An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St. Ernanís NS

Delvin, Co. Westmeath

Uimhir rolla: 18598Q

 

Date of inspection: 8 October 2008

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction Ė 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 St Ernanís NS 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 and Mathematics. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

Introduction Ė school context and background

 

St Ernanís NS serves the village of Delvin and the surrounding hinterland in Co. Westmeath. It is one of three schools in the parish of Delvin.  The school was built in 1963 and its enrolment has grown at a strong rate in the past decade, necessitating the building of an extension which was completed in May 2007.

 

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

160

Mainstream classes in the school

6

Teachers on the school staff

7.5

Mainstream class teachers

6

Teachers working in support roles

1.5

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1           Quality of school management

 

1.1         Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school operates under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Meath, and in its mission statement is described as Ďa Catholic Primary School where we strive to learn together, in a happy and safe environment, where everyone is valued, respected and encouraged to do their bestí. In the past the school has catered for a predominantly rural community, with many pupils coming from agricultural backgrounds. Recent housing development has led to a steady increase in the population in the area, and the community served by the school has become more urbanised. The school has traditionally catered for an indigenous population, but in the recent past the school community has become more diverse, with the enrolment of pupils from different national backgrounds. A harmonious relationship is evident between staff, the board of management, parents and the local community. Levels of school attendance are high.

.

1.2         Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted in accordance with Department of Education and Science guidelines. It meets at least twice per term. Minutes are kept of these meetings, and issues discussed and decisions taken are recorded. Accurate and thorough financial reports are presented at each meeting. Details of the boardís finances are maintained in a meticulous manner and accounts are certified by an accountant. All grants received from the Department are used for their intended purposes. The board is commended for its prudent financial management over the years, and most recently for the manner in which it has overseen the fundraising for and the building of the fine extension to the school. Members of the board have availed of training provided by the Catholic Primary School  Managersí Association (CPSMA) in the past. Current priorities of the board include ensuring that the school is a safe, warm and welcoming environment for pupils and staff, and the replenishment of the school finances, which have been reduced due to the scale of necessary recent capital expenditure. The chairperson is a regular visitor to the school and takes a keen interest in the work of the school. School policies required by legislation are in place, as are a range of organisational and curricular policies which have been ratified by the board. The section of the schoolís enrolment policy on the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs requires review to ensure compliance with recent equality legislation. Additionally, consideration should be given to devising a timescale for the ongoing review of policies, in order that a cyclical process of review is established.

 

1.3         In-school management

The principal performs her duties in a dedicated and professional manner, and  provides strong leadership for the school. She maintains a clear focus on the effective management of the school and her leadership has ensured the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum throughout the school. She is held in high esteem by teachers, parents and school management, who are forthright in their praise of the caring manner in which she leads the school. She avails of opportunities to engage in professional dialogue with support agencies and with peer networks to develop her leadership competencies.

 

The principal is assisted in the day to day running of the school by an in-school management team consisting of the deputy principal and two teachers with special duties. These teachers have been allocated a range of organisational, curricular and pastoral responsibilities which they perform diligently. Posts are open to review, and teachersí interests and strengths are taken into consideration when posts are allocated or reviewed. Monthly meetings of the in-school management team are held, at which post-holders report on issues pertaining to their management roles. A part-time secretary provides the principal with valuable clerical assistance with school administration, and a part-time caretaker ensures that routine maintenance is carried out diligently.

 

1.4         Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school does not at present have a parentsí association. However, a committee of parents has been very active on behalf of the school. This committee was formed expressly to raise funds for the school extension, and proved to be very successful in this endeavour, raising a considerable sum for this purpose. It is now recommended that school management should aim to capitalise on the excellent goodwill towards the school among parents by initiating procedures for the establishment of a formal parentsí association.

 

Parents are active in their support for the school. Apart from fundraising, other activities undertaken include assisting with sacramental preparation and with organising celebrations in the school following First Communion and Confirmation ceremonies. Parents also assist in the organisation of sporting activities, quizzes and board games, and with transporting pupils to participate in these activities. A shared reading initiative provides a valuable way for parents to become involved in helping pupils, and enhances the regular communication between home and school.

 

Formal meetings between parents and teachers take place twice each year. In addition to the annual parent-teacher meeting, parents are invited to meet with teachers to discuss the results of standardised tests. A written annual report is sent to parents. The homework journal is used for incidental communication between home and school, and teachers are available to meet with parents, by appointment, throughout the year. Parentsí concerns are dealt with promptly through the use of clear procedures.

 

1.5         Management of pupils

The code of discipline sets out the schoolís high expectations of pupils with regard to behaviour. The code is based on mutual respect, loyalty to the school and its community and concern for the safety of all. The code is implemented in a fair and firm fashion. It is evident in the courteous and respectful manner in which the pupils relate to one another, to their teachers and to other school visitors that the ideals outlined in the code are realised in the daily life of the school.

