An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Chaitríona Cailíní

Measc Avenue, Coolock

Dublin 5

Uimhir rolla:18361I

 

Date of inspection:  13 February 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

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School response to the report

  

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Scoil Chaitríona. 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 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.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Chaitríona Cailíní National School was founded by the Sisters of Mercy in 1960. It is located on Measc Avenue in Coolock and caters for pupils within the catchment areas of the greater Coolock area. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. The school caters for girls from second class to sixth class. It has an administrative principal, ten classroom teachers, one learning-support teacher, two special-class teachers, two full-time resource teachers, two part-time resource teachers and four special-needs assistants. The school participates in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), the Department’s action plan for educational inclusion.

 

Currently, 228 girls attend the school. Overall, attendance levels are very good. However, the irregular attendance of a small cohort of pupils is quite acute. The school has an attendance policy and actively seeks to monitor and promote pupil attendance through its implementation of this policy and through the work of the home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator. The school benefits from the sterling services of a secretary, an attendance monitor and a caretaker.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

The school’s board of management approaches its work in a focused and committed manner. Meetings are held on a regular basis. Minutes of these meetings are written in a concise and clear manner. A treasurer’s report is presented at every meeting. The school’s accounts are certified on an annual basis. The board is commended on the proactive approach it takes to examining and reviewing school organisational policies and matters related to school management. Some of the members have attended training in the recent past. The board stated that it was satisfied with the manner in which the curriculum is taught. It is proactive in encouraging parents to become involved in the life of the school and in so doing, seeks to offer pupils a wide range of educational experiences and opportunities for success. Examples of activities and initiatives to this end include knitting classes, cookery classes, art activities, paired reading, Maths for Fun activities, information and communication technology (ICT) classes, science weeks and a school credit union. The board is highly commended on the scope and range of such activities. The priorities of the board centre on financial management, health and safety concerns, the review of school policies, the support of teaching staff and the maintenance and provision of resources.

 

2.2 In-school management

The school principal approaches her role in a dedicated and enthusiastic manner, providing strong curricular, organisational and pastoral leadership. She is keenly conscious of the need to provide a warm and affirming environment which recognises the uniqueness of each child, while simultaneously challenging all pupils to reach their fullest educational potential. The principal closely monitors the effectiveness of educational interventions and actively seeks to support and empower creativity and change throughout the school. She has established strong links with the school community.

 

A focused and committed in-school management team comprising one deputy principal, one assistant principal and six special duties teachers supports the principal. In addition to providing curricular and pastoral leadership, this team adopts a hands-on approach to managing the school in both a daily and long-term manner. Members of the team set about their duties in a collaborative manner, regularly liaising with the principal and the rest of the school staff to ensure the efficacy of their work. Duties assigned to individual members have been decided at a staff level and these endeavour to tap the unique expertise and talents of each post-holder. These duties cover pastoral, organisational and curricular domains. They are regularly reviewed.

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

The school has a wide range of resources to support the implementation of the curriculum. It has been proactive in reviewing and augmenting stocks over the past number of years. Recent initiatives to compile resources for Social, Environmental and Scientific Education on a thematic basis are very commendable. The school plans to review and develop its ICT resources in the future. Such an initiative is laudable and necessary. The school benefits from its own school hall and stage.

 

While the school does not have a staff rotation policy, teachers are afforded a variety of teaching experiences across different class levels and teaching contexts. It is recommended that a staff rotation policy be established to formalise the current informal good practices. A number of staff members have undertaken professional development courses across a wide a range of curricular and organisational domains. In so doing, they frequently relay and demonstrate the key aspects of their learning at staff meetings. Such actions are commendable.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The school adopts an open door policy to communication with the wider community, liaising regularly with parents in both a formal and informal manner. Parent-teacher meetings are held in term one of each academic year. Pupils receive a written report on their progress in the summer term of each academic year.

 

The school has an enthusiastic and committed parents’ association. It meets regularly during the year and actively seeks to support the work of the school in a number of ways. It organises a number of events and activities for the pupils during the school year. Examples of these include a graduation mass, a Sports for All Day, an Easter Quiz and a theatre event. In addition a number of school trips and musical performances are also organised. The association is also very conscious of involving the wider community through school activities such as knitting, homework clubs, art and credit union savings plans. On occasion, the association organises for speakers to address the school community on matters such as drug awareness. It issues a newsletter once each term. On occasion, pupils contribute sections to this document. The parents’ association uses this newsletter to highlight matters pertinent to its work.  The association stated that it was satisfied with the education being provided in the school.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

The management of pupils in this school is of a very high quality. Well-established school procedures and practices, underwritten by a warm and respectful rapport between pupils and teachers alike, serve to create an environment of efficiency and contentment.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

The quality of school planning is very good. The school has compiled a very wide range of organisational plans. These plans provide clear and specific guidance on a wide range of school organisational practices. They pay appropriate attention to the unique context and circumstances of the school. The school’s policies can be accessed in the school’s staff room and parents are offered opportunities to read them. It is recommended that the school investigates opportunities for the wider dissemination of the school plan among its teaching staff. Although the school plan is comprehensive, it is recommended that it be organised more systematically into various sections such as curricular, organisational and pastoral policies. Such a reorganisation of the plan should consider the clearer demarcation of present, past and future action plans. Policies are in place for all curricular areas. These policies provide a very clear and progressive outline of lesson content from class to class. The school adopts a collaborative approach in constructing these plans, making suitable use of Cuiditheoirí from the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS). In certain instances, specific subgroups are established to drive and guide the formulation of particular plans. The board of management is consulted on the formulation of all plans. On occasion, parents are consulted on the formulation of plans.

 

It is recommended that all plans contain a review and ratification date. In the main, the school reviews its organisational policies on a regular basis. As it is some time since the school’s enrolment policy was last reviewed, it is recommended that this policy be given priority in the next action plan for the review of organisational policies. The school actively seeks to review all curricular areas every two years. Such an endeavour is commendable. The formulation of an action plan would be useful in guiding the future review and development of school plans.

 

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has 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.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

 

Classroom planning is undertaken in a collaborative manner with each class level coordinating the delivery of the curriculum in short and long-term units on a regular basis. All teachers prepare long and short term plans to direct and guide teaching and learning in their classrooms. Content is delineated in a clear and sequential manner. In many cases, this planning is of a high standard, paying appropriate attention to continuity and progression and being set within well-thought out parameters. In some cases, it is necessary for short term objectives to be delineated more clearly and for differentiation practices to be outlined in a more specific manner. All teachers complete monthly reports on work completed. It is recommended that the school examines the effectiveness of some the current practices in use in the school for the recording of pupils’ progress.  

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

 

Teaching and learning in this school is very good. It occurs within a very warm, affirming and nurturing school environment. Teachers display a keen interest and concern for their pupils across pastoral and academic domains. Such concern and enthusiasm translates to classroom environments which nurture and nourish pupil curiosity and pride in their own learning. Lessons make suitable use of resources and have very good pace and direction. Pupils are actively and enthusiastically involved in lessons. They reveal pride, contentment and interest in their work, and in so doing show commendable independence as learners. 

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá caighdeán ard ó thaobh na Gaeilge de tríd an scoil seo. Tá an plean scoile an-soléir. Tá moladh ag dul do na hoidí as an dua a chaitheann siad le cur chun cinn na Gaeilge. Cuirtear béim inmholta ar an gcultúr Gaelach. Gach bliain, eagraítear Seachtain na Gaeilge. Chomh maith le sin, cuirtear béim ar cheol traidisiúnta agus ar chéilí. Léiríonnn na daltaí an-suim agus cumas maidir le rincí traidisiúnta. Tugtar ard-mholadh do na hoidí as an tslí ina n-úsáideann siad amhráin agus dánta le linn an lae. Léiríonn na daltaí suim ar leith san fhilíocht, rud atá inmholta. Is féidir leo raon leathan dánta a athris.

 

Baineann na hoidí úsáid éifeachtach as modhanna éagsúla teagaisc sna ceachtanna. Úsáidtear teagasc ranga, teagasc grúpa, obair bheirte agus obair aonair. I gcásanna áirithe, moltar úsáid níos forleithne a bhaint as an obair bheirte. Sna ranganna seo, baintear úsáid chruthaitheach as acmhainní agus cluichí éagsúla chun suim na ndaltaí a mhúscailt agus chun iad a mhealladh chun cainte. Is léir go bhfuil na daltaí ag baint taitnimh agus tairbhe as na ceachtanna seo. Léiríonn siad saibhreas teanga agus is léir go bhfuil stór leathan focal acu. Tá siad in ann tabhairt faoi nuacht, filíocht, amhráin, scéalta, mím, cluichí teanga agus comhrá ginearálta faoina saol agus a dtimpeallacht. Ar an iomlán, leagtar béim óiriúnach ar ghraimeár agus ar dhul siar sna ceachtanna.

