An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Our Lady’s Hospital School

Crumlin, Dublin 12

Uimhir rolla: 18788V


Date of inspection:  19 March 2009





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

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School response to the report





Whole-school evaluation


This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Our Lady’s Hospital School, Crumlin, Dublin 12. 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, inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, and the school’s board of management. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited the various school settings and observed teaching and learning. He interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the teachers. He reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.


 1.     Introduction – school context and background

This Special National School is located in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin 12. The school was established in 1963 as a recognised school for children who are attending the hospital as in-patients. It provides for primary and post-primary aged pupils from four to eighteen years. The school operates under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. While the ethos of the school is Catholic, children of all backgrounds and denominations are made welcome and included in the school community. Ensuring continuity of education and the full and harmonious development of the person are among the items included in the school’s mission statement. Depending on their medical needs, the pupils are enrolled for variable lengths of time and while some pupils are enrolled for a number of days, others may require access to the education provision of the school for several months. In the previous school year enrolment ranged between 33 and 43 and the average enrolment for the year was 37 pupils. As Our Lady’s Hospital is a tertiary hospital, many of the children attending have complex medical conditions and may remain in hospital for extended periods of time or attend the hospital for a number of days over many months. While the majority of children attend from the greater Dublin area and surrounding counties, children also come from all parts of the country. Some pupils come straight from home; others are transferred from different hospital settings.


Staffing currently consists of an administrative principal and four teaching posts, (one post on a fixed term basis), one special needs assistant (SNA) and a school secretary. Two of the teachers are primary teachers and two are post-primary trained. The children accessing the educational provision of the school present with a wide variety of individual circumstances, arising from the nature of their illness, duration and arrangements of time in hospital and whether they have particular needs in relation to, for example, special education or English as an additional language. The school team therefore endeavours to address a very wide range of educational requirements and learning needs. Pupils may have been previously attending mainstream primary, post-primary schools or special schools. The school provides a wide range of primary and post-primary programmes and is involved in preparing pupils for the Junior and Leaving Certificate examinations. A number of examination centres are usually provided at the school each year for pupils undertaking certificate examinations.


The teachers are conscious of the particular role of education for children in a hospital setting and commendable attention is given to providing them with encouraging and constructive educational experiences during their hospitalisation. The positive interaction between teachers and pupils and the responsiveness to the activities presented were observed during the period of evaluation. The education service to children who are confined to hospital for long periods, and often in isolation, is an important educational provision enabling them to continue their education and providing them with normalising activities during their period of illness. The teachers work both in the school classroom and at the children’s bedside in the hospital wards. Arrangements in relation to the education provision for pupils are dependent on their medical conditions and for example, take concerns regarding infection and mobility into consideration. A current and growing challenge for the school is the increasing number of pupils who because of medical issues and infection control can only access the education provision in isolation room settings. This reduces the numbers of pupils each teacher can attend to on a daily basis. The use of educational resources in these settings is also necessarily restricted because of infection control requirements. 


2.     Quality of school management


2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meets on a regular basis to address the ongoing needs of the school. The board is mindful of and endeavours to fulfil its statutory responsibilities. The chairperson and principal maintain regular contact regarding school matters. The business attended to at board meetings includes finance, maintenance and accommodation, school policies, staff appointments and liaison with the hospital and health personnel. Minutes of meetings are recorded and school documentation and registers are carefully maintained. The school accommodation has been enhanced significantly in recent years providing additional facilities and resources. Important work has been undertaken in relation to school development planning and policy development. Members of the board expressed a high degree of confidence in the operation of the school and the quality of the education provision to the children accessing its services. It is evident that the chairperson and board are diligent in their commitment and have engaged proactively in the development of the school.  A co-operative approach is evident in the work of this board of management. The ongoing collaboration of the board with the hospital authorities in relation to the provision of education across the range of hospital settings has also contributed to the successful development of the school to its current position.


2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team is made up of the principal, deputy principal and one teacher with a special duties post of responsibility. The principal is highly motivated and demonstrates proactive and energetic leadership in the management and development of the work of the school.  She is highly professional and conscientious in attending to the wide range of duties associated with her role as principal. She has a clear vision for the development of the school and has overseen significant positive development of the education provision available to the children attending this hospital. This includes an increase in teaching personnel and the enhancement of the classroom accommodation and resources.  


