An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Chiaráin Naofa

Doorus

Kinvara County Galway

Uimhir rolla:   17869Q

 

      Date of inspection: 14 October 2008

 

                

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusions

 

 


 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Chiaráin Naofa was undertaken in October 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Science. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

This Co. Galway school is situated on the scenic Doorus peninsula approximately 7 kilometres from Kinvara village. Many of the parents of the pupils who live in the area commute to work in Galway city. The original school was founded in 1954 and during the in-school evaluation period a major refurbishment process was being completed. The final phases of this process caused some temporary disruption in the school due to intermittent cuts in electricity supply and absence of telephone contact, heating and access to broadband.  

 

A pre-school is attached to the school, the majority of whose pupils subsequently transfer to Scoil Chiaráin Naofa. The school playground has recently been fenced off to provide an attractive external play area for the pre-school children. The infant pupils in Scoil Chiaráin Naofa will shortly be enabled to access this external play area.

 

The school has been involved in the Modern Languages in the Primary School Initiative and as a result, pupils in the senior classes are taught German for one and a half hours per week.

 

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

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

84

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

5

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

The school has defined its ethos and is currently in the process of drawing up a mission statement.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and operates effectively. Board members have been very committed to the physical development of the school, having enthusiastically overseen the recent refurbishment of the building. The professional knowledge some board members readily share is an additional strength of the current board. The school’s finances are well managed and decision-making occurs in the best interests of the school community. The board identifies the commitment and skills of the teaching staff, the extra-curricular activities provided and the level of community support as elements constituting the major strengths of the school.

In the immediate future the board should involve itself more fully in the school planning process with a view to ensuring that an abridged version of the school plan can be disseminated and be made available to the wider community. To ensure that the school is clearly positioned in the future to maintain its current strengths, the board should ensure that the school will continue to develop its expertise in teaching and learning. In this regard, the board should oversee the development of a formal process of continuous school based self-evaluation.

The board should be particularly cognisant of developing with parental consent, appropriate linkages between personnel during the transitions the children make from pre-school or other settings to the school and upon leaving the school to follow-on post-primary schools.

To prepare for the long-term future, the board should draw up a long-term strategic plan which will identify broad goals and which will provide direction for achieving these goals. The board should also develop an action plan which will identify time-related objectives to be met in the short-term and which will specify the responsibilities and financial implications of meeting these objectives.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal who has been in this position for 15 years is very enthusiastic. She provides an excellent model of skilled teaching and she has high aspirations for her pupils and staff. She encourages team work and as a result, inter-staff communication is very positive and mutually supportive. In recent years the principal has overseen the drawing up of comprehensive planning documentation working in co-operation with several neighbouring schools which form a planning cluster.

 

To ensure the optimal development of the school in the future, the principal at this point should place slightly greater emphasis on her leadership of teaching and learning in the school. The principal should now initiate a review of approaches to classroom planning in the school. She should actively monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the planning process in curricular areas, by examining the quality of outcomes and by giving priority to identifying the professional needs of staff.  Time should now be devoted by the principal to visiting all the classrooms and to overseeing and discussing learning outcomes through examination of the monthly progress records.  

 

Job-sharing operates very effectively in the middle classes and constitutes an excellent model of collaborative planning which could be extended.  Thought should now be given to adopting more flexible approaches to deployment of staff to maximise the use made of teachers’ skills knowledge and interests in implementing the school’s curriculum.

 

The principal is well supported in her work by the Deputy Principal. The roles and responsibilities of the in-school management team have been well-defined and include pastoral and curricular responsibilities.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The views of parents on the work of the school are taken into account in policy making. Evidence was presented that relationships across the school community are positive and are founded on a climate of trust and respect. Parent teacher meetings are organised once a year and the principal reports that the parents are welcome to visit the school and to meet members of the staff when they wish. Fund-raising events are regularly organised and are extremely well supported.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

A warm friendly atmosphere pervades Scoil Chiaráin Naofa.  The team spirit evident among the staff as well as pupil/pupil relationships in the school are characterised by mutual respect. The pupils exhibit excellent behaviour patterns inside and outside the classrooms. There is a positive approach and commitment by the staff to the pastoral care and overall welfare of the pupils.  The code of behaviour is understood and implemented throughout the school.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. The organisational policies which have been developed provide guidance and ensure consistency in the operation of the school, on the whole.  It is understood that the health and safety is currently being updated to reflect improvements in the school building. The enrolment policy is also being updated.

 

Very comprehensive whole school curricular plans have been drawn up and these reflect the principles and structure of the primary school curriculum. A systematic process has been followed which has been influenced by the prompt material supplied by the support services. The current plans also include support material for teaching and as a result have become quite bulky. Some teaching resource material which they presently contain could be stored in separate files. Thought should be given to condensing the material, thus ensuring that core policies in each area of the curriculum can be placed in each class teacher’s files and are amenable to access by members of the school’s community.

 

Despite the excellent amount of collaborative planning which has recently been undertaken, there is still some variation in approaches taken to individual long and short-term planning.  In accordance with Rule 126, long-term and short-term planning should be in place in all classes.  Progress records are maintained on a monthly basis and are retained by the principal. Where very good classroom plans exist in the school, there is evidence from the amount of detail they contain that a great deal of prior thought and reflection has been given to the content of lessons to be taught. It is essential that reference is made in individual short-term planning to the learning outcomes envisaged in the primary curriculum.  To ensure a focused approach on these outcomes of learning, to ensure clear linkage with the primary curriculum and to streamline the planning process, it is recommended that the staff now agree on amendments to the current template and on systematic use of a common template for long and short-term classroom planning. Planning templates should allow for clarification of the broad learning outcomes in the long-term and of specific learning outcomes in the short-term for each curricular area. The methods to be employed and the content of lessons taught should be briefly stated. The priorities stated in the school plan in terms of approaches taken and methodologies employed should be clearly reflected. Appropriate resources to support the achievement of these learning outcomes should be identified. Long and short-term plans should include reference to the means whereby pupils with specific learning difficulties or special educational needs will be included in mainstream activities.

 

There should be clear plans for the assessment of progress in learning. A template for monthly progress records in the school should also be agreed among the staff. Ideally these records would enable staff to track pupil progress and would allow for reflection on the implementation of targets identified in the school plan.

 

 

 

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

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

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá plean scoile curtha le chéile atá cabhrach. Fothaítear timpeallachtaí sna rangsheomraí atá fabhrach i gcoitinne do mhúineadh agus d’fhoghlaim na Gaeilge. Saothraíonn na hoidí go han-díograiseach i múineadh na Gaeilge, baineann na daltaí an-taitneamh as na ceachtanna, déantar bainistíocht éifeachtach ar obair an ranga agus tá dearcadh deimhneach á chothú i measc na ndaltaí i leith foghlaim na teanga.

 

Cé go mbaintear dea-fheidhm as modhanna éagsúla múinte sna rangsheomraí chun ceachtanna na Gaeilge a chur i láthair na ndaltaí, moltar breis béime a chur ar gníomhaíochtaí ról-ghlacaidh sna ranganna sóisearacha ach go háirithe. Sna meán agus ard-ranganna spreagtar rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí agus mealltar iad chun cumarsáide go cumasach, trí fheidhm thorthúil a bhaint as ceistiúchán, cluichí cumarsáide, obair-i-bpéirí, agallaimh, gníomhaíochtaí ról-ghlacaidh, amhránaíocht, drámaíocht agus imeachtaí éagsúla eile. Déantar sár-iarrachtaí suímh oiriúnacha a chothú chun fíorchumarsáid na ndaltaí a spreagadh, ionas go mbeadh deiseanna ag na páistí an Ghaeilge atá foghlamtha acu a chleachtadh.

