An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Íoclann na Pairilise
[Enable Ireland /Sandymount School]
Sandymount Avenue , Dublin 4
Date of inspection: 7 March 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Íoclann na Pairilise [Enable Ireland / Sandymount School], Sandymount, Dublin 4. 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 members of the board of management. The board of management of the school 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.
This school, located on Sandymount Avenue, is a special school providing education and related services for boys and girls with physical disabilities and associated learning difficulties, from four to eighteen years of age. The majority of the pupils have another disability along with their physical disability and this is recognised for the purpose of teacher allocation. A pupil teacher ratio (PTR) of 6:1 applies and each class has at least one assigned special needs assistant (SNA). At a time of this evaluation 51 pupils were enrolled and staffing consisted of an administrative principal, 11 teaching posts and 19 special needs assistants (SNAs). The catchment area of the school ranges across South Dublin city and county. The majority of the pupils avail of the school transport service provided through the Department of Education and Science. The school also provides a programme for pupils in July.
The school was established in 1958 and is under the patronage of Enable Ireland, formerly Cerebral Palsy Ireland, which was founded in 1948 to provide services for people with physical disabilities. Enable Ireland is now a national organisation with centres throughout the country. The school is located on the same site and works closely with the Enable Ireland Clinic/Centre, Sandymount. The Enable Ireland centre provides a wide range of services for children and young people with varying degrees of physical disability and associated difficulties. Services available to the children include medical, psychological, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, nursing and social support.
The school provides for a diverse range of special educational needs, associated with conditions such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, developmental delay and other medical conditions and syndromes. While all the pupils have a physical disability there is a very wide range of individual differences across the school. Pupils are generally referred to the school following a multidisciplinary assessment. Some pupils may attend the school after participation in an Enable Ireland early services programme; others are referred following a period of attendance in a mainstream school. In common with many other special schools, a changing pattern of enrolment is evident in recent years. While the trend has been towards a decrease in enrolment, children and young people with complex special educational needs continue to seek placement in the school. These developments have important implications for the future role of the school.
The board of management is in its first year of a four-year term of office. The members of the board have extensive experience and are well qualified for the task of governing the school. Minutes of board meetings are maintained and the school accounts are audited. It is evident that the members of the board of management are fully committed to providing a high quality of education service to each pupil. While in the recent past, much of the board's time was taken up with administrative matters, the future development of the school is now its primary focus. It is recommended that further progress in this regarded be supported through more direct involvement of the board in reviewing aspects of whole school planning and policy development, management of resources and staff training. Current priorities for the board include staff development, the promotion of wider collaborative practice within the school and between the school and the clinic, enrolment, and linkages to the wider education community. The chairperson visits the school on an ongoing basis and the board plans to meet regularly to address the range of challenges currently facing the school. It is recommended that the wider school community, including parents, be kept informed of the ongoing work of the school board of management through the provision of an annual report.
A report reviewing the patronage of the Enable Ireland special schools, including the school in Sandymount, was completed in 2006. A steering group was established to implement a number of the report’s recommendations and this work was ongoing at the time of this evaluation. The commitment of members of the board of management, over many years, to the mission and development of the school is commended.
The in-school management role is devolved by the board of management to the principal and to the teachers holding posts of responsibility. The principal was appointed in 2003 and has had the challenging task of managing the school at a time of considerable change. He is conscientious in attending to the organisational, supervisory and liaison duties associated with the position of principal. He demonstrates concern for the welfare of the pupils and seeks to provide for their educational needs in an appropriate and safe environment. Significant challenges currently facing the school include falling enrolment, the changing profile of pupils attending the school and the changing relationship between the school and the clinic on the campus. Uncertainty as to the future direction of the school, declining enrolment and staff morale are critical issues to be addressed at this time.
