An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

 

Lusk National School

Lusk

Co Dublin

Uimhir rolla:17961E

 

Date of inspection:  9 February 2007

Date of issue of report:  24 October 2007

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

1.      Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

2.1 Board of management

2.2 In-school management

2.3 Management of resources

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

2.5 Management of pupils

3.    Quality of school planning

3.1  School planning process and implementation

3.2  Classroom planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

4.2 Language

4.3  Mathematics

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

4.5 Arts Education

4.6 Physical Education

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

4.8 Assessment

5.     Quality of support for pupils

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

5.2  Other supports for pupils: (Disadvantaged, minority and other groups)

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

7.  School Response to the Report

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Lusk National School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for its further development. 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 the 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 records and teachers’ written preparation and met 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, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

1.    Introduction – school context and background

 

Lusk NS is a twenty-six teacher, mixed primary school in the village of Lusk, Co. Dublin. The school is a Catholic school, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin.  Current staffing comprises an administrative principal, eighteen classroom teachers and a special education support team. This team comprises three temporary language support teachers and four special education teachers, all of whom are based in the school.  The school also has a dedicated school secretary, an enthusiastic caretaker and four committed special needs assistants. Lusk NS serves the hinterland surrounding Lusk village and currently has an enrolment of 500 pupils. The pupils enrolled in the school come from diverse national backgrounds and some have neither English nor Irish as their first spoken language. Enrolment in the school has been growing rapidly over the past five years, with still further rapid expansion expected in the very near future. Pupil attendance levels are at a very satisfactory level.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

The school is managed by a committed and enthusiastic board of management. The board meets very regularly. School accounts are systematically audited with financial reports being frequently presented to other members of the board. All board members have received training with the Catholic Primary Schools Managers’ Association (CPSMA). Duties and responsibilities are allocated equitably among board members and a strong sense of teamwork is evident with sub-committees being established to respond to specific needs and concerns as they arise.  The board currently devotes considerable time to school maintenance matters, to employing staff, to the management of the school’s rapidly expanding population, to financial matters and to the provision of resources.  

 

The board is actively involved in the development of organisational policies and some curricular policies. It ratifies school policies on a regular basis and makes them available to all parents. It is recommended that in ratifying policies, the board should note the date of ratification and also include a date of revision for each policy in question.  The board outlined its satisfaction with the manner in which the curriculum is taught and with the achievement of the pupils in the school. The board actively seeks to encourage parents to become involved in the life and learning experiences of the school.  In so doing, it promotes the school as a cornerstone of the local community. The primary priorities of the board centre on the future development of the school, on provision for pupils with special educational needs, on meeting the needs of the newcomer pupil population and on the continued promotion of the school as a cornerstone of the local community.

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal, three assistant principals, and six special duties posts.  This team makes a very significant contribution to the smooth running of the school. The duties attaching to each post are decided in consultation with the staff and are equitably represented across the domains of pastoral, organisational and curricular responsibilities. Duties are undertaken competently and professionally. Posts are reviewed at staff meetings. It is recommended that a formal mechanism be established for the regular review of the duties attaching to posts of responsibility. In so doing, it is also recommended that given the school’s enthusiasm for and promotion of Drama, some duties in this curricular area be attached to a post upon completion of this year’s in-service in Drama.

 

A very strong sense of collaboration and teamwork is evident among the school staff. The school principal is strongly praised for his excellent interpersonal skills and the critical role he plays in developing this teamwork.  This strong leadership role serves to promote positive relations within the school, it serves to empower teachers to partake in school activities at the highest levels and it serves to create a culture where the work of children and teachers alike is valued and celebrated. Accordingly, a very positive pastoral and caring atmosphere can be discerned in the school environment. The school principal is also praised for the proactive role he undertakes in monitoring pupils’ progress in the classrooms and in promoting positive pupil behaviour.

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

The main school building was completed in 1954, with an extension being completed in 1981.The main building consists of sixteen classrooms, two special education rooms, a general purpose room, a computer room, a principal’s office, a secretary’s office and a staff room. This building is also complemented by seven temporary classrooms, a grass area, a tarmacadam area, a games pitch and access to the local GAA pitches. The school has been renovated and upgraded in a number of ways over the past two decades, with new windows being installed and floor areas being tiled. It is recommended that such commendable work be further extended to upgrading the school’s staff room and ancillary facilities. Classrooms and school corridors are notably attractive, displaying many fine examples of the pupils’ work.

 

The school has a policy of staff rotation which provides teachers with an opportunity to experience a variety of classes and contexts and allows the sharing of expertise at different class levels. Teachers are encouraged to undertake professional development courses, with a large number of teachers attending professional development courses during their own time. The school’s staff is also commended for the enthusiastic and dedicated manner in which they undertake a number of the school’s extra-curricular activities. Involvement in these activities often involves lunch time and after-school commitments. The school is actively involved in the ‘National Pilot Project for Teacher Induction’. The programme involves new and experienced teaching staff in a collaborative exercise which examines planning, teaching methodologies, classroom management, professional development and peer review. In so doing, the programme seeks to develop and promote the highest standards in teacher efficacy.

The school has a wide range of teaching and learning resources. There is also an appropriate selection of large equipment. The school has a notable selection of science, physical education and mathematics equipment. The school’s resources are easy to access and are very stimulating. Teachers and pupils make very good use of these resources. The school has forty three computers and a dedicated computer room. This impressive suite of information, communication and technology (ICT) resources is also complemented by a wide and appropriate range of educational software. 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The school communicates very effectively with all its relevant partners. Operating an open door policy, parents are welcome to come to the school, both formally and informally.  Such an open and inclusive approach to school relations serves to create a school atmosphere which is very positive and caring and one in which the members of this school community feel valued. Parents are regularly informed of school activities and achievements by way of newsletters and memos. Parents also receive an annual school report on the progress of their child and are met by the class teacher in the second term of each year to discuss the progress of their child.

 

One of this school’s greatest strengths relates to the quality of relations evident in the school community. The school strives to develop an atmosphere where each child is valued and where each child is recognised as being special.  Relationships within and beyond the school are characterised by respect and warmth. A very strong spirit of co-operation, collegiality and enthusiasm characterises staff relations. Such a positive school atmosphere serves to create a school climate where teachers show praiseworthy respect and care for their pupils. This, in turn, is replicated by the pupils’ evident happiness and contentment in the school environment.

 

The school has a very supportive and vibrant parents’ association. Meeting very frequently each term, the association actively seeks to support the school. This support takes many forms, with some noteworthy examples being the organisation of Irish dancing classes, the development of a school garden, the organisation of educational visits and displays, the provision of French classes, the development of the computer room, the organisation of pupil insurance, the organisation of pupils’ tracksuits and the provision of cookery classes. The work of the parents’ association with respect to paired reading and the school’s homework club deserves very specific and laudable mention. Parents report that they are made to feel very welcome and valued in the school.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

The school has well-established and clearly defined organisational practices and procedures which serve to promote the efficient organisation and operation of the school day and timetable.  These practices and procedures also create a sense of order and safety in the school environment. Pupils are clearly comfortable and happy within this environment. They are friendly and very well behaved and are notably respectful of fellow-pupils, school staff and school property. Teachers interact with pupils in a very respectful, pleasant and affirming manner which serves to develop the pupils’ self-confidence and happiness in the school environment.  The school has a well constructed code of behaviour. Yard supervision is carefully carried out.

 

 

3.    Quality of school planning

 

3.1  School planning process and implementation

 

The quality of school planning is very high. The school plan is very well presented with clear evidence of a very systematic and structured approach to planning.  The school adopts a very proactive approach to planning, using many of the key principles of the School Development Planning Support Initiative and the Primary Curriculum Support Programme. In so doing, the school has set up committees and action plans which build on the specific expertise of members of the school community and which serve to drive and direct the formulation of particular policies. The school adopts a collaborative approach to planning, consulting with the parent body on a regular basis, most especially, in relation to organisational policies. The school has created a wide number of organisational policies which effectively contribute to the smooth running of the school.

