An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

 REPORT

 

St. Kevin’s N.S.

Littleton Thurles

County  Tipperary

Uimhir rolla: 18343G

 

Date of inspection:  21 April 2008

 

 

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 


Whole-school evaluation

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St. Kevin’s N.S. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given the opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix to this report.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

St. Kevin’s N.S. is a co-educational, mainstream school situated in the village of Littleton under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Cashel and Emly. The characteristic spirit of the school, as stated in the schools’ mission statement, endeavours to “foster a happy and safe learning environment in which all pupils develop self-esteem and a sense of responsibility and where Christian values are nurtured”. The school’s enrolment of 103 pupils is set to fall over the next three years due to general population trends in the locality. The attendance of a significant minority of pupils has given cause for concern, however, the school is commended for the adoption of a number of specific measures to encourage more regular attendance. These strategies have met with considerable success and good levels of attendance are now attained by the majority of pupils. Pupils transfer to a range of post-primary schools in the locality. The school management, staff and support agencies are praised for putting in place measures to assist the pupils in securing their enrolment in a post-primary school and in the management of the transition process. The school is designated as serving in an area of disadvantage and is part of the School Support Programme (SSP); Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative. The school has staffing of eleven teachers. Despite the best efforts of the board, two unqualified teachers have been appointed, in a temporary capacity, to deliver support to pupils in special educational settings. This presents a significant challenge to planning and delivering a consistent and progressive educational experience for the pupils.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management provides good leadership to the school. Members of the board demonstrate a commitment to supporting the work of the school and an understanding of the context within which the school operates. Meetings are convened regularly, agenda are circulated, minutes are carefully recorded and the school’s finances are well managed and audited annually. Board members are assigned specific roles and tasks commensurate with their individual skills and this good practice is commended. It is now recommended, as five of the eight board members are newly appointed, that training opportunities be availed of to prepare members for their role in managing the school. The board has recently availed of a devolved grant to construct an extension to the school. This project has been very well managed resulting in an enhanced physical environment which supports the creation of a good quality learning environment for staff and pupils. The board is praised for its involvement in the discussion and ratification of a number of organisational and curriculum policies. It ensures that communication with the principal, teaching staff, parents and the wider community is effective. However, the board’s awareness of its role in overseeing the effective provision of education and in the monitoring of standards of pupil achievement requires attention. It is therefore recommended that the board dedicate a section of its agenda to attending to the monitoring and evaluation of pupil outcomes, specifically in relation to the targets outlined in the school’s DEIS plan.

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of an administrative principal, a deputy principal and three special duties teachers. The principal discharges his duties in a caring manner and daily administrative and organisational tasks are capably undertaken. School activities are well organised and official records are carefully maintained. He oversees the planning process and has successfully established effective lines of communication and consultation with staff, board, parents and the wider school community. He promotes a culture of team work and collaborative decision making. He has succeeded in the creation of a school climate that is characterised by good working relationships, respect, inclusivity and equality. During the present school year the principal assumed responsibility for the teaching of a class for a period of 16hrs and 40 minutes per week. This arrangement has curtailed his capacity to effectively discharge his instructional leadership role. It is recommended that the principal now directs his leadership skills to enable him to attend more carefully to leading teaching and learning in the school, to the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the DEIS plan and  to the placing of pupils’ learning and achievement at the centre of management and improvement activities.

 

The in-school management team works collaboratively with the principal. Members contribute to the management of the school and to the building and sustaining of a positive school climate and good relationships with the school community. It is reported that the team meets informally once a month and prior to and following termly staff meetings. Consideration might now be given by the team to formalising these meetings, to outlining a plan of work relating to the discharging of their individual duties and to the reporting of progress made to the board on a regular basis. Curricular, administrative and pastoral responsibilities are assigned to each member of the in-school management team. These duties have recently been reviewed and curricular responsibilities now focus on the implementation of literacy and numeracy targets outlined in the DEIS plan. The alignment of these duties to the prioritised needs of the school is praised. The team’s progress in the implementation of their duties is difficult to evaluate. It is therefore recommended that the curricular responsibilities of individual team members be outlined with greater clarity and that their role in the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the action plans designed to raise pupils’ achievement levels in literacy and numeracy, be documented. This should enable the in-school management team to evaluate their progress in effecting improvements in literacy and numeracy and in the provision of curriculum leadership to the school.

 

2.3 Management of resources

Significant improvements have recently been made to the school building and its environs. These are maintained to a high standard and provide a safe and supportive environment for all pupils and staff. The board ensures that classrooms are equipped with a broad range of appropriate resources. These are effectively utilised to support teaching and learning across the curriculum. While Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) was observed to be effectively utilised by some teachers there is a need to further extend the range of ICT software available to all teachers, particularly those in special education settings.

