An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Chaitríona Junior National School

Renmore, Galway

Uimhir rolla: 19401W

 

Date of inspection:  9 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 resources

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

2.5 Management of pupils

3.     Quality of school planning

3.1 School planning process and implementation

3.2 Classroom planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.2 Language

Gaeilge

Irish

English

4.3 Mathematics

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

History

Geography

Science

4.5 Arts Education

Visual Arts

Music

Drama

4.6 Physical Education

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

4.8 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.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Scoil Chaitríona Junior National School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management and parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspectors interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspectors 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; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Chaitríona Junior National School is a 32 teacher co-educational primary school situated on the eastern shore of Galway Bay, approximately three kilometres from the city centre. The school is under the patronage of the Bishop of Galway and was originally established in 1973 as a six-teacher school. Scoil Chaitríona caters for the educational needs of pupils from infants to second class from both urban and rural backgrounds. Pupil enrolment has risen rapidly in recent years reflecting the significant growth in population, local demographic trends and the construction of a number of local housing estates.

 

Since the issue of the last school report in 2000, the teaching staff complement has almost doubled, a new principal has been appointed and pupil enrolment has risen by 55 pupils. The school serves a wide catchment area and 10 buses transport some pupils to the school.  The school serves 393 pupils including 218 boys and 175 girls. 81 pupils are from diverse international backgrounds and 33 pupils are diagnosed with special educational needs, 22 of whom are enrolled in the four special classes. It is expected that enrolment trends will continue to rise at a steady pace.

 

The school has received some additional funding from the Giving Children an Even Break through Tackling Disadvantage (GCAEB) scheme from 2001 to 2005. The school has recently been identified for inclusion in Band 2 of the urban/town strand of the school support programme DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) under the direction of the Department of Education and Science (DES).

 

Average attendance levels for the previous school year were satisfactory for almost all pupils, but pupil absenteeism is a cause for concern for a small number of pupils. Pupil attendance is conscientiously monitored, patterns of absences are noted, reminders are issued to parents/guardians and regular contact is made with the educational welfare authorities and other relevant agencies. It is planned to incorporate targeted measures to encourage enhanced attendance through the shared home-school community liaison service and the School Completion Programme. These services are at an early stage of implementation. Pupils enjoy a smooth transfer between the junior school and its neighbouring senior school, which shares the same building.

 

The staff succeeds in providing an inclusive, well-ordered, happy and secure atmosphere and every effort is made to imbue in pupils a sense of respect for others and for school property. The school espouses a Catholic ethos and is very successful in fostering respect, tolerance and empathy. It was evident during the evaluation that this effective school is actively implementing its aims. The school is collaboratively encouraging pupils and staff “to be the best that they can be” as depicted in its mission statement. A particularly laudable feature of the school is its success in providing very effective teaching and learning experiences for pupils with diverse special educational needs.

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management functions in accordance with Section 14 of the Education Act, 1998 and the Rules and Procedures of Boards of Management (November 2003). The board is properly constituted, meets at least once a term and more often if required. It was reported that meetings are very well attended. Board members display their commitment and dedication through their voluntary activities, their willingness to share their personal experience and expertise and their diligence in performing their designated duties and roles. Relevant correspondence, policies and agenda are prepared and distributed in advance of each meeting. A comprehensive record is maintained of all proceedings and key decisions and actions to be taken are clearly outlined. Meetings include a principal’s report, a treasurer’s report, discussion of relevant circulars and legislation and the provision of feedback and amendments to curricular and administrative policies. Financial accounts are very well organised and are certified each year.

 

The school functions in accordance with Department of Education and Science (DES) directives in relation to the length of instructional time in school. The board sees its role as a facilitator in the planning process and actively contributes to the formulation, review and formal signing of policies presented for approval. There is good informal communication between the board and the community and between the chairperson and the principal. The chairperson and principal meet on a weekly basis and members of the teaching staff acknowledge the ongoing support of the chairperson and the board.

 

The school does not have a parents’ association currently. The board highlighted that efforts to instigate a formal parents’ association were not supported by the general parent body due mainly to the school’s wide catchment area resulting in poor attendance at meetings. It was communicated by board members that the school enjoys a positive relationship with parents. The parent body is kept informed through newsletters, notes from the school and through parent-teacher meetings. Fund-raising activities organised include an annual witches’ walk, which has provided funding for the purchase of additional computers. It is recommended that the board continues its efforts in facilitating the establishment of a parents’ association, in consultation with the principal, and in accordance with the Education Act, 1998, Section 26 (2)(b). This would in turn promote the greater involvement of parents in school activities and in the whole-school planning and development process. The board should also consider the possibility of issuing an annual report to the general parent body on the operation of the school in line with section 20 of the Education Act, 1998.

 

The board of management is attentive in its responsibility in providing a safe and healthy working environment for both staff and pupils. The main challenges identified by the board include the lack of space within the present school structure and the resulting traffic congestion at school opening and closing times and the unprecedented increase in the number of pupils with more complex educational needs.  The board is proactively seeking to resolve the restrictive accommodation issue in collaboration with the adjoining senior school and is currently in negotiations with the Department of Education and Science (DES). The school has recently received sanction for the erection of a new school building to house both the junior school and senior school. Joint meetings are held between the boards of management of both schools at least once a year to discuss and agree on areas of mutual concern. These include matters relating to the building project and the maintenance and security of the present building.  This collaborative practice between schools is commendable.

 

The dedication, teamwork, conscientious work ethic and quality of education provided in the school were praised by the board. The board expressed its gratitude for the staff’s openness, commitment and diligence in relation to pupils with special educational needs and international pupils. This dedication, commitment and interest in pupils was evident during the whole-school evaluation.

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team comprises the administrative principal, deputy principal, three assistant principals and 10 special duties posts. A fourth assistant principal post is in the process of being advertised.  The duties of all post-holders have recently been reviewed and a summary of roles and responsibilities is included in the whole-school plan. Each duty holder displays commitment, co-operation and diligence in carrying out a range of organisational, pastoral and curricular duties. The post-holders are commended for their keen enthusiasm and co-operation in supporting the work of the principal and staff. The professional competence and ardent dedication of non post-holders is also recognised in their voluntary and generous sharing of responsibility and expertise among pupils and teachers. These praiseworthy efforts greatly influence the sense of collegiality in evidence in the school. Curricular responsibilities assigned to post-holders include each subject area with the exception of Music, Drama and Visual Arts. In order to pursue the focus on continuous improvement, it is recommended that responsibilities should be extended to cover all curricular areas. It is suggested that a greater emphasis should be given to the promotion and extension of cooperative learning, active learning methodologies and existing good practice across all class levels. An annual review date for each special duties post should also be included.

