An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

 REPORT

 

Cloughjordan No 1 National School

Cloughjordan Co Tipperary

Uimhir rolla:  19422H

 

Date of inspection: 26 January 2008

                 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

 

A whole-school evaluation of Cloughjordan No. 1 NS was undertaken in January 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Social, Personal and Health Education [SPHE].The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

Cloughjordan No. 1 NS is a four-teacher school situated in the town of Cloughjordan, north of Nenagh in Co. Tipperary. The school serves families from Cloughjordan, Borrisokane, Shinrone, Ballingarry, Toomevara and Moneygall as well as the surrounding areas. Recent stable enrolment figures are predicted to continue in the medium term. No newcomer or minority pupils are currently enrolled. Attendance rates at the school are good.

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

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

78

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

4

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles [1 shared]

2

Special needs assistants

2

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Cloughjordan No.1 NS is under the patronage of the Church of Ireland Bishop of Limerick. The school seeks to promote a safe and secure learning environment where each child can develop to his/her full potential. The atmosphere in the school is very good with the school community striving to work together to promote the welfare of the pupils. High levels of staff co-operation and pupil willingness to engage with the learning process are evident in this school.

 

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and it meets regularly throughout the year. All meetings of the board are appropriately recorded. The board of management has developed a mission statement for the school that assigns a central role to the spiritual and educational development of the child.  The board sees its role as assisting the staff in providing a high-quality education for all pupils under its care. In pursuit of this aim, the board reviews relevant Departmental circulars. It liaises frequently with teaching staff and also communicates with parents through newsletters and the parents’ representatives on the board. The board of management regularly reviews all school policies and it amends them as necessary.

 

The board of management highly commends the quality of teaching and learning provided by all staff in the school. Board members praised the dedication, expertise and diligence of the staff in their efforts, not only to achieve high academic standards but also for the efforts undertaken by teachers to assist pupils develop socially and emotionally. The board has recently overseen an extension to the school which has enhanced the provision of special education and staff facilities.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal and one special duties post-holder. Duties are clearly defined for these post-holders and contracts are in place. The duties of the principal are in accordance with the Rules for National Schools and are in line with relevant DES circulars. The principal is caring, assiduous and conscientious and carries out her management duties with skill and sensitivity. The principal provides the school with informed and caring leadership and a very good rapport between principal and staff is evident. Significant importance is attached to teamwork. It is recommended that staff meetings be convened, as appropriate, during the school year. This will contribute to more efficient management of the school.

 

The duties of the deputy principal and that of the special duties teacher incorporate organisational, curricular and pastoral duties. Roles are undertaken with great care and consideration. The duties assigned to the posts are reviewed annually. The board has undertaken to contribute to the review process and the post-holders will also inform the board regarding the outcomes of their work each year. The principal, deputy principal, special duties post-holder, teachers and special needs assistants are commended for the care and attention given to all pupils and for the pleasant, co-operative, educational atmosphere, which is in evidence throughout the school. It is recommended that the regular rotation of the teaching staff throughout the school be introduced. This should benefit the learning experiences of all pupils.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Policies such as the Code of Behaviour and Discipline are distributed to parents. Parents are enabled to discuss their children’s progress at parent-teacher meetings, which are held annually and also with teachers by appointment at other times during the year. School reports are sent to parents at the end of the academic year and a copy is filed in the school.

There is a need for the school to include the parent body more centrally in the work of the school. Significant goodwill and support are apparent. The school must work to harness this positively in relation to teaching and learning opportunities for pupil benefit.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

A strong sense of mutual respect is evident in the school. Pupils’ behaviour during the evaluation was excellent. The quality of engagement between the staff and the pupils was high. Given the experience of the school with the Green Flag programme, it is now timely to consider the development of a student council which could be used as a means of including the pupils in the decision-making processes of the school. 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. The school plan is a very comprehensive well laid-out document which has been formulated in consultation and collaboration with school management and staff. The organisational section of the school plan contains the school’s mission statement and details of the school’s aims and routines together with policies on the following aspects of the life of the school: discipline, enrolment, homework, anti-bullying, child protection, assessment, special education teaching, yard supervision, substance misuse, staff training and a health and safety statement. Care has been taken to ensure that these policies are clear, well laid out and unambiguous. All curricular areas have been developed and are being reviewed in line with the implementation of the Primary Curriculum (1999). Further review of these documents should include clearer delineation of the learning experience of the pupil in each class standard.

