An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Grangemockler N.S.,

Grangemockler, Carrick on Suir,

County Tipperary

 

Uimhir rolla:  18501V

 

Date of inspection: 20 October 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 Grangemockler N.S. was undertaken in October 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 the 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 to this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Grangemockler N.S. is in the village of Grangemockler, which nestles in the valley of Slieve-na mBan in the south-east corner of County Tipperary. It is a Roman Catholic school under the patronage of the Bishop of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore. 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

98

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

6

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

The vision for Grangemockler N.S. is that all pupils will be happy and contented during their time in school. It is hoped that the pupils will reach their full potential in all areas of development and that their self-esteem will be built on so that they will be confident pupils who are tolerant and respectful of themselves, others and the environment.

 

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The board of management provides effective support to the school. It is properly constituted and meets regularly. The chairperson is a frequent visitor to the school and is in regular phone contact with the school also. Recently the board has been involved in reviewing policies, conducting a safety audit  and managing the maintenance and upkeep of the school. A new heating system was installed in 2007 and a flat roof was repaired this summer. The school gates were also sandblasted and repaired during the summer holidays. A Children First seminar was also organised by the board and held in the school. This was attended by staff, parents and board members with staff and parents of neighbouring schools also invited to attend. This was a very progressive step by the board of management and their commitment to this important area is laudable.

 

The board members at the pre-evaluation meeting voiced their frustration at the poor funding by the DES of the school and the inadequacy of the capitation grant paid to the school. The difficulty in managing the school on such a limited budget was emphasised and also that the school relies on a voluntary contribution by the parents and fund-raising by the parents’ association.

 

The school and its extensive surroundings are very well maintained and the board are to be commended for this. However they emphasised that in the absence of appropriate funding for the upkeep of the school premises, the services of a maintenance person have been gifted to the school from the current chairperson of the board of management. Some maintenance work is also undertaken voluntarily by parents, and family and friends of staff members. The board outlined the great sense of community that prevails in the school as one of its great strengths as well as its positive ethos.

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The in-school management team comprises the principal, deputy principal and one special duties teacher. The teaching principal manages to combine her work as a teacher with the demands of the duties of principal with ease and accomplishment. She is fully aware of her responsibilities and works in a dedicated manner to fulfil them. Under her leadership all education partners are encouraged to take an active role in supporting the school. She facilitates frequent consultation meetings with members of the in-school management team as well as encouraging open communication with the full staff, the board and the parents’ association. Her leadership around communication processes leads to a very positive atmosphere in the school. In addition, she consults frequently with members of the learning support team prior to taking decisions around provision for pupils with learning support needs or special education needs.

 

The principal is very ably supported by her colleagues on the in-school management team. The duties of the in-school management team are set out in the school plan and are agreed with the principal. The priorities for the school are decided at staff level and every effort is made to link the duties of the in-school management team with the school’s priorities. It is advised that these priorities should be defined clearly in the school plan. Members of the team have both administrative and curricular duties and they are very aware of the importance of providing curriculum leadership within their areas of curricular responsibility. The team’s own experience and interest in the curricular areas assigned bestow added benefits when carrying out the leadership role. One member has responsibility for ICT and uses her knowledge of relevant ICT software to bring developments to the attention of the staff. Another member of the team has responsibility for Music and Drama and aids teachers in sourcing music resources as well as organising attendance at courses. Formal meetings of the team are not called, but, regular informal after-school meetings are a feature of life in the school. Overall, the team provides commendable support to the principal in fulfilling her duties and responsibilities.

 

Amongst all the staff there is a strong spirit of volunteerism and all staff members work together in an atmosphere of co-operation. The Special Needs Assistant (SNA) is also an effective team member and works very competently with her assigned pupils and as a support to the school. The school secretary works conscientiously fulfilling her role and the school cleaner/caretaker takes obvious pride in ensuring that the school is excellently presented at all times.

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1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The school has an excellent relationship with the wider school community. To support parents of new pupils attending the school an Information Starter Pack is distributed at a pre-enrolment meeting held in May each year. Meetings with parents are arranged after school if teachers feel that there is something that they need to discuss with the parents. There are formal parent-teacher meetings with follow up meetings to review progress if necessary. Written school reports are furnished at the end of the school year. Informal notes and comments are written in pupils’ homework journals.

