An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Naiscoil Íde

Raheny, Dublin 5

Uimhir rolla: 17978V

 

Date of inspection:  13 March 2008 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Naiscoil Íde. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Naiscoil Íde is located on All Saints Drive in Raheny. The main building was originally constructed in 1958, with four additional prefabricated classrooms being added subsequently. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. It has an administrative principal, thirteen classroom teachers and a special education team comprising two learning-support teachers, one resource teacher and an English language support teacher. One support teacher who is based in the school is shared with another local school. In addition, the school also benefits from the dedicated work of the school secretary, the school caretaker and the school’s cleaning staff. The school plans to develop and upgrade its present accommodation. Enrolment now stands at 343 pupils and has remained stable over the past number of years. School attendance is very satisfactory.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management meets regularly, with minutes being kept and presented at all meetings. The school’s finances are audited on an annual basis and a financial report is presented at regular intervals throughout the school year. Board members undertake their duties with dedication. The board is involved in the whole school planning process, most especially in relation to the development of organisational policies. It ratifies school policies as they are devised. The board stated that it was happy with the way the curriculum is taught and with the achievement of the school’s pupils. It cites as its current priorities: the well being and educational needs of the pupils; provision for health and safety; responding to parental needs; developing links with the parents’ association; maintaining the Catholic ethos of the school; providing for the training needs of the school’s staff; providing more extensive sporting facilities; developing a critical incident policy and ensuring that the school has suitable accommodation for its pupils.  

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the school principal, a vice principal and six special duties post holders. Duties of each post holder are distributed across curricular, pastoral and organisational responsibilities. In deciding on these duties, the needs of the school at that particular moment in time and the opinions of the school staff were taken into account. These duties are reviewed on a regular basis. It is recommended that in reviewing these posts, some responsibilities need to be more specifically delineated. The in-school management team approaches and undertakes its work in a very committed and professional manner. Such an approach is characterised by clear vision and proactive leadership. It regularly reports on its activities and achievements at staff meetings. In so doing, every effort is made to respond to the needs of the school on an ongoing basis and to support the work of the school principal. A strong spirit of collegiality and cooperation exists among the members of this team.

 

The school principal provides strong leadership for all staff, seeking to empower all members of the school community to take an active role in maintaining and developing the school’s standard of education. The principal encourages and motivates the school staff, making an important contribution to the warm and nurturing school climate. She is also very proactive in monitoring the progress of pupils and in providing instructional leadership for the teaching staff.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The school is located on a large site, with grounds which are carefully maintained. The main building consists of ten classrooms, two special education rooms, a computer room, a principal’s office, a secretary’s office, a staff room and a general purpose room which is shared with two other schools. The school has been creative in providing accommodation for the two special education rooms, converting a cloakroom and store room to this end. This building is also complemented by four temporary classrooms, a grass area, a tarmacadam area, a games pitch and access to the local GAA pitches.

 

The school endeavours to provide teachers with a range of teaching opportunities across a variety of class levels and contexts. Such practice is commended as it affords teachers opportunities to experience a variety of class levels and teaching situations. Teachers have undertaken professional development courses on areas such as Mathematics, assessment, information, communication and technology (ICT) and learning support. The school actively seeks to mentor and induct new staff.

 

The school has an extensive range of teaching and learning resources. Since the introduction of the revised primary school curriculum, the school has been very proactive in securing resources to meet the teaching and learning requirements of the revised curriculum. All resources are carefully catalogued, with a school audit being undertaken at the end of each academic year. Some of these resources are located in a store room while others are housed on school corridors. These resources are stimulating, colourful and interactive. In particular, the school has made very good provision for hands-on resources. All teachers are given particular sets of resources at the commencement of each school year. The school has eighteen computers and eight laptops. Fifteen of these computers are housed in a computer room. This impressive selection of ICT resources is complemented by two printers and a data base projector. All classrooms have a DVD player, a CD player and a television. The school also has two keyboards and an organ.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school operates an open door policy seeking to address parental queries and concerns at the earliest opportunity. Parents are informed of the progress of their children in the first term of each year at a parent-teacher meeting. They also receive a written report on their progress in the third term of the academic year. All parents of newly enrolled pupils receive a booklet which provides information on the school and on how the parent can nurture their children’s learning. The school is commended on the quality of this booklet and in particular on the concrete and informative suggestions for parents on how to support their children’s learning. Parental involvement in the school is strongly encouraged. Parents are involved in a variety of school activities such as paired reading, Maths for Fun and art exhibitions. Parents are regularly informed of school activities and events via a school newsletter which is issued at regular intervals throughout the school year. The school also makes use of fliers and memos to ensure parents are regularly updated on school matters.

