An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Mharcuis

An Gleann, Corcaigh

Uimhir rolla: 19426P

 

 

Date of inspection: 28 April 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

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Mharcuis, An Gleann, Corcaigh. 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 representatives of parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given the 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 to this report.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

This all-boys’ school is located in the north of Cork city and operates under the patronage of the Bishop of Cork and Ross. The school was built in 1975 and significant refurbishment has been carried out in recent years. Scoil Mharcuis has been included in the cohort of Primary Urban Band 1 schools identified for prioritisation in the School Support Programme (SSP) under the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan for educational inclusion. Involvement in this and other initiatives has resulted in significant additional supports for Scoil Mharcuis.  Enrolment levels in recent years are stable and average annual attendance figures show improvement. The school is also involved in the School Completion Programme (SCP) and the board has indicated considerable dissatisfaction with outcomes for pupils of the school from SCP to date. In light of the importance of the transition to second level and of pupils staying in the education system for as long as possible it would be desirable that difficulties surrounding the operation of the SCP be addressed without delay.

 

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

5

Teachers on the school staff

9

Mainstream class teachers

5

Teachers working in support roles

4

Special needs assistants

3

 

The school is located in an area that requires accelerated rejuvenation of housing stock and ongoing support by social and other services. The construction of the state of the art Glen Resource & Sports Centre beside the school has provided exceptional sporting facilities, a crèche and various other services and is a significant asset to the school. The development of the centre is a good example of multi-agency co-operation being of real benefit to a community. Scoil Bhreandáin, the local girls’ school, is a short distance away and the possibility of considering initiating a process of amalgamating these two schools was discussed with the board of Scoil Mharcuis.

 

 

 

The Mission Statement of Scoil Mharcuis attests to its Catholic ethos and the fact that the school gives due recognition and respect to all religions. The statement stresses the aim to provide a learning environment that is well-ordered, caring, happy and safe in which the intellectual, spiritual, moral and cultural needs of pupils are identified and provided for. Growth in responsibility, respect and self-esteem are given priority and the school values highly the involvement by parents in the education of their children. The dedication and commitment of staff is recognised as is the desire to provide a working environment that maximises the potential of all stakeholders.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meets at least once per term. The board and staff are to be commended for the current excellent state of the building and grounds. Judicious use of the Summer Works scheme over a number of years has resulted in the provision of a most attractive learning environment for staff and pupils. The board is proud of the central role of the school as a key institution in the local community. Board members and parents who met with the inspectors were extremely grateful for the efforts of principal and staff to create a happy, encouraging and pleasant learning environment for the local pupils. The school’s open door policy in dealing with parents is also appreciated.

 

Involvement by the board in the consideration and ratification of organisational policies needs to now be extended to curricular policies. The signing and dating of all policies should assist in the prioritisation of areas for review. Detailed accounts are kept in the school and it is recommended that these be certified annually. Consideration could be given also to the review of post-holder duties so that these duties might be more closely aligned to current school priorities.

 

2.2 In-school management

There is a palpable sense of deep appreciation among the stake holders for the dedicated and committed service given by the principal to Scoil Mharcuis over many years. He espouses a passionate interest in the welfare of the families of The Glen and has worked extremely hard to put in place a quality educational infrastructure. He has a deep appreciation of the importance of the primary school as a positive force in tackling disadvantage and ensuring that today’s pupils will enjoy the advantages that education can deliver. The principal’s sense of care for every pupil is demonstrated through an interest in and knowledge of pupils long after they leave Scoil Mharcuis. The principal’s dedication to inclusiveness and equality is shared by a supportive staff.

 

The principal demonstrates a strong commitment to ensuring that advantages accruing to pupils from involvement in DEIS initiatives are maximised. He has a clear vision and understanding of what needs to be done to further develop curricular provision in the years ahead and to build on the curricular planning that has taken place. In the current school year the principal has become an administrative principal, a development which will enable him to devote more time and energy to providing greater instructional leadership. The present state of the learning environment is a testament to his vision and to the support he has cultivated from a wide range of sources. His involvement in seeking support from a wide range of sources has resulted in many successful initiatives that have been of benefit to the school.