 

The parents’ association is an integral part of school life and offers support to the school in a variety of ways.  It organises: school swimming with almost the full complement of parents involved in supervision, the book fair, the summer camp, speakers to attend meetings, newsletters to keep parents informed and a night for new parents to the school and fundraising including the Christmas Raffle.

 

It will presently be organising an organic garden, which will further enhance the school environment. The representatives of the parents’ association report that there is very good and open communication between parents and the school. They also report that there is excellent educational provision in the school and that their children achieve very good standards. The parents’ association is to be commended for its initiative and support of the school.

 

The school also maintains links with the local Camphill Centre, with pupils visiting there at Christmas time.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

During the evaluation the pupils were very well behaved and polite. They worked well in their classroom environment and showed consideration and respect at all times. It was commented by the teachers and board, that the pupils are frequently complimented on their behaviour, when on trips outside the school. The substantial school grounds are used effectively at break times to ensure that pupils enjoy their outside time and the amount of space available helps to reduce any incidents at these times. There has been a students’ council in the school for a number of years. This is a very positive initiative and demonstrates the supportive atmosphere that prevails in this school. This helps to create a positive atmosphere in which pupils can voice their opinions and bring about some very worthwhile changes. As part of annual class routine, positive rules are drawn up in collaboration with the pupils and are on display in every classroom. Pupils help with the general gardening in the summer term and the school enters the Tidy Schools Competition annually, achieving a score of 94 in 2007.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

A comprehensive school plan, addressing curriculum and organisational areas, has been devised by the staff. Once the draft documents have been drawn up they are passed to the parents’ association for their comments before being presented to the board. The board then reviews the drafts before they are ratified, dated and signed. All policies play a useful role in facilitating the smooth running of the school. It is recommended that a review of the curricular plans in English and Irish should be undertaken. There is very good teaching and learning in the classrooms in these subjects but the plans do not appear to be leading this work. Reviewing the current policy to determine its usefulness in guiding classroom activity would be worthwhile. As part of this process a close evaluation of monthly progress records would be of benefit.

 

Each teacher produces long and short term plans, which guide and support their work in the classrooms. Detailed monthly records of the work completed in each classroom are also produced and held centrally.

 

 

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

Cothaítear suim na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge trí cheachtanna a chur i láthair go bríomhar, spreagúil. Bunaítear an t-ábhar foghlama ar théamaí a bhaineann le saol na ndaltaí agus baintear úsáid as sraith téacsleabhar mar thaca sa teagasc agus san fhoghlaim.

 

Forbraítear cumas tuisceana na ndaltaí go hoiriúnach le linn na ngníomhaíochtaí éisteachta. I dteagasc an chomhrá baintear úsáid thorthúil as ábhar léirithe agus as fearas corpartha chun tuiscint na ndaltaí ar fhoclóir nua a bhunú. Cleachtaítear gníomhaíochtaí cainte agus obair i bpéirí go héifeachtúil chun ionchur an teanga nua a chur abhaile. Cothaítear an léitheoireacht go cúramach agus léann na daltaí le brí agus cruinneas. B’fhiú anois tabhairt faoi úrscéalta sna hardranganna. B’fhiú na húrscéalta úd a iniúchadh mar bhunchloch do chleachtadh an chomhrá agus na scríbhneoireachta cruthaithí. Tugtar cúram don obair scríofa sa Ghaeilge agus tá dul chun cinn creidiúnach le feiceáil.

 

Aithrisíonn agus canann na daltaí uile rainn, dánta agus amhráin as Gaeilge.

 

Irish

Pupils’ interest in Irish is promoted through the presentation of lively, stimulating lessons. Learning content is based on topics that relate to the pupils’ lives and a scheme of textbooks supports teaching and learning.

 

Pupils’ understanding of the language is developed during discrete listening activities. In the teaching of conversation, productive use is made of visual resources and concrete materials to under pin pupils’ understanding of new vocabulary. Pair-work and communication activities are used effectively to reinforce the new language input. Reading is developed carefully and pupils read with fluency. It would be worthwhile to now consider the introduction of novels in the senior classes. These books could be considered as foundations for extended work in conversational Irish and creative writing. Suitable attention is given to written work in Irish and there is evidence of creditable progress.

