An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil San Seamus CBS
James’ St., Basin Lane, Dublin 8
Roll number: 18519R
Date of inspection: 10 November 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Scoil San Seamus Christian Brothers School, James’ Street, Basin Lane, Dublin 8. 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, the trustees and parents. 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 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.
Scoil San Seamus CBS is a thirteen-teacher Catholic boys’ senior school under the trusteeship of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and the Edmund Rice Trust. It is situated in the south inner city of Dublin and provides education to boys from second to sixth class who reside mainly in the Catholic parish of St. James. The school population has become more diverse in recent years with a number of international pupils now on roll, many of whom do not speak English as their first language. Upon its establishment in 1820, the school was under the management of the Christian Brothers and a significant number of its teachers were members of the Christian Brothers Order. The school is housed in the present building since 1960.The current principal, who took up his position in 2005, is the school’s first lay principal. Almost half of the current teachers were appointed in September 2006.
Scoil San Seamus CBS is designated as a DEIS Band 1 school. It is supported by the School Completion Programme and a Links Committee that includes the local girls’ primary school and the local second-level school. It has the support of a home-school-community-liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator, a project support teacher and a resource teacher for travellers who are shared with the local girls’ primary school. The project support teacher is based in Scoil San Seamus and the HSCL co-ordinator and the resource teacher for travellers are based in the local girls’ school.
The school’s stated mission is to provide every pupil with a safe and caring environment in which they can develop their talents and skills and reach their full potential. The school also formally states its commitment to fostering respect, tolerance and courtesy within the whole-school community. The school’s commitment to its stated mission is evident in the positive, respectful interactions between staff and pupils, the concern of management and the principal for the welfare of the children, and the sensitive, caring and dynamic liaison between home and school.
School enrolment is stable at the current figure of 145. There are significant school attendance issues that include non-attendance and late attendance of pupils. The school principal and teachers are welcoming of pupils who arrive late each day and they endeavour to encourage full attendance. The development of formal school attendance strategies in accordance with the requirements of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 is recommended.
The board of management is properly constituted. It meets regularly and minutes of its meetings are maintained. The allocation of specific tasks to board members requires review with particular reference to the appointment of a board member as health and safety officer. The board demonstrates a commitment to supporting the work of the school. It also demonstrates an understanding of the context in which the school operates and of the particular challenges now facing the school. It has funded professional development courses for teachers over the years and it assists in the purchasing of additional learning resources. Of particular concern to the board in recent times are the frequent acts of vandalism to the school and the high turnover of staff. Some board members have attended training courses provided by the Christian Brothers and the Catholic Primary Schools Managers Association. Further training with particular regard to the legal obligations of boards of management is advised.
The board ensures that Department of Education and Science regulations regarding the length of the school year, the retention of pupils and class size are observed. Clarity of school commencement and closing times is required in all documentation circulated among staff and parents. The board has had some involvement in school planning. It is recommended that all whole-school policies be ratified, dated and signed.
The in-school management team comprises the principal, deputy principal and four special duties post holders. The principal endeavours to provide purposeful leadership. He undertakes his management duties diligently. He ensures that official documents including roll books and the register are maintained accurately. He relates well to his colleagues and the members of the board of management. He is aware of the individual strengths of each member of the teaching staff. He is sensitive to the school context. He has enabled some team work to take place in relation to curriculum and special education issues. A significant challenge for the principal now is the development of teamwork and planning on a whole-school basis in order to facilitate a co-ordinated approach to the implementation of the Primary School Curriculum 1999.
The deputy principal and post holders carry out the curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities that are currently assigned to them. They meet on a monthly basis. They provide oral reports to staff meetings. Their duties now require redefinition with reference to Circular 07/03, the priority needs of the school, and the effective implementation of the curriculum. The leadership of the in-school management is critical for the future effective delivery of an appropriate education for all pupils.