 

 

 

The in-school management team consists of the principal and four post-holders: a deputy principal and three special duties teachers. The duties of the post-holders are of an organisational and administrative nature and this work is undertaken diligently. The impact which an in-school management team can have on the quality of teaching and learning in curricular areas is yet to be explored. It is recommended that members of the in-school management team each assume responsibility for a curriculum area with a view to monitoring existing practices and leading developments in that area.

 

2.3 Management of resources

Staff are effectively deployed in a manner which maximises their capacity to meet the needs of pupils. Changes in staff composition and deployment in recent years have allowed for teacher mobility within the school. A formal policy on staff rotation would ensure that all teachers regularly gain experience of different pedagogical challenges. Staff members are commended for their proven commitment to continuous professional development and the board supports their endeavours where possible. An audit of courses attended and an assessment of future development needs should enable the staff to more effectively meet future challenges. Three full-time special needs assistants display great versatility and willingness in capably supporting class teachers in their efforts to fully include pupils with special needs. A number of external instructors provide coaching in various sports and in speech and drama. A part-time secretary and a part-time caretaker contribute in a highly satisfactory manner to the work of the school and the standard of cleanliness is a testament to the good work of two part-time cleaners.

 

In addition to mainstream classrooms and various support rooms Scoil Mharcuis has a well-appointed general-purpose room and a computer room. Much excellent work has been done in the grounds to provide tarmac play areas for the pupils and these facilities are augmented through access to the Glen Centre, which has a climbing wall and state of the art all-weather playing surfaces. The school has facilitated the provision of crèche facilities on-site with the express purpose of enabling parents to participate in educational events and opportunities as part of the HSCL programme. `

 

Class teachers have access to a good range of suitable curricular resources and they are also adept at generating their own materials to enhance teaching and learning. Considerable investment has also been made in resources for pupils with special educational needs. Each class has its own library and it is proposed to augment present stocks with attractive material that has the potential to promote good reading habits. Classes have timetabled weekly sessions in the ICT room and it is recommended that a review of provision for the use of Information and Communications Technology should explore the potential for greater integration of ICT into the teaching and learning process.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The Home/School Community Liaison scheme (HSCL) is operated on a shared basis with Scoil Bhreandáin. A wide-ranging and impressive programme of activities is undertaken as part of this service. Systematic planning, reporting and co-ordination of activities with the principal and staff are core facets of the programme. Evaluation of aspects of the programme are noteworthy and highly commendable. The HSCL scheme includes home visits, courses for parents, classroom activities and involvement in various organisations and agencies that are critical to the provision of supports for pupils in disadvantaged settings. Courses for parents on topics such as personal development, computers and gardening seek to improve the educational experience of pupils by building the capacity of parents to access education as a vehicle for personal growth and fulfilment. Home visits are an essential strategy for the early identification of pupils’ needs and their on-going support. Two parents are currently training to assist with visitation.

2.5 Management of pupils

Teachers’ attitude of care and positive strategies for managing behaviour result in very good relations between teachers and pupils. A system of giving pupils leadership responsibilities during break times through a yard-captain system is proving very successful. Positive behaviour is consistently commended and encouraged by staff and there is a conscious effort to promote the self-esteem of pupils.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

The staff is commended for its engagement with the planning process to date. Curricular policy documents have been compiled with clear reference to the content objectives of the curriculum and a future review of these documents should focus on adapting the curriculum to the specific needs of the current cohort of pupils and ensuring that school planning impacts directly and comprehensively on classroom practice. Organisational policy documents cover the broad range of school activities in a series of clear and concise statements of current practice. The school reports some involvement by parents in the planning process and it is hoped that such practice will develop in the years ahead. Ratification of policies by the board needs to be clearly recorded.

