An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



S.N. Chiaráin Kilfinny

Co Limerick

Uimhir rolla:  18717V





Date of inspection: 04 February 2008




Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils





Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of Kilfinny N.S. was undertaken in February 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE).  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.



Introduction – school context and background


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




Pupils enrolled in the school


Mainstream classes in the school


Teachers on the school staff


Mainstream class teachers


Teachers working in support roles


Special needs assistants




1.     Quality of school management


1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Kilfinny N.S. is a mainstream, co-educational school situated in the village of Kilfinny. The existing school was constructed in 1963 and the Catholic Bishop of Limerick is its patron. The school’s vision is clearly articulated in its mission statement which is displayed at the main entrance of the school. It outlines the school’s commitment to “nurture the child in all dimensions of his or her life”, to “cherish and challenge the children in a safe, secure and attractive learning environment” and to “provide quality learning experiences that are engaging, enriching and enjoyable through a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum”. The mission statement is expanded upon further through the articulation of six additional supplementary aims. The board is commended for drawing up this statement which places appropriate emphasis on the holistic development of the individual pupil and on the provision of a high quality educational experience for the pupils.


1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted. Regular meetings are held, minutes of these meetings are maintained and the school’s finances are well managed. Communication between the principal and the chairperson is regular and purposeful. The board is currently overseeing the construction of an extension to the school. It is expected that this work will be completed by the end of May 2008. The provision of additional school accommodation, comprising a general purposes room, classroom, learning support room and staff room should further enhance the quality of education being provided to the pupils in this school.


The board has ratified a number of school policies and it is recommended that the board now extend its current approach to policy formulation and develop a more active involvement in shaping the school’s future direction. This will require closer collaboration with the school’s in-school management team, consultation with the wider school community and the collaborative drafting of a school development plan.


1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team is comprised of the principal and an acting deputy principal. The principal’s management of the day-to day functioning of the school is very effective. He is conscientious and diligent and has established a high level of credibility among the school community. The deputy principal undertakes her duties in a professional and caring manner. The in-school management team meets informally on a regular basis. The team is commended for the significant contribution it makes towards embedding the mission statement in the daily life of the school. It is now recommended that the team places increased emphasis on leading teaching and learning in the school and on monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of learning outcomes in curriculum areas.


1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The parents’ association was established over twenty years ago. The present association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (NPC) and meets four times a year. Representatives of the association report that there is excellent communication between it, the board and the school. The representatives of the association value the work of the school and report satisfaction with the educational provision in the school. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually and end-of-year pupil progress reports are issued to all parents. Regular newsletters inform parents of upcoming events and of school and pupil successes. The school is commended for the manner in which it facilitates contact between parents and teachers.


1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils is very good. The school’s code of behaviour and anti-bullying policies are effectively and consistently implemented. Pupils present as well behaved, respectful and co-operative. The pastoral needs of the pupils are well managed and their holistic development is nurtured within the spirit of the mission statement. It is recommended, however, that further opportunities be provided for pupils to engage in self-directed learning and to assume increased responsibility for their own learning. It is expected that some of the present constraints in relation to space will be alleviated on completion of the school extension and that this will enable teachers to engage pupils in project work, group work and in the use of information and communications technologies (ICT).



2.     Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of the school plan varies from being fair to being very good. The majority of the organisational policies are of a high standard and effectively inform the day-to-day management of the school. The staff is praised for identifying a list of additional organisational policies to be drafted in the near future. Whole school plans have been devised for each of the curriculum areas. In these plans the aims and objectives for each curricular area are clearly stated and in the majority of these documents the content to be covered in each class level is outlined and referenced to the appropriate strands and strand units.  However, a weakness of the school plan is that it does not describe the process followed by the school in formulating policies. The role parents have played in the school planning process is unclear. Methods for the effective dissemination of the whole school plan to the broader school community are not identified. Many of the curriculum plans do not adequately address areas such as assessment, differentiation or record keeping. Few of the plans outline how or when their impact on teaching and learning is to be evaluated. It is therefore recommended that the school plan be reviewed on a phased basis. This review should prioritise plans and policies in need of development and should ensure that parental involvement is facilitated, where appropriate, in the planning process.


All teachers make adequate written preparation for their school work as outlined in Rule 126 of The Rules for National Schools. Each teacher maintains monthly progress records and these records are maintained on file by the principal. It is now recommended that, when reviewing the current curriculum plans, a common approach to individual teacher planning be identified which would ensure that whole-school plans effectively inform teachers’ long and short term preparation. 


2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

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



3.     Quality of learning and teaching


3.1 Language



Múintear an Ghaeilge ar bhealach an-éifeachtach sa scoil seo agus caighdeán an-mhaith sroichte ag na daltaí san ábhar seo tríd an scoil. Cuirtear acmhainní éagsúla ar fáil sa scoil le haghaidh múineadh na Gaeilge, idir fhíorleabhair, cairteacha léirithe agus téipeannaEagraíonn gach oide ceachtanna taitneamhacha do na daltaí agus is léir go mbaineann na daltaí sult agus tairbhe as bheith gníomhach san ábhar. moladh ar leith tuillte as ucht an tslí an-sheiftiúil a sheoltar an Ghaeilge isteach i ngnáthchaint an lae i  ranganna na naíonán agus moltar anois an Ghaeilge a nascadh sa bhealach céanna le himeachtaí an lae ar fud na scoile. Leathnaítear foclóir na ndaltaí go céimniúil i ngach rang agus oiltear na daltaí chun ceisteanna a fhreagairt agus a chur ar a chéile. Tugann na h-oidí tús áite do na téamaí atá leagtha amach sa churaclam agus cuirtear ar chumas na ndaltaí comhrá simplí a dhéanamh bunaithe ar na téamaí seo. tús an-mhaith déanta le múineadh na léitheoireachta sna bunranganna. Léann formhór na ndaltaí go líofa agus léiríonn siad tuiscint mhaith ar a bhfuil léite acu. Déanann na h-oidí dea-chúram de ghnéithe éagsúla na scríbhneoireachta agus cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí oiriúnacha sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil ina gcóipleabhair. Déanann na h-oidí monatóireacht rialta ar an obair sin. Moltar anois, béim níos a chur ar fhorbairt na scríbhneoireachta cruthaithigh. Tugtar an-aire do mhúineadh na gramadaí ó rang go rang agus díríonn na h-oidí aire ar struchtúr na teanga ionas go sroicheann na ndaltaí dea-chaighdéan líofachta agus cruinnis ina gcuid oibre de gnáth.



Irish is taught in a very effective manner in this school and the pupils have achieved a very good standard in this subject throughout the school. A variety of resources is provided for the teaching of Irish including real books, illustrated charts and tapes. Each teacher organises enjoyable lessons for the pupils and it is evident that the pupils derive pleasure and benefit from their engagement in the subject. Particular praise is due to the very skilful manner in which Irish is introduced into everyday conversation in the infant classes and it is now recommended that Irish be linked in a similar manner with events of the day throughout the school. The pupils’ vocabulary is systematically developed in each class and the pupils are trained to answer and pose questions to each other. The teachers prioritise the themes outlined in the curriculum and they enable the pupils to make simple conversations based on these themes. A very good start is made in the teaching of reading in the junior classes. The majority of the pupils read fluently and they display a good understanding of what they have read. Teachers pay very good attention to the various elements of writing. The pupils practise suitable formal writing exercises in their copies. The teachers regularly monitor this work. It is now recommended that increased emphasis be placed on the development of creative writing. Very good care is paid to the teaching of grammar from class to class and the teachers focus attention on the structure of the language so that the pupils usually achieve a high standard of fluency and accuracy in their work.



The quality of teaching and learning in English is of a good standard. Very good oral language lessons are taught in the infant classes. Story, rhymes and drama are used to good effect in these lessons. The pupils’ ability to use language as speakers is further developed in the junior and middle standards. At these levels appropriate listener-speaker relationships are well developed, pupils’ vocabulary is extended and they are facilitated to initiate and sustain conversations and to take turns in a classroom atmosphere that promotes tolerance for the views and opinions of others. In the senior classes pupils are facilitated to experience activities such as justifying an attitude or arguing a point of view. It is recommended however that a greater variety of opportunities for pupils to actively develop their oral language skills be promoted at this level through the organisation of increased opportunities for the pupils to engage in meaningful group work.


Pupils have achieved good standards in reading throughout the school. The central role of phonological and phonemic awareness in the acquisition of word identification strategies is well promoted in the infant, junior and middle classes. However there is a need to adopt a common approach to the teaching of phonics and phonological awareness in all classes. Pupils in all levels are encouraged to respond to text and to discuss ideas, conclusions and images encountered in literature. The novel is used to good effect in the senior classes. While pupils have attained a good knowledge of the conventions of print, a wide basic sight vocabulary and good word identification strategies throughout the school, there remains a need to further develop pupils’ comprehension strategies, to broaden their exposure to a wider range of texts and to instil in the pupils a love of reading. It is now recommended that a whole-school approach to the teaching of reading be developed within the context of the English plan which is reflective of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) guidelines in English.


Good practice was observed in the teaching of writing at each level and the pupils have achieved good standards in this regard. All teachers place commendable emphasis on the teaching of grammar, punctuation and spelling. Handwriting skills are well developed with the introduction of a cursive style of handwriting in the junior classes. The quality of pupils’ written work is of a high standard. In order to further develop pupils’ writing skills it is now recommended that they be facilitated to write for different audiences on a wider range of topics and in a variety of genres.


3.2 Mathematics

Very good practice was observed in the teaching of mathematics. Teacher planning indicates that each of the strands is taught as interrelated units in which understanding in one area is dependent on, and supportive of, ideas and concepts in other strands. Lessons observed provided opportunities for the pupils to explore the nature of mathematics and to acquire the knowledge, concepts and skills required for everyday living and for use in other subject areas. Pupils are enabled to use mathematical language effectively and accurately. Activities are organised which allow the pupils to benefit from a wide variety of teaching and learning approaches, including the skilful promotion of activity and discovery learning and talk and discussion. Learning activities involving the use of concrete materials are organised. Teachers give clear explanations and have realistically high expectations for the pupils. Very good attention is placed on consolidating and reinforcing the content, concepts and skills developed during the lessons. As a consequence, the quality of pupil learning outcomes is very good.


3.3 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

All teachers organise discrete Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) lessons and the learning observed is well supported by a positive school atmosphere in which individuals are valued, cared for and respected. Teachers are encouraging and affirming of each individual pupil and opportunities are provided for each pupil to succeed and to develop their individual talents. The school mission statement and policies relating to self-esteem and equality, special educational needs, behaviour and anti-bullying all assist in enhancing the self-esteem and well-being of the pupils and in fostering a respect for human and cultural diversity. Many aspects of the SPHE programme are meaningfully integrated with other subject areas. Teachers are commended for employing a variety of strategies, including active learning and group work, which encourage the child to be an active agent in his/her own learning. The school is also praised for its involvement of community members in the delivery of the SPHE programme. Invited guests address the pupils in areas such as road safety, personal safety and relationship and sexuality education (RSE). It is recommended however, that a key approach of the SPHE curriculum whereby the development of SPHE is seen as a shared responsibility between parents and teachers be further explored. It is further recommended that the school draft a RSE policy in consultation with parents.


3.4 Assessment

Standardised tests in literacy and numeracy are administered to all pupils from first to sixth class. The results of these tests are utilised to identify pupils in need of support. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) test is administered to senior infants and the school is commended for implementing the Forward Together programme with those pupils who are identified as experiencing difficulty in literacy. A wide range of assessment modes, including teacher observation, teacher questioning, teacher designed tests and commercial assessment tests, is used consistently to assess pupils’ achievement and progress. All teachers maintain portfolios containing samples of work completed by the pupils in a variety of curriculum areas. Pupils’ written work is generally well monitored and evaluated. There is a need, however, for teachers to utilise this assessment data to assist them in meeting the learning needs of those pupils experiencing difficulties within the classroom context. It is therefore recommended that a whole-school policy on assessment be developed. This policy should incorporate an analysis of the outcomes of assessment in order to provide a basis for differentiated provision for pupils in accordance with their needs and abilities.



4.     Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is of a very good standard and it is evident that pupils in receipt of support are making good progress commensurate with their abilities. Provision and selection of pupils for support is informed by the Department’s Learning

Support Guidelines (2002) and incorporates the staged approach to special education as outlined in circular 02/05. Good individual educational plans (IEPs) are drafted by the special educational needs team (SEN) in collaboration with the parents and the classroom teachers. These IEPs contain specific learning objectives to be achieved by the pupil on a termly and weekly basis. Assessment data effectively inform the planning and practice of the SEN team and in general, detailed records of pupils’ progress are maintained. Lessons observed were of a very high standard. An emphasis is placed on the active engagement of the pupil in his or her own learning and individual pupils are encouraged to assume responsibility for aspects of their own learning. Of particular note is the very effective use made of ICT, Music and Art activities by some of the teachers to support pupil learning. It is recommended that the present arrangements whereby pupils are withdrawn from class to receive supplementary lessons be reviewed and that consideration be given to alternative methods of providing support, including in-class interventions and early interventions as appropriate.


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

The board is supportive of the inclusion of pupils from all backgrounds and the school mission statement and the enrolment policy promote the integration of all pupils and facilitate their full participation in the daily life of the school.



5.     Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas:

  • The board of management and the parents’ association are supportive of the work of the school. Very good relationships are maintained among the board, the school and the representatives of the association.
  • The teaching staff is professional and caring and the teachers are committed to the provision of a high quality education to the pupils of the school.
  • The quality of teaching and learning, particularly in the areas of Mathematics and Irish, is of a very good standard.
  • The range of teaching methodologies employed in the support settings is commendable and it is evident that the pupils benefit greatly from engaging in the various purposeful activities organised to assist them in their learning.


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


  • It is recommended that the board draft a development plan in consultation with the wider school community as appropriate. This plan should address the curriculum, organisational and resource areas in need of development and should outline action plans to address these aspects over a given period of time.
  • It is recommended that an assessment policy and a Relationship and Sexuality Education policy be drafted as a matter of priority.
  • It is recommended that the school investigate alternative means of supporting pupils with identified learning difficulties, including in-class support, team teaching and co-operative teaching.


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





Published June 2008