The teaching staff comprises one administrative principal, six mainstream class teachers, one special class teacher, three learning-support/resource teachers (LSRT) one of whom is shared with the local girls’ school, one language-support teacher, one shared HSCL co-ordinator, one shared resource teacher for Travellers (RTT), and one shared project support teacher. The teachers are deployed in a manner that ensures that Department guidelines regarding class size are observed. Half of the teachers are involved in the provision of special education or other specialised work to support particular pupils. The school does not have a formal policy regarding the allocation of classes to teachers. It is recommended that such a policy be devised.
The staff has availed of the services of the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) and the School Development Planning (SDP) initiative. A number of teachers have attended a range of summer courses. One teacher is currently involved in training under the Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) scheme. Two teachers are attending ‘The Incredible Years’ programme as part of the School Completion programme. All mainstream teachers are involved with the ‘First Steps’ programme through DEIS. The development of a continuing professional development policy that has its focus the priority needs of the school and builds upon existing teacher expertise is recommended.
The school’s five special needs assistants (SNAs) are appropriately deployed. The SNAs make a valuable contribution to the work of the school in the competent performance of their duties and their sharing of local knowledge, culture and history. The part time secretary provides effective administrative support. The caretaker is to be commended for the high standard of maintenance of the playgrounds. The former school principal works in the school in a voluntary capacity providing pastoral care to pupils in addition to undertaking supervision and maintenance duties. A parent provides computer tuition to groups of pupils on a voluntary basis. It is important to ensure that those providing voluntary services are deployed in accordance with the principle that the teachers employed by the board of management are at all times responsible for the supervision of the pupils.
Many efforts are made to enhance the school building. Wall murals brighten the play areas and the assembly hall. Plants enhance the entrance area and corridor windows. Photographs of past pupils and of school events are displayed. Many walls are attractively decorated with the children’s work and educational illustrations and materials.
The school has twelve permanent classrooms; six mainstream, one support room, one special education room, a LSRT room, a library/LSRT room, a computer room, and a breakfast room. There is a large staff room, a small language-support room, a small RTT room, a large hall, two offices, storage rooms and ancillary toilet facilities. The heating provided in several parts of the building is inadequate. It is recommended that the board of management set out a strategic plan for the upgrading and maintenance of the building to include the provision of adequate heating and toilet facilities, the provision of adequate accommodation for special education provision, the refurbishment of the office area, and measures to address the security problems experienced by the school.
The use and availability of teaching and learning resources require review. It is recommended that every class have a core set of resources as well as easy access to specialised resources as required. The development of a whole-school policy in this regard is advised. The consistent use of relevant manipulatives in mathematics is particularly important. The school has a good central library with a suitable system for selecting and borrowing books in place. That library facility is supplemented by well-stocked class libraries. Some use is made of ICT resources in teaching and learning. Review of the school’s policy on ICT is recommended with a view to maximising the use of ICT in teaching and learning by locating more computers in classrooms.
A supportive and effective HSCL service is provided for the parents and pupils of the school. This service is informed by an indepth knowledge of the school community and locality. Advice is made available to parents regarding pertinent school matters. Their contributions to their children’s education are affirmed and a range of courses that they consider relevant are organised at regular intervals. A notable success of the home-school initiatives is the implementation of a transition programme for children transferring from this school to the local boys’ secondary school.
There is no parents’ association in the school. The school communicates with the parents through termly newsletters, homework journals, letters and phone calls. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually and written reports are issued twice yearly. Communication is also maintained with individual parents through the pupils’ homework journal. To increase parental involvement, consideration should be given to how a parents’ association can be established. The provision of a parents’ room is recommended. Consideration should also be given to how parents may become involved in the development of the school plan.
The pupils are managed respectfully by all staff though the implementation of a comprehensive code of behaviour and an anti-bullying policy. Some teachers devote considerable time and effort to the provision of extra-curricular activities including Gaelic football, hurling choir and chess. Monthly school assemblies take place in which the pupils’ efforts and achievements are celebrated. This setting is also used to highlight new issues relevant to the children.