 

The school engaged the services of a school development planning facilitator to compile its DEIS action plan and it is now opportune to revisit this plan and evaluate it comprehensively. To date the literacy targets set down in terms of reducing the percentage of pupils experiencing serious reading difficulty have been met. The objective of increasing the number of pupils achieving at above average levels requires further work. Broadly similar outcomes have been achieved in Mathematics.  The plan to improve overall attendance levels and reduce the numbers of pupils absent for more than 20 days has been particularly successful. Daily monitoring by the principal of those most persistently absent has resulted in significant improvements. The fourth component of the DEIS plan is aimed at increasing involvement of parents in their children’s education. The school’s efforts in this are praiseworthy and owe much to the diligent pursuit of the aims and objectives of the Home School Community Liaison Scheme.

 

It is noted from information provided by the school that priorities for future development planning are to be decided at the end of the current academic year. In this context a school self-review coupled with the recommendations of the external evaluation process being conducted by the DES should enable the compilation of a strategic plan outlining priorities for the next 3-5 years.  In the overall context of planning, and while acknowledging the school’s success in this area, it is now crucial that particular attention be paid to the setting down of criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of plans and the systematic collection and assessment of data indicating outcomes. The school is also encouraged to engage more fully with the available support services in addressing key planning challenges.

 

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.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

In general teachers plan conscientiously for their work and the collaboration of teachers in classroom planning is highly commendable. A review of planning practices, as part of strategic forward planning might profitably address a number of issues with a view to improving learning outcomes. More focused short-term planning should only set down an achievable set of targeted learning outcomes and these need to be differentiated to meet the needs of particular groups and individual pupils. Closer co-operation between classroom teachers and the support teachers is necessary to improve outcomes for special needs pupils. Monthly progress reports ought to delineate clearly progress achieved towards stated learning objectives and these reports can be used as part of the school self-evaluation process. Planning templates in use by some teachers include sections dealing with aims, content and skills, key methodologies, resources, linkage and integration, strategies for differentiation and key assessment approaches. This practice merits adoption on a whole school basis.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

Classes observed during this evaluation provided copious evidence of teaching expertise that was energetic, engaging and well organised. Teachers are empathic, encouraging and caring in their dealings with pupils. A variety of methodologies, involving whole-class teaching, group work and project work, were in evidence in most classes. Classroom environments are positive and feature supportive teacher-pupil and co-operative pupil-pupil interactions. Pupil behaviour is managed very effectively for the most part and pupil engagement and participation is commendable.

 

The predominance of whole-class teaching and textbook-based approaches could be supplanted by a greater emphasis on differentiation, group and pair work and cross-curricular project work. It is vital to ensure that the use of concrete materials and activity-based methods are a more common feature of all classes. Greater use of ICT, exploration of the immediate environment and the use of assessment for learning can further embellish the positive features of practice observed.

 

Despite good teaching and generally positive engagement by pupils the quality of pupil learning continues to pose significant challenges. Standardised tests in literacy and numeracy together with other evidence indicate that a significant cohort of pupils is underachieving in these areas. Progress is being made however and the streamlining and co-ordination of various initiatives to address deficits is now a priority.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Baintear caighdeán maith amach i múineadh agus foghlaim na Gaeilge i gcomhthéacs na scoile seo. Moltar iarrachtaí macánta na n-oidí chun dearcadh dearfach i leith na teanga a chothú agus chun an Gaeilge a úsáid i rith an lae ar fud na scoile. Cruthaítear timpeallacht shaibhir i bprionta i bhformhór na seomraí mar thaca don léitheoireacht agus don scríbhneoireacht. Cloistear rainn agus amhráin trí Ghaeilge agus cuirtear raon leathan d’acmhainní oiriúnacha ar fáil chun na daltaí a mhealladh chun foghlama. Baintear feidhm éifeachtach as straitéisí teagaisc chun cumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt, drámaíocht, cluichí teanga agus gníomhaíochtaí i bpéirí agus i ngrúpaí ina measc. Déantar cúram cóir de mhúineadh na scríbhneoireachta agus tá cuid den obair sin bunaithe ar an gcumarsáid. Déantar monatóireacht ar shaothar na ndaltaí go cúramach ar bhonn rialta. B’fhiú anois a chinntiú go leathnaítear na dea-chleachtais thuasluaite agus go gcuirtear béim freisin ar na tréimhsí  réamhchumarsáide,  cumarsáide agus iarchumarsáide le linn gníomhaíochtaí labhartha. Chomh maith le sin moltar go ndéanfar athbhreithniú ar an bplean scoile sa Ghaeilge chun an clár foghlama don Ghaeilge a chur in oiriúint do chomhthéacs na scoile agus spriocanna soiléire foghlama a leagan amach, chun gnóthachtáil na ndaltaí a chinntiú thar raon áirithe scileanna.