 

Curricular policies and plans are formulated in a very consistent and comprehensive manner, paying careful attention to strand units and the principles of the primary curriculum. Whole school plans are in place for all curricular areas, except Drama, which is currently being in-serviced. These curricular plans are regularly revisited and revised. It is highly commendable that over the past two years, all curricular policies have been revisited, revised and redrafted. In devising these plans, curricular content is delineated in a very clear, concise and progressional manner. This ensures continuity of content. These curricular plans show creative planning for teaching approaches and methods across all the curricular areas. Similarly, plans for assessment and integration are clearly and creatively represented. Although the standard of whole school planning across all curricular areas is very high, the subjects English, Science and Music are of a notably high standard.  While the mathematics scheme is very well constructed and pays very detailed and careful attention to teaching methodologies, it is recommended that this plan could be further enhanced by making more definitive references to differentiation approaches and by extending the scope of some lesson content beyond the textbook.

 

Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and the staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions of Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Post-primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, 2004). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the department’s guidelines.

 

3.2  Classroom planning

 

An analysis of the planning of individual teachers reveals a consistent and focused approach to planning which pays due regard to curriculum strands and strand units.  Teachers’ long-term plans clearly and concisely delineate the content to be covered, whilst also making very commendable provision for methodologies and pupil activities. Very commendable planning is being undertaken at specific class levels, where the teachers work collaboratively to develop plans which ensure continuity and uniformity of lesson content.

 

The school plan serves to inform the short-term planning of individual teachers. Teachers prepare carefully and creatively for their lessons, with notable attention being given to the preparation of resources and the provision of active learning experiences for the pupils. Content is clearly delineated with commendable progression being evident. In some cases, teachers’ short-term plans could make more definitive reference to integration and differentiation practices.  Assessment procedures and practices are undertaken very satisfactorily with teachers maintaining consistent and comprehensive records on pupil progress. All teachers complete a monthly report.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

 

Overall the quality of teaching and learning is of a very high standard. Teachers in Lusk NS adopt a wide variety of methodological approaches which serve to stimulate and engage pupil interest in their learning. Lessons have very good pace and structure and combine a variety of approaches which provide opportunities for the pupils to be active in their learning. The effective employment of group and pair work and the appropriate use of discovery learning are just some examples of these varied approaches. Teachers make very judicious use of resources, particularly in facilitating hands-on activities for the pupils. Pupils show interest and pride in their learning and are enthusiastic about lesson content. They have also developed many commendable skills as independent learners. 

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tugann na hoidí faoi mhúineadh na Gaeilge go tuisceanach, díograiseach agus déanann siad iarracht bhreá ar thusicint a thabhairt do na daltaí ar an gcultúr leathan Gaelach, ar an gceol ach go háirithe.  Chuige sin reachtáileann na hoidí Seachtain na Gaeilge gach aon bhliain agus tá ceangal déanta le scoil sa Bhriotáin. Tá Cumann Gaelach sa scoil agus buaileann na baill le chéile gach seachtain. Baineann na hoidí i gcoitinne feidhm as an Ghaeilge mar theanga bhainisteoireachta i rith an lae agus is an-inmholta mar a bhaineann oidí áirithe feidhm as an teanga i dteagasc ábhair eile ar nós an Chorpoideachais.  B’fhiú go mór an cleachtas seo a leathnú níos faide fós tríd an scoil.

 

Tá scéimeanna bliana iomlána leagtha amach do mhúineadh na Gaeilge ag na hoidí agus tá an t-ullmhúchán gearrthréimseach bunaithe go dlúth, tairbheach ar na scéimeanna céanna.  Cuireann siad raon leathan acmhainní ar fáil don teagasc agus tá cúinní Gaeilge le sonrú ins na seomraí tríd an scoil.  Tá meascán cuí den teagasc ranga agus den teagasc grúpa ar bun ag na hoidí agus gabhann beocht agus luas ceart leis an obair i gcoitinne.  I ranganna áirithe, áfach, moltar forbairt bhreise a dhéanamh ar an obair bheirte i dteagasc na Gaeilge.

 

Ins na ranganna naíonán agus na bunranganna leagann ha hoidí béim ar rannaireacht, ar amhránaíocht, ar dhrámaíocht agus ar ról-imirt chun an foclóir cuí agus na feidhmeanna teanga a dhaingniú ins na daltaí.  Is an inmholta an chaoi in ar féidir le daltaí áirithe ceisteanna Gaeilge a chur ar a chéile agus ar an mhúinteoir.  Tá tús an-bhreá curtha le múineadh na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta le cabhair lipéidí agus cluichí ins na bunranganna.  Tá dul chun cinn maith á dhéanamh ag na daltaí ins na meánranganna sa léitheoireacht agus sa scríbhneoireacht.

