An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

SN Bhaile Éamoinn

Edmondstown, Dublin 16

Uimhir rolla: 17953F

 

Date of inspection: 9 February 2009

 

 

 

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 Náisiúnta Bhaile Éamoinn was undertaken in February 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, Irish, 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

 

S.N. Bhaile Éamoinn is a co-educational school under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. It provides education for pupils from junior infants to sixth class in a multi-grade setting and serves both the pupils who live in the immediate urban locality and those from the rural hinterland of the Dublin Mountains. 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

88

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

6

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

2

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision.

The school aims to promote the full and harmonious development of all aspects of the person of its pupils including their intellectual, physical, cultural, moral and spiritual dimensions, and promotes their formation in the Catholic faith. Central to its mission is that it caters for its pupils’ needs in a caring, collaborative environment that promotes equality of participation in all school activities. The school’s commitment to its stated aims and ethos is reflected in the caring and inclusive school atmosphere and the positive interactions amongst the pupils and staff.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management, which is properly constituted, meets at least five times each year. The minutes of these meetings are recorded appropriately and the financial accounts are audited   annually in compliance with section 18(1) of the Education Act 1998.  The board is committed to providing a safe and attractive school environment. Specific roles have been allocated to the  members who discharge their duties conscientiously. The board has been active in progressing a school maintenance programme, funding educational resources and in the ratification of school policies. Ongoing concerns for the board include the lack of indoor space for physical education lessons and dealing with emergency flooding. The board communicates with the wider school community through the school newsletter and via the parents’ representatives on the board. It provides an annual report to parents at the Parents’ Association annual general meeting.

 

The board ensures that the school complies with Department guidelines in relation to the length of the school year, the allocation of teachers and the retention of pupils. Board members are very keen to attend training for boards of management when it becomes available. The chairperson is commended on his visible presence in the school which enables him to maintain regular informal contact with the principal, staff and pupils.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal leads and manages the school capably. His effective organisational skills enable him to balance his responsibility for class teaching with that of maintaining overall responsibility for the smooth and efficient day-to-day operation of the school.  His calm, respectful and approachable manner engenders a climate of inclusivity, co-operation and mutual respect. Working relationships within the school are characterised by collegiality and open communication. He leads the whole-school planning process conscientiously. Formal staff meetings are usually held on a monthly basis, the agenda for which is drawn up in consultation with staff. Minutes of these meetings are maintained and points for future action are noted. 

 

The in-school management team comprises the principal, deputy principal and special duties teacher. These post-holders carry out their assigned duties in a diligent and conscientious manner. It is now timely to review these responsibilities in accordance with Circular 07/03 to ensure that they include specific curriculum leadership roles in line with the school’s strategic development plan. The team meets regularly on an informal basis in response to issues as they arise. Consideration should now be given to the provision of complementary formalised meetings that enable the team to engage in school self-evaluation by establishing priorities for development and monitoring their progress in effecting school improvement.

 

Special needs assistants (SNAs) are deployed appropriately and carry out their duties conscientiously. The school secretary and caretaker contribute very effectively to the smooth and efficient functioning of the school.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school has an active parents’ association. It is now timely that the members give consideration to affiliating themselves with the National Parents’ Council. This association organises a range of events to both raise funds for the school and facilitate social interaction amongst the wider school community. Members also organise refreshments for school events, assist with the annual sports day and support extra-curricular activities.  The association communicates with the parent body both informally and by letter to inform them of upcoming events. The association identifies the school’s open-door policy as a key strength of the school and commends the staff on their approachability.

