An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Naomh Fionán na Réanna

Rennies, Nohoval, Belgooly, Co. Cork

Uimhir rolla:18713N  

 

 

 

Date of inspection: 3 December 2007

  Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

1.     Quality of school management

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

1.2 Board of management

1.3 In-school management

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

1.5 Management of pupils

2.     Quality of school planning

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

3.1 Language

3.2 Mathematics

3.3 Visual Arts

3.4 Assessment

4.     Quality of support for pupils

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

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

5.     Conclusion

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Naomh Fionán na Réanna, Rennies was undertaken in November 2007. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Visual Arts. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

This is a co-educational, Catholic primary school situated in a rural, coastal area. It has a pivotal role in the rural community it serves and caters for pupils from junior infants to sixth class. Since the last report was conducted in 2001 the school has grown significantly and a new staff has been appointed. At that time it was a two-teacher school with an enrolment of forty-two pupils. 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

85

Mainstream classes in the school

4

Teachers on the school staff

6

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

3

 

The principal is currently on secondment to the Department of Education and Science School Development Planning initiative. Three of the four mainstream teachers are newly qualified and are on probation. Commendably, the school is participating in the National Pilot Project on Teacher Induction.  It has been involved in a wide range of initiatives which have enriched the pupils’ learning. It is evident that much credit is due to the principal, acting principal and school community for the impressive growth and development which have taken place since the last report was conducted.

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

This is a caring, inclusive school. It is under the patronage of the Bishop of Cork and Ross and has a catholic ethos. It also accords due recognition to all other religions. The teachers are commended for their success in creating a happy and secure, learning environment for the pupils in their care.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meetings are convened on a regular basis. The minutes and school accounts are maintained carefully. Much credit is due to the chairperson and board members for the dedicated manner in which they discharge their duties. In particular they are commended for their careful maintenance of the building and for their attention to safety issues. The considerable increase in pupil numbers and staffing has led to a critical shortage of accommodation. Inadequate parking space poses a particular challenge for the school. The board demonstrates a clear commitment to working in collaboration with the parents and local community to address these issues. The board has an involvement in the development of the school plan. The need to develop further the role of the board in this area, particularly in relation to curriculum development, was highlighted and discussed during the evaluation. In particular, attention was focused on the importance of formulating policies which promote continuity in the pupils’ learning. In this context it is recommended that the provisions of Circular 07/03 14(b) be adhered to when a policy on class allocation is formulated.

 

1.3 In-school management

The acting principal merits particular commendation for her clear commitment to improving the quality of learning and teaching. She approaches her work in a most professional manner. She facilitates staff collaborative planning and provides effective curriculum leadership.  She is assisted ably in her role by a motivated and hard-working staff, including the deputy principal and one special duties post-holder.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The teachers work in partnership with the parents and consult regularly with them both on a formal and informal basis. The provision of external notice boards, regular bulletins and a parents’ association newsletter greatly facilitates effective communication. It is particularly commendable that an information meeting regarding the curriculum was convened recently for the parents of new entrants. The practice of providing written reports on pupil progress is well-established. Commendably, it is the intention of the staff to develop further this good practice by adopting the NCCA pilot report cards to inform the mid-year parent-teacher meetings. Parents express a high level of satisfaction with the quality of education in the school and it is evident that they are most appreciative of the efforts teachers make to inform them about their children’s learning. Also, it is evident that the parents’ association and the general parent body provide considerable levels of support. Their enthusiastic involvement in the life of the school in areas such as fundraising, science, games, information and communication technology is most impressive.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The pupils are managed with care and skill. A comprehensive code of discipline is in place and was reviewed in consultation with parents. The pupils demonstrate an enthusiasm for their work, and are, well behaved and motivated.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. The teachers access the support services and meet on a regular basis to plan collaboratively. Key areas for development and review are outlined clearly. In keeping with best practice, minutes are recorded and circulated. A comprehensive range of both organisational and curriculum policies has been formulated and are presented to a high standard. Commendably, the curriculum policies draw attention to many of the key messages in the curriculum and provide a sound basis for the development of effective practice. The challenge for the staff now is to strengthen the linkage between these whole-school policies, classroom planning and practice. In this context it is recommended that further specific guidelines for classroom practice be provided in English, Irish and Mathematics.

 

All teachers prepare long- and short-term plans of work and provide monthly progress records. They deserve much credit for the considerable work in evidence. However, it is recommended that the practice of specifying clearly the expected learning outcomes for pupils and the essential learning experiences to be provided should be extended. This approach will enhance the usefulness of the plans in enabling teachers differentiate the curriculum and promote the progressive development of the pupils’ skills. In this context attention was focused on the importance of outlining concisely a targeted language input for Irish and Mathematics, and specific skills to be developed in reading and oral work.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Ar aon dul le dea-chleachtas i múineadh na Gaeilge claíonn na hoidí leis an nGaeilge mar theanga theagaisc. Is inmholta go mór an bhéim a leagtar sna hardranganna ar chur chun cinn na Gaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh. Moltar chomh maith an aird a dhírítear tríd an scoil ar an bhfilíocht agus ar rannta. I gcuid de na ranganna dírítear go fónta ar ról-imirt. Léiríonn a lán daltaí meon dearfach i leith na Gaeilge agus tá cumas cumarsáide maith á fhorbairt ag cuid acu. Chun an caighdeán a ardú meastar gur gá anois don bhfoireann na dea-chleachtais a fhorbairt a thuilleadh go sistéamach, ar bhonn na scoile ina hiomláine. B’fhiú ach go háirithe féachaint chuige go gcothaítear breis leanúnachais ó rang go rang san ionchur teanga cumarsáideach a mhúintear. Meastar chomh maith go bhféadfaí breis béime fós a leagan ar dhaingniú struchtúir ar leith le linn ceachtanna cumarsáide, agus ar úsáid na scéalaíochta agus na drámaíochta chomh maith.

 

Múintear an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht go dúthrachtach. Léannn na daltaí sinsearacha na téacsanna ranga go measartha cruinn agus chonacthas roinnt samplaí fónta dá gcuid scríbhneoireachta. Meastar gur gá anois níos mó taithí a thabhairt do na daltaí ar réimse níos leithne de chineálacha éagsúla téacsanna a léamh agus scil na saorscríbhneoireachta a chothú a thuilleadh. Ar an ábhar seo, tá sé le moladh go bhfuil an fhoireann tar éis ábhar léitheoireachta breise a fháil do na daltaí.

 

Irish

In keeping with good practice in the teaching of Irish the teachers adhere to Irish as the language of instruction. A most praiseworthy emphasis is placed in the senior classes on the use of Irish as a means of communication. Also, it is commendable that attention is paid throughout the school to the teaching of poetry and rhymes. In some classes role-play is usefully practised. Many pupils demonstrate a positive attitude to Irish and some are acquiring good communication skills in the language. In order to raise standards further it is now recommended that the staff develop existing good practice systematically on a whole-school basis. In particular it is recommended that a higher level of continuity be promoted in the communicative language input taught from one class level to the next. It is further recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on reinforcing key language structures during communicative language lessons, and on the use of storytelling and drama.

 

Reading and writing are taught diligently. The senior pupils read the classroom texts with a fair degree of accuracy and some creditable samples of pupils’ writing were noted. It is now recommended that further opportunities be provided for pupils to read and write a variety of texts and to develop their independent writing skills. In this regard it is commendable that the staff has accessed additional reading material for pupils.

 

English

Throughout the school the teachers make considerable efforts to develop pupils’ oral language skills in English. Oral interaction is a regular feature in all classrooms and the pupils are exposed to a variety of stories, poetry, rhymes and language games. Commendably, reading for pleasure is promoted actively through shared reading programmes, and through the regular practice of uninterrupted, silent, sustained reading and through participation in initiatives such as the MS Readathon.  Graded books from a published reading scheme form the core of the pupils’ formal reading material at all class levels. Appropriately, these are supplemented by novels and a variety of suitable materials. In establishing the basic reading skills, considerable work is undertaken to develop pupils’ phonic competence and build their sight vocabulary. Pupils engage in a range of writing activities. While some good samples of their independent writing were noted, it is evident that this is an area that would benefit from further development during the planned review of the English plan. Also, it is evident that a review of the early literacy programme is warranted. In this regard it is recommended that the fundamental skills of reading and writing be taught in a more integrated manner and that a greater emphasis be placed on the language experience approach. It is also recommended that handwriting be taught consistently in a manner that supports the development of pupils’ oral and reading skills, and leads to the earlier introduction of a cursive style. The establishment of a book rental scheme could gainfully be considered in order to further support the systematic use of a wide variety of reading material.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Effective practice in the teaching of Mathematics was observed during the evaluation. In particular the teachers are to be commended both for the thorough manner in which they have analysed the data arising from the standardised tests for patterns of errors and for the commendable strategies which they have put in place to address the needs of those pupils experiencing difficulty. Many pupils respond enthusiastically to oral questioning and demonstrate positive attitudes to Mathematics. Due emphasis is placed on the development of their computation skills and the practice of including this work as a regular feature of structured lessons is to be commended. At a variety of class levels skilful use of concrete materials and guided discussion were noted during the evaluation. This is an area that might gainfully be extended particularly in order to promote more sustained pupil-teacher interaction and the further development of pupils’ higher order thinking skills. It is recommended that the practice of teaching the language of Mathematics explicitly and displaying it in classrooms be extended. It is also recommended that further opportunities be provided for pupils to develop their mathematical skills through engaging in regular problem solving.

 

3.3 Visual Arts

The pupils follow a wide-ranging programme in the Visual Arts and impressive work was in evidence during the evaluation. Praiseworthy work is undertaken to ensure an appropriate balance between making art and looking and responding to art, and between two- and three dimensional work. The programme enables pupils participate in enjoyable activities and discover the creative possibilities of a range of tools, media and materials. Much credit is due to the teachers for the attractive manner in which the pupils’ work is displayed, despite significant space restrictions.

 

 

3.4 Assessment

A particular strength in the area of assessment is the effective manner in which data is recorded and managed. Commendably, the practice of administering standardised tests is long established. In keeping with good practice the class teachers administer the tests with the help of the support team. The board ratified a commendable whole-school plan for assessment recently. This plan outlines clearly a wide range of both formal and informal approaches to assessment. Given that the consistent implementation of these approaches will greatly improve the quality of pupils’ learning, this is appropriate. During the evaluation attention was focused in particular on the importance of continuous assessment and on the need to give pupils feedback for improvement. Also discussed was the importance of sustained pupil-teacher interaction in order to determine levels of pupils’ understanding and extend their learning.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has two dedicated support teachers who work in collaboration with the mainstream teachers to provide supplementary support for pupils with special needs. There is also a part-time teacher who works closely with a class teacher to cater for the specific needs of a small number of pupils. Commendably, the staged approach to provision for special needs is in place. Individual Education Plans are prepared carefully and are underpinned by effective ongoing short-term planning and recording of progress. Appropriately, both in-class and withdrawal models of providing supplementary teaching are in place. The teaching and learning observed during the evaluation was clearly in keeping with the specific needs of the pupils and many successful approaches were noted. The whole school policy document provides a sound basis for the further development of effective practice and it is evident that the teachers are intent on further developing the model of in-class support.

 

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

The school does not have disadvantage status.   

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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