 

The pupils can recite and sing rhymes, poems and songs in Irish

 

 

English

The teaching of English is carried out in a very proficient manner in all classes with pupils achieving excellent standards across all the strands. Appropriate emphasis is placed on oral communication and the pupils are excellent at asking and answering questions and expressing their thoughts and feelings using an extensive vocabulary. Oral language is an integral component of all lessons and is very suitably developed across all curricular areas. The school encourages the pupils to present samples of their good work to other classes and pupils frequently visit classes to recite a poem, share their news or talk about work which they have undertaken in class.

 

All aspects of the reading programme are developed purposefully. Suitable activities are used to develop the pupils’ phonological awareness in the junior classes. The pupils engage in reciting a wide range of nursery rhymes, clapping syllables, auditory discrimination exercises, bingo and lotto games and the learning of high frequency words. This structured approach yields very good results and sets the foundations for the high achievement of the pupils in reading, as evidenced in the standardised test results. Throughout the school shared reading is practised and this helps to foster a love of reading which was clearly evident during the evaluation. Pupils keep records of books which they have read and keep records of their comments on the books. In the middle and senior classes the pupils write carefully considered book reviews. A fully stocked diverse library of books supports the reading in each classroom. Graded readers including Sails, Elf, Oxford Reading Tree etc are used for shared reading at home. Class novels are used effectively in the middle and senior classes to complement the use of formal reading schemes. The pupils listen to excerpts from various novels and make a class decision on which one to read. Local writers are invited to visit the school to share their knowledge and expertise and enrich the learning experience for the pupils.

 

The pupils benefit from the emphasis placed on the writing process and there are impressive examples of writing in different genres in the classrooms. Good use is made of ICT to display pupils’ stories and poems. In one classroom a class diary is kept of all the activities which the class engage in during the course of the year. This is excellently presented and a very worthwhile activity. The pupils in this classroom also use a writing checklist to evaluate their writing and this works effectively. In some classes also, a number of compilations have been developed, and these are on display in the classrooms. Handwriting activities are appropriately developed in the infant classroom and are built on throughout the school. The teaching of poetry and rhymes is also of a high standard and pupils took pride in reciting a variety of these during the inspection period. A suitable spelling plan supports the work in spelling in the school.

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken competently in every class. There is an extensive range of manipulative and concept specific resources available in each class. Appropriate software also supports the work. The good foundation in Mathematics in the junior classes contributes to the high standards achieved by the pupils in the school.

 

In the infant classroom there is opportunity for the pupils to engage in free play and handling of materials. These materials include wooden bricks, duplo, stickle bricks, geometric shapes, plasticene, sand, moblio, construction straws, peg-boards, beads/buttons and laces, geoboards, counters and sets of animals. Activities include matching, classifying, comparing, ordering and recognition of numbers and shapes. The pupils are actively involved and they recite and sing number rhymes and action songs. As pupils advance to middle and senior classes they reveal good knowledge and understanding of their work in Mathematics. They enjoy mental questions and the challenge of oral work. They display accurate knowledge of various facets of their programme and they are enthusiastic in their discussion of problems and solutions. The written work in mathematics is of a high standard and is neat and well presented. The pupils show an ability to work well independently. Teachers ensure that learning has taken place through regular assessment and the maintenance of records of progress.

 

3.3 Drama

 

The Drama plan is at draft stage and this year the teachers are engaging in a variety of drama activities with a view to informing the final plan. Elements of drama are used frequently in the infant room and junior room. Puppets talk to pupils during English and Irish lessons, there is make believe play in the home corner and with toys. The formal drama lessons are linked to a topic covered during the week. In the middle and senior classes a variety of activities are employed. These include still imaging, thought tracking, improvisation, hot-seating and teacher-in-role. Stories and poems are also used as a stimulus for dramatic activity. Drama is also integrated with many other areas of the curriculum, including in particular History and English. Pupils display high levels of enthusiasm, enjoyment and engagement at each class level. The teachers are to be commended for embracing a wide range of strategies and approaches, which will now provide a firm basis for the school plan in Drama.

