An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Cloonliffen National School
Roll number: 18922W
Date of inspection: 7 December 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Cloonliffen National School, Ballinrobe, Co Mayo. 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 inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector 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 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.
Cloonliffen School is a four-teacher, co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Ballinrobe, Co Mayo. There are currently 77 pupils enrolled. All of the pupils come either from the Cloonliffen area or from Ballinrobe town, about five kilometres away. It is expected that enrolment figures will remain strong in the future.
The current school building dates from 1964. There are two mainstream classrooms, a small office, cloakrooms and toilets in this building. Portakabins were added in 2003 to provide a third mainstream classroom and a learning support classroom. There is no general purposes room or staff room in the school. The building and school grounds are well maintained. The board of management has applied to the Planning and Building Unit of the Department of Education and Science for an extension to the school. This extension would provide much-needed extra space and permanent accommodation.
The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam. The board of management is properly constituted and meets once or twice a term, more often if necessary. Meetings follow agenda and minutes are taken. School policies are discussed and ratified at board meetings. The board of management is to be commended for supporting the school and maintaining close contact it with school personnel. The board’s main priority at present is to secure permission to build the extension and to continue to improve school facilities in general.
The in-school management team consists of the principal, the deputy principal and one special duties teacher. The principal’s administrative and curricular duties are carried out competently and conscientiously. The principal has a clear vision for the school and ensures that a positive atmosphere pervades the school. Roll books, registers and all school records are carefully maintained. Formal staff meetings are held twice a year.
Roles have been agreed for the deputy principal and the special duties teacher. The work pertaining to these posts is carried out diligently. These duties should now be even more clearly outlined and all schedules of duties should be included in the school plan. This should assist in providing a better balance among curricular, organisational and pastoral duties.
School personnel are deployed in an efficient manner. The work of the teachers, the special needs assistant (SNA), the secretarial and cleaning staff contributes to the smooth running of the school. There is a yard to the front of the school, a games court at the side and a small playing pitch at the rear. The addition of the proposed extension will not affect these useful resources. The school is clean and tidy both inside and outside.
The board of management has invested in a range of educational resources to support the implementation of the curriculum in various curricular areas, especially Physical Education (PE). The school is thus reasonably well-equipped, although ongoing investment needs to continue to ensure up-to-date and stimulating resources are always available, for example in English. Most classrooms are arranged and decorated to provide a stimulating learning environment for pupils.
There is some emphasis placed on the development of information and communication technologies (ICT) and computers are available in every classroom. Films and DVDs have been put together on various school projects and occasions.
Positive relations are fostered with parents and there is a reasonable level of parental involvement in the life of the school. Formal parent-teacher meetings are organised annually in December. The school deals with parents’ concerns in a very open way. Parents are welcome to discuss pupils’ progress or other issues with the principal or class teacher at any time. Frequent newsletters are sent to parents by the principal. This ensures that parents are kept well informed about the work of the school.
The parents’ association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council and meets once a month. There is regular contact between the association and the principal. Parents help out on sports days and by accompanying teachers and pupils on school outings.
The pupils in Cloonliffen School are very well behaved. They demonstrate good communication and interpersonal skills among themselves, with teachers and with visitors to the school. The pupils in almost all classes eagerly participate in the learning experiences provided.
Very valuable work has been undertaken in the development of the school plan. The support received from cuiditheoirí and facilitators from national in-service training initiatives has contributed in a useful way to the school planning process. The teachers have invested a great deal of time and energy into putting together a clear and specific plan that caters for the needs of the school in the various curricular and policy areas.
The school plan is available for parents to consult and parents have been asked to contribute their opinions and suggestions on a number of school policies. The board of management ratifies all administrative policies and curricular plans prior to their inclusion in the school plan.
The school’s vision, aims and priorities are set out clearly in the school plan. Emphasis is placed on the “open door” policy of the school. Plans are available for almost all of the curricular areas. It is expected that those subjects or areas not yet covered will be addressed in the coming year.
Organisational policies have been developed on a wide range of topics. Specifically, these include a health and safety statement, an enrolment policy and a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy. An attendance strategy and an equality statement have also been drawn up.
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, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The teachers in Cloonliffen are committed to implementing a broad and balanced curriculum. Teachers’ classroom planning is adequate overall. Some teachers need to place more emphasis on this work to show clearly the work that they have planned. Long-term and short-term schemes of work are prepared and monthly progress records are kept. It is recommended that all teachers should devise a timetable for their work and that this should accord closely with the suggested minimum time framework set out in the primary school curriculum.