 

The compact nature of the school community facilitates informal communication with the parent body. Appropriate procedures are also in place to facilitate more formal communication. Regular newsletters serve to inform the wider school community about school events and achievements. An informative ‘coffee morning’ is held annually for the parents of the new junior infant intake. Parents of new entrants are furnished with synopses of relevant school policies and all parents are advised, via the school newsletter, that the policies are available for viewing on request. It is recommended that parents be afforded a more collaborative role in future revisions of pertinent policies.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils is very good. The teachers are clearly committed to the pastoral care of their pupils and cultivate an atmosphere of mutual respect. The school’s code of behaviour, which promotes self-discipline and encompasses positive-behaviour strategies, outlines the expectations for pupil behaviour clearly.  The school’s concern with the pastoral care of its pupils is reflected in the ‘buddy system’ which is designed to assist junior infant pupils settle into school. The pupils are commended on their excellent behaviour and on their respectful interactions with others within the school community. Consideration should now be given to the establishment of a pupil council to enable them to participate in relevant decision-making.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. A cyclical process to school planning has been established. In designing the school plan, the staff has availed of the guidance of the support services. The school plan includes relevant administrative, organisational, and curriculum policies. These policies are available in the school office and pertinent policies are distributed to parents of new entrants. Policies are discussed and agreed at board level. As the school continues to review the current curriculum policies, consideration should be given to ensuring that all of these documents inform teaching and learning at each class level. The plan is available on computer to all staff and a hard copy is maintained in the staff room. The board has signed and dated some policies on ratification and it is recommended that this good practice be extended to all policies.

 

The quality of teachers’ individual classroom planning is good. Each teacher produces long-term and short-term plans of work. The school is commended on having adopted a common format for planning. Consideration should now be given to extending the provision for differentiation in the core curriculum areas. All teachers submit monthly progress reports to the principal which are signed by him and filed appropriately. Copies of individual pupil learning profiles (IPLPs) are available in all teachers’ plans.

 

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

Múintear an Ghaeilge ar bhealach éifeachtach. Tá an Ghaeilge in úsáid mar theanga teagaisc i ngach rang agus leagtar béim mar is cuí ar an gcur chuige cumarsáideach. Tré leas a bhaint as áiseanna ilchineálacha sna ceachtanna Gaeilge, féachann na múinteoirí chuige go dtugtar spreagadh do na páistí.  Tá réimse leathan de leideanna amhairc ar fáil i ngach seomra ranga chun foghlaim na ndaltaí a chothú agus a neartú. Is léir go bhfuil dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge ag páistí na scoile seo.  Déantar forbairt ar scileanna éisteachta na ndaltaí le linn dóibh a bheith ag leanúint treoracha.  Usáidtear amhráin, rannta agus cluichí freisin chun na scileanna sin a fhorbairt. Is le féinmhuinín a ghlacann tromlach na ndaltaí páirt i ngníomhaíochtaí a bhaineann leis an teanga labhartha agus baineann cuid mhaith acu amach caighdeán an-mhaith sa teanga labhartha. Ins an gcuid is mó de na ranganna, féachtar chuige go ndírítear aire ar leith na gnéithe teagaisc seo a leanas - frásaí nua a mhúineadh, foclóir na ndaltaí a leathnú, agus úsáid a bhaint as gníomhaíochtaí beirte agus rólghlacadh ionas go gcuirtear ar chumas na ndaltaí a scileanna labhartha a fhorbairt ar bhealach cruthaitheach.  Sna hardranganna, glacann na daltaí páirt go fonnmhar i ngníomhaíochtaí cruthaitheacha – tá leibhéal na ngníomhaíochtaí seo oiriúnach ó thaobh forbairt na Gaeilge de. Sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna, cuirtear ar chumas na ndaltaí giotaí ilchineálacha a scríobh, agus leagtar an bhéim chuí ar mhúineadh na gramadaí. Ní mar a chéile an caighdeán atá bainte amach ag na daltaí ar fad, ó thaobh líofacht teanga agus tuiscint na léitheoireachta de. Is iad seo a leanas na dúshláin a bheidh os comhair na scoile amach anseo maidir leis an ngné seo den churaclam: athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an gcur chuige maidir le leanúnachas agus dul chun cinn sa léitheoireacht agus sa scríbhneoireacht, agus cur leis an bhfreastal a dhéantar ar pháistí in ilranganna.

