An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Bhríde

New Inn County Galway

Uimhir rolla: 17934B

 

Date of inspection: 13 February 2008

 

 

 

 

 

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

Conclusion

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Bhríde, New Inn, was undertaken in February, 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 Social, Personal and Health Education.  The board of management 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 Bhríde is a co-educational primary school located in the village of New Inn, Co. Galway, approximately 14km from the town of Loughrea. It is one of four schools in the parish of New Inn serving a mainly rural population. Enrolments in Scoil Bhríde have fallen slightly in recent years. The decrease reflects the settled nature of the local community which has remained largely unaffected by major road developments between Loughrea and Galway City. 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

93

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

7

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

3 (2 job-sharing and 1 part-time)

Special needs assistants

1

Secretary

1 part-time

Caretaker

1 part-time

 

Scoil Bhríde was extended and refurbished in 2005/6 and provides bright, spacious accommodation for the pupils and staff. The school is diligent in promoting pupil attendance and school records indicate very good attendance levels for the majority of pupils.

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Scoil Bhríde is under the patronage of the Bishop of Clonfert. The school supports the beliefs and practices of the Catholic Church and the traditions of the local community. The mission statement commits to nurturing all dimensions of the pupils’ lives and to fostering a framework of values on which pupils may base future decisions. Assemblies are a regular feature of school life and are organised in consultation with the chairperson of the board of management. They incorporate prayer services, song singing and celebrations of pupils’ work and achievements. Attended by staff, parents, pupils and board members, the assemblies are indicative of the strong team spirit in the school and of the good relations which exist among the board, staff and parent body.

 

1.2 Board of management

A new board of management was recently appointed in accordance with departmental guidelines. Board meetings are generally convened four to five times a year and minutes are carefully recorded. Financial statements are presented regularly and accounts are audited annually. The new board has undergone training in relation to managing child protection concerns and has been involved in ratifying school policy. Draft policy documents are normally presented at board meetings and consideration should now be given to circulating them beforehand in order to allow appropriate time for perusal and reflection prior to their discussion at board level. It is also suggested that the board should consider forming working groups from among its members as a means of engaging more fully in the review and development of curricular policies.

 

The board complies with statutory requirements and departmental guidelines in relation to development of policy on enrolment, discipline, attendance, health and safety and child protection. The school maintains a four-year action plan and recent priorities include the formulation of policy on Physical Education and the provision of resources to support the programme. The board is now focussing on replacing the boundary wire around play areas and on completing a full safety check of the premises. The issuing of an annual report on the operation of the school is to be addressed at the end of the school year.

 

The school is commended for the quality of its accommodation and the range of its resources. Successive boards of management have worked collaboratively with staff and parents to secure funding from a variety of sources, including a devolved grant from the Department. The school has four spacious classrooms, an attractive central library, a resource room, a general-purposes room, a staffroom, office and appropriate toilet facilities. The school site accommodates a grass pitch, a basketball court, hard-surface play areas, a garden and a specially equipped and surfaced infant playground. Technological resources funded by the Department have been extensively supplemented by resources provided by sponsorship, recycling schemes and projects managed by the Galway Education Centre.

 

The board values, promotes and supports continuous professional development. The principal is involved in the design and delivery of modules on leadership as an associate team member of the national programme for Leadership Development for Schools (LDS). The deputy principal is currently participating in the LDS Tánaiste Programme. Staff members recently attended courses on learning-support, special education and the use of technology, and some pursue post-graduate studies. The school also engages with School Development Planning Support (SDPS) and the Regional Curriculum Support Services (RCSS). The current focus for staff development is on the use of a variety of classroom practices to enhance teaching and learning.

 

The board identifies the positive, happy school atmosphere and the high levels of co-operation, collaboration and commitment among the staff as the main strengths of the school.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of a teaching principal, a deputy principal and a special duties teacher. The principal was appointed to the staff in 2003 and draws on a broad range of experiences to manage the daily affairs of the school and to lead teaching and learning. Communication with the board, staff and parents is conscientiously fostered and a clear vision for the school is shared with all parties. The chairperson visits frequently and staff meetings are regularly organised to focus on targeted areas for change and development. The principal provides an excellent role model in classroom practice, facilitates engagement with the national support services and fosters an openness to implementing new approaches to teaching and learning. The skills, talents and interests of the staff are recognised, acknowledged and developed, and all staff members engage in formulating curricular policy.

 

The principal is ably supported by the deputy principal and special duties teacher. Their willingness and dedication are evident in the time and energy which they devote to the fulfilment of their duties. The duties are regularly reviewed, progress reports are provided at staff meetings and the principal provides an oral report to the board as matters arise. While the in-school management team assumes specific duties, the manner in which all staff members take on leadership responsibilities is commendable. 

