An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

 REPORT

 

Kilchreest National School

Kilchreest, Loughrea

County Galway

Uimhir rolla: 19544V

 

Date of inspection: 25 February 2009

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Kilchreest National School was undertaken in February 2009. 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. 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 response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Kilchreest National School is a five-teacher school under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Galway. The school has four mainstream class teachers, a learning support teacher and shares two support teachers who are based in other local schools. A part-time teacher for pupils with English as an Additional (EAL) language is employed for four hours each week.

 

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

90

Mainstream classes in the school

4

Teachers on the school staff

5

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

4

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school’s mission statement, vision and philosophy are outlined in the school plan. The school aims to cater for the holistic development of the pupils inspired by the Catholic faith and the teachings of the Gospel.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is active and conducts its work efficiently and effectively. The board meets regularly and considers matters such as the education provision in the school, curricular initiatives, extra-curricular activities, home-school links and whole-school planning and policy development. Specific duties have been assigned to board members and these duties are carried out enthusiastically. The members of the board of management give freely of their time and their commitment to the school is commendable.

 

The board has completed several projects to enhance the school including the provision of a set-down area and car park, the replacement of window blinds and the cleaning of the school building on an annual basis. The board manages the finances of the school effectively and financial records are maintained and accounts are certified or audited. The board subvents activities such as swimming lessons and the costs of travel to various activities. It provides a generous grant to the teachers to enable them to purchase a range of resources for their classrooms annually. At the post-evaluation meeting, the board of management was advised to provide more administrative support for the school. This support will help to reduce the interruptions to the principal’s teaching duties.

 

The board has ensured that its work is transparent and open to the school community. Significant emphasis is placed on consulting with the parents’ association and the staff and a tripartite meeting of these groups is facilitated annually. This contributes to the process of decision-making in the school. While involving parents in joint meetings annually is an example of good practice, the board should also examine how to involve parents further in the life of the school. The members of the board of management are proud of the school’s staff, the strong tradition of sport in the school, the openness and transparency of the school in all its activities and the efficient organisation of the school by the principal.

 

Following advice provided during the evaluation, the board of management has reviewed the provision for pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL) in the school. In order to further develop an inclusive school environment, the board and staff are advised to consider the curricular provision and resources available to support EAL pupils, and ensure that all members of the staff avail of ongoing supports in teaching English as an Additional Language.

  

1.3 In-school management

 This principal is commended for many aspects of his work in the role. Over the course of the evaluation, staff, parents, and members of the board of management praised his commitment to developing open, regular communication and for his efficient management of the school. The principal dedicates himself to overseeing the teaching of topics of local interest. He fulfils his administrative role effectively and has provided leadership in the whole-school planning process. Additional attention needs to be given by the principal to the implementation of the curriculum, ensuring consistency in teachers’ planning, and conducting whole-school review and reflection on aspects of teaching and learning. The Looking at Our School Document (Department of Education and Science, 2003) should be consulted and used as a reference point in this work. Additionally, opportunities which will allow for the extended school community, particularly the parents, to play an active part in the life of the school should also be further developed.

 

The in-school management team comprises the principal, the deputy principal and the post holder. All teachers in the school display significant commitment to the development of the school and are encouraged to lead different projects and activities.  This is commendable practice. The post holders undertake a range of duties that involve leading the development of policies in different curricular areas, the organisation of resources, the management of religious events and ceremonies. A review of postholders’ duties has been undertaken recently. It is advised that the in-school management team devise an action plan outlining specific targets for their work which should focus on curriculum implementation, review and evaluation.

  

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 The school has an active parents’ association that supports the work of the school through involvement in policy development in areas such as relationships and sexuality education and Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). The parents’ association contributes to the organisation of the annual insurance for pupils, the organisation of swimming lessons and extra-curricular sports activities and religious events. The parents’ association meets frequently and communicates its work to the parents through the parish newsletter and written communications.

