An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Dromindoora National School

Caher, Feakle, Co.Clare

Uimhir rolla: 18950E

 

Date of inspection: 21 November 2007

  Date of issue of report: 17 April 2008

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

1.     Quality of school management

2.     Quality of school planning

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.     Quality of support for pupils

5.     Conclusion

 

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Dromindoora National School was undertaken in November 2007. 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 Physical Education.  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

 

Dromindoora National School is a two-teacher mainstream primary school located in the parish of Killanena-Flagmount in the north-east of Co. Clare. It is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Bishop of Killaloe. Enrolment has fluctuated since the last school inspection was carried out in 1999. There are currently 22 pupils enrolled and a gradual growth in numbers is expected in the immediate future, due the school’s proximity to Gort and its accessibility to Limerick city, Ennis and Galway city. Average attendance patterns are very good for almost all pupils. It is recommended that a range of specific strategies to promote good attendance be identified in the school plan, in accordance with Section 22(1) of the Education Act, 1998.

 

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

22

Mainstream classes in the school

7

Teachers on the school staff (including two teachers job-sharing)

3

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

This school serves its community well. The aims of the school confirm that the school strives to promote an inclusive Christian ethos and develop each child’s full potential. Teachers endeavour to inculcate among pupils the virtues of tolerance, patience, politeness, self‑control, justice and fair-play. This characteristic spirit is exemplified in the happy, secure, respectful and friendly atmosphere, in the manner in which pupils are empowered to make responsible choices and in the consideration given to parents’ views and opinions. The pupils’ uniform crest bearing the message Ag oscailt ár gcroí, ag leathnú ár n-aigne provides further reinforcement of the shared commitment of the board of management (BOM), pupils, parents, principal and staff towards realising these aims. The valuable contribution of the ancillary staff, in particular, the secretary, special needs assistant and caretaker is acknowledged.

 

1.2 Board of management 

Despite the difficulties experienced by the outgoing board of management in the election of full representation from the school community, individual board members have displayed a high level of commitment in supporting the school’s recent building programme. The board is congratulated on the recent extension and refurbishment of the school building and on the development of the school playing pitch, school car park and surrounding recreation areas. The building is very well maintained and has sufficient classroom accommodation with very good storage space. The board has plans in place for the development of a hall, which will be situated adjacent to the main school building. It is recommended that conscientious efforts are made to ensure that the new board due to be elected is appropriately represented in accordance with Section 14 of the Education Act, 1998.

 

The board meets regularly and brief minutes are recorded of meetings. At the three most recent meetings, the minutes indicate that the main issues discussed relate to staffing, maintenance, accommodation, health and safety and more recently requirements for teacher planning and whole-school policy development. The board’s financial affairs are recorded carefully using a manual ledger system and accounts are in the process of being audited by a chartered accountant. It was reported that present board members have availed of training provided by the Catholic Primary School Managers’ Association (CPSMA). An immediate priority for the new board of management should be to access relevant training provided by the diocesan office and the Department of Education and Science funded School Development Planning Support Service (SDPS). It would be of benefit for the incoming board to assign a specific period of time at all meetings to discuss relevant Departmental legislation and the board’s statutory obligations. It is recommended that the board maintains a more comprehensive account of all board meetings and of decisions taken in relation to whole-school policy development. The board should consider drawing up a three-year strategic plan in which priorities in relation to administration, teaching and learning and all aspects of the school are identified. Plans should also be put in place to increase the involvement of parents in the school development planning process and to provide greater access to the school plan for parents. It is recommended that an annual report be issued by the board to the general parent body on the operation of the school, in line with Section 20 of the Education Act, 1998.

 

There is good informal communication between the board and the community and between the chairperson and the principal. The school is complying with regulations regarding the length of the school day, deployment of teachers, class size and maintenance of pupil attendance records. In accordance with legislation, the school plan contains policies on enrolment, behaviour and child protection and safety. It is recommended that the specific title of each policy should be included on all signed ratification and communication sheets contained in the school plan to verify full ratification.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team comprises the principal and special duties post-holder. Much energy has been expended by the principal in recent years in initiating, planning and coordinating the school’s major refurbishment programme in collaboration with the board of management and the parent body. The principal has established a strong team spirit and positive working relationships with staff and is committed to the development of the school. The school attaches importance to creating an inclusive school in meeting the needs of a pupil with special educational needs. The school operates smoothly with a clear sense of order and routines are well established. Procedures for the supervision of pupils are good and regular staff meetings are organised. It is recommended that minutes of these meetings are taken in order to identify priorities for action and set target dates for completion. The principal reports that she is committed to creating a collaborative approach to whole-school review and development. Staff members have recently begun to review classroom planning practices and display a willingness to move the work of the school forward. It is recommended that contact be made with the Regional Curriculum Support Services (RCSS) to provide further direction for this work.

