An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

 

 

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

 

St. Paul’s JNS

Greenhills, Dublin 12

Roll number: 19623R

 

 

 

Date of inspection:  6 October 2006

  Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

1.     Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

2.1 Board of management

2.2 In-school management

2.3 Management of resources

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

2.5 Management of pupils

3.     Quality of school planning

3.1 School planning process and implementation

3.2 Classroom planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

4.2 Language

Gaeilge

Irish

English

4.3 Mathematics

History

Geography

Science

4.5 Arts Education

Visual Arts

Music

Drama

4.6 Physical Education

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

4.8 Assessment

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St. Paul’s Junior National 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 representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

St. Paul’s Junior National School is a seventeen-teacher school catering for girls from junior infants to second class in the parish of Greenhills, Dublin 12. A significant number of its pupils reside in Tallaght. A small number reside in Clondalkin. The school is located on a campus shared with St. Paul’s Senior National School.  At the time of the evaluation enrolment at the school was 299. Enrolment figures have been falling slightly for a number of years. The last school inspection took place during the 1995-1996 school year. 

 

The school was built in 1978. Currently St. Paul’s Junior N.S. has twelve mainstream class teachers, an administrative principal, three special education teachers, one language-support teacher and three special needs assistants.  The school shares two home-school-community-liaison co-ordinators with St. Paul’s Senior National School and the nearby St. Peter’s National School. 

 

St. Paul’s Junior N.S. is a Catholic school.  The school’s stated mission is to foster the moral, social, emotional, spiritual, academic, physical and aesthetic development of the children in a happy, caring and inclusive environment while respecting the diversity of values, beliefs, traditions languages and ways of life in society. Commitment to that mission is manifested through the school’s links with the local community and nearby church, the positive and respectful classroom interactions and the dedication of the staff to enabling each child to fulfil her potential through the provision of a broad and balanced education.

 

Attendance levels at the school are generally good. A small number of children are absent for more than 20 days.  Appropriate and effective school attendance strategies are in place.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted.  Each member of the board has a clearly defined role.  The board meets regularly and minutes of its meetings are maintained. The school accounts are audited annually and regulations regarding the length of the school year, the retention of pupils and class size are observed. It is important that the integrity of the school day is maintained. Provision has been made for fulfilment of the requirements of the Education Welfare Act 2000.  The board discharges its duties competently and with a focus on ensuring that the staff is supported in its work, the pupils in their learning and that there is appropriate communication with parents. It is involved in formulating and ratifying key organisational policies of the school. These include policies on admission to the school, behaviour, relationships and sexuality education, homework, healthy lunches, and acceptable use of the internet. Some of these polices have been recently reviewed and there is a plan in place for the systematic review of all school policies. The current policies on admission to the school, posts of responsibility, and assessment require particular attention in such review. Policies on equality and the management of resources should be devised. The board is actively supportive of the school in relation to the implementation of existing school policies and procedures.  It contributes to the implementation of curriculum policies through its provision of additional teaching and learning resources and its funding of the professional development of teachers. There has been a tradition of communication and co-operation between the boards of management of the junior school and the senior school. 

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal, an assistant principal and five special duties teachers.  At the time of the whole school evaluation the principal was four weeks in her post.  She has established herself very well. She has engaged effectively with the staff, board of management and the parent body. She demonstrates a good understanding of the school context and of educational issues generally.  She recognises the importance of teamwork. She aims to involve all staff members in vision building and planning. She displays a willingness to listen and to tackle issues as they arise. She has very good organisational and administrative skills.  Her vision for the school is of a learning community that nurtures the holistic development of all pupils so that all are enabled to reach their full potential.   

 

The deputy principal, assistant principal and special duties teachers work diligently to contribute to the management of the school. They each have specific assigned duties that focus mainly on administrative and organisational aspects of management. Those duties now require review with reference to Circular 07/03, the changing needs of the school and new developments in education. It is recommended that in such review, consideration be given to how future assigned duties can best support curriculum review, implementation and development. Formal, regular meetings of post holders is also advised in order to develop further the leadership role of middle management in addressing school needs in a co-ordinated way.

