Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Shannon No. 2
Shannon, Co. Clare
Roll number: 18740Q
Date of inspection: 15th November 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Shannon No. 2. 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 parents. The evaluation was conducted over three days during which an inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. She interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. She reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff members, 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.
Shannon No. 2 is a two teacher school situated in a residential area in the town of Shannon. It was established in 1961. It serves pupils from the immediate catchment area and some pupils, due partly to the religious ethos of the school, attend from neighbouring villages. The school is under the patronage of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe Michael Mayes. There are 26 pupils enrolled. Enrolment has stabilised at this level and it is likely that the school will retain this staffing level in the medium to long term. The children attending the school come from homes in which there is a high level of support for all aspects of education. There are five other primary schools in the parish. There is a warm and supportive ethos in the school and this ethos is underpinned by the collegiality that is in evidence among staff, board, parents and children. There is clear evidence that all pupils are respected and cherished and that their contributions are valued. This has resulted in a commendable rapport between pupils and teachers and has contributed to an overall positive atmosphere in the school with pupils well mannered, polite and forthcoming. The school is to be commended on the high level of pupil attendance.
The board of management is properly constituted in accordance with section 14 of the Education Act, 1998. It meets once a term, more often if necessary. Agenda are provided and minutes are recorded and adopted at the subsequent meeting. Financial accounts are meticulously maintained and the treasurer gives an account of income and expenditure at each meeting. The board ensures that the school’s organisation complies with Department of Education and Science regulations and circulars. Requirements in such areas as the length of the school year and school day, a policy concerning admission to the school, the monitoring and reporting on school attendance are fulfilled. Two members of the board have received training on the role and function of boards of management in the Ennis Education Centre. Each member of the board is assigned a particular role based on their skills and these roles are exercised dutifully. It is reported that five of the board members, including the chairperson, visit the school at least once a week. This good practice is to be commended and contributes greatly to the creation of a positive school climate.
In general, the board is not involved in the drafting of whole school plans and policies but devolves this responsibility to the teaching staff. These documents are presented to the board in draft format for discussion and the majority of them are then ratified and dated. It is recommended that this practice be extended to all plans and policies in the future and that a date for reviewing of these documents is decided upon and recorded.
The principal has worked in the school for 40 years, 32 of them as principal. She maintains excellent working relationships with the board, staff, parents and pupils and her attention to the holistic development of the individual child is duly recognised. She manages the day to day functioning of the school in an efficient manner and ensures that the school ethos permeates all aspects of the school day. Roll books, registers and all school records are carefully maintained.
The in-school management team comprises the principal and the special duties teacher. On her appointment in 2002 the special duties teacher accepted the duties assigned to her by the board and addresses them effectively and efficiently. The school now has networked computers and broadband and these are extensively used, particularly in the senior classes, to enhance the educational opportunities afforded to the children. The in-school management team meets informally each morning and evening, both teachers being present for twenty minutes before and after school. Matters of management are addressed at these times. The board should now identify a revised list of duties for the special duties teacher, at least one of which should address an area of the curriculum.
The school team consists of two permanent teachers. A learning support teacher, who is shared with three other neighbouring schools, attends for seven and a half hours each week. This teacher was appointed in September 2006. Teachers have availed of continued professional development in a variety of areas and report that these courses inform their daily practice. Of particular significance in the professional development of the teaching staff is the meeting with similar sized schools for School Development Planning (SDP) days. On these days common concerns and priorities are shared and plans and policies drafted. The board is to be commended for facilitating such meetings.
The board purchases resources on the recommendation of the teaching staff. These are used appropriately to enhance teaching and learning. Each classroom is equipped with a variety of mathematical resources, equipment for physical education, recently purchased microscopes for the teaching of science and a wide range of reading material. These are employed appropriately by the teachers to enhance teaching and learning. The class library includes a variety of reading texts that address a diversity of reading abilities and interests. Pupils are actively encouraged to read throughout the school day and at home. Access to teaching resources in the area of learning support is however limited due to accommodation restrictions. It is recommended that arrangements for ready access to them be addressed. There is a need also to ensure that pupils in receipt of supplementary education have ready access to the two laptop computers which the school has purchased on their behalf.
School accommodation consists of two spacious classrooms each of which has a room extending from it. One of these rooms is used to store equipment and records, the other is used as a computer room. The main entrance door opens into a spacious corridor. Boys’ and girls’ toilets are accessible from this area. A very small staffroom is also used by the learning support teacher four days a week. The paths surrounding the school building and the small play area are in a poor state of repair and have been identified as a health and safety hazard. The board is currently in the process of applying under the Summer Works Scheme for funding to remedy this situation in the short term. While the building itself is maintained to a high standard, it is recommended that the board also apply to the department for the provision of a dedicated learning support room and principal’s office.
From the discussion with three parents at the pre-evaluation meeting, it is evident that they are very supportive of the school and its staff. They report satisfaction with the curriculum taught in the school and with the achievement levels of the pupils. They identify the positive school climate, where each child is cherished as an individual, as a strength of the school.
The parent body itself contributes greatly to the work of the school. Parents organise a “fun day” each summer term, assist in transporting the senior pupils to the local leisure centre for swimming lessons and to the local library, and support extra-curricular activities. They report that parent- school communication is excellent and they feel welcome at all times to approach staff on issues of concern. The parent representatives report annually to the parent body on the work of the board and this practice is to be commended. Parents are informed of their children’s progress by means of a formal parent-teacher meeting, an annual report card and through comments in copybooks and homework journals. Where warranted the school sends out a letter through the pupils.
The school is to be commended on the building of a positive school climate where pupils actively demonstrate a respect towards each other, their teachers and visitors. A positive code of behaviour and an anti-bullying policy are successfully implemented throughout the school. Very good classroom management skills are evident in both classrooms. Pupils co-operate in all activities and are encouraged to perform to the best of their ability. Supervision of assembly and dismissal of pupils along with yard supervision were observed as being of a high standard.
The school plan is neatly presented in two sections, organisational policies and curriculum plans. The school ethos is clearly stated. Twenty organisational policies have been prepared all of which reflect the ethos of the school and have been devised with the needs of the pupils in mind. It is evident that these plans effectively inform the day to day management of the school. Staff members are to be complimented on the implementation of the agreed guidelines and procedures which are concisely stated and relevant to the school context. Those policies which are dated and ratified indicate that they have been devised in the last three years. It is reported that the teaching staff draft these policies and present them to the board for discussion and ratification. The board should consider taking a more active role in the devising of policies in organisational areas in the future. Members should ensure that all policies are ratified and dated and that a date for reviewing them is agreed upon and recorded.
Plans in relation to seven curriculum areas are presented in individual folders. The majority of these plans make reference to the content to be covered under the strands, strand units and objectives. Plans in History, Geography and Science, Visual Arts and Mathematics are of a particularly high standard. The English plan was reviewed in 2004. It addresses all areas of the English curriculum in considerable detail. It is recommended however, that staff now consider how best to implement the agreed procedures stated in this document so that they might maximise its impact on pupil learning. No plans or evidence of planning was presented in relation to the areas of Social, Personal and Health Education, Physical Education, Music or Drama. It is recommended that these areas be addressed as a matter of priority. All plans should make clear reference to the manner in which the agreed approaches in the various curriculum areas are to be implemented and should provide guidance to teachers in relation to individual classroom planning.
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, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). This policy was recently drafted but has not been ratified by the board. A designated liaison person has not been named. The board needs to address these omissions as a matter of urgency. It should also consider the need to devise a Substance Use policy.
Individual teacher planning is presented in the form of long-term and short-term preparation. Timetables are organised to facilitate the implementation of all curriculum areas and appropriate attention is afforded to linkage and integration between subjects. Monthly progress records are maintained by individual teachers. It is regrettable however, that teacher planning does not take cognisance of whole school plans and that it focuses instead on referencing the content to be covered in the textbooks. A variety of teaching methodologies was observed during the inspection period. Good use was made of material resources during the same period. Teachers differentiated programmes to meet the individual learning needs of pupils in their care and the quality of monitoring , evaluation, assessment and recording of pupil progress was good. However, no reference was made to these components of teachers’ work in the planning documents viewed. It is recommended that a consistent and comprehensive approach to individual teacher planning be devised which is cognisant of the needs of the pupils and which is informed by the relevant sections of the Revised Primary Curriculum (1999).
In general, the quality of teaching observed was good. A variety of methodologies including group work and paired work is used throughout the classes. Pupils also engage in project work particularly in the areas of Social, Environmental and Scientific Education in the senior classes. These is evidence of satisfactory progression and continuity in the curricular programmes from junior infant level to sixth class. Teachers have ready access to a variety of material resources which was employed appropriately to augment the learning process. Classes are well structured and paced. Teachers effectively monitor and evaluate the work of the pupils and assist individual pupils where necessary. The children exhibit a positive attitude to learning and display appropriate curiosity and good problem solving and information retrieval skills. Parents and board report a high level of satisfaction with the achievement levels of the children and state in particular that the pupils are well prepared for transition to second-level schools. It should be noted that, during the inspection period, a teacher was absent on certified sick leave and therefore the learning and teaching in her classroom was evaluated while the pupils were in the care of a qualified substitute teacher.
Déanann na hóidí iarracht dearcadh fábharach a chothú i leith na teanga. Cuirtear an t-ábhar teagaisc in oiriúint do raon aoise agus suime na ndaltaí agus glacann siad páirt go fonnmhar san obair. Tá foclóir agus frásaí Gaeilge le feiceáil ar na mballaí. Baintear úsáid chuí as cluichí, rainn, amhráin agus as acmhainní oiriúnacha chun cumas cainte na bpáistí sa teanga labhartha a fhorbairt ’sna ranganna ach bunaítear formhór na gceachtanna ar théacsleabhair. Tá úsáid fhorleathan á bhaint as ceisteanna agus freagraí agus tá tuiscint sásúil ag na daltaí ar an ngné seo den chlár. Moltar tuilleadh béime a leagadh ar fhorbairt chumais cumarsáide na bpáistí eatarthu féin. Bhainfeadh na páistí a thuilleadh tairbhe as an dteagasc dá leagfaí béim ar ghrúpobair agus ar obair bheirte chun a gcumas cumarsáide a neartú. Comhairlítear don fhoireann an Ghaeilge a úsáid níos minice sa chumarsáid leis na daltaí lasmuigh den cheacht fhoirmiúil agus iad a mhealladh chun dátheangachas a úsáid. Aithrisíonn na páistí rainn oiriúnacha go soiléir taitneamhach, agus canann siad stór amhrán go muiníneach. Eagraítear na gníomhaíochtaí léitheoireachta go cúramach agus tá dul chun cinn sásúil á dhéanamh ag na ndaltaí sa ghné seo den chlár teagaisc. Tá scéim grádaithe léitheoireachta in úsáid. Ba thairbheach, anois, feidhm a bhaint as raon d’fhíorleabhair tharraingteacha idir bheag agus mhór. Cuirtear béim oiriúnach ar chúrsaí scríbhneoireachta. Cumann na hoidí tascanna scríbhneoireachta go rialta don rang agus déantar monatóireacht chuí ar an saothar.
The teachers are favourably disposed to the Irish language. Lessons taught are suitable to the age range and interest level of the pupils and they take an active part in their work. A range of Irish vocabulary and phrases is displayed on the walls. Games, rhymes, songs and resources are suitable employed to develop the oral language of the pupils however most of the classes are based on textbooks. Questions and answers are widely used and it is evident that pupils have a satisfactory comprehension of this aspect of the programme. It is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on the development of pupils’ interactive language skills. The children’s conversational Irish would benefit from more group and paired work. The use of Irish, as a means of communication between staff and pupils outside of the formal Irish lesson is recommended and pupils should be encouraged towards bilingualism. Pupils recite suitable rhymes and poems clearly and with enjoyment and sing a variety of songs with confidence. Reading activities are carefully organised and pupils are making satisfactory progress in this aspect of the curriculum. A graded reading scheme is used. It is suggested that suitable attractive ancillary books, some in big book format, would benefit the reading experience of the pupils. Suitable emphasis is placed on the written tasks. Written work is regularly assigned and suitably monitored.
For the most part, the English programme taught is dictated by the textbooks in use. Commercially produced handwriting, writing and reading programmes are followed. Many of the good strategies and methodologies outlined in the whole school English plan are not referred to in teachers’ individual planning. Teachers should consider methods through which the agreed procedures contained in the plan might be implemented in the classrooms. Children are given regular opportunities to discuss topics and to give their opinions in many of the curriculum areas. Effective use is made of whole class discussions and project work. Children were observed to possess a good command of oral language and pupils in the senior classes utilised a wide vocabulary. However, the absence of discrete oral language lessons should be addressed in order to systematically and incrementally develop oral language skills throughout the school. In general children read well. Classroom environments are print rich and pupils make extensive use of the classroom libraries. Teachers read a variety of books and stories to the children and this experience is clearly enjoyed by the children. This laudable practice has resulted in a desire to read for pleasure among the pupils. Pupils in the infant classes however would benefit from the use of a greater range of large format books and of flipcharts to facilitate a language experience approach to literacy. A phonological programme is taught to good effect in the infant and junior classes and is evidenced by good word attack skills. Pupils’ written work in the middle and senior levels was of a good standard. Written exercises over a variety of genres are cultivated and pupils are encouraged to review and amend their stories. Handwriting skills are appropriately developed in the infant classes and are built on throughout the school. Teachers are to be commended for the systematic correction of pupils’ work and for providing pupils with positive and helpful suggestions for improvement. The teaching of poetry and rhymes is also of a high standard and pupils took pride in reciting a variety of these during the inspection period.
In all classes observed, the teaching of Mathematics was of a high standard. The school successfully assists all pupils to acquire an understanding of mathematical concepts and processes at an appropriate level and to use mathematical language effectively and accurately. Attention is given to concept formation and language development in the various strand units. Mathematical concepts are well taught and appropriate use is made of concrete materials. Pupils have developed a good sense of place-value and of problem solving strategies. They also demonstrate a good knowledge of number facts and perform computations accurately. Software programmes are effectively utilised to assist pupils experiencing difficulty and to challenge the more able pupils. A good standard of presentation of written work is in evidence particularly in the senior classes, with pupils recording their work accurately, neatly and tidily. Overall a high standard is achieved by the majority of pupils in Mathematics. Teachers should now consider developing the mathematical environment of the classroom and increasing the use of concrete materials and of mathematical resources in general.
A good whole school plan successfully informs the teaching of History. Many appropriate teaching approaches including discussion and story are suitably employed by the teachers. In many incidences this work is aptly integrated with other areas of the curriculum particularly Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). A storyboard has been devised by pupils in the lower section of the school. This is displayed to good effect in the shared area. Pupils were enthusiastic in the recalling of the story and it was evident that the emotional and imaginative strand unit was aptly explored in this lesson. Overall, teaching and learning in this area is effective but evaluative evidence indicates that the locality is not being exploited as a teaching methodology. This resource, along with the skills of working as a historian, of using evidence and of placing events in chronological sequence should be developed.
Geography is taught to good effect in the school and achievement of pupils is satisfactory. Teachers follow topics as presented in the textbooks. Pupils in the junior section display a good knowledge of their locality and pupils in the senior section of the school recall names of rivers, mountains, lakes, seas and counties of Ireland with ease. They had also studied the European Union and were knowledgeable in relation to its physical and social geography. Teachers might now develop the programme to include more fieldwork and the use of the local environment. The skills of working as a geographer might also be incorporated into lessons.
The pupils have developed an interest in, and a curiosity about the world and their bodies through the exploration and study of Science. They learn about a range of topics drawn from natural and human environments. Pupil achievement in this area is good. Illustrative and concrete materials are used in a productive manner during lessons. Many of the charts used were devised by the teachers. Discovery learning is facilitated by the effective use of the internet and this practice is to be commended. The board has recently purchased a range of scientific equipment and teachers intend to incorporate the use of these resources into future lessons. Children’s natural curiosity is aroused by the teachers and very good question and answer sessions enable the pupils to explore a variety of topics. The skills of working scientifically should now be explored and an investigation table in each classroom should be developed.
Teacher planning and monthly reports indicate that the pupils are offered a broad and balanced curriculum in relation to the Visual Arts. Children’s work is prominently displayed in the main entrance hall and in the classroom. This work indicates a suitable balance between 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional work. Some very attractive paper masks were produced by the pupils in the middle and senior sections. Pupils in infant and junior classes engage with paint and colour and samples of their work are displayed to good effect. There is evidence also that pupils are encouraged to take an imaginative approach to their work and this is reflected in the various interpretations taken in relation to any one strand unit. Pupil achievement is very good. Pupils report that visual art classes are enjoyable and that they are proud of what they produce. While evidence of the strand unit looking and responding is explicit in the manner in which the children describe their work, there is little evidence to suggest that this strand is addressed on an ongoing basis. It is recommended therefore, that this strand unit is developed and becomes an integral part of the Visual Arts programme. The work of local, national and international artists might also be explored.
The teaching of music is of a very good standard and pupil achievement in this area is high. Class programmes indicate a cyclical approach which builds on previous musical experience and pupils were encouraged to sing songs learnt last year. Songs are appropriate to the vocal range of the children and the repertoire of songs in Irish and English is suitably varied. Aspects of music literacy including notation, rhythm, beat, pitch and interval training are explored. All pupils participate willingly and there was a high level of enjoyment experienced in the lessons observed. Evidence would suggest that the three strand units are addressed in each lesson. The tin whistle is taught to good effect in the middle and senior standards and pupils display a familiarity with composition, performing and responding to music.
