An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
S.N. Mhuire, Kilsheelan,
Clonmel, Co. Tipperary
Date of inspection: 03 February 2009
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of S.N. Mhuire, Kilsheelan. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management 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.
S.N. Mhuire is a six-teacher school, situated in the village of Kilsheelan. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Diocese of Waterford and Lismore and it caters for the education of pupils living in the village and in the neighbouring hinterland. The school has an enrolment of 130 pupils. It is projected that this enrolment will remain stable for the foreseeable future. Pupil attendance levels are very good. The school, as stated in its vision statement, aims in partnership with parents and the community to foster in the pupils a love of learning, a moral code and respect for the world around them. The achievement of these aims was in evidence during the course of the whole school evaluation.
The board of management provides committed support to the school. The board is properly constituted and meets on a termly basis. A number of individual board members undertake specific responsibilities and these duties are diligently fulfilled. Financial reports are prepared on a monthly basis and end-of-year accounts are produced. It is recommended that the school accounts be audited or certified on an annual basis in compliance with Section 18(1) of the Education Act. In keeping with best practice the board is directly involved in the whole-school planning process. Both curriculum plans and organisational policies are discussed and ratified at its meetings. At the current time the school’s enrolment policy provides for the deferral of enrolment of pupils with special educational needs. This policy should be reviewed to ensure it is in full compliance with pertinent equality legislation. It is recommended that the board makes every effort to secure qualified teachers for all teaching positions in the school, including non full-time teaching positions.
The in-school management team comprises the principal, the deputy principal and one special-duties teacher. The principal is thoroughly familiar with the community of the school. She plays an active role in the compilation of the school plan and she effectively attends to a range of organisational and administrative duties. The principal is ably supported by the other members of the in-school management team who fulfil their assigned duties appropriately. It is recommended that they be allocated distinct curriculum-leadership roles as part of their duties. The allocation of these responsibilities should be reviewed at appropriate intervals. Formal meetings of the in-school management team are convened in advance of scheduled whole-staff meetings, with informal meetings occurring on a regular basis.
2.3 Management of resources
The teaching staff comprises five mainstream class teachers, a learning-support/resource teacher and a part-time learning-support teacher. There are two special needs assistants who are deployed to meet the needs of pupils with special educational needs. They make an important contribution to pupil learning in their respective classes under the guidance of the class teachers. Other ancillary staff include a secretary, a part-time caretaker and a part-time cleaner who provide invaluable service to the school. Coaching in Gaelic games is provided by the GAA for pupils from first to sixth classes.
The school was constructed in 1960 and an extension was added in 1991/92. The school building consists of five permanent classrooms, a learning-support/resource room, a secretary’s office and a staffroom. A temporary prefabricated building is used by the part-time learning support teacher. Close links have been fostered with the local GAA club and the school has access to the adjoining hall and pitch. The school building is clean and very well maintained. The garden is an attractive feature of the school and there is obvious pride taken in its presentation. Overall, the school is well resourced with a wide range of teaching aids and charts. These resources are used effectively by the teachers in implementing the curriculum.
Very positive relationships are in evidence between the school, the parents and the wider community. The active parents’ association is involved in organising a variety of events. These include social activities to support the induction of new pupils and their parents and the celebration of senior pupils’ transfer to post-primary school. They assist during a range of sporting activities, while also hosting a variety of fundraising events. The parents’ association is commended for the range of activities it organises and for its efforts to support the pupils and parents in the school.
The parents are provided with regular opportunities to discuss their children’s progress through formal and informal parent-teacher meetings and through the provision of an annual written report.
The pupils are very well behaved and they co-operate willingly with their teachers. They are eager and motivated in their learning and they display pride and interest in their work. They participate enthusiastically in curricular and extra-curricular activities.
The school plan addresses each area of the curriculum and includes a wide range of organisational policies. While the overall quality of school planning is good, the further development of curriculum planning is advised. It is recommended that the teaching staff review the curriculum plans that have been completed to ensure that they include the additional aspects of good practice observed in individual classrooms during the course of the evaluation. In addition, each plan should give clear guidance on the implementation of individual subject areas and facilitate the application and development of the spiral curriculum throughout the school.
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.
The quality of classroom planning is good. Each teacher prepares long-term and short-term plans of work, which they use to good effect in guiding classroom activity. Detailed monthly progress reports are also prepared.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
A good range of teaching methodologies, including whole-class teaching and group activities, was observed during the course of the evaluation. Lessons were organised appropriately and the teachers displayed effective classroom-management and communication skills. A stimulating and visually-attractive learning environment is provided throughout the school.
