An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Gortskehy National School
Hollymount, Co. Mayo
Roll number: 18880J
Date of inspection: 12 March 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Gortskehy National School was undertaken in March 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Gortskehy School is a two-teacher, co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Hollymount, Co Mayo. It is a very good school. Most of the pupils come from the Gortskehy area, with the remainder coming from other parts of Hollymount parish and the neighbouring parishes. It is expected that enrolment figures will increase slightly over the next few years, due to the building of new houses in the area.
The core of the school building dates from 1964. A major renovation was completed in 2002. There are two mainstream classrooms. There is a also an office which is used as the learning support and resource classroom. There are pupil and staff toilets. There is no general purposes room or staff room. The building and school grounds are very well maintained.
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
The Catholic Archbishop of Tuam is the patron of the school. The school’s mission statement is set out in the school plan. The school is characterised by very positive working relationships among the whole school community: management, teachers, parents and pupils. There is a welcoming and homely atmosphere in the school and a stimulating learning environment is provided for all pupils.
The board of management meets around four or five times a year. Minutes are kept of the proceedings of board meetings. The board of management is to be commended for its support for the school and for the close contact it maintains with school personnel. The board discusses and ratifies all school policies. The board’s current priorities include the maintenance and development of the school building and grounds. The board is also constantly seeking to improve the facilities available in the school. It is hoped to obtain a temporary classroom for the learning support and resource service in the near future.
The board of management has invested in a wide range of educational resources to support the implementation of the curriculum in all curricular areas. The school is well equipped. The mainstream classrooms are arranged and decorated to provide a very stimulating learning environment for pupils. The school grounds are very well laid out and provide an attractive and stimulating children’s play area.
The in-school management team consists of the principal and one special duties teacher. The principal’s management and curricular duties are carried out conscientiously and competently. The principal’s vision has ensured that a very attractive and homely learning environment has been created in the school.
The school staff operates very well as a team. The work of all of the teachers is carried out competently and diligently. The staff meets informally at the beginning and end of every school day. Formal meetings are usually planning days. These are usually held at the beginning and end of each school term.
Roll books, registers and all school records are carefully maintained. The work of the cleaners and the caretaker has ensured that the school is very clean and tidy both inside and outside.
While there is no parents’ association in the school, very positive relations exist between parents and teachers. There is a good level of parental involvement in the school. The parents are very satisfied with the education provided in the school.
The diligent work of the teachers has been crucial in establishing Gortskehy School’s very good reputation in the local area. Parents are given an oral report on the progress of their children at the formal parent-teacher meetings that are organised annually. A written school report on the progress of every child is sent to his or her parents at the end of every school year. The school deals with parents’ concerns in an open way. Parents are welcome to discuss pupils’ progress or other issues with the principal or class teacher at any time. The parents receive newsletters from the principal to keep them informed about events in the school.
The pupils in Gortskehy School hold their teachers in very high regard. They are very well behaved. They get on well with each other and are welcoming and courteous to visitors to the school. The teachers have a warm relationship with their pupils. This has led to the creation of a homely atmosphere in the school. This is effectively combined with a vibrant learning atmosphere. The pupils participate willingly in lessons and the other school activities provided for them.
The school plan has been put together to cater for the specific needs of Gortskehy school. The teachers value the support received from cuiditheoirí and facilitators from national in-service training initiatives. This support has contributed in a useful way to the school planning process.
The school plan is available for parents to consult. Parents are welcome to contribute their opinions and suggestions on school policies at any time. It is recommended, however, that parents be offered a more formal opportunity to access the school plan on an annual basis. The board of management ratifies all administrative policies and curricular plans prior to their inclusion in the school plan.
Plans are available for all of the curricular areas in which the teachers have received in-service training. Appropriate organisational policies have been developed on a wide range of school matters. Among these policies are a health and safety statement, an enrolment policy and a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy. An equality statement has also been developed.
The teachers in Gortskehy School implement a broad and balanced curriculum. Teachers’ classroom planning is clear and gives a good overview of the work planned. Long-term and short-term schemes of work are prepared and monthly progress records are kept. The teachers keep to an appropriate timetable. The timetables are based on the suggested minimum time framework set out in the primary school curriculum.
Individual education plans (IEPs) are developed for pupils attending learning support or in receipt of resource hours. The IEPs are regularly reviewed. It is recommended that the short-term planning for pupils with special educational needs should be reviewed to provide clearer information. All relevant records are filed in the learning support room. Copies of individual pupils’ education plans are also kept in class teachers’ files.
Confirmation was provided to confirm that, in compliance wiht Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management and staff have formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
Tuigeann na hoidí i Scoil Ghort Sceiche an tábhacht a bhaineann le dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge a chothú. Tá sé seo le sonrú ach go háirithe sna bunranganna, ina mbaineann na daltaí an-taitneamh as na cluichí teanga. Leagann na hoidí i ngach rang an bhéim cheart ar an dteanga labhartha. Is féidir leis na daltaí i ngach rang labhairt fúthu féin go soiléir as Gaeilge. Baineann na hoidí úsáid chreidiúnach as dráma sna ceachtanna Gaeilge. Éiríonn leo foclóir na ndaltaí a leathnú go céimniúil tríd an scoil.
