An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
S N Eoin Baisde (Buachaillí Sinsearacha)
Seafield Road, Clontarf, Dublin 3
Date of inspection: 20 February 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of S N Eoin Baisde (Buachaillí Sinsearacha). It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
S N Eoin Baisde (Buachaillí Sinsearacha), located on Seafield Road, Clontarf, caters for boys from third to sixth class who come, in the main, from the parishes of St Anthony, St John and St Gabriel. The enrolment figure on 30 September 2007 stood at 354 which was a significant increase on the numbers enrolled at the time of the last school report which was written in 1999. The present school site will not allow for any major expansion of enrolment.
The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and its mission statement promotes the holistic development of each pupil and embraces the concepts of partnership between home and school and of diversity and difference among the pupils. The statement very particularly stresses the importance of ensuring that pupils are tolerant and considerate of one another and the need for vigilance with regard to confronting all forms of bullying. There is a strong sense of collegiality among staff and the pupils present as courteous to one another, to their teachers and to visitors to the school.
The teaching staff at present consists of sixteen full-time and two part-time teachers. The average attendance of pupils for the previous school year was very good. Plans are very well advanced for the refurbishment and extension of the school building. The issue of how and where the school will continue to function during the building project is a matter of major consideration for the school management at present.
The board of management is very supportive of the work of the school. It identifies its main priority as the provision of a safe environment for the pupils, one that is conducive to learning and the provision of a broad education for all. The board of management is properly constituted, meets on a monthly basis and a treasurer’s report is presented. Accounts are audited annually. Minutes of the board’s meetings were made available to the evaluation team. The very frequent visits of the chairperson and treasurer to the school are indicative of the high level of support of the board of management for the school. The present board has been formed recently and in the past members have availed of training provided by the Catholic Primary Schools Managers’ Association (CPSMA).
The board of management has overseen the provision of many school policies, such as an admission and enrolment policy, the code of behaviour and discipline, an attendance strategy, the health and safety statement and the child protection policy. In the main the board of management’s involvement in policy formation, both of an administrative and curricular nature, has been by way of ratification. However it has been involved especially in the development of the Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme and the anti-bullying policy. The issue of initiating and driving policy matters might be further explored by the board where it is reasonable to do so.
The board ensures that school policies generally are effectively communicated to parents who are consulted for their views on a very regular basis. The board aims to encourage the involvement of teachers in continuing professional development and very commendably it has allocated funds to support teachers in this regard in the past.
The principal brings considerable experience and expertise to his duties in relation to leading and managing the school. He attaches much importance to being open to new ideas from any source which may be of benefit to the pupils in his school, particularly in relation to developing their sense of independence and care for others. The principal places great emphasis on promoting collegiality among staff and on encouraging them to provide a broad and balanced curriculum for all their pupils. He ensures that suitable assessment procedures on pupil performance are in place and he is particularly supportive of newly qualified teachers.
The in-school management team comprises the principal, the deputy principal, the assistant principal and five special duties teachers. The responsibilities of each member commendably span the organisational, curricular and pastoral spectrum and are related to developing needs of the school. The willingness of all other members of staff who do not have posts of responsibility to share responsibility for certain curricular and pastoral areas is highly commended and indicative of very positive relationships within the school.
All members of the in-school management team are very supportive of the principal in his leadership role. They meet with him informally rather than formally on the basis that it is felt that important decisions relating to school matters should involve all members of the teaching staff in full open dialogue at staff meetings. While acknowledging the positive aspects of such an approach it is recommended that the in-school management team members should meet formally on a regular basis to further consider their own important roles as leaders within the school community.
The in-school management team ably supported by all other members of staff ensures the very smooth day-to day administration and organisation of general school activities.
The principal leads a team of capable and very committed teachers, three of whom are in their probationary year. At present the teaching staff consists of a principal, twelve classroom teachers, one of whom is the deputy principal, three full-time learning support/resource teachers and two part-time learning support/resource teachers. There are also three special-needs assistants on staff. The latter, under the guidance of the class teachers, display much empathy with their pupils and fulfil their duties very competently. The school avails to very good effect of the services of a secretary, a caretaker and two part-time cleaners. External coaches are involved in the teaching of hurling, Gaelic football, cricket and lawn tennis.
