An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta 

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St Fergal’s BNS

Finglas West, Dublin 11

Uimhir rolla: 18137D

 

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

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School Response to the Report

 

 

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St Fergal’s BNS. 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 inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school 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.

 

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

St Fergal’s BNS is an eleven teacher boys’ primary school serving the parish of Finglas West. The school operates under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. It was constructed in 1957 to serve the growing population in the Finglas area and grew rapidly over the following decades. By 1967 there were 1,200 pupils enrolled in the school, and this pressure led to the building of another boys’ school to the north of the parish. Numbers in St Fergal’s have declined over recent years due to demographic changes in the area, but have stabilised and are projected to increase slightly in the coming years as the school population is expected to continue to diversify. Current enrolment is 140 pupils. The school is in receipt of additional resources under initiatives of the Department of Education and Science for schools serving areas of educational disadvantage. The school is in band 1 of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative and has designated disadvantaged status. It also participates in the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) scheme and provides activities under the School Completion Programme.

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

A new board of management has been recently elected and is enthusiastic and committed to the development of the school. The board meets very regularly, at least once a month, and minutes of all meetings are kept. Among the most commonly raised issues at board meetings is that of financing the running of the school. Board members are concerned at the allocation of grants on a per capita basis, as this causes difficulties for the board in heating and lighting a building which was originally designed to hold a much larger number of pupils. Board members have availed of the Wellsprings training programme provided by Archbishops House, and have been allocated specific duties on the board. School accounts are maintained prudently and the board is kept informed of the school’s financial affairs. All accounts are audited annually. The board has devised all of the plans required of it by legislation and provides valued support to the teaching staff in relation to disciplinary matters. The recent audit of the cleaning and maintenance of the school, which the board conducted, resulted in a full description of current practice and the development of strategies for improvements. There is scope for further involvement by the board in the ratification of curricular policy. It is noted that one member of the board is also a part-time employee of the school. The board is advised that a member of staff other than the principal or elected teacher representative is precluded from being a member of the board under Section 6(a) of the Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure (Department of Education and Science, 2007). The constitution of the board should be adjusted in accordance with the rules of procedure laid down on page 9 of the aforementioned booklet.

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The principal has worked in the school for many years and has served in his present role since 1990. He has given long and dedicated service to the school and is well respected by all members of the school community, including teachers, members of the board of management, ancillary staff, parents and pupils. He has an intimate knowledge of all aspects of life in the school and is caring and supportive of pupils and of staff. The effective management of the school is the primary focus of his vision for the school. To this end he maintains a detailed record of all school activities and this record is used to provide data for school planning and to identify areas for future development. He engages with peer networks to support and develop his role as leader and he has led the whole-school planning process for the introduction of the Primary School Curriculum.

 

The principal is very ably assisted by a dedicated and committed in-school management team, comprising a deputy principal and three special duties teachers. Each post holder has a list of clearly defined duties which are undertaken diligently. It is now recommended that these duties be reviewed in order to afford each post holder responsibilities across the pastoral, organisational and curricular domains, as recommended in Primary Circular 07 / 03. Henceforth these duties should be regularly reviewed in the light of the developing needs of the school. The principal and in-school management team should also consider holding regular formal meetings to discuss issues of relevance to leadership within the school, and to frequently appraise both the board of management and the staff as a whole about their work.

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

The teaching staff is comprised of the principal, six mainstream class teachers, two learning support teachers, one of whom is shared with a neighbouring school, and two resource teachers for pupils of the travelling community. A home-school-community liaison co-ordinator who is based in St Brigid’s SGNS is shared with St Fergal’s. Levels of staff turnover are quite low, consequently the composition of the teaching staff has remained relatively unchanged over recent times. Some opportunities have been provided for staff to work in different contexts and at a variety of class levels. This practice should be formalised into a staff rotation policy in order to ensure that all teachers experience a variety of classes over time. The participation of staff in programmes of continuous professional development is facilitated, and a number of teachers have engaged in such programmes, usually by participating in summer courses. Teachers have also availed of training facilitated by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) and School Development Planning Support (SDPS).

 

A special needs assistant has recently been appointed and works under the guidance of the class teacher to assist in the inclusion of a pupil with additional learning needs in the mainstream class. The part-time school secretary provides valuable administrative support for the principal and for the board of management. The school caretaker, who is also employed on a part-time basis, looks after routine maintenance diligently. A team of three cleaners works in the school on a daily basis. Other personnel involved in the work of the school include coaches provided by the local Erin’s Isle, GAA club, and by the FAI. A homework club, funded by the School Completion Programme, operates in the school two evenings a week.

