An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Modeligo National School

Modeligo, Cappagh, Co. Waterford

Uimhir rolla:  18321T

 

Date of inspection: 13 December 2007

  Date of issue of report: 17 April 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

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Modeligo NS 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 Visual Arts. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Modeligo NS is a three-teacher national school with a long tradition of education provision in this part of County Waterford. In 1834 there were four schools in Modeligo operating privately outside the State system. On the 1st of July 1867, one of the schools, known as Modeligo School, became part of the national school system. The other schools closed and Modeligo NS served the local community until 1958 when it was replaced by the present building which is now, in 2008, exactly 50 years old. This building was extended in 1979 with a new classroom and a general purpose room. In 1998, the board with the aid of the local community raised funds to build a computer/central library room in the school. In 2000, further funds were raised to develop a wildlife woodland area at the side of the school which provides the infant/junior classes with an enchanting play area and provides all classes with a practical resource for Social Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE). A millennium garden was constructed in 2000 also at the front of the school. In 2007, a new tarmacadam area in the playground was completed, new toilets built and new playground markings put in place. Enrolment has grown steadily over the last 5 years. In 2003 there were 51 pupils enrolled in the school. Currently there are 72 pupils enrolled and it is expected that there will be 76 or more pupils enrolled in September 2008. It is clear that the school is entering a new expansionary phase in its history and this will bring new challenges to the new board of management which begins its term in January 2008.

 

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

72

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school is under the patronage of the Roman Catholic bishop of Waterford and Lismore. The characteristic spirit of the school is one of loyalty and service to the community of Modeligo. The school is very much part of the community and it is noteworthy that in the sixty-four years from 1944 to 2008, the current Principal and one of his predecessors have records of more than 30 years service each in the school, a total of sixty years service. This sense of loyalty, commitment to and care for the school is shared by the local community. The school’s mission statement reiterates these characteristics by its emphasis on nurturing responsible, capable and caring individuals within a positive, secure and happy environment.

 

 

1.2 Board of management

The final task of the current board of management was to attend this post-evaluation meeting. However, continuity is assured through the appointment of some of the current members to the new board and the new board will take up duties in January 2008. The issue that was raised most often during the term of the present board was that of funding and the physical development of the school. The board is to be complimented on the care it has taken of the school and it can be satisfied that it fulfilled its duties conscientiously and is now handing over responsibility with much achieved. A task for the new board will be to arrange for the sealing of corridor and toilet floors in order to prevent dampness causing danger to pupils and adults through slipping. When the present board began its term of office in 2003, falling enrolment was a cause of anxiety for both the board and the local community. Enrolment had reached a low of 51 pupils. Today, the main issue that faces the new board is one of increasing and expanding enrolments. It would be advisable for the new board to monitor housing trends in the area as the growth phase that the school is currently experiencing may result in additional classroom accommodation being required. It would be prudent of the new board to discuss a broad 5 year strategy for the school and set priorities for development. One of these priorities should centre on the growing issues of traffic and safety. The road outside the school is becoming a busy route with traffic diverting to Clonmel off the N72 Waterford-Killarney road. Issues such as car-parking and warning signs will need to be addressed and vigilance around road safety on the part of parents, teachers and pupils will also have to be encouraged by the new board.

 

1.3 In-school management

As this is a three-teacher mainstream school the internal management of the school is founded on inclusive consultation between the teachers and most of this consultation takes place on an informal basis. The principal takes overall responsibility for initiatives within the school but there is a high degree of cooperation among all the staff and therefore burdens are shared. As I have noted above, the principal has given over 30 years of dedicated service to the school and by extension to the local community. This service is recognised by all and is shared by the deputy principal who has also demonstrated noteworthy commitment to the school.  The administrative duties of principal and deputy principal are carried out conscientiously in the school and the in-school management team cooperate fully with the board of management for the benefit of the entire school community. During the WSE, it was recognised that all teachers in this school were investing time and effort beyond the norm into school life and thereby enhancing that life for both pupils and their families.

