An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

  

Scoil Chroí Ró Naofa Íosa,

Fernbank, North Circular Road, Limerick

Roll number: 19204U

  

Date of inspection:  20 March 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

School Response to the Report


Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Chroí Ró Naofa. 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 acting principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which 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 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.

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Chroí Ró Naofa Íosa is situated at the junction of Shelbourne Road Lower and lower North Circular Road in Limerick city. It shares the school site with Scoil Maria Auxiliatrix girls’ school. The school is situated in our Lady of the Rosary parish and is well-supported both financially and managerially by its trustees, the Salesian order. As a junior school, the school specialises in the teaching and learning of children between Junior Infants and First Class during the crucial early childhood period.  The enrolment of 274 boys and girls is largely drawn from the northern suburbs of Limerick. Attendance in the school is good.  Currently there are 40 international children attending the school, representing 15 countries. There are ten mainstream classes in the school and a total of 16 staff.

 

As a result of a clearly articulated ethos statement formulated by the Salesian order, the management and organisation of the school are underpinned by a statement of fundamental beliefs, values and ideals which is imparted in various ways to the stakeholders in the school community. The mission statement of the school indicates that the staff strives to create and maintain an atmosphere of joy and serenity in which the pupils are enabled to grow and develop to their full potential.

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and it meets on average, twice each term. The board is generally familiar with and compliant with relevant legislation and with the Rules for National Schools. The board has been involved in school planning at appropriate stages of the process.  All of the required policies are in place and have been ratified by the board. The board effectively draws upon the expertise of its own members, some of which is of a professional nature. Individual board members have assumed responsibility for the completion of certain tasks relevant to the work of the board.  The school’s finances are managed effectively. Topics discussed at board level are wide-ranging but commonly relate to the maintenance of and provision of school accommodation, procedures and policies involved in the day to day running of the school and provision for pupils with special needs. The board has put very effective procedures in place which support clear and frequent communication within the school community. As a result, board members are familiar with the issues involved in the operation of the school. The board maintains frequent communication with the Parents’ Association. The board has encouraged and continues to facilitate the professional development of the teaching staff. Within the internal and external constraints of the school building, the board endeavours to provide a very good learning environment, purchasing teaching resources as required or as requested. It ensures that the school premises are safe for pupils and teachers and it has a long-term maintenance policy in place. The board rightly prioritises the educational progress and welfare of the children in its decision-making.

 

The board deserves high praise for its professional and committed management of the school. Board members are also affirmed for the thoroughness and efficiency they bring to their roles. The excellent consultation process the board has established ensures that the school body works together as a team. In addition to managing the school’s physical and learning environment in the future, the board intends to uphold the characteristic spirit of the school as determined in the Salesian order ethos statement and it also intends to oversee the extension of culturally appropriate practices in the school.

To ensure that the school is clearly positioned in the future to maintain its current strengths, the board should ensure that the school will continue to develop its expertise in teaching and learning, appropriate to the age group with which it deals. In keeping with its stated policy of continuous improvement, the school should develop thorough processes for evaluating its own performance.  A formal policy supporting ongoing school-based self evaluation should be put in place. In addition to the very relevant priorities the board has outlined for the school, the board should now also consider its wider environment and current developments in early childhood education generally.  The board should continue to welcome expert contributions on the development and delivery of education for this age group from a wide range of informed stakeholders, developing links at local level, in particular. While the board has already put very good arrangements in place for initial enrolment in the school, the board should be particularly cognisant of developing with parental consent, appropriate linkages between personnel during the transitions the children make from pre-school or other settings to the school and upon leaving the school to follow-on primary schools. The board should draw up a long-term strategic plan which will identify broad goals and which will provide direction for achieving these goals. The board should also develop an action plan which will specify time-related objectives to be met and which will specify responsibilities and financial implications of meeting these objectives.

 

 

2.2 In-school management

The principal was unavoidably absent on sick leave during the evaluation period. As a result of the clear administrative procedures which are in place, the school operates very efficiently with the support of a part-time secretary and caretaker. The fact that there is effective ongoing communication between the principal and the deputy principal was evident in the efficiency with which the acting principal assumed the administrative role of the principal in her absence. It is also evident that the deputy principal fulfils her duties of assisting the principal in the day to day organisation of the school and of conferring regularly with the principal very well.

