An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Loreto Primary School,
Dalkey, County Dublin
Uimhir rolla: 19066L
Date of inspection: 3 April 2009
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Loreto Primary School. 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 inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, a representative of the trustees and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors 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; a response was not received from the board.
Loreto Primary School is a sixteen-teacher, Catholic school under the trusteeship of the Loreto Order and the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. The trustees are commended for the support they provide to the school to effectively promote the Loreto philosophy of education and to foster a common purpose among the school community. The school caters for the educational needs of boys from junior infants to first class and girls from junior infants to sixth class. Enrolment figures have remained stable in recent years. While attendance levels are generally good, a substantial number of pupils were absent for between 11 and 20 days during the last school year. It is recommended that a school attendance strategy be formulated in accordance with the Education Welfare Act (2000).
The school aims to provide a climate in which all pupils are encouraged to develop their spiritual and moral values, personal and social skills and to fulfil their potential in all school activities. The school’s commitment to its mission statement is reflected in the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum, and in the nurturing of pupils’ self-esteem and sense of personal responsibility. The relationships in evidence between teachers and pupils, and between pupils and their peers are highly praised.
The board of management functions very effectively. In particular, it is commended for its clear focus on addressing the needs of pupils and the overall development of the school. Individual members have clearly defined roles. These responsibilities are undertaken diligently and make a very significant contribution to the successful operation of the school. Meetings of the board are convened regularly. Minutes of meetings are carefully maintained and accounts are externally certified on an annual basis. A review of the school’s work is shared with parents at the annual general meeting of the parents’ association. The board ensures compliance with departmental guidelines and regulations regarding the length of the school day and school year. It plays a significant role in the consideration and ratification of curriculum plans and organisational policies. The proposed review of the school’s code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy is noted. Purposeful communication between the board, staff and parents is reported.
The principal’s work in leading the school is highly effective. She encourages staff and pupils and sets high expectations for all in their daily routines. Positive relationships among all members of the school community are fostered successfully. This contributes greatly to the school’s positive climate and welcoming atmosphere. The principal productively manages the whole-school planning process in collaboration with the in-school management team. She displays an admirable understanding of and successfully promotes the quality of teaching and learning.
The principal is ably supported by the in-school management team comprising a deputy principal, an assistant principal, and five special-duties teachers. The team meets regularly and purposeful working relationships with the principal and other staff members are strongly in evidence. Each team member has been assigned a balanced range of duties which is conscientiously undertaken. The team makes an important contribution to the management of the school and to the quality of teaching and learning provided for pupils. Their responsibilities are reviewed on a regular basis and are modified in response to the changing needs of the school. In order to build on the existing capacity of the in-school management team, an enhanced role in the systematic evaluation of curriculum implementation is recommended.
The teaching staff comprises the principal, twelve mainstream class teachers, two learning-support/resource teachers, one resource teacher for pupils with special educational needs and a part-time language-support teacher. A staff rotation policy allows for teachers to experience a variety of classes and contexts and for a sharing of expertise at all class levels. Staff members undertake a praiseworthy range of professional development courses and share the knowledge and expertise gained with colleagues. Staff meetings are held regularly and minutes of meetings are maintained. Five full-time special-needs assistants are employed. They are directed in their work by the principal and class teachers. They effectively support the school in contributing to the inclusion and care of pupils with additional learning needs. The ancillary staff consists of a secretary and a part-time caretaker, and contracted cleaning staff. They contribute to the efficient functioning of the school.
The school building and grounds are maintained to a high standard and provide a safe and stimulating environment. Fine examples of pupils’ work are attractively displayed in classrooms and in circulation areas. The thematic displays and interest areas throughout the school are highly praised. An excellent variety of resources is provided to support teaching and learning across the curriculum and includes an extensive range of teacher-generated materials. Resource materials are well organised, readily accessible and regularly utilised in all classrooms. During the evaluation, the suitable use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) was observed in some classrooms and in the dedicated computer room. The proposed extension of the use of ICT as a learning resource is noted.
The parents’ association, which is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (NPC) primary, plays a very active role in support of the school. In the promotion of positive communication links with the school community, efforts are made to ensure each class has a parent representative on the parents’ association. The association meets monthly and the principal attends for part of each meeting. The parents’ association’s commendable contribution to the work of the school is wide and varied. They are involved in several subcommittees which enhance the life of the school including Green Schools’, healthy eating, road safety and sports. They organise an after-school club for pupils in the infant classes and, in collaboration with the staff, coordinate a bullying awareness week and an annual children’s art exhibition. Parents have been actively involved in the development of some school policies including Relationships and Sexuality Education. A separate committee organises a range of fundraising activities throughout the year. The school maintains regular contact with the broader parent community through biannual newsletters and regular notes. Parents assist with paired-reading activities at home and are invited to share of their individual talents in enhancing the implementation of the curriculum. They are informed of their children’s progress through annual, formal parent-teacher meetings and an annual written report. Additional meetings with parents are held on request. Parents of new entrants are provided with copies of relevant school policies and the school plan is available in the school to all parents. The recently-launched school website and the establishment of the text-a-parent initiative in the promotion of home/school/community links are welcomed.
The management of pupils is very good. The pupils are very well behaved, and display commendable co-operation with the school’s code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy. They are highly motivated and demonstrate interest and enthusiasm in the range of school activities. An atmosphere of mutual respect is successfully cultivated by the principal and school staff. Pupils are affirmed and encouraged in their learning. Progress and achievement are celebrated and acknowledged through formative feedback, school assemblies and whole-school celebrations. A productive learning environment is effectively fostered, facilitating the development of pupils’ self-confidence and self-esteem. Pupils’ participation in whole-school decision making is purposefully promoted through the work of the Green Schools’ and healthy eating committees. Consideration might now be given to extending this role further to the establishment of a pupils’ council.
Whole-school planning is of a highly competent standard. Curriculum plans and an extensive range of organisational policies have been collaboratively devised under the direction of the principal and the in-school management team. A selection of pertinent organisational policies has been placed on the school’s website to facilitate access by parents and members of the wider school community. Curriculum plans provide assistance in guiding teaching and learning at a school-wide level. As a means of optimising their effective implementation, specific priorities for development should be identified. Action plans should be devised and implemented to ensure that areas for improvement are successfully addressed. The implementation and impact of all curriculum plans should be monitored on a cyclical basis.
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.
The standard of classroom planning is satisfactory and the staff is commended for its efforts to review and further develop planning practices at a whole-school level. Teachers provide long-term and short-term plans of work and monthly progress records. In many contexts planning clearly details the specific curriculum objectives to be addressed, the teaching methodologies to be employed and the manner in which learning opportunities are to be differentiated. It is advised that this approach be implemented on a school-wide basis. Monthly progress records should be systematically used to assist in the monitoring of curriculum implementation.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The overall quality of teaching and learning is very good. A broad and balanced curriculum is implemented with effective use being made of opportunities for linkage and integration. A wide variety of teaching approaches is productively employed in most classrooms with cognisance being taken of pupils’ differing learning needs and stages of development. Teachers are successful in creating a very positive learning atmosphere and high expectations of pupil engagement are clearly communicated. Interesting and enjoyable learning contexts and activities are provided. An additional emphasis on the inclusion of investigative activities, where the pupils use higher-order and critical-thinking skills to solve problems and construct new meanings and understandings, is advised. Praiseworthy levels of pupil engagement and achievement are in evidence throughout the school.
Múintear an Ghaeilge go han-éifeachtach, ar an iomlán, tríd an scoil. Baintear leas as modheolaíochtaí taitneamhacha oiriúnacha chun an fhoghlaim a neartú agus is léir go bhfuil caighdéan an-mhaith á bhaint amach i bhformhór de na ranganna. Éiríonn leis na hoidí spéis agus dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge a chothú i measc na ndaltaí. Eagraítear Seachtain na Gaeilge gach bliain, tá láithreáin suime ar fáil sna seomraí agus tá an teanga le feiceáil ar fhógraí sna seomraí ranga agus timpeall na scoile. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go hinmholta mar theanga theagaisc an ranga agus mar mheán cumarsáide go neamhfhoirmiúil tríd an lae. Bunaíonn na hoidí na ceachtanna ar théamaí ón gcuraclam. Úsáidtear acmhainní, gníomhamhráin, drámaíocht, cluichí, obair bheirte agus ceistiúcháin go torthúil chun an t-ábhar a mhúineadh go héifeachtach. Tá stórfhocal leathan ar eolas ag na daltaí i ngach rang. Cé go n-éiríonn le cuid is mó díobh fíor-chumarsáid a dhéanamh le linn na ngníomhaíochtaí labhartha, d’fhéadfaí a scileanna labhartha, go mór mhór a muinín agus a gcumas ag láimhseáil na mbriathra, a fhorbairt a thuilleadh i ranganna áirithe. Aithrisíonn na daltaí cnuasach breá filíochta le brí agus le tuiscint. Baintear dea-úsáid as na leabhair mhóra sna bun ranganna chun tuiscint agus suim na ndaltaí a chothú. Sna meán agus sna hard ranganna bunaítear an léitheoireacht ar an iomlán ar na téascleabhair. Léann na daltaí le tuiscint agus le líofacht. B’fhiú machnamh a dhéanamh ar éagsúlacht ábhar léitheoireachta a sholáthar agus a úsáid ag gach leibhéal ranga chun léitheoireacht neamhspleách na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Múintear scileanna scríbhneoireachta go dícheallach. Cleachtann na daltaí scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil don chuid is mó agus tugtar roinnt deiseanna dóibh scríbhneoireacht phearsanta a chumadh.
Overall, the teaching of Irish throughout the school is very effective. Suitable, interesting methodologies are employed to consolidate learning and it is clear that a very good standard is achieved in the majority of classes. Teachers succeed in cultivating pupils’ interest and their positive attitude to Irish. An Irish week is organised every year, interest areas are presented in classes and examples of the language are displayed on notices in classrooms and around the school. Praiseworthy use is made of Irish as a medium of instruction during lessons and as a means of communication throughout the day. Teachers base their lessons on the themes of the curriculum. Resources, action songs, drama, games, pair work and questioning are purposefully used in the effective teaching of topics. Pupils in all classes demonstrate a wide vocabulary range. While the majority of pupils display genuine communication skills during oral-language activities, their oral-language skills, in particular their competence and confidence in using verbs, needs to be further developed in some classes. Pupils recite a good range of poems with enthusiasm and understanding. Large-format books are effectively utilised in the infant and junior classes to foster pupils’ interest and understanding. Reading in the middle and senior classes is primarily based on the textbooks. Pupils read fluently and with understanding. Consideration now needs to be given to the provision and use of a range of reading material at each class level in order to develop pupils’ independent reading skills. Writing skills are diligently taught. Pupils practise functional writing skills in the main with some opportunities being provided for the development of their personal writing skills.
The quality of teaching and learning in English is very good. Pupils’ expressive-language competence throughout the school is highly praised. They display the ability to confidently discuss a broad range of topics and to engage effectively with the expressed views and opinions of their peers. This is facilitated by the structured implementation of thematic approaches to oral-language learning, the judicious use of talk and discussion opportunities and the utilisation of a variety of questioning approaches. In all classes, the pupils recite a broad repertoire of poetry and rhyme with expression and enthusiasm.
The approach taken to reading is laudable. A print-rich environment is successfully created throughout the school and serves to cultivate pupils’ interest. Their emergent-reading skills are effectively fostered in infant and junior classes. The use of graded reading schemes, class novels, paired-reading initiatives and the encouragement of pupils’ personal reading serve to ensure high levels of reading competence. Classroom libraries contain a very good range of fiction and non-fiction texts and ensure that all pupils are provided with opportunities to read at an appropriate instructional level. Comprehension skills are appropriately advanced.
Overall, commendable approaches are in evidence in the teaching of writing. Pupils are encouraged to write in a range of genres and for a variety of purposes and audiences. They participate annually in the Write-a-Book initiative in conjunction with the local education centre and the quality of their completed works is highly lauded. As a means of building on existing practice, it is recommended that opportunities for pupils’ engagement in personal and independent writing be introduced at an earlier stage. It is further advised that current school-wide approaches to process writing be reviewed. In so doing, more regular engagement in process-writing approaches should be ensured, including the provision of an enhanced role for pupils and their peers. Pupils’ written work reaches a good standard in relation to handwriting, layout and presentation. Throughout the school, pupils’ work is well monitored with constructive feedback being provided. The recent review of approaches to the development of pupils’ spelling competence and the implementation of a multi-dimensional approach are praised.
High-quality teaching and learning is in evidence in Mathematics. Lessons are well structured, concepts are clearly explained and the use of appropriate mathematical language is skilfully fostered. A variety of manipulatives and resources, including the productive use of the environment, is effectively employed. Opportunities for the pupils to work collaboratively in addressing particular mathematical concepts are usefully employed in some classes. The school is praised for the provision of discrete time in mathematics lessons for the purposeful development of pupils’ mental mathematics’ skills. In the main, the pupils display very good understanding of work previously completed across the strands. However, they would benefit from more regularised and structured opportunities to develop their problem-solving capacities. This should include pupils’ involvement in problem construction, the resolution of multi-stage problems and the effective utilisation of their estimation skills.
Competent practice is in evidence in the teaching of Geography. Approaches, including, the investigation of natural and human environments, field work, mapping, and learning about other places are effectively employed in the development of pupils’ abilities to work as geographers. Their sense of space and place and their graphical skills are skilfully developed. Pupils demonstrate laudable knowledge and understanding of the topics previously undertaken. Their interest, enthusiasm and geographical investigation skills are purposefully fostered through their involvement in well-devised project work.
Teaching and learning in Science are competent. Features of effective practice include the investigation of habitats and living things, and the promotion of environmental awareness and care. The pupils display praiseworthy understanding of the processes of life in plants and animals through engagement in classroom-based and outdoor exploration. Highly commendable environmental awareness and care practices are fostered throughout the school through the pupils’ involvement in the Green Schools’ initiative. Also notable is their active participation in the development and maintenance of the school garden and their involvement in Agri Aware’s Incredible Edibles’ programme. The pupils experience elements of the energy and forces, and materials strands through collaborative investigation, designing-and-making activities and their participation in the school’s annual science week. As a means of ensuring optimum continuity throughout the school in these particular strands, it is advised that additional attention be given to the spiral progression of skills, concepts and language.
The teaching of the Visual Arts is praiseworthy. Teachers succeed admirably in providing a breadth of artistic experience across all strands and the Visual Arts are imaginatively integrated with other curriculum areas. Lessons are well structured with appropriate emphasis being placed on the development of pupils’ creative skills and techniques, and on the language and elements of art. Pupils demonstrate high levels of interest and understanding in lessons. Their ability to look and respond to their own work and to the work of their peers is effectively cultivated. The structured development, with greater regularity, of pupils’ understanding and appreciation of the work of nationally and internationally-renowned artists is advised. Displays of pupils’ work throughout the school and in art portfolios verify laudable progression in their skills and creativity.
Teaching and learning in Music are highly commended and pupils display laudable skills, knowledge and understanding. Music is an integral part of school life with teachers using their musical talent to very good effect at class and whole-school levels. Structured opportunities are provided for the development of pupils’ performing, listening and responding and composing abilities. Pupils in the middle and senior classes learn a musical instrument and they perform with enthusiasm. Musical literacy is given praiseworthy emphasis. Resources, including pupil-designed percussion instruments, are effectively used in the development of their literacy and composition skills. Regular opportunities are provided for pupils to display their musical talents and abilities, including accomplished performances by the school choir at school assemblies, concerts and religious celebrations.
Teaching and learning in Drama is creditable. Features of positive practice include the use of scaffolded improvisational activities, a range of drama strategies, thoughtful use of props and space, and guided reflection. Pupils are encouraged to enter into the drama context and a safe environment is appropriately created. The element of belief is actively encouraged and fostered with pupils participating in activities with interest. Drama is successfully integrated with other curriculum areas and drama contracts have been devised collaboratively by teachers and pupils in many classes. School concerts provide opportunities for pupils to engage in many aspects of the performance element of Drama.
Teaching and learning in Physical Education is very good. A wide range of resources is utilised to support the effective implementation of a broad and balanced programme. Lessons are well structured, organised and designed to ensure the maximum participation of all pupils. Activities combine the development of specific skills and enjoyment, with the promotion of team work and the provision of opportunities for pupils to cooperate in the creation of their own games. Positive levels of achievement are demonstrated by pupils, appropriate to their varying ability levels. Pupils are provided with opportunities to participate in aquatics training at defined intervals during their time in school. The use of external tutors for specific periods of time is an aspect of provision and pupils are tutored by Gaelic Athletics’ Association, Irish Rugby Football Union, and athletics coaches. The dedication of staff and parents in the provision of extra-curricular activities for pupils in all classes is highly praised.
The school’s commitment to the nurturing of pupils’ self-esteem and their sense of personal responsibility effectively supports the successful implementation of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). The teaching of SPHE permeates all activities. The positive school and classroom climate is conducive to the development of pupils’ self confidence and their understanding of self, others and the wider world. A good range of approaches including the use of circle time, story, games and song is employed in the development of their skills and understanding. A wide range of resources is purposefully utilised. The SPHE programme is integrated effectively with other curriculum areas including English and Physical Education. In all classes, values are successfully fostered. Lessons productively develop pupils’ self awareness, their decision-making abilities and their comprehension of personal health and safety issues. Pupils’ engagement with the views and opinions of others is encouraged. They discuss topics with interest and can relate them to their own experiences. At a whole-school level the pupils support a number of national and international charities during the year.
Credible progress has been made in the review and development of assessment practices. Assessment modes include teacher observation notes, teacher-designed tasks and tests, checklists, and commercially-produced assessments. Classroom-based assessment provides valuable information on the progress of individual pupils primarily in the areas of English and Mathematics. In order to ensure the availability of both formative and summative assessment results to guide the breadth of curriculum provision, it is recommended that existing assessment policy and practice be duly extended.
An early screening test is administered to pupils in senior infants and the proposed implementation of a follow-through, early-intervention programme is welcomed. Standardised assessment in English reading and spelling, and Mathematics are administered annually from first to sixth classes. The recent design and introduction of detailed individual pupil profiles in literacy and numeracy are praised. Also noteworthy is the school’s maintenance of its efficient record-keeping system. The current range of assessment results is usefully employed to inform teaching and learning.
Provision for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) is very good and the school is lauded for its implementation of a continuum of support. Supplementary teaching is provided primarily through pupil withdrawal and is complemented by the more recent introduction of in-class support. In structuring caseloads, greater cognisance should be given to the implementation of prevention and early-intervention measures as well as increased levels of in-class support for English and Mathematics.
A comprehensive range of diagnostic tests is administered to identify learning needs and to assist in the development of individual education plans (IEPs) and individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs). IEPS and IPLPs are appropriately constructed and regularly reviewed in consultation with class teachers and parents. In devising individual learning targets attention should be afforded to ensuring that, in all instances, the specific outcomes of school-based assessment and the particular recommendations of externally-produced assessment reports are duly reflected. Lessons are well designed and teacher/pupil interactions are encouraging and supportive. An extensive range of resources is used to support pupils’ learning, including ICT. The pupils engage purposefully in a suitable range of learning activities. Positive pupil progress in the achievement of their learning goals is in evidence, including the development of their self-confidence and their sense of achievement.
Pupils in Loreto Primary School experience being educated in an inclusive environment and all pupils are provided with access to the full range of school activities.
Language support for pupils for whom English is an additional language is provided on a withdrawal basis. The Primary School Assessment Kit is purposefully used to assess pupils’ individual language-learning abilities. An apt emphasis is placed on the development of their vocabulary, grammatical and language-use competence. A range of resources, including well-structured games, is suitably used. Pupils engage in activities with interest and understanding. While adequate pupil progress is in evidence, there is scope for development in planning and provision. Clear learning targets should be established based on the previously-identified, language-learning levels. Resources, as prepared by Integrate Ireland Language and Training, should be used in the planning and implementation of programmes of learning. Clear records of individual pupils’ progress should be maintained. A whole-school intercultural policy documenting intercultural educational opportunities in the school should now be formulated.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The pupils are praised for their high levels of motivation and the interest and enthusiasm they demonstrate in the range of school activities.
· The overall quality of teaching and learning is very good. A broad and balanced curriculum is implemented with effective use being made of opportunities for linkage and integration.
· The commitment to and standard of music throughout the school is highly praiseworthy.
· The positive relationships in evidence between staff and pupils, and between pupils and their peers are highly praised
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published November 2009