An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

  

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St Colman’s

New Quay Co. Clare

Roll number: 19043W

 

 

Date of inspection:  23 April 2007

  Date of issue of report: 8 November 2007 

 

Whole-school evaluation

1.     Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

3.     Quality of school planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

5.     Quality of support for pupils

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St Colman’s National School, New Quay, Co Clare. 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. 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.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

St Colman’s National School is a three-teacher, co-educational primary school situated in the parish of New Quay, Co Clare. There are 45 pupils enrolled at present. All of the pupils come from New Quay, Bell Harbour and nearby areas. It is expected that enrolment figures will either remain constant or increase very slightly over the next few years. There were three mainstream teachers in the school until recently. Due to a fall in enrolments, there are now two mainstream teachers in the school.

 

The school building dates from 1975. There are three classrooms in the school, one of which is now used as the learning support classroom. There is a small storage room, a computer room and a general purposes room in the school, as well as pupil toilets and one staff toilet. The building and school grounds are well maintained overall. There is a plan for the maintenance of the school building. This includes the plan to put down new floors in the school. While some of this work has commenced, it is recommended that the work be completed as soon as possible.

 

 

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management 

The Catholic Bishop of Galway is the patron of the school. The board of management meets approximately four times a year. The most common issues discussed at meetings include school policies and financial matters. The board discusses and ratifies all school policies. Minutes are kept of the proceedings of board meetings. The board of management is to be commended for its support for the school and the close contact it maintains with school personnel. The board’s current priorities include maintaining the positive spirit in the school, while adjusting to and coping with the changes and challenges of having only two mainstream teachers.

 

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal, the deputy principal and one special duties teacher. The principal is conscientious in carrying out the curricular and administrative duties attached to this post.

 

The teachers work well together. The professional development courses that the teachers have attended enhance the work of the school. The work of the deputy principal and the special duties teacher is carried out in an appropriate manner.

Roll books, registers and all school records are carefully maintained. Staff meetings have been informal up to now, but it is intended to arrange formal meetings during this school year.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The combined work of the school staff contributes to the smooth running of the school. Parents clean the school on a voluntary basis and it is clean and tidy inside and outside.

 

The board of management has invested in educational resources to support the implementation of the curriculum in various curricular areas, for example in Visual Arts and Physical Education (PE). The school is well equipped overall, although it is recommended that the range of resources for English and Mathematics be constantly replenished and expanded. The mainstream classrooms are arranged to provide a stimulating learning environment for pupils.

 

Computers are available in every classroom. Considerable emphasis is placed on the development of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the school. The pupils have completed some impressive project work in English and Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) using ICT.

 

 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

There is no parents’ association in the school, but positive relations exist between parents and teachers in this close-knit community. Parents are very willing to help out whenever necessary.

 

Formal parent-teacher meetings are organised annually. The school deals with parents’ concerns in an open and friendly way. Parents are welcome to discuss their children’s progress or other issues with the principal or class teacher at any time. Parents report that they are well informed about events in the school. A written report on the progress of their children is sent to parents at the end of every school year.

 

 

2.5 Management of pupils

The pupils in New Quay School work well with their teachers. Most pupils have very good communication and interpersonal skills. This is seen in the articulate way in which they express their opinions and in the way they conduct themselves with their fellow pupils and with adults. The pupils in every class participate eagerly in the various lessons and school activities.

 

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

The school plan has been put together to ensure that the appropriate curricular and organisational policies are specific to New Quay school. The support received from cuiditheoirí and facilitators from national in-service training initiatives has helped in the school planning process. The board of management discusses and ratifies all administrative policies and curricular plans prior to their inclusion in the school plan. The school plan is available for parents to consult.

 

The school’s mission statement is set out in the school plan. Plans are available for all of the curricular areas in which the teachers have received in-service training.

 

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.

 

The school plan is reviewed as the need arises, but it is recommended that a more structured plan for the regular review of all school policies be set out to ensure that the policies are as up-to-date as possible.

 

While school attendance is not a problem in the school and the correct procedures are always followed in the case of pupil absences, it is recommended that a formal written attendance strategy should now be drawn up. The school’s ICT policy is comprehensive and particularly impressive. The school has also put together a pupil-friendly homework policy that takes account of the challenges for some pupils and parents in coping with homework.

 

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.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

The teachers in New Quay implement a broad and balanced curriculum and teachers’ classroom planning reflects this. The mainstream teachers prepare adequately for their work. Monthly progress records are kept and the principal teacher keeps copies of these. The teachers adhere to an appropriate timetable for their work. These timetables are based on 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 individual pupils’ education plans are also kept in class teachers’ files.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

The overall quality of education offered in New Quay is good. Most of the pupils achieve good standards in all curricular areas. An effective grounding is given to pupils in Irish and good work is also done in English and Mathematics. The high standards achieved in Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) and in Arts Education are particularly praiseworthy.

 

The quality of teaching in the mainstream classes is of a good standard. An appropriate variety of teaching methods is used during the school day. These methods include discussion, teacher modelling, project work, group work, storytelling, drama, and language games.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Cothaítear dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge sa scoil. Leagann na hoidí béim ch ar an dteanga labhartha. Is féidir le formhór na ndaltaí labhairt fúthu féin agus ceisteanna a fhreagairt go muiníneach as Gaeilge. Úsáideann múinteoirí agus daltaí Gaeilge go rialta mar theanga caidrimh i rith an lae. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as dráma sna ceachtanna Gaeilge sna bunranganna. Éiríonn leis na hoidí i ngach rang foclóir na ndaltaí a leathnú ó naíonáin go rang a .

  foclóir leathan ag formhór na ndaltaí.

 

Aithrisíonn agus canann na daltaí uile rainn, dánta agus amhráin go suntasach as Gaeilge. Léann formhór na ndaltaí os ard ó rang a ar aghaidh go líofa agus tuigeann siad go soiléir an méid atá léite acu. cló i nGaeilge le feiceáil i dtimpeallacht na scoile. Déantar obair úsáideach i gcúrsaí scríbhneoireachta agus tugtar moladh d’obair scríofa néata na ndaltaí.

 

Irish

A positive attitude to Irish is fostered in the school. The teachers place appropriate emphasis on oral language skills. The majority of pupils can talk about themselves and answer questions confidently in Irish. Both teachers and pupils regularly use Irish in conversation during the school day. Drama is used effectively in Irish lessons in the junior classes. The teachers succeed in expanding pupils’ vocabularies from infants to sixth class. Most of the pupils have a wide vocabulary.

 

All of the pupils can recite and sing rhymes, poems and songs impressively in Irish. The majority of pupils from second class onwards read aloud fluently and they understand clearly what they have read. There is a print-rich environment in Irish evident in the school. Useful work has been done in Irish writing and the pupils’ neat written work is commended.

 

 

English

Good standards are attained in English in the school. Oral language is appropriately emphasised. Their teachers’ skilful questioning ensures that most pupils can discuss their interests and a variety of other topics articulately and enthusiastically. An impressively wide selection of poems and rhymes can be recited by the pupils in every class. The pupils in all classes get regular opportunities to write poetry also. Many of the resulting poems are of an exceptionally high standard.

 

A suitable print-rich environment is evident in all the mainstream classrooms. Phonological awareness is developed as part of the foundation of basic reading skills in the junior classes. 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.

 

Class libraries are well stocked, but they should be more attractively presented and restocked regularly. It is recommended also that there be substantial and continuous investment in books for the libraries. This would provide a continuous supply of books for avid readers and encourage reluctant readers. Shared reading takes place in most classes and records are kept to ensure that pupils read a number of books each year. Consideration should be given to using class novels from an early age to further enhance the reading opportunities given to all pupils.

 

The appropriate emphasis is placed on the writing process. Written work is carefully edited and published in class. The senior classes have taken part in the “Write-a-Book project”. The pupils in every class have written commendable book reviews on books they have read. Copybooks and workbooks contain good work in functional and creative writing. There are examples of pupils’ writing in a variety of genres, including poetry especially, on display in the mainstream classes.

 

4.3 Mathematics

The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken effectively throughout the school. This has contributed to the high standards in Mathematics achieved by most pupils. Mathematics lessons are appropriately differentiated to cater for the different levels of pupil ability in the various classes.

 

The pupils have a good knowledge of mathematical terms. The correct emphasis is placed on solving mathematical problems. The pupils record their work neatly and clearly in their copybooks and workbooks.

 

A good range of mathematical equipment is available in the school. These materials are used reasonably effectively to enhance pupils’ learning. While there are some mathematical posters on display in all classes, this work should be expanded to create a more stimulating maths-rich environment in the school to be used in a practical way during lessons.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

History is very well taught in the school. Most of the pupils have a good knowledge and understanding of the topics they have studied. Creditable emphasis is placed on Local studies and on personal history throughout the school. Timelines of the pupils’ own lives are on display in the junior classes. A very impressive heritage project has been undertaken as part of the Primary Schools Project 2005 “Our Local Heritage”. The lives of famous historical figures from the local area are studied in every class. Most of the pupils also have a good knowledge of local buildings and their history.

 

Geography

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. The senior class pupils can talk about the fauna and flora of the Burren and the Clare coastline confidently. These pupils are very aware of the uniqueness of the Burren landscape. They have an impressive knowledge of geological terms. There are some maps and globes on display in the school, including some local maps. It is recommended, however, that more maps should be on display to further enhance Geography lessons. The pupils in every class have also studied people in other lands and how they celebrate festivals such as Christmas.

 

Science

The pupils in all classes in the school carry out experiments and record their results in a manner appropriate to their age. The work on electricity and magnetism is particularly praiseworthy. The strand Living things is also well covered in every class. Nature tables have been set up in some classes. Seeds and bulbs have been planted to enable the pupils to watch things grow and change. Science or discovery tables should be developed throughout the school to enrich every pupil’s experience of Science. The work on the earthworm is very commendable.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The work done in the Visual Arts throughout the school is very good. There is impressive breadth and balance between two-dimensional and three-dimensional artwork in every class. The pupils’ work in Drawing and in Fabric and fibre is particularly praiseworthy. Samples of the pupils’ work are displayed attractively in every classroom and in public areas of the school.

 

Music

The standard of Music education in the school is very high. Song-singing is excellent and the pupils can sing a wide range of songs in both English and Irish. The emphasis placed on Music literacy and the methods used to teach this are highly commendable.

 

There is good integration with Visual Arts in the junior classes, where percussion instruments have been made. These instruments provide accompaniment in the performance of action songs. The pupils are also given opportunities to listen to and respond to Music.

 

 

Drama

While Drama has yet to be introduced in a formal way on a school-wide basis, a performance of a school play is held every Christmas. Here the pupils have the opportunity to showcase their acting and performing skills to their parents. Role play is used very successfully in every class in the teaching of Irish. Circle time is used effectively in oral English lessons to enhance pupils’ vocabulary and expand their imaginations.

 

4.6 Physical Education (PE)

The school has a general purposes room, a large yard in front of the school and a playing pitch to the rear. PE lessons are very well taught. These lessons follow an appropriate sequence of warm up, skills practice, games and cool down activities.

 

New Quay School is involved in a variety of sporting competitions and leagues, such as Cumann na mBunscol. The teaching of swimming is considered very important in New Quay. Swimming lessons are provided for all pupils in the third term every school year.

 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

The Walk Tall and Stay Safe programmes form the basis of lessons in this curricular area in the school. SPHE is well taught and methodologies such as circle time are effectively used to enhance lessons. While elements of the policy have already been introduced, a comprehensive policy on Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) is due to be implemented shortly.

 

4.8 Assessment

Micra-T and Drumcondra English standardised tests are administered to pupils once a year. The results of the standardised tests are filed centrally and in each class. They 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 other main assessment tools used in the school are Mathemagic assessment tests, as well as teacher observation and teacher-designed tasks and tests. Homework assignments and project work are also used to assess pupils’ progress.

 

The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to pupils in senior infants once a year. This ensures that early intervention can help pupils experiencing difficulty as soon as possible. The diagnostic tests used by the learning-support teacher include the Neale Analysis. These help to identify specific difficulties and to aid in the development of individual education plans (IEPs).

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has put together a learning support and special educational needs policy. The policy sets out the school’s procedures for screening, planning and implementation. The learning support policy is reasonably effectively implemented. While pupil records are kept for pupils with special educational needs, more attention should now be given to the maintenance of these to ensure that they are easily accessible. The information contained in these records should also be set out more clearly.

 

Although the learning support classroom provides a reasonably stimulating educational environment for pupils, this room should be re-organised to further enhance the learning environment. Learning support mostly takes place on a withdrawal from class basis.

 

Support is offered to all pupils who need it in English and Mathematics. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving supplementary teaching. Parents are kept regularly informed about their children’s progress.

 

 

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

All pupils in New Quay school are treated equally. The school has an open enrolment policy. School funds and grants are used appropriately to ensure that every pupil can participate in school activities.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The teachers in New Quay School are conscientious and diligent in their work.
  • The board of management is very supportive of the work of the school.
  • Effective teaching strategies are employed in all classes.
  • The school plan is well laid out and is based on the needs of the school.
  • The school building and the school grounds are well maintained.
  • Pupils’ achievement across the curriculum is good. Pupils’ achievement in some curricular areas is very good.
  • A good standard is achieved in Irish in every class.
  • The quality of work in SESE is highly commendable.
  • The work done in Arts Education is very impressive. The standards achieved in Music are particularly praiseworthy.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

  • It is recommended that an action plan should be set out to review the school plan systematically over the next few years.
  • The class libraries should be restocked where necessary and there should be significant investment in books every year. The shared reading programme should also be expanded.
  • A maths-rich environment should be developed in every class to further enhance the teaching and learning of Mathematics in every class.
  • The support for pupils with special educational needs should be reviewed. This review should include the maintenance and review of pupils’ records as well as the decoration and layout of the learning support classroom.

 

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.