 

The school has twelve mainstream classrooms. Some of these rooms are used by learning support and resource teachers, and there is a library, a general-purposes room and a computer room. Each classroom has a computer and there is a bank of computers in one of the learning-support rooms. One classroom is used at present by a community playgroup. The principal and secretary share a small office beside a parents’ room. The board might consider the possibility of converting the parents’ room into an office for the principal and moving the parents’ room to one of the larger empty classrooms. Outdoor recreation facilities include a grass area, an outdoor shelter which has been attractively decorated with murals, a games pitch and a hard court. A parish field directly behind the school was used for games in the past, but has fallen into disuse and has become inaccessible to the school for safety reasons. The board of management is hopeful that ongoing negotiations at parish level will resolve the difficulties associated with the field, and will in time lead to the improvement of the appearance of the rear of the school grounds.

 

A plentiful array of teaching resources is available in the school to support teaching across the curriculum. Concrete materials for the teaching of Mathematics and Science are available and stored centrally. It is recommended that some of these materials should be stored in each classroom, in order that they are more readily accessible for use during lessons. There is an extensive supply of fact and fiction library books of varying levels of difficulty, some stored in the library and the rest distributed through the classrooms. Attractive charts and visual material are in abundance throughout the school and are well presented along corridors and in classrooms. 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The parents’ association is organised on an informal basis and plays an active part in the life of the school. Parents’ representatives meet regularly, at least once a month and more often as necessitated by ongoing projects and events. These meetings are usually informal in nature and are attended by the principal. Much of the work of parents involves fundraising to improve the school environment and to provide resources for the school library and for the teaching of art. Meetings are organised annually for parents of incoming pupils. The parents’ association is also active in organising extra-curricular activities for pupils. Funding has been secured from Dublin City Council for environmental care projects and for subsidising swimming lessons.

 

Communication between school and home is very good, and is conducted through a variety of channels. Regular written communication occurs in the form of newsletters, written reports which are sent home twice yearly and notes in homework journals. The parent body invites parents of incoming pupils to an annual induction meeting where contact is further developed. Parents’ representatives are highly satisfied with the quality of education provided in the school, they acknowledge the willingness of the teachers to meet with parents and express satisfaction with the opportunities provided by the school for parents to meet with teachers. The up-to-date school website is a useful source of information on current events in the life of the school.

 

A home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator, who is shared with the neighbouring senior girls’ school, works to promote the involvement of parents in education. Among the successes of the HSCL scheme is the extent to which parents have accessed the wide range of courses provided. Increased funding for the HSCL programme under the DEIS initiative has facilitated the organisation of additional courses in the current year. The co-ordinator collaborates with co-ordinators assigned to other schools in the area to ensure that course provision is broad enough to cater for a diverse range of interests. Parental involvement in the school is also developed through the organisation of meetings between parents and teachers. Key issues emerge at these meetings and are prioritised for action. Annual priorities are set and these are reviewed regularly. The school’s substance misuse policy was developed in this manner. A paired-reading programme is being set up at present by the HSCL co-ordinator and learning-support teachers and this programme will focus initially on pupils in second classes.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

Discipline in the school is maintained through the implementation of a fair code of behaviour which seeks to encourage good behaviour and to reward pupils for their efforts. Pupils’ interactions with their teachers are respectful and they treat each other in a similar manner. Their behaviour in classrooms, on corridors and in play areas is generally very good. Pupils’ learning is celebrated in the very attractive displays of their work throughout the school and on the website. Award schemes are very effective in promoting good attendance and the wearing of the school uniform.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

Overall school planning is of good quality. A range of clear policies on organisational and administrative areas play a useful role in the smooth running of the school. The processes involved in compiling some of these policies are particularly commendable. The learning-support policy is continually subject to review, is updated in the light of the changing needs of the school and consequently impacts positively on learning-support provision. Highly effective board and parental involvement in policy formation is evident as exemplified by the audit of school cleaning recently conducted by members of the board. The school also has an effective DEIS three-year plan which contains specific, achievable targets and details work completed, work in progress and work that needs to be completed in the key areas of literacy and numeracy.

 

It is now recommended that the section of the school’s enrolment policy providing for the deferral of enrolment of pupils with special educational needs be reviewed so that it complies with pertinent legislation. It is also recommended that the board of management ensures that the school’s health and safety policy covers the range of activities undertaken by the school caretaker. The board should also adopt a framework for the incremental review of existing policies and the processes utilised in the cleaning audit and learning-support policy formation should be replicated in this review, where possible.

