An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Náisiúnta Cúán

Cill Bheathach, Cill Ruis, Contae An Chláir

Uimhir rolla: 18359V

 

Date of inspection: 09 March 2009

 

 

 

 

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

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Cúán was undertaken in March 2009. 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 Drama. 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

 

Scoil Náisiúnta Cúán is a two-teacher mainstream primary school located in the seaside village of Kilbaha in the Loop Head Peninsula in County Clare. It is one of two schools serving the parish of Kilballyowen. Refurbishment was carried out in 2002 and subsequent maintenance has resulted in the provision of a well-appointed learning environment. The immediate area and consequently the school’s enrolment has benefited in recent times from a population influx, due mainly to the activities of Rural Resettlement Ireland. Enrolment is projected to remain at current levels for the foreseeable future. Average attendance levels are very high. This is mainly due to the school’s espousal of a range of attendance promoting strategies including an award scheme.

 

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

35

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school operates under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killaloe. The school’s motto, Mórchuid molta agus gannchuid cáinte, embodies an ethos that seeks to create a relaxed, friendly, supportive environment in which pupils can achieve their potential through access to a broad, balanced and varied curriculum. In stating its philosophy for education, the school emphasises the need to foster close relationships with parents and to co-operate with them in every way possible in the preparation of pupils for further education and lifelong learning. The importance of encouraging respect for self and others is also stressed as is the development of the values of sincerity, openness and trust.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meets on a regular basis. Board decisions are carefully recorded and the annually certified accounts are maintained and presented in exemplary fashion. The board is extremely proud of the outcomes of various phases of the school’s infrastructural development over the years and of the current levels of resources provided to support teaching and learning in the school. Additionally the board regards the welcoming atmosphere, the support for special needs pupils and the quality of teaching as key strengths of the school. The board appreciates efforts made by the teachers to involve pupils in extra-curricular activities such as swimming, dancing, chess and quizzes. Board members attest to the high level of support the school receives in this close-knit community. This support was particularly evident when drainage works were carried out on the school’s playing field. Similarly the school becomes a focal point for harnessing the goodwill and co-operation of parents and of members of the wider community during various other celebratory events.  In fulfilment of its statutory role, it is laudable that the board’s overriding priority for the future is to support and collaborate with the teachers in ensuring that the school is administered effectively and that the current provision of a very high quality of teaching and learning continues to be sustained and developed.

 

1.3 In-school management

The school is very capably led by a highly experienced and dedicated principal. The principal’s innate leadership ability has been recognised through her engagement with the process of mentoring newly-appointed principals as part of the Leadership Development for Schools programme. She is conscious of the relative geographical isolation of the school and strives to compensate for this by extending the locus of learning to places of interest locally and nationally, by involvement in various projects and initiatives and through use of the internet. Her commitment to her own professional development is admirable and she has successfully promoted a culture of continuous professional development among the staff. The principal receives sterling support in her leadership role from a hard-working and talented deputy. The deputy principal attends to her curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities with due care and initiative. Existing good practice in this area may be enhanced through an annual review of assigned responsibilities to align with current curricular development priorities.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Parents’ representatives expressed their unqualified admiration for the manner in which the school addresses the needs of their children. Parents are well-informed of school events through regular notes and newsletters and the school has recently redesigned its website with a view to easier and more regular updating of content. Parents feel that their input to school policy is welcomed and valued and that systems for dealing with their concerns are based on fairness, openness and a willingness to preserve very good relations at all times. Teachers meet parents frequently on an informal basis and formally twice yearly to discuss pupils’ progress. Annual written reports have been issued in the past and this element of the reporting system is now under review. This review will consider the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment guidelines on this issue and ought to include discussions with parents before a new policy is finalised.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils in Scoil Náisiúnta Cúán is very good. Both teachers and pupils contribute successfully to the creation of a warm, welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Relationships are based on a well-developed sense of care and mutual-respect and are supported by clear and fairly-implemented policies.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. Records of engagement with the support services, such as cuiditheoirí, over many years, as well as carefully recorded accounts of the school’s own planning activity give testament to well-established procedures for planning and review and to the teachers’ commitment to the full implementation of the Primary Curriculum. As an example, in the 2007 to2008 school year, the staff focused on a review of the school’s policy for the teaching of Gaeilge and to this end, made commendable use of external support from the regional cuiditheoir for Gaeilge. Policies for all curricular areas have evolved through purposeful collaboration in action planning to ensure school improvement and, as a result, the existing policies clearly guide practice at class level. Organisational policies, covering the broad range of activities and responsibilities inherent in administering a school, have been devised in similar fashion. All policies are discussed in draft form at board level and with suitable amendments, are subsequently ratified. Copies of policies on key issues such as behaviour and homework are given to parents. All policies are available for viewing within the school.

