived ability and who would most likely realise their potential after a series of exercises that are short and focused. The strategic thrust is on prevention rather than remediation and this means that pupils are initially selected at an early stage, usually in infants. An Individual Pupil Education Plan is devised and the chosen pupils are withdrawn from class for intensive support that usually is in strict alignment with work being undertaken by the class teacher at that time. Appropriately, the support is provided at a time when literacy or numeracy are  not being undertaken with peers in the class base and this means that the supported pupil has the benefit of two sessions of the subject on that particular day. The overall effect proves most beneficial and has contributed significantly to the high achievement levels  recorded above.

 

 

 

6.     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:

 

 

 

·         It is recommended that the functioning of the board be reviewed and developed within the context of a shared and vibrant ownership.

 

 

 

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