An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
SN Scoil Muire agus Iosef Sinsear
Bayside, Dublin 13
Roll number: 19533Q
Date of inspection: 22 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 October 2006
This Whole School Evaluation report
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Muire agus Iosef Sinsear, Bayside. 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 the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They engaged with pupils, examined their 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 of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the board’s response will be found in the appendix to this report.
Scoil Muire agus Iosef Sinsear, established in July 1976, is situated along with its corresponding junior school in Bayside, North Dublin, eleven kilometres from the city centre. Approximately one half of the pupils come from the local Bayside parish with the remainder coming in the main from the neighbouring parishes of Baldoyle, Raheny and Donaghmede. Enrolment stands at present at 445 pupils, which allows for four classes at each level from third to sixth. This figure is down somewhat from an enrolment figure of 500 at the time of the last School Report in December 1996. Parents are very supportive of the school and of their children’s education. The parents’ association fundraises to very good effect and is becoming more involved in matters that relate to the development of school policy.
The school, which is under the patronage of the Catholic Archdiocese of Dublin promotes values of inclusiveness and recognises the child as being central to his/her own learning. There is a very positive atmosphere of learning in the school. There is a strong sense of collegiality among staff and the pupils present as courteous to one another, to their teachers and to visitors to the school. The school focuses particularly on the Social Personal and Health Education programme in fostering the all round development of the child in the fullest sense.
Average school attendance figures for the previous year are good. However the board, principal and staff are concerned at the significant number of pupils who were absent for more than twenty days in the last school year. The National Education Welfare Board has been informed of such absences and the school is aware that the withdrawal of pupils for holidays is a contributory factor in this regard. It has adopted suitable measures to counteract this type of absence such as emphasising with parents the importance of their children’s full school attendance and their own responsibilities in the matter. Pupils transfer from Scoil Muire agus Iosef Sinsear to a range of second level schools in the general area.
The aforementioned School Report written in 1996 was very commendatory of the school and the staff has addressed in the intervening years matters of interest raised therein, such as the further development of the elementary science programmes already being taught in the school at that time, new thinking on the teaching of Irish and issues relating to assessment.
The board of management is properly constituted, meets on a very regular basis and a treasurer’s report is submitted at every meeting. The board is conscious of its statutory obligations and it ensures compliance with the Department of Education and Science regulations relating to matters such as the length of the school day and year, the deployment of teachers and promotion of pupils from class to class. The board of management’s efforts to maximise pupil attendance levels would be further enhanced by the formulation of a strategy statement on attendance in line with the requirements of the Education Welfare Act.
The school’s admissions policy is comprehensive. Although in reality the school is welcoming of all children, it is recommended that those aspects of the admissions policy referring to applicants with special education needs should be reviewed, clarified and amended as required so as to ensure that all existing legislation has been taken fully into account and complied with and to avoid any ambiguous interpretation of the policy.
The board of management is supportive of teachers and is committed to the holistic development of the child and to maintaining the ethos of the school. There is active support by the board, sometimes of a financial nature, for the provision of in-career development courses for teachers.
The board has input into school policies such as substance use prevention, health and safety and the code of behaviour. As the board of management continues to review aspects of school policy, consideration should be given to further developing ways of involving parents in the process, such as the review of the code of behaviour at present taking place. The officers from the parents’ association would like to see closer links with the board, whilst acknowledging the ready access they have to the principal at present.
In general terms the board of management has good communication links with parents through the parish bulletin and through the school’s own newsletter. The board is especially commended in relation to the maintenance of the school building and the immediate environs of the school. The concern at present is the updating of the heating system and the intention is to proceed with this improvement this year by means of the Summer Works scheme. Board members are commended for their commitment to the school and for sharing their expertise and experience to enhance the education provided for the pupils.
