An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Flagmount Central National School

Feakle, Co. Clare

Uimhir rolla: 19338S

 

 

Date of inspection:  21 February 2007

  Date of issue of report:  21 June 2007

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

1.     Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

2.1 Board of management

2.2 In-school management

2.3 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

2.4 Management of pupils

3.     Quality of school planning

3.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.1 Language

Gaeilge

Irish

English

4.2 Mathematics

4.3 History

4.4 Assessment

5.     Quality of support for pupils

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

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

6.     Conclusion


Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Flagmount Central National School was undertaken in February 2007. The evaluation covered key aspects of the work of the school in the areas of management, teaching and learning and supports for pupils. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and History. The representatives of the parents’ association met with the inspector. The inspector interacted with the pupils, examined pupils’ work, reviewed school planning documentation, observed teaching and learning and provided feedback to individual teachers. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

Flagmount Central National School is situated in North East Clare overlooking Lough Graney and close to the Clare Galway border. The school is a co-educational Catholic school under the patronage of the Catholic bishop of the diocese of Killaloe. The school’s mission statement reflects this Catholic ethos and the school presents a well-ordered, caring, happy and secure setting for its pupils. The school has a very wide catchment area with the pupils attending coming from approximately a five mile radius.

 

The present school, constructed in 1974, replaced five other schools which were amalgamated into the present school building with an enrolment of over a hundred pupils. During subsequent years the number of pupils attending has declined reaching a low of 58 in the year 2000. There has been an increase in numbers since then and it is expected that enrolment should remain at approximately the present figure for the immediate future. Overall attendance at the school is very good.

 

The following table provides an overview of the current enrolment and staffing in the school:

 

Total number of pupils enrolled

71

Total number of teaching staff

4

Number of teaching staff working in support teaching roles

1

Number of mainstream classes

3

Number of special needs assistants

1

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management works diligently and sensitively to ensure that the school is managed efficiently. The board is properly constituted and meets regularly throughout the school year. The chairperson reports excellent attendance at all board meetings and she praised the significant contribution made by all members in supporting the work of the school. A clear understanding of the role of each board member is evident and tasks are distributed appropriately amongst members. Minutes of meetings are carefully maintained and school accounts are presented at each board meeting. Communication between the chairperson and the principal is regular and purposeful. All board members are commended for their ongoing contribution to this work.

 

The board has engaged in the planning process and it has ratified a range of curricular and administrative plans and policies.  The board declared high levels of satisfaction with the work of the teachers, the commitment of the parent body and the overall standard of learning in the school. 

 

The board members did not have the opportunity to engage in relevant training for their respective roles. It is recommended that, as part of the overall strategic long-term planning for the school, some training initiatives should be undertaken for board members and officers. Attention should also be directed towards the greater involvement of parents in the development and review of curricular areas.

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of principal and deputy principal. The principal conscientiously discharges his duties in an efficient and sensitive manner. He successfully promotes a sense of collegiality amongst the staff.  The sense of pride in the school and respect for pupils and parents, as promoted by the principal, are echoed by all other staff members.  The principal has adopted a proactive role in relation to whole-school planning. 

 

The principal is ably assisted in the day-to day management of the school by a deputy principal whose responsibilities include curricular, organisational and pastoral areas. Staff meetings take place twice a year. The principal prepares the agenda for each meeting in consultation with the staff.  It is recommended that minutes of these meetings are maintained. All post-holders and staff are commended for their efforts in ensuring that the school exhibits a welcoming ethos.

 

2.3 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

There is a very supportive parents’ association in the school, which meets regularly. Parental involvement in many of the school’s activities is very good.  The parents’ association organises a number of events during the school year including school discos at Christmas and Halloween, the cooking of produce from the school’s organic garden and catering for parents and pupils after school-related events. One of the initiatives adopted by the parents’ association is the organisation of swimming lessons for pupils. Parents assist in the supervision of pupils during these lessons. Parents also support the school by providing transport to games and by their involvement in fund-raising activities.

 

The school communicates in writing on a regular basis with parents informing them of upcoming school activities. A parent-teacher meeting is held annually and parents are welcome to discuss school-related matters with the teachers at other times. Written progress reports are provided annually for pupils in fourth, fifth and sixth classes. It is recommended that written reports be provided for all pupils.

 

Parents have been involved in the formulation of a number of school policies, particularly in the areas of healthy eating, school uniforms and in the areas of Stay Safe and Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE). The parents’ association has had a major involvement in the Green Schools’ Environmental Project over a number of years and the school has achieved three Green Flags. The parents’ association officers stated that parents are made welcome in the school and that pupils receive a very good education. It is recommended that the school devise procedures to further develop parental involvement in the areas of school planning and in the review of policies such as homework, code of discipline and enrolment.

