An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Killoughteen National School,

Newcastlewest, Co. Limerick

Roll number: 18708U

 

Date of inspection:  20 April 2007

Date of issue of report:  8 November 2007

 

Whole-school evaluation

1.     Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

2.1 Board of management

2.2 In-school management

2.3 Management of resources

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

2.5 Management of pupils

3.     Quality of school planning

3.1 School planning process and implementation

3.2 Classroom planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.1 Language

English

4.2 Mathematics

4.3 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

History

Geography

Science

4.4 Arts Education

Visual Arts

Music

Drama

4.5 Physical Education

4.6 Social, Personal and Health Education

4.7 Assessment

5.     Quality of support for pupils

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

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Killoughteen National School (Scoil Naisiúnta Cill Lachtaoin). 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 and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

Killoughteen National School, Newcastlewest, Co. Limerick is a five-teacher, co-educational school, under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Limerick, which caters for pupils from infants to sixth class. The school is located in Killoughteen, which is approximately two miles from the town of Newcastlewest, Co. Limerick. There was an enrolment of 89 pupils in Killoughteen National School on 30 September 2006 and at the time of this evaluation in April 2007, this figure had increased to 93 pupils. It is expected that this enrolment figure will remain at current levels in the future.

 

The mission statement of Killoughteen National School outlines that the school strives ‘to create a community for learning, where students, parents and staff are joined in the pursuit of academic excellence and personal growth in a caring, courteous and committed environment.’ The school also seeks ‘to develop each student’s full potential through a challenging and diversified curriculum and a commitment to intellectual freedom.’ The mission statement states that the school ‘ will teach basic tasks, foster creativity and critical thinking and provide a foundation for life-long learning, … will nourish students’ emotional and spiritual lives and build their social development, instilling in them an appreciation of self-worth, of individual differences and of global interdependence.’ It is further highlighted that the school will help pupils ‘to manage freedom and to act ethically so that each may become a responsible, contributing member of society.’

 

The school’s motto is stated as ‘Mol an óige is tiocfaidh .’

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and it is supportive of all school-related activities. The board convenes at least five times per year and frequent communication has been established between the chairperson of the board and the school principal. It is reported that minutes are signed and that a principal’s report is presented. These features of good practice are commended. The board endeavours to comply with statutory obligations. It is recommended, however, that the board undertakes a review of the school’s Enrolment Policy as a matter of urgency, to ensure that statutory obligations pertaining to the Education Act (1998) and the Equal Status Acts (2004) are fulfilled. Consideration should also be given to formulating a long-term strategic development plan.

 

Issues discussed at board meetings include matters relating to enrolment, the management of increasing pupil numbers, the school’s long-term accommodation priorities, the provision of suitable amenities, school planning documentation and financial matters. School accounts are certified on an annual basis and this feature of good practice is commended. Members of the school’s board perceive the school’s strengths as the teaching staff, the school’s effective communication structures, the positive atmosphere in the school, the good relationships that are established among the school’s partners and pupil readiness on transfer to post-primary school. The board members expressed their satisfaction with the achievement of pupils and the manner in which the curriculum is taught in the school. Board members further stated that they believed the board of management in this school to be ‘most efficient and organised,’ that the financial status of the school is very good, that an open-door policy exists in the school and that there is positive feedback regarding the work of the board.

 

The board perceives its role as involvement in and monitoring of a wide variety of school-related matters. These issues relate to the general maintenance of the school building, the provision of car parking for parents, the installation of a hot water system, the upkeep of the school’s heating system, the development of the school playground and maintenance work undertaken on the old schoolhouse adjacent to the school. It is further reported that legal issues regarding the school’s deeds have also formed part of the board’s remit. The board has ensured that a variety of projects has been undertaken and completed in the past few years. An application for grant aid through the Small Schools’ Scheme 2007 for planned improvements has been submitted to the Planning Section of the Department of Education and Science.

