An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Glenasmole National School
Bohernabreena, Dublin 24
Roll number: 17996A
Date of inspection: 19 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Glenasmole National School. 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 inspector 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 inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. She interacted with pupils, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. She reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Glenasmole National School is a three-teacher, Catholic, co-educational school in the parish of Bohernabreena, in Tallaght. It is located in a rural setting, providing education for children drawn predominantly from the surrounding area. The present school, dating from 1958, was extended in 2005. The school receives additional resources under the Department of Education and Science initiative, Giving Children an Even Break. Enrolments are stable; the number of pupils attending has increased marginally in recent years and currently stands at 61. Attendance is consistently high. The last school inspection took place in 1996.
The school’s mission is to nurture each child’s full educational potential, in all its richness and diversity, in a Christian context. Commitment to the mission is manifest in the broad curriculum that is provided to the pupils and in the high value placed on developing the pupils’ involvement in caring for their environment. The school is instrumental is promoting community values and in forging strong links with parents and other members of the parish. It is an inclusive and welcoming school where staff, management and parents work closely for the children. The school has recently undergone a change of leadership and there have also been two new appointments on a shared-school basis. The untimely loss of the previous school principal has been greatly felt by the whole community. She is widely praised for her progressive work and commitment as both principal and teacher. She has made a positive impact on very significant aspects of the work of the school.
Glenasmole NS is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. The board of management is properly constituted and functions effectively. It meets every month and minutes of its meetings are maintained. The financial accounts of the school are audited annually. The board has published its policy regarding admission to the school. It has made provision for fulfilling its legislative duties under the Education Welfare Act 2000 regarding the promotion of pupil attendance. It complies with Department regulations pertaining to the length of the school day and year, class size and teacher allocation. All members have undertaken training for their management roles.
The board works in consultation with the staff in developing and reviewing organisational policies and procedures. There are a number of curriculum plans, as yet, in draft form. It is recommended that the board ratify all planning systematically. The board has recently completed its strategic plan for the development of the school building. Among its current priorities are the retention and upgrading of the school’s prefabricated room, the improvement of existing school facilities and the consolidation of the work of the school. The board is concerned about the school’s lack of a general purposes room. It communicates effectively with the school community through the parents’ representatives on the board. It has made arrangements for the viewing of the school plan by parents in compliance with section 21 of the Education Act, 1998.
The principal and deputy principal comprise the in-school management. In this three-teacher school it is evident that a praiseworthy level of collaboration and dedication underpin the work of all the teachers. The principal, who was appointed in September 2005, is committed to the success of the school and to the well-being of staff and pupils. He carries out his management duties in a competent and effective manner. He ensures that the school is run smoothly and that working conditions are of a good standard. Through his leadership the ethos of the school is maintained and nurtured and he actively seeks to promote the role of the school in the community. The principal is ably supported by the work of the deputy principal. All duties are carried out in a conscientious and thorough way. This support relates to a wide range of organisational and pastoral responsibilities. It is recommended that these duties be reviewed to encompass curricular responsibility in keeping with the provisions of Circular 07/03.
A good level of communication, both formal and informal, exists between the principal and staff and between the school and board of management. The principal submits a formal report at each board meeting and the parents’ representatives report back to the parents’ association on pertinent issues. Monthly staff meetings are held by staff members based in this school. These meetings are well organised; an agenda is agreed and minutes are recorded. It is advised that all members of staff, including those based in other schools, participate in a number of formal meetings throughout the school year.
The original building has two small classrooms, toilet facilities and a resource room which doubles as a storage area. The school extension encompasses an extra classroom and office. There is a prefabricated room on the site; this is quite small and not suited for general purposes. The school has a tarmacadam play area with outdoor shelters and a green area. The school is cleaned daily and the grounds are maintained on a contractual basis. The school employs a part-time secretary who assists greatly in the smooth organisation and successful administration of the school. The school’s records, accounts and files are very well maintained.
There is a good selection of material resources in all classrooms. They include computers and associated software, DVD players, CD players, an interactive whiteboard and data projector, class libraries and resources for many curriculum areas. The school has set up its own website and has considerable expertise in the area of ICT. A wide range of literacy resources is evident, particularly for infants and the junior classes. These include large-format books, parallel and extension readers, ICT software and well-stocked libraries. In these classrooms, a print-rich and mathematics-rich environment is successfully promoted. Photographic displays and samples of the pupils’ work across the curriculum are exhibited in the school’s corridors and reception area. These displays contribute to the welcoming and attractive environment.
The parents’ association was recently affiliated to the National Parents’ Council. The parents are very supportive of Glenasmole NS. There are open and accessible channels of communication with the staff and principal. The school endeavours to ensure that the parents are well informed regarding general policies and procedures. The parents are active in many aspects of school life. They provide significant monies for curriculum materials and ICT resources through fundraising and they support a range of school-based activities. The staff, board, pupils, parents and the local community have worked together to create an imaginative and attractive school garden. This is maintained to a very high standard. On a number of weekends each year, members of the school community meet and tend to the upkeep of the garden in the tradition of the Irish meitheal. The parents’ association is particularly supportive of the parents of new pupils and encourage these parents’ involvement in school life. The school maintains regular communication with parents through the use of homework journals, notes, school progress reports and regular updates. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held each year.
There is effective management of pupils at all class levels. The pupils are very well behaved, respectful and open. A whole-school approach to promoting positive behaviour has been agreed and is implemented consistently in all classes. This approach accords with the spirit and principles of the Equal Status Act, 2000. The efforts and achievements of individual pupils and classes are affirmed and celebrated in the classroom, in regular school assemblies and through home-school communications.
A culture of whole-school planning has been well established in Glenasmole NS. The school plan contains detailed, organisational policies and procedures that are clear, concise and relevant to the school’s needs. These policies address, among others, admission of pupils, code of behaviour, health and safety, child protection, ICT, substance use, supervision of pupils and guidance regarding homework. Curriculum plans for English, Irish, Mathematics, Social Environmental, Scientific Education (SESE) Music, Physical Education (PE) and Visual Arts were devised a number of years ago. It is now timely to coordinate the systematic review of curriculum plans in support of the curriculum and changing school needs. It is recommended that the school plan be distributed to all teachers.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line 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 for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 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 Departmental guidelines.
All teachers prepare long-term and short-term plans. A range of individual planning frameworks is used and some of these should be explored further to develop a coordinated, whole-school approach to individual curriculum planning. Teachers provide monthly progress records on a common template which is reflective of the strands and strand units of the curriculum.
The school provides a broad curriculum to the pupils. All teachers deliver appropriate lessons with competence. In general, lessons are differentiated to take account of the various class levels. Some very effective teaching methodologies are used in many lessons, incorporating the explicit teaching of core concepts, the promotion of active learning, the preparation of quality, focused tasks and the use of the environment. More consistent use of these effective practices with all classes is recommended. The model of support used for pupils with learning needs incorporates both team teaching and the in-class provision of targeted support. This practice is underpinned by a praiseworthy level of engagement and collaboration. The overall quality of learning is good. Most pupils are confident, motivated learners. They have some opportunities to contribute their views on aspects of school life through their participation on the committee for the Green School programme. Older pupils behave in a responsible and supportive way towards the junior pupils during playtime on the yard.
Sa phlean do mhúineadh na Gaeilge, leagtar amach téamaí, modhanna múinte agus cuspóirí an churaclaim. Ba chóir féachaint chuige go bhfuil treoirlínte le fáil i dtaobh eiseamláirí na bhfeidhmeanna teanga agus ar úsáid na teanga ar fud na scoile chun cumas cumarsáide na bpáistí a fhorbairt a thuilleadh. I múineadh na Gaeilge éiríonn leis na hoidí atmaisféar dearfach a chruthú sna ranganna. Ar an iomlán, baineann siad úsáid fhónta as gníomhaíochtaí, cluichí, amhráin agus acmhainní oiriúnacha. Úsáidtear lipéid, póstaeir agus luaschártaí go torthúil. I gcuid is mó de na ranganna, baintear úsaíd as raon de mhodhanna múinte spreagúla idir dhrámaíocht, cluichí cainte agus tascanna éisteachta. B’fhiú úsáid níos forleithne a bhaint as na dea-straitéisí seo i ngach rang chun cumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí a neartú i ngrúpaí agus i bpéirí. Léiríonn na páistí sna bunranganna go bhfuil sé ar a gcumas raon leathan foclóra agus eiseamláirí bunúsacha a úsáid go nádúrtha. Tá stór mór amhrán agus rann acu freisin. Tá caigheán cuí i labhairt na Gaeilge ag formhór na ndaltaí sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna. Tá tús maith curtha le múineadh na léitheoireachta sna bunranganna. Sna ranganna eile léann na daltaí le tuiscint agus tá formhór acu in ann ábhar na léitheóireachta a phlé ar bhealach sásúil. Baineann caighdeán cuí leis an scríbhneoireacht trí mheán na Gaeilge sa scoil.
The Irish plan addresses provision for the themes, methodologies and curriculum objectives for the teaching of Irish. It is advised that guidelines are provided regarding the teaching of specific language examples and for the use of incidental Irish throughout the school in order to enhance the pupils’ communication skills. The teachers succeed in cultivating a positive atmosphere in their teaching of Irish. In general, they make effective use of activities, games, songs and suitable resources. Labels, posters and flashcards are employed to good effect. In most classes, teachers utilise a range of stimulating methodologies, incorporating drama, communication games and listening exercises. Greater use of these good practices is advised in all classes in order to reinforce the pupils’ communication skills in groups and pairs. The infants and junior classes have a wide vocabulary and communicate in simple sentences with ease. They have a very good variety of songs and poems. Most pupils in the middle and senior classes achieve an appropriate standard in spoken Irish. The junior classes receive good initial training in the development of their pre-reading skills. In all other class levels the pupils read with understanding and most can discuss aspects of the programme in a satisfactory manner. The pupils of this school achieve appropriate standards in writing through the medium of Irish.
Oral language is taught with competence throughout the school. In all classes, provision is made for the teaching of specific oral language lessons. Teachers promote the pupils' oral language skills in all curriculum areas. The use of talk and discussion as a methodology is a feature of many lessons. In some classes there is a broad range of methodologies used, including focused pair work and group work, informed by specific learning objectives. It is advised that this practice be extended to all classes.
The teaching of reading varies. The pupils’ vocabulary is developed and extended appropriately through the use of labels, flashcards and word walls in the pupils’ early years. A variety of approaches and programmes for the teaching of early word/sound associations and the development of the pupils’ emergent reading skills are in use at present. The use of graded reading schemes, large-format books, collaborative games, the selection of themes and the use of ICT software are all positive aspects of the lessons observed. Where teaching is effective, it is informed by clear programmes of learning and on-going assessment of individual pupils’ progress. Overall, the teaching of the pupils’ emergent reading skills requires greater cohesion. It is recommended that teachers share good practice and agree a whole-school approach to the selection of programmes and materials for the teaching and assessment of phonics and reading. In the middle and senior classes the pupils read a variety of genres and, in general, they read with fluency, interest and understanding. A varied selection of reading material is available to pupils in each classroom and class libraries are comprehensive and well organised.
Pupils are afforded the opportunity to engage in various writing tasks, comprising the daily news, workbook activities and writing for a range of purposes. Some effective methodologies were observed during the evaluation combining extensive oral work, drama and imaginative writing experiences. In the middle and senior classes the pupils write in a range of genres and have begun to edit their work. Further engagement with the process of writing is advised. In these classes, the pupils enjoy writing poetry and respond to poems with sensitivity and interest. Their work is written neatly and samples of their poems are attractively illustrated and displayed.
The teaching of Mathematics is satisfactory. A range of effective methodologies is used in some classes incorporating activity-based learning and the extensive use of manipulatives. Some planning places a commendable emphasis on mathematical language, resources and active-learning contexts. Where lessons are informed by clear learning objectives, pupils are guided in applying their skills to challenging and engaging tasks in groups and pairs. In most classes a mathematics-rich environment is promoted and suitable resources are used effectively in the teaching of key concepts and skills. These resources include manipulatives, ICT, number lines, posters, mathematics trails, games and teacher-designed charts and materials.
In the infant classes the pupils display very good standards in relation to the conservation of number and in ordering, comparing and recording key concepts. Their use of correct mathematical language is praiseworthy. In the junior classes, pupils can compile number stories and carry out appropriate computations. In the middle and senior classes, pupils attain satisfactory levels of achievement in relation to many strands of the mathematics curriculum. Most pupils can organise and interpret information from graphs with confidence. A number of pupils require greater engagement in practical measurement involving length, weight and capacity. The pupils demonstrate a good standard of mental computation skills and can recall number facts correctly. Their application of mathematical skills and concepts to real-life situations and problems merits further attention. It is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on developing and applying the pupils’ problem-solving skills through the use of the environment and their engagement with practical, cooperative tasks.
The teaching of History is good. Whole-school planning has begun on the selection of themes to be taught at each class level. A variety of suitable methodologies is used to explore the strands of the history curriculum. These include hands-on investigations and excavations, pair work, project work, the use of ICT and the exploration of historical evidence. All classrooms display the pupils’ work as historians. Pupils engage in the skills of interviewing, recording, presenting and empathising with key themes of the programme. The pupils are knowledgeable about the history of their families and the local community. A good standard of learning is evident throughout the school.
The teachers ensure that the pupils are provided with attractive displays and interesting artefacts to explore whole-school themes and topics for the geography programme. Good use is made of maps, illustrative materials and reference material in reinforcing knowledge and concepts. Across the school a high level of sensitivity to the conservation of the earth’s natural resources is successfully fostered. In general, pupils display satisfactory levels of learning and are familiar with the material covered. An extension of the range of methodologies in use for the study of phenomena and environments’ is recommended. The frequent use of structured, collaborative, active-learning opportunities is also advised.
The teaching of Science is a significant strength of the school. A broad and varied programme is in place. The school promotes Science effectively through investigation areas, nature tables and interesting displays. Good use is made of the school garden for the purposes of scientific observation and exploration. Lessons are structured effectively: the pupils engage in investigations and experiments that build on their prior knowledge. Throughout the school the pupils achieve very good standards of learning. They display confident skills and an awareness of scientific concepts. The pupils have received merit awards for their achievements in the Excellence in Science initiative and the school has hosted a science fair, showcasing the pupils’ skills and achievements. Pupils display a high level of awareness regarding energy conservation and recycling and the school is committed to attaining Green Flag status.
The pupils receive an appropriate visual arts education. They are provided with engaging, practical experiences through well-structured lessons. The creative efforts of the pupils are displayed and celebrated in classrooms and in dedicated exhibition areas in the corridors. Samples of their work in drawing, fabric and fibre, clay, print and paint and colour are exhibited. Much of their work displayed is represented in two-dimensional form. Further exploration of three-dimensional work, specifically in the strand of construction, is advised.
The teaching of Music is generally satisfactory. In the infant classes the pupils are actively engaged in making music. They use an assortment of musical instruments, both commercial and self-made, to reproduce various rhythmic patterns with accuracy. They are guided in improvising and creating imaginative compositions in response to a stimulus. The use of ICT in this area is praiseworthy. All classes learn a range of Irish and English songs and the pupils sing tunefully in unison. Some individual planning reflects an over-emphasis on the strand of performance, particularly, on unison song-singing. In all classes, listening and responding activities are undertaken. Less emphasis is placed on the strand of composing in most classes. A comprehensive whole-school plan for Music is in place. It is recommended that this plan be used to a greater extent to inform classroom practice and that all classes provide for the progressive development of the pupils’ musical literacy with due emphasis on the composing strand.
Drama is used in many classes as an effective teaching methodology. Discrete drama lessons are well organised and facilitated with skill. The pupils display a high level of confidence in entering roles and fictional contexts. They engage in role-plays, improvisations and make-believe scenarios with self-assurance. These lessons are integrated successfully with other areas of the curriculum. In the teaching of Drama, due emphasis is placed on enriching the pupils’ expressive skills through the use of folktales, poetry and themes of local and general interest. At all class levels the pupils experience the joy of performing together and participating in an annual Christmas concert in the school.
Owing to the unavailability of a general purposes room, the implementation of a broad and balanced physical education curriculum is quite dependent on the weather. All teachers use the school yard and green area to good effect. A small, prefabricated room offers restricted facilities for movement and dance activities. The school has a good selection of resources for the teaching of all strands and the pupils are provided with an appropriate range of learning opportunities. The pupils demonstrate satisfactory skills in games, particularly in ball-handling skills. The services of a Gaelic Athletics Association coach are provided to all pupils on a weekly basis. Pupils from first to sixth class attend swimming lessons in the final term of each year. In the present school year, the school has adopted a commercial, physical education programme. It is recommended that the implementation of this programme be reviewed on a whole-school basis with a view to updating the school plan to reflect current, agreed practices.
The school is to be commended for the particular opportunities it provides for the fostering of the personal development of the pupils and the promotion of a positive school climate. The pupils are very well behaved and show respect to one another, to the staff and for their environment. A whole-school approach to promoting positive behaviour is successfully implemented. The school hosts weekly assemblies where the collective and individual efforts of pupils are affirmed. Teachers provide discrete lessons in SPHE relating to the pupils’ personal and interpersonal development and to their engagement with the wider community. The methodology of talk and discussion is used to explore many themes of this programme. Further use of active-learning methodologies, including cooperative games, drama, ICT and group projects, will enhance provision in this area.
A range of assessment strategies is employed throughout the school to monitor the pupils’ progress. The pupils’ written work is consistently corrected and teachers provide appropriate feedback. Standardised screening tests in English and Mathematics are administered in all class levels from senior infants through to sixth class, twice yearly. These tests are used to inform decisions regarding the selection of pupils for learning support. Teacher observation is also used for the selection of pupils for additional support in literacy and Mathematics. It is recommended that further diagnostic testing take place, particularly at infant and junior level, to determine particular areas of weakness in the pupils’ learning and to inform specific educational programmes. Among the assessment approaches undertaken across the school are the use of portfolios, curriculum profiles and teacher-devised tests and tasks. Clear guidelines for assessment in each area of the curriculum are required on a whole-school basis. The information regarding the outcomes of assessment is shared with parents at parent/teacher meetings and in annual progress reports.
The special education team (SET) comprises a shared learning support/resource teacher (LS/RT) and a resource teacher employed for four hours per week. Both members of the special education team have been newly appointed. The current special education policy will require updating to reflect these new circumstances and to record the practices that are presently evolving. The SET will benefit from collaborative planning time, both together, and on a whole-school basis, for the delivery of a comprehensive whole-school approach towards the prevention and remediation of learning difficulties and the delivery of targeted resource teaching.
Thirteen pupils receive additional support. In this school there is special education provision for pupils with low-incidence disabilities and for pupils experiencing difficulties in literacy and Mathematics. Learning support and resource provision is carried out within mainstream classes and on a withdrawal basis. This support is inclusive in nature combining team-teaching, teaching in small groups and one-to-one teaching where appropriate. The accommodation for the provision of support, although adequate, merits attention as these rooms are also used as storage areas. The quality of teaching is very good. Teachers provide comprehensive planning and detailed individual educational plans. Lessons are well structured and engaging. A satisfactory selection of suitable teaching and learning resources is available. These are used effectively. Further diagnostic testing tools are required for the selection of pupils for support and for the close monitoring of the pupils’ attainment of specific learning targets. It is recommended that greater parental involvement be sought in the formulation of individual education plans.
The school endeavours to ensure that all pupils are supported and that they experience a broad and inclusive education. The school receives funds through the Giving Children an Even Break initiative. These monies are used to provide supports and activities to promote the educational opportunities for all pupils. They include support for the school mural, school garden, chess club, the promotion of Science and the provision of school outings.
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 key recommendations are made:
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.