 

Díríonn na hoidí ins na hardranganna aire mhaith ar cheart úsáid na mbriathra agus na n-aimsirí agus cothaíonn na hoidí cumas na ndaltaí chun labhairt go leanúnach faoi ábhair oiriúnacha.  Tugtar an-chleachtadh do na daltaí ar cheisteanna a chur ar a chéile agus léann siad an téascsábhar go cruinn, tuisceanach.  Bunaíonn na hoidí an obair scríofa ar éispearas na ndaltaí agus tá a gcuid iarrachtaí siúd go creidiúnach.

 

Irish

The teachers address the teaching of Irish in an enthusiastic, understanding manner and they endeavour to give the pupils an appreciation of the wide Gaelic culture, most notably music.  An Irish Week is organised in the school every year and links have been established with a school in Brittany. The school has a ‘Cumann Gaelach’ whose members meet once per week.  The teachers generally use Irish as the language of direction during the course of the day and some, very commendably, make use of Irish as a means of communication when teaching other subjects such as Physical Education.  The extension of this practice throughout the school would be very worthwhile.

 

Comprehensive yearly schemes, on which short-term plans are solidly and beneficially based, are outlined for the teaching of Irish.  The schemes allow for the provision of a wide range of resources and Irish areas are on view in classrooms throughout the school.  A suitable mix of whole-class and group-teaching methods is employed by the teachers and Irish lessons are lively and well paced.  However, in some classes, it is recommended that work in pairs be further developed.

 

In the infants and lower classes the teachers place emphasis on rhyme, song, drama and role play to instil the suitable vocabulary and idioms in the pupils.  The ability of a certain number of pupils to ask questions in Irish of one another and of the teacher is very praiseworthy.  A very good start has been made to the teaching of reading and writing in the lower classes with the aid of word labels and games.  The pupils in the middle classes are making good progress in reading and writing.

 

The teachers in the senior classes devote attention to the correct usage of verbs and their tenses and they develop their pupils’ ability to speak with fluency on suitable themes.  The pupils are given very good practice at asking questions of one another and they read their textbooks accurately and with understanding.  The teachers base the written work in Irish on the pupils’ own experience and the latter’s efforts are creditable.

 

English

Overall the quality of teaching and learning in English is very good. The school has extensive long-term plans which take full account of all the curriculum strands and strand units and which show clear evidence of continuity and progression. In particular, the school has a very well constructed phonological plan which translates successfully to teachers’ short-term plans.   Teachers’ short-term plans make very clear and commendable delineation of lesson content and activities. In some cases, teachers could make wider provision for differentiation in writing tasks.

 

The classroom environments strongly support pupils’ learning in English, with a print-rich environment being evident in all classrooms. There is evidence of word walls, labels, language charts, posters and Dolch lists.  Pupils show a keen interest in reading and read with fluency. The school adopts a laudably multi-pronged approach to developing pupils’ reading abilities. This approach involves the use of shared reading, paired reading, graded readers, reading workshops, a high emphasis on phonological development, the effective use of collaborative learning, the widespread use of novels and the promotion of reading for pleasure. These approaches make very commendable provision for parental involvement. There is a very good emphasis on poetry throughout the school. Pupils clearly enjoy poetry and are given many opportunities to discuss and appreciate a variety of poetic genres. In many classes, pupils are given opportunities to write poetry and to use differing poetic genres to this end. Nursery rhymes are taught in the junior classes. It is recommended that further exploration of these rhymes be considered with a view to assisting pupils in their acquisition of the most used words and in conjunction with the development of pre-reading skills and activities.

