An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Naomh Peadar agus Pól
Straide County Mayo
Uimhir rolla: 18848N
Date of inspection: 5 December 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Naomh Peadar agus Pól was undertaken in December 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 History. 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.
Introduction – school context and background
Scoil Naomh Peadar agus Pól is a rural school located between Foxford and Castlebar. The number of pupils enrolled has been increasing steadily in recent years. The school caters for boys and girls from infants to sixth class. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Achonry. It avails of funding and a co-ordinator under the Delivering Equality of Opportunities in Schools (DEIS) initiative.
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
The school’s mission statement highlights the commitment to creating a welcoming, caring and safe environment that is evident within the school. Pupils are valued and respected as individuals. The school is particularly effective in promoting inclusive strategies for pupils with special educational needs. It ensures equality of access and participation for all pupils. While the school is proud of the Catholic values it promotes, it respects the rights of pupils and parents of different religious denominations.
1.2 Board of management
The board is effective in managing the school. It meets monthly and maintains minutes of each meeting. The growth of the school and the subsequent accommodation needs are issues that are commonly raised at these meetings. The board has a maintenance plan which has included the re-roofing of the school and the enhancement of the playground with funding from the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs’ CLÁR scheme. The chairperson visits the school twice weekly.
1.3 In-school management
The principal is an effective leader. She has established very positive relationships with the parent body. She organises monthly staff meetings, which facilitate the review of school policies and procedures. It is recommended that posts of responsibility be reviewed on a regular basis to meet the changing needs of the school. It is also recommended that the principal ensure pupil outcomes are in line with school objectives at each class level.
1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community
Home-school relationships are managed very effectively. There is an active parents’ association in the school, which meets each quarter. There are clear communication procedures between the association and the board of management. Parents engage in fundraising activities, an annual clean-up of the school grounds and a variety of curricular initiatives such as their voluntary reading scheme. There is an induction programme in place for incoming junior infants. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually. Reports on pupil progress are issued annually. Parents also receive newsletters and notes to inform them of school events.
1.5 Management of pupils
The quality of pupil management is very good. The school has a concise, pupil-friendly code of behaviour which is distributed to parents on enrolment. Pupils are welcoming, mannerly and mature. They respond with respect to their teachers and other school personnel. Pupils are carefully managed within their classrooms and during break times.
2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning
The quality of whole-school planning is fair. The school has produced a number of plans and policies, which are contained in the school plan. The planning process involves the teaching staff. There is, however, insufficient emphasis on whole-school planning as a continuous process. Therefore, plans are not impacting on school life. It is recommended that plans and policies be reviewed so that they relate to the school’s context and provide clear guidelines for school personnel. The staff should also engage in regular self-review and use a planning diary and action plans for areas of development.
The quality of classroom planning is fair. Teachers provide long-term and short-term schemes of work. However, these schemes are generally based on textbook and workbook content. Consequently, some of the learning objectives are not explicitly linked to the curriculum. The majority of schemes are not in accordance with the policy recorded in the school plan. Some teachers plan for differentiation, for resource use and for assessment, a practice which is commended. It is recommended that the staff implement a whole-school approach to classroom planning.
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.
Tá caighdeán na Gaeilge an-mhaith i ranganna áirithe agus go measartha i ranganna eile. Baineann struchtúr cinnte leis na ceachtanna. Úsáidtear amhráin, dánta, póstaeir agus cluichí teanga go héifeachtach chun na daltaí a spreagadh. Baintear feidhm chuí as rudaí nithiúla sa scoil chun tuiscint a chothú. Bíonn daltaí sna hardranganna in ann labhairt go leanúnach ar théamaí éagsúla. Moltar do mhúinteoirí áirithe a chinntiú go bhfuil na daltaí ag foghlaim de réir na gcuspóirí atá leagtha amach sna scéimeanna oibre. I ranganna áirithe bíonn an Drámaíocht in úsáid go tairbheach chun na daltaí a chur ag caint. Tacaíonn an Drámaíocht le rannpháirtíocht daltaí le riachtanais speisialta. Baineann líofacht le caint na ndaltaí sinsireacha. Moltar an Ghaeilge a úsáid go neamhfhoirmiúil ar bhonn leanúnach i rith an lae scoile. Moltar chomh maith béim bhreise a leagan ar obair bheirte chun an cur chuige cumarsáideach a chur chun cinn.
