An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Knockminna National School

Ballymote, County Sligo

Uimhir rolla: 18334F


Date of inspection: 17 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


School response to the report





Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of Knockminna National School 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 History. The board of management 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


Knockminna National School is a rural three-teacher school, situated three kilometres east of Ballymote, Co. Sligo. This school which is led by a proficient principal involves itself in activities such as the Green-Schools programme, engages in many sports and supports many charitable organisations. It has a comprehensive range of teaching and learning resources. The board of management received a CLÁR grant (a targeted investment in rural areas) to enhance the playground. The school participates in the School Support Programme of Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), the action plan of the Department of Education and Science to address educational disadvantage.


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




Pupils enrolled in the school


Mainstream classes in the school


Teachers on the school staff


Mainstream class teachers


Teachers working in support roles


Special needs assistants




1.     Quality of school management


1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Knockminna National School is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Achonry. There is a strong sense of community in the school which is nurtured by the collegiality of the board of management and the collaborative approach of the teaching staff. The school promotes the full and harmonious development of all the pupils in the school. The pupils learn in a well-ordered, caring and happy environment. The valuable contribution of the dedicated secretary is acknowledged.


1.2 Board of management

The school is managed by a very dedicated board. The members give willingly of their time and work in a collaborative manner. The board is mindful of its statutory duties and works conscientiously to adhere to compliance issues. Not withstanding this, the school is not in compliance with Rule 55 of the Rules for National Schools in relation to the time it opens to receive pupils and the time that formal instruction begins each day. While efforts were made in the past to address the pupil transport difficulties that necessitated the later time-table, it is now recommended that these issues be re-visited and that the school complies fully with Rule 55. The board is commended for its refurbishment and extension of the school in 2001. This involved collaborative fundraising efforts on the part of the board, parents and community. The board should be proud of its well presented school both internally and externally.


1.3 In-school management

The principal leads the school in a purposeful manner. She is professional, conscientious and assiduous in carrying out all her responsibilities. She is a very good role model for the staff and pupils. The deputy principal supports the principal significantly in executing her duties. She attends to her tasks in a diligent manner. There is a very positive school climate created in the school. All three members of the teaching staff are progressive, are open to change and work as a cohesive unit.


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Parents make a very positive contribution towards the work of the school. They have been actively involved during sports day, school events such as the official opening in 2001 and in the Green-Schools programme, The school is central to the life of the community. The principal circulates an annual newsletter documenting the school’s activities and achievements. There is a comprehensive photographic record of various school events available in the school.


1.5 Management of pupils

During the evaluation it was evident that the pupils are exceptionally well-mannered and interact respectfully with staff, fellow pupils and visitors. Courtesy is promoted in all classrooms and pupils display high interest in their work. A policy on school tours is carefully documented to ensure the smooth running of all educational trips. Lessons and activities are very well prepared. Pupils respond appropriately to questioning in class. Pupils are supervised appropriately.



2.     Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. Policies are filed systematically. The policies are practical, clear and user-friendly. All procedures are noted carefully and based on experience and good practice. It is recommended that a policy on educational disadvantage be included in the school plan. It is also recommended that the policy on learning support be reviewed. The staff has availed of the national support services on an ongoing basis. The curricular policies are very good; some modifications are required but the inclusion of appendices will suffice to include necessary supplements to the various policies. The board is active in its role in developing, ratifying and reviewing policies. Draft polices are circulated by the principal to board members in advance of a board meeting to facilitate meaningful discussion during such meetings.


The quality of classroom planning is commendable. All teachers prepare comprehensive long-term and short-term planning in preparation for their work. The long-term plans are very well formulated. The teachers have established a common framework for their individual short-term planning and recording of monthly progress. The majority of the teachers use the template. However, it is recommended that all teachers adhere to this framework to enable consistency. It is also recommended that all of the staff plan for linkages in Mathematics and more specific differentiation tasks. Consideration should be given to planning for a variety of methodologies and resources in the short-term plans to mirror the long-term planning.