   

Irish

A good standard is achieved in the teaching and learning of Irish in the context of this particular school. Teachers’ sincere efforts to inculcate a positive outlook towards the language and to use Irish widely in their daily work are praiseworthy. A print-rich environment is created in most classrooms as a support for reading and writing. Poems and rhymes are recited and a broad range of resources is used to encourage children’s learning. Effective use is made of stimulating teaching strategies to develop pupils’ conversational ability including drama, language games and group and pair activities. Due attention is paid to the teaching of writing and some of this work is based on oral activities. Pupils’ written work is carefully monitored on a regular basis. It would be appropriate that the elements of good practice highlighted here would become a regular feature of work in all classes. Furthermore a review of the school’s plan for Irish is now timely so that it may be adapted to the school context and delineate clear learning targets ensuring maximum benefit for pupils over a certain range of skills.

 

English

During the evaluation many elements of good practice were observed. Classrooms are generally print rich and each classroom has its own library. Class libraries have a range of narrative, expository, diagrammatic, representational and some parallel readers. It is noted that the school is making concerted efforts to expand the quality and variety of material available in the class libraries. While differentiated approaches to reading were observed in some classes it is advised that pupils in all classes would be enabled to experience success at reading through having available material that is appropriately challenging and interesting.   Greater emphasis needs to be placed on reading for pleasure and the wider use of engaging class novels would also be important in this regard. The Middle Infant Screening Test has been administered and should, together with the associated Forward Together Programme, become a regular feature of a process of early identification and remediation of reading difficulty. The use of a broader range of diagnostic tools and the systematic analysis of all test results should help to give greater clarity and direction in promoting language development.

At this point it is important that an agreed approach to oral language development would be adopted in all classes and this should involve discrete timetabling and closer alignment with the objectives of the primary curriculum. Continued use of oral language observation frameworks used by speech therapists would be advisable also. It is encouraging to note that some pupils communicate clearly and confidently and have developed a good vocabulary and a range of communication skills. The systematic implementation of an agreed phonological awareness programme throughout the school is also recommended.

 

First Steps Writing has also been introduced through the assistance of a DEIS cuiditheoir. Staff are enthusiastic about First Steps and some excellent teaching using this approach was observed  during the evaluation. The school has also joined the Reading Recovery programme and is preparing to introduce Literacy Liftoff from September 2008. Despite the fact that Reading Recovery was but recently introduced some positive outcomes are already evident. It is vital at this stage that the methodologies and good practice inherent in the various initiatives are disseminated and taken on board by all teachers in Scoil Mharcuis. Literacy Liftoff should be particularly beneficial, in terms of giving more pupils access to the methodologies inherent in the Reading Recovery programme.

 

The importance of giving pupils frequent opportunities to write in various genres for a variety of audiences and to celebrate writing through desk top publishing and display is recognised by staff and a more cohesive whole school approach in this area could now encompass a policy introducing a cursive style of writing at an earlier stage.

