An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Sheosaimh Naofa

Cill Bán Áth Leathan, Contae An Chláir

Uimhir rolla:  17898A

 

Date of inspection: 28 September 2009

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Sheosaimh Naofa was undertaken in September, 2009. 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, Mathematics and Geography. 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Sheosaimh Naofa is a two-teacher mainstream primary school located in beautifully picturesque surroundings near the foot of Sliabh Bearnagh in the parish of Broadford and Kilmore in east Clare. Further construction work was carried out in 2002 to augment the fine new classroom which was built in 1992. The two spacious classrooms and ancillary accommodation are maintained to a very high standard and provide for a most pleasant and attractive learning environment. The spacious grounds are also well maintained. Pupil enrolment has fallen considerably since the last school report was published in 2000. Attendance levels are impressive.

 

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

14

Mainstream classes in the school

7

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school is under the patronage of the Catholic bishop of Killaloe. Its mission statement espouses a commitment to the maintenance of high professional standards, the promotion of mutual respect and reverence, and the inculcation of the Christian values of forgiveness, reconciliation, new beginnings and hope. All cultures and traditions are welcome at Scoil Sheosaimh. An atmosphere of friendliness and co-operation together with a positive work ethic imbue the daily life of the school.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meets once per term unless particular issues require extra meetings. Board deliberations are recorded and certified accounts for the school year ending August 31, 2009 indicate careful management of the school’s finances. The board has been assiduous and diligent in its efforts to have the school building and grounds brought to their current impressive state of repair and maintenance. The board, staff and parents exhibit notable pride in and commitment towards this school and make praiseworthy efforts to ensure that the educational enterprise is properly resourced and supported. The board is proud of its role in enhancing educational provision for the pupils. The recent installation of two interactive white boards (IWBs) is indicative of this support. Funding is also provided by the board for swimming lessons and for the employment of a visiting tutor of Music and Physical Education. Board members were unequivocal in their expressions of satisfaction with the standards achieved by the school. The board regards its highly favourable pupil teacher ratio and the spirit of co-operation that pertains among the stakeholders as key strengths. Of immediate concern to the board is the development of capacity to integrate Information and Communications Technology (ICT) into the curriculum and the acquisition of a playing field for the school. In addition to continuing its good work the board is now advised to extend and formalise its involvement in policy formation and ratification. It is also recommended that the board supports the development of capacity at staff level to maximise the integration of ICT generally, and of IWBs in particular, into teaching and learning.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal and one special duties post-holder. The principal oversees the daily operation of the school in a professional and efficient manner. Her ability to promote very good relations among the stakeholders has enabled and facilitated the various phases of development to be completed and ensures that a positive and welcoming atmosphere is a prominent feature of every day school life. The principal appreciates the support of parents and the board and values the open trusting relationships that characterise daily interactions between teachers and pupils. She ensures that school records are carefully maintained. The principal is ably assisted by a conscientious and energetic special duties teacher. Both teachers work very well together and prioritise the well-being and progress of each individual pupil as they very frequently discuss curricular, organisational and pastoral issues. It would now be appropriate to review the duties assigned to the special duties teacher in the context of a strategic plan for the immediate future.

 

1.4 Management of resources

Teaching duties are shared equitably and some efforts are made to utilise teachers’ expertise at different class levels. In this context, it is recommended that the staff revisit a recommendation from the 2000 Department of Education and Science report which refers to staff rotation. An external tutor supplements the work of the teachers by providing tuition in aspects of the Physical Education and Music curricula. Delivery of these aspects of the curriculum, under the guidance of the teachers, contributes to the implementation of a broad and balanced curriculum. Other staff employed by the board includes a part-time secretary, a cleaner, and maintenance personnel as required. Significant and prudent investment has been made in the acquisition of resources to support teaching and learning. In addition to the IWBs the school has acquired a suite of laptops. Staff members report that the quality of the broadband service in the school is inconsistent, however. Libraries, which include graded sets of suitable readers and big books, are well stocked and maintained. Materials for scientific and geographical investigation have been purchased and could be made more accessible to pupils by establishing further investigation areas in the spacious classrooms. Commendable print rich displays and purposeful use of suitable concrete materials for Mathematics were also noted during the evaluation.

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

This school is central to the identity and spirit of this small community. Informal contact between school and home is frequent and teachers are highly sensitive to the needs and circumstances of each individual pupil. Formal parent teacher meetings are held each year in late January or early February. Written reports are discussed with parents and the practice to date has been to maintain these reports on file rather than send them to parents and guardians. This policy is now under review. Parents assist the school in many ways, thus providing extra opportunities for contact with teachers. Help is provided with school outings, games, swimming and other extra-curricular activities.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

Mutual respect and fairness characterised the interactions between teachers and pupils as observed during this evaluation. Pupils present as confident and content and eager to co-operate with the teachers in the pursuit of the school’s educational goals. All pupils participate with a clear sense of enjoyment in various games and sporting activity during breaks.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

Both the process and outcomes of whole-school planning have potential for further development. The school is commended for devising policy documents for all areas of the curriculum and for a wide range of organisational issues, including those required by legislation. Personnel from the support services have given assistance in carrying out this work and there is evidence of some collaboration among the stakeholders in the planning process. Much good work has been done on the organisational side to ensure that policy statements clearly reflect a shared understanding of the rationale and procedures in place to deal with a range of issues. Some curricular policies, however, are generic in nature and more work needs to be done so that policies adequately reflect the unique context of the school. The policy for Geography is a case in point. There is a need to record in greater detail decisions arrived at on issues pertaining to curriculum implementation. It is important that a schedule for review of the implementation of curricular policies would now be established as, for example, has been done in the case of Mathematics. This review schedule would form part of a strategic plan aimed at addressing the school’s priority development needs.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good. Teachers are conscientious in their efforts to provide long term and short term plans for their work. These plans are reflective of the structure of the curriculum. There is a need for greater alignment between long term and short term planning and between classroom planning and school policies. Further development should also be possible in agreeing templates for planning and recording of pupils’ progress.

 

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 English

The quality of most aspects of teaching and learning in English is good and in certain areas very good. Provision is guided by a reasonably comprehensive policy for English. In terms of organising provision for English, the teacher in the junior section of the school takes all classes up to and including fourth class. In the junior section highly effective activities promote very good language development through brainstorming, creative story telling and the systematic teaching of a range of word identification strategies. Pupils in the senior section of the school recite poetry with feeling and expression and discuss their personal reading with obvious enthusiasm. Reading skills are taught and extended using large format books, class novels and graded reading schemes. Well-stocked libraries, which include some recently acquired series of books, facilitate the promotion of a love of reading. Further development of individualised approaches to reading should yield additional gains in achievement. Pupils write regularly in a range of genres. Senior pupils have used software to present final versions of their poems for display. There is need for a greater emphasis on drafting and editing of pupils’ work and an extension of the range of genres explored. Handwriting is generally very neat and well formed throughout the school. Pupils begin to write cursively before leaving the junior room and teachers are encouraged to pursue their plans for an even earlier introduction to cursive writing.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Standards of Mathematics in the school are very good. Structured and systematic teaching ensures that Mathematical concepts are well developed and understood. Both teachers use a wide variety of strategies and resources to ensure pupils maximise their capabilities in Mathematics. Purposeful use of a broad and suitable range of concrete materials, a commendable emphasis on Mathematical language and appropriate differentiation of learning experiences are prominent features of work undertaken. Pupils’ skills in reasoning, estimating, predicting, calculating and problem-solving are intuitively nurtured through teacher-guided discussion and practical activities. Reference to pupils’ interests and environment in the course of Mathematics lessons increases motivation and assists in the development of conceptual frameworks. A suitable emphasis on mental Mathematics is also noted. Particular attention is paid to the neat and skilful recording of pupil work. Outcomes of standardised testing indicate that pupils’ achievements in Mathematics are commendable throughout the school.

 

3.3 Geography

There are a number of positive aspects to the planning and delivery of the Geography programme but there is also scope for development. In both classrooms teachers are beginning to make purposeful use of their IWBs in the teaching of Geography. Access to video clips in the senior room enhance the study of local tourism, while in the junior room pupils’ interaction with software greatly facilitates their knowledge of directions and positional language. Practice in both rooms features effective questioning and a commendable emphasis on teaching the language of Geography. Much of the work observed in the junior room was activity based and included a treasure trail to explore features of the school grounds and local environment. A review of current policy should now identify strategies for greater use of the local environment in teaching and learning and for clear agreement on strand units to be covered, skills to be developed and the range of teaching methodologies to be employed. Provision needs to be made also for the judicious use of textbooks.

 

3.4 Assessment

The Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests, as well as the Drumcondra Primary Reading Test, are administered to assess standards in literacy and numeracy. A range of diagnostic tests, teacher-designed tests, cloze procedure exercises, spelling tests and check lists provide further information on pupils’ progress. The priority learning needs and strengths of infant pupils are established through use of the Belfield Infant assessment Profile (BIAP) and Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST). Outcomes of all assessments are carefully analysed by the teachers and used to address their learning needs. While the small number of pupils in the school enables teachers to have intimate knowledge of the innate capabilities of all pupils, having a more accessible and comprehensive profile of systematically recorded information for each pupil would greatly assist in the monitoring of standards and planning of programmes. Staff might also usefully consider a review of assessment for learning practices as part of the formalisation of assessment practices generally.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Pupils with special educational needs are well served in terms of the amount and quality of intervention provided at Scoil Sheosaimh. Carefully differentiated teaching in mainstream classes is commendably augmented by a learning support teacher who provides four hours of tuition weekly under the general allocation scheme. This tuition is delivered, for the most part, on a one-to-one withdrawal basis. Education plans are prepared and practice is geared towards meeting concise, specific and measurable targets. Greater attention needs to be given to the selection of targets and evaluation of outcomes. There is a suitable emphasis on practical work and the development of pupils’ confidence and self-esteem is prioritised through positive interactions between pupil and teacher. Both literacy and numeracy are catered for. A variety of diagnostic tests, including Quest, the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability (NARA) and the Non-Reading Intelligence Test (NRIT) are administered.

 

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

Should educational disadvantage present among any pupils the principal addresses such issues in a discreet and caring manner. There are currently no pupils from minority groups enrolled in the school.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·       An atmosphere of friendliness and co-operation together with a positive work ethic imbue the daily life 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, February 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 


 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          

 

 

  1. Review date set for February to review curricular policies- starting with English.
  2. Places of local interest identified – organising visits, follow up projects, activities.
  3. Contact has been made with facilitator with a view to upskilling in I.W.B. usage.