An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Gurraneasig National School

Kilbrittain, Co. Cork

Uimhir rolla:  18491V

 

Date of inspection: 20 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 Gurraneasig 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, Irish, Mathematics and Social, Personal and Health Education. 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

 

Gurraneasig National School is a four-teacher, co-educational school, situated in a rural community close to Howe Strand Beach in Kilbrittain. It is a vibrant school and is a focal point for the community it serves. Pupil numbers have increased in the last number of years. The school caters for pupils from junior infants to sixth class. A strong sense of community is evident and the principal, staff and parents work in close collaboration with one another to provide for the educational needs of the pupils. The school participates in an impressive range of activities including a Comenius project and the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative.  

 

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

56

Mainstream classes in the school

3

Teachers on the school staff

4

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

3

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross and in keeping with its mission statement successfully creates a happy, positive working environment for pupils, staff and wider community.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and effective in discharging its duties. Meetings are convened frequently and minutes are maintained carefully. School accounts are certified on an annual basis. The board is to be lauded on its success in upgrading the school building and grounds to a high standard thereby ensuring excellent facilities for teaching and learning. It maintains regular communication with the parents’ association and is committed to promoting the active involvement of parents in the school. The board is involved in policy formulation and school policies are ratified. However, in order to further develop ongoing school self-evaluation it is recommended that policies, particularly those pertaining to the curriculum, be reviewed on a more systematic basis. The board employs a secretary and ancillary staff on a part-time basis. Their significant contribution to the school is acknowledged.

 

1.3 In-school management

The school is led competently by a caring and dedicated principal who deserves high praise for the success of the school. She discharges her duties in a very diligent manner and promotes an open collaborative school climate in which the expertise and skills of all partners are valued. The principal is supported ably by committed staff members who demonstrate high levels of experience and expertise. A significant proportion of staff is currently undertaking post-graduate professional development studies which will, without doubt, impact positively on the work of the school. In keeping with good practice the duties allocated to the deputy principal and special duties post holder are outlined clearly. The important contribution which post-holders make to the management of the school is acknowledged. In order to further develop instructional leadership it is recommended that the provision of action plans by post-holders would greatly clarify priorities for development and facilitate review of progress.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The effective cultivation of parental involvement in the work of the school is a notable feature of Gurraneasig NS.  There is a regular two-way flow of information between staff and home. Parents give generously of their time and expertise to support the school. Parent-teacher meetings are held on an annual basis and the school provides written records of pupils’ progress at the end of the school year. The parent association is well established and contributes significantly to the school in a wide range of areas. Among the many successful initiatives in place is the garden project which has led to the provision of a garden bed for each classroom to enable pupils engage in outdoor gardening activities. Commendably, parents are currently working in collaboration with staff and pupils to build on the school’s success to date in promoting environmental awareness and secure a Green Flag.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The exemplary behaviour of the pupils is a striking feature of the school. Many excellent classroom management strategies and routines, which support pupils to develop positive behavioural and learning styles, were observed. The extension of these good practices to all classrooms is recommended.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

In collaboration with the various partners, the principal and staff have formulated an extensive range of policy documents in both curricular and administrative areas. These policies are presented clearly, are accessible to all partners and provide many sound guidelines for the development of effective practice. In keeping with good practice staff meetings are organised on a regular basis. An agenda is devised collaboratively and minutes of key decisions are maintained. While the creditable work in evidence in relation to the implementation of policies is acknowledged more regular review of curricular policies is necessary in order to promote further linkage with individual classroom practice and the curriculum. It is advised that staff make greater use of information arising from monthly progress records and pupils’ assessments to inform this review process and the development of specific action plans to be achieved within agreed timeframes. Also, it is advised that staff consider reducing the number of work books in use and providing additional sets of differentiated reading material for pupils in both English and Irish.

 

Most teachers undertake very effective classroom planning which includes carefully planned long and short-term programmes of work. Where classroom planning is not well developed programmes lack clarity and there is a need for more specific plans to be set for each fortnight to guide the teaching and cater further for pupils’ educational needs. It is recommended that existing good practice in the school in relation to classroom planning be adopted by all staff in the context of Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools in order to promote ongoing improvement. While all teachers record a monthly progress record an agreed whole-school approach would greatly enhance the usefulness of these documents in providing clear accounts of the work undertaken at each class level.

