An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Mhuire

Caisleán Nua

Co. Tipperary

Uimhir Rolla :18538V

 

Date of inspection: 22 January 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 Scoil Mhuire NS was undertaken in January 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 Physical Education. The board of management was given the opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report. 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

 

Scoil Mhuire is situated in the village of Newcastle. The main school building, erected in 1961, accommodates the infant and learning-support classrooms. Two prefabricated buildings are used as mainstream classrooms for pupils from first to sixth class. Currently three new classrooms are under construction. Consequently, the grounds and environs are in poor repair.

 

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

81

Mainstream classes in the school

3

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

2

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

As stated in its vision statement, the school strives to provide adequate facilities and a relevant curriculum to cater for the full and harmonious development of each child. An inclusive ethos is promoted in all areas of school life.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted. It usually meets once a month, but of necessity, the board has met more frequently in recent times. Members have been allocated specific tasks and detailed minutes of all meetings are recorded. Some board members have attended training   and the new chairman shows particular enthusiasm for school improvement. The board has, of late, been proactive in progressing the building project which includes the provision of an extensive internet system for the new school. It has also conducted a comprehensive health and safety audit. It is recommended, however, that the board consider further improvements to the existing building with a view to creating a more suitable learning environment for special education and the provision of an administration office. Detailed records of finance are maintained and accounts have been certified. The board has had little input into the recent drafting of some organisational policies, though policies were presented and ratified. It is recommended that the board take a more active role in policy formulation. It is also advised that the board provide more resources to support teaching and learning particularly in the area of Mathematics and Physical Education. The work of the board in planning for improved internet facilities is acknowledged while further investment in computer hardware is recommended.

  

1.3 In-school management

The principal was appointed to her post in September 2008. She carries out her administrative duties effectively and has invested considerable time and effort in collaboration with the board of management in progressing the building of three new classrooms. This matter has appropriately been prioritised, as current accommodation is inadequate and poorly maintained. The principal’s instructional leadership skills will now be drawn upon, with immediate effect, specifically in relation to the formulation of a whole-school plan focusing particularly on improvements in the standards of literacy and numeracy. She is ably assisted in her role by the deputy principal. It is recommended, however, that the duties attached to the deputy principal’s post be reviewed to reflect current school priorities.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Representatives of the parents’ association reported a marked improvement in home-school communication and in parental involvement in the life of the school. They commented favourably on greater accessibility of the principal and class teachers, increased awareness of school activities and involvement of parents in some curricular areas in classrooms. Parents expressed satisfaction with developing improvements in accommodation. They reported direct involvement in the school’s sports day, the organisation of swimming and in the raising of funds. Parents are instrumental in the transfer programme from primary to post-primary school. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually and parents are issued with written reports on their children’s progress. 

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils is very good. Pupils eagerly engage in discussion and in class activities. They co-operate willingly with their teachers and with each other. They present as being well behaved and respectful. Teachers and ancillary staff provide a high level of care to all pupils.

  

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very poor. A curriculum and organisational policy template has been recently completed and the efforts of the principal in formulating a three-year strategic plan is commended. Work has commenced on organisational policies which include Health and Safety, Homework, Enrolment and Code of Behaviour. It is recommended that the board review these organisational policies in accordance with legislative requirements. The work of the principal in recently drafting a whole-school plan relating to the teaching of English is acknowledged. This plan, which is being implemented since January 2009, has been ratified by the board of management. To date, no other curricular plans have been drafted. Further school planning should be initiated without delay in a collaborative manner involving all staff and in consultation with parents and board. It is further recommended that the staff review the proposed timetable for policy formulation and focus with immediate effect on curricular policy development.

 

Mainstream teachers prepare appropriately for their work and provide long-term and short-term schemes to support teaching. Practice varies, however. Consideration should now be given to the use of an agreed template with suitable curricular references to include objectives, differentiation and assessment. All teachers complete a monthly report which reflects content taught. It is recommended that this record of work be more comprehensive, be linked to the curriculum and thereby become a valuable assessment tool to gather information on a whole-school basis.

 