Classes are allocated after discussion with teachers and consideration is given to their needs and concerns with a view to developing and motivating staff generally. The principal and staff are conscious of the need for continuing professional development. A number of staff members have been up-skilled in areas relating to the Visual Arts, Social, Environmental and Scientific Education, special education, encompassing learning support and dyslexia, autism and information and communication technology (ICT). This is in addition to partaking of the curricular support provided by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) and the planning support provided by the School Development Planning Service (SDPS).
The main school accommodation consists of ten permanent classrooms, three temporary classrooms and a general purpose room which is shared with the junior boys’ school. One of the temporary classrooms has been divided to accommodate learning support/resource teaching and old cloakrooms were transformed into a computer cum art room. The playground is restricted resulting in dual morning and lunchtime breaks for the middle and senior classes. There is limited access to an Astroturf pitch which is owned by Clontarf GAA club and the school also has the use of a pitch in St Anne’s Park, Raheny. The main school building was opened in 1964 and along with its immediate environs has been well maintained over the years. However the proposed refurbishment and extension should considerably enhance the accommodation available at present and provide a more modern educational setting for teachers and pupils, not least in relation to school furniture.
There is a very good array of educational resources encompassing most curricular areas available throughout the school. It is recommended, however that a suitable supply of simple supplementary Irish readers be made available to pupils throughout the school. Teachers make good use of visual aids in the various teaching and learning situations. Teachers generally are commended for the attractive and useful displays of visual aids, materials and work samples of pupils which help to create an environment that is conducive to the implementation of the primary school curriculum. At the moment the school has sixteen personal computers in the computer room and also a computer linked to a printer in every classroom, all on broadband. The school also has established its own website. Classroom accommodation requirements in the recent years have hindered the development of whole school library facilities.
The parents are kept well informed of happenings in the school by means of regular newsletter and also by means of the website. The chairperson of the board of management and the principal liaise closely with the officers of the parents’ association. The officers of the association reported a high level of satisfaction with the manner in which they can approach any teacher when there is a need. Also they acknowledged the major role that the principal has played in ensuring that parents’ views are asked for and addressed. They felt that the board of management and staff are always willing to accommodate any reasonable proposals that are of advantage to the pupils. The parents’ association has direct involvement with the school through its work on the book fair, science displays, open days for parents, various school outings and tours, input into school policies and provision of talks of an educational nature for parents. Admirably the association sees its role as wide and varied, with fund-raising only as one element.
The officers reported, however, that they would like a greater response to their efforts from the wider parent body. In this regard members of the parents’ association might avail of the advice and training provided by the National Parents’ Council (Primary), to which the association is affiliated.
In consultation with all the partners, namely members of the board, teachers and parents the school has devised a suitable code of discipline and behaviour. Prominence is given to some important rules by way of display in the classrooms and the pupils are very conscious of what constitutes acceptable behaviour. The teachers treat the pupils kindly and firmly and the pupils in turn display very good standards of conduct. The pupils are encouraged and trained gently by their teachers to be caring of peers who may have special or diverse needs. Pupils are trained to work collaboratively on a variety of different tasks and this should stand them in good stead in later years. The vast majority of pupils present as confident, articulate and very well-behaved.
The school plan outlines comprehensive policies, programmes and procedures for a wide range of organisational, pastoral and curricular areas. School policy is generally formulated by the school staff and presented to the board of management for ratification. All teachers have been encouraged to become involved in the development of the school plan and the process has evolved over a number of years. The process of having every teacher act as a curriculum co-ordinator is noted and there is evidence that the curricular policies are reflected in the teachers’ own personal planning and that they are consequently impacting positively on the teaching and learning in the school.
There is evidence that all the partners have collaborated in a number of the administrative and pastoral policies. The officers of the parents’ association reported that there is a very high level of meaningful consultation with the parent body. The school’s code of discipline and behaviour which is in booklet form and other important policies such as the recently reviewed anti-bullying policy and the homework policy are very well communicated to the parent body by means of a regular newsletter.
Elements of the school plan are continuously under review. However there is some variation in the timing of the various reviews and it is not clear when some plans are for review. In reviewing the school plan generally it is recommended that the plan be organised into various sections, introductory section, sections for the organisational, curriculum and pastoral care policies and a development section to include action plans and priorities under review. This would further enhance the accessibility of the school plan and the distribution of core policies and procedures to teachers and the wider parent body.
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.