The in-school management is comprised of the principal, the deputy principal, two assistant principals and six special duties teachers. The principal, who is an experienced teacher and in post for over a year, has established very good working relationships with teaching colleagues, the pupils, parents and the board of management. Regular contact is maintained by the principal with all teachers through frequent visits to classrooms, informal meetings at break times and through staff meetings. The leadership of the principal is evident in the proactive role taken in terms of school development and school improvement, whilst ensuring that school routines and timetables are carefully followed. The principal has promoted the school’s involvement in the Fís film project and two films have been made by the children, one of which has won an award.
The principal is supported ably by the deputy principal, also recently appointed, by two assistant principals and by other members of the in-school management team. They meet on a regular basis outside of school hours to review progress in important areas of school endeavour and, in conjunction with their other colleagues on the teaching staff, they ensure that a very pleasant working atmosphere of learning pertains in the school. Duties relating to the various in-school management posts indicate a suitable mix of organisational, curricular and pastoral duties. These duties are subject to review. Where post holders take responsibility for curriculum planning and distribution of resource materials there is evidence that they act as leaders and advisors to their colleagues. Staff meetings are held on a monthly basis and full participation is promoted by employing a rotating secretary and inviting items for the agenda.
Parents are kept informed of pupils’ progress at meetings and school events on an ongoing basis. Apart from informal meetings with individual parents structured parent teacher meetings are held annually.
The in-school management team indicate that that they understand and fully implement their responsibilities regarding the organisation of general school activities. Under the leadership of the principal and with the aid of the in-school management team and the general teaching body the day-to-day administration and organisation of general school activities is very good.
The principal acts as leader to a group of talented and committed teachers. Pupils are distributed evenly over the various classes. The class teachers, the special education support team teachers and the teacher of international pupils collaborate very well together and various strategies are employed to maximise teaching outcomes, particularly at certain class levels. Apart from those arranged by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) and School Development Planning Support (SDPS) teachers also attend other in-career development courses on a voluntary basis, particularly in relation to Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and learning support. Teachers generally are very conscious of the need to be continuously engaged in professional development and they show a commendable keenness in this regard.
A very wide-ranging array of resources encompassing all curricular areas is available throughout the school. It is very clear that teachers make very good use of these materials and educational equipment in the various teaching and learning situations. All teachers are especially commended for the very attractive and useful displays of visual aids, materials and work samples of pupils, which help to create an environment that is very conducive to the full implementation of the primary curriculum. The computer room provides hands on experience for circa thirty pupils working in pairs and the school has a fine range of software material being put to very good use. The school participates in the Hermes ICT project involving the interlinking of nine local senior primary schools to deliver learning applications and broadband internet access to the linked schools in order to achieve better ICT integration on a whole-school basis.
The school building contains shared areas, which are used in the main as display areas and for work in certain subjects of the curriculum, such as the Visual Arts, Drama and dance. The school is bright, attractive and has a magnificent assembly hall, which is also beautifully maintained and is shared with the local community. A structural engineer’s report has indicated recently that there are certain cracks in the walls of the hall that do not pose an immediate threat to safety at present but that will need to be dealt with in the future.
Significant work has been completed in developing a School Plan within the requirement of the Education Act 1998. The School Plan outlines policies, procedures and programmes for a range of organisational and curriculum areas. All teachers have been encouraged to become active in the development of the plan, the process has evolved over a number of years and the stages are well documented. School policy is generally formulated by the teaching staff and presented to the board of management for discussion, amendment and ratification. In-school management duties have been reviewed and now include in most instances responsibility for the development of school policy in a curriculum area. This practice will further develop curriculum leadership within the school. Members of the board of management report that they initiated a review of the health and safety statement and enrolment policy. The perspective of parents is being sought in the context of the current review of the school’s code of behaviour. This practice is commendable and should be further promoted. Previously parents and board members worked with teachers in the development of school policy on relationships and sexuality education. Parents are represented on the Green School Committee and support the implementation of the school healthy eating policy.
