An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Scoil Náisiúnta Lios an Bháird
Clonakilty, County Cork
Date of inspection: 22 May 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
This report has been written following a whole school
There is a strong sense of community in the school and the principal and teachers are to be commended on the provision of a positive, caring, learning environment for the pupils in their care. The practice of organising an annual concert in the local hall is a well established tradition and provides pupils with a valuable opportunity to perform publicly.
The school is
under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of
The principal discharges his duties in a conscientious manner and ably combines his administrative and teaching duties. He carefully maintains the official school records and undertakes considerable work in his roles as treasurer and recording secretary of the board of management. Warm relationships exist throughout the school and he is to be highly commended for the calm, positive, open atmosphere in the school. He is ably supported by a highly motivated, hard working staff, including a deputy principal and one special duties post holder, who are to be commended for their dedicated work. However the duties delegated to post holders have not been formally reviewed. It is now recommended that these duties be formally reviewed and outlined by the board, in consultation with staff, on a regular basis. Such a review should aim to ensure that the duties allocated reflect the developing needs of the school particularly in terms of curriculum implementation. In light of the pivotal role of curriculum leadership the desirability of reducing the principal’s administrative responsibilities was highlighted during the evaluation. It is advised that the provision by the in-school management team of annual action plans would greatly clarify priorities for development and facilitate review of progress made. These structures would further support the development of curriculum leadership in the school.
The staff consists of a principal with two other mainstream class teachers and a learning support teacher who is shared with a local school. The board employs a cleaner and a secretary on a part-time basis. The principal accesses additional secretarial services locally. External instructors work in the school for short specified terms of instruction to provide additional support in the areas of drama, music and sport.
Three class levels are taught in each of two classrooms and the remaining two classes are taught in the third classroom. In keeping with best practice the differential between the largest and the smallest group of pupils in each classroom is kept to the minimum. The importance of this arrangement in the context of maximising pupils’ involvement in their learning was highlighted and discussed during the evaluation. The teachers have considerable levels of expertise and experience. There is some commendable sharing of expertise in evidence and it is advised that this could be beneficially extended within the context of whole school policy development, with a view to further enhancing pupils’ skill development in specific curricular areas and supporting teachers’ continued professional development. It is also recommended that the secretarial and cleaning services provided in the school should be greatly extended.
The school accommodation consists of four permanent mainstream classrooms, a learning-support room, an office and a number of indoor storage areas. Proposals to erect an external storage area, upgrade the furniture, improve the décor and facilities for both staff and pupils will greatly enhance the quality of the learning environment and are to be commended.
A range of material resources, including information and communication technology, is supplied and skilfully used to support the implementation of the various curriculum areas. It is to be commended that an audit has been conducted of the equipment available for the teaching of a number of areas such as Mathematics and Science. At infant level a good variety of open-ended, hands-on learning materials is supplied. Additional sports equipment was recently acquired. There is a good stock of library books in each classroom. Flip charts are widely used throughout the school. Some attractive commercial and teacher-made visual and print-rich aids were noted during the evaluation. Displays of pupils’ work are also in evidence and could gainfully be extended. The desirability of further developing the print-rich and mathematical environments to support the development of pupils’ reading, writing and mathematical skills was highlighted and discussed during the evaluation. It is also recommended that additional manipulative materials be supplied to facilitate hands-on, interactive teaching approaches in Mathematics and that they are organised in a manner which makes them more accessible. It is further recommended that the range of reading material available to pupils for formal reading in both English and Irish be greatly extended. This issue was fruitfully explored in discussions with staff during the evaluation.
Parental involvement in the pupils’ education is encouraged and the teachers liaise frequently with parents. Parent-teacher meetings are organised annually and the practice of providing written reports of pupil progress is well established and is to be commended. During the evaluation parents reported that they were happy with the quality of education provided in the school and grateful to the teachers for their work. It is evident that parents contribute significantly to the school and provide support with the organisation of events such as the annual concert, school tours and sports events. In collaboration with the principal and board a Parents’ Association has been established and is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council. A record of the meeting convened during the evaluation was made available to the board. Work on drawing up a constitution for the association is currently in progress. This is a laudable development as the constitution will provide a necessary framework to enable parents, teachers and board further develop effective partnership of home and school. School bulletins to parents regarding policy development in relation to child protection were noted and favourably commented on during the evaluation. The extension of this good practice with a view to enhancing parental involvement in policy formulation is recommended and was explored in discussions during the evaluation. It is also recommended that consideration should be given to the re-introduction of formal paired reading programmes in the school to further support the practice of parents and children reading together at home.