 

The principal provides effective leadership on a day-to-day basis and approaches her work in an enthusiastic, efficient and professional manner. A positive welcoming ethos is promoted and positive collaborative working relationships have been established. The principal articulates a clear vision for the school to promote continuous improvement and development and to build on the quality of standards achieved to date. The proactive leadership and sense of pride exhibited in the provision of a high quality education for all pupils including pupils with special educational needs is laudable. Official records, roll books, registers, filing systems and school registers are very carefully maintained and are easily accessible to relevant staff members. The implementation of the curriculum is monitored through the maintenance of teachers’ monthly progress records. There is a shared deep interest in the care and welfare of pupils. This spirit of teamwork is also evident in the staff’s sharing of materials, expertise and ideas and in the long-established practice of collaborative planning at each class level. A school-based mentoring system is in place to support newly qualified teachers, a factor which contributes greatly to the supportive school environment. Morning assembly is organised four mornings a week on a class level basis. This provides a valuable pastoral care opportunity for the principal and staff to share information and news, give reminders and celebrate in song. Communication of pertinent information to teachers, parents, board members and the wider school community is regarded as a key priority.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The teaching staff consists of an administrative principal, nineteen mainstream class teachers, four special class teachers, two language-support teachers, four learning-support teachers and two resource teachers. The first special class for pupils who present with specific speech and language disorder was established in 1990 while the second special class for pupils with specific speech and language disorder and the special class for pupils with hearing impairment were both sanctioned in September 2005. The school has access to the services of an additional resource teacher for 11.5 hours a week and a home-school liaison co-ordinator attends the school for one and a half days a week. The language classes receive support from two speech and language therapists employed by the Health Service Executive (HSE) for eight sessions a week each. Seven special needs assistants (SNA) support the pupils with special educational needs. An eighth SNA post has recently been sanctioned. The services of two full-time secretaries are shared between the junior and senior schools. They provide valuable secretarial support for the principal and staff and contribute very well to the welcoming school ethos.

 

Some staff rotation takes place each year through a system that allows staff members make known their class preferences for the forthcoming year. The teaching staff is aware of the need to ensure that they are updated on current developments in education and many teachers have undertaken professional development courses, some to diploma and masters level. The board facilitates staff wishing to attend professional development courses.

 

The board is highly commended for the provision of a wide range of resources available centrally and in each individual classroom to support the teaching of all curricular areas. Print-rich environments are developed, designated curricular areas are very well presented and pupils’ work is on display throughout the school. The investigative focus in the science displays is particularly impressive. Very good use is made of the corridors of the school to record the school’s present and previous successes and celebrations. Resources for learning are used effectively by all staff in classrooms.  Teachers aptly supplement the available commercial teaching-aids with a range of self-designed resources and up-to-date materials. Curricular grants have been judiciously used and there is a wide selection of library and reference books available. Lists of resources for the various curricular areas are outlined in the school plan and are easily accessible to teachers. ICT equipment is provided in all classrooms and very good use is made of digital cameras. Considerable investment has been made in the purchase of ICT software. The school should now review its stock of ICT equipment in order to ascertain how effective it is in meeting the needs of the school and to replace or upgrade as is needed.

 

The original school building was constructed in the period 1973 to 1975 and the senior school was added subsequently. The present school building provides a principal’s and secretary’s office, a small general-purposes room, a number of small store rooms, a staffroom and adequate toilet facilities for pupils and staff. In addition to the mainstream classrooms in the main building, six temporary classrooms have been added to meet the needs of the school. The general-purposes room is regularly used for daily assemblies, the school choir, class plays and physical education classes. Despite a number of adaptations made, the school is very short of space resulting in a resource teacher and mainstream teacher rotating between classrooms and two resource teachers working from the staffroom or sharing a learning‑support room space. Many of the resource-teaching areas are very small and have inadequate natural light available. Traffic railings have recently been put in place in an effort to ensure safer access to the school from the busy main road and the adjoining church car park. Other works recently carried out include the installation of a CCTV security system, wheelchair ramps, a wheelchair-accessible toilet, new lighting, rewiring of sections of the building, the establishment of a staff library and the refurbishment and adaptation of resource teaching areas. The board is commended for its efforts in adapting the existing building in the interim period and for its efforts to progress the application for a new school.

 

The school is maintained to a suitable standard, is very clean and presents a warm, welcoming, educationally stimulating learning environment. A professional cleaning company is employed to clean the school on a daily basis. The school caretaker contributes greatly to ensuring that the grounds are well-maintained, classrooms are comfortable and minor works are dealt with promptly. The pupils, teachers and special needs assistants are also to be complimented on jointly ensuring that the external and internal environments are litter‑free and presented attractively.

 

A project manager has been appointed for the erection of a new school and it is expected that further progress will commence with this major project in the near future. During the reconstruction process the school will need to move to temporary accommodation offsite. This building project will involve the demolition of the existing building and temporary prefabricated accommodation and the erection of a two-storey structure to house both the junior school and the senior school.  This in turn will provide a larger recreational play area for pupils attending both schools. The school also has access to pitches within the locality. In order to address the shorter-term accommodation needs of the school, the board has recently forwarded an application to the building and planning unit of the DES for two temporary prefabricated structures in order to address the interim restricted accommodation needs of the school.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

In the absence of a parents’ association, home-school communication is fostered mainly through frequent informal contact, attendance at the annual book fair, science open days, carol services, school plays and sacramental ceremonies. The school information booklet provides a clear overview of pertinent procedures and policies and serves as a useful guide for parents. The regular newsletters issued describe recent achievements and upcoming events. This commendable practice greatly assists in the development of open communication channels between the school and the general parent body. The school website is in the process of being updated during the current school year. It was reported during the evaluation that many parents volunteer to provide support when required. Annual formal parent-teacher meetings are organised in line with agreed procedures. In line with effective practice, the school also facilitates the provision of information on individual pupil progress through the issue of school reports for all pupils.