 

 

3.4 Assessment

 

The teachers engage in a range of informal assessment in their classroom settings. These include teacher observation of pupils’ work, class tests and tasks designed by the teacher and action mathematics tests. Porfolios are kept of pupils’ work and these offer a guide to their progress during the year and from one year to the next. The main screening tests employed in the school are the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST), Drumcondra tests, NRIT, the Micra tests, and Lucid COPS (the recently purchased cognitive profiling system). All results from these tests are stored securely in the school. These standardised tests are supplemented by school-based assessments. The school also undertakes a number of diagnostic tests with the pupils including Neale Analysis, Jackson Phonics, Aston Index, Dolch Sight Words and Quest. The teachers utilise the information gleaned from all these tests to provide targeted support to pupils and have achieved commendable results for all pupils by using the information with care and attention.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

There is a full-time learning support teacher (LST) based in the school and shared with a neighbouring school and there is also a full-time resource teacher (RT) based in the school and shared with a neighbouring school. The policy for learning support and special educational needs within the school plan is well drafted and was reviewed in December 2006. The policy contains important provisions for guiding this work in the school. It is clearly stated in the plan that the overall responsibility for coordinating the work lies with the principal. In the policy there is equal emphasis on the development of skills in literacy and numeracy, parental support is encouraged and early intervention and identification is emphasised. In order to aid the latter process, the school recently purchased a Cognitive Profiling System for 4 to 8 year olds on the advice of the LST with funds raised by the parents’ association. This new computerised assessment system allows the school identify early cognitive difficulties that can interfere with pupils’ learning. Other screening tests are also administered including the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST), the RAIN sentence reading test, NRIT and the Drumcondra tests. The combination of all these tests enables the teachers and especially the SEN team to target support in focused ways. Policies and procedures around continuance and discontinuance of the service are outlined in the plan and DES Guidelines are followed, in that priority resources are allocated to pupils below the 12th percentile.

 

Individual Learning Plans are drawn up by the LST and the RT and are based on consultation with the class teachers and the parents. Both teachers operate a judicious blend of support. There are very few pupils in the school with attainment below the 12th percentile and these pupils receive special attention in both individual and group settings. For these pupils, work in literacy is stressed and the teachers make good use of a variety of reading schemes to aid reading development. A commendable variety of reading activities are practised during individual and group sessions. The LST and the RT also support class teachers by helping groups of pupils who are experiencing difficulties in following the class programme for English or Mathematics. The class teacher initiates this support by requesting support for specific aspects of the class programme.

 

The quality of teaching is of a very high standard in this section of the school. This is due mainly to the commitment of the teachers who have undertaken and continue to undertake specialised courses in this field. Some of the very positive features observed in the learning support and resource teaching contexts during the WSE included: careful planning on both weekly and daily bases as well as very careful record keeping. It was noticeable that the LST room contained a noteworthy print–rich environment, was well resourced and incentives for the development of independent learning were very obvious. In one instance, resource packs - compiled by the teacher - and based on themes were being used with great success. These packs added commendable variety to language drill work. In another context it was noted that the teacher worked very closely with class teachers to provide support for specific areas of the curriculum. The board and parents can be assured that high standards are achieved in literacy and numeracy throughout this school and those pupils who need support receive a commendable service.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Appendix

School Response to the Report

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

           Area 1 Observations on the content of the Inspection Report

 

The school community wish to sincerely thank the inspectors involved for the professional, courteous and pleasant manner in which the W.S.E. was conducted. 

 

It was a very thorough process and we are really pleased with the subsequent report.

In particular, we are delighted that it affirms the many positive aspects of our school.  Among the strengths identified were the excellent behaviour of the pupils, the professionalism, commitment and dedication of our teaching staff and the very high standards achieved by our pupils.  The report also acknowledged the co-operation, dedication and hard work of our Board of Management, Parents Council and all other members of our school community.

 

Copies of the report were circulated to all staff and Board of Management members.

 

 

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

 

We take on board the recommendations outlined in our W.S.E. report and are currently reviewing English and Irish plans so that they will guide our classroom practice more specifically.  We have also sourced a selection of novels for use during Irish lessons in the Senior classes.