 

The operation of the middle management team is very effective in the school. This operational process is underpinned by a school policy statement which is explicit in terms of ensuring ongoing communication and delegation of duties and of ensuring the distribution of leadership among the staff. Staff with additional responsibilities have clearly defined and understood remits which meet the current needs of the school and its pupils. The relationships between the relevant members of this team are reciprocal, positive and encouraging. These members of staff work well with other staff in a team approach.

 

In addition to their other duties, all post-holders have some responsibility for implementation, assessment and review of an area of the curriculum. The middle management team meets regularly and observes formal meeting procedures. In addition to the ongoing communication which occurs between the middle management team and the board of management, it is noted that excellent liaison occurs, as necessary, with the Parents’ Association. Such instances occurred during the organisation of particular initiatives such as a Healthy Eating Week, the launch of a Music CD at Christmas, Safety Awareness Week and the organisation of an Active School Week.

 

The duties of post-holders as allocated, reflect the current priorities of the school. However, as priorities will change with the ongoing development of the school, the board of management and staff should consider redefining these duties on a regular basis in line with the school development strategy. The work of this team should be structured to focus on continuous quality improvement in the future. In particular, the specific activities of post-holders in regard to assessment and review of curricular areas should be further clarified.

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

Accommodation and buildings

The school was constructed in 1947. The design of the building and the sloped site where it is located, currently present a number of challenges in respect of teaching and learning in the school. The majority of classes are located on two levels. Staircases link the school’s administration area, staff areas and classroom areas.  Two classes are accommodated separately in the building where Scoil Maria Auxiliatrix Girls’ School is located and are reached by traversing a covered archway.   For physical activity, the school shares the general purposes room located in Scoil Maria Auxiliatrix girls’ school. A second all-purposes room located in Salesian Convent Fernbank is used for Drama and other activities. The external play space also incorporates several levels.

 

The board of management is to be affirmed for its creativity in ensuring that all available external and internal space in the school has been adapted with specific educational purposes in mind. Examples of the attention which has been paid to the external play space include the nursery rhyme mural which has been painted on a wall in the play space allocated to the Junior Infants. The external play space has also been enhanced with bright colours, with trees and with flowering plants. Yard games such as “Hopscotch” are supported by paint work undertaken on the playground surface and sections of the external play space have been designated for particular activities such as recycling. Another external section contains a wormery.  Internally the available indoor space has been extended through the conversion of cloakroom and the provision of a new staff room, resource room and secretary’s office.  Additional cloakroom facilities have been provided on corridors. The allocation of one classroom for the sole use of information and communication technology (ICT) is a particularly worthy innovation. Recently a second classroom, know as the Science/Discovery room, has been allocated for the specific purpose of supporting free play and scientific discovery.

 

As a result of the disconnected nature of the school building, the pupils must transfer between a number of settings within the school day. It is to the credit to the staff of both schools that these transitions are organised in a smooth manner.

 

 

Resources for pupils

The school has purchased a large and comprehensive range of age-appropriate resources which are widely used in the implementation of the curriculum. The research and thought which has underpinned the provision of these materials deserves high affirmation. These resources are detailed in the school plan and in addition to resources which support the teaching of literacy and numeracy, include physical education equipment, musical instruments, science equipment, videos/DVDs, tapes, computers and peripherals, manipulatives, mathematical equipment and materials to support the teaching of the visual arts. Many resources have been creatively provided by the teachers themselves.

 

It is unfortunate however, that to benefit from the wide curriculum delivered in the school, that the children must leave their base classrooms. A combination of the physical dimensions of many of the classrooms and of the necessity to store the existing volume of resources, mitigates against flexibility, adaptability and easy access to these resources in these learning environments. Storage of resources appears to present a particular difficulty in the school. The recently provided Science/Discovery room is an example of an indoor environment created in the school which provides a range of developmentally appropriate, challenging, diverse, creative and enriching experiences for the children who are enabled to use it. This particular learning environment facilitates the children in taking learning risks, in making decisions and in working both cooperatively and independently. It would be useful at this point; if the board of management and staff were to consider and perhaps to seek advice on how the currently available physical space in classrooms might be adjusted to provide for safe movement during group and individual activities. An audit of the currently provided resources could be conducted with a view to clarifying whether some resources currently in place continue to be relevant. It is possible that free-standing portable storage and display systems could be sourced which would allow for a greater number of activity centres in the classrooms and which would consequently allow greater opportunities for the children to make choices and be more involved in active learning. 

 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

It is evident that the board of management and the school staff regard the support and contribution of parents as key elements in the success of teaching and learning in the school. Parents value the work of the school and feel welcome and secure in approaching the principal and members of staff. Staff also value and take account of the parents’ knowledge of their children’s development, interests and needs.