There is evidence of whole-school planning in relation to key organisational matters and several curriculum areas. Among the organisational policies devised to date are policies on special education, admissions, enrolment, child protection, homework, anti-racism, health and safety, internet access, critical incidents, anti-bullying, and a code of behaviour and discipline. Whole-school planning has taken place in the curriculum areas of Irish, English and Mathematics, Science, the Visual Arts and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). Whole-school planning has not yet been undertaken in relation to History, Geography, Music, Drama, or Physical Education.
A number of teachers have been involved in the process of school planning under the guidance of the principal. The school now needs to develop a whole-school approach to school improvement. This is particularly important in light of the recent high turnover of staff. Within this framework of whole-school improvement, a team approach to the provision of support for children with special educational needs should be developed. Dedicated whole-school planning time is required. It is recommended that the school avail of the existing support services in its efforts to effect change.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policy. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The teachers maintain both long-term and short-term written plans in addition to monthly progress reports. To ensure breadth, balance and progression in learning, all individual plans should focus on specific learning outcomes derived from the Primary School Curriculum 1999 and mediated through the school plan. Furthermore, planning for differentiated methodologies and content is required in order to accommodate the different learning needs and styles of pupils, particularly in relation to literacy and numeracy.
4.1 Quality of Teaching and Learning
Provision is made for the teaching of all curriculum areas at each class level. Some linkage within and integration of curriculum areas occur. Teacher-directed whole-class teaching is the predominant methodology used. Some paired work is organised. A general review of teaching methodologies is required in order to ensure that practice consistently reflects the principles of the Primary School Curriculum 1999. In particular, it is recommended that greater use be made of active methodologies, open-ended tasks, higher-order questioning, paired work and suitable resources. It is important to ensure that a broad and balanced programme is delivered within each curriculum area.
In general, the children apply themselves to the learning tasks assigned. A significant number of children experience difficulty with regard to literacy. This impacts on their ability to become independent and collaborative learners. The raising of levels of attainment should be a key focus of school improvement.
Tá roinnt phleanála um scoil uile curtha ar bun cheana féin sa Ghaeilge. Aithníonn an plean sin an tábhacht a bhaineann le forbairt scileanna labhartha agus éisteachta na bpáistí. Bunaíonn roinnt mhaith oidí a gcuid pleanála ghearrthéarma ar na téarmaí agus ar na hábhair atá breacrianaithe sa phlean scoile. Ó am go chéile baintear feidhm as saothar beirte agus as saothar grúpa chun scileanna cumarsáide na bpáistí a fhorbairt. Chun teagasc agus foghlaim na Gaeilge a fheabhsú níos mó, tá sé riachtanach anois inniúlacht na bpáistí faoi láthair a mheas agus machnamh a dhéanamh ar an gcúrsa léinn sa mhéid a bhfuil san áireamh aige tuiscint an pháiste cheana féin ar an ábhar sin agus an modh foghlamtha is ansa leo. Uime sin, moltar feidhm rianúil a bhaint as ceol, as drámaíocht, as rann agus as scéalaíocht ar bhonn na scoile uile.
Some whole-school planning has been undertaken for Irish. That plan takes cognisance of the importance of developing the children’s listening and speaking skills. Many teachers base their short-term planning on the themes and topics outlined in the school plan. Paired and group work is used from time to time to develop the children’s communicative skills. To further develop teaching and learning in Irish, it is now necessary to assess the children’s existing competence and to mediate the Irish curriculum in a manner that takes cognisance of the children’s prior learning in this subject and their preferred learning styles. In this regard, the planned use of music, drama, poetry, rhyme and story on a whole-school basis is recommended.
One of the key challenges facing this school is the raising of literacy standards. This has implications for the teaching of oral language, reading and writing. The successful delivery of a rich oral language programme was noted in a number of classes during the inspection. In those classes, discrete oral language lessons were well-structured and there was targeted language enrichment across the curriculum. The implementation of such an approach on a whole-school basis is recommended.
