An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Clooneyquinn National School

Elphin, Castlerea, County Roscommon

Uimhir rolla: 18027T

 

Date of inspection: 24 March 2009

 

 

 

 

 

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

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Clooneyquinn National School was undertaken in March 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Drama.  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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

This is one of four primary schools in the rural parish of Tulsk, County Roscommon. The school has had a high turnover of staff in the past several years and both of the current class teachers were appointed on a permanent basis in recent months. The locality has a rich musical tradition and this is reflected in the school programme. There is a school band and the extensive extra-curricular programme includes traditional singing and music. The school is also involved in a wide range of initiatives in the areas of local heritage, environmental education, and science and technology, areas that are beyond the scope of this report.

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The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation.

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

44

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

0

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Elphin. The school’s mission statement makes reference to the Catholic ethos and to the importance of professional standards and mutually respectful relations within the school community. It is evident, from interviews, observations and interactions during the evaluation that the teachers cultivate positive, respectful working relationships with their pupils. They also foster positive habits with regard to the pupils’ social and learning behaviour.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board is properly constituted and meets regularly in accordance with the Department’s Constitution of Boards of Management and Rules of Procedure. Minutes of meetings were made available for inspection. The board’s finances are managed prudently and the accounts are certified annually. Board members have been assigned specific roles and have participated in relevant training. It is evident that the board is highly supportive of the educational work of the school.

 

The current board of management and previous boards are to be commended on the manner in which the school building and grounds have been developed and maintained. Following a major refurbishment in 2004, the school now has two large classrooms as well as a staffroom and various other ancillary rooms. The teachers are to be commended for the many attractive displays of pupils’ work and other items of interest that make this a pleasant, stimulating environment in which to work and learn. The recreation area has been upgraded with the assistance of funding from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. The board of management has an agreed plan for maintenance and further improvements.

 

Board members report that they are very satisfied with the work of the school and they are appreciative of the teachers’ commitment to the overall development and welfare of each individual pupil. Board members have some concerns regarding traffic on the road outside of the school and these issues are being raised with the relevant authorities. Board members also observed that the recent increase in the school population has led to pressure on the school’s resources, especially resources for pupils with special educational needs.

 

1.3 In-school management

The school principal was appointed to this post on a permanent basis shortly before the evaluation commenced. However, she had been operating as principal in an acting capacity for some time prior to that while the previous principal was on secondment to the Department’s support services. As well as having suitable post-graduate qualifications, the principal has recently completed relevant courses in school leadership. The principal has a clear, coherent vision for the school and has already demonstrated the ability and work rate that are required to realise this vision. Her plan for school improvement includes developing the areas of information and communications technology (ICT) and special education. The principal has overseen recent investment in a range of equipment and materials, most obviously in the areas of Mathematics, Music, Science and class libraries. There is an interactive board in each of the two classrooms.

 

The principal receives valuable support and assistance from her colleague, who has a special-duties post. This post includes an appropriate balance of curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities. It is recommended that the board provide a contract for the special-duties post, to be signed by the post holder and the chairperson of the board of management. The principal and special-duties teacher work collaboratively on the development of the school and on their own professional development. In the short term, there are plans for the teachers to undertake professional-development activity in the areas of oral-language development, special education and the use of interactive boards. The teachers swop classes regularly for certain subjects. All school records are kept conscientiously and professionally. Both teachers devote significant amounts of time to extra-curricular activities outside of school hours. It has been the custom in Clooneyquinn NS for the pupils in senior infants to remain at school for the full school day. It is recommended that pupils in both of the infant classes be released from school at the end of the infant day, in accordance with Department of Education and Science Circular 11/95.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The parents’ association, which has been in existence for about two years, has made a valuable contribution to the work of the school. Parents have assisted the board with the development and maintenance of the school building and recreation area. They help also with the organisation and management of various co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. There are plans for greater involvement of parents in the school’s curricular work. As a first step in this direction, it is envisaged that parents will work in the classroom with their children as part of the programme Maths for Fun.