Organisational planning is well progressed and includes detailed policies such as school enrolment and admission policy, homework, substance use prevention, bullying, child protection, Information and Communication Technology and many more. A school motto was selected in the early years after the school opened; however, the school’s mission statement is for review. The teaching staff is commended for the planning work related to the Primary School Curriculum completed to date. The School Plan contains comprehensive policies on English, Mathematics, Visual Arts, Science, Music and Social, Personal and Health Education. Work is progressing on the development of Gaeilge, History, and Physical Education policies. In reviewing the School Plan it is recommended that the plan be organised into various sections to include an introductory section, sections for organisational, curriculum and pastoral care policies and a development section to include actions plans and priorities under review. This would aid the accessibility of the School Plan and the distribution of core policies and procedures to teachers and the wider parent body.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The school plan is contributing to a cohesive, systematic approach to both organisational and curriculum planning. Classroom practice reflects the comprehensive policies in the School Plan for the curriculum areas implemented to date. Teachers of the same class level meet regularly and plan collaboratively together. Long-term plans of work are completed by all teachers in which aims and content are set out and information is provided on the material resources, methodologies and assessment modes which are to be used. Most teachers use a standard template for preparing short-term plans and note work completed at the end of the month. Short-term planning to a large extent consists of reference to content objectives and teaching resources. It is recommended that planning be somewhat more detailed to further enhance teaching and learning. Such detail would include notes on provision for individual differences among pupils, reference to teaching methods and modes of assessment.
The teachers provide an interesting and appropriate curriculum for their pupils and a wealth of resources are used to match learning activities with the ability and interests of the pupils. Pupil achievement is monitored informally through teacher observation, questioning, teacher designed tests and tasks and in most instances regular correction of written work. More formal assessment is carried on with respect to English and Mathematics and standardised tests are administered annually.
Tá obair déanta ar phlean scoile don Ghaeilge agus tá sé i gceist aithbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an plean seo agus clár níos cuimsithí a leagan amach. Cuireann na h-oidí ullmhúchán oiriúnach ar fáil le haghaidh an teagaisc agus coimeádann siad cuntas cruinn ar dhul cinn na hoibre. Tá acmhainní nua curtha ar fáil ar mhaithe le múineadh na Gaeilge sa scoil agus baineann na hoidí úsáid chliste astu chun ábhar a gceachtanna a chur in oiriúint do spéis agus do chumas na ndaltaí. Caitheann na hoidí uile dua le múineadh na Gaeilge agus leagann siad béim chuí ar shnáitheanna na héisteachta, na labhartha, na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta.
Is inmholta mar a thugann na hoidí deis do na daltaí tríd an scoil i gcoitinne an Ghaeilge a fhoghlaim trí feidhm a bhaint as straitéisí mar chomhrá neamhfhoirmiúil, obair bheirte, drámaíocht agus rólghlacadh. Moltar an chaoi mar a thugtar deis do dhaltaí i ranganna áirithe ceisteanna a chur, ordaithe a thabhairt agus úsáid nádúrtha a bhaint as an Ghaeilge. Moltar freisin mar a bhaintear úsáid as an Ghaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh i rith an lae i gcuid mhór de na ranganna agus mar a mhúintear gnéithe d’ábhair eile trí mheán na Gaeilge i ranganna áirithe. Rachadh sé chun tairbhe go mór do dhul chun cinn na Gaeilge sa scoil ach an cleachteas thuasluaite seo a leathnú tríd an scoil de réir mar is cuí.
Múineann na hoidí tríd an scoil scileanna na léitheoireachta go cúramach do na daltaí agus léann a bhformhórsan an téacsábhar Gaeilge go cruinn, tuisceanach. Ins na meánranganna scríobhann na daltaí abairtí agus nuacht shimplí faoi theoir a n-oidí go cruinn agus bunaítear an léitheoireacht ar ábhair i dtimpeallacht na seomraí ranga agus ar ábhair ins na leabhair saothair. Ins na hardranganna bunaíonn na hoidí an obair scríofa ar chleachtaí tuisceana agus gramadaí ó na téacsleabhair don chuid is mó agus déanann siad an obair seo a cheartú go rianúil. Léiríonn roinnt daltaí cumas maidir le habairtí a cheapadh as a chéile sa Ghaeilge ó spreagthaigh éagsúla agus táid in ann scéalta simplí a chumadh as a stuaim féin. B’fhiú breis aire a dhíriú ar an ghné seo de mhúineadh na Gaeilge, sé sin den cheapadóireacht, agus tagairt speisialta a dhéanamh di sa phlean scoile aithbhreithnithe.