 

The board reports that communication is facilitated with the general parent body through parental awareness of the school mission statement and school prospectus. Annual parent/teacher meetings are convened and report cards on pupil progress are issued each year. School notes and information letters are also disseminated appropriately and a school newsletter is issued on an occasional basis. It is reported that there is a general parental awareness of the availability of the school’s planning policies. 

 

 

2.2 In-school management

The principal is effectively supported by the in-school management team, which comprises the deputy principal and two special duties post-holders. An informal communication structure exists among staff members and staff meetings are convened on a once per term basis, or as deemed necessary. Agenda are formulated, circulated and communicated and the principal records matters discussed and decisions taken at these meetings. This feature of good practice is commended.

 

The principal, who has both teaching and administrative duties, is directly involved in the daily operation of the school. She manages administrative tasks, creates a collaborative and positive school climate, promotes good behaviour and attendance by pupils and also oversees and organises the whole-school planning process. She undertakes these tasks in an effective manner and she is commended for her professionalism in this regard. The principal implements her teaching responsibilities as mainstream class teacher to pupils at senior class level and it is evident that she sets high expectations regarding pupil attainment.

 

School documentation indicates that the primary responsibilities of the deputy principal and special duties post-holders include supporting the work of the principal and teachers in the spiritual, physical, intellectual and artistic development of every pupil in the school, assuming overall responsibility during the principal’s absence from the school and deputising, on occasions when the need arises, in out-of-school activities. It is also documented that the in-school management members act as key-holders for the school, support the principal in carrying out any other duties appropriate to the role of deputy principal and special duties post-holder, while also ensuring the care and safe custody of school requisites, equipment and teaching aids.

 

It is reported that post-holders’ primary responsibilities include the organisation of the Physical Education (PE)  timetable and equipment, the formulation of the school’s PE policy, the co-ordination of the school Sports Day and the organisation of the Sammy Stamp saving scheme. Further duties also include ensuring the pupils’ participation in competitions, arranging the purchase of musical equipment, overseeing Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) activities, responsibility for information and communication technologies (ICT), the formulation of curricular policy in Mathematics, carrying out duties in relation to first aid matters, the organisation of the yard duty rota and school Book Fair and also overseeing the arrangements pertaining to school tours and outings. The purchase of resources for the implementation of the English curriculum, the formulation of school policy in relation to Visual Arts and the purchase of art materials also comprise the duties of the school’s post-holders.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The school has a staff of four mainstream class teachers, including the teaching principal. The school also has the services of a shared learning support/resource teacher (LSRT).

 

One special needs assistant (SNA) supports the educational needs of pupils in the school, while also providing ancillary secretarial support, for one hour on a daily basis. The board of management employs a part-time caretaker. Extra- and co-curricular provision is made through the services of external coaches. These coaches provide instruction in GAA activities and tuition in Music to pupils in first to sixth classes on a weekly basis. It is reported that pupils are under the direct supervision of the class teacher during these times. It is advised that consideration now be given to developing a policy on Staff Rotation, which would provide opportunities for all teachers to teach at different class levels throughout the school.

 

There are three permanent mainstream classrooms within the school building, which was originally constructed in 1963. A prefabricated classroom was added in 2003, to accommodate the fourth mainstream classroom and the area in which the LSRT provides support. Very good standards are in evidence in relation to the maintenance of the school building. The school grounds are also maintained in a very attractive manner.

 

Learning environments in mainstream classrooms and support areas are attractive and are well-organised and maintained, in general. The practice of providing orderly and stimulating print-rich environments in some classrooms is commended. It is recommended, however, that this practice of providing attractive learning environments be extended to all classrooms. It is also advised, that the provision of new classroom furniture, to replace existing dual desks in some mainstream classroom settings, be considered.

 

A converted cloakroom is used to accommodate a small staff room/secretarial/office area. Pupil cloakrooms, staff and pupil toilet facilities also constitute the internal accommodation features of this school. The school has the use of an outdoor storage area and external recreational facilities, including grassed and hard-surfaced areas. These amenities are used during periods of recreation and during activities in Physical Education. The school also utilises a grassed pitch, which is situated opposite the main school building, for sports activities.

