An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Chaitríona,

Ballynoe, Mallow, County Cork

Uimhir rolla:  18472R

 

Date of inspection: 12 December 2008

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Chaitríona, Ballynoe was undertaken in December 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Drama. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

St. Catherine’s N.S. is a co-educational, primary school located near the rural village of Ballynoe.

The school caters for pupils from junior infants to sixth class. The people of the area are justifiably proud of the school which has a pivotal role in the community. The building has been extended and refurbished to a high standard. Since the last report was conducted in 2001 three new staff members, including the principal, have been appointed and pupil numbers have increased.

 

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

80

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

4

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

St. Catherine’s NS is a Roman Catholic school that recognises and respects children of different beliefs. It is under the patronage of the Bishop of Cloyne. In keeping with the school vision statement the pupils are cherished and respected and provided with high-quality learning experiences. The clear commitment of the principal, staff, board and parents to work together in the best interest of the pupils is well-encapsulated in the school motto, “Is ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.”

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management discharges its duties in an effective manner. Much credit is due to the members of the board for their commitment to the school and in particular for the considerable work which they have undertaken to upgrade the school facilities. They are also to be commended for their success in working in close collaboration with parents and the community to raise substantial funding at local level. The board is properly constituted and meetings are convened on a regular basis. The minutes and school accounts are maintained carefully. The chairperson visits the school on a regular basis and in keeping with best practice the board has a central role in both curriculum and organisational policy development. Copies of policies under development are provided to all members in advance of meetings. The board discusses and ratifies them in a systematic manner. The board believes that more training should be made available for boards of management.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal provides effective leadership and deserves much credit for her hard work and dedication to the school community. Her collaborative style of leadership is a key strength in the management of the school. She has a deep commitment to the pupils and has put commendable structures in place to promote good communication between the school, parents and community. She is ably supported by a competent, hardworking staff, including the deputy principal and one special duties post-holder. The post-holders meet regularly with the principal outside of teaching and learning time and are to be commended for their dedicated work. In order to facilitate the further development of their instructional leadership role, in the process of monitoring the ongoing implementation of curriculum delivery, it is recommended that the duties allocated be reviewed formally on a more regular basis. As part of this process it is advised that consideration be given to the identification of action plans to clarify priorities for development in specific curricular areas and to further facilitate review of progress. The board employs a school secretary and special needs assistant who contribute significantly to the school.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

It is evident that positive relations with parents and the local community greatly contribute to the overall success of the school. Parents and members of the community, with expertise in specific areas, are generous in sharing their talents for the benefit of all pupils. The principal provides regular updates regarding educational matters in the parish newsletter. The parents’ association is long-established in the school and is affiliated to the National Parents Council. The parents are invited to contribute to policy development and they provide impressive levels of support for the school. Their involvement in their children’s learning is encouraged actively. Appropriately, the teachers provide them with written progress reports and the results of standardised testing with an accompanying explanatory note from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment. In order to build on existing good work, it is recommended that the school’s paired reading programme be extended to include the structured involvement of parents.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The pupils are managed in a most admirable manner. The principal and teachers are to be highly-praised for their success in providing the pupils with a positive, caring, well-ordered learning environment. Displays of pupils’ work, photographs of school activities, print and visual materials feature prominently in the building. A code of discipline and anti-bullying policy has been formulated carefully in consultation with all partners. The pupils are courteous, highly motivated and exhibit positive dispositions to their learning.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is impressive. Productive use has been made of the support services to guide the planning process and to facilitate the whole-school implementation of effective strategies. A wide range of sound policies has been formulated collaboratively in both organisational and curricular areas and there is evidence of review of the school plan. Teachers discuss curricular planning on a regular basis and minutes of staff meetings are recorded in a systematic manner. Policies are outlined clearly and provide direction for the development of effective practice. They are stored centrally and are readily accessible. In order to promote further linkage between these policies, the curriculum and classroom practice, it is recommended that hard copies be provided to all staff. Also, it is recommended that more use be made of the data arising from monthly progress records and assessment to inform regular review of curricular plans.

 

The quality of classroom planning is commendable. The teachers prepare useful long-term and short-term plans, relevant to the needs of the pupils in their care, and have an appropriate system in place for maintaining a monthly progress record. It is evident that the principal and teachers discuss their individual approaches to classroom planning and use an agreed template. This is commendable. In order to further ensure clarity regarding specific learning outcomes throughout the school, particularly in relation to the teaching of language and the provision of differentiated programmes, it is recommended that clearer guidelines for classroom planning be included in curricular policies.

 

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; and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

I dteagasc na Gaeilge labhartha tugtar faoin teagasc ranga go cumasach. Múineann na hoidí ionchur teanga cuí go hábalta. Baintear úsáid thorthúil as am rolla chun labhairt na Gaeilge a chur chun cinn i measc na ndaltaí. Sna ranganna sinsearacha leagtar béim bhreá ar mhúineadh na mbriathra ar bhonn cumarsáide agus tugtar deiseanna fónta do na daltaí a gcumas chun ceisteanna a chur a chothú. Baintear leas maith as prionta d’fhonn tacú lena gcuid foghlama. Léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint chreidiúnach ar thopaicí atá á bplé sa rang. Is le fonn a dhéanann siad aithris ar rannta nó dánta. Éiríonn le roinnt daltaí bunchumarsáid a dhéanamh ach meastar go gcuirfeadh sé go mór lena gcuid scileanna teanga dá dtabharfaí breis deiseanna labhartha structúrtha dóibh agus dá gcuirfí an scéalaíocht chun cinn níos mó. Moltar, chomh maith, aird sa bhreis a dhíriú ar dhifreálú sa teagasc. Chun tógaint ar an dea-chleachtas sa scoil b’fhiú do na múinteoirí na trí thréimhse den cheacht cumarsáide a shoiléiriú a thuilleadh sa phlean scoile. Rachadh sé go mór chun tairbhe d’fhoghlaim na ndaltaí dá dtabharfaí breis taithí dóibh an Ghaeilge a labhairt ar bhonn fíorchumarsáide le linn an lae scoile. Leagtar bunchloch na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta go héifeachtach. Faoi mar is cuí léann agus scríobhann na daltaí sóisireacha téacsanna éagsúla bunaithe ar a gceachtanna comhrá le tuiscint. Aithníonn na hoidí gur gá anois tógaint ar an dea-obair seo agus cur go mór leis an ábhar léitheoireachta atá ar fáil do na daltaí agus breis taithí a thabhairt dóibh a gcuid scileanna saorscríbhneoireachta a fhorbairt. Tá moladh ar leith tuillte ag na hoidí as an ardchaighdeán a ghabhann le cur i láthair oibre scríofa na ndaltaí ina gcuid cóipleabhar.

 

Irish

In the teaching of spoken Irish whole-class work is undertaken competently. The teachers ably teach an appropriate language input at whole-class level. Roll time is used productively to promote the use of Irish among the pupils. In the senior classes a fruitful emphasis is placed on teaching verbs in a communicative manner and the pupils are afforded good opportunities to develop their ability to ask questions. Worthwhile use is made of print to support the pupils’ learning. The pupils demonstrate a creditable understanding of topics discussed in class. They recite rhymes or poetry enthusiastically. Some pupils succeed in engaging in basic conversation but it is advised that a greater emphasis on the provision of structured opportunities for pupils to use the language and engage in storytelling would greatly improve their language skills. In particular it is recommended that more emphasis be placed on the provision of differentiated programmes. In order to build on existing good practice the teachers are advised to clarify further the three phases of the language lesson in the whole-school plan. It would greatly enhance the pupils’ learning if they were given further opportunities to use the language in a communicative manner during the school day. Basic reading and writing skills are well-established. Appropriately, the junior pupils read and write a variety of texts based on their oral work. The teachers recognise that there is now a need to extend this work including the range of reading material available to the older pupils and to provide them with more opportunities to develop their independent writing skills. The teachers are to be commended for the high standard of presentation of written work in pupils’ copybooks.  

