An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Mhuire

Oatlands, Stillorgan, County Dublin

Uimhir rolla: 17954H

 

Date of inspection: 21 October 2008

 

 

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of supports for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

WHOLE-SCHOOL EVALUATION

  

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Mhuire, Oatlands was undertaken in October 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on aspects of the school’s provision including management, teaching and learning, planning and supports for pupils, with a particular focus on the provision of English as an Additional Language (EAL).  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Mhuire, Oatlands situated in Stillorgan, Co Dublin is a co-educational school providing education to pupils from junior infants to sixth class. The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Total number of teachers on the school staff

20

Number of mainstream class teachers

11

Total number of teachers working in support roles

4

Number of language support teachers

4

Special needs assistants

5

Total number of pupils enrolled in the school

322

Number of pupils with English as an additional language

129

 

Enrolment trends at the school are upward.  Attendance levels are very good with a very small number of pupils missing more than twenty days.  Positive strategies are in place to encourage good attendance and punctuality.

 

 

1.             Quality of school management

 

1.1         Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Scoil Mhuire, Oatlands operates under the auspices of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust whose mission is to provide Catholic education in the Edmund Rice tradition. The school successfully maintains its Catholic ethos. The ethos is communicated to all parents through the school’s intercultural and enrolment policies. Religious celebrations and events form an important part of the life of the school. The school’s aim is to promote the full personal and social development of its pupils. The success of the school in achieving this aim is evidenced through the wide range of activities available to all pupils at the school. Three years ago the board decided to change the school’s enrolment policy to include the enrolment of girls. This change has been well managed and the number of girls enrolled at the school is growing each year.  Pupils from 32 different nationalities currently attend the school and constitute one third of the school’s population. A positive ethos is successfully created. The school celebrates the richness and diversity of the school community through the hosting of an international day and multilingual and photographic displays around the school.

 

1.2         Board of management

 The board of management is properly constituted. Clear roles have been assigned. The board of management meets regularly and detailed minutes of the meetings are kept. Financial reports are furnished at each meeting and the principal’s report keeps the board informed of day-to-day developments in the school.  The board is compliant with Department of Education and Science regulations and legislative requirements. The board works collaboratively and well together. Board members speak insightfully regarding the strengths and challenges of this school and they support and affirm the work of the teaching staff and the principal.  The board has been involved in compiling, amending and ratifying a wide range of organisational policies. These include a code of behaviour, policies on enrolment, special education, interculturalism and health and safety. Curriculum policies are presented to and discussed by the board. It is recommended that the board ratify, sign and date all curriculum and organisational policies. The contribution of parents is welcomed in the development of policies. The board is currently examining cost-effective ways of translating policy documents into languages other than English.

 

Communication with parents is very good. A newsletter is produced and continuing informal contact is maintained.  The involvement and facilitation of all nationalities and the wider community is promoted and encouraged.  The board has discussed the organisation of the supports for EAL pupils extensively and agreement was reached through consultation with board members, parents and teachers. The board is committed to providing a comfortable and safe environment for staff and pupils at the school. Over the past three years the board has been very successful in achieving this aim. Rooms have been altered and extended, the building painted and new furniture purchased.  The board is commended for the proactive manner in which it manages the upkeep of the school building and grounds.

 

1.3         In-school management

 The leadership provided by the principal is exemplary. She fulfils her duties to the highest standards in a courteous and democratic manner. The principal plays a vital leadership and management role in the fields of administration, communication and curriculum. She is a welcoming and visible presence in the school. She is very effective in ensuring, with the very active co-operation of colleagues, that whole-school planning is carried out comprehensively.  The principal motivates members of the school community in collaborative decision making.  She is very successful in placing the main focus of attention in the school on teaching and learning and continuous improvements in practice. The principal is proactive in seeking support for EAL pupils and in deciding how the provision for EAL pupils will be managed. She has ensured that an overall policy for EAL pupils was formulated and that arrangements were put in place for the successful induction of EAL pupils to the school. The principal meets individually with all EAL parents to explain key school policies and procedures to them.

 

The duties of the in-school management team are defined clearly and encompass a judicious mix of administrative, pastoral and curricular leadership roles. The teachers perform these roles conscientiously.  A co-ordinator for EAL pupils has been appointed. Members of the in-school management team assist with various events at the school including international day, book week, religious events and school concerts. They maintain a visible presence in the yard at school drop off and collection times.

 

1.4         The management of resources

 Staff at the school is appropriately deployed. The principal and staff participate in on-going professional development and ensure that as a teaching body they are aware of the most up-to-date research and advancement in educational practice. Two of the four EAL teachers have undertaken professional development for EAL. Under current arrangements two of the EAL teachers have been assigned as mainstream teachers at infant level. The school has the services of five special needs assistants.  Their contribution to the care of pupils is commendable. A full-time secretary and caretaker provide valuable support to the smooth organisation, maintenance and upkeep of the school and school grounds.  The secretary acts as interpreter with EAL parents where appropriate.

 

Learning environments in mainstream classrooms and support areas are attractive, well organised and well maintained. The school has assembled a supply of materials to support learning and teaching across many curriculum areas including Languages, Mathematics, Science, Physical Education, Music, Art and Drama. School resources are well managed and are well organised on a whole-school basis.  A bank of resources for EAL is being developed by members of the EAL team. Very good work has been done by some teachers in relation to grading library books in their classrooms. Grading of classroom libraries should be extended to all classrooms.

 

1.5         Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 The school fosters very good relations and open communication with the school community. There are clear structures for involving parents including EAL parents in in-school and out-of- school activities. Initial meetings are held with parents prior to pupils’ enrolment in order to inform parents with regard to school routines, rules and procedures and curriculum content. Formal school forms have been adapted to include visual cues to assist EAL parents with understanding. The staff demonstrate a good awareness of the importance of effective communication with all parents and the difficulties that can arise in endeavouring to communicate effectively with EAL parents. There is an active parents’ association in the school. Members of the parents’ association demonstrate a very good awareness of their role and have set clear and appropriate priorities. Parents are involved in a wide range of school activities. There is very good communication with the parent body. Representatives of the EAL parents attend meetings of the parents’ association.  The celebration of international day is a major event in the school calendar. A newsletter is issued monthly. The parents’ association acknowledge that providing their newsletter in some languages other than English would be helpful in building communication with the EAL parents.

 

1.6         Management of pupils

 The management of pupils is very good. The atmosphere in the classrooms is very positive. Pupils respect each other and their teachers and other staff members. Rules for good behaviour are on display and in some cases are democratically decided. Pupils are very well behaved.  Reward systems for good behaviour are in place. EAL pupils are well included in the life of the school.  Pupils’ cultures are recognised and valued in lesson content. A very good programme of induction for EAL pupils has been agreed and is in place.  A buddy system has been organised. All EAL pupils are in age-appropriate classes.

 

 

2.             Quality of school planning

 

2.1         Quality of whole-school planning

 A commendable level of whole-school planning has been undertaken. All mandatory policies are in place. The organisational policies are specific to the school context and give very clear guidance as to how policies are to be implemented by members of staff. Action plans have been devised. A policy for review has been outlined and continuous review of plans is an inherent feature of practice. Parents are informed of the various policies as they are developed. Content of these policies are disseminated through the school newsletter. A comprehensive whole-school plan for English has been developed. The plan reflects the principles and methodologies of the curriculum for English and clearly outlines the content of the curriculum under the strands of oral language, reading and writing.   The plan has recently been reviewed and priority areas for further development in English have been identified. The whole-school plan for Mathematics is of good quality.  It outlines the aims and rationale for the teaching of Mathematics in this school. Specific provision has been made in the plan for concept development. A review is planned for the end of the year. The plan for Mathematics includes provision for EAL pupils.  A number of teachers have identified the mathematical language to be taught for their class level.  A list of mathematical language to be taught at each class level should be agreed on a whole-school basis.

 

2.2         Quality of whole-school planning for EAL

 The quality of whole-school planning for EAL is good. Whole-school policies for EAL and interculturalism have recently been developed in consultation with class teachers, the board and parents. The EAL policy is in line with Circular 0053/2007. Clear and transparent arrangements are in place for the enrolment and induction of newcomer children in the school. The policy will be reviewed on an annual basis. A broad curricular programme for oral language for EAL pupils has been developed. The plan comprises a yearly overall view of topics for language development for all levels. The curricular programme for all EAL pupils needs to be developed in greater depth to enable the pupils not only to learn to speak but to read and write in English and also to learn the content of the curriculum overall. 

 

2.3         Quality of classroom planning including planning for EAL

 All teachers engage in long-term and short-term planning. The overall quality of teachers’ individual planning is good. An objectives-based approach is used by all teachers. An agreed template for recording monthly progress is followed.  Collaborative planning takes place among the infant class teachers. This very good practice should be extended to all classes.  Some efforts have been made to make provision for differentiation for pupils of different abilities. A number of teachers have planned differentiated work sheet tasks and have set different outcomes for some pupils.  Provision for differentiation for pupils with identified special educational needs has been made. Further provision for differentiation in Mathematics and English using the outcomes of assessment is needed to meet the needs of all pupils. At the time of the evaluation EAL teachers had begun to plan suitable programmes of work for EAL pupils. Specific learning objectives had not been identified for EAL pupils. The setting of specific learning targets for language, reading and writing is required.

 

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         Teaching of English and English as an Additional Language

 The teaching of English in this school is effective. Classrooms are print-rich and stimulating classroom environments have been created for language learning. Mainstream teachers take first line responsibility for teaching EAL pupils. EAL pupils are consulted about teaching methods in other countries and these are incorporated into lessons where appropriate. The quality of in-class support for EAL pupils, where provided, is very good. Effective use is made of available resources to support language development.  Lessons are well structured and well paced. Teaching methods used include whole class, pair work and individual teaching.  Oral language is an integral part of lessons and pupils are encouraged to ask and answer questions and to express their thoughts and feelings effectively. Teachers demonstrate effective questioning techniques. Pupils’ contributions are encouraged. Good use is made by teachers of visual cues to assist with understanding. Reading skills are appropriately developed and pupils’ reading is regularly monitored. Paired reading occurs frequently. There is good emphasis placed on developing word-attack skills during reading lessons. Commendable phonics work is carried out in the infant and junior classes. Pupils throughout the school are exposed to a variety of texts. Novels are used effectively from third class upwards. Reading for information and for pleasure is steadily developed.  In the infant and junior classes good emphasis is placed on rhymes. Pupils in other classes are given opportunities to compose their own poems.  Pupils can recite a limited range of poetry. An agreed list of poems to be learned should be agreed for all class levels. Good attention is paid to the development of grammar and spelling. A variety of genres in writing was in evidence in the pupils’ copies, in the teachers’ planning and on display in the classrooms. Brainstorming is well used in the teaching of writing. Commendable examples of pupils’ writing were seen, particularly at senior level. There is an agreed approach to the teaching of handwriting. The overall standard of handwriting in the school is very good.

 

The quality of pupils’ learning is very good. Pupils are active participants in English lessons. Pupils display a good standard of confidence and competence in listening and speaking. The achievement of the pupils in general in oral language, reading and writing is good and the achievement of a significant number of pupils in these three strands is very good. However, it is important to provide for the differing reading ability levels of pupils in all classes.  The quality of EAL pupils’ learning in language is generally good. Further work on developing skills in reading and writing for the older EAL pupils is needed.

 

3.2         Mathematics

 The quality of teaching in Mathematics is very good. A variety of approaches is used effectively. However the overall emphasis is on whole-class teaching with individual help given as required. Pupils are well motivated towards Mathematics. Pupils are actively involved in the lessons. Lessons are well structured and well paced.  Teachers are effective in moderating their use of language. Words are repeated and clear instructions and explanation are given. Very clear instructional language is used. Individual help is given to pupils as required. Effective questioning is used by teachers and teachers adjust their questioning according to individual pupils’ needs. Pupils are given adequate time to answer questions. Games and pair work are used effectively to develop social communication and cognitive skills. A number of teachers make good use of Mathematics aids and visual cues to support learning and consolidation of concepts. Some very good examples of mathematics-rich environments were seen. The very good practice regarding mathematics rich environments and the use of mathematics aids should be extended to every class. The quality of in-class support, where provided, is very good. More differentiation of activities in Mathematics is required.

 

The overall achievement of pupils in Mathematics is very good. Pupils demonstrate good understanding of concepts.  Shape and space, data, measures and number are well taught.  Good estimation strategies have been developed. The pupils’ knowledge of number facts and memorisation strategies is very good.  Pupils in the infant and junior classes can solve problems based on work taught. The area of problem solving particularly at senior level has been identified by staff as needing further development. The quality of EAL pupils’ learning in Mathematics varies. The learning in Mathematics of all EAL pupils would be enhanced through more focused work on the language of the Mathematics curriculum through the support programme. The standard of pupils’ written work in Mathematics is good. 

 

3.3         Assessment

 A comprehensive assessment policy has recently been compiled. A wide range of assessment modes is used to evaluate pupils’ progress.  Teachers conduct screening tests, weekly tests, diagnostic tests and standardised tests as appropriate. Early-screening tests are used to identify infant pupils in need of supplementary teaching. The results of testing are carefully analysed by members of the in-school management team and the principal and discussed with class teachers and support teachers to identify those in need of further support. Once selected for support further diagnostic testing is used by the special education teachers to determine pupils’ specific needs. This information is used to compile a group plan and an individual plan where appropriate. Teachers record monthly progress on an agreed template. Teachers maintain good records of pupil progress. Pupils’ work in copies is neatly completed. Pupils in senior classes correct and monitor their own and each other’s work. More careful and regular monitoring of pupils’ work by teachers is required. Class teachers should analyse the outcomes of assessment to inform their short-term planning and to facilitate the development of more differentiated programmes of work.

 

At the time of the evaluation all EAL pupils had been assessed for listening and speaking and assessment of EAL pupils for reading and writing was underway. Once assessment is completed it is planned to compile individual profiles for all EAL pupils.  When the profiles are developed the contents of these should be shared with all staff members involved with those pupils to assist teachers in setting specific learning targets for EAL pupils and in adapting learning activities. Each mainstream class teacher should have a copy of the pupil profile for the relevant EAL pupils.

 

 

4.             Quality of supports for pupils

 

4.1         Pupils with special educational needs

 The overall quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is very good. A detailed policy for special education has been developed.  The policy is in line with recent Department circulars and incorporates the staged approach. Clear selection procedures have been agreed. There is a good emphasis on early intervention. Special education settings are comfortable and well resourced.  Teachers cater for a wide range of special education needs and pupils receive support in literacy, numeracy and social skills. Detailed programmes of work based on identified needs are drawn up by the special education team. Support teachers consult class teachers and parents about the content of the planned programme. Models of support used include team teaching, one to one teaching and group teaching. Lessons are well structured and supported by a range of suitable resources. Games are used effectively to motivate pupils and to consolidate concepts already taught. Pupils are praised and affirmed for their efforts. Pupils enjoy attending support sessions. Pupils are generally progressing in line with their ability levels. Clear procedures for discontinuation of support are in place. The achievement of some pupils attending support teaching would be enhanced through the development of individual education plans (IEPs) which should include very specific learning targets for those pupils. Class teachers should have a copy of the relevant pupils’ IEPs.