 

The parent representatives on the board of management are the only parents currently involved in the school development planning process. It was acknowledged by the board of management that there is scope for development in strengthening parental involvement in school activities through the establishment of a parents’ association.  The greater involvement of parents in school activities has been identified as a challenge and priority target which needs development through the school’s participation in DEIS. It is recommended that a home-school communication policy be developed to reflect existing good practice and to outline the manner in which the active involvement of parents in the whole-school planning process and in the work of the school could be strengthened.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

A clear easily-understood code of behaviour fosters a positive approach to behaviour management among all partners. The pupils’ very good behaviour and the courtesy and respect shown among pupils and between pupils and adults are testimony to its successful implementation. Yard duty procedures are agreed and the rota for supervision duties is clearly communicated to staff members, all of which contributes very well to the high level of supervision and the sense of routine and order at break times. Pupils display confidence in their interactions with others and conscientious efforts are made towards the building of pupils’ self-esteem and positive attitudes. Pupils are given beneficial opportunities to take responsibility for litter control and recycling through their involvement in the Green Schools initiative.

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

The school planning process mainly involves an input from the members of the board of management and the school teaching staff. Draft policies are presented to the board and are discussed and amended if necessary prior to final ratification. The board of management mainly defers to the expertise of the teaching staff in the area of curriculum. The school has availed of support from the School Development Planning Service (SDPS) and the ‘cuiditheoireacht’ Regional Curriculum Support Service in a wide range of curricular areas. Parental input to the policy making process is mainly obtained through the parent representatives on the board of management. The school information booklet includes an invitation to parents to request a copy of any pastoral, administrative or curricular policy required.

 

The school plan is presented using a clear layout in three separate files and includes a table of contents. Policies discussed and agreed by the board to date cover a range of administrative, pastoral care and curricular areas. The school’s mission statement and vision are clearly articulated in the school plan and policies documented are focused and relevant to the school. Administrative polices developed relate to areas such as health and safety, enrolment, pastoral care, behaviour, anti-bullying, substance abuse, supervision, healthy lunches, professional development of staff, equality of opportunity, learning-support and special needs, litter control and a parental complaints policy. It is recommended that the enrolment policy be reviewed to ensure compliance with existing legislation and to reflect the inclusive approach adopted by the school. Curricular policies have been developed for all subjects in which the staff has received in-service training from the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP). In line with the national curriculum implementation plan, a drama policy will be developed during the current school year.

 

The school philosophy, mission statement, code of behaviour, daily school procedures and guidelines on fostering home-school links are distributed to parents in the school information booklet. It would be of benefit to make different aspects of the school plan available for viewing for parents in a prominent central location over the course of a school year. It is recommended that a three-year development plan should be formulated outlining the main organisational, curricular and resources priorities in the school. Greater involvement of parents in future policy development and review is recommended. This could best be facilitated through a parents’ association and the home-school community liaison service in collaboration with school management.

 

Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop clear comprehensive 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 provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person and deputy liaison person have been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers engage in regular long-term and short-term planning across all curricular areas in accordance with Departmental guidelines. The collaborative approach adopted by the teaching staff in meeting regularly at each class level to plan, review and share resources is commendable. Such joint commitment forms a solid cohesive base on which to progress, refine and develop planning practices further to extend best practice. Monthly progress records and a wide range of commercial and teacher-designed visual aids, materials, tasks and worksheets are also used to enhance the quality of teaching and learning in classrooms.

 

Two different templates with varying formats are currently in use throughout the school to support teachers’ short-term planning. Planning in some classrooms, while referenced to the strands and strand units of the curriculum, is primarily content-based.  A number of teachers make very suitable reference to strands, strand units, methodologies, approaches, differentiation and assessment techniques, linkage and integration, resources and learning outcomes to be achieved. Consideration should be given to seeking whole-school agreement towards the adoption of one standard template in order to place a greater focus on specific learning outcomes to be achieved, teaching methodologies, differentiation and assessment strategies on a whole-school basis. It would be beneficial to plan collaboratively across a range of class levels to facilitate the systematic development of content learning outcomes from class to class.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

Conscientious efforts are made in all classrooms to present a stimulating, varied and balanced curricular programme for pupils. A variety of methodologies and approaches is employed throughout the school. A good balance is achieved between individual work and whole-class teaching. Teacher‑led talk and discussion, brainstorming, active learning, language games, drama and a skills-based direct teaching approach are effectively adopted on a school-wide basis. Effective examples of pair-work, inside-outside circle, group work and innovative active learning methodologies were observed in a smaller number of classrooms during the evaluation. Attention should now be given to the extended use of pair-work and co‑operative group work to reinforce pupils’ language learning in Irish and to develop pupils’ higher-order thinking skills. Effective linkage and integration opportunities are implemented across all classes. There is a strong emphasis on the exploration of the pupils’ local environment and on the development of organised and well‑presented display areas. ICT is effectively used in some classrooms to reinforce pupils’ learning. It is recommended that ICT be used on a more regular basis.

 

Pupil-teacher and pupil-pupil interaction is very positive and respectful. Pupils display an enthusiasm for learning across all curricular areas and are making good progress in accordance with their age and stage of development. This progress in achievement is reflected in the most recent standardised test results completed in Mathematics and English. Early intervention measures implemented demonstrate that pupils’ literacy levels are rising. Pupils are confident, courteous and respond well to questioning. The care, attention and quality of education provided for pupils with special educational needs are of a very high order.

 

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Roghnaítear eisimleáir teanga bainteach le saol na scoile chomh maith le riachtanais cumarsáide na ndaltaí mar bhunchlár teanga na scoile seo. Déantar leathnú ar an gclár teanga de réir a chéile sa chaoi is go mbíonn bunscileanna cumarsáide ag leibhéal creidiúnach ag tromlach na ndaltaí ar fhágáil na scoile dóibh. Baintear úsáid as póstaeir, cluichí cainte, miondrámaí, agallaimh, foghlaim ghníomhach, obair bheirte, obair chiorclach agus ócáidí caidrimh chun taithí teanga a fhorbairt. Tugtar deiseanna struchtúrtha agus saorga do na daltaí cur in iúl sa teanga a chleachtadh. Aithrisíonn na daltaí raon maith dánta agus amhrán agus cuirtear béim chuí ar luas agus rithim na teanga.