 

The school has a very active and vibrant parents’ association. This association meets on a very regular basis, typically once per month. Members of the association have attended training. The association regularly communicates with the parent body and general school community using its own newsletter. The association provides strong support to the school, particularly in terms of funding. It organises information evenings and speakers on a variety of topics. To this end, the association hosts a number of fundraising activities each year, such as a race night and non-uniform day. In addition, the association is very involved in a number of school activities such as the school sports day, paired reading, school art exhibitions and the ‘Santa Day’. The association stated that it was very happy with the standards of education in the school. It cites as it priorities, the further development of fundraising activities, continued assistance in improving the school and the management of parking in the school environs.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

The school has very well established organisational procedures which translate to the efficient management and coordination of school activities. Teachers interact with pupils in a very affirming, caring and respectful manner. During the inspection the behaviour and conduct of the pupils was of a very high standard. Pupils appear very happy and contented in the school environment, showing respect for school rules and procedures.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

Whole school planning is of a very high standard. All plans are very detailed and wide ranging, taking appropriate account of the unique context of the school. The school plan comprises two sections: a set of organisational plans and a set of curricular plans. All planning was undertaken in a collaborative manner, with relevant expertise from the School Development Planning Service (SDPS) and the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) being utilised to inform the process. In devising the plans, the school adopted a collaborative approach where all teachers were asked to offer opinions on the content and nature of plans. To assist with the development of these plans, expert sub groups were set up to examine and draft initial versions of the plans which were then discussed at staff meetings. This distillation approach resulted in the refinement of plans to meet the unique educational requirements of the school. The school has completed plans for all curricular areas. As these plans were nearing completion, they were referred to the school’s board of management which ratified each plan. In most cases, these plans include a date of ratification and a review date. It is recommended that all plans include such dates. Each of these plans has been reviewed since the introduction of the 1999 curriculum, with adjustments and amendments being made where necessary. The school has complied a large number of organisational policies which set out clear guidelines and practices for the effective and professional operation of the school. The school is commended for the regular manner in which plans are reviewed at staff meetings and for its use of action plans.

 

In creating curricular plans, the school has gone to great lengths to identify and delineate lesson content in a progressive and continuous manner for each class level. In so doing, it has successfully created curricular plans which are of a high standard, providing very clear and detailed guidelines for each class teacher on lesson content appropriate to his/her class level. These plans also offer some good suggestions on activities and methodologies appropriate for delivering the various types of lesson content. In particular, the school plan for English is of a high standard. Curricular plans also deal with aims, objectives, assessment, individual teacher planning, implementation strategies, success criteria, roles and responsibilities, differentiation, equality of access and resource usage. In some cases, planning could make more specific reference to the roles and responsibilities of curriculum leaders. All teachers have copies of the school’s curricular plans in their classrooms, with synopsised versions being made available for substitute teachers. Such practice is praiseworthy. In some cases, curricular planning could make more specific reference to differentiation strategies for the very able. The school is currently engaging in an examination of such strategies and is commended on this endeavour. 