 

The parents receive clear information about the aims, policies, organisation and day-to-day life and work of the school. The handbook given to parents on enrolment of their children in the school is particularly to be affirmed as it incorporates a focus on the value of play. The frequently issued school newsletters also provide parents with ongoing information. The steps the school has taken to date to assist non-English speaking parents to access such information are praiseworthy. However, to be of further assistance to these parents, it is recommended that particular efforts should now be made to source documentation and guidelines which have been translated into relevant foreign languages.

 

Staff and parents have both formal and informal opportunities for communication and information sharing about the children’s development and learning. Some parents are active in the day to day running of the school. It is recommended however, that the views of the parents should be sought systematically and taken into account when the school reviews its curriculum, organisation and provision. The proactive partnership approach currently in existence should be underpinned by a range of clear procedures in this regard.

 

 

2.5 Management of pupils

Focus on pupils’ personal development and well-being is outstanding in the school. Pupils seem to like being at school very much and are very proud of their school and their achievements. They are self-confident and respond very well in lessons. They join enthusiastically in activities and form close relationships. The behaviour of the children is very good both within class and during transition periods to the play ground and to other settings within the school.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

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, 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.

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

A comprehensive school plan, addressing curriculum and organisational areas, has been devised by the staff. The process used in the drafting of school planning documents is highly commended. It is evident that the plans are devised bearing the school context in mind and that each plan reflects the school ethos and aims. The draft documents are presented to the board for consideration and subsequently ratified, dated and signed. Copies are made available to parents on request. Personnel from the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) and the School Development Planning Service (SDPS) have assisted in the drafting of these documents. On three occasions, the staff has organised courses for itself during the first week of the summer holidays in co-operation with the board and the Limerick and Clare Education Centres. This exercise has afforded the staff an opportunity to focus on identified areas of concern and to develop its practice on a whole school basis. During this professional development exercise, action plans in regard to the implementation of curriculum areas have been devised.

 

Policies which concern sixteen areas of school organisation are in place.  The majority of these policies are of a very high standard and address areas such as enrolment, code of behaviour, anti-bullying, learning support and health and safety. Parents were actively involved in the drafting of the Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy. 

 

Curriculum plans have been drawn up in respect of eight curricular areas. These plans reflect an awareness of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). The quality of these plans ensures that the children are offered a broad and balanced curriculum.  The most suitable methodologies and strategies to be employed by the teachers in delivering and devising teaching programmes for their classes are outlined in detail. The staff is currently involved in the process of drafting plans in the area of History and Geography and it is anticipated that these plans will be in place at the end of the current school year. Following in-service in the area of Drama, the staff plans to commence the process of drafting a plan in this area.

 

 

3.2 Classroom planning

At classroom level, the teachers are focused on delivering a broad and balanced curriculum which is rich and challenging. Individually, all teachers diligently prepare long and short term plans and record progress in each of the curriculum areas. Classroom planning in the school reflects teacher awareness of the whole school curricular plans and of the principles of the primary curriculum. The majority of teachers organise their planning in line with the respective strands and strand units of the curricular areas. In most cases, teachers make reference to specific learning objectives, differentiation, resources, teaching strategies and assessment.

Teachers use a variety of templates to address the planning and recording of work, all of which have commendable elements. However, in the interest of uniformity and increased team effectiveness, it is recommended that staff would now consider the drafting of an agreed format for long- and short-term planning and for the recording of progress in each curriculum area.

Currently some monthly progress records contribute effectively to the review of the implementation of the school plan by being focused on the achievement of learning outcomes. Ideally all monthly progress records should allow for similar reflection on outcomes, so that further planning can be focused on the development and extension of pupil learning as opposed to the content of lessons to be taught. Such a reflective approach, if adopted, would contribute immensely to the ongoing school based self-evaluation process.

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

The quality of teaching and learning is very good overall. Occasionally outstanding practice was observed. During these excellent lessons, the teaching inspired very high levels of interest, enjoyment, effort and application in the pupils. Dominance of a whole class teaching approach was rarely evident. In almost all classes, children were encouraged to be responsive and the teachers reacted sensitively to their pupils. This knowledge the teachers have acquired in regard to the primary curriculum, when combined with their teaching skills as well as their understanding of children, allows them to plan teaching and learning activities which are not dominated by textbooks and which, for the most part, are based on the children’s own experience. In general, lessons observed were calm, purposeful and happy.  

