An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Bullaun, Loughrea, Co. Galway
Uimhir rolla: 18112K
Date of inspection: 20 March 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Éanna, Bullaun. 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, and 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. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Scoil Naomh Éanna is a co-educational primary school located in the village of Bullaun in southeast County Galway. Bullaun is approximately 6km from the town of Loughrea and will be in close proximity to the national primary road between Galway and Dublin when the realignment of the N6 is completed in 2010. Already increased settlement in the vicinity of the village has impacted hugely on pupil numbers in the school. Over the last five years enrolments have increased from 45 to 110 and the school has grown from a two-teacher school to a six-teacher school. As the Galway County Development Plan permits further development in the area, it is most likely that enrolments will increase significantly in the forthcoming years. On the basis of current information it is projected that there will be approximately 132 pupils enrolled in 2007/8.
Scoil Éanna is staffed by a teaching principal, three assistant mainstream teachers, two support teachers, three special needs assistants, a part-time secretary and a part-time caretaker. A third support teacher visits the school to provide for pupils identified with special educational needs. The recent rapid expansion of the school has necessitated the acquisition of two prefabricated units to provide classroom and ancillary accommodation. With recreation space substantially reduced and with the appointment of another teacher imminent, the board of management is actively pursuing the possibility of obtaining a green-field site to accommodate a new school.
Scoil Éanna is a Catholic school and is under the patronage of the Bishop of Clonfert. The school’s characteristic spirit is reflected in the notable emphasis which the staff places on creating a happy, caring and secure atmosphere in which the contribution of each pupil is valued and cherished. A strong sense of community spirit prevails and relationships both within the school and throughout the school community are characterised by mutual respect, warmth and openness.
The board of management is properly constituted and functions in accordance with the Rules and Procedures of Boards of Management, (November 2003). The board meets at least once a term and members are consulted regarding items for inclusion on the agenda of meetings. Minutes are clearly recorded and indicate that safety issues and the accommodation needs of the school are among the most pressing matters being discussed at the present time. Statements regarding school finances are presented regularly and school accounts are certified annually. It would also be of benefit to incorporate into the agenda of future meetings specific time for studying recent legislation and for discussing its implications for the school.
The board functions in an effective and efficient manner. Individual members assume responsibility for specific tasks, sub-committees are formed which draw on and benefit from their skills and broad experience, and there is active engagement in policy formulation. Board members regularly support school initiatives such as the swimming programme, tours, concerts, Green Flag activities and fundraising ventures. The school’s involvement in music, sporting and community events is also strongly encouraged. The board has identified priorities for future attention including the acquisition of appropriate accommodation, the promotion of greater use of information and communication technologies (ICT) as a strategy for teaching and learning, and revision of the learning-support and resource provision. It is suggested that the board should now draw up a three-year strategy development plan in which priorities relating to all aspects of the work of the school are set out within targeted timeframes.
The board is conscious of its statutory obligations and of departmental regulations and guidelines. Appropriate policies on enrolment, health and safety, attendance, discipline and child protection have been developed. Serious consideration is given to safety issues and the board has recently collaborated with parents in organising a new system for set-down and pick-up of pupils. Guidelines and requirements regarding the retention of pupils and the length of the school year and day are appropriately observed. Attendance records are carefully maintained and indicate very good levels of attendance on the part of the majority of pupils. The provision of an annual report on the operation of the school is among the items to be addressed by the board in the current year.
The board recognises the value of fostering effective communication with and among the school staff, the parent body and the wider community. The chairperson visits the school regularly, meets the principal and engages with the staff in supporting the ethos of the school. The board supports the organisation of formal staff meetings each term to enable the teaching staff to work collaboratively on policy formulation, curricular planning and school organisation. Board members attend meetings of the parents’ association and the school issues regular notes and letters to inform parents of forthcoming activities. A school notice board is reserved for use by the parents’ association, a school calendar is issued at the start of the school year and open evenings are held to introduce new parents to standard school procedures and practices. Formal parent-teacher meetings are scheduled once a year and incidental meetings are arranged as required. Individual pupil progress reports are issued at the end of the school year.
The board praises the work of the teaching staff in providing a broad and balanced curriculum in the school and in fostering an inclusive school environment. It identifies the strong community spirit, the energy and enthusiasm of all staff members and their willingness to give of their time beyond the call of duty as primary strengths of the school.