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Relationships with parents and the school community are managed to very good effect. The parents’ association communicates regularly with the principal and works collaboratively with the board to organise fund-raising activities. Parents support book fairs, library visits, shared-reading activities, healthy eating and the Green School project. Parents regularly provide transport for sporting fixtures, attend meetings in support of the religious development of their children and assist in the organisation of celebrations involving the school and the community. Parents have engaged to some extent in the development of policy and it is suggested that draft policy documents be forwarded to the association’s committee as an avenue for ascertaining parental views and as a means of increasing parental participation in policy formulation. It would also be of benefit for the association to affiliate to the National Parents’ Council.

 

A number of effective practices facilitate regular contact between the school and parents, including the use of homework diaries, notes, letters, a school magazine and a notice board for parents. Parent-teacher meetings are held once a year and written progress reports are issued at the end of the school year. Parent representatives express a high level of satisfaction with the provision in the school and praise in particular the school’s open-door policy, the manner in which parental concerns are handled, the extra-curricular programme and the school’s work in relation to the promotion of savings. Parents also acknowledge that the school establishes appropriate links with second-level schools to facilitate transition.

 

New Inn is noted for its musical tradition, its keen sporting culture and its strong community spirit. The school supports this culture and maintains links with local agencies. Many pupils avail of instrumental tuition provided locally and the Leisure Centre beside the school permits access to its facilities in support of the school’s programme in Physical Education and the organisation of after-school activities. The school in turn provides opportunities for pupils to develop their musical skills through performing at school concerts, religious services and community celebrations. Engagement in sport activities is encouraged and coaching in hurling, camogie and football by eminent local and county players is facilitated on the school timetable.  

 

1.5 Management of pupils

There is a very positive atmosphere in the school and particular emphasis is placed on pupils developing respect for themselves, others and the environment. Pupils display interest in a wide range of activities and present as very happy, courteous and co-operative. The organisation of assemblies, the preparation of pupils for participation in public events and the display of pupils’ work in classrooms, corridors and public spaces all contribute to the pupils’ sense of well-being.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The planning process is managed in a systematic manner and a programme for policy development and review is set out in the school’s action plan. Planning objectives are prioritised through whole-school discussion and effective and efficient use is made of ‘facilitators’ and ‘cuiditheoirí’ attached to the national support services. The school plan incorporates a range of clearly written organisational policies pertinent to the needs and context of the school. The curricular policies developed to date address the strands and strand units of the curriculum and emphasise the use of a variety of methodologies and approaches. Future development and review of policy should focus, in some curricular areas, on ensuring clarity in detailing the specific progression in content and the approach to be taken in the dual-class situation. Classroom planning is prepared using an agreed school template. Attention should now focus on ensuring a clear statement of learning outcomes linked with an appropriate choice of assessment techniques. 

 

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

Baineann éagsúlacht, greann agus taitneamh leis na himeachtaí sa Ghaeilge. Leagtar bunús tréan leis an teanga sna bunranganna trí thuiscint a chothú ar réimse leathan foclóra. Mealltar na daltaí chun abairtí iomlána a úsáid nuair is cuí agus leanann an dea-chleachtas seo ó rang go rang. Níor mhiste áfach a thuilleadh deiseanna fíorchumarsáide a chruthú i roinnt ranganna agus seilbh ar an teanga a dhaingniú trí dhul siar a dhéanamh go rialta agus an teanga a chleachtadh i gcomhthéacsanna nua. Déantar dea-chúram d’fheasacht cultúir agus baintear sár-thaitneamh as poirt Ghaelacha a sheinm go ceolmhar ar fheadóga stáin ó rang a haon ar aghaidh. Múintear raon breá rann, dánta agus amhrán ag gach rangleibhéal. Baintear feidhm éifeachtach as an drámaíocht i go leor ranganna agus is inmholta mar a dhéantar an t-ábhar a phlé i ranganna áirithe chun deis a thabhairt briathra a chasadh agus dea-thuiscint a ghnóthú ar chomhréir na teanga. Glactar páirt freisin i bhféiltí a reáchtálann an Cumann Scoildramaíochta.

 

Tugtar go cruthaitheach faoi scileanna léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta a fhorbairt. Leagtar béim ar fhoghraíocht agus ar luas na cainte le linn na léitheoireachta. Léann na daltaí go cruinn i gcoitinne agus léiríonn siad dea-thuiscint ar an ábhar. Is inmholta mar a thugtar faoi leabhair bheaga a dhéanamh i ranganna áirithe chun an teanga ó bhéal a nascadh leis na tascanna léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta. I ranganna eile leagtar béim ar chothú cumas chun ceist a chur chomh maith le ceist a fhreagairt agus b’fhiú an dea-chleachtas seo a fhorleathnú ar bhonn uile-scoile. Baineann forás cuí leis na gnóthaí scríbhneoireachta ar an iomlán agus bíonn na daltaí in ann tabhairt go cumasach faoi scríbhneoireacht phearsanta agus tuairisciú roimh fhágáil na scoile dóibh.