 

The competencies of the teaching staff, their hard work and their empathy and understanding of children comprise the fundamental strengths of the school. Strategies for the further development of teaching and learning in the school in the immediate and long-term future, must now be realistic in terms of the current context factors operating in the school. Thought should be given to devising a whole-school policy on teaching and learning that would identify a greater number of activities which would allow children to work independently or in groups despite these context factors. Challenging play activities should be identified for the children wherein they would use their own initiative to solve problems, perhaps utilising a problem-solving and thinking skills framework. This would involve the teachers more than at present in extending children’s thinking and actions through sensitive and informed guidance, interventions and support. They would also be more involved in active observation of the children.  For this purpose, there is a need to draw up an observation schedule and a precise means of tracking children’s progress.

 

 

4.2 Language

 

Irish

Tá plean scoile cuimsitheach leagtha amach ag an bhfoireann sa Ghaeilge ina bhfuil mar aidhm aige cabhrú leis an bhfoireann an curaclam a chur i bhfeidhm agus deimhin a dhéanamh de go bhfuil leanúnachas ó rang go rang san ábhar teagaisc. Cuireann an fhoireann béim ar cur chuige cumarsáideach agus cuirtear béim faoi leith ar éisteacht agus ar thuiscint sa scoil. Cuirtear ar chumas na bpáistí treoracha i nGaeilge a thuiscint agus a leanúint. Cuirtear béim freisin ar an teanga labhartha, ar rainn, ar ghníomhamhráin, ar scéalta, ar sceitsí gearra agus ar chluichí simplí.  Bunaítear na ceachtanna ar na feidhmeanna teanga a luaitear sa churaclam.

 

Úsáidtear raon leathan straitéisí chun na cuspóirí teagaisc a bhaint amach. Bunaítear na ceachtanna ar ábhair go bhfuil suim ag na páistí iontu. Leagtar béim inmholta ar chothú na tuisceana. Moltar go mór an bhéim a leagtar ar an drámaíocht. De bharr dearcadh dearfach na n-oidí i leith na teanga, baineann na daltaí taitneamh agus tairbhe as na ceachtanna uile. Tugtar aird speisialta don fheasacht cultúir i múineadh na Gaeilge. Úsáidtear an teanga go ceardúil freisin mar theanga chumarsáide taobh amuigh den seomra ranga.

 

 

Irish

A comprehensive school plan has been set out for the teaching of Irish which aims at assisting the staff in the implementation of the curriculum and in ensuring that there is continuity from class to class in the content of lessons. The staff emphasises the communicative approach and particular emphasis is placed on listening and speaking in the school. The children are enabled to understand and follow directions given through Irish. Emphasis is also placed on the spoken language, on rhymes, on action singing, on stories, on short sketches and on simple games. The lessons are based on the functions of language which are indicated in the curriculum.

 

A wide range of strategies is utilised to achieve the learning objectives. The lessons are based on topics which interest the children. A praiseworthy emphasis is placed on the development of understanding. The emphasis on drama is particularly affirmed. The children enjoy and benefit from all of the lessons as a result of the positive attitude of the teachers in respect of teaching the language. A particular emphasis is placed on the cultural element in teaching Irish. The language is also skilfully used as a medium of communication outside the classroom.  

 

English

 

        The teaching and learning of English is very good in the school.  To achieve the planned outcomes, use is made in the development of oral language of a variety of approaches which involve whole-class, group work and individual teaching. The teachers explicitly extend the children’s thinking skills through talk and discussion. There is also a general consciousness and focus on the development of the children’s emotional and imaginative lives through oral language.

 

In the early years, the teachers undertake developmentally appropriate practice, which is

characterised by their full awareness of the need to develop the child’s general language ability as

a basis for success in reading. In the Infant classes, the children principally develop concepts of

print and engage with books through language experience materials, collaborative reading of

large-format books, shared ‘reading’ of books and browsing library books. In First Class, reading is based on a wide range of varied reading material. Throughout the school, various strategies are

used which will eventually develop pupils’ reading fluency and accuracy. These strategies include

the development of phonological and phonemic awareness.

 

The strategies used in the development of writing are focused on fostering the pupils’ impulse to write and on enabling them to write competently, confidently and independently. Personal age-appropriate responses to a variety of stimuli are encouraged. These responses may vary from scribbles, to drawings, to labels, to the writing of full sentences. In practice, the writing process is effectively scaffolded by the teachers. The conventions of grammar are appropriately taught as they arise in the context of the oral, reading and writing work.

 

4.3 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good. As the school plan indicates, the teachers plan to develop and are actively cultivating the core mathematical skills of communicating and expressing, integrating and connecting, reasoning, implementing, understanding and recalling, among their pupils. The staff places particular emphasis on the use of mathematical language and on supporting parents in activities they can undertake at home to increase an understanding of Mathematics. Early mathematical activities are very well organised and in this respect, structured play is well utilised in enabling the children to classify, match, compare and order.  In teaching the strand unit Number the children learn to count, compare, order, analyse, combine and partition. A great deal of manipulative material is used in these activities. In Algebra the pupils are being enabled to identify, copy and extend patterns in colour, shape, size and number. Much of this activity is usefully integrated with the Visual Arts. Similarly, the activities in Shape and Space were observed to be well integrated with Physical Education lessons. The pupils can identify a range of shapes and patterns in their environment. Suitable material is in place to support the teaching of Measures which involves enabling the children to develop an understanding of the concepts of length, weight, capacity, time and money. In the teaching and learning of the Data strand, the children learn to represent and interpret a set of simple mathematical data at an age-appropriate level, using real objects, models and pictures. There is very good progression in the planned and taught mathematical activity in First Class.  In general, pupils throughout the school display a good understanding of mathematical concepts and an ability to apply them to solving real-life problems which are suitable for their age group.

While the staff is to be affirmed for its practice of utilising textbooks and worksheets as a support for the activities, there continues to be a need in the school to provide more challenging play experiences to further challenge and develop the skills of applying and problem-solving among the pupils. Further activities aimed at giving the pupils opportunities to actively plan and predict and which will encourage creativity and curiosity should be sourced and more widely utilised.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

Teaching and learning in History is good. The content of the programme for History in the infant classes appropriately focuses on the children and their families. The children are encouraged to begin to explore aspects of their own immediate past and that of their families. Much of the learning also involves the telling of stories in which the children encounter elements from the lives of a range of people in the past. Sequencing skills are very well developed. During these activities, the teachers could now adopt a broader range of perspectives. Since their peers come from a variety of countries, the stories and other activities selected by the teachers should introduce children to the lives of women, men and children from a range of social, cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds. Many of the computers within the classrooms were not currently in use. There may be scope for the greater use of ICT within the class settings in the development of knowledge of other cultures.

 

Geography

Although a whole school plan in Geography does not exist at present, the teachers are aware of the need to develop the child’s sense of identity and of belonging to a community. Overall teaching and learning in this area is good. As there is some concern in regard to safety of utilising some suitable amenities in the area, active investigation out of doors is generally confined to the immediate school site. The teachers develop the children’s questioning skills and they are encouraged to observe, to compare and discuss the natural features of this environment. Elementary mapping skills are developed through practice in the use of simple locational terms and through allowing the children opportunities to draw their homes, immediate surroundings, classroom, school and playground. During free play generally and in many curricular areas, children analyse and sort objects according to observable features. Estimating and measuring is undertaken informally. An excellent project was observed where waste materials were used in the construction of various types of houses. Visitors are invited to the classrooms to explain their work.  The whole school focus on the Green Schools project is a particularly good example of how the concerted effort of the entire school  community was harnessed to focus on a particularly theme.

It is recommended that the forthcoming school plan should allow for more opportunities for the children to become aware of and to explore and discuss some of the distinctive human and natural features of the locality. Much of this activity could be still supported by the use of manipulatives, waste materials and other play materials. The lessons should allow scope for challenge and extension of the child’s world by giving opportunities for consideration of people and places in other countries, perhaps based on the native countries of some of the international children. As many of the themes in Geography are common to other areas of the curriculum and as children’s learning and development involve holistic experiences and processes, there is scope for the school to develop a thematic approach in SESE generally, on a whole-school basis. The development of such a thematic whole-school approach would also give greater scope for some children to pursue personal interests over a period of time. As well as allowing for integrated learning opportunities, the future school plan should allow also for flexibility in developing spontaneous learning opportunities.

Science

Teaching and learning of Science is very good in the school. It is evident from the school plan that the planned learning outcomes involve the development of the children’s science process skills and the development of the children’s designing and making skills. The science topics presented by the teachers involve a broad and balanced approach to the study of living things, energy and forces, materials and environmental awareness and care. Much of the work is delivered through themes or topics that are integrated with other areas of the curriculum. During the science lessons which were observed, the teachers were focused on actively developing the scientific skills appropriate to the pupils’ stages of development. They were observed to be challenging the children to predict, investigate, analyse and as a result, to plan, design and make objects. There is excellent scope during these lessons for extending this developmental role of the teacher further to include closer observation of the children at play. Informal assessment of the children’s dispositions towards learning could occur during these occasions.