 

The teachers work conscientiously and professionally to provide a broad and balanced education for the children in this school. Formal staff meetings are held regularly. The teachers are provided with an opportunity to contribute items to the agenda. Curriculum and policy issues are discussed. Minutes of the meetings are recorded and action plans are drawn up. Informal staff meetings occur from time to time during morning and lunch breaks.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The teaching staff consists of an administrative principal, twelve mainstream class teachers, three special education teachers and a language-support teacher.  There are three special needs assistants. The teachers and special needs assistants are appropriately deployed.  Opportunities are given to teachers to indicate their class preferences each year and they are encouraged to teach in a variety of class levels. The formalising of the school’s policy regarding the allocation of classes is recommended. The staff has availed of the in-service support provided by the School Development Planning (SDP) initiative and the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP). Teachers have prioritised the areas of Physical Education, History and Geography for future staff development. Teachers at an individual level have engaged in various professional development courses. In light of the school’s needs, opportunities for an in-house professional

development programme should be explored, availing of staff expertise. Where appropriate, elements of the programme may be shared with the senior school. The strengthening of the professional links between the two schools is advised.

 

The school employs two part-time secretaries and shares two part-time caretakers with the senior school. The ancillary members of staff provide valuable assistance in the smooth organisation, maintenance and upkeep of the school and the school grounds. Two tutors are employed by the school. A gymnastics teacher, funded by a sponsored read-in organised by the parents’ association, visits the school once a week to provide instruction in gymnastics to pupils in first and second classes. In addition, optional gymnastics classes are offered to pupils from senior infants to second class. All children in first and second class receive dance instruction once a week from a tutor funded by parents.  

 

The school has a range of material resources to support teaching and learning. These include books and materials for languages and the Visual Arts, equipment for Mathematics, Science and Physical Education, percussion instruments for Music, and various other charts and visual aids. These resources are used frequently and purposefully. There are imaginative and colourful displays of the children’s work throughout the school, celebrating the pupils’ achievements across a broad and varied curriculum.  Classrooms have access to televisions and video recorders.  A very good level of resources for information and communication technology (ICT) exists. A number of   classrooms have a computer and it intended that when rewiring works are completed additional classroom computers will be provided and connected to broadband. A dedicated computer room and a comprehensive software library are in place.  Teachers are timetabled to use the computer room on a weekly basis. In addition to the school library, each classroom has its own library. It is recommended that the school devise a policy regarding the management and distribution of teaching and learning materials in the school. In drawing up such a policy consideration should be given to the provision of a core set of materials for each classroom and to ways in which additional resources could be stored centrally and accessed when needed.   

This bright and attractive school is very well maintained. It comprises twelve mainstream classrooms, four rooms for support teaching, a school library, a computer room, a parents’ room, adjoining offices for the secretary and principal, one large hall, indoor and outdoor storage areas and a staffroom.  A hard-surface playing area is attached to the school.  It is reported that the grass areas around the school were donated to the school by the Sisters of Charity of St. Paul, the Apostle. 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school maintains very good links with the local community. It enjoys the long-standing support of an active parents’ association.  Meetings of the parents’ association are held regularly. The association is regularly involved in fundraising for the school, and supports the work of the school with regard to church events and the hosting of hospitality evenings.  Updates on the work carried out by the association are carried in the parents’ association newsletter. Parental commitment to and support of the school is praiseworthy. 

 

The school shares the services of two Home-School-Community-Liaison (HSCL) co-ordinators who provide valuable support to pupils and parents. A comprehensive draft whole-school policy outlining home/school/community involvement is in place.  This policy aims to build an active, co-operative, school community that draws on the skills and participation of parents and community members.  Active co-operation between home and school is promoted through the provision of a variety of courses for parents, home visits and the school’s participation in local community committees and networks. Particularly successful aspects of home-school-community

projects to date include parental involvement in the devising of story sacks for their children, parental participation in the Maths for Fun programme, and the transfer programme for pupils moving from second to third class. The HSCL co-ordinators liaise frequently with teachers on an informal basis. The formalising of regular meetings between the teachers and HSCL co-ordinators is advised.

 

The school is welcoming of parents.  Formal annual parent teacher meetings are held to communicate and discuss the pupils’ progress. Additional meetings are facilitated and arranged at the request of either the parents or the teacher.  Under current arrangements, parents receive one written pupil progress report, on completion of the final year in the junior school. It is recommended that written pupil progress reports be provided more frequently.    

 

2.5 Management of pupils

The school is characterised by a caring, co-operative and enthusiastic atmosphere. A very good rapport exists between the teachers and pupils.  The children are well behaved and present as happy and courteous.

