An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
St Patrick’s Infants’ National School
Uimhir rolla: 18154D
Date of inspection: 13 March 2009
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St Patrick’s Infant School. 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’ association. 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.
St Patrick’s is a 15 teacher co-educational primary school that caters for junior and senior infant pupils. It is situated on the northern suburbs of Cork City, approximately one mile from the city centre. It is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Bishop of Cork and Ross. Enrolment figures have decreased over the past number of years, due in part to the settled nature of the local community. There are currently 151 pupils enrolled in the school.
The school receives additional funding, staffing and support under the Department of Education and Science DEIS Urban Band 1 programme. As stated in the school’s mission statement, it endeavours to develop each pupil to his/her unique potential in a caring Catholic environment.
The board of management is properly constituted and works conscientiously to support the development of the school. It meets regularly and minutes of meetings are maintained. Members of the board have been allocated specific tasks which they undertake competently. Financial accounts are presented at board meetings and audited annually. While a treasurer has been named from among board members, the task of furnishing accounts has been delegated to a member of the teaching staff. The delegation of the board of management’s financial records to a non-serving member is considered inappropriate and not in keeping with the rules and procedures for boards of management as documented in the Department of Education and Science publication 2007. It is therefore recommended that such a practice cease and appropriate measures be taken to ensure the board acts in accordance with Department of Education and Science guidelines.
The board of management is to be commended for its involvement in developing a comprehensive school plan. The establishment of subcommittees to oversee the formulation and review of school policies is noteworthy. As a direct result of this innovative approach, a wide and comprehensive range of policies has been recently reviewed and ratified by the board. It is now appropriate that aspects of the school’s enrolment policy relating to the acceptance of pupils with special educational needs be amended to comply with current legislation under the Equal Status Act (2000).
During the evaluation it was noted that pupil-teacher contact time is being continually eroded. In that regard the board’s attention is drawn to a number of issues, namely, the information issued to parents with regard to the commencement of the school day, the constant late arrival of pupils to school and consequently the postponement of formal teaching and the additional time allocated to break times to facilitate lunches. The absence of teachers within the school day to visit local playschools, and the practice of organising additional assemblies during the week also reduces pupil-teacher contact time. It is recommended that the board of management oversee the implementation of Time in School Circular 11/95 in a most stringent manner to ensure that the integrity of the school day is upheld. Adherence to Department of Education and Science rules is paramount in order to guarantee that pupils are provided with their statutory educational entitlements.
The board is intent on fostering good communication and working in close collaboration with all partners. The chairperson meets with the principal outside of board meetings to further address school matters. The board is committed to developing a climate of continuous improvement within the school.
The in-school management team, comprising the principal, deputy principal, assistant principal and four special duties teachers serves as a significant resource to the school. The principal has succeeded in gaining the support of the school community. Positive working relationships have been established and a warm inclusive atmosphere has been created. The principal works in close collaboration with the in-school management team and fosters consultation, collegiality and a strong team spirit among all staff members.
The responsibilities of post-holders are clearly defined and encompass a wide range of organisational, curricular and pastoral duties which are linked to the evolving needs of the school. Duties are reviewed on a regular basis. Each member displays exemplary dedication and diligence in carrying out an extensive range of duties. All post-holders provide the board of management with annual detailed accounts of work undertaken and also prepare comprehensive action plans for the forthcoming year. In-school management meetings are held periodically. It is considered that these meetings should be formalised and conducted on a more regular basis. Meetings of all teachers occur through monthly staff meetings, the time and frequency of which should be reviewed given the early closure of the infant school day. A review of the minutes maintained confirms the use of such meetings to progress a range of curricular and organisational priorities. Post-holders are committed to making a valuable and substantial contribution to the overall functioning of the school. As a means of building on existing good practice, it is recommended that the in-school management team be more centrally involved in monitoring the implementation and on-going review of curriculum delivery.
The teaching staff comprises the administrative principal, eight mainstream class teachers, four full-time and one shared learning-support/resource teacher (LSRT) and two language support teachers. The school also shares a home-school liaison teacher with two schools on the same campus. Six special needs assistants are employed to support pupils with special educational needs. The school also employs a part-time secretary and caretaker whose diligence and valuable contribution in carrying out their duties is acknowledged.