 

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.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

Teachers’ planning is guided by the whole school plan. All teachers complete short term plans which provide a very clear and progressional outline of the lesson content to be covered. In a number of cases, teachers also write daily plans. Such diligence is commended. In some cases, teachers’ short term planning should make more definitive references to differentiation and integration practices. All teachers prepare resources for their teaching in a careful manner. In many instances, these resources are very creative. Teachers maintain records of their work using monthly reports. These reports are detailed and informative. It is recommended that the school develops a common approach to writing these monthly reports.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

Overall, the quality of teaching and learning is of a good standard. Teachers use a variety of methodological approaches, with good provision for linkage and integration. In particular, thematic approaches are used to very good effect. Lessons are delivered in a structured manner, with lesson content being effectively related to the environment and experience of the pupils. Lesson activities are structured, serving to motivate and engage pupils. Pupils show a keen interest in their work and apply themselves in an enthusiastic manner. They are encouraged to debate and discuss particular topics and themes in a warm and affirming climate. Resources are used to good effect to present and explain concepts and to provide the pupils with ‘hands-on’ experiences. Pupils are reaching high standards in their work.  

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

an plean scoile don Ghaeilge curtha le chéile go cuimsitheach agus go cumasach. Sa phlean seo treoracha soléire maidir le forbairt an cur chúige cumarsáideach. Freisin, bunaitear an plean go héifeachtach i gcomhthéasc agus suíomh na scoile. Cothaítear suim na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge trí ceachtanna a chur ina láthair go bríomhar, spreagúil. Bunaítear an t-ábhar foghlama ar théamaí a bhaineann le saol na bpáistí agus timpeallacht na bpaistí. Ar an iomlán, baintear úsáid as an nGaeilge mar mheán teagaisc. I gcásanna áirithe, baintear an-úsáid as an nGaeilge mar theanga bhainistíochta an ranga. Moltar an cleachtadh sin a chur i gníomh ar fud na scoile. Cuirtear na ceachtanna i láthair na ndaltaí go cumasach agus luas bríomhar ag baint leo. Baintear úsáid as modhanna éagsúla chun suim na ndaltaí a mhúscailt cosúil le cluichí, sceitsí, miondramaí, amhráníocht, drámaíocht agus gníomhachtaí éagsúla. foclóir breá ar eolas ag cuid mhór de na daltaí. Éiríonn leo abairtí simplí a chumadh agus ceisteanna a chur agus a fhreagairt bunaithe ar na téamaí idir lámha. Aithrisíonn siad cnuasach leathan rann, dánta agus amhrán go taitneamhach, le tuiscint agus le dea-fhoghraíocht. Is léir go bhfuil tréaniarracht á dhéanamh ag foireann na scoile ar straitéisí éagsúla teagaisc a úsáid chun caighdéan na Gaeilge a fheabhsú tríd an scoil. Glacann na daltaí páirt ghníomhach sna ceachtanna agus eagraítear gníomhachtaí éagsúla chun deiseanna labharta a thabhairt do na paistí. Moltar níos deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí chun an foclóir nua a úsáid agus a chleachtadh

 

Irish

The school plan has been constructed in a comprehensive and capable manner. In this plan, there are clear guidelines on the development of the communicative approach. The plan is also effectively rooted in the context and situation of the school. Pupils’ interest in Irish is promoted as a result of lessons which are delivered in a lively and stimulating manner. Lesson content is based on themes which relate to the life and environment of the pupils. In the main, Irish is used as the mode of communication. In certain cases, very good use is made of Irish as a language to manage the class. It is recommended that such practice be extended throughout the school. Lessons are presented capably, with lively pace. A variety of methods is used to awaken the interest of the pupils such as games, sketches, mini-dramas, singing, drama and varied activities. The majority of the children know a good range of vocabulary. They succeed in composing simple sentences and posing and answering questions based on themes which are in hand. They recite a wide repertoire of rhymes, poems and songs pleasantly, with understanding and good pronunciation. It is clear that the school staff is making a great effort to use various teaching strategies to improve the standard of Irish throughout the school. The pupils take an active part in lessons and various activities are organised to provide pupils with opportunities to converse. It is recommended that greater opportunities be afforded to pupils to use and practise new vocabulary.

