An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St Anne’s Special School

Taylor’s Hill, Galway

Uimhir rolla: 19567K

 

Date of inspection:  22 February 2008

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for students

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School response to the report

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of St Anne’s Special School. 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 parent representatives of the board of management. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days, during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with students and teachers, and examined students’ work. In order to gain a full understanding of the school context, the inspectors also had discussions with members of the multi-disciplinary team involved with the school. 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 response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

St. Anne’s Special School is a co-educational three-teacher special school, which caters for children and adolescents with emotional disturbance and/or behavioural problems. St Anne’s School was established in 1979 and is located in the St Anne’s Children’s Residential Centre in Taylor’s Hill, Galway. The school is currently under the patronage of the president of the National University of Ireland, Galway. Most students enrolled are of primary school age and come from Galway city and its environs. The post-primary aged students are usually residential students and come from a wider catchment area, often from outside the Health Service Executive (HSE) Region West. Prospective students are referred by various health and educational professionals through the consultant psychiatrists attached to the Health Service Executive’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) teams. 

 

As highlighted in the previous school inspection report completed in 1998, the designated pupil-teacher ratio of 6:1 is rarely exceeded in the school, due to regular fluctuation from term to term in the number of students enrolled. Students are dual-enrolled in their base school.  At the time of inspection 13 students were enrolled. This compares with an enrolment of 24 students when the last inspection report was furnished. Students usually remain in St Anne’s for periods ranging from three weeks to six months.

 

A caring, respectful, supportive and collaborative ethos is in evidence throughout the school. Every effort is made to build a strong sense of community during the students’ time in St Anne’s. The educational input received by students, many of whom are on medication, is considered to be a very important part of the students’ overall programme in St Anne’s.

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The newly elected board of management is properly constituted and has convened regularly since its establishment, in accordance with the Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure (2007). Individual board members have a range of expertise and experience and possess a clear and shared understanding of the school’s organisational structure and of the educational and multi-disciplinary therapeutic needs of the students. Minutes of all meetings are maintained and agendas and draft policies are circulated to board members in advance of meetings. Board accounts are audited annually by an external accountant and financial statements are presented at each board meeting. A review of the minutes of meetings confirms that the board makes a positive contribution to the work of the school. The main issues discussed at the most recent meetings include staff recruitment, teaching and learning resources, consideration and ratification of policies, the future of St Anne’s Special School and the pending relocation to a purpose-built facility for St Anne’s Children’s Centre. The main priority identified by the board is the need to advance discussions with the Department in order to obtain sanction for a new school building to cater for the educational needs of students with behaviour and emotional disturbance in the region.

 

The board plays an important role in the review and ratification of curricular and administrative policies. Priority should now be afforded to reviewing and updating the school’s enrolment policy to ensure its full compliance with relevant legislation. The enrolment policy should detail the criteria used for decision making, the enrolment appeals procedure as outlined in Circular 22/02, and a reference to the eligibility of students for enrolment from four to 18 years to reflect the requirements of the Rules for National Schools. In the context of the duration of pupil-teacher contact time, it is recommended that the school timetable be restructured in accordance with Departmental regulations as outlined in Circular 11/95. The board deserves particular commendation for its efforts in supporting the professional development of staff through the allocation of an annual training and development budget.

 

Due to the short-term nature of students’ enrolment, the school, despite its efforts, has not succeeded in establishing a parents’ association to date. The possibility of establishing a parents’ association affiliated to the National Parents’ Council should be kept under review. Such an internal school structure would facilitate the meaningful engagement of parents in the whole-school planning process in managing change and ongoing development. The drawing up of an action plan identifying key priority areas and timescales would also serve as a beneficial whole-school planning tool. In addition, the inclusion of ‘whole-school planning’ as a standard item on the agenda of board meetings would be of benefit to support strategic planning and development. The board is reminded of the requirement regarding the issue of an annual report to parents on the operation of the school, in line with section 20 of the Education Act, 1998.

 

The board is commended for the maintenance and refurbishment works recently undertaken on the school premises. The high level of routine maintenance and caretaking support provided by the HSE is acknowledged by the board.