 

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 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Irish

Chonacthas roinnt samplaí breátha de dhea-theagasc agus d’fhoghlaim na Gaeilge ag rangleibhéil ar leith. Moltar an aird a dhírítear ar rainn agus ar an bhfilíocht. I gcuid de na rangsheomraí baintear leas cumasach as raon de mhodhanna is d’áiseanna chun sprioctheanga a mhúineadh agus rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí a chur chun cinn ar bhonn fíorthorthúil. B’fhiú anois na dea-chleachtais seo a chur i bhfeidhm i ngach rangsheomra agus an cur chuige cumarsáideach i dteagasc na Gaeilge a fhorbairt a thuilleadh ar bhonn na scoile ina hiomláine. Meastar gurbh fhiú breis treoracha a chur sa phlean scoile don Ghaeilge chun cabhrú leis an gcur i bhfeidhm seo. Is léir go mbaineann cuid de na daltaí taitneamh as foghlaim na Gaeilge agus go léiríonn siad meon dearfach i leith na teanga. Tá gá anois, áfach, le scileanna cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt a thuilleadh. Chuige seo, b’fhiú don bhfoireann breis deiseanna labhartha a thabhairt do na daltaí agus machnamh a dhéanamh ar ghnéithe eile den churaclam a theagasc trí Ghaeilge. Aithnítear agus moltar an obair chúramach atá ar bun ag rangleibhéil ar leith chun scileanna léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí a chothú. Is léir go rachadh sé chun tairbhe do chaighdeán gnóthachtála na ndaltaí dá gcuirfí an difreálú sa teagasc agus an saorscríbhneoireacht chun cinn a thuilleadh ar bhonn na scoile ina hiomláine.

 

Some excellent practice in the teaching and learning of Irish was observed at particular class levels. A commendable emphasis is placed on rhyme and poetry. In some classrooms a range of methodologies and resources is deployed ably in order to teach a targeted language input and engage the pupils in a most productive manner. It is recommended that this good practice be implemented in all classrooms and that the communicative approach to teaching Irish be further developed on a whole-school basis. It would be worthwhile to include more guidelines in the school plan to support this implementation process. It is apparent that some pupils enjoy learning Irish and demonstrate positive attitudes to their learning. However, the development of pupils’ communication skills requires further attention. To this end, it is advised that staff provide pupils with more opportunities to use the language and consider teaching other aspects of the curriculum through the medium of Irish. The good practice in evidence at particular class levels in relation to the careful cultivation of pupils’ reading and writing skills is acknowledged and commended. It is apparent that the further development of differentiated teaching approaches and pupils’ independent writing skills on a whole-school basis would greatly enhance pupils’ attainment levels.

 

English

In the teaching and learning of English, pupils are provided with worthwhile opportunities to engage in talk and discussion. Many pupils display a commendable ability to express their views confidently. At a variety of class levels careful attention is given to the systematic development of pupils’ language skills through the provision of targeted, discrete oral language lessons. This good practice is commended. At particular class levels greater emphasis on the development of specific oral language skills is necessary. It is recommended that a structured oral language programme be adopted in all classes. Effective practice in the teaching of key reading and writing skills was observed during the evaluation. However, extra care should be given to this work at some class levels. Emergent reading skills are taught carefully and positive dispositions towards reading are fostered. As pupils progress through the school they are exposed to a good variety of reading material, including class novels. Commendably, a reading buddy programme is in place. Many pupils read fluently and at a variety of class levels creditable samples of their creative writing were observed. It is advised that the provision of more differentiated reading programmes would greatly augment the reading culture. Also, the creation of further opportunities for pupils to write on a regular basis in a variety of genres will greatly enrich their learning. Many teachers are to be applauded on displaying pupils’ writing in classrooms and circulation areas and on the high standard of presentation of written work in pupils’ copybooks.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Pupils are highly motivated in the area of Mathematics. Many demonstrate a clear knowledge of concepts which are appropriate to their age and readily sustain interest in suitable learning tasks. A good variety of mathematics materials are provided to support pupils’ learning and effective practice in their use was observed. Early mathematical activities are taught competently and pupils are encouraged from an early age to become active and self-directed in their learning. Productive use is made of information and communication technology. High-quality pupil-teacher interaction was observed at a variety of class levels. Group work is undertaken to facilitate the effective differentiation of mainstream classroom content. The extension of this good practice of targeted group work is recommended as it is apparent that at particular class levels learning tasks are not differentiated sufficiently. In most classrooms teachers have developed praiseworthy routines to enable them monitor pupils’ work and progress in Mathematics in a systematic manner. Pupils’ written work in most class settings is of a high standard and reflects a broad and balanced programme. However, in some instances this area merits further attention. In order to further develop pupils’ ability to apply skills and concepts it is recommended that structured oral work be incorporated as a key element of lessons and that the school develops more strategies to encourage regular problem solving.