Individual learning programmes are developed and regularly reviewed for pupils attending learning support or in receipt of resource hours. These records are filed in the learning-support room. Copies of these education plans should also be kept in class teachers’ files in future.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The overall quality of education offered in Cloonliffen is very good. Pupils achieve high standards in most curricular areas. Overall standards in PE are very high. Where improvement is recommended, for example in English and Mathematics, it is to raise still further already commendable standards and to strive for excellence.
The quality of teaching in most classes is of a high standard. A variety of methodologies is used during the school day, for example teacher modelling, storytelling, drama, language games, group work, project work and discussion.
Cothaítear dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge sa scoil. Baineann múinteoirí agus daltaí úsáid as Gaeilge mar theanga caidrimh i rith an lae. Leagann na hoidí an bhéim cheart ar an dteanga labhartha. Mar sin, is féidir le formhór na ndaltaí sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna labhairt fúthu féin agus ceisteanna a fhreagairt go soiléir as Gaeilge. Ba cheart aistriúchán ó Bhéarla go Gaeilge chun foclóir na ndaltaí a mhéadú a sheachaint.
Aithrisíonn agus canann na daltaí i ngach rang rainn, dánta agus amhráin as Gaeilge. Forbraítear an léitheoireacht go héifeachtach ó rang a dó ar aghaidh. Léann formhór na ndaltaí os ard go réasúnta líofa agus tuigeann siad an méid atá léite acu. D’fhéadfaí anois níos mó béime a chur ar fhorbairt cló i nGaeilge i dtimpeallacht na scoile. Cé go ndéantar obair úsáideach i gcúrsaí scríbhneoireachta, b’fhiú a thuilleadh béıme a chur ar an gcuid seo den obair as seo amach.
A positive attitude to Irish is fostered in the school. Both teachers and pupils use Irish in conversation during the school day. The teachers place the correct emphasis on oral language skills. Because of this, most pupils in the middle and senior classes can talk about themselves and can answer questions clearly in Irish. Direct translation from English to Irish, as a means of expanding pupils’ vocabulary, should be avoided.
The pupils in every class can recite and sing rhymes, poems and songs in Irish. Reading is developed effectively from second class onwards. Most pupils read aloud fluently and they understand what they have read. More emphasis should now be placed on developing a print-rich environment in Irish throughout the school. Although useful work has been done in writing, greater emphasis should be placed on this area from now on.
The standards attained in English in the school are commendable. Oral language is appropriately emphasised. Clear articulation and proper expression are encouraged throughout the school. A wide selection of poems and rhymes can be recited by the pupils in every class.
A suitable print-rich environment is evident in most classrooms and this work should be further developed throughout the school. Phonological awareness is developed as part of the foundation of basic reading skills in the junior classes. This work, however, needs to receive more focus and attention in the future. Much emphasis is placed on developing reading skills in the other classes and this ensures that a high standard of reading is achieved by most pupils.
It is recommended that the school should strive for even higher standards in English reading in the future. As part of this work, class libraries should be more attractively presented and restocked regularly to encourage reluctant readers. Shared reading should be expanded and care should be taken to ensure that pupils in all classes read a number of books each year.
There are examples of pupils’ writing in a variety of genres on display in some classes. This work should be expanded in every class. It is clear that emphasis is placed on the writing process and pupils’ copybooks show evidence of very good work in functional writing. There should, in future, be more regular opportunities provided for pupils to practise creative writing.
The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken skilfully in almost every class in the school. This has contributed to the high standards in Mathematics achieved by most pupils. The majority of pupils show an impressive knowledge of mathemtical terms and they clearly enjoy the challenge of solving mathematical problems. The work on the strand Number is particularly praiseworthy.
A good range of mathematical equipment is available in the school and these materials are used to enhance pupils’ learning. Mathematics corners and mathematical posters can be seen in most classes, but this work should be expanded and developed to create an even more stimulating maths-rich environment in the school. A good standard of presentation of work is evident in most classes with pupils recording their work neatly and clearly.
The impressive work already done in Mathematics in most classes in the school should now be further consolidated and developed. This should improve standards still more and ensure that as many pupils as possible achieve optimal standards in Mathematics.
History is taught well in the school overall and almost all pupils show good knowledge and understanding of the topics they have studied. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the strands Myself and my family and Story in the junior and middle classes. In the senior classes, creditable emphasis is placed on Local studies. Local historical events, such as the transatlantic aeroplane crash of 1935, have been studied in a very impressive way. People have visited the school to talk about their memories of the plane crash. A highly commendable project has been completed as a result of this work.
The use of newspapers from the past to gather evidence demonstrates commendable commitment to developing pupils’ skills as historians. Timelines are on display in every class to help develop pupils’ sense of chronology.