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



Déanann na hoidí an-iarracht dearcadh dearfach a chothú i leith na Gaeilge. Glacann cuid de na daltaí páirt i bhFleadh Cheoil Shligigh. Tá traidisiún an-láidir sa cheol sa cheantar. Glacann na daltaí sinsearacha páirt i mbanna ceoil na scoile. Úsáidtear cluichí, drámaíocht, obair bheirte, ag dul ó dhuine go duine ag caint, “fiche ceist” agus scéalaíocht go torthúil i bhfoghlaim na Gaeilge. Baintear úsáid as rainn, amhráin, leabhair mhóra agus tascanna éisteachta chomh maith sa teagasc. Cuirtear béim ar an ngramadach agus tugtar dóthain cleachtaí do na daltaí. Múintear an Ghaeilge go héifeachtach ar fud na scoile.


Tá caighdeán na léitheoireachta go maith. Cruthaítear timpeallacht phrionta oiriúnach sa scoil. Tá forbairt le sonrú sa léitheoireacht de réir mar a théann na daltaí ó rang go rang. Cíortar ábhar na léitheoireachta go hoiriúnach. Tá muinín agus tuiscint ag na daltaí ar an ábhar. Cuirtear na cleachtaí scríofa in oiriúint do chumas na ndaltaí agus sonraítear dul chun cinn san obair. Tá cur amach ag na daltaí ar chineálacha difriúla scríbhneoireachta. Déantar comhtháthú an-mhaith idir na snáitheanna.



The teachers endeavour to foster positive attitudes in relation to Irish. Some pupils participate in Fleadh Cheoil, Sligo. There is a strong musical tradition in the area. Senior pupils are involved in the school band. Games, drama, pair work, speed dating, “twenty questions” and storytelling are used productively in the learning of Irish. Rhymes, songs, large format books and listening tasks are other methodologies used in teaching. There is an emphasis on grammar and the pupils are given ample exercises.  Irish is taught effectively throughout the school.


The standard of reading is good. A suitable print-rich environment is in evidence in the school. There is clear development in reading as the pupils progress from one class to the next. The content is appropriately discussed. Pupils display confidence and understanding of the subject content. The written exercises are matched to the ability of the pupils and progress is evident in the work observed. Pupils write in a variety of genres. There is evidence of very good integration across the strands of the Irish curriculum.



The quality of teaching and learning in English is very good. The school successfully promotes reading through silent reading sessions and shared reading activities. Book fairs are held annually. There is an extensive range of books available in classrooms and these are used consistently. Attainment levels in reading are very good. The large format books are used effectively in junior classes while reading skills are explored in the middle and senior classes through the novel. Reading lessons are very well conducted through the effective use of pictures, new vocabulary and phonics. Grammar, phonological awareness and spelling are all taught very well in the school. The interactive whiteboard is used successfully in some classes to teach grammar.


The quality of pupils’ written work is very good. Early writing activities are developed gradually in the junior classes. Pupils are given many opportunities to write in a variety of genres. Writing is celebrated through display and positive feedback by the teachers to the pupils. Handwriting is promoted systematically by all the staff. The school invited a local writer into the school who conducted valuable writing workshops with the pupils. Writing is successfully catered for within the school.


Talk and discussion form an integral part of all oral language lessons. ‘Show and tell’, brainstorming, circle time and word games are used effectively to teach oral language. It is recommended that there be an even greater emphasis on the development of language skills and on the systematic vocabulary development in lessons. Consideration should be given to the promotion of debating and poetry to emphasise the emotional and imaginative development of oral language.


3.2 Mathematics

Overall, Mathematics is taught very well.  In numeracy very good standards are achieved by the pupils. Games and activities are appropriately utilised during lessons. The school’s very detailed mathematics policy needs to be fully implemented. It is recommended that mathematics trails are developed and that linkages across the strands of the mathematics curriculum are planned for by the staff. It is also recommended that the environment be used further in teaching and learning and that there be a greater emphasis on problem-solving during classes. The staff needs to pen an action plan to ensure full implementation of these strategies, many of which were already planned for in the school’s policy. There is a wide range of  mathematical resources available in the school.  


