An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

 REPORT

 

Drom National School

Templemore County Tipperary

Uimhir rolla: 18322V

 

    Date of inspection: 9 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

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

A whole-school evaluation of Drom N.S. was undertaken in October 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 Science. 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

Drom National School is a five-teacher, co-educational school, under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Cashel and Emly, which caters for pupils from junior infants to sixth class. The school is a denominational school and school activities are guided by a Catholic ethos. The school is located in the parish of Drom, approximately five kilometres from Templemore and Borrisoleigh County Tipperary.

 

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

84

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

5

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The ethos of the school is clearly stated in the information booklet disseminated to new parents when they enrol their children. It states…. Our school’s attitudes, beliefs and values are based on Christian values of honesty, justice, tolerance, respect and self-control. As teachers, we strive to uphold these values in our attitudes and in our dealings with parents.

 

Our traditions will be based on our country’s traditions. We aim to give the pupils a love and respect for all things Irish i.e. our language, our music, our games, our dance, our poetry and literature, our flag and our National Anthem. The mission statement in Drom National School is realised in the practise of the teachers, the attitude of the children and through the support of the whole school community.

 

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted, meets at least once per term and more frequently when the need arises.  The board is very supportive of all school-related activities. The board has instituted an active maintenance programme including the replacement of a section of the roof and the refurbishment of toilets and the conversion of cloakroom areas to support- teaching rooms. The members of the board and parents provide support to the school in maintaining and developing the school grounds. The board is actively involved in a wide range of school activities including the school concert. The board is engaged in fund-raising activities and has prioritised the development of a school extension to enable the full provision of a broad and balanced curriculum. The board is also anxious to provide support in the form of material resources in order to enhance the quality of teaching and learning throughout the school.

 

The board stated its satisfaction with the academic performance of the pupils in the school and praised the broad based nature of the curriculum being delivered in the school particularly in Drama, Music and Physical Education. The board identified a number of key strengths in the school, particularly the open relationship that exists between the pupils and the teachers and the teachers and the wider school community.

 

The board convenes on a regular basis, and endeavours to meet all its statutory obligations through the development and implementation of appropriate policies. The board has ratified a very wide range of policies outlining the ethos of the school, code of behaviour, anti-bullying policy, attendance policy, enrolment policy, provision for pupils with special educational needs, child protection guidelines, fire safety and the administration of medicines. These policies and many others are contained in a very comprehensive information booklet for parents which is distributed to all new parents when they are enrolling their children. . The chairperson of the board visits the school regularly and this feature of good practice is commended. The principal is responsible for the daily operation of the school, while another member of the board has been delegated to monitor and organise the financial matters of the school. A recording secretary maintains minutes of all board meetings.

 

The board perceives its role as engaging in matters relating to the ongoing development and maintenance of the school’s building and accommodation, the appointment of substitute and temporary staff and the ratification of school planning policies in consultation with the staff. The board reports that its current priorities include the provision of improved school facilities.

 

The board of management is commended for the work undertaken and completed to date pertaining to the development of the school’s accommodation and also with regard to the ongoing maintenance of the school’s classrooms and the provision of good quality educational resources in the school.The board expressed its satisfaction with the quality of the education provision in this school and it also praised the diligence of the teaching staff.

 

During the inspection process, it was brought to the attention of the inspector that there was no active parents’ association in the school. However, it was evident from consultation with the parents’ representatives on the board, the board of management and the principal that many of the parents of the pupils in the school play an active role in school activities such as providing transport to sports events, organising the school concert and many other extra curricular activities. It is recommended, therefore, that the board of management should consider facilitating the establishment of a formal parents’ association, affiliated to the National Parents’ Council which would assist in supporting the work of the school and promoting links with the general parent body on a formal basis.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team includes the principal, the deputy principal and designated post-holder. All of the post-holders have been delegated specific responsibilities; it is recommended that these responsibilities should be reviewed with a view to ensuring that the posts reflect aspects of curriculum leadership where post holders would be focused on the implementation of curricular priorities in a pre-determined timeframe.  Appropriate organisational and pastoral tasks have been delegated to the post holders.