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

Significant progress has been made in recent years in developing a school plan for both curriculum and organisational matters. The teachers have put much time and effort into developing the existing school plan. There is evidence of a collaborative approach to planning. A number of curriculum and organisational policies have been devised. Those policies incorporate guidelines provided by the School Development Planning (SDP) initiative and the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP). Procedures and policies relating to health and safety, enrolment, behaviour, ICT, special education provision and child protection are in place. 

 

The curriculum plans address provision for English, Gaeilge, Mathematics, Science, the Visual Arts and Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE). A draft music plan is in place. History, Geography and Physical Education have been prioritised for future development. A number of the school plans have been reviewed and revised. Initial work on revising some of the other curriculum areas has begun.  All plans would benefit from being revisited regularly and should specify a review date.  A review of current curriculum plans is necessary to ensure that they comprehensively guide and inform all aspects of curriculum provision, including assessment.  It is recommended that the use of action plans be considered in setting targets for priority areas.  A copy of the school plan is made available to every teacher.

 

Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers prepare written short-term and long-term plans of work. It is recommended that, in addition to outlining the content of lessons, the teachers’ individual plans take account of the needs of individual pupils and their various learning styles. The clarification of specific objectives for all curriculum areas and an outline of the planned methodologies to be used would enhance

the quality of some of the individual planning. The collaboration by teachers in each class grouping when devising plans is commendable.

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1               Overview of learning and teaching

The children present as motivated and interested learners. They demonstrate an eagerness to engage in class discussion and to perform assigned tasks. The overall standard of learning is very good. The teachers succeed in creating a secure and stimulating learning environment. The classrooms are generally print-rich. The children’s work is celebrated in wall displays and exhibits. The lessons are structured and have clear learning objectives. The work programmes and plans implemented reflect and acknowledge the pupils’ environment and interests. Activity and discovery methods are successfully incorporated into aspects of the work. Teaching and learning resources are well used. Whole-class teaching is the predominant teaching approach with some group and pair work also used from time to time. A review of methodologies is recommended in order to develop collaborative and co-operative learning skills further through systematic and purposeful group and pair work. A range of after-school activities including, guitar, art and craft, short tennis, gymnastics, Irish dancing and French are arranged on a fee paying basis.

 

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá caighdeán maith i múineadh agus foghlaim na Gaeilge sa scoil.  Nochtaíónn pleanáil agus modhanna múinte na múinteoirí go bhful machnamh críochnúil déanta acu ar bhunphrionsabil an Churaclam Bunscoile.  Is léir go bhfuil leanúnchas agus dul chun cinn ó leibhéál go leibhéal. Déanann gach múinteoir iarracht chreidiúnach dearcadh dearfa a chruthú sna páistí.  De thoradh sin, úsáidtear an ceol, an drámaíocht agus cluichí go tairbheach chun tacú leis na gníomhaíochtaí foghlama agus chun spéis agus taitneamh na bpáístí sna ceachtanna a shaibhriú a thuilleadh.  Úsáidtear raon leathan d’achmhainní súl agus éisteachta.  Tá an Ghaeilge mar theanga theagaisc i múineadh na Gaeilge i gcuid is mó de na rangagnna.  B’fhiú an Ghaeilge amháin a úsáid i múineadh na Gaeilge i ngach rang, tríd an scoil. Cleachtar rangtheagasc, obair bheirte, grúpobair, cluichí agus drámaíocht  go torthúil ag a lán oidí i rith na gceachtanna. Moltar feidhm breise a bhaint as obair bheirte chun scileanna éisteachta agus labhartha na bpáistí a úsáid agus a fheabhsú. Baintear úsáid fhónta as gníomhamhráin agus rainn le linn an teagasc tríd an scoil.  Aitrisíonn na páistí na rainn agus na hamhráin go muiníneach agus go bródúil.  Tá scileanna réamhléitheoireachta curtha san áireamh ag an scoil.  Cé go bhfuil caighdeán maith ag na bpáistí sa Ghaeilge, ba chóir anois aire a dhíriú ar an bpleanáil chun cumas cumarsáide na bpáistí a fheabhsú níos mó le obair i ngrúpaí, obair bheirte agus féiniarrachtaí  na bpáistí sa drámaíocht a chothú.Tá sé le moladh ag an bhfoireann na hiarrachtaí a dhéanann siad chun frása na seachtaine a mhúineadh agus a chur chun cinn.