The management of pupils is very good. The principal and teachers have devised a code of behaviour which is circulated to parents and frequently discussed. The teachers succeed admirably in providing safe, pleasant, caring learning environments for the pupils in their care. The pupils are very well behaved and display pride and interest in their work.
Work is ongoing in relation to the formulation of whole-school policies and the creditable progress in evidence is acknowledged and commended. A range of clearly presented planning documents has been compiled and are accessible to all members of the school community. Policies are in place in relation to key administrative areas such as enrolment, code of behaviour, health and safety. 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, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines. Other important administrative aspects of school life such as homework, school tours, ICT have also been addressed.
The support services have been accessed to facilitate curriculum implementation and curricular policy documents have been formulated in a range of areas. Some high quality work was noted in the area of Mathematics. Priority for future development has been given to Learning support. However as the aim of whole-school planning is to promote systematic improvements in pupil learning and achievement it is recommended that a greater emphasis should now be placed on regular whole-school review and monitoring of implementation throughout the school. To this end, copies of the whole school planning documents should be provided for all staff members, both full-time and part-time. It is also recommended that further guidelines for classroom practice should be provided in curriculum plans with a view to promoting more linkage between whole-school planning and classroom work. Specific action plans to be implemented within agreed time frames should be regularly devised and copied to all members. The DES publication Looking at our School is designed to support the process of ongoing school review.
At classroom level all teachers discharge their duties in a competent manner. They work diligently with the pupils in their care to ensure that the various elements of the curriculum are covered. They access a range of useful resource material from the support services and from in-service courses. They prepare long-term and short-term schemes of work and maintain progress records of lesson topics covered. A range of different approaches to planning for curriculum implementation is in evidence. In some instances learning outcomes for pupils in the various strands are clearly stated. In other instances the topics and activities to be undertaken are outlined. The practice of clarifying expected learning outcomes which focus on the development of specific pupil skills in the context of the curriculum is commendable and ought to be further developed on a whole-school basis. It is also recommended that the total record of monthly progress in the delivery of the curriculum at the various levels should be maintained by the principal. It is advised that these records be used by the staff to monitor curriculum implementation and further ensure breadth, balance and progression in the programme covered with the pupils.
The teachers work conscientiously to provide the pupils in their care with a broad range of learning experiences. Positive pupil-teacher and pupil-pupil relations are in evidence. The pupils appear enthusiastic and eager to be challenged while engaging with the various curricular areas. A range of pupils’ work, drawn from different areas of the curriculum was available for perusal during the evaluation and many samples of good quality work were noted. Lessons are presented in a purposeful manner and effective whole class teaching was observed during the evaluation. Group work features prominently and is skilfully organised. Good use of hands-on, interactive teaching approaches was also observed. The further development of these approaches on a whole-school basis, particularly in the context of catering for pupils’ diverse learning needs is recommended. It is also recommended that the number of textbooks in use be reviewed, particularly for the teaching of the languages in the junior classes.
Chonacthas go leor samplaí breátha d’fhoghlaim agus de theagasc na Gaeilge labhartha le linn na cigireachta. Ag rangleibhéil ar leith baineann na daltaí an-taitneamh agus tairbhe as rannta/amhráin a fhoghlaim agus a rá go rialta. Is mór is fiú an úsáid a bhaintear as póstaeir agus as áiseanna éagsúla chun cur lena gcuid foclóra. Chonacthas béim fhónta á leagan ar na briathra. Ag rangleibhéil ar leith baintear leas éifeachtach as cluichí teanga d’fhonn na daltaí a spreagadh chun an teanga atá múinte a usáid ar bhonn cumarsáideach. Éiríonn lena lán daltaí stór deas rann a aithris go muiníneach. Léiríonn siad tuiscint mhaith ar na hábhair a phléitear leo agus freagraíonn siad ceisteanna simplí.
