An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Barnane National School
Drom, Templemore,Co. Tipperary
Uimhir rolla: 18379E
Date of inspection: 15 December 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Barnane National School. 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 on the board of management. 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 of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Barnane National School is located in the parish of Drom and Inch approximately 5 kilometres from Borrisoleigh Co. Tipperary. It is one of three schools in the area and it serves a rural community, catering for both boys and girls from infants to sixth class. At present, this three-teacher school has an enrolment of 49 pupils. Enrolment in the school has remained constant over the past few years reflecting little change in demographic trends in the locality. Projected figures indicate a slight increase in enrolment, however the proposed housing developments in the area will further add to an increase in the enrolments in the near future.
The school community strives to provide a caring, inclusive and secure environment for pupils where their holistic learning needs are identified and addressed in a supportive and non-judgemental manner. A warm and welcoming atmosphere was evident during the period of inspection. This characteristic spirit of the school is reflected in the positive interactions evident among pupils and teachers. The school’s mission statement emphasises the creation of a Christian atmosphere that promotes the dignity and individuality of every pupil enabling him/her to reach his/her full potential in a happy learning environment. It is evident that pupils enjoy school and their levels of attendance are high.
The school is under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Cashel and Emly. The board of management is properly constituted and meets once a term and more regularly when the need arises. The principal acts as secretary and the deputy principal holds the position of treasurer. It is reported that the chairperson visits the school regularly. While board members have attended training for board of management members organised by the CPMSA the board should consider organising further training for board members to enable the full participation of all board members. Financial statements are furnished at every meeting. Attendance at meetings is good and active participation by all members is reported by the principal. All statutory obligations are being met and there is a strong commitment to ensure compliance with the Rules for National Schools. The chairperson of the board allocates purposeful tasks to the board members and provides very good advice to the principal in respect of accessing resources available to the school from local sources. A recent application made by the board to Ceantair Laga Ard-Riachtanais (CLÁR) was successful and this grant will further enhance resources for sport in the school. The board is commended for its commitment to the provision of a well equipped, well maintained school building and for its support of the principal and teaching staff. It is clear that the board of management is keenly interested and pro-active in promoting the welfare of the school. Close links have been developed with the local community and co-operation between school and community is fostered.
The principal provides clear leadership to a committed and supportive board of management. Primarily, the board of management has directed its attention to the development of organisational policies and board members have been instrumental in developing and ratifying these policies. To further enhance the planning process, it is recommended that the board of management build on present practice and develop curriculum policies in collaboration with staff. It is recommended that the board of management in collaboration with the staff consider the ongoing review of the administrative policies of the school with particular reference to the enrolment policy. Responsibilities are allocated by the board to the post-holders and these duties are fulfilled diligently.
Further it is necessary for the board to consider the review of the current accommodation needs with a view to making an application to the Department of Education and Science under the devolved grants scheme to ensure that appropriate accommodation is available for mainstream classes and special needs pupils. The board should also facilitate the establishment of the Parents’ Association, in accordance with the Education Act, 1998, Section 26 (2)(b), and adopt a programme of activities, which promotes the involvement of parents, in consultation with the principal, in the operation of the school.
The in-school management team consists of the principal and the deputy principal. The principal is to be commended for her innovative leadership style. She discharges her duties in a professional manner, communicating effectively with the board of management, staff, pupils and parents. The principal promotes a culture of co-operation and collaboration and acknowledges the commitment and support of staff members. She promotes innovative learning strategies throughout the school through the use of information and communications technology (ICT). She is sensitive to the needs of pupils and she reinforces strong links with the local community by fostering a spirit of inclusiveness in all aspects of school life.
The deputy principal very capably supports the principal in matters related to school administration, planning and curriculum development. Duties have been determined through discussion and are reviewed on a regular basis thus facilitating the matching of duties to a constantly changing school environment. During the inspection period the second mainstream teacher held the position of deputy principal in an acting capacity and was very supportive of the principal in the execution of her duties. This teacher also carries out organisational tasks on a voluntary basis and is commended for her dedication to this task. The learning support teacher, who is based in Drom National School provides supplementary teaching for pupils experiencing learning difficulties The shared commitment and dedication of the staff is a most notable and a commendable feature of the school. This collaborative team atmosphere positively influences the attitudes of pupils, parents and board members alike.