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team, comprising the principal and deputy principal, collaborates effectively to support the orderly running of the school. The principal has amassed considerable experience and expertise in working with students with special educational needs. He adopts a professional and informed approach to the management of the school and strong working relationships are nurtured between the multidisciplinary team and school staff. An open collegial school environment is created and the staff’s work is acknowledged, valued, affirmed and supported. Official records are kept up-to-date. Staff members are encouraged to actively share knowledge, skills and experience gained from attendance at courses. Positive behaviour management strategies are promoted within the school premises and on school outings. The principal is very ably supported by the deputy principal who, as the school plan coordinator, has contributed significantly to action planning, to the whole-school development process, and to the positive working atmosphere of the school. The deputy principal also has responsibility for information and communication technologies (ICT) and the organisation of school outings. Consideration should be given to including a statement of each post-holder’s duties and responsibilities in the school plan. It is advocated that a periodic review of special duties be conducted in response to the changing needs of the school.

 

The in-school management team is willingly and conscientiously assisted by the other teaching and special-needs assistant staff. Communication and consultation processes in the school operate effectively and efficiently at informal and formal levels. Bimonthly staff meetings are held at times that avoids disrupting school routines. Agendas and minutes are circulated in advance of meetings and all staff members are given the opportunity to add items to the agenda. The main points of discussion and decisions taken are suitably recorded and filed. This collaborative approach to decision-making contributes very effectively to the positive environment in evidence, and is to be commended.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The school is fortunate in having a staff group with a highly valuable range of experience and postgraduate qualifications relevant to special education. The three special needs assistants employed make a valuable contribution to the care, well-being and educational support of the students. They collaborate skilfully and effectively with the teaching and HSE care staff, clinicians and therapists.  While individual staff members attend courses of specific interest to them, there is clear evidence of an overall whole-school approach based on identification of priorities. Courses attended by staff members include Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) and Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI), the TEACCH programme, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and the Derbyshire Language Programme. It would be of benefit to include a record of the courses attended by staff in the whole-school plan together with information on the nature and scope of the board’s support.

 

The school is located in premises that are shared with the on-site care and therapeutic staff.  The school has exclusive access to three classrooms, two of which are in a prefabricated unit, and office accommodation. The school shares the use of a general circulation area, dining area, a general-purposes room and a well laid-out, newly refurbished staff room. Although the nature of the premises in which the school is situated imposes some constraints, school accommodation is good, well maintained and used effectively for the benefit of students.  Outdoor facilities include a small enclosed hard play area, a suitably equipped playground and access to large grounds that facilitate gardening activities, walking and orienteering. The principal liaises informally and through monthly meetings with centre management in order to process issues of maintenance and safety.  A particular advantage of the configuration and use of space in the current premises is that it facilitates close collaboration between health and educational professionals.  Plans are in train within the HSE for St Anne’s Children Centre to be relocated to a proposed purpose-built facility in Merlin Park. In the event of the school transferring to the proposed new location, it will be important to recreate this close collaboration between health and education services.  

 

Classrooms and other areas are well equipped with a wide range of commercially produced and teacher-designed learning materials, including ICT equipment. At central level, the school has assembled a large range of general textbooks, workbooks and teaching materials, in addition to a range of assessment and reference material related to special education.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school strives to maintain positive links and open lines of communication with parents. The small size of the school facilitates regular contact between staff and parents and the wider school community. The school provides regular information to the parents about school events and extra-curricular activities. Regular, informal, oral and written progress reports are provided for parents. During the pre-evaluation meetings, the parents’ nominees on the board of management commended the school’s proactive approach and open-door policy, the individualised support offered to students, the ongoing meaningful communication with parents and the opportunities provided for parents to contribute to the individual planning process. The parents highlighted their satisfaction with the multidisciplinary support offered to their children in the school.  Parents also praised the commitment of staff, the school’s links with each individual student’s base school and the range of social outings organised for students.  Good links are fostered with the local community through the school’s involvement in various art competitions and the school’s attendance at various cultural and educational events. Invitations are issued to parents to attend special whole-school celebrations organised by the school, such as the Christmas pageant, carol singing services and the annual Sports’ Day.

