An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Réalt na Mara, Tuath Ó Siosta

 

Killarney, Co Kerry

Uimhir rolla:  19448C

 

Date of inspection: 20 November 2007

  Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

1.     Quality of school management

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

1.2 Board of management

1.3 In-school management

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

1.5 Management of pupils

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

3.1 Language

3.2 Mathematics

3.3 Visual Arts

3.4 Assessment

4.     Quality of support for pupils

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

5.     Conclusion

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Réalt na Mara was undertaken in November 2007. 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 Visual Arts. 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Réalt na Mara is the primary school that was established in 1973 with the amalgamation of the three national schools of Lehud, Landsdowne and Dawros in the vicinity of Tuosist in South Kerry. Located in the Beara Peninsula, the school serves some 44 families in this rural area. Originally designed to have two mainstream classrooms and a general purpose room, the school has three mainstream class groups and a few small rooms including a portacabin for support work. Enrolment shows an upward trend. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

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

77

Mainstream classes in the school

3

Teachers on the school staff

6

Mainstream class teachers  

4*

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

2

         * two teachers are job-sharing

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

The school is under the patronage of the Bishop of Kerry. The school has a clear and distinctive mission statement incorporating its aims and outlining its intent to create a positive and challenging attitude to education and to give the children a love of learning. The school and its staff reveal high ideals for teaching and learning.

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The board is very attentive to its responsibilities in respect of the school. The board meets on a regular basis and is au fait with school business and issues. It views the school as the epicentre of the parish and the community and it seeks to support the school in all its endeavours. The board has handled important matters in a prudent and appropriate manner. The board provides notable support to the principal and to the teachers. A recent initiative for example is the support given in collaboration with the parents’ association to provide interactive whiteboards in the three mainstream classrooms. The school is maintained with commendable care and attention.

 

A significant issue for the future is the accommodation available to the school. It is apparent that there is need for substantial extension of the school building and the provision of classrooms to meet modern circumstances. In particular, the school needs more spacious classrooms for mainstream classes, small classrooms for special needs teaching, a staff room, a general purpose room, and ancillary rooms.

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The principal plays a leading role in creating a positive school climate that has beneficial influence over all the activities of the school. Ably supported by post-holders and staff, the principal leads the work of the school and directs its affairs with skill and dedication. A notable feature throughout the school is the valuation by the children of knowledge and learning and this is attributable to the excellent tradition built up by the staff over the years. The post-holders provide important support for the discharge of organisational and curricular aspects of the school’s work. The school benefits from funds given by the Irish American Partnership and these funds are used to supplement school initiatives as for example in the provision of musical instruments for the school band. The staff adopts a professional and thoughtful approach to the various issues that arise.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The school operates an open and positive system of communication with the community. There are very good mechanisms for the sharing of information and knowledge about the school’s work. For example, a school newsletter incorporating news and features prepared by the pupils and produced in the school provides a colourful and informative window for displaying school material to the wider community. An active and committed parents’ association provides strong partnership for the school and there are clear and helpful procedures in place to assist the smooth operation of particular activities such as attendance at matches. Parents engage in particular fund raising activities. A splendid gift to the school was a set of distinctive jackets for use on school tours and visits to assist with the identification of school personnel. The school is perceived to occupy a vital and central role in the community.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

The principal and staff relate in a positive and kindly manner to the pupils. A high standard of discipline is maintained and this is achieved mainly through the high expectations that are a feature of all the work of the school. In its traditions and in its atmosphere, the school fosters a high degree of respect among the pupils for each other and for adults. Many aspects of the school are child-centred as, for example, the provision of a few seats in the playground or the system by which the pupils can try out musical instruments. A feature of special and commendable note is the assembly of all the pupils on occasions and the opportunities thereby provided for the younger children to interact with, and to relate to, their older school mates. This is one element of the concerted approach by the teachers to provide interest and challenge for the pupils in their work in school.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The school has developed a comprehensive School Plan that is kept in one large folder. Incorporating curricular, administrative and other policies, the plan has been prepared with care and with the collaboration of all members of the staff. It is signed and ratified by the board of management. The plan is authentic and focused very clearly on the needs of the school. The quality of the planning is very good and very well matched to the school’s circumstances.

 

The teachers provide clear and appropriate planning for their lessons. Methodology and content are well delineated and the work is carefully designed to interest and engage the pupils. The quality of classroom planning is high. In the case of the shared teaching positions, it is commendably precise and comprehensive.