 

Múineann na hoidí tríd an scoil scileanna na léitheoireachta go cúramach do na daltaí. Léann na daltaí le brí agus le líofacht. Is léir ó na cóipleabhair go bhfuil dul chun cinn inmholta á dhéanamh ag na daltaí maidir le scileanna scríbhneoireachta. Scríobhann siad i réimsí éagsúla. Moltar freisin mar a bhaintear úsáid as an Ghaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh i rith an lae i gcuid mhór de na ranganna. Rachadh sé chun tairbhe go mór do dhul chun cinn na Gaeilge sa scoil ach an cleachteas thuasluaite seo a leathnú tríd an scoil de réir mar is cuí.

 

Irish

There is a high standard of Irish throughout this school. The school plan is very clear. Teachers are praised for their efforts to promote Irish. Commendable emphasis is placed on Irish culture. Every year, an Irish week is organised. In addition, traditional music and ceilí are promoted. The pupils reveal great interest and competence in traditional dancing. Teachers are highly commended for the manner in which they use songs and poetry throughout the school day. Pupils reveal commendable interest in poetry. They can recite a wide range of poems.

 

The teachers make effective use of a variety of teaching methodologies during lessons. Whole-class teaching, group teaching, pair work and individual work are in use. In some instances, it is recommended that greater use of pair work be undertaken. In these lessons, teachers make creative use of a variety of resources and games to stimulate the interest of the pupils and to encourage them to converse. It is evident that children are deriving enjoyment and benefit from these lessons. They display a richness of language and it is evident they have a wide range of vocabulary. They are competent in news, poetry, songs, stories, mime, language games and general conversation about their environment and life. In the main, proper emphasis is placed on grammar and revision in lessons.

 

Throughout the school, teachers carefully teach reading skills. The pupils read with meaning and fluency. It is evident from the copies that pupils are making commendable progress in their writing skills. They write in various genres. In many of the classrooms, the use of Irish as a language of interaction throughout the day is also commended. It would further benefit the development of Irish in the school if the aforementioned practice was extended as appropriate throughout the school.

 

English

The school has formulated a detailed and wide-ranging school plan for the implementation of the English curriculum. This plan is of a high standard. It is recommended that in the next review of this plan, consideration be given to the formulation of a more definitive outline of phonological development at different class levels.

 

Overall, the standard of teaching and learning in English is very good. Teachers employ a variety of teaching approaches and make effective use of resources. Lessons make good provision for group and pair work. In some instances, further use of pair work could be investigated. Teachers place commendable emphasis on oral language development, in both discrete and integrated contexts. In so doing, lessons make very good provision for the development and revision of vocabulary and the formulation of opinions. 

 

Pupils reveal a keen interest in reading. They read with fluency and meaning. Classrooms and school corridors are very well presented in terms of being print-rich. The school has been very proactive in promoting reading through the use of DEAR (drop everything and read) time, paired reading, shared reading and ‘reading for fun’ initiatives. Such activities involve parents and serve to celebrate and promote reading for pleasure. Focused intervention as part of the school’s literacy initiative also serves to develop pupils’ reading skills. Reading lessons make suitable provision for comprehension skills. In some instances, very creative and focused approaches were in use for the development of such skills. It is recommended that the school investigates further approaches to the dissemination and expansion of such skills. Pupils are exposed to a wide range of reading material, with notable emphasis on newspaper and media studies. Throughout the school, emphasis is placed on the novel, with very good analysis of theme, plot and character being noted in a number of contexts.

 

Pupils write in a variety of genres and are making appropriate progress in this regard. Examples of such writing include book reviews, diaries, letters and stories. Creative writing is cleverly integrated into a number of other curricular areas. In a number of instances, teachers make commendable and creative use of the writing process. It is recommended that in some cases, teachers make greater provision for the use of this process. The school places strong emphasis on grammar. In some cases, teachers create anthologies of the pupils’ creative writing. Such work is commendable. It is recommended that the school investigates further opportunities for the dissemination and celebration of such practices at a whole school level. Pupils’ handwriting is of a very high standard. Pupils have received a number of awards in recognition of the high standards of their handwriting. Their written work is presented in an exemplary manner.