 

There is evidence that the school communicates effectively with parents regarding the progress of their children. Parents of pupils enrolling in the school are invited to an induction meeting and given an induction pack. All parents are given the opportunity to attend a scheduled meeting with their children’s teacher during the second term of the school year. An annual written report on each pupil is issued in June.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The quality of pupil management is very good. The pupils respond positively to the respectful, caring behaviour that is modelled by the teachers. Pupils are courteous towards teachers and towards each other. A combination of purposeful teaching and effective classroom management has ensured that the procedures for dealing with challenging behaviour that are outlined in the school’s code of discipline are rarely used. A good anti-bullying policy is included in the school plan.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The development of the school plan was co-ordinated by the current principal. There has been commendable collaboration by the teachers and good consultation with parents prior to the ratification of policies by the board of management. There has also been effective engagement with the relevant support services as required. The school is to be commended for producing a reader-friendly plan that takes cognisance of the specific needs and resources of this school.

 

The organisational section of the school plan includes almost all of the policies that are required by legislation or Department circulars. The school’s attendance policy, which is required by the Education (Welfare) Act, is being developed at present. It is recommended that the school provide a policy on gender equality/sexual harassment, in accordance with the relevant legislation. It is recommended that all policies be signed by the chairperson of the board of management following their ratification by the board. The school plan also contains policies for each of the curricular areas. Overall, the quality of these policies is very good. Like the organisational policies, they are specific to the context of this school. They reflect accurately the classroom practice that was observed during the evaluation and provide a valuable means of sustaining this good practice.

 

Each teacher completes appropriate classroom planning as required by the Rules for National Schools. The quality of the written planning examined in both classrooms is very good. Teachers’ schemes and records are practical and reader-friendly. There is good planning for and recording of pupil achievement. There is also effective planning for the needs of the different class groups within the multi-grade settings.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

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. It is recommended that the school’s child-protection policy be signed by the chairperson of the board of management.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá caighdeán an teagaisc agus na foghlama sa Ghaeilge go maith. Taispeántar flúirse d’ábhair chlóbhuailte i nGaeilge san dá sheomra, rud a éascaíonn foghlaim agus úsáid na teanga do na daltaí. Cuirtear prionsabail an tumoideachais i bhfeidhm go héifeachtach le linn an teagaisc. Úsáídtear rainn agus drámaíocht go héifeachtach chun foclóir nua a mhúineadh agus a chleachtadh. Bíonn na daltaí gníomhach le linn na gceachtanna Gaeilge agus cuirtear ar a gcumas an Ghaeilge atá acu a úsáid i gcomhthéacsanna cumarsáideacha. D’fhéadfaí úsáid níos éifeachtaí fós a bhaint as tascanna beirte i gcásanna. Is inmholta an úsáid a bhaintear as an nGaeilge mar theanga chumarsáide taobh amuigh den cheacht foirmiúil. Bíonn na daltaí toilteanach agus ábalta an teanga a labhairt i rith an lae scoile. Freagraíonn formhór na ndaltaí ceisteanna faoin ábhar atá clúdaithe go muiníneach, líofa. Léiríonn siad tuiscint mhaith freisin ar struchtúr na teanga.

 

Irish

 The standard of teaching and learning in Irish is good. There is a good supply of printed material in Irish on display in both classrooms, which makes it easier for pupils to learn and use the language. The principles of immersion education are put into practice during the teaching. Verses and drama are used effectively to teach and practise new vocabulary. The pupils are active during Irish lessons and they are enabled to use the Irish they have learned for communicative purposes. More effective use could be made of pair work in cases. There is commendable use of Irish as a communicative language outside of the formal lesson. The pupils are willing and able to speak the language during the school day. Most pupils answer questions on the material that has been covered with confidence and fluency. They also demonstrate a good understanding of the structure of the language.

 

English

The school plan contains a very good policy for oral-language development in English. In both classrooms, there is good use of cross-curricular strategies to develop the pupils’ oral-language ability. There is scope, however, for more opportunities for structured pupil-pupil interaction. Pupils would benefit also from the provision of dedicated oral-language lessons in both classrooms. There is scope for greater use of structured play as a vehicle for language development in the junior classes.

 

The quality of the school’s provision for English reading is very good. There is appropriate attention to the development of phonological awareness, sight vocabulary and word-recognition skills. Large-format books are used effectively in the junior room as a way of introducing pupils to the conventions of print and as a basis for oral-language activities. In both classrooms, there is a wealth of suitable printed material on display so that pupils encounter text informally throughout the day. The teachers are to be commended on the provision and use of a wide range of authentic reading materials. Class libraries are well stocked, accessible and attractively presented. The principal is to be commended for sourcing and providing suitable, attractive furniture for the reading corner in the junior room. There is evidence of good work with regard to poetry. The quality of the school’s work in English reading is reflected in the very good performance of pupils in standardised attainment tests.

