An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Scoil Mhuire

Three Mile House, County Monaghan

Uimhir rolla: 19162H


Date of inspection: 23 October 2009





Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils


School response to the report





Whole-school evaluation


A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Mhuire was undertaken in October 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and Geography. 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


Scoil Mhuire is a co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Kilmore-Drumsnatt in Three Mile House, County Monaghan and caters for pupils from the immediate hinterland. Its enrolment is projected to remain at current levels for the foreseeable future. Pupil attendance is generally high. A special unit for pupils with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) for the north Monaghan area was established in the school in 2007.


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




Pupils enrolled in the school


Mainstream classes in the school


Teachers on the school staff


Mainstream class teachers


Teachers working in support roles


Teachers working in an ASD unit


Special needs assistants




1.     Quality of school management


1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision


The school, under the patronage of the Bishop of Clogher, has a Roman Catholic ethos and seeks to enable pupils realise their full potential as Christians in a stimulating and secure learning environment. This characteristic spirit is manifest in the broad, balanced and relevant curriculum provided and in the respectful and positive interactions in evidence between teachers, pupils and their peers.


1.2 Board of management


The board of management contributes effectively to the successful operation of the school and individual members competently undertake a variety of responsibilities. It is properly constituted and meets on a regular basis. Minutes of meetings are carefully recorded and accounts are maintained. It is advised that accounts be certified annually as required in Section 18 (1) of the Education Act 1998. The board’s current priorities include the further development of the school plan and the provision of a permanent building for the ASD unit. The chairperson is very supportive of the staff and pupils. The board regularly discusses and ratifies school policies and facilitates their communication to parents. It should now consider issuing an annual report to parents on the operation of the school as proposed in Section 20 of the Education Act 1998.


1.3 In-school management


The in-school management team comprises the principal, the deputy principal and three special duties teachers. The school is very capably led by a committed principal. His leadership style is characterised by the nurturing of a friendly learning environment for pupils, the building of industrious working relationships among all partners and the promotion of a culture of collegiality among staff. His good communication skills ensure a welcoming atmosphere for parents and purposeful communication with the wider community. Administrative duties are carried out efficiently to ensure the smooth running of the school.


The in-school management team’s assigned duties are clearly delineated and are conscientiously undertaken. They demonstrate enthusiasm and dedication to the development of the school. Together with the principal they create a positive school climate which reflects high aspirations for pupil achievement. As a means of building on the capacity of the in-school management team in leading learning, it is recommended that its role in co-ordinating and evaluating the implementation of the whole-school plan be further developed. Regular in-school management meetings would facilitate this development. 


1.4 Management of resources


All resources are deployed effectively in the school. Allocation of classes is determined by the principal in consultation with staff. Further opportunities for staff mobility should be considered. School resources and teacher-designed materials are effectively used for teaching and learning. Resource teaching is currently provided in a multi-purpose classroom. It is recommended that current resources for support teaching are re-organised so that the various uses of the room are separated to create a suitable learning environment for pupils. Further development and use of information and communication technology (ICT) resources to enhance learning is recommended.


The school secretary makes a very valuable contribution to the administration of the school. The cleaner ensures that the learning environment is maintained to a high standard of cleanliness and order.


1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community


Positive and productive relationships between the board and school staff, parents and the local community are successfully fostered. Parent-teacher meetings and annual reports are used to inform parents of their children’s progress. Parents are kept informed of school events through regular notes and newsletters. The parents’ association displays commendable support for the work of the school. In particular, they contribute to the funding of a range of school resources and assist in the provision of a variety of extra-curricular activities. Parents’ representatives reported that they were very pleased with the quality of education in the school. They also stated that very good relationships exist between school and home. Parent concerns are managed appropriately.


1.6 Management of pupils


The management of pupils is very good. Relationships are characterised by trust and mutual respect. A suitable code of behaviour has been devised and is fairly implemented. The teachers have established a culture of positive discipline. The continued promotion and implementation of the anti-bullying policy by the principal is particularly praiseworthy. Pupils are courteous and very respectful towards adults and peers and demonstrate high levels of self-confidence and self-esteem.  



2. Quality of school planning


2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning


The overall quality of whole-school planning is good. All school partners are involved in the planning process. The parents’ association welcome their recent opportunity to input to school policy. To build on this development formal structures should now be put in place to support their ongoing participation in the development and review of school policy. Appropriate statutory plans and organisational procedures have been devised to ensure smooth school administration. Some statutory policies necessitate amendment to meet the requirements of current legislation. Policies for most curricular areas have also been devised and key priorities have been identified for development. All policies are available to parents in the school.