 

Irish

Teaching and learning in Irish are of a good standard. In their methodologies and in their planning for the teaching of Irish, the teachers take cognisance of the basic principles of the Irish curriculum. There is evidence of continuity and progression from class level to class level. All teachers endeavour to foster a positive attitude to the language among the children. In this regard, very good use is made of music, games and drama to enrich the learning activities and to make the lessons stimulating and enjoyable. A wide range of visual and auditory teaching and learning materials is used. The practice of using Irish as the medium of instruction during Irish lessons is evident in most classes. It is important to ensure that teachers use only Irish in Irish lessons at all levels through the school. Whole-class teaching, pair work, group work, games and drama are successfully used by many teachers during the lessons. There is scope for developing further the use of pair work in some classes in order to enable the children to use and advance their listening and speaking skills. Enjoyable action songs and poems are a praiseworthy feature of the teaching of Irish at all class levels in this school. The children perform those songs and poems with confidence and pride. Consideration is given to the development of pre-reading skills in this language. While the children’s overall standard of Irish is good, their achievements in this subject to date could be enhanced by further planned use of group and pair work and by enabling the children to create their own dramas. The teachers’ commitment to teaching and promoting the school’s “phrase of the week” is laudable.

 

 

English

A key and praiseworthy feature of the approach to teaching English in this school is the pivotal role that is given to oral language, both for its own sake and as an important integrating factor in the English curriculum. At each class level, oral work is taught in a focussed, effective way. The teachers systematically teach discrete oral language lessons as well as the vocabulary of specific curriculum areas. Good use is made of stories, poems, nursery rhymes and narrative to develop the children’s ability to ask questions. This approach could be enhanced by greater use of pair work in language lessons as the children progress through the school. In all classes, the children are enabled to expand their vocabulary and to develop the skill of listening actively. They engage openly and enthusiastically in oral language lessons. In general, they are fluent and explicit in communicating ideas and experiences.

 

Pre-reading skills and reading skills are thoroughly taught. A central place is given to the development of phonological and phonemic awareness in the teaching of word identification strategies. Particularly good use is made of nursery rhymes and poems in that regard. The infant classes are provided with regular opportunities to engage in early reading tasks through collaborative reading of large-format books and language-experience material. They demonstrate an ability to recall and discuss significant events and details in stories, to understand the function of text, and to predict future incidents and outcomes in stories. First and second class pupils have a very good grasp of letter-sound relationships, and make good use of contextual clues when attempting to identify unfamiliar words. They engage in shared reading activities, use the school library, visit local libraries, and engage in personal reading. A number of children and their parents work together to illustrate stories. Pupil achievement in reading is good. Standardised tests are used to monitor pupil progress.

 

One aspect of English that requires review and development on a whole-school basis is writing. Current approaches to the teaching of writing in the school vary. In some classes, the children write frequently, for different audiences and in different genres, and produce creative work that is of a high standard. That work includes illustrated class books, poems, cards and individual stories. In other classes, the approach to writing is more restricted with less emphasis on developing the children’s creativity and powers of expression. Review of the implementation of the school plan for writing is advised with particular regard to exploring further the possibilities of the teacher acting as scribe in infant classes, the use of ICT in the writing process, and the integration of writing with other curriculum areas in order to foster the children’s creativity.

 

 

 

4.3 Mathematics

The school plan for Mathematics is implemented effectively, with an appropriate balance between the strands. At all class levels, the language of Mathematics is thoroughly taught. The teachers and children use mathematical language effectively and accurately. Guidance for parents on mathematical language is regularly provided through parent/teacher meetings and information leaflets. Good use is made of illustrative materials, manipulatives and other mathematical resources during the lessons.

 

The predominant mode of instruction during mathematics lessons is whole-class teaching supported by the children’s individual use of a range of appropriate learning materials. At an individual level, the children experience the mathematics programme in an active, hands-on way and are afforded many opportunities to learn new concepts through guided discovery approaches. They have a good grasp of the strands of the mathematics curriculum. Children in the infant levels engage in early mathematical activities proficiently. A six-week Maths for Fun programme involving parents working in the classroom assisting senior infant pupils in numeracy development through games activities was recently implemented. Some differentiation of methodologies and assigned tasks according to the needs of particular children is evident at each class level. The children regularly and successfully engage in problem solving on an individual and whole-class basis. Very good use is made of the environment in developing problem-solving strategies. The children now require further training in the skills of collaboration and co-operation in mathematical activities. Specifically, it is recommended that they be given more opportunities to operate in pairs or small groups to solve problems co-operatively.