 

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

Múintear an Ghaeilge go hanamúil is go héifeachtach. Cloistear an Ghaeilge in úsáid go minic sna treoracha agus i mion chaint na scoile. Leagtar bunchloch oiriúnach sna naíranganna le rannta, le foclóir agus le scéalta. Tugtar spreagadh rialta do na daltaí agus cothaítear spéis agus meas don teanga. Léiríonn na páistí taitneamh san obair agus dul chun cinn cuí sna ceachtanna. Sa mheánroinn, úsáidtear postaeir agus pictiúir, rannta agus amhráin chun na daltaí a spreagadh. Cuirtear míreanna drámaíochta ar siúl chun frásaí a chleachtadh agus chun na ceachtanna a chur i bhfeidhm. Déantar cúram ceart den léitheoireacht agus tugtar treoir an-bhreá i gcúrsaí foghraíochta. Eagraítear cúrsaí scríbhneoireachta go hinmholta le cleachtaí agus le scéalta beaga. Aimsítear caighdeán an-bhreá san obair. San ardroinn, feictear go bhfuil toradh an-mhaith ar shaothar na múinteoirí. Léiríonn na daltaí an-shuim sa Ghaeilge, pléann siad a gceachtanna go muiníneach agus labhrann siad go fonnmhar ar nithe ina gcuireann siad suim. Baintear feidhm as cluichí, nuacht, frásaí, cumarsáid agus grúpobair chun na ceachtanna a chur chun cinn. Moltar go mór an obair atá déanta agus an caighdeán inmholta atá bainte amach.

 

Irish

Irish is taught with spirit and effectiveness. Irish is to be heard in use frequently in directions and in the small talk of the school. A suitable foundation is laid in the infant classes with rhymes, vocabulary and stories. Regular stimulation is given to the pupils and interest and regard for the language are cultivated. The pupils take pleasure in their work and show appropriate progress in the lessons. In the middle grades, posters and pictures, verses and songs are used to provide stimulation for the pupils. Elements of drama are arranged to practise phrases and to give expression to the lessons. Reading is provided for with care and very good provision is made for pronunciation. Written aspects are organised creditably with exercises and short stories. A praiseworthy standard is achieved. In the senior division, it is apparent that there is a very good result for the work of the teachers. The pupils show deep interest in Irish, discuss their lessons with confidence and speak enthusiastically about topics in which they are interested. Games, news, phrases, communication and group work are availed of to further the lessons. The work that has been accomplished is commended as is the meritorious standard that has been achieved.

 

English

English is taught with precision and with care. Due regard is given to the principles of the curriculum while individual circumstances are taken into account in the course of lessons. The teaching is very well differentiated for the various class groups and the teachers are very skilful in adapting lesson material to the age and interest levels of the pupils. Classroom resources are used with skill in all the class groups. Interactive whiteboards are used freely to assist particular lessons and the pupils show ready and willing interest in new technology for learning.

 

Phonic work is undertaken in varied contexts and the younger pupils display excellent progress in their familiarity with sounds and words. Rhymes and stories are exploited with success and reading skills are developed in a methodical way. Print and pupils’ own work feature prominently and the pupils are accustomed to applying themselves to learning and thinking. Oral, reading and written aspects are blended well and the pupils benefit from their lesson work. Pair and group work are used to give pupils opportunities for interacting with each other and mixed class groups are very well devised to foster learning. Individual work is accorded appropriate emphasis. Reading is taught with care and attention to detail while library material is arranged in a stimulating and attractive manner. Books feature very well in the work and the pupils display a ready interest in wider reading. The pupils recite with confidence and with pleasure. Memorisation of poems is given excellent attention and the pupils show special affection for and interest in particular poems with exceptional benefit for appreciation of poetry. Games and quizzes are used to benefit learning. The pupils display deep and penetrating interest in knowledge and clearly value learning and research into aspects that are signposted for them. There is a high degree of linkage with other aspects of the curriculum, as for example local history and science, and the pupils reveal a lively interest in topics that have been featured in the formal lessons. Many of the pupils manifest great poise and confidence in explaining items that they have studied or researched. Written aspects are managed very effectively throughout the school and the pupils’ copies reveal a methodical and structured approach to written tasks. Handwriting is given clear and practical attention and a high standard obtains. Hardback copies might have a beneficial role in the upper classes as a further means of consolidating written work in general. It is apparent that a very creditable standard has been achieved in the teaching of English throughout the school. 