 

English

Praiseworthy work in relation to the development of pupils’ oral language skills is undertaken. Talk and discussion, based on pupils’ news and a wide range of topics, are promoted skilfully. Pupils are afforded good opportunities to respond to well-chosen poetry. It is particularly commendable that at a variety of class levels pupils are enabled to compile anthologies of poetry and recite verse from memory. Appropriately, storytelling features prominently. Throughout the school pupils display an ability to express their views competently. A further emphasis on the use of collaborative learning approaches to enable pupils develop specific oral language skills will greatly augment the work in progress. The basic skills of reading and writing are well-established. At all class levels pupils are provided with a print-rich environment. Commendably, sentences as well as sight vocabulary are displayed in the junior classroom and a variety of good strategies are in place to enable pupils develop their emergent reading and writing skills. A range of high quality reading material is provided to cater for pupils’ different levels of ability and interest. Commendably, many of them have developed a considerable interest in reading. Throughout the school many pupils read with fluency and understanding. Appropriately, a whole-school approach to the development of pupils’ phonemic and phonological awareness is in place and its further implementation will greatly support pupils experiencing difficulty with literacy. Pupils engage in both functional and creative writing and creditable samples of their work are in evidence. At particular class levels checklists are in use in a most beneficial manner to enable pupils proof-read their writing. Effective integration of writing with other curriculum areas such as Social, Environmental and Scientific Education, was noted during the evaluation. It is recommended that pupils be given further opportunities to develop their independent writing skills and to write in different genres. Also, it is recommended that staff consider the further development of differentiated groups for the teaching of reading and writing. The teachers are to be commended for the high standard of penmanship and presentation skills in evidence in the pupils’ written work.

  

3.2 Mathematics

Effective practice in the teaching and learning of Mathematics was observed during the evaluation. The whole-school plan was reviewed in worthwhile manner. It provides sound guidelines for the development of good practice throughout the school particularly in relation to problem-solving and the use of a common approach to language and number operations. Appropriately, there is much evidence of a balanced approach to the teaching of the strands. Well-structured lessons with high levels of pupil participation were observed during the evaluation. The teachers have prepared and sourced a wide range of concrete materials and games. They use them effectively to enable pupils acquire concepts and develop skills through active learning and guided discovery methods. Many pupils demonstrate a good knowledge of key concepts. The teachers monitor their work carefully and it is evident that many are making good progress in Mathematics. The practice of providing pupils with regular opportunities to engage in oral mathematics is particularly commendable. Due attention is given to the development of pupils’ knowledge of number facts and innovative approaches were observed and favourably commented on during the evaluation. Good work in relation to the explicit teaching of mathematics language was noted and its further development is advised. Also, it is recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on a whole-school basis on enabling pupils to explain their work orally and on the use of differentiated groups. From an early age pupils are well-trained to record their work accurately and in an orderly manner and high standards are in evidence in their copybook work.

 

3.3 Drama

There is a strong tradition of Drama in the school and during the evaluation impressive work was observed. Discrete time is allocated and class drama contracts have been drawn up and are on display in classrooms. A comprehensive policy in line with the curriculum has been formulated and is soon to be ratified by the board. The teachers make skilful use of a range of methodologies and strategies to enable pupils’ explore a variety of themes. The pupils demonstrate an impressive ability to enter into the world of drama with confidence and enthusiasm. They are also provided with valuable opportunities to perform publicly and it is evident that much credit is due to the teachers for the excellent work which they undertake in this regard.

 

3.4 Assessment

The school has developed a praiseworthy policy on assessment. In keeping with best practice the class teachers administer standardised tests on an annual basis and record the results carefully. Appropriate arrangements are also in place in relation to the use of diagnostic tests. A good range of informal assessment approaches was noted during the evaluation. In particular the teachers deserve much credit for the high priority which they attach to pupils’ copybook work and for the careful manner in which they monitor this work. It is recommended that assessment for learning approaches be further developed particularly in order to promote more continuity in the development of pupils’ independent writing skills and to inform the provision of differentiated programmes.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school benefits from the services of a full-time learning support teacher. She works in a most conscientious and professional manner to provide high-quality support for pupils with special education needs. There is an admirable level of co-operation between the learning-support and mainstream teachers. Support is provided in literacy and numeracy, both within mainstream classrooms and through the withdrawal method. Due emphasis is placed on the provision of early intervention in the infant classroom. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are outlined carefully and during the evaluation focused programmes of work were implemented in a capable manner with the use of a variety of appropriate methodologies. It is recommended that the short-term planning system be developed in order to further ensure that the agreed targets are implemented consistently in both support and mainstream contexts and that copies of the IEPs be given to the mainstream teachers.

 

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

This school is not situated in an area of dedicated disadvantage.

 

 

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, March 2009