An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Cluain na Cille NS,

Athlone, Co. Roscommon

Uimhir rolla: 18395C

 

Date of inspection: 27th November 2009

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

 

A whole-school evaluation of Cluain Na Cille National School was undertaken in November, 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and History. 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

Cluain na Cille NS is a six-teacher co-educational primary school located on the outskirts of Athlone town. The school building, which dates from 1958, has been extended twice to provide for school expansion. Enrolments have been rising rapidly in recent years as a result of increased housing in the area and enhanced staffing has been provided for the school under the developing- school criteria. The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

161

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

10

Mainstream class teachers

6

Teachers working in support roles

4

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Cluain na Cille NS declares a Catholic ethos and operates under the patronage of the Catholic bishop of Elphin. The school’s mission statement prioritises the spiritual, emotional and intellectual development of each child and it aims to provide a positive, inclusive atmosphere and environment based on mutual co-operation. The mission statement is palpable in the school and is communicated very effectively through the school website.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management works very effectively to support the school. The board is properly constituted and its members undertake a number of specific roles relevant to their personal expertise. Members of the board have undertaken training for their roles. Board meetings are convened regularly to discuss policies, appointments, safety and the accommodation needs of an expanding school. Minutes are recorded accurately and the financial accounts are certified annually by an independent accountant. The board is commended on its support for the school planning process and for the continuous professional development of staff.

 

 

1.2   In-school management

The in-school management team comprises a principal, a deputy principal and two special-duties teachers. It is commendable that members of the team have availed of professional development opportunities provided by Leadership Development for Schools. The principal provides very strong instructional leadership for the school community and carries out her administrative and pastoral duties very effectively. Her shared vision for the school envisages the preservation of the school’s ethos and learning atmosphere despite the challenges of rapid enrolment growth. She has prioritised teaching and learning in the school planning process and she monitors implementation of the school plan very effectively. The principal is ably assisted in her role by the very committed in-school management team. Each member of the team undertakes a range of useful curricular, pastoral and administrative duties, which have been prioritised and reviewed to meet the needs of the school. The in-school management team meets regularly to discuss issues relating to these duties and to prepare for school events. Collaborative decision-making is in evidence.

  

1.4 Management of resources

Resources are managed very effectively in this school and all members of the teaching and ancillary staff carry out their duties conscientiously. The school building is well maintained and the classrooms and corridors have been made educationally stimulating and visually attractive by the displays of posters and pupils’ work. The school recently received an award for being the tidiest school in the county and this reflects well on the dedicated work of the caretaker and the cleaner, together with the environmental efforts of the staff and pupils in the Green Schools initiative.

 

A wide range of suitable resources has been acquired to support teaching and learning in all subject areas. These resources are catalogued and shared between classrooms. There is evidence that Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is used effectively at classroom level. Members of the teaching staff are allocated to classes appropriately, with cognisance being taken of experience, preference and opportunities for professional development. It is commendable that formal opportunities are provided at staff meetings for teachers to share new ideas learned at professional development courses. Effective systems have been developed for the induction of new staff members and the board of management encourages and supports voluntary professional development. The school employs a part-time secretary and a special-needs assistant and both carry out their duties professionally, contributing to the smooth running of the school.

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Relationships and communication with the school community are managed very effectively. The parents’ association is well-informed and supportive. Members of the committee have received training for their roles and this contributes to the smooth running of the association. Monthly committee meetings are convened and the association has made representations to the county council regarding road safety issues outside the school grounds. Effective systems of communication exist between the parents’ association, the teaching staff and the board of management. Parents’ representatives have been consulted in the school planning process and it is praiseworthy that important school policies are issued to parents in booklets and are available on the school website. Information evenings are organised occasionally so that teachers can explain curriculum approaches to parents. Individual parents have visited the school to support History and other curriculum subjects, while the parents’ association assists the school with fundraising, sports days and refreshments at important school events. Parents express satisfaction with the quality of information they receive on pupils’ progress at the parent-teacher meeting and in the annual school reports. An appointment system operates to facilitate additional meetings with teachers, if requested by parents.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

The quality of pupil management is very good. A positive and inclusive atmosphere permeates the school and it is evident that there is mutual respect between the staff and the pupils. Classroom rules are devised collaboratively and applied positively and consistently. The pastoral needs of pupils are fulfilled effectively and positive self-esteem is promoted. Pupils are well motivated during lessons and most pupils contribute confidently during class discussions.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1   Whole-school and classroom planning