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

Níl plean scoile curtha le chéile don Ghaeilge. Bunaíonn na múinteoirí a gcuid pleanála ghearrthéarmach ar Churaclam na Bunscoile (1999) agus ar na téascleabhair. Tá dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge á chothú agus i gcoitinne baintear úsáid rialta as an nGaeilge go neamhfhoirmiúil i rith an lae. Tá réimse maith d’acmhainní teagaisc ar fáil mar thacaíocht don fhoghlaim. I rang na naíonán baintear úsáid fhónta as an nGaeilge go leanúnach mar theanga theagaisc, cleachtas a fhorbraíonn cumais tuisceana na ndaltaí. I múineadh na Gaeilge, cuirtear béim ar an rangtheagasc agus i gcuid de na ranganna baintear úsáid oiriúnach as cluichí éisteachta, as obair bheirte agus as an amhránaíocht. B’fhiú anois an dea-chleachtas seo a chur chun cinn i ngach rang. Cuirtear béim fhónta ar leathnú foclóra na ndaltaí. Éiríonn leo abairtí a chumadh agus ceisteanna a fhreagairt bunaithe ar na téamaí atá múinte. B’fhiú breis béime a chur ar an gcur chuige cumarsáideach agus deiseanna rialta a thabhairt do na daltaí an foclóir agus na frásaí atá ar eolas acu a úsáid chun forbairt a dhéanamh ar a gcumas labhartha agus chun líofacht a chothú ina gcuid cainte. Bunaítear an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht ar na leabhair saothair. Tá sé ar chumas formhór na ndaltaí na leabhair sin a léamh agus ar an iomlán léiríonn siad tuiscint chuí, cé go bhfuil deacrachtaí suntasacha ag na daltaí sna meánranganna. Ba chóir féiniarracht na ndaltaí a lorg agus a chothú níos mó sa scríbhneoireacht. Sonraítear go ndéantar cúram ceart den litriú le linn na gcleachtaí scríbhneoireachta. Moltar athbhreithniú iomlán a dhéanamh ar mhúineadh na Gaeilge chun a chinntiú go bhfuil leanúnachas i ngach gné den chlár teagaisc á chothú tríd an scoil.  Moltar plean scoile a dhréachtadh gan mhoill.

 

Irish

A whole-school plan has not been formulated for Irish. The teachers base their short-term planning on the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and on text books. A positive attitude to Irish is cultivated and Irish is generally used informally during the day. A good range of resources is available to support the teaching of Irish. In the infant classes Irish is used regularly as the language of instruction, contributing significantly to pupils’ understanding. In the teaching of Irish emphasis is placed on whole-class teaching but in some classes effective use is made of listening games, pair-work, songs and poems. It is now advised that these effective methodologies be used in all classes throughout the school. Emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ vocabulary. They succeed in composing sentences and in answering questions on the topics being addressed. It is recommended that additional emphasis be placed on the communicative approach and that opportunities be provided for all pupils to use the vocabulary and phrases they know to develop fluency. Reading and writing are largely based on workbooks. Most pupils can read these books and, in the main, demonstrate appropriate understanding, though many pupils in the middle classes experience significant difficulty. It is recommended that pupils’ independent writing be further encouraged and promoted. Appropriate attention is given to spellings. It is recommended that emphasis be placed on continuity and progression in all aspects of the learning programme throughout the school. The formulation of a whole-school plan is now recommended.

  

English

While good teaching was observed at all class levels, learning outcomes for many pupils do not reflect the quality of teaching. A whole-school plan for English, outlining strategies and approaches in all strands, has been recently formulated. This plan should be further developed to include whole-school approaches on specific reading strategies to be promoted at each class level. Clearer guidelines on the use of assessment results in developing individual reading programmes to match pupils’ needs should be included in planning. Implementation of the plan on a whole-school basis should then impact positively on learning outcomes. Oral language is a prominent feature in all classes. A particular emphasis on receptive skills, where pupils listen attentively to the teacher and to their peers, was a notable feature in all classes. Pupils possess a good command of oral language and some senior pupils utilise a wide vocabulary competently. Pupils can recite a selection of rhymes and poems, many with actions and movement. Classrooms provide a suitable print-rich environment. A very good foundation of basic reading skills is laid down with appropriate emphasis placed on phonological awareness and a wide range of word attack skills. Class novels enrich the reading programme and pupils display competence in responding to texts. The skills of scanning, comprehension and analysis of written text are appropriately developed. A range of library material is available in classrooms with more stored in an impressive designated library room. There is scope for improvement in the standards achieved in English reading. Investment in more big books is recommended for use in the junior and middle classes. Pupils benefit from emphasis being placed on the writing process and examples of writing in different genres are on display. Some use is made of ICT to display pupils’ stories and poems.

 

3.2 Mathematics

A variety of methodologies is employed in the teaching of Mathematics and effective use is made of concrete materials where available. Investment in a wider range of mathematical resources to support increased usage of activity-based methodologies is recommended. Visual stimuli and Mathematics charts are on display in all classrooms, though more prominent display of number lines is recommended. There is an appropriate balance between teaching and pupils working independently. However, increased emphasis on oral work is recommended. At infant level pupils have acquired an appropriate early mathematical vocabulary and meaningful opportunities are created to utilise language learned. Pupils carefully record their work in copybooks. Such good practice in recording should be extended throughout the school with less emphasis on recording in textbooks. Some pupils demonstrate good standards of attainment, particularly in the strands of shape, measure and number. While all strands of the Mathematics curriculum are covered, the strand of number is given particular attention in some classes. There is a need in such cases to maintain a greater balance across the strands of the programme. A considerable percentage of pupils display significant weaknesses in attainment in standardised tests. It is recommended that numeracy be prioritised and that a whole-school plan be devised to include specific emphasis on improved pupil attainment.