 

The principal undertakes his management and teaching duties in a professional and competent manner. He ensures that official documents including the attendance book, roll books and the register are maintained accurately. He monitors the work of the school and ensures that this responsibility is partially fulfilled through compiling and maintaining custody of the teachers’ progress records. It is advised that the teachers’ progress records are maintained in the school for at least one year after completion.  He demonstrates a caring and sensitive attitude towards all his pupils. He has excellent interpersonal skills and relates well to his colleagues, members of the board of management and parents.

No formal staff meetings have been held to date in the school. It is recommended that formal staff meetings be held among the staff in the school to formalise and review aspects of the school plan and to review the effectiveness of their implementation. The school has committed to having one formal staff meeting per term from 2008 onwards.

 

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The principal reported that the parents support the work of the school through their involvement in many school events, developing the physical environment of the school and fundraising activities. The teachers are commendably active in engaging with parents and the wider community. The school facilitates parent/teacher communication by implementing an open-door policy and also by convening formal parent/teacher meetings once each year. School reports pertaining to pupil progress are forwarded to parents on an annual basis. Parental support is also provided through assistance with school-related activities. Attendance at school performances and fundraising events is also actively encouraged. The school also issues a school yearbook which is produced by the pupils on an annual basis.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

There is a very friendly atmosphere in the school which is very welcoming and open. This atmosphere is also reflected in the positive and friendly attitude of pupils. Pupils are very well mannered and interact in an open and honest way with teachers, fellow students and visitors. Classroom rules have been established in consultation with the pupils which are focused on the responsibilities of pupils and it clearly evident that they are willing to co-operate with the teachers in implementing the school’s code of behaviour. The teachers work collaboratively and are committed to creating a learning environment that fosters pupils’ learning and self-esteem.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The developmental nature of whole school planning is recognised and the teachers also acknowledge the ongoing process of policy development, co-ordination and collaboration. The organisational areas of the school plan have been documented in a very comprehensive way. These have been ratified by the board of management. Many of the school plans are available to the wider school community through a very good booklet which is given to all parents when their children enrol in the school. Very comprehensive curricular plans have been developed in respect of all of the six curriculum areas, including Social Environmental and Science Education (Science, History and Geography), Mathematics, Language (Gaeilge and English), Arts (Visual Arts, Drama and Music), Physical Education, Social Personal and Health Education. The plans area formulated in such a way as to ensure compliance with the school development planning process as outlined in Department Guidelines.  The school staff is commended on the planning documentation formulated to date. It is also advised that a school self-evaluation process be put in place to monitor the implementation of the curriculum plans throughout the school.

 

 

Individual teacher planning is undertaken in the form of long-term and short-term preparation in accordance with Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools. In all classes the long-term and short-term planning is linked to the strand and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). In general, good work is being undertaken in this regard and in some instances there is evidence of very effective practice, which ensures cohesion and consistency in the delivery of the curriculum throughout the school. Good preparation is also evident with regard to supplementary teaching and support provision.

 

It is recommended that consideration be given to the further development of the common school-devised template, pertaining to monthly progress records. It is recommended that the monthly progress record might include a balance between content objectives and the pupils’ learning outcomes. The record might also include a section for an evaluative comment regarding pupils’ attainment.

 

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

Sa Ghaeilge, feictear go gcuireann na hoidí ullmhúchán fadtréimhseach agus gearrthréimhseach ar fáil. Déantar tagairt do phrionsabail agus do struchtúir an churaclaim i bpleanáil na n-oidí agus feictear go bhfuil pleanáil chuimsitheach á léiriú ag na múinteoirí go léir atá nascaithe le prionsabail Churaclaim na Bunscoile (1999) i gcoitinne.

 

 

Tá atmaisféar dearfach don Ghaeilge á chothú ar fud na scoile. Múintear na ceachtanna comhrá go seiftiúil cumasach sna bunranganna ag baint úsáid as fearas an-oiriúnach, cluichí teanga agus drámaíocht. Leagtar béim inmholta ar an modh cumarsáideach agus tá dul chun cinn creidiúnach á dhéanamh ag na páistí i dtuiscint agus i labhairt na Gaeilge. Baintear dea-úsáid as fearas léirithe, obair-i-bpéirí, ábhar nithiúil agus modheolaíochtaí éifeachtacha ar fud na scoile chun cumarsáid na bpáistí a chur chun cinn. Baintear úsáid as an nGaeilge mar mhéan cumarsáide sna ranganna go léir. Feictear go bhfuil an-tairbhe agus taitneamh á bhaint as an drámaíocht mar mhodh múinte le linn na gceachtanna i ranganna éagsúla. Tugtar deiseanna do na daltaí ceisteanna bunúsacha a chur agus a fhreagairt agus i gcoitinne, is léir go ndéantar daingniú cuí ar nathanna na teanga. Tá prionta sa timpeallacht le feiceáil go forleathan agus go ginearálta, dírítear aird céimniúil ar an ngramadach agus ar Ghaeilge fheidhmiúil sa scoil.

 

Bunaítear foclóir na bpáistí ar théamaí oiriúnacha go rialta. Déantar forbairt chéimiúil, chórasach ar an bhfoclóir atá i seilbh na ndaltaí, ó rangleibhéal go rangleibhéal agus déantar daingniú rialta ar an obair seo. Cuirtear béim cheart ar Éisteacht mar shnáith den churaclam sna ranganna go léir agus cuirtear cleachtaí éisteachta agus gníomhaíochtaí scéalaíochta os comhair na ndaltaí ar bhonn rialta.

 

Léann na daltaí go tuisceanach as scéim ghrádaithe léitheoireachta sna meánranganna agus ag leibhéal na n-ardranganna agus léiríonn siad tuiscint an-mhaith ar an ábhar sin. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois ar éagsúlacht ábhar léitheoireachta a sholáthar tríd an scoil, chun saibhreas foclóra agus léitheoireacht neamhspleách na ndaltaí a fhorbairt.

 

Cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil ina gcóipleabhair, agus cuirtear béim ceart ar fhorbairt na scríbhneoireachta chruthaithigh agus úsáidtear an ríomhaire mar thaca don obair seo i seomraí áirithe.

 

Irish

In Irish the teachers provide long-term and short-term panning. Reference is made to the principles and structures of the curriculum and it is clear that this effective planning is always linked to the principles of the Primary Curriculum (1999).

 

A positive atmosphere is being developed throughout the school in respect if Irish. The lessons in infant classes are taught effectively making use of appropriate equipment, language games, and drama. Very good emphasis is put on communication and the children are making very good progress in comprehension and their spoken language. Very effective use is made of illustrative materials, working in pairs, concrete materials and effective methodologies throughout the school to develop the pupils’ communication skills. Irish is utilised as a medium of communication in all classes. Children are provided with opportunities to ask and answer basis questions and every effort is made to consolidate language phrases. Print-rich environments are evident throughout the school and appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of formal Irish and grammar in a systematic way throughout the school.

 

The children’s vocabulary is developed through a range of appropriate themes. The children’s vocabulary is developed systematically as they move from class to class and consolidated rigorously. An appropriate emphasis is placed on Listening as a strand of the curriculum in all classes, and listening activities and story reading are engaged in regularly by the children.

 

The children read well from a graded reading scheme in the middle standards and in senior standards the children show a very good understanding of the reading materials. It is timely now to identify and provide a wider range of reading materials throughout the school in order to enrich the children’s vocabulary and develop their independent reading ability.

 

The children engage in formal writing activities in their copies and an appropriate emphasis is placed on creative writing. The computer is used effectively to support this work in some rooms.

 

English

The standard of literacy in the school is very good with the majority of pupils engaging in oral, reading and written activities in a very competent manner in all classes.

 

Planning is carried out very effectively in respect of the teaching of English.  All teachers incorporate the strands/strand units and content objectives in their written preparation. There is evidence of direct linkage between the school plan and individual teacher’s preparation and practice.  Children express themselves confidently and fluently in English in all classes. In the infant and junior classes children engage in a wide range of oral language activities. Story reading activities are undertaken in infant and junior classes through the use of large-format books. Consideration should be given to the provision of a wider range of storybooks, which would facilitate an interactive storybook reading approach. This would ensure that all children’s receptive and expressive language skills are appropriately developed.

 

A commercial oral language development programme is in use throughout the school. It is recommended that a discrete oral language programme be introduced and specific topics linked to the objectives documented in the school plan and explored by the pupils at all class levels.

