An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St. Maelruain’s Church of Ireland National School

Jobstown, Tallaght, Dublin 24

Uimhir rolla: 19582G  

 

Date of inspection: 27 February 2009

 

 

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of St. Maelruain’s Church of Ireland 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 Geography.  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

St. Maelruain’s Church of Ireland National School is a four-teacher, mixed primary school situated in Tallaght, Dublin. The school is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin and Glendalough and is vested in three local trustees. Enrolment numbers in the school are stable and attendance levels in the school are excellent. The school receives additional Departmental grants and supports through its participation in Band 2 of DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools).

 

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

75

Mainstream classes in the school

4

Teachers on the school staff

5

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

1 full time, 1part time

Special needs assistants

3

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

The school is under Church of Ireland management and is Christian in ethos. It is welcoming to pupils of all faiths. The principles of tolerance, respect and equality are central to its ethos. The school actively strives to ensure that pupils become considerate, conscientious and worthy citizens both during and upon leaving the school. This is exemplified in the school’s weekly assemblies and in its participation in a range of community and national initiatives such as the Green Schools programme, Credit Union Quizzes, Comhairle na nÓg and the Young Achievement Ireland.

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The board of management works cohesively and in a highly committed manner. The members carry out their management functions diligently and with pride. They meet four or five times a year and are responsive to the needs of the school. The board is properly constituted. Board accounts are audited annually. Members of the board have received training for carrying out their management duties. The board has made provision for fulfilling its legislative duties under the Education Welfare Act 2000 regarding the promotion of pupil attendance. The board has a published policy concerning admission to the school.

 

Departmental regulations regarding class size, length of the school year and school day, and teacher allocation are complied with. The board plays a consultative role in school planning. Curriculum and organisational policies, prepared by the teachers, are presented to the board for discussion and ratification. The board has managed the completion of the extension of the school building successfully in recent times. It communicates with the school community through the parents’ representatives on the board. The board is very supportive of the staff of the school and provides appropriate support for the professional development of teachers.

 

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The principal, deputy principal and special duties teacher comprise the in-school management team.  In this small school it is evident that all teachers provide a commendable level of time and support for the benefit of the school. The principal has a dynamic leadership style. She actively promotes a positive school climate and fosters excellent working relations among staff. It is evident that she succeeds in building a sense of community among pupils, staff, parents and board members. She is committed to promoting a life-long appreciation of the value of learning among pupils. She attends to her administrative and management duties in a capable manner. She is ably assisted in all matters relating to administration and records management by the school secretary. The principal receives excellent support from the deputy principal and special duties teacher who carry out a wide range of duties effectively. This support relates to many organisational and pastoral responsibilities. It is recommended that curriculum leadership be developed among post holders, in keeping with Circular 07/03, and among the teachers in general, in order to address priority areas and future targets.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The management of relationships and communication with the school community are very good. Parent/teacher meetings are held each year. School reports are issued annually. Homework notebooks are signed daily. Annual meetings are convened with the parents of new entrants and they receive a booklet outlining school procedures and relevant information. Each September the class teachers organise information meetings for parents.  The views of parents are sought on aspects of some organisational policies. Changes to existing policies are communicated to parents, as exemplified in the recently-reviewed homework policy. Regular school communications are maintained through newsletters, bulletins and notices.

 

There is an active parents’ association in place. It is affiliated to the National Parents’ Association. They meet five or six times a year and provide very good support to the school. They organise regular fundraising events to provide monies for transport for the series of school trips undertaken at all class levels each year. The parents give assistance to the school through support at school events, sports day and in the administration of rotas for swimming. Over the years the parents have been involved in educational activities such as shared-reading and Mathematics for fun activities. This is to be commended. The newly-built parents’ room provides excellent accommodation for a range of current and proposed activities and courses.

 

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

There is effective management of pupils throughout the school. The pupils’ behaviour is exemplary. An atmosphere of cordiality and respect is successfully fostered within the school. There are very positive relations between pupils and teachers and between pupils themselves. The pupils are open and confident. Assemblies are held each week, led by the parish Rector. These assist in promoting a spirit of community; affirming the pupils; and celebrating the achievements of the school and of individual pupils.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1   Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The school plan is devised by staff members. A wide range of organisational policies and procedures is in place. These provide clear, practical guidance on many aspects of school life and administration. The curriculum plans are concise and provide a broad overview of provision. These plans require greater detail overall. It is recommended that curriculum leadership be developed among teachers to guide the whole-school review of curriculum plans and to ensure that these plans provide comprehensive guidance for all aspects of provision including programme content for each class level, target setting, differentiation and assessment.

 

The teachers display a commendable commitment to planning for their class levels. They provide long-term and short-term schemes of work. There are varied approaches in place. Overall, teachers’ individual planning is guided primarily by the content of classroom textbooks. It is recommended that objectives-based planning, drawing from the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and from a wide range of resources beyond the class textbook, be undertaken.  Monthly progress records are maintained. It is advised that a whole-school approach to compiling general records of progress which reflects the strands and strand units of the curriculum be agreed.

 

 

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

 

The teachers are competent and enthusiastic communicators. They deliver their lessons with confidence. Appropriate questioning techniques are employed.  Overall, lessons are primarily teacher-directed and content is drawn from the class textbooks and workbooks. A range of teaching approaches is used throughout the school including teacher modelling, talk and discussion, project work and circle time activities.  It is recommended that an extended range of resources and active-learning approaches, involving pair work and group work, be employed. In particular, teaching should be differentiated more regularly for pupils who find learning difficult.  

 

Pupils display very good attitudes to learning and they present as motivated learners. They are eager to contribute to lessons. Standards of learning vary considerably. There are a number of high-achieving pupils in the school who are making excellent progress. There is also a cohort of pupils at all class levels who require intensive, differentiated support in order to raise their standards of learning. It is recommended that the school focus its attention on developing strategies to closely monitor and improve achievement levels of all pupils, particularly those who are not making expected progress.

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Tá dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge á chothú ag na hoidí tríd an scoil. I bhformhór na ranganna tá timpeallacht suimiúil le fáil chun cuidiú le forbairt teanga agus le leathnú foclóra.  I dteagasc na Gaeilge leanann na hoidí scéim ar bhonn scoile. Pléann siad topaicí agus téamaí lena daltaí go córasach.  Is féidir leis na daltaí ceisteanna a fhreagairt go cuí. Tá stór breá foclór acu. Anois ba chóir aire a dhíriú ar árdú chumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí eatarthu féin, agus go mórmhór ar a gcumas ceistiúcháin. Moltar plean cuimsitheach sa Ghaeilge a chlárú le cuspóirí cumarsáide do gach rang.  Úsáidtear straitéisí ar nós cluichí agus tascanna éisteachta go torthúil chun cuidiú le sealbhú teanga i gcuid de na ranganna. Ba chóir raon na straitéisí a leathnú chun an fhíorchumarsáid a chothú le cabhair níos mó agallaimh, scéalaíochta, druileanna agus drámaíochta i mbeirteanna agus i ngrúpaí. Déantar forbairt céimniúil ar scileanna réamhléitheoireachta na ndaltaí le cabhair priontáil sa timpeallacht, lipéid aitheantais, postaeir agus tascanna. Leantar scéim léitheoireachta sa scoil agus léann cuid de na páistí le tuiscint. Tá dul chun cinn sásúil le sonrú sna cleachtaí scríofa atá le feiceáil sna leabhair oibre, sna cóipleabhair agus ar na ballaí. Tá iarrachtaí na scoile maidir le cúrsaí Gaeilge a chur ar fáil do na tuismitheoirí le moladh.

 

Irish

 

The teachers succeed in promoting a positive attitude to Irish throughout the school. In most classrooms there are supportive environments to assist language development and the extension of vocabulary. In the teaching of Irish a whole-school scheme is used. The teachers regularly discuss topics and themes with their pupils. The pupils can answer questions in a satisfactory manner. They have a good register of vocabulary.  It is advocated that attention be directed on raising the pupils’ ability to communicate with each other, and on their questioning skills in particular. It is recommended that a comprehensive Irish plan be compiled, setting out the language targets for each class. In some classes games and listening tasks are used productively for language reinforcement.  In order to promote effective communication, the range of strategies should be extended to include the further use of conversations, story, drills and drama in pairs and groups. The pupils’ pre-reading skills are developed incrementally through the use of print in the environment, labels, posters and activities. A reading scheme is in place in the school and some pupils read with understanding. There is satisfactory progression noted in the pupils’ writing tasks in workbooks, copies and on walls. The school’s provision of an Irish course for parents is commendable.

 

 

English

 

The teachers have prepared an English plan which reflects the context of the school and provides an overview of provision. This plan should be reviewed to ensure that it provides clear guidance at every class level on all aspects of the teaching of English. Such areas include a programme for phonics and phonological awareness, poetry, the novel, process writing, assessment and the systematic teaching of reading skills. Overall provision for the teaching of oral language in English is competent. A variety of suitable strategies is used in the infant and junior classes incorporating story time, questioning, vocabulary extension, some use of language games and the daily exploration of news.  Pupils in the middle and senior classes are provided with focused opportunities for discussions based on relevant themes and topics. All teachers emphasise the importance of oral language development across the curriculum. In the middle and senior classes the pupils display very good vocabulary development and can discuss their ideas and opinions in an able manner.

 

There is good promotion of reading throughout the school. A graded reading scheme is in place. Class libraries are well stocked and utilised consistently. In the infant classes the pupils’ early-reading skills are developed appropriately through the use of large-format books, word bags, labelling and the use of a word wall.  The Letterland programme of phonics teaching is in place. It is advised that a complementary programme of phonological awareness be implemented. In most classrooms a vibrant, print-rich environment is promoted. The pupils enjoy listening to stories and they read from class texts and extension readers and, at some class levels, from class novels. The pupils are encouraged to read widely and independently; a number of pupils read expressively and with understanding. There are groups of pupils at all levels who do not make expected progress in reading. It is recommended that the school agree upon whole-school practices for the prevention and remediation of reading literacy difficulties at all class levels.  The provision of differentiated, graded reading material; the teaching and reinforcement of specific reading skills; and the use of ongoing formative assessment regarding curriculum objectives are recommended.

 

Across the school the pupils engage in a variety of suitable writing activities and tasks. The conventions of grammar and punctuation are appropriately taught. The infants participate in satisfactory early-writing activities. Some good examples of creative writing are evident in the school. The middle and senior pupils are encouraged to engage in the writing process and they write in a variety of genres. These incorporate fact files, novel reviews, investigations, stories and comprehension exercises. Pupils at some class levels recite a range of poems and rhymes with expression. The school is currently implementing First Steps, a whole-school literacy programme. Some ICT is used in the presentation of written work. The standard of penmanship is good throughout the school and pupils present their work with pride and neatness.

 

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

An appropriate balance is maintained in the teaching of the various strands of the curriculum. The learning of tables and mathematical facts is a feature of lessons. In some classes, a suitable mathematics-rich environment is established and a range of manipulatives is used during lessons; this should be extended to all classrooms.  During the evaluation some lessons were observed that incorporated active-learning opportunities. In the main, lessons are guided to a significant extent by the class textbooks in this multi-class context. Consideration should be given to the grouping of pupils according to ability for the teaching of some aspects of the Mathematics Curriculum. A review of the structure of lessons is advocated to include regular consolidation of mental mathematics, core concepts, operations, mathematics vocabulary and approaches to problem solving.

 

Overall there are diverse achievement levels in Mathematics. In general, pupils respond positively to questioning and recall number facts with accuracy. Aspects of shape and space, data and algebra are well taught. Many pupils can carry out mathematical operations with confidence. In all classes there are pupils who require more focused intervention to raise their standards of achievement. Ongoing formative assessment using criterion-referenced objectives in specific areas of each strand is recommended. In addition, pupils require extended opportunities to engage in collaborative problem-based tasks, mathematics’ games and trails, and in using mathematics in the environment.

 

 

 

3.3 Geography

 

Teachers ensure that pupils are provided with broad and balanced programmes in exploring the themes and topics in the Geography Curriculum. There is good use made of the locality to learn about human and physical environments.  The pupils display confidence in discussing key aspects of their locality. They engage in appropriate activities for the comparing and contrast of human environments at local and international level. In general, there is competent use made of maps, photographs, illustrative and reference material in reinforcing knowledge and concepts. Project work is undertaken by pupils in the middle and senior classes. Some very good examples of their work were observed during the evaluation. The school achieves very good standards in the strand of environmental awareness and care. This is evident in the high level of recycling and conservation activities underway in the school and on the school grounds. The school has attained the Green Flag and can be proud of its achievements in this area. 

 

 

3.4 Assessment

 

The school promotes the pupils’ achievements at assemblies, classroom displays and in the affirmative and positive interactions between teachers and pupils. All teachers ensure that the pupils’ written work is monitored very carefully and supportive feedback is provided. Standardised tests are conducted in English and Mathematics from first class and second class upwards respectively. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to senior infant pupils.  Results of standardised tests are used along with teachers’ observations for the selection of pupils for learning support. It is advised that these results be analysed carefully in order to provide differentiated programmes of learning to meet the specific learning needs of pupils. A range of teacher-devised tests is carried out by teachers throughout the school year. In order to meet the ongoing learning needs of pupils it is recommended that teachers use a broader range of whole-school formative assessment approaches to closely assess and record the progression in individual pupils’ learning.  

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

There is a full-time learning support/resource teacher (LSRT) and a part-time resource teacher (RT) based in this school. Withdrawal and in-class support is provided.  The standard of accommodation is good overall. A satisfactory range of resources is available. The school promotes the principle of early intervention and infant pupils receive a high level of targeted support. There is variety in the planning approaches undertaken by the support team regarding schemes of work and in individual plans for pupils. Some good records of on-going assessment and pupil progress are maintained. Instructional terms comprise one year. Support is provided in a caring and encouraging way and interactions between pupils and support teachers are very positive and affirming. Pupils receive support in English and Mathematics. More activity-based learning for pupils with behavioural and social needs is advocated. One teacher is currently being trained as a Reading Recovery tutor and provides a high level of one-to-one support to targeted pupils. As a means for ensuring the cohesive delivery of support to meet the diverse learning needs of all pupils it is recommended that all staff agree a coordinated approach regarding planning, models of intervention and review of targets for pupils with special educational needs. Three special needs assistants work closely with the class teachers in supporting the care needs of individual pupils. They carry out their work in a caring manner and are encouraging and supportive towards targeted pupils.

 

 

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

 

The school uses Departmental grants and monies secured through fundraising to ensure that all pupils participate in school activities. A range of initiatives is underway through the school’s participation in DEIS. There are both preventative and supportive actions ongoing. The home-school-community liaison coordinator (HSCL) works very closely with targeted pupils and their families in promoting attendance, developing positive attitudes towards education and enabling the smooth transfer of pupils to post-primary schools. Parental involvement in classroom-based educational activities in different curriculum areas is also promoted. Through the work of the school completion programme coordinator (SCP) there are a number of initiatives in place. These include the breakfast and homework clubs, sports activities, Easter and summer camp opportunities and funding for assessments. These supports are provided in an inclusive and proactive manner.

 

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:

 

 

 

 

Published November 2009