 

Tá sé i gceist ag an bhfoireann athbhreithniú a dhéanamh go luath ar an bplean scoile sa Ghaeilge. Le linn an athbhreithnithe, ba thairbheach na spriocanna ó thaobh gramadaí a aontú agus na straitéisí chun iad a bhaint amach a chlárú sa phlean scoile. B’fhiú freisin fothéamaí a aimsiú faoi na mórthéamaí teanga chun treoir chinnte a thabhairt maidir leis an bhforchéimniú atá i gceist ó rang go rang. Ba thairbheach chomh maith ceol, damhsa agus drámaíocht a chur san áireamh faoi Feasacht Cultúir chun fíor-réimse na hoibre sa Ghaeilge a léiriú.

 

Irish

The activities in Irish are characterised by variety, fun and enjoyment. A firm basis in the language is laid in the junior classes through developing an understanding of a wide range of vocabulary. The pupils are enticed to use full sentences when appropriate and this good practice is continued from class to class. However, it would be well to create more opportunities for real communication in some classes and to consolidate the acquisition of language through regular revision and through practicing the language in new contexts. Cultural appreciation is well managed and a high level of enjoyment is derived from playing Irish tunes musically on the tin whistle from first class onwards. A lovely range of rhymes, poems and songs is taught at each class level. Effective use is made of drama in many classes. The manner in which the material is discussed in order to provide opportunities to adapt verbs and to develop an understanding of syntax is praiseworthy in particular classes. The school also participates in festivals run by the Cumann Scoildrámaíochta (The Dramatic Society for Schools).

 

The skills of reading and writing are developed in a creative manner. Emphasis is placed on good pronunciation and fluency in reading. In general, the pupils read accurately and display a good understanding of the material. The making of little books in some classes in order to link oral language with reading and writing tasks is commendable. In other classes emphasis is placed on developing the ability to ask a question as well as the ability to answer a question. This good practice should be extended on a whole-school basis. There is generally an appropriate progression in the written exercises and pupils can competently undertake personal writing and reporting before leaving the school.

 

The staff intends to review the school plan in Irish in the near future. During the review, it would be beneficial to agree the targets in relation to grammar and to record the strategies to achieve them in the school plan. Minor themes should also be identified under the major language themes in order to give clear guidance regarding the progression that is envisaged from class to class. It would also be of benefit to include music, dance and drama under Cultural Appreciation in order to present the full range of work in Irish.

 

English

The staff has prepared a detailed whole-school plan in English which outlines the content and approaches to be used in the development of oral language, reading and writing. Discrete oral language lessons are timetabled and teachers display a high level of awareness of the importance of oracy for work in other curricular areas. Large books, visual materials and interesting games are used very successfully to extend vocabulary and to promote the early use of descriptive language and full sentence constructs. Pupils are exposed to a rich repertoire of poetry and they display increasing levels of confidence and competence in responding orally to a variety of genres of writing including story, the novel and informational texts.

 

Pupils display an enthusiasm for reading and a systematic approach is taken to implementing new practices to enhance skills. Emphasis is currently focussed on the development of basic skills and future focus for change and development will be directed towards fostering higher-order thinking skills. The benefits of an agreed whole-school approach to the development of phonological and phonemic awareness and to the teaching of spelling are notable. Informal and formal reading activities are very well structured at most class levels and pupils are enabled to develop confidence, fluency and interest in reading through the use of graded texts, the class novel and a broad range of supplementary reading materials. Consideration should now be given to the earlier introduction of the novel through serial reading by the teacher. Paired reading, peer-tutoring, computer software, book fairs, visiting authors and the school library are among the other successful strategies being used to promote continued engagement in the reading process.

 

Reading activities are closely linked with the development of writing skills. Pupils are provided with opportunities to write for real purposes and for real audiences, and are given consistent experience in drafting, editing and redrafting. The making of books from infant level through to senior level is commended and pupils display high levels of competency in the use of technology to present their work. Praiseworthy attention is paid to providing an environment rich in print and to developing handwriting and presentation skills.  

 

3.2 Mathematics

A comprehensive school plan for Mathematics provides clear guidance for the implementation of an activity and language-based programme at each class level. Classroom activities reflect the emphases of the curriculum and are very well organised and paced in most classrooms. Mathematical language is taught with consistency and all teachers provide opportunities for pupils to communicate quantitatively and spatially. Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on developing thinking strategies for problem-solving, on fostering estimation skills and on providing opportunities for the pupils to use and apply mathematical concepts in everyday life situations. Practices for enhancing memorisation and recall are well established and a range of enjoyable mathematical games is in use at each class level. The school’s technological resources are used to very good effect to develop and consolidate mathematical concepts. While an extensive supply of mathematical resources is stored centrally, consideration should also be given to ensuring that an ample supply of regularly used materials forms part of the mathematics’ display in each classroom. Commendable attention is given to the layout of work and pupils record their work very neatly. Mainstream teachers and members of the school’s support team collaborate effectively to aid differentiation, to facilitate group work, to organise in-class support and to implement support programmes including Maths Recovery.

