An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Ballyneale NS

Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary

Uimhir rolla:  18085K

 

Date of inspection: 11 April 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

Conclusion

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Ballyneale NS was undertaken in April 2008. The evaluation covered aspects of the work of the school in the areas of management, teaching and learning and supports for pupils. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Physical Education (PE).  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 the in-school management team. 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 was given the 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 to this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

 

This school was built in 1958, was extended in 1995 and is currently undergoing a three classroom extension. The school is under the patronage of the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore  and is a Catholic school. The current enrolment is seventy four pupils.  The school is located in the village of Ballyneale, close to the church in an area with a relatively low density of housing.  The school is maintained in very good condition and it is kept clean and tidy with the valuable cooperation of the pupils, teachers, special needs assistants (SNAs) and auxiliary staff. 

 

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

74

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

4

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

3

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is an effective group and its members are committed to the work of the school. Meetings of the board are convened regularly and it has a very clear understanding of the school’s needs. The board takes an active role in the whole school planning process, welcomes the contribution of the parents’ association to the development of these policies, both curricular and organisational and ratifies policies as they are formulated. All board members have been assigned specific tasks and contribute equally to the efficient running of the board. Recent board training has focused on issues such as ethos, finances and child protection. In addition, in accordance with his supportive role, the chairperson maintains regular contact with the principal, staff and pupils.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal and two special duties teachers. The principal was appointed in 1990 and he carries out his duties with great commitment. He provides the school with informed leadership and a warm rapport exists between the principal, teachers and other staff members who together create a happy and welcoming environment in the school.  The principal plays a pivotal role in leading school developmental planning which is contextualised appropriately to meet the needs of the school.

 

The collaborative nature of the in-school management team supports the maintenance of high operational standards The special duties tasks are reviewed annually and reflect  whole-school agreed targets as defined in the three-year self–review strategy.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The parents’ association, set up in 2002, is affiliated to the National Parents’ Association.  A meeting with the officers of the parents’ association during the course of the evaluation reveals a very positive relationship between the board of management, the teachers and the general parent body. The association enhances the work of the school through organising Irish dancing, drama.    basketball and swimming.  The association’s officers indicated that parents are very satisfied with the quality of educational provision in the school.  Regular communication provides parents with information about school and extra curricular activities. The association has an input into school policy, circulating draft policies at meetings. The parents’ representatives reported a very open communication policy within the school where formal and informal meetings are not only facilitated but encouraged.  Class teachers follow an agreed approach to parent-teacher conferences.

 

 

1.5 Management of pupils

Ballyneale NS established a student council in 2004.  The council comprised of six senior pupils, three male and three female, meets on a weekly basis.  The council provides an opportunity for pupils to voice their opinions on aspects of school life and on proposed changes. This is a most commendable initiative as it has fostered an added measure of trust and respect among the pupils. It has developed in the pupils many social skills and provided them with valuable experience in the decision-making process.  

 

The management of pupils is very good.  A code of behaviour has been developed but should be reviewed to provide more detail as regards proceedings to be followed in the event of difficulty. Through school self-review this issue has been highlighted and plans are in place to review the code of behaviour in 2008/2009 and to include within the review the promotion of positive behaviour through a reward system.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

 

The school plan is devised through the collaborative activity of the school community. The principal, staff, board of management and parents participate in the formulation of policies, both curricular and organisational. This thorough,appropriately paced process results in meaningful contextualised planning and practice in the school. The enrolment policy of the school needs to be amended in respect of the enrolment of pupils with special needs. Most curricular plans are now in place. The developmental nature of school planning is facilitated through school self-review.  Targets, curricular, organisational and pastoral have been set for the next three years and responsibility assigned for the realisation of these targets. Whole school policies guide teaching and learning very effectively, ensure implementation of the curriculum and allow for continuity and progression. Teachers monitor the implementation of the curriculum in detailed monthly progress reports. Formative assessment strategies were noted during the evaluation.

 

All teachers prepare effective individual long and short-term plans for their classes. There is a clear link between the Primary School Curriculum, whole-school plans, teacher’s individual long and short-term plans and practice in the classrooms. Approaches, methodologies and language agreed at whole-school level are implemented in all classrooms. All teachers have copies of individual education plans in their files and through agreed modes of differentiation, provide for the varying abilities of 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; 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  Langauge

 