 

Teachers make creative provision for the study of poetry. Pupils reveal a keen appreciation of poetry. In many instances, pupils can recite a repertoire of poems and demonstrate a proficient ability to discuss, compare and contrast poems from a variety of genres. It is recommended that in some cases, greater emphasis be placed on recitation and memorisation as a mode of response to poetry. Teachers make very good provision for pupils to compose their own poems.

 

Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative

The teaching of Italian is guided by a well-constructed plan which outlines the key content areas and language skills to be covered during lessons. Resources are used in an effective manner. Lessons serve to challenge the pupils and provide them with varied opportunities to practise and develop vocabulary. Pupils reveal interest in these lessons and participate enthusiastically in activities. They show commendable subject knowledge and enthusiasm for learning the language. Spanish classes are on offer to all pupils in the evenings. These classes are delivered by an external tutor for a fee. The school’s board of management subsidise these classes from monies raised through fundraising activities.

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

Teaching and learning in Mathematics is guided by a well-constructed plan. This plan provides a very clear and progressional outline of the content to be covered at each class level. It is also notably specific in delineating thinking strategies. It is recommended that, in the next review of this plan, more specific reference be made to integration and to the use of mathematics trails in the general school environment.

 

As part of its planning for DEIS, the school created a numeracy and literacy plan in 2007. This plan makes very good provision for the school-wide use of mathematical language, the adoption of mathematics games and the use of formal assessment approaches. It is recommended that in building on such commendable provision, the next review of this initiative should further examine approaches to problem-solving at a whole school level.

 

Mathematics lessons are delivered in a warm and affirming manner. Pupils are encouraged to partake and they do so with enthusiasm and verve. They clearly enjoy these lessons and are making very good progress in their work. In particular, the school’s ‘Maths for Fun’ initiative which involves parents and which focuses on the active involvement of pupils in a supportive environment is successfully developing pupil interest in Mathematics. At present, this initiative is mainly targeted at second and third classes. It is recommended that, in time, the school should consider the further extension of specific activities to other class levels in the school. Pupils’ written work is carefully monitored and reveals that a broad and focused range of subject matter is being covered. Such monitoring facilitates focused assistance and support for specific pupils who are having difficulties. In a number of classes, pupils are encouraged to question and clarify their understanding of particular concepts. Such practice is commended. Classrooms are well presented as mathematics-rich environments. Lessons provide a good balance between whole-class teaching, pair work and group work. They make very good provision for mental mathematics and for the development of mathematical language. Resources are used to very good effect. Pupils are given varied hands-on activities and are provided with suitable opportunities to use concrete resources. Content is set at the appropriate level. Many teachers effectively and creatively relate lesson content to the experience and environment of the pupils. Teachers maintain suitable records of pupils’ progress; some very commendable practices in this regard were noted during the inspection.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

Teaching and learning in History is of a very good standard. Pupils’ skills as historians are being developed effectively. A range of topics from local, national and international history is covered with the pupils. At all class levels a broad range of stories have been selected, reflecting a balance between the lives of famous men and women from various eras in time. Pupils’ sense of time and chronology is scaffolded through a whole-school approach in the use and display of timelines appropriate to particular class levels. This is very good practice.

 

Pupils demonstrate enthusiasm and high levels of interest in topics covered. Commendable examples of projects are displayed in a significant number of classrooms. Models of monasteries and aspects of ancient civilisations have been created collaboratively by the pupils. Pupils’ learning is further consolidated through visits to museums and places of historical interest. To build on the whole school plan for History, the school is assembling resource packs based on themes for particular levels. This is a very good approach. The assembly of a wider selection of artefacts, photographs, documents, old newspaper articles and old maps, particularly of a local significance is advised. The school is developing an integrated trail which will further support skill development. This is a praiseworthy initiative.

 

Geography

The potential to integrate aspects of Geography and History has been appropriately exploited in the recent development of a whole school plan for Geography. Classrooms are equipped with a broad range of maps which are features of display in classrooms and globes are used extensively by teachers to appropriately develop a sense of space. In the lessons observed, aspects of the three strands of the curriculum were explored and these lessons were resourced with photographs, maps, artefacts and ICT. In the sample lessons observed, the quality of teaching was very good. Collaborative group work, while engaging with a variety of resources, is recommended as a means of further developing pupils’ geographical skills. Pupils demonstrate a keen enthusiasm in their learning.

 

An awareness of people in the local community is developed through engagement with the local fire brigade and members of An Garda Síochána in relation to safety issues. Well-researched projects are on display in most classrooms demonstrating appropriate awareness of features of the human and natural environments in local, national, European and world contexts. Pupils in senior classes demonstrate a very good ability to compare and contrast these features with the local and national context. Pupils work as geographers, most notably during weather investigation and daily temperature recording in the school environment. Pupils’ mapping skills are developed in a spiral manner and this is very good practice.

 

Science

Teaching and Learning in Science is guided by a well-formed school plan. The school has amassed a good selection of resources for the teaching of all strands of the science curriculum. Speakers are occasionally invited to the school to talk to the pupils about specific topics. Teachers make use of a variety of teaching approaches in the teaching of science. Whole-class teaching, group work and pair work are used judiciously and to good effect. Pupils’ ideas are suitably used as starting points for lessons, with content being effectively connected to the environment and life experience of the pupils. Pupils are encouraged to discuss and debate particular scientific phenomena and principles. In so doing, they are provided with practical activities which make effective use of concrete resources.

 

The local environment is effectively used, with nature walks and nature trips being planned. The school is also active in promoting recycling and in engaging with activities such as bird watching and temperature measurement. In so doing, a number of teachers creatively integrate science with a range of other subject areas. It is recommended that in some cases, teachers’ planning needs to make greater provision for the analysis of factors associated with fair testing. Overall, there is good provision for all strands of the science curriculum. Pupils reveal good subject knowledge. Classrooms are suitably presented as science-rich environments. In a number of classrooms, there is evidence of planting and the associated development of skills such as observation, predicting, experimenting, analysis and recording. It is recommended that, in the further development of some of the school’s outdoor planting activities, consideration be given to the development of a school garden.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

Teaching and learning in the Visual Arts are guided by a very broad and detailed school plan. A wide range of stimulating and user-friendly resources is available to facilitate delivery of all strands of the curriculum. Throughout the school a number of samples of the pupils’ work in Visual Arts are on display. This work is of a high standard. There is a good balance between making art and looking at and responding to art. Commendable work has been undertaken in the study of artists’ lives and different artistic styles. Lessons in Visual Arts provide pupils with varied opportunities for both of these dimensions. Teachers make very good use of talk and discussion and visual stimuli to fire the pupils’ imaginations and to examine different forms and styles of art. Pupils are active in exploring, experimenting, expressing and enjoying art. Lessons make very good use of resources and enable pupils to explore art through guided discovery. In many instances the subject is very creatively integrated with other curricular areas in a thematic fashion. The school has been creative and effective in involving parents in a number of visual arts activities. Examples of such involvement include knitting classes and painting classes.

 

Music

The school has created a very comprehensive and focused school plan for the implementation of the music curriculum. A wide range of very suitable resources has been complied to assist delivery of all strands of the curriculum. The school organises a wide range of activities and trips to augment and support the delivery of the curriculum. In particular, the school’s annual talent show serves to celebrate the various musical talents of the pupils. The standard of teaching and learning in Music is very high. Lessons make very good provision for eliciting physical, emotional and cognitive responses from the pupils. Pupils can sing competently a wide repertoire of both English and Irish songs. In a number of classes, pupils are taught the tin whistle and many can demonstrate commendable mastery of this instrument. Lessons are very well structured and are characterised by high pupil involvement. Pupils are exposed to music from different styles, periods and cultures. Very good provision is place for the study of rhythm and standard notation. Activities make suitable provision for the study of various musical elements, most notably, pulse, tempo, pitch and dynamics.

 

Drama

Drama is appropriately timetabled by all teachers as a discrete subject and is also integrated as a methodology in a variety of cross-curricular settings. Lessons observed drew skilfully from story, situations where choices had to be made, class novels and other imaginative settings. Pupils participated confidently in the drama process as a result of appropriate warm-up activities which enabled pupils to enter physically and emotionally into the drama world. Their confident participation is further scaffolded by an appropriate drama contract which was used as a reference point at the commencement of the drama lessons. Through the medium of process drama, pupils are encouraged to explore aspects of conflict, to improvise in groups and to cooperate in role as they accept the brief assigned to them. The provision of opportunities for pupils to discuss the outcomes encountered during drama activity is very good practice in relation to process drama.