 

Special needs assistants (SNAs) are deployed effectively in supporting the care needs of the pupils. External tutors in the area of dance, hurling, football, basketball and chess are reported to work effectively under the guidance of the class teachers. The board meets the costs incurred in employing these tutors.

The school has a good staff rotation policy in place and teachers are facilitated to experience a variety of classes and teaching contexts. However, the professional development of teachers is an area that requires significant improvement considering the current school context and its engagement in the School Support Programme (SSP) this should be addressed as a central issue at whole-school level. It is therefore recommended that the board encourage and facilitate the engagement of staff in professional development programmes. This would enable the staff to expand their range of teaching approaches and to equip them with the skills necessary to plan and implement specific intervention programmes in literary and numeracy and to improve pupil achievement in these areas.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school is commended for the significant improvements which have been made this school year to facilitate the active involvement of parents in the work of the school. Parents are invited to participate in supporting literacy and numeracy initiatives such as Maths for Fun, World Book Day, Food Dudes, Children and Parents Enjoying Reading (CAPER) and in the arrangement of school excursions and activities. Parent teacher meetings are held annually and the attendance of parents and guardians at this event is reported to be very satisfactory.  The staffing of the school includes a Breaking the Cycle Rural Co-ordinator. He works in St. Kevin’s N.S. two days a week and provides tuition in tin-whistle to pupils from third to sixth class. He also assists in the arrangement of transfer of pupils to second level schools, in the building of relationships with the wider school community and he liaises with organisations providing support to the school and its pupils, notably Barnardos, St. Vincent de Paul Society, North Tipperary Intervention Team and the Visiting Teacher for Travellers Service. There is a need to further develop his role in the promotion of parents’ education, development, growth and involvement, particularly for those from marginalised families. This should include a systematic approach to home visitation and the organisation of courses and classes for parents. It is further recommended that the yearly scheme of work which the co-ordinator outlines to the board be developed to include termly priorities, and monthly reports of progress made.

 

The parents’ association was re- established in February of 2008 and it is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (NPC). Members of the association are enthusiastic and display a willingness to work with the school. Members report that communication with the association, the board and the school is very satisfactory with items from the association being included on the agenda for board meetings. Minutes of meetings of the association are communicated to the principal.  The principal meets with the association to outline school plans and policies under review. The contributions of members of the association to the content of these documents are welcomed. The association has organised for pupil participation in the local St. Patrick’s Day parade and is currently engaged in organising fund-raising activities and educational outings for the pupils. Members of the association report satisfaction with the broad and balanced curriculum provided to all pupils of the school

 

2.5 Management of pupils

Relationships between staff and pupils are very positive and standards of pupils’ behaviour and discipline during the inspection period were very good. The pupils are respectful toward staff, each other and visitors and they participate enthusiastically in curricular activities.The school works collectively to create a climate where mutual trust, respect and confidence are evident in daily school life. The staff is alert and responsive to the emotional, physical and social needs of individual pupils. Pupils are encouraged to participate in a range of extra-curricular activities. In keeping with the Education Act (1998) Section 27(2) the school should now consider a means by which pupil involvement in the operation of the school, having regard to their age and experience, might be facilitated.

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

A comprehensive whole-school plan, outlining curriculum plans, organisational policies and school procedures has been compiled. All teachers play an active role in the planning process. The good practice of availing of the support services is noted. The board of management discusses draft documents prior to ratification and the parent body is consulted and involved in the development of some of these policies. In all 17 organisational policies have been ratified and the majority of these are of a high standard. Plans are in place for each curriculum area. The majority of these plans are effective in that they ensure a broad and balanced coverage of the curriculum. It is now recommended that future reviews of these curriculum plans assign responsibility to an individual for overseeing their implementation and for the monitoring of their impact on pupil learning. The plans should also outline success criteria against which their implementation might be measured.

 

The school has prepared a three year DEIS development plan. The staff is praised for the systematic analysis of assessment data to identify the baseline from which the school is operating in the areas of literacy, numeracy, attendance and parental involvement. Arising from this analysis a list of priorities has been devised. The majority of these priorities are referenced in the development plan. The school has experienced significant success in the areas of pupil attendance and parental involvement and it is praised in this regard. However, the action plans which relate to literacy and numeracy are poor. They fail to focus on more effective teaching practices and the enhancement of the quality of learning. Neither do they outline how the effectiveness of the planned actions will be monitored and evaluated. It is now recommended that the school identify specific, measurable targets within these action plans, which focus on enhancing the quality of teaching and learning and on the raising of pupils’ levels of attainment in literacy and numeracy.

