An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Dooagh National School

 Achill, County Mayo

Uimhir rolla: 18082E

 

Date of inspection: 26 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

School response to the report

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Dooagh 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 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.

 

Introduction – school context and background

Dooagh National School is a three-teacher school situated on a very exposed site, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, on the westernmost tip of Achill Island. The school building is well maintained and attractively presented, with a high standard of cleanliness and neatness. Although it is not a Gaeltacht school there is a commendable emphasis on nurturing the Irish language, music and culture in the school. The school participates in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), part of the Department of Education and Science’s programme to alleviate educational disadvantage.

 

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

63

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

3

Special needs assistants

0

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Dooagh National School is a co-educational school under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam. The school “seeks to cherish and challenge children in a safe, secure and attractive learning environment.” Staff and pupils endeavour to reflect this in their daily practices.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and manages the school in an effective manner. Meetings are convened twice a term and as the need arises. Minutes are recorded and agenda are prepared in advance. There is a clearly defined system for tracking income and expenditure and a financial report is regularly presented to the board. The board is commended for the support it provides for the work of the school. It is recommended that the board ratify, sign and date all school policies.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal and deputy principal.  Both teachers have served in the school for a number of years, ensuring stability and continuity.  The principal is highly commended for her commitment and capacity in leading and managing the school. She is well regarded by the board of management, by parents’ representatives and staff and she displays professionalism and leadership in her promotion of school activities. As well as effectively leading learning in her own classroom, daily administrative tasks are adeptly completed and official records are carefully maintained. The principal’s priorities include the holistic development of pupils, the continual promotion of Irish culture and the creation of a happy and comfortable working environment.

 

The principal is ably supported by the deputy principal. They meet daily on an informal basis. The deputy also serves as the secretary on the board and this involves her in all management issues. She carries out her duties diligently and effectively. Currently her duties are of a curricular and organisational nature. It is advised that a pastoral element also be included in accordance with Department of Education and Science Circular 07/03.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

There are very good relationships among all of the stakeholders in this school. Parents are actively involved with many of the extra-curricular activities, including school games, transport to school events and religious ceremonies. The school regularly communicates with parents informing them of upcoming activities. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually. The teachers are commended for having devised report cards which address both the academic and social progress of the children for these meetings. Written progress reports on pupils are provided annually for parents. Parents of new pupils are provided with a very useful ‘welcome pack’, consisting of key policies and helpful advice. Structured programmes, such as involvement in shared-reading programmes or Maths for Fun should be put in place to allow for greater parental involvement.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils is of a very high standard and teachers are to be highly praised for the positive learning atmosphere and sense of community existing in the school.  The pupils display pride in their culture and their heritage. They are respectful toward staff, each other and visitors and they engage enthusiastically in curricular activities in class. The pupils are encouraged to participate in a range of extra-curricular activities including sports, the school band, school concerts and the An Taisce Green Flag schemes.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. A wide range of school policies has been developed in organisational and administrative areas. These plans are detailed and specific to the needs of the school. At the time of the evaluation, a section of the school’s enrolment policy provides for the deferral of enrolment of pupils with special educational needs. It is recommended that this reference be removed. Curricular plans are clear and comprehensive. It is commendable that all teachers have copies of the school plan. It is advised that review mechanisms be built into the planning process, with agreed dates for review included in the plans.