Meastar áfach go bhféadfaí scileanna cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt a thuilleadh. B’fhiú athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an bplean scoile don Ghaeilge chun breis treoirlínte a chur ar fáil d’fhonn tacú leis na hoidí na dea-chleachtais atá sa scoil a roinnt agus a fhorbairt ar bhonn na scoile ina hiomláine. Luaitear ach go háirithe an tábhacht a bhaineann le haire bhreise a dhíriú ar bhonn córasach ar an teanga a chuirtear ar chumas na ndaltaí a úsáid agus ar chur chuige cumarsáideach. Sa chomhthéacs seo díríodh aird le linn na cigireachta ar an tábhacht a bhaineann le trí thréimshe a bheith sa cheacht de réir a bhfuil molta sa churaclam. D’fhéadfaí aire sa bhreis a thabhairt chomh maith don scéalaíocht agus don drámaíocht. Raghadh sé go mór chun tairbhe d’fhorbairt scileanna labhartha na ndaltaí dá múinfí gnéithe eile den churaclam trí Ghaeilge chun go mbeadh deis acu úsáid níos forleithne a bhaint as an nGaeilge.
Múintear an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht go dúthrachtach sa scoil agus chonacthas roinnt samplaí fónta de scríbhneoireacht na ndaltaí le linn na cigireachta. Baintear leas as sraitheanna leabhar oibre ar leith sa scoil agus is orthu a bhunaítear cuid mhaith de na gníomhaíochtaí léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta. Is léir áfach go mbíonn deacrachtaí ag a lán daltaí le scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach. B’fhiú athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar bhonn na scoile ina hiomláine ar na modhanna múinte a úsáidtear do theagasc na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta. Le linn na meastóireachta cuireadh comhairle ar fáil maidir leis an tábhacht a bhaineann le múinteoireacht dhíreach a dhéanamh ar scileanna áirithe. Pléadh chomh maith an tábhacht a bhaineann le húsáid a bhaint as raon níos leithne ábhair léitheoireachta ar mhaithe le scileanna na ndaltaí a fhorbairt a thuilleadh agus taithí léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta níos leithne a thabhairt dóibh.
During the evaluation many samples of good practice in the learning and teaching of Irish were observed. At a variety of class levels pupils learn rhymes/songs and greatly enjoy and benefit from reciting them on a regular basis. Worthwhile use is made of posters and a range of other stimulating resources to extend pupils’ vocabulary. Good work in the teaching of verbs is undertaken. At a variety of class levels language games are used effectively to enable pupils use the language learned in a communicative manner. Many pupils recite rhymes/songs ably. They demonstrate a good understanding of the topics discussed in class and answer simple questions.
However there is scope for improvement in the development of pupils’ conversational ability in Irish. It is recommended that the school plan for Irish should be reviewed with a view to providing more guidelines to enable teachers share and develop the good practices in evidence on a whole school basis. In particular further attention should be focused on the language input which pupils are taught and also on a communicative approach to teaching and learning. In this context attention was focused during the evaluation on the importance of the three phases of the language lesson, as outlined in the curriculum. It is recommended that the use of storytelling and drama should be extended. It is also recommended that consideration should now be given to providing opportunities for pupils to learn other aspects of the curriculum through Irish. Such a development would give pupils a meaningful context outside formal lesson time to use the language and would greatly enhance their overall language competence.
Irish reading and writing skills are taught diligently in the school and some creditable samples of pupils’ writing were noted during the evaluation. Commercially produced workbooks are in use and much of the reading and writing activities are based on them. However it is evident that creative writing poses a particular challenge for many pupils. It is recommended that the approaches to teaching reading and writing be reviewed on a whole school basis. Advice and support were given regarding the provision of direct instruction in specific skills. The need to provide a wider range of reading materials with a view to further developing pupils’ overall skill development and extending their experience of both reading and writing was also discussed.
The teachers have formulated a useful plan for the teaching of English. The plan draws attention to some of the key messages in the curriculum such as the importance of oral language. However it is recommended that the plan should be reviewed in the context of the changes which have been made to the English curriculum and with a view to promoting further linkage between classroom work and curriculum objectives. In the interest of maintaining and extending current good practice in relation to the development of key skills such as penmanship, comprehension skills, word identification skills it is advised that clearer whole school guidelines for classroom practice be included.