 

A programme in reading is organised throughout the school from the emergent reading stage to the senior levels. Emergent reading skills are developed and basic reading skills are established in infant and junior classes through the development of phonological and phonemic awareness. An early intervention programme is being carried out with the 13 senior infants in phonics in collaboration with the learning support teacher. This feature of good practice is commended. A print-rich environment is in evidence throughout the whole school. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered in senior infants. It is recommended, that consideration be given to the implementation of the Forward Together Programme, as an early intervention strategy, in collaboration with parents.

 

Very good use is made of books in promoting an interest in reading and shared reading is undertaken in the infant and junior classes. A wide variety of reading material is used including the classroom textbooks. Classroom libraries have also been created and efforts are made to ensure that classrooms provide a print-rich environment. Cross-curricular integration is in evidence during the implementation of lessons in reading. A wide range of reading materials is provided in each classroom and pupils are provided with opportunities to read independently.

 

The approach to teaching the novel is particularly praiseworthy in the middle and senior classes. The pupils are given opportunities to respond to characters, situations and story details and in general are given broad experiences in terms of articulating a shared response to fiction. This type of work was observed during the evaluation process and it was clear that children’s higher order thinking skills were being further developed through these learning experiences. This work is also linked very effectively to the writing process and it is clear that these experiences motivate the children to write in an engaged fashion. A wide repertoire of poems is explored and the pupils are encouraged to respond in different ways through dramatising, writing and comparing poems.

 

There is a good balance achieved between functional and creative writing at all class levels. Personal and creative writing commences in the junior classes. Pupils write short personal accounts and undertake simple book reviews. In general, the teachers are cognisant of the importance of the writing process.  This skill is further developed and emphasised in middle and senior classes where book reviews, character reviews and a range of writing for different purposes and audiences is undertaken. Children also write their own poetry and the pupils are encouraged to write in varying formats. Some teachers use computers skilfully to support and present the work undertaken by the children. There is evidence of effective integration across a range of curriculum areas. Teachers use a range of assessment strategies including teacher observation, teacher designed tests, consistent monitoring of oral and written activities and standardised test results.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The quality of learning and teaching of Mathematics throughout the school is good. The lessons observed were well structured and paced accordingly. Elements of very good practice were observed and these included the use of a variety of methodologies and organisational settings, the effective use of concrete materials and the exploration of the language of Mathematics. Language and discussion are central to the teaching process and learning process. In general, pupils display a good capacity to apply relevant mathematical terminology accurately and confidently while exploring tasks. The range of pupils’ abilities is catered for through appropriate differentiation of materials and tasks. This practice was observed at all class levels. Very good interaction was observed between teachers and pupils in all classrooms. Further emphasis is recommended on the structured development of the language of Mathematics.

 

The pupils were provided with opportunities to work collaboratively on mathematical tasks. The majority of pupils displayed age-appropriate ability to perform suitable mental and written computational tasks, to solve problems and to discuss results. Pupils’ written assignments are presented neatly and monitored regularly. The inclusion of an introductory phase in each Mathematics lesson is recommended. This short introductory period could be utilised to focus on oral Mathematics, the development of the children’s ability to manage number more effectively and also enable the consolidation of concepts already taught through the use of appropriate mathematical language.

 

The teachers use a variety of assessment methods in Mathematics. These include teacher-devised and commercial tests, teacher observation, standardised tests and worksheets to monitor pupils’ acquisition of knowledge and skills.

 

 

3.3 Science

The school has purchased a wide range of resources to support hands-on learning activities in the various strands of the Science curriculum. This will provide opportunities for all pupils in the future to engage in hands-on learning experiences across all strands of the curriculum.

 

The school’s immediate natural environment is a valuable resource for learning about Living Things. The Science plan identifies many natural resources in the school environment that will be very useful in delivering the Living Things strand of the curriculum. It is recommended that the school grounds be further developed as a resource for learning in Science. This might include the development of a school garden with specific areas designated for each of the classes.

One of the mainstream teachers takes responsibility for Science in the school. She has purchased a range of equipment for the school. Responsibilities of a post-holder for Science might include some curriculum leadership functions such as monitoring the implementation of the Science curriculum in all classes, co-ordination of the development and use of the school grounds as a resource for learning; participation in Science projects; sharing of knowledge and skills among colleagues.

 

Science lessons were observed in living things, energy and forces, environmental awareness and care and materials. In general, the lessons observed were very well planned and presented clearly. In all classes very good teaching was observed and this was characterised by teachers who used a range of methodologies including, group and collaborative work, individual instruction, the use of concrete materials, illustrative materials, talk and discussion, demonstration, pupils undertaking experiments and some investigative work. Activity based learning was observed in all classrooms. There was evidence of investigative work in all classes and some pupils had a very good understanding of the language of Science. The development of Science investigation areas in all classrooms is recommended.

 

In the majority of the lessons observed the emphasis on science skills was limited to observing, predicting, estimating, recording, sorting and classifying. Most of the lessons were very structured.  There was some evidence to indicate that the pupils were beginning to understand the concept of a fair test. It is recommended that this skill should be further developed by providing opportunities for pupils to plan and carry out their own fair tests and experiments. Furthermore, it is recommended that there be an increased focus on the development of the skills required in the exploring and planning stages of the scientific process.

 

Lessons in some classrooms could be more focused if specific objectives from the curriculum and intended learning outcomes were identified in individual teacher’s planning. It is recommended that a clear assessment policy be devised and implemented in order to monitor pupils’ attainment of concepts and skills in Science throughout the school.

 

3.4 Assessment

A range of assessment strategies is in use in the school including teacher observation, teacher designed tasks and tests, portfolios, work samples and also the monitoring of oral and written activities. The Sigma T and Micra T are administered annually in fourth, fifth and sixth classes. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is used to assess pupils’ attainment in senior infants. It is recommended that the MIST be carried out in the second term of senior infants and that the Forward Together Programme is implemented in the third term. The use of The Belfield Infant Assessment Profile as an assessment tool in junior infants is also recommended. The Drumcondra English Profiles might also be considered when designing assessment instruments, tasks and tests at all class levels.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A collaborative approach to the provision of support for pupils is in evidence among the principal, mainstream class teacher and the learning support teacher. A very good Learning Support Policy has been formulated and this is based on the staged approach outlined in Department of Education and Science Circular 02/05 and is included in school planning documentation. The plan outlines the aims, roles and responsibilities of the board, principal, class teacher and learning support teacher. It outlines the school’s policy in respect of the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs.  The plan outlines the screening and referral procedures to be used in the school. The plan states that Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) and Individual Education Plans (IEPs) will be developed in line with the Learning Support Guidelines (Department of Education and Science, 2000) and the provisions made under the EPSEN Act, Disability Bill and Circular 02/05. The plan also notes how parents will be involved in the learning process and also documents how the school interacts with external agencies.

 

Supplementary teaching is provided for 15 pupils in literacy and three pupils receive support in Mathematics. An Early Intervention programme, provided by the learning support teacher in collaboration with the mainstream class teacher, is implemented with all senior infants. The integration of support teaching in mainstream classes, through the provision of early intervention activities with pupils at infant level, is commended.

The learning support environment is organised in an attractive and stimulating way.  A range of appropriate teaching strategies and methodologies is also implemented. Pupils are withdrawn for support provision from mainstream classes, both individually and in groups. Effective use is made of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and a range of educational software is employed to enhance the pupils’ learning experiences.

The programmes of learning formulated for pupils for whom supplementary and support teaching are provided, focus on the development of literacy and Mathematics. The planning is documented through the formulation of Individual Pupil Learning Profiles. Weekly plans, daily planning sheets, records of parental meetings, progress reports, daily records of work and timetables are maintained in a methodical manner. Pupil profiles, portfolios and folders are neatly maintained and organised.

There is evidence of effective collaboration and consultation among the principal, mainstream class teachers and learning support teacher in the formulation and development of pupils’ IPLPs. The further development of IPLPs through the inclusion of more specific learning targets is recommended. Feedback regarding pupil progress is provided to parents at annual parent/teacher meetings. It is recommended, that parental input towards the formulation and review of IPLPs be extended. It is recommended that a review of the pupils currently receiving support for literacy be carried out with a view to providing support for some pupils who are in need of supplementary teaching in Mathematics.

 

 

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.

 

 

  

 

Published February 2009