 

4.2         Pupils with English as an additional language

 Support for EAL pupils is well organised in the school. The EAL co-ordinator takes responsibility for the induction of EAL pupils, the assessment, the curricular programme and the resources for EAL pupils. This year two of the EAL teachers have been deployed as infant class teachers.  This arrangement should be closely monitored to ensure that it is the most effective way of meeting EAL pupils’ needs. For the older EAL pupils language support teaching is delivered on a withdrawal basis.  Pupils are withdrawn in groups based on their age, class level and assessment of needs. Some in-class support is provided in the junior classes. Where in-class support occurs the quality is very good.  The practice of in-class support for older EAL pupils is recommended.

 

The overall quality of support for EAL pupils is good. Language support settings are comfortable, print-rich and well resourced. EAL teachers are very mindful of the self-esteem needs of their pupils. Pupils’ contributions are encouraged. Pupils are affirmed and praised. Effective questioning is used and teachers adjust their questioning according to individual pupils’ needs. Pupils are given adequate response time to answer questions. Games and pair work are used effectively to develop social, communication and cognitive skills. Individual help is given to pupils as required. Resources for the implementation of the programme for EAL pupils are good. The EAL teachers for the older pupils make very good efforts to use real-life materials to support the programme that is in place. Programmes of work are primarily based on the Integrate Ireland Language Training Kit (IILT).  The overall quality of EAL pupils’ learning in language is good. Further work on developing skills in reading and writing for the older EAL pupils is needed.

 

 

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

 

This is an inclusive school.  All pupils are included in the school’s activities.

 

 

5.             Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         A warm, caring and affirming atmosphere is evident in the school and the quality of the relationships within the school and between the board, parents and the wider

      community is commendable.

·         There is excellent leadership and management in this school where the focus lies firmly on the quality of teaching and learning and continuous improvement in practice. 

      This leadership is underpinned by a shared vision which is being realised by a proactive team approach.

·         The school has a highly committed and talented staff combining a variety of expertise and experience.

·         The board of management provides the school and its teachers with sustained support and is committed to the welfare of all pupils and staff.

·         Pupils are very well behaved and present as happy, motivated and interested learners. The overall standard of pupils’ achievement is high.

·         The parents and wider community are actively involved in school life.

 

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

 

·         Specific, targeted programmes to support the learning of EAL pupils in language, reading and writing should be put in place. 

·         The practice of in-class support for older EAL pupils is recommended.

·         Teachers should use the outcomes of assessment to plan for differentiated approaches to meet the needs of all pupils in Mathematics and English.

 

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 January 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 Management wishes to acknowledge the courtesy and professionalism of the Inspectorate during their visit to Oatlands Primary School.

The B.O.M. welcomes the very positive findings of the W.S.E. report.  The B.O.M. also welcomes the constructive comments and recommendations in the report.  In particular the B.O.M. welcomes the Inspectorate’s appreciation of the warmth and vibrancy of the school and the climate of inclusiveness that is evident in the welcome afforded to children and parents of all nationalities and ethnic groups. We are delighted that the report recognises the commitment and hard work of the: principal, teaching staff, ancillary staff and parents to ensure full participation by all pupils in school life.

 

We thank you for this very positive report and its recognition of the school’s effectiveness. The Board of Management and staff have found both the process and report affirming and energising

 

 

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 B.O.M. and staff have begun the process of reviewing the report in detail.  It is intended to incorporate all W.S.E. recommendations in the school’s strategic plan which will be implemented during the next five years.

To date, the key recommendations acted upon include:

 

Targeted programmes for supporting our EAL students have been put in place.

 

We have reviewed our Assessment policy and procedures and are using the outcomes of these assessments to plan to meet the needs of all our pupils.