Whole-school planning is completed to a very high standard. The school plan includes all required and recommended administrative policies. These are very clearly written and reflect a commendable blend of Department of Education and Science circulars, pertinent legislation, information from in-service initiatives and the school’s own procedures. All teachers maintain copies of relevant administrative policies in their own planning folders. This is commendable as it enhances the impact of policies on daily practice. Curricular policies encompass the key principles and methodologies of the Primary School Curriculum and make a significant contribution towards continuity and progression in curriculum delivery throughout the school. There is commendable emphasis on local history opportunities and helpful guidance on strand choice for classes on a two-yearly basis in the history plan.  The English and Mathematics plans emphasise the development of key skills and concepts and delineate content for each class level with laudable clarity.

 

It is apparent that developmental planning and ongoing review and development of policies is an integral part of the school’s planning process. Both administrative and curricular policies are systematically reviewed and updated in the light of experience. An annual planning diary is used and specific action-plans and three-year strategic plans are compiled and implemented. This is very good practice. The school’s planning process is inclusive, with the board of management and parents involved in policy formulation and review. In some cases parents have been informed of the review and up-date of curricular policies. This is very good practice.

 

A whole-school approach is adopted for classroom planning. All mainstream class teachers compile detailed long-term and short-term schemes and complete monthly reports, which are retained centrally. In all cases, teachers’ planning is purposeful, based on curriculum objectives and utilised to inform teaching and learning. Detailed individual profiles and learning programmes (IPLPs) are prepared for all pupils in receipt of learning support. These contain an outline of learning strengths, priority learning areas and specific targets for the instructional term. They are compiled in conjunction with mainstream class teachers and parents and regularly reviewed and updated. In order to enhance this good practice the school should ensure that parents of pupils with low-incidence special educational needs (SEN) sign and receive a copy of IPLPs prepared for their children. Short-term planning in SEN settings is completed to a high standard and very comprehensive records are maintained on pupil progress, both in terms of work completed on a monthly basis and individual pupil progress in literacy and numeracy.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 English

The quality of learning and teaching in English is very good. Oral language is developed purposefully at each class level through approaches such as thematic discussion, language games and role-play. Pupils respond well during oral-language lessons and their responses display confidence and fluency. Reading skills are nurtured carefully and the pupils’ exposure to environmental print, class libraries, large-format books and other attractive age-appropriate reading material fosters their impetus to read. Teachers use group methodologies to ensure that reading material is differentiated to match individual ability levels. Sight vocabulary is taught very effectively and pupils are equipped with appropriate skills in phonological awareness. Levels of reading attainment are praiseworthy throughout the school and pupils demonstrate comprehension of their reading material. Handwriting is taught well and pupils are encouraged to present their written work attractively. Very effective practice was noted in the teaching of creative writing. Teachers model and demonstrate techniques for pupils in relation to the planning, organisation and conventions of creative writing and pupils have opportunities to write in a wide variety of genres. The involvement of parents and older pupils in the scribing initiative is very effective in helping younger pupils develop skills in composition to bring their ideas to a wider audience. This initiative encourages younger pupils to compose stories orally and to have them written down through assistance provided by older pupils or adults. The writing process is emphasised and pupils have opportunities to edit and redraft their stories. Final drafts are presented attractively, sometimes through the use of ICT, and celebrated through classroom displays. Poetry is read, written and recited for enjoyment and for meaning.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Teaching and learning in Mathematics are characterised by very competent practice. The programme reflects an appropriate balance between skill and concept development. It is particularly commendable that a whole-school approach to problem solving is implemented. Lessons observed encompassed adroit questioning and clear explanations. They were well linked both to previous learning and to pupils’ everyday experiences and made very good use of concrete resources and of ICT. Pupils’ abilities with number facts and numerical operations are carefully fostered in all lessons and due attention is afforded to the subject-specific language of Mathematics. Active learning methodologies are practised frequently and beneficial opportunities are afforded to pupils to work collaboratively in groups and to participate in well-designed mathematics trails. Very effective differentiation strategies, which are skilfully complemented by in-class support from the learning-support teachers, are employed throughout the school. All classrooms are mathematics-rich environments, containing discrete areas and relevant displays that reinforce pupils’ learning. Pupil attainment, as reflected in standardised tests and written work, is very good and pupils displayed high levels of participation and enjoyment in the lessons observed.

