An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Náisiúnta Bríde Naofa

Rolestown, County Dublin

Uimhir rolla: 17820J

 

Date of inspection:  29 April 2009

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of SN Bríde Naofa. 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

 

SN Bríde Naofa is located in Rolestown, Swords, Co. Dublin. It is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. The school’s present building was constructed in 1951. Plans are afoot for an imminent move to a new school building and site in Rolestown. It is anticipated that this new building will provide a modern, comfortable and spacious setting for the school in the near future.

 

SN Bríde Naofa caters for pupils within the catchment areas of Rolestown and the greater Swords and Ashbourne areas. It has five permanent classrooms, five temporary classrooms, two temporary support rooms, a staff room and a general purpose room. It has an administrative principal, ten classroom teachers, two learning support teachers, one resource teacher and one special-needs assistant. The school benefits from the committed services of a secretary and a caretaker. Enrolment now standing at 269 pupils has increased steadily in recent years and future projections indicate a healthy continuation of this trend. Attendance levels in the school are very good. The school is proactive in monitoring pupil attendance and in encouraging pupils to attend school. To this end, it has formulated a range of initiatives and approaches.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The school is managed by a dedicated board of management. Members of the board have attended training. Regular financial reports are presented at meetings, with the school’s accounts being certified on an annual basis. Precise and focused minutes are kept for meetings. Meeting very regularly, the board typically concerns itself with matters related to the provision of resources, finance, planning, general organisational matters, health and safety and the provision and organisation of the new school. The board identifies as its priorities the support of its teaching staff, providing for the needs of all pupils within an appropriate pastoral setting and the imminent occupation of the new school building and the associated logistical concerns. The board is involved to some degree in the formulation of policies, most notably organisational policies. It is recommended that there be greater board involvement in the future development and review of both curricular and organisational policies. While the school has a welcoming approach to all pupils, it is recommended that the school’s approach to the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs be delineated in its enrolment policy.  

 

The board stated that it was satisfied with the manner in which the curriculum is taught and with the achievement of its pupils. The board actively endeavours to provide a wide and varied educational experience for its pupils through the organisation of a variety of school activities and initiatives. Examples of such undertakings include educational trips, cultural initiatives involving the Séamus Ennis centre, art weeks and sporting and athletic activities. Whilst the principles of equality and inclusiveness permeate practice throughout this school community, the board is advised to draw up an equality statement and, in so doing, it should pay due regard to current equal status legislation.  

 

2.2 In-school management

The school principal is an effective and capable leader, closely monitoring and nurturing the pastoral ambience of the school, while seeking to promote an environment where pupils experience a sense of achievement and success. He plays an important role in nurturing collaboration and in developing a warm and positive school climate. In particular, staff members are encouraged to engage in professional development and to engage with initiatives and changes which will enrich the educational experience of the school’s pupils. The principal has played a central, committed and very significant role in the development of the new school.

 

The members of the school’s in-school management team approach their work in a collaborative and enthusiastic manner. Underpinned by strong norms of co-operation and concern for their pupils, they make an important contribution to the smooth functioning of the school and the effective operation of a variety of school activities and undertakings. Duties pertaining to posts of responsibility are reviewed on a regular basis. It is recommended that in the next review of these posts and their associated duties, consideration be given to the assignment of duties and responsibilities related to educational provision and leadership in the field of special education. Consideration should also be given to curriculum leadership in Social, Environmental and Scientific Education. The team meets regularly on a formal and informal basis, typically prior to each staff meeting. It endeavours to keep colleagues apprised of its activities through presentations at staff meetings and through informal briefings. On occasion curriculum leaders speak at staff meetings. The school has recently adopted a software programme to record data on pupil registration. It is recommended that this information be regularly recorded in the official school registers book.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The school has amassed a wide selection of resources for the implementation of the curriculum. Teachers make suitable use of resources in their teaching. A number of curricular policies provide lists of resources. It is recommended that with the transition to the new school, and the marriage of the school’s current resources with those of the new school, new inventories of the school’s resources be compiled.  

 

While the school does not have a staff rotation policy, teachers are afforded a variety of teaching experiences across different class levels and teaching contexts. Members of staff have undertaken professional development courses across a wide range of curricular and organisational domains. In so doing, they often relay the key aspects of their learning at staff meetings. Such actions are commendable.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school adopts an open-door policy to communicating with parents and the wider school community. Parent-teacher meetings are held in February of each year, with a written report on each pupil’s progress being issued in the summer term of each year. The school regularly communicates with parents via fliers, notes and memos.

 

The school benefits from the support of a very active and dedicated parents’ association. Members of the association have attended training. The association communicates regularly with the school community via memos, fliers and newsletters. Meeting very regularly, the association concerns itself with a wide range of activities and responsibilities. Examples of some of these activities include the organisation of sacramental celebrations, outside speakers, graduation ceremonies and school discos, the formulation of information packs for new parents, the organisation of art displays and school Christmas cards and the provision of an annual school fun day. In particular, the association is very involved in fundraising activities, with the annual race night being the highlight of such activities. While the association has been involved in the development of some school policies, it is recommended that greater provision for such involvement be considered. Overall, the association stated that it was satisfied with the general education provided in the school. It aims to further develop links between itself and the board of management and to become more involved in the life of the school.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils in this school is very good. The school has a nurturing and affirming school climate where staff members interact warmly and positively with pupils. Such an environment serves to cherish and respect the individuality of each pupil, thereby promoting an environment of organisation, order and happiness. Pupils are content in this environment, displaying respect and familiarity for school practices and procedures.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1  School planning process and implementation

The quality of school planning is good. The school adopts a collaborative approach to school planning, making use of the wide expertise and experience of its staff and employing Cuiditheoirí from the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS) to formulate and design policies and plans appropriate and relevant to the unique context of the school. The school has created a wide range of organisational and curricular plans. Organisational plans are commendably specific and concise in terms of providing guidance and insights into the operations and organisation of the school. It is recommended that the school’s code of behaviour be reviewed, with a view to delineating more specifically the procedures to be followed before a student may be suspended or expelled, the grounds for removing a suspension imposed in relation to a student and the procedures to be followed relating to notification of a child’s absence from school. Reference to Developing a Code of Behaviour: Guidelines for Schools (2008), as published by the National Educational Welfare Board should be of assistance in this endeavour.

 

Curricular plans are in place for all aspects of the curriculum. In the main, these plans provide a clear, detailed and sequential outline of content, with especially high quality provision being noted in the mathematics and visual arts plans. The further delineation of content and associated skill development for each class level in history and geography curricular plans is recommended. A large number of the school’s plans outline methodologies, approaches to assessment, differentiation, curriculum leadership and strategies for integration and linkage. It is recommended that all school plans and policies make reference to the aforementioned areas. In some cases, school plans and policies contain a date of review and ratification. It is recommended that all school plans and policies contain a date of review and ratification. The development of a school action plan should serve as a useful tool in guiding and directing the review and development of the aforementioned plans and policies.

 

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). While confirmation was provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of school staff at a staff meeting, it is recommended that a copy of the procedures be provided to all staff (including all new staff). In so doing, management should record that all staff have been made familiar with the child protection guidelines and the procedures to be followed. It is also recommended that the child protection procedures be brought to the attention of parents. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed. It is recommended that appointment to the aforementioned offices be officially recorded at a meeting of the board of management.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers write long and short term plans to guide teaching and learning in their classrooms. In a number of instances, they augment these plans by way of daily and weekly forward planners. Such work is commendable indicating a concern for the progressive development of content. As there is some variability in the style and content of both long and short-term plans, it is recommended that the school examines the manner by which its teachers undertake long and short-term planning with a view to the development of a more common approach to planning. In the same way, teachers’ monthly reports should also be examined to investigate the development of a more common approach to the writing of these reports. Teachers write regular monthly reports on work completed.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1        Overview of learning and teaching

Teaching and learning in SN Bríde Naofa takes place within a warm, nurturing and positive school environment where the individuality of each child is respected and where every effort is made to give pupils a sense of success. Teachers are very interested in the progress of their pupils and relate very well to them. Pupils enjoy lessons and reveal pride and interest in their work.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Is léir go ndéantar iarracht inmholta dearcadh dearfach a chothú i leith na Gaeilge ar fud na scoile. Mar shampla, gach bliain, eagraítear Seachtain na Gaeilge. Is inmholta mar a labhraíonn na hoidí Gaeilge go rialta lena chéile i gnáth chaidreamh an lae. Tá plean scoile cuimsitheach agus inmholta curtha le chéile ag an bhfoireann scoile, le leagan amach an-soléir maidir le comhrá neamhfhoirmiúl agus forbairt foclóra ó rang go rang. Moltar mar a bhaintear úsáid as an Ghaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh i rith an lae i gcuid mhór de na ranganna. Rachadh sé chun tairbhe go mór do dhul chun cinn na Gaeilge sa scoil ach an cleachtas thuasluaite seo a leathnú tríd an scoil de réir mar is cuí.

 

Baineann na daltaí taitneamh agus tairbhe as na ceachtanna Gaeilge. Ar an iomlán, glacann siad páirt ghníomhach iontu agus tugtar deiseanna éagsúla do na daltaí chun foclóir a chleachtadh agus a fhorbairt. Bunaítear na ceachtanna comhrá ar thimpeallacht na bpáistí agus roghnaítear téamaí in oiriúint d’aois agus do chumas na ndaltaí i ranganna áirithe. Baineann na hoidí úsáid as modhanna éagsúla teagaisc, go mórmhór teagasc ranga. Baineann cuid mhaith de na hoidí úsáid éifeachtach as obair bheirte agus obair ghrúpa. Ba chóir úsáid níos forleithne a bhaint as obair bheirte chun dul siar a dhéanamh agus chun foclóir nua a chleachtadh agus a fhorbairt i gcásanna áirithe. Baineann na hoidí úsáid chliste as acmhainní éagsúla agus as raon de ghníomhaíochtaí agus cluichí chun ábhar na ceachtanna a mhúineadh. I ranganna áirithe, baintear sár-úsáid as filíocht, drámaí, sceitsí agus amhránaíocht chun foclóir nua a mhúineadh agus chun na daltaí a mhealladh chun cainte. Moltar go ndéanfadh an scoil scrúdú ar mhodhanna chun an dea-chleachtas seo a roinnt agus a fhorbairt tríd an scoil.

 

Léiríonn na daltaí cumas maith labharta, le stór leathan focal. Is féidir leo tabhairt faoi nuacht agus comhrá ginearálta faoina saol. Ar an iomlán, leagtar béim óiriúnach ar ghraimeár. Tá cnuasach rann, dánta agus amhrán Gaeilge ar eolas ag na daltaí. Aithrisítear iad siúd le fuinneamh le linn na gceachtanna Gaeilge agus ag amanntaí éagsúla i rith an lae. Tá na daltaí in ann tabhairt faoi réimsí éagsúla scríbhneoireachta. Moltar go gcuirfeadh na hoidí béim níos láidre ar an saor-scríbhneoireacht sna pleananna gearrthréimhseacha. Ar an iomlán, cuireann an timpeallacht shaibhir litearthachta atá cruthaithe sna seomraí ranga go mór le suim sa léitheoireacht a chothú agus scríbhneoireacht a fhorbairt. Léann na daltaí le brí agus le líofacht.

 

Irish

It is evident that throughout the school, a commendable effort is made to cultivate a positive perspective on Irish. For example, every year a ‘Seachtain na Gaeilge’ is organised. The manner in which teachers regularly converse in Irish throughout the school day is commendable. A commendable and comprehensive school plan has been created by the school team, with a very clear outline of informal Irish and the development of vocabulary from class to class. The manner in which Irish is used as a language of communication during the day in many classrooms is commended. It would greatly contribute to the progress of Irish in the school, if the aforementioned practice were extended throughout the school as appropriate.

 

Pupils derive benefit and enjoyment from Irish lessons. In the main, they partake actively in them and are given varied opportunities to practice and develop vocabulary. Conversation lessons are based on the environment of the pupils and themes are chosen appropriate to the age and ability of the pupils in various classrooms. Teachers make use of a variety of teaching methodologies, especially class teaching. Many of the teachers make effective use of pair work and group work. There is scope for wider use of pair work to revise, practice and develop new vocabulary in certain instances. Teachers make clever use of various resources and of a range of activities and games to teach lesson content. In certain classrooms, poetry, drama, sketches and singing were used in an excellent manner to teach new vocabulary and to encourage the pupils to converse. It is recommended that the school examines methods to disseminate and develop such good practice at a whole-school level.

 

Pupils reveal good speaking ability, with a wide stock of vocabulary. They are able to undertake conversation on the news and general conversation about life. In the main, appropriate emphasis is placed on grammar. Pupils know a range of rhymes, poems and songs. These are recited with enthusiasm during Irish lessons and at various times during the day. Pupils can write in various genres. It is recommended that greater emphasis be placed in short-term plans on creative writing. In the main, the rich literary environment which has been created in classrooms contributes greatly to the promotion of interest in reading and the development of writing. Pupils read with fluency and meaning.

 

English

The quality of teaching and learning in English is very good. There is evidence of the incremental development of pupils’ oral, reading and writing skills across the four strands of the curriculum. Print-rich environments have been created in all classrooms through the display of charts, illustrative materials and the celebration of samples of pupils’ work. All teachers plan a variety of discrete oral activities and there is a strong focus on language development by the majority of teachers as a prelude to the acquisition of new skills in other curricular areas. Within discrete oral language development planning, some teachers have identified particular themes for debate and discussion. Consideration should be given to extending these themes across all school levels to extend and incrementally develop language in a structured and spiral manner. In most classrooms, pupils recite poetry with enthusiasm. It is evident that enjoyment and a love of language is a characteristic of poetry teaching in these classrooms. In some senior classes, pupils’ response to a very broad repertoire of poetry is impressive, demonstrating deep understanding and maturity of thinking.

 

Reading skills are being developed in a systematic manner across all standards. Pupils’ attainment in standardised reading tests indicates progress commensurate with their age and ability. A variety of approaches is in evidence at individual classroom level whereby pupils have time for silent sustained reading. These praiseworthy individual practices should be discussed at a whole-school level as a means of developing a consistent approach to independent reading. The regular visits to the school by the local mobile library ensure a broad range of reading material is available to the pupils. A graded scheme of reading material is in use across the school and this is supplemented at infant and junior level by graded parallel reading material which is effectively monitored by the teachers. In the infant classrooms, the use of the Jolly Phonics programme provides a structure for the development of phonological and phonemic awareness. Pupils encounter reading through the collaborative reading of story and large format books. While various reading skills are introduced and practised in the junior classes, it is recommended that a more structured approach be adopted to systematically develop these skills. In the middle and senior classes, pupils engage with a variety of novels. Good discussion surrounding the use of the novel prior to reading is evident in some senior classes. Very good open-ended questioning techniques are in evidence in most middle and senior classes.

 

Pupils’ writing skills are developed incrementally throughout the school. In many classrooms pupils display a commendable enthusiasm and confidence in their writing. In the majority of classrooms, pupils’ writing is celebrated and displayed and in some classrooms, booklets of their writing have been compiled. The process by which some senior class pupils celebrated a book-launch as part of their writing process is worthy of praise. At all levels, functional writing skills are being appropriately developed. Process writing is clearly in evidence with due attention being paid to assisting pupils in structuring their work. A wide variety of writing genres is well-implemented in some classrooms with pupils demonstrating a praiseworthy facility in the use of language and the development of an individual writing style. This praiseworthy practice should be extended across the school. The school plan for penmanship and presentation is clearly documented and is brought to fruition in the majority of classrooms. There is scope for a more consistent application of the handwriting policy and for the improved presentation of written work in some classes. Written work is generally well monitored and corrected. The inclusion of comments of a formative nature is praiseworthy and beneficial to the development of independent learning skills. A multi-faceted approach to the teaching of spellings is adopted and spellings are taught well throughout the school.

 

Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative

While the school does not participate in the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative, a programme of French is in place for all pupils in fifth and sixth classes. This programme is guided by well formulated plans of both a long-term and short-term nature.

 

4.3 Mathematics

The school plan for Mathematics is well formulated, providing very clear guidance in terms of the progressional and sequential development of lesson content from class level to class level. In particular, the plan makes very good provision for the development of mathematical language. Overall, teacher planning in the area makes good provision for the progressive development of content. In some cases, there is a need for the greater delineation of approaches to differentiation.  

 

Pupils engage in mathematics lessons with interest. Teachers are commended for presenting lesson content in a structured, clear and focused manner, challenging and motivating the pupils in so doing. Overall, pupils are making appropriate progress in their Mathematics. The collaborative approaches between the special education team and class teachers, coupled with the focused work of class teachers serve to create an environment where pupil understanding of mathematics is a priority and concern for all teachers.

 

Overall, classrooms are presented as maths-rich environments, with some notable exemplars of such presentations being noted during the evaluation. In building on such good practice, it is recommended that further opportunities for the development of the school environment as a maths-rich environment be investigated. In the main, teachers adopt whole-class teaching approaches to the delivery of the curriculum. In some cases, teachers make use of collaborative learning and pair work. It is recommended that the school investigates approaches for the wider use of such methodologies. Teachers make good use of resources in their teaching, providing the pupils with hands-on activities through the use of concrete materials. In the main, teachers welcome pupils’ questions on subject matter, with some very commendable and deliberate provision in this regard being noted during the evaluation. Mathematics is creatively integrated with a range of other subjects. Good provision is in place for linkage and for linking lesson content to the experience and environment of the pupils. The use of a mathematics trail was noted during the evaluation.

 

Teachers are commended for their creative efforts to present and develop lesson content in a fun manner, with many teachers designing their own games, setting calculations within the context of word problems and encouraging pupils to design their own problems. It is recommended that the school examines further opportunities for the dissemination and development of such good practices. Very good standards of presentation and organisation were noted in the majority of pupils’ workbooks and copybooks. These indicate a broad range of work has been covered. While copybooks are monitored regularly by most teachers, with affirming comments of a formative nature, a more consistent approach to the monitoring of copybooks and pupils’ presentation is recommended to further enhance assessment at a whole-school level.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

History lessons are taught in a structured manner. For the most part, commercially produced schemes provide the framework for the sequence of planning at individual classroom level. A focus on aspects of local history enriches the teaching of History through the investigation of particular local traditions and customs, most notably Mumming. Local places of historical interest are used appropriately to stimulate pupils’ engagement with the past. There is evidence that some teachers enhance their history lessons through the provision of artefacts and by interviewing members of the local community. Timelines are in evidence and are used productively by some teachers to develop a sense of time and chronology. These approaches are worthy of consideration at a whole-school level. In the lessons observed, teachers provided a praiseworthy variety of interesting pictures, drawings and visual stimuli as a basis for talk and discussion. Pair work is used productively as a methodology and effective collaborative group work is a feature of practice in some settings. In the further development of whole-school planning for History, the potential for integration of topics within Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) is recommended.

 

Geography

The quality of teaching and learning in Geography is of a good standard. Whole-class discussion is a feature of lessons. Generally well-managed pair and group work is also in evidence. Most classrooms are equipped with a globe and almost all have a range of maps of a national or international nature. Pupils in the infant classes are developing early mapping skills through the use of positional language and the integration of story. In the middle and senior classes, pupils demonstrate an enthusiastic and impressive range of knowledge of some of the natural features of Ireland. A whole-school plan for Geography has been devised recently. However, a number of commercially produced schemes provide a structure for planning at some classroom levels. The delineation of content and skills development for each class is recommended as an effective means of building on the existing whole-school plan. In most of the lessons observed, pupils participated with enthusiasm. Pupils are enabled to develop a sense of place through seasonal exploration of the immediate natural environment. A sense of the wider world is being developed and pupils display their project work in some classrooms and in the circulation areas of the school.

 

Science

In those lessons observed, the standard of teaching and learning in Science was very good, with notably commendable provision for local nature studies. Throughout the school pupils display curiosity, interest and knowledge of local creatures, flora and fauna. The school plan for Science makes a very detailed outline of content to be covered at different class levels in a two year cycle. Teacher planning is very clear on content. In some cases, teachers make very good provision for designing and making, but there is a need for greater consistency in such planning provision across the school. The school has amassed a very good selection of resources for the implementation of the science curriculum. The provision of an outdoor classroom and studies connected with the local river greatly assist in promoting the pupils’ interests in nature. In the main, classrooms are presented as science-rich environments, with the use of ongoing experimentation in evidence in a number of rooms. A number of classrooms have science investigation tables. There is some scope for the further development of these tables on a school-wide level.

 

Science lessons are delivered in a lively and structured manner serving to stimulate and engage pupil interest. Very good provision is in place for the active involvement of pupils through the use of concrete resources and hands-on activities. Collaborative learning and discussion are used very effectively to prompt the pupils to examine scientific phenomena and principles. In those lessons observed, very suitable provision was made for designing and making and for the development of scientific skills such as prediction, observation, recording, analysis and experimentation. In particular, pupils have engaged in a number of experiments across the various strands of the curriculum. Appropriate provision is in place for problem solving and in some instances very good use of self-evaluation and plenary sessions were noted as part of the experimentation process.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The standard of teaching and learning in Visual Arts is very good. A number of high quality samples of the pupils’ work across a range of strands of the curriculum is in evidence in the school. In particular, samples of weaving, clay-modelling, paint and construction are of a high quality. The school plan for Visual Arts provides a very detailed, clear and specific outline of content for each class level.

 

Lessons in Visual Arts are delivered in a very effective manner. Working from the pupil’s experience and imagination and grounding these lessons in a variety of stimuli, teachers provide pupils with opportunities to explore, experiment and express themselves through art. Talk and discussion and collaborative learning are an important feature of visual art lessons. In some instances, greater use of pair work in the discussion and examination of artistic samples should be considered. Pupils are encouraged to examine and question artistic processes. In so doing, very good provision is in place for looking and responding and for the study of other artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci. In a number of classrooms, lesson content is creatively integrated with other curricular areas, most notably Mathematics and History.  The school is also commended on the annual focus it places on the creation of Christmas cards.

 

Music

Good provision for Music is in evidence in those classes where music teaching and learning was evaluated. There is admirable emphasis on ensuring that the pupils enjoy and benefit from their musical activities. Lessons are conducted in a lively and relaxed manner. Pupils in the junior class enjoy a range of songs in both English and Irish. They also listen to a repertoire of musical excerpts and illustrate their responses through activities in the Visual Arts. In the middle standards, the teaching of instrumental music commences with tin-whistle lessons and the pupils here are making good progress in their rhythmical work and musical literacy. Carefully selected songs, many in two parts are sung tunefully. The sharing of expertise among the staff is a commendable feature of approaches in the middle standards. This collaboration should be extended where feasible to do so. Very good progression of skills is in evidence in the senior classes where pupils play their tin-whistles and sing a range of traditional songs with very obvious enthusiasm. Further engagement with the composing strand at whole-school level will build effectively on existing good classroom practice.

 

Drama

In the classrooms where Drama was evaluated, pupils engage in activities with enthusiasm and confidence. In the infant classroom, drama lessons explore aspects of place and belief based on well-chosen stories. A very effective lesson was observed in a junior class where a scenario was set through an oral description provided by the teacher. In a senior classroom, a skilful well-structured drama lesson enabled the pupils to experience all of the elements of drama. The level of engagement with post-drama discussion was praiseworthy. Discussion on the classroom drama contract set clear parameters for some of these drama lessons and created a safe environment for participation in the lesson. This good practice should be further developed at a whole-school level. Drama is further supported through the school’s participation in a drama project supported by Fingal County Council. It is noteworthy that this is used as an opportunity for professional development by the teachers.

 

4.6 Physical Education

There is very good provision for the physical education curriculum in this school, most notably in the games, athletics and aquatics strands. Lessons are well organised and teachers correctly model skills and carefully monitor pupils’ progress during their acquisition. Opportunities are provided at the conclusion of lessons to practise these skills. Pupils are suitably attired and due consideration is given to full participation and safety matters. There is enthusiastic commitment to engaging with in-school and after-school sporting activities. An in-school basketball league is organised in the final term for pupils in middle and senior classes. A comprehensive aquatics programme is in place for all pupils with many pupils becoming proficient in life-saving skills by the end of their time in primary school. The school participates in inter-school Gaelic football activities and in recent years, the school has participated successfully in the Cumann na mBun Scol and Fingal League competitions. The school benefits from the support of the local Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and avails of the expertise of an external rugby coach in the second term. It participates in a pilot programme to promote cycling skills and safety issues. A lack of indoor facilities impacts on the range of learning experiences that can be provided, particularly in the gymnastics and dance strands.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

The quality of teaching and learning in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is very good. In its approach, the school sees its role as that of supporting the home environment through the process of partnership and shared responsibility. A suitable programme, implemented over a two-year cycle, is delivered, particularly in the curriculum strands Myself and Myself and Others. In the classrooms where SPHE lessons were observed, the use of talk and discussion is utilised well. In the management of discussion and pupil feed back, the use of circle time would further enhance pupil engagement and participation. Active learning approaches and stimulating resources are in evidence. In some cases, however, greater provision for pair work should enhance the development of ideas and provide further scope for pupils to distil and develop opinions. The school augments its use of the curriculum with programmes such as the ‘Walk Tall’ programme and the ‘Stay Safe’ programme. Teachers are encouraging and affirming of their pupils and content is effectively connected to the life experience and environment of the pupils. Across the school, the majority of pupils demonstrate a very positive attitude to healthy eating and nutrition and this is actively nurtured and supported at whole-school level.

 

4.8 Assessment

The school assessment policy is contained within the whole-school plan for learning support. It is recommended that this plan be further developed to reflect and guide assessment at a whole- school level. The school makes appropriate use of a range of assessment techniques which include the use of standardised tests in Mathematics and English at all class levels from first to sixth class. In addition, diagnostic tests are administered in specific instances and contexts. Throughout the school, teachers make use of a range of assessment tools and practices, which include teacher observation, teacher-devised tasks, work samples and portfolios. Some very effective use of pupil self-evaluation was noted during the evaluation. In particular, teachers are commended for their regular use of mathematics tests. As there is some variety in the degree and manner in which teachers use assessment techniques across the school, the formulation of a whole-school plan for assessment should provide a more uniform and customised approach to assessment at a whole-school level.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Support for pupils in the area of special education is guided by a wide-ranging and detailed school plan. In particular, this plan is commendably specific in providing for a collaborative approach involving the board of management, pupils, principal, parents, classroom teachers and special education teachers. The school is keenly aware of the importance of early intervention strategies and actively seeks to identify and support pupils who present with learning difficulties in Mathematics and English at an early stage. In spearheading their early intervention initiatives, teachers make very good use of a range of diagnostic and screening tests which include the Quest test, the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP), the Middle Infant Screening test (MIST) and the Non-Reading Intelligence test (NRIT).

 

The special education team comprises two learning support teachers and one resource teacher. Members of the team have availed of a range of professional development courses to develop their expertise in providing for pupils with special educational needs. This rich reservoir of professional development serves as an important and effective guide in the development and provision of educational interventions and programmes. Working very much in a co-operative and concerted manner, the special education teachers (SET) plan collaboratively on a regular basis, liaising regularly with class teachers. In so doing, parental input is sought and encouraged. Teachers write both long and short-term plans to guide provision for pupils. While some very high standards of provision were noted in this regard, there is some variety in the degree of detail across differing learning scenarios. It is recommended that in the next review of planning, the SET team examine approaches to the writing of plans in a more homogeneous manner. The school has designed its own style of format for Individual Pupil Learning Profiles and Individual Education Plans and is commended on this endeavour. These plans and profiles are discussed with parents and make good provision for learning targets. While these formats make good provision for a focused approach to the support of special education pupils, it is recommended that the school reviews the format of these plans with a view to augmenting particular sections. Reference to the Learning Support Guidelines from the Department of Education and Science, 2000 and some of the recent guidelines from the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) should be of assistance in this endeavour.