The principal is ably supported by the deputy principal who along with the teacher with a special duties post of responsibility assists in the organisation of the school. The in-school management is highly capable, dedicated and committed to the development of the school. They consistently attend to the curricular, organisational and pastoral concerns of the school. Team members continually endeavour to develop the optimal supports and arrangements in order to provide the children with secure and child-friendly opportunities for learning, appropriate to their individual needs. Open communication and a shared understanding of the core work of the education provision is in evidence in the day-to-day operation of the school. This contributes beneficially to the service provided to all pupils in the various settings across the hospital.  While all staff members meet informally on a daily basis to attend to ongoing school matters, it is recommended that dedicated in-school management team meetings be held on a regular basis to concentrate on the longer term and strategic development needs of the school community.


2.3 Management of resources

The primary and post-primary teachers are deployed effectively in relation to their qualifications and skills. The organisation of the teaching activities in the schoolroom, in the wards and in isolation rooms is carefully managed to maximise the opportunities and beneficial contact with pupils. The care and support role of the SNA is also carried out in a conscientious and effective manner. Effective administrative support is provided by the school secretary.


The schoolroom consists essentially of one large room with a number of smaller ancillary rooms and is located in a temporary structure adjoining the main hospital building. This accommodation dates from 1992 and upgrading of the schoolroom facilities was undertaken over recent years.  The improvements included the partitioning of offices, the instillation of a kitchen area and the creation of the space for a post-primary classroom area. A small outdoor area and garden is also available to the pupils.  These developments have made a significant difference to the functioning of the school. The school is cleaned on daily basis with due regard for hygiene considerations. The schoolroom is also deep-cleaned at least once per term to comply with infection control regulations. The maintenance of the school is supported by the technical services department of the hospital. In the last two years significant improvements have been made to comply with health and safety, fire and infection control regulations.  An audit of the school's facilities is undertaken at the end of every school year and recommendations are made for future maintenance. The school staff including the maintenance and cleaning personnel, and the pupils themselves are commended for maintaining a safe and attractive school environment.


A comprehensive range of teaching and learning resources has been acquired by the school and these are employed in the implementation of the curriculum for the primary and post-primary pupils. These resources include computers and laptops, digital camera, whiteboard, literacy and numeracy materials, percussion instruments, art materials, construction equipment, and science equipment and an extensive range of primary and post-primary textbooks and work-books. Substantial teacher-made resources have also been developed to support teaching and learning activities.  Staff members have undertaken a wide variety of continuous professional development (CPD) training opportunities across the organisational, curricular and pastoral areas of the work of the school, demonstrating a clear commitment to their own ongoing professional learning.


2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school personnel endeavour to foster constructive working relationships that the other professionals and health care staff in the hospital. The teachers recognise the vital role of parents and carers in the education process and make conscientious and sensitive efforts to include and inform them in relation to the education provision available through the school. When they have the opportunity teachers succeed in communicating appropriately and effectively with the parents, carers or guardians of the pupils. It was evident from discussions with parents during the period of evaluation that they valued the service provided to their children by the school. Where pupils remain in hospital for an extended period, a key task for the teachers is to consult with their home school, once parental approval has been provided. Where appropriate, liaison with other primary and post-primary schools is sensitively and effectively undertaken. The school also hosts numerous events and receives numerous celebrity visitors during the year.


2.5 Management of pupils

School personnel demonstrate a keen understanding of the particular needs of the pupils attending this hospital school. They are sensitive, supportive and encouraging in their interactions and work with the pupils. The teachers are aware of the importance of cultivating the pupils’ confidence and belief in their abilities at this time. The teachers are skilled at identifying and actively promoting opportunities to encourage pupils and to enable them to have positive learning experiences during their time in hospital. The positive and constructive manner in which teachers manage the learning experiences of the pupils and encourage their active engagement across a range of educational activities is praiseworthy. A sense of belonging to a school community is actively fostered. The school's code of behaviour aims to create an atmosphere of respect, tolerance and consideration of others, with due regard to the medical needs of the pupils and the hospital environment in which the school is located.