 

 

 

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

Teaching and learning in the Visual Arts is fair to good overall. The school plan for the Visual Arts indicates that the staff has identified opportunities whereby the pupils will look at and respond to aspects of nature which occur within the school grounds such as trees, pond life and wildlife. The teachers also plan to provide opportunities for the children to look at and respond positively to their own and to other children’s work. The plan allows for differentiation and it contains a list of resources available in the school as well as ICT resources to support teaching and learning of the visual arts. The plan outlines the content of the programme and it ensures breadth and balance in the visual arts curriculum, including a balance between two-dimensional and three-dimensional work. The lessons observed were well-planned and well resourced and the teachers were observed to actively encourage the pupils in the creative process. During one lesson observed, the pupils were encouraged to examine how the fabric they were about to use was constructed. The majority of teachers also maintain a portfolio of pupils work in the Visual Arts.

 

The school plan for the Visual Arts is due for review in the current year. The content of the plan could in the future include opportunities to look and respond to images from a variety of cultures. The area of assessment of the Visual Arts should now be discussed and expanded upon in the Visual Arts plan. Practical methods of assessing the children’s growing expressive abilities and skills, the development of their critical and aesthetic awareness and of their dispositions towards art activities should be identified. Considering the limitations of space, the policy of display of children’s art should now be reviewed. Future policy on display should involve periodic rotation, creative approaches to display and a thematic approach to celebration of the children’s work.

 

Music

Teaching and learning of Music is very good in the school. The music curriculum in the school is underpinned by a very comprehensive school plan for delivery of this curriculum area. A music co-coordinator has been appointed to monitor implementation of the plan. A comprehensive account of the available resources is included in the plan. ICT resources have also been identified. Opportunities to perform within the classroom and for the wider community have been identified. Children from First Class are involved in the Music in the Classroom project. Every opportunity is availed of to allow the children to listen to music and to be involved in elementary composition. The lessons observed in Music were characterised by skilled teaching, by reinforcement of the musical elements taught and by the obvious thorough enjoyment of the content by the pupils. The children are given frequent opportunities to enjoy musical activities which include singing and the use of percussion instruments. Children who play instrumental music are encouraged to perform for their peers.

 

Drama

Many elements of Drama are utilised as strategies to support the planned learning outcomes across the curriculum. Drama was observed being developed as an expansion of pretend play and was linked to stories, music and movement.  One discrete drama lesson was observed in the all-purposes room. This lesson was conducted with skill and it had an appropriate structure to support the intended learning outcomes.

 

4.6 Physical Education

The teaching and learning of Physical Education is very good generally, considering the constraints presented by the school environment. The whole school plan for Physical Education outlines the broad curriculum to be delivered. It is aimed at the provision of challenging physical experiences for the children.  Using a combination of the general purposes room, the school playground and the immediate area external to the school, the teachers have planned a varied programme of physical activities in the strands of Athletics, Gymnastics, Dance and Games. Due to context factors in the school, there is little focus on Aquatics and on Outdoor and Adventure Activities. The programme is suitably developmental and allows for progression in mastering physical skills. The lessons observed involved tasks which were well matched to the level of the pupils' existing skills. The teachers were observed to actively extend these skills and to be extending the pupils’ knowledge and understanding. The pace of the lessons observed was suitably adjusted to allow sufficient repetition of skills, whilst still making good use of the time available. The children were observed as they experimented with movement to music to convey feelings. It is recommended that teachers would now continue to improve their ability to observe and analyse pupils' physical skills and to select specific areas for development.

 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

The content of the whole school plan for Social Personal and Health Education illustrates that the staff is very conscious of the central role of this area of the curriculum in the development of the sense of identity and belonging in the child. Within the school plan, the staff has identified strategies to be adopted to ensure this development.  Every effort is made to reinforce the sense of belonging in the child. Many strategies are adopted so that children feel comfortable with the routines, customs and regular events in the school and know the limits and boundaries of acceptable behaviour. The planned strategies involve building effective communication within the school, catering for individual needs, creating a health promoting physical environment and deliberately enhancing the child’s self-esteem. Effective implementation of these strategies was observed during the lessons taught and also in the operation and culture of the school. The Healthy Eating Week organised by the school is an example of a very positive whole school approach to nutrition. During the lessons observed, appropriate efforts were made to engage children in conversations about people, places and things that were meaningful to them. The teachers were observed to be “tuning in” to children’s thinking, to be involved in active listening and to respond sensitively to child-initiated interactions.