Is inmholta mar a thionólann na hoidí Seachtain na Gaeilge gach bliain agus mar a chuireann siad fógraí Gaeilge thart timpeall na scoile. Tugann na hoidi deis do na daltaí drámaí féiltiúla a eagrú agus reachtáileann siad Céilí Mór ag deireadh na seachtaine áirithe sin.
Work has been done to develop a school plan for Irish and it is intended to review this plan and set out a more comprehensive programme. Teachers prepare suitably for their work and maintain an accurate record of progress. New resources have been provided to assist the teaching of Irish in the school and teachers make clever use of these resources as a means of tailoring lesson content to the interests and capacities of pupils. All teachers are diligent in the teaching of Irish and place appropriate emphasis on the strands of listening, speaking, reading and writing.
High praise is due to teachers for the opportunities provided to pupils throughout the school to acquire Irish though use of strategies such as informal conversation, pair work, drama and role play. Opportunities provided to pupils in some classes to ask questions, give instructions and generally use Irish naturally are especially commended, as is the use of Irish as a medium of communication throughout the day in a majority of classrooms and the teaching of aspects of other subjects through Irish in some. Progress in teaching and learning of Irish in the school would benefit significantly from wider use of these strategies as appropriate.
Care is taken with the teaching of reading throughout the school and the majority of pupils read the Irish textbook accurately and with comprehension. In middle classes, pupils write sentences and simple news accurately under the guidance of the teacher and reading is based on material within the classroom environment or on topics in workbooks. In senior classes, teachers base written work mainly on comprehension and grammar activities taken from textbooks and correct this work regularly. Some pupils show competence in independently creating linked sentences in Irish and from various stimuli and in composing simple stories. Further emphasis should be placed on this element of the teaching of Irish, viz. creative writing, with specific reference being made in the revised school plan.
Teachers deserve praise for holding an annual Seachtain na Gaeilge and for the display of notices through the school. Teachers also provide opportunities to pupils to engage in seasonal dramas, and they organise a Céilí Mór at the end of that week.
A comprehensive school plan for the teaching of English is well referenced to the key principles and emphases as outlined in the Primary School curriculum. As with other subject areas teachers plan collaboratively at the various class levels and very suitable programmes of programmes of work in English are outlined in the teachers’ personal planning. Whilst in practice teachers are very aware of different abilities in pupils and make appropriate classroom interventions, the work in this respect would be further enhanced by systematic reference by all teachers to the principle of differentiation in short-term planning. Print-rich classrooms environments support the pupils’ learning.
Overall the quality of teaching and learning in English is very good. The teachers are very cognisant of the close relationship between language and learning. Reading, writing and oral language are integrated in a coherent language process. Integration was observed during all lessons taught and the concept that every lesson is a language lesson is well understood and nurtured by the teachers. A strong emphasis is placed on individual expression and creative work and the pupils are also being well trained in group-participation skills. The pupils are capable of discussing reading material at a very satisfactory level and articulate their views with confidence, particularly in relation to the novels they have read.
Reading skills are taught successfully and there is very good emphasis on phonemic and phonological awareness. The pupils read accurately and readily comprehend lesson content. Library books play an important role in extending the scope of the reading material and the pupils avail of the wide resource of their school library as well as those of their local library. Interventions such as D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) are employed effectively in a number of classes. Some very good examples of creative writing, including poetry, are produced and an adherence to an appropriate handwriting scheme enhances the quality of presentation. In some classes there should be somewhat less emphasis on workbook activity to make greater allowance for a wider range of writing genres. Pupils have been enabled very commendably to use their ICT skills to very good effect in their presentation of work in English.