 

2.5 Management of students

Relationships between the staff and students are very good.  The care, education and behaviour of the students are very well managed. It is evident that all staff members are concerned for the students’ welfare and development. Staff collaborates and interacts well to create a happy and caring atmosphere in the school. Classroom atmosphere, classroom layout and organisation of learning activities are highly supportive of students who have difficulty in managing their own behaviour and social interaction. Within classrooms there is a consistently positive approach to behaviour management. Clarity of routines and expectations are emphasised and visual prompts and appropriate rewards are used. This positive atmosphere is also evident in the joint school/therapeutic care activities. This high level of care is facilitated by the well planned communication and collaboration among the various disciplines, evident in each student’s overall programme within St Anne’s. 

 

The students are placed in three class groupings: two classes cater for students of primary school age, while the remaining class caters for post-primary students. Students in St Anne’s present with a range of childhood disorders, such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit and hyperactive disorder (ADHD), childhood fears and phobias, obsessive compulsive disorders, behavioural disorders and eating disorders.  Typically senior students attend St Anne’s for a shorter period than the younger students and their treatment plans continue to be implemented on an out-patient basis through the CAMHS teams in their respective local areas.

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

The quality of whole-school planning documentation is very good. The school has availed of external personnel from the various national support services to facilitate whole-school review and development. Policies are clearly documented and are customised to the needs of the school using a standardised structured framework. These school plans have appropriately identified a wide range of teaching methodologies to support curriculum delivery. The in-school management team effectively leads the planning process and it was reported that regular informal and formal planning meetings are held with all staff members in working towards agreed goals. It is recommended that curriculum planning priorities for further development be identified formally in a three-year action plan.

 

The teachers have drawn up whole-school policies for each primary curricular area and these plans have had a positive effect on practice. It is recommended that a description of curricular provision at post-primary level be included in the school plan. A range of relevant whole-school organisational policies has been developed including a code of behaviour, dress code, health and safety statement, policies on anti-bullying, internet acceptable use policy, professional development policy, staff meetings policy, school tours policy and an assessment and reporting policy. The health and safety statement is particularly comprehensive. The school’s policy and procedures with regard to the handling of complaints should be incorporated in the school plan for the benefit of all partners. The school has recently developed an information pamphlet to circulate among parents. 

 

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

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers provide long-term and short-term planning notes and monthly records of work in varying detail using a variety of recording styles. Appropriate reference is made to the strands and strand units of the curriculum in each junior classroom. Long-term planning in most classes includes reference to aims, content, teaching methodologies, resources, differentiation, integration and assessment approaches. Classroom planning for senior students is predominantly influenced by the Junior Certificate (JC) syllabus content and based on the content of relevant textbooks. In some instances individual targets and goals are carefully incorporated into the short-term plans. A particular positive practice was observed in the display of students’ individual goals in designated areas in classrooms.  It would be of benefit to agree on a suitable standard planning framework on a whole-school basis to support consistency of practice. The short-term planning in some areas would benefit from a greater level of detail and should include specific learning outcomes and a reference to strategies, methodologies, assessment techniques and resources to be used. The individual educational plans (IEPs) are clearly written, regularly reviewed and include measurable targets. It is planned that the IEP process will continue to be refined and delineated in line with best practice, and as advocated in the National Council for Special Education (NCSE) Guidelines on the Individual Education Plan Process (2006).

 

A commendable range of visual aids, visual schedules, labels, posters, teacher-designed charts and concrete materials is used to support teaching and learning. Appropriate consideration is given to the provision of material resources including newspapers, suitable environmental items and the use of pre-prepared concept maps to enhance students’ engagement levels during the teaching and learning process.