 

Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All mainstream class teachers make good written preparation for their school work in accordance with Rule 126 of The Rules for National Schools.  Care is taken to ensure that the pupils access a broad and balanced curriculum. In this planning a variety of teaching methodologies is outlined and activities are provided which engage the pupils in the learning process. Resources are identified which support teaching and learning. However, teachers’ planning should incorporate differentiated approaches to a much greater degree in the areas of literacy and numeracy, in order to meet the learning needs of all the pupils. In these areas short-term planning should focus on specific objectives and should take account of the stages of development and learning needs of the pupils. It is therefore recommended that, in the areas of literacy and numeracy, teacher planning should identify expected outcomes of learning and support the development of targeted learning activities for pupils. Where appropriate, pupils should be made aware of these targets. It is further recommended that opportunities for linkage and integration which support the acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills be identified in all curriculum areas and that planning for pupils with special educational needs and learning difficulties incorporate the targets outlined by the support team.

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

Best-quality planning and optimal teaching practices are required for this school to enable it to meet the individual learning needs of its pupils. During the inspection period good teaching was observed in all classes. In general, lessons observed were well-paced and well structured with individual teachers employing a range of teaching methodologies.  Appropriate resources were well utilised to support the teaching and learning process and in general, the pupils were observed to be actively engaged in their learning. Teachers’ questioning is skilled and pupils’ responses are listened to and used effectively. Enriching additional educational opportunities are organised for the pupils including visits to a local artisan’s workshop and Maths for Fun activities. Pupil learning in many areas of the curriculum is good. They are provided with opportunities to engage in active and discovery learning activities and in some instances differentiated activities are organised for those pupils experiencing difficulties. However, significant challenges are presented to the management and staff of the school in regard to pupils’ achievement levels in literacy and numeracy. While is it acknowledged that contextual factors exist which impact significantly on pupils’ progress in learning, nevertheless, there is a need to set specific targets for class groups and for individual pupils in order to raise overall literacy and numeracy performances. It is therefore recommended that specific targets be identified to address the individual needs of children who are experiencing difficulty, that textbooks be utilised as resource material to support the implementation of the curriculum rather than the basis of the planning for curriculum delivery and that the outcomes of assessment should inform the teaching and learning process.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Sa Ghaeilge, feictear go gcuireann na hoidí ullmhúchán fadtréimhseach agus gearrthréimhseach  maith 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. Baintear dea-úsáid as leabhair mhóra, fearas léirithe, obair-i-bpéirí, ábhar nithiúil agus modheolaíochtaí éifeachtacha ar fud na scoile chun cumarsáid na bpáistí a chur chun cinn.

 

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 chuí ar an ngramadach agus ar Ghaeilge fheidhmiúil tríd an scoil. Bunaítear foclóir na bpáistí ar théamaí oiriúnacha go rialta. Leagtar béim ar an nGaeilge fheidhmiúil agus tugtar faoi mhodhanna traidisiúnta múinte i leith cur-i-bhfeidhm na gnéithe seo i ranganna áirithe. Moltar anois, forbairt chéimniúil, chórasach a dhéanamh ar an bhfoclóir atá i seilbh na ndaltaí, ó rangleibhéal go rangleibhéal agus daingniú rialta a dhéanamh ar an obair seo. Moltar,  freisin, béim níos treise a chur ar Éisteacht mar shnáith den churaclam sna ranganna go léir agus cleachtaí éisteachta agus gníomhaíochtaí scéalaíochta a chur os comhair na ndaltaí ar bhonn rialta.

 

Tá tús maith curtha leis an léitheoireacht fhoirmiúil. Léann cuid mhaith de na daltaí go tuisceanach as scéim léitheoireachta sna meánranganna agus ag leibhéal na n-ardranganna agus léiríonn siad tuiscint mhaith ar an ábhar sin. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois, áfach, 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. Cuirtear béim chóir ar fhorbairt na scríbhneoireachta chruthaithigh agus úsáidtear an ríomhaire mar thaca don obair seo i seomraí áirithe.

 

Irish

Teachers make good long-term and short-term preparation for their work. These plans are consistently integrated with and based on the structure and principles of the Primary Curriculum (1999). Good use is made of large format books, illustrative materials, concrete materials, children working in pairs and effective methodologies are used throughout the school to improve the  pupils’  communication skills.

 

It is clear that the children gain great enjoyment from the use of drama as a teaching methodology in the different classes. Children are provided with opportunities to ask and answer simple questions and it is clear that they have an understanding of a range of Irish phrases. A print-rich environment is evident throughout the whole school and appropriate attention is given to the teaching of grammar and formal Irish. The children’s vocabulary is developed through the exploration of appropriate themes. Traditional methodologies are utilised to develop the pupils’ formal Irish in certain classes.  It is recommended that a structured oral language programme be implemented throughout the school to ensure the consolidation of the vocabulary already known to the children. It is also recommended that additional emphasis be placed on the Listening strand of the curriculum.  Furthermore, listening activities including story reading should be increased in all classes.