 

 

 

2.4 Management of pupils

The board of management and staff have devised a code of behaviour and an anti-bullying policy that is implemented fairly throughout the school. These policies aim to promote the growth of the pupils as individuals and to assist in their development into responsible, self-disciplined adults. A positive approach to the management of behaviour is promoted with an emphasis on praise and encouragement. Policies are circulated to parents who agree to the policies by signing and returning an acceptance form to the school. The success of these policies is evidenced by the respect and courtesy shown by pupils to teachers, each other and to visitors in the school. Discipline in classrooms and throughout the whole school is very well maintained at all times with an atmosphere conducive to learning in evidence. Pupils take part willingly and eagerly in the learning process and in the curricular tasks presented. Pupils are assigned responsibilities that assist in the day to day running of the school.  The school building and its extensive grounds are cared for in an admirable way by the pupils. The staff is commended for its contribution towards the building of confidence and self-esteem levels among pupils.

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

School plans have been prepared under the direction of the principal and with inputs from the teaching staff. Plans have been presented to the board of management for ratification and a number of these plans have been signed and dated by the chairperson. Some of the plans presented have review dates. It is recommended that all policies are signed and dated by the chairperson of the board of management and include a review date.  It is reported that the school plan is available for viewing by parents in the office of the school if so requested.

 

The school plan is a neatly laid out document and is organised in two parts covering organisational and curricular areas respectively. The organisational section of the school plan contains the school’s mission statement, the school’s vision and statements on a wide range of administrative areas including a health and safety statement, enrolment policy, equality statement, code of behaviour, anti-bullying policy, administration of medicines policy, special education needs policy, Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme and yard supervision policies. The board of management should review its enrolment policy in order to ensure that it meets with the criteria as set out in the Education Act 1998. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

A broad range of planning documents outlining the curricular plans of the school is available including plans for Gaeilge, Mathematics, English, Physical Education, Visual Arts, Science, Social, Personal and Health Education, History, Geography and Music. These plans address the principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and a number of the plans provide guidance on content to be taught at each class level.  Teachers develop whole-school policies following in-service given on the different curricular areas and it is reported that planning is also discussed at staff meetings. It is recommended that a common approach should now be adopted in the presentation and review of all future policies and plans using the same headings and format. Further involvement of parents and the board of management in school policy development should be considered. Both from the whole-school and the individual teacher perspectives, the creation of a development action plan should be considered. This should identify the key areas for prioritisation. It should also map out roles and responsibilities for all involved and the approaches to be taken in order to reach final document stage.

 

The quality of classroom planning is of a good standard. All teachers prepare comprehensive long-term schemes of work for all curricular areas incorporating the objectives of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and the aims and objectives of the school plan.  Short-term planning is prepared diligently by the teachers and is of a good quality and monthly progress records are also maintained. The planning presented gives a sense of continuity and progression at the different class levels. There is a strong emphasis on the content of the programmes being taught in each teacher’s planning. It is recommended that teachers’ planning should now focus on the objectives of lessons and on the further development of progression at various class levels.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Language

Gaeilge

Múintear an Ghaeilge go coinsiasach sa scoil seo agus sroichtear caighdeán maith. Tá dul chun cinn maith déanta ag an bhfoireann ó thaobh spéis a chothú i leith na teanga. Feictear foclóir agus frásaí Gaeilge ar na ballaí agus úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar theanga bhainistíochta i rith an lae. Déanann na hoidí comhtháthú oiriúnach idir an éisteacht, an labhairt, an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht. Forbraítear an teanga le modhanna díreacha a chothaíonn tuiscint, cruinneas agus cumas labhartha. Tá foclóir sách leathan ag na daltaí agus tá caighdeán feiliúnach bainte amach acu. Baineann na hoidí úsáid as raon maith fearas agus léaráidí le linn múineadh na Gaeilge. Baintear feidhm an-mhaith as rainn, dánta, amhráin agus cluichí i rith an teagaisc. I gcuid de na ranganna baintear feidhm chreidiúnach as agallamh beirte, miondrámaíocht agus díospóireacht chun leathnú ar fhoclóir na ndaltaí agus daingniú rialta a dhéanamh ar na bunstruchtúir ghramadaí. Moltar é seo a leathnú do na ranganna uile agus úsáid níos mó a bhaint as an drámaíocht mar áis thábhachtach chun an rannpháirtíocht a spreagadh go héifeachtach. Sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna tá úsáid forleathan á bhaint as ceisteanna agus freagraí chun an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn agus tá tuiscint an-mhaith ag na daltaí ar an ngné seo den chlár. Moltar anois tuilleadh béime a leagan ar fhorbairt chumais cumarsáide na bpáistí eatarthu féin. Forbraítear na scileanna léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta go cúramach freisin.  Léann na daltaí go cruinn agus léiríonn siad a dtuiscint ar an ábhar léitheoireachta trí cheisteanna a fhreagairt ó bhéal. Tá an scríbhneoireacht bunaithe, den chuid is mó, ar an ábhar léitheoireachta agus ar na ceachtanna comhrá. Déantar maoirseacht rialta ar an obair seo freisin.

 

Irish

Irish is taught conscientiously in this school and a good standard is achieved. The teaching staff has made good progress in promoting interest in the language. Irish phrases and vocabulary are displayed on the classroom walls and Irish is used during the day in the management of lessons. The teachers suitably integrate the strands of listening, speaking, reading and writing. The language is promoted through direct methods that foster understanding, accuracy and ability to converse. The pupils have a relatively wide vocabulary and they have attained an appropriate standard. The teachers use a good range of equipment and illustrations in the teaching of Irish.  Very good use is made of rhymes, poems, song and games during the teaching process. In some classes dialogue, drama and discussion are used in a creditable manner to expand pupils’ vocabulary and to regularly reinforce basic grammatical structures. It is recommended that this practice be extended to other classes and that greater use is  made of drama as an effective means of enhancing  pupil participation in Irish lessons. In the middle and senior classes there is widespread use of a question and answer technique to promote Irish and the pupils have acquired a very good understanding of this aspect of the programme. It is now recommended that further emphasis be placed on the development of pupils’ conversational skills through pupil to pupil interactions. Reading and writing skills are carefully developed. The pupils read accurately and their understanding of the reading material is in evidence through their accurate answers to questions posed. For the most part writing exercises are based on the reading material provided and on the oral language lessons. This work is corrected diligently.

 

English

In English, there is ample evidence of very good teaching and learning. Pupils read with fluency and comprehension. The teachers provide a range of reading materials in different genres and reading standards are high. The use of a novel in some classes is effective and there is a good understanding of the need to develop a positive pupil attitude to reading as well as the development of reading skills. An examination of the spatial arrangements in all classes should now be made to allow for the expansion of reading and writing corners so that pupils can pursue their reading interests. Significant expenditure should be made to improve the school’s reading stock and the inclusion of parents in such a project should be explored.

 

The standard of teaching and learning in the writing strand is good. Several examples of pupils’ writing in different genres are evident. The use of word processing skills to present this work is very worthwhile and should be extended throughout the school. Cross-curricular writing opportunities are regularly afforded and the pupils’ style of handwriting is very neat and legible. The school should enhance their use of the display space available as a means of promoting the writing process.

 

The majority of the pupils are self-confident and competent in their language usage. However, a proportion of the pupils in the school displays notable oral language difficulties. The management of this aspect of the English programme should become a priority for the entire school. A whole-school approach to addressing oral language should include the setting of differentiated language goals for each class level, the development of specific oral language lessons and a review of teaching strategies. Whole-school recording of this review should also occur. The expansion of the current range of poetry, drama and story-time should also form essential elements in this development. During language lessons teachers should develop questioning techniques that put the onus on enabling pupils to express their thoughts and ideas clearly and concisely. Parental involvement in this work through homework exercises is also advised.

 

4.2 Mathematics

Pupils in this school are achieving well in Mathematics as is evident from standardised tests results, the work completed in pupils’ copies and through pupils’ responses to questioning. Pupils can apply mathematical concepts and processes and plan and implement solutions to problems in a variety of ways. The teachers use good questioning techniques and the pupils answer confidently and accurately.  Due care is taken to enable pupils to develop their skills in recalling mathematical facts and formulae and in acquiring an understanding of mathematical language. The lessons planned provide opportunities for the pupils to engage in active learning and guided discovery methods. There is good use of concrete materials and of the environment during some lessons and a number of the mathematical activities are appropriately integrated with other areas of the curriculum. These activities should be further extended. Mathematical interest areas have been developed in all classrooms.

 

 A whole-school plan for Mathematics is in place which is general in nature. All areas of this plan should be revised in order to provide better guidance to staff on how the principles of the mathematics curriculum can be implemented. Sections on elements such as approaches and methodologies, individual teachers’ planning, parental involvement and success criteria should be added.

 

4.3 History

History is satisfactorily taught in all classes. The overall quality of teaching and learning is good with impressive displays of knowledge evident from some pupils. Teachers seek to integrate the work with other curricular areas, which is effective particularly in the areas of Visual Arts and Social Personal and Health Education. The use of photography as a means of encouraging pupil involvement is also commended. The response of the pupils to questioning is enthusiastic and purposeful. In some classes, project work is of a very high standard. Interest tables are also evident in some rooms and these areas serve as a focal point for the subject and succeed in capturing pupil interest. Also commendable is the manner in which information and communication technologies (ICT) have been effectively harnessed to promote the subject. The pupils are experienced in discussing the various topics covered and share ideas with each other freely.

 

There is a need to ensure that the good work done in some classes is replicated throughout the entire school. In order to do this, the school needs to examine the methodologies, which will facilitate greater pupil involvement in the processing of the information being presented. Specific identification of the particular skills being taught needs to be documented. Pupils should be encouraged to work more independently through the expansion of collaborative work in pairs and in groups. In addition, the school needs to expand its use of the display space in the classes and in the public areas in order to promote the work being done by the pupils. Further promotion of the historical richness of the locality will also serve to enhance the learning experience of the pupils in all classes.  

 

4.4 Assessment

A range of assessment modes is used throughout the school including teacher observation, teacher-devised tests and tasks and the monitoring and correction of the pupils’ written work. Standardised tests in English and in Mathematics are administered annually and test results are maintained in the school. It is reported that test results are analysed at staff meetings. It is important to ensure that assessment takes place on a cross-curricular basis and that there are records of these assessments. It is reported that the school intends introducing a pupil profile form for all pupils and this development is welcome.

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school is fortunate in having the services of a learning-support/resource teacher on a full-time basis. This post was on a temporary basis in the school year 2005 to 2006 and became permanent from September 2006. The school has received a general allocation of fifteen hours to provide supplementary learning-support to pupils. Four pupils with special education needs receive nine hours resource teaching. The school has recently been granted an additional seven and a half hours resource time and the board is in the process of sourcing additional teaching support to provide this service. The full-time learning-support/resource teacher is providing assistance to these pupils in the interim.   This teacher is providing learning-support in English to fifteen pupils and in Mathematics to six pupils. This support is on a withdrawal basis and takes place either individually or in groups of two to six.

 

Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and individual pupil learning profiles (IPLPs) have been developed for each pupil and group. These plans and profiles have been drawn up in consultation with class teachers and with some parental input. Included in these profiles and plans is general information regarding each pupil’s strengths and priority learning needs. Learning targets have been set to meet these needs and IEPs and IPLPs are reviewed twice a year. An analysis of the IEPs indicates that, in some instances, learning targets could be framed in a manner that reflects more closely priority learning needs to guide the assessment process. A range of very suitable methodologies is successfully used during teaching and all work is monitored appropriately.

 

Selection of pupils for learning-support is based on standardised test results, teacher observation and teacher-designed tasks. With the appointment of a full-time learning-support/resource teacher the school now faces the challenge of ensuring that an integrated model of learning-support provision is put in place in order to further enhance the benefits accruing to pupils. At present a number of the pupils attending learning-support are attaining well above the twelfth percentile on the standardised tests administered. The provision of a service to the pupils with the greatest learning needs should continue to be a key priority. It is recommended that a plan be put in place that clearly sets out the criteria of initiating and discontinuing learning-support. The school should also consider providing in-class support to pupils so that their learning needs can be addressed in an inclusive context. There is a clear need for the expansion of a structured oral language programme throughout the school. The expertise of the learning-support/resource teacher should be of major assistance in the construction and delivery of this programme. In addition, it is recommended that discrete time be set aside on a regular basis to facilitate a greater engagement among teachers in the review of IPLP targets to support the work of the mainstream classroom. This should assist pupils in taking a more active part in the general activities of their base classes.

 

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

The pupils in this school come mainly from the local area. There is a very good community spirit in evidence and emphasis is placed on good neighbourliness and on caring for each other. There is no level of significant social disadvantage reported among the pupils enrolled in this school and there are no pupils from minority groupings in attendance.

 

6.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

·         This is a welcoming school which provides a well-ordered, caring setting for pupils who are mannerly, well behaved and hardworking.

·         The teachers, staff and board of management are commended for their commitment to providing a good education for all pupils.

·         There is a very supportive parents’ association and there is evidence of good supportive collaboration among all stakeholders in the school community.

·         Teachers successfully use a range of suitable methodologies during lessons.

·         The school has achieved very good standards in Mathematics and there are very good examples of effective teaching in History.

·         The school building and grounds are of very good quality and are maintained to a very high standard.

·         The school’s participation in the Green Schools Environmental Project is commended.

 

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

·         The school should review, expand and develop its oral language policy and teach a structured oral language programme across all classes.

·         With the expansion of its learning-support provision the school should now review and restructure its learning-support arrangements.

·         The school should formulate a development plan for the next five years and prioritise the need to increase parental involvement in the whole school development planning process and target the ongoing review of curricular and organisational policies.

 

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.