 

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The positive and supportive nature of relationships within the entire school community lends itself to open communication processes. Formal parent/teacher meetings take place in November and parents have attended a meeting for the development of the school’s Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy. Parents are involved in the operation of the school’s book rental scheme and in subsidising certain school activities such as swimming lessons. Parents also help transport pupils to matches and to church events. Parents help with the annual school play, school art exhibitions and with preparations for the sacraments. The teachers are aware that many new parents/families have come to the school in recent years and in order to meet new communication needs, a decision has been taken to send out a booklet to parents which summarises the relevant school policies. This booklet is being worked on at present and will be ready for printing in early 2008. The principal sends out a regular letter to the parents with an update on school events.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

It was very much in evidence during the WSE process that the school was succeeding in achieving the aims of its mission statement of developing caring individuals who were respectful of themselves and others and whose self-esteem was developed in a secure and happy environment. During interaction in all the classrooms the pupils combined courtesy with self-confidence. The school has its required policies for safety, supervision, discipline and behaviour in place to guide the management of pupils. The pupils cooperate fully with the teachers and there is a strong ethos of mutual care evident in the classrooms.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The school has developed a comprehensive set of administrative policies to aid the management of the school. The documentation includes financial reports outlining the expenditure of both DES and parents’ association income, inspection reports on teachers and the last inspection report on the school undertaken in May 1996. In addition, there are helpful policies for litter management, enrolment, bullying, homework, behaviour, discipline, health and safety and the administration of medication. All the policies are ratified by the board and signed by the chairman. As regards the enrolment policy, it would be wise of the school to advise parents of their right to appeal the board’s enrolment decisions and to ensure that the wording of sections on the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs reflects the reality that this is a very welcoming school for all pupils.

 

For the purposes of this evaluation, special attention was paid to the curricular policies for Irish, English, Mathematics and Visual Arts. The four policies are very much in line with the curriculum and some notable features of the policies include: a schedule of work in all the Visual Arts strands laid out for the year, in Mathematics there is a policy on the language to be used throughout the school, the handwriting policy is laid out from infants to sixth class in English and in Irish the policy outlines how charts of the incidental language to be used throughout the school are to be placed in every classroom. It would be important in reviewing and developing future policies that the instances of agreed practice such as the above would form the basis of policy making. Taking this concept a step further, the staff might consider agreeing the concept of core syllabi for each class as a means of fixing policies within a concrete and practical framework. It is also advised that the staff decide on a five year plan for the review of policies and that one to two policies are reviewed annually. 

 

The quality of classroom planning is marked by conscientiousness and dedication on the part of the teachers. Classroom planning guides the teachers’ work in a very beneficial way and the staff is to be complimented on the time and effort that is put into planning and thereby ensuring that lessons are interesting and rewarding for the pupils. It is noted that a common format has not been agreed for the monthly report (cuntas míosúil). It is recommended that the staff agree such a format and monthly reports must be submitted to the principal and retained in the school for two years after pupils leave in accordance with Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools.

 

 

 

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 Ghaeilge go coinsiasach gairmiúil sa scoil seo agus baintear caighdeáin arda amach. Le linn an MSU, léirigh na daltaí sna naínáin go raibh corp leathan teanga foghlamtha acu. Bhí rainn agus amhráin ar eolas go pras acu, bhí frásaí foghlamtha acu bunaithe ar ábhair a chlúdaíodh i gceachtanna agus bhí foclóir ag na daltaí a bhain le laethannta na seachtaine, uimhreacha agus orduithe ranga. Léirigh na daltaí chomh maith cumas maith tuisceana. Baineadh dea-úsáid as obair bheirte le fearas chun an teanga atá múinte a chleachtadh agus nótaíodh go mbaintear úsáid as an nGaeilge an t-am ar fad i rith na gceachtanna. Cuirtear le cumas tuisceana agus le scileanna sa teanga labhartha na ndaltaí seo sna bunranganna. Sna ranganna sin forbraítear ar inniúlacht na ndaltaí i gcumadh agus i bhfreagairt cheisteanna. Sna ranganna seo chomh maith stiúrtar na ceachtanna Gaeilge ar fad trí mheán na Gaeilge. Cinntítear inchur iomlán an ranga le ceachtanna struchtúrtha agus le difriú a shníomh isteach san obair. Sna bunranganna nasctar comhrá, léitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht le chéile go han-seiftiúil. D’oibrigh na daltaí go coinsiasach ar a dtascanna agus d’éirigh leo torthaí creidiúnacha a bhaint amach. Sna hardranganna leagtar béim inmholta ar chruinneas gramadaí sa Ghaeilge. Cleachtaítear an gramadach ó bhéal go rialta agus baintear úsáid as drámaíocht chun comhthéacs nádúrtha a chothú d’fhoghlaim na gnéithe faoi leith den teanga. Tá bailiúchán inmholta de dhrámaí ar eolas ag na daltaí agus tá siad in ann iad a léiriú go beacht tapaidh. Léann na daltaí go muiníneach agus scríobhann said go néata.