 

Reading is progressing well and many of the children in middle and senior standards read fluently and with understanding. It is now timely to identify and provide a wider range of reading materials to provide children with access to a wider range of text that will enable them to develop independent reading and a rich vocabulary.

 

Formal writing is evident in the children’s copybooks. Appropriate emphasis is placed on creative writing and the computer is used to support this work in some classrooms. 

 

English

The quality of the teaching observed in English lessons was good. All class teachers were successful in presenting structured, well-paced lessons in which learning objectives were addressed and in which the majority of the pupils were actively engaged. The school has experienced some success in the raising of pupils’ literacy levels but pupil attainment in this area remains poor with a significant proportion of pupils performing within the lowest achievement bands. The whole-school English plan acknowledges the central role of oral language and the DEIS plan for literacy focuses on the development of three of the four strand units of oral language. However, in teacher practice, this initiative needs to be supported by the teaching of discrete language lessons in which specific oral language objectives are taught explicitly.

 

Parallel to this, there is a need to address, at a whole-school level, how oral language can be effectively integrated within the English programme and with all other curriculum areas. The language ability the pupils bring with them to the school should influence the level and intensity of oral language activity, not just in the infant and junior classes but throughout the school. It is therefore recommended that the school reviews current provision for oral language outlining a specific oral language programme designed to meet the learning needs of the pupils. This programme should outline detailed oral language objectives, outcomes and activities. It should also address the provision of an integrated language learning experience for the pupils which maximises the use of oral language in developing pupils’ literacy skills. Pupil progress should be assessed on a regular basis and should inform planned activities. This may necessitate the deployment of existing personnel in an intervention capacity, in order to ensure the implementation, continuity and progression of the programme

 

Significant challenges are presented to the school as it endeavours to raise pupil achievement in reading. The school is well resourced with a broad range of reading materials. Teachers promote a school atmosphere in which books and reading are seen as valuable and pleasurable. Book fairs and other book events which involve parents are organised annually. Very good use is made of the local library service. Pupils are encouraged to maintain a record of personal reading. Effective integration of the reading strand with the writing strand is encouraged in the middle and senior classes and in these levels pupils maintain a scrapbook in which detailed accounts of the books read are outlined and attractively illustrated. Silent reading activities and the involvement of parents in shared reading have been introduced. These good practices are praised. The quality of teaching observed was good. Informal reading activities are undertaken in the infant and junior classes. In general, pupils demonstrate an awareness of print and its conventions. However, further attention should be focused at these levels to the development of the pupils’ general language ability as a basis for success in reading. Greater emphasis should be placed on facilitating pupils to engage with a wider range of language experience materials and increased focus should be placed on collaborative reading and shared reading of large-format books.  In the middle and senior classes pupils are facilitated to encounter an increasing range of fiction and non-fiction texts and to read for information. However, many pupils at these levels are failing to become independent readers or to develop a range of reading strategies. There is also a lack of emphasis on the systematic development of higher-order thinking skills. Teachers employ a limited range of assessment modes and the results of assessment, where maintained, are not utilised to inform teaching and learning in the classroom. Teachers should develop a more effective approach to curriculum adaptation and differentiation for all pupils. It is therefore recommended that assessment data be utilised by the teachers to enable them to select teaching objectives and learning outcomes for individual pupils and groups of pupils. A whole-school phonological awareness programme should also be implemented consistently in all classes in order to ensure that pupils’ competence and confidence in reading is systematically progressed.

 

In writing, pupils’ expressive and communicative skills are developed through their experience of the writing process. Pupils are facilitated to write for a variety of audiences on a range of topics and in a variety of genres. Pupils have, in general, developed an appreciation of the functions of the parts of speech and a control of the conventions of grammar and punctuation. ICT is used to good effect and attractive displays of pupils’ written work feature in each classroom. Handwriting skills are well developed and written work is generally well presented. In the infant and junior classes graphic representation and letter formation are well developed. Cursive script is introduced in the middle classes and the range of writing topics is suitably extended at these levels. Good teaching methodologies, including webbing, brainstorming and class discussions prepare the pupils to write creatively and to extend their vocabulary. Teachers were observed to engage in modelling the writing process and to scaffold on pupils existing knowledge and this good practice is praised. It is now recommended that the teaching of writing be more effectively linked to the oral and reading strands of the English curriculum.