 

The children’s progress in all strands of the mathematics curriculum at all class levels is monitored through teacher observation, teacher-designed tests and tasks, error analysis, homework, parental feedback and the use of standardised tests. Good use is made of the outcomes of assessment in planning at whole-school and individual class level.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

In their teaching of History, the teachers make good use of integrated themes or topics to organise their work. They succeed in enabling the children to develop an interest in and curiosity about the past. They incrementally foster an understanding of the concepts of change and continuity over time.  They carefully provide for the acquisition of concepts and skills associated with sequence, time and chronology, appropriate to the developmental stages of the children. Good use is made of story; in particular the children’s own life stories. Photographic evidence and timelines are well used by the teachers and children. The children enjoy history lessons and have a good grasp of the material taught to date. It is now timely to consider the development and implementation of a whole-school plan for History that includes a whole-school programme for local history and systematic opportunities for the children to work as historians.

 

Geography

The geography curriculum taught represents a good balance between the three strands, human environments, natural environments, and environmental awareness and care. Talk and discussion are used effectively to stimulate interest and to develop knowledge within the three strands. A range of textbooks is used to support the lessons. The children demonstrate a good knowledge of the topics covered to date. Their sense of place and space is well developed. They have a good understanding of the local natural environment, and have a very good ability to integrate the work in Geography with their learning in other curriculum areas, most notably History and Science.

 

Science

The teachers’ individual planning provides evidence of a varied environmental studies programme, suited to the age and interest of the pupils. All classes have a nature/investigation table.  A good range of resources has been acquired and kits have been compiled for specific strand units.  The children are introduced to a range of themes that include aspects of human, plant and animal life. They enjoy learning about these topics and this work is enhanced through the use of colourful pictures and charts. The children complete a range of activities suitable to their age and stage of development.  The teachers promote the development of the pupils’ scientific language successfully. Lessons are generally well structured, combining direct teaching with activity-based learning. In a small number of classes, the promotion of active learning contexts was observed whereby all pupils engaged in hands-on activities and investigations.  It is important to ensure that pupils in all classes are provided with appropriate opportunities to engage in hands-on activities and investigations.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

An interest in the Visual Arts is cultivated throughout the school. Visual Arts activities are integrated successfully with other areas of the curriculum.  Opportunities are provided for pupils to explore many art elements using a variety of media. Purposeful talk and discussion are regular features of visual arts lessons. Pupil creativity is fostered and attention is directed at developing the children’s technical skills. Progression from year to year can be seen in the work on display.

 

Music

The children at each class level receive a systematic music education that encompasses the three strands of the curriculum and the musical elements in a sequence of progression and continuity from level to level. Through enjoyable and varied listening experiences, the children are encouraged to listen and respond to Music in a range of creative ways including movement, dance, discussion, illustration, writing and singing. Pulse, tempo, pitch and dynamics are incrementally explored and the children demonstrate a good understanding of appropriate musical concepts. Children in all classes know a good range of songs in Irish and in English. Action songs are sung with gusto at infant level. Song-singing in first and second class is tuneful and the children have a good grasp of music literacy. At all levels, the children are enabled to improvise and create Music. The standard of that work is very good. Integration of Music with other curriculum areas and linkage of the three stands occur at each class level. Children from the school participate in the annual Corfhéile.

 

Drama

School planning for Drama is due to commence shortly. Currently, Drama is integrated across many areas of the curriculum.  Some engagement in role play occurs as teachers use Drama as a methodology to stimulate interest and enhance learning in Irish, English, SESE and SPHE. Pupils are given opportunities to take part in drama activities through the annual school concert and through activities related to annual festivals and celebrations. It is recommended that, in conjunction with the development of a whole-school plan for Drama, all teachers begin to explore the strands of the drama curriculum on a whole-school basis through discrete drama lessons.

 

4.6 Physical Education

The pupils partake in Physical Education with enthusiasm. A number of aspects of the curriculum, including games, athletics, movement and creative dance are carefully taught. An emphasis on the development of specific skills related to games is apparent in the lessons. A range of large and small apparatus is available and is appropriately used. The pupils are encouraged to work in teams. Aquatics feature in the programme. The pupils participate in a range of sports. A gymnastics tutor teaches gymnastics to children in first and second classes. The standard of the children’s achievement in gymnastics is high.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

Relations between staff and pupils and among the pupils are respectful and warm. The staff is enthusiastic and caring. The children’s efforts and achievements are praised and celebrated. The teachers work collaboratively and in a manner that supports the work of one another and of the children. The Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum is effectively delivered. A whole-school relationships and sexuality education policy has been developed and implemented in consultation with parents. The Stay Safe and Walk Tall programmes are also used. During the lessons, the children are enabled to discuss feelings and reflect on decisions. Good use is made of circle-time type activities in several classes. Elements of the SPHE programme are integrated effectively with other curriculum areas such as English, SESE and the Visual Arts.