 

The special duties post-holder works in close collaboration with the principal and is currently responsible for the organisation of swimming lessons for pupils, the book rental scheme and sacramental ceremonies. There is a need to extend and regularly review the duties assigned to the special duties post on the basis of the ongoing priorities and developing needs of the school. The duties should cover curricular, organisational and pastoral duties. A statement of these duties together with review dates should be included in the school plan.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school has established close links with parents, community personnel and local organisations.

No parents’ association exists at present, despite the continuous efforts of the board to put an association in place. It is hoped with the introduction of the new board of management in December 2007 that a parents’ association will be re-established. Parents are invited to fund-raise and also to various special school celebrations throughout the year. School diaries are used effectively to foster communication between home and school. Teaching staff take parents’ views into account when planning the specific learning targets for pupils experiencing learning difficulty and for those with special educational needs. Home-school links are strengthened through the publication of a regular newsletter containing a photographic record of school events, pupil achievements and pupils’ writing samples.  This initiative deserves particular credit.

 

The parents interviewed indicate their satisfaction with the school’s positive inclusive ethos and community spirit, the approachable staff, the very good behaviour of pupils, the extra-curricular activities provided in music and sport, the promotion of an interest in reading among pupils and the involvement of pupils from time to time in Write-a-Book projects. Parents are also very happy with the newly refurbished school building, the information received about their children’s progress, the additional support provided for pupils with special educational needs and the open door policy for parents to voice any concerns.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The relationships between pupils and staff are very good. Pupils are courteous, welcoming to visitors, co-operative and well-motivated to learn. Positive behaviour management strategies have been developed to support the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs. The pastoral arrangements and the positive rapport between pupils and teaching staff allow any matters of concern arising to be dealt with expediently.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The school’s aims are clearly articulated in the school plan. Most organisational and curricular  policies contained in the school plan have been recently signed and ratified by the chairperson of the board of management. In general, there is scope for development in the quality of whole-school planning provided. As advised by the national advisory support services, it is recommended that a common format be adopted to ensure that roles and responsibilities and  priorities for action are clearly identified with specific time frames.

 

A code of discipline and policy documents on anti-bullying, home-school links, health and safety and special education are provided. Other organisational policies available include policies on gender equality, staff meetings, staff development, first-aid and fire drill and administration of medicines. It is reported that parental input is given through the parent representatives on the board of management. It is recommended that the parents’ association would provide a channel of communication to increase the involvement of parents in policy formulation, review and development.

 

Good progress has been achieved in the development of an agreed format to guide teachers’ short-term planning and monthly records of work covered. This planning takes account of the principles of the curriculum and the content is suitably differentiated between class levels. In this planning there is a need to make reference to the differentiated tasks, activities and resources planned for pupils with special educational needs. There is scope for development in the quality of long-term classroom planning provided in mainstream classes.  This planning is not adapted sufficiently to guide the teaching, learning and assessment of pupils’ ongoing progress and is based primarily on textbook and workbook content. It is recommended that whole-school agreement be reached on a long-term planning format for each subject area, to ensure that the knowledge and skills that pupils need to acquire are clearly stated within a specified time scale for each class level. It is suggested that the whole-school plan be reviewed in tandem with this work in order to further progress the whole-school self-evaluation process.

 

Support teachers’ planning is very comprehensive for all pupils receiving supplementary teaching. Learning targets set are specific, measurable and realisable and build on the previous learning of pupils. These learning targets have been informed by diagnostic assessment, input of classroom teachers and parents. The special needs assistant employed is vigilant in supporting the pupil with special educational needs and contributes to efforts made in monitoring progress.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science (DES) 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

aidhm na scoile ‘an Ghaeilge a chothú mar theanga bheo chumarsáideá chur i bhfeidhm go han-éifeachtach ar bhonn uile-scoile. ardmholadh tuillte ag na hoidí don tslí ina úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go teagmhasach sna seomraí ranga agus freisin mar theanga bhainisteoireachta ranga taobh amuigh den cheacht Ghaeilge. De thoradh sin, inniúlacht na ndaltaí i labhairt na teanga an‑mhaith i ngach seomra ranga agus stór leathan focal agus saibhreas maith cainte bainte amach acu i gcoitinne. Leagtar béim mhaith ar dhea-fhograíocht agus ar thuiscint ar chomhréir na teanga le linn an teagaisc.