The teaching staff has participated in national in-service initiatives and individual staff members have availed of professional development opportunities in response to the assessed needs of the school. It is also reported that some in-house training takes places periodically.
The school shares a large two-story building with the girls’ primary school. Current accommodation consists of ten classrooms one of which has been converted into a staff room and another used as a learning-support room. Smaller rooms have been altered to accommodate resource and language support pupils. Reception, storage areas and offices are also provided. The school’s recently established interactive library is located in a designated section of the hall. There are two hard-surface play areas of generous proportions. A recent initiative, funded by Pobal, has seen the development of an astro-turf play area which is also used by children attending the pre-school located on the premises. A high standard of neatness and order is in evidence throughout the school building which contributes to the creation of a pleasant working environment.
The board of management, with the support of Department of Education and Science grants, has invested in a wide range of resources, equipment, books and materials which is appropriately employed to support pupils’ active engagement in learning across the curriculum. Teachers are to be commended for the well-produced materials used to support curriculum implementation. Appropriately, an inventory of these resources is documented in the school plan. Stimulating physical learning environments are in evidence in all classrooms. Pupils’ work is also celebrated in attractive corridor displays. Information and Communication technologies (ICT) are judiciously used as a teaching and learning tool.
Attention is given to the cultivation of positive relationships between all school partners. An induction meeting for parents of incoming junior infants is held annually. This is complemented by the issuing of a comprehensive information package which addresses a range of practical issues while also detailing relevant policies and procedures. While staff are to be highly commended for the production of this booklet, it is necessary to review some of the information therein in order to ensure that parents have an unambiguous understanding of pertinent facts, such as opening time of school. This clarification coupled with innovative strategies to encourage parents to present their children in school on time is now required. A monthly newsletter is also published to ensure effective dissemination of information regarding all school matters. The school’s website is a valuable source of information for parents. Annual class meetings have been initiated as a further means of communication. Any proposal to extend the frequency of these meetings should be given careful consideration with particular regard for pupil-teacher contact time and the purpose and focus of such meetings. Individual consultation with parents is facilitated through parent-teacher meetings and through the issuing of pupils’ annual progress reports. Close co-operation between home and school is nurtured productively.
The parents’ association, affiliated to the National Parents’ Council, supports the school with a shared sense of purpose in fundraising, organising events, sport days and social occasions. The success of parents’ on-going fundraising activities has resulted in the provision of a wide range of additional learning resources. Parents also organise and supervise extra-curricular activities in collaboration with the teaching staff. It is recommended that detailed accounts of monies collected for such activities be maintained. Commendably, defined systems have been established to involve parents in policy formulation. Parents are also involved in supporting literacy and numeracy initiatives. However, there should be clear procedures in place to facilitate parental involvement in a structured manner. Parents’ representatives reported that they were very satisfied with the educational provision in the school. In particular, parents commented on the happy learning atmosphere created for all pupils. Relationships between staff and parents are open and positive and it is reported that parents are most appreciative of the work of the school.
The school aims to provide a caring learning environment which facilitates the nurturing of each pupil’s potential. Teachers demonstrate a thoughtful understanding of the backgrounds and experiences of pupils and have a genuine concern for their welfare. Pupils are well-behaved and display an eagerness to participate in learning. As a developmental issue, it is advised that teachers give further consideration to raising expectations with regard to pupil achievement across all curriculum areas.
As an infant school, it is anticipated that pupils will attend for a two-year cycle, namely junior and senior infants. During the evaluation it was noted that eight pupils have been enrolled for the third consecutive year. This is a direct result of retention of pupils previous to this academic year. It is understood that the school, in consultation with the Department of Education and Science, have ceased this practice. However, to support the implementation of Circular 11/01, Retention of Pupils in Primary Schools and Circular 27/85 which advises that pupils should not be admitted to first standard unless they has reached the age of six years by 1 September of the school year in which they are enrolled in that class, the board is now advised to no longer accept pupils whose fourth birthday falls in early September and to actively encourage and inform parents of the appropriate age for attendance at school. All enrolment procedures should now be reassessed for the purpose of ensuring that pupils are age-appropriate when starting school and correctly placed in mainstream classes.
