An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil na Mainistreach,
Uimhir rolla: 18116S
Date of inspection: 12 March 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Scoil na Mainistreach, Cloontuskert was undertaken in March 2008. 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 Social, Personal and Health Education. 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 na Mainistreach is located three kilometres from Lanesborough. It was originally set up in 1955 to facilitate the education of children of Bord na Móna workers in the area. The current school building was opened in 1998. Enrolment figures are gradually increasing. The school grounds are extensive with a junior playground funded by the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs’ CLÁR scheme, a wildlife garden and a school pond. The school caters for boys and girls from infants to sixth class. It is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Elphin.
The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Mainstream class teachers
Teachers working in support roles
Special needs assistants
Scoil na Mainistreach has the vision that “each person through positive learning experiences will be stimulated to achieve his/her full potential, face life confidently, find fulfilment and be respectful in an ever-changing world”. This is included in each policy in the school plan. Teachers work towards that vision through establishing open and honest relations with their pupils. They encourage questioning and participation. Parents are active in the life of the school and work in close partnership with the staff to ensure all pupils have positive experiences of school. The mission statement acknowledges the Catholic ethos of the school.
The school’s board of management is very effective. Roles and responsibilities have been clearly established and areas for development have been identified. The board has established a school safety committee to address road safety. It works closely with the parents’ association, the Gardaí, Roscommon County Council, local public representatives, local truck companies and the local residents’ association. The board also has a practical maintenance plan for the school which includes the development of the school grounds. Financial affairs are dealt with prudently and according to best practice. The chairperson is a regular visitor to the school and is of valuable support to the principal. The board expressed a high level of satisfaction with the effectiveness of the school.
The principal is a very effective manager who has created a shared vision for the school community. He is hard-working and dedicated to the needs of the school. He is efficient in his day-to-day running of the school. He values parental involvement and actively encourages open communication within the school community. The principal is also a very capable instructional leader within the school and is proactive in engaging with projects and initiatives that will benefit the pupils. He supports innovation and change in the school and is committed to continual school improvement.
Relationships within the school community are very good. A very active parents’ association supports the work of the school and is involved in the formulation of policies. It has recently completed a leaflet on healthy lunches for each family. The parents’ association does important fundraising for the school. It also has representatives on the school safety committee. Parents are kept informed of developments in the school through letters and newsletters. Annual parent-teacher meetings are the main forum for discussing pupil progress; although parents are actively encouraged to come into the school at any time should they have a concern. Attendance in the school is fair. It is recommended that the school community devise a number of strategies to promote attendance and that this area be monitored.
Pupils are managed effectively throughout the school. A clear code of behaviour has been laid out and is reviewed on a regular basis. Pupils are involved in establishing their own classroom rules at the beginning of the school year. The school places an appropriate emphasis on the rights and responsibilities of pupils. All teachers have established clear routines with their classes to promote positive behaviour.
The quality of whole-school planning is very good. The staff has engaged with support services on an ongoing basis. A very comprehensive, user-friendly school plan has been developed over the past number of years. All plans and policies are based on the school’s context and refer to the school’s vision statement. The school development planning process is followed giving ownership of the school plan to all teachers and parents. Organisational policies set out very clear procedures. The school plan is reviewed on an ongoing basis. A copy of the plan has been given to all teachers and to the parents’ association. While the staff has devised a strategic long-term plan, it is recommended that it engages in action planning to formalise the development of identified priorities.
The quality of classroom planning is fair. While all teachers prepare long-term and short-term schemes of work, they are generally textbook based. It is recommended that the school review its practice and establish a common planning framework. Within this framework, teachers should make clear links with the Primary School Curriculum, differentiate work for pupils with different needs and plan for skill development. Teachers should also consider using information and communication technologies (ICT) for their classroom planning.
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.
