An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

 REPORT

 

Saint Matthew’s National School

Cranfield Place, Sandymount, Dublin 4

Uimhir rolla:18282M  

 

Date of inspection: 21 November 2007

  Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

1.     Quality of school management

2.     Quality of school planning

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.     Quality of support for pupils

5.     Conclusion

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of St Mattthew’s was undertaken in November 2007. 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 History.  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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

St. Matthew’s is a six teacher co-educational school operating in the parish of Irishtown under the patronage of the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin. The school was originally built in 1832 and replaced by the current building in 1959 as a two-teacher school. It was extended in 2001 and has been upgraded to a very high standard with excellent outdoor play facilities available to the pupils. It also houses a preschool and after-school club, a comprehensive library and provides a wide range of extra-curricular activities. The school is part of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority network of Schools and is in receipt of support, teacher in service and some funding. The current teaching principal was appointed in 2003 and due to retirements and other changes all current members of staff have been appointed since that date. In recent years demand for school places has grown considerably and long waiting lists are created each year. School attendance is generally 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

115

Mainstream classes in the school

5

Teachers on the school staff

6

Mainstream class teachers

5

Teachers working in support roles

3

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

The ethos statement of the school emphasises collaboration and the equal involvement of all partners in catering for the learning needs of each child. It was evident during the inspection that every effort is being made in many aspects of school life to reflect this aspiration: the contributions of parents and pupils are highly valued; decisions are made democratically and there is a very good team approach taken by staff members. However, the statement does not make any reference to the patronage of the school and the other core values and daily practices that reflect the particular context of this school. It is therefore recommended that the ethos statement be reviewed as a matter of priority to take these aspects into account.

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The board of management is properly constituted, meets regularly, keeps detailed minutes of its meetings, audits its accounts on an annual basis and presents a yearly report to the annual general meeting of the parents’ association. The board is clearly supportive of the work of the school and is highly commended on the recent improvements to the school building and the level of classroom resources provided to teachers and pupils. The board also provides funding to ensure that the principal is afforded ample time to attend to her duties while at the same time ensuring minimum disruption for the pupils in her class. Policies and plans are discussed carefully and ratified, and regular and effective contact is maintained between the chairperson and the principal.  The board is also commended on the level of communication maintained between the board and the whole school community. The board is committed to developing ICT usage in the school in the coming years.  

 

As a new board has recently been established and in light of the extra responsibilities assigned to boards and the increasingly complex environment in which they operate, it is recommended that this board engage in formal training on different aspects of management beginning with the roles and responsibilities of members. It is also recommended that the chairperson should lead and guide the members of the board in formulating a development plan for the future of the school. This is particularly important in the context of the current demand for places in the school. The board itself has identified the need to review the policy on enrolment and it is recommended that this take place as a matter of urgency to ensure its full compliance with relevant legislation.

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The general organisation and management of the school is excellent: collaborative planning and democratic decision-making are features of how the staff members work together and the sense of team work and support for one another is very evident. The principal communicates very effectively with all members of the school community and has undertaken many new initiatives since being appointed, for example: establishing Circle Time in all classes, developing a common planning template for all teachers, creating a Green Schools Committee, and providing an after-school club and extending the range of extra curricular activities. Staff meetings are held regularly with agendas set and minutes taken and the chairing of these meetings is rotated. Ongoing staff development is supported and a wide range of courses have been undertaken by individual members. With such a solid foundation laid and the good practices established it is now timely for the principal to lead and direct the staff members toward more effective monitoring  and review of areas of the learning and teaching which have been identified in the school as areas of priority. 

 

The principal is very ably supported in her work by the deputy principal and the post holder. This in-school management team meets regularly on an informal basis and it is planned that that these meetings will be put on a more formal footing in 2008. The duties of the post holders are carried out very effectively and much time and personal commitment is given to fulfilling the roles. It is recommended that the duties of the post-holders be reviewed to reflect leadership roles and the changing needs of the school. The work of the school secretary and other ancillary staff members is very well managed and they contribute effectively to the running of the school.

 

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

One of the strengths of this school is the very positive communication that has been developed and fostered with all members of its community. Each class has a parent representative on the parents association and the chairperson meets formally with the principal on a regular basis. The yearly class meetings, the newsletter, website, notice board and contact list have all been very effective in keeping the general parent body informed of happenings in the school. Parents are also invited to the monthly assemblies and have been directly involved in developing some of the policies that are being implemented in the school. Information about pupil progress is easily attained and parents speak very highly of the commitment and approachability of the staff members and of the standard of teaching in the school. A very comprehensive file is maintained on each child ensuring that all relevant information is directly at hand both for the teachers and the parents. 

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

Mutual respect is central to the ethos of the school and pupil behaviour is generally very good. A number of formal and informal strategies to foster good behaviour are in place: Circle Time; class rules; weekly assembly; code of behaviour; engagement of the pupils in structured lessons; pupil involvement and independent learning skills. Members of staff are committed to continuing developing this aspect of school life. In reviewing the school code of behaviour consideration should be given to the guidelines on Developing School Codes of Behaviour which will be published by the National Education Welfare Board in due course.  

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. The school plan is a very comprehensive document written in accessible and unambiguous language and provides clear guidance for all the school community on the various organisational policies and practices. An effective collaborative approach was taken to developing polices, with all staff members involved. The content of the curriculum plans reflects the principles and content of the primary curriculum adapted specifically for this school. In the light of the very good work that has been carried out on planning it is timely for the school to now develop a number of action plans to monitor the implementation and impact of all the individual school plans on children’s learning.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good. A common format for both classroom planning and the recording of monthly progress has been developed for the school and this is highly commended. Integrated themes are a feature of classroom planning and some excellent work was seen in this regard. However, the templates need to be further adapted to allow for a more effective linkage to be made between the school plan and individual long-term planning in particular.

 

 

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

Is léir go bhfuil na hoidí ag iarraidh spéis agus dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge a chothú i measc na ndaltaí.  Eagraítear seachtain na Gaeilge gach bliain; téann rang 5 agus rang 6 go dtí an Ghaeltacht; tá láithreacha suime ar fáil sna seomraí agus tá an teanga le feiceáil ar fhógraí sna seomraí ranga agus timpeall na scoile. Déanann an fhoireann a dícheall chun na Gaeilge a úsáid mar theanga caidrimh le linn na gceachtanna. Moltar an chleachtadh sin a fheabhsú. Tá caighdéan sásúil á bhaint amach sa Ghaeilge san iomlán. Cuirtear béim chuí ar na páistí a bheith gníomhach sna ceachtanna agus baintear feidhm as cluichí teanga, obair beirte, rainn agus sceitsí beaga chun scileanna teanga a dhaingniú. Úsáidtear an-chuid áiseanna chun teacht i gcabhair ar na daltaí. Sna hardranganna múintear an ghrammadach go héifeachtúil i gcomhthéasc na gceachtanna a bhíonn ar siúl.  Cé go bhfuil plean scoile sa Ghaeilge leaghtha amach go cuimsitheach, moltar athbhreithniú a dhéanamh air chun treoracha níos éifeachtúla a thabhairt dos na hoidí maidir le múineadh na téamaí éagsúla: ina bhfuil leanúnachas léirithe ó rang go rang agus  ina bhfuil béim sa bhreis ar scileanna éisteachta agus labhartha. Moltar athmhachnamh a dhéanamh chomh maith ar an léitheoireacht chun stratéisí a aithint chun suim agus scileanna sa léitheoireacht a chothú. Bhí samplaí eagsúla den scríbhneoireacht ar taispeáint le linn an mheasúnaithe.

 

Irish

It is evident that the teachers are developing an interest and a positive attitude to Irish among the pupils.  An Irish week is organised every year;  5th and 6th class pupils go to the Gaeltacht; interest areas have been set up in classrooms and examples of the language are displayed around the school on notices and labels. The staff members make great efforts to use Irish as the language of communication when teaching Irish. This practice is encouraged and should continue to be developed. The standard of teaching and learning in Irish in general is satisfactory. Appropriate emphasis is placed on active participation by the pupils in lessons and use is made of language games, pair work, rhymes and drama to consolidate the oral language skills. A wide range of resources is used in the teaching to support the learning. In the senior classes Irish grammar is taught effectively in the context of the everyday lessons. Even though the school plan is quite comprehensive, further detail is need to provide clear guidance to the teachers in the teaching of the various themes; where development and progression is evident and where more emphasis is placed on listening skills. A review of the teaching of Irish reading should also take place where strategies for cultivating interest in, and developing reading skills, are clearly identified. Samples of Irish writing were provided during the inspection. 

 

 

English

The quality of learning and teaching in English is generally very good in the school. The emphasis on the development of literacy skills is commendable and pupils’ standard of reading is very good. A print rich environment exists in all classes and an interest in reading is encouraged through weekly access to the school library, the MS Readathon, and the use of class novels from 2nd to 6th class. There is a structured phonics programme in the infant classes with appropriate emphasis placed on phonemic awareness. A ‘buddy’ system for reading is in place and the reading programme is well structured at this level. Good exploration of the class novel takes place in the middle and senior classes and pupils are given opportunities to explore other texts also. Effective emphasis is placed on using word attack and skimming and scanning skills at this level and pupils can readily decipher new words without difficulty. Supplementary readers are used from junior infants to 4th class. In these classes details are kept by the class teacher of dates and readers in use. All pupils in the school have weekly access to the library and all books borrowed are recorded using the Alice Library cataloguing system. The standard of oral language skills is generally good and these are taught informally as part of the reading process. It is recommended that the overall school plan for oral language be revised to include specific language objectives and a broader range of poetry for each class level. A structured handwriting programme is in place with clear targets in handwriting set out for each class and consequently the standard of penmanship is very good. Pupils are given very good opportunities to engage in creative writing in a number of different genres and excellent examples of the pupils work was on display in some of the classrooms. The increased use of both ICT and the writing process which are planned, will enhance the writing skills already developed.

 

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

A broad and balanced curriculum in Mathematics is being taught in all classes and the quality of learning and teaching is generally very good.  Classrooms are well resourced with mathematical equipment and appropriate emphasis is placed on the use of concrete materials, small group work and connecting mathematics with real life, in all classes. The pupils readily engage in solving problems and can use estimation skills appropriate to their age. The mathematics lessons are well structured: pupils are engaged and their interest is sustained through appropriate activities. It was also evident that in general mathematical skills are consolidated and revised consistently. It is recommended that more time be given to oral and mental mathematics preferably at the beginning of each lesson to develop pupils’ computational and thinking skills. The use of a consistent approach to the language of number has been very effective. It is now recommended that the mathematical language associated with other concepts be identified for a similar approach.  ICT would be a very useful tool that could be exploited to provide further opportunities to cater for the differing abilities in the various classes and the inclusion of maths trails and further work on problem solving would enhance the mathematical programme.

 

 

3.3 History

 

The quality of teaching and learning in History is very good. Careful school planning ensures that all strand units are included and that no unnecessary overlap is taking place. The emphasis on teaching history in the school is on developing the skills of the historian and on interpreting significant events of the past and this is reflected in the work being carried out in each class. Story is used very effectively in the infant classes and a variety of other approaches and resources including timelines, artefacts, pictures and photographs, surveys, interviews and novels are used very effectively through the school to support the teaching and learning. Project work is a particular feature of history in the senior classes and some excellent work was on display. Pupils are encouraged to engage with evidence and to discuss and explore topics in some depth. They ably answered questions and discussed the areas which had been covered. The school is currently developing a school museum; some excellent artefacts have been sourced and when a suitable location is found in the building to house these it should be a great addition to the school. Further emphasis on local history could enhance the overall programme.

 

3.4 Assessment

 

The school uses a number of formal and informal strategies to assess pupil learning. These include teacher observation, the Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests, the MIST screening test in senior infants and the Drumcondra profiles for reading. Each teacher keeps an assessment folder which contains samples of the pupils work, results from teacher designed tests and in some classes, individual reading records and Mathematics assessment booklets. Pupils’ copies are corrected regularly with notes written to give feedback to the pupils. The school maintains records carefully and information on pupil progress is readily accessible for all teachers and parents.

 

It is now recommended that in the context of the school commitment to good planning and pupil learning, a whole-school approach to assessment should be introduced which focuses on the process of assessment and a continuum of assessment methodologies. This will enable the staff members to have an overview of the level of continuity and progression across all curriculum areas, to guide the teaching and learning and to assess individual pupil attainment.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

A lot of very good work has been done in establishing the learning support structure since last September.  A combination of in-class support and pupil withdrawal is used to provide support to identified pupils. Individual Profile and Learning programmes (IPLP) and Individual Education programmes (IEP) have been developed for all pupils and very clear and helpful long and short-term targets have been identified and relevant individual programmes have been developed from the good range of resources available. Pupils are encouraged to be involved in their own learning programmes and the provision made for the pupil with exceptional ability is noteworthy. Lessons are well planned and structured, appropriate methodologies are used and the pupils are positively engaged in their learning. As the learning support structure is being developed a review of the policy on special educational needs is recommended. This should include greater involvement of parents in the formulation and development of all IPLPs and IEPs, an extension of in-class support, the use of a broader range of diagnostic tests in setting and reviewing targets, the use of ICT and the creation portfolios of individual pupil progress and attainments.

 

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

 

Language support is being provided for a small number of pupils who do not have English as a first language. The Integrate Ireland programme is used to focus the teaching and learning on developing an academic and social vocabulary and a fluency the use of language. It is now recommended that the policy on Special Education be reviewed to include a section on language support which would provide further guidance on the strategies to be used in the teaching, the setting of targets for individual children and the resources required.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The Board thanks the Inspectorate for making the inspection and the report a positive experience.  The Board welcomes the affirmation given to the school in recognition of the school’s commitment to care of pupils and to collaboration of all the partners in education.

 

 

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 noted the recommendations of the report and has already implemented some of these, and is in the process of implementing the remainder.