 

3.3 History

The quality of teaching and learning in History is very good. Teachers ensure that there is appropriate balance between the acquisition of concepts and the development of investigative skills. Pupils are encouraged regularly to work as historians through the examination of artefacts, photographs and documentary evidence. They practise their interviewing skills by composing and posing questions to school visitors, parents, grandparents and local historians. Timelines and family trees are widely used to illustrate chronology in a graphical form. Pupils in all classes are knowledgeable about the topics they have explored. In the junior classes, pupils explore personal history, chronology and story very effectively and they explain their findings articulately. In the middle and senior classes, the school plan for History provides valuable guidance for teachers and ensures continuity and progression in the programme. Field trips to a local museum and to important sites in Athlone provide evidence for aspects of project work and increase pupils’ knowledge of local History. Some local History projects on Athlone, the Shannon and John McCormack have been animated for the computer with the aid of the Artist in Residence initiative. Commendable practice was noted in relation to thematic classroom planning involving the integration of History topics with other subject areas. Drama and role-play are used very effectively to awaken pupils’ empathy with historical characters and to develop their understanding.

 

3.4 Assessment

The quality of assessment is very good. Standardised, screening and diagnostic tests are administered systematically to provide reliable information on pupils’ ability and attainment in Mathematics and English. This information assists with decision-making in regard to supplementary teaching. It is commendable that standardised test results are analysed and graphed at class level, tracked longitudinally for each pupil and also referenced to the results of  non-reading intelligence tests. Standardised test results are communicated and explained effectively to parents. At classroom level, teachers employ a wide range of modes to assess and record pupils’ learning across the curriculum. These modes include teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks, checklists and portfolios of work samples. Teachers use this information appropriately to differentiate lesson material. Good examples of the use of assessment for learning (AFL) were noted during some lessons and this practice could be developed and extended. This could be facilitated by reviewing the school’s assessment policy in light of the recently published Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum – Guidelines for Schools by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of support for pupils with SEN is very high. A whole-school approach, which adheres closely to the Department’s principles and guidelines and which is informed by up-to-date action research, is in place. The learning-support teachers operate efficiently as a team and there is a defined structure in place to facilitate close co-operation between them and their mainstream colleagues. The continuum of support, leading from classroom to school to external assistance, is an integral part of the school’s system and well-developed mechanisms are in place to identify, monitor and support pupils with SEN. In programme delivery a very successful balance is attained between in-class support, individual and group work. The in-class method is skilfully employed to implement early-intervention strategies and to promote purposeful differentiation in mainstream classes. It also facilitates learning-support teachers leading whole-school curricular initiatives, such as the recent scribing project. Regular communication with parents is also evident and this enhances the quality of provision for pupils with SEN.

 

Teaching and learning in SEN settings is highly commendable. Lessons are well presented and are matched carefully to the needs of pupils. A structured approach is adopted to the development of pupils’ literacy skills and meaningful links are fostered between oral, reading and written work. Valuable opportunities are also provided to pupils to utilise their literacy skills in everyday contexts. The emphasis on the language of Mathematics, the use of concrete resources and the systematic approach to numeracy are all commendable features of the support in Mathematics.  ICT is used adeptly to support pupils’ learning. 

 

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

The school’s policies are inclusive and commit to dealing with pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds sympathetically and confidentially from the school’s resources. A full-time teacher is employed to assist with the language needs of pupils for whom English is an additional language (EAL). Pupils’ language needs are assessed, prioritised and recorded very effectively through the use of appropriate assessment kits. Language-support teaching is provided effectively through a combination of in-class support and small-group withdrawal. Appropriate programmes and resources are utilised to facilitate thematic development of social language. The identification of the specialised vocabulary associated with certain subjects could form a basis for further valuable support for EAL pupils.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published, June 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The Board of Management welcomes the positive findings of the W.S.E. report which acknowledges and affirms the work-ethos and professionalism which is evident in the school. We wish to acknowledge the courtesy afforded to us by the Inspectorate team during their visit.

 

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.

      

Following consultation the school staff have already implemented the recommendations of the Inspectorate in relation to

·         Parents now sign and receive a copy of I.E.P.

·         Assessment Policy has been reviewed to incorporate “assessment for learning”.