Aithrisíonn agus canann na daltaí uile rainn, dánta agus amhráin as Gaeilge. Forbraítear an léitheoireacht go héifeachtach ó rang a dó ar aghaidh. Léann na daltaí os ard go líofa. Freagraíonn siad ceisteanna go cumasach bunaithe ar an léitheoireacht. Tá cló i nGaeilge le feiceáil i dtimpeallacht na scoile. Déantar obair inmholta sa scríbhneoireacht. Tá ardchaighdeán le sonrú i gcóipleabhair agus i leabhair saothair na ndaltaí.
The teachers in Gortskehy School understand the importance of fostering a positive attitude to Irish. This is especially noticeable in the junior classes, where the pupils very much enjoy language games. The teachers in every class place the correct emphasis on oral language skills. The pupils in all classes can talk about themselves clearly in Irish. The teachers use drama creditably in Irish lessons. They succeed in expanding pupils’ vocabularies in a graded way throughout the school.
All of the pupils in the school can recite and sing rhymes, poems and songs in Irish. Reading is developed effectively from second class onwards. The pupils read aloud fluently and they answer questions competently based on their reading. There is a print-rich environment in Irish throughout the school. Commendable work has been done in writing. A high standard is evident in the pupils’ copybooks and workbooks.
Most pupils attain high standards in English. Oral language development is appropriately emphasised. Most of the pupils can speak about themselves, their interests and a variety of other topics articulately and enthusiastically. The work done on the recitation, study and writing of poetry in every class is impressive.
There is a print-rich environment throughout the school. As part of the foundation of basic reading skills, appropriate emphasis is placed on the development of phonological awareness in the junior classes.
Class libraries are very well stocked overall. They provide a reasonably good supply of books for readers at all levels of age and ability. It is recommended, however, that new books be purchased more regularly to provide an even more varied supply. Shared reading, or a planned programme of independent reading, takes place in all classes. Clear records are kept to ensure that pupils read a number of books each year.
The standard of English writing throughout the school is very high. There are good examples of pupils’ writing in a wide variety of genres on display in every class. The writing process is appropriately emphasised and written work is carefully edited and published in class. Copybooks and workbooks contain highly commendable work in functional and creative writing.
The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken competently in Gortskehy. A particularly good foundation in Mathematics is laid in the junior classes. This has contributed significantly to the high standards in Mathematics achieved by most pupils in the school. The pupils have a good knowledge of mathematical terms. The correct emphasis is placed on solving mathematical problems.
A wide range of mathematical equipment is available in the school and these materials are used effectively to enhance pupils’ learning. A stimulating maths-rich environment has been developed in the school with Mathematics corners and mathematical posters in all classes. The pupils record their work very neatly. This work is regularly checked and corrected by the teachers.
The combination of programmes set out in Making the Links is used as the basis of SPHE lessons in Gortskehy school. In conjunction with this, drama, co-operative games and discussion are used to enhance SPHE lessons. Healthy eating receives appropriate emphasis throughout the school. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is also covered appropriately.
Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to pupils in English and Mathematics once a year. The results of the standardised tests are filed centrally. They are used to compare pupils in the school with national averages and to identify pupils who are in need of learning support. The other main assessment tools used in the school are teacher observation and teacher-designed tests. Projects, experiments and portfolios of work done by pupils in a wide range of curricular areas are also used to assess pupils’ progress.
The learning support and resource teachers use a variety of diagnostic tests. These tests help to identify the specific needs of pupils with learning difficulties. They also aid in the development of individual education plans (IEPs). More emphasis on early intervention should help pupils who are experiencing difficulty as soon as possible.
The school has developed an appropriate learning support and special educational needs policy. The policy clearly sets out the school’s procedures for screening, planning and implementation. The school policy is effectively implemented, but it is recommended that more imaginative ways of providing support be considered for inclusion in the plan in the future. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving supplementary teaching. Parents are kept regularly informed about their children’s progress.
Learning support and resource teaching take place in the school office. The accommodation is comfortable and is decorated with some educational charts. Nevertheless, the school intends to obtain a temporary additional room, for example a portakabin, to provide a more stable venue. Learning support, on a withdrawal from class basis, is offered to all pupils who need it in English and Mathematics. The learning support and resource service should now be reviewed to identify areas where the service provided could be enhanced further.
All pupils in the school are treated equally and fairly. The school has an open enrolment policy. School funds and grants are used to ensure that every pupil can participate fully in all school activities.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· Gortskehy National School is a very good school.
· There is a positive and enthusiastic learning atmosphere in the school.
· The board of management is very supportive of the work of the school.
· The teachers are very conscientious and diligent in their work.
· Effective teaching methods are used in all classes.
· The school grounds are very attractively maintained and are child-friendly.
· The school plan is clearly laid out and is based on the needs of the school.
· A very good standard is achieved in Irish throughout the school.
· The emphasis placed on the teaching of English is highly commendable.
· The work done in the teaching and learning of Mathematics is very good.
· The quality of work in SPHE is impressive.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· Classroom libraries should be constantly replenished with recently published books.
· The learning support and resource service should be reviewed to enhance further the high quality of education offered in the school.
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 October 2008