 

Moltar anois tuilleadh béime a chur ar scríbhneoireacht leanúnach tríd an scoil agus an gné maidir le cairteacha d’fheidhmeanna teanga sa phlean scoile a chur i gcrích. Comhairlíodh níos mó obair chomhoibritheach a chothú sna seomraí ranga ar ghníomhaíochtaí scríbhneoireachta. Cuireadh in iúl  roimh chríoch an MSU gur baineadh triail as seo agus gur éirigh go geal leis.  Léiríonn an oscailteacht seo proifisiúntacht na n-oidí ina ndearcadh agus ina ngníomh.

 

Irish

 

Irish is taught in both a conscientious and professional manner in this school and high standards of learning are attained by the pupils. During the WSE, pupils in the infants’ classes demonstrated a grasp of a wide range of Irish language skills. They could recite rhymes and sing songs with agility, they had learned a body of phrases based on topics covered and they demonstrated knowledge of the vocabulary for the days of the week, numbers and classroom instructions. Pupils displayed a sound understanding of the language. Good use was made of pair work using equipment to practise language already taught and it was noted that the target language is used all the time during lessons. The pupils’ abilities in understanding and oral Irish are extended in the junior classes. In these classes pupils’ abilities in devising and answering questions are expanded. The target language is again used throughout lessons. Structured lessons and differentiated learning ensure participation and the oral language, reading and writing aspects of Irish teaching are linked very skilfully. The pupils worked conscientiously on their tasks and they succeeded in achieving creditable results. In the middle and senior classes, there is laudable emphasis on grammatical accuracy in Irish. The grammar aspects of the language are practised orally and drama is used to give realistic contexts to the teaching of specific aspects of the language. The pupils have learned a praiseworthy collection of plays and are able to put them together for performance swiftly and efficiently. The pupils read confidently and write neatly in the language.

 

It is advised that increased emphasis is placed on continuous writing in the school and that the aspect of the whole school plan regarding charts of language functions is implemented. It was also advised to make more use of peer learning in written activities and it was reported before the end of the WSE process that this advice had been put into practice very successfully. This openness to new ideas and innovation is the hallmark of the professionalism of the teachers in this school in both outlook and deed.

 

 

 

English

 

In oral language the infant pupils are very well trained to listen to each other and to ask questions of each other. Exemplary use is made of pair work for developing many aspects of the infants’ English curriculum. A very wide range of rhymes have been taught and the pupils recite these with ease and with enjoyment. This work could be further developed by using the rhymes that have been taught and learned as a means to develop phonological awareness. To develop reading skills the print rich environment of the classroom is used to praiseworthy effect. Pupils have learned to read words and sentences in the classroom and pupils are divided into groups to take tours of the room reading everything in sight. This is very good practice. In addition, pupils are learning to read each other’s morning news thereby combining the teaching of reading and writing in an imaginative way. This already good practice could be further extended by the creation of big books of pupils’ news for reading in class. The pupils are already developing a neat handwriting style and pupils prepare for future work on the reading scheme by engaging in paired word games using the vocabulary of the reading scheme. The classroom library is well stocked. The continuity between infants and the junior classes is evident in the way in the way very good use is made of limited space in the junior classroom to develop paired work for oral language tasks. There is also an emphasis on learning poetry in the junior classes which mirrors the emphasis on nursery rhymes in infants. The classroom library here is also well stocked and pupils are encouraged to read and enjoy reading. Writing sessions in the junior classes are very well prepared and there is a high level of teacher input and preparation evident in the lessons. The writing tasks are differentiated for the different class groupings and process writing techniques are employed successfully to create class books. The continuity and consistency is maintained in the senior classes where pupils have become very adept at oral language activities. Work observed included - pupils being given a topic and being given 30 seconds to prepare a talk on that topic, pupils taking on the persona of a character in one of their class novels and fielding questions in character role, pupils debating a point and pupils setting up a class meeting with chairperson, secretary etc. In all of these activities the pupils went into role immediately. They spoke, debated, replied, fielded questions and took turns with skill and discipline. There is also consistency in the approach to writing where tasks are prepared with great care and the stimulus is given much thought beforehand. Pupils work in groups and discuss the topics before writing takes place. There is variety in pupils writing tasks but there is a special emphasis on imaginative response to stimulus. The teacher has maintained samples of pupils’ writing generated by this approach over a period of 20 years. Other genres of writing involving work on projects (designing a town) and poetry are also undertaken.  There are future plans to develop use of the school’s ICT facility. An external drama teacher works in the school and this work was observed during the WSE. The pupils were being prepared very successfully for the tri-annual Christmas concert with both class-teacher and external drama teacher working successfully together.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The hallmarks of early years Mathematics teaching in this school include use of the environment to help pupils become familiar with number. Pupils are encouraged to recognise numbers around the school (numbers on doors). Other hallmarks include practical use of equipment, an emphasis on oral discussion and pupil involvement in games. Formal lessons are also taught using equipment. Number rhymes feature as do pupils reading out instructions for their work. The fact that pupils have been trained from an early age to work in pairs with mathematical equipment allows for ease of organisation in the junior classes. Again there is consistency in the approaches adopted as Mathematics in the junior classes are taught making very good use of pupils working in pairs with mathematical equipment. The pupils cooperate very well and the differentiated tasks ensure all pupils are working within their ability range. The pupils’ display more independent skills in senior classes and engage in self correction. It was advised that peer learning also has a place in the teaching and learning of Mathematics.