All necessary resources, both material and personnel, are deployed effectively. The school is organised in a traditional manner. There is a teaching principal and two mainstream classroom teachers. Each teacher is responsible for a composite class. The principal teaches fourth, fifth and sixth class pupils, the deputy principal teachers second and third class and the mainstream teacher teaches junior infants, senior infants and first classes. During the evaluation period a substitute teacher was teaching second and third classes. The learning support teacher, who is based in Drom provides supplementary teaching two afternoons each week.
The part-time secretary carries out her duties in a competent manner, providing valuable administrative support to the staff. The part-time caretaker carries out general maintenance. maintains the lawns and cleans the school. The board also employs personnel who undertake particular maintenance tasks when the need arises. The teaching staff is to be highly commended for its engagement and participation in a wide range of continuing professional development courses. Staff meetings are held once a term and more regularly when the need arises.
The school was built in 1958 and comprises two classrooms, which are small by modern standards, a corridor and boys’ and girls’ toilets. In 2003 additional accommodation was built including staff room, staff toilet, disabled toilet, cloakroom, indoor and outdoor storage area and a learning support room. This learning support room currently serves as a mainstream classroom and the learning support teacher is working in a converted cloakroom. Indoors, the school environment is bright and stimulating.
The school is in an excellent state of repair internally and externally. Internally the heating system and maintenance are of a high quality. A high standard of hygiene, neatness and order is in evidence throughout the building. The classrooms are very effectively organised and are attractively decorated with commercially produced and teacher-made charts, pupils’ writing, artwork and projects which create stimulating learning environments. Corridors are also used as display areas where art work, photographs and projects feature prominently. The school grounds are maintained to a very high standard.
External tutors visit the school providing music and dancing lessons for pupils from first to sixth class. The board and the parents fund these activities. It is important to note that the programme, which these tutors provide, should be incorporated in, and be consistent with, the school plan. Mainstream teachers should continue to plan and oversee the teaching of these curricular areas to ensure a broad and balanced curriculum is provided.
A very wide range of teaching and learning resources is available in all areas of the curriculum in the school and is used to considerable effect. The chairperson and the principal are commended for the initiative shown in pursuing sponsorship which enabled the staff to acquire top of the range computers which are used regularly and productively in teaching and learning and are integrated in a seamless manner into all areas of learning.
While this school has not yet established a parents’ association, parents make a very significant contribution to school life and are very supportive of the board, the principal and the staff. The school endeavours to promote good communication and build trust and respect between parents and teachers. Home school links are promoted through parent/teacher meetings, school concerts, religious ceremonies, sporting activities, scór, nature walks, shared reading and informal meetings between teachers and parents. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually to provide an opportunity for parents to discuss their children’s progress. Written reports on pupil’s progress are provided for parents at the end of each school year.
An open day is held for parents enrolling their children in the school and an information booklet is disseminated to parents of children enrolling in the school. An innovative scheme “text a parent” is used to ensure that parents are informed of upcoming school events. Communication between home and school is further facilitated through the dissemination of newsletters which includes pupils’ contributions. The school diary is used on a daily basis to communicate with the home. Shared reading is also a very good practice evident in the school. Parents’ representatives on the board of management are involved in the formulation of school policies. The general parent body is consulted through school notes on a wide range of organisational issues. The principal reports that the staff and parents are in the process of developing a website for the school which will provide further opportunities to communicate directly with the parents.
The inspectors met with the parents’ representatives on the board of management as part of the whole-school evaluation process. The representatives commented on the openness and welcome afforded to all parents by the staff. They reported that parents are very satisfied with the quality and standard of teaching and the educational progress made by their children. They also commended the staff for the support and encouragement they provide for their children.