 

Curricular policies, which reflect the principles and methodologies of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) are also available, and have the potential to facilitate effective teacher planning. The Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) plan is particularly praiseworthy, as it details a broad and balanced curriculum and encompasses up-to-date Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE), substance abuse and life skills programmes. The mathematics plan also contains useful sections outlining staff decisions in the area of maths and a common approach to the language of maths. The Irish plan contains a wealth of useful resources which could be successfully utilised in implementing the four strands of the Irish curriculum.

 

In order to ensure appropriate continuity and progression in pupils’ skill development across the curriculum the following additions to existing plans are recommended. The science plan should outline a two-year cycle for covering the strands and strand-units, detailing the specific strands to be covered in each year of the cycle. Similarly the history and geography plans should outline specific topics to be covered in the various strand units at each class level. The whole-school plan on Physical Education (PE) should clearly outline the skills to be developed across each of the six strands at each class level and the visual arts plan would benefit from a clearer indication of content. It is also recommended that the school prioritise the review and update of the Irish and drama plans, and consider presenting the curricular plans in a more readily accessible format.    

 

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

 

All teachers provide appropriate long-term and short-term schemes of work which ensure that learning activities are organised across the full range of the curriculum. Planning refers to the strands and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum. Timetables are laid out in line with the recommendations of the curriculum. Accordingly, each curricular area receives suitable attention on a weekly basis. Approaches to short-term planning vary from class to class: some teachers use short-term plans to outline proposed lesson content for a week or fortnight and others emphasise learning objectives to be targeted in a specific timeframe. Some teachers provide very detailed plans of excellent quality which include clearly identified aims and learning objectives, appropriate detail of lesson content, teaching methodologies and resources. Consideration should be given to devising a common approach to short-term planning. Ideally this should indicate general or overall aims, an overview of the content and of the teaching strategies and methods to be used, an outline of the principal resources to be provided to support teaching and learning and notes on opportunities that will be taken to foster linkage and integration. An outline of how the programme will be differentiated for the pupils in general and particularly for pupils with special educational needs should be indicated together with a schedule of suitable assessment strategies to be employed. While many of these headings are included in some short-term plans and implicit in others, and while many of the practices suggested are already in place, explicitly outlining all of these would aid continuity within the classroom and would help in planning for progression through the school. An area for initial attention is planning for differentiated learning needs and making provision for the sharing of data from learning-support teachers with mainstream class teachers and facilitating formal meetings between teachers to facilitate this.

 

Monthly progress reports are maintained by all teachers and copies of these reports are retained by the principal in the school office. The template used for the reports is commercially produced and its design allows teachers to record concisely the lesson content covered each month. When the review of short-term planning approaches is underway, staff should also consider revising the monthly report template to include the learning objectives achieved and assessments completed each month.

 

 

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

The quality of teaching throughout the school is generally very good, most teachers are enthusiastic and creative in their approaches and  some excellent lessons were observed during the evaluation. In these lessons, whole-class teaching was complemented by group work which allowed all pupils opportunities to participate actively in lessons. Visual aids and other resources are used well in lesson presentation. Pupils’ work is monitored during lessons and written work is checked regularly. Samples of completed work are displayed to good effect in classrooms and along the corridors. Not only does the attractive display on the corridors improve the appearance of the interior of the building, it also shows pupils that their efforts are celebrated and valued. An excellent range of IT resources is available within the school. It is recommended that the potential of these resources be explored and exploited to a greater degree across the curriculum. Additionally, there is scope for further use of group work to complement the whole-class approaches to teaching in use.

 

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Caitear dua le teagasc na Gaeilge, cuirtear na ceachtanna i láthair go bríomhar, spreagúil, glacann na daltaí páirt ghníomhach iontu agus baineann siad sult astu. Forbraítear cumas tuisceana na ndaltaí go h-oiriúnach, tá foclóir bhreá ar eolas ag cuid mhaith acu  agus  éiríonn leo ceisteanna a chur agus a fhreagairt agus dramaí simplí a chumadh. I dteagasc an chomhrá baintear úsáid thorthúil as ábhar léirithe agus as fearas corportha chun tuiscint na ndaltaí ar fhoclóir nua a bhunú. Cleachtar gníomhaíochtaí cainte agus obair i mbeirteanna chun an t-ionchur nua teanga a dhaingniú sa chuid is mó de na ranganna. B’fhiú an dea-chleachtas seo a leathnú ar fud na scoile. Bunaítear na gníomhaíochtaí scríbhneoireachta cuid mhór ar na téacsleabhair caighdeánacha. Moltar scóp na h-oibre seo a leathnú chun go mbeadh réimhse níos leithne agus éagsúlacht tascanna scríofa feidhmiúla agus pearsanta a sholáthar do na daltaí. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar mhéan teagaisc sna ceachtanna Ghaeilge i bhformhór na ranganna. Moltar an cleachtas seo a chur i ngníomh ar fud na scoile agus modh an aistriúcháin a sheachaint.    