Múintear an Ghaeilge go sásúil sa scoil. I roinnt ranganna, leagtar béim ar réimse leathan modheolaíochtaí agus baintear úsáid mhaith as pictiúir, acmhainní, cairteacha agus cluichí cainte chun foclóir agus teanga na ndaltaí a neartú. Tá réimse de rainn ar eolas ag na daltaí agus baineann siad taitneamh astu. Baineann roinnt de na múinteoirí úsáid mhaith as obair bheirte fhiúntach. Sna comhthéacsanna seo bíonn na daltaí gníomhach agus úsáideann siad an Ghaeilge go fonnmhar. Sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna, tá na daltaí cumasach ó thaobh ceisteanna a chur agus a fhreagairt. Moltar anois an dea-chleachtas atá i ranganna áirithe a scaipeadh tríd an scoil iomlán agus deiseanna cainte rialta a chruthú do na daltaí go léir.
Úsáidtear an téacsleabhar don fhormhór chun an léitheoireacht a chleachtadh tríd an scoil. Ar an iomlán léann na daltaí le muinín agus tuiscint. Moltar anois ábhair léitheoireachta breise agus fíor leabhair Ghaeilge a chur ar fáil i ngach seomra chun dúshlán níos mó a chruthú do na daltaí agus chun iad a spreagadh a thuilleadh. Ba chóir chomh maith an clár léitheoireachta a leathnú le béim ar fhogharluach na litreacha agus ar fhocal-aithint a fhorbairt. Sna bunranganna agus sna meánranganna, scríobhann na daltaí nuacht phearsanta agus cuireann siad focail in abairtí. Moltar an cleachtas seo a fhorbairt a thuilleadh agus éagsúlacht de dheiseanna scríbhneoireachta a chruthú do na daltaí. Sna hardranganna tá caighdeán maith sroichte ag roinnt de na daltaí. Scríobhann siad scéalta beaga agus filíocht faoi réimse d’ábhar ar bhonn rialta.
The teaching of Irish is satisfactory in the school. In some classes, a variety of methodologies is employed and good use is made of pictures, resources, charts and word games to develop the pupils’ vocabulary and speaking skills. The pupils have learned a variety of rhymes and poems and they enjoy reciting them. Some of the teachers engage the pupils in worthwhile pair work and the pupils participate meaningfully in this work. In the middle and senior standards the pupils are able to ask and answer questions. It is recommended that the good practices in evidence in individual contexts be extended on a schoolwide basis and that opportunities to communicate in Irish be provided for all pupils on a regular basis.
Textbooks are the primary resource used to develop reading skills in the school. Most of the pupils read with meaning and understanding. It is recommended that the pupils be introduced to additional reading material, including Irish-medium books. These should be provided in every classroom to further challenge and encourage the pupils. It is also recommended that the reading programme be extended to include emphasis on letter sounds and sight words. In the junior and middle classes the pupils write their news and put words into sentences. It is recommended that writing practices be further developed and that a greater variety of writing activities be introduced. In the senior classes some of the pupils have a good standard of writing and they regularly write stories and poetry on a range of topics.
The quality of teaching in English is generally good. In most classes, oral-language skills are being developed appropriately through the use of a variety of suitable strategies. As a consequence, the majority of pupils communicate competently and confidently. Overall, reading skills are well taught and a positive attitude to reading is in evidence throughout the school. While some effective practices were observed in the promotion of phonological and phonemic awareness it is recommended that the phonics programme, as outlined in the school plan for English, be implemented fully in all classes. Graded readers are used throughout the school and these are supplemented by the use of class novels from second class upwards. The school is advised to consider the wider use of novels, particularly in middle and senior classes.
Some good work is in evidence in the development of independent-writing skills in the infant and junior classes and this activity is continued in the middle and senior classes. Much of this work is of a good standard and information and communication technology (ICT) is used to assist pupils in the publication of their work. Poetry is explored in all classes and some classes recite excerpts competently. Very good examples of pupil-composed poetry were noted in some classrooms.
The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good. The teachers employ a range of effective teaching methods and suitable strategies to enable the pupils to acquire proficiency in mathematical skills. There is a mathematics-rich environment in all classrooms with relevant charts, games, visual stimuli and equipment. Lessons are well structured and paced, and the provision of active-learning opportunities contributes positively to the level of pupil interest generated. Early mathematical activities are effectively introduced in infant classes. As the pupils progress through the school, they continue to make laudable progress in their understanding of mathematical concepts. In order to further improve pupil-achievement levels, it is recommended that the school review its approaches to mental mathematics, problem-solving strategies and mathematical trails. The pupils are commended for the neat recording of their work.