Due emphasis is placed on oral language in English and the pupils in general exhibit an impressive level of competence. Samples of good practice noted during the evaluation include an emphasis on talk and discussion, rhymes, poetry, drama, story-based activities and debating. Particularly effective group work was observed at particular class levels. A variety of responses to poetry is encouraged. The practice of encouraging pupils to memorise some poems could be gainfully extended. The importance of storytelling as a key context for oral language development at all class levels was explored in discussions during the evaluation with a view to further developing it on a whole-school basis.
Basic reading skills are taught diligently through a range of approaches such as the development of sight vocabulary and phonological awareness. These skills are further developed in the middle and senior classes and many pupils attain high standards in reading. It is recommended that the use of a wider range of language experience materials, large format books and further interactive strategies to reinforce sight words will greatly support the development of pupils’ emergent reading skills and those pupils experiencing difficulty with reading. Graded books from a published scheme form the core of the reading material and this is supplemented by the active promotion of library book reading. It is particularly commendable that in some classrooms pupils maintain records of their reading. It is recommended that individual copies of well-chosen class novels be introduced to enable all pupils engage with a varied range of texts that would greatly enrich their reading experience. The progress in evidence during the evaluation in relation to the development of this work is acknowledged and commended.
Opportunities for pupils to write in English are regularly provided and their work is carefully monitored. Many good samples of their writing in a range of genres were noted during the evaluation. An admirable feature of the work is the high standards in penmanship and presentation skills in evidence at a variety of class levels.
A high quality whole-school plan for Mathematics has been carefully formulated and provides a sound basis for the development of effective classroom practice. It draws attention to many of the key elements in the curriculum such as, the need to accommodate children of different levels of ability, the importance of developing pupils’ estimation and problem solving skills. Common approaches in relation to areas such as mathematical language have been agreed and are clearly outlined in the plan. The standard of work is very good, clear learning goals are specified and a range of effective pedagogical practices is used. Samples of best practice noted include due emphasis on estimation activity, use of the environment and on teaching strategies for number work. Good quality talk and discussion was observed at a variety of class levels during the evaluation and many pupils demonstrated good use of mathematical language. However it is recommended that the use of hands-on, interactive teaching approaches should be extended particularly in the context of catering for pupils’ diverse learning needs. Commendable emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ computation skills and some innovative teaching approaches were noted. Pupils are well trained to organise and present their work in an orderly fashion. In keeping with best practice pupils’ progress is underpinned by regular monitoring.
It is evident that a broad programme of work is undertaken in History. A two- year cycle has been agreed with a view to ensuring breadth and balance in the curriculum. The pupils displayed a creditable knowledge and understanding of the topics discussed during the evaluation. A commercially produced textbook is in use and is supplemented by a variety of other appropriate resources. Some time lines are displayed. A good emphasis is placed on local history.
Good practice in relation to the teaching and learning of Geography was noted during the evaluation. In keeping with good practice, maps are prominently displayed in classrooms and are frequently used during teaching and learning. Some worthwhile opportunities are provided for pupils to observe weather changes and it is the intention of staff to further develop this work.
The staff have conducted an environmental audit which is included in the school plan for Science. This plan draws useful attention to many of the key messages in the curriculum. Attention is beneficially focused on the importance of developing a balance between knowledge and skills. Key considerations such as the use of pupils’ ideas as starting points for lessons, use of the local environment and practical investigations are emphasised. Good work was observed during the evaluation including the use of charts and ICT to record pupil work. It is particularly praiseworthy that carefully planned outings have been undertaken to enable pupils explore the local environment.
Pupils engage in enjoyable visual art activities on a regular basis. Provision is made for both art making activities and, looking and responding. Samples of both two- and three-dimensional work are prominently displayed. It is evident from the work on display that fruitful emphasis is placed on the creative process. The centrality of drawing and its effective integration with many curriculum areas is a particularly praiseworthy feature of the work in evidence. It is also to be commended that pupils’ work is frequently displayed and entered in competitions at local events.
In keeping with good practice all teachers are involved in the music programme in the school. It is evident that pupils derive considerable enjoyment from their music. Singing is taught in all classrooms and the pupils perform with enthusiasm. During the evaluation a very good range of percussion instruments was competently used at particular class levels. Some work in music literacy is undertaken. Opportunities are regularly provided for pupils to listen and respond to a variety of music. Impressive work in this area was noted during the evaluation. It is recommended that through the whole school planning process consideration should now be given to ways of further enhancing pupil skill levels. In this context strategies for promoting further sharing of expertise between staff members were explored during the evaluation. The importance of providing frequent opportunities, ideally on a daily basis, for pupils to consolidate and enjoy songs/tunes taught was highlighted and discussed.