 

 

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

In Mathematics, teachers develop rich learning environments through the use of relevant mathematical illustrations, games, number lines and measuring instruments in all classrooms. Teachers at all class levels effectively utilise a wide range of concrete learning resources to support teaching and learning. Collaborative and active learning are promoted. Pupils were observed to be stimulated and engaged in the activities organised and were actively involved in paired and group work. They engaged enthusiastically in the assigned tasks and in general, displayed an appropriate understanding of the mathematical concepts being addressed. Provision was given to the differentiation of tasks to meet individual pupil needs in these lessons. Opportunities were provided to enable pupils to practise, consolidate and extend their learning and some effort was made to relate mathematics to other areas of the curriculum, particularly the Arts.  There is a need however for more consistent planning to enhance the effectiveness of this strategy. As part of the DEIS plan for numeracy, teachers are focusing on the development of mathematical language and this strategy was observed in each of the lessons. “Maths for Fun” has recently been introduced in the school. Parents are invited to observe the pupils interacting with the selected games within the classroom setting and it is envisioned that this will develop into a practice whereby parents support their children’s learning outside of the school context. This good practice is commended. However, the mathematics performance of a majority of pupils is poor. Learning-support provision is not generally available for pupils with learning needs in numeracy. The teaching of mathematical processes such as understanding and recall, the purposeful development of mathematical skills and the development of opportunities to enable pupils to construct and apply their mathematical understanding and skills in contexts drawn from their own experiences and environments is not undertaken in a systematic way. It is therefore recommended that the school review its current provision for teaching and learning in Mathematics. Serious consideration should be given in this review to the early identification of pupils who are experiencing difficulties, to the provision of support to those pupils, to the provision of written preparation by teachers for individual pupils or groups of pupils so that class instruction meets their identified learning needs, to the de-emphasising of the role of the textbook to determine lesson content and to the extension of assessment modes to include teacher-devised tests and criterion-referenced tests and to the use of data generated by this testing to inform teaching and learning.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

In History lessons the pupils are facilitated to develop an interest in and curiosity about the past and to develop an understanding of the concepts of change and continuity. In the infant and junior classes, pupils explore aspects of their own immediate past and that of their families. Photography and interviews with grandparents are used to good effect and pupils have developed an awareness of change and continuity through their exploration of these resources. Timelines and artefacts are appropriately utilised in the middle and senior classes to enable the pupils to explore the lives of early peoples and ancient societies and to investigate the life, society, work and cultures of peoples in the past. Pupils display a good knowledge of the major periods in the development of human civilisation and an understanding of contemporary life in Ireland based on studies of key periods in Irish History, notably the Vikings, Celts and Normans. The school is commended for inviting persons from the locality to address the pupils and to share their experiences of life in the past with them. Story is utilised to good effect in all classes enabling pupils to develop a sense of curiosity and to empathise with the feelings and circumstances of the characters portrayed. It is now recommended that increased focus be placed on the exploration of the immediate and local environment enabling pupils to visit and investigate buildings and common features of the locality and to develop their sense of local identity.

 

Geography

The quality of teaching in Geography is good and pupils display a comprehensive knowledge of human and natural environments in their locality and an understanding of the world in which they live. Throughout the school the pupils are facilitated to explore and learn about features in their environment and have come to an understanding and appreciation of local, regional and wider environments and their inter-relationships. Pupils in the middle and senior classes are familiar with the location and names of urban areas in the county and of major natural features both locally and nationally. A very good lesson in the senior classes involving the study of a wide range of resources enabled the pupils to arrive at an understanding of the various ethnic and religious groups of people and to value and respect the diversity of their lifestyles. Resources are well utilised and pupils use simple equipment to make detailed weather observations and they proceed to record and display these observations using graphs and charts. In many classes the pupils engage in project work and are encouraged to use ICT to research European countries and aspects of the lives of people in other lands. Very good work is undertaken in the infant and junior levels to develop the pupils’ concept of space and place and their mapping abilities are developed in these lessons. Appropriate use is made of maps, atlases and globes throughout the school. It is now recommended that the school place increased emphasis on developing the strand Environmental awareness and care so as to foster in the pupils an appreciation of environments and a sense of responsibility for their conservation and enhancement.

 

Science

Very good teaching and learning was observed in Science. Active teaching and learning methodologies contribute greatly to pupil achievement in this area. The utilisation of a variety of approaches and the effective employment of resources facilitates the efficient implementation of the science curriculum. Simple experiments are undertaken at all class levels. The pupils are encouraged to observe, question and investigate living things, materials, forces and environments. The knowledge and skills acquired by the pupils is applied to the skill designing and making. Of particular note is the lighthouse constructed in the senior classes. In the infant and junior classes pupils are facilitated to observe and identify a wide variety of living things and they are encouraged to recognise different groups of living things. The planting of seeds and bulbs in these classes enables the pupils to observe the life processes, including growth, nutrition and reproduction common to plants and to link this knowledge to living organisms. Breadth and balance in strand coverage is assured by the identification in the school plan of the strand units to be addressed at each class level in alternative years. This good practice is praised. 