 

The parent representatives commended the staff of the school and the board of management for their open communication, for the attention given to parental concerns and suggestions and for the attention given to pupils’ safety and well-being. In general, the parent representatives expressed their satisfaction with the education provision in most areas of the school and they were appreciative of the individual attention which pupils receive. Some concerns were also raised about the provision for the pupils in the senior classes. In 2008/2009 parents were invited to attend concerts in the infant, junior and middle classes. They also had opportunities to review pupils’ projects and to attend a concert as part of Seachtain na Gaeilge in the middle classes. The parents welcomed these initiatives and expressed a wish to become more involved in the celebration of their children’s work and achievements at all class levels. The creation of a more open environment that acknowledges closer partnership with parents is a challenge for the school community.

  

1.5 Management of pupils

 Pupil behaviour is very good and their engagement in learning is good. Teachers and pupils interact with each other in a respectful manner. The school has devised a code of behaviour which is circulated to and discussed with parents. The pupils display interest in their work and co-operate willingly with their teachers. When prompted, the pupils offer their opinions and engage in discussion. These skills should be further nurtured and promoted.  Whole-school strategies to celebrate pupils’ achievements and to focus on the development of pupils’ self-esteem and self-worth should be considered.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 The school plan outlines very comprehensive policies on organisational and administrative matters. Draft policies are forwarded to parents for comment and review. The challenge for the teaching staff and the principal is to ensure that the well-devised curricular plans are implemented in a consistent manner at all class levels. The whole-school plan for Irish should be reviewed and the staff should ensure that the content and methodologies of the curriculum form the basis for the work at all class levels. It is recommended that postholders, as a part of their curricular responsibilities, should work collaboratively with all members of staff to ensure that the implementation, co-ordination and review of curricular policies are undertaken in a structured manner.

 

All teachers undertake long-term and short-term planning and maintain monthly progress records. At some class levels the planning undertaken reflects the school plan for the different curricular areas and this practice is commended. At other class levels the planning is textbook based. It is recommended that teachers’ planning be based on the curriculum and the whole school curricular plans. It is advised also that the teachers plan their short-term schemes of work based on the objectives of the curriculum. This will assist in differentiating the teaching approaches, tasks, in-class supports, resources and materials for the pupils and will accord greater focus to pupils’ learning outcomes. The development of a consistent approach to individual teacher planning and recording of monthly progress should be encouraged throughout the school. Monthly progress records should indicate the learning objectives of the curriculum which have been achieved and the content areas which have been covered. The monitoring of pupil attainment could also be recorded in the context of the objectives and activities outlined in individual teachers’ planning.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

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

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá éagsúlacht le sonrú in éifeacht an teagaisc agus na foghlama sa Ghaeilge. I ranganna na naíonán, sna bunranganna agus sna meánranganna leagtar béim inmholta ar chumarsáid idir na daltaí agus bíonn cluichí teanga, obair i bpéirí agus drámaí ar siúl. Baintear feidhm éifeachtach as filíocht agus as amhráin chun taithí a thabhairt do na daltaí ar fhuaimeanna agus ar structúr na teanga. Sna ranganna seo, tá rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí go maith agus sroicheann na daltaí caighdeán creidiúnach sa Ghaeilge labhartha. Moltar anois plean gníomhaíochta a chur le chéile chun an dea-chleachtas seo a roinnt ar fud na scoile.

 

Sna hardranganna, bhí deacrachtaí ag na daltaí labhairt go leanúnach faoi ábhair oiriúnacha agus ceisteanna simplí a fhreagairt. Moltar breis deiseanna a thabhairt do dhaltaí sna ranganna seo páirt a ghlacadh i gcluichí teanga, i rólghlacadh, i ndrámaí agus in obair i bpéirí atá bunaithe ar théamaí an churaclaim. Chuige seo, tá gá le hathscrúdú a dhéanamh ar an gclár do na ranganna seo agus na modhanna teagaisc agus na téamaí atá leagtha amach sa churaclam a mhúineadh. Moltar níos mó béime a chur ar fhorbairt scileanna cumarsáide na ndaltaí agus béim níos lú a leagadh ar theagasc uile ranga.