 

It is documented that grants issued by the Department of Education and Science have been expended in the purchase of Science resources, Physical Education equipment and appropriate materials to support the implementation of ICT in the school.

 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

During the pre-evaluation meetings, the inspection team met with the officers of the parents’ association (PA) in this school. It was stated that the PA in this school is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (NPC). An Annual General Meeting (AGM) is convened each year and meetings of the PA are convened on a frequent basis. The PA representatives reported that they endeavour ‘to act as a medium of communication’ and also ‘to give a voice to the general parent body.’

 

It is evident that the PA in this school is active and supportive of school activities. The parents’ representatives commented on supporting the work of the school through parental assistance in school-related and extra-curricular activities, including the school sports day, organisation of raffles, arrangements regarding the school uniform and overseeing issues relating to child safety. Activities pertaining to the book rental scheme, First Holy Communion, school tours, transport to sporting activities and the school’s Book Club also ensure ongoing engagement with parents. Participation in fundraising initiatives and shared reading programmes were further cited as projects in which parental involvement was encouraged.

 

The parents’ representatives reported that they were very satisfied with the education provision in the school. It was also stated that annual parent-teacher meetings are convened and that reports on pupil progress are issued each year. The parents’ representatives reported that the teaching staff is approachable and that parental concerns are dealt with in an appropriate manner. It was also stated that the teaching staff shows a genuine concern for and gives support to individual pupils.

 

It was further reported that parents are interested and well-informed about the life of the school and are involved in the formulation of Individual Education Plans (IEP), as appropriate. Parental awareness of school planning policies in the areas of Substance Abuse, Administration of Medicines, Code of Behaviour and Discipline, Uniform, Homework and Enrolment is also encouraged.

 

During the pre-evaluation meeting, the parents’ representatives also discussed issues with the inspectors which related to the provision of appropriate accommodation and facilities in the school, matters pertaining to space, safety and parking outside the school, general standards in relation to pupils’ attainment in Irish and the availability of grants pertaining to the book rental scheme.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

During the current school year, pupils have been allocated to mainstream classes in four combined class groupings of junior infant/senior infants, first/second, third/fourth and fifth/sixth class pupils. The ethos of the school mission statement and school motto is in evidence through the positive pupil/teacher interactions observed in mainstream and support classroom settings.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

The board and teaching staff work collaboratively in the preparation of the school plan. This plan is developed in accordance with existing guidelines and with the assistance of the relevant support services. It is well presented and easily accessible. Each policy statement has been ratified by the board and is dated and signed by the chairperson of the board. There is evidence to indicate that plans and policies in curricular and organisational areas are regularly reviewed and are reflective of the school’s ethos and mission statement. This good practice is highly commended.

The participation of parents in the preparation of draft documents, however, is limited. It is recommended that the board consider a means through which parents might play a more meaningful role in the school planning process, as appropriate.

 

Ten curriculum plans have been devised by the teaching staff and it is evident that the quality of this planning documentation is good. All curricular policies offer clear guidance to teachers in relation to the content to be covered at each class level. These plans are based on the strands, strand units and objectives of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). This good practice ensures that there is continuity, progression, breadth and balance in the programmes provided to the pupils across the curriculum. Many plans outline a suitable range of teaching approaches and assessment strategies. They also indicate how resources and materials might be utilised to ensure that the objectives of the curriculum are achieved by pupils at different class levels. It is now advised that a policy on the curricular area of Drama be formulated for inclusion in school planning documentation. It is also recommended that the board devise a strategic plan for the review of curricular policies. This review should ensure that information on pupil achievement, the use of the local environment and the life experiences of the pupils be detailed in each curricular policy.

 

The school plan includes twelve policy statements which deal with specific organisational areas. All policies are well researched and are reflective of the school context. The Anti-Bullying, Code of Behaviour, Gender Equality, Substance Use, ICT and Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) policies are of a very high standard. Homework, Learning Support, Health and Safety and Child Protection policies are also being effectively implemented. The board and teaching staff are commended for the investment of time and effort in the formulation and productive implementation of these policies.