The standards of teaching and learning in Geography are very good. The use of field trips has helped to stimulate pupils’ interest in their local environment and most pupils can talk about where they live confidently and knowledgably. Even more use should be made of project work to enable pupils to develop their geographical, investigative and research skills further. While maps and globes are somewhat in evidence in classrooms, it is recommended that each classroom should have an adequate supply and display of such resources to be used regularly as part of Geography lessons.
The teaching of Science and the experiments carried out by pupils in some classes in the school are very praiseworthy. The strand Living things is very well-covered in all classes and the pupils clearly enjoy this work. Nature tables have been set up in most classes and seeds and bulbs have been planted to give pupils practical experience of watching things grow and change. The work on Materials and change is particularly impressive. More effective school-wide planning should ensure that there is a more appropriate breadth and balance in the Science programme on offer in every class in the future.
The school plan for the Visual Arts sets out a programme based on the elements of art and on the six strands of the curriculum. Commendable work on all of the strands has been done throughout the school. Pupils’ art samples are displayed attractively in every classroom and in public areas of the school. There is an appropriate balance between two-dimensional and three-dimensional work and the work in the strands Print, Construction and Clay stands out in this regard.
The standard of Music education in most classes is good. Song-singing is well covered in every class and pupils clearly enjoy singing a wide range of songs in both English and Irish. The pupils are given opportunities to listen and respond to Music and emphasis is placed on Music literacy in some classes. There is good integration with Visual Arts in the junior classes, where percussion instruments have been made. These instruments provide commendable accompaniment in the performance of action songs.
While Drama has yet to be introduced in a formal way on a school-wide basis, an annual school concert is held in the school where pupils have the opportunity to show their acting and performing skills to their parents. Role play is used reasonably succesfully in some classes in the teaching of Irish and this work should be further developed to maximise its effect.
4.6 Physical Education
The school has access to no indoor facilities for the teaching of Physical Education (PE). Despite this, however, the teachers place great emphasis on PE and lessons take place in the schoolyard and adjacent games court whenever the weather permits. These lessons follow an appropriate sequence of warm up, skills practice, games and cool down activities. Commendable emphasis is placed on the inclusion and participation of all pupils in PE lessons. The Buntús programme, which focuses on inclusiveness, is used very effectively in this regard.
Cloonliffen School is involved in a wide variety of sporting competitions and leagues, such as Cumann na mBunscol and cross-country running and has enjoyed great success in several of these. A rugby coach and a Gaelic football coach visit the school to develop the senior class pupils’ games skills. The cost of this service is borne by the local rugby and football clubs. Swimming lessons are provided for pupils from first class onwards for an eight-week period every year in Claremorris Swimming Pool.
The Be Safe and Stay Safe programmes, in conjunction with the Earthlinks scheme, provide the basis of most Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) lessons in the school. SPHE is well taught and methodologies such as circle time are effectively used to enhance lessons. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) has been introduced in a limited way up to now. It is planned to set up a new committee to address the needs of the school and to provide a comprehensive RSE programme in the near future.
The main assessment tools used in the school are teacher observation and teacher-designed tasks and tests. Homework assignments and project work are also used to assess pupils’ progress. Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to pupils in Engish and Mathematics once a year. The results of these tests are filed centrally and are used to compare pupils in the school with national averages and to identify pupils who are in need of learning-support or other supplementary teaching. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to pupils in senior infants once a year. This ensures early intervention to help pupils experiencing difficulty as soon as possible. A wide variety of diagnostic tests is used by the learning support teacher to identify specific difficulties and to aid in the development of individual education plans (IEPs).
The school has developed a policy on learning support and special educational needs. The policy sets out the school’s procedures for screening, planning and implementation. School policy is effectively implemented overall, although it is recommended that the learning support classroom be restructured to provide a more stimulating educational environment for pupils. Supplementary support, on a withdrawal from class basis, is offered to all pupils who need it in English and Mathematics. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving supplementary teaching and parents are kept regularly informed about their children’s progress.
All pupils in the school are treated equally and the school has an open enrolment policy. School funds and grants are used appropriately to ensure that all pupils can participate fully in school activities.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· There is a positive learning atmosphere in the school.
· The teachers are conscientious in their work.
· The board of management provides a high level of support.
· An effective range of teaching strategies is employed in most classes.
· The school grounds and the school building are well maintained.
· The school plan has been carefully devised to cater for the specific needs of the school.
· Pupils’ achievement across the curriculum is good overall, with achievement in some areas being particularly impressive.
· The quality of work in History and Geography is very good. The work done on local History is especially praiseworthy.
· The standards achieved in the Visual Arts are highly commendable.
· The quality of teaching and learning in PE is excellent.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· The school should build on the work already done and should strive for excellence in English and Mathematics.
· More emphasis should be placed on the teaching of Science on a school-wide basis.
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.