Assessment modes include teacher observation, questioning, teacher-designed tasks, error analysis and standardised tests. Individual records of standardised tests results are well organised and readily accessible, with due allowance for confidentiality.
The long-term planning of the teachers for the teaching of Mathematics relates closely to the whole school plan, which is based on the appropriate strands and strand units of the Primary Curriculum. It encourages the enrichment of mathematical language and the development of concepts through experiential learning. Teachers at each class level collaborate to provide short-term planning based on the specific objectives and content of the curriculum. This good practice is highly commended. Whilst targets are set for whole class groups and for pupils with particular learning needs it is recommended that somewhat more attention be devoted to the principle of differentiation in the teachers’ short-term planning.
A very good supply of commercial and teacher-made learning resources, are available and pupils have access to the requisite learning materials. A section of the display area in classrooms is devoted to providing a maths rich environment and includes in a number of instances samples of work and suitable charts. Pupils are taught in the main in whole class and individual settings. A number of instances of very helpful, collaborative group work sessions were also observed where pupils applied themselves very well on task. This very good practice might be further extended throughout the school.
There is an appropriate balance between the time pupils spend engaging with their teacher and working independently, between oral and written work. Teachers develop the pupils’ understanding of mathematical concepts through activity methods and blackboard/whiteboard presentations. All strands of the Mathematics curriculum are given due attention and in a number of classes observed the pupils have been enabled to link the various strand units very effectively. A commendable number of the pupils in the senior classes have a very good understanding of place value and the decimal system and can apply same to the various metric units of measurement both accurately and confidently. The ability of pupils in a number of classes throughout the school to solve problems, sometimes with the aid of diagrams, is impressive. Most pupils record their work accurately and neatly. Pupils’ copies, worksheets and workbooks are corrected methodically by the teachers in most instances and there is effective feedback to the pupils.
Assessment tools include monitoring pupils’ oral and written work, teacher-designed tests, checklists, and standardised tests. The latter tests confirm that the quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very commendable. Suitable records are maintained of pupils’ progress and conveyed to parents at appropriate times.
The lessons observed in the teaching of Geography would indicate that, commendably, the teachers do not place undue reliance on graduated textbooks. The pupils acquire a range of knowledge of the strands of the Geography curriculum, which includes the natural environment, human environment and environmental care and awareness. Their interest in, and their knowledge of the main geographical features of Ireland is considerably enhanced through the use of ICT and through meaningful integration with other areas of the curriculum where appropriate. Their interest in other lands is suitably nurtured through strategies whereby the pupils design their own holiday brochures. The environmental awareness and care strand, which is common to the Geography and Science curricula, is given very noteworthy attention in this school. The school was awarded the Green Flag in 2003 for its efforts in fostering the pupils’ appreciation of the environment and understanding of the importance of conservation. Recycling and waste disposal projects, energy conservation and the cultivation by pupils, teachers and caretaker of the courtyard gardens are important features of life in Scoil Mhuire agus Iosef Sinsear. It is acknowledged that the acquisition of Green Flag status involved contributions from the wider school community.
Planning in History is based on the appropriate strands and strand units in the curriculum handbook. Comprehensive yearly schemes at different class levels have been compiled by the teachers. A whole-school plan for History will be developed following in-career development to support the introduction of the Primary School Curriculum 1999 in this subject. A wide range of topics from local, national and international history is covered in the middle and senior standards and most pupils display a sound knowledge and understanding of various aspects of the history curriculum. Timelines of historical events are on display throughout the school and the interest of the pupils in History is very well stimulated through the use of photographs of old important buildings in the local area, through use of drama and by means of the project method. The use of ICT to facilitate and consolidate research findings and to enhance presentation is highly commended. In classes where the teaching of history was observed, the pupils are complimented on their ability to make short oral presentations without undue reliance on their written records.