Múintear an léitheoireacht go neamhfhoirmiúil trí luaschartaí agus póstaeir sa timpeallacht. Tosaítear le léitheoireacht fhoirmiúil i rang a dó. Léann na daltaí go maith ach is gá aird a dhíriú ar fhoghraíocht chun cruinneas na léitheoireachta a fhorbairt. Leagann formhór na n-oidí béim inmholta ar an bhfilíocht, rud a chuireann go mór le léitheoireacht na Gaeilge. Tosaítear le scríbhneoireacht fhoirmiúil i rang a haon. Moltar í a thosnú i rang a dó, mar a mholtar i gCuraclam na Bunscoile. Moltar chomh maith an scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach a chothú agus a fhorbairt.
The quality of Irish is very good in some classrooms and fair in others. Lessons have a definite structure. Songs, poems, posters and language games are used effectively to motivate the pupils. Appropriate use is made of concrete materials to promote understanding. Pupils in the senior classes are able to speak at length about different topics. It is necessary for some teachers to ensure that learning outcomes are in line with the objectives set out in schemes of work. In some classrooms Drama is used advantageously to inspire the pupils to speak. Drama also supports the participation of pupils with special educational needs. The senior pupils speak with fluency. It is recommended that Irish be used informally throughout the school day. It is also recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on pair work to promote the communicative approach.
Reading is taught informally through the use of flashcards and posters in the environment. Formal reading begins in second class. Pupils’ standard of reading is good although it is necessary to focus on pronunciation to promote greater accuracy of reading. A majority of teachers place a praiseworthy emphasis on poetry, which greatly helps with the reading of Irish. Formal writing begins in first class. It is recommended that this begin in second class, as recommended in the Primary School Curriculum. It is further recommended that creative writing be promoted and developed.
Pupils at all class levels have developed good oral-language skills. They can express themselves clearly and confidently. Receptive skills are emphasised and pupils listen very attentively to the class teacher and to their peers. These skills are generally taught through class discussions. Pair work is used fruitfully in the senior classes. It is advised that a more structured whole-school approach to oral language be devised to ensure that vocabulary is developed systematically through discrete oral-language lessons and particular cross-curricular strategies.
The reading process is modelled very well by teachers. Pupils are introduced to the conventions of books at infant level. Some teachers use a very effective blend of approaches to reading. Pupils get opportunities to engage in shared reading, silent reading and reading aloud. A majority of pupils read with fluency, accuracy and expression. They also show an appropriate understanding of punctuation. Pupils from first class to sixth class study a class novel. The school has invested in a very impressive range of books for each class library. Pupils enjoy reading and discussing their books. Teachers at all class levels should read aloud for their pupils on a more regular basis. It is recommended that the staff discuss a whole-school approach to teaching reading and developing reading strategies.
For the most part, the teaching of English writing follows the pupils’ textbooks. Pupils’ written work in the middle and senior levels is of a good standard but would benefit from a whole-school approach to the presentation of written work. 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. There is little evidence of the writing process being used consistently. Pupils should be given more opportunities for creative writing and independent writing.
The quality of teaching in Mathematics is very good. Mathematics lessons are conducted with energy and enthusiasm. The school has an appropriate array of equipment and mathematical aids to assist understanding. The pupils display good knowledge and understanding of their work in Mathematics. They enjoy mental questions and the challenge of mental tasks. They display accurate and complete knowledge of various facets of their programme. Teachers include discussion as a central element of the Mathematics programme. At infant level a very good emphasis is placed on number rhymes and on producing booklets to consolidate learning on number. Appropriate use is made of the environment and pupils’ experiences. It is recommended that a greater range of methodologies be used in the teaching of Mathematics.