 

It would now be appropriate to expand on the present school plan to include strategies whereby greater and more regular recognition could be undertaken of the cultures and traditions of the various ethnic groups represented in the school. Opportunities might be provided for children and parents to develop various materials such as books which reflect national traditions and customs. There could, in the future, be greater emphasis on the involvement of the parents and children of these groups in the organisation of festivals, holiday events, exhibitions and other learning activities which would reflect the variety of cultural backgrounds of the international families and their communities. In summary, thought might be given to ensuring that an environment is provided for all the children and their families where connecting links with the family and the wider world are affirmed and extended.

 

 

4.8 Assessment

 

The board has recently ratified an assessment policy which addresses both assessment and record keeping in the school. The comprehensive assessment policy incorporates much of the existing good practice observed.  It is expected that the assessment will be implemented during the 2007-2008 school year. It is recommended that the school would now draw up an implementation plan to ensure that these guidelines contained in the plan in regard to both assessment and record keeping policy are effectively implemented during this period.  All teachers assess pupil progress over a variety of curriculum areas. Written work is carefully monitored on a regular basis. Teachers offer assistance to pupils who are experiencing difficulties or in need of encouragement during learning activities. The very good practice of differentiating the curriculum to meet the specific learning needs of pupils was observed in most classrooms, a practice which is highly commended.

 

A standardised test in literacy, the Micra-T, is administered to first class pupils annually during the second school term. At present no standardised test is administered in the area of Mathematics. The SIGMA-T test has been administered in the past and a revised form of this test is awaited.  Diagnostic tests administered include the MIST (Middle Infants Screening Test) which is administered during the second term to pupils in senior infants. The Quest Number Screening Test is administered to pupils in First Class during the first school term. The results of these tests are used to identify pupils in need of additional support from the class teacher and the learning support teacher.

 

The teachers are commended for having devised report cards tailored to the needs of the pupils. These reports address both the academic and social progress of the children and allow opportunities for teachers to comment on the progress of the individual child. The reports are issued to parents annually. Parent teacher meetings are organised each November. The school has also registered with the Data Protection Commissioner. Copies of all pupil records are stored centrally.

 

To further develop existing good practice, the school should now consider developing its own approach to encouraging teachers to record the progress of the children on a more systematic basis. Consideration should be given to the completion of checklists, running records and the development of portfolios in all curriculum areas as appropriate. During the implementation of the newly devised assessment policy in the coming school year, the staff should continue to reflect on the effectiveness of the school’s approach to this area. The feedback given to children on their work should assist them in evaluating their own work in due course. During the end-of- year whole school review, teachers might evaluate whether the methods they are using are documenting the process of learning as opposed to the outcomes of learning. Additionally, staff and parents might evaluate whether current records communicate children’s experiences and learning processes effectively to parents. An issue for discussion in the future might involve the extent to which children and parents can themselves contribute to the documentation process. The draft documentation currently available on the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment website might be of assistance in this discussion.  Crucially, transition to follow-on primary schools at the end of first class should be a smooth process for all pupils and should involve clarity in regard to communication with these schools and the onward transfer of records.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A resource teacher, a learning support teacher and a temporary teacher are employed by the board to support pupils with special educational needs and learning difficulties. A good learning support policy informs the practice of these teachers. The results of the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) and of the Micra T and Maths Quest test, as well as teachers’ observations and monitoring of class work, are used to identify pupils in need of focused intervention in the area of English and in some cases, in the area of Mathematics. Children attend the resource teacher on the recommendation of an educational psychologist. It is reported that very good communication has been established, where possible, with the speech therapists, occupational therapists and educational psychologists.

 

Currently supplementary teaching operates on a withdrawal basis whereby pupils are taken, either individually or in small groups, from their classroom. It is recommended that the school would now explore alternative methods of delivering this support, including engagement in team teaching and involvement in support work within the classrooms.