 

Sa mhór chuid, bíonn teagasc na léitheoireachta ar chaighdeán maith.  Sna bunranganna agus sna meánranganna, baintear úsáid mhaith as leabhair mhóra, téacsleabhair agus leabhair bhreise chun scileanna léitheoireachta a fhorbairt agus baineann na páistí taitneamh as na ceachtanna léitheoireachta.  I gcuid de na ranganna, b’fhiú tuilleadh iarrachtaί a dhéanamh chun prionta na Gaeilge a chur ar taispeáint chomh maith le saothar scríofa na ndaltaí. Sna meanranganna tá obair scríofa na ndaltaí ar réimse leathan ábhar ar chaighdeán oiriúnach. Tá gá anois le caighdeán na scríbhneoireachta sna hardranganna a fhorbairt agus a fheabhsú.

 

Sa phleanáil ranga, ní mór do gach oide spriocanna teanga a aithint, an t-ionchur teanga (stór focal, abairtí, teanga chumarsáide) a leagadh amach agus an t-ábhar teagaisc a chur in oiriúint do chumais éagsúla na ndaltaí. Ba chóir na modhanna teagaisc agus na straitéisí chumarsáide atá sonraithe sa churaclam Gaeilge a chur i bhfeidhm. B’fhiú anois, dul chun cinn na bpáistí sna cheithre shnáithe - Éisteacht, Labhairt,Léitheoireacht, agus Scríbhneoireacht - a chlárú ó rang go rang.

 

Irish

There is variation in the teaching and learning of Irish throughout the school. In the infant, junior and middle classes, commendable emphasis is placed on developing the pupils’ communication skill and language games, pair work and drama are undertaken. Good use is made of poetry and songs to build pupils’ experiences of the sounds and structures of the language in these classes. The participation of pupils in the lessons is good in these classes and pupils attain a good standard in spoken Irish. It is recommended that an action plan be devised so that this good practice can be disseminated throughout the school.

 

In the senior classes, pupils experienced difficulties in speaking continuously about a range of subjects and in answering simple questions. It is recommended that additional opportunities be provided for pupils in the senior classes to engage in language games, role play, pair work and dramatic activities that are based on the curriculum themes. To this end, there is a need to review the programme for these classes to ensure that the methodologies and the themes outlined in the curriculum are taught. It is recommended that additional emphasis be placed on developing pupils’ communication skills rather than on whole-class teaching. At this level, it is expected that the pupils should be able to speak continuously about appropriate subjects and would be able to answer simple questions about the range of themes outlined in the curriculum.

 

Overall the teaching of reading is of a good standard. In the junior and middle classes, good use is made of big books, textbooks and additional readers to develop reading skill and the pupils enjoy reading lessons. In some classes, additional efforts should be made to create a print-rich environment in Irish and to display the written work of the pupils. In the middle classes the pupils’ written work in a range of topics is at a satisfactory level. There is a need to develop and improve the standard of writing in the senior classes.

 

The teachers are advised to outline the specific language objectives in their classroom planning as well as stating the language input (vocabulary, communicative sentences and other language) that will be developed. The teachers should also implement the methodologies and the communicative strategies outlined in the Irish curriculum. The progress of pupils in the four strands of Listening, Speaking, Reading and Writing should be recorded from class to class.

 

 

English

The whole-school plan for English is comprehensive and forms a good basis for the teaching of English throughout the school. It is recommended that all teachers implement this plan in order to ensure consistency in teaching approaches and to improve standards in English generally. At present, individual teachers’ planning is predominately oriented on textbook activities and topics. The programmes implemented should focus on the specific curricular objectives and the range of experiences suggested by the curriculum at each class level. Teachers’ plans should also include an outline of how their teaching will be differentiated so that pupils are challenged to reach their full potential in English.

 

Oral language is an element of the programme at all class levels and pupils are given opportunities to discuss topics, which in most cases are age appropriate. In the junior and middle classes, teaching is good and opportunities for dialogue between pupils are maximised. In some classes, teaching is predominately whole-class in nature and there are insufficient opportunities for children to discuss in pairs and in groups. There is a good emphasis on poetry and pupils recite poetry with enthusiasm and demonstrate a good appreciation of the themes explored. A whole-school approach to the teaching of oral language needs to be considered. Each oral language lesson should have a specific learning outcome linked to the objectives of the curriculum. This will ensure that lessons are developmental in nature rather than taking the form of once-off discussions. The specific phrases, vocabulary and communicative skills to be developed should be identified in advance in teachers’ planning. The lessons should provide opportunities for all pupils to develop a broad range of language skills in different contexts.

 

The teaching of reading is good in most classes and appropriate efforts are made to develop a print-rich environment. Big books are used to effectively at infant level. However, there is a need for a more systematic and agreed approach to the development of phonological awareness and word-identification skills. There is scope for more early intervention in infants, and the provision of a broader range of reading experiences including supplementary readers is recommended.  

 

A graded reading scheme is used throughout the school. It is recommended that the current practice of each child using the same class reader should be reviewed. The reading materials should be differentiated for the composite class groupings. In most classrooms, pupils are afforded opportunities to engage with a good variety of texts and other reading materials. It is recommended that the current practice, whereby the learning support teacher and the mainstream class teacher in the middle classes work collaboratively during reading lessons, should be extended to all class levels.

 

At infant level there is good emphasis on the development of emergent writing skills. Lessons in the junior and middle classes are well-scaffolded and samples of work indicate that the pupils write in a variety of genre and regularly share their work with different audiences. This practice is commendable and should be extended. In the senior classes there is scope for development in the pupils’ creative writing. Standards in writing will improve with more regular monitoring of children’s work in copy books and through a more consistent approach to the development of hand-writing skills. Pupils in the senior classes need to further develop skills in writing

  

3.2 Mathematics

Pupils receive a solid foundation in Mathematics. A suitable programme of work is followed, and a good balance is maintained across the strands of the curriculum. In the middle classes lessons are well structured and in some class levels pupils have good opportunities to work in pairs and in groups, to undertake mathematical trails, to use concrete materials and to engage in problem-solving based on real-life situations. The younger pupils need to be given more opportunities to use concrete materials during lessons and opportunities for teacher-modelling and presenting concepts in well-paced teaching phases will help to engage the pupils more and will facilitate the development of a greater understanding of concepts through a variety of activities and tasks. In the middle and senior classes very good emphasis is placed on oral maths and pupils are encouraged through games to practise number operations.

 

During the evaluation, the pupils in the middle and senior classes demonstrated a good understanding of the topics they had studied. They explained accurately the processes involved in working out their problems and they were able to estimate and perform mental arithmetic tasks with ease. Close attention is paid to pupil progress and understanding during lessons in some classes and regular revision and consolidation are features of the work.

 
 

3.3 Visual Arts

 A whole school plan has been developed for the implementation of the Visual Arts curriculum in the school. Its main focus is on providing a range of artistic experiences for the pupils in the strand areas of the curriculum. Pupils are provided with purposeful and enjoyable experiences of different art media and are given opportunities to explore paint, colour, clay and construction. Further emphasis needs to be placed on the strand fabric and fibre in the programmes at the different class levels.

The lessons observed were well-organised and encouraged pupil engagement and participation. Looking and responding lessons were well-managed and useful links were developed with the immediate local environment and the work of artists associated with the area. The pupils’ work is attractively displayed in the classrooms. Additional displays in public areas of the school should be encouraged. Further emphasis on pupils’ creative and original responses to stimuli and media should be fostered.

 

3.4 Assessment

 A good assessment policy has been devised and is being actively implemented. The policy allows for a range of assessment approaches including teacher-devised tests and tasks, portfolios of work samples including projects and the use of curriculum profiles. This assessment work is complemented by the administration of norm- and criterion-referenced tests. Standardised tests including Drumcondra Primary Reading, Drumcondara Primary Mathematics are administered each year. The results of these tests are analysed on a whole-school basis and this practice is commendable. The Middle Infants Screening Test is administered to help identify children who require supplementary support in the junior classes. Following advice provided during the evaluation, the Forward Together Programme is implemented in the third term in the infant classes.