 

Irish

The teaching of Irish is good. In all classes, Irish is used as the medium of instruction and appropriate emphasis is placed on the communicative approach. The teachers make good use of a broad range of resources to deliver stimulating lessons and the classrooms all contain a good range of visual prompts to support the pupils’ learning. Across the school, the pupils exhibit a positive attitude towards the language. Pupils’ listening skills are developed through following instructions and the use of songs, rhymes and games. Most pupils engage in oral language activities confidently and many attain very good levels of oral competence. In most classes, good provision is made for the explicit teaching of new phrases and vocabulary, and for paired activities and role-play to enable pupils to develop their spoken competence in a creative manner. In the senior classes, the pupils engage with enthusiasm in creative activities that challenge both their speaking and listening skills. Pupils are enabled to write in a variety of genres and appropriate emphasis is placed on the teaching of grammar. The pupils read with varying levels of fluency and comprehension. The next challenges for the school in relation to this curriculum area are to review the provision for continuity and progression across the strands of reading and writing, and to enhance the provision for differentiation both within and across the multi-grade classes.

  

English

A range of approaches is evident in the teaching of English. Best practice includes the explicit teaching of reading skills, opportunities for sustained writing, the effective use of class novels and good provision for the development of oral language and listening skills. Pupils are generally highly articulate and very willing to engage in conversation and discuss their work. All classrooms provide print-rich environments. A solid foundation in reading skills is laid in the infant classes where pupils are taught a basic sight vocabulary and the use of phonic, context and picture cues.  Across the school, pupils are encouraged to engage in regular sustained reading. The school is commended on the quality of its library which is an attractive, stimulating and welcoming environment, and stores a substantial range of both fiction and non-fiction texts. Across the middle and senior classes, effective use is made of the class novel with best practice enabling the pupils to respond to the text through a variety of interesting and challenging activities. Throughout all classes, the pupils’ progress through a graded-reading scheme is tracked consistently. Pupils display varying reading abilities and it is recommended that the school plan extend the provision for the explicit teaching of specific reading skills to differentiated reading groups. In the infant classes, pupils are taught writing skills and engage in transcription and in the writing of words and sentences. Consideration should be given to extending the provision for emergent and personal writing in these classes. Commendable provision for sustained writing is made in the junior classes where pupils produce well-presented final drafts of a high standard. In the middle and senior classes, pupils produce writing across a variety of genres and the teachers engage in some editing of that work. To enhance the pupils’ learning in this strand of the curriculum, it is recommended that genres be explored in a cyclical manner and that the pupils be enabled to redraft their work in the light of formative feedback. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the teaching of both spelling and grammar and many pupils display good penmanship.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Overall, the quality of teaching in mathematics is good.  The teachers present well-structured lessons that accommodate the multi-grade setting. In addition to whole-class teaching, provision is made for paired activities and individual work. In all classes, the teachers link mathematical concepts to the pupils’ everyday environment. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the acquisition of the language of mathematics which is reinforced through teacher modelling and wall displays. Lessons incorporate the development of number skills and due emphasis is placed on the learning of tables.  Some classes make good provision for mental arithmetic and consideration should now be given both to extending this to all classes and to the explicit teaching of problem-solving skills. A particular strength in mathematics across the school is the teaching of measure where ample hands-on activity, supported by scaffolded discovery-learning, enables the pupils to develop and apply their understanding. Judicious use is made of manipulatives and resources to support the pupils’ learning. To further facilitate differentiation, consideration should be given to the provision of open-ended mathematical investigations and the extension of collaborative group work in which specific roles are assigned according to ability. It is recommended that the use of assessment data to monitor pupils’ progress be extended and that it is also used to enhance the provision for individual pupil needs.