 

Tugann na hoidí go han-díograiseach faoi réimse breá gníomhaíochtaí ag gach leibhéal ranga chun an Ghaeilge a éascú agus a neartú. Eagraítear obair chiorclach, rangtheagasc agus obair i mbeirteanna agus léiríonn na daltaí an-suim i bhfoghlaim na Gaeilge. Aithrisíonn na daltaí  cnuasach deas rann, amhrán agus filíochta go muiníneach. Is éifeachtach an fheidhm a bhaintear as geáitsíocht, cairteacha, lipéid, luaschártaí, cluichí cainte, foghlaim ghníomhach, rólghlacadh agus scéalta gearra le sraith feidhmeanna teanga. an-chreidiúint ag dul do na hoidí as na dea-iarrachtaí seo. Tugtar aird ar leith don fheasacht chultúir i múineadh na Gaeilge agus leagtar béim mhaith ar amhránaíocht traidisiúnta. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go rialta sna ceachtanna corpoideachais i gcuid de na ranganna. Moltar an dea-chleachtas seo.

 

Tugtar faoi ghníomhaíochtaí cuí réamhléitheoireachta sna bunranganna. Léann na daltaí sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna le cruinneas agus le tuiscint. Tugtar rogha maith ábhar léitheoireachta dóibh, idir na téacsleabhair fhoirmiúla, na húrscéalta agus baintear feidhm as  sraith leathan leabhar leabharlainne. Eagraítear deiseanna saorscríbhneoireachta do na daltaí go rialta agus baineann dea-éagsúlacht le samplaí scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí i gcoitinne.

 

Irish

The school’s aim to promote Irish as a living language is very effectively implemented on a whole-school basis. The teachers deserve great credit for the manner in which they use Irish incidentally in classrooms and also as the language medium for classroom management outside of the Irish lesson. As a result, the pupils’ ability in speaking the language is generally very good in each classroom and pupils have attained a wide and rich vocabulary in the language. Good attention is given to proper pronunciation and an understanding of the syntax of the language during lessons.

 

Teachers engage conscientiously with a range of activities at each class level in order to make it easier for pupils to understand the language and retain what is taught. Circle work, class teaching and pair work are organised and the pupils display a very good interest in learning the language. Pupils can recite confidently a nice selection of rhymes, song and poetry. There is effective use of actions, charts, labels, flashcards, language games, active learning, role-play and short stories incorporating a range of language functions. The teachers deserve particular credit for these very good efforts. Special attention is given to developing an understanding of Irish culture in the teaching of Irish and good emphasis is placed on traditional singing. Irish is used regularly in physical education lessons in some classes. This good practice is commended.

 

There is appropriate attention given to pre-reading activities in junior classes. Pupils in middle and senior classes read with accuracy and understanding. Pupils have access to a good choice of reading material including formal readers, novels and a wide range of library books is used. Free‑writing experiences are organised regularly for pupils and in general, there is good variety in pupils’ writing samples.

 

English

Standards achieved in English are very good. Provision in each classroom is guided by the comprehensive whole-school English policy developed in 2001. It is recommended that this policy be updated on a more regular basis to reflect changing classroom contexts. Such a review would assist teachers in planning for progression and build more effectively on the pupils’ previous achievements and experiences in each of the three strands. 

 

A discrete oral language period is allocated on the weekly timetable in all classrooms. Pupils in infant and junior classes listen well to each other, take turns to speak and share readily in discussion with their teachers. Senior pupils display confidence and competence in expressing ideas and in offering opinions during whole-class discussions on a range of integrated themes and current affairs. A good emphasis is placed on poetry appreciation and recitation in all classes. To build on the good practice observed, it is recommended that small-group discussion and paired activities be used to provide more challenging opportunities for pupils to develop their talking, listening and questioning skills.

 

A print-rich environment is a feature of all classrooms. The teachers in junior classes deserve particular credit for the effective teaching of pupils’ phonological and phonemic awareness skills. Effective use is made of a range of large-format books to stimulate discussion and to develop pupils’ receptiveness to language and emergent reading skills. Reading is taught soundly and the pupils benefit from the range of suitable approaches used, including the language-experience approach, the ‘look and say’ approach and shared and independent reading. Pupils enjoy books and can read with good levels of fluency and understanding. The reading programme is suitably varied and pupils read widely from individual and class novels. Pupils are well able to discuss plots and characters from books. There is a wide range of good quality modern, fact and fiction books in each mainstream classroom library. Pupils are also encouraged to locate information in reference books, dictionaries and on broadband. Plans are in place to convert a storage space into a central library area. Pupils are encouraged to take books home for extra reading and reading records are maintained in all classrooms and are signed by parents. This practice is laudable.

 

There is evidence to show that regular opportunities are provided for pupils to write in different forms using a wide range of genres. Most of this work is contained in pupils’ copy books and individual folders. It is recommended that a greater range of pupils’ writing samples should be displayed in booklet format and shared as reading material with other classes. Pupils’ sentence structure, punctuation, grammar, spelling, vocabulary development and handwriting skills demonstrate good progression. Cursive style of handwriting is introduced at third class and the emphasis on proper letter formation in infant and junior classes is praiseworthy.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The comprehensive whole-school mathematics plan gives good guidance on the teaching approaches and agreed mathematics vocabulary for various class levels. It is recommended that this plan should be amended to reflect the changing needs of the school. The plan should set out the aspects of each strand and strand unit to be taught at each class level. This would provide additional guidance for classroom long-term and short-term planning.

 

Very good attention is given to the development of pupils’ mental mathematics skills and the range of pupil ability within classes. Pupils’ understanding of mathematical concepts is well-established and overall, the pupils are achieving mathematical standards appropriate to their abilities. This success is confirmed by the standardised test results achieved. Throughout the school, the teachers use a variety of teaching resources and strategies and the pupils’ mathematical experiences are well integrated with other curricular areas. There is very good use of concrete objects to consolidate pupils’ understanding of mathematical terminology and concepts. When given the opportunities to think and plan and work collaboratively, the pupils respond very well and enjoy this form of working. Such good practice examples should be more widespread. Pupils would benefit from additional opportunities to relate Mathematics to their own lives and their environment through the use of mathematical trails.

 

3.3 Physical Education

The whole-school plan recently devised indicates the school’s commitment in ensuring that all boys and girls will have equality of access to a broad and balanced physical education curriculum each year. The physical education plans prepared by the Primary School Sports Initiative form the basis of pupils’ experiences in Physical Education. Mainstream teachers have yet to devise long-term plans to adapt the teaching of Physical Education to each class level, as highlighted in the whole-school plan. It is recommended that this shortcoming be addressed to ensure a balanced implementation of the physical education curriculum across all class levels.

 

In the absence of a hall or general-purposes room, the school makes very good use of the basketball court, the tarmacadam play area and the playing pitch situated at the rear of the school. Facilities are limited during inclement weather conditions and it is necessary to make the best use possible of mainstream classrooms.

 

In the lessons observed pupils concentrated well, made good use of space, participated enthusiastically, co‑operated effectively and demonstrated developing skills. Lessons observed were well structured and included warm-up, stretching and cool-down activities. Gymnastic skills are carefully taught in junior classes and very good use is made of station teaching using suitable physical education equipment through the medium of Irish in middle and senior classes. It is recommended that pair work and team work be promoted further in junior classes using available physical education equipment to facilitate a greater amount of active pupil participation. All pupils attend swimming lessons with a neighbouring school for a six-week period. This facility is financed through the Departmental Dispersed Disadvantage Funding scheme. The teaching of games skills in hurling and camogie is emphasised both within and outside of school hours. Inter-school competitions and leagues are also organised. A whole-school Sports for All Day involving parents and the local community is one of the school’s annual highlights. 

 

3.4 Assessment

The Drumcondra Primary Reading Test and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to assess English reading and Mathematics. A range of diagnostic assessments, cloze procedure tests, teacher-designed tasks, phonics skills tests and spelling tests is also used to assess pupils’ progress. The Early Literacy Test (ELT) and the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) are utilised to identify pupils requiring early intervention. Limited use is currently made of The Drumcondra English Reading Profiles. Assessment data generated is used to identify pupils’ strengths and priority learning needs, particularly for pupils requiring supplementary support. It is recommended that the school’s assessment policy should be updated and further expanded to influence whole-school practice in identifying a wider range of formative assessment tools across all curricular areas. This could beneficially include the extended use of checklists and pupil profiles. There is also a need to systematically analyse patterns of performance of pupils at each class level to guide the teaching and learning process. A written record of ongoing progress made by pupils receiving additional support could be shared between support teachers and class teachers.

 

Teachers mark pupils’ work regularly and personalised constructive feedback is given about the quality of their written work. Reading records are maintained and are signed by parents on a regular basis. Pupils’ progress is communicated to parents at the annual parent/teacher meetings and through annual written reports. This effective practice is commended.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A comprehensive learning-support policy has been developed and clearly outlines relevant roles and responsibilities and the school’s procedures for early intervention, continuation and discontinuation of supplementary teaching, screening and assessment, as recommended in Circular 02/05.

 

Although there are no pupils currently eligible for learning-support in accordance with Departmental guidelines, supplementary teaching is provided for five pupils in literacy and/or numeracy. Additional resource teaching support is provided for one pupil with special educational needs (SEN) for five hours, which is delivered in three weekly sessions. The school benefits from the services of the Health Service Executive (HSE) through Enable Ireland, who provide psychological support, occupational therapy and additional language support.

 

Pupils are withdrawn for intensive teaching sessions individually for the most part. Pupils are attentive and respond well in the supplementary teaching sessions and display good confidence and self-esteem levels in their base classrooms and show good interest in their learning. Greater attention should be given to the preparation of differentiated tasks to support the pupil with special educational needs in the mainstream classroom context. The process of providing in-class support is well established for the pupil with special educational needs. This practice is to be commended and should be extended for all pupils receiving supplementary support, following advance planning with class teachers. It is recommended that the special needs policy be reviewed to provide advice and guidance on promoting the integrated system of in-class support. This policy should subsequently be dated and signed by the chairperson signifying the full approval of the board of management.

 

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

There are currently no international pupils in attendance in Dromindoora N.S. The school receives additional Departmental funding from the Dispersed Disadvantage Funding for rural schools. From 2004 onwards the school has availed of financial support from the Clár Programme through the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. This funding is used to subsidise swimming lessons, educational outings to theatrical events and extra-curricular piano classes in the school. A book rental scheme is organised to provide additional support for pupils.

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

  • The board of management is commended for the recent major refurbishment works undertaken to improve the school accommodation.
  • The school is friendly, positive and welcoming and provides a secure purposeful environment for teaching and learning.
  • Positive links are developed with parents and information on pupils’ academic and social development is shared regularly with parents.
  • There are effective pastoral care arrangements and staff members display a strong commitment to the welfare of pupils.
  • The quality of teaching is very good, particularly in the teaching of Irish, and pupils display a very good knowledge and understanding of the language.
  • There are very good standards achieved in English and Mathematics and very good efforts are made to develop pupils’ higher order thinking skills.
  • The individual education plans developed for pupils requiring supplementary teaching are comprehensive and include specific, measurable, relevant and achievable learning targets.
  • Teachers are thorough and conscientious in the marking of pupils’ work and give positive feedback with written comments supportive of the pupils’ efforts.
  • There is an openness to continuous development and review to enhance the quality of teaching and learning on a whole-school basis.

 

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

  • It is recommended that every effort be made to ensure that representation on the new board of management is in accordance with Section 14 of the Education Act, 1998.
  • It is recommended that plans be put in place to facilitate the establishment of a parents’ association to support the work of the school.
  • It is recommended that relevant policies contained in the whole-school plan be updated,  reviewed, amended and further developed to reflect the changing needs of the school. A three-year action plan should be initiated to identify priorities for future action in taking the work of the school forward.
  • The whole-school approach to long-term and short-term classroom planning should  

continue to be enhanced, reviewed and developed under the direction and leadership of

the principal.

  • It is recommended that the duties assigned to the special duties post-holder be reviewed in accordance with circular 17/2000 of the Department of Education and Science.
  • It is recommended that the integrated in-class model of learning-support be further developed.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

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 finds the recent WSE report to be accurate and factual and a true representation of the workings of the school.

 

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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 Board and staff have been heavily involved in the planning and development of the new school building and facilities at the school will now have more time to expend on the general planning aspects of the school.  The board is committed to an on-going review of policies and has set targets for the completion of same.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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