At the time of this report the in-school management team was also made up of an acting deputy principal and three special duties teachers. It is evident that the in-school management team is made up of capable and dedicated teachers who are committed to the development of the school. Curricular, organisational and pastoral care duties are included as the areas of responsibility. Team members are very keen to develop their posts of responsibility with the purpose of enhancing school provision and enriching the teaching and learning experiences provided to the pupils. In the light of the considerable challenges facing the school it is essential that the abilities, energy and commitment of this team is harnessed appropriately in addressing and managing the current and emerging priorities for the school. The in-school management team has a key role in facilitating a process of collaborative whole-school planning and development, across the organisational, curricular and pastoral areas of school life, to ensure that pupils are consistently provided with an appropriate and challenging education. It is recommended that the duties and responsibilities of the in-school management team be reviewed in the context of the current and emerging school priorities. The board of management should also now actively support the in-school management team in enhancing its management function in relation to the operation and development of the school.
A key challenge for the school management is to raise staff morale across the school. Concern was expressed at several levels, during the course of this evaluation that morale was low. Staff training and development will be an essential element in renewing the commitment and energy of the staff team. There is ample evidence across the school that there is a real desire to further develop the quality of service provided to the pupils and to maximise consistency in carrying out the pupils’ programmes. Working collaboratively with the board of management and school staff, the in-school management team should have a key role in drawing up and updating the whole-school development plan. A review of in-school management priorities and procedures would provide an opportunity to mobilise and support staff and to attend to the development of the school’s longer term strategic aims and objectives. In this context, the school should endeavour to strengthen its collaborative systems and approaches in relation to aspects of administration, curriculum planning, care, and the implementation of the pupils’ programmes.
At the time of this evaluation, teaching staffing at the school consisted of the principal, eight classroom teachers and three resource teachers. Nineteen special needs assistants provided for the care needs of the pupils. The resource teacher posts came about as a result of a shortage of classroom accommodation and they work with pupils within the classroom context, with groups and with individual pupils. A school secretary provides important administrative support to the school. Caretaking, cleaning and security services are provided by Enable Ireland. It was noted during the evaluation that the school timetable needed to be adjusted to ensure provision of the full school day.
The physical accommodation of the school is of a very high standard with bright, spacious classrooms, wide wheelchair friendly corridors, a fine hall, GP room, ancillary rooms, a small multi-sensory room, as well as proximity to facilities of the Clinic including a swimming pool. The school environment is welcoming and comfortable. Classroom furniture is also generally of a very good standard and suitably adaptable for use by pupils with motor difficulties, facilitating them in maintaining appropriate and comfortable posture during the teaching and learning activities. In classrooms throughout the school, staff members have assembled an impressive range of commercial and teacher made resources and these are used effectively in implementing the curriculum. Most classrooms are attractively arranged with curricular displays and areas of interest. The outdoor hard-surface play area is well maintained. The school buildings and grounds are maintained to a high standard and those involved in the upkeep of the school facilities are to be commended. Members of the school staff are praised for the attractive, bright and welcoming environment that has been developed for pupils. Classroom and corridor areas are used to display and celebrate the work and achievements of the pupils in areas such as the Visual Arts, sport, projects undertaken and there are well presented photographic records of school activities in which the pupils have been involved.
A range of audiovisual aids is used to support the implementation of a broad and stimulating learning programme. These include television, CD/DVD players, and digital cameras. Other teaching resources include musical instruments, PE equipment and art resources and materials. Teachers make good use of the available information and communication technology (ICT). ICT and assistive technology are a crucial resource for many pupils with physical disability and associated difficulties, and equipment such as communication aids, computers with switch access, touch screens and other peripherals, and teaching aids such as the Alphasmart are used effectively in classrooms. In this regard, it is essential that there is ongoing monitoring of the use of ICT and updating of technology, as required, in the context of the developing needs of individual pupils.
Therapeutic supports are provided to many pupils during the course of the school day. These include speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy. There is good cooperation between teachers and therapists in relation to the carrying out of the pupils’ therapy programmes. The representatives of the school parents’ association stressed that parents would welcome increased collaborative practice between all those working with their children during the school day in order to facilitate further consistency of approach in the ongoing implementation of the programmes undertaken by the pupils. Greater access by the pupils to the psychological services of the clinic was also noted as an important issue in relation to individualised planning and programme development. Staff members report that over time there has been a diminution in services from the clinic, reducing opportunities for collaboration between teachers and therapists. Wherever possible, the practical collaboration undertaken with therapy colleagues should be strengthened to facilitate the integration of education and therapy programmes for pupils, where appropriate.