Tá caighdeán na léitheoireachta Gaeilge go maith. Bíonn go leor Gaeilge sa timpeallacht i bhformhór na seomraí. Léann na daltaí go muiníneach i gcoitinne. Moltar béim sa bhreis a leagan ar leabhair mhóra agus leabhair leabharlainne chun suim a mhúscailt sna ndaltaí.
Tá caighdeán na scríbhneoireachta Gaeilge go measartha. Baineann formhór na ngníomhaíochtaí leis an téacsleabhar agus ní bhaineann mórán éagsúlachta leis na gníomhaíochtaí seo. Moltar plean uile-scoile a leagan amach do scríbhneoireacht na Gaeilge ina chuirfear saorscríbhneoireacht chun cinn.
Irish is taught effectively throughout the school. Language skills are developed systematically by the teachers. A majority of teachers emphasise the communicative approach. The standard of spoken Irish is higher in classrooms where Irish is used as the medium for classroom management, where ‘caint na maidine’ is used on a daily basis and where an emphasis is placed on the use of stories to teach verbs. An appropriate emphasis is placed on poems, rhymes and songs in the junior classes. It is recommended that more work on these areas be undertaken throughout the school. Some teachers use language games and visual aids advantageously, which promotes pupil participation. The whole-school approach to ‘phrase of the week’ is yielding good results. Pupils are able to ask questions and answer questions. There is evidence of excellent practice in the teaching of verbs but there is a need for a whole-school approach in this area. It is recommended that a whole-school plan be laid out for the teaching of spoken Irish.
The standard of Irish reading is good. There is a print-rich environment in the majority of classrooms. Pupils generally read confidently. It is recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on big books and on Irish library books to stimulate an interest in reading among pupils.
The standard of Irish writing is fair. Most of the written activities are textbook-based and have little variety. It is recommended that a whole-school plan for Irish writing be devised to include the development of free writing.
The quality of teaching in English is very good. Pupils are confident in oral presentations. They recite poetry with energy and expression. A very good emphasis is placed on nursery rhymes in the infant classes. Listening skills and discussion skills are developed to very good effect at all levels. Some teachers are particularly adept at using higher-order questioning, a practice which should be developed by all teachers.
The teaching of reading is effective. Teachers have successfully created a culture of reading in the school. Big books and novels are used appropriately. Pupils have opportunities to listen and respond to quality literature throughout the school. The school has introduced a very effective paired-reading programme between the infants and the fifth-class pupils. A shared-reading programme is also in operation between pupils and their parents. It is recommended that this practice be formalised and extended within the school. Phonological awareness is developed to excellent effect in the junior classes with the result that pupils have established good word-attack skills. Pupils at all levels read extensively and display a great interest in books.
The quality of pupils’ handwriting is excellent. A sequenced approach to the development of cursive writing by second class has been successfully established. Pupils present their work carefully and neatly. All written work is corrected and relevant feedback given. The quality of creative writing is good. Pupils are given opportunities at all levels to express themselves in a variety of genres. However, it is recommended that each genre be developed further to ensure that pupils have mastered the conventions of that genre. Teachers teach spellings and grammar systematically as an aid to writing. The use of dictation by certain teachers is commendable. Some teachers display pupils’ work to good effect. It is recommended that the writing process be emphasised more, to include the publication of work using ICT. Assessment and intervention for pupils in English is very good although it is recommended that class teachers differentiate work for pupils with different learning needs.
The quality of teaching in Mathematics is very good. Appropriate use is made of concrete materials at all class levels. A Mathematics-rich environment is provided in the majority of classrooms. Lessons are appropriately structured, sequenced and paced. Pupils’ work is carefully monitored by all teachers. A good emphasis is placed on the learning of number facts and the development of mental arithmetic. While talk and discussion and group work are features of many lessons it is recommended that teachers place a greater emphasis on the language of Mathematics. Some teachers clearly link the language of Mathematics to literacy, a practice that could be shared among the staff. It is also recommended that teachers develop the problem-solving skills of pupils to a higher degree, relating mathematical concepts to life experiences.
