An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Mhuire, Ardeevin,
Williamstown, Co. Galway
Roll number: 17980I
Date of inspection: 23 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 29 June 2006
This Whole School Evaluation report
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Mhuire, Ardeevin. 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. The inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days, during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers and examined pupils’ work. The inspector reviewed school-planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and interviewed holders of posts of responsibility. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Scoil Mhuire, Ardeevin is a two-teacher school with a rural catchment area. It is located in the north of Glenamaddy parish in north-east Co. Galway. The current enrolment is 37. The number of pupils enrolled has risen steadily over the past decade and it is projected that there will be around 50 pupils enrolled by September 2008. The school is served by a learning-support teacher who is based in another school in the parish. A special-needs assistant and a secretary are employed on a part-time basis.
The recent extension and refurbishment of the school building is a great source of pride to the community. The extension was opened by Mary Hanafin, T.D., Minister for Education and Science in October 2005. The spirit of the community and the importance it attaches to education are evident in its response to the campaign to raise funds for the building project.
The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly, in accordance with the Department’s Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure. It is evident that this is a dynamic, well-informed board that contributes significantly to the quality of education being provided in the school. Despite the demands of the recent building project, the board has continued to develop new policies in consultation with parents. There is a diverse range of skills among the members. They are to be commended on their dedication and on the professional manner in which they go about their work on behalf of the school. The board’s current activities include a review of the code of behaviour, completion of school programmes for science and music, development of an ICT policy and the provision of a professional library for the teaching staff.
The current principal has given long and distinguished service to this school community. She manages the day-to-day operation of the school as well as teaching middle and senior classes. The lives of the pupils who attend the school are enriched by the principal’s caring, reflective approach. The post of deputy principal has a list of clearly defined duties that includes an appropriate balance of curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities. The deputy principal makes an important contribution to the quality of the education being provided by the school. The teachers have complementary skills and make a highly effective team. Some team teaching takes place each afternoon.
The current schoolhouse was built in 1955, after the previous building was destroyed by fire. An extension and refurbishment was completed in 2005. The building now has two large classrooms, a learning-support/computer room, a new general-purposes room, an office and a staffroom. There are also new set-down and parking facilities. The teaching staff and members of the present and previous boards of management are to be congratulated on providing a resource that will enhance the educational opportunities of the current and future generations of local children.
Funding from the Clár programme was used to resurface the recreation area and to provide safety netting at the roadside. The school has invested in a range of appropriate educational equipment and materials. As a consequence, the school is well-resourced, something from which pupils benefit. The teachers are to be commended on the professional manner in which items of equipment are catalogued and managed.
The teachers and board members are to be commended on the professional manner in which they approach the school-planning process. It is evident that this work has a positive impact on pupil learning and on general school effectiveness. The school has conducted a thorough internal review, the results of which are documented in the School Plan. There has been consultation with the Primary Curriculum Support Service and the School Development Planning Service with regard to policy development. There has also been regular communication with parents.
The School Plan is presented in an extremely professional manner. The document is clearly written and user-friendly and projects a positive image of the school. The organisational policies are specific to the needs and resources of this school and there is evidence that implementation is reviewed regularly. The code of behaviour is under review at present.
The board of management and staff are in the process of developing policies in accordance with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). It is recommended that a designated liaison person be appointed in accordance with Departmental guidelines as a matter of urgency.
The policies and programmes for curricular areas reflect the structure of the Primary School Curriculum and address the specific needs of this school. The plan for English is particularly comprehensive. The Gaeilge policy would be improved by the inclusion of a list of occasions on which pupils could use Irish during the school day and a list of the phrases/sentences to be used on each occasion. It is recommended that the teaching of a melodic instrument be included in the Music programme.
Each of the teachers prepares for her work in a conscientious, professional manner. Broad, balanced programmes of work are prepared for the pupils. There is appropriate attention to the differentiation of content and methodologies for individual levels of ability. There is also very good planning for the integration of different curricular areas through the use of cross-curricular themes.
The teachers show skill in managing and motivating the pupils. This is particularly important in the demanding multiple-class situation. The teachers are to be commended on the extra effort that is made to make learning experiences practical and concrete for the pupils. The teachers in this school are confident, experienced practitioners. Lessons are delivered in a clear, purposeful manner. There is effective use of appropriate teaching resources. There is scope, however, for more widespread use of charts and displays to make it easier for pupils to understand and recall what is taught.
Tá ardchaighdeán Gaeilge ag na múinteoirí anseo. Baineann siad úsáid as raon de ghníomhaíochtaí chun ábhar an cheachta Ghaeilge a chur i láthair na ndaltaí. Baineann fuinneamh, cinnteacht agus éagsúlacht leis an teagasc i gcoitinne. Leagtar béim chuí ar chothú scileanna éisteachta agus bíonn cúlstór mór focal ag na daltaí. Is léir ó cheistiú na ndaltaí nach mbíonn sé ar a gcumas ag go leor acu abairtí simplí a chruthú. Ar an iomlán, is léir nach mbíonn dóthain taithí acu in úsáid na Gaeilge mar theanga chumarsáide. Moltar do na múinteoirí prionsabal an tumoideachais a chur i bhfeidhm le linn an cheachta Ghaeilge. Moltar freisin tascanna a thabhairt do na daltaí ina mbeidh orthu an Ghaeilge atá foghlamtha acu a úsáid chun cuspóir éigin cumarsáide a bhaint amach. Moltar do na múinteoirí úsáid a bhaint as ócáidí i rith an lae chun an Ghaeilge a úsáid i gcomhthéacs cumarsáideach. Moltar úsáid níos leithne a bhaint as cairteacha agus taispeántais éagsúla sna seomraí ranga chun foghlaim na Gaeilge a éascú agus a bhuanú.
Overall, the provision for this aspect of the curriculum is of a very high standard. There is effective development of the pupils’ oral-language skills. The school fosters positive habits with regard to speaking and listening. Pupils encounter a range of poetry and enjoy reciting poems.
The reading programme is broad, balanced and skilfully implemented. There is effective development of a range of reading and comprehension skills. A whole-school phonics programme has been adopted recently. The school also aims to provide pupils with positive experiences of books and reading. Pupils have access to a range of age-appropriate children’s literature in the classroom libraries. Teachers read aloud to their classes. It is evident that the school does excellent work to develop the pupils’ sense of the pleasure and purpose of reading.
The school provides regular opportunities for pupils to develop their writing ability. Pupils’ written work is displayed and celebrated. It is recommended that the school provide a broader range of writing opportunities for pupils. As well as enabling pupils to write in a broader range of forms/genres, the school might consider participating in the Write-a-Book project or asking senior pupils to produce books for younger children.
A high level of preparation is evident in the teaching of Mathematics. Lessons are well structured and appropriately paced. The teachers generally differentiate lesson content effectively for the various levels of ability in their classrooms. There is an emphasis on practical activities and excellent use of mathematical equipment. It is evident from questioning of pupils that there is scope for greater emphasis on the concepts and language relating to the strands Shape and Space, and Measures. It is recommended that charts and displays be used more widely in both classrooms to make it easier for pupils to learn and remember mathematical concepts and vocabulary. It is recommended also that the section of the School Plan dealing with mathematical language be used to plan, support and assess the development of the pupils’ mathematical vocabulary.
There is an appropriate emphasis on personal history and on stories in the junior and middle classes. There is a commendable emphasis on local history in both classrooms. The pupils’ research and communication skills are developed effectively through project work.
The school implements a broad, varied programme in Geography. There are regular opportunities for pupils to engage in project work. Pupils in both classrooms gather and record weather information.
Pupils develop their skills and knowledge in all strands of the Science curriculum. There is a particularly strong emphasis on the strand Living Things. Science/nature tables are used in both classrooms to stimulate the pupils’ curiosity and reinforce learning about the physical world. Pupils learn about the life processes of living things through sowing seeds and observing growth. Pupils in both classrooms have opportunities to explore the local environment through seasonal nature walks.
The teachers have conducted an audit of the local environment, with a view to identifying resources for learning. First steps have been taken in the creation of habitats to be studied by the pupils. It is recommended that the school continue to develop the school grounds as a resource for learning in Science. The planting of native trees and the development of a wildlife garden would provide additional habitats for pupils to explore. The feeding of wild birds at the classroom windows would provide opportunities for pupils to observe, record and investigate the variety and characteristics of living things.
The school provides opportunities for the pupils to develop their creative skills in all strands of the Visual Arts curriculum. There is an appropriate balance of two-dimensional and three-dimensional work. The teachers keep an individual portfolio of the work done by each pupil. The school provides opportunities for pupils to look at, and respond to, the work of established artists. Overall, the pupils get fine learning opportunities in this curricular area. It is recommended that more of the pupils’ work be displayed in classrooms and other places within the school.
There is evidence of excellent practice in the teaching of Music. Pupils in both classrooms sing from a broad repertoire of songs in English and Irish. The school enables pupils to read and write simple rhythms and melodies using staff notation. There are regular opportunities for pupils to listen and respond to a range of music. It is recommended that all pupils be taught how to play the tin whistle/recorder or some other melodic instrument. Other than this, the music programme is commendably broad and is effectively implemented.
Drama is used extensively to enrich learning opportunities in a range of other curricular areas. A visiting teacher assists with the implementation of this aspect of the curriculum.
Pupils participate in a broad Physical Education programme that includes athletics, games, gymnastics, outdoor and adventure activities and aquatics. It is recommended that dance be included as an element of the programme. Teams represent the school in Gaelic football and soccer. A coach from the Football Association of Ireland visits the school regularly.
There is a great awareness within the school of the importance of the social and personal aspects of the pupils’ develoment. The SPHE curriculum is implemented conscientiously by the teachers. This was one of the first schools in the county to include a module on cycling safety in the SPHE programme.
A range of assessment approaches is used by the class teachers to monitor the progress of individual pupils. Standardised attainment tests are administered annually in English reading and Mathematics. Further diagnostic tests are administered to pupils in receipt of learning support. Each teacher keeps a monthly record of the work completed in his/her class.
There is a high level of awareness within the school of the individual needs of children. The class teachers’ learner-centred approach ensures that lesson content is differentiated to cater for various levels of ability. The school employs a part-time special-needs assistant to provide support for one pupil. Some pupils receive supplementary teaching from the visiting learning-support teacher. The quality of support provided is very high. The learning-support area is a pleasant, stimulating environment. The learning-support teacher prepares an individual learning programme for each pupil. These programmes are comprehensive and skilfully implemented.
The school receives funding under the Department’s School Support Programme. This is used to ensure that all pupils have full access to the school’s curricular and extra-curricular activities. The school has also used funding from the Clár programme to improve the recreation area and to to purchase additional resources.
The school ethos is open and inclusive. This is reflected in policy documents. There are no pupils from minority cultures enrolled in the school at present.
The school enjoys a close relationship with its small body of parents and generally appears to make effective use of this valuable resource. It is clear that parents give generously of their time and energy. They are actively involved in the school’s extra-curricular programme. Their views are sought when school policies are being developed. Individually and collectively, parents made an invaluable contribution to the funding, management and development of the recent building project. The school holds annual parent-teacher meetings. It is recommended that the school consider providing an annual written report on the progress of each pupil.
A meeting was held with parents’ representatives as part of this evaluation. The parents’ representatives identified a number of strengths in the school. These included effective communication between the school management/teaching staff and parents; the increased learning opportunities offered in the new school building; and the support given by the board of management to teachers. The parents also identified the lack of education in the playing of a musical instrument as an area for development.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following recommendations are made.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the
inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the
The board of management has officially appointed a designated liaison person in accordance with Departmental guidelines as recommended in the WSE report.