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The quality of teaching and learning in the Visual Arts is commendable. Samples of pupils’ work are tastefully displayed in each classroom and in the corridors. Teacher planning reflects a very good balance of strand coverage each term with elements of each strand being addressed on a number of occasions during the school year. Pupils are encouraged to develop artistic concepts and skills thereby enabling them to effectively develop sensitivity to qualities of line, shape, form, colour and texture and to use these elements purposefully. The strand unit Looking and responding is effectively addressed in discrete lessons and as an integral part of each Arts lesson. The thematic approach taken by many teachers in the teaching of Visual Arts ensures that there is high quality integration between learning in the Arts and other curriculum areas. Lessons in drawing and print are effectively integrated with Mathematics while lessons in construction support pupil learning in Science. Teachers are praised for enabling the pupils to respond creatively to selected stimuli and for facilitating them to explore, investigate, experiment, design and make in a wide range of media. Excursions to local art galleries and participation of pupils in art workshops also feature as an integral part of the Visual Arts curriculum. It is now recommended that teachers maintain a portfolio or digital record of the various activities organised for the pupils and that that the good practice observed in the cross-curricular integration of Arts Education be extended to other subject areas.

Music

All teachers present good planning in Music with each of the three stand units being addressed in an integrated manner. In listening and responding the pupils are encouraged to explore and listen to a range of sound sources and to identify a variety of percussion and melodic instruments. The active methodologies practiced in the infant and junior classes enable the pupils to respond through movement to a range of musical styles and traditions. This is expanded upon in the middle classes enabling the pupils to compose their own music and to develop a keen sense of rhythm and pace. Music literacy is well developed in the middle and senior classes through the teaching of the tin whistle. Pupils in the senior classes play a range of musical instruments and were observed to perform a variety of musical compositions sweetly and melodically. It is evident that they enjoy and benefit from their musical education. It is now recommended that teachers integrate Music lessons with other curriculum areas and that they explore the full potential of the Music curriculum to support pupil learning in other curriculum areas. 

 

Drama

The quality of teaching and learning in Drama is of a good standard. Very effective use is made of Drama as a teaching methodology in the infant and junior classes. The school plan outlines a wide range of settings and activities through which the aims and objectives of the Drama curriculum can be developed. Planned lessons in Drama indicate that the pupils experience a broad and balanced Drama curriculum. Active learning methodologies, including hot-seating, role play and group work are employed. Pupils engage enthusiastically in the lessons organised and their self-esteem, confidence and oral language skills are developed through their active participation in these activities. Teachers display an awareness of the benefits of Drama as a creative process through which pupils are enabled to enter an imagined context and to explore issues, conflicts and emotions leading to a deeper understanding of real life. Activities organised in Drama lessons facilitate the pupils’ imaginative and emotional development, foster their creativity and promote empathy with the ideas, attitudes and feelings of others.

 

4.6 Physical Education

The school has developed very good Physical Education (P.E.) facilities and pupils have access to a suitable general purposes room, hard court areas, green area, a basketball court and community playing pitches. The pupils are facilitated to experience a wide range of P.E. activities. Tutors work with the pupils, under the guidance of the class teacher in the area of Irish dance, hip-hop dance, hurling, football, basketball and tag rugby. Teachers ensure that this input is balanced through the development of the strands of aquatics, outdoor and adventure activities, gymnastics and athletics. Very good lessons were observed in which optimal use is made of resources thereby enabling all pupils to participate actively in the development of specific physical education skills. Teachers are commended for the manner in which they facilitate the full participation of all pupils including those who are physically and behaviourally challenged. Special needs assistants were observed to work co-operatively with the teachers to enable this participation. Positive personal qualities of fair play and co-operation are actively encouraged in the pupils and a good balance is struck between competitive and non-competitive activities. Pupils are encouraged to engage in a range of extra-curricular activities, in the school sports day and in school teams. The success of the school in addressing the principles of the Physical Education programme has resulted in the promotion of positive attitudes towards physical activity and its contribution to lifelong health-related fitness. The school is commended in this regard.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

The promotion of equality of opportunity and a sense of fairness is strongly evident in the work of this school. Positive steps are taken to ensure that pupils are treated equally, with respect and in a fair and just manner. Culture, disability, gender and special educational needs are not barriers to participation. The school climate provides a supportive and caring environment in which the child feels valued and appreciated. Whole-school policies and school based initiatives such as Food Dudes, the provision of healthy lunches and visits from community workers support pupil learning in this area of the curriculum. School supports are arranged for different pupil groups. These include a homework club, after school club, friendship groups and socialisation clubs. The school is commended in this regard. Very good lessons were observed in the teaching of SPHE. In these lessons specific learning objectives are developed which enable the progression of pupils’ learning and a wide range of active teaching and learning methodologies is employed including story, role play, discussion, and visualisation exercises. Planned lessons foster the personal development, health and well-being of the pupil. Appropriate emphasis is placed on assisting pupils to understand themselves, to relate to others and to maintain healthy patterns of behaviour. Very effective use is made of the “Walk Tall” support programmes. The board has ratified a good   Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy. Teacher planning indicates that this programme is effectively implemented throughout the school.