 

4.8 Assessment

All teachers engage in formal and informal assessment in their classes. The school has a policy on the administration of standardised tests. Standardised tests in English and Mathematics are administered annually to pupils from first class upwards.  The results of those tests are analysed and used in selecting children in need of additional support. An early screening test is administered at senior infant level to assess pupil progress and to ensure that early intervention occurs where and when necessary. This practice is commendable. Formal records of test results are maintained.

 

The teachers are also diligent in monitoring the pupils’ progress in a number of other ways. Teacher-observation of pupils, the correction of written tasks, the assignment of teacher-devised tasks and tests are among the praiseworthy features of practice in this regard. Checklists are used effectively by a number of teachers in documenting pupil achievement and progress. Diagnostic tests are used by the special education team to determine further specific needs of individual pupils. It is recommended that in the future review and development of whole-school curriculum policies, consideration be given to developing whole-school assessment practices across all curriculum areas.

 

5.     QUALITY OF SUPPORT FOR PUPILS

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of additional support provided for children with special educational needs is noteworthy. The staff is committed to enabling each child with special needs to achieve her full potential. Members of the special education team have attended courses on teaching children with learning difficulties. Two special education teachers deal with children with low-incidence disabilities. One teacher supports pupils with high-incidence disabilities. The focus of the work of the special education team is on supporting the development of the children’s literacy and numeracy skills and on enabling them to access the curriculum generally. The principal and staff have recently engaged in a whole-school review of planning for special education provision. The school’s special education policy takes into account the main principles and recommendations of the Learning-Support Guidelines (2000)

 

Clear procedures for the selection of pupils for supplementary teaching are in place.  The results of standardised tests, along with the teachers’ observation and monitoring of class work are used to identify pupils in need of support. The focus is on the lowest achieving children. Once a child is identified as being in need of additional support, an individual education programme (IEP) for that child is devised. Such programmes contain appropriate overall learning targets for each child. The school is committed to involving parents and class teachers formally in the processes of drawing up and reviewing IEPs for each child in receipt of additional support. In this regard, the school intends to employ a substitute teacher from time to time to enable class teachers and the special education team to liaise formally.

 

Very good practice exists in the individual special education settings. Teaching duties are undertaken in a professional manner. A wide range of effective strategies and useful resources is employed to engage pupils actively and purposefully in the learning process.  The use of ICT is particularly commendable. Detailed individual pupil records are carefully maintained. Ways of making records available to relevant personnel as appropriate should be kept under review. Under present arrangements the pupils identified as being in need of supplementary teaching are withdrawn from their classrooms either individually or in small groups. It is recommended that consideration now be given to developing a whole-school approach to additional ways of providing supplementary teaching such as in-class support and team teaching. The special needs assistants discharge their duties competently and with commitment.

 

 

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

This is an inclusive school. It supports the active participation of all children in the life of the school, including children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, international pupils and children from other minority groups. The school has a lunch scheme and a uniform scheme supported by the parents’ association. Fourteen of the international pupils attending the school are in receipt of language support. It is reported that a ‘Rainbows’ programme is offered to children in difficult situations. 

 

 6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         Management and staff work effectively together to provide a happy, caring and inclusive learning environment for the pupils.

·         The board of management, principal and teachers are competent, diligent and professional.

·         The parents are actively supportive of the work of the school and demonstrate a keen interest in their children’s education. Home-school-community links are effectively fostered.

·         There is a shared commitment to and focus on teaching, learning and pupil achievement.

·         There is a strong tradition of and commitment to planning in the school.

·         The overall standard of learning is very good.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

·         It is recommended that the duties attached to each post of responsibility be reviewed with reference to Circular 07/03, the changing needs of the school, and new developments in education.

·         A review of methodologies is recommended in order to develop collaborative and co-operative learning skills further.

·         It is recommended that consideration be given to developing whole-school assessment practices across all curriculum areas.

·         It is recommended that consideration be given to developing a whole-school approach to additional ways of providing supplementary teaching.

·         It is recommended that the school devise a policy regarding the management and distribution of teaching and learning materials in the school.

 

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.