The team of nineteen SNAs provide important support to the work of the school in relation to the care, safety needs and mobility of the pupils. While in the past, the staff of the clinic were more available and involved in providing support in relation to such areas as personal care, assistance with eating and drinking, swimming and physical education, this support is generally now provided by the school complement of SNAs. Many of the SNAs demonstrate dedication and good practice in their work with the pupils. While a meeting with the SNA team provided evidence that morale is low, the majority are keen to develop their role and would welcome relevant training opportunities to acquire additional skills in supporting pupils with physical disability. A nurse employed by Enable Ireland is an important point of contact between the school and clinic and also provides support to pupils with regard to their intimate care needs.
The parents support the work of the school through their involvement on the board of management and parents’ association. Parents have been actively involved with the school through the board of management for many years. At the time of this evaluation the parents association had also recently been re-established. The parents’ representatives are anxious to see the further development of the school and the maximum use of its resources on behalf of the pupils. They are particularly concerned to see greater development of ICT and assistive technologies across the school. While parents were highly complementary of the work individual teachers and other members of staff, they were strongly of the view that further collaboration between the school and the clinic would enhance the complementary roles of teachers and therapists in providing for the learning needs of the pupils. Parent-teacher meetings are held during the year as part of the individualised education planning process and further meetings are held with parents or guardians as required. In most classes effective communication is also organised between the pupils’ teachers and the parents and guardians through a regular home-school diary. This practice is praiseworthy and facilitates ongoing sharing of information between home and school in relation to the ongoing needs and concerns of the pupils.
The importance of effective working relationships among teachers, therapists and SNAs is recognised in the context of the overall provision to the pupils attending the school. Arrangements are in place to support communication and cooperation between school and clinic personnel in relation to the education and therapeutic needs of the children. These arrangements operate at both management and individual staff member level. Teachers and therapists also meet informally on an ongoing basis in relation to issues concerning the pupils. Members of the board of management, parent representatives and individual staff members have acknowledged that the enhancement of relationships and communication within the school and between the school and the clinic are important areas for further development.
School personnel know their pupils well and in their daily interactions teachers and SNAs are supportive, sensitive and encouraging. The classes are organised to allow staff to cater for groups that are relatively homogeneous in terms of age and learning needs. As the classes are small, teachers can provide a considerable degree of individual attention to the pupils. During the evaluation the pupils displayed respect for staff and their school, co-operation with each other, and were polite to school visitors. Discipline across the school was considered to be very good. It was noted that pupils can be on school transport for a considerable period of time travelling each morning and in this regard it is important that the pupils should access the school as soon as possible after their arrival. Further opportunities and arrangements to facilitate the pupils in giving their views and opinions on school related matters, through a pupils’ forum or pupils’ council should be developed.
A number of students are over 18 years of age, at which point they should progress to further education and training and adult services. The work of the school in providing transition programmes and in endeavouring to secure appropriate post-school placement for their pupils, is noted. It is important that this work is continued and extended so that pupils can progress from post-primary education to further education, training and adult services at the appropriate stage. A small number of pupils also attend a mainstream school as part of an integration programme and the issue of dual enrolment needs to be clarified in this regard.
A school plan has been developed as required by the 1998 Education Act. A range of policies addressing organisational, curricular and pastoral areas has been put in place. The school planning documents aim to cater for the variety of needs of the pupils attending the school and a range of programmes and projects have been successfully undertaken across a number of curricular areas. The wide range of planning documents includes policies and statements on the aims of education, health and safety, anti-bullying, challenging behaviour, child protection, enrolment, in-school management and an ICT code. A wide range of policies has also been assembled for the curriculum areas and some of the curricular planning is of a very high standard. In recent years there has been extensive and commendable planning and preparation undertaken in relation to the programme for post-primary level pupils. In addition, the introduction of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme provides further appropriate opportunities for pupils following their participation in the Junior Certificate Programme.