It is acknowledged that the modest attainment targets set down in the DEIS three-year plan for literacy are within reach and this achievement should provide an impetus for greater improvement in the years ahead. However, oral examination of children and the analysis of standardised testing point to considerable literacy deficits. Various initiatives have been undertaken to address this issue. Staff clearly recognise the importance of developing oral language in the context of addressing on-going literacy problems. In the past the school, on its own initiative, obtained and funded the services of a speech and language therapist. At the commencement of the current academic year the staff, in conjunction with the Health Services Executive and the Cork City Partnership, initiated The Glen Schools Speech and Language Pilot Project aimed at improving communicative language in the infant classes. This project involved assessment of infants’ language skills, a structured programme of whole–class intervention, meetings with parents and currently, assisting identified pupils with particular language difficulties. This project is perceived by staff to be very successful, both in terms of benefits to pupils and the continuous professional development of teachers.

It is now advised that the school plan for English and the DEIS plan, which includes a strong literacy component, be reviewed to incorporate recent initiatives and to take on board recommendations arising from this evaluation.

 

 

4.3 Mathematics

Good teaching of Mathematics was observed in many instances but particularly in junior and middle standards. There is a clear emphasis on appropriate mathematical language, active participation is promoted and pupils are encouraged to develop skills of estimation, measuring and recording through the use of appropriate concrete materials. The school plan for Mathematics addresses key issues including assessment, problem solving and language. The DEIS three-year plan for numeracy focuses on these issues and includes a problem solving initiative together with a concerted effort to improve the memorisation and retention of number facts.

 

It is now recommended that the staff review current whole-school planning for Mathematics and that a revised plan will give due consideration to the consolidation of learning and linkage between the strands of the Mathematics curriculum. There is also a need to ensure whole-school planning directly influences classroom planning and practice. In addition, greater attention needs to be paid to the analysis of assessment outcomes so that assessment for learning gives rise to a suitably differentiated approach to the teaching and learning of Mathematics.

 

It is further noted that pupils of all classes need regular access to appropriate hands-on activities as they attempt to internalise fundamental concepts. Frequent revision and consolidation as part of daily timetabled oral maths sessions could also enhance current practice. Some classes would benefit from less reliance on whole-class instruction involving the use of a textbook. The use of real life situations and the local environment in some classes is praiseworthy and merits wider application. As the DEIS three year plan for numeracy approaches its final stages it is noted that the plan is likely to achieve its targets in terms of raising attainment as measured by Sigma-T results. In a revised plan the school should seek to raise attainment further to the levels obtaining at the time of the Literacy and Numeracy in Disadvantaged Schools report in 2004, to which Scoil Mharcuis contributed.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

The services of a PCSP cuiditheoir were availed of to draw up a plan for the teaching of History. Resources have been suitably audited and the compilation of a resource pack on local History has the potential to facilitate greater interest in learning about the school’s immediate environment.  During the evaluation pupils in the junior section of the school demonstrated appropriate knowledge of myths and legends from their study of the story strand of the curriculum. Teachers are particularly adept at presenting stories in an engaging and interesting manner. In the senior classes a study of Archimedes was suitably integrated with scientific study of the lever. Greater emphasis on local studies, project work, and activity-based methodologies in all classes will further enhance the pupils’ ability to work as historians.

 

Geography

Planning for Geography allows for balanced treatment of all strands of the Geography curriculum. The completion, by staff, of an environmental audit and an appropriate focus on safety issues are important in the context of studies of the local natural environment. The school grounds and the local park provide ideal locations for practical study. Encouraging an interest in gardening is a key feature of this work. Productive use of maps and illustrative materials as well as the organisation of suitable field trips constitute valuable aspects of the geography curriculum. Attitudes to environmental awareness and care are carefully nurtured.

 

Science

Teaching and learning in Science embraces the key tenets of scientific method. Practical investigations in which pupils are given opportunities to observe, hypothesise, predict, test and analyse outcomes are features of practice noted. Pupils are given opportunities at designing and making and collaborative problem solving and there was a  suitable balance between knowledge, activity and discussion  in science lessons observed. Integration was also a key feature of practice observed. Greater co-ordination is advised at whole-school level so that there is continuity and progression of topics covered.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

Planning for Visual Arts at a whole school level reflects the structure and content of the  curriculum. Appropriate time is allocated to delivery of the visual arts programme and colourful displays of pupils’ work are in evidence in classrooms and corridors. Activities are effectively organised and a wide range of resources and materials is employed. Evidence implies that pupils have experience of a range of topics, themes and media from various strands of the curriculum. The school engages the services of a potter to assist in giving pupils experience of exploring the possibilities of using clay for three-dimensional expression.

Project work on a rural scene and activities to celebrate various occasions were undertaken with particular creativity. Infant pupils were observed making a caterpillar and this work involved careful integration with the study of shapes in Mathematics. A review of the school plan at this point would seek to ensure balanced treatment of the strands of the curriculum in all classes, the avoidance of template/replicate Art and greater emphasis on looking at and responding to Art.

 

Music

Music lessons observed in the junior and middle classes feature very good practice. Pupils clearly enjoy the songs they have learned and there were instances of performance being enhanced by creative accompaniment of percussion instruments. The performance strand of the curriculum is also catered for through teaching of the tin-whistle. The school choir involves pupils from second to sixth classes. Weekly practice prepares the choir for carol singing, reception of sacraments and the Lord Mayor’s visit. Staff members involved in preparing and directing the choir are to be commended for their commitment to the provision of this valuable experience for pupils.

 

Drama

Scoil Mharcuis has a strong tradition in performance drama. Middle classes were awarded a prize for mime at Feis Maitiú in 2008 and a recent performance of Snow Bright in senior classes was well received. The school plan for drama features lists of drama properties and costumes and a Christmas concert is produced annually. Staff members involved in the direction of these activities are commended for their commitment in the undertaking of these tasks.

 

In some classes, dramatic activity is used as an effective tool to ensure cross-curricular integration and linkage with the curricular areas of Gaeilge and SPHE.  It is evident that pupils derive enjoyment from the techniques employed and from the activities undertaken. It is now recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on process drama and that this approach would become integral to the service provided by the external tutor.

 

4.6 Physical Education

A comprehensive school plan that seeks to address all strands of the Physical Education curriculum is in place. In many respects the school is particularly well-resourced for Physical Education. In 1999 the school authorities donated a site beside the school for the development of the Glen Resource and Sports Centre. The Centre, with its all-weather pitches and tennis courts, indoor hall and climbing wall is a considerable asset. The school principal and the Centre manager collaborate each September in planning skills development activities for pupils. In the past the school has organised access to a local pool for aquatics, but, due to current pressures on funding, such access has not been possible this year.

 

Lessons observed in Physical Education were well organised and extremely enjoyable for pupils and indicate that there is a systematic approach to the development of pupils’ skills, particularly in the dance and games strands of the curriculum. Music is used to good effect and activities are purposefully integrated with other subject areas.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

A whole school review of SPHE was carried out in January 2003. Practice in this area is informed by policies on Relationships and Sexuality Education, Substance Misuse, Bullying, Enrolment, Health and Safety, Healthy Eating, Stay Safe, the Alive-O programme and the child protection guidelines. The school has successfully emphasised the benefits of healthy eating through involvement in the Food Dudes programme, the teaching of lessons in the Myself strand of the curriculum and by gaining the support and co-operation of parents in the provision of healthy lunches. Pupils in senior classes were observed exploring well-prepared and appropriate problem solving situations that further their capacity to accept responsibility and make informed decisions.

Greater use of circle time, talk and discussion, role-play and pair work would help to explore topics in a more meaningful way and a review of SPHE should seek to ensure that key components of the programme are effectively delivered.

 

 

 

4.8 Assessment

A variety of assessment modes are in use, particularly in the areas of literacy and numeracy. These include teacher observation, teacher-devised tests and on-going monitoring of class and homework assignments. Very good use of individual tracking of objectives using checklists for letter and word recognition, spellings and number facts was observed and all classes would benefit from this approach. It is noted that careful records are filed on each pupil and this practice should now be developed further to include tracking of individual pupils’ progress in a compact accessible format that is readily available to relevant teachers.