 

Is léir go bhfuil tréaniarracht á dhéanamh ag foireann na scoile ar straitéisí éagsúla teagaisc a úsáid chun caighdeán na Gaeilge a fheabhsú tríd an scoil. Tá ag éirí leis na hoidí dearcadh dearfach a chothú i leith na Gaeilge. Baintear dea-úsáid as prionta sa timpeallacht i ngach seomra ranga agus tá tús déanta ar lipéidí Ghaeilge a chur ar taispeáint i dtimpeallachtaí poiblí na scoile mar eiseamláirí don scríbhneoireacht agus don léitheoireacht. Moltar, áfach, modh an aistriúchán a sheachaint sna hidirghníomhaíochtaí agus béim bhreise a chur ar úsáid na teanga mar theanga cumarsáide scoile, i mbainistíocht ranga agus sna gnéithe éagsúla curaclaim. B’fhiú freisin aithint a dhéanamh ar na  míreanna cumarsáide, ócáidí caidrimh, modhanna múinte, scéalta, agallaimh, amhráin, rainn agus uasghrádú comhrá atá le n-aistriú ó rang go rang agus straitéisí measúnaithe cuí a cheapadh chun an uaschéimniú a chlárú. Chuige seo beidh gá le infheistíocht bhreise a dhéanamh sna leabhair mhóra, leabhair scéalta, rainn agus sraith léitheoirí agus íomhá na teanga a ardú sa scoil i gcoitinne. Tugtar aitheantas don Ghaeilge sa phlean scoile mar cheann de phríomh-theangacha oifigiúla na tíre. Is fiú cur leis seo i gcomhthéacs na scoile chun aitheantas níos iomláine a thabhairt do stádas chathair na Gaillimhe, mar chathair dhá theangach. Is fiú  úsáid níos iomláine a bhaint as na hinstitiúidí  dhá-theangacha agus deiseanna sa Ghaeilge atá le fáil sa timpeallacht chun ciall a dhéanamh den stádas seo.

 

Úsáidtear an clár léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta mar chlár tacaíochta tuisceana agus labhartha go príomha sa scoil. Bíonn clár leathan forásach  structúrtha á leanúint i bhforbairt scileanna liteartha ar an iomlán. Faighhean tús na léitheoireachta sa Ghaeilge tacaíocht ón gclár cothú foirfeachta i gcoitinne. Is fiú cur leis na deiseanna seo trí úsáid a bhaint as cláir bhreise teanga chun scileanna tuisceana teanga a fhoirfiú agus chun raon taithí teanga na ndaltaí a leathnú.

 

Irish

Appropriate language exemplars are chosen for language classes in Irish in this school that reflect age appropriate communication needs and contextual factors for the pupils. The pupils’ language register is gradually extended to reinforce the linguistic objectives so that most of the pupils can engage in basic communication activities in Irish before leaving the school. Commendable use is made of suitable pedagogic supports to extend pupils’ language experience including the use of posters, language games, drama, interview, active learning,  pair-work and inside-outside circle. Structured opportunities are created to enable pupils practise their expressive register. Pupils can recite a wide range of poetry and song with rhythm and appropriate pace.

 

A variety of strategies is used conscientiously to present the language programme in classrooms in an effort to improve standards in the teaching of Irish. A positive attitude towards the language is cultivated. A print-rich environment is created in classrooms and this practice is being extended to the school’s public areas as exemplars for writing and reading.  It is recommended that the use of translation as a carrier of meaning should be avoided in the teaching of Irish. Curricular areas should be identified to facilitate the integration of Irish across other curricular areas and during daily classroom routines. It is also recommended that the incremental linguistic objectives, approaches and methodologies, stories, songs and poetry appropriate to particular class levels should be identified and recorded. A monitoring mechanism to record progress should also be included. Additional investment in appropriate library and classroom materials and parallel language supports is required to facilitate an increased language profile in the school generally. Although the language is credited with its national status in the school plan, this should be extended to reflect the recognition afforded to Galway city as a bilingual city. Increased interaction with the cultural institution of the city would give active expression to this status on a local level.

 

Effective use is made of reading and writing skills to consolidate and enhance both receptive and expressive registers primarily. The pupils access an extensive and structured pre-literacy programme generally and the initial approach to the development of reading skills in Irish also benefits from this programme. This approach could be extended through the inclusion of additional language programmes in Irish to further extend pupils’ experiential base in second language acquisition.

 

English

The quality of provision in English on a school-wide basis is very good. There is a collective commitment to ensuring consistency and continuity in the implementation of the English curriculum, which is guided by the recently revised whole-school plan for English. A further review of the school plan will be undertaken at the end of the current school year following the completion of the first year of implementation of First Steps in Writing literacy intervention programme. The sharing of staff expertise and talents is commendable and this has greatly enhanced the effective implementation of the English curriculum in all classes.

 

A discrete time for oral language is included in class timetables and oral language is emphasised as an integral element across all curricular areas. A variety of approaches is used effectively for oral language development using a wide range of contexts. These methodologies include circle time, talk and discussion, active learning, mime, drama, language games, brainstorming, play and games, pair work, inside-outside circle and singing conversations. Pupils are exposed to regular opportunities to develop their listening and speaking skills through daily news time, the exploration of large-format books and the use of a wide variety of posters and visual aids. The language experience chart is effectively used to reinforce new vocabulary and pupils are appropriately challenged. Pupils display confidence in oral expression and enthusiastically communicate their ideas and opinions. Pupils recite a wide repertoire of rhyme and poetry with expression, actions and movement throughout the school.

 

Almost all pupils read clearly, expressively and fluently in accordance with their class level and this success is reflected in the most recent Micra-T standardised reading test results provided. The teaching of phonics is commendably structured and as a result pupils’ phonological and phonemic awareness skills are very well developed. Pupils display a very good knowledge of letter names, blends and sound patterns and have mastered a very good understanding of print conventions. The Newell Phonics Programme multi‑sensory approach is the main programme implemented and is supplemented in some classrooms by phonics-based teacher-designed work stations or other phonics programmes. Word identification strategies are effectively developed using a multi-sensory approach, flashcards, labels and word walls.

 

Parental involvement in supporting pupils’ interest levels in reading is encouraged. An interest in books and reading is carefully nurtured and a range of suitably graded parallel readers is used to develop pupils’ emergent reading skills. Teachers regularly model the reading process, a sense of awe is created and effective questioning skills are used to develop pupils’ higher-order thinking skills. Each class library is carefully stocked with a good range of picture books, large-format books, poetry anthologies, collections of short stories, information books and dictionaries. A book week, visiting authors and book fair are organised annually, shared reading is encouraged and reading records are maintained. Very good attention is given to the development of pupils’ comprehension skills through the use of cloze procedure, teacher questioning and suitable activities. Stimulating print-rich displays are a feature of all classrooms.

 

The introduction of First Steps in Writing has resulted in a very good emphasis being placed on the implementation of regular daily free-writing experiences and the promotion of the writing process in all classes. Pupils are given the opportunity to engage in writing in a wide range of genres including news, poetry, dictionary work, personal fact files, advertisements, book reviews, menus, lists and creative story-writing. Each pupil has a free-writing copy and pupils’ writing experiences extend across a range of curricular areas. Very good attention is given to the correct formation of letters, pre-writing activities and neatness. The use of information and communication technologies (ICT) is underutilised in supporting the writing process in the majority of classrooms. It is recommended that ICT be used on a more regular basis in drafting and redrafting pupils’ individual writing samples. Some classes successfully take part in the Write a Book Project in conjunction with Galway Education Centre. Cursive handwriting is not currently introduced in the school. Consideration should be given to the introduction of a cursive handwriting style from first class upwards. Very good attention is given to the teaching and assessment of spelling using both phonetic and dictation-based approaches.  Pupils’ work is presented neatly and is monitored regularly by all teachers. Samples of pupils’ writing are attractively displayed on notice boards and in class booklets. 

 

 

4.3 Mathematics

A positive approach to the teaching of Mathematics is in evidence throughout the school. Teacher planning is appropriately linked to the comprehensive school plan and the content, skills and concepts of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Due care is taken to develop all strands of the mathematics curriculum and the pupils have acquired a very good understanding and mastery across all of the strands. A range of suitable strategies is successfully used to enable pupils acquire proficiency in fundamental mathematical skills. Regular use is made of activity-based learning and of concrete materials throughout the school to assist pupils in developing their understanding of mathematical concepts. Mathematical interest areas have been developed in all classrooms. These could be further extended to enhance the mathematical environment.

 

The quality of teaching and learning in the mathematics lessons observed during the evaluation was good. The development of mathematical language in all classes is of a high standard. Teachers use good questioning techniques and the pupils answer confidently and accurately. In the infant classes due attention is given to concept formation and language development through the use of early mathematical activities. Elementary mathematical concepts are well taught in other classes and the pupils have attained an understanding of place-value.  Pupils are taught in whole-class, group and individual settings, as appropriate. In all cases, pupils remain engaged with the lesson content.  In the lessons observed good integration opportunities were provided with other curricular areas, especially in Social Environmental and Scientific Education, Visual Arts and English. The local environment is effectively used to foster the development of pupils’ problem-solving skills. Consideration should be given to further developing the application of Mathematics across the curriculum and in a variety of real-life situations.

 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

The whole-school plan for History makes appropriate reference to each of the strands of the curriculum and to the development of the pupils’ skills as historians. It is planned to revise the school plan at the end of the current school year in order to further enhance the implementation of a broad, balanced and coherent approach to the teaching of History. The development of a collection of different artefacts would provide further opportunities for pupils to work as historians. A suitable range of methodologies is used in the teaching of History. Story is particularly effectively employed to stimulate pupils’ interest in the topics being taught. The use of sequencing to enhance the pupils’ sense of time and chronology is commendable. Focused talk and discussion are a central part of history lessons. A good practical emphasis is evident in most lessons with a very good use of artefacts in some classes. Appropriate attention is given to personal and family history in all classes. There are interesting timelines showing different stages of the pupils’ own lives on display in some classrooms. The use of timelines should be expanded to all classrooms.

 

All pupils display a good understanding of the themes studied and pupils can clearly describe what they have learned. The written activities undertaken during history lessons are neatly presented and show further evidence of the range of themes covered. Pupils are very engaged in the structured and stimulating lessons presented on change and continuity over time.

 

Geography

The standards of teaching and learning in Geography are very good throughout the school, with excellent work being carried out in many classes. Teachers are to be commended for their balanced implementation of the geography curriculum. The comprehensive whole-school plan provides a comprehensive and practical guide to facilitate effective implementation. Clear and focused talk and discussion periods form part of lessons in most classes. Lessons are well presented and pupils are skilfully motivated through the use of stimulating resources. Maps and globes are on display in almost all classrooms. These are used very effectively during lessons to further enhance pupils’ interest in the topics being studied. There is also an appropriate emphasis placed on the development of geographical concepts and skills.

 

The pupils’ sense of place and space is very well-developed throughout the school. Many pupils show a very good knowledge of human and natural environments worldwide. Some classes have also studied the solar system very effectively. Teacher observation and questioning are used to assess progress in learning outcomes and this in turn informs teaching. In some classes this has led to high standards of knowledge acquisition beyond what might be expected from specific class levels. The standard of written and oral presentation in pupils’ work is very high, with many pupils displaying a rich vocabulary of geographical terms.

 

The emphasis placed on local Geography is commendable. In some classes, the pupils have drawn maps of their local area and the route they take to school. Maps are also drawn of the journeys taken by characters in stories. Interesting project work has been carried out on peoples from other lands in some classes. The displays created as part of this work are very attractive.

 

Science

The whole-school science plan provides a clear focus and description of the work to be completed, which in turn supports the long-term and short-term planning of individual teachers. A comprehensive audit of available teaching resources together with specific health and safety guidelines are included in the school plan. Commendable work has been undertaken jointly by teachers at each class level in analysing all available science resources which has led to the compilation of school-designed booklets containing suitable activities linked to each strand and strand unit of the science curriculum. Such co-ordination of teaching resources at and between each class level is laudable as it supports the coherent, systematic and effective implementation of the science curriculum on a whole-school basis.