While school planning has addressed many areas concerning the organisation and curriculum work of the school, it is evident from discussions with members of the board of management, staff and parents representatives, that there is scope for further strategic planning and development in relation to the school. Action plans for identified areas of school development, setting out aims and objectives, should be developed through a collaborative whole school process, involving staff, board of management and parents’ representatives. The in-school management team should have a particular responsibility with regard to the ongoing development and documentation of both organisational and curricular action plans. Members of the board of management should have appropriate involvement in the development and ratification of policies and plans. There should be systematic monitoring of the school plan by the in-school management team and the board of management, with agreed timescales and review dates. In the light of the important challenges facing the school, including enrolment and the strengthening of collaborative practice, the board of management, in consultation with the patron and the other partners should undertake a comprehensive review of the development priorities and future direction of the school.
A child protection policy has been developed and is included as part of the school plan. The procedures set out are linked to the policies of Enable Ireland. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed as required by the guidelines. The steps taken by the board of management and staff in the development of policies with regard to the provisions of the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001) should be set out in the school planning documents. The school plan should also provide evidence confirming that the board of management has adopted, implemented and communicated to all relevant individuals, a child protection policy that incorporates the guidelines and protocols of the Department of Education and Science and those of Enable Ireland.
The development of each pupil's individualised education plan (IEP) is a critical task for all schools providing for pupils with special educational needs. While an IEP is prepared for each pupil on an annual basis, the current school approach to the development of IEPs should be reviewed and further developed. The school needs to review and to record in the school plan, its individualised education planning processes and protocols, so as to facilitate maximum inter-professional participation and parental involvement in the IEP process. Where appropriate the pupils themselves should also be included in the education planning process. As far as possible, the IEP planning should include key recommendations from updated professional reports and all those working with the pupil should be involved. In reviewing its procedures, guidelines such as those produced by the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Guidelines on the Individual Education Plan Process (2006) would provide useful reference sources.
In the senior section, classroom planning endeavours to provide age appropriate post-primary experiences for the pupils across the curricular areas. Due attention is also paid to the development of independence and life skills, and, for example, pupils participate in a range of projects and visits taking them into the local community and Dublin city. When pupils enter their final years of schooling, preparation for the transition to adult education and further education and training is undertaken. For some pupils the Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied programmes are followed. Post-primary school textbooks and other age appropriate materials are employed. Some pupils have also completed assessment in the Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate Applied programmes. For a number of pupils the programme also includes Business and Enterprise Studies as well as Politics and Media Studies. It is recommended that the rationale explaining the underlying principles for the approach taken in the post-primary section should be further developed and recorded. In order to make sure that the pupils have access to a broad, balanced and challenging curriculum, the approach should ensure that the various areas of the curriculum are provided for. Whole-school policy development in this area could initially be undertaken by the staff involved. Following this stage it should be discussed by the board of management and shared with the parents of the pupils and the wider school community.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Throughout the school the atmosphere in classrooms was warm and encouraging and this impacts positively on the pupils sense of belonging and security in the school setting. A number of the teachers have special education qualifications and are experienced and skilled in dealing with pupils with special needs and with physical disability in particular. Teaching and learning activities were generally well organised and carefully structured, taking account of the barriers to learning experience by pupils with physical disability. Lessons were well presented in relation to content and methodologies and suitably differentiated to cater for different learning needs. In the junior classes the teachers provided opportunities for practical and first-hand, multi-sensory experiences to allow the pupils to participate in experiential learning. An appropriate emphasis is given to active learning methodologies, the use of visual, auditory and tactile materials, and linking learning activities to the lives and experiences of the pupils beyond the school. Information technology was also widely used in some classes. Literacy and numeracy skills were practised and reinforced across the curriculum areas throughout the school day. Thematic approaches were usefully employed and teachers were successful in creating opportunities to enhance the pupils’ experiences of learning. Approaches employed in classrooms include whole class teaching, group activities, pair and individual work and circle time. In a small number of lessons there was an over-reliance on reading texts and in these cases, materials should be modified to help to ensure that pupils are appropriately challenged in the learning activities. The school organises a number of extra-curricular, cultural, aesthetic and sporting activities. These activities include visits by artists and musicians to the school as well as participation in inter-school sporting competitions.
While a number of the teachers have specialist qualifications and expertise in teaching pupils with special needs, it is also essential that teachers continue to have opportunities to develop up-to-date methodologies and to acquaint themselves with best practice in relation to the education of pupils with physical disability and associated difficulties. The Special Education Support Service may have a role in facilitating this and visits to other specialist schools with relevant and excellent practice, in particular, areas should be considered.
