An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



St Joseph’s National School

Templeboy, County Sligo

Uimhir Rolla: 18592E


Date of inspection: 11 December 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


School response to the report





Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of St Joseph’s National School was undertaken in December, 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 Visual Arts. The board of management 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


St Joseph’s National School is a two-teacher co-educational primary school located close to the seashore in Templeboy, Co. Sligo. It was built in 1962 and was extended and completely refurbished in 2006. In 2008, an all weather pitch was installed at the front of the school. Attendance is very good and enrolment trends remain stable.


The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:




Pupils enrolled in the school


Mainstream classes in the school


Teachers on the school staff


Mainstream class teachers


Teachers working in support roles


Special needs assistants




1.     Quality of school management


1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

St Joseph’s National School is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killala. The Catholic ethos permeates the school. There is a well-ordered, caring, secure atmosphere in the school where prominence is given to the holistic development of pupils. There is a strong emphasis on learning and on reaching high standards. The teachers display a high degree of endeavour in their work and encourage the pupils to reach their full potential.


1.2 Board of management

The school is managed by a dedicated board of management which functions very effectively. Significant attention is given to discussing and reviewing school policies. Communication with the school community is regular and effective. The board expressed its satisfaction with the quality of education in the school. The board of management is grateful to the Department of Education and Science for the funding of its impressive school building and environs. This comprises a large staff room, a principal’s office adjacent to the principal’s classroom, a support room and two appropriately-sized classrooms. The school is properly maintained by a diligent caretaker.


1.3 In-school management

The principal of the school is hard-working and attends to her diverse range of duties with exceptional dedication and professionalism. She gives assiduous care and attention to both her teaching and administrative tasks. She collaborates very effectively with the committed and conscientious assistant teacher. The high level of organisation, the enthusiasm and the energy displayed by the two members of staff is commended.


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Home-school relationships are very good. Communication is well-developed through letters, newsletters and text messaging. There is an open and welcoming atmosphere in the school. The parents give dedicated support to all school events such as football matches and educational trips. Some parents provide some information and communications technology (ICT) support. The school is renowned in the community for its annual Christmas stage production and its all-Ireland successes in draught competitions. The school community engaged enthusiastically in many fundraising projects to financially assist the refurbishment and extension project. Parents give generously of their time to support the shared reading.


1.5 Management of pupils

There is a positive atmosphere in the school which is child-friendly and welcoming. Pupils learn in a safe and happy environment. Lessons and activities are thoroughly prepared. There is great breadth and balance in the range of experiences for the pupils. A visiting theatrical performance, regular outdoor trips and fun days such as Breakfast day and Pancake Day give variety to learning in meaningful contexts. Pupils raise money for charitable organisations on some fun days which the school community willingly supports. The interactions between staff and pupils are open and respectful. There are clear expectations in the school of good behaviour and high attainment.



2.     Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. The school plan is a very comprehensive document including well drafted, user-friendly curricular policies and practical, effective organisational policies and procedures. Staff meetings, summer courses and school planning days have been used to formulate and advance this school plan to a high standard. Members of staff have worked collaboratively with the board of management in discussing, reviewing and ratifying policies. They have a commendable strategic plan in place to review all policies every three years.


The quality of classroom planning is very good. Both teachers prepare conscientiously for their work by undertaking both long-term and short-term planning in a dedicated manner. They plan systematically according to the objectives of the curriculum and plan appropriately for content, skills, differentiation, methodologies, resources, assessment, linkages and integration. There is evidence that their thorough preparation and application impacts positively on the education the pupils receive.


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



Múintear an Ghaeilge go héifeachtach. Tugann na hoidí faoi mhúineadh na Gaeilge go fonnmhar, díograiseach. Tá foghlaim na Gaeilge ar chaighdeán an-ard. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as filíocht, drámaíocht, scéalaíocht agus as cluichí le linn na foghlama. Is inmholta mar atá an t-ábhar léitheoireachta féin-deartha ag na hoidí. Múintear gramadach, foclóir agus litriú go maith sa scoil. Forbraítear na feidhmeanna teanga, seanfhocail agus nathanna go cuimsitheach. Tá neart ábhair chlóbhuailte sna seomraí ranga. Bíonn lipéid, luaschártaí, cairteacha agus póstaeir mar spreagadh do na foghlaimeoirí. Forbraítear scileanna éisteachta go hoiriúnach. Scríobhann na daltaí i malairt genres agus tá próiseas na scríbhneoireachta á chleachtadh go tairbheach. Léann na daltaí le tuiscint agus le cumas. Moltar don scoil Seachtain na Gaeilge a cheiliúradh agus cuid den ábhair eile mar chorpoideachas a mhúineadh trí Ghaeilge.



Irish is taught effectively. The teachers embrace the teaching of Irish with enthusiasm and conscientiousness. The quality of learning in Irish is very good. Poetry, drama, storytelling and games are used effectively in the learning. The reading material developed by the staff is commendable. Grammar, spelling and vocabulary are very well taught. Language functions, proverbs and phrases are all comprehensively developed. Classrooms are rich in print. Labels, flashcards, charts and posters are used to inspire learners. Listening skills are adequately developed. Pupils write in a variety of genres and the writing process is being practised gainfully. The pupils read with fluency and understanding. It is recommended that the school celebrates Irish week and that part of other subjects such as Physical Education are taught through Irish.