 

MICRA-T and SIGMA-T standardised tests are administered to pupils from first to sixth class to monitor progress in literacy and numeracy. The Drumcondra Reading and Mathematics Tests have also been used. More systematic analysis of results of these tests should help in the development of learning programmes and the evaluation of the effectiveness of teaching approaches. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is now being administered and in conjunction with the Forward Together programme will aid early intervention in the case of pupils with the most acute needs in literacy. The level of language skills of infant pupils was assessed by speech therapists as part of the pilot programme on oral language and there will be further assessment at the end of this academic year. School documentation indicates that various diagnostic tests are also used.

 

Planning for assessment needs to look now at professional development in this area with a view to choosing from a wide range of resources available and how best these resources might be used  to assess learning outcomes and inform intervention strategies at class and whole school level.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The special educational needs (SEN) team consists of a full-time learning support teacher (LST), full-time resource teacher for pupils of the Travelling community (RTT), a shared resource teacher for pupils with disability (RTT) and a shared home/school community liaison co-ordinator (HSCL). The team is supported by three full-time special needs assistants. One member of the team has completed training in Reading Recovery and devotes three hours per day to  delivery of the programme. Pupils receive a range of supports, depending on their needs. Pupils are withdrawn from their classrooms for this purpose and while the majority receive help with  literacy and numeracy, behaviour management is also part of the brief. In an effort to minimise disruption a commendable effort is made to ensure that individual pupils are taught by only one member of the SEN team.

 

The SEN team and the school principal meet in September to plan the strategy for the coming year. Applications for psychological assessments are processed and arrangements are made for pupils requiring contact with the SEN team and the nature and extent of the supports to be delivered. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are drawn up in consultation with parents and these plans are reviewed in February. Efforts made to include parents in this process are praiseworthy and ought now to include giving parents a copy of the IEP. The SEN team meets regularly and this good practice should now be timetabled and the contact between class teachers and relevant members of the SEN team also requires a more formal structure to ensure maximum co-operation in dealing with pupils’ needs.

    

A common approach to the requirements for planning and recording teaching and learning outcomes in the SEN area needs to be adopted at this stage. The very good approaches in some areas, as well as the Learning Support Guidelines (DES, 2000) and the Draft Guidelines for Teachers of Students with General Learning Disabilities (NCCA, 2002), can form the basis for this planning.

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

Elsewhere in this report reference has been made to the supports provided for pupils under various support initiatives. Reference has been made to strategies for facilitating the full inclusion of the diversity of pupils, special initiatives, parent and community liaison and liaison with and referral to support agencies. Reference has also been made to the quality of the intervention provided and to the quality of support for pupils. 

 

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

  • The school has a committed and hardworking principal and staff who strive diligently to promote the personal development, health and well-being of all pupils in a caring and collegial atmosphere.
  • The building is well maintained, with an attractive external environment and access to excellent adjacent facilities.
  • The school has a supportive board of management which can have justifiable pride in various refurbishment projects completed.
  • Praiseworthy efforts are undertaken to maximise pupil attendance.
  • Parental involvement is promoted through parent-teacher interaction and the HSCL initiative.
  • The school is to be commended for the organisation of various extra and co-curricular activities for the pupils, including outings, choir, games, athletics and participation in dramatic activities.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

  • A thorough review of existing plans for literacy and numeracy as a key part of whole school review and forward planning is required.
  • A re-examination of planning practices is recommended to ensure that whole school planning impacts more directly on individual teacher preparation.
  • A review of duties and roles assigned to members of the ISM should take place so that current development needs reflect curricular priorities.
  • A further development of assessment practices is suggested to ensure that outcomes are effectively used to improve pupils’ learning.
  • The school is encouraged to engage more fully with the available support services in addressing key challenges.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Published, November 2008

 

 

 

 

Appendix

School Response to the Report

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

            Area 1 Observations on the content of the Inspection Report

 

The Whole School Evaluation Report was very satisfactory. Thanks for everything on behalf of the staff and the Board of Management.