 

The school provides a good range of opportunities for pupils to develop their writing ability. The work produced is generally of very good quality. Samples of pupils’ writing are displayed attractively throughout the school. Teachers also keep samples for the purpose of assessment.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Evidence from classroom observation, interaction with pupils and standardised assessment tests indicate that the quality of teaching in Mathematics is very good. The teachers make particularly good use of charts and other displays to make it easier for pupils to understand and remember mathematical concepts and operations. There is also commendable emphasis on the development of mathematical vocabulary. Concepts are linked effectively to the pupils’ life experience. The teachers provide regular opportunities for pupils to learn through practical activities with suitable mathematical equipment. There is very good differentiation of objectives, methodologies and resources for the different class groups within each of the multi-grade classrooms. There are plans to involve parents in the Mathematics programme in the near future through the project Maths for Fun.

 

3.3 Drama

The quality of provision for this area is very good and reflects the key principles of the Primary School Curriculum. Both class teachers have drawn up a ‘drama contract’ with their pupils. This has been recorded, signed by the teacher and pupils, and displayed in the classroom. The contract is read by the class prior to each Drama activity and is a useful means of reminding pupils of the commitment that is required in order for the activity to be successful. There is a commendably consistent approach to the teaching of Drama across the two classrooms. There is evidence of breadth, balance, continuity and progression in the programme implemented. There is good use of structured pupil-pupil interaction in this subject and pupils engage well with the activities organised. The school has a good supply of ‘props’ and other resources for Drama.

 

3.4 Assessment

Both teachers implement a variety of teacher-designed tasks and tests and pupils’ written work in copies is closely monitored. Standardised attainment tests in literacy and numeracy are administered annually. There is effective monitoring of pupils’ early social and academic progress through the use of checklists and criterion-referenced tests such as the Middle Infant Screening Test. Further diagnostic tests are used by the learning-support teacher and the resource teacher. The results of assessments are analysed at the final staff meeting of the school year and these results inform planning and allocation of resources for the following school year.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

This is one of the areas that the school reports as challenging. The school’s general allocation of learning-support hours was calculated some years ago on the basis of the number of pupils enrolled at the time. The school population has increased since then but the number of hours of learning support that the school can offer has remained the same. Furthermore, the school currently has a significant number of pupils who have been assessed as having special educational needs or who are awaiting assessment. The teachers are to be commended for their conscientiousness and professionalism and for the good quality of provision for pupils with special educational needs. The school’s investment in developing its provision for this area has included the purchase and use of suitable computer software and the employment by the board of management of a part-time classroom assistant.

 

The two class teachers differentiate their programmes and lessons appropriately for pupils with special educational needs. Certain pupils also receive supplementary teaching from a learning-support teacher and a resource teacher who visit the school for five hours per week and four hours per week respectively. These teachers prepare detailed individual learning programmes for the pupils with whom they work. These programmes are in accordance with the identified learning needs of the pupils and are discussed with the pupils’ parents. It is recommended that parents be given a copy of their child’s individual learning programme. Supplementary teaching is provided in the resource room and in the pupils’ mainstream classroom. The learning-support and resource teachers foster a positive working relationship with pupils. They show a good understanding of the difficulties being experienced by the pupils and use a range of appropriate activities and resources to address these needs.

 

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

At present, there are no pupils with particular needs arising from their membership of the above groups. The school policies, ethos and culture are inclusive and supportive. Support is provided for all pupils in accordance with their individual needs. This approach would enable the school to make effective provision for pupils from disadvantaged, minority and other groups should the need arise.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas.

·         The principal provides effective leadership on organisational and pedagogical issues.

·         There is evidence of very good collaboration between the teachers.

·         The teachers are committed to developing their professional skills in the interests of the pupils.

·         The board of management is well informed and committed to the success of the school.

·         There is evidence of very good communication and co-operation among the school and parents and the wider community.

·         The board of management, staff, parents and pupils are to be commended on the way in which the school building and grounds have been developed and maintained.

·         The quality of teaching and learning is consistently high in both classrooms.

 

 

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

·         It is recommended that pupils in both junior and senior infants be released from school at the end of the infant day, in accordance with Department of Education and Science Circular 11/95.

·         It is recommended that the board of management provide a contract for the special-duties post, to be signed by the post holder and the chairperson of the board of management.

·       It is recommended that the teachers provide more opportunities for structured pupil-pupil interaction, to include structured play in the infant classes, with a view to consolidating

      and developing the pupils’communicative and collaborative skills.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published November 2009