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

In the primary classes the students have access to all areas of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). In the post-primary classroom the students currently enrolled have access to the following range of subject areas: English, Irish, Mathematics, History, Geography, Physical Education, Civics, Social and Political Education (CSPE) and Computer Studies. In addition, students may be supported in Music, French, Business Studies, Art and Woodwork. Notwithstanding the range of subjects that is currently provided at post-primary level, the school is concerned with regard to the difficulties experienced in providing access to particular subject areas at various times, due to the unavailability of specialist teachers. This is a major challenge for the school, due in large measure to the short-term nature of students’ enrolment in St Anne’s.

 

Teachers seek to maintain continuity with each students’ prior experience of a subject in their base schools through the selective use of textbooks. Whole-class teaching, teacher-directed questioning, demonstration, explanation, the use of textbooks and discussion are used widely and effectively throughout the school. In instances where students are given the opportunity to actively engage in group work and circle time, students gain a greater level of enjoyment and benefit from the learning process. The appropriate and necessary emphasis on individualisation of learning activities is balanced by class and group learning activities based on cross-curricular themes. In this context, there is a strong emphasis on using the local environment as a learning resource. The preparation for and follow-up activities following educational outings is praiseworthy. Every effort is made to use these opportunities to develop the students’ social and interpersonal skills and to integrate the experiences with a range of curricular areas.

 

4.2 Language

 

English

English is taught competently at all class levels and activities are well structured. All students access differentiated programmes in each strand of the curriculum. Assembly provides a good forum in a group setting for students to present, show and talk about various news items of interest. During assembly, students are encouraged to formulate questions, to adhere to the topic under discussion and to listen and respond to a story or poem. Good attention is given to promoting the use of full sentences and to expanding students’ oral and sight vocabulary in junior classes. There were some good examples in the use of language games and integration with Drama and Geography to develop students’ language acquisition. Students are encouraged to express ideas, opinions and feelings and to explain aspects of their work in all classes. This practice is in line with the school’s own policy to develop students’ fluency, communication and oral language competency in the English language. In order to develop the oral language programme further, it is recommended that a range of suitable themes and a structured language programme be identified to ensure a systematic development of vocabulary acquisition in the junior section of the school.

 

A strong culture of reading and interest in books is fostered throughout the school through adult modelling of the reading process, an annual Readathon and a designated ‘drop everything and read’ (DEAR) time. Print-rich environments are developed and classroom libraries are well-stocked with a variety of reading materials including large-format books, audio books, high interest/low difficulty readers and parallel reading schemes. Students have developed a good understanding of the conventions of print. The language experience approach to reading is used to good effect and students engage with library books and formal readers with interest and enthusiasm. Very good use is made of ICT in enhancing students’ reading experiences and in developing students’ literacy skills using suitable computer software. Flashcards of commonly used words are effectively used in some classes to consolidate students’ early reading skills. It is recommended that this practice be extended to the use of sentence strips to scaffold students’ independent reading skills in accordance with their individual ability. Visits to the local library are a regular feature of school life in order to stimulate students’ interest in books and reading.

 

The learning environment of the adolescent group of students is enhanced through the effective use of concept mind-maps, which promotes good study and revision practices. Teacher instruction is supported by the use of a flipchart, a selection of different newspapers, textbooks and teacher-designed tasks. ICT is utilised in researching information on various topics and in presenting coursework. The students demonstrated a good level of interest and understanding of the media and comparative studies module of the English syllabus, and responded well to questioning during the lesson observed. Students are also given a range of opportunities to study the prescribed novels and poetry on their respective syllabi and to examine, analyse and consider related themes and issues including character profiles, cultural context, story setting, atmosphere, mood and conflict. There is evidence to show that good attention is given to literary genre, poetic devices, language style and grammar.

 

Students are given frequent opportunities to develop and practice their handwriting, spelling and free-writing skills in all classes. Students are encouraged to write clearly and legibly for different purposes, their work is celebrated and attractively displayed.  The publication of a range of class booklets incorporating various writing genres is noteworthy in some classes. The development of well-organised portfolios of work completed by the adolescent group of students is to be commended, as it contributes well to the students’ sense of achievement and pride in their work and also provides a valuable communication link with the students’ respective base schools.

 

Gaeilge

Tá díograis na n-oidí le moladh maidir lena n-iarrachtaí an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn ar bhonn scoile-uile. Tá cinneadh dearfach déanta ag an bhfoireann atmaisféar Gaelach a chruthú agus a fhorbairt tríd an scoil ar bhonn leanúnach. Tugtar faoin gcur chuige cumarsáideach chun an Ghaeilge a mhúineadh i bhformhór na ranganna. Sa chleachtas is fearr baintear feidhm mhaith as geáitsíocht, cluichí teanga, amhráin, rainn agus ábhair nithiúla chun tuiscint agus cumas líofachta na ndaltaí sa teanga a ghnothú. Is féidir leis na daltaí sna ranganna seo raon maith rann agus amhrán a aithris go bríomhar. Bunaítear na ceachtanna sna ranganna sinsearacha ar an mórchuid ar an siollabus léitheoireachta sa Ghaeilge agus ar ullmhúchán le haghaidh béaltriail na Gaeilge do na scrúdaithe stáit. Leathnaítear foclóir na ndaltaí trí úsáid a bhaint as comhráite réamhdhéanta agus scéalta a chumadh. Tugtar deiseanna tairbheacha do na scoláirí na briathra, na haidiachtaí agus na dobhriathra a láimhseáil san rang sinsearach.  Ba thairbheach do chur i bhfeidhm an churaclaim Ghaeilge ar bhonn scoile-uile, dá bhféadfadh na hoidí le cumas maith sa Ghaeilge, a scileanna teanga a roinnt le ranganna eile, chun forchéimniú céimnithe a chinntiú sna snáitheanna éagsúla den churaclam. B’fhiú freisin feidhm a bhaint as áiseanna, cairteacha léirithe agus ábhar léitheoireachta na scéime struchtúrtha Séideán Sí sna bunranganna, chun na daltaí a spreagadh agus an fhoghlaim a dhaingniú a thuilleadh fós.

 

Irish

The conscientious efforts made by teachers in promoting the Irish language on a whole-school basis are praiseworthy. A positive decision has been made by the staff to continuously foster and develop an Irish atmosphere throughout the school.  The communicative approach is used to teach the Irish language in the majority of classes. In the examples of best practice observed, good use is made of movement, language games, songs, rhymes and concrete objects to develop students’ understanding and levels of fluency in the language. Students can recite a good range of rhyme and song in a lively manner in these classes. Lessons in senior classes are mostly based on the syllabus for Irish reading and on practising for the oral Irish examination. Students’ vocabulary is extended through the use of pre-prepared conversations and the composition of stories. Beneficial opportunities are provided for students to use verbs, adjectives and adverbs in the senior class. It would be of benefit for the whole-school implementation of Irish if teachers with good competency levels in the Irish language utilised their skills in other classes to ensure a gradual progression in the different strands of the curriculum. The junior classes would benefit from the use of resources, visual aids and reading material from Séideán Sí in order to further consolidate learning and motivation levels.

 

Modern Languages

Classes in French are offered to the adolescent group in accordance with their subject choice at their respective post-primary base schools. Lessons are matched to students’ ability levels and much emphasis is placed on oral work to stimulate students’ interest levels.  Students are given encouragement for their efforts and are provided with a written record of work covered, while they are enrolled in St Anne’s School.

 

4.3 Mathematics

In primary classes, the programmes in Mathematics are configured to the strands and strand-units of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Insofar as is possible, teachers seek to maintain the students at the appropriate content level for their age, while providing additional support in areas of deficit. There is a strong emphasis on the teaching of concepts through concrete exploration and practical activity, followed by graduated skill practice. Appropriate attention is given to the language of Mathematics and to the application of Mathematics in the recording, representation and interpretation of data. Incorporation of mathematical tasks into cross-curricular themes and projects provides meaningful contexts for consolidating mathematical skills. At post-primary level, the key emphasis is on maintaining students’ progress towards Junior Certificate and/or Leaving Certificate examinations. In reviewing the school plan in Mathematics, it would be of benefit to include a more detailed breakdown of content to provide further guidance for teachers’ individual classroom planning.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE)

Whole-school plans for History, Geography and Science, the component subject areas of SESE, have been drawn up at different times over the past four years and reviewed most recently in 2007.  Programme planning and methods of delivery take the particular circumstances of the school into account. Some classroom time is used for individualised work based on the textbooks, which students are following in their base schools.  Much of the work is linked to a number of cross-curricular themes. These themes incorporate an exploration of the immediate school environment together with monthly local field trips. This thematic approach takes into account the age-range within classes and the temporary nature of the school placement and also facilitates group interaction and shared learning.  Students with advanced knowledge or interests in particular topics are encouraged to extend their learning using various resources including internet and computer programmes. Work done in this curricular area features prominently in classroom and school displays. 

 

History

The teachers’ approach to the teaching of History is consistent with the emphasis in the Primary School Curriculum (1999) on grounding historical concepts in the students’ experience and in the local environment.  The thematic approach is emphasised to good effect. Textbooks from the students’ base schools are used judiciously to provide background for themes. The historic dimension of the building and grounds in which the school is located is used as a teaching resource. The monthly field trips and local visits include places of historical interest such as museums. 

 

Geography

The thematic, environmental-based approach evident across the curricular area Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) is strongly evident in the teaching of Geography. While a selection of textbooks is used judiciously, the essential emphasis is on activities related to the students’ experiences, and on guided observation in the classroom, school and local environment. Lesson activities are extensively linked to the other areas of SESE, and also to English and Mathematics.  Art activities and outdoor aspects of Physical Education are used as an aid to the teaching of geographical concepts. Regular monthly outings include visits to good examples of human and natural environments in the city and surrounding rural area, which can be linked to geographical themes, such as, homes and buildings, transport, people who work for us and water. The school’s involvement with the Green School’s Programme has provided a valuable practical focus for work on the Environmental Awareness and Care strand.

 

Science

As with History and Geography, much of the work in Science is linked to exploration within the school grounds and to visits and field trips further afield.  Cross-curricular topics are planned to incorporate exploration of the strands of Science. The Environmental Awareness and Care strand, which overlaps with Geography, is facilitated by Green School activities involving sorting and recycling of waste materials. Nature table activities in the classroom allow the students to become involved in observing and recording activities in relation to plant life.  The results of classroom experiments and observations using everyday materials and simple science apparatus, are recorded appropriately in visual displays.  

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The students are provided with very good experiences in Visual Arts. The whole-school plan for Visual Arts is thorough, clearly laid out and reflective of the sensory needs and attention span of the students. All strands of the visual arts curriculum are covered and there is a strong awareness among staff members of the importance of providing a range of suitable stimuli to motivate students and develop their creativity. The quality and variety of the art work displayed in the classrooms and on the corridors are very good and are often closely integrated with other areas of the curriculum. Art experiences for the adolescent group are suitably integrated with civic, social and political education (CSPE) project work. The students are given opportunity to work with a wide range of materials and to complete work in two- and three-dimensional forms. Students also have access to a pottery class and are supported by the teaching staff and occupational therapist. ICT is used effectively to mediate students’ learning in Visual Arts. Assembly time is used in a meaningful way to give students an opportunity to describe their art work to an adult and child audience. Visits to local art exhibitions and galleries are an important feature of the students’ art programme.

 

Music

The quality of provision in Music in most classes is good. The students are provided with valuable opportunities during assembly to sing together, to perform for one another and to use a variety of untuned percussion instruments. On special occasions, such as at Christmas, students also perform for their families. The team efforts involved in such stage productions are commended. In one example of good practice observed, students effectively used self-designed percussion instruments to enhance and display their understanding of the orchestra.  The main emphasis in other classes is on the listening and performing strands. Students are encouraged in these classes to respond to music through movement and to develop their understanding of the dynamics of Music. It is recommended that the whole-school plan for Music be reviewed to build upon the strands and musical elements of the curriculum and to reflect curriculum progression and continuity in the acquisition of skills in listening, performing and composing across the school. It would be of benefit to include a reference to an agreed repertoire of songs, games, listening excerpts and music literacy features, to support whole-school implementation at various class levels.  Consideration might be given to the sharing of teacher expertise in this curricular area.