The school engages in purposeful whole-school planning on a systematic basis. The school plan is devised through the collaborative activity of the principal, staff, board of management, parents and support services. Various planning committees are proactive and resourceful and are worthy of praise for their initiative and diligence to date. Draft plans are submitted to management, refined and propagated as official school policy. Plans, both curricular and organisational, are useful and informative. A full copy of completed plans is stored electronically and is available to all partners. The school is fully aware of the need for continuous review and to that end it is recommended that curricular plans be reviewed systematically to ensure greater linkage between the school plan and classroom practice.
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.
A positive feature of classroom planning is the drafting of long-term and short-term schemes of work by teams comprising of teachers who work at the same class level. Suitable detail is evident in long-term plans. However, the preparation of short-term plans is open to further development. The majority of teachers record their short-term plans in a commercially produced school planner. Some planning is detailed and provides a clear outline of curriculum content. Further consideration could be given to the form and level of detail that these notes contain. Objective-based planning with an increased focus on learning outcomes would add significantly to this process. An agreed template for documenting monthly progress is used by teachers. This template warrants review to ensure greater accessibility of information and to promote further progression and continuity in pupils’ learning from class to class.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Tá plean cuimsitheach uile-scoile deartha le haghaidh teagaisc agus foghlaim na Gaeilge ina n-áirítear téamaí, feidhmeanna teanga, straitéisí agus modhanna múinte. I bpleanáil na n-oidí b’inmholta ionchur teanga, spriocanna foghlama cinnte, mar aon le modhanna múinte agus straitéisí cumarsáide a leagan amach d’fhoghlaim na teanga. Tá roinnt ábhar prionta tarraingteach agus póstaeir ar taispeáint i dtimpeallacht na scoile.
I gcuid de na ranganna baintear feidhm fhónta as rainn agus as amhráin chun scileanna tuisceana agus éisteachta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. I ranganna eile, áfach, is beag dul chun cinn atá le sonrú i bhforbairt cumas tuisceana na ndaltaí. B’fhiú, anois, tuilleadh béime a leagan ar éisteacht ghníomhach i gcomhthéacs na cumarsáide i dtreo is go mbeidh cuspóir ar leith leis na gníomhaíochtaí éisteachta agus deis ag na daltaí a dtuiscint ar an teanga a léiriú. Moltar an scéalaíocht a chur chun cinn sa scoil mar straitéis do mhúineadh agus d’fhoghlaim na scileanna teanga. Chuige sin, is gá réimse níos leithne de théacsanna agus de leabhair a chur ar fáil. B’fhiú, chomh maith, an Ghaeilge a úsáid mar theanga bhainisteoireachta ranga ar bhonn uile-scoile chun rithim agus fuaimeanna na teanga a chur ar chluasa na ndaltaí.
I gcuid de na ranganna múintear ionchur teanga cuí ach ar an iomlán is léir nach bhfuil ag éirí leis na hoidí an chumarsáid sa teanga a fhorbairt i measc na ndaltaí. Cuirtear an iomarca béime ar mhúineadh na n-ainmfhocal. Baineann na hoidí úsáid as puipéid, as ról-imirt, as cluichí agus as teicneolaíocht faisnéise agus cumarsáide chun an teanga a theagasc ach tá mórchuid de na daltaí ar fíor bheagán Gaeilge. Ní mór a chinntiú go múintear eiseamláirí teanga go córasach agus go dtugtar deiseanna cumarsáideacha do na daltaí an teanga a chleachtadh. Is gá aird ar leith a dhíriú ar thréimhsí cumarsáide an cheachta. Tá gá le fócas níos cinnte sa phleanáil agus sa chur i bhfeidhm ar chuspóirí foghlama ar leith d’fhonn scileanna teanga na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. B’fhiú athbhreithniú iomlán a dhéanamh ar theagasc na Gaeilge mar ábhar churaclaim.
A whole-school plan for the teaching and learning of Irish has been devised and it outlines suitable themes, exemplars, strategies and methodologies. Teachers’ planning should delineate definite language input, communication strategies, appropriate methodologies and learning outcomes. A print-rich environment, along with some posters, are displayed in the school.