 

The quality of classroom planning is also very good. Teachers’ yearly plans have a common format, are guided by school policy and curriculum guidelines and reflect the distinctive context of the school. A common approach has also been agreed to short term planning and the recording of progress on a monthly basis.

 

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

Tá dianmhachnamh déanta ag na hoidí sa scoil seo ar mhodhanna éifeachtúla teagaisc sa Ghaeilge agus tá an rian sin ar a gcuid pleanála agus ar chumas labhartha na ndaltaí. Tá caighdeán inmholta le sonrú i nGaeilge sa dá rangsheomra. Cuirtear béim suntasach ar rainn, ar dhánta agus ar amhráin agus baineann na daltaí taitneamh agus pléisiúr as an gcnuasach breá atá ar eolas acu cheana féin. Úsáidtear brat draíochta na scéalaíochta go cruthaitheach mar ionchur i dteagasc agus i bhfoghlaim na teanga. Bunaítear rólghlacadh agus drámaíocht ar na scéalta seo. Léirigh na daltaí ‘sna bunranganna ard-scileanna labhartha i léiriú an dráma Na Trí Mhuc agus sna hardranganna d’fhreagair daltaí ceisteanna faoi scéal go cumasach ón “spota te.” Cuirtear fuinneamh agus beocht i dteagasc na teanga freisin trí dhea-úsáid cluichí teanga agus trí fhearas léirithe, ábhar nithiúil agus prionta sa timpeallacht a chur ar fáil. Léann na daltaí ‘sna meánranganna agus ‘sna hardranganna go líofa, tuisceanach as scéim ghrádaithe léitheoireachta agus as leabhair eile ata sa leabharlann scoile. Cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil ‘sna leabhair saothair agus ‘sna cóipleabhair agus tá roinnt mhaith aistí agus ailt scríofa go snasta ‘sna hardranganna ar théamaí éagsúla. Chun barr maitheasa a chur ar an dea-obair i nGaeilge, moltar don fhoireann anois díriú isteach ar mhuinín na ndaltaí chun a gcumas cainte a fhorbairt a thuilleadh ar bhealach níos cumarsáidí.

 

Irish

Careful consideration has been given by the teachers in this school to the most effective  methods of teaching in Irish and the effect of this on teachers’ planning and the oral ability of the pupils is obvious. A commendable standard of Irish is evident in both classrooms. Significant emphases is placed on rhymes, on poems and on songs and pupils derive enjoyment and pleasure from the fine collection they have learned already. The magic of story is used creatively as input in the teaching and learning of the language. Drama and role-play are based on these stories. In the junior classes pupils demonstrated very good speaking abilities in their presentation of the play Na Trí Mhuc and in the senior classes pupils capably answered questions about a story from the “hot seat.” The teaching of Irish is further enlivened through effective use of language games and through the provision of illustrative and concrete materials and a print-rich environment. Pupils in the middle and senior classes read fluently and with understanding from the graded reading scheme in use and from books in the school library. The pupils engage in formal writing activities in their workbooks and copies and in the senior classes pupils have carefully crafted essays and paragraphs on various topics. To further enhance the good work in evidence in the teaching of Irish it is now recommended to the staff that attention be directed towards building pupils’ confidence and capacity to communicate orally.

 

English

The teaching of English in Scoil Chúáin is of a high standard. Practice is guided by clear and detailed planning for the comprehensive delivery of all strands of the English curriculum. The learning outcomes attained reflect the efforts made to maximise the potential of all pupils. The provision of stimulating resources for language acquisition as well as teaching that is well-paced and motivating, are features of both classrooms. The integrated approach adopted to the teaching of oral language enables pupils to express themselves competently on a range of issues. Commendable attention is paid to the exploration, enjoyment and recitation of poetry as part of the school’s language programme.

 

Reading skills are successfully developed through the deployment of a range of approaches and strategies. Key among these strategies is a developmental and structured approach to the teaching of phonics and phonological awareness at all levels and an integrated approach to linking the teaching of phonics and spellings. Pupils read fluently from class readers, library books and a selection of novels. Parents and teachers co-operate effectively in ensuring that pupils are enabled to enjoy a broad range of reading material.