3.     Quality of school planning


3.1 School planning process and implementation

Substantial and useful work has been undertaken in relation to school planning as required by the education act 1998. The school endeavours to respond in a professional and appropriate manner to the changing needs of the pupils during their time in hospital. Organisational, curricular and pastoral areas have been addressed and a range of policies and procedures has been formulated which inform school practices on a daily basis. Policies have been developed in a variety of areas including enrolment, child-protection, behaviour, anti-bullying, ICT and the use of the internet.  Initiative, commitment and professionalism have been demonstrated by the staff in the development and implementation of a variety of programmes which aim to cater for the specific educational needs of the pupils who access the services of this school. Work on the development of the school plan is ongoing. The in-school management team has particular responsibilities in relation to leading the process of school development planning. With the collaborative involvement of all members of the teaching team, consideration should be given to setting out specific targets and timeframes to further advance specific priorities in relation to the organisational, curricular and pastoral elements of school planning.


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 and school staff; that a copy of the procedures has been made available to all 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.


3.2 Classroom planning

The teachers are highly committed to their work and this is evident in the conscientious preparation and organisation undertaken in relation to teaching the pupils in the schoolroom setting or at the children's bedside in the wards. Impressive teacher-designed cross-curricular materials have been developed at the school and these contribute to the provision of individualised, differentiated and interesting learning opportunities for pupils that enable them to engage in the learning process. For the post-primary provision planning is undertaken with reference to the relevant syllabuses of the second level curriculum. The teachers work co-operatively in relation to the planning and organisation of the learning activities. The preparation undertaken provides for the use of information and communication technology (ICT). The teachers keep careful records of their work with the pupils and detailed monthly reports and accounts of their teaching are maintained.



 4.     Quality of learning and teaching


4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

Across the range of teaching and learning contexts, the teachers demonstrate impressive levels of skill in communicating and engaging with the pupils in relation to the learning activities. This is achieved despite the fact that many pupils are dealing with significant illness and often feeling unwell. Teaching in the school classroom, involving a group of the pupils, allows for a more normal experience for the children with opportunities for social interaction. This can involve working with pupils from infants to sixth class where some are long-term patients of the hospital while others are attending for a short time. The education of some pupils may have been severely disrupted because of frequent hospitalisation. Generally there is a wide range of intellectual abilities and individual needs.  The teachers respond to these significant challenges imaginatively and flexibly. Employing thematic approaches and a wide range of resources, they succeed in individualising and differentiating the learning tasks and manage to include all the pupils purposefully in the learning activities. The use of ICT in teaching and learning is also developing well. Where practicable, the school should continue to explore and extend the use of ICT across the range of curriculum areas and school activities.


Teaching in the ward settings necessitates one-to-one instruction. In undertaking this work successfully the teachers demonstrate a wide range of experience in enacting the school curriculum across the age range. In working with individual children in the wards, teachers carry out careful preparation so that the relevant and appropriate resources are to hand, as the pupils’ wards may be a long way from the schoolroom. In teaching pupils of post-primary age, a broad knowledge of the subject areas is also in evidence. Commendable care, commitment and skill is demonstrated by the teachers in facilitating pupils in continuing their education and in supporting those who are experiencing difficulties in particular areas of the curriculum.  Each year a number of pupils are prepared for certificate examinations and several sit the tests in an examination centre located in the hospital under the coordination of one of the post-primary teachers.


The teachers recognise that participating in education is one of a small number of “normal activities” that children can become involved in during their time in hospital. In many instances, particularly in this tertiary hospital, children are confronting serious illnesses and contending with the physical and emotional challenges that this involves. Accessing education can provide an important element of structure to the day and allow the child to focus on a beneficial activity, at least for a short period. A key element of this is the teacher-pupil relationship. The manner in which the teachers succeed in fostering positive relationships with the pupils and in gaining their confidence and trust, is impressive and praiseworthy. In establishing constructive relationships with the pupils, the teachers employ a range of approaches and have found the curriculum areas of Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and the Arts particularly helpful.


4.2 Language



Teastaíonn tacaíocht sa Ghaeilge ó dhaltaí áirithe fad is a bhíonn siad san ospidéal. Go háirithe, tarlaíonn sé seo i gcás daltaí a fhreastalaíonn ar Ghaelscoileanna nó i gcás daltaí a bhíonn ag ullmhú i gcóir scrúdaithe stáit. Aithníonn an scoil riachtanais na ndaltaí seo agus bíonn oidí ar a ndícheall ag iarraidh cabhair chuí a sholáthar dóibh sa ghné seo den churaclam.