The positive classroom climates that exist in the school greatly enhance the development of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). Class interactions are open and respectful. Pupil behaviour is appropriate and facilitates talk and discussion. Some teachers make excellent use of a variety of methodologies in the teaching of SPHE, including circle time, games, brainstorming, problem-solving and development of life-skills. It is recommended that these approaches be adopted by all teachers. Assessment of SPHE is particularly noteworthy and is evidence of the commitment by the staff to provide a holistic education for all pupils. It is recommended that all teachers refer to the Primary School Curriculum in their planning for each strand unit.
The quality of assessment is very high. A very comprehensive framework has been devised by the staff to ensure effective assessment of pupils in all subject areas. A profile on each pupil in the school has been created and this information is shared with parents at the annual parent-teacher meeting. The profile includes details of pupil performance in all subject areas along with observations recorded regarding pupil behaviour, social skills, self-confidence, independence and participation in class activities. The screening of pupils in the infant classes ensures early identification of learning difficulties. Action is then taken to work with such pupils within their own classroom. The school also engages in standardised testing of pupils on an annual basis.
The quality of teaching and learning in the special education setting is very high. Teachers prepare individual learning programmes for each pupil based on their needs. Pupils are presented with stimulating activities that are carefully structured and sequenced. Parents are involved in the individual learning programmes. They meet with the support teachers on a termly basis. They contribute to the education plan by discussing their child’s interests, hobbies, aptitudes and areas of difficulty. It is recommended that, where a psychological assessment has been carried out on a pupil, clearer links be established between the report’s recommendations and the pupil’s individual learning programme.
The school has strengths in the following areas.
· The school’s board of management is very proficient at identifying and addressing priorities for the school.
· The principal is a very effective leader of the school community. He supports innovation and change in education and is open to ways of continually improving the school.
· The school has a very active, very supportive parents’ association that works in partnership with the staff and board of management in the interests of the pupils.
· Communication within the school community is very effective. Regular communication takes place between the active parents’ association and the principal and board of management.
· The quality of whole-school planning is very good. Plans are specific to the needs of this school and the school development planning process is followed.
· The quality of teaching across the curriculum is very high. Teachers use a range of methodologies and resources in their teaching.
· There is a strong reading culture established in the school.
· The development of pupils’ handwriting throughout the school is excellent.
· The quality of assessment is very high.
· The quality of support for pupils with different learning needs is very high.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school.
· It is recommended that the staff devise a common approach to classroom planning which makes reference to the Primary School Curriculum and includes differentiation of work for pupils with different learning needs.
· It is recommended that teachers use ICT in a consistent and progressive way through the school.
· It is recommended that teachers review their whole-school approaches to Irish to include the use of Irish for communicative purposes within the school, the use of big books and library books in Irish and the promotion of free writing.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
As principal of the above school, on behalf of the staff and the whole school community, I would like to thank the inspectorate for the courteous and professional manner in which the WSE was conducted. The overall approach was very helpful to the teaching staff and the positive attitude was greatly appreciated by the whole school community. I feel the report is an accurate reflection of the atmosphere and work ethic pertaining to our school and I would like to thank the inspectorate for the positive appraisal. I would also like to thank the BOM, teaching staff, parents and pupils for their co-operation and efforts in preparing for the WSE.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
With regard to the three recommendations made in the report I wish to inform you that I have met with the School Development Planning facilitator on 22 April, 2008 to get assistance in establishing a common framework for classroom planning for all teachers throughout the school. Based on these recommendations it is our intention to devise a common planning framework on our School Development Planning day on 26 May, 2008 with a view to enhancing the quality of classroom planning throughout the school for the coming school year.
With regard to ICT, teachers have already begun to encourage more use of ICT within each classroom giving all pupils more opportunity to present their work through the medium of ICT. This will be a priority in all classes for the coming school year.
With regard to Irish, the staff intends to review its whole-school approach to the teaching of spoken and written Irish at its staff meeting in May.
The WSE has been a worthwhile and positive experience for all concerned.
Published June 2008