The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal and a special duties teacher. The principal, appointed from the staff in January 2003, discharges the duties of the role with commitment and professionalism. Daily administrative and organisational tasks are efficiently undertaken and school activities are effectively organised. A positive climate is successfully fostered in the school and a collaborative approach underpins the decision-making process at all levels. The principal has capably overseen the doubling of pupil and staff numbers, acquisition of temporary accommodation, implementation of new curricular approaches and development of the school plan. The principal ably leads the staff in setting organisational, curricular and pastoral priorities and provides an excellent role model as regards promoting new strategies to enhance teaching and learning. The principal has formed a clear vision for the school which serves as an effective motivating factor for all parties involved in the work of the school.
The deputy principal and special duties teacher willingly and competently support the principal. They contribute significantly to the development of a team spirit in the school by working collaboratively with all staff members in fostering positive pupil behaviour, in promoting inclusion and in implementing curricular change. Duties assigned to the posts relate to such areas as school correspondence and finances, classroom resources and equipment, maintenance of official records, provision for pupils with special educational needs, assessment, organisation of special projects and initiatives, management of library resources and policy development.
It is advised that a practice should now be established of regularly reviewing the duties attached to posts in order to ensure that the duties address the changing prioritised needs of the school as it develops over the coming years. It would be of benefit to identify specific pastoral and curricular areas as part of the responsibilities of each post. It would also be important to provide regular feedback to the board on the impact of the posts on school life and on the effectiveness of the duties in meeting the needs of the school. Review dates or dates relating to the review of certain aspects of posts should form part of the three-year strategy development plan.
The school’s 110 pupils are divided in dual-class groupings among four mainstream teachers as follows:
Junior Infants 22
Senior Infants /First Class 33
Second /Third Classes 25
Fourth /Fifth / Sixth Classes 30
As enrolments are predicted to increase over the coming years, the board is advised to be mindful of the Department’s guidelines in relation to class size and to ensure that classes are grouped in such a manner as to comply with class-size recommendations.
The school has access to the services of three support teachers who provide supplementary teaching to pupils with learning difficulties and pupils with special educational needs. Two of the support teachers are based full-time in the school while the third teacher is based in a neighbouring school and visits Scoil Éanna for a period each day. Supplementary teaching is provided on a withdrawal basis in a one-to-one or small group setting. While regardful of the space limitations of some classrooms, consideration should be given to developing a system of in-class support, where appropriate, in order to facilitate differentiation in all curricular areas for pupils experiencing learning difficulties. In addition to the teaching staff, the school has three special needs assistants whose roles are clearly defined and modified in relation to the pupils in their care. A secretary and caretaker are employed on a part-time basis and provide very valuable support for the school community.
The board of management recognises the importance of continuing professional development and staff members are encouraged to pursue courses related to their work in the school. The principal has completed the Misneach Leadership Development Programme while various staff members, including special needs assistants, have undertaken a range of courses focusing on provision for pupils with learning disabilities and special educational needs. It is suggested that the school policy on staff development should be broadened to include how staff may be supported in undertaking further courses of study and how opportunities may be provided for teachers to develop skills and expertise by teaching at different levels and in different contexts in the school.
The board devotes considerable attention to ensuring that the school premises are well-maintained. A collective effort on the part of the board, staff, parents and pupils results in an attractively presented school which is regularly cleaned to a high standard. Renovations in recent years have included roof repairs, window and boiler replacements. The present accommodation, however, cannot provide for the future needs of the school. The main school building accommodates two classrooms, a learning-support/resource room, a general-purposes room, a small staff room and toilet facilities. The classrooms are small and do not comfortably support pedagogy based on activity and discovery-based methodologies. The general-purposes room is smaller than the classrooms and is used mainly for drama, circle time and junior physical activities. The hall in the neighbouring village of New Inn is used for school concerts while rehearsals are occasionally organised in a local hall. Two prefabricated units provide two well-proportioned classrooms, two small resource rooms, an office and toilet facilities. Although the school has a small grassed area, the outdoor facilities for recreation and sporting activities are very limited, with much of the playground space being occupied by the temporary accommodation. The board, with the consent of the patron, has submitted an application to the Department of Education and Science for a new school building to be located on a new site.
The school has invested in a variety of material resources for each curricular area. These are used effectively to stimulate pupil interest and to engage pupils actively in learning activities. Teachers are to be commended for the range of charts, labels, flashcards and other teacher-designed resources which they provide. Resources and examples of pupils’ work are displayed attractively in most classrooms and corridor displays throughout the school add significantly to the creation of an interesting and colourful learning environment. The school has a modest range of technological resources. Attention is now focused on augmenting and upgrading these resources and on enhancing their use as an aid for teaching and learning in all curricular areas. It is suggested that a list of resources for each curricular area should form part of the school plan.
The board of management encourages parental involvement in the life of the school and very strong home-school-community links are fostered. The school has a parents’ association which is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council. The association’s stated aim is to work with the principal, staff and board of management to build effective partnership between home and school. Members of the board and of the association have met to promote clear understanding of their distinctive roles. There is regular liaison between officers of the association, the principal and the board. The association is given prior notification of board meetings and receives copies of draft policy documents under discussion. Parent representatives on the board attend association meetings and association representatives may meet with the principal, if required. Meeting rooms, photocopying facilities and a school notice board are made available to the association to support communication with the parent body. The association organises fundraising events, issues a newsletter and arranges information nights on educational issues of interest to parents.
The general parent body is very supportive of the work of the school. Fundraising events are well supported and the proceeds contribute substantially to school finances. Parents assist with maintenance, concerts, book fairs, sporting events, Green Flag activities and the swimming programme. Curricular provision is enhanced by parents sharing information, skills and experience with the pupils. Parents are reported to be happy with the quality of education provided in the school and to be particularly pleased with the emphasis placed on enhancing communication skills and self-confidence, the progress being made in developing the school music programme and the ease with which pupils generally transfer to second level education.
2.5 Management of pupils
The standard of pupil management in the school is generally very high. A caring atmosphere is fostered among the pupils and they are conscientiously guided to be respectful of one another, the staff, visitors and the school environment. The pupils are very mannerly and develop admirable levels of confidence and effective communication skills as they proceed through the school. Pupils are encouraged to participate in all school activities and to be actively involved in local clubs and community events.
The school has availed of the School Development Planning Service and the Regional Curriculum Support Service to assist in developing the school plan and in implementing specific elements of the curriculum. A collaborative approach to planning is adopted and it is noteworthy that staff members assume roles as curriculum coordinators. Parental involvement in the planning process is also encouraged. Parents have contributed to the formulation of policy on anti-bullying, relationships and sexuality education, healthy eating, safety, environmental care and they also serve on some committees. Areas of key importance are debated at board level and policy documents are viewed and amended as necessary prior to ratification. The board, in conjunction with the parents’ association, should seek to heighten awareness and understanding of the role of parents in policy formulation and curriculum implementation and should continue to encourage increased levels of parental involvement in the planning process.
The school plan is presented in an accessible format and is available for viewing. It clearly articulates the school’s mission and details a wide range of organisational procedures and practices. Policy statements coherently address such issues as enrolment and admissions, health and safety, arrival and dismissal, behaviour, countering bullying, equality of opportunity, assessment, learning-support, special education, homework, relationships and sexuality education, substance abuse, record keeping and data protection. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board 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, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The school has kept pace with the national curriculum implementation programme. Comprehensive policy statements on each of the curricular areas with the exception of Drama have been formulated. The policies reflect the principles of the curriculum, provide guidance in regard to strategies and approaches, and make specific reference to differentiation, planning in the multi-grade context and the involvement of parents. It is praiseworthy that the teachers are engaging in assessing the effectiveness of various curriculum programmes and are using information on pupil achievement to inform the review of the school plan. It would be of benefit to include target dates for the commencement and completion of reviews in a long-term strategy development statement. It is also suggested that in seeking to promote the greater use of ICT in the school, the curricular policies should be extended to include details as to how ICT can be used within each curricular area to support teaching and learning.
All classroom teachers fulfil the planning requirements in relation to the provision of long and short-term schemes and the maintenance of monthly progress reports. Long-term planning is based on the content objectives of the curriculum, is guided by the school plan and is presented coherently under the strands and strand units of the curriculum. Some teachers provide very clear objective-based short-term planning in which methodologies and approaches are detailed and forms of assessment are identified. It is recommended that this approach be adopted on a whole-school basis and that assessment techniques are linked to the intended learning outcomes in order to facilitate evaluation of teaching and review of classroom practice. It is also advised that all teachers should clearly indicate the manner in which teaching and learning activities are to be differentiated for the different class levels and for children experiencing learning difficulties. Progress records are maintained centrally by the principal and are used to monitor implementation of the curriculum and to contribute to the review of the school plan.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Teachers are to be commended for the range of approaches and strategies being explored in all curricular areas. An appropriate balance in class, group and paired work is maintained throughout the school. Pupils are provided with regular opportunities to engage in independent learning and project work. Teaching and learning activities are excellently paced and appropriately differentiated in most classrooms. Particular emphasis is placed on the development of communication skills and pupils in general engage confidently in talk and discussion. In most classrooms, copybooks are regularly monitored and high standards of presentation are achieved.
Oibríonn na hoidí go dúthrachtach chun dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge a chothú sa scoil. Déantar dea-chúram d’éisteacht ghníomhach agus leagtar béim chóir ar dheiseanna labhartha a chruthú. Baineann an-éagsúlacht le cur i láthair an teagaisc agus bíonn na daltaí lántoilteanach Gaeilge a úsáid le linn na n-imeachtaí. Glactar páirt i gcluichí teanga, saorchomhrá, seóanna faisin, amhránaíocht, ceoltóireacht, aithriseoireacht, damhsa agus drámaíocht. Eagraítear Seachtain na Gaeilge chun an t-atmaisféar Gaelach a threisiú sa scoil agus raon imeachtaí a léiriú do na ranganna difriúla. Fítear an Ghaeilge leis an gcómhrá i roinnt ranganna le linn d’achair eile an churaclaim a mhúineadh. Moltar an cleachtas seo agus b’fhiú é a leathnú ar bhonn uile-scoile. Éiríonn le formhór na ndaltaí dea-thuiscint a ghnóthú ar réimse breá teanga sula bhfágann siad an scoil. Bíonn ar a gcumas labhairt faoi raon cuí topaicí agus cuireann siad iad féin in iúl go muiníneach. Chun an clár labhartha a dhaingniú, b’fhiú fothéamaí a leagan amach faoi na mórthéamaí teanga sa phlean scoile agus treoir shoiléir a thabhairt maidir leis an bhforbairt atá i gceist ag gach rangleibhéal.
Tá clár soiléir sa léitheoireacht agus sa scríbhneoireacht leagtha amach sa phlean scoile agus tá infheistíocht déanta in áiseanna nua chun é a chur i gcrích. Baintear úsáid thairbheach as leabhair bheaga féindéanta agus as luaschartaí ar dtús chun gnéithe den labhairt, den léitheoireacht agus den scríbhneoireacht a nascadh go rathúil. Cuirtear ar chumas na ndaltaí sinsireacha tuairiscí gearra a chumadh agus a chur i scríbhinn, sleachta léitheoireachta a léamh le tuiscint and gnóthaí scríbhneoireachta a dhéanamh bunaithe orthu. Leagtar béim chóir ar ghramadach agus ar chomhréir i gcomhthéacs na hoibre seo. Chun forchéimniú cuí sa léitheoireacht agus sa scríbhneoireacht a chinntiú ag gach rangléibhéal, b’fhiú diriú ar an modheolaíocht agus deimhin a dhéanamh de go dtugtar deis do na daltaí ó rang a dó ar aghaidh dul i ngleic de réir a chéile le saghsanna éagsúla téacs idir rainn, filíocht, drámaíocht, leabhair mhóra, leabhar grádaithe, fíorleabhair agus nuachtáin. Ba thábhachtach raon na ngnóthaí scríbhneoireachta a leathnú go córasach agus deis a thabhairt do na daltaí scríbhneoireacht phearsanta a chleachtadh go luath.
Is inmholta mar a chuirtear le tuiscint na ndaltaí ar chúltúir na Gaeilge. Tugtar faoi réimse álainn ceoil, amhrán agus fílíochta a mhúineadh. B’fhiú réimse na ngnéithe seo a léiriú sa phlean scoile agus clár feasachta teanga agus cultúir a chlárú don scoil.
The teachers work diligently to promote a positive attitude towards Irish in the school. Active listening is well undertaken and appropriate emphasis is placed on creating opportunities for spoken language. There is very good variety in the presentation of teaching and the pupils are very willing to use Irish during the activities. Pupils take part in language games, free conversation, fashion shows, singing, music-making, recitation, dancing and drama. An ‘Irish Week’ is organised to strengthen the Irish atmosphere in the school and to perform a range of activities for the different classes. In some classes Irish is used in conversation while teaching other curricular areas. This practice is commendable and should be expanded on a whole-school basis. The majority of pupils develop a good understanding of a fine range of language before leaving the school. They are able to speak about an appropriate variety of topics and they express themselves with confidence. To consolidate the oral language programme, it would be of benefit to lay out sub-themes under the major language themes in the school plan and to give clear guidance as to the development that is envisaged at each class level.