At present drama is integrated with other curriculum areas, notably S.P.H.E and English. Pupils recite poetry and read story with expression. Evidence of writing drama was observed in the English copies in the senior classes and role play is utilised as a methodology in Irish and in relation to the S.P.H.E lessons. In a selection of these lessons the children are enabled to use drama to explore feelings and ideas, to develop their communication skills, and to express themselves creatively. With the introduction of in-service for teachers in this curricular area during this school year, it is expected that the implementation of the drama curriculum will be further expanded and a suitable plan devised.
Evidence would suggest that physical education is well taught. Pupils in the middle and senior classes are driven by parents to the local leisure centre where they are instructed in swimming. Physical education lessons observed indicate a strong emphasis on participation and activity with warm up and cool down activities, skills development and maximum participation in a planned activity. Pupils report that they derive great pleasure from these lessons. A “Funday” is organised annually by the parents and emphasis is placed on sport for all. The school is well resourced with a variety of physical education equipment but access to this, due to poor storage facilities, results in underutilisation of these resources. A GAA coach attends the school for a term each year. He works with all pupils for a forty minute session once a week. In the absence of a school plan in this curriculum area it is not possible to state if all strand units of the programme are being implemented.
Pupils display a good understanding of the three strands, myself, myself and others and myself and the wider community. Role play, class discussion, circle time, and story are among the methodologies utilised. Evidence of media education is present in the copies of pupils in the middle and senior standards. Values and attitudes such as mutual respect and co-operation are encouraged and fostered throughout the school day. The children are recognised for their efforts. They are co-operative with each other and display positive attitudes towards their teachers and their school. Turn-taking and respect for the opinions of others are cultivated. The school has developed and implements a policy in Relationships and Sexuality Education in co-operation with the parent body. It is recommended that the school now drafts a whole school policy in relation to Social, Personal and Health Education.
The school has ratified a good assessment policy which informs the work of the teachers. A broad range of assessment modes is used throughout the school. Lessons observed during the inspection period indicate that teachers effectively monitor and evaluate the work of individual pupils on an ongoing basis. Where necessary, teachers give individual attention to pupils who are experiencing difficulties or who need encouragement. Teacher devised tests are administered on a regular basis and results are systematically recorded. This information is used to complete an end-of-year progress record for each child. This progress is communicated on an annual basis to parents. The good practice of recording individual pupil strengths and areas of difficulty through out the year is to be commended. An individual file, containing this information, is maintained in relation to each pupil. Parents are actively encouraged to approach teachers if they wish to discuss any aspect of their child’s education. Homework is assigned Monday to Thursday and completed work is regularly corrected and dated. Sigma -T and Micra-T standardised tests are administered each year. The results of these tests however are not compiled on a class or school basis. Teachers should now consider methods by which this assessment data might be used to effectively inform the management of early intervention programmes.
The Middle Infant Screening Test, Non-Reading Intelligence Test, Aston Index are among the diagnostic tests utilised in the school. The information generated by these tests is used to help identify children who require supplementary support. It is also used to assist the learning support teacher to devise an individual education plan (IEP) for pupils identified as in need of support. It is suggested that staff also use this information to assist them in differentiating the curriculum for pupils in the mainstream classroom.
At present no pupils enrolled in the school present with special educational needs. Neither are there any foreign national pupil nor children from disadvantaged backgrounds. A learning support teacher, who is shared among three other schools and not based in this school, attends four days a week for a period of seven and a half hours. She works in the staff room and does not have ready access to the resources or concrete materials which the school has purchased. It is recommended that the board now consider the provision of more suitable accommodation for the learning support teacher.
Three pupils are in receipt of supplementary education none of whom present with STEN scores of less than five in literacy or numeracy. The learning support teacher, who was appointed to this position in September of 2006, is in the process of preparing an individual education programme (IEP) for each of these pupils utilising the results from tests administered, their school reports and information proffered by the class teacher. She intends to meet with parents prior to the Christmas break in order to further assist her to devise a suitable plan of work. This teacher maintains detailed notes consisting of termly and weekly programmes to be covered and daily progress records. Lessons observed indicate that she utilises a variety of teaching strategies to good effect and that the pupil progress is satisfactory. The staff is presently discussing how an early intervention programme for pupils in the infant classes might be managed. It is recommended that this be addressed as a matter of priority. The board should now draft a learning support policy which takes cognisance of the Learning Support Guidelines (2000) and circular 02/05 thereby ensuring that this position is utilised to best effect and in compliance with DES guidelines.
At present there are no pupils from disadvantaged, minority or other groups enrolled in the school. However, the school admissions and enrolment policy and stated school ethos are all supportive of the inclusion of pupils from disadvantaged, minority and other groups.
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.