 

Irish

 

Considerable effort is devoted to the teaching of Irish, lessons are presented in a lively, stimulating manner, pupils play an active role in the lessons and enjoy them. Pupils’ understanding of the language is developed appropriately, most of the pupils have a fine vocabulary, they are able to ask and answer a variety of questions and compose simple dramas. In the teaching of conversation productive use is made of visual resources and concrete materials to underpin pupils’ understanding of new vocabulary. Oral activities and pair work are practised to reinforce the new language input in most classes. It would be worth extending this good practice throughout the school. Writing tasks are to a great extent based on standardised textbooks. It is advised that the scope of this work should be extended so that pupils are provided with a broader range and variety of functional and personal writing tasks. Irish is used as the medium of instruction in Irish lessons in most classes. This practice should be put into action throughout the school and the translation method should be avoided

 

English

 

Good provision is made for the teaching of English throughout the school. Teachers prepare an extensive range of resources for use in language lessons, and these resources are well used to facilitate discussion and written work. Teachers ensure that classrooms are print-rich environments, with a variety of relevant texts, labels, charts and posters on display. Lessons incorporate oral language development through the use of discussion of a range of topics and prediction of the likely outcomes of various scenarios. The standard of reading throughout the school is good. Pupils encounter a broad range of written material, including fiction and non-fiction, and they discuss and respond to differing styles of writing. Pupils have access to a fine collection of assorted library books, and are afforded frequent opportunities to engage in silent reading of books of their own choice. In senior classes, class novels are used to develop the reading experience for pupils. Pupils analyse the roles of characters encountered in texts. An appropriate programme to develop pupils’ handwriting is used in the school. The quality of presentation of pupils’ written work attests to the consistent implementation of this programme. To further enhance provision for the teaching of English, it is now recommended that a broader range of differentiated group work be provided, in order to ensure that more challenging activities are provided for some pupils and that pupils with additional learning needs are set achievable learning tasks.

 

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

The overall quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics in the school is good. All strands of the mathematics curriculum are included in the programme. There is a commendable emphasis on Mathematics in the environment. A weekly quiz, which encourages pupils to be aware of mathematical concepts in everyday situations, generates interest in Mathematics among the pupils. The displays along corridors foster awareness of Mathematics among pupils: the school long jump and high jump records displayed are topics for discussion among pupils. An emphasis on the number strand is noted in the teaching of Mathematics in mainstream classes and mental mathematics activities are admirably accentuated. Pupils demonstrate good computation skills and knowledge of number facts in each class, using appropriate memorisation strategies to recall tables. Teachers prepare suitable resources for teaching and learning, and use focused questioning to stimulate pupils to articulate their ideas about Mathematics. The use of concrete materials to allow pupils to develop and show their understanding of mathematical concepts is a commendable feature of some lessons. This practice needs to be consolidated throughout all classes. While mathematics resources are stored in a central location, it is also important that each classroom be equipped with a range of concrete materials that should be systematically used in the teaching of Mathematics, up to and including senior classes.

 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

 

The quality of teaching and learning in History is good. Discussion and vocabulary development are central to the lessons and pupils exhibit interest in topics covered and an ability to discuss them with confidence. In some of the lessons observed, the skills of working as a historian were an integral part of the lesson, and pupils were provided with opportunities to examine evidence, to reflect on change and continuity and to develop their abilities to synthesise and communicate. This is best practice and should be replicated in all lessons. There are commendable displays of photographic evidence and artefacts in some classrooms and timelines are attractively displayed in most classrooms. It is also recommended that this good practice be extended to all classrooms. There is evidence of individual project work in History, complemented by pupil reflection of the learning involved, which is very good practice.

 

Geography

 

Appropriate provision is made for Geography within the school curriculum. Some good lessons, which used discussion and talk effectively to develop pupils’ knowledge, were observed and there is evidence of successful map work and interesting individual projects undertaken by the pupils. While practical resources were employed effectively in the lessons, more effective use of maps, globes and other concrete materials is recommended. Some lessons observed incorporated an emphasis on pupils’ geographical skills. However a greater emphasis should be placed on the development of these skills through the provision of more challenging activities and through utilising individual, pair and group work to greater effect. In planning for these activities the school should explore the potential of ICT as a learning tool in the teaching of Geography. The school should also consider utilising the local environment to provide a rich source of opportunities to develop pupils’ geographical skills. 

 

Science

 

Good resources are provided for the teaching of Science. Teachers plan activities that engage the pupils in investigation and exploration of Science in the environment. Practical experiments are undertaken in each class. Good examples were observed of discussion prior to experimentation, and of recording, by the pupils, of their findings. As the school continues to develop the provision for the teaching of Science, consideration should be given to ensuring a balance across all four strands of the science curriculum so that pupils will experience a broad range of activities as they progress through the school. There is a need for greater emphasis on the skills and on working scientifically in some classes, where lessons are overly dependent on workbook content.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

 

Visual Arts is very well taught in the school. Excellent displays in classrooms and on corridors feature pupils’ work in all curriculum strands. It is evident that pupils take great pride in their work and that their efforts receive appropriate recognition. Photographic examples of pupils’ work are kept. Information technology is used well, both as a means of recording pupils’ artwork and as a tool in the process of making art. Samples of artwork by pupils in each class are also displayed on the school website. Good use is made of the work of famous artists as stimuli for lessons, and pupils engage readily in discussion of art. They are provided with structured opportunities to look at and respond to the work of artists and of other pupils.

 

 

Music

 

The school choir is a significant strength of musical provision in the school. The choir is directed by a retired teacher who visits the school regularly to conduct singing lessons. The choir performs at First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies, at Christmas carol services and at the annual Graduation Mass. All three strands of the curriculum are taught throughout the school. The school is well equipped with resources for the teaching of the music programme. These resources are used well and regularly in the design of good learning activities. Pupils are exposed to various styles of music and to music from a variety of cultures. Frequent opportunities are provided for pupils to engage creatively during music lessons, which feature full and enthusiastic participation by pupils.

 

 

 

 

Drama

 

Discrete time is allocated to the implementation of this subject and pupils engage enthusiastically with and derive enjoyment from the activities undertaken. Lessons observed employed a range of appropriate drama games and were well integrated with other subjects. The school should now broaden the scope of its drama curriculum in order to expose pupils to a broader range of drama strategies and conventions, such as hot-seating, thought-tracking, sound-tracking, role-play, improvisation and reflecting on dramatic action. The school should also look to increasing its range of dramatic materials and props in order to enrich its drama provision.

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

Physical Education lessons are taught well. Lessons follow an appropriate sequence of warm up, skills practice, games and cool down activities. They include a commendable emphasis on discussing the relevance and importance of the various activities and due regard is generally afforded to the inclusion and participation of all pupils in the lessons. In conjunction with regular PE lessons, the school avails of the services of a Gaelic football and a soccer coach to develop the pupils’ games skills and the school participates in the local Cumann na mBunscol league. Swimming lessons are organised by the parents’ association each Friday in the local swimming pool, and all classes participate in them on a rota basis. The school also organises an annual school sports day and a ‘sports for all’ day. The school is advised to review the current organisation of physical education provision in order to ensure that appropriate and balanced attention is given to the dance, the gymnastics and the outdoor and adventure activities strands.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

Planning for Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) encompasses all curricular strands, ensuring broad and balanced curriculum provision in this area. Lessons feature the use of appropriate resources, including materials from the Walk Tall and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programmes. There is good liaison with outside agencies which assist in the delivery of aspects of the programme. Representatives of ACCORD visit the school annually and talk to sixth class pupils about RSE. Strategies have been developed at whole-school level to promote positive behaviour throughout the school, and these strategies are in use in all classes. Pupils’ behaviour is generally very good: they behave in a mannerly fashion, and are courteous and respectful to their teachers, fellow pupils and visitors. Provision for dealing with instances of misbehaviour is made in the code of discipline. Lessons in SPHE include good discussion of the topics covered. Lesson structure should be adjusted in some classrooms in order to provide pupils with further opportunities for engaging in more practical activity.