Some children achieve highly in reading. They demonstrate an interest in and an ability to read and discuss novels and poetry. A significant number of children require planned whole-school systematic intervention to develop their reading skills. A whole-school approach to the teaching of specific reading skills is required. In this regard, close monitoring of the children’s progress in reading and a raising of their expectations regarding their ability to read and enjoy reading are important.
There was some evidence of process writing at all class levels. Approaches to the teaching of writing vary. The implementation of a whole-school approach to the teaching of writing is required. In particular, it is recommended that the focus of editing in the writing process be broadened to incorporate the use of language, style and expression. Greater celebration of the children’s written creative work through displays, class books and illustrations is advised.
Much individual teacher planning for Mathematics is textbook based. The development of mathematical language is emphasised in some classes. A small number of classrooms have mathematics corners with relevant resources on display. In general, the resources for Mathematics available in classrooms are inadequate. The provision of a core set of resources for each classroom is recommended. Whole-class teaching is the predominant mode of instruction in most mathematics lessons. Some use of paired work was observed during the inspection. A review of the methodologies used in the teaching of Mathematics is recommended with particular regard to the use of activity-based learning, collaborative group work, resources, and the development of estimation and problem-solving skills. The primary focus of the programme delivered is on the strand of number. It is recommended that future planning for Mathematics ensure an appropriate representation of all strands, in order to raise pupil achievement in all areas of Mathematics. Planning for differentiated learning is now required in order to meet the needs of all pupils including the more able.
The teaching of History is one of the strengths of the school. A programme which achieves a blend between textbook and investigative work is pursued. History lessons in the middle standards place due emphasis on the development of an awareness of the locality and this work is praiseworthy. The children are enabled to develop a sense of chronology through studying the lives of people in the past. Their skills of working as historians are effectively fostered. They are provided with opportunities to communicate their learned understanding of historical events in oral, written, and visual formats and through the use of ICT. In the history lessons observed, the children displayed a keen interest in the topics and applied themselves well to the assigned tasks. The development of a cohesive whole-school plan for History is recommended in order to consolidate and build upon the good work already taking place at individual class level.
Good practice was observed in a number of geography lessons. In some classrooms, the environment of the school and that of the wider locality are incorporated effectively into the lessons. Most pupils speak knowledgeably about the aspects of Geography that they have studied. This worthwhile work could be extended further through the setting of group and individual class projects that incorporate the use of ICT. In developing a school plan for Geography, consideration should be given to how the pupils can develop their skills in research, investigation and the recording of information.
A variety of approaches to teaching the Visual Arts is evident in the school. The main focus of the programme is on the strands of paint and colour, drawing and fabric and fibre. The strand of looking at and responding to art is taught to a small number of classes. Integration of the Visual Arts with SESE and other curriculum areas is evident in both planning and in displays. The children take pride in their artwork. It is now timely to review the implementation of the school plan to ensure that all children at each level experience a broad range of strands including looking at and responding to art. Consideration should be given to ensuring continuity and progression in the programme taught. The introduction of art portfolios to facilitate the tracking of the pupils’ progress is advised.
The school is to be commended on the high standard attained by its choir which includes pupils from third to sixth class. There is a designated music area in some classrooms with teacher-produced resources on display. The pupils enjoy singing. Their class repertoire is, in general, limited. There is evidence of some work in the strand of listening and responding. Good use is made of percussion instruments in some of the lessons. The strand of composing requires greater attention. It is recommended that the school review its approach to teaching and learning in Music with a view to developing and implementing a policy that ensures that all children receive a broad and balanced music education that reflects all strands.
It is evident that the pupils enjoy Drama. In the lessons, they engage well and co-operate effectively with one another. To develop drama education in the school further, it is advised that a greater focus be placed on the process of Drama rather than on its product and that the specific learning objectives be shared with the pupils as appropriate.
Another key strength of this school is its successful implementation of the games strand of the Physical Education curriculum. The teachers demonstrate a remarkable commitment to extra-curricular sports training and this has contributed significantly the pupils’ enthusiasm and their ongoing outstanding success in inter-school leagues. In addition to the physical education lessons led by the class teachers, the pupils also attend swimming lessons. The extension of the physical education programme to incorporate all strands of the curriculum on a whole-school basis is recommended.