In some classes rhymes, poetry and song are judiciously used to develop pupils’ understanding and listening skills. In other classes, however, there is limited progress evident in pupils’ ability to understand the language. It is now necessary to place further emphasis on active listening in the context of communication in order to ensure that there is a specific objective to listening activities and that there are opportunities for pupils to display an understanding of the language. Story should be used to enhance the teaching and learning of all language skills. It is therefore necessary to provide a wide range of texts and books to promote story as a means of developing pupils’ understanding and interest in the Irish language. It is also recommended that the use of incidental Irish be promoted throughout the school in order to familiarise pupils with the sounds of the language.
In some classes suitable language input is taught but in general it is apparent that pupils are not developing communicative skills in the language appropriately. Too much emphasis is placed on the teaching of nouns. Various methods and resources such as puppets, role-play, games and ICT are used to encourage pupils to communicate in the language, yet a significant number of pupils display little competence to do so. There is a need to teach language exemplars systematically and pupils should be presented with opportunities to use the language in a communicative context. Therefore, it is advised that staff focus particular attention on the communicative phases of the language lesson. There is a need for sharper focus on specific learning objectives, in both classroom planning and teaching, in order to develop pupils’ language skills. It is recommended that a full review of the teaching of Irish throughout the school be undertaken with a view to improving pupils’ ability to understand and to use the language.
A detailed whole-school plan has been developed for English. As part of the current review and in the further development of this plan, it is timely to consider outlining clear, succinct guidelines for teaching and learning in this area. While many aspects of the curriculum are well documented in the plan, its implementation is not always evident in classroom practice.
Language, in some classes, is appropriately explored during reading and writing activities and through cross-curricular approaches. Oral language activities including talk and discussion, story, poetry and role-play are used to good effect. However, greater allocation of time and attention to the discrete oral language lesson on a whole-school basis is required. The implementation of the approaches and strategies as outlined in the school plan coupled with specific learning objectives would greatly extend pupils’ vocabulary and develop their ability to express themselves. It would also ensure progression in pupils’ oral language skills and provide for consistency of approach throughout the school. Due emphasis should now be placed on the provision of a whole-language experience where oral language, reading and writing are integrated.
A wide range of strategies is gainfully used to develop pupils’ reading skills. Commendable emphasis is place on reading readiness activities including the knowledge of the conventions of print, basic sight vocabulary, word identification strategies and the development of phonological and phonemic awareness. Pupils’ sight vocabulary is developed systematically and productive structures are in place to monitor and record mastery in this area. A wide range of large format books is available and gainfully used. Reading skills are appropriately developed and extended as pupils progress to the next class level.
A wide range of reading initiatives has been creatively introduced to further enhance and encourage reading. Such initiatives include Literacy Lift-Off, Reading Recovery and In-class Focused Tuition. Parents are also involved in supporting pupils’ reading skills. The introduction and development of these programmes is both innovative and praiseworthy. However, having all programmes in place concurrently may indeed impact negatively on teaching and learning. It is recommended that the number of initiatives in place at any one time would be reviewed in order to evaluate the true effectiveness of each programme and to ensure that the minimum time frame for other areas of learning in the curriculum is not diluted.
All classrooms have well-stocked libraries with a plentiful supply of age-appropriate books. Many of the reading initiatives currently in place in the school focus on a specific series of books. These books are graded according to ability and exposure to a variety of texts is promoted to further stimulate pupils’ interest in personal reading.
A carefully structured approach to developing early writing skills introduces pupils to the writing process. Early writing is stimulated through the teacher acting as scribe and modelling writing. Pupils engage regularly in a range of functional writing activities. Pupils’ ability to write independently is further developed by providing opportunities to write for a variety of purposes and in a range of genres. Teachers are currently guided by the First Steps programme for writing. Samples of pupils writing incorporating story, poetry, self-profiles and class books are attractively displayed and neatly presented in copybooks or folders. Hand writing skills are systematically developed and, in general, the quality of pupils’ written work is creditable. The in-class support provided in some classes to assist in the development of pupils’ ability to write is praiseworthy. However, a more focused approach to this work with specific learning targets identified would greatly enhance provision.
A commendable emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ understanding through collaborative pair and group-work activities in Mathematics. Appropriate emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ mathematical vocabulary and their understanding of key concepts through practical application in real-life situations. Attractive mathematical environments are much in evidence in classrooms with displays of charts and pertinent resource material. Learning is regularly reinforced by use of manipulatives. Early mathematical activities are carefully taught and the purposeful use of number rhyme is a feature of learning. The school has undertaken a number of worthy initiatives such as Maths Recovery to address the learning needs of pupils. Staff might gainfully consider developing a greater harmonization between classroom and additional support activities in a deliberate effort to promote consistency and continuity in programme delivery. Teachers monitor pupils’ work regularly and achievement is systematically documented in class and in individual pupil records. In the further development of Mathematics, a renewed emphasis on developing pupils’ problem-solving skills through consistent discussion should be promoted. The importance of oral work as a daily routine to help pupils revise, consolidate and apply their learning was highlighted and discussed during the evaluation. It is also recommended that copybook activity be a prominent feature in all classes in the consolidation of pupils’ recording skills.
Teachers make worthy efforts to base the History programme on the principles of the curriculum. Progress records indicate that teachers are keen to offer pupils a broad and balanced programme. Storytelling and discussion are among the approaches productively used to engage pupils in historical enquiry. Suitable topics are chosen at each class level to focus pupils’ attention on sequence, on traditions, on chronology and on continuity and change. Emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ interest and curiosity in respect of the past. Considered attention is given to the teaching of local history and staff is to be commended for the preparation of historical trails for different class levels. Topics are successfully linked to pupils’ own experiences and simple timelines are purposefully designed to foster pupils’ understanding of History.
Pupils are afforded regular opportunities to engage in a range of geographical activities in order to develop their sense of place and space and to deepen their awareness of the local environment and beyond. Field trips and nature trails are organised regularly to cultivate a knowledge and a sense of pride in the environs of the school. Aspects of seasonal change are creatively displayed on nature tables and add aesthetically to the classroom environment. Pupils’ geographical knowledge is further extended by the positive contributions of various visitors to the school. Geography is successfully integrated with other aspects of the Social, Environmental and Scientific Education programme (SESE). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is used prudently to stimulate discussion and to complement the learning process.
A suitable range of topics is explored in Science and pupils’ scientific skills are consistently nurtured. Aspects of growth together with care for the environment are regularly explored. Pupils are afforded valuable opportunities to engage in simple experiments across a variety of strands. Staff is commended for the promotion of Science through praiseworthy participation in initiatives such as Science Week, The Green Flag and Discover Primary Science. Pupils productively explore a variety of habitats in the school environs. The use of the school garden and wormery in the development of pupils’ investigative skills is noteworthy. The promotion of the language of Science on a consistent basis would greatly enhance pupils’ learning.
In most classrooms pupils experience a wide programme in the Visual Arts in which strands are explored and in which emphasis is placed on the development of individual creativity. In general, pupils are exposed to a variety of stimulating art activities using a range of media that allows them to express themselves imaginatively. In most classes, pupils’ appreciation of the Visual Arts is being enhanced and their critical faculties are being developed through interaction with works of artists and through discussion of their own art work. Teachers place appropriate emphasis on the process of art. Displays and photographic records indicate the wide range of experiences afforded to most pupils and the collaborative nature of some of this work. There is also evidence of prudent integration of the Visual Arts with other curricular areas. Individual portfolios are maintained in many classrooms which provide a valuable record of the range of work completed. Further consideration should now be given to the implementation of assessment procedures in the Visual Arts on a whole-school basis.
Through a range of activities such as listening, responding and performing, pupils are provided with opportunities to develop an appreciation and enjoyment of Music. Most lessons observed were well structured. Pupils are enabled to listen to and respond imaginatively to a range of music. They are taught a repertoire of rhyme and song, and they sing with confidence. The productive use of body and percussion instruments during some singing lessons further enhances pupils’ understanding of rhythm. The participation of some teachers in the Ceol Training Programme has greatly supported and enhanced music provision throughout the school. Pupils’ participation in the non-competitive Cór Fhéile and musical events serves to generate levels of enthusiasm for music and song.
Teachers promote dramatic activity on a regular basis and foster pupils’ skill development in a creative manner. Throughout the school, pupils are consistently encouraged to engage in dramatic activities linked to learning experiences in a number of curricular areas. Role-play features purposefully in Irish and in Social Personal and Health Education lessons. Performing artists are regularly welcomed to the school and an external tutor is employed for one term each year. Participation in school concerts and other external performances is a pleasurable experience for pupils. Parental support for these events is acknowledged.