 

All mainstream teachers provide long-term and short-term planning and maintain monthly records of the work completed. However, teachers prepare monthly short-term plans, as opposed to the fortnightly plans that are required by Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools. It is recommended that this practice be discontinued. Teachers modify the curriculum appropriately to suit the range of abilities in their classes and indicate how it is differentiated in the multi-grade context. Teachers devote considerable time and energy to preparing and organising resources for their classrooms, thus ensuring engaging learning environments for their pupils 

  

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.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tugtar togha na haire do chothú na Gaeilge sa scoil agus glacann an scoil páirt in imeachtaí cultúrtha Gaelacha sa cheantar. Is an-sásúil caighdeán na Gaeilge atá bainte amach ag daltaí sa scoil. Is inmholta an úsáid a bhaintear as an nGaeilge i rith an lae. Tá na scileanna teanga á bhforbairt go héifeachtúil. Léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint chuí ar an ábhar atá cloiste acu. Aithrisíonn siad rainn, dánta agus amhráin le tuiscint, le brí agus le taitneamh. Bíonn daltaí sna hardranganna in ann labhairt go leanúnach ar théamaí éagsúla. Moltar béim bhreise a leagan ar obair bheirte chun an cur chuige cumarsáideach a chur chun cinn i ngach rang.

 

Cruthaítear timpeallacht phrionta an-saibhir sna seomraí ranga. Cothaítear an léitheoireacht go cúramach agus léann na daltaí i gcoitinne le cruinneas. Tosaítear le scríbhneoireacht fhoirmiúil i rang a haon. Moltar í a thosú i rang a dó, mar a mholtar i gCuraclam na Bunscoile. Sna hardranganna tugtar cleachtadh cuí do na daltaí san obair scríofa, idir fheidhmiúil agus chruthaitheach, agus is spéisiúil torthaí a n-iarrachtaí.

 

Irish

Irish is promoted with great dedication and the school takes part in Irish cultural events held in the area. The standard of Irish achieved by the pupils is very satisfactory. Teachers’ use of Irish throughout the day is praiseworthy. Language skills are effectively developed. The children demonstrate appropriate understanding of the subject matter they have heard. They recite rhymes, poems and songs with understanding, enthusiasm and pleasure. Pupils in the senior classes are able to speak fluently on a variety of themes. A greater emphasis on pair work to foster communication skills in all classes is advised.

 

A print-rich environment is created in all of the classrooms. Reading is cultivated carefully and pupils read with understanding and accuracy. Formal writing is started in first class. It is advised that this work commence in second class, as is recommended in the Primary School Curriculum. In the senior classes pupils are given appropriate experience of written work, both functional and imaginative, and the results of their efforts are interesting.

 

English

Good provision is made for the teaching of English. Teachers ensure that classrooms are print-rich environments, with a variety of attractive charts and posters on display. The standard of reading is good. There is an appropriate emphasis on the development of the pupils’ phonological awareness in the infant classes and there is systematic development of the pupils’ sight vocabulary and word-attack skills. Pupils encounter a broad range of written material and they discuss and respond to differing styles of writing. Pupils have access to a good collection of library books and are encouraged to engage in recreational reading. In senior classes, novels are used to develop the reading experience for pupils. Effective use is made of Drama to encourage pupils to explore the roles of characters encountered in texts. It is recommended that the school devise a whole-school approach to handwriting to ensure that, by the end of sixth class, pupils have achieved a legible cursive script.

 

3.2 Mathematics

A comprehensive school plan that reflects the principles of the Primary School Curriculum has been prepared for the teaching of Mathematics. Commendably, agreed approaches are outlined in the school plan for teaching key aspects of the programme, such as number operations, mathematical language and problem-solving. The quality of provision for the teaching and learning of mathematics is consistently good throughout the school and very good in a number of cases. The teachers present well-structured lessons that are well differentiated to accommodate the multi-class setting and pupils’ individual needs. All classrooms have displays of charts and provide number-rich environments. More widespread use of charts to support the pupils’ use of mathematical vocabulary is recommended. A broad and balanced mathematics curriculum is taught and the pupils have acquired a good understanding and mastery across all of the strands. Commendable emphasis is placed on fostering the skills of estimation particularly in the Number and Measures strands. The methods used to monitor pupils’ progress include teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks, work samples and standardised tests. Ongoing analysis of these assessment results is advised, with a view to addressing the learning needs that they identify. These results should be used as the basis for planning subsequent programmes of work.