There is a comprehensive whole-school policy for Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). The pupils demonstrate interest in SPHE. Appropriate resources are in place to support the learning. There is some evidence of SPHE displays in the school. Greater use of talk and discussion during the lessons is advised. A tutor is employed under the School Completion Programme to deliver self-esteem aspects of the SPHE curriculum. Collaborative planning between the class teachers and tutor is recommended in order to ensure the effective implementation of the whole-school plan by all.
An important challenge for this school is that of ensuring that the outcome of assessment informs teaching and learning. Some monitoring of the children’s work takes place through teacher-observation and the correction of written work. Levels of attainment in Mathematics and English are assessed on an annual basis by means of standardised tests. Those test results are documented and used to identify pupils with special educational needs. It is recommended that a whole-school policy on assessment be developed. This policy should incorporate the analysis of the outcomes of assessment, particularly in relation to literacy and numeracy, in order to provide a basis for differentiated provision for children in accordance with their needs and abilities.
Five teachers are involved in the provision of special education to children in this school. Each class level is supported by one member of the special education team. Support is provided on a withdrawal basis resulting in up to half of the pupils in individual classes being withdrawn at any one time. The whole-school special education policy sets out the roles and responsibilities of the staff and the procedures for selecting children for special education support. It recognises the importance of communication with parents and outside agencies.
There are examples of very good educational provision by individual members of the special education team. Features of that good practice include the provision of appropriate plans with specific learning targets, the sharing of lesson objectives with pupils, well-paced lessons and positive behaviour management. In those learning settings, the children are enthusiastic and focussed and are making good progress in their learning. The adoption of such good practice in all special education settings in the school is recommended.
In practice, overall special education provision in the school would benefit from a more structured, formal and collaborative approach to planning for and delivery of support to children. It is necessary for the roles of each member of the special education team to be clarified in relation to the assessed needs of the children, the overall needs of the school, and Department guidelines on special education provision. Ensuring continuity and progression should be a guiding principle in the deployment of special education personnel. It is recommended that clear targets specifically related to improving pupil achievement be set for each child in receipt of additional support. Practical possibilities for involving parents in this process should be considered. The specific role of class teachers in relation to supporting children should be defined.
The school’s project support teacher funded by the Department of Education and Science assists children who, from time-to-time, have difficulty adhering to the school’s code of behaviour and discipline. To maximise the benefit of this position, it is now necessary for the school to define its objectives and procedures in relation to the provision of such support.
The school is welcoming of Traveller pupils. Additional support is available for Traveller pupils through the services of a shared RTT who maintains close links with the visiting teacher for Travellers. Clarity regarding an individual programme for each Traveller pupil in receipt of support is required.
A number of international pupils are on roll. Some of those pupils attend the language-support teacher. It is recommended that existing resources in this setting be updated to include materials that are age appropriate and culturally diverse. Collaboration among the language-support teacher, class teacher, and where relevant, the special education team, is advised. The school celebrates international cultures and endeavours to ensure that all children are fully integrated into the life of the school.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The BOM welcomes the report and most of its recommendations, and will earnestly endeavour to fully implement those recommendations. The Board considers that some of the comments lack an appreciation of the difficulties facing teachers in this particular school community. The report in general fails to adequately reflect the exceptional efforts of the staff in a very challenging situation.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
Completion of school History policy, ratified by BOM 28/3/07
Completion of school Geography policy, ratified by BOM 28/3/07
Completion of school Music policy, ratified by BOM 28/3/07
Continued whole school training in “First Steps” and induction of “Free Writing” and assessment of writing skills in all classes
2 Teachers completed training in “Incredible years programme” and 2 more teachers undertook training on INTO conflict management course – funded by BOM. Purchase of additional Maths, English, Geography and Music resources
Application for additional classrooms
The Board and Staff are continuing to work through the recommendations of the report.