 

The results of assessment tests assist in the identification of pupils needing supplementary support and teaching. A range of diagnostic tests is carried out to further identify pupils’ specific needs. Relevant information is relayed to parents at parent-teacher meetings and in the annual report which is furnished on all pupils at the end of the school year. While the outcomes of all testing are closely monitored it is recommended that they should be used to inform teaching approaches at individual pupil level and at class level. Specifically, differentiated reading materials should be used at all class levels and group work should be employed.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with learning difficulties and special educational needs

 Overall, the level of provision for pupils with learning difficulties or special educational needs is very good. The two shared teachers and the learning support teacher are experienced teachers and have engaged in highly relevant continuous professional development. The learning support teacher co-ordinates the provision for pupils with additional learning needs effectively.

 

The quality of planning is very good. Individual education plans and programmes for pupils are devised collaboratively by the class teacher, support teacher, principal and parents. These plans specify clearly the learning outcomes to be achieved by the pupil within a defined period as well as the teaching strategies and resources that will be used. Pupils’ learning outcomes are monitored and records of pupils’ achievement are carefully maintained. The teachers maintain regular contact with parents.  

 

Pupils are withdrawn from the classroom for support and are taught individually and in groups.  The learning environment is attractive and well-organised. A good supply of resources has been sourced. These are used effectively in teaching and learning. The teachers use a variety of approaches and methodologies in the course of their work. They affirm pupils regularly and challenge them to achieve to the best of their ability. It is recommended that a greater range of reading materials is used in order to address specific learning needs. Greater opportunities for in-class support should also be considered.  The work of the learning support teacher in the liaising and co-ordinating the English programme with the middle classes provides a good basis for this practice.

 

In the future, mainstream class teachers should support pupils with learning needs more comprehensively by differentiating their teaching, using a greater range of methodologies and focusing on pupils’ outcomes. The practice of withdrawing children for both resource teaching and learning support teaching should be phased out. The provision of supports to pupils in the low average range should also be discontinued.

  

4.2 Other supports for pupils with English as an Additional Language (EAL)

During the inspection period many aspects of the provision for pupils with English as an Additional Language were inadequate. The learning environment is underdeveloped. Curricular-related displays are not in evidence and an inadequate range of books and games is in use. The prefabricated building which accommodates the two part-time resource teachers on a rota basis should also be used for the provision of support for pupils with English as an additional language. Use of this attractive, spacious area will allow for greater variety in teaching methodologies as well as the sharing of resources amongst all support teachers.

 

During the evaluation the teaching observed was not meeting the needs of the pupils. The instruction was didactic and this methodology failed to engage the pupils.  Limited opportunities are provided for pupils to develop and use language. Lesson structure and pace were unsatisfactory. At the post-evaluation meeting, the board of management confirmed that it had secured the services of a qualified teacher to undertake this support teaching. The Board of Management should ensure that the work of this teacher is supported and that all members of the staff engage in continuing professional development in the area of English as an Additional Language. The responsibility for pupils learning English as an Additional Language rests with the class teacher and appropriate programmes for in-class support should also be devised. Class teachers should differentiate teaching in all curricular areas to ensure that the specific needs of pupils are being addressed. 

 

A whole-school policy for the provision of support for pupils with English as an additional language has not been formulated. The individual programme which has been outlined for each child is very limited and it is not reviewed on an ongoing basis.  While there is some evidence of initial assessment of pupils, continuous assessment does not take place. These issues should be addressed immediately. In addition, maximum opportunities for collaboration between the support teacher and the class teacher should be ensured and every reasonable effort should be made to communicate with pupils’ parents. At a whole-school level, in line with equality legislation, an inclusive ethos which celebrates and affirms linguistic, ethnic and cultural diversity should be promoted.

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published, November 2009

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management


 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.