Some pupils require support with Gaeilge during their time in hospital. This arises especially for pupils attending Gaelscoileanna or pupils who are preparing for Certificate examinations. The school is conscious of the needs of these pupils and the teachers make every effort to provide them with suitable support in this area of the curriculum.



The teachers recognise the importance of language development and carefully endeavour to promote the pupils’ receptive and expressive language and communication skills across all curriculum activities undertaken. Programmes are individualised as teachers seek to develop the pupils’ confidence and competence in using language and to promote the cognitive, emotional and imaginative development of the pupils. A wide range of teacher-made and commercial materials is used to support the pupils in exploring language and ideas across a variety of themes and topics. The teachers also attend carefully and effectively to the promotion of the literacy skills of the pupils. A comprehensive range of resources, textbooks and workbooks has been acquired to cater for the wide range of ages, abilities and learning needs of the pupils from infants to post-primary age. In working with children for whom English is an additional language the materials developed by Integrate Ireland Language and Training would also be a useful resource. The pupils pursuing post-primary schools’ syllabuses are also carefully and skilfully provided for and resources are used imaginatively and creatively. Good use is made of ICT to enhance the learning experiences of the pupils.


4.3 Mathematics

In Mathematics, the teachers endeavour to provide activities that encourage the development of positive attitudes towards Mathematics and the learning tasks are suitably aimed at stimulating the pupils’ interests and fostering their engagement. The work undertaken with pupils is individualised and realistic expectations are communicated, enabling the pupils to experience a sense of achievement on completion of the tasks. The teachers use a wide range of materials, textbooks, and worksheets to cater for the diversity of the learning needs of the pupils. Pupils at post-primary also receive careful attention and support and a number may require assistance in preparing for certificate examinations. The teachers endeavour to build on the pupils’ prior mathematical knowledge and skills and where possible to support them in keeping up with the programme followed in the school they were attending before admission to hospital.


4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

Thematic approaches are successfully employed in this curriculum area as the teachers endeavour to cultivate the pupils’ interests in the wider human and natural environments. Lessons are undertaken at the pupil’s bedside or in the school classroom where there is greater scope for discussion and the use of resources such as the interactive whiteboard. Resources to accommodate a wide variety of age and interest levels are available. Cross-curricular linkages are pursued, particularly in relation to language development and the use of the Arts. At the post-primary level suitable links are maintained with the relevant second-level syllabuses and effective use is made of a range of ICT resources.


4.5 Arts Education

The Arts play a vital role in the education provision of this hospital school. Through the Visual Arts, Music and Drama, the pupils are enabled to participate in a range of interesting, enjoyable and beneficial activities. Through the Arts the pupils are encouraged to engage in a variety of imaginative and expressive activities and suitable emphasis is given to the involvement of the children in the creative process. A good range of resources has been developed in relation to Music and the Visual Arts. The implementation of the programme in the Visual Arts benefits from the involvement of a specialist teacher in this curricular area.  The pupils are provided with a wide variety of carefully structured opportunities to engage purposefully in a broad variety of activities.  Suitable links are made with the pupils’ experiences to foster interest and engagement.  They are enabled to experiment with materials and to explore the artistic process in a safe and supportive learning context.  Meaningful engagement with the materials and the artistic process is facilitated. Primary and post-primary pupils explore a range of materials and approaches, including drawing, painting, clay, collage and textiles and construction. Skill development is sensitively and skilfully promoted. The impressive and creative work of the pupils is in evidence on display in the school and in photographic records. It is evident that the pupils greatly enjoy and benefit from their participation in this area of the curriculum and the work undertaken is commended. 


4.6 Physical Education

The opportunities for the pupils to engage in Physical Education are limited for a variety of reasons. The school has recently developed a multi-sensory room and access to this is beneficial for many pupils with particular needs. The school also has a supply of equipment such as beanbags and skittles and these can be used for activities and games where this is appropriate.


4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is recognised as a key area of the curriculum programme being carried out with pupils of the school. The teachers are aware that the pupils may be experiencing difficulties with learning as a result of the interruption of their normal school experience. Staff members endeavour to provide support to the pupils in maintaining confidence in their abilities and providing opportunities to enhance their self-esteem while they contend with their period of illness and hospitalisation. The staff actively promotes a positive and inclusive school climate and this contributes to the achievement of the aims of the SPHE curriculum. The teachers also undertake discreet lessons in aspects of SPHE and relevant themes are integrated across the curriculum areas. A wide range of teaching aids and resources are employed with pupils across the age range.


4.8 Assessment

The school day commences each morning with the compilation of a list of pupils. While some of the pupils will have been in hospital for some time others will be new patients of the hospital. When pupils are first enrolled, the teachers endeavour to identify their priority learning needs. The pupils’ educational progress is monitored through teacher observation, work samples, curriculum checklists and teacher-designed tests and tasks. When appropriate also have access to a number of diagnostic and standardised test materials in the areas of literacy, English reading and Mathematics. Teachers are skilled in providing constructive and sensitive feedback to the pupils.  



5.     Quality of support for pupils


5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The schools mission aims to promote a school where all pupils are welcome, included and supported. School personnel liaise effectively with hospital staff. Weekly multidisciplinary team meetings are attended where updates on the status of the pupils’ conditions are provided and other relevant information is shared. The teachers demonstrate a wide range of skills in supporting a diverse population of pupils in the hospital context. The teachers have acquired considerable knowledge of the medical conditions and the impact of treatment on the pupils’ education. They demonstrate awareness and sensitivity to the psychological and emotional needs of the pupils at this time. They communicate effectively with parents and with the other professionals who are working with the children. The pupils are provided with individualised programmes. The teachers are well organised and flexible in their approach to their teaching, whether in the classroom or ward setting. Where appropriate, follow-up with the pupils’ home schools is made and if necessary, parents are assisted in accessing the home-tuition scheme of the Department of Education and Science.


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

In keeping with its mission to provide an inclusive school community, a considerate, conscientious and equitable approach is in evidence in meeting the needs of the pupils.  Pupils from minority backgrounds, disadvantaged communities and other groups are supported and included in the life of the school community. In meeting the needs of the pupils, the school communicates effectively with other agencies and professionals. To enhance the school's capacity to accommodate pupils from diverse backgrounds, further consideration should be given to the use of the Guidelines on Intercultural Education in the Post-Primary School.



6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development


The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         The chairperson and members of the board of management demonstrate commendable commitment to the mission and ongoing work of the school and the development of its   

      accommodation, policies and resources.

·         The leadership of the principal and in-school management team has contributed significantly to the effective functioning and growth of the school in the hospital context.

·         The principal, teachers and school staff demonstrate high levels of professionalism in their work on behalf of the pupils.

·         The teachers demonstrate awareness, creativity and flexibility in the range of education programmes and activities provided to meet the individual needs of a diverse school population.

·         Collaborative working relationships have been developed with hospital personnel across a range of areas and this contributes beneficially in enabling pupils to access the education services of the school.


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

·         Dedicated in-school management team meetings should be held on a regular basis to concentrate on the longer term and strategic development needs of the school community.

·         School planning and policy development should be extended in relation to identified school priorities.

·         Wherever practicable, teachers should continue to explore and broaden the use of ICT across the range of school activities.


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.





Published December 2009




                                                                                                                              School Response to the Report


Submitted by the Board of Management



Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report


The Board of Management of our Lady’s Hospital school gratefully acknowledges the courtesy and professionalism shown by the inspectorate during the Whole School Evaluation (WSE) process.

We note the positive conclusions contained in the report and are encouraged by the strengths that were identified in the evaluation.

The WSE provided us with the opportunity to stand back and review our policies and processes, have them externally assessed and engage the wider hospital community with respect to educational issues.

We note with satisfaction the compliments paid to the Board of Management and the staff in providing excellence in education in an environment which differs greatly from the mainstream school.



Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the   inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection


The recommendations of the WSE report have been accepted by the Board of Management and Staff.  They will be included in the future development of our Whole School Plan.  These recommendations will also be considered in the design of the educational philosophy which will govern the school planned for the new Tertiary Paediatric Hospital.

The in-school management meetings have been scheduled for the year and are now part of the annual school calendar.

The continued professional development of teachers in the area of ICT has been prioritised by the Board who will continue to advocate for internet access for educational purposes throughout the hospital.

The Board and Staff will remain committed to our mission statement in delivering quality and continuity of education to the pupils in our care.