 

English

The quality of teaching and learning in English is of a high standard. Lessons are delivered in a stimulating manner and serve to promote and engage the pupils’ enthusiasm and interest. Teacher planning is guided by a very comprehensive and detailed outline of content in the whole school plan. The school plan is commended for the comprehensive manner in which content is outlined on a monthly basis across all class levels and for all strands of the curriculum. This translates to consistency of lesson content across the different class levels. Teacher planning for the delivery of lesson content is equally specific and progressive.

 

Teachers make very good provision for the development of the pupils’ oral language skills in conjunction with the development of their phonological awareness. A variety of stimuli is used to broaden the pupils’ language skills, with notably effective use being made of pictures, objects, poems, stories and nursery rhymes. Oral language lessons effectively relate the content to the life experience and environment of the pupils. These lessons provide suitable activities and opportunities for the pupils to consolidate the new vocabulary. It is recommended that the school considers wider opportunities for pair work and group work to this end also. Pupils’ phonological development is approached in a very structured manner. Teachers follow a progressive and deliberate programme to this end.

 

This systematic approach to the development of the pupils’ phonological skills has translated to very good standards in pupil reading. Pupils read with fluency and confidence. In developing this reading, the school adopts a multi-pronged approach with a specific emphasis on phonics, word attack skills, spellings and sight words. This approach is complemented by a strong emphasis on the development of the pupils’ comprehension skills, particularly in relation to prediction, questioning, summarising, character analysis and problem solving. In promoting pupils’ interest in reading, teachers make very good use of big books and of story telling. Pupils clearly enjoy these lessons and participate enthusiastically. All classrooms have libraries which are well stocked. In some cases, teachers should consider making these libraries more accessible to the pupils. In so doing, greater consideration should be given to the incorporation of fact books in these libraries. The school hosts a book fair each year to promote interest in reading. Authors are also invited to the school to give talks and to read to the pupils. Such activities serve to promote and celebrate reading as a pastime.

 

Teachers make very good use of grouping for English reading. Through the use of supplementary readers and additional library books, reading material is differentiated on a number of levels according to the pupils’ abilities. In all instances observed, this practice was commendable. The school is currently examining extra support reading material to augment strategies for differentiation in reading. The school also makes use of a paired reading programme which encourages parental involvement in reading activities. Such practice is commended. This programme is complemented by the use of shared reading which provides opportunities for pupils to share and celebrate the reading experience. 

 

Pupils engage in writing activities with enthusiasm and pride. Teachers make very good use of a variety of stimuli to promote the pupils’ imaginations. Lessons make good provision for the study of grammar and writing conventions. Pupils’ penmanship is of a very good quality. Some very laudable examples of pupil writing for different audiences and in different genres were noted during the inspection. It is recommended that the school investigates further opportunities for the development of such commendable practice and for the wider display of pupils’ writing in the school environment.

 

Assessment in English is of a very high standard. The school is highly commended for the regular and formative manner in which pupil progress in English is monitored.

 

4.3 Mathematics

The standards of teaching and learning in Mathematics are very good. The school has devised a very comprehensive school plan. This plan provides a detailed guide on the implementation of the curriculum at different class levels. It has been formulated in a creative manner with due regard for integration, resources and parental involvement. Teacher planning in the subject similarly makes very good provision for the outline of content and associated activities. All classrooms are presented as maths-rich environments. In some classrooms, teachers have created a mathematics table. The school is commended for the structured approach taken to the use of grouping in Mathematics. In conjunction with the special education team, mixed ability groups are formed which utilise team teaching approaches. This grouping provides intensive and focused intervention on particular mathematical strands and objectives. In addition, the school also has a Maths for Fun programme which involves parents and which provides a variety of mathematical stimuli for pupils. A maths trail using the school environment has been devised and is differentiated for each class level. These initiatives are lauded for the specific manner in which they target learning objectives and outcomes and for the degree of fun they bring to learning in Mathematics.