A very comprehensive whole school plan has been prepared for the teaching of Science. A very good range of materials suitable for providing pupils with a broad range of scientific experiences has been purchased. Samples and exhibits are displayed on nature and interest tables. Work in class is very much activity based and the interest and curiosity of pupils are being suitably nurtured. Scientific skills such as observing, investigating, experimenting, predicting and recording are being very well developed in the pupils. The work observed relating to the strand units plants and animals, light and caring for my locality was very well prepared, involved whole class and group work involvement and provided much scope for purposeful discussion. Suitable templates allowed the pupils to record their findings to very good effect. Members of school staff and pupils are actively involved with Discover Primary Science and the school participated in Science week in November 2005.
A whole school plan for Visual Arts informs teaching and learning in the subject and the teachers’ long-tem and short planning encompasses all strands of the curriculum. Very good use is made of the shared areas in conducting art lessons from which the pupils derive much enjoyment and benefit. Their artwork is of a high quality and is displayed to very good effect in the class bases and in the shared areas. The lessons observed encompassed the pupils working on pattern, collage, representation of the William Tell story using fabric and fibre and modelling with clay. All lessons were conducted with full participation by the pupils, who worked collaboratively in the various activities, where appropriate. Pupils discussed their work confidently and there is a certain focus on the development of a Visual Arts vocabulary. They were also given opportunities to look at and respond to the work of famous artists. Activities observed provided opportunities for pupils to make their own decisions, and good allowance was made for differences in abilities among pupils. The practice of maintaining portfolios of completed work is very praiseworthy. This practice enables teachers to see developments in their pupils’ work and constitutes an important assessment instrument.
The strands of the Music curriculum, which include listening and responding to music, performing and composing are well addressed in the whole school plan and in the teacher’s own personal planning. The quality of teaching and learning of Music is very good. The full participation by all pupils in the classes observed in singing songs in both Irish and English, working with percussion instruments, acquiring literacy skills in Music, composing suitable simple rhythms and tunes, playing the recorder and listening and responding to musical extracts is highly commended. The singing was suitably pitched and generally of a very high standard. The school has participated for a very long number of years in the National Children’s Choir and ongoing musical inputs by the school at a variety of local ceremonies and events have helped to forge strong links with the local community.
Drama enhances teaching and learning and is employed generally with other curricular areas. A number of teachers employ elements of drama very effectively in the teaching of curricular areas such as Irish and History. Dramas were observed relating to the latter subject areas and were performed very convincingly by classes of pupils, all of whom were actively involved. Their lines were spoken with very good articulation and with confidence and it was manifest that their understanding of diverse topics such as Scéal Phádraig Naofa and the French Revolution was considerably enhanced by their participation in the drama activity. Costumes and other suitable props added considerably to the impact and the pupils’ enjoyment of the dramas. In another class where the teaching of drama was observed it was utilised in order to allow pupils explore feelings and ideas relating to the theme of conflict resolution in SPHE. Pupils were provided with suitable opportunities to improvise, to respond creatively to various situations and to assimilate experiences through role-play. Several members of staff have expertise and interest in this curriculum area and further staff discussion, planning and sharing of talent would add further impact to this area of the curriculum.
Work is ongoing on the development of a school plan for Physical Education. All strands of the Physical Education curriculum, with the exception of the strand of aquatics, are being implemented in the school. The school hall, which is shared with the junior school, is put to very good use and is also used extensively by the wider school community.
The Physical Education lessons observed were conducted very methodically with excellent consideration for safety, order and the pupils’ physical development. All pupils were suitably attired and the fact that the teachers themselves took an active part in the activities added further impact to the effectiveness of the lessons. The conduct of station training to accommodate the strands of athletics and games ensured a variety and freshness of approach that added to the enjoyment for the pupils. The input of GAA, athletics and rugby coaches ensures that the pupils in Scoil Muire agus Iosef Sinsear are particularly well catered for in the strands of games and athletics. The school’s policy and practice in relation to its healthy eating programme is helping to ensure that the pupils in this school are being given every opportunity and motivation to achieve good levels of fitness. Folk dance and improvised modern dance provide excellent opportunities for pupils to express themselves both gracefully and expressively and to motivate themselves accordingly.