3.3 History

The quality of teaching and learning in History is very good. Photographs, story, pictures, timelines, games and the internet are used effectively to enhance teaching and learning in history lessons. Commendable lessons on artefacts were observed in both the junior and middle classes during the evaluation. The school’s four-year plan caters very well for the multi-grade classes. The teachers integrate History very creatively with other subjects. Pupils engage in many projects in the senior classes during the year. The teacher provides a range of questions and tasks leading to the creation of the project. Teachers place good emphasis on skill development. Pupils are facilitated in using reference books, websites and other evidence to explore History. Other sources of evidence in History include newspaper cuttings, posters, memorabilia such as ration books and medals from World War Two (WW2) veterans, songs, letters and diaries. The senior pupils presented a commendable project on WW2 in a very competent and confident manner during the evaluation. Tours of places of historical interest such as Lissadell house in Sligo are organised to complement the pupils’ learning in History.


3.4 Assessment

The Sigma-T and the Micra-T standardised tests are administered in Mathematics and English each year. The overall attainment of pupils is very good. Teachers administer weekly tests and they keep records of the pupils’ achievements. Progress records are sent to parents and parent-teacher meetings are convened once a year.



4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of provision for pupils requiring supplementary teaching is very good. The visiting learning support/resource teacher is highly experienced. A wide range of diagnostic and screening tests is used in the school. Individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) and individual education plans (IEPs) for all pupils have been devised by the learning support/resource teacher in consultation with the class teachers. She delivers short intensive sessions to small groups or on a one-to-one basis. Pupils are taught in a very warm, pleasant and affirming manner. Lessons are well prepared and the teaching is focused and engaging. It was noted that provision is made for some pupils whose standardised test scores would do not merit their inclusion in learning support. Consideration can now be given to more in-class support particularly in the multi-class settings. The teacher uses a variety of resources including educational software to best effect. It is recommended that more emphasis be placed on the further development of oral language skills and on comprehension skills. The current learning support policy needs to be updated to reflect the pupils’ needs at present.


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

The quality of support for pupils in Knockminna National School is very good. The school forms part of a cluster which avails of the services of a rural co-ordinator through DEIS. However, this post is vacant at present. The school also avails of the service of a whole-school co-ordinator through the Sligo Leader programme and funded by the Children at Risk fund. This programme was set up to support schools in remote locations of the county. The co-ordinator works with entire class groups and with small groups of pupils. She explores the transition from primary to post-primary school with the pupils. The co-ordinator conducts Súgradh le Chéile (Maths for Fun) workshops over six weeks with parents of infant pupils which proves very useful. She conducts drama sessions, trains pupils in co-operative sports and assists with other curricular areas in class. She introduced the fruit club to the school which was financed through the Department of Family and Social Affairs. She arranges meetings with parents. Overall, she makes a most valuable contribution to the school.



5.     Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas:


·         The professional leadership of the principal and the dedication of the teaching staff ensure the provision of high quality learning experiences for the pupils.

·         The board of management and the staff work diligently, collaboratively and in a committed way on behalf of the school.

·         A warm, positive and affirming atmosphere exists in the school which serves to motivate pupil interest.

·         The pupils are exceptionally well-behaved and work enthusiastically with the teachers.

·         The quality of teaching and learning is very good in the school.


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


·         It is recommended that the staff fully implements the very good policy formulated in Mathematics.

·         It is recommended that the policy on learning support be reviewed to reflect the pupils’ learning needs at present.

·         It is recommended that the school devises a policy on educational disadvantage to reflect the role of the co-ordinators working in the school.

·         It is recommended that the board of management fully complies with Rule 55 (Rules for National Schools) with regard to the school timetable.


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 March 2009







School response to the report


Submitted by the Board of Management





Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report


Overall, the Board of Management is very pleased with this report..



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


1.                   The ‘Learning Support Policy’ has subsequently been reviewed and renamed as ‘Policy for Special Educational Needs’ and now reflects the pupils’ learning needs more accurately.

2.                   The Board of Management is currently in the process of re-addressing pupil transport difficulties which will allow full compliance with Rule 55 (Rules for National Schools).

3.                   On our School Development Planning day which is to be held on March 18th 2009, the staff hope to formulate maths trails for all classes which will further implement the school’s Maths policy.