 

3.3 Drama

It is school policy that the DEIS co-ordinator provides Drama lessons for all classes in Dooagh NS. She is an effective and enthusiastic teacher. Drama lessons are undertaken in the general- purposes room, which has a very attractive display of children’s art work based on the lessons to date. However, it is advised that the Drama curriculum be delivered by class teachers.  During the course of the evaluation all class teachers taught an appropriate Drama lesson. Pupils displayed high levels of enthusiasm, enjoyment and engagement. In the senior classes, pupils reflected on the dramatic action as it progressed and opportunities were provided for them to discuss insights gained during the drama. To ensure that all Drama lessons are useful learning experiences, this good practice should be extended to all classes.  Very high standards of performance are achieved during the production of the annual Christmas concert, as is evident from the DVD of the show.

 

3.4 Assessment

A range of assessment tools is used to determine pupils’ progress. These include teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests, checklists, the compilation of work samples and the administration of standardised tests in literacy and numeracy. As a further development of assessment procedures, the school should now direct attention to the analysis of this data. Teachers should use this analysis to devise future programmes of learning.  Effective strategies such as the use of the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile and the Middle Infant Screening Test facilitate the early identification of learning difficulties. The school uses the Forward Together Programme in senior infants in collaboration with parents when appropriate. Staff should now extend assessment modes to include all curriculum areas in accordance with the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment’s (NCCA) assessment guidelines. 

 

Records are centrally maintained and are accessible to all staff members. It is recommended that a system be introduced to track the progress of each individual pupil as he/she progresses from infants through to sixth class.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A comprehensive whole-school plan for pupils with special educational needs has been developed. It outlines prevention strategies, an early-intervention programme, criteria for the selection of pupils for supplementary teaching, procedures for discontinuation of pupils and the various roles of the partners involved in the pupils’ learning. It is advised that this policy be reviewed to ensure that it incorporates the staged approach to special education as outlined in Department of Education and Science Circular 02/05.

 

Currently a resource teacher and a learning-support teacher visit the school to provide supplementary teaching in the school’s computer room. The board is advised to provide a dedicated learning-support/resource classroom. This would allow for the creation of displays that make it easier for pupils to understand and remember what is taught.  The quality of planning for pupils with special educational needs varies from good to poor. As is indicated in the school plan, Individual Profile and Learning Programmes (IPLPs) with specific achievable time-bound targets should be provided for each instructional term. These documents should be shared with class teachers and the parents of the pupils concerned and be used to inform teaching and learning. Currently this is not the practice. It is recommended that both teachers provide appropriate planning. It is also recommended that diagnostic tests be used regularly to identify pupils’ individual needs and to measure their progress. The interactions observed between teachers and pupils receiving supplementary teaching were affirming and encouraging of the pupils. Good use was made of games and computer software to reinforce mathematical concepts.

 

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

The school is part of a cluster of five schools that are served by a DEIS co-ordinator, funded by the Department of Education and Science. The current co-ordinator, who was appointed in September 2008, is an enthusiastic and hard-working teacher. The co-ordinator’s role includes visiting homes, supporting teaching and learning in the school and providing a range of supports for pupils and their families. A number of cluster-based specific initiatives are organised. DEIS funding is used to subsidise swimming lessons and visits by various speakers on aspects of the curriculum. The DEIS co-ordinator spends one day each week in the school and provides lessons in Drama. It is recommended that the co-ordinator commence projects to promote literacy and numeracy in the school. 

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

 

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

 

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 October 2009

 

 

 

 

 

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 would like to thank the inspector for the professional and courteous manner in which the W.S.E. was carried out.  The Board welcomes the report as it affirms the very positive working relationships among the entire school community, the effective and stimulating learning atmosphere, the achievement of the pupils and the commitment and dedication of the staff

 

  

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 notes the key recommendations from the Inspectorate and is endeavouring to implement these as suggested.