In relation to aquatics, consideration is being given at present as to the best means of accommodating this strand. There are important considerations such as cost and time out of school but it hoped that the matter will be resolved in consultation with the parents.
Appropriate aspects of Social, Personal and Health Education are addressed in the school both on a formal and informal basis and a comprehensive school plan has been drawn up. A number of programmes are in place to ensure that the needs of the pupils in this area of the curriculum are met. Elements of the Relationships and Sexuality programme, together with Walk Tall, Alive O and Stay Safe, are being implemented. Long-term preparation outlines topics covered and resource material. The practice of negotiating class rules in a number of classes is praiseworthy and the pupils respond very favourably to such an approach to maintaining good conduct of behaviour in class. The board of management, principal, staff and the pupils themselves are commended for the excellent standards of pupil behaviour apparent in the school and for the sense of caring that is manifest. The pupils’ own physical and mental health is being fostered through the healthy eating programme that is actively promoted through the school. Very good use of drama and circle time, to enable the pupils empathise with persons in certain critical and decision-making situations, was observed in a number of classes.
Assessment and reporting have been addressed in the development of the School Plan. There is particular reference made by the teachers to assessment modes in their long-term planning and to a somewhat lesser extent in their short-term preparation. A review of current short-term planning is recommended to ensure that planning for individual pupils and groups of pupils is undertaken. This would further enhance the actual differentiated programmes in evidence in the school.
Teachers maintain accurate records of work completed by means of monthly progress records. They use a range of assessment modes, monitor the pupils’ copies and workbooks systematically and keep detailed notes on individual progress. Portfolios of pupils work across the curriculum have been developed in a number of classes. Standardised objective tests are carried out in English and Mathematics annually and are administered in all classes. The tests include the Drumcondra Primary Reading Test and the Drumcondra Primary Mathematics Test and they are used to inform teachers on pupil progress and on the needs of certain pupils for supplementary teaching. The special education support team administers a range of suitable diagnostic tests on pupils with special needs as appropriate. Individual records of pupil progress include details of the standardised assessment results and these files are well organised, easily accessible and stored securely. Information regarding pupil progress and assessments is shared with parents through parent teacher meetings and through formal reports to parents. Opportunities are provided to discuss content with class teacher and support, as appropriate.
The pupils are secure and at ease in their classrooms, they are respectful to one another and to their teachers and they take an active part in the well-organised learning activities that are provided for them. There is commendable emphasis on the rounded personal, social and academic development of pupils and overall standards are very good.
The school has an enrolment policy, which espouses support for the principles of the Education Act, 1998 with respect to inclusiveness, particularly with reference to the enrolment of children with a disability or other special educational need and equality of access and participation in the school. A review of the section relating to the enrolment of children with special educational needs may be required to ensure compliance with education and other relevant legislation. The necessary resources, both personnel and material, are suitably accessed to meet the needs of pupils with learning difficulties and special educational needs. A coherent school learning-support and resource policy is included in the school plan. It outlines guiding principles, selection procedures, policy on continuing and discontinuing supplementary teaching, roles and responsibilities in learning-support and resource provision. A review of school policy to ensure that policy and practice takes cognisance of the staged approach to assessment, identification and programme planning outlined in Special Education Circular SP ED 02/05 is recommended. In this respect the prioritisation of reading and mathematics for support teaching at certain levels of attainment is important.
Supplementary teaching is provided for pupils with low achievement or learning difficulties in English and Mathematics with priority given to those with low achievement in English. The school has significant resources with three full-time teaching positions dedicated to providing supplementary teaching support. These teachers make up the school special education support team. Three special needs assistants are employed to support the integration into mainstream education of named pupils with special educational needs. The interaction between teachers, special needs assistants and pupils is very positive and this helps ensure satisfactory levels of attention and general good behaviour among pupils.