 

Cé go bhfeictear go léann na daltaí go líofa agus léiríonn siad tuiscint ar an ábhar sna hard ranganna moltar gan léitheoireacht fhoirmiuil a thosú go dtí rang II . Baintear úsáid an-mhaith as na ceachtanna léitheoireachta mar ócáidí cainte chun foclóir na bpáistí a fhorbairt agus chun a dtuiscint ar mhúnlaí na cainte a dhaingniú. Tugtar faoi theagasc na scríbhneoireachta go críochnúil, cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil ina gcóipleabhair go cumasach agus cruthaítear scríbhneoireacht phearsanta go minic sna hardranganna. Aithrisítear rainn agus filíocht le brí agus le mothú i bhformhór na ranganna.

 

Irish

A helpful school plan has been devised. Learning environments are organised in the classrooms which are generally favourable to the teaching and learning of Irish. The teachers work very hard in teaching Irish, the children enjoy the lessons very much; the work in the classrooms is well managed and a positive attitude towards learning the language is being developed among the children.

Although very good use is made of various teaching methods in the classrooms to present lessons in Irish to the pupils, it is recommended that a greater amount of emphasis should be placed on role-play activities in the junior classes in particular. In the middle and senior classes the involvement of the pupils is encouraged and they are effectively stimulated to communicate through the excellent use of questioning, communication games, pair work, interviews, role-play activities, singing, drama and various other activities. Major efforts are made to create suitable contexts to stimulate authentic communication with the pupils so that pupils are given opportunities to practise the Irish they have learned.

 

Although it is observed that the pupils read fluently and that they understand the reading material it is recommended that formal reading in Irish should not begin until second class.  The reading lessons are used as opportunities for conversation, for the development of vocabulary and to consolidate understanding of phrases. The teaching of writing is undertaken in a thorough manner. The pupils competently record their functional writing activities in copybooks and personal writing is frequently undertaken in the senior classes. In the majority of classes a wide range of rhymes, songs and poems are recited energetically and with feeling.

 

English

The quality of teaching and learning of most aspects of English is very good. Learning outcomes attained by the pupils in oral work, reading and writing are impressive. In most classes a stimulating learning climate is created using skilful and well-paced teaching and learning approaches. In general, pupils’ experiences are well matched to their needs and sustain their motivation and attention. In the middle and senior classes the teachers actively develop learners’ abilities to be curious and creative and to think critically. In-class tasks and activities and home-learning activities are well planned and involve learners as effective contributors, working independently and with others. There is evidence that during everyday teaching and learning activities full and effective use of information and communication technology (ICT) is made.

 

Cognisance is taken of pupils with special educational needs in planning.  The current supply of books is very good as it is wide-ranging and includes fact and fiction. The school library constitutes an excellent resource. There is a need to consider possible variations in classroom organisation for language work at infant and First and Second class levels. An even greater involvement of the learning support teacher in working with the younger children on oral language development and other language activities during this crucial learning period is suggested. 

 

3.2 Mathematics

The school plan for Mathematics currently in place should now be reviewed and updated. It is advised that the revision process would involve a systematic approach to devising policy in Mathematics following the prompts recommended by the support services.   

 

Overall, the standard of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good. Lessons have very good pace and structure and serve to involve and promote pupil interest in the subject. Pupils clearly enjoy these lessons and participate enthusiastically. Resources are used very effectively, with pupils being given a variety of opportunities to use concrete materials. Teachers make very effective use of group and pair work which serves to develop the pupils’ reasoning and problem-solving strategies, while also providing opportunities for the use of mathematical language. Concepts are connected to the life experience and environment of the pupils. Suitable provision is made for the development of the pupil’s problem-solving skills, with some excellent practices being observed in some classes where the teachers have sourced resource material on line.  It is recommended that the school builds further on and extends the current approaches being practised in the development of problem-solving skills. Pupils are encouraged to ask questions in lessons and to establish patterns across concepts. Teachers are highly commended for the manner in which classrooms are presented as maths-rich environments. Pupils’ written work is of a very high standard and is carefully monitored.

 

 

 

3.3 Science

The school is situated in a quiet rural location on the edge of the Burren, beside an accessible beach. In terms of the teaching of Science, the school has capitalised fully on this superb location. The school has been involved in a number of national science projects for which it has won a number of awards. The range of science projects which the school has prepared and presented include a demonstration of water capillary action propelled by solar power, a project demonstrating paper recycling and the making of paper, a project demonstrating the dying properties of sea weed and a project on tidal waves which referred both to the tsunami which occurred in Doorus in the 17th century and that which occurred in contemporary times in 2004. Other projects in which the school has been involved include the study of freshwater fish.