 

Lessons observed had good pace and direction. Pupils engage enthusiastically in these lessons. Teachers make good use of resources to illustrate and explain concepts. Lessons also make timely and appropriate use of concrete resources, with pupils being given hands-on activities and resources to develop and consolidate concepts. The predominant mode of teaching involves whole class methods. It is recommended that teachers consider wider opportunities for the use of group work and collaborative learning. Teachers are commended for approaching the subject in a fun-like manner. Teachers monitor pupil progress carefully, making formative use of assessment results.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

Teachers display imagination and creativity in their approach to the teaching of this aspect of the curriculum. Highly engaging strategies and appropriate methodologies are employed to promote interest in historical enquiry. Artefacts and photographs are provided as an evidence base for pupils to practise and develop the skills of time and chronology, change and continuity and cause and effect. Teachers carefully structure questions to lead pupils to an appropriate sense of empathy and understanding in relation to story, myths and legends and events in the past. Story is particularly effectively employed to stimulate pupils’ interest in the topics being taught. Selected stories are appropriately used to develop the pupils’ sense of sequence and a suitable understanding of historical perspective. A commendable emphasis is placed on personal and family history enabling the pupils to develop an understanding of the past in relation to their own lives. Timelines are used effectively in some classrooms to develop a sense of time. This good practice is commended and should be extended to all classrooms. Through the school’s celebration of its fiftieth anniversary, pupils have had an enriching experience and have been enabled to develop an appropriate understanding of continuity and change in the context of their own school environment. To add to the good practice observed in the teaching of history, it is recommended that the use of oral evidence be considered as another methodology and an immediate historical source to enrich the teaching and learning process.

 

Where pupils had the opportunity to engage with appropriate resources, they were highly motivated and interested. The opportunity to participate in pair work in some classes also enabled pupils to be active and independent learners. Learning outcomes are assessed through teacher observation and questioning and this in turn informs planning and teaching. Pupils’ oral communication skills demonstrated good understanding of the topics being explored. Pictures, drawings, teacher-designed task sheets and simple project work were all evidence of the progression of skill and content development across the range of classes in the school.

 

Geography

The standards of teaching and learning in Geography are very good throughout the school, with excellent work being carried out in a number of classes. The comprehensive whole-school plan provides a practical guide to facilitate effective implementation of a broad and balanced curriculum. This plan is being further developed and a range of appropriate themes has been identified as a means of adopting a more integrated approach. Such practice is praiseworthy. Lessons are well presented and pupils are skilfully motivated through the use of stimulating resources. Maps, globes, artefacts and photographs are on display in almost all classrooms, effectively enabling pupils to develop a sense of place and space. The emphasis placed on local Geography is commendable and a trail of the local area has been developed. It is recommended that a range of natural and human features be identified for inclusion in the trail and to delineate clearly the extent of the local area to be investigated at each class level. Through the use of carefully selected stories, pupils are enabled to develop appropriate geographical skills and concepts relating to human and natural environments in a broad range of locations.

 

Pupils show a keen interest in geography lessons and are given many opportunities to develop their skills as geographers particularly through the observation of local weather and seasonal changes. In some classes, maps are also drawn of imaginary places and the journeys taken by characters in stories. The pupils have also drawn maps of their local area and the routes they take to school. These demonstrate an appreciation of the human and natural features of the local environment. Using cross curricular integration, art work and scrap-books various classes clearly demonstrate an appreciation of people and places in local and contrasting environments. Teacher observation and questioning are used to assess progress in learning outcomes and this in turn informs teaching. In some classes this has led to high standards of knowledge acquisition beyond what might be expected from specific class levels.