 

4.8 Assessment

Practice and policy in relation to assessment requires significant attention and improvement. At a whole-school level, standardised tests in literacy and numeracy are administered to all pupils from first to sixth class annually. The Middle Infants Screening Test (MIST) is administered to pupils in the second term of senior infants. The results of these tests are effectively utilised to identify pupils in need of learning support. The Non- Reading Intelligence Test (NRIT) is also employed to indicate the ability levels of those pupils for whom learning interventions are arranged. While this good practice is acknowledged there is a pressing need to extend the range of diagnostic tests used so as to enable the early identification of the specific learning difficulties which these pupils are experiencing. Attention is also required in analysing and interpreting the data gathered to inform the development of suitable teaching programmes and to assist teachers in identifying realistic learning targets for pupils at a whole-school level, within the classroom context and in support settings. The standard of teachers’ monitoring and evaluation of pupils’ written work is very high. However, there is little evidence to suggest that pupils’ achievement is used as a focus for classroom planning. The results of criterion referenced tests, teacher designed tests or individual pupil progress are not recorded, with the exception of tables and spelling. Consideration should be given to the use of checklists, pupil profiles, portfolios and a range of formative assessment practices in all classes. The maintenance of assessment information and record keeping in relation to individual pupils is in need of significant development as neither formative nor summative assessment results are retained in individual pupil records. It is therefore recommended that the current assessment policy be reviewed as a matter of priority so as to enable the school to develop a systematic approach to pupil assessment which should inform planning, teaching and learning and impact positively on pupil achievement levels. 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has a staffing of four teachers to enable it to meet the learning needs of those pupils identified as experiencing difficulties. The deployment of these teachers requires immediate review. The full time learning support teacher has been assigned mainstream classroom teaching duties to the twelve pupils in fourth class in the areas of Mathematics and English. Two teachers provide part-time support in neighbouring schools. One of these teachers provides 19 hours support in Moycarkey N.S. while the other teacher works in Ballinure N.S, for two hours each week. A part-time teacher delivers support for thirteen and a half hours a week in the school. Ninety minutes of this time is devoted to the teaching of Mathematics to the five pupils in fifth class. A total of twenty six pupils receive support on a withdrawal basis, ten of whom have special educational needs. It is therefore recommended that the deployment of teachers within this support provision be re-structured as a matter of priority. It is further recommended that the school consider the provision of in-class support to pupils where appropriate.

 

It is reported by teachers and members of the parents’ association that parents are consulted in relation to the drafting of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and Individual Profiles and Learning Plans (IPLPs) and this good practice is acknowledged. It is also noted that the school has successfully included those pupils with learning disabilities and difficulties into the life of the school and their engagement in mainstream learning activities was observed to be of a high standard. IPLPs are devised for all pupils in receipt of learning support. These plans outline learning targets for the pupils in receipt of support. However, the appropriateness of the identified learning targets is questionable given the limited range of diagnostic tests administered and the absence of good quality assessment data.

 

Individual Education Plans are completed for pupils in receipt of resource hours. However, the process employed by teachers in devising IEPs should be reviewed as a matter of priority. These plans do not reflect the recommendations outlined in the educational psychologists’ reports nor are they specific in relation to the priority learning needs of the pupils or the leaning targets to be addressed as identified. At present, teachers who provide support for pupils with special educational needs, prepare bi-annual schemes of work. It is recommended that they now engage in planning which would outline learning outcomes for the pupils in the shorter term. The assessment and recording of pupil progress also requires significant thought and attention. Only one of the teachers compiles a monthly report and this refers primarily to the content of the programme covered and not to the progress made by the pupil. It is recommended that each teacher maintains a record of individual pupil’s progress and that monthly progress records be completed. All of the teachers maintain a daily record of the content of the lesson taught to the pupils and in some instances this record notes the success or failure of the pupil to achieve during the particular lesson. It is now recommended that teacher planning in support settings be addressed as a matter of priority, that the recommendations outlined in circular 05/02 and Department guidelines are consulted and that whole-school policy in relation to the provision of support to pupils be reviewed accordingly.