Opportunities for pupils to participate in Drama are provided regularly. There is evidence of worthwhile integration with other curriculum areas. As previously highlighted it is to be commended that with the support of parents pupils are afforded the opportunity of performing in public on an annual basis. An external drama teacher is employed for a limited number of weeks to help prepare the pupils for this event. However it is recommended that the role of the external instructor is reviewed in the context of curriculum guidelines. During the evaluation the desirability of further integrating the annual performance with other areas of the curriculum was beneficially explored in discussion. The further development of whole school planning for the implementation of the drama curriculum in tandem with the in-service programme will greatly support pupil learning in this area.
Physical education features on the programme for all classes but the absence of a school hall limits the work. However there are good quality outdoor facilities and the external ball court area is used to good effect. Swimming classes are organised every year for an eight-week period for classes IV-VI. The programme also includes elements from the other strands of the curriculum. There is evidence of effective integration with other curriculum areas. The school participates annually in the Cork Primary School Sports and also organises a local school sports day with a view to emphasising participation over competition. It is recommended that the ongoing whole-school planning work in this area could usefully focus on further ensuring breadth, balance and progression in the implementation of the various strands.
A worthwhile policy on Social, Personal and Health Education is in place and aspects of the programme are taught diligently throughout the school. It is evident that in keeping with school policy the staff ensures that “genuine communication is fostered” and that pupils are encouraged to voice their concerns. The positive school climate greatly contributes to effective teaching in this curriculum area. The school is currently involved in the DES “Food Dudes” programme with a view to promoting healthy eating habits among pupils.
Pupil progress is monitored both formally and informally. There is much evidence of careful monitoring of pupils’ written work. Standardised testing is carried out and the results are recorded. Checklists and commercially produced assessments are beneficially used. The good practice of administering teacher-designed tests is well established. They are regularly used to monitor individual pupils’ acquisition of key concepts and skills in Mathematics and other curriculum areas. It is to be commended that parents are encouraged to view their children’s work and sign their tests. It is recommended that existing good practice should now be further developed on a whole-school basis with a view to developing profiles to track individual pupil progress from one class level to the next.
With the help of grant aid from the Department of Education and Science the board engages the services of an external tutor to teach English to a small number of students of Polish origin. As previously highlighted, priority for future policy formulation has been given to Learning-support. Attention was focused during the evaluation on the importance of a cluster-wide policy as outlined in the Learning-support Guidelines. Support is provided in both literacy and numeracy. The teacher approaches her work in a professional manner and has developed caring relationships with the pupils in her care. Most pupils in receipt of supplementary teaching are withdrawn in small groups. Some individual support is also provided. The pupils are selected in accordance with DES guidelines and the teachers collaborate frequently with one another regarding the programmes of work in place. Regular contact with parents and other relevant professionals is also maintained. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) or Group Education Plans as appropriate, based on pupils’ identified needs have been carefully devised. The practice of underpinning them with short-term planning and progress records is well established in the school. However it is recommended that a statement of current levels of performance should be consistently recorded in precise terms in all IEPs. It is also recommended that all teachers should have copies of the IEPs in their own individual planning folders to further support the provision of differentiated teaching programmes within mainstream classrooms. Advice was provided during the evaluation about the desirability of providing elements of the support programme within mainstream classrooms. It is advised that in the context of current policy development models of in-class support be explored with Special Education Support.
This school is not in an area of dedicated disadvantage.
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
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The Principal and staff, supported by the Board of Management, plan to review “An Plean Scoile” in the areas of Gaeilge and English during the Course of 2007/09. Guidance has been sought from the support services in this regard and is currently “a work in progress.” Presently the services of a “Cuiditheoir” in the area of Gaeilge is being availed of and is proving to be very beneficial. Post of responsibility duties are being reviewed on a regular basis and central to these duties is the development of suggestions in the report. The Board of Management is providing extra display facilities in classrooms to facilitate the further development of a print rich environment.