 

A number of teachers with a specific interest in Science have shown laudable leadership in promoting, supporting and encouraging the successful implementation of the science curriculum through the Discover Primary Science project. The school’s involvement in this project commenced in 2005. Since that time the school has received a number of awards for science excellence. This work has facilitated the development of an impressive discovery log containing annotated photographic records of the work undertaken. Other organised activities have included visits from scientists, science displays, and interactive open days for other classes, teachers and parents. It is planned that this project will be extended on a school-wide basis each year to enable the benefits accrued to be shared by as many classes as possible. The organisation of purposeful nature walks and out-of-school visits provides additional opportunities for pupils to apply their scientific knowledge to their own environments.

 

Science lessons observed were clearly structured. Active pupil involvement is encouraged and there is breadth and balance in curriculum implementation. There is an effective emphasis on the development of pupils’ skills in predicting and working scientifically. The designing and making strand receives very good attention and is appropriately integrated with Visual Arts and Mathematics. The main teaching methodologies used include guided discovery, teacher modelling, talk and discussion, direct whole-class teaching, individual work, active learning, the use of ICT and some pair-work and group work. Pupils record their findings in Science pictorially and in written form. Pupils are given the opportunity to plant their own individual seeds, bulbs and plants and to monitor and observe their growth. A vast range of resources has been acquired to support this curricular area. This has facilitated pupils’ access to a wide variety of scientific investigations and experiments. Pupils can confidently speak about the outcomes of their investigations using a well-developed scientific vocabulary. Pupils are enthusiastic in the promotion of recycling and litter management and their efforts in the Green Schools’ Environmental Project are due to be recognised by An Taisce through the presentation of the Green Flag award. Pupils clearly enjoy Science and are motivated in their learning.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The school plan provides for an extensive programme in Visual Arts and emphasis is placed on celebrating art using a broad and balanced programme of activities. Visual art activities are well integrated with other curricular areas. All classroom displays are very stimulating and well decorated and the pupils’ art samples take pride of place in the exhibitions. All pupils engage enthusiastically with the well-structured and developmental programme which emphasises pupils’ skill development, self-expression and the elements of art. Teachers’ individual planning outlines a broad and balanced provision, the pupils delight in their artistic experiences. There is an appropriate balance between two-dimensional and three‑dimensional activities. Pupils can give an animated expression of their experiences using sophisticated terminology and language. All curricular strands are covered using different materials, textures and techniques and the pupils observed were excited, stimulated, engaged and challenged. The photographic displays of work undertaken in classrooms, on classroom corridors and in teachers’ files serve as a valuable whole-school assessment for learning tool. Curricular implementation in Visual Arts is very good.

 

Music

The whole-school plan for Music appropriately emphasises the integrated nature of the music curriculum and the importance of developing pupils’ musical vocabulary. The teaching of Music is of a very good standard throughout the school and teachers are familiar with the interrelated nature of the music curriculum. The musical skills and interests of staff members with particular expertise in Music are well utilised. Music is effectively integrated with Irish, English, Mathematics, Physical Education and Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE). The school has acquired a good range of percussion and melodic instruments, which are regularly used in conjunction with a wide range of home-made instruments and environmental objects. Most classrooms have a clearly designated music area and the full participation of all pupils is encouraged and facilitated. The listening and responding strand is very well developed and pupils respond to various pieces of Music orally, in dance and in written form. The tin whistle is taught in some classes during the final term of second class.

 

A range of suitable songs in both English and Irish is melodically sung with good vocal control and confidence in all classes. The quality of singing displayed during assembly and in the musical drama Humpty Dumpty is particularly praiseworthy. Pupils display a very good understanding of simple rhythmic patterns, sound patterns, echo singing, beat and pulse from memory and singing conversations. It is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on the teaching of stick notation and simplified staff notation combining rhythm and pitch in accordance with pupils’ age and stage of development. Valuable opportunities are provided for pupils to participate in various musical outings including visits to the RTE Symphony Orchestra and activity-based workshops. Parents are invited to attend the annual carol service and individual class musicals during the school year.

 

Drama

While a whole school plan for Drama has yet to be developed, the implementation of this curricular area throughout the school is very impressive. A discrete time for Drama is included in all teachers’ timetables. It is intended to develop a whole-school drama plan following in-service training facilitated by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) during the current school year. Excellent use is made of role play to explore feelings and ideas, which leads to pupils’ enhanced understanding of a wide variety of human situations and responses. Dramatic games and circle time are effectively used to stimulate pupils’ interest, thinking and listening skills at the beginning of lessons in many classes. During drama lessons, pupils have regular opportunities to work as a whole class, in groups and in pairs. Following appropriate discussion in small groups, the pupils in some classes are given effective opportunities to develop their imaginations by creating various still images, which illustrate scenes from familiar stories. The use of costumes, various props and improvisation further enhances the drama lessons presented in many classes. Drama is also skilfully integrated with a range of other curricular areas in most classes, most notably in English, Irish, History, Music and SPHE.

 

Pupils display high levels of enthusiasm and confidence during the drama lessons and clearly derive great enjoyment from this work, especially the lessons which include mime and actions to music. Some teachers maintain a photographic record of the work undertaken in Drama. An expansion of this method of assessment and record‑keeping should form part of the future development of the whole-school plan for Drama. The investment of teacher time and commitment in the production of class plays and performances for parents in some classes is acknowledged.

 

4.6 Physical Education

There is a structured developmental whole-school plan in place for Physical Education that includes provision for athletics, games, dance, gymnastics and aquatics. The whole-school plan also provides guidelines for the linkage and integration of Physical Education with other curricular areas. Swimming lessons are provided for pupils in second class while the implementation of the aquatics strand is confined to theoretical elements including water safety and hygiene in infant classes, as appropriate. Physical education activities are well‑structured and pupils wear appropriate clothing. Although the general-purposes room is limited in size, emphasis is placed on pace and movement in the observed lessons, pupils enjoy the physical activity and attention is paid to safety issues. The pupils engage in warm‑up and cool-down activities and there is a clear focus on skill development, practice and teamwork. Routines and sequences are in place and skill refinement is developed using stations and a variety of activities. Boys and girls are given equal opportunities to participate in all strands of the physical education curriculum. Resources and equipment are frequently used, a comprehensive resource audit is on public display and the storage of PE resources is well organised in the adjacent storeroom.  Dance is commendably taught in the school. The board of management supports the use of the general-purposes room for Irish dance and hip-hop classes as an after-school activity provided by a staff member. Pupils are also provided with the opportunity to participate in athletics activities in the city sports annual event.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

The general atmosphere of the school reflects a firm commitment to the development and extension of the pupils’ skills in the area of Social Personal and Health Education. The success of this commitment is evidenced in the pleasant learning environment established in the school, the good relationship and communication among all the stake holders and the pupils’ sense of happiness and courteous behaviour towards teachers, each other and visitors.  A number of school policies including Code of Behaviour, Child Protection, Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), Anti-bullying and Healthy Eating, reflect the schools commitment to promoting the health of the child and to developing in the child a sense of social responsibility. The whole-school plan in Social Personal and Health Education provides for an appropriate balance in the teaching of content objectives and suitably guides teachers in enabling a broad programme to be taught. The school also participates in the Junior Achievement Primary School Programme through which pupils, over a series of six lessons, learn how education is relevant to the work place. 

 

Discrete time is set aside for formal lessons in Social Personal and Health Education. A wide range of resources is used to develop different strands of the SPHE curriculum.  Among the resources used in the delivery of lessons are Bí Folláin, Alive O, Walk Tall, Stay Safe and the Relationships, Sexuality and Education Programme. Lessons suitably nurture pupils’ self-confidence and self-worth. A number of outside agencies such as the fire brigade have been successfully used to assist in the development of pupils’ awareness of safety issues. Active learning is a feature of lessons observed. There was some good use of circle time which effectively fosters learning and discussion. During these lessons pupils explore possibilities, question, draw conclusions and reflect on outcomes at an appropriate level. Issues are also appropriately addressed on a cross-curricular basis. It is recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on pupils working together and that the use of teaching strategies such as drama, co-operative games, structured play and the use of pictures and photographs be extended.

 

4.8 Assessment

A broad range of assessment modes is used throughout the school to assess pupil competence and progress. These include teacher observation, Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests, checklists, spelling and dictation tests, cloze-procedure tests, teacher-designed tasks and tests, homework assignments, teacher questioning, diagnostic tests, individual education plans, running records, pupil profiles and dated photographic records. Very good attention is given to the importance of early intervention in literacy and numeracy. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) and the Quest screening tests are administered to senior infants to identify and select pupils for supplementary teaching support in first class. Information gleaned from the assessment strategies is used to diagnose and address individual learning needs and inform the teaching and learning process.

 

Assigned homework and class work are corrected promptly and regularly. Standardised tests are administered by both learning-support teachers and class teachers to pupils in first and second classes. The results are presented clearly in an accessible booklet format. Assessment outcomes are carefully analysed to assist in the identification of pupils requiring supplementary teaching and to track pupils’ progress from year to year. Progress records are passed on to the next class teacher at the end of each year and regular informal consultation occurs between teachers. Parents receive oral feedback on pupils’ progress at the annual parent-teacher meeting and annual progress reports are issued to all parents/guardians. Samples of pupils’ work are brought home by pupils at the end of each instructional term. Art portfolios are in the process of being developed in some classes. Consideration should be given to the development of annual class portfolios in order to involve pupils in observing their progress across a variety of curricular areas.

 

While specific attention is given to the importance and use of a range of assessment strategies in each curricular whole-school plan, consideration should be given to the development of a discrete assessment policy. This policy should identify the continuum of assessment methodologies currently employed to assess pupils’ skill development and understanding of concepts in each curricular area.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

A learning-support policy and a range of focused special educational needs policies have been developed and ratified by the board of management. These policies are consistent with statutory requirements, clearly outline roles and responsibilities and reflect the principles of inclusive practice. These policies guide admissions and referral procedures to the special class for pupils with hearing impairment, the special class for pupils with mild general learning disability and the special classes for pupils who present with specific speech and language disorder. Agreed procedures and practices for early intervention, screening, monitoring and review are clearly articulated. There is an appropriate reference made to the staged intervention approach to early intervention and to the Reading Recovery school-based intervention programme. The school has clearly documented procedures in place for the effective deployment and judicial use of the skills and talents of the special needs assistant staff in order to provide optimum learning experiences for all pupils with special educational needs.

 

Comprehensive individual teacher planning and detailed records of progress and attendance are maintained by all support and special class teachers. There is a laudable emphasis on attention to detail and pupil self-evaluation in the language classes, which greatly contributes to the raising of pupils’ self-esteem and pupils’ awareness of their own progress. Checklists, teacher-designed tasks and tests and daily anecdotal records are maintained to monitor pupils’ progress and feedback is provided on a continuous basis to parents. Pupils’ work is regularly monitored, dated and well organised. Individual education plans (IEP) or individual profile and learning programmes (IPLP) have been developed for each pupil and include general information regarding each pupil’s strengths, priority learning needs, clearly stated learning targets, materials and resources and dates for review. Pupils’ learning and teaching programmes are appropriately informed by the educational profiles developed, which summarise the main recommendations of professional reports. Copies of the IEPs are given to class teachers and parents/guardians. Parents are involved in the drawing up and review of each individual education plan and are encouraged to implement the specific learning targets identified in collaboration with the school. An open-door policy exists with regard to maintaining parental contact. A specific time is allocated on teachers’ timetables for teacher/ parent consultation meetings.

 

Four learning-support teachers, including two trained Reading Recovery tutors, currently provide supplementary teaching support for a total of 72 pupils in English and/or Mathematics. This support mainly takes place in small groups on a withdrawal basis with a limited amount of in-class support. Consideration should be given to extending the in-class teaching support model in the pupils’ base classrooms as the school moves towards an integrated model of support. Since September 2005 pupils with severe literacy needs have benefited greatly from Reading Recovery as evidenced in the observation survey summary sheets and comprehensive progress records maintained.

 

Three resource teachers, including one part-time teacher, provide teaching support to a total of 14 pupils diagnosed with special educational needs. The special needs assistants employed provide very effective supports for special class and mainstream class teachers. Resource teaching support is mainly by withdrawal on a one‑to-one basis in the areas of literacy and/or numeracy and attention is also given to the development of social skills, self-esteem, and listening and communication skills, in accordance with pupil’s specific needs. Braille is skilfully taught to enhance communication in one support room while listening therapy is effectively used with a small number of pupils to develop their listening and concentration skills. Some reverse integration opportunities are organised for pupils diagnosed with special educational needs in physical education and religious education classes. This commendable practice could beneficially be extended to social, personal and health education classes.