 

 

2           Quality of school planning

 

2.1         Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. Organisational policies have been developed in relation to a broad range of school activities. Curricular policies have been developed following inservice on the primary curriculum and a whole-school plan has been developed to inform teachersí individual planning and to facilitate a consistency of approach at each class level.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good. All teachers prepare appropriate long-term and short-term schemes of work for each curricular area. A common approach to planning has been agreed throughout the school, and all teachers use a planning template which indicates how each strand and strand unit in each curricular area is to be implemented.

 

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

 

English

The quality of lessons being taught in English is praiseworthy. Pupilsí language abilities are developed in a systematic manner in each class. Lessons are planned to incorporate oral, reading and written activities. A broad range of suitable resources is employed to stimulate discussion, to provide pupils with appropriate and varied reading material, and to foster the development of pupilsí abilities to write for a variety of purposes. All classrooms have class libraries which  are well stocked with a good range of reading material, including a good variety of texts. A selection of class novels is available in the school, and these are used with junior, middle and senior classes. Classroom displays in each classroom are print-rich and feature  a good selection  of text relevant to pupilsí learning in several curricular areas, as well as charts incorporating high frequency words. Teachers employ a variety of effective teaching methodologies, including whole-class teaching, groupwork and paired activities. Oral, reading and writing curricular strands are well integrated, and English lessons are also successfully linked with pupilsí work in other areas of the curriculum. Commendable emphasis is placed on the development of the writing process, and pupils learn to write in a variety of genres, including poetry, and for diverse purposes. Teachers prepare activities thoughtfully, and they model and scaffold the writing process. Presentation of pupils writing is of a high standard. Their copybooks and workbooks are monitored carefully and samples of pupilsí written work, including creative writing, are displayed to good effect in each classroom. In all classes teachers make good use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to prepare teaching resources such as charts and worksheets. In the senior classes pupils use ICT to publish their edited writing. It is commendable that ICT has been used to present pupilsí writing to wider audiences through participation in the Write a Book and Write a Poem initiatives. This commendable practice could be extended to other classes, and consideration should now be given to using content-free software, such as word processors and presentation software, to allow pupils to publish samples of their creative writing and of project work.

 

Pupils are well motivated, attentive and eager to learn and they respond well during stimulating lessons. High levels of pupil participation were observed in each classroom during the evaluation. They recite a wide range of nursery and action rhymes in infant classes, and as they progress through the school, they learn to recite a wider range of poetry. Reading standards are generally high. Pupilsí progress is monitored prudently, and appropriate interventions are put in place when extra help is required. At infant level, pupilsí phonological awareness and word-attack skills are developed through the focused use of an appropriate programme and through the systematic use of well-designed teacher-made resources. Pupils in all classes display good comprehension of their reading material and show proficiency in using contextual clues and phonics to read new texts. The range of texts encountered by pupils as they progress through the school becomes increasingly rich and varied. Pupils are taught to become increasingly independent in their reading, and their competence in using dictionaries in senior classes enables them to read more challenging material. The teachers are commended for their resourcefulness in providing reading material, including newspapers and anthologies, in addition to the class texts and parallel readers in use. The shared reading programme in use in the school is effective in involving pupils working with pupils from their own and from other classes, and it also helps in strengthening home-school links.

 

3.2         Mathematics

The quality of teaching in Mathematics is good in all classrooms and some very good lessons were observed. Features of best practice included worthwhile lesson planning, clear explanations, the use of concrete materials to foster understanding and the use of a variety of methodologies to cater for different learning styles. All strands of the mathematics curriculum are addressed progressively throughout the school, with skills and concepts being developed in a balanced manner. A whole-school approach is evident with regard to the use of mathematical language and problem solving strategies. Calculators are used appropriately in the senior classes and there is evidence of the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to support Mathematics in some classrooms. In all classrooms, there are displays of posters, equipment and pupilsí work. Lessons are focussed on clearly identifiable objectives and are presented with good structure and pace in most classrooms. It is commendable that talk, discussion and collaborative group-work are regular features of lessons.  During the most effective lessons, pupils are active in their own learning and teachers ensure that they are assisted with routine presentation tasks so that they can address new concepts without distraction. Commendable emphasis is placed on estimation and reasoning during problem-solving activities. Regular classroom-based assessment, together with teacher observation and annual standardised testing is used to provide accurate information on pupilsí progress and standards in Mathematics. Successful and specific differentiation of lesson content to suit pupils with special educational needs in Mathematics was noted in many classrooms. Commendable and targeted use of support teaching is in evidence to assist many of these pupils.

 

The quality of pupilsí learning in Mathematics is laudable. Pupils engage purposefully and respond willingly during mathematics lessons. They display good knowledge of mathematical facts and can perform age-appropriate operations well for all strands and can apply their skills to address problem-solving tasks. Pupilsí written work is well monitored and their participation in collaborative tasks demonstrates understanding and accuracy.

 

3.3         Assessment

A commendable array of assessment modes is outlined in school policy documentation, especially with regard to learning support and individual subject areas. Assessment modes in evidence include teacher observation, teacher designed tests, checklists, portfolios of work, standardised tests, screening tests and diagnostic tests. All teachers monitor pupilsí written work conscientiously and there is good recording of pupil progress throughout the school. Most teachers record their own observations systematically and these useful records provide a variety of information on the social and academic development of pupils. Standardised assessment data for numeracy and literacy is retained and analysed to prioritise pupils for support teaching and to help teachers provide accurate information to parents about pupil achievement in the end of year reports and at the two parent teacher meetings. Pupil records are stored carefully and retained in school for a reasonable time.

 

In addition to assisting with support teaching allocation, it is evident that most teachers use a variety of assessment information to enable differentiation of lessons to suit the range of learning needs within their classes. The use of mixed ability groups and personalised programmes was noted in some classrooms. Further development of the schoolís policy on assessment of and assessment for learning could build on the sharing of good practice among staff members and adoption of the strategies outlined in Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum Ė Guidelines for Schools published recently by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

 

4           Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1         Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is good and is well co-ordinated. The special education team consists of a full-time learning-support teacher and a part-time resource teacher. In the current school year, the duties of the learning support teacher are being carried out by the principal and this allocation is not in accordance with Department policy. In reviewing the allocation of classes to teachers, the board of management should satisfy itself that the allocation concurs with the terms of Circular 07/03.

 

The schoolís policies reflect the procedures and practices advocated in the Departmentís Learning Support Guidelines. Systematic early diagnosis, screening and early intervention strategies are in operation to ensure that support is prioritised for pupils with the greatest needs in literacy and numeracy. The staged approach is used firstly at classroom level and further support teaching is provided through the withdrawal model for pupils in senior infants. Individual education plans (IEPs) and individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) are drawn up by support teachers in consultation with parents and class teachers for all pupils receiving additional support. Copies of these documents are used by all teachers serving the needs of these pupils to ensure that agreed learning targets are addressed in a co-ordinated manner and that all relevant teachers can contribute to their regular review. 

 

While supplementary teaching is provided by small group withdrawal at present, the use of in-class support is under consideration. Attractive learning environments have been created in the special education rooms through the provision of resources and the displays of educational material. Both support teachers plan their work conscientiously and lessons are structured carefully around the learning needs of pupils. Lessons are presented skilfully and the interaction between pupils and teachers is productive and co-operative. Pupil progress is recorded carefully and communicated regularly to class teachers and parents.

 

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

A total of six pupils receive support for English as an additional language. This is funded by a grant from the Department of Education and Science. A teacher is employed on a part-time basis, and visits the school on three mornings each week. Pupils are screened for language support using appropriate initial assessments. Support is given to small groups on a withdrawal basis. Suitable language resources are used and pupilsí language competence is measured against established benchmarks.

 

Additional activities for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are funded by the DEIS grant. At present no Traveller pupils are enrolled in the school.

 

 

5           Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

         The board of management of the school is an enthusiastic and active body which acts as a coherent unit to further the pupilsí education in a secure and

††††† caring learning environment.

         The teaching staff is a dedicated group of professionals who value the importance of teamwork.

         The strong leadership of the principal and deputy principal guide the day to day activities of the school in a focused and purposeful manner.

         All members of the school community, including management, teaching staff, ancillary staff, parents and pupils, take great pride in the school and

††††† collaborate in the maintenance and upkeep of the building.

         The behaviour of the pupils and their conduct around the school is exemplary.

         Levels of pupilsí engagement in learning activities are high, as are their attainment levels in English and Mathematics.

         The quality of relationships, both within the school and with the wider community, is highly commended, and the school enjoys the active support of

††††† parents.

         The range of extra-curricular activities, including sports, quizzes, and Green School activities undertaken is indicative of the commitment given by

†††† teachers outside school hours.

 

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

         Sections of the schoolís enrolment policy require amendment to ensure compliance with recent legislation.

         A cyclical process of planning and review is recommended, in order that teachers and management have time to continuously review school planning in a

†††† reflective manner.

        In reviewing the allocation of classes to teachers, the board of management should satisfy itself that the allocation concurs with the terms of Circular

†††† 07/03.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

Published, June 2009