Gaeilge

Cothaítear dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge sa scoil. Caitear dua le teagasc na Gaeilge sa trí sheomra agus tá moladh tuillte ag an bhfoireann as ardchaighdeán na hoibre i gcoitinne ó thaobh labhairt na teanga de. Múintear an Ghaeilge go bríomhar agus cothaítear spéis sa teanga trí cluichí, dramaíocht agus rólglachadh tríd an scoil.  Sna naíonáin agus sna bunranganna spreagtear na daltaí chun an teanga a úsáid le rainn agus le cluichí, le bheith ag éisteacht agus ag cur ceisteanna ar a chéile. Tugtar deiseanna dóibh a gcumas cumarsaide a fhorbairt agus iad ag éisteacht le Gaeilge in úsáid i rith an lae. Cuirtear leis an gcur chuige seo sna meánranganna nuair a bhaintear úsáid fhiúntach as an drámaíocht go rianúil chun an obair a shaibhriú agus suim sa teanga a ghiniúint. Cothaítear an léitheoireacht go cúramach agus léann na daltaí le brí agus le cruinneas. Sna hardranganna múintear an comhrá go críochnúil le múinteoireacht dhíreach. Tá foclóir breá ar eolas ag cuid mhaith de na daltaí agus éiríonn leo abairtí simplí a chumadh agus ceisteanna a chur agus a fhreagairt bunaithe ar na téamaí idir lámha. Éiríonn le roinnt daltaí fíor-chumarsáid a dhéanamh le linn na ngníomhaíochtí labhartha. Aithrisíonn na daltaí cnuasach deas rann, dánta agus amhrán go taitneamhach, le tuiscint agus le dea-fhoghraíocht.

 

 Déantar cúram breá de theagasc na léitheoireachta. Bunaítear na gníomhaíochtaí scríbhneoireachta ar na téascleabhair agus ar scríbhneoireacht phearsanta. Tá ardchaighdeán le sonrú i gcóipleabhair agus i leabhair saothair na ndaltaí.  Moltar, áfach, samplaí den obair scríofa a chur ar taispeáint sa timpeallacht ó rang a dó suas go rang a sé.  

 

Irish

A positive attitude to Irish is fostered in the school. Considerable effort is devoted to the teaching of Irish in the three classrooms and the staff is worthy of praise for the high general standard achieved, especially in respect of the oral dimension. Irish is taught in a lively manner and interest is maintained through games, drama and role-play throughout the school. In the infant and junior classes pupils are encouraged in the use of  the language through rhymes, games, listening, asking and answering  questions .They are provided the opportunity to develop their communication skills through hearing Irish used during  the day. This approach is expanded upon in the middle classes with the very effective use that is made of drama to enrich the language and maintain interest. Reading is cultivated carefully and in general pupils read with understanding and accuracy. In the senior class conversational Irish is taught skilfully by means of direct methodologies. Many pupils possess a fine vocabulary and they succeed in composing simple sentences as well as asking questions based on the topics being addressed. Some pupils succeed in engaging in high level communication during oral activities. Pupils recite a nice selection of rhymes, poems and songs in a pleasant way with understanding and good pronunciation.  Approaches to the teaching of reading are commendable. In the main, writing activities are developed from themes, from text books and are based on personal writing. Commendable work has been done in writing.  A high standard is evident in pupil’s copybooks and workbooks. It is recommended, however, that samples of pupils’ written work be displayed.

 

 

 

English

The teaching of English is carried out in a proficient manner in all classes, with pupils achieving a very good standard across all strands. An extensive programme in oral aspects of English is undertaken and the pupils are encouraged to ask and answer questions and to express their thoughts and feelings using a wide and varied vocabulary. All classes have regular experience of rhymes and poetry while the senior class display particular competence in reciting and responding to verse. A suitable print-rich environment is evident in all mainstream classrooms.  Phonological awareness is developed as part of the foundation of basic reading skills in the junior class and much emphasis is placed on developing reading skills throughout the school.  All class libraries are well stocked, attractively presented and books are banded by ability.  A developmental approach to writing is implemented on a whole school basis. Pupils engage in pre-writing activities in the infant classes while pupils in middle and senior classes are given suitable opportunity to engage in a variety of writing genres. This extends across curricular areas. Samples of children’s completed work are displayed attractively and celebrated in all classes. Pupils’ handwriting is neat, well organised and monitored regularly. It is commendable that the cursive handwriting style, introduced in September 2007, following an agreed whole school decision has contributed positively to written presentation.

 

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

The overall quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good. Most pupils achieve to a high standard and are enthusiastic about their work.  Teachers plan their lessons appropriately, take direction from the whole school plan, ensure a good variety in strands and facilitate linkage within the curriculum. All classrooms have an area specifically dedicated to mathematics where posters, charts and concrete materials are readily accessible to pupils and teachers. Exercises in the memorisation of number facts are a feature in all classes and revision tests are frequently administered.  It is commendable that in all lessons observed concepts were presented through the use of concrete materials while the pupils’ own environment was used as a starting point for learning. Early mathematical activities such as matching, classifying, ordering and sequencing are covered comprehensively in the infant classes. Understanding of number operations is progressively extended and facilitated at a pace to suit pupils’ ability as they progress through the school. At all levels pupils exhibit an age-appropriate ability to perform computation and solve problems mentally and in the written format.  Appropriate use is made of a wide variety of assessment modes including check-lists, work samples and attainment tests to monitor pupil progress. This allows for differentiation in teaching approach and learning outcome, facilitates formative assessment and guides future planning. This practice is most commendable. In plotting the direction of future mathematics development it is recommended that the staff analyse the results of standardised tests at whole school level and include the provision for numeracy for a small number of pupils in the learning support allocation.

 

 

 

 

3.3 Physical Education

The school has no indoor facilities for the teaching of Physical Education (PE). The lack of a general purpose hall limits the capacity of the school.  Despite this, however, the teachers place great emphasis on PE and lessons take place in the schoolyard and adjacent pitch whenever the weather permits. Lessons observed during the evaluation were well organised and placed an appropriate emphasis on the routine of  warm up, skills practice, games and cool down activities. The school benefits from excellent leadership in this aspect of the curriculum.  It is apparent that commitment and resourcefulness are given to the enhancement of PE throughout the school. The school has established links with outside individuals and agencies that provide specialist coaching to pupils in Gaelic football, hurling and tag rugby. The cost of this service is borne by the local rugby and football clubs.  An annual sports day takes place in the third term. The emphasis placed on PE in the school is reflected in the venue selection for recent school tours where pupils have participated in sporting activities, both land and water- based.

 

 

3.4 Assessment

An appropriate assessment policy has been devised and is actively implemented. Teacher observation, checklists, work samples, reading logs, portfolios, teacher-designed tests and standardised tests are among the assessment tools employed to assess pupil progress and to provide pertinent information for parents. All teachers regularly use assessments to evaluate their mediation of the curriculum and to inform planning of whole class, group and individual work. The Middle Infant Screening Test and the results of the Drumcondra Reading standardised test are recorded carefully and analysed to assist in selecting pupils for supplementary teaching. The Drumcondra Mathematics standardised test is also administered annually to all pupils from first to sixth class. Feedback to parents is provided at parent/teacher meetings held in the second term of each year and individual pupil progress reports are issued from first to sixth class at the year-end. A profile is kept on each child, containing work samples, results of standardised and attainment tests

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of provision for pupils with special educational needs in literacy is very good. One shared   learning support teacher is based in the school.  A part-time resource teacher attends the school for 10.5 hours each week to provide support for three children with low-incidence learning needs. Supplementary support is currently provided only in literacy.

 

A detailed, contextualised special education plan informs policy and practice with regard to allocation and delivery of supplementary teaching. It outlines prevention strategies, guidelines for parental involvement and early intervention strategies. The school implements a measured approach to the identification and support of pupils with special educational needs using the staged approach to assessment, identification and programme implementation as outlined in  the Department of Education and Science Circular 02/05. Selection is informed by results of standardised tests, consultation with class teachers and where appropriate, recommendations from psychological reports. The MIST diagnostic test and Drumcondra Primary Reading Test are among the tools used to this effect. The quality of preparation, planning, and documentation of pupils’ progress observed is very high. The support team works in close collaboration with the mainstream teachers in compiling and reviewing comprehensive individual education plans (IEPs). It is recommended that IEPs for children with low incidence special educational needs be more closely linked to recommendations of outside agencies such as speech therapists and educational psychologists.

 

Support is mainly provided on a withdrawal basis, in small groups. A programme of intensive early intervention is a significant feature of recent special education provision and evidence suggests that this is working well. The learning support and resource classrooms provide a print-rich learning environment and are equipped with appropriate resources to facilitate learning and to encourage pupils’ engagement and interaction. Effective teaching is achieved through collaborative planning, a commitment to analysis of the capacity of pupils to learn and targeted teaching to meet the needs of individual pupils. Pupils engage enthusiastically and industriously in activities set. Praise and positive reinforcement are used constructively to motivate successful completion of tasks and achievement of objectives. It is recommended that the scope of learning support provision be broadened to include support in numeracy for a small number of pupils.

 

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The board of management and the parents are to be commended for their admirable efforts in securing a more suitable physical environment for pupils and staff.
  • The spirit of collaborative leadership promoted by the principal leads to a very positive working atmosphere within the school.
  • A sound planning model is in place both at whole school and individual teacher levels, guided by thorough whole school self-review.
  • Pupils are given a role in decision-making processes  through the student council
  • The school achieves commendable standards across the curriculum.

 

 

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

 

  • It is recommended that the inclusion of support in numeracy, for a small number of pupils, be considered within the learning support provision
  • The purchase of additional reading material to include high-interest low-ability books to support the learning of children with special educational needs is recommended.

 

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, November 2008

     

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

            Inspection Report School Response Form

 

 

            Area 1 Observations on the content of the Inspection Report

 

The Board of Management of Ballyneale National School would like to thank the inspector for the courteous and professional manner in which she carried out the Whole School Evaluation. Her positive affirmation and practical advice has greatly benefited our school.

We are greatly encouraged that the Whole School Evaluation affirms the positive work being undertaken at our school, and the professionalism, commitment and dedication of all the partners in education has been recognised. Most importantly we are very pleased that the excellence of teaching and learning at our school has been highlighted and that the holistic development of the child has been commented upon. These are central to the ethos of our 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

 

  1. We have re-introduced support in numeracy in our Learning Support Programme since September 2008
  2. We have purchased additional high-interest low ability books to support the learning of children with special needs.