 

The planning of intervention programmes by teachers varies in format and quality. All teachers maintain a detailed profile for each of the children in receipt of support. This profile includes the child’s learning strengths, the results of standardised and diagnostic tests, areas for development as well as other relevant information. Parents of children with special educational needs are consulted in the drafting of individual education plans (IEPs). Some very good planning was noted where specific learning targets were outlined in the IEP accompanied by particular teaching strategies based on the individual needs of the pupils. There is a need however, for all teachers on the special needs team to plan for and to record the progress of the children in relation to the specified learning targets. This extension of current good practice will ensure that all IEPs will include a range of learning targets which can be attained in a specific time-defined period and will ensure that detailed short-term planning and recording of progress is undertaken for all pupils.

 

Very good teaching was observed in regard to children with special needs. Lessons are well paced, the children engage in a variety of learning activities and suitable resources are utilised to good effect. All three strand units of the English curriculum are addressed and there is particular emphasis on oral language development and phonological awareness. Each of the teachers has established good working relationships with the pupils and they ensure that the pupils experience success and are praised and encouraged for their efforts. Teachers maintain a portfolio containing samples of work completed by each pupil and discussion in relation to the future development of these took place. A commendable early intervention programme, Forward Together, is in place for those children who score lowest on the MIST. It is reported that this programme is effective in raising pupils’ achievement levels in the area of literacy. Each year, parents are invited to engage in a Maths for Fun programme. This enables them to assist their child with Mathematics at home. The school has purchased a wide variety of mathematical games which the children play at home. In addition, a booklet entitled Maths and your Child, is issued to all parents.

 

The board of management is to be commended for its provision of attractive and stimulating learning environments for children availing of additional support.  The support rooms are very well resourced with a wide variety of teaching and learning materials including an impressive range of computer software. While some good use of this software was observed, it is recommended that the use of ICT would feature more prominently as a teaching and learning tool in these settings.

 

5.2 Other support for pupils (disadvantaged, minority and other groups)

 

Thirty three of the forty international pupils currently attending Scoil Chroí Ró Naofa are in receipt of additional language support. Two language support teachers are employed, on a temporary basis, to provide for the language needs of these pupils. These teachers carefully plan detailed programmes of work which outline clear learning targets based on pupils’ existing knowledge and understanding of the English language. Active methodologies are effectively utilised and resources are carefully selected to support learning. The Integrate Ireland Language and Training Programme materials are used to good effect to support teaching. Language support is provided through the withdrawal of pupils from the classroom and through in-class support, a practice which is highly commended. The positive progress of pupils is recorded systematically. Some good efforts are made to celebrate cultural and ethnic diversity among the school’s population and it is now recommended that this practice be further developed.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

          There is an excellent management structure in this school which is underpinned by the support and communicated core values of the trustees.

 

          This shared vision is being realised by a proactive team approach and by excellent working relationships among the board of management, principal, staff and parents.

 

          The staff comprises skilled professional teachers who are knowledgeable in regard to the curriculum and who understand and care for the pupils in an exemplary manner.

 

          They are supported by well organised and continuously updated resources.

 

          The core principles of the curriculum are fully embedded in the school. Very good planning and team work has ensured the implementation of these core principles and approaches in an age-appropriate manner.

 

          The parents are supportive and co-operative and the pupils are extremely happy and contented in the school.

 

 

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.

 

 

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 & Staff were generally satisfied with the content of the report. However, it was felt that the written report was not consistent with the oral presentation given by the inspectorate, specifically in the area of Visual Arts. Perhaps if a draft of the written report was circulated to the Staff and Board of Management before Post Evaluation meetings, this might not have arisen.

 

Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the   inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

(a) The Board of Management will continue to encourage and promote the further professional development of staff with a particular emphasis on Early Childhood Developments.

(b) The Board of Management, in consultation with the staff, intend developing links with pre-school agencies serving the school & links with feeder primary schools will also be strengthened further.

(c)  Middle Management T earn will devise a pilot profiling system in the curricular area of English & Mathematics to be implemented on a grade-by-grade basis. Review of special duties posts will also be undertaken where the need arises.

(d) Whole staff re-appraisal of storage and display areas presently in school building.

(e) In process of changing format of teachers' monthly progress reports to include objectives and learning outcomes.

(f) "Welcome Guide" & NEWB guidelines translated into relevant foreign languages for Induction meeting in May 2007 for Junior Infant Parents. Further documentation i.e Language Support enrolment forms provided in Polish.

(g) Application to PCSP for Visual Arts Cuiditheoir to come to school to model Visual Arts lessons for class teachers.

(h) Completion of History & Geography Plean Scoile during Inservice Days held on June 6th &7th 2007.