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

All classrooms provide an area or corner for mathematical items and display. The lessons are provided with good focus on understanding and on prior knowledge. The principles of the curriculum are taken into careful account and the interactive whiteboards and other aids for learning are used beneficially for teaching. Concrete equipment, toys, display material including number lines and hundred squares are used commonly in the explication of lessons. The pupils engage willingly in the work and they are suitably challenged by the lessons and topics selected for study. Oral work is featured with skill and the pupils are given interesting and practical tasks as mathematical exercises. Software to match particular lesson themes is used with precision and benefit while tangible items in the classrooms are used for hands-on experience of relevant features. The pupils demonstrate very good understanding of their programmes of study and it is apparent that there is regular progress in the work. Written aspects are managed capably and well with excellent differentiation for the class groups. Copy work is presented with neatness and order. The pupils receive excellent training in laying out their work and on occasions, they engage with practical exercises such as cutting out shapes or fractions to exemplify particular lesson points. Commendably, the pupils are trained to show all their written work. In Mathematics, pupil progress is clear and easily discernible. The teaching and learning of Mathematics are managed skilfully and capably.

 

3.3 Visual Arts

 

 In Visual Arts, the school follows a comprehensive plan with clear outlines of content and approaches. The plan is signed and ratified by the board of management. The plan is lengthy and might perhaps be shortened and made more concise. The teachers give due prominence to the work throughout the school and it is apparent that lessons are regular and include all the strands of drawing, paint and colour, clay, construction, print and fabric and fibre. The work is linked clearly with elements from other aspects of the curriculum and the lessons are arranged and conducted with skill and success. Materials are organised with care and are available easily though space in classrooms is quite limited. The pupils discuss with assurance elements of work they have completed and they are fluent and clear in describing their own samples. Many items of work are on view in the classrooms and in corridor spaces and the pupils’ work is an adornment to the school. Folders of work are maintained and the pupils are familiar with skills of decoration and presentation. Notable also are the tableaux that are arranged where a collection of pupils’ work forms a whole display as for example a map of the locality presented in large format and with multicoloured features. It is apparent that the curriculum is being implemented in a successful and concerted manner making the best use of the resources available to the school.

 

3.4 Assessment

 

The school has an appropriate policy for assessment. Standardised tests are administered in May-June and careful records are maintained of test results. End of year reports are sent out to parents and also kept on file to assist recording. There is provision also for diagnostic testing in conjunction with the support teachers and in consultation with parents. Screening tests are conducted to assist with the early identification of learning needs. Test results are used with skill to assist in the process of deciding priority learning needs.

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

Careful provision is made for those pupils who have particular needs. The learning support teacher is based in the school and devotes some of his time to in class support work in each of the three mainstream classes. This work is very well structured and well matched to the needs of particular groups of children. It serves to buttress and amplify particular aspects of lesson work such as for example phonics or glossary/vocabulary extension. The in-class support work is done in close collaboration with the class teachers and all the pupils benefit from this support. The work has the additional merit of enhancing the role of the learning support teacher as a member of the teaching staff. The support work is mainly directed towards literacy aspects but with some time given also to numeracy aspects. Paired reading is featured and careful account is maintained of progress. Individual Profile and Learning Programmes (IPLP) are maintained diligently and progress is recorded in a methodical and accessible way. Very good progress is to be encountered and pupils benefit very fully from the support given.

 

The resource teacher gives very careful attention to the learning needs of the pupils who attend her classes. Comprehensive account is taken of specific needs and every effort is made to tailor work to match particular requirements. The classroom, though small in size, is very well appointed with display and with equipment. New technology is used with skill to advance learning and particular software is availed of with very good results. Social, behavioural and other needs are taken into account. Observational and assessment data are recorded with precision while good liaison is maintained with classroom teachers. The work is very well applied and progress and results are very impressive.

 

5.     Conclusion

 

Scoil Réalt na Mara is a highly effective and successful school. Particular traditions and customs have been built up over the years and these are being added to and advanced in notable ways. The pupils receive imaginative and challenging instruction and a very positive atmosphere surrounds all aspects of the life of the school. The community has very strong links with the school and the board is most supportive of all the endeavours of the school staff. The pupils are to be commended for their sincerity and for their assurance.

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

The following recommendation is made in order to improve the education facilities available in 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.