A clear programme in reading and writing is laid out in the school plan and there has been investment in new resources to facilitate its implementation. Beneficial use is made initially of little homemade books and of flashcards to link speech, reading and writing successfully. Senior pupils are enabled to compose and write short accounts, read passages of script with accuracy and understanding, and complete written exercises based on them. Proper emphasis is placed on grammar and syntax in the context of this work. In order to ensure appropriate progression in reading and writing at each class level, it would be worthwhile to focus on pedagogy and to ensure that pupils from second class onwards are gradually provided with opportunities to engage with a variety of different texts including rhymes, poetry, drama, large-format books, graded books, real books and newspapers. It would be important to broaden the writing experiences systematically and to provide opportunities for the pupils to engage in personal writing at an early stage.
The manner in which the pupils’ understanding of Irish culture is fostered is laudable. A lovely range of music, song and poetry is taught. It would be worthwhile to reflect the extent of these aspects in the school plan and to document a programme in language and cultural appreciation for the school.
Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on oral-language development throughout the school. Vocabulary extension is conscientiously addressed through discrete lessons. Talk, discussion and oral presentations also form an integral part of the work in all curricular areas. Story, rhyme, poetry, drama, news time, oral reporting, class novels and language games are among the strategies employed to maximise learning opportunities. Activities are purposefully structured to foster listening skills and to enable pupils to pose questions and to develop higher-order thinking skills. Pupils are encouraged to communicate their thoughts and ideas in a confident and creative manner. Their awareness of audience deepens as pupils progress through the school and their ability to cultivate an attentive audience increases. Opportunities are provided to listen to and recite poetry at all class levels. The standard of recitation in certain classes is very high.
Well-stocked classroom libraries and print-rich classroom environments are used to foster competence in reading. Pre-reading skills are carefully addressed through the use of a wide range of materials including pictures, flashcards, wordlists and word games. Very attractive resources are also provided by the teachers. The development of phonemic and phonological awareness is systematically approached using a number of different programmes and is supported by focused supplementary teaching. Commendable use is made of ICT to consolidate letter-sound relationships at certain class levels. A broad range of strategies is employed to engage pupils progressively in the reading process including the collaborative reading of large-format books, the use of class novels from second class onwards, the reading of newspapers and the organisation of silent and paired reading sessions. An annual book fair is organised with the support of parents to promote interest in books and to supplement library resources. Pupils employ good word-attack skills and attain reasonably good reading standards. There is scope at some class levels to place further emphasis on encouraging clarity of diction and confident delivery of the written text.
Appropriate scaffolds are provided at most class levels to engage all pupils in the writing process. Individual personalised writing is fostered in the early years and an increasingly wider variety of genre is explored as pupils progress through the school. Copybooks provide evidence of clear progression from writing simple sentences, completing word searches, cloze procedures and comprehension exercises to writing stories, letters, advertisements, journal entries, reports, poetry and books. Very neat presentation skills are nurtured at most class levels. It would be of benefit, however, to review the school policy on handwriting and to consider commencing a cursive style of writing at an earlier stage.
All strands of the curriculum in Mathematics receive due attention and activities are appropriately differentiated for each class level. Pupils display a positive attitude to Mathematics and a firm understanding of the work covered. A range of mathematical equipment and concrete materials is available to support class and group work. Number charts and visual aids are purposefully used in combination with rhyme, song, story, questioning and discussion to focus pupils’ attention on pattern in number and to develop understanding of the concepts of sequence and time. Pupils, in general, recall number facts relatively fast and use successful strategies to solve problems. It would be of benefit to compile a list of the strategies used to aid memorisation and recall of number facts and to share successful practice on a whole-school basis by outlining them in the school plan. While the school has agreed the language of common mathematical procedures, there is a need, in some instances, to revisit procedures on a regular basis in order to reinforce understanding and to consolidate language. Careful attention is paid to the presentation of work and most pupils record their work accurately and neatly. The teachers are engaging in further development of the school plan in Mathematics and are hoping to introduce specific programmes to involve parents more constructively in their children’s mathematical education.