 

3.3 Social, Personal and Health Education

Through team teaching teachers provide a broad range of learning experiences to foster the personal development, health and well being of pupils. Many well-structured lessons were observed. Parental involvement and the positive school climate greatly contribute to effective teaching and learning in this area. Commendably, a two year plan for the teaching of the various strands is in place. Pupils are skilfully involved on a daily basis in health-promoting physical activity. A healthy-lunch policy is implemented in the school.

 

3.4 Assessment

In keeping with school policy an effective system is in place to enable staff record and track individual pupil progress from one class level to the next. In most classes teachers give high-quality feedback to pupils regarding their progress. The practice of administering standardised tests to evaluate individual pupil progress is well-established and the results are recorded. Appropriately, teachers discuss the results formally and use them to inform key decisions particularly in relation to allocation of resources. Greater use should now be made of these results to monitor the ongoing mediation of the curriculum, identify trends in pupils’ performance levels and inform differentiated teaching and learning approaches. In most classrooms pupils’ progress is monitored on a continuous basis through the use of a range of effective approaches. The extension of this good practice to all classrooms is recommended. Staff should now consider the further development of assessment for learning, as outlined in the recent guidelines from the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

There are well-outlined policies in the school plan that give clear direction in relation to provision for pupils with special education needs. Commendably, supplementary teaching is provided in both literacy and numeracy. A key strength in provision is that pupils are provided with planned intervention within their mainstream classrooms as well as by withdrawal. In most mainstream classrooms pupils are organised in a manner which facilitates this effective work and good emphasis is placed on grouping pupils for instruction and on purposeful active learning. The extension of this good practice is recommended. The learning-support room presents as a stimulating, carefully-organised learning environment. A wide range of resources is selected judiciously and prepared for pupils’ specific needs. Admirable use is made of information and communication technology. In keeping with good practice, individual education plans or individual profile and learning programmes, as appropriate, are drawn up for pupils in receipt of support and are underpinned by careful short-term planning and ongoing assessment. During the evaluation there was evidence of much effective collaboration with relevant partners. Well-structured supplementary teaching sessions with high levels of pupil participation were noted. It is clearly evident that many pupils are growing in confidence in their own abilities and that much credit is due to staff for their hard work. In order to enhance the effectiveness of the individual pupil programme planning it is recommended that pupils’ strengths and priority areas of learning be outlined clearly in all individual education plans and that their current performance levels be recorded in more precise terms. It is apparent that in some mainstream contexts greater clarity around the expected learning outcomes for individual pupils is required. Also, a review of the criteria for selection and discontinuation of support is advised. Special needs assistants work in close collaboration with teachers and are to be commended for the conscientious manner in which they attend to their duties.

 

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

This school is not situated in a designated area of 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, 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 and the staff of Gurraneasig NS notes the positive findings of the WSE report in the school. The Board is happy that the report acknowledges the professionalism of the staff, the high quality teaching and the productive working relationship the school has with the parents and the Board of Management.

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          

 

The school will continue to build on its strengths and will strive to implement the recommendations of the WSE. In order to further develop ongoing school self evaluation, policies pertaining to the curriculum will be revised on a more systematic basis. Structures for the school plan are being finalised in both the long and the short term programmes. There is a review put in train of the use of assessment data to be incorporated into assessment for learning (AFL). Greater use will be made of assessment tests.