 

There is good emphasis on oral language development in all classes. Oral language is focused, structured and developmental. Pupils’ competence and confidence in using oral language is being effectively developed. Teachers employ a variety of strategies such as drama, games, video, circle time, pair work and co-operative work in developing oral language. Various stimuli such as photographs, posters, charts, books and stories are used to foster an interest in oral language topics. Pupils are encouraged to enter into dialogue, debate, role-play and drama during oral lessons. Teachers maximise opportunities to engage in such language activities. There is due emphasis on grammar and spelling throughout the classes. Pupils are capable of writing in a variety of genres such as acrostic poems, stories, letters, book reviews, notes and recipes. Pupils’ writing is displayed on corridors and classroom walls. It is recommended that the school investigate further possibilities for the celebration and distribution of the many laudable samples of the pupils’ creative writing. In preparing for this wider celebration and dissemination of pupils’ writing samples it is also recommended that the school review its policy on penmanship with a view to the development of pupils’ handwriting skills. A variety of assessment modes is used such as teacher observation, teacher-devised tasks, standardised tests and check-lists.

 

4.3  Mathematics

 

The standard of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very satisfactory. Teachers prepare comprehensive long-term plans encompassing all strands of the curriculum. It is recommended that more specific references to differentiation be made in teachers’ short term plans. Teachers adopt a variety of approaches with some very commendable group work and collaborative learning exercises being planned to promote the use of mathematical language and to develop pupils’ reasoning and problem-solving skills. Mathematics lessons also make excellent provision for the development of pupils’ estimation skills. Pupils are challenged to participate in mathematics lessons at the highest levels and do so with enthusiasm and vigour.  Teachers are commended for their appropriate and insightful use of discovery learning in this regard.  Teachers make very good use of resources, particularly concrete resources and pupils are provided with a variety of opportunities to use these resources to develop and consolidate their understanding of particular concepts. Lessons have very good pace and serve to involve and stimulate the pupils’ interests. Very appropriate provision is made for all strands of the curriculum, especially the number strand. The subject is integrated effectively with other areas of the curriculum, particularly in the senior classes. It is recommended that teachers consider wider possibilities for the integration of Mathematics on a cross-curricular basis. Pupils show strong competencies in oral Mathematics. In the main, the content of mathematics lessons is appropriately related to the experience and environment of the pupils. Pupils’ written work is of a high standard and is regularly monitored by the teachers.  Teachers have undertaken very commendable work in developing their classrooms as mathematics-rich environments. It is recommended that more consideration be given to extending this commendable work to the overall environment of the school.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

Pupils show a keen interest in history lessons. These lessons are very well presented, with teachers making notably commendable use of a variety of resources and artefacts to stimulate pupil interest and to prompt discussion on historical topics. Teachers have also developed many interesting classroom museums. Pupils are provided with a rich variety of learning experiences during history lessons. The skills of chronology are developed through a variety of learning experiences, with excellent use being made of age-appropriate timelines. Due regard and attention is afforded to local history with appropriate history trails being planned for the area of Lusk. The subject is creatively and effectively integrated with many other curricular areas.

 

 

Geography

The quality of teaching and learning in Geography is of a very high standard. Teachers make very appropriate provision for all strands of the geography curriculum. Lesson content is effectively related to the life experiences of the pupils. Teachers make excellent use of resources and group work to illustrate concepts and to provide opportunities for pupils to explore and test particular geographical phenomena. Some teachers make very commendable use of ICT in their geography lessons. It is recommended that teachers consider the possible wider use of ICT in delivering the geography curriculum. The school is part of the ‘Green Schools Initiative’. As such, the school undertakes very commendable work in involving and encouraging the pupils to recycle a wide variety of items.

 

 

Science

Teachers make very appropriate provision for all strands of the science curriculum. Pupils are provided with a variety of opportunities and activities to observe, question, predict, hypothesise and analyse scientific phenomena. Lesson content is effectively related to the experience and environment of the pupils. Pupils clearly enjoy science lessons and show a strong foundational knowledge of scientific concepts and facts.  Lessons make very appropriate provision for hands-on activities, with pupils being given a wide range of opportunities to engage in experimentation. Teachers make excellent use of resources, especially the local environment. It is recommended that further consideration be given to the possible use of ICT as a learning tool for science lessons.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual arts

Comprehensive plans encompassing all strands of the visual arts curriculum, methodologies and assessment procedures, such as teacher designed tasks and tests and the retention of the pupils’ work samples, portfolios and projects have been prepared.  The teachers’ short-term preparation is very well adapted to the overall school and yearly plans. A very good range of resources are in evidence for use in this area of the curriculum. There are attractive displays of visual arts activities on display along the corridors and in the classrooms throughout the school, many of which are of a very high standard. In the classrooms where teaching and learning were observed it is obvious from the pupils themselves that they engage very keenly in the lessons and derive considerable enjoyment from their work.  Collaborative work in pairs and in slightly larger groups was observed and teachers pay particular attention to introducing the various media, themes and settings in a considered and purposeful manner.  Adequate time is allowed for discussion and for stimulating the imaginative talents of the pupils.  Admirable work is being done by the pupils in mixing and blending colours in infants and the pupils in second class engage with keen enthusiasm and application in their work on clay.  In the middle and senior classes there is evidence of very good progression and sophistication in the various strands of the curriculum.  In fourth class the collage work of the pupils in portraying nature study themes and the work on tone is very commendable.  Fifth class pupils are given ample opportunity to look and respond to the work of famous artists and they are being very well prepared for their drawings on still life.  There are very praiseworthy samples of their work with clay on display in the classroom.

 

Music

There is very good overall planning, both long-term and short-term, in place for the teaching of Music. The work is very well referenced to the primary school curriculum and all strands are given due attention.  In the classes where the teaching and learning of Music was observed the pupils were actively involved in their learning and were obviously deriving much benefit and enjoyment from their work.  There is very commendable emphasis on developing the pupils’ sense of pulse, rhythm and pitch and the lessons are very well structured and paced to this end. Programmes of work are very well adapted to cater for the needs and ages of the pupils.  They are enabled to explore a variety of percussive and body sounds and they are given the opportunity to make simple compositions of their own accordingly.  The pupils generally indicated very good levels of musicality and they sang their songs in both English and Irish rhythmically, sensitively and accurately.  The efforts of teachers to accompany their pupils on suitable instruments add a further positive dimension to the music programme in the school.  The school choir gave a pleasant rendition of action songs. It supports all religious and sacramental celebrations within the school and each year teachers bring the choir to the Point Theatre to participate in the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’. A number of classes performed a variety of tunes admirably on the tin whistle. The school organises a summer concert each year, which takes place for several evenings and which is open to attendance from parents and the wider school community.

 

Drama

The quality of teaching and learning in Drama is very good. Teachers’ long term plans are commendable and are in accordance with the content objectives of the curriculum. There is good breadth and balance between the strand and the strand units taught across the classes. Teachers plan for differentiation through varying the level of difficulty, the time and the amount of teacher assistance given to the child.

 

Drama is effectively taught throughout the school as a discrete subject and as a methodology to teach other subject areas.  Pupils are provided with suitable learning opportunities to explore and make drama, reflect on drama and co-operate and communicate in making drama. Pupils explore feelings through nursery rhymes and stories and they create dialogues for these characters. They explore and assimilate experiences in groups, in pairs and in role. There is adequate talk and discussion before, during and to conclude drama lessons.  The content is appropriate to the class level and full participation is both encouraged and facilitated. Social skills, language skills and communication skills are given appropriate emphasis.  Pupils respond creatively to the stimulus through a variety of well planned activities. There is good use of the environment, collaborative learning, talk and discussion and story and mime in the teaching of drama. A range of strategies such as hot seating, role play, voices, puppetry and games is carefully employed in the teaching of this subject.

 

The level of pupils’ understanding and achievement is very good. Pupils demonstrate how they enter physically and emotionally into the drama world. They display how they co-operate with their peers “in role” and “out of role” in shaping drama. Some pupils participate in a puppet party and answer questions spontaneously. Pupils showed a high level of understanding and enthusiasm as they explored the rainforest through drama.  Pupils are capable of using space and objects appropriately. They deal with conflict, act out scenarios and accept the brief assigned to them in the world of drama. Good questioning, clear conclusions, circle time and teacher observation are some of the tools of assessment successfully employed in the school.

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

A school plan for Physical Education, written in four blocks of two-year programmes, informs to very good effect the teaching of this area of the curriculum. The plan includes an inventory of the varied equipment and mini-apparatus available to the school.  All strands of the curriculum are addressed and the spacious general purposes room accommodates full participation by the pupils in a variety of activities. However, the condition of the ceiling of the general purposes room is problematic and should be attended to forthwith.