 

 

 

 

 

4.8 Assessment

 

The school utilises many effective modes of assessment. Teacher observation, teacher-designed tests and the regular monitoring of pupils’ written work are all employed in mainstream classes and are complemented by the judicious use of standardised tests in English and Mathematics – the Micra-T and Sigma-T respectively. The results of these formal tests are subjected to comprehensive analysis, which is good practice. Within the learning-support department a comprehensive range of diagnostic tests are employed, including the RAIN, the Jackson Phonics test, the Aston Index and the Quest screening test. It is now recommended that the wealth of data garnered from these assessment tools be used to facilitate planning for differentiation within mainstream classes. The school should also consider broadening the range of assessment strategies in use in mainstream classes to include curriculum profiles and checklists based on curriculum objectives.

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

Provision in learning support is comprehensive, systematic and flexible and operates to a very good standard. The learning-support team consists of four teachers, one provides learning support in English, one in Mathematics and two provide learning support in English and Mathematics to pupils who are mainly, though not exclusively, from the travelling community. These teachers conduct formal meetings on a termly basis, and collectively set targets and priorities for the term. They also adopt a collective approach to the administration and analysis of test results. This team approach to learning support is very commendable. Learning-support rooms are very well organised; they contain an array of appropriate resources and provide a stimulating, print-rich environment for pupils. Lessons observed in learning support were well structured, the teachers employed a range of teaching methodologies to ensure pupils’ active participation and pupil-teacher interaction was positive, affirming and encouraging. Within the learning-support team there are some excellent examples of planning and record keeping, including daily planning sheets, weekly planning records and details of learning targets achieved by pupils. Due to this diligent planning and record-keeping, learning-support teachers have a comprehensive file on each pupil as well as carefully developed individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) or individual education plans (IEPs). The school should now explore ways of sharing this valuable information with mainstream class teachers as a means of supporting differentiation throughout the school.

 

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

 

The school participates in the School Completion Programme (SCP), and a range of activities is facilitated through the programme. School attendance monitoring, the homework club and transfer programmes are funded through the SCP, and courses provided for pupils include drama therapy, art therapy, life skills and anger management programmes. The Finglas/Cabra Partnership organises a drugs awareness programme annually for pupils in sixth class. The school has two resource teachers for travellers (RTTs), who work in the special education team in the school. The school shares a home-school-community liaison teacher with St Brigid’s Senior GNS, and has participated in the programme since 1991. A parents’ room is used for meetings and for courses. Many parents participate in the Steps to Excellence for Personal Success (STEPS) programme, following courses in self-development and self-esteem. Parents in Education courses are accredited by the National College of Ireland. The school identifies the main success of the HSCL programme as the breaking down of barriers between home and school. Parents who become involved through the scheme become very active themselves, speaking at welcome meetings for parents of new pupils, compiling welcome packs for parents and organising home visits. It is the experience in the school that parents who become involved in education through the programme usually tend to remain involved. The HSCL programme is now funded through the DEIS initiative, and ten percent of the DEIS grant is made available for the HSCL scheme.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         The school has a committed and enthusiastic board of management.

·         The school benefits from the dedicated leadership provided by the principal and deputy principal.

·         A strong sense of teamwork and mutual cooperation is evident among teaching and non-teaching staff.

·         The school enjoys the strong support of the parents.

·         Pupils are enthusiastic in their approach to school and are cooperative and attentive.

·         Highly commendable processes are employed in some of the school planning activities.

·         There is a systematic, coherent and effective approach to providing learning support.

·         The school is justifiably proud of its choir.

 

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

·         There should be an incremental review of existing school policies, beginning with the enrolment and the health and safety policies.

·         There is a need for increased emphasis on differentiated group work to facilitate greater pupil participation in lessons.

·         The board of management should consider the reallocation of existing rooms to ensure that the school secretary and the principal have separate offices.

·         There is a need for more systematic use of concrete materials in mathematic lessons through the school.

·         Existing curricular policies should be edited and organised so that each teacher has a copy, in order to maximise the impact of these policies on classroom planning.

 

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 October 2008

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report  

 

 

 

The Board of Management, staff, parents reps etc are very pleased with the report.  In recognising the difficult financial circumstances which involve the school, we would recommend doubling the capitation and ancillary grants for all schools in disadvantaged areas and that such grants should be paid at the beginning of the school year.  We would like to thank the inspectors for their very fair and thorough evaluation 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.   

 

 

 

Re: clearing etc. – Appointment of supervisor; new cleaning rota etc.  

 

Plans in place to put all school policies on discs and make available to all teachers.

 

Continue with fund-raising activities and try to involve more parents