 

The quality of individual teacher planning is very good. All teachers prepare individual long and short-term plans for their classes and monthly progress is also recorded. Long-term planning is closely aligned to the school plan and to the Primary Curriculum (1999).  This long-term planning is comprehensive in nature and clearly sets out the development of the curriculum throughout the classes. Short-term planning is compiled individually by each teacher and monthly progress in some classes is recorded by ticking the areas covered in short-term planning. In other classes, a template is used. In addition teachers record links, areas of integration and other changes to the work outlined in their short-term planning in the monthly progress template. It is recommended that further thought be given to incorporating a reference to skill development in order to establish a clearer link between short and long-term planning.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

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

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá dearcadh an-dearfach i leith na Gaeilge á chothú sa scoil. Is léir go ndéanann na hoidí an-iarracht atmaisféar fabhrach don teanga a chruthú sa scoil agus sna seomraí ranga, ionas go mbaineann na daltaí taitneamh as an bhfoghlaim. Saothraítear go díograiseach i múineadh an chomhrá, idir fhoirmiúil agus neamhfhoirmiúil agus tá caighdeán an-ard sroichte ag na daltaí i gcoitinne.

 

Baintear dea-úsáid as cluichí, rainn, amhráin agus as acmhainní oiriúnacha chun cumas cainte na bpáistí sa teanga labhartha a fhorbairt. Tá úsáid fhorleathan á bhaint as ceisteanna agus freagraí agus tá tuiscint mhaith ag na daltaí ar an ngnéith seo den chlár. Léann na daltaí go cruinn agus léiríonn siad a dtuiscint ar an ábhar léitheoireachta trí cheisteanna a fhreagairt ó bhéal. Tá an scríbhneoireacht bunaithe, don chuid is mó, ar an ábhar léitheoireachta agus ar na ceachtanna comhrá.  Déantar maoirseacht rialta ar obair scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí agus tá caighdeán maith le feiceáil san obair seo. Moltar béim a chur anois ar an scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach sa ghaeilge a fhorbairt, sna mean agus na hardranganna.

 

 

 

Irish

A very positive outlook on Irish is promoted in this school. It is clear that the teachers extend a great deal of effort to create this favourable atmosphere in the school and in the classrooms in order for the pupils to enjoy the learning. The teaching of discussion, both formal and informal, is carried out diligently and the pupils display a very high standard of achievement.

Good use is made of games, rhymes, songs and appropriate resources to improve the verbal ability of the pupils. Wide use of questioning and answering is evident and the pupils display good comprehension. They read competently and display their level of comprehension through their ability to answer questions orally. Writing is based, for the most part, on reading material and the oral classes. Regular monitoring of pupils’ written work is undertaken and a good standard is evident in this regard. It is recommended that emphasis be placed on the development of creative writing in Irish in the middle and senior classes.  

 

 

 

English

This school, through the use of a variety of suitable methodologies, makes admirable efforts to create, foster and develop the pupils’ abilities to engage appropriately in all strand units of the English curriculum. Oral communication is well developed and a range of suitable strategies is utilised to enable pupils to express their thoughts and feelings using a wide and well developed vocabulary. Poetry is very well used to develop the pupils’ interest in language and the pupils have succeeded in writing poetry in many different genres. A creditable effort is made to provide a print-rich environment in all classes and in the corridors of the school. More display of the work undertaken by the pupils in English in all classes should enhance the learning experience further.

 

There is evidence of high attainment levels of the pupils in literacy. A solid foundation for the teaching of reading is being established in the junior classes through the effective use of big books, teacher-made resources and illustrative material and these reading skills are systematically developed in all classes. Apposite activities are used to develop the pupils’ phonological awareness in the junior classes and this is further developed throughout the school. Pupils have developed very good reading habits and read a wide range of materials from well-resourced libraries. Differentiation of the curriculum is well developed in this school particularly in the area of English with pupils suitably encouraged to read and develop their skills at an appropriate rate and level. The pupils have produced some very good examples of creative writing and they write well in many different genres. All of this work is regularly and carefully monitored. Some very good use has been made of information and communication technologies (ICT) to develop this curricular area and it is recommended that this be expanded in the future.

 

3.2 Mathematics

In numeracy, the pupils’ attainment levels are very good. The school successfully assists all pupils to acquire an understanding of mathematical concepts and processes at an appropriate level. A good degree of congruence between teachers’ individual planning for Mathematics and the school’s plan for Mathematics has been achieved. It is recommended that further thought be given to the display of Mathematics language, resources and prompts and the promotion of a maths-rich environment.

Teachers attach great importance to the careful explanation of the basic mathematical procedures and there is effective usage of structured and concrete materials in aiding the pupils to develop their mathematical understanding. Overall, pupils have acquired a proficiency in fundamental mathematical skills and readily recall basic number facts. Pupils understand mathematical terminology and definitions and they use mathematical language appropriately. Pupils can communicate and express mathematical ideas, processes and results in oral form and they also record this work neatly in their copybooks.