In general the quality of individual classroom planning is good. Teachers provide useful long-term and short-term planning. Some long-term plans are very comprehensive and are guided by school policy and reflect the context of the school. This good practice in planning should be extended throughout the school. Further reflection on a whole-school basis on the approach to planning would ensure systematic progression of pupils’ knowledge and skills. Regular appraisal of completed monthly reports would provide teachers with valuable information to engage in school self-evaluation.


2.2 Child protection policy and procedures


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



3.     Quality of learning and teaching


3.1 English


The teaching of English is good. The integrated approach adopted to the teaching of oral language enables pupils articulate their views confidently in an age-appropriate manner. Significant emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ receptive language skills particularly in the junior classes. Class discussion is well managed and all pupils are encouraged to participate. Pupils’ expressive language is judiciously developed but some pupils would benefit from additional targeted opportunities to develop their expressive language through structured collaborative activities. The development of a whole-school discrete oral language programme is recommended to accomplish the specific curriculum objectives for each class grouping. Commendable attention is paid to the exploration, enjoyment, creation and recitation of poetry as part of the school’s language programme.


A print-rich environment is created throughout the school to support the development of reading and writing skills. The language experience approach is used effectively in infant classes to develop early reading and writing skills. A creditable emphasis is placed on the structured development of phonological and phonemic awareness and on the acquisition of basic sight vocabulary. The pupils read with interest, expression and fluency. In the middle classes, the pupils’ reading skills are progressed appropriately using graded reading schemes, support texts and class novels. A wide range of library books is available in classrooms and reading for pleasure is suitably cultivated. Pupils demonstrate good levels of understanding and of analytical ability. The novel is used during whole-class reading activities in senior classes. While most pupils read fluently, the reading material is not sufficiently challenging for some pupils and too difficult for others. A small number of pupils would benefit from further development of their reading skills. It is recommended that the practice of teaching reading as a whole-class activity be reviewed and that group work be practised, where reading material from a range of sources is matched to individual pupils’ needs.


Effective approaches are used to teach writing skills. Careful attention is paid to early writing activities in the junior classes. As pupils progress through the school they are provided with regular opportunities to write in different genres. Written work is carefully monitored and pupils’ use of writing conventions is commendable. There is a very high standard of writing in some classes. Evolving practice is in evidence in the promotion of a process approach to writing. It is recommended that a more structured whole-school approach to process writing be implemented. The use of word processing and desktop publishing tools would enhance pupils’ creative writing skills.


3.2 Mathematics


The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good overall. Mathematics-rich environments are created and a good selection of mathematical resources is provided in the school. Teachers plan for an appropriate representation of all strands of the curriculum and promote the use of mathematical language consistently. Good use is made of number songs, rhymes and manipulatives in the junior classes and pupils show a good understanding of concepts taught. Constructive use of concrete materials and an ongoing emphasis on problem solving skills were evident in lessons during the evaluation. In some classes work is carefully differentiated to ensure that all pupils are suitably challenged. Assessment results indicate a wide spread of achievement by pupils commensurate with their abilities. Written work is neatly presented and is monitored carefully by teachers. Pupils in all classes display a good knowledge of number facts, an age-appropriate ability to carry out number operations, and a good understanding of their application in different contexts. The further use of mathematical games and trails would facilitate pupils in developing their ability to apply conceptual knowledge to real-life situations.


3.3 Geography


The quality of teaching and learning in Geography is very good. A broad curriculum is taught and a variety of approaches and methodologies is employed using age-approritate resources. Pupils’ geographical knowledge and skills are incrementally developed by activity and experience in a range of environments.


Pupils are enabled to explore their own human and natural local environment through well-organised field trips. They demonstrate a good knowledge and understanding of the natural features of the locality and of Ireland. It is commendable that this knowledge is consolidated from class to class. Inter-relationships between human and natural environments are judiciously developed through in-depth study of some countries. In senior classes pupils develop a sense of their global citizenship through structured study of the natural and human features of the world. They can discuss similarities and differences between their own location and contrasting places in Ireland and in the world with confidence.


Pupils’ knowledge of natural features and processes in the national environment is very good. Weather observation and recording skills are judiciously developed at all levels in the school. A sense of personal and school responsibility for the environment is judiciously fostered in pupils through their participation in the Green Schools programme. Effective structured activities are organised to enhance pupils’ awareness of perspective and develop their graphical skills. Pupils use a wide range of investigative skills to critically inform their knowledge of the environment. These provide rich opportunities for the development of geographical language. Pupils have a good understanding of the Earth in the solar system and space. The development of a spiral curriculum on a whole-school basis would further enhance provision for pupils and facilitate the multi-class context of the school.