 

A total of 14 pupils attend the two special classes for pupils who present with specific speech and language disorder. These pupils greatly benefit from the integration opportunities provided in Science, Physical Education, Religious Education and other whole-school activities. Three pupils are enrolled in the special class designated for pupils with mild general learning disability, which was sanctioned by the Department of Education and Science in the 1990s. Five pupils are currently enrolled in the special class for pupils with hearing impairment. Although this class has currently no access to a visiting teacher service, every effort is made to ensure that pupils have access to a wide range of teaching and learning opportunities. Irish Sign Language (ISL) is effectively used to augment the pupils’ communication. Due to a lack of available Irish Sign Language (ISL) resources a praiseworthy range of teacher-designed resources has been developed. The school is at the early stages of developing a transition plan for a number of pupils with hearing impairment, whose age warrants their attendance at the senior school. Consideration should be given to utilising daily assembly as an opportunity to teach an agreed selection of ISL signs to staff and the general pupil population related to social interaction signs and symbols. A symbolic representation of these signs could be displayed at a central location in enlarged format.

 

A positive learning atmosphere exists in all learning-support and resource support rooms and effective teaching was observed. Lessons are carefully matched to the learning targets set and to pupils’ learning needs. Very good attention is given to teacher modelling and the provision of visual, physical, gesture and verbal prompts during the teaching process. A clear and consistent language of instruction is employed and effective multi-sensory approaches are adopted. Samples of pupils’ work are appropriately displayed and celebrated in most support rooms, where space allows. A good range of material resources and suitable teaching aids is available to support pupils with special educational needs. Despite the restricted school accommodation, every effort is made to ensure that visual aids and concrete materials are used to stimulate pupils’ attention levels during the teaching process. Consideration should be given to the development and dissemination of an audit of learning-support and resource materials among all teachers to facilitate their most effective use.

 

Classroom environments in the four special classes are attractively organised with clear designated curricular areas, incorporating teacher-designed charts, captioned visual aids, colour-coded word walls, pupils’ personal writing, photographic records of previous learning experiences and pupils’ work. Flipcharts are used effectively to model the writing process. Pupils enjoy a stimulating, active, varied and balanced breadth of learning experiences. Teachers avail of incidental learning opportunities throughout the day to optimise pupils’ learning and experiences. Pupils respond well to the lessons presented and are given many opportunities to engage actively in their own learning. A direct skill-based approach is effectively used and valuable active learning opportunities are provided for pupils to develop their social skills, coordination skills and verbal and non-verbal communication skills through the use of circle time, collaborative work and language games.

 

An integrated approach is successfully adopted in the special classes for pupils who present with specific speech and language disorder, which greatly enhances the reinforcement of pupils’ language learning. The use of music and song in developing pupils’ language and vocabulary is a particularly noteworthy feature. There is an awareness of the need to engage in task repetition using a variety of approaches to consolidate pupils’ learning. There is a commendable emphasis placed on the use of teacher-designed differentiated tasks and activities. In the special class for pupils with hearing impairment the use of clearly designated work-stations, ICT, clearly established structures and routines and visual schedules successfully creates a predictable learning environment for pupils and provides them with a sense of control over their environment. Positive reward systems are in place. Pupils display consistent progress in their learning, are proud of their work. A positive and happy ethos pervades.

 

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

The school is currently in the early stages of implementation of the relevant measures as outlined in the DEIS, Band 2 action plan. Nevertheless good progress has been achieved to date. It is planned that the measures to enhance attendance, progression, retention and attainment will be implemented following the imminent meeting with the Galway School Completion Programme committee. The positive impact of recent training provided by the Regional Curriculum Support Service (RCSS) in the writing strand of the First Steps Literacy Programme is reflected in all classrooms. It is planned that the school will receive further ongoing support from the Regional Curriculum Support Service in Maths Recovery and First Steps in Mathematics in the next school year. Conscientious efforts are made by individual teachers in collaboration with the principal to support pupils at risk of educational disadvantage and to seek support from relevant agencies.

 

A clear comprehensive policy on educational provision for overseas children has been developed, which sets out the principles and procedures for the enrolment of pupils from minority groups. The school is committed to the principle of interculturalism and equality of opportunities as evidenced in the welcoming, respectful and inclusive spirit in the school. The challenge now facing this school is finding ways of celebrating this cultural diversity. The first language post for international pupils was sanctioned in 2001 and a second language-support teacher was employed at the commencement of the current school year. There are currently 81 international pupils enrolled from 19 different nationalities.

 

The Integrate Ireland Language and Training Programme is effectively used to support a total of 43 pupils in English, 33 of whom are on their first year of the programme. Support is provided on a withdrawal basis mainly in groups and intensive support is provided on a one‑to-one basis in accordance with the needs of the pupil. Notwithstanding the limited amount of classroom space, every effort is made to provide effective language development experiences for the pupils. Regular liaison occurs between language teachers and individual mainstream class teachers. Assessment forms an integral part of the teaching process and the Integrate Ireland checklists and tasks are used to assess pupils’ language development and to guide the teachers’ long-term and short-term planning. Picture cards, environmental objects of reference and language games are effectively used to encourage pupils’ engagement and to stimulate the development of pupils’ vocabulary. Consideration should now be given to the further promotion of intercultural cross-curricular activities using cooperative learning groups.

 

A home/school/community liaison (HSCL) coordinator, based in Castlegar National School, has recently been appointed and is shared among three primary schools and one post primary school. A small number of home visits have been conducted to date and planning is at an early stage of development and shows limited detail. In order to guide the work of the HSCL service, it is recommended that a home-school policy be developed in collaboration with the school cluster. Consideration should be given to timetabling arrangements, long-term and short‑term plans, monthly records of work undertaken and systems for monitoring the effectiveness of the programme. Reference should also be made to home visits, communication with parents, principal and teachers, involvement of parents in the school, links with local voluntary, community groups and statutory agencies and reference to possible adult education courses and activities for parents.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths 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.