A short school policy on Irish has been developed and aspects of the language and Irish culture generally are in evidence. Each classroom has an Irish name. In one class, Irish was used incidentally in the classroom conversation and the pupils responded with understanding. Most of the pupils are exempted from studying Irish. However, some pupils may wish to study Irish and this should be provided for at the appropriate level. There is considerable competence in the Irish language among the teaching staff and where necessary it should be possible to provide a broader programme in Irish, where this is required.
Forbraíodh gearr-pholasaí scoile don Ghaeilge agus tá gnéithe den teanga agus den chultúr i gcoitinne, le feiceáil sa scoil. Tá ainm Ghaelach ar gach seomra ranga. I rang amháin baineadh úsáid as an nGaeilge le linn comhrá ranga agus d’fhreagair na daltaí le tuiscint. Tá díolúine ó staidéar na Gaeilge ag formhór na ndaltaí. Mar sin féin, tá seans ann go mbeadh roinnt daltaí ag iarraidh an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim agus ba chóir freastal orthu siúd ag an leibhéal cuí. Tá cumas maith Gaeilge i measc na foirne múinteoireachta agus ba cheart go mbeadh sé indéanta, de réir mar is gá, clár níos leithne sa Ghaeilge, a chur ar fáil pé áit atá sé seo de dhíth.
The promotion of the pupils’ receptive and expressive language and communication skills is a central aim in classrooms throughout the school. Language and communication skills are fostered through dedicated language activities and also through the range of activities undertaken across the curriculum. Commercial and teacher-prepared materials are used to stimulate and support pupil participation and engagement in lessons. At the junior level, lessons are well supported by a range of visual and concrete materials, pictures and charts. The programmes undertaken are rich in language, nursery rhymes and songs. A broad variety of activities is undertaken including activities to promote capacities such as visual and auditory perception, concentration and attention, communicative skills and hand/eye coordination. Individual activities, pair activities group work, co-operative activities and circle time activities are all employed to support the pupils’ participation and development.
In the junior class groups, speech and language therapy is incorporated into the class routine and sessions are generally conducted on a weekly basis. Many pupils are effectively supported in using communication aids and other assistive technologies. A number of staff expressed concern in relation to the need for greater access to technical support to ensure that all communication aids, computer equipment and related resources are promptly repaired or replaced when the need arises. Across the various levels, the pupils are encouraged and given opportunities to share their experiences and ideas, express feelings and to communicate their opinions and needs. Cross- curricular thematic projects, relevant to the ages and experiences of the pupils are regularly undertaken. Topics of concern to young people are carefully explored in the senior classes.
In the promotion of literacy skills, due attention is paid to building sight vocabulary, developing phonological awareness, and the comprehension skills of the pupils. With the younger pupils, large format reading material and supplementary resources are skilfully employed. Story and poetry are used very effectively to motivate and stimulate the pupils. Print-rich environments and attractive library resources are in evidence in classrooms. A broad range of activities is undertaken in reading and writing and the pupils’ communicative contributions are encouraged and valued. While some pupils use handwriting others employ computers and related technologies. In the senior and post-primary classes there is an increased emphasis on promoting functional reading and writing skills. Reading material reflecting current social issues, newspaper and magazine articles, advertisements, television and radio guides, menus and recipes, official forms and documents are all used in supporting the pupils’ ability to make purposeful use of print in their own environment. Commendable samples of the pupils’ work can be seen in classrooms throughout the school. Some students in the senior and post primary classes pursue English as part of the Junior Certificate or Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) or the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme. Successful work has also been undertaken in a number of areas of information technology, for example, impressive work has been completed using a number of applications such as Access, Word and PowerPoint. While all classrooms have access to a variety of hardware and software materials to support the pupils’ literacy development, in the light of the particular importance of ICT as a learning resource for pupils with physical disability, it is recommended that the range of resources available to classrooms is regularly reviewed and updated.
A variety of opportunities is provided for pupils to enable them to explore Mathematics, develop concepts and practice skills according to their abilities. There is a good range of mathematical equipment available to support teaching and learning. The mathematics lessons that were observed were well structured and involved concrete materials discussion and recording. Lessons provide for whole-class, group, pair work and individual approaches. In the junior classes, the emphasis is on early mathematical activities, the exploration of colour, size, shape, and the development of basic number concepts and computational skills. The teachers emphasise active learning approaches and linking mathematical activities to the pupils’ environment and their experiences. In the senior and post-primary classes, classroom activities are firmly grounded in functional mathematics and appropriate attention is given to the use of mathematics in daily living and independence activities. In the lessons observed the pupils worked actively, sometimes with SNA support, using concrete materials and calculators. A notable and commendable feature of the approach was the use of the Internet to apply mathematical skills to functional real-life problem solving. Some impressive work was also observed where pupils were successfully using Excel computer programmes to carry out calculations and to display results in a variety of graph formats. Consideration should now be given building up an assessment instrument to measure progress across the objectives in the various strands of the Mathematics curriculum. In addition to using standardised assessments, the approach to assessment could be adapted to develop criterion- referenced assessments and in this way to monitor the pupils’ progress from the junior through to the senior classes.
Activities in History provide the pupils with opportunities to develop an appreciation of time and chronology, change and continuity, and cause and effect. The History programme includes story, and myths and legends incorporating the fostering of the pupils’ skills of listening, recalling and sequencing, vocabulary development and the recognition of emotions. Some of the approaches employed allow the pupils to learn about the lives of people in the past and to make comparisons with today. In one project, for example, the pupils were encouraged to interview their grandparents. In the senior classes, the pupils undertook activities related to aspects of the history of Ireland, Europe and ancient civilisations. Good examples of the work of the pupils were observed in a number of classrooms across the school.
In Geography, the pupils explore the interrelationships between the human and natural environments. In the junior classes themes and topics are linked to the experiences of the pupils and their local environment. Tables of interest with items from the natural environment were to be seen in the junior classrooms. In a number of classrooms, pupils were engaged in planting seeds and monitoring growth. The pupils are encouraged to develop an appreciation of the changing seasons and how weather patterns influence our lives and the lives of plants and animals. In the senior and post primary classes a broad range of activities is undertaken to promote the development of geographical concepts related to national, European and worldwide contexts. Good use is made of pictures, photographs and other illustrated materials to encourage pupil participation and photographic records of visits to places of interest can be seen in classrooms. The senior pupils display a genuine concern and interest in matters relating to the environment.
In Science, there is a suitable emphasis on first-hand experience and pupils are provided with opportunities to observe natural phenomena, engage in practical activities and to plant and monitor the growth of plants and thematic displays focusing on a range of aspects of the natural environment, are a feature of classrooms. Cross-curricular links are pursued and the teachers make the most of the opportunities that arise for the promotion of the pupils’ language and communication skills.
A broad and varied Visual Arts programme is undertaken across the school. The programme provides useful opportunities for the pupils to take part in a variety of creative activities, facilitating scope for self-expression, and participation in a variety of enriching, stimulating and sensory experiences. Due emphasis is given to fostering the pupils’ creativity, and the pupils are enabled and encouraged to experience and explore all strands of the Visual Arts curriculum. Samples of the pupils’ work in drawing, painting and colour, clay, construction and print, were on display and some very impressive three-dimensional projects have been completed by the pupils. Good use was also made of ICT in participating in and creating art. Samples of the pupils’ work were also kept in folders and some pupils enjoy talking about the art they have created. The school has made useful links with the National Gallery and the pupils have taken part in visits and have had visitors to the school exploring aspects of the visual arts with the pupils.
The pupils benefit from a broad range of activities undertaken in Music, based on the strands of the curriculum, including listening and responding, performing and composing. Some very impressive and praiseworthy teaching and learning in and through music was observed. In the lessons observed the pupils, through their enthusiastic engagement in the group activities, were clearly deriving important opportunities for personal and creative expression. The pupils are provided with opportunities to listen and respond to a variety of modern, popular, traditional and classical music. They participate in music-making activities, using percussion instruments and singing. Music activities are positively and constructively integrated with other areas of the curriculum. The social and recreational aspects of music are also provided for and commendable use is made of a range of musical activities to promote positive experiences for the pupils. The school has also had the support of a music therapist and it is reported by staff that pupils derive significant benefit from the activities undertaken in this programme.