 

The importance of providing pupils with frequent opportunities to express themselves through writing is well-recognised by the teachers. The writing process is appropriately scaffolded so that all pupils are given opportunities to work on and improve various drafts of the material As a result, the quality of written work, in a wide variety of genres, is impressive as is the manner in which pupils’ work is published and celebrated. The school has a proud tradition of successful engagement with the Write A Book project. The use of word processing and desktop publishing tools to enhance the final versions of pupils’ projects and creative writing is particularly commendable.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Mathematics classes observed demonstrated that the structure, underpinning principles and approaches of the Primary Curriculum have been effectively adopted by the teachers.  A carefully drafted school policy for Mathematics provides for engagement with parents on key areas in which parents can assist their children with Mathematics homework. Commendable attention to oral activities in Mathematics promotes the acquisition of Mathematical language and ensures frequent revision of concepts. The teaching of number rhymes and songs at the junior level provides for further consolidation in this area. Constructive use of concrete materials and an ongoing emphasis on problem solving are also evident. Work is carefully differentiated to ensure that all pupils are suitably challenged and achieve at or beyond reasonable expectation levels. Pupils’ achievements in standardised tests are impressive.

 

3.3 Drama

The quality of teaching and learning in Drama is very good. The teachers are commended for their energetic and imaginative engagement with the spirit and substance of the drama curriculum. Drama is appropriately used as a methodology to support the teaching of various curricular areas and is also effectively taught in both classrooms as a discrete subject in itself. The ease and confidence with which pupils participate in developing improvisations and in reflecting on them is noted. The teachers are quite adept at playing in role and use a variety of drama games and strategies such as hot seating, thought tracking and conscience alley to explore content. Story is used in both classrooms to provide the fictional lens through which pupils co-operate and communicate in exploring and making drama and in reflecting on the dramatic experience. This work in drama, as delivered in this school, is viewed as a highly suitable vehicle for exploring life themes, for solving problems and for building pupils’ confidence to develop the social skills necessary to engage with others in an open, honest and playful manner.

 

3.4 Assessment

The school’s detailed assessment policy was originally drafted in 2002 and reviewed in 2008, with the assistance of a planning facilitator. Early identification and remediation of learning difficulties are at the core of this policy. The National Education Psychological Service (NEPS) now provides a service to this school and a supplementary assessment policy has been drawn up to facilitate interaction between the school and NEPS. Ongoing formative and summative assessment practices inform teachers in their planning and delivery of the Curriculum.  Commendably, much of the work in assessment involves teacher observation and the careful monitoring of work and provision of feedback to pupils. Junior Infants are screened using the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile and the Middle Infant Screening Test is administered to Senior Infants during the second term of their enrolment in this standard. The Aston Index is administered by the learning support teacher where deemed necessary. From first class onwards the Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered at the end of each school year. The outcomes of this summative testing are analysed and are also used to report progress to parents. Further analysis of test outcomes and more accessible tracking mechanisms would further enhance the good work done in this area. In this context also, further exploration of assessment as a tool to enhance learning would be beneficial. A future review of assessment policy should be undertaken to explore further the potential of formative assessment as a tool to enhance learning. This review should involve the examination of the means by which analysis and tracking of test results could inform ongoing planning.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A whole school approach to the provision of support for pupils with special educational needs ensures that these pupils engage meaningfully with the broad curriculum and make progress commensurate with their abilities. The inclusive nature of the daily life of the school reflects very well on all concerned. The school shares a resource and a learning support teacher with other schools in the locality. It is to the credit of both teachers that they are currently demonstrating a commitment to their own professional learning by completing the post graduate diploma in special educational needs.  They approach their work with commendable thoroughness and professionalism. Collaboration between the special needs teachers and class teachers is well-structured and purposeful. Parents are appropriately involved in the process of drawing up and reviewing individual education plans (IEPs). Within these plans clear, specific and relevant learning targets are set and progress towards identified goals according to identified timescales, is constantly and meticulously monitored. Pupils are generally withdrawn for support, to a spacious, attractive and well-resourced room. An early intervention programme for infants is also delivered on a withdrawal basis. At present, one Special Needs’ Assistant (SNA) provides valuable support on a part-time basis for one pupil. This arrangement is currently under review. At this point it is recommended that the board investigates with relevant stakeholders the possibility of re-organising clustering arrangements with a view to bringing greater cohesion to the provision for special educational needs.

 

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

The teachers work effectively to ensure that the education provision in this school is tailored appropriately to all pupils’ needs and abilities.

 

 

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 June 2009

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection 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

 

The Board members note the key recommendations in the report and have already begun to implement these