The special education support teachers work diligently, have wide-ranging experience and talents and have a very positive relationship with the pupils for whom they create attractive and stimulating environments in their support rooms. Pupils present as happy, contented and interested in their work and they engage in activity-based learning using a variety of resources. A plentiful supply of appropriate games, materials, high interest books and equipment is available. Information and Communication Technology is used to enhance teaching and learning and good quality software is available. Pupils’ self-esteem is enhanced through motivation and the experience of success in carefully structured activities.
The pupils’ needs are identified and provided for, through the development of appropriate individual learning programmes arising from the effective use of a range of suitable assessment instruments and collaboration with teachers and in some instances with parents. Individual Profile and Learning Programmes or Individual Education Plans are in place for all pupils. Parents do not receive a copy of individual learning programmes; however, they are available on request. Regular consultation with teachers is maintained on an informal basis. A more formal meeting is conducted at the beginning of each school term and on occasions throughout the year when deemed necessary. Weekly plans and progress records are maintained for groups for whom supplementary teaching is provided in English. Planning focuses on the development of skills such as concentrating, listening, sequencing, word identification, oral language, reading and writing. Mathematics intervention prioritises language development, the use of concrete materials and activity-based work. Support for pupils is provided for pupils individually and in small groups. It is recommended that consideration be given to appropriate classroom-based intervention. This would facilitate focused planning for groups of pupils so that class instruction meets the differentiated needs of pupils. Collaboration and cooperation between support teachers and class teachers are commended and should continue to be facilitated and encouraged particularly in the areas of target setting, differentiated programme planning and implementation review. The special education support team has assembled a variety of teaching materials, which are of benefit in coping with a range of learning needs and styles.
In-school management in co-operation with the local parish provides unobtrusive support for a small number of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The principles of inclusiveness, equality of access and participation are promoted in the school, together with respect for diversity of values, beliefs and traditions. The school’s philosophy and Social, Personal and Health Education programme support the development of a positive self-concept for each pupil. Some teachers have attended professional development courses related to education for diversity.
English language support is provided each day for six international pupils. The pupils receive supplementary language support in two groups of three pupils. Informal contact is maintained with class teachers and planning is carried out on a monthly basis. Planning would benefit from the inclusion of structured listening exercises, spoken production, spoken interaction, reading and writing targets. Individual assessment using language proficiency benchmarks should also be maintained. To add further focus to this area of endeavour it is recommended that consideration be given to developing a whole school policy outlining specific cross-curricular initiatives to support intercultural education.
The board of management, principal and staff appreciate the importance of nurturing home-school links. The school communicates frequently with parents on relevant issues and a newsletter containing items of interest to parents is circulated to all parents regularly. A formal home school links policy has not been developed to date, although many strategies are in place for facilitating the flow of information between home and school. The development of a home school partnership policy, which relates to the characteristic spirit of the school is recommended. Parent teacher meetings for all classes are held in November and the school provides a written report on progress to parents each February.
The school, in association with Scoil Muire agus Iosef Sóisear, has an active parents’ association. The association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council and it provides financial assistance that is used to purchase additional resources to support teaching and learning. Parents are encouraged to become involved in supporting the work of the school through the Green School Committee, and helping out with school teams and art and craft activities. The parents’ association organises presentations and talks on educational topics of interest to the wider parent body. The principal acts as liaison person between the parents’ association and the board of management and between the parents’ association and teachers.
To date parents’ association representatives have been involved in a working group with teachers and board of management members in the development of the relationships and sexuality policy and the anti-bullying policy. The code of behaviour is being reviewed at present in consultation with representatives of the parents’ association. This process is being facilitated by the deputy principal. It is recommended that further opportunities be provided for parent representatives and board of management members to contribute to the development of the school plan.
The following are among the strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The school community welcomes this report as an affirmation of the commendable work of the Board of Management, Staff and parents in furthering the education of the children in our care.
In addition we would like to state that all the parties involved feel that the Whole School Evaluation was conducted in a very professional, courteous and thorough manner.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
Having read and discussed the recommendations of the Inspectorate we would like to submit the following observations: