An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Sancta Maria
Sráid Synge, Baile Átha Cliath 8
Uimhir rolla: 17893N
Date of inspection: 12 January 2009
This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Scoil Sancta Maria. 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 reporting inspector 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, 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 reporting inspector 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 in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Scoil Sancta Maria is an eleven-teacher, Catholic primary school located in Dublin’s inner city. Established in 1864, the school is part of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust and is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. The present school building dates from 1954. Scoil Sancta Maria currently caters for boys from second to sixth class who live in Dublin 2,8,12 and other areas. The school is designated as a DEIS Band 2 school and it participates in the School Completion Programme and the Home-School-Community Liaison scheme. The school’s enrolment was 112 at the time of inspection and is expected to increase over the coming years. Overall pupil attendance is very good. Very effective strategies are in place to ensure that the tradition of strong school attendance is maintained. Official procedures regarding the recording of attendance and the making of attendance returns are fully complied with.
The school’s stated aim is “to serve all pupils by creating a positive, trusting, secure environment, by respecting each child’s individuality, celebrating diversity and encouraging innovation.” As expressed in its vision statement, the school regards helping children to achieve their full potential as the responsibility of the teachers and the school community as a whole. Practical commitment to the realisation of the school’s vision is clearly evident in the strong leadership and management of the school, in teacher-pupil interactions, the rich curriculum and range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities provided, the school’s written policies, and in the participation of parents in the life of the school. The all-round development of every pupil is central to the work of this vibrant school.
The board of management carries out its duties effectively. It is properly constituted and meets approximately six times per year. Minutes of its meetings are maintained. Board members have availed of training provided by the Catholic Primary Schools Managers Association. The chairperson has a visible presence in the school. The board operates in accordance with relevant statutory and other regulatory requirements. Its accounts are audited annually in accordance with section 18 of the Education Act 1998. Department regulations regarding the length of the school year, the length of the school day, the allocation of teachers, class size and the retention of pupils are complied with. The board discusses, amends and approves school policies. It engages actively in the shaping of a vision for the school and demonstrates commitment and determination in relation to the realisation of that vision. Board members are concerned with issues of funding for the school and the provision of teaching resources for all of the pupils, particularly the most vulnerable. There is very good communication between the board and the teachers.
The quality of leadership provided by the principal is excellent. Through open, effective communication and consultation with all members of the school community the principal leads learning, school personnel and the school itself in a dynamic and progressive way. He critically reflects on the extent to which the school is achieving its objectives and strives to ensure that all members of the school community are included in the strategic development of the school. A collaborative, practical, and effective process of school planning and review is facilitated by his leadership and vision. The principal engages kindly and respectfully with the pupils and very successfully promotes positive pupil behaviour and attendance.
The deputy principal and special duties teachers fulfil their currently-assigned duties effectively. The emphasis in those duties as currently organised is largely on organisational tasks with some curricular and pastoral elements also attached to some posts. The work of the in-school management team contributes in a significant way to the smooth running of the school. It also enriches the learning experiences of the pupils. It is intended to review the existing posts in the light of the needs of the school and up-to-date Department guidelines. It is recommended that during that review opportunities for developing curriculum leadership roles among post-holders be explored.
The management of teaching resources is effective. Rotation of classes among teachers is encouraged and facilitated. The importance of liaising with colleagues and other professionals is recognised by the school and practical measures to facilitate such communication are in place. There is a notable commitment to continuing professional development among the teachers. Special needs assistants are properly deployed. They work competently under the guidance of the classroom teacher and contribute in a significant way to the inclusion of pupils with special education needs (SEN) in the mainstream classroom. The school secretary diligently attends to administrative matters as required. All pupils in this school benefit from the services of a number of external instructors or coaches who work in the school during school hours. They include music, hurling and football tutors whose services are provided without cost to the pupils. Experts in particular aspects of the arts also visit the school from time to time to engage in activities such as drumming, traditional music, and drama with the pupils. The work of the external instructors observed during the inspection was of a high standard and was directly linked to the achievement of relevant curriculum objectives.
The quality of accommodation is very good. The classrooms are bright, well heated, and well ventilated. Support-teaching rooms are bright and spacious. An impressive, recently refurbished parents’ room is located close to the school’s main entrance. The school has a fine general-purpose room with a purpose-built stage. That room also houses the school’s extensive library. The school’s well-equipped computer room is regularly used by all classes. The school has a number of time slots in the hall of the adjacent post-primary school, Synge Street C.B.S. The board of management is commended on the high standard of maintenance and cleaning of the school building. Classroom and corridor walls are used very effectively to display pupil work across a range of curriculum areas and to show-case pupil achievement in areas such as attendance, mathematics, reading, writing, science, and the visual arts. Teachers and pupils are praised for their contributions to creating a stimulating and attractive place of learning.
A very good range of resources, including ICT, is available to support teaching and learning in each curriculum area. Every classroom has its own library, keyboard and computer as well as a set of mathematical equipment. All classrooms also have charts, maps and other illustrative materials and manipulatives. A print-rich and mathematics-rich environment has been created through the school. A number of rooms have interactive whiteboards. A large resource room is used as a central storage area for science materials and an extensive range of other equipment. The music resources in this school are particularly impressive. Overall, resources are used to very good effect in the implementation of the curriculum.
The involvement of parents in the life of this school is valued, welcomed and actively facilitated by management, teachers and the school’s home-school-community liaison co-ordinator. Excellent channels of communication exist between the school and the Parents’ Council and between the school and the broader parent body. The school’s well-designed and informative web-site provides a valuable, up-to-date link between the school and the wider community. It also celebrates pupil effort, achievement and participation in the broad range of activities provided by the school. The school’s procedures for the induction of new pupils and their parents to the school are praiseworthy, particularly in relation to the individual support and attention given to every new pupil before he starts in the school. The school’s parents’ room is used as a social meeting place for parents. It is also the venue for meetings of the Parents’ Council and courses for parents. Procedures are in place to enable individual parents and teachers to meet to discuss specific issues as they arise. The school’s policy on home-school-community links includes a commitment to seeking parents’ views on issues such as discipline, homework and pupil behaviour. Parents also contribute to policy development in the school through their consideration and approval of draft school policies. They are active in school-based initiatives such as shared reading and “Maths for Fun”. They fundraise through organising events such as cakes sales and sponsored walks. The Parents’ Council is very supportive of and satisfied with the work of the school. It articulated its hope that the level of teaching resources available to the school at the time of the inspection would be maintained.
The management of pupils in this school is excellent. The pupils, including newcomer pupils and pupils with special education needs (SEN), are treated with dignity and respect by the staff. A positive code of behaviour is successfully implemented. Expectations of pupils are clear, fair and reasonable. Positive, respectful attitudes are consistently encouraged by the teachers and principal. Pupil effort and achievement, both curricular and extra-curricular, is praised and celebrated. The school intends to set up a student council and, as a first step in that process, is currently involved in a Comhairle na nÓg project.
The quality of whole-school planning is very good. The school provides a clear and user-friendly school plan that encompasses administrative, organisational and curriculum policies. Every teacher has a copy of the plan. The plans are informed by the curriculum, relevant literature, the needs of the pupils, and best practice. The whole-school planning process is collaborative and on-going. Organisational and administrative policies are discussed and agreed by the board and by parents, while curriculum policies, which are also ratified by the board, are devised by the teachers. School development planning is part of every staff meeting. The school has a clear DEIS plan in place that is targeting the areas of literacy, numeracy and attendance. Plans are subject to cyclical review. Due account is taken of the outcomes of pupil assessment and of developments in legislation in such review.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
Some very good examples of classroom planning by individual teachers were noted during the inspection. In such instances, the plans are informed by both the school plan and the curriculum and set out specific objectives in relation to skills, knowledge and understanding that are used to guide and assess pupil learning. Consideration should be given to extending such commendable practice across the school. A further aspect of written planning that requires development in a number of classrooms is planning for differentiation according to the needs of individual pupils or groups of pupils. Monthly progress records documenting overall class progress in each curriculum area are diligently maintained by all teachers.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The overall quality of teaching in this school is very good. The principles and approaches of the Primary School Curriculum 1999 inform much of the work in the classrooms. Pupils are enabled to experience success in learning across the curriculum. Significant advances in learning are being made in a number of curriculum areas.
Tá an Ghaeilge á cur chun cinn ag cuid mhór de na hoidí sa scoil tríd an dea-shampla a léiríonn siad le linn dóibh bheith i mbun teagaisc agus Gaeilge bhinn líofa á labhairt acu. Sonraítear í freisin ar an mbealach a bhíonn an teanga mar mheán chumarsáide ag na hoidí eatarthu féin agus leis na daltaí. Moltar go hard an cur chuige seo i leith na teanga Gaeilge. Moltar freisin an bhéim a leagtar sa scoil ar ghnéithe eile den chultúr gaelach, ar an gceol agus ar an mbéaloideas ach go háirithe. Ar fud na scoile, tá difríochtaí le sonrú ar na modheolaíochtaí agus ar an mbéim a leagtar ar snáitheanna áirithe, sé sin ar an éisteacht, ar an labhairt, ar an léitheoireacht agus ar an scríbhneoireacht. I measc na samplaí is fearr den dea-chleachtadh sa chur chuige cumarsáideach a chonacthas le linn na cigireachta bhí na bealaí seo a leanas: gníomhaíochtaí i bpéirí, cluichí, drámaí agus rólghlacadh, feidhm bainte as dlúthdhioscaí chun scileanna éisteachta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt, frásaí agus foclóir nua múinte go soiléir agus so-aitheanta i gcomhthéacsanna éagsúla, agus comhtháthú cuí le brath ar na tascanna léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta leis an obair ó bhéal. Tá raon breá leathan filíochta ar eolas ag daltaí i roinnt ranganna agus tá na daltaí sin ag baint taitnimh as an bhfilíocht freisin. Ceann de na dúshláin is mó atá ag an scoil i leith na Gaeilge ná a chinntiú go bhfuil croíchumas cumarsáideach (in ionad gníomhaíochtaí sna leabhair saothair) mar phríomhaidhm ag an uile rang sa scoil agus na bealaí is fearr chun dul i ngleic leis an aidhm sin a bheith in úsáid go seasta. Chuige sin, tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go mbeadh deiseanna ag na daltaí obair i bpéirí agus an teanga á labhairt go rialta acu i gcomhthéacsanna idirghníomhacha.
Irish is promoted by many teachers in this school through their modelling of rich, fluent Irish in the teaching of lessons and in their use of the language as a means of communication with one another and with the pupils. The use of Irish in this way is commended. The promotion of other dimensions of Irish culture in the school, including music and folklore, is also praiseworthy. The methods used by teachers in the teaching of Irish and the emphases placed by them on particular strands, namely, listening, speaking, reading and writing, vary across the school. Among the examples of best practice in Irish lessons observed during the inspection were the skilful fostering of a communicative approach through paired activities, games, drama and role-play, the use of CDs to develop the pupils’ listening skills, the explicit teaching of new phrases and vocabulary in a variety of contexts, and the appropriate linkage of reading and writing tasks with the oral language learned. Pupils in a number of classes know and enjoy a good range of Irish poetry. One of the challenges with regard to Irish in this school is to ensure that the development of a core communicative competence (as opposed to focusing on workbook-type activities) is prioritised in all classrooms and that methods to facilitate the development of that competence are consistently used. In that regard, regular use of paired work and the provision of regular opportunities for pupils to use the language in interactive settings at all class levels is important.
One of the strengths of the English programme experienced by the pupils in this school is the commitment by teachers at all class levels to promoting a love of reading among all pupils. The school is to be commended on its development of a print-rich, book-rich environment through eye-catching displays, individual libraries in every classroom, the school’s well-resourced central library, and the use of class novels. The pupils are encouraged to read a variety of texts and they are enabled to engage with and respond to those texts through a variety of classroom activities. Through its own review, reflection on, and analysis of pupil attainment in reading, the school is aware of the need to raise the bar of achievement in reading and to narrow the gap between the highest-achieving and lowest achieving pupils. In that regard, consideration should be given to enhancing the existing provision for differentiation in the teaching and developing of reading skills within class groups. The school’s celebration of pupil achievement in reading through “Reader of the Month” is praiseworthy. Good provision is made for the teaching of oral language, phonics and spelling. The school has identified a need to develop the teaching of writing skills on a whole-school basis and, to that end, is engaging in a programme to advance pupil writing in a variety of genres for a range of purposes and audiences. High-quality, illustrated examples of the pupils’ work in writing are attractively displayed in a number of classrooms. In addition, some impressive examples of pupil-teacher conferencing in relation to the writing process that includes the giving of formative feedback to pupils on their work were observed during the inspection. The extension to all classes of the practice of enabling pupils to redraft their work in the light of formative feedback is recommended. Further exploration of the potential of ICT in this regard is advised.
A noteworthy, recent curriculum achievement of this school has been the raising of overall pupil attainment in mathematics. Through targeted intervention informed by a well-structured whole-school plan for mathematics that incorporates sound assessment strategies, the teachers are succeeding in advancing pupil learning in mathematics in a significant way. The use of active methods, relevant mathematics resources and the focussed teaching of mathematical language, mental mathematics and problem-solving skills are among the features of the high-quality mathematics teaching evident in this school. The school is also to be praised for its promotion of mathematics through its selection of one pupil each month for the award of “Maths Wizard”. Teachers are diligent in their monitoring and correction of the pupils’ written work in mathematics.
A history-rich environment has been created in this school with a balance between local, national and international history topics apparent in corridor and classroom displays. High-quality project work that is judiciously integrated with the visual arts, geography, and in some instances, science, is also evident. Throughout the school effective use is made of timelines. Generally, pupils are enabled to work as historians. Opportunities to enrich the pupils’ learning in history through excursions to historical sites in the city are regularly availed of. The observed use of drama and role-play to extend and consolidate pupil learning in history is praiseworthy.
Attention is given to appropriate skills and concepts development and to each of the three strands of the geography curriculum at each class level. Pupils display good locational knowledge and have regular opportunities to use a range of maps, globes and photographs. Very good work is undertaken in relation to developing the pupils’ knowledge of natural environmental features in the locality and wider environments. The pupils have a very good understanding of climate and weather. They are enabled to learn about people in other European and non-European countries and have, in the senior classes, some understanding of trade and development issues. The language of the geography curriculum is well taught.
There is evidence of very good teaching and pupil learning in science. Classroom and corridor displays celebrate the pupils’ learning in a number of strands. Resources are readily available during the lessons. A combination of whole-class teaching, group work and individual work is effectively used in the organisation of the lessons. The pupils engage actively and enthusiastically in science tasks, including experiment work and planting and growing activities, and they discuss concepts with understanding and confidence. They generally use science terminology appropriately. There is evidence of incremental development of a number of science skills as the pupils progress through the school. Designing and making activities in science are creatively taught through work with lego. Peer mentoring is skilfully incorporated into this process. Very good use is made of ICT in documenting this work. The school’s organisation of a science evening for pupils and their fathers is praiseworthy.
The overall quality of teaching and learning in the visual arts is very good. All strands are represented in the programme taught and there is evidence of progression in technical skill and creativity as the pupils move through the school. Very good work is undertaken in a number of classrooms in relation to looking at and responding to art. In such instances, the pupils are provided with worthwhile learning opportunities to respond to the work of their peers as well as the work of famous artists. There is meaningful integration of the visual arts with a range of curriculum areas. There are many colourful displays of high-quality pupil artwork on classroom and corridor walls. Pupils from this school have been successful in a designing and making competition organised at national level.
The pupils in this school are experiencing a broad and balanced music curriculum that is delivered by both class teachers and an external instructor. The teachers deserve much credit for the successful introduction of the tin whistle at all class levels. The pupils are making very good progress in their playing of this instrument. Every month one class is given the opportunity to play the tin whistle at assembly. Excellent work is undertaken in relation to the teaching of pulse and rhythm and this work is skilfully incorporated into percussion work, including body percussion and percussion instruments, as well as composing. The school further enriches the pupils’ music experiences through arranging workshops in drumming for the pupils and by inviting traditional groups to the school to perform. Pupils in a number of classes tunefully sing a good range of songs in both Irish and in English. Extension of the repertoire of songs learned by pupils in other classes is recommended.
Good provision is made for the teaching of all strands of the drama curriculum. Pupils are provided with opportunities to explore and make drama and to co-operate and communicate in so doing. A range of drama conventions is used to enhance the delivery of aspects of the English and Irish curricula and to further the pupils’ understanding of issues in social, personal and health education (SPHE) and in history.
High-quality teaching of physical education (PE) was observed during the course of this inspection. Among the particularly praiseworthy features of PE teaching observed are the explanation of lesson objectives to the pupils, clear demonstration of skills, and the full and active participation of all pupils in the lessons with additional assistance given to individual pupils as required. All strands are represented in the PE curriculum delivered in this school. The school is commended on its commitment to providing extra-curricular sports activities for the pupils that include hurling, football, soccer and aquatics.
The ethos of this school is very supportive of the principles of the SPHE curriculum. Both learning and teaching in SPHE are of a very good standard. Skilful use is made of a number of strategies including circle time in the exploration of issues relevant to the pupils’ social and personal development. Turn-taking and respect for the views of others are successfully fostered in the achievement of curriculum objectives.
This school has embraced assessment for learning in a positive and productive way. A suitable range of standardised tests is used to assess pupil achievement in English and in mathematics. The results of those assessments are analysed and used to inform future planning for teaching and learning. Individual, group and class progress from year to year is tracked. Practices surrounding assessment in English and in mathematics in this school are laudable. Possibilities for future development of assessment in this school include pupils engaging in self-assessment and peer-assessment. Consideration should be given to developing and implementing a whole-school approach to assessment in other curriculum areas.
The SEN team comprises one special-class teacher, one learning-support teacher, one language teacher and one home-school-community liaison co-ordinator. SEN support is delivered on a withdrawal basis. Support rooms are bright, spacious and well resourced. Very good use is made of ICT in the planning and delivery of SEN support and in the recording of pupil progress. A whole-school SEN policy dealing with early intervention strategies, the screening of pupils for SEN support, diagnostic assessment, programme planning, implementation and review, and record-keeping is in place. The school adheres to Department guidelines regarding the selection of pupils for SEN support. Class teachers contribute to the initial process of identifying individual pupil need. A suitable range of diagnostic tests is used in the process of defining in further detail individual pupil need. Planning for pupils in receipt of SEN support is thorough with clear, realistic, time-bound targets specified in individual pupil profiles and learning programmes (IPLPs). The specific learning targets identified for each pupil are shared with parents at parent-teacher meetings. The SEN teachers use a very good range of resources and methods to skilfully enhance the pupils’ learning. They are kind to and affirming of the pupils and their work. They provide on-the-spot feedback to pupils on their efforts and achievements where appropriate. Individual pupil progress is documented on an on-going basis. Learning targets are reviewed regularly and adjusted in the light of pupil progress and need. The pupils clearly enjoy and benefit from the support they receive in SEN settings.
This is an inclusive school. It complies with all legal obligations in terms of the admission of pupils to the school and the participation of all pupils in the life of the school. It does not discriminate on grounds of race, religious belief, membership of the Traveller community or membership of an ethnic group. It pro-actively supports all pupils in accessing an education appropriate to their needs. In this regard the contribution of the home-school-community service provided by the school is highly commended. Through that service, parents are helped to function effectively within the school community and, in turn, to support their children in accessing an appropriate education. The school is to be praised for its care and diligence in supporting pupils in transferring to post-primary school. The School Completion Programme in this school also makes a valuable contribution to supporting pupils and enriching their learning experiences. It funds the school’s breakfast club and homework club, and worthwhile curriculum opportunities for the pupils such as music and swimming. It also provides the supervised services of a school counsellor to assist pupils and/or their parents in traumatic or vulnerable situations. In addition, it provides a summer camp and a range of excursions for a number of pupils.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The board of management carries out its duties effectively.
· The quality of leadership provided by the principal is excellent.
· The work of the in-school management team contributes in a significant way to the smooth running of the school.
· This is an inclusive school.
· The ethos of the school is very positive and very supportive of the principles of the SPHE curriculum.
· The management of teaching resources is effective.
· The quality of accommodation is very good.
· Teachers and pupils contribute in a significant way to creating a stimulating place of learning.
· A very good range of resources, including ICT, is available to support teaching and learning in each curriculum area. Resources are used to very good effect in
the implementation of the curriculum.
· Excellent channels of communication exist between the school and the Parents’ Council and between the school and the broader parent body.
· Parents contribute to policy development in the school, fundraise, and are active in school-based initiatives. The Parents’ Council is very supportive of the work of the school.
· The management of pupils is excellent.
· The quality of whole-school planning is very good.
· The overall quality of teaching in this school is very good.
· Teachers at all class levels promote a love of reading among the pupils.
· The teachers are succeeding in advancing pupil learning in mathematics in a significant way.
· The overall quality of teaching and learning in the visual arts is very good.
· The pupils are experiencing a broad and balanced music curriculum.
· The school is commended on its commitment to providing extra-curricular sports activities for the pupils.
· The school has embraced assessment for learning in a positive and productive way.
· The SEN teachers use a very good range of methods and resources to skilfully enhance the pupils’ learning.
· The school pro-actively supports all pupils in accessing an education appropriate to their needs.
· The contribution of the home-school-community liaison service provided by the school is highly commended.
· The School Completion Programme in this school makes a valuable contribution to supporting pupils and enriching their learning experiences.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that opportunities for developing curriculum leadership roles among post-holders be explored.
· It is recommended that classroom planning at individual teacher level be developed further.
· It is recommended that consideration be given to enhancing the existing provision for differentiation in the teaching of reading skills within class groups.
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
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The B.O.M. of Scoil Sancta Maria welcomes the WSE report as it affirms the excellent work being done by the staff and school community. We wish to acknowledge the courtesy and professionalism of the inspectors during their visit.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The Board is committed to implementing all of the recommendations of the report. A review of Post of Responsibility duties in accordance with the terms of Circular 07/03 has commenced.