An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Rathmorrell National School

Causeway County Kerry

Uimhir rolla: 18901O

 

Date of inspection: 20 May 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

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Rathmorrell N.S. was undertaken in May 2009. 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 Visual Arts. 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

Rathmorrell N.S. is a rural mainstream Catholic school under the patronage of the Bishop of Kerry. It is one of three schools in the parish of Causeway. The current enrolment of 13 pupils reflects a steady decline in the general population of the area and this trend has impacted on each of the schools in the parish. It is now timely that the board of management consider the advantages which might accrue from amalgamation. Pupil attendance is very good.

 

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

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

13

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school strives to provide a friendly, caring and supportive environment in which the pupils’ individual talents and self-image are nurtured in partnership with parents. Its mission statement aims to develop in the pupils “skills and attitudes that will allow them to grow up into mature, responsible, well-rounded individuals capable of living fulfilled lives and of making a worthwhile contribution to society”. While the school acknowledges its Catholic ethos, it has due recognition for all religious beliefs.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly. Minutes of meetings are recorded, roles and responsibilities have been assigned to individual board members and finances are carefully managed and certified on an annual basis. This good practice is commended. It is evident that the board has a keen awareness of its responsibilities and a commitment to the promotion of the school. The school building and its grounds are very well maintained and classrooms are well resourced with a range of supportive materials. Consideration might however be given to the provision of more suitable accommodation for the pupils in receipt of supplementary teaching. The board of management and representatives of the parent association report very high satisfaction with the educational provision made for the pupils in the school. 

  

1.3 In-school management

The principal discharges her duties in a highly professional manner. She attends to her administrative and managerial duties very efficiently and she places pupil welfare and attainment at the centre of decision making. The special duties teacher has been assigned a range of duties which she discharges conscientiously. The in-school management team works collaboratively and effectively in the best interests of the school and its pupils.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school has established very good relationships with the parents and the school community. Monthly newsletters keep parents informed of upcoming events and pupil successes. Parent teacher meetings are held annually. The results of standardised tests are communicated and explained to parents at these meetings. Detailed end of year school reports are issued to all parents. These reports outline the pupils’ social and academic progress. It is evident that parents, in keeping with the school mission statement, are regarded as partners in the education of their children. This good practice is highly commended.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The school actively promotes a welcoming school climate in which the pupils are encouraged to be kind and caring. A spirit of mutual respect, in keeping with the school ethos, is actively promoted. The pupils are valued members of the school community. Their pastoral needs are managed very effectively and their holistic development is nurtured.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The school is commended for the very high quality of its whole-school plan. This plan has been drafted by the teaching staff and presented to the board for discussion and ratification. Parents have been provided with the opportunity to contribute to some of the organisational policies and this good practice is recognised. Copies of reviewed documents are placed on the school notice board and relevant policies are communicated to parents. Of particular note is the manner in which the plan reflects the school context and the needs of the pupils. 

 

Teachers prepare very comprehensive long and short term planning in preparation for their work. This ensures the effective delivery of a broad curriculum to the pupils. It is now recommended that increased emphasis be placed in this planning to ensure greater balance in the delivery of the strand units of each curriculum area and on the identification of an increased range of opportunities for pupils to engage in collaborative and co-operative learning activities.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

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

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Múintear an Ghaeilge go han-éifeachtach sa scoil seo. Is léir go bhfuil an curaclam leasaithe á chur i bhfeidhm san ábhar agus baintear ardchaighdeán amach ag na ndaltaí i bhfoghlaim na Gaeilge i gcoitinne. Cuirtear béim inmholta ar leathnú stór focal agus ar chumas chainte na ndaltaí ag gach leibhéal. Baintear úsáid as straitéisí teagaisc agus as modheolaíochtaí éagsúla chun scileanna éisteachta agus labhartha na ndaltaí a chur chun cinn. Moltar, anois, béim níos treise a chur ar an éisteacht mar shnáith den churaclam sna ranganna go léir agus cleachtaí éisteachta agus scéalaíochta a chur i láthair na ndaltaí ar bhonn rialta. Moltar, freisin, breis bhéime a leagadh ar abairtí iomlána i nGaeilge a chur ar taispeáint sna seomraí ranga agus timpeallacht phrionta i nGaeilge a chruthú chun cleachtais sa luathlitearthacht a éascú.

 

Déantar freastal tairbheach ar an réamh-léitheoireacht agus ar an réamh-scríbhneoireacht sna bunranganna. Feictear toradh na hoibre seo sna hardranganna agus tá caighdeán creidiúnach sroichte ag na daltaí. Léann a bhformhór le cruinneas. B’fhiú machnamh a dhéanamh anois, áfach, ar éagsúlacht ábhar léitheoireachta a úsáid tríd an scoil, chun saibhreas foclóra agus léitheoireacht neamhspleách na ndaltaí a fhorbairt a thuilleadh. Tá cleachtas an-mhaith ar bun maidir le teagasc na scríbhneoirechta sna ranganna go léir. Tá neart samplaí d’obair scríofa na ndaltaí ar fail ina gcóipleabhair, agus baineann caighdéan an-chreidiúnach le cuid mhaith dá gcuid saothair. Moltar, áfach, straitéisí éagsúla a chleachtadh chun raon genres na scríbhneoireachta a leathnú.