 

 

3.3 Social, Personal and Health Education [SPHE]

In this school commendable care is taken to promote the personal development and well-being of the pupils and to foster in them a sense of care and respect for themselves and others. A varied and interesting curriculum has been laid out based on a number of programmes including Bí Folláin, Stay Safe and Walk Tall and supplemented where necessary by other lessons.  The commitment of the entire staff to this work under the leadership of the principal is highly commended. Respect for the environment and its long-term care is being developed through the Green Flag environmental scheme. The school aptly promotes effective decision making by the pupils for healthy living through the healthy eating initiative. The promotion of a positive and favourable atmosphere in the pupils’ environment is in evidence at all class levels and this suitably nurtures pupils’ self-confidence and self-worth.

 

 

3.4 Assessment

A range of standardised tests is administered in English and Mathematics each year. There is also extensive use of teacher-generated tests. Teachers monitor the progress of individual pupils and, where necessary, a range of diagnostic tests is carried out. Discussions between staff and the special education teachers occur regularly and suitable interventions are designed. Pupil files are maintained and portfolios of work are updated regularly. Progress reports are sent to parents on an annual basis and parent-teacher meetings take place once per year. Parents are also encouraged to meet more often with the teaching staff if the need arises. The use of the monthly report to record the work undertaken should be developed further. More in-depth analysis of the acquisition of particular skills by the pupils is needed. It is vital that regular assessment of the achievement of the pupils is recorded and used on a whole school and individual basis.

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The special education team comprises a resource teacher who is based full-time in the school. A learning-support teacher is based with a neighbouring school and provides a shared-service among other schools in the area. The support from the special education team is delivered either individually, or in small groups. There is adherence to Departmental guidelines with regard to learning-support and resource teaching. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are in place and reviewed regularly. These are drawn up in consultation with class teachers and with parental input. The school is now embarking on the challenge of having the special education team assist more fully in the delivery of this service within the classroom setting. The school is commended for its efforts to date in this area. It is recommended that the school reviews this work regularly in order to define each role and agree on clear objectives, while putting in place assessment procedures for the work undertaken.

 

The school is commended for the care and commitment given by all staff members in assisting pupils with special educational needs and for its efforts in differentiating the curriculum, so that all pupils take part as fully as possible in a broad and well balanced curriculum. Two special needs assistants ably assist the teachers in this work. An invaluable service of care is provided not only to the pupils they assist but also to the school community in its efforts to integrate these pupils within the school as a whole.  

 

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

The pupils come from rural backgrounds. There is no significant level of social disadvantage reported by the school authorities. No Traveller pupils are currently enrolled. It is commendable that the school defines its support remit to extend to both the psychological and educational needs of the pupils. This sensitivity, informed by knowledge, awareness and collective planning was evident during the inspection.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published September, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 


 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

First of all we would like to thank the Department and especially the Inspector for the efficient and constructive manner of the WSE. It was a most helpful exercise to the school and the report will be of considerable help to us in planning for future developments. There are a few points with which we do take issue and we hope that our comments on these points are constructive.

 

We would like to make the following three observations on the report:

 

§         We strongly question the recommendation on page 6 of the report that “regular rotation of the teaching staff should bring benefit to the learning experience of all pupils”. In a small school such as ours, even one rotation changes the classroom teacher for 66% of the school pupils and the staff. This is not something to be done without a definite benefit identified in advance of such a move. Our teachers have built up experience in working with the age groups that they are teaching and it may be that they are particularly suited to the classes they are teaching. There may well be specific circumstances which necessitate a rotation in the future but it is certainly not something to be done for the sake of it.

 

§         We would also question the recommendation on page 6 of the report that “the BOM must develop a policy aimed at greater inclusion of the parent body as part of their contribution to the life of the school”. Earlier on in the report on page 2 it is suggested specifically that this be done in the areas of “teaching and learning”. The school is a professional environment where professionally trained teachers work. It is not appropriate or even advisable to involve parents in the core duties for which teachers are trained. This is not to say that on occasion a parent with specific expertise may not provide a resource or some information on a subject relevant to the curriculum but this should be only on the invitation of the Principal and should not set any precedents. In a time when we are rightly conscious of litigation and child protection issues the access to the school should in general be confined to those who are trained and certified to work in this environment.

 

§         We strongly question and actively disagree with the suggestion on page 2 that "a student council be used as a means of including the pupils in the decision-making processes of the school." It is not appropriate that the students make decisions about the running of the school, especially in a primary school. In certain limited areas their opinion may be sought but the decision-making processes of the school are confined to the Principal, staff and the Board of Management.

 

Again these 3 points are only a small part of the WSE and overall we are very happy with the report and with the whole WSE process. I conclude by thanking you for your time and expertise in helping us to maximize our potential as a school.