 

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.

 

 

 

3.2 Classroom planning

There is reference in most individual planning to the principles and structure of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). It is evident that, in general, school planning documentation influences both individual teacher preparation and teaching and learning in the school. It is important to ensure, however, that a copy of school planning documentation be presented in all classrooms and that a review of whole school planning policies be undertaken on a phased basis, as identified by staff. Very good practice was observed in individual teacher preparation where the learning objectives, the methods and resources to be utilised and the content of lessons was clearly outlined in both long and short-term planning.  At some class levels, the plans focus, at present, on the methodology to be used and the content of lessons to be taught. It is advised, therefore, that the staff would now agree on common templates for long and short-term classroom planning, which would assist in facilitating the planning process throughout all class levels in the school. These templates might also allow for the clarification of specific learning outcomes in the short-term and streamlining the broad learning outcomes in the long-term in relation to each curricular area. A template for monthly progress records in the school should also be agreed among the staff. It is also advised that consideration be given to sharing the existing good practice among teaching staff, in relation to identified aspects of individual teacher preparation.

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1    Overview of teaching and learning

In general, clear lesson structure, effective pacing and good lesson development are in evidence in most teaching and learning activities.  In classes where very good quality of teaching and learning was observed, teachers provided a balance of individual, pair-work, group and whole class activities and pupils were also encouraged to work independently. Pupil behaviour, engagement with tasks and activities are effectively managed and attractive, well-organised, print-rich learning environments are created. It is recommended, however, that the practice of providing attractive learning environments be extended to all classrooms. It is further advised that samples of pupil work be displayed in their immediate learning environment.

 

In some classes, there is an appropriate balance between teacher-directed approaches and the implementation of activity/discovery teaching strategies. It is now important to ensure that these features of good practice are extended to all class levels and that pair-work, collaborative and participative methodologies are further implemented. Consideration should also be given to providing differentiated activities, to undertaking a variety of teaching strategies and to sharing teacher expertise, as appropriate. There is evidence of cross-curricular integration during classroom activities and it is now advised that the use of pupils’ immediate and local environment be further developed. 

 

Monitoring and correction of pupil written assignments is undertaken by mainstream and support teaching staff. It is important to ensure, however, that a greater variety of assessment approaches is used in mainstream class settings, which would serve to further inform teaching and learning activities and which would also assist in matching programmes of work to pupil needs.

 

 

4.1 Language

Irish

Sa phlean scoile agus i bpleánáil oidí aonair i leith polasaí na Gaeilge, feictear go ndéantar tagairt do struchtúir Churaclam na Bunscoile (1999). caighdeán an-ard sroichte ag daltaí na scoile seo i snáitheanna an churaclaim Ghaeilge. Is léir go bhfuil cumas maith tuisceana agus labhartha sna rangleibhéil go léir agus go bhfuil foclóir leathan i seilbh na ndaltaí. Déantar iarrachtaí fiúntacha atmaisféar fabhrach don Ghaeilge a chothú sna rangsheomraí. Soláthraítear an prionta go forleathan i rangsheomraí áirithe agus aithnítear an dea-chleachtas seo. Cuirtear modheolaíochtaí taitneamhacha i bhfeidhm trí dea-úsáid a bhaint as fearas léirithe, ábhair chorportha, rannaireacht, aithris filíochta, amhránaíocht, gníomhaíochtaí ról-ghlacaidh, cluichí, grúp-obair, obair-i-bpéirí agus ceistiúchán. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois ar an scéalaíocht a chur chun cinn tríd an scoil, ar chleachtaí éisteachta a chur os comhair na ndaltaí go minic agus ar bhéim níos treise a chur ar Éisteacht mar shnáith den churaclam. Cinntítear luas maith sna ceachtanna, tugtar faoi ghníomhaíochtaí a léiriú go céimniúil, struchtúrtha agus déantar iarrachtaí fhiúntacha rannpháirtíocht agus suim na ndaltaí a chur chun cinn. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go cuí mar theanga teagaisc, mar mhionchaint an tseomra i rith am rolla agus mar mhéan cumarsáide i rith ceachtanna áirithe. Moltar an dea-chleachtas seo. Léann na daltaí le tuiscint agus le líofacht trí fheidhm a bhaint as leabhair deartha ag an oide agus as scéim léitheoireachta. Cláraíonn daltaí an t-ábhar scríbhneoireachta sna cóipleabhair agus spreagtar cur-i-láthair slachtmhar. Is fiú féachaint anois leis an bprionta Gaeilge sa timpeallacht a fhorbairt i rangleibhéil áirithe. Moltar freisin úsáid níos forleithne a bhaint as áiseanna an ríomhaire chun cineálacha éagsúlacha scríbhneoireachta a fhorbairt tríd an scoil agus chun saothar scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge a chur ar taispeáint.

 

Irish

Reference is made to the structures of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) in school planning documentation and in individual teacher planning. A very high standard has been achieved by pupils in this school across the strands of the Irish curriculum. It is apparent that there is good competence in relation to pupils’ comprehension and oral skills in all classes and that pupils possess a broad vocabulary. Worthwhile efforts are being made to foster a positive atmosphere towards the Irish language in the classrooms. Print-rich environments are provided in some classrooms and this feature of good practice is acknowledged. Enjoyable teaching methodologies are implemented through the effective use of illustrative resources, concrete materials, rhyming activities, recitation of poetry, singing, role-play experiences, games, group work, pair work and questioning. Consideration should now be given to promoting storytelling throughout the school, to ensuring that pupils are presented with listening activities on a frequent basis and to ensuring that greater emphasis is placed on developing the Listening (Éisteacht) strand of the curriculum. Appropriate pacing is ensured during lessons, activities are presented in an incremental and structured manner and worthwhile efforts are made to ensure pupils’ participation and interest. Irish is used appropriately as a medium of instruction, during incidental discussion when the roll-book is being completed and as the medium of communication during certain lessons. This feature of good practice is commended. Pupils read with understanding and fluency through the use of teacher-designed books and a reading scheme. Pupils record written work in their copybooks and neat presentation is encouraged. It should be ensured that a print-rich environment in Irish is developed in some classes. It is also recommended that greater emphasis be placed on the use of computer resources to develop a variety of writing genres throughout the school and to display pupils’ written work in Irish.

 

English

In the curricular area of English, good lessons were observed in all classes. There is evidence, from a variety of sources, that very good pupil attainment has been achieved in this curricular area. Clear structure and pacing of activities is in evidence during lessons, pupils’ application to tasks is managed productively and their ability to work independently is encouraged.

 

Activities in oral language are implemented in some classrooms. While most pupils display very satisfactory oral language skills, it is advised that the Drumcondra English Profiles be used as a resource to assist in monitoring pupil progress in the oral language strand of the curriculum. It should now be ensured that a timetabled and discrete oral language programme, which is explicitly linked to the oral language objectives in the English curriculum, be further developed and implemented in all classes throughout the school.

 

Good pupil competence in reading was in evidence during classroom observations and evaluation. Large format books are in use, activities to develop phonic work and sight vocabulary are implemented effectively at infant class level and good attention is also paid to the development of pupil skills in emergent reading and writing. Commercial textbooks are used throughout the school and novels are also utilised at middle and senior class level. Shared reading initiatives are in operation in the school and this feature of good practice is commended.

 

In some classes, print-rich environments are developed appropriately. It is now advised that this feature of good practice be extended and that samples of pupils’ work be displayed. While a range of books is presented in class libraries, it is important to ensure that pupil accessibility to these reading areas is further facilitated at some class levels.

 

Consideration should now be given to ensuring that a wider variety of genres in writing be addressed throughout the school in a progressive and systematic manner, through the support and use of the school’s ICT equipment. It is now important to ensure that the process approach to writing be further developed at all class levels and that pupil work in this regard be displayed. Good presentation of pupil work and good written outcomes are in evidence in copybooks in most classes and regular correction is undertaken.

