An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Áine Naofa,

Seafield, Bonmahon, County Waterford  

Uimhir rolla: 18167M

 

Date of inspection: 23 October 2008

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

School Response to the Report

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Áine Naofa was undertaken in September, 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 Drama. The board of management was given the opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix to this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Áine Naofa is a co-educational Catholic primary school under the patronage of the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore. This well-established school serves a rural community in the parish of Stradbally and Ballylaneen, Co. Waterford and the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the school was celebrated in 2007. There are currently 45 pupils on roll. This number has grown over the years and it is envisaged that enrolment should grow in the coming years. Pupil attendance is good.

 

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

45

Mainstream classes in the school

2

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

The Catholic ethos is central to the characteristic spirit and mission of Scoil Áíne Naofa. The school aims to instil confidence and self-esteem in the pupils, enabling them to reach their potential, both academically and socially, and also to have a respect for themselves, others and the environment. This is exemplified in the school’s success in securing and retaining the Green Flag on four occasions. It is also hoped that pupils will develop an appreciation and a respect for their own culture and heritage and to develop into self-disciplined, well-balanced adults. Respect  is fostered for other nationalities and cultures.

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The board of management is properly constituted and it is evident that the chairman and members conduct their duties competently and efficiently. Meetings are held three to four times each year and more often as the need arises. The chairperson is a regular visitor to the school and is a great support to the principal. Plans and policies come to the board for discussion and comment and are subsequently ratified. The board has taken an active role in the development of the health and safety statement of the school and continues to monitor its implementation. It is advised that the content of the Enrolment Policy should be reviewed to ensure that it complies with current legislation.  

 

The board oversees the maintenance of the school and a number of minor projects have been carried out over the past number of years including updating the heating system, wiring and painting of the school. A current concern of the board is the poor state of the roof on the school. They are also concerned that the current classrooms were constructed before a standard classroom size became the norm and as a result, they feel that the classrooms are very inadequate for the current large numbers. The board also oversees an array of fundraising activity. They partly funded the purchase of interactive whiteboards for each classroom, and are supportive of requests for resources made by the teaching staff.

 

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The principal demonstrates dedication in her role and has a clear vision for the future. She has provided leadership in the development of the school plan and is well respected by the school community. She promotes a climate of open-communication and cooperation, and as a result, relationships across the whole school community are positive. The principal is ably supported by the Special Duties Holder with whom a good working relationship exists.

 

The special duties post includes a list of duties that are suited to the two-teacher setting and complement and support the role of the principal. These include additional supervision duties, organisation of shared reading, resources for physical education and ICT and after school training and games. There is frequent collaboration on both a formal and an informal basis.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The good communication and a sense of partnership between parents and teachers is a feature of the school. Parents are encouraged to take an active part in school life and are included in many activities such as shared reading. The representatives of the parents’ association reported that parents are always welcome in the school and that they are happy with the work of the school. The parents’ association contributes confidently to school life through fundraising, providing extra supervision during school trips and during swimming lessons, organising extra-curricular activities and helping with the school garden. The parent representatives on the board of management act as links with the parents’ association, thus ensuring good communication. Regular newsletters are provided to keep parents updated.

 

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

A sense of care and concern for the holistic development of all pupils is evident in the school. During the evaluation, pupils demonstrated mannerly, courteous and friendly behaviour. They were willing to partake in discussions and to participate in all activities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole-school planning is good. A three-year long term plan outlines the priorities in both organisational and curricular areas over the coming years.  A large number of organisational policies have been developed, including policies on enrolment, child protection, code of behaviour, anti-bullying, administration of medicine and internet usage amongst many others. It is advised that the Code of Behaviour policy should now be reviewed to ensure that it conforms to provisions in Section 23 of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. All policies and plans have been ratified by the board of management. Parents have a role in reviewing and giving an input into certain policies.

 

Curricular plans have been developed for all subject areas and a timetable for review of these plans forms part of the school’s long-term plan. The current curricular plans are consistent with the aims and principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and they provide some guidance for classroom practice. Templates from various school support agencies have been used by the staff for the development of their own plans and all have a review date. The review of these plans should be taken as an opportunity to reflect on the effectiveness of programmes in various curricular areas. Plans should outline clear content statements for each class that ensure progression and continuity as well as breadth and balance in the programmes provided to the pupils. They should also indicate how classroom practice can be improved and identify the learning experiences that will be provided.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good. Teachers provide long and short term planning for all areas of the curriculum. The planning outlines learning objectives as well as the content, methodologies and approaches to differentiation for each subject. While teachers have overcome many of the difficulties in planning for four classes they should ensure that planning outlines clear learning objectives for each class where necessary.  The short term plans are ticked as a record of work for the cuntas míosúil (monthly report) and stored by the principal.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

 

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (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.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Múintear an Gaeilge go sásúil sa scoil. Leagtar béim ar leith ar réimse leathan modheolaíochtaí agus baintear úsáid mhaith as pictiúir, cairteacha, an teicneolaíocht agus cluichí cainte chun teanga na ndaltaí a neartú agus chun deiseanna cainte a chruthú dóibh. Baintear an-úsáid as obair beirte agus cuirtear an t-ábhar in oiriúint do shuim agus cumas na ndaltaí sna seomraí. soiléir go mbaineann na daltaí taitneamh as an obair. Moltar anois é seo a fhorbairt a thuilleadh fós trí éagsúlacht níos sna tascanna agus trí réimse níos leithne de chomhthéacsanna cainte difriúla a chruthú do an daltaí. tábhachtach chomh maith structúirí agus nathanna cainte a mhúineadh chomh maith le foclóir bunaithe ar na téamaí éagsúla.

 

Sna bunranganna, cuirtear tús maith leis an gclár ullmhúcháin don litearthacht. Ta go leor prionta Gaeilge sa timpeallacht agus insíonn an múinteoir scéalta do na daltaí. Ba chóir anois an clár seo a leathnú a thuilleadh fós le béim ar fhogharluach na litreacha agus ar fhocal aithint, chomh maith le sraith leabhair oiriúnacha a chur ar fáil do an daltaí. Úsáidtear an téacsleabhar don fhormhór chun an léitheoireacht a chleachtadh sna ranganna sinsearacha agus léann na daltaí na píosaí seo le tuiscint agus le muinín don fhormhór. Ba chóir ábhair léitheoireachta breise agus fíor leabhair Gaeilge a chur ar fáil agus a úsáid chun dúshlán níos a chothú do na daltaíDéanann an daltaí cleachtaí éagsúla scríbhneoireachta bunaithe ar na leabhair saothair faoi threoir an mhúinteora. Fanann mar dhúshlán sa scoil an scríbhneoireacht phearsanta a fhorbairt agus deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí tascanna éagsúla scríbhneoireachta a chleachtadh.

 

 

Irish

The teaching of Irish is satisfactory in the school. Due emphasis is placed on the use of a wide range of learning approaches, and pictures, charts, technology and language games are used well to strengthen the pupils’ language skills and to create speaking opportunities for them. Good use is made of paired work, and the content is suited to the interest and ability of the pupisl in the classrooms. It is evident that pupils enjoy this work. It is now advised that this is further developed through the use of a wider variety in the tasks set and through the creation of a wider range of speaking contexts for the pupils. It is also important that structures and phrases are taught along with the vocabulary that is based on various themes.

 

In the lower classes, a good start is made in the preparation for reading. There is ample Irish print in the environment and the teacher reads stories to the pupils. This programme should now be broadened further with emphasis on the sounds of letters and word recognition skills, as well as the provision of a scheme of suitable readers. The textbook is the main source of reading material in senior classes and the pupils generally read these pieces with understanding and confidence. Extra reading material and real books should now be provided and used to increase challenge for the pupils.  The pupils do various written exercises based on the workbooks or under direction from the teacher. It will now be a challenge to develop personal writing throughout the school and to provide extra opportunities for pupils to engage in various writing tasks. 

 

 

English

The school’s plan for English provides some useful guidance to the teachers in the implementation of the English curriculum. However, this should now be reviewed so that it provides extra guidance to teachers on the implementation of various aspects of the English programme. All teachers should be clear on the spiral nature of the curriculum, and this should be reflected in the programme for each class. 

 

Due attention is paid to the development of the pupils’ oral language skills throughout the school. Langauge skills are taught through integration across the whole curriculum as well as during the reading and writing lessons. Discrete lessons focus on the development of particular skills and pupils are given opportunities to express well articulated views.

 

In junior classes, the emphasis is on the development of emergent reading skills. Infants begin with acquisition of basic sight vocabulary. Various approaches are used to develop skills in phonics. Big books and real books are used effectively in developing reading readiness and book skills. The further development of these approaches as well as a focus on phonological awareness and phonemic skills should lead to a decision to delay the use of the formal reading scheme that is currently in use during early junior infants. In the senior class, the reading scheme is the main focus for the reading programme and the majority of pupils have achieved a good standard of reading. However, the use of the class reader could be more positively supplemented with further use of novels in order to increase pupil interest and competence.

 

The school library which has been recently developed in the adjacent prefab is a positive addition to the school. This is put to good use with pupils in senior classes taking on the role of the librarian during class visits. It is well stocked with a good supply of books for all reading levels. Pupils also have access to books in their classrooms. A shared reading scheme is in operation in the school and parents participate willingly to the benefit of the pupils. 

 

Pupils engage in a wide variety of writing tasks. Daily news, exercises from workbooks as well as stories are undertaken. The teachers have decided on three genres during each school year so that pupils have a chance for more in-depth focus on each. This practice is commendable and some very good work on the ‘recount’ genre was observed during the evaluation. The school should now seek to develop writing further and it is advised that pupils be given regular opportunities to write independently and creatively in a wide variety of genres in all classes.  This work could be celebrated through display, through compilation into book form, through ICT or through oral presentation. Handwriting skills are developed throughout the school with a good standard in most classes.  Due emphasis is placed on learning poetry and pupils recite a selection of poems with enthusiasm.

 

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

The standard of Mathematics in the school is generally good. Beginning a lesson with oral and mental maths is a daily feature of lessons and is an effective way to revise and consolidate concepts and skills. Games are used effectively in this regard and high levels of engagement and enthusiasm were noted. Rhymes and songs are also drawn upon effectively with the junior classes to complement the programme. Concrete materials are utilised purposefully by the teachers and pupils to facilitate the mastery of concepts and skills and are also used for effective differentiation for some pupils. In all classes, the use of manipulatives should precede all topics and pupils should be provided with ample opportunities to engage with these. Lesson content is presented clearly and emphasis is placed on the acquisition of mathematical language in all classes. Written work is regularly monitored but pupils should be encouraged to present copy work more carefully.

 

3.3 Drama

 

The quality of teaching and learning in the area of Drama is good. The school plan for Drama outlines the programme for the whole school for the year. A drama contract has been devised for each classroom and pupils are aware of expected behaviours during lessons, thus helping a safe context in which to practise. Despite the lack of a general purpose room, teachers are resourceful in finding appropriate space for lessons. The prefab building can be used for some drama lessons when vacated by the learning support teacher and this extra space is put to good effect. The yard can also be used for certain activities-weather permitting. Teachers employ a wide range of effective strategies in exploring the various strand units of the drama programme. The content is appropriate and pupils engage well during the lessons. There are good cross-curricular links with pupils being given opportunities to respond to the drama lessons through art and creative writing. Indeed drama was observed as a successful tool to aid learning in other subject areas. The nativity play performed in the local church is an annual event for the school. Photographs demonstrate the effort involved and the enjoyment of the pupils.

 

 

3.4 Assessment

 

A variety of assessment tools are in use by the teachers. These include the monitoring of pupils’ work, teacher observation and teacher designed tests and tasks. The Middle Infants Screening Test (MIST) is administered to senior infants to identify pupils experiencing difficulties in literacy. Standardised tests are administered annually to assess pupil attainment in both English and Mathematics from first to sixth class. The results of these tests are generally used to select pupils in need of supplementary teaching.

 

The school should now commence more systematic recording of test results and observations. Results of standardised tests should be analysed. As a result, whole school trends in attainment can be tracked on an annual basis and programmes should then be modified or adjusted to suit learning needs.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

Both learning support and resource teaching is delivered by a shared learning support teacher who is based in another local school. She is currently based in Scoil Áine for fifteen hours per week and spends some time in the school every day. A policy has been devised for the area of learning support and special needs. The work of the learning support teacher is effective and careful preparation is put into lessons. Support is offered in both literacy and numeracy. Withdrawal is the main model of support offered but part of the early intervention programme is delivered through the in-class support model. The learning support teacher comes into the junior classroom to work on a phonics and word recognition programme with the infant classes on a weekly basis. However, the four classes in the room, as well as the limited space, takes from the effectiveness of this current model of support. Further thought should be given to this approach, and other models of team-teaching and in-class support should be explored. The inclusion of a phonological awareness programme should also be included as part of a whole school early intervention programme.

 

Detailed Individual Profiles and Learning Plans (IPLP) are provided for each pupil. However, the learning support teacher should make further use of some diagnostic testing in helping to set specific, measurable and timed targets for the learning period as part of the IPLP for each pupil. Short term plans are currently devised on a monthly basis.

 

 

 

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

 

This section does not currently apply to this school.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

  • There is a sense of partnership and collegiality between the school, the board of management and the parents which creates a familial, caring environment for pupils.
  • The teachers, ancillary staff, the board of management and the parents are dedicated to providing the best opportunities for the pupils in the school.
  • There is variety in the teaching approaches used in providing worthwhile learning experiences to pupils in many areas of the curriculum.
  • A positive attitude towards the environment is cultivated and the school has had great success in the Green Schools Programme.

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

  • Curricular plans and programmes should be reviewed to ensure optimal and effective practice across all subject areas.
  • Independent writing in both Irish and English should be further developed.
  • More formal mechanisms should be developed for the recording of results from assessments, and these results should be analysed so that a clearer picture of pupil progress can be obtained.
  • Staff should review the recommendations made throughout the report and include these in a long-term plan for school development.  

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Published, January 2009

 

 

 

 

Appendix

School Response to the Report

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

The Board has studied the findings and is acting on the recommendations in this report.