3.4 Assessment


A whole-school policy to guide the assessment of pupils’ progress has been devised and a range of assessment modes is in evidence. These include standardised tests, teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests, questioning and conferencing. Pupils’ written work is regularly and closely monitored, with some useful feedback being provided. Assessment results are being currently analysed on a whole-school basis and this practice is commendable. The results of assessment are usefully shared between teachers and communicated to parents. Extended use of diagnostic testing is recommended to identify pupils’ specific learning difficulties and needs. Consideration should also be given to the development of pupil self-assessment practices.



4. Quality of support for pupils


4.1 Pupils with special educational needs


A full-time learning support and a part-time resource teacher provide support for pupils with special educational needs. The work of the support teachers needs to be further coordinated in line with the Special Education Circular Letter SP Ed 02/05 in order to ensure that teachers’ expertise is used to best effect and that it is pupils’ continuous needs that determine the manner in which they are deployed.  


Tuition is provided for pupils with special educational needs in the areas of literacy and numeracy and in the development of a range of social skills. Appropriate screening mechanisms are in place for the identification of pupils requiring supplementary support. Early intervention strategies are implemented to support young pupils with special educational needs. Suitable learning programmes are prepared where clear, specific and relevant learning targets are set. Lessons are well structured and judiciously implemented using a range of appropriate resources including ICT. Activities in collaboration with mainstream classes are organised to develop pupils’ self-esteem.


At present, supplementary teaching is mainly provided on a withdrawal basis and it is recommended that consideration be given to incorporating in-class support and team-teaching approaches to allow pupils consolidate their skill and concept development in collaborative group contexts. A special needs assistant (SNA) provides valuable support for one pupil in accessing the curriculum and in participating in learning activities.


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


The provision for pupils in the ASD unit is of very good quality. An holistic approach is adapted to their education and the multi-disciplinary support provided for pupils is very well organised and managed. A wide selection of teaching resources is available to facilitate pupils’ learning. Roles and responsibilities of staff in the unit are clearly defined and activities are predictable and well organised with timetables and routines very clearly displayed for pupils. Staff-pupil interactions are very supportive and affirmative and characterised by a sense of mutual respect. The management of pupils’ behaviour is effective and consistent. Social skills and socially acceptable behaviour is positively and successfully reinforced.


Programmes of work are carefully planned in accordance with each pupil’s individual strengths and needs as identified through systematic assessment. Planning is cross-curricular and addresses the triad of impairments. Pupils’ progress is regularly and systematically monitored and meticulously recorded. During the evaluation pupils were provided with a balanced range of individual work, group work and class work to meet their needs. In all activities pupils demonstrated an understanding of adults’ high expectations with regard to completion of tasks and acceptable behaviour. Planned and focused inclusion with pupils in mainstream classes has been organised and enhances the development of all pupils. The unit engages in regular and effective communication with parents.



5.     Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas:


·         The school is characterised by a welcoming and caring school environment where pupils enjoy learning and where their holistic development is nurtured.

·         The board of management and parents’ association is supportive of the work of the school and is committed to its development.

·         The effective leadership of the principal ensures a shared sense of purpose among partners in the school.

·         The dedication of the teaching staff contributes to the high quality of teaching and learning in the school as observed in Mathematics, in Geography and in aspects of English.

·         The school is commended for its attitude of inclusiveness and for its overall caring provision for pupils with special needs, especially pupils in the ASD unit.

·         Pupils are well-behaved, confident, courteous and eager to learn.


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


·         Further formal collaboration should take place among teaching staff to enhance and share good practice.

·         As part of its leadership role the in-school management team should engage in a process to evaluate the impact of the whole-school plan on teaching and learning.

·         It is recommended that the learning support model of provision be reviewed and in-class support extended to include team-teaching.

·         A whole-school information and communications technology (ICT) programme should be drawn up to enhance the use of ICT as a medium for teaching, learning and communicating within the school.

·         The further development of a discrete whole-school oral language programme in English would ensure continuity and progression in pupils’ oral language skills.


Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.





Published March 2010







School response to the report


Submitted by the Board of Management





Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report



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 members recognise the key findings and recommendations in the report and are delighted with the staff’s positive reaction to examine these and implement whatever it takes to further improve the quality of education in the school.