The teachers’ long-term and short-term planning are based on the content objectives, strands and strand units of the curriculum and generally well linked with the school plan. Most teachers provide comprehensive planning and make clear and meaningful reference to matters such as content objectives, varied teaching methodologies, the use of resources, the principles of differentiation and assessment procedures. Monthly progress records are compiled carefully by the teachers and maintained centrally by the principal. Planning for pupils with special educational needs is also of a high standard.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The quality of learning and teaching in the school was evaluated on the basis of observation of both learning and teaching in the mainstream classes and in the support rooms. The pupils were questioned by the inspectors and their written work, both past and present, was reviewed. The results of the pupils’ performance on standardised tests in English and Mathematics were also taken into account.
The teachers present a very broad and balanced programme of education to the pupils. They provide attractive displays of visual aids and of learning materials to complement comprehensive written preparation. Lesson content is communicated very effectively to the pupils and in general textbooks and workbooks are used judiciously. The teachers employ a variety of methodologies and in general are very conscious of the importance of differentiated approaches to teaching their pupils. All teachers maintain progress reports on work completed.
The pupils are keen learners, work well collaboratively when required and generally indicate very good language skills. The quality of the pupils’ written work, while varying somewhat in terms of neatness of presentation from class to class, is generally of a high standard. The pupils’ performance on standardised tests in English and in Mathematics is carefully analysed and monitored. Overall the quality of learning and teaching in the school is very good.
Is inmholta mar a leagan an plean scoile béim ar chur chun cinn an chultúir Ghaelaigh agus ar chothú meas na ndaltaí ar an Ghaeilge. Is inmholta freisin mar a chuireann an plean scoile na feidhmeanna teanga ar cheart a mhúineadh os comhair oidí na scoile. Reachtáiltear Seachtain na Gaeilge go rialta agus baintear feidhm bhreá as an Ghaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh na scoile go héifeachtúil. Leagann na hoidí uile an-bhéim ar an dteanga labhartha agus cleachtar gníomhaíochtaí cainte, drámaíocht, cluichí cainte agus obair i bpéirí i gcuid mhór de na ranganna. Is inmholta mar a chuireann na hoidí béim ar leathnú foclóra. Léiríonn formhór na ndaltaí cumas maith tuisceana agus tá stór leathan foclóra acu. Leagann oidí áirithe an–bhéim ar cheart úsáid na mbriathra agus na n-aimsirí agus ba chóir an cleachtas seo a fhorbairt níos mó fós tríd an scoil. Is an-inmholta mar a thugtar caoi do dhaltaí i ranganna áirithe ceisteanna a chur ar a chéile agus ar na hoidí go nádúrtha, réidh. Moltar gan aon ró-bhéim a leagan ar mhodh an aistriúcháin i dteagasc na Gaeilge.
Déanann na hoidí ceangal cuí idir an teanga labhartha, an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht. Léann na daltaí an téacsábhar Gaeilge go cruinn, tuisceanach i gcoitinne agus déanann siad an obair scríofa atá bunaithe cuid mhór ar na téacsleabhair go muiníneach, tairbheach. B’fhiú, áfach, réimse leathan de théacsanna suimiúla Gaeilge a chur ar fáil do na daltaí chun breis suime a spreagadh sa léitheoireacht, go háirithe i gcás daltaí a bhfuil na scileanna bunúsacha acu cheana féin. Moltar, nuair a bheas an t-aithbhreithniú á dhéanamh ar an bplean scoile sa Ghaeilge go ndéanfar forbairt agus forleathnú ar a bhfuil ann faoi láthair maidir le múineadh na léitheoireachta sa scoil.
The manner in which emphasis is placed in the school plan on the promotion of Irish culture and on developing the pupils’ appreciation of Irish is praiseworthy. Also the school plan commendably outlines for the teachers the Irish language functions to be taught throughout the school. Seachtain na Gaeilge is held regularly and effective use is made of Irish as a language of general school communication. All the teachers place very good emphasis on the oral aspect of Irish and language activities, drama, word games and pair work are practised in many classes. Most pupils indicate good levels of understanding and display a wide vocabulary. Some teachers place very god emphasis on the correct usage of verbs and their tenses and this practice should be extended throughout the school. The opportunities that are given to pupils in certain classes to ask questions of one another and of their teachers are very commendable. It is recommended that there should be no undue reliance on translation methods in the teaching of Irish.