The management of pupils in this school is excellent. The board of management and the teaching staff have devised a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policies that are implemented consistently in the school. The code of behaviour is circulated to parents. Pupils are encouraged within each classroom to devise their own simple rules in accordance with the school’s discipline policy and these are on display in each classroom. Pupils’ excellent behaviour both inside and outside of the classrooms is a credit to the teachers and to the pupils themselves. Pupil activities are managed in an orderly and timely manner.
A caring atmosphere is created and pupils are praised regularly and are conscientiously encouraged to react positively to other pupils’ efforts and contributions both at work and at play. Pupils are provided with opportunities to assume responsibility and to develop self-confidence and self-esteem.
The pupils in the school display pride and interest in their work and co-operate willingly with their teachers during all class activities. They are eager to engage in discussion and participate fully in guided and discovery-based learning situations. It is noteworthy that the pupils display very courteous, friendly and respectful behaviour towards each other, towards staff and towards visitors. They also demonstrate care and respect for their school environment.
Very good work has been undertaken to date in relation to the development of school planning documentation, as required by section 21 of the Education Act, 1998. Considerable attention has been given to the process of curricular planning and to the development of organisational policies.
The School Plan is a professionally presented, user-friendly document. It is presented in a hard-back folder. It contains two sets of policies. The first of these deals with organisational issues and the second with the programmes for curricular areas.
In line with DES guidelines, many aspects of policy and procedures relating to the general administration of the school are described in the school plan. The school’s mission statement is clearly articulated and a health and safety statement has been compiled. The organisational section also includes sets of policies dealing with general organisation, behaviour, enrolment, anti-bullying, equality, attendance, substance misuse, special needs, home-school issues, the general operation of the school, communication procedures with parents, information and communications technology and acceptable usage policy. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
Section two of the document contains the school plan for Irish, English, Mathematics, Visual Arts, Music and Science. The curricular area of Science has been prioritised for review in the next school year. The planning activity in this school is collaborative in nature and the staff is commended for working as a team. The content of the documentation indicates that the staff has gained a broad knowledge and understanding of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and that the teachers are enthusiastic in regard to the necessary adaptation of teaching methods which is fundamental to full implementation of the curriculum. Very good use has been made of supports available from Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP), School Development Planning Support (SDPS) and the Regional Curriculum Support Service (RCSS) in the development of policies to date. While the school staff is to be commended on the planning documentation generated to date, it is recommended that the further development of curricular policies in Social Personal and Health Education, Relationships and Sexuality Education, History, Geography, and Physical Education be developed in a collaborative manner.
Teachers monitor the implementation of the curriculum carefully and they record this in their monthly progress reports. It will be necessary to review all curricular policy documents periodically in order to further clarify objectives and content in order to maintain breadth and balance across the strands and strand units of each curricular area and to ensure continuity and progression from class to class. It would be beneficial to include target dates for the commencement and completion of reviews in the school’s long-term development action plan.
Individual teacher’s planning is undertaken in the form of long-term and short-term preparation. Schemes are comprehensive and are linked closely to the structure and content of the curriculum. These schemes do not rely heavily on textbooks as a source of planning and they include clearly stated objectives linked to the various strands and strand units. Teachers’ timetables are organised to facilitate the implementation of curriculum plans and appropriate attention is afforded to linkage and integration within and between subjects. Teachers use a wide range of methodologies in the delivery of the curriculum. Whole-class teaching, group and pair work and activity-based teaching and learning were in evidence during the inspection. Close attention is paid to classroom organisation and the planned use of resources. It is evident from an examination of individual teacher planning that pupils experience a broad and balanced curriculum. Teachers also seek to differentiate topics for their multi-class groupings and this should be recorded in the planning documents. Teachers maintain records of monthly progress in an informative and systematic way which clearly delineates continuity of learning.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The quality of teaching and learning in this school is of a very high standard. Lessons are presented in a competent and conscientious manner and a range of suitable methodologies is utilised. The teachers provide a wide range of charts, illustrative and concrete materials and these, together with audio-visual equipment and information and communications technology (ICT) are used very effectively to stimulate the interest of the pupils. Excellent examples of the use of ICT in lessons were observed and teachers are commended for their innovative use of ICT in the teaching of a range of subjects. There is a balance between whole class teaching, pair and group work. Many opportunities are provided for pupils in all classes to undertake independent learning and project work. Very good emphasis is placed on the environment as a resource and as a starting point for learning.
The teachers make commendable efforts to introduce experimentation and discovery learning and the children are encouraged to investigate and explore. Teachers adopt a cross-curricular approach and areas of the curriculum such as oral language, reading, writing, Irish, Social Environmental and Scientific Education and Visual Arts are linked so that children have opportunities to integrate different aspects of their learning. General achievement in reading is also very good. Numeracy skills are well developed, and pupils’ achievement is of a very good standard overall. Samples of pupils’ work in copybooks and on display in the classrooms and in the corridors were found to be of a good standard. Teachers monitor pupils’ work regularly and provide constructive feedback.
Teachers succeed in creating secure and attractive classroom environments and pupil-teacher, and pupil-pupil interactions are open and mutually respectful relationships are maintained. The school cultivates an atmosphere where the self-esteem of the pupils is fostered. Samples of the children’s artistic work are displayed in the classrooms and on the corridors. Teachers are conscious of individual differences and suitable materials and activities are chosen for all pupils and in particular for pupils with special educational needs.
Is léir go bhfuil machnamh déanta ag an bhfoireann teagaisc ar straitéisí chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn ar fud na scoile. Oibríonn na múinteoirí go díograiseach ag múineadh na Gaeilge agus cothaíonn siad atmaisféar spreagthach sna rangsheomraí. Bunaítear na ceachtanna ar théamaí éagsúla. Tá feidhm thairbheach á baint as an gcur chuige cumarsáideach chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn tríd an scoil. Éiríonn leis na hoidí suim na ndaltaí i bhfoghlaim na Gaeilge a mhúscailt agus a bpáirtíocht sna ceachtanna a chothú trí úsáid cheardúil a bhaint as straitéisí éagsúla ar nós drámaíocht, agallaimh beirte, filíocht, rainn, rólghlacadh, puipéad agus cluichí. Úsáidtear fearas agus ábhar corpartha go taitneamhach chun scileanna éisteachta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt agus chun a dtuiscint ar an teanga a éascú.
Tá tús curtha leis an léitheoireacht fhoirmiúil. Tá iarracht choinsiasach déanta prionta i nGaeilge a chur ar taispeáint i dtimpeallacht na scoile. Éiríonn go maith le formhór na bpáistí an t-ábhar léitheoireachta a léamh le brí agus le tuiscint. Tá iarracht inmholta déanta an t-ábhar léitheoireachta sa Ghaeilge a leathnú. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois, áfach, ar éagsúlacht ábhar léitheoireachta a sholáthar tríd an scoil, Ba thairbheach, anois, feidhm a bhaint as raon d’fhíorleabhair tharraingteacha idir bheag agus mhór, iris agus cineálacha difriúla téacsanna chun saibhreas foclóra agus léitheoireacht neamhspleách na ndaltaí a fhorbairt agus scileanna léitheoireachta a chothú a thuilleadh. Múintear an fhilíocht go céimniúil. Tá raon leathan rann agus dán de ghlan mheabhair ag na daltaí agus is léir go mbaineann na daltaí tairbhe nach beag as an saothar seo.
Éiríonn leis na daltaí scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil de chaighdeán creidiúnach cruinnis a sholáthar. Déantar monatóireacht rialta ar an obair seo. Ní mór, áfach, próiséas na saor scríbhneoireachta a fhorbairt go córasach agus deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí smaointe a ghiniúint agus a dhréachtú le cur lena gcumas cumarsáide scríofa.
It is evident that the teaching staff has thought about strategies to develop Irish throughout the school. The teachers teach Irish conscientiously and promote a stimulating atmosphere in the classrooms. The lessons are based on different themes. The use of the communicative approach to develop Irish throughout the school has been beneficial. The use of a variety of strategies such as drama, pair work, rhymes, role play, puppets and games enables teachers to awaken pupils’ interest in Irish and promote their involvement in lessons. Pupils’ listening skills are further developed and their participation in Irish lessons is made easier through the use of equipment and concrete materials in an enjoyable way. A start has been made in teaching reading. A conscientious effort is made to ensure that a print-rich environment is evident in the school environment. The majority of pupils are well able to read with expression and understanding. A praiseworthy effort has been made to extend the range of reading material throughout the school. It would be beneficial now to utilise a range of stimulating real big and small books, magazines and different genres to enrich pupils’ vocabulary, develop children as independent readers and to further promote reading skills. Poetry is taught systematically. Pupils memorise a wide range of rhymes and poems and it is evident that the pupils derive benefit from this work. Pupils are provided with opportunities to engage in functional writing. Pupils’ work is regularly monitored. However, it is worthwhile to develop the creative writing process in a systematic manner, in order to provide opportunities for pupils to generate and to draft their own thoughts and to further contribute to the development of their writing capabilities.
All teachers presented comprehensive long-term and short-term planning in this subject area. Oral language is taught as an integrated part of English reading throughout the school. Most pupils express themselves confidently in English in all classes. Oral language skills are developed in all classes and opportunities for engaging in discussion across a wide range of curricular areas are provided. It is recommended that a discrete oral language programme, based on receptive and expressive language skills, should be taught at all class levels. The use of discretionary time for oral language activities is recommended and this will enable pupils to experience structured oral-language activities on a number of occasions during the week.
Very good English lessons were observed in all classes. In general, the standard of literacy in the school is very good with the majority of pupils engaging in reading and written activities in a competent manner in all classes. A wide range of teaching approaches is used during the teaching of reading including the provision of a print-rich environment, the use of large format books, games, phonological awareness training and word recognition strategies. Phonological awareness is developed in an effective manner in the infant and middle standards and a whole school approach to spelling has been adopted. Shared reading initiatives involving parents are also undertaken throughout the school. An in-class support programme is being piloted by the learning support teacher in collaboration with the class teachers to support pupils with literacy difficulties.
The approach to teaching the novel is particularly praiseworthy in the middle and senior classes and it is evident that pupils enjoy exploring literature in this way. The pupils are given opportunities to respond to characters, situations and story details and in general are given broad experiences in terms of articulating a shared response to fiction. A wide repertoire of poems is explored and the pupils are encouraged to respond in different ways through dramatising, miming, writing and comparing poems.
The pupils engage in a range of writing activities, both functional and creative. Personal and creative writing commences in the junior classes. Pupils write short personal accounts and undertake simple book reviews. Pupils’ writing is developed and emphasised in middle and senior classes where book reviews, character reviews and a range of writing for different purposes and audiences is undertaken. Children also write their own poetry and are encouraged to write in various formats. All teachers use computers very skilfully to support the writing process and to organise and present the work undertaken by the children.
The school plan outlines the aims the broad objectives, content, resources, assessment and approaches to the teaching and learning of Mathematics. The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken very effectively throughout the school and all of the pupils’ attainment is at a level appropriate to their age and ability. Overall the standard of teaching and learning in this school is very good. Very good teacher-pupil and co-operative pupil/pupil interactions were in evidence during the evaluation period.
Group teaching was in evidence in all classes and effective management of pupil application was observed while pupils were engaged in tasks and activities during lessons. Concrete and structured materials and experiential learning approaches are used productively in all classes. The teachers are to be commended for the application of strategies such as mathematical games in their teaching. Importance is placed on the explanation of basic procedures. Suitable emphasis is placed on the acquisition of number concepts, skills and the acquisition of mathematical language as outlined in school plan and this process ensures continuity and progression at all class levels within the school.
Activity based learning, skills and problem solving in Mathematics are developed in all classes. Elementary mathematical concepts are well taught in the infant classes and this work is supported by the skilful use of concrete materials. In the junior classes, the children understand number and place value and are able to solve simple mathematical problems. In the middle and senior classes, the understanding of number work is consolidated and extended. Basic number facts and operations are well taught and most of the pupils can discuss and solve mathematical problems. Regular revision is undertaken and the children record their work neatly and appropriately in copybooks. In general, pupils solve problems satisfactorily and continued emphasis on oral problem solving, development of problem-solving skills utilising real-life situations, further extension of a maths-rich environment and development of ‘investigation areas’, is recommended.
The school implements a broad programme in History. Local studies are included in the middle and senior classes. Guest speakers visit the classes and field trips are organised on a regular basis. Data collected including digital photographs are used as the basis for project work in the classroom. Children are provided with opportunities to reflect on the evidence gathered in these fieldtrips through the design and presentation of multi-media presentations. Opportunities are provided for pupils to work in groups to review artefacts and other historical evidence. The provision of timelines in all classrooms contributes to the development of chronological skills. Pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the topics that have been covered to date this year are praiseworthy. A school plan for History needs to be developed and further in-service training being provided nationally during the current school year should further support the formulation of this plan.
The teaching of Geography is carried out effectively in this school. The Primary Curriculum is used to plan and focus the work in this subject area. Pupils are afforded the opportunity of engaging with topics of local, national and European relevance in Geography. Maps and illustrative materials were in use in the middle and senior standards during the evaluation period. The extended use of Ordnance Survey maps is recommended as a strategy for investigation of the local environment. It is evident that teaching and learning are focused on the development of local environmental awareness, through field trips and educational outings. Pupils’ project work is also neatly presented in their own learning environments and pupil participation is actively promoted and encouraged at all class levels.
The Science curriculum in this school provides children with opportunities to understand the physical and biological aspects of the world and the processes through which these are developed. Children in all classes are enabled to develop a framework of scientific ideas and concepts about Living Things, Energy and Forces, Materials, Environmental Awareness and Care.
The programme for learning in Science at all class levels includes elements of both natural and human environments. Knowledge and concepts linked with seasonal changes are explored in infant, junior, middle and senior classes. Studies of plants, animals and weather phenomena in the immediate and local environment also constitute part of the children’s learning experience in this curricular area. Pupils are capable of discussing items displayed on the nature/investigation table.
Simple and effective experiments are undertaken. Good use of scientific equipment and practical investigation is the focus of scientific activity and this is achieved through the development of a broad range of enquiry skills including, observing, hypothesising, predicting, experimenting, planning fair tests and analysing results.
Effective whole-school planning underpins the successful delivery of a broad and balanced Visual Arts programme in all classes. The teachers are commended for their implementation of the Visual Arts curriculum. Art activities are organised with competence, skill and enthusiasm. Pupils’ creative artwork is displayed in all classrooms adding colour to the classroom and school environment, providing pupils with a sense of pride in their work. These displays, combined with evidence from teachers’ long and short-term planning, indicate that pupils explore a variety of themes incorporating techniques and media across the six strands of the curriculum. Many of the themes are derived from activities in other areas of the curriculum, from seasonal events and festive occasions. A balance between work in two and three-dimensional forms is evidenced in some classrooms. Very effective use of ICT was observed during one Visual Arts lesson.
The lessons observed were well structured and a range of effective starting points for purposeful teaching which included a range of appropriate materials was used as stimuli. ICT was used very effectively to provide pupils with opportunities to view and discuss a variety of art examples. It also afforded pupils opportunities to develop a basic understanding of the visual elements of art and to develop their ability to communicate visually.
In general, emphasis is placed on the creative developmental process that affords pupils the opportunity to express their understanding of their world in a creative rather than in a passive or imitative way. This process should continue to be the main focus for the work in all classes. There is also evidence that, pupils, as well as making art, are encouraged to look and respond to their own work, the work of their peers and the work of artists. Talk and Discussion is a feature of these classes. It is recommended that continued emphasis be placed on Looking and Responding to the work of artists, working in the style of the artist and that, resources are provided to teach this strand unit in all six strands. While teacher observation is used to assess pupils’ work, the implementation of a range of assessment strategies including portfolios of children’s work would support the progressive development of pupils’ skills as part of a whole school approach.
The teaching of Music is of a very high standard throughout the school. Pupils participate enthusiastically in Music lessons and teachers afford them regular opportunity to engage in musical exploration. ICT is used effectively in some classes to engage the pupils in a range of musical activities. The elements of Music are explored through a range of clearly enjoyable activities incorporating pitch and rhythm work, song singing, instrumental work, exploration of sound and simple composition. Pupils at all class levels have a repertoire of songs in both Irish and English, which they perform with enjoyment and enthusiasm. Music appreciation is also developed while integration with other curricular areas is a feature of all classroom practice. Teachers’ expertise in this area of the curriculum is acknowledged.
Additional support is also provided by an external tutor who visits the school for one hour each week to teach the tin whistle to pupils from first class to sixth. This activity is co- funded by the board of management and parents. The pupils play a range of songs tunefully and are accompanied by other pupils who play a number of other instruments. Annual school concerts, participation in scór competitions, community events and liturgical ceremonies and the recording of a traditional music CD provide pupils with opportunities to perform publicly.
Dramatic activities are skilfully integrated with curricular areas and their value as a learning tool is acknowledged throughout the school. Pupils’ understanding is enriched and their confidence and expressive abilities in language are promoted through good practice in drama. The skilful use of role play, working in pairs, Christmas plays and participation in community events, succeeds admirably in fostering pupils creativity in the area of drama. Staff members and parents involved in the direction of these activities are to be commended for the time and commitment invested in the undertaking of these tasks. These learning experiences have contributed well to the development of pupils’ self-esteem and co-operative skills.
Teachers’ long- and short-term planning indicates that a broad and balanced curriculum is delivered across all of the strands of the curriculum where facilities are available. A whole school plan for physical education (PE) has not been developed to date. During the evaluation period only one PE lesson was observed due to the inclement weather. The lesson observed was organised and implemented in a very effective manner, with emphasis directed at the appropriate development of pupil skills. A good range of small and large apparatus is available in the school.
Pupils from first to sixth class participate in swimming classes for a ten week period returning to school at 4p.m. An external GAA coach comes to the school weekly and provides instruction for pupils in middle and senior classes under the supervision of the class teacher. Hurling, soccer and Gaelic football leagues are held in the school. Pupils are afforded the opportunity to participate in a variety of sporting and athletic competitions.
After-school training is provided in hurling by the principal and success in a variety of sports competitions has been achieved. The teachers are commended for their commitment to the provision of activities in Physical Education.
The atmosphere in the school reflects a firm commitment to the development of a positive, caring environment that cultivates pupils’ self-esteem and contributes to the skills, knowledge and attitudinal base relevant to this subject. A wide range of methodologies is in use including discussion, story, pair-work, circle time and project work. There is evidence of active pupil involvement in the SPHE programme through engagement with activities relating to healthy eating, understanding differences and the exploration of feelings. Lessons are implemented in an effective manner and during these lessons the opportunity to debate the issues that arise, further enhances pupils’ understanding of the topic and their oral language skills. A school plan has yet to be developed in this curricular area. Individual teachers’ long-term and short-term planning in SPHE details strand and strand units, objectives to be achieved and lists a range of topics to be completed. While reference is made to relationships and sexuality education (RSE) for fifth and sixth classes in the organisational section of the school plan, a formal RSE policy has not been developed to date. The development of this policy is a priority and should be drawn up in line with the RSE guidelines.
Teacher observation, teacher-devised tests and monitoring of pupils’ written work are some of the assessment modes used regularly throughout the school. These are complemented by the administration of formal and standardized tests namely Micra-T and Sigma-T from first class upwards. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is also administered to pupils in senior infants to assess pupil attainment in literacy and to identify those pupils who may require supplementary support. Various tasks and tests are set to examine pupil mastery of content on an ongoing basis and the results of these tests are used to guide programme planning and differentiation of tasks for pupils experiencing difficulty. All teachers are keenly aware of the strengths and learning needs of their pupils, particularly in relation to literacy and numeracy.
In addition, teachers maintain profiles on pupils, records of individual achievement on class tests and other aspects of the curriculum. Appropriately, parents are consulted and advised of results at the annual parent-teacher meetings. The data on pupil attainment and performance is documented. Records are maintained in a methodical and consistent manner in the school. The principal reports that relevant information from the analysis of the assessment data is used to guide teachers and to inform curricular planning.
As a further development of assessment procedures, the school might usefully direct attention to the plotting of trends and the creation of a whole-school perspective on pupil achievement in literacy and numeracy, and use the analysis to devise future programmes for learning. It is suggested that guidelines be developed for the assessment of curriculum areas and that the implementation of these guidelines be monitored regularly throughout the school.
The recently reviewed school policy for special educational needs which will be ratified at the next board meeting, documents the context in which the school operates. The approach to provision has adopted the staged approach to intervention recommended in DES Circular SPED 02/05. The policy outlines the schools’ vision, aims and objectives in relation to the provision of support for pupils with special educational needs. It details the roles and responsibilities of the staff, board of management, principal, class teacher and learning support teacher. It also outlines the assessment strategies, parental involvement, referral to outside agencies, cluster meetings and record keeping.
The work of the shared learning support teacher is characterised by detailed planning aimed at addressing the identified needs of individual children. She executes her duties conscientiously and diligently. Planning is very comprehensive, very good Individual Pupil Learning Programmes (IPLPs) are prepared for pupils and detailed individual records are maintained. The IPLPS are developed in collaboration with the class teacher and parents. Once the IPLP has been signed by all parties a copy is distributed to the principal, parent and class teacher. Individualised, structured and purposeful teaching strategies are adapted appropriately and suitable resources are deployed to support learning. Pupils are making good progress in accordance with their own competencies and abilities. Diagnostic tests are used purposefully to aid in the identification of learning difficulties and support the preparation of specific learning programmes. The school has developed an in-class support programme which they are piloting this year. The learning support teacher in collaboration with the class teacher works with a different class grouping each term. The strategies engaged in include station teaching, parallel teaching and team teaching. An early intervention programme is also in operation in term three in infant classes where the learning support teacher provides in-class support to pupils. A literacy programme is also in operation in first class which aims to further develop pupil’s phonological awareness, sight vocabulary and comprehension skills. ICT is a feature of all aspects of the learning support programme
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The team spirit is evident among a committed teaching staff, which is open to innovation and change.
· The high quality of teaching and learning delivered by professionally competent teachers.
· The principal demonstrates strong leadership qualities through collaborative management strategies.
· Pupils display exceptionally courteous behaviour, ably supported by a teaching staff which is dedicated to the holistic development of each individual pupil.
· A broad and balanced curriculum is made available to pupils and teachers are committed to its effective implementation.
· A supportive board of management whose members pursue their duties with commitment.
· Parents and teachers share common expectations in respect of the social, educational and emotional development of the pupils.
· There is a good level of parental involvement in school activities, extra-curricular and social events.
· Highly motivated pupils display excellent behaviour and adhere to shared codes of discipline.
· Pupils have positive self-esteem and are self-confident in their interactions with peers and teachers.
· The provision of a broad and balanced curriculum.
· Very effective use of ICT across all areas of the curriculum.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· A whole school approach in respect of the teaching of oral language is advised.
· It is recommended that the board of management review the school’s enrolment policy.
· Accommodation should be reviewed by the board with a view to accessing funding from the DES to provide appropriate accommodation.
· The board should facilitate the establishment of a parent’s association.
· The board and staff should develop an action plan to include a time frame for development and maintenance of the school and the review and formulation of curricular and organisational areas.
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.