 

The quality of teaching and learning for pupils with special educational needs requires immediate attention. In general, during the evaluation period, the quality of teaching in the lessons observed was found to be of a good standard. Teachers identified a learning outcome for each pupil or group of pupils and organised a variety of learning activities to enable the pupils to address this learning target. Good working relationships are established between teachers and pupils. Active learning methodologies are successfully employed and the pupils were engaged in the learning process. The quality of teaching in the learning support setting was observed to be very good and the teacher systematically records pupils progress in relation to the identified learning outcomes. It is also noted that the provision of learning support to a number of pupils in the infant levels resulted in support being discontinued for three of the pupils. This good practice is commended. However, in the absence of assessment data or the recording of pupil progress it is not possible to determine the level of impact which this teaching is having on pupil achievement.

 

 

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

 

A significant minority of the pupils attending St. Kevin’s N.S, Littleton come from the Traveller community. These children are successfully integrated in all mainstream class settings. One of the two resource teachers for Traveller pupils based in the school has been deployed to a mainstream setting and this has contributed to the reduction in pupil teacher ratio throughout the school, thus enabling the needs of Traveller pupils to be met in an integrated manner within the mainstream setting rather than through the withdrawal of these pupils.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and with the manger of the school where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published  October 2008

 

    

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

   

 

            Area 1 : Observations on the content of the Inspection Report

 

We found the WSE to be a helpful exercise overall for the school and the report will be of considerable help to us in planning for the future. There are, however, a number of points with which we do take issue and we hope that our comments on these points are constructive. We would like to make the following observations on the report;

Introduction

 

§         The positions of the two temporary unqualified resource teachers required further clarification in the report. One was working for 6 hours per week in the school and the other was working 13.5 part-time hours per week.

 

§         The principal always attends most carefully to leading teaching and learning in the school. This role is never curtailed.

 

§         DEIS Plan was operating in year 1 during WSE process. Accurate evaluation was not possible until end of school year.

 

§         DEIS Plan was formulated by whole school staff, assisted by a SDP facilitator, on a SDP day. June 2007.

 

§         Linkage and integration are already an integral part of the school’s planning process. The whole school staff attended a SDP day which focused on teacher planning in all curricular areas in September 2007. This planning was assisted by a SDP facilitator.  

 

§         Teachers base their planning on the revised curriculum books and also use a wide variety of textbooks as a support for their planning but not as the basis for their planning.

 

English

 

§         In year 1 of the school’s DEIS Plan, the percentage of children achieving high to extremely high scores has increased by 11.4%, which far surpassed our targets. (MICRA-T)

 

§         Specific oral language objectives are already being taught throughout the school.

 

§         Children from middle and senior classes are indeed avid readers who partake in a wide range of reading activities such as C.A.P.E.R., D.E.A.R. Time, Reading Buddies, class novels, library books and collaborative reading.

 

 

 

Mathematics

 

§         School statistics indicate that the mathematical performance of the majority of children is average and above average. The percentage of children scoring low average and below decreased by 10%, whereas the children scoring from average to extremely high increased by 10.2%. (Sigma-T). We have exceeded our expectations set for year 1 in the school’s DEIS Plan.

 

Assessments

 

§         Weekly testing, standardised testing, teacher observation and diagnostic testing are being used in the school as a tool for assessment of learning and for learning based on “Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum. Guidelines for schools.”

 

Special Ed.

 

§         Recommendations from educational psychologists are always reflected by support teachers when devising IEPs for pupils.

 

§         The first sentence of the last paragraph in this section seems to contradict the remainder of the paragraph. The school strongly disagrees with the opening sentence but is happy with the contents contained in the remainder of the paragraph.

 

§         The Learning Support post is a shared post. 0.9 allocation to Littleton N.S.

 

 

§         We strongly feel that a reference to the socio-economic background of a very substantial number of children attending the school should have been included in this section in the interest of balance within the overall context of the report.  As indicated to the inspectors, the 2002 Census of Population shows a very significant level of disadvantage in the community.

 

We would like to conclude by thanking the inspectors involved in the WSE for their time and support in helping us to maximise our potential as a school.

 

 

 

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

 

§         Principal is now working as a full time administrative principal for 2008/’09 school year.

 

§         Provision of support to younger pupils found to be experiencing difficulties in maths is now being given.

 

§         The deployment of LS/Resource teachers has been addressed. The school now has a support team staffing of five full time teachers. All five teachers are fully qualified and probated. The learning support teacher is now solely providing learning support tuition in maths and english.

 

§         A whole school phonological awareness programme is currently being implemented throughout the school.

 

§         Board of Management members will attend a training seminar for Boards of Management on 21st October 2008.