The teachers make suitable links between the spoken language, reading and writing. The pupils read their Irish texts accurately and with good understanding in general and they complete their written work which is based to a large extent on their textbooks confidently and to advantage. It would be useful, however, that the school provide a wide range of interesting Irish texts to further interest in reading, particularly for pupils who have mastered the basic reading skills. It is recommended that when the school plan for Irish is reviewed the section on the teaching and learning of reading be developed and extended.
A comprehensive whole school plan for English informs the teaching of the subject throughout the school. The teachers’ short-term planning allows for important principles such as integration and differentiation and is very relevant to the abilities and needs of the pupils. Very appropriate emphasis is placed on oral communication and the pupils are willing and able to ask and answer questions and to express their thoughts and feelings effectively using a wide and varied vocabulary. Oral language is an integral part of all lessons and is very suitably developed across all curricular area. In many classes poetry is explored to allow pupils to develop a further appreciation of the beauty and power of words and pupils are afforded opportunities to write and celebrate their own attempts at this genre. The value of having pupils memorise poems that they find attractive and meaningful might be further considered on a whole school basis.
Classrooms libraries are generally well stocked and an interest in reading is strongly promoted, not least by way of Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) which allows for silent reading on the part of the pupils. There is a suitable mix of emphasis on reading for pleasure and reading to learn. Pupils can read fluently and most pupils display very good comprehension levels as they progress through the school. Reading records are maintained in each classroom indicating very good standards in reading attainment and support for all pupils. The pupils respond very well to a broad and challenging range of class novels, which are used effectively in addition to other reading material to develop sophisticated reading skills in the pupils, more particularly the ability to address higher-order questions posed by the teachers. Pupils display very good descriptive powers in summarising orally their various novels. Authors are invited to the school and pupils have the opportunity to engage with them and explore the writing process.
The pupils throughout the school are enabled to engage in a variety of writing genres which may extend across curricular areas, such as Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE). Samples of pupils’ written work showed very good emphasis on the functional use of language such as grammar, comprehension, dictation and dictionary skills. The pupils’ use of English is also being developed appropriately in their story writing. In general the standard of the pupils’ written work is of a high standard by way of content. There is some variation, however, in the standard of the work by way of presentation across the school. It is recommended that a whole school approach be adopted to foster a more consistent approach to developing penmanship skills and also to further assist some pupils in editing their own work and engaging further with the writing process. Good use is made of ICT in presenting pupils’ individual and class projects.
Good all-round planning for the teaching of Mathematics and statements of clear learning outcomes help to ensure a very systematic approach to classroom work. Some teachers, very commendably, shared learning intentions with their classes before the start of lesson. Attention is paid to oral mathematics and to the development of appropriate mathematical terms throughout the school. Focused discussion and purposeful questioning, including questions of a challenging nature, direct pupils’ activities and sustain a high level of engagement. Differentiation was a feature of most teachers’ planning, although not observed in actual classroom practice to a large extent. However, very effectual in-class supplementary support is afforded to pupils who experience difficulty with any elements of Mathematics. This support is given in a sensitive, unobtrusive manner and is received willingly by the pupils.
There is an appropriate balance and linkage between the strands of the mathematics curriculum with some very good practice observed in the teaching of number, shape and space and measures. The pupils in the middle classes indicate very good knowledge generally of the appropriate number facts and compute accurately. Their written work is suitably varied and generally neatly done. The pupils in the senior classes indicated very good understanding in relation to place value, to the ordering of fractions and decimals and a very good ability to relate the latter to the various measures. The involvement of pupils in real life mathematical problem-solving situations, such as the work with foreign currencies engaged in by pupils in the senior classes, is especially commended. Greater application of such an approach and the development of an agreed strategy to problem solving generally would further enhance the teaching and learning of Mathematics in the school.
The pupils generally achieve very good standards in Mathematic. Copies are regularly monitored by teachers as a form of assessment of learning and also to inform future teaching and learning. Teacher-designed tasks, tests, and observation together with standardised tests are used to assess and promote the progress of pupils in Mathematics.