 

Irish

Irish is very effectively taught in this school. It is evident that a broad curriculum is presented in this subject area? and a high standard is achieved by the pupils in the learning of Irish in general. A praiseworthy emphasis is placed on the extension of vocabulary and on the ability of the pupils to speak at  every level. Use is made of a variety of teaching strategies and methodologies to develop the pupils’ listening and speaking skills. It is now recommended that further emphasis be placed on developing the Listening stand of the curriculum in all classes. Exercises in listening and activities in story telling should be presented to the pupils on a regular basis. It is also recommended that more emphasis be placed on displaying full sentences in Irish in the classroom and creating an Irish language print environment to facilitate practice in early literacy.

 

Beneficial attention is placed on pre reading and pre writing in the junior classes. The fruits of this work are seen in the senior classes and a creditable standard has been reached by the pupils. The majority of the pupils read with accuracy. It is important now to consider the use of a variety of reading materials throughout the school in order to further develop a rich vocabulary and to develop pupils as independent readers. Very good practice is evident regarding the teaching of Irish writing in all classes. There are many examples of written work in the pupils’ copybooks and a very credible standard has been attained in much of their work. It is recommended however that a variety of strategies be practiced which would increase the range of genres in writing.

 

English

The teachers are praised for the manner in which they outline a programme of work in oral language which addresses each strand unit of the curriculum. Care is taken to identify suitable age appropriate lesson content which succeeds in gaining the interest of the pupils and which supports pupil learning in other curriculum areas. It is however recommended that increased emphasis be placed on the identification of learning activities which provide pupils with opportunities to use language purposefully. This would necessitate the creation and facilitation of organisational structures in which talk can take place. These will vary with the nature and function of the activity but should consist of the various permutations of whole-class, group and one-to-one talk on a regular basis.

 

English reading is very well taught in the school and pupil achievement in this area is of a very high standard. Pupils’ receptiveness to language is promoted through the exploration of novels, the reading of large-format books and through the effective exploration of poetry. Their confidence and competence in the use of language is promoted through the systematic development of phonological awareness skills, the teaching of word attack skills and the emphasis placed on the conventions of print and the provision of an impressive range of reading materials. Print rich environments have also been created in each classroom. The teachers carefully attend to the development of the pupils’ comprehension skills and in the lessons observed the reading material was very well explored and pupils were facilitated to reconstruct and reflect on the content of the texts read.  Drama activities assist in the development of the pupils’ emotional and imaginative responses to language.

 

Pupils throughout the school are facilitated to write for different audiences in a wide range of topics and in a variety of genres. The quality of their written work reflects the high standards they have achieved. It is recommended however that they be facilitated to encounter the different genres of writing on a more regular basis and that increased emphasis be placed on the writing process. It is further recommended that emergent writing activities be organised on a more regular basis in the infant classes.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is of a good to a very good standard. In the lessons observed, activities were organised which facilitated the active participation of the pupils in the learning process. In these lessons care was taken to familiarise the pupils with the mathematical language they were to encounter and activities were organised which enabled the pupils to engage in problem solving. The school is well resourced with a range of concrete materials. The Mathematics environment in the classrooms might however be further developed. Teacher planning indicates that oral mathematical activities are a regular feature in lessons and this good practice is commended. Pupils display a commendable ability to recall number facts and to complete numerical operations. There is evidence of good linkage between the strand units. It is now recommended that increased emphasis be placed on the development of mathematical concepts particularly as they pertain to the strands shape and space and measures and that pupils be facilitated to encounter all strands of the Mathematics curriculum on a termly basis. Increased emphasis might also be placed on the systematic development of mathematical skills and the application of mathematics to the real life experiences of the pupils.

 

3.3 Visual Arts

The pupils’ sense of achievement is actively developed in Visual Arts lessons. There is evidence of good integration of these lessons with other curriculum areas particularly in the junior classes. A very good balance is struck between the creation of two-and three-dimensional art work and the quality of the work completed by the pupils is of a very high standard. It is recommended however, that teachers ensure that the principles of the Visual Arts curriculum are reflected in the activities planned. Particular focus should be placed on the creative process in which the process of making art is as valuable as the final product and in which emphasis is focused on exploring and experimenting with the expressive possibilities of different materials, tools and media and with the choices they offer for different tasks. The development of an awareness of the visual elements in the pupils should also be emphasised so as to ensure progression in the artistic skills and abilities of the pupils.   

 

3.4 Assessment

The quality of the assessment of pupil progress in the school is of a very high standard. A profile is maintained for each pupil in which details of progress at each class level are recorded. Samples of work completed by them are also maintained. The records retained in relation to pupils in receipt of supplementary teaching are very detailed. Copies of progress records and of the Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are included along with communications entered into with parents and support agencies. This good practice is highly commended. Assessment data is effectively utilised to inform teaching and learning. Pupils’ written work is regularly monitored and evaluated by the teachers and on occasion helpful comments are included outlining how the pupil might improve their individual performance. This good practice and the practice of encouraging the pupils to self-evaluate their own work might now be further developed.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school engages the services of a learning support teacher who works in the school for three days a week, and a resource teacher for special educational needs who provides support to one pupil each day for an hour. The commitment of these teachers to the support of pupils with identified learning needs is praiseworthy. The IEPs which they prepare, in collaboration with the parents of the pupils, are of a very high standard. The progress of the pupils is recorded on a daily, weekly and termly basis and effectively informs the formulation of future programmes of work. The lessons observed were of a very high standard and it is evident that the pupils are making significant progress in their learning commensurate with their abilities.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

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

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, November 2009