 

Science

The quality of teaching and learning in Science is very good. The school plan for Science is well constructed providing a clear, progressional and detailed outline of content which makes appropriate provision for the seasons and the context of the school. Good planning is in place for science trails. Teacher planning shows detailed and longitudinal development of lesson content. In some cases, teacher planning needs to ensure an appropriate balance of strands across the academic year. All classrooms are presented as stimulating scientific environments, with a number of ongoing experiments in evidence. Classrooms have scientific tables which encourage pupils to observe and analyse particular scientific phenomena. The school has a good selection of resources for Science. It is recommended that this resource provision be reviewed and further augmented. Pupils are engaged in planting exercises both within the classrooms and in the school grounds. The school receives very good support from the gardening section of the local St Anne’s Park. In building on the planting activities noted during the inspection and bearing in mind the support received from St Anne’s Park, it is recommended that the school investigates the possibility of developing a school garden. On occasion the school also undertakes trips, such as an excursion to Bull Island.

 

Lessons in Science are very well structured and paced. The pupil’s own experience, environment and ideas are used effectively as springboards to launch lesson content. Teachers make effective use of resources to explain and present concepts. Lessons provide opportunities for pupils to discuss topics and scientific phenomena and in many cases to pose their own questions in this regard. Pupils have engaged in a wide range of experiments and investigations throughout the school year. In so doing, their skills in prediction, observation, experimentation, analysis and recording of data are suitably developed. Teachers make creative provision for designing and making activities, effectively integrating this aspect of the curriculum with other curriculum areas. Pupils revealed a sound understanding of experimentation. In some instances, very good use of collaborative learning was noted.

 

The school is commended for the attention given to the strand unit on environmental awareness and care. Pupils are encouraged to practise recycling activities. The school received a green flag in 2006. It places creative and constructive emphasis on recycling activities and energy conservation issues. To this end, pupils are actively involved in monitoring the school’s recycling and energy conservation practices.

 

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The whole school plan is wide-ranging making appropriate provision for all strands of the curriculum. Teachers also plan carefully for the subject, investing laudable time and efforts into preparing resources and displaying samples of the pupils’ work. The school environment showcases many commendable samples of the pupils’ work. During the inspection, samples of the pupils’ work in drawing, paint and colour, print, clay, construction and fabric and fibre were noted. Teachers integrate the subject very effectively with other areas of the curriculum, frequently adopting a thematic approach to art work. In particular specific strand units and themes are appropriately linked to the seasons and studies in Science and English. Lessons in Visual Arts are very well paced and structured. Teachers use group, individual and whole class teaching methods. Pupils’ imaginations are appropriately stimulated through the use of a variety of stimuli such as stories, pictures and the pupils’ own experience. They engage in these lessons with enthusiasm, exploring, experimenting and enjoying art. Teachers make good provision for looking and responding. The school has a considerable number of art pieces for the looking and responding strand. It is recommended that the school further augment this selection. The school is commended for hosting an annual art exhibition which showcases and celebrates the pupils’ art work. Parents are invited to view different art pieces across the different strand levels and across the different class levels.

 

Music

The school plan for Music provides clear guidelines on the implementation of this aspect of the curriculum. Teachers plan carefully and creatively for the subject, with content being delineated in a careful manner. Teachers are highly commended for their use of Music in an integrated manner throughout the entire school day, with song singing being a key component of such integration. In particular, teachers make very good use of music and drama in an integrated manner. Pupils sing with competence and confidence knowing a wide repertoire of both English and Irish songs. Lessons make appropriate provision for the development of pupils’ understanding of musical elements such as pulse, duration, tempo, rhythm and pitch. Suitable progress is also being made in developing the pupils’ understanding of music literacy. Music lessons make effective and creative provision for active pupil involvement. Pupils enjoy these lessons, participating with enthusiasm and vigour. Musical instruments are used to good effect, with commendable activities involving composing being noted during the inspection. The school also invites outside performers to the school such as the Garda band. Such practice is commended. It is recommended that the school considers augmenting its collection of music pieces for the listening and responding strand, with specific consideration for music of different styles, periods and cultures. In a number of cases, it was noted that teachers revealed specific expertise in relation to the delivery of specific strands of the music curriculum. It is recommended that the school investigate further opportunities for the exploitation and sharing of such expertise.  

 

Drama

The school plan for Drama is of a high standard. The school has a good selection of drama resources, with commendable provision for costumes and visual stimuli. Teachers’ planning makes very good provision for the subject in both a discrete and integrated manner. Notable examples of this integration were observed in Irish, English, Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Music lessons. Teachers are highly commended for the regular and creative use they make of Drama. As a methodological approach, it is used across all subjects, serving to develop and consolidate lesson content in an effective manner. Lessons are structured and make suitable provision for pupils to enter emotionally, physically and intellectually into the world of drama. In so doing, pupils are encouraged to explore feelings and experiences. Pupils engage in drama lessons with zeal and enjoy the experience. They enter into role and make imaginative use of space and objects. Some teachers choreograph and develop their own drama productions which are performed for other classes and the school community. Such practice is praiseworthy. It is recommended that greater opportunities for the exploitation and sharing of such expertise be investigated on a school-wide basis.

 

4.6 Physical Education

The school plan makes good provision for the development of the physical education curriculum. Commendable efforts are made to address the aquatic strand through lessons on water safety and hygiene. The school has a very good selection of resources. Teacher planning for Physical Education is of a very good standard. Lessons observed make very good provision for warm up and cool down exercises. Teachers model the skills to be acquired and provide appropriate activities to develop these skills. Pupils demonstrate an understanding of skill. Pupils engage in these lessons with enthusiasm and are provided with a wide range of opportunities and contexts to develop particular skills. In so doing, it was evident that they experienced a sense of achievement. On some occasions, whole school events are organised such as skipathons and sports days which involve both the pupils and the local community and which serve to celebrate Physical Education.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is integrated into the entire school day. The school plan provides a detailed and progressive outline of lesson content to be covered, with very good provision for themes from other programmes such as the Walk Tall programme and Stay Safe. Guided by this well constructed school plan, teachers deliver the subject in a discrete and integrated manner. Lessons provide for pupil involvement, with notably effective use of circle time being observed during the inspection. Pupils contribute readily and enthusiastically during well structured lessons. In presenting these lessons, teachers make suitable use of resources. Lesson content is effectively related to the experience and environment of the pupils. The primary method by which teachers assess pupil progress in SPHE involves teacher observation and portfolio building.

 

4.8 Assessment

The school is commended on its comprehensive plan for assessment. This plan provides in-depth guidelines for teachers on formal and informal assessment, with notable emphasis on ‘early at risk’ indicators and the formative use of assessment data. The school has created a comprehensive set of assessment checklists for use by class teachers at all levels. These indicators are used effectively in a formative manner to identify pupils who are at risk, particularly in the area of English. By the same token, the school also has developed checklists for assessment in Mathematics. It was noted during the inspection, that some teachers have further augmented the school’s assessment checklists for Mathematics by designing their own ones. It is recommended that the school considers wider opportunities for incorporating these checklists on a more uniform level into their school plan for mathematics assessment. The school also undertakes standardised testing in first class using Sigma-T, Micra-T and Drumcondra Mathematics tests. All senior infants are screened using the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST). In addition, teachers, on occasion, use the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP) with particular junior infant pupils, depending on their needs. To complement this approach to assessment, the school also uses a wide range of diagnostic tests, such as the Schonell Graded Reading Test and the Basic Number Diagnostic Test. Teachers also use a wide range of other assessment tools and practices in their teaching, such as observation of pupil learning and work, teacher-designed tasks and tests and portfolio building.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A collaborative approach to the provision of support for pupils is in evidence among the principal, mainstream class teachers and support teaching staff and this is enhanced by effective communication between all staff members. Underpinning this collaboration is a deep sense of care, sensitivity and a detailed approach to planning. To this end, the school has prepared a comprehensive and detailed whole school policy on education for pupils with special educational needs informed by the Learning Support Guidelines, published by the Department, and incorporating the staged approach to special education as outlined in Circular Letter 02/05. The plan clearly outlines roles and responsibilities, clear strategies for minimising learning difficulties and also the principles governing early intervention. The special education team meets with the principal at least once per term to discuss the development and implementation of the school plan. Effective links have been established with outside agencies where required.

 

The special education team consists of three support teachers who provide support for pupils with general learning difficulties and those with low incidence learning needs. Team members have participated in a wide range of continuing professional development courses. Skills and relevant information are shared within the team and with class teachers. Individual members of the team provide support for specific class levels in literacy and numeracy tuition. Support is also provided to a lesser extent in social development and in language tuition. Such support is appropriately and creatively delivered in both withdrawal and in-class contexts. Parental support is used to good effect in supporting Maths for Fun and paired reading programmes. All support teachers plan well for their lessons and their record keeping on pupil progress is meticulous. Individual teachers carefully develop Individual Education Plans (IEPs) where relevant arising from diagnostic tests and appropriate input from parents and class teachers. In addition, Group Education Plans (GEPs) are developed as appropriate, for the pupils receiving supplementary teaching. The clarity of the learning targets, mastery indicators and teaching strategies that are based on the pupils’ priority needs is commended. Time frames for review are an integral component of this planning. Pupils’ progress, as measured by standardised testing and teacher observation, is evaluated in deciding whether or not to continue support. As a result of this approach, the quality of support for pupils with special education needs is very good. Evidence of commendable practice was observed in relation to pupils identified as exceptionally able. It is recommended that more specific reference be made to such practices in the school policy on special education.  

 

Despite the space constraints for support learning, the learning support rooms are well organised with stimulating print-rich displays. A range of commercial and teacher-designed resources is effectively employed to support learning. Lessons observed were well structured, with teachers ensuring that pupils engaged in appropriately paced and suitably challenging learning activities. The interactions observed between teachers and pupils receiving supplementary teaching were very affirming and encouraging of the pupils. Two special needs assistants (SNAs) provide valuable support and they are deployed in a manner which facilitates the inclusion of the children to whom they are assigned in the full range of school activities.

 

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

The school has created a plan entitled ‘Education Provision for Overseas Children’, to guide and manage the teaching of English to newcomer pupils. This plan is carefully constructed, with commendable emphasis on thematic approaches. Pupils are selected for language support based on a careful screening process which is guided by the criteria as laid out by Integrate Ireland Language Teaching (IILT). Targets are set for these pupils with regular reviews of these targets. The language support teacher and the class teacher work collaboratively, meeting parents where necessary to inform them of the style and nature of the programme they are delivering. In delivering this programme the school avails of the services of a full time language support teacher. Language provision classes are delivered on a withdrawal basis in small group settings. These classes are stimulating and serve to provide a variety of activities for the pupils to develop and consolidate their language skills. These lessons are structured and serve to motivate and to enthuse the pupils about their learning. Pupils clearly enjoyed the lessons. It is recommended that the school considers wider possibilities for extending the nature of this support to in-class support.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

  • The school benefits from the strong leadership and vision of the principal and members of the in-school management team.
  • The whole school plan is very comprehensive and very well constructed.
  • Very good standards of teaching and learning were noted during the inspection and high standards are being achieved by pupils, particularly in Mathematics and English.
  • Lessons are well structured, motivating and challenging for the pupils.
  • Pupils are active in their learning, showing interest in and enthusiasm for their work.
  • The school adopts a proactive and responsive approach to the early identification of pupils at risk in English and Mathematics.
  • The quality and variety of support for children with special educational needs is of a high standard.

 

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

  • The school should consider greater possibilities for the utilisation of the specific expertise of teachers within team teaching contexts.
  • Teachers should explore greater opportunities for the use of pair work and collaborative learning.
  • Teachers’ short term planning should make more definitive references to differentiation and integration.
  • Teachers should make greater use of Irish as a language to manage the class, throughout the school day.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published September 2008

 

 

 

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 welcome the report and appreciate the affirmation contained therein for the tremendous work being carried out in the school.

 

 

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 Board is committed to implementing the recommendations of the report.  The Board looks forward to continuing to deliver excellent education provision in an extended and refurbished building.