 

3.3 Geography

The standard of teaching and learning in geography is very good. The planned programme represents a good balance of the various curriculum strands and facilitates continuity and progression in their delivery. Effective use is made of a range of resources including globes, maps, photographs, textbooks and reference materials to support teaching and learning. In the infant classes, pupils are enabled to work as geographers by comparing and contrasting photographs of Ireland to those of overseas locations. Good use is made of the reference section of the school library to develop the pupils’ research skills and enhance their project work. In the junior classes, effective use is made of ICT to enhance the pupils’ project work and enable them to interview people living overseas. The school successfully exploits its setting and the varied urban/rural backgrounds of the pupils to illuminate concepts and enhance their learning.  In the middle classes, pupils are encouraged to compare and contrast the different purposes and designs of manmade features in the immediate locality.  Across the school, the pupils are enabled to participate in a variety of mapping activities in a manner that facilitates continuity and progression in their learning. In the senior classes, emphasis is placed on the development of the pupils’ higher-order thinking skills and commendable use is made of historical maps to enable them to apply their map-reading skills whilst developing their concept of continuity and change. Pupils apply themselves well in lessons, are very willing to talk about their work and display appropriate knowledge, particularly in the strands of natural environments and environmental awareness and care.  The school’s active green school committee is commended on organising, amongst other events, annual ‘action days’ on which the pupils and their parents are invited to enhance the school grounds.

  

3.4 Assessment

The school policy on assessment promotes the use of a variety of assessment modes to track the pupils’ progress. An appropriate range of standardised tests in English and Mathematics is administered annually to pupils from first to sixth class. In addition, the school administers a screening test to all pupils in senior infants. Assessment data, which are shared with parents on request, are primarily used to identify pupils who may benefit from additional support in these areas. Consideration should now be given to extending the use of this data to monitor and track all pupils’ progress and also to monitor the impact of school initiatives. It is recommended that these data be used to inform the provision for differentiation particularly for the more able pupils. Individual teachers employ a variety of assessment strategies including teacher-designed tests, observation notes, checklists and art portfolios.  The approach to correcting pupils’ work is varied. It is recommended that the school adopt a cohesive approach to marking that advocates the regular marking of work and enables pupils to modify their work in the light of formative feedback. To complement test data, it is advised that pupils be enabled to engage in both self-assessment and peer-assessment against specific criteria. The support teachers employ a range of diagnostic tests to establish the specific needs of pupils and to inform the formulation of their Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs). Across the school, test results are carefully recorded and standardised results are filed appropriately.  Parents are informed about their children’s progress via the annual school report. The annual parent-teacher meetings, which are well-attended, are complemented by additional meetings on request. The school is commended on arranging formal meetings, at the beginning of each school year, to facilitate the transfer of appropriate information from teacher to teacher.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Teaching and learning in special education needs (SEN) settings is of a high standard. The special education team (SET) comprises a resource teacher and a shared learning-support teacher. The school policy on SEN, which is currently in draft form, incorporates the staged approach and places appropriate emphasis on early intervention strategies. The SEN teachers produce comprehensive IPLPs, with clear, specific targets, based on information provided by class teachers and parents in addition to the results of diagnostic testing. At the end of each instructional term, the success of the programme is evaluated and this informs decisions regarding ongoing support. Support is available in both English and Mathematics but the streamlined approach ensures that pupils do not work with more than one SEN teacher. The pupils clearly enjoy and benefit from the well-structured and well-resourced lessons that are designed to equip them with a range of strategies to promote their independence and confidence, and enhance their attainment. A praiseworthy feature of the provision is that the pupils are encouraged to reflect on their learning styles and to identify their particular strengths. The size of the school facilitates regular informal contact between the SET and the class teachers. These teachers consult formally with parents at least once annually and more frequently as appropriate.  The current support-teaching model incorporates both withdrawal and in-class support. Consideration should be given to extending the provision for in-class support where feasible.

  

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

The school has an open and inclusive enrolment policy. It does not discriminate on the grounds of race, creed, membership of a minority group or gender and makes appropriate provision to enable all pupils to engage in all activities.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

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 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The board of Edmondstown N.S. welcome the findings of the W.S.E.  In particular they acknowledge the report’s positive assessment of the curricular, organisational and pastoral strengths of the entire staff.  The BOM particularly welcome the report’s affirmation of the school’s various activities and their positive effect upon the broader locality.  The professionalism of the assessing inspector is also noted by the board.

 

 

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 recommendations of the report are being addressed in a manner that will enhance the strategic development of the school in the years ahead.