The school is well resourced in terms of Physical Education (PE) equipment and this is used extensively during activities which are conducted mainly in the school hall and in the hard-surface play areas. Lessons are well structured to include appropriate warm-up and cool-down activities. The use of Irish during some PE lessons is a praiseworthy feature and staff is encouraged to extend this practice throughout the school. Pupils engage in activities with energy and enthusiasm, they perform their routines with care and are making good progress in developing coordination and a range of appropriate skills. The school employs the services of coaches in GAA and in swimming and an external tutor attends to the teaching of dance. All pupils participate in these activities which are funded through DEIS grants.
The whole-school plan for Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) details a wide range of related policies which supports the implementation of this curricular area. Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE), Walk Tall and Stay Safe programmes are an integral part of the SPHE programme. Commendable emphasis is placed on fostering a positive and caring atmosphere within this health promoting school. Teachers are committed to the pastoral care of pupils. Staff also ensures the provision of a secure, safe and healthy environment where pupils experience a sense of belonging.
During discrete SPHE lessons topics are explored using a variety of participative methodologies including class discussion, questioning, circle time and story. Appropriate emphasis is placed on addressing topics related to pupils’ own experiences. Integration is evident between the learning in SPHE and other aspects of the curriculum.
A comprehensive assessment policy has been documented which delineates clear procedures for assessment of learning and assessment for learning. This policy has been devised to link purposefully with other school policies namely, DEIS plan for literacy and numeracy, record keeping, data protection, reports to parents and special educational needs policies. Assessment practices, both formative and summative, are well-established in the school. Pupils’ progress is assessed regularly through a variety of approaches: regular correction of work, the administration of teacher-designed tasks and graded tests from commercial schemes. The maintenance of observation records, checklists, pupil profiles, portfolios of work and reading logs are utilised consistently to monitor pupils’ progress. The use of First Steps checklists for reading, writing and oral language, Maths Recovery Framework for early number, and handwriting checklists informs teachers of pupil achievement. The Belfield and Middle Infants Screening Tests are administered to facilitate the early identification of pupils’ learning difficulties. In addition, a range of diagnostic tests are administered to determine an appropriate learning-support programme for individual pupils, which informs the detail of the individual education plans (IEPs). Teachers maintain careful records of outcomes in all assessments and results are usefully shared between class teachers and support teachers. Considerable work has been done in collating test results and in tracking the progress of pupils through teachers’ records, pupil file and report cards.
Additional tuition is provided for pupils in the areas of literacy, numeracy, and in the development of a range of social skills. More able pupils, pupils with speech and language difficulties and pupils with poor language competency also avail of additional support. Teachers work in a conscientious manner with all partners to cater for the special educational needs of pupils. Lessons are, in general, well structured and resources are employed suitably to support learning. In most instances, teachers employ a variety of teaching approaches to engage pupils in a range of learning activities. The interactions observed between teachers and pupils receiving support were affirming and encouraging. All learning-support settings present as stimulating environments.
The results of assessments, consultation with class teachers and relevant information from parents are purposefully used in the development of individual learning programmes (IEPs). Learning targets, however, need to be further clarified and shared with mainstream class teachers. A systematic approach to detailing and recording pupil progress and the achievement of targets is necessary. It is advised that the length of time some pupils are withdrawn from the mainstream classroom be reassessed.
Early Intervention Programmes such as Reading Recovery, Maths Recovery, Literacy Lift-Off, Maths for Fun and other school-based early literacy and numeracy programmes have been initiated. A model of cooperative teaching approaches is practised which enables learning-support teachers to co-teach in mainstream classrooms. While the benefits of these approaches are acknowledged, it is recommended that these initiatives could gainfully be reviewed in order to cater further for the particular needs of individual pupils in both literacy and numeracy. Periods of instruction based on the identification of specific targets to be achieved and more focused teaching is recommended. There is scope for greater collaboration between support teachers and class teachers in the establishment and delivery of early intervention programmes. Consideration should also be given to the review of caseloads in order to further serve the needs of all pupils who may be experiencing some difficulties. This may merit placing greater emphasis on one-to-one support, particularly in the case of pupils who have been granted resource hours. A more challenging programme of work is advised for the more able pupils who attend additional tuition.
Support teachers’ timetables should also be reviewed to ensure that priority is given to uninterrupted teacher-pupil contact time. Subsequently, opportunities for teachers to plan should be re-scheduled and more appropriately timed.
Six special needs assistants make an important and valuable contribution to pupils learning under the careful guidance of class teachers. Further consideration should be given to the development of pupils’ independence.
Two teachers support twenty-two newcomer pupils in developing their competency in English as an additional language (EAL). Though confined in terms of adequate space in support rooms, staff succeed in creating attractive print-rich learning environments. A broad range of resource materials are sourced and are utilised productively in promoting language acquisition. ICT is extensively and effectively used to support pupils’ learning. Teachers are focused on delivering a broad and balanced curriculum which is varied and challenging. EAL is delivered in an integrated manner across a number of curricular areas, most notably in the Visual Arts and also in elements of SESE. Programme delivery in EAL is closely linked with activities in pupils’ respective classrooms. Pupil learning is supported in a meaningful way through the practice of introducing pupils to contextual learning in a variety of venues in the locality. The Primary Assessment Kit, with its inherent benchmarks, is gainfully utilised in compiling pupil learning profiles, in identifying learning targets and in the consistent monitoring of pupil progress. Support is provided, in the main, through withdrawal in groups, together with in-class support in both literacy and in numeracy initiatives. Staff is urged to review this practice and maximise support for pupils in greatest need.
The home school community liaison (HSCL) programme commendably seeks to maximise co-operation between parents and school. Current practice contributes significantly in progressing this partnership through the development of supportive linkages between the home, the school and selected community agencies. Activities are regularly organised to encourage parents to take an active role in their children’s education. Home-visits are routinely conducted to encourage the involvement of parents, to support them and to encourage them to engage in self-improvement courses. Parental involvement in the education of their children is exploited through a range of initiatives, such as “Games for Fun” and “Science for Fun”, among others. A variety of courses is organised to develop parents’ own personal skills which includes interior design, dance and ICT. A measure of the programme’s accomplishments to date is the up-skilling of a cohort of parents to undertake home visits and to participate in competition.
As part of their designated DEIS status, the school enjoys the additional services of the School Completion Programme (SCP) for two periods each week. A commendable programme of activities has been devised to support parents and pupils. Specific pupils deemed to be at risk are given additional support to promote skill development at a personal and social level. This initiative is much valued by staff and pupils alike. Activities such as circle time, Art, Drama and games are organised regularly to support this development. In addition summer camps are organised annually and targeted parents are encouraged to become involved, with the prime purpose of interacting with children through play.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
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, January 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management welcomes the Whole School Evaluation Report and wishes to thank the Department of Education and Science for its professional, thorough and comprehensive evaluation. The Board of Management welcomes particularly the affirmation of the caring environment in the school and the recognition of the innovative and creative programmes in the areas of literacy and numeracy. The Board of Management regards the Whole School Evaluation process, the report and the follow up actions as being of great importance for the operation and ongoing development of our school.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
In order to further improve our teaching and learning the Board of Management has commenced the implementation of the findings and recommendations within the report. The following is an outline of matters addressed since March 2009.
To optimise more focused teaching and learning the range of initiatives and their implementation have been reviewed. The Irish programme and its implementation has been fully reviewed and additional resources provided. Modifications have been made to the English programme with greater emphasis placed on a more integrative approach in all classes to reading, writing and especially discrete oral language. In relation to Mathematics an increased emphasis has been placed on oral work and the development of the higher functioning skills of problem solving.
In aiming to improve the overall programme deliver, greater harmonisation between classroom and additional supports has been further developed. The manner of recording the monthly progress report has been reviewed to ensure consistency and focus in the teaching and learning through the school.
New arrangements have been put in place with regard to the class commencement times ensuring the continuity and integrity of pupil teacher contact time.
The Board of Management has commenced an update of the present financial procedures including the manner in which accounts are maintained and the integration of the activities of the Parents’ Association account within the main school account.
The Board of Management will address the other recommendations in the report, including Policy Development, as part of our ongoing school planning.