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

Physical education lessons are delivered in a competent manner, providing pupils with a range of opportunities to practise and develop particular skills. Pupils show suitable subject competence across a range of skills, most notably in connection with the dance strand of the curriculum. Lessons actively involve all pupils and serve to challenge and motivate them. Teachers model the relevant skills. Resources are used to good effect, with pupils being given varied opportunities to use these resources. The school has a very good selection of resources for Physical Education. Swimming lessons are provided for pupils in the third, fourth and special classes. Teachers are commended for their efforts to involve and encourage pupils to engage in a range of sporting activities.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

The teaching of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is supported by the warm and friendly atmosphere that permeates the school. Pupils present themselves as content and confident learners. This was evidenced by the quality of teacher-pupil interaction and pupil-pupil interactions. The whole school plan for SPHE outlines a two year cycle for the implementation of the strands of the curriculum at each class level. During discrete lessons in SPHE, pupils explore a wide range of topics which encourage pupils to become self-reliant and independent while being respectful and sensitive to the needs of others. Teachers’ planning indicates that SPHE is integrated across many areas of the curriculum, most notably English. Through pair work, circle-time and collaborative group work, pupils are enabled to share their views and clarify their thinking through talk and discussion. Pupils cooperate well in these lessons and they listen to and show respect for other pupils’ points of view. In the future review of SPHE, consideration should be given to revisiting aspects of safety and protection issues on an annual basis.

 

4.8 Assessment

 

The school has a comprehensive assessment policy. In reviewing this policy, it is recommended that the types and functions of specific diagnostic tests be more clearly delineated. All pupils in all of the classes are tested using the Schonell Spelling test, the Drumcondra Primary Reading test and the Drumcondra Primary Mathematics tests. In addition, in September of each year, the reading of all pupils in mainstream second class is tested. It is recommended that the formative and summative value of such testing be re-examined, bearing in mind the standardised tests from the feeder schools and the data from their assessment techniques. While there are merits in the school’s current approach to monitoring the success of its DEIS action plan through the use of standardised testing and associated statistical averages, it is recommended that such monitoring should also examine the progress of specific pupils on standardised tests and their improvements qualitatively over the time periods in question. Teachers make use of a wide range of assessment modes which include teacher-observation, teacher-devised tasks, work samples and portfolios. In particular, very effective use of concept maps, brainstorming and pupil self-assessment was noted during the evaluation. It is recommended that the school examines wider opportunities for the dissemination and adoption of such approaches.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The school has the services of a committed special education team comprising five full-time teaching positions and two part-time positions. Teachers are appropriately deployed to meet the needs of pupils with multiple disabilities in two special-needs classes. Pupils requiring supplementary teaching in literacy, numeracy and language development are supported in the learning support and resource settings. This support is clearly referenced to the school’s ethos and mission statement. Four special-needs assistants (SNAs) provide conscientious and effective support for the care needs of the students. They also support the students in the classroom in collaboration with the classroom teachers. Teachers have access to the services of a psychologist within the National Educational and Psychological Service (NEPS) and also, the services of a speech and language therapist.

 

In the special needs classes, teachers appropriately differentiate all aspects of the curriculum to provide a developmentally appropriate programme of work which is based on the strengths and learning targets of groups and individual pupils. Individual education plans (IEPs) are developed in a collaborative manner and teachers provide detailed long-term and short-term schemes of work. Records of pupils’ work and progress are maintained and teachers communicate effectively with parents on a regular basis. A daily note book is used to support this effective communication process.

 

Lessons observed were well structured and highly interactive. Pupils’ learning was reinforced appropriately through the use of teacher designed and commercially produced resources. Teachers are to be commended for their attention to the pupils’ social and emotional development. Procedures are in place for the operation of ‘buddy systems’ for pupils from the special needs classes during play time. This inclusion and integration is further evidenced in a shared-reading and shared-cookery programme whereby pupils from senior mainstream classes and special classes work together. Inclusion is further evidenced during visual arts lessons, the delivery of the Accord Programme (SPHE), swimming and other school initiatives.

 

The provision of learning support and resource teaching is organised very carefully. Supplementary teaching for pupils in mainstream classes with special educational needs is provided primarily in the areas of literacy, numeracy and language development. The school endeavours to cater for the needs of all pupils who present with learning difficulties in line with the stated aims of the whole-school policy for learning support. This policy outlines the approaches to screening procedures but there is need for greater clarity in relation to the selection of pupils in relation to supplementary teaching for numeracy. Planning in the learning-support and resource settings is clear but there is variation in planning practices. With a view to building on the many existing good practices observed there is a need to review some aspects of planning for specific individual needs so that a whole-school approach is adopted. Where planning is well developed, individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) are devised for each pupil in receipt of learning support and resource teaching. These plans are grounded in the pupils’ priority needs and data from their diagnostic tests. They set out realistic and clear time-bound learning targets. In building on this conscientious work, it is recommended that such practices and approaches be extended to the design and formulation of all IPLPs. A review of the existing whole school policy for learning support is recommended and should be conducted in accordance with the Learning Support Guidelines (2000) and Primary Circular 02/05.

 

While much of the supplementary teaching takes place on a withdrawal basis, either individually or in small groups, provision for in-class support is being capably developed for literacy and numeracy. A range of suitable approaches, using both visual and concrete materials, is used effectively during teaching and learning sessions. A number of ICT programmes are used very effectively to reinforce learning. Teachers are commended for their caring and sensitive approaches in the delivery of supplementary teaching and for their collaboration and consultation with class teachers and parents. In all support settings, positive teacher-pupil interactions are in evidence.

 

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

 

Scoil Chaitríona is part of a cluster of schools participating in the School Support Programme of DEIS. In its three-year action plan for literacy and numeracy, the school has identified commendable targets in respect of raising literacy and numeracy standards. In the most recent review of targets, the school has reported progress towards the attainment of targets set for literacy. The resetting of the targets and the continuation of the existing systematic collaborative approach should enable the school to move closer towards these targets. Other literacy projects such as Story Sacks have been undertaken with the support of the parent community. The extra financial assistance provided to the school under DEIS is used to facilitate the curriculum enrichment for pupils at risk of early school leaving and to ensure that all targeted pupils participate fully in the life of the school. Funding is also used for the purchase of resources across the curriculum.

 

The DEIS action plan also outlines strategies to create effective links with parents and the wider community. To this end, the effective practice engaged in by the home-school-community liaison co-ordinators is acknowledged. Their practice is informed by a detailed policy and a strategic plan that is reviewed annually. Cluster meetings are held regularly and a close working partnership is evident between the schools involved. Close links have been established with the local post-primary schools and with the local voluntary and statutory agencies. An effective programme is in place to ensure the transition of pupils from primary to post-primary school. A commendable range of activities is undertaken with the parent community. A number of parents have participated in training and their support is valued by teachers in areas such as reading and mathematics. In particular, the developments of Shared Reading Booklets and Maths for Fun Booklets which are focused on developing pupil, teacher and parent partnerships deserve specific commendation.

 

The proposed plan to involve parents in “Science for Fun” is praiseworthy and should further enrich the partnership between home and school. An annual ‘Celebration Day’ which celebrates and recognises the involvement of both parents and pupils in the HSCL initiative is also praiseworthy. A range of educational and recreational activities has been initiated for parents. Home visits form a core element of the work of the HSCL coordinators.

 

The school is participating in the School Completion Programme (SCP). The programme co-ordinator, principal, project worker and teachers work well together to identify pupils who are potential early school leavers. The school aims to ensure these pupils have the most positive learning experience possible. The school operates a very effective strategy of attendance monitoring and engagement with parents concerning school attendance. A variety of in-school and after-school activities is organised and funded through the SCP, most notably, cultural, leisure and sporting activities.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         The school benefits from the strong pastoral and curricular leadership of the school principal and dedicated in-school management team.

·         A warm and supportive team spirit exists among all school staff.

·         Teaching and learning in this school occurs within a very positive, affirming and nurturing school environment.

·         Teachers display a keen interest in and concern for their pupils across pastoral and academic domains. Such concern and enthusiasm translates to classroom environments which nurture

      and nourish pupil curiosity and pride in their own learning.

·         Pupils show pride, contentment and interest in their work. 

·         Pupils are making very good progress in their learning.

·         Lessons are well structured and make very good provision for active pupil involvement.

 

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

·         There is need for further clarification within the learning-support policy regarding how the level of support provided to pupils is weighted in relation to the assessed level of need.

·         It is recommended that the learning-support policy be reviewed to ensure a consistent whole-school approach to planning for the needs of pupils identified as needing supplementary teaching.

·         The next review of the school’s mathematics plan should examine further approaches to problem solving at a school wide level.

 

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

 

  

 

 

Published November 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

 

Ø       To clarify within learning-support policy how level of support provided to pupils is weighted in relation to the assessed level of need.

Ø       When reviewing mathematics plan, to examine further approaches to problem solving.