 

A wide range of poetry is recited with expression and it is evident that pupils have learned a broad and appropriate repertoire. Good emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ understanding of grammatical structures and pupils also display a very good grasp of spellings and phonic work. In-class intervention strategies are undertaken in some mainstream classes and this practice is commended.

 

It is advised that further differentiated activities and in-class assessment strategies be implemented as appropriate. It is important that programmes of work in English are matched to individual pupils’ competence in language and literacy and that results of assessment tests are used to inform teaching and learning activities in this curricular area.

 

4.2 Mathematics

Whole school planning documentation and individual teacher preparation, reflect the principles and structure of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) in Mathematics. Good pupil competence in this curricular area is in evidence from a variety of sources and from pupil responses.

 

Group teaching activities are undertaken in all classes and, in general, concrete and structured materials are used productively and active learning strategies are promoted. Effective management of pupils’ application to tasks was observed during lessons.

 

While suitable attention is directed at the acquisition of number concepts and skills, it is now important to ensure that increased emphasis is placed on implementing a balanced programme of work across all strands of the Mathematics curriculum. It is also recommended that oral mathematics activity continues to be addressed on a daily basis in all classes and that increased emphasis be placed on the acquisition and development of mathematical language. The further development of Maths-rich environments should also be considered.

 

It is important to ensure that a variety of assessment strategies is now implemented. The results of these assessment tests could be used to inform teaching and learning activities in Mathematics and to ensure that differentiating activities, matched to pupil ability, are implemented.

 

 

4.3 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

In History, good pupil knowledge in a variety of topics is in evidence. Cross-curricular links have been established between the programme of learning in History and other areas of the curriculum and pupils are afforded the opportunity of engaging with project work, textbooks and illustrative materials. The development of pupils’ skills as historians is addressed in some classes. Further consideration should now be given to expanding work on local studies throughout the school and on developing timelines in the pupils’ immediate learning environment. It should also be ensured that the practice of implementing a variety of collaborative and active learning strategies be extended to all classes.

 

Geography

Pupils display an interest in, and a knowledge of a range of facts in the curricular area of Geography. The development of pupil skills, active learning strategies, the promotion of discovery learning and group work activities are some of the features of good practice in evidence regarding this curricular area. Elements pertaining to the physical and human geography of the local area, of Ireland and of European countries are explored, through the use of scrapbooks, textbooks, wall-maps and globes. Concepts pertaining to pupils’ sense of place are also being developed and this activity is often suitably integrated with aspects of other curricular areas. The continued development of pupils’ skills as geographers should now be considered.

 

Science

It is evident, from the classroom environments and from the lessons observed, that experimentation is undertaken in mainstream classrooms and that these activities are based on the strands and strand units of the Science curriculum. The development of pupils’ investigative skills are addressed, pupils are encouraged to engage actively in lessons and also to work scientifically. Cross-curricular links between the programme of learning in Science and other curricular areas, such as English, Visual Arts and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) have also been established. Group work activities, discovery approaches and investigative work are addressed in a commendable manner and the continued use of these methodologies is recommended. Consideration should now be given to the development and further provision of investigation tables in all mainstream classrooms.

 

4.4 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

Learning experiences in Visual Arts in this school are directed towards the provision of a broad and varied programme of activity. Attractive displays of pupil work, undertaken in a variety of strands, are developed in classrooms and a celebration of pupil effort is also in evidence. Good practice was also evident where lessons were integrated, in an effective manner, with activities in Science, History and English poetry. Pupils’ designing and constructing skills are developed in a productively. In the lessons observed, Looking and Responding activities were also undertaken. Occasional participation in competitions is encouraged and due emphasis is placed on the process approach and on pupil enjoyment.

 

Music

In the classes where the teaching of Music was observed, it is evident that Music is taught in a competent manner. Activities pertaining to developing pupils’ performance, composition, listening and responding skills were effectively undertaken. It is evident that very good standards have been attained in relation to pupils’ singing ability in both Irish and English. The pupils have a wide and appropriate repertoire of songs. Very good standards are also in evidence with regard to pupils’ performance on tin whistle and competence in instrumental skills. Aspects of music literacy including rhythm, notation, beat and pitch are explored and activities in body percussion and music appreciation are also developed. A variety of resources is used in an effective manner to support this curricular area, including percussion instruments, appropriate textbooks, tapes, compact discs and audio-visual equipment. Music tuition is also provided by an external tutor, on a weekly basis. Pupils from first to sixth classes are afforded the opportunity of availing of this instruction, which is undertaken under the direct supervision of the class teacher.

 

Drama

Discrete time is allocated to the implementation of this area and it is evident from the lessons observed in some classes, that activities are clearly structured and that pupils derive enjoyment from the activities undertaken. Cross-curricular work, in relation to activities in Drama, were observed in classroom practice. Thought tracking approaches, the creation of still images and the formulation of a Drama contract are among the strategies utilised in the implementation of this curricular area. Good development of presentation skills is also addressed. It is now recommended that a curricular policy in Drama be formulated for inclusion in the school plan.

 

 

4.5 Physical Education

Planning documentation for Physical Education (PE) is presented in the school plan. A good curricular policy has been formulated in this regard and individual teacher preparation also indicates that a balance of strands is being addressed. In the lesson observed during this evaluation, effective organisation and implementation of activities were in evidence, very good skill development and use of equipment were addressed, high pupil participation and activity were encouraged, while good management procedures and due attention to safety issues were also ensured. At present, the school does not have the facilities of a general purposes area, however, good use is made of the school’s external facilities and recreational areas, with regard to the programme of work undertaken in PE. The school also has the use of a grassed pitch. Extra- and co-curricular provision is addressed through the services of an external coach from the GAA, who provides instruction in Gaelic games to pupils from first to sixth classes on a weekly basis. It is reported that pupils are under the direct supervision of a mainstream class teacher during this time.

 

 

4.6 Social, Personal and Health Education

Individual teacher planning for the curricular area of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) indicates that a balance of strands is being addressed in classroom practice. Positive pupil/teacher interactions are in evidence. Programmes of work undertaken to support this curricular area include Folláin, Walk Tall, Stay Safe and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programmes. A Healthy Eating Policy is also being implemented in the school, in collaboration with parents. It is reported that the sharing of teacher expertise in relation to the implementation of this curricular area is addressed in senior classes. These features of good practice are commended. Policies in relation to SPHE incorporated in school planning documentation include the school’s Child Protection Policy, Code of Behaviour and Discipline, Homework Policy, Anti-Bullying Policy, Gender Equality Policy, Safety Statement, Substance Use Policy, Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and Administration of Medicines.

 

 

4.7 Assessment

A very good policy on Assessment has recently been ratified by the school’s board of management, for inclusion in school planning documentation. It should now be ensured that an action plan be devised to undertake the effective implementation of the agreed procedures outlined in this policy.  Pupils’ work is monitored in mainstream and support teaching areas through teacher observation and correction of written assignments. Reports on pupil progress are completed and sent home on an annual basis. Consideration might now be given to the development of a digital portfolio to facilitate the storage of individual children’s work samples.

 

 

Formal assessment procedures are addressed through the use of teacher-designed tests and through the annual administration of standardised tests, including the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST), the MICRA-T, the Drumcondra Primary Reading Test (DPRT) and the Drumcondra Primary Mathematics Test (DPMT). The results of these tests are filed and stored methodically in the school. It is now advised that consideration be given to the implementation of the Forward Together Programme, as appropriate.

 

Diagnostic testing materials including QUEST, Jackson Phonics, Schonell Spelling Test, Single Word Spelling Test, Rain Reading Test and the Neale Analysis of Reading Ability are administered in the context of the school’s support provision. The use of a greater variety of assessment approaches, including the use of monthly progress records, to inform teaching and learning throughout all mainstream classes, is advised. It is also recommended that consideration be given to the further analysis and use of assessment data by mainstream class teachers. This would assist in the provision of differentiated activities and would serve to focus programmes of work in curricular areas to identified pupil need. It is further recommended that teachers might use data collected from standardised test results as a base upon which to make decisions for improvement in regard to teaching and learning experiences.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1     Pupils with special educational needs

A permanent learning support/resource teacher (LSRT) is based in Killoughteen National School and is shared with Ahalin National School on a one hour per week basis. The current support provision in Killoughteen National School caters for one pupil with special educational needs and also provides support for the educational needs of twenty pupils with general learning difficulties. The board ensures that appropriate accommodation is provided and also that the teacher and the pupils have ready access to a wide variety of suitable teaching and learning resources. The board of management in this school is commended for the quality of support provided to pupils with special educational needs.

 

A very good learning support policy informs the practice of the school, in an effective manner, in relation to pupils with identified learning needs. Programmes of early intervention are organised productively for pupils at infant and junior level. The LSRT engages all pupils at senior infant class level in a Shared Reading initiative. Support is also provided to pupils at first class level in the area of Mathematics.

 

Teacher observation, the administration of the Middle Infants Screening Test (MIST) to pupils in senior infants and the administration of standardised tests in English and Mathematics to pupils from first to sixth class effectively ensure that pupils in need of supplementary teaching are identified at the earliest stage possible. These pupils are then withdrawn, individually or in small groups, for support provision.

 

The quality of teaching in the area of support provision is of a very high standard. The LSRT is highly commended for the excellent Individual Education Plans (IEP) which are prepared for each pupil. These plans clearly outline specific learning targets for each pupil based on their identified learning needs. At the end of a specified term of intervention, a range of diagnostic tests is administered to identify the progress made. It is evident that all pupils are making significant progress.

 

It is now recommended that the school’s learning support policy be reviewed to ensure compliance with Departmental criteria for the selection of pupils for supplementary provision, as outlined in the Learning Support Guidelines (Department of Education and Science, 2000). Consideration should also be given to working in collaboration with the mainstream class teachers to provide an integrated system of support, incorporating in-class support where appropriate, as detailed in Special Education Circular 02/05.

 

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

The teaching staff strives to ensure that the education provision in this school is tailored appropriately to all pupils’ needs and abilities.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The positive school ethos and characteristic spirit, as outlined in the school’s motto and mission statement, are reflected in classroom practice and in the very good behaviour demonstrated by pupils.
  • The professionalism and commitment of all staff, teaching and ancillary, is evident.
  • There is evidence of very good pupil achievement in the curricular areas of Irish, English, Science and Music.
  • Good standards are in evidence in relation to the quality of teaching and learning in the school.
  • There is a very high quality of support provision for pupils with special educational needs.
  • A comprehensive level of whole school planning and individual teacher preparation has been undertaken to date. The investment of the efforts undertaken in this regard is acknowledged.
  • The school operates a collaborative management structure, where the contribution and support of the teaching staff, board of management and general parent body are valued.
  • The school building and grounds are maintained to a very high standard.

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

  • The school’s Enrolment Policy should be reviewed as a matter of priority, to ensure that statutory obligations pertaining to the Education Act (1998) and the Equal Status Acts (2004) are fulfilled.

 

 

 

 

  • Consideration should be given to formulating a long-term strategic development plan and to developing a policy on staff rotation.
  • Consideration should also be given to the provision of new classroom furniture to replace existing dual desks in some classrooms.
  • Strategies to facilitate consistency in and a common approach to individual teacher planning, which is reflective of the structure and principles of Primary School Curriculum (1999), should be further developed.
  • Extending the practice of implementing differentiated activities and a variety of teaching methodologies, as appropriate, should be ensured throughout all class levels.
  • The implementation of a greater variety of assessment approaches and use of assessment data in mainstream class settings, which would serve to further inform teaching and learning and which would assist in focusing programmes of work to identified pupil needs, should be addressed.
  • The continued expansion and development of work in the area of local studies and in the pupils’ immediate environment should be undertaken.

 

 

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.