 

The lessons observed indicated a well planned and structured approach to the work with due regard for safety and order.  Pupils are suitably attired and warm-up activities precede the main body content of all lessons.  The pupils at infant and lower class level derive much benefit and enjoyment from a variety of games and are acquiring the relevant athletic and ball skills admirably. They also have made a very good start to their work on gymnastics.

 

The games and dance strands are linked cleverly in the middle classes to develop the pupils’ creative and aesthetic sense.  In the senior classes a very systematic approach to the teaching of a variety of athletic and games skills, involving station training, has resulted in pupils displaying very good ability in basketball and Gaelic football. The school currently prepares pupils for a wide range of sporting activities and competitions such as athletics, boys’ and girls’ Gaelic football, basketball, soccer, cricket, rugby and uni-hoc. Teachers are commended for the time and energy they devote to these extra curricular activities. The active involvement of the teachers themselves in the physical education activities enhances lesson presentation and models good fitness levels for the pupils.  The school also avails of assistance from the GAA, the FAI, and the IRFU.  External support for Irish dancing, basketball and cycling is availed of by the school.  The strand of outdoor and adventure activities is given due attention at appropriate times of the year, mainly during the summer term. In June of each year, the school organises a ‘Sports for All Day’ which is one of the highlights of the school year and which serves to involve all stakeholders from the school community.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

The long-term planning for Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is praiseworthy.  There is appropriate coverage of the strands and strand units of the curriculum. There are adequate resources available in classrooms to support the teaching and learning of this subject. Posters, charts, poems, games, videos and stories are used regularly to support teaching and learning in this subject.

 

A variety of suitable teaching methodologies is used to teach the subject such as whole-class discussion, circle time, co-operative learning, group work and pair work. Well planned programmes of work systematically address the content outlined in the content objectives. The structure and pace of lessons is very good.  Pupils in the senior end develop co-operative skills through well-planned group work on topics such as our community, world news and decision making.  Pupils are actively learning through good questioning and exposure to research and project work.  The quality of pupils’ interactions and contributions is very good. Pupils are given opportunities to role-play, discuss, recite poetry and solve problems during these lessons.  Pupils explore topics such as bullying, medicines, electricity, safety, healthy lifestyle, friendship and decision-making through talk and discussion, circle time, brainstorming, mime, written exercises and debates.  Pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the subject matter is very good. The quality of the written outcomes such as posters, workbooks and letters is good. Pupils’ learning is monitored through teacher observation, questioning and revision.

 

 

4.8 Assessment

 

A variety of assessment practises is in operation in the school. These practices take place at both formal and informal levels. On a whole school level, standardised tests are undertaken each year in both Mathematics and English. At individual class levels, assessment practices involve teacher-designed tests, teacher observation and in some cases specific screening tests.  Such test results are used effectively for parent-teacher meetings and to identify the specific learning needs of individual children. Teachers maintain appropriate records of pupil progress. These records are used effectively to provide guidance for the education support team.  

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The school has prepared a comprehensive and detailed whole school policy on education for pupils with special educational needs. The provision for pupils with special educational needs and learning difficulties in this school is very good as the school avails of the services of highly skilled and experienced special education teachers. The required resources, both personnel and material, are suitably accessed to meet the needs of these pupils. The results of assessment tests are used effectively in planning suitable learning programmes for these pupils. Tests used include the Drumcondra Primary Reading test, Sound Linkage, Jackson Phonics, Neale Analysis, Aston Index and Schonnel. Good communication exists between the support teachers and the classroom teachers. Parents of children with special educational needs are consulted on the development of Individual Education Plans and Individual Pupil Learning Profiles and are regularly informed of their children’s progress. Records on pupils’ progress are meticulously maintained. Instruction in learning support classes is effective, using a variety of visual and concrete materials during teaching and learning sessions. Pupil interest is effectively stimulated during these classes. The school has a very comprehensive selection of learning support materials. It also has a variety of very suitable educational software to support the use of ICT in special education. Some teachers make very effective use of ICT to support pupils’ learning. Teachers use a variety of games, charts, cards, rhymes, reader’s theatre and phonemic awareness activities to support teaching and learning.  Some pupils receive support in both numeracy and literacy. It is recommended that the school makes wider provision for support in the area of numeracy. 

Most support is provided on a withdrawl basis with limited in-class support. It is recommended that the school consider wider possibilities for the in-class support of pupils with special educational needs. In so doing, it is also recommended that the special education team members review their caseloads with a view to minimising disruptions to classes and with a view to developing early intervention strategies.  

 

5.2  Other supports for pupils: (Disadvantaged, minority and other groups)

 

A whole school policy guides the teaching of language to newcomer pupils in the school. Planning in the area of language support is detailed and shows breadth of vision. Pupils are selected for support based on initial assessments carried out by the school. Support is provided on a withdrawal basis. It is recommended that support be provided in classrooms as far as possible. The quality of the teaching by the support team is very good. Lessons are highly interactive, making effective use of a variety of stimuli to promote conversation and language development. Pupils clearly enjoy these lessons and display enthusiasm for lesson content. The Integrate Ireland Language and Learning pack is used to help plan programmes of work for these pupils. An individual and group programme of work is provided for each pupil attending language support. Individual Profile and Learning Programmes (IPLPs) are in place for all pupils attending language support, with parents being consulted on their formation. Pupil progress is continuously and systematically monitored.  Parents are regularly informed of their child’s progress.  Some pupils are achieving very well. Pupils are well integrated into their classrooms. It is recommended that class teachers need to differentiate the curriculum further in their planning and in practice to facilitate these pupils. It is also recommended that the school co-ordinate a cultural awareness week to celebrate the various cultures in the school.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • A very warm, caring and affirming school atmosphere exists which serves to create a very nurturing and supportive learning environment for all pupils.  
  • A very strong spirit of collaboration and enthusiasm exists among school staff which translates into the sharing and celebration of effective and creative teaching approaches. 
  • The talents of all staff are willingly and successfully exploited with the result that pupils are offered a wide and varied curriculum.
  • Teachers are enthusiastically and energetically involved in a wide range of extra-curricular activities.
  • The school adopts consistent and progressive approaches to planning at whole school levels and at specific class levels.
  • Teachers are actively involved in the Pilot Project for Teacher Induction which serves to develop and promote teacher professionalism for both experienced and new teachers.
  • The parents and local community are actively and enthusiastically involved in school life at pastoral, organisational and curricular levels.
  • Throughout the school, the standard of teaching is very high. Teachers employ a wide variety of teaching methodologies and approaches which serve to create stimulating and interesting lessons.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

  • The vast majority of learning support intervention is focused on the development of pupils’ reading abilities. It is recommended that the school review the current nature of this provision with a view to incorporating more learning support in the area of Mathematics. 
  • Learning support and language support are provided almost exclusively by withdrawing the child from his / her class. It is recommended that greater opportunities for in-class support be investigated.
  • It is recommended that the duties of the in-school management team be reviewed on a more systematic and formal basis.
  • Whilst the use of ICT is a significant feature of the work of the school, it is recommended that the school investigate further opportunities for the use and promotion of ICT in teaching and learning.

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.

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

7.  School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

The Board of Lusk N.S. feels that our WSE report affirms the positive work being undertaken in our school.  The school faces many challenges at present given our rapidly expanding numbers, changing nature of our student population and continued expansion of our school campus.  Despite these challenges many strengths were identified in our school most particularly the caring school atmosphere and the strong spirit of collaboration which exists between the school and the local community.  We are also pleased that the professionalism, commitment and dedication of our teaching staff has been recognised. 

 

We believe the recommendations of the report to be fair and intend addressing these recommendations in the near future. The evaluation recommends the increased use of ICT in particular subject areas and notes the number of computers in our school.  However we are concerned that much of our ICT equipment is dated and will need replacement.  This will involve investment of funds which are very limited at present. 

 

 

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

 

Recommendations regarding the upgrading of school facilities have been addressed.  The roof in the school hall has been repaired and the staff room upgraded. The provision of in-class support in learning support and language support is recommended.  The support team has commenced such support in classes from Junior Infants to 4th class. The provision of learning support in Mathematics will be examined in the coming year.  We are concerned regarding available resources. A review of the duties of the In School Management team is currently being undertaken in response to the changing needs of the school.  It is intended to include Drama as a curricular area attached to a new Special Duties post to commence this year.  Further opportunities for the use and promotion of ICT in teaching and learning will also be investigated.  The school would hope that increased financial support will be made available from the Department for such initiatives.