 

3.3 Physical Education

Good lessons in gymnastics, dance and games were observed in the teaching of Physical Education. Lessons are well paced and structured with particular emphasis on safety during instruction. In all cases time was maximised to provide for pupil activity. Whole-class teaching methods were employed, with particular attention to individual needs where appropriate. Pupils participate enthusiastically in exploring and experimenting in physical activity. Most pupils demonstrate a positive attitude towards Physical Education. Targeted talk and discussion was a feature of some lessons while in all instances equipment was used in an effective manner in the development of specific skills. Pupils from first to sixth class are afforded an opportunity to attend swimming lessons for a period of eight weeks. A sports coach delivers a programme in hurling and football during school time to senior pupils. Parents expressed an interest in having this facility extended to include pupils in the middle classes. The school also has access to an astra-turf pitch adjacent to the school. The board of management has been proactive in arranging access to the local pitch and in addressing insurance to facilitate school usage. It is recommended that a whole-school plan be drafted for Physical Education to ensure provision of a broad and balanced curriculum and that the inventory of resources be immediately reviewed to provide adequately for all strands.

 

3.4 Assessment

The board of management has recently ratified an assessment policy which addresses both assessment and record keeping. The policy outlines the rationale for assessment and lists formative and summative strategies to be employed, while early intervention and prevention strategies are documented in the policy on special education provision. Modes of informal assessment include teacher-designed tests, checklists and monitoring of written work in copies and workbooks. Teachers are praised for initiating a system of maintaining an assessment file on each pupil in the current school year. Such records should, in time, provide evidence of progression and development in pupils’ learning. The learning-support teacher regularly assesses pupils’ progress using the Rain and Marino Diagnostic Reading Tests. The Middle Infant Screening Test is administered to all pupils in senior infants and standardised tests in literacy and numeracy are administered annually to pupils from first to sixth classes. Results are used to inform decisions on selection of pupils for supplementary teaching. As a further development of assessment procedures the school might usefully direct attention to the plotting of trends and to the creation of a whole-school perspective on pupil achievement in literacy and numeracy.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A comprehensive whole-school policy on the provision of support for pupils with special educational needs has been drafted. The policy was implemented in January 2009. Clear identification procedures for the selection of pupils are now in place, with appropriate emphasis on early intervention. A shared learning-support service is delivered in the school daily to cater for the needs of eighteen pupils. Three hours resource provision is also provided to one pupil. All provision, both in numeracy and in literacy, is currently on a withdrawal basis and it is recommended that consideration be given to in-class support, reflective of current learning outcomes on a whole-school basis. The learning-support room is bright, visually stimulating and adequately resourced, though the room accommodating resource teaching lacks visual stimuli. Supplementary teaching observed in the learning support context was targeted at and delivered to pupils in a structured manner, scaffolding pupils’ learning in a positive and reassuring environment. Individual education plans (IEPs) have been devised, though the inclusion of more specific learning targets to be achieved within a defined time-frame is recommended. Management should endeavour to source qualified personnel to provide supplementary teaching in the resource context.

 

 

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, November 2009

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

We welcome this Whole School Evaluation report as an opportunity to continue to improve upon the many aspects of the pupils’ education at Scoil Mhuire. We are immensely proud of our school and it was very pleasing to see the commitment of the staff, the hard work of the Board of Management and the Parents’ Association acknowledged. This is an exciting era for Scoil Mhuire. A great many changes have taken place in the school that have and will continue to greatly enhance the teaching and learning in Scoil Mhuire.

 

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          

 

1.       Considerable renovation work has been carried out on the original old portion of the school. Such work includes the installation of a new floor, new windows, skylights, painting of the entire interior and exterior of the building.

2.       The provision for PE has been enhanced by staff training in the Buntús Programme and availability of Irish dancing lessons for all classes.

3.       Since February pupils from 1st Class to 6th Class have been receiving coaching in both hurling and football from a qualified sports coach. Our aim this year is to extend this to Infants.

4.       The Board of Management have successfully secured the Clár grant which will be used to improve the play surface of the school.

5.       Huge fundraising has taken place and continues to take place for the school building and provision of resources. The Fundraising Committee and Parents’ Association have invested a considerable amount of time and effort in fundraising for the school which will contribute towards the purchasing of Interactive Whiteboards, new computers and will allow for the reconditioning of the old computers. Since the WSE, internet access is available in the school.

6.       Great efforts are being made to improve the standards of literacy and numeracy at all levels throughout the school. In this regard team teaching has been introduced in the school.

7.       All personnel in the school are fully qualified.

8.       The staff continues to work on their 3 year organisational plan and have sought the advice and support from cuiditheoirí and the PPDS

9.       The Principal has undertaken the Misneach Programme for Newly Appointed Principals.

10.   Five policies have been drawn up and ratified by the Board of Management since February 2009.