Teacher planning indicates a suitable choice of topics to engage pupils in the study of History. A sense of time and chronology is cultivated through story sequencing activities and by identifying and recording significant events in the pupils’ lives and in the lives of their families. Effective use is made of timelines and a large timeline dating from pre-Christian times is prominently positioned on the wall of the school shed. Due emphasis is placed on the study of local history with surveys, interviews and interactions with visiting personnel being used to good effect to identify change and continuity in the school environs and the local area. Pupils are given ample opportunities to listen to and research stories from the past including myths, legends and stories about notable people and ancient societies. Many themes are aptly explored through detailed project work and linked beneficially with work in English and the Visual Arts. Drama is used very effectively to communicate and enhance understanding of the past. The curriculum places significant emphasis on the development of historical investigation skills and the school is encouraged to build up a bank of resources such as artefacts, books, charts, old maps and copies of historical documents, old photographs and newspaper articles to enable pupils to develop these skills more fully.
The school programme in Geography is very well structured and work in this area is integrated advantageously with studies in History and Science. The themes of place, space and environment are addressed in a balanced manner through a broad range of activities. Particular attention is given to the study of life in the community and teachers are to be commended for their efforts to involve local people, parents and grandparents in sharing their knowledge of the area and of various occupations with the pupils. Pupils are encouraged to record information in simple drawings, maps and models, in personal books and in class books. ICT is also very effectively used in some classes to provide visual stimuli and to enhance understanding of spatial terms. Pupils are progressively led to acquire a firm knowledge and understanding of natural environments and of the physical features of Ireland and other countries. Opportunities are provided for pupils to engage in independent research and in fieldwork. Pupils are also enabled to develop an understanding of their role in caring for the environment through the school’s participation in the Green Flag Initiative. The need for further resources is acknowledged in the school plan and it is intended to source a wider range of maps and other geographical equipment in the near future.
A very clear whole-school plan in Science guides current classroom practice and identifies aspects to be explored and more fully detailed in the plan in the future. In keeping with the school’s aspirations to create classroom learning environments conducive to fostering scientific thinking, investigation/nature tables feature in all classrooms. Bulbs and seeds are planted and in many instances pupil observations are recorded and displayed. Some teachers also display photographic records of investigations and fieldtrips. A good balance is achieved between discussion and activity and knowledge-based inquiry, and praiseworthy emphasis is placed on developing communication skills. Group work, partner work and individual research are regularly organised and pupils are to be commended for their confident, skilful and informative presentations of project work. The local environment is used effectively to investigate plant and animal life and pupils also carry out classroom-based investigations and explorations of materials. Parental support is availed of to arrange trips to Kylebrack Woods and Coole Park, to identify renewable sources of energy and to support recycling under the Green Flag Initiative.
The teachers have embraced the principles of the Visual Arts curriculum and plan a range of activities to enable pupils to develop creative skills and abilities using a variety of techniques, media and materials. Pupils’ work is displayed at each class level and includes thematic displays and samples of cutting, sticking, collage, painting, printing, charcoal drawings and fabric pictures. As well as making art, pupils are encouraged to look at and respond to their own work, the work of their peers and the work of other artists. It would be of benefit to expand the range of art resources in the school to ensure a sufficient amount of prints, books, slides and software to support this area of the programme. The school is fortunate to have among its staff members a number of experienced artists. Teachers draw on their expertise to inform activities as the pupils proceed through the school. Pupils are guided to draw from observation and to explore colour, perspective and movement in picture. Portfolios of work are maintained in some classes and it is suggested that this practice be expanded and developed throughout the school as a means of assessing development and progression. Consideration should also be given to using ICT for developing and maintaining portfolios.
A very good programme in music is developing in the school. It is facilitated by a high level of interest and expertise on the part of the teaching staff. The elements of Music are explored through a wide range of activities encompassing listening, performing and composing. Material is carefully chosen to enable pupils to experience a range of musical styles, traditions and cultures. Regular opportunities are provided for pupils to respond physically, emotionally and cognitively to music. A broad range of tuned and un-tuned instruments are used creatively to explore sound and to engage the pupils in well-structured composition activities. Through focused questioning and discussion, pupils develop a firm understanding of the musical concepts. They are skilfully prompted to explore body percussion, to learn about the instruments of the orchestra and to research the lives of composers. A lovely selection of songs is taught throughout the school and the inclusion of traditional airs, ballads and well-known songs in Irish is to be commended.
Pupils display high levels of engagement with music both within the school and in the local community. Tin whistle is taught from second class onwards and senior pupils play a variety of instruments including violin, button accordion, guitar, keyboards and percussion. Many parents arrange for their children to attend instrumental music lessons which are available in the area. The board of management also supports music education by facilitating the use of the school premises for instrumental lessons prior to the start of the school day. The pupils are also encouraged to bring their music into the community playing in nearby hospitals, in church and at community events. These events afford valuable opportunities for the pupils to work collaboratively with the teachers in arranging the instrumental and vocal performances. The school should now aim to reflect the full breadth of these musical experiences in the school plan and to structure a literacy programme from junior infants onwards incorporating the systematic use of pentatonic music.