 

3.3 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

The programme in SPHE is very well developed and all aspects are approached with sensitivity and care. The programme elicits a high level of support from the parent body and is closely linked to the school’s mission statement. Teachers combine an integrated approach with discrete lessons in order to develop a framework of knowledge, values and attitudes to inform decision-making and conflict resolution. Teachers draw on a broad range of programmes and initiatives to develop communication skills, confidence and self-esteem and to promote personal safety, self-respect, healthy living and care of the environment. Lessons are carefully planned and well-presented. Pupils are provided with opportunities to express their opinions, to listen to complementary or opposing views, to work collaboratively and to experience the benefits of teamwork. Very good use is made of activity, discussion, games, group work, circle time and drama. Pupils are regularly praised and their work and achievements are acknowledged and celebrated during meaningful school assemblies. Pupils assume library responsibilities and assist in implementing agreed practices in relation to care of the school environment. Excellent use is made of technology to source information, to present project work and to provide information to pupils and parents based on the Green Schools Initiative and other aspects of the pupils’ work.

 

3.4 Assessment

There is a high level of awareness among the staff of the benefits of developing effective practices for assessment of and assessment for learning in each aspect of the curriculum. The school plan identifies a range of assessment modes. Observation schedules, pupil profiles, record cards, portfolios of work, checklists, photographic records, indicators and teacher-designed tests are among the modes currently in use in the school. Written work is regularly corrected and emphasis is placed on using positive comments as feedback. Teacher observation, the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile, the Middle Infant Screening Test, and standardised tests in English and Mathematics are used to inform the organisation of early intervention programmes and supplementary teaching. Test results are carefully recorded and consideration should now be given to developing the recording system further to facilitate the tracking of individual pupils. An appropriate range of diagnostic tests is available and teachers regularly consult with one another regarding the mediation of the curriculum for individual pupils and particular class groupings. Information on pupil progress is provided at the annual parent/teacher meeting and parents receive a written report at the end of each school year.

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Provision for pupils identified with learning difficulties and special educational needs is effectively organised. The support team comprises two learning-support/resource teachers who job-share, a part-time resource teacher and a special-needs assistant. Parental support for the operation of the service has been judiciously developed and school policy is clearly documented. Supplementary teaching addresses English, Mathematics, social skills and specific areas of individual need. Provision is made through a combination of in-class support and pupil withdrawal. Early intervention commences at senior-infant level and the school implements the Forward Together and Maths Recovery programmes when appropriate. The school plan incorporates guidelines for the special needs assistant who ably supports a number of pupils in different classrooms. This support is focussed on developing life skills, on fostering confidence and independence and on enabling pupils to access the curriculum and engage in school activities.

 

The team members develop very good rapport with the pupils in their care and work closely with the principal and class teachers to develop and implement individual profile and learning programmes and individual education plans. Short-term planning for the most part is comprehensive and well-defined. The clarity of daily records documenting work completed and the degree to which targets are achieved is noteworthy. This practice is instrumental in ensuring continuity, consistency in approach and ease of changeover in the job-sharing situation. Technology is used regularly to support pupil development. Future development of the service should seek to formalise the consultation process with parents and to move towards full implementation of the terms relating to the development of individual education plans as detailed in the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004.

 

5.     Conclusion

The school has strengths in the following areas:

·         There is a very strong team spirit in the school and the board of management, staff, parents and community collaborate effectively to provide high quality educational experiences for the pupils.

·         Staff members engage with interest in professional development and are very open to adopting new practices in teaching and learning.

·         The school is well-resourced and is commended for its use of technology to support teaching and learning.

·         Praiseworthy attention is focussed on early intervention and on establishing effective practices to address the individual educational needs of the pupils.

 

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

·         The board should engage more fully in the development of curricular policy and should seek to increase the level of involvement of parents in policy formulation in general.

·         While reviewing curricular policy documents, emphasis should be placed on providing clear guidance in relation to the approach to be taken and the specific content to be covered at each class level in the dual-class teaching context.

·         The school should proceed with developing the process of formulating and reviewing individual education plans in preparation for future legislative requirements.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

               The Board and school are happy with the content of the report.

 

.

 

 

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

 

We have discussed the recommendation that the B.O.M. should engage more fully with curricular planning with the Board members.  The other two recommendations will be followed up on by the school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published October 2008

 

 

 

Published 23 October 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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 [h2]Note changes to language section.