 

Drama

A whole-school plan has been developed in Drama to guide the work of the school. Drama is taught on a regular basis at classroom level to the two junior classes and role-play is employed as a cross-curricular integration teaching methodology across all classes. Drama contracts are used and safety issues are attended to with vigilance. During the inspection, circle time was used effectively as a teaching tool in one classroom to teach language, explore aspects of process drama and expand students’ communication and social skills’ repertoire. Visualisation is effectively used in most classrooms to enter into an imagined context by taking on roles. The use of ‘hot seating’ at daily assembly is clearly beneficial for all students in terms of socialisation and language acquisition opportunities provided. Students are given the opportunity to participate in a Christmas show incorporating poetry, drama, music and song.  It is recommended that the whole-school plan be developed further using a thematic framework.

 

4.6 Physical Education

Lessons observed in the course of this evaluation were well planned and managed, and elicited active student engagement. The whole-school plan for Physical Education (PE), prepared in 2006/7, incorporates the six strands of PE in the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Athletics, dance, gymnastics and games are organised in the school general-purposes room, or outdoors, weather permitting. Outdoor and adventure activities, such as orienteering and walking, are accommodated in the extensive grounds surrounding the school, and, in some instances through the use of offsite facilities. The aquatics strand is delivered through an eight-week block programme in a local leisure facility. The physical education programme is enhanced by therapy programmes that are delivered out of class or incorporated into classroom and school activities. Close multidisciplinary liaison allows the teachers to be aware of and sensitive to particular issues that may be relevant to individual students in the context of physical activity. The school is well equipped with materials and equipment to support PE activities. 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

There is a strong team-based commitment in the school towards the care and welfare of students. Teachers are committed to covering all strands of the SPHE curriculum and to using discretionary time and cross-curricular integration in order to address the specific needs of the students. The positive and caring ethos cultivated among all staff members contributes very well towards the development of students’ social skills.

 

The SPHE curriculum is individualised to address the specific needs of individual students.  Social skill targets are set in students’ individual educational plans (IEPs) and very good efforts are made in all classes to develop these skills across the curriculum and during playground activities. Students are constantly encouraged to reach their social skills and behavioural targets and continuous records of progress are maintained in this curricular area. Students are encouraged to make choices, to do their best in overcoming personal challenges and to evaluate their success on a regular basis. Additional one-to-one and group work support is provided for students through the social skills training programme facilitated by social care workers and psychologists. Students display good progress in developing life skills in personal and social development. The SPHE curriculum is supported by the use of agreed resource materials including the Stop, Think and Do Programme, the Walk Tall and Alive-O programmes.

 

Good attention is given to personal health, hygiene and personal safety. Many cultural, recreational and educational opportunities are provided for students to meet other members of the local community and become aware of the importance of good behaviour in public places. Circle time, group work and whole-class discussion are the main methodologies used during lessons. Productive efforts are made to link the material being covered for the adolescent group to the relevant concepts of the CSPE syllabus and to students’ own experiences. The efforts made in displaying students’ work in booklet form in SPHE are praiseworthy.

 

4.8 Assessment

Very good attention is given to the development of a whole-school approach to assessment. On referral, students are placed in St Anne’s for a four week multi-disciplinary assessment period. During this assessment period, the students attend school if their health and well-being allows, and teachers attend weekly multi-disciplinary reviews. At the assessment review at the end of this four-week period, a decision is made regarding continuing placement. Students either return to their base school or continue in St Anne’s Special School for a period of time depending on their specific needs and progress made. A treatment plan and individual education plan are developed for each student. These plans are reviewed weekly on a multidisciplinary basis in the case of the older students and every three weeks in the case of younger students. A comprehensive account is maintained of all multidisciplinary review meetings.