Drama activities are effectively integrated across the curriculum and employed as an active learning strategy to support the pupils’ learning, particularly as they explore stories and topics involving social and emotional themes and relationships. In the junior classes, drama is linked to story and related language development activities and the production of a class play was observed. Pupils clearly enjoy participating in the activities undertaken. Good use was also made of role-play scenarios, carefully constructed so that the pupils are enabled to practice their receptive and expressive communication skills in relation to issues and contexts relevant to their own experiences. The contributions of the pupils are sensitively affirmed and they are supported and encouraged as they gain confidence in their communicative and expressive skills.
In providing for Physical Education (PE), the school has access to some fine resources on the campus, including a hall and a swimming pool and a supply of large and small equipment and resources. A wide-ranging programme is undertaken in PE and the pupils participate in a variety of activities, including movement to music activities, games, sport and adventure activities, and swimming. The lessons observed were well-organised, carefully differentiated, and matched to the abilities and needs of the pupils. The lessons foster a range of learning and skill development and the pupils engaged with enthusiasm. Careful attention is paid to the social, co-operative and competitive dimensions of the games and sports activities. The school also participates in a variety of inter-school sports events. The pupils’ interest in the recreational opportunities provided by physical activity and sport is also cultivated. In some areas of PE, important guidance and support has been provided by physiotherapy and occupational therapy personnel. This collaboration in the important area of physical education and the development of sport and recreational pursuits, is commended and further inter-professional collaboration in this area should be extended wherever practicable. Swimming lessons are organised in the Enable Ireland swimming pool located adjacent to the school and the SNA team plays a vital role in facilitating the pupils in participating in this important physical and recreational activity. Senior pupils of the school also have a reputation of successful involvement in inter-school competitions, for example, in wheelchair hurling.
Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is regarded as a key area of the curriculum and a broad range of activities is provided across the school. Opportunities are provided to enable pupils to develop personally and socially. Learning and teaching in SPHE occurs both formally and informally in the school and the aims of the SPHE curriculum are pursued through a positive classroom climate, the teaching of discrete lessons in aspects of SPHE and the integration of SPHE themes and topics with other areas of the curriculum. Activities are undertaken to foster the pupils’ awareness of themselves and others in their school and home communities. Opportunities to appreciate one's own feelings and those of others are sensitively explored in many classrooms. Particular emphasis is given to making safe and healthy choices in relation to dangers in the environment and in developing a sense of personal responsibility. Co-operative skills and positive social interaction are encouraged. The teachers try to provide opportunities for each child to experience individual success and to develop individual talents. A sense of belonging is promoted and individual, class and school achievements are celebrated. The programme endeavours to promote independence in relation to self-care, and positive attitudes towards healthy lifestyles. Safety issues are explored through discussion and role play, for example, behaviours that are appropriate only to particular contexts. In some classes pupils are encouraged to take responsibility for classroom chores. Learning to care for the environment is an intrinsic aspect of the learning activities. Tasks are differentiated to cater for the age and individual learning needs of the pupils. The SPHE programme incorporates the Relationships and Sexuality Education Programme and elements of the programme are implemented across the school. Programmes such as the Stay Safe Programme and the Walk Tall Programme are carried out as part of the SPHE programme.
The teachers are very much aware of the importance of assessment and a wide range of teaching resources and assessment instruments have been assembled. Teachers monitor the progress of pupils in relation to their schoolwork and record this information on a regular basis. They also monitor the social and personal development of the pupils on an ongoing basis. This information is used purposefully in planning for teaching and learning. The teachers observe and support the engagement of their pupils in the learning process and provide them with ongoing and constructive feedback. Recently the school has accessed the Quest assessment materials which are used with pupils to establish baseline achievement. In a number of the post-primary classes pupils are involved in developing their own learning statements and for some pupils the Junior Certificate and the LCA programmes provide a useful framework for monitoring achievements and progress. Some teachers write up regular reflections on their work and this practice is commended. Building on aspects of current practice, it is recommended that each pupil's progress and achievements are assessed and recorded in the context of the diagnostic, formative and summative aspects of the assessment process. This assessment should complement the individualised planning process for each pupil. It is also recommended that the multidisciplinary team dimension of the assessment process be enhanced as far as practicable.
All pupils attending the school have special educational needs arising from physical disability and associated learning difficulties. Individual Education Plans are drawn-up for each pupil, and this is an area of ongoing school development. The multidisciplinary team members make an important contribution to the IEP process and this involvement should be strengthened so that each pupil has a consistent programme of education and therapy during the school day. A wide range of methodologies is employed in implementing the curriculum. In each classroom a number of adaptations have been made to accommodate pupils with particular learning needs, for example, the use of visual schedules for pupils, and materials such as worksheets have been adapted for visually impaired pupils. ICT and related peripherals are also selected to support individual pupils.
In addition to delivering particular subject specialisation in curriculum areas, the resource teachers provide additional and specific support for a number of identified pupils. The pupils are selected following discussion between principal, class teacher and resource teachers. It is important that the resource teaching capacity is reviewed regularly so that this resource is directed at the area of highest priority for the school.
A timetable is provided for therapeutic support. Protocols for communication between the school and the clinic have been established and these relationships which support collaborative practice need to be maintained and developed by all involved. The continued development of collaborative approaches in the preparation, implementation and review of the pupils’ IEPs is a core task for all involved in working with the pupils, in responding to their changing needs as learners, and in the context of the provisions of the Education for Persons with Special Education Needs Act (2004).
The teachers are aware of the need to be proactive in involving pupils from minority groups in activities that support and enhance learning. The characteristic spirit of this school is inclusive and welcoming and pupils from all backgrounds participate actively in the school community.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The high level of commitment and professionalism demonstrated by members of the school staff.
· A range of programmes to meet the special educational needs of individual pupils is carefully and effectively implemented.
· Staff members are committed to a process of ongoing whole-school development.
· Systematic approaches are employed in the teaching of literacy across the school.
· Highly competent practices are in evidence in relation to the teaching of Music, the Visual Arts, Drama, and in relation to the promotion of awareness of the environment and the community.
· Spacious, bright and attractive school accommodation is available to the pupils.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· The board of management, in consultation with the patron and the partners in the education of the pupils, should carry out a comprehensive review of the development priorities and future direction of the
school and undertake the necessary strategic planning for its ongoing development.
· In the light of the current and emerging school development priorities, a review of the responsibilities, priorities and working arrangements of the in-school management team should be undertaken by the
board of management and school team.
· The practical collaboration undertaken between teachers and therapy colleagues in working with individual pupils should be strengthened.
· The collaborative team approach for each stage of the individualised education planning process should be extended for all pupils across the school.
· An audit of staff training and professional development needs should be undertaken and opportunities to access training programmes through, for example, the Special Education Support Service
(SESS) should be provided for all school personnel.
· The school timetable should be adjusted to ensure provision of the full school day.
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 March 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The inspection report has been reviewed in detail at a special meeting of the board of management. The board regards the report as fair and balanced and has carefully noted the general advice and specific recommendations contained therein.
The board welcomes inspectors’ observations on the high level of commitment and professionalism demonstrated by the school staff and on the careful and effective implementation of school programmes.
The board is very concerned about the future of the school, in the context of falling enrolment and the changing profile of pupils. It would welcome clarification from the Department of Education and Science on the future role and official designation of the school.
Transition of pupils to adult services is an ongoing serious concern for the school, in the context of the continuing lack of availability and adequate funding for these services.
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 school timetable has been adjusted; regular meetings will be held with Bus Eireann to discuss and resolve problems relating to the transport of pupils.
The board will formally review the duties and responsibilities of the in-school management team at its next regular meeting.
The board has retained the services of experienced facilitators to address issues relating to staff morale and teamwork. This exercise will take place before the end of the current school year.
The board will facilitate access by teachers to the SESS and to centres of excellence in the field of physical and complex disabilities.
The board and school staff will continue to engage with clinical services management and professional staff to further promote collaborative practices in the holistic development of pupils.
Reference to child protection policies and Child Protection Guidelines will be included in the school plan.
The board plans to more fully involve itself in issues relating to the future development and role of the school.
The board will consider the publication of an annual report, as recommended.
The board will continue to engage with the appropriate authorities regarding the transfer of senior pupils to adult services.