 

Very good practice was observed in the teaching of Science and the quality of pupils’ learning is very good. A major strength of the teaching in this area of the curriculum is the integration which has occurred between science and other areas of the curriculum. Pupils in all classes are encouraged and facilitated to work scientifically and to investigate and explore their physical surroundings. Pupils engage in experiments which develop their skills of observation, questioning and investigating, leading them to a greater understanding of the world in which they live. Pupils in the infant and junior classes are facilitated to explore natural habitats and this feature of the science curriculum is supported by pupils’ engagement in fieldwork.

 

3.4 Assessment

The quality and use of assessment varies from being fair to being very good in some classes. Regular correction occurs and assistance is given to pupils experiencing difficulties. Standardised tests in literacy and numeracy are administered annually and pupil attainment in these tests is reported to parents at the parent-teacher meeting. Overall the school has a clear view of how pupils are performing when compared to national data and some analysis of these results occurs annually.

 

In the middle and senior classes, teachers use summative assessment information to evaluate and improve learning and teaching.  In these classes excellent progress has been made in implementing Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum: Guidelines for Schools (NCCA.) Some work has been initiated in the middle classes in sharing planned learning outcomes with pupils and in developing pupils’ experiences of self-assessment. Screening is undertaken in the second year of school attendance. In the infant and junior classes the evaluation and analysis of learning outcomes should now be made more systematic.  In these classes assessment data is generated but it is not used at present to analyse patterns of performance of pupils at different class levels or to map individual pupils’ progress towards specific learning targets. Greater emphasis might now be placed on formative assessment in the early years through observation, dialogue and listening to the pupils in a variety of situations. Teachers should develop undemanding methods of recording informal observation of children’s progress in these circumstances.

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Provision for pupils with special needs is undertaken by a part-time learning support teacher who is based in this school and is shared with a neighbouring school. Resource teaching hours are provided by a second teacher. This part-time resource teacher provides in-class support to one pupil at present. A Special Needs Assistant is also appropriately deployed in the classroom.

 

A policy statement sets out broad aims for provision for pupils with special educational needs in relation to identification procedures, organisation of supports, consultation and collaboration, planning of programmes and procedures for ongoing monitoring and review. The current school policy should be updated from year to year so that it becomes less generic and that the procedures to be adopted in this school specifically in regard to aspects of the service in the current school year are detailed. The learning targets and the procedures, criteria and timescale which will apply should be clarified.

 

Pupils in receipt of learning support teaching are selected using the MIST test and in discussion with class teachers and parents. It is recommended that the scope of early intervention would now be broadened to include actions such as involving the learning support teacher to a greater extent within the classes.

 

Individual Pupil Learning Plans have been drawn up in respect of every child receiving supplementary teaching broadly in line with the Department of Education and Science Learning Support Guidelines. Short-term records are also maintained. A greater focus on clarifying and recording the achievement of learning outcomes should now underpin this documentation. Lessons are well structured and contain an appropriate range of elements linked to pupil learning targets. Short-term planning, as recommended in the Learning Support Guidelines should be used to record these elements and other learning strategies. Overall, positive levels of pupil achievement are in evidence.  Very good resources have already been sourced, including appropriate software.  

 

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

Should educational disadvantage present among any pupils, the staff deals with such issues sensitively. In such instances, grant aid provided by the Department and board of management resources are used to defray costs so that all pupils have equality of access to the full range of school activities. There are currently no pupils from minority groups enrolled in the school. 

 

 

5.     ConclusionS

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         The school is well managed by a committed and effective board of management and principal teacher.

·         In-school management is characterised by careful thorough organisation. The teachers are skilled, dedicated and enthusiastic.

·         The pupils are well-behaved and well motivated and their parents are very supportive of the school.

·         A climate of mutual respect underpins the day to day activity of the school.

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

  

 

 

Published January 2009