The school’s curriculum in Drama is being informed by the current programme of in-service provided by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme. While the school plan in Drama has yet to be developed, all teachers plan a programme of enjoyable activities to foster communication through drama and to develop understanding of the elements of drama. Teachers use discrete time, structured-play periods as well as an integrated approach to facilitate dramatic action. A supportive environment is fostered from the infant classes onwards to enable pupils to engage in make-believe, to enter into role, to examine characterisations, to explore genre, to shape drama and to reflect on the dramatic experience. A variety of props including masks, hats, clothing and everyday items are made available and used imaginatively to enhance the dramatic experience. Teachers capably enter into role and use story creatively as a platform for exploring drama. Excellent use is made of pre-texts to encourage pupils to make and script their own dramas. The work is skilfully integrated with other curricular areas.
Although full implementation of the curriculum in Physical Education is limited by the lack of appropriate facilities, the teachers organise a good range of activities to promote physical well-being and fitness. Some activities for junior classes are organised in the small general-purposes room while more robust activities are undertaken in a relatively confined area between the prefabricated units. The grassed recreation area is used, weather permitting. A good range of equipment is available and activities are appropriately structured and well paced. Station work is regularly organised to enable a variety of skills to be developed and to facilitate a range of differentiated activities. The games programme includes hurling, camogie, volleyball and basketball. Pupils also participate in Cumann na mBunscol activities. Athletics, swimming, some Irish dancing and a non-competitive sports day also form part of the yearly activities. It is praiseworthy that the school plan in Physical Education includes guidance on the adaptation of activities for pupils with special educational needs. Special needs assistants are to be commended for their work in organising specific cooperative games during recreation periods.
The ethos of the school supports the implementation of the programme in this area of the curriculum. A positive, caring, inclusive learning environment is cultivated, diversity is accommodated and pupils’ efforts and achievements are valued and acknowledged. An integrated approach is combined with the use of discrete time to treat topics chosen from a range of suitable programmes including Walk Tall, Stay Safe and Bí Folláin. Talk, discussion, poetry, story and drama are among the approaches used to enable pupils to understand their own personal development, to develop healthy relationships, to make informed decisions, to maintain a healthy lifestyle and to be discerning in relation to peer pressure, media reporting and advertising. There is strong parental support for the programme and staff, parents and pupils work together to develop attitudes of tolerance, self-respect and respect for others. Guest speakers are engaged periodically to give talks and make presentations on particular aspects of the programme.
The school plan identifies assessment as a central element of the teaching process. Teachers currently use a variety of assessment techniques to provide information on individual pupil achievement and progress. These include checklists, reading and language indicators, reading logs, spelling and dictation tests, homework assignments, work samples, portfolios, teacher-designed tests and tasks, and focused teacher observation. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST), the Micra-t and the Sigma-t are administered annually. Results of assessments are used to assist communication with parents and to inform teacher planning and classroom practice. In consultation with support teachers, assessment results are used to identify pupils with learning difficulties and to determine intervention strategies. Feedback in relation to pupil progress is provided to parents at annual parent-teacher meetings and progress reports are issued at the end of each school year. It is suggested that, once established, assessment techniques should be reviewed regularly to evaluate the effectiveness of the techniques in tracking pupil progress in each curricular area as regards achievement of objectives, understanding of concepts, skills development and attitude formation. Greater emphasis on objective-based planning should assist with this process and it would also be advantageous to collate the results of standardised tests sequentially on an individual basis.
The school has three support teachers and three special needs assistants who work diligently as a team to cater for the educational needs of 21 pupils, 10 of whom have been granted resource teaching hours. The pupils are withdrawn from class and receive supplementary teaching in a one-to-one or small group setting. Learning-support provision encompasses support in English and Mathematics with 7 pupils receiving support in both areas. Resource teaching focuses on providing support specific to the pupils’ identified educational needs which stem from a variety of impairments and disorders including hearing and visual impairments, speech and language disorders, developmental, behavioural and autistic spectrum disorders. The support teachers have a clear understanding of the staged approach to the provision of learning support and resource teaching as detailed in Circular SP ED 24/03. Pupils currently availing of learning support are drawn from first to fifth class. Any future review of the learning-support and the resource teaching provision in the school should take into consideration the benefits to be accrued from early intervention and from in-class support.
Learning programmes in the form of individual education plans or individual profile and learning programmes are prepared for each pupil in receipt of supplementary teaching. The programmes are prepared in consultation with mainstream teachers and are informed by the results of diagnostic and standardised testing and, where appropriate, by psychological assessments and reports from other professionals dealing with specific areas of special educational need. The programmes detail the strengths, priority learning needs and learning targets pertaining to each pupil and identify the specific teaching strategies to be employed to achieve those targets. Parents have been consulted and involved in both the formulation and review of programmes and, in some instances, have received a copy of their child’s programme. It is advised that the manner in which parents can support their children’s learning programmes and the details relating to the frequency of consultation with parents should be recorded as part of each learning programme.
The support teachers all provide short-term planning and maintain records of work covered and progress made. Some teachers express learning targets in specific measurable terms and this practice is to be commended. A wide range of strategies and approaches specific to the pupils’ needs is used to facilitate understanding and progress in relation to the set learning targets. Visual aids, including visual timetables, are used to good effect. Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on using and developing the senses and music activities are enjoyably interwoven into teacher interactions with the pupils. The teachers have access to a range of programmes and materials to develop phonological awareness, reading skills and mathematical concepts. Members of the team are familiar with the use of Irish sign language (LÁMH) and with elements of the TEACCH programme, the PECS method and ABA approach used in the education of persons on the autistic spectrum. Specific activities incorporating the use of story, role cards, games and discussion are effectively organised to develop social skills with a specific group of pupils.
The special needs assistants engage regularly with the support teachers and display a high level of commitment and dedication in carrying out their prescribed roles. Mainstream teachers, support teachers and special needs assistants are to be commended for their engagement in professional development courses specifically focused on the education of pupils with learning difficulties and special educational needs. The manner in which board members also support the inclusion and participation of pupils with special educational needs is also praiseworthy.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The school has a dedicated, hard-working and effective board of management which is closely involved with all facets of school life.
· The teachers show a high level of professionalism in catering for the educational needs of the pupils. They openly embrace change and development, and work enthusiastically to provide a broad and balanced range of learning experiences in all curricular areas.
· The school has a very supportive and very active body of parents who are engaging with school life and are becoming increasingly more involved in the education of their children.
· A high level of care and attention is afforded pupils with learning difficulties and special educational needs and all members of staff cooperate effectively in promoting and facilitating their full participation in all school activities.
· The teachers employ a wide range of successful strategies to enhance the pupils’ confidence and self-esteem and to develop effective communication skills.
· Tá dearcadh dearfach á chothú i leith na Gaeilge sa scoil agus feidhmíonn na hoidí go dúthrachtach chun freastal a dhéanamh ar gach gné de theagasc na Gaeilge. A positive attitude towards Irish is promoted in the school and the teachers work diligently to attend to all aspects of the teaching of Irish.
· The pupils present as happy and positive, are respectful and friendly and display confidence in their interactions with peers and teachers.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· The school needs to progress the development of the building project as a matter of urgency and should maintain regular contact with the building section of the Department of Education and Science.
· The board of management should formulate a three-year strategy development statement to provide timeframes for the development areas already identified. Other long-term projects relating to building, maintenance, administration, organisation, policy development and curriculum review should also be included.
· The board of management should collaborate with the staff to enhance the school’s technological resources and to effect greater use of ICT in teaching and learning.
· The teachers should further develop objective-based planning in order to ensure that clear targeted objectives are used for all areas of teaching and learning and that they are appropriately linked with modes of evaluation and assessment.
· It is recommended that in reviewing the learning-support and resource teaching provision cognisance be taken of the importance of early intervention and in-class support.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The school greatly welcomed the findings of the inspection report. It provided the whole school community with a very thorough, fair and affirmative insight into all its current facets. Because recent years at this school have heralded such a great degree of change, this WSE came at a vital time as it enabled the school to be objectively evaluated. The school is now clearer in its perception of itself and more confident in its approach to developing further and fulfilling its potential.
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 follow-up actions being undertaken by the school at present are as follows;
· Renewed efforts to progress the development of the building project
· Even greater emphasis being placed on developing objective-based planning. Plans in place to further review and develop the curricular policies in the context of the findings of the WSE.
· Outgoing BOM to suggest/devise an approach to activating development strategy and ICT development