Classroom planning for the teaching of History incorporates the strands and strand units of the curriculum. Highly effective teaching was observed in some classrooms. In these cases pupils’ skills as historians are effectively developed through the examination of artefacts and through project work. Story and family histories are used effectively in the infant classes to develop the concept of continuity and change over time. In senior classes, pupils engage in project work and are afforded opportunities to present their projects orally to the class. Commendable examples of projects encompassing the strand of Life, society, work and culture are displayed in the senior classroom. Pupils in some classes demonstrate very good levels of interest in topics covered and discuss them with confidence. The very good practice observed should now form the basis for the whole-school plan for History and should be adopted by each teacher. It is essential that teachers ensure that concepts and topics taught have been understood and assimilated by the pupils. It is recommended that teachers engage in higher-order questioning to further develop the concept of cause and effect.
The progress of individual pupils for English and Mathematics is tracked annually through the administration of standardised tests. It is recommended that the staff examine the assessment data to identify the areas of the English curriculum that would benefit from a whole-school approach. Teachers correct the written work of the pupils on a very regular basis but generally provide limited or no feedback on their work. Teachers should consider a whole-school approach to assessing areas of the curriculum for which there is no standardised test available.
4.1 Pupils with special educational needs
The quality of support teaching is good. The school has ensured that many relevant resources have been secured for pupils with special educational needs. Staff members liase regularly with other professionals to ensure that the needs of these pupils are met. All teachers prepare individual education plans for pupils in receipt of support. These plans detail the learning objectives to be achieved by the end of each term. While parents are involved in devising such individual plans, it is recommended that they be given a copy of the completed plan. Pupils experience high success rates and receive regular praise and affirmation. There are very attractive displays evident in some of the support classrooms showing colourful teaching resources and the work of the pupils. The school implements a commendable early-intervention programme. It is recommended that the school’s policy on support teaching be reviewed in the light of the Department of Education and Science’s circular 02/05.
4.2 Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups
This school avails of the services of a DEIS co-ordinator who is based in the school. She also serves two other schools. She is effective in her role. She has established a number of praiseworthy initiatives in the school, including an induction programme for incoming infants, ‘Maths for fun’ and shared reading. Parents are involved in many initiatives, which is providing training for them on aspects of the curriculum. It is recommended that such initiatives be continued from year to year to maximise their effect.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The board of management is effective in its management of the school.
· The school has a very inclusive mission statement, which is promoted in all school activities. It is particularly successful at ensuring equality of access and participation for all pupils.
· The principal has established very good working relations among staff members, which ensures that a welcoming and friendly environment prevails in the school.
· The partnership between parents and school staff is commendable.
· The parents’ association is active in raising money to support educational initiatives.
· The quality of teaching, particularly in Mathematics, is good.
· Support teachers meet the needs of individual pupils through carefully structured and sequenced activities. They are affirming and supportive.
· The DEIS co-ordinator ensures that the school engages in worthwhile initiatives to support teaching and learning in the areas of literacy and numeracy.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school.
· It is recommended that all teachers ensure the Primary School Curriculum is implemented in full in their classrooms in terms of pupil outcomes and methodologies.
· It is recommended that the staff devise and implement a whole-school approach to classroom planning.
· It is recommended that the staff implement the school development planning process to include the use of a planning diary and action plans.
· It is recommended that teachers make use of information and communication technologies throughout the curriculum.
· It is recommended that parents of pupils attending support classes be given a copy of their child’s education plan.
· It is recommended that the school fully implements its support for pupils in accordance with Department of Education and Science circular 02/05.
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 March 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
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 staff has implemented a whole school approach to classroom planning by using a common template for each subject area. As recommended we are developing an action plan for oral language to ensure that vocabulary is systematically developed. The use of ICT has been developed further in all classrooms through project work, web design, word processing and literacy programmes. Parents of children attending support classes have been given a copy of their children’s IEPs. The school had already been implementing Circular 02/05 but had not recorded stage 1 of the process. This has now been seen to.