An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St. Oliver Plunkett’s NS

Clonmel, County Tipperary

Uimhir rolla:  19645E

 

Date of inspection: 08 October 2009

 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation 

 

A whole-school evaluation of St. Oliver Plunkett’s NS was undertaken in October 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, Mathematics and History.  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

St. Oliver Plunkett’s NS is a large co-educational school. It is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore. It qualifies under Band 1 of the Department of Education and Science (DES), Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) Initiative and the school has designated disadvantaged status. Since its foundation in 1982 the school has played a vital role in serving the community wherein it is held in high esteem. It is characterised by its warm welcoming atmosphere and very high standards of maintenance in the building and grounds. Constructed to respond to a population need, enrolment figures have fallen since 2006 though they have now stabilised and projected enrolment remains consistent for 2010 at 479 pupils.

 

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

479

Mainstream classes in the school

23

Teachers on the school staff

38

Mainstream class teachers

23

Teachers working in support roles

14

Special needs assistants

7

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school community report that the characteristic spirit of the school is as important today as it was when the school was founded. There is a great sense of community spirit, cooperation and pride in the school. The mission statement advocates respect for differences and care for all in an environment where individual talents and self-confidence are developed. These principles were observed in practice to an admirable degree during the course of the evaluation.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and operates in a focused manner. Members of the board, particularly the chairperson, are a visible supportive presence in the school. The board reflects and considers carefully the matters at hand and is committed to the continuing development of the school. Board members have availed of training to assist them in their role. The board meets according to a schedule and more frequently when important and urgent matters arise. Minutes of meetings are appropriately recorded. Accounts are certified annually. The board participates very effectively in the development of the school plan including both organisational and curricular elements. It emphasises consultation with all stakeholders during the policy- ratification process. An example of the efficacy of this approach is their attendance policy which has proven to be a most successful element of the DEIS programme. A further example of the dedication of the board and its concern for the welfare of pupils is demonstrated in the time and expertise that they recently expended in revising the school’s enrolment policy. Consideration should now be given to the production of an annual report by the board to inform parents of on-going progress about all aspects of the school.

 

The board is primarily concerned with the educational, social and personal needs of pupils. Members of the board expressed their satisfaction with the overall progress made by pupils in the school. It sees its role now as building on and developing current school strengths. The board demonstrates admirable dedication to this cause through its provision of all possible supports to pupils. It is complimented on the excellent condition of the school building and grounds. It expressed its gratitude for the collaboration of the ancillary staff, teachers and pupils in achieving this praiseworthy outcome. The board also expressed appreciation for the financial support given to the school by the DES in regards to building, maintenance and supports for teaching and learning. Members of the board expressed their gratitude for the leadership given throughout the years by the Rosminian Order whose members have acted as chairpersons of the board since the establishment of St. Oliver’s Parish.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal provides exemplary leadership. He is very effective in ensuring, with the active co-operation of colleagues, that whole-school planning is consistently progressed. In the compilation of the various administrative and curricular plans there is much evidence that the principal motivates members of the school community in collaborative decision-making.  He is successful in placing the main focus of attention in the school on teaching and learning. Through his role he supports other members of staff and works with them in monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of learning outcomes in curricular areas. He also devotes significant time and energy to ensuring the general welfare of pupils and the whole school community. His motivation stems from a very clear commitment to prepare pupils for life-long learning through their engagement with the school. His work in the promotion of positive behaviour among the pupils is most commendable. The principal plays a key role in providing access to appropriate support for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

 

In-school management (ISM) comprises the principal, the deputy principal, four assistant principals and twelve special duties post-holders. The team is conscious of its responsibilities and is successful in ensuring the smooth day-to-day administration and organisation of general school activities. There is a discernible sense of good order and work ethic at all times. Duties are undertaken competently and professionally. Responsibilities have been assigned to members of the team on a curricular, organisational or pastoral basis. Whole-staff meetings are held regularly and careful minutes are kept. The ISM is commended for its care in ensuring that curricular matters are central to the work of these meetings. Opportunities for the management team to address staff meetings with regard to development in their areas of responsibility are frequently utilised to very good effect. Consultation within the team about in-school management activity takes place on a regular but informal basis. No formal meetings of the in-school management team are convened. It is now recommended that a formal mechanism be established for the team to meet regularly to further develop their leadership role. 

 

1.4 Management of resources

A determined effort is made by the board to ensure that all resources are deployed effectively and in the best interests of pupils. A staff rotation policy allows for all teachers to gain experience of teaching in a variety of classes and contexts, and for a sharing of expertise at different class levels and in different learning contexts. The board supports and encourages teachers to avail of professional development opportunities. The teaching staff is commended for availing of such opportunities on a regular basis. The school benefits from the services of two full-time staff under the School Completion Programme (SCP). Seven special needs assistants (SNAs) are employed by the board. The SNAs are furnished with contracts and role definitions which are clear and unambiguous. One school secretary is employed on a full-time basis and provides valuable support to school management and to teaching staff. An office assistant and secretarial assistant are also employed on a part-time basis and they ably conduct administrative duties. The full-time caretaker is most effective in his role and displays a keen sense of pride in his work. He is assisted by a part-time caretaker. Cleaning is conducted to a high standard and three kitchen staff prepare lunches for many pupils daily. 

 

The school is well resourced and it is evident that the board spends curricular grants wisely. There is an extensive supply of teaching and learning resources available in each classroom and these are used to good effect across the curriculum. Attractive learning environments have been created in classrooms. All resources are audited and full lists of resources, under each of the curricular areas, are outlined in the school plan. There is a computer and printer in each classroom. The use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) is further facilitated by the provision of thirty laptop computers. Wireless and wired broadband networks have been installed in the school.

 

Resources for English, Mathematics and History

A broad range of resources is available to support teaching and learning in English. These resources include books, large format books, teacher-devised and commercial materials. ICTs form part of that resource. Pupils efficiently use software and the internet as a reference resource while concurrently developing their word-processing skills. The school has an extensive supply of mathematics resources which have been well chosen, which are both stimulating and interactive. Commendably, this includes a substantial number of physical resources which provide ‘hands-on’ activities for pupils in all class settings, including senior classes. There is a good balance between teacher resources and pupil resources, with appropriate provision for all strands of the curriculum. Typically, some resources are stored in the classroom and are shared among teachers of the same class levels. This practice works very effectively. Additional resources are centrally stored. The school has compiled an extensive inventory of mathematical resources under each of the curriculum strands. This is organised very efficiently to ensure ready access and usage of resources by teachers. To further enhance the provision of resources, greater use of the school environment and the design of maths trails are now recommended. A number of websites have been highlighted in the plan to enhance curriculum delivery in History. CD ROMs, many supported by a teacher’s resource pack, are available to assist teaching and learning in History. Teachers have access to a well-stocked school library. Two staff members have particular expertise in History. They are commended for their leadership, supported by the invaluable help and advice of two local historians and environmentalists, when recently formulating a comprehensive resource pack on local history. The pack contains teachers’ notes, CDs, photographs, maps, diagrams and quizzes on a broad range of local historical sites and events. This is a most praiseworthy enterprise and the proposal to present the pack to all teachers in the immediate future is welcomed.

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Very effective structures are in place to promote positive relations among the school community and to communicate with parents regarding their children’s education. The parents’ association, established in 1990 is affiliated to the National Parents Council. The association takes an active role in the formulation of administrative and curricular planning. It has contributed to the development of school policies on child protection and homework and is currently working collaboratively with the school on devising a critical incident policy. A notable feature of this school is the wide range of activities in which parents are involved. Parents have participated in Maths for Fun with pupils in junior classes and in the Reading Tree project during the last school year. Some parents have availed of a six-week course on local history organised through the Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) and history co-ordinators.

 

The inspectors met with representatives of the parents’ association as part of the whole-school evaluation process. The officers of the association commented on the openness and welcome afforded to all parents by teachers. They reported that parents are pleased with the overall education provision that is given to their children and expressed appreciation for the positive manner in which teachers support and encourage them. Representatives of the association expressed satisfaction with levels and methods of communication within the school. An end of year progress report is furnished for each pupil, accompanied by the school calendar. Parents commented favourably on timely notifications sent to them regarding school events which are printed in a friendly and accessible format. They expressed particular appreciation for the welcome cards and name badges sent by the HCSL teacher to all in-coming infant pupils in the days before the commencement of their first day in school. Parents commended the school for its provision of practical support in relation to the homework club, the availability of school lunches and cost-effective uniform design.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

The management of pupils in this school is excellent. The school’s participation in a wide variety of DES and local programmes contribute greatly to enabling pupils reach their full potential in an inclusive environment. DES initiatives undertaken in the school include First Steps, Ready Set Go Maths and Literacy Lift Off. Community initiatives involve Barnardos Family Support Project, Local Education Network and Local Library Literacy Initiatives. The SCP provides a wide range of assistance including coordination of the homework club. Pupils from 4th class to 6th class participate in the school choir. It is very evident that they derive great enjoyment from their engagement with singing and they perform to a high standard at local and national events. The commitment of staff in the promotion of sport and in providing additional training outside of school hours is acknowledged and commended. Pupils’ behaviour is generally very good both inside and outside of the classrooms with encouragement of positive behaviour being actively promoted.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The school demonstrates a creditable awareness of the central importance of developmental planning and has clearly outlined dates for review of all curricular plans. Collaboration is shown in the process of formulating whole-school plans, both curricular and organisational. Five targeted three-year strategic plans have been devised as part of the DEIS initiative. These include strategies to promote parental involvement, attendance and partnership between school and statutory/voluntary agencies. These comprehensive documents outline clear targets to be attained within specified timeframes. Much success has been experienced in reaching targets that have been set for attainment in literacy and for achieving improved levels of pupils’ attendance in school. Regular monitoring of the effectiveness of these strategies is undertaken by the principal, members of in-school management and the HSCL coordinator.

 

Commendably, planning documentation includes the actions to be undertaken that are reflective of the principles of the curriculum including content, methodology and skills development. Implementation of planning in classrooms is monitored through discussion and debate at staff meetings wherein the impact of actions is explored. Teachers’ monthly progress reports record implementation of whole-school approaches to literacy and numeracy. The school plan specifies on-going revisions to enhance classroom implementation and demonstrates a keen awareness of the particular needs of pupils.  

 

English

There is clear cohesion between the whole-school plan and individual teachers’ long and short-term plans. Aims and objectives outlined in the plan are closely followed in practice through purposeful implementation in teaching. Planning for oral