The teachers are successful in generating the pupils’ interest in History through the implementation of well-designed lessons. Family and local history are integral elements of the school’s history programme and the pupils display a praiseworthy appreciation of issues of change and continuity. Opportunities for engagement in collaborative project activity are provided and the pupils speak enthusiastically of the processes involved in the development of their projects. There is well-considered integration with other subjects, including the Visual Arts, English and Mathematics. At a whole-school level it is recommended that pertinent artefacts, photographs and documentary evidence be provided to facilitate the pupils to practise and develop the skills of investigation, analysis and deduction. It is also advised that the school plan for History include an outline of the fieldtrips to be undertaken at each class level and the learning experiences to be provided for the pupils.
The Visual Arts is well tended to in this school and the quality of work produced by the pupils is very good. The teachers have embraced the principles of the primary curriculum and it is clear from the teachers’ planning and from the displays of completed works that the pupils are experiencing a broad and balanced curriculum. A suitable variety of two-dimensional and three-dimensional activities is provided. Pupils’ work in many of the strand areas is celebrated through attractive and colourful displays in classrooms and in circulation areas. The visual arts programme is integrated effectively with a number of other curriculum areas including History and Geography.
Suitable progress is being made in implementing an appropriate music curriculum. The pupils in most classes tunefully sing a variety of songs in Irish and English. Efforts are being made to develop pupils’ listening and responding skills. In senior classes some pupils play the recorder and accompany class singing competently. This aspect of the programme should be expanded upon with pupils in other classes being given opportunities to learn to play a musical instrument.
In delivering the drama curriculum the teachers draw on a range of suitable drama strategies including teacher-in-role, still imaging, mime and role-play. The pupils engage enthusiastically in the learning activities provided and the skills of characterisation and empathy are skilfully fostered. Drama is integrated successfully with other subject areas including English, History and Social, Personal and Health Education. As a means of building on existing practice, it is recommended that the teachers become more familiar with the breadth of the drama curriculum so as to ensure its full implementation.
4.6 Physical Education
Lessons in Physical Education take place in the schoolyard and games court as the weather permits. The lessons observed during the course of the evaluation focused appropriately on the development of pupils’ physical skills. The school is involved in a wide variety of sporting competitions and leagues including Cumann na mBunscoil, track and field events and the Community Games. The pupils from first to fifth classes participate in aquatics training. GAA coaches also provide tuition in Gaelic games.
4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education
A number of whole-school activities help in the creation of a positive school climate for pupils. These include the promotion of healthy-eating practices and the hosting of monthly assemblies. Discrete lessons in SPHE are well structured and the teachers draw on a number of suitable programmes. A variety of active-learning approaches, including story, role-play, photographs and written activities, is used effectively to explore particular themes and concepts. Currently sections of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme are not being taught and it is advised that immediate steps be taken to ensure that the full RSE programme is implemented.
A range of assessment tools is used by the teachers to monitor pupils’ progress across many subject areas of the curriculum. Teacher observation, checklists, teacher-devised tests and the monitoring of pupils’ written work are used widely. These assessment approaches are complemented by the use of standardised tests in English and Mathematics. The Drumcondra Primary Reading Test and the Sigma-T test are administered annually. The Middle Infant Screening Test is used as a screening measure for literacy at senior-infant level. A range of diagnostic tests is also administered. The teachers are now advised to analyse the results of standardised assessment on a more systematic and whole-school basis to ensure that the progress of classes and individual pupils is tracked carefully. This assessment information should be used constructively to inform planning for teaching and learning.
A detailed policy to guide provision for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) has been collaboratively devised. It is recommended that this policy be reviewed immediately and that a staged approach to assessment, identification and programme implementation, as outlined in Circular 02/05, be implemented. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) have been devised for the pupils who are in receipt of resource-teaching hours, in consultation with their class teachers and parents. It is advised that the learning targets for individual pupils be made more specific and include a projected timeframe for the achievement of these targets. Programmes are also prepared for pupils who are in receipt of learning-support provision. While the progress of individual pupils with SEN is monitored on an ongoing informal basis, it is recommended that a formal review be undertaken midyear and that the learning targets be adjusted accordingly.
Supplementary teaching is provided primarily on a withdrawal basis. It is recommended that the school seek the support of the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS) to assist them in developing and implementing effective models of in-class support. In withdrawal settings, stimulating, print-rich learning environments are created and they include praiseworthy examples of the pupils’ work. A range of commercial and teacher-designed resources is employed usefully to support pupils’ learning. The teachers interact with their pupils in an affirming and encouraging manner and they are successful in developing their pupils’ self-esteem.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
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, December 2009