The school has drawn up a comprehensive plan for history across the strands and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum. It clearly outlines the content and skills development for each class groupings and notes the methodologies that need to be adopted. There is very good emphasis on the development of skills as a historian and the pupils displayed keen interest in themes relating to prison life in the nineteenth century, Viking ships, the Great Famine and the 1916 Rising. The pupils engaged in lively and well-informed discussion and indicated an ability to investigate, use evidence and present their findings both orally and in writing impressively. Good use is made of photographs and other appropriate materials to stimulate discussion and enable pupils empathise with peoples from past times. The commendable practice of establishing timelines in some classrooms to give pupils a sense of time and chronology should be further extended throughout the school. Work in history is integrated with other areas of the curriculum, notably Visual Arts, Drama, English and Music and there is appropriate use of ICT to enhance the work. Local history themes are addressed and the teachers emphasise the wealth of historical material available to the pupils in the various city museums. The interest of the pupils is further stimulated through presentations from outside groups on the Stone Age, the Celts, the Vikings, the Normans and the 1916 Rising. Pupils in the sixth classes each year visit the Dáil, Kilmainham Jail and participate in a Dublin Walking Tour.
A comprehensive and detailed geography plan was drawn up in 2007. The plan makes appropriate provision for the teaching of all three strands of the curriculum with commendable emphasis on skills development through the teaching of content. A geography co-ordinator has been appointed to monitor the implementation of this plan. The local environment has been identified as a starting point for geographical investigation and an audit of the school grounds has been completed. Trail and field work are undertaken competently in the school grounds and the wider local area of St Anne’s Park and Bull Island. A very good standard of written presentations based on field work was on display and in copy books. In the lessons observed during the evaluation, standards of teaching and learning in Geography were laudable. Maps and globes are used effectively to develop a sense of place and space. In line with the principles of the curriculum, lessons in Geography have a balance of teacher-directed approach, pair work and group work. Pupils demonstrated a lively interest, good knowledge and a sense of pride in their local environment. The school’s well-planned, highly organised and creative approach to the Green School initiative is specifically commended as a means of developing the strand of environmental awareness and care. Aspects of the lives and environments of people in other countries are studied effectively through the school’s involvement with the Lemongo Project in Kenya. Pupils have been involved in fundraising and as a result have contributed to the building of a primary school in Kenya.
The school plan for the teaching of Science, which commendably has a safety statement, ensures that appropriate provision is made for all strands and that the school is very well resourced for the teaching of the subject. The lessons observed related to the strands of energy and forces, materials and environmental awareness and care. The teachers’ emphasis on skills development ensures that the pupils observe, question, predict, analyse and record to good effect. The pupils enjoy and benefit from their experiments with household chemicals, with magnets, compasses and electricity circuits and articulate their findings confidently and accurately. They also explain their involvement in achieving Green School status with very good understanding and clarity. The school has a very successful recycling and waste management policy. The work in Science is admirably integrated with Geography and the aforementioned trip to Bull Island has resulted in the pupils demonstrating enthusiasm, interest and good knowledge of the island and of the variety of bird species and their habitats in particular. One class group has participated in a mini-beast hunt in the school grounds where very good scientific work was conducted. The school organises with the support of parents an annual Science Day where the importance of the subject is highlighted through displays and hands-on activities.
A school plan for Visual Arts informs the teaching of this subject to very good effect and a special effort is made on a whole school basis to give the pupils an appreciation of art and to afford them opportunities to experience a wide range of media. There are very attractive displays of the pupils’ work throughout the school and there is good variety and ongoing development in evidence. Pupils are afforded opportunities through the strand of drawing to become aware of line, tone, texture, shape, form and space and are making very good progress generally in their sketching. Talk and discussion are usefully employed at the outset of lessons and pupils are encouraged to look and respond to other pupils’ efforts. Collages, both individual and group-work, were attractively displayed in classrooms and along corridors. A large number of the pupils’ drawings have been framed and are on display. They are indicative of the importance the principal and staff attach to Visual Arts generally and are also a source of pride to the pupils and a celebration of their work. Opportunity to critique national and international artists is a feature in some classrooms and some pupils have engaged with art work which was part of the recent exhibition of famous Polish art work in the National Gallery. The parents are very supportive of the school’s efforts to promote art and have provided funding for the visits of artists to the school and the principal also encourages contributions from pupils for Ealaín na Seachtaine. All strands of the curriculum are given due attention during the course of the year. A well-structured and well-directed lesson in clay work was also observed during the course of the visit.
A broad and balanced long-term plan has been devised for the implementation of the music curriculum. A music co-ordinator has been appointed to monitor the implementation of this plan. In the classes where the teaching of Music was observed, it is evident that Music is taught in a highly competent manner. A range of methodologies is in use and lessons are skilfully constructed. Activities pertaining to developing pupils’ performance, composition, listening and responding skills were effectively undertaken. The school is commended for the co-operative teaching practices in evidence in the delivery of the curriculum whereby the musical strengths of teachers are shared to the benefit of the pupils. The pupils are exposed to music of different styles, periods and cultures and music is integrated effectively with many areas of the curriculum. There is praiseworthy pupil engagement and participation in music lessons. The standard of singing is very satisfactory and the pupils sing a suitable repertoire of songs in Irish and in English enthusiastically. Creditable work is carried out on the study of traditional Irish music during tin-whistle lessons and pupils play with great sense of enjoyment. Pupils display commendable ability in composing, recalling and performing rhythmic patterns using a variety of percussion instruments and body percussion. They enthusiastically imitate, compose and record these rhythmic patterns using appropriate stick notation. They also display laudable awareness of and control of the musical elements, pulse, rhythm, tempo, timbre, structure and dynamics. The school concert and participation in Córfhéile na Scoileanna enhance the pupils’ opportunities to perform publically. Trips to concerts and opportunities to hear performances by members of Comhaltas Cluain Tarbh provide the pupils with a wide range of musical experiences.
The curriculum in Drama is currently being implemented at class level with teachers exploring a variety of strategies to enable pupils to explore and make drama, reflect on the dramatic process and co-operate and communicate effectively through process drama. This enables pupils to develop awareness of gesture, tone, expression, role and character. Talk, discussion, mime, paired work, group work, teacher in role and pupil in role are successfully used to stimulate interest and to engage the pupils fully in Drama. Pupils are also skilfully enabled to develop appreciation of plot and theme. Pupils display high levels of enthusiasm enjoyment and engagement. The teachers are commended for embracing a wide range of strategies and approaches which will provide a firm basis for the development of the school plan in Drama. Discrete time is allocated by some teachers for drama lessons and this good practice should be extended across all class levels. Good improvisation lessons were observed. The lessons observed drew skilfully from the context of story, a novel and an historical scenario. Pupils’ natural impulse to make-believe was used to good effect. They entered into character, imagining the past and the motivations of people in times past. Through opportunity for reflection, pupils had opportunity to consider thought processes, examine choices made and come to an understanding of decisions made. To ensure that all drama lessons become learning experiences, the good practice of reflecting on the dramatic action and on the insights gained therein, should be an aspect of practice reflected in the long-term plan.
4.6 Physical Education
The pupils are exposed to a very wide variety of physical education activities and they derive much benefit and enjoyment therein. The lessons observed encompassed the strands of games, gymnastics and athletics and were very well structured and suitably paced to meet the needs and abilities of the pupils. Specific skills were isolated and taught systematically by the teachers who ensured that talk and discussion were important features of the lessons. A very good array of physical education equipment and materials was used by the teachers in the lessons. Admirable attention was paid to safety issues and warm-up activities and the pupils’ physical well-being was very suitably nurtured. A variety of teaching methods was employed by the teachers, including station training and the pupils’ level of skill acquisition was commendable.
While the school has a proud tradition in school competitions across a range of games and athletics the staff is especially keen to ensure that all pupils have opportunities to experience and enjoy sporting endeavour at their own level. Members of staff are highly commended for the professional manner in which they take charge of teams across a number of different codes. The focus on healthy eating within the school, supported by a recently introduced programme entitled Food Dudes is of great assistance to developing good fitness levels in the pupils generally.
The whole school plan for Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) outlines a two year cycle for the implementation of the strands of the curriculum at each class level. The school’s approach to SPHE is directly linked to its mission statement. The plan emphasises the development of a framework of values, attitudes, understanding and skills and positive behaviour which sees the school as a microcosm of society set in the larger environment of the neighbourhood. There is a palpable atmosphere of respect and inclusion throughout the school, with the encouragement of respectful language, good communication and the boosting of self-esteem. Many strategies are adopted so that children feel comfortable with the routines, customs and events in the school and know the limits and boundaries of acceptable behaviour. The development of an independent work ethic allied to a genuine commitment to civic awareness is a very commendable feature of the school culture.
Teachers implement a balanced programme within their classrooms, with regular discussion, pair work, group work and other appropriate methodologies. There is commendable integration with other aspects of the curriculum, ensuring deep and meaningful learning experiences. The teachers draw on a range of programmes specially designed to develop skills, knowledge and attitudes which inform decision making in the social, personal and health dimensions of the pupils’ lives. Pupils co-operate well in these lessons and they show respect for other points of view. Policies in relation to SPHE incorporated in school planning documentation include the child protection, anti-bullying, substance use, relationships and sexuality education (RSE), administration of medicines and enrolment policies.
The school is in the process of devising a whole school policy on assessment in line with recent guidelines from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. The staff has devised a useful array of assessment strategies which are well reflected in the teacher’s planning. Teacher observation and teacher-devised tasks and tests such as tables, spellings, writing assignments and projects are widely applied throughout the school. The wider use of pupil portfolios should be considered by staff. The main standardised tests in use in the school are the Drumcondra Primary Reading Test and the Drumcondra Primary Mathematics Tests which are administered in May of each year. The Non Reading Intelligence Test (NRIT) is also administered where appropriate. Diagnostic testing on pupils who are in receipt of additional support in reading includes tests such as Jackson Phonics, Neale Analysis of Reading Assessment, the Dolch Primer List and the Dyslexia Screening Test.
The results of these standardised tests and their own teacher-devised tests enable the teachers to reflect on their pupils’ progress and to adapt the curriculum to meet the needs of the pupils. The learning support/resource teachers, in conjunction with the class teachers analyse the standardised test results effectively in order to select pupils for diagnostic testing. The reality is that relatively few pupils in the school indicate major difficulties in either English or Mathematics. Test results are collated carefully and stored centrally. Information on the pupils’ achievements and attainment levels are passed on each year in a pupil profile card. Parents are kept informed of their children’s progress by means of annual reports and through parent-teacher meetings.
A comprehensive whole-school plan for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) has been developed based on the Department’s circular 02/05. It outlines criteria for the selection of pupils for supplementary teaching, procedures for discontinuation of pupils with this support and the various roles of the partners involved in the pupils’ learning. It is informative and is in accordance with the school’s caring ethos. The staged approach to assessment, identification and programme implementation is utilised appropriately. Effective links have been established with outside agencies, where required. The special education team in the school consists of three full-time learning-support/resource teachers and two part-time support teachers with a total of 17.5 hours between them. As a team, they meet the needs of pupils who are diagnosed with low incidence learning needs and learning difficulties. Thirty-seven pupils receive support for Mathematics and forty-two are in receipt of support for literacy with nineteen of these pupils receiving support in both areas. Support is largely provided on a withdrawal basis, either individually or in small groups, and is effectively complemented with in-class support. A range of teaching strategies is implemented in these settings. The programmes of learning focus on the development of language, literacy, numeracy, social and behavioural skills. Practical activities are undertaken and a range of educational software is used in a productive manner. Despite the space constraints within the school, the main learning environment in the support setting is well-organised and is attractively decorated.
Detailed individual education plans (IEPs) and individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) have been devised for each pupil in receipt of resource and learning support teaching respectively. The clarity of both the learning targets that are based on the pupils’ priority needs and the teaching and learning approaches employed is commended, as is the consultation with pupils’ parents and class teachers in their development. Feedback regarding pupil progress is provided to parents at annual parent/teacher meetings and the pupils’ work is effectively organised. Pupils’ progress is regularly recorded and reviewed at suitable intervals during the school year. Stimulating print-rich learning environments are created by teachers and a range of commercial and teacher-designed resources are effectively employed to support learning. Lessons observed were very well structured with teachers ensuring that pupils’ engaged in appropriate learning activities. Pupils were intellectually challenged and they engaged purposefully in the tasks set. The interactions observed between teachers and pupils receiving supplementary teaching were very affirming and encouraging of the pupils. Three special needs assistants provide support for specific pupils. They make an important contribution to pupil learning in their respective classes under the careful guidance of the class teachers. Overall the quality of the support for pupils with special educational needs is very good.
The school is not involved in any of the Department’s programmes designed to combat disadvantage. Teachers are sensitive to any isolated instance of disadvantage which manifests and endeavour to be as supportive as possible of specific family situations. In the past the school has catered respectfully and with concern and care for a small number of newcomer pupils.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
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 June 2008