 

Pupils are selected for support based on information from class teachers and on the results of diagnostic tests and standardised tests. In so doing, the SET team endeavours to support pupils as widely as possible, seeking to develop their confidence and competence in specific areas with a view to improved participation and competence in class and also with a view to their smooth and capable transition to secondary schooling. This concerned and concerted approach is laudable. However, it is recommended that the team consistently monitors and reviews the benchmark criteria by which pupils are selected for provision.

 

Lessons in special education are delivered in a very warm and affirming manner. Pupils clearly enjoy these lessons and participate eagerly in same. Resources are used effectively with pupils being provided with a range of activities. During the evaluation, the effective use of concrete resources, ICT and hands-on activities were particularly noted. Lessons in the domain of literacy are very structured, providing pupils with a broad range of reading material and making very good provision for the development of word-attack and phonological skills. Such approaches also make appropriate use of supplementary readers, word games, language development exercises and the pupils’ own personal experience. During the evaluation, some very structured approaches to phonological development were noted. It is recommended that the SET team investigates further approaches for the dissemination and development of such approaches both at SET level and at a school-wide level. Creative integration with poetry and drama was also noted. Lessons in numeracy are delivered in a very effective manner, with very good provision for revision, hands-on activities and the focused development of specific mathematical concepts. Teachers make clever and creative use of resources, adopting a range of approaches and strategies for presenting lesson content and for challenging pupils to engage with mathematical problems. Pupils reveal pride and interest in their work in both numeracy and literacy lessons. In the main, support in both numeracy and literacy is provided on a withdrawal basis. In the past, the school has made wider use of in-class support. At the post-evaluation meeting, the merits of the latter form of support were discussed. It is recommended that the school revisits its approaches to the provision of in-class support.  

 

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

Based on the evidence gathered during the evaluation, the school adopts a discreet, inclusive and pastoral approach to the support of pupils from disadvantaged and minority groups.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         The school is managed by a dedicated board of management.

·         The school benefits from the effective and capable leadership of both the school principal and the in-school management team.

·         Teachers are very interested in the progress of their pupils and relate very well to them.

·         Teaching and learning takes place within a warm, nurturing and positive school environment where the individuality of each child is respected and where every effort is made to give pupils a sense of success.

·         The school makes a concerted and in many cases, very creative effort, to promote Irish.

·         Within the domain of Social, Environmental and Scientific Education, very good provision is in place for the study and celebration of local environments.

·         Drama is used creatively and effectively in many teaching contexts to present and develop lesson content.

·         The school makes very good provision for the all-round development of pupils, with notable success in the fields of sport, drama and art.

·         Pupils reveal interest in their work and apply themselves enthusiastically to various learning scenarios and contexts.

·         Pupils with special educational needs were observed to be motivated and enthusiastic about their learning.

 

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 school develops an action plan to facilitate the review of some of its curricular and organisational plans.

·         In the next review of posts of responsibility, it is recommended that duties pertaining to leadership in the fields of special education and SESE be considered.

·         It is recommended that the school addresses the following aspects of their child protection procedures: the procedures should be brought to the attention of parents; a copy of the procedures

      should be provided to all staff (including all new staff); management should record that all staff have been made familiar with child protection guidelines and the procedures to be

      followed; appointments to the offices of Designated Liaison Person and Deputy Designated Liaison person should be officially recorded at a meeting of the board of management.

·         The wider use of collaborative learning and pair-work in specific learning contexts should be investigated at a whole-school level.

 

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 December 2009