English is taught competently in the school. Commendable emphasis is placed on oral language development both as a discrete subject and as an integral part of other subjects. A noteworthy amount of time is devoted to constructive talk and discussion. The teachers ensure that pupils understand concepts and comprehend the content before assigning them written tasks. This approach is working very effectively. The pupils recite rhymes and poems with competence and confidence. Very good questioning styles and very good use of pair work and group work are features of observed practice. Consideration should be given to the further refinement of pupils’ listening skills so that all pupils can benefit from class discussion.


The standard of reading in the school is very high. A print-rich environment is a feature of both classrooms and this supports the writing process. Large-format books and novels are used very effectively. These books are used most successfully to teach phonics, spellings and grammar. Large-format books are rewritten in a simpler format by more able pupils for younger pupils. Work on the novel is integrated appropriately with oral and written activities. The school’s effective approach to phonological awareness is noteworthy. It is systematic and school-designed rather than from a commercial scheme; this is good practice. The children’s knowledge of sounds and words is exemplary. Most pupils are competent in spelling and grammar beyond their age.


Handwriting is very well taught in the school. Cursive writing is introduced successfully at second class level. The standard in both classrooms is very good. The presentation and layout of pupils’ work is exemplary. The quality of creative writing is commendable with pupils winning prizes for their creative talent in various competitions. Creative writing is very well taught. Brainstorming, word charts, use of the thesaurus, use of ICT and sharing of writing experiences are distinctive positive features of the writing sessions. As the standard is so high, consideration should be given to participation in the Write a Book Project and the Pushkin project. This would expose the pupils to a wider audience.


3.2 Mathematics

The teaching of Mathematics is very good. There is a commendable emphasis on the development of mathematical language in both classrooms. Very good use is made of concrete resources and photographs of pupils working with these materials to explain and develop mathematical language. The teacher in the junior classroom has planned how each piece of concrete material can support skill development and the various strands. Features of effective practice include the use of the school environment, emphasis on tables, regular testing, oral work and the use of concrete materials. A large range of concrete materials is available to support teaching and learning. ICT is used appropriately. It is recommended that the learning support teacher provides in-class support in mathematics lessons to support pupils in this multi-class arrangement. Consideration should also be given to the formulation and compilation of mathematics trails and that this be done on a collaborative basis.


The attainment of most pupils in Mathematics is of a very high standard. Pupils respond very positively to questioning and are knowledgeable of concepts taught. Records of pupils’ mastery of concepts are presented and discussed with the pupils. The teachers find this very effective in motivating the pupils.


3.3 Visual Arts

The quality of the teaching and learning in Visual Arts is very good. The pupils’ creative work is attractively displayed in classrooms and on corridors which include masks, collages, posters, maps and kites. Great care and attention is given to health and safety during art sessions. The structure and pace of lessons is very good. The teachers promote creativity and the quality of the pupils’ work is noteworthy. There is appropriate emphasis on the development of the concepts of art. Drawing is exceptionally well developed through integration with other subjects; the depiction of characters in History is one example of how this is done. Pupils’ art work is recorded in photographs and in art portfolios. Looking at and responding to art has commenced. It is recommended that this aspect of Visual Arts be developed further.  


3.4 Assessment

The quality of assessment is very good. A wide range of assessment modes is used successfully including work samples, standardised tests, projects, photographs, mastery records in Mathematics, checklists and profiles. Commendable assessment of learning and assessment for learning takes place on a regular basis. The Drumcondra English Profiles are used productively to record each child’s achievement in oral, reading and writing in English. The teachers discuss progress on the profiles with the pupils’ and this motivates them to achieve at a higher level. Systematic records are maintained of all assessments undertaken. Frequent tests are undertaken in tables and spellings. The results of assessments are used by the staff to plan appropriate and challenging work for the pupils. The results of standardised testing in English and in Mathematics are of a very high standard.



4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A support teacher visits the school each week. A comprehensive special education policy has been developed. This outlines clearly the criteria employed when determining pupils’ eligibility for supplementary support and it is in line with relevant Departmental circulars. The support teacher conducts shared reading sessions with pupils in senior infants and first class and this is working well. The standard of the pupils’ reading is very good. She gives dedicated supplementary support to some senior pupils in groups in Mathematics in the support room. Lessons are carefully planned and well structured.  Records and files are carefully maintained. The quality of support for pupils is very good.


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

Currently there are no pupils from minority groups enrolled in the school and the school therefore does not receive any additional funding to support such pupils. However, the school climate supports all pupils appropriately and sensitively.



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 April 2009







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 staff of St Joseph’s N.S. would like to thank the inspector for the courteous, respectful, constructive and professional manner in which she carried out this Whole School Evaluation. We are particularly pleased that the report acknowledges the positive and exemplary work being undertaken in the school, the dedication and commitment of the principal and staff and the high standards which are being achieved.


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


In relation to the recommendations: