An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Náisiúnta Ráth Mór
Dún na Séad, Contae Chorcaí
Roll number: 19381T
Date of inspection: 7 April 2006
Date of issue of report: 15 December 2006
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Ráth Mór National School. It outlines the findings of an evaluation of the work which is currently being carried out in the school and makes recommendations for its further development. During the evaluation, the inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited all classrooms and observed teaching and learning. He interacted with students and teachers, and examined students’ work. He also reviewed school planning documentation as well as teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Ráth Mór National School is situated in the parish of Ráth close to Baltimore village and about nine kilometres from Skibereen town. The building was constructed in 1977 and replaced other schoolhouses in the area which were built in the latter part of the nineteenth century. It occupies an attractive site with magnificent views of Baltimore harbour and surrounding countryside. The school serves a well-established rural population as well as a significant number of other nationalities and caters for a total of 109 boys and girls. This number is likely to reach 125 by 30.09.’06. Under the patronage of the Bishop of Cork and Ross, the central ethos is based on inclusiveness, equality and concern for others. A central aim is the provision of appropriate education in a safe and secure environment in which the individual child is encouraged realise its own potential. This aim is reflected in comprehensive written plans that outline in detail how the school sets out to promote the academic, social, emotional and spiritual dimensions of the pupils in its care. The decorative order and maintenance, both within and without, are excellent. In this regard, the recent provision of a new entrance as well as additional parking spaces is especially significant. Throughout the school attractive examples of the children’s work are prominently displayed, a warm and welcoming atmosphere pervades the classrooms and the children are polite, happy and well motivated. This is reflected in high attendance levels of 95% on average for the previous term and in a caring interaction between teachers and pupils.
The board of management meets at least once per term and on a more frequent basis as required. In this regard, their commitment and generosity is acknowledged. It is clear that the board is deeply interested in promoting the best interests of the school and it displays a praiseworthy willingness to discharge its developing role in a fair and conscientious fashion. It carefully examines the non-curricular policy documents. This aspect of the board’s role was commended during the evaluation and it is hoped that it will continue to develop this engagement with policy issues. The board highlights a clear concern for the expediting of a building project regarding additional permanent accommodation.
The principal discharges his duties in a highly effective manner. He is well acquainted with the children, their families and the nature of the catchment area generally. He has charge of two mainstream classes, a factor that reduces the time available to deal with administrative matters during the school day. However, with the support of an efficient school caretaker and a cooperative staff he succeeds admirably in addressing the key issues that arise. He maintains the high standards of success referred to in previous reports and to this end he carefully attends to matters dealing with the promotion of continuity and progression in teaching and learning at each class level. The deputy principal provides valuable support and her current formal responsibility relates to administrative as well as curricular matters which she attends to effectively. The Privileged Assistant teacher adds another level of significant support. She has responsibility for Social, Environmental and Scientific Education as well as choral work. In all, this constitutes an effective and collaborative relationship that ensures high quality standards of provision throughout the school. The need to keep posts of responsibility under review on a regular basis in line with a constantly changing school environment was discussed during the course of the evaluation.
The teaching staff comprises a teaching principal and three mainstream teachers as well as full-time learning support / resource teacher (LS/RT). In addition, there is one special needs assistant who capably supports one child. The school also acts as base-school for the two local island schools in relation to LS/RT provision. This matter was discussed during the evaluation and it is now recommended that the base-school location be reviewed as soon as possible.
The school resources, both human and material, are used in an effective manner. The children are divided in the usual manner for a four mainstream teacher school: one teacher takes infants (28 pupils), another takes first and second (23), another third and fourth (35 pupils) and the principal takes the final grouping of fifth and sixth classes (24 pupils). There is some imbalance in the distribution of the children, but in the circumstances and with a view of avoiding a more complex multi-grade situation, it was decided that this was the best option pending the appointment of the extra teacher. In these circumstances it is commendable that 15 children are withdrawn for mathematics tuition from the larger grouping on a regular basis. The contribution of the LS/RT is organised on a withdrawal model from classrooms generally but collaborates closely with each class teacher. The special needs assistant works efficiently under the sensitive direction of the relevant mainstream teacher. The part-time school caretaker displays an admirable measure of initiative and performs multi-faceted roles in an efficient and enthusiastic manner.
The school is very well resourced. There is a large stock of relevant learning materials in the infant classroom and in the three mainstream classrooms there is an attractive range of library books in English. In addition, there is a generous supply of attractive commercial and teacher-produced visual aids in each classroom which are profitably used to support the learning process in the different areas of the curriculum. The school continues to be successfully engaged in the promotion of Information and Communication Technologies as a means of enhancing curriculum delivery over a number of years and has recently gained access to broadband technology. It is hoped that such advanced use of ICTs will be further developed in the overall context of the school plan in due course.
Clearly the parents’ association is proud of the school and is most appreciative of the efforts made by staff in dealing sensitively with the children’s needs. They also appreciate the quality of communication between their association and the Board of Management.
Parents are acquainted with aspects of the school plan and they have had an involvement in the drafting and ratification of the policies within the SPHE area. They also provide useful support in some curricular areas, specifically in respect of swimming and sailing. They are particularly pleased with the additional emphasis which the school has placed on areas such as music, art and drama in recent years and are strongly supportive of the communicative approach to the teaching of Irish. They express a desire to continue their support for the school and emphasise their appreciation of the manner in which the school is organised.
The school has prepared a useful school plan. It outlines clear statements of school policy in the key organisational and curricular areas. As the school plan is in a constant state of development it is intended that it will be reviewed in line with the delivery of the curriculum in-service programme. The board of management and parents’ association have contributed to important elements of this plan, particularly in areas such as health and safety and the code of discipline. It was agreed that their efforts should continue both in the administrative and also in the curricular areas. 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 and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 2001).
It is evident that teachers are well acquainted with the school plan. In every classroom it is clear that the teacher’s short- and long-term planning is based on the curricular aims and objectives outlined in the plan. This is obvious from the notable degree of continuity from one class level to the next, and especially in relation Mathematics and Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE). The school’s system of recording progress by means of a common template proves most helpful. The linkage between individual and whole school planning was discussed during the evaluation and will continue to be developed in the context of the whole-school planning process.
Caitear go han-dícheallach le teagasc na Gaeilge ar fud na scoile. Moltar caighdeán Gaeilge na n-oidí féin agus dá réir sin cothaítear an éagsúlacht agus an tsamhlaíocht go minic le linn na hoibre. Tá an-mholadh ag dul dóibh as a n-iarrachtaí chun an comhrá, an léitheoireacht agus scríobh na teanga a chur chun cinn. Labhrann cuid mhaith de na daltaí le líofacht shuntasach ar ábhair ina gcuireann siad féin suim. Moltar go mór an fhorbairt atá déanta ag an bhfoireann le déanaí maidir lena bpolasaí ar chur chuige cumarsáideach i leith an chomhrá. Cuireadh comhairle ar fáil faoi úsáid bhresie na bhfíor-leabhar agus tá sé i gceist béim bhreise fós a chur ar an ngné seo den obair go luath.
Irish is taught enthusiastically throughout the school. The teachers’ command of the language is commendable and frequently facilitates both variety and innovation during the teaching process. They merit much praise for their efforts in promoting the relevant language skills. Accordingly many of their pupils achieve significant levels of fluency in topics which are of particular relevance to their own lives. In this regard the school’s recent development of its policy in relation to a communicative approach to oral Irish is particularly praiseworthy. Advice was provided regarding the additional use of real books the use of which will be further developed in the short term.
The teachers regularly engage the children in purposeful discussion on topics across the curriculum within the overall strand and strand unit context. The importance of developing appropriate reading skills is recognised at all class levels and the teachers are highly successful in promoting reading for pleasure. In infants the children acquire an extensive sight vocabulary as well as a praiseworthy grasp of phonics. Books from a commercially published scheme form the basis of the reading material. However, this is positively supplemented by a study of the novel together with a systematic promotion of library materials. An examination of reading scores achieved in standardised tests shows that the children in general are achieving significant levels of success and the staff is commended for its work in this regard. The use of poetry features prominently in each classroom and children recite with clarity and obvious enjoyment. Regular opportunities for writing are provided and overall the standard is most creditable. In all classes there is a large collection of carefully corrected exercises based on different areas of the curriculum. Standards of handwriting in general are excellent.
The standard of Mathematics in the school is generally very good. The programme in classrooms generally follows the arrangement of topics outlined in a commercially produced scheme and facilitates a systematic engagement with the various topics as set out in the curriculum. The tuition is carefully supported by a range of high quality teacher-produced learning stimuli.
In infants, the children acquire an appropriate mathematical vocabulary and the work is suitably developed by the imaginative use of concrete materials. Throughout the school the children’s computation skills are well developed. They present their work in a neat and attractive manner and respond with confidence to a wide range of topics from the official programmes. The attention paid to problem solving skills at senior levels is particularly impressive.
Children experiencing difficulty are given some individual attention on a regular basis and a number of them receive assistance from the LSRT. All this serves to raise general standards and promotes a praiseworthy level of accuracy and confidence in relation to Mathematics throughout the school. It is understood that additional assistance from the LSRT for some of these children will be considered shortly.
The children are making obvious progress in Geography. Planning is well structured and carefully promotes the children’s understanding of natural and human environments at home and abroad. A varied programme is followed, and the imaginative use of textbooks facilitates a high degree of continuity from class to class. Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are used very successfully to present data on the immediate environment and to allow the children to access other relevant information. The project method is used to very good effect and the results of the children’s research are attractively presented.
The history programme is clearly based on the principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Teachers succeed in cultivating a keen interest in the past and the children generally display a clear understanding of the relevant topics. Local history also features prominently and the written work is neatly presented and is effectively linked with other aspects of the curriculum.
A comprehensive Science programme is implemented throughout the school in accordance with the principles of the curriculum. A variety of stimulating materials has been assembled and these items prove useful in guiding the children to work scientifically. Activity learning features frequently and structured discussion is carefully promoted. The children respond with enthusiasm.
Visual arts are very carefully promoted throughout the school. Corridors, display spaces and available wall areas in classrooms bear eloquent testament to a developing aesthetic sense at all class levels. Many aspects of the work are skilfully integrated with other curricular areas and this makes a significant contribution to the overall quality of the learning. In each classroom painting, printing and drawing are complemented by three-dimensional craft and construction work. The collaborative school project work involving a variety of strands is particularly effective
Performance, listening and responding to music feature prominently at various levels. Song singing is a key aspect of the music curriculum and the children have learned an attractive repertoire of songs in Irish and English which they sing very tunefully in many instances. Rhythm work also features on a regular basis as well and a high standard is reached in instrumental music in some cases. Listening to quality music also forms a central part of the school’s programme. The importance of building on existing expertise was usefully discussed during the evaluation.
The staff is keenly aware of the value of Drama as an important learning tool, and dramatic activities form a regular feature of the work. In due course it is recommended that this area of the curriculum be developed further within the context of the school plan.
Physical education features in the programme for all classes. The children participate in a variety of suitable activities and important skills are suitably developed. Aquatic skills are carefully nurtured and the school has recently acquired additional PE equipment. It is also planned to use the local GAA hall in the near future so that additional aspects of the curriculum may be more fully implemented.
The teachers are keenly aware of the importance of SPHE in the overall development of the child. They set as an important objective the promotion of healthy relationships and systematically encourage wholesome patterns of behaviour, both in formal lessons and informally across the curriculum. They supplement work in SPHE with relevant material from associated programmes such as RSE and Stay Safe, and they place considerable emphasis on the importance of nutrition and healthy eating.
Formally and informally, pupil progress is assessed on a systematic basis. Written work is consistently set and in each classroom there is a variety of well-monitored written tasks relating to the different areas of the curriculum. These tasks provide the teachers with an insight on progress that leads to suitable adjustments in teaching styles. In addition to informal assessment, formal assessment also features. Specifically, the Micra-T is administered to measure attainment in English reading. Test scores achieved are impressive and the staff is commended for its success in this regard. The school now intends to extend its range of assessment procedures.
The school has a full-time LSRT post and acts as base school for another LSRT post for two neighbouring island schools. There is also a very effective special needs assistant attached to the school.
The school has unsuccessfully attempted to employ a qualified teacher for the full-time post and the current post-holder was recently appointed. She provides support for ten children in learning and resource support, supports eighteen children from third class in Mathematics and supports fourteen children in junior infants. Her work is characterised by detailed and suitable planning aimed at addressing the identified needs of individual children, and her contribution in this regard is praiseworthy. Advice was provided in relation to the use of standardised testing and also regarding the needs of individual children in Mathematics.
The significant levels of absence of a very small number of children was discussed and the school authorities are very conscious of their responsibilities in this regard.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
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.