 

As well as having a strong focus on teacher observation, the school has access to an extensive range of formal assessment tools including screening tests, differential aptitude tests, diagnostic assessments and standardised tests. Other assessment strategies used include teacher-designed tasks and tests, work samples, project work, portfolios and student self-assessment.  Daily anecdotal notes are maintained in most classrooms to track each student’s progress in relation to the achievement of specific targets. The results of these assessments are effectively used to mediate the curriculum and to inform future planning of whole-class, group and individual work. Students’ work is monitored regularly. Formal multi-disciplinary feedback meetings are organised and written progress reports are furnished for parents at the end of each students’ term in St Anne’s School. A school report, which includes multi-disciplinary reports, is provided to the base school of each student on their return to their mainstream base schools. The ongoing communication and advisory links established with each student’s base school is praiseworthy. Multi-disciplinary resource packs are also developed to assist some students in reintegrating back to his/her base school. This practice is to be commended.

 

5.     Quality of support for students

 

5.1 Students with special educational needs

The students who attend St’ Anne’s School have special educational needs arising from or related to a range conditions that require them to come under the care of the child and adolescent mental health services of the HSE. The students are placed in a highly specialised day or residential setting. The school provides a special educational intervention and continuity in the education of the students enrolled, and facilitates their successful transition back to their respective base schools. The service provided is resource-intensive. Each child has access to a multidisciplinary and inter-agency team that includes, in addition to teachers and SNAs, a consultant child psychiatrist, a senior registrar, nurse, psychologist, social worker, social care worker, occupational therapist, and speech and language therapist. Regular review meetings facilitate the review of each student’s education, care and therapeutic programme. Education and health personnel from the student’s base school and locality are included in the process through attendance at meetings in St Anne’s or through off-site visits by St Anne’s staff.  Particular effort is made to maintain parental involvement throughout the process. 

 

There is very good reciprocal collaboration between the HSE multi-disciplinary personnel, maintenance staff and the staff of the school. This has been identified as a major success factor in catering for the cohort of students in its care. The commitment of the staff to ongoing professional development has helped to ensure that students benefit from a range of teaching methods, associated with mainstream and special education, delivered in a flexible manner and adapted to the needs of individual students. In the month of July a three to four week programme of activities is provided by the school for students with autistic spectrum disorders (ASD). This programme is funded by the Department of Education and Science (DES). 

 

School personnel and HSE personnel share a concern that students are enabled to return successfully to mainstream or special education provision in their own locality.  For many of the students, school attendance in St Anne’s and successful adjustment to classroom routine, are seen as an important preparatory step. For some students, due to health issues or social/behavioural issues the aim of full school attendance must be approached gradually through an interim stage, where there is a greater emphasis on care support and enabling therapies.

 

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

The range of pastoral care and educational supports provided by the school places the school in a good position to serve the needs of students from all cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. The additional support provided for students through the provision of school meals is of benefit to all students enrolled.

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths 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 board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 Published June 2008

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

 

The Board of Management of wishes to express its appreciation at the professional manner in which the whole school evaluation was undertaken at St. Anne's School. Considerable time and effort was taken to obtain a thorough understanding of the school's role and function and the very detailed and comprehensive report reflects this care and attention. We welcome the very positive nature of the report and feel that it accurately reflects the overall ethos and culture of the school and affirms the very effective educational responses to the complex needs of its pupils.

The Board of Management has instigated a number of actions in response to the key recommendations of the 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.          

 

 

 

The Board of Management has undertaken to formulate an Action Plan for the school. We are awaiting a decision about the future location of St. Anne's School and thus, in the short term, key development areas will be identified in relation to the current circumstances of the school.

 

·         The Board of Management has sought specialist legal advice on its enrolment policy and will act on any recommendations to ensure that the policy is fully compliant with the relevant rules and legislation.

 

·         Minor revisions have been made to the school day to ensure that all pupils now have access to the prescribed minimum teaching hours.

 

·         The school is continuing to extend its contacts with parents and additional measures are currently being developed with a view to facilitating greater engagement of parents in the future.

 

·         Teaching staff are in the process of revising their approaches to record keeping with a view to producing more comprehensive and consistent procedures.