 

3.3 Visual Arts

Due to the confined space of the two classrooms in the 1958 building, the school makes very good use of the general purposes room for art lessons. All art materials are held in a central location in this room in lockers. This system allows for ease of organisation of lessons. Art is given due recognition in the curriculum of the school and this is very much in evidence in the care that has been taken with displays. The infants were very pleased to talk and discuss their art work and features of the work included observation in the local area, sketching, rubbings, painting and pupils have also talked about the work of famous artists.  A particular study of the old church in Modeligo was organised and pupils can discuss aspects of the building with confidence. In the junior classes the pupils were very keen to discuss their work and the displays in the school corridor were particularly attractive. The senior classes have undertaken imaginative work and pupils discuss the work of famous artists with insight and maturity. During the post-evaluation visit which took place near Christmas time, the school had engaged in a striking example of collaborative Christmas art. The school is fortunate in that a former pupil who is studying Art at third level has visited the school and worked with pupils on topics.

 

 

3.4 Assessment

The teachers use a wide range of assessment modes including informal observation, short tests and portfolios of work. Standardised testing is used mainly to identify pupils who may need extra support. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually to discuss pupil progress.

 

 

 

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A part-time learning support service is provided in the school and a part-time resource teaching service is also provided.  The resource teacher comes to the school for 3 hours per week to work with one pupil. The Special Needs Assistant (SNA) works in the classroom with the resource pupil and follows-up on advice given in both the pupil’s specialist report and exercises undertaken by the resource teacher.

 

The resource teacher works intensely with one pupil and has helped the pupil make very encouraging progress. It is of enormous benefit to the school that the resource teacher is fully qualified and is highly experienced. The activities prepared for the pupil are in line with the recommendations of the relevant specialist services for the pupil. The pupil, the resource teacher, the class teacher and the SNA work very well together and thereby ensure the delivery of a high quality service.

 

The learning support teacher (LST) is attached to another school. The school’s learning support policy is very helpful for guiding the work of the school. The standardised tests provide teachers with information to select pupils for learning support. In choosing pupils, the school complies fully with the Department’s Learning Support Guidelines. There is an emphasis on prevention in the school and schemes such as the buddy reading scheme whereby pupils from the senior classes work with infants classes is of great benefit. The shared reading scheme involving parents is also of help. The policy allows for consultation between the class teacher and the LST to discuss preparation of the pupils’ education plans. Progress on each plan is reviewed at the end of each term and all documentation is maintained with care.

 

In the learning support context, use is made of real-life situations to develop pupils’ mathematical ability. These situations include making use of shopping catalogues and cooking projects. The teacher involved seeks to ensure that the pupils are at ease in the learning support situation working with practical and real-life material. All pupils, but particularly the older pupils who are experiencing language and mathematical difficulties, derive notable benefit from the practical approach and positive atmosphere. Pupils who have difficulty with language are taught the basic functional vocabulary from the Dolch list and other materials are used to reinforce language skills.

 

In order to develop this service within the constraints of the current time allocation, the school could now look at the following issues:

 

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

There are no distinct disadvantaged or minority groups in the school. However, there are some instances of disadvantage within the school and therefore the school draws on the Department’s DEIS funding. This money is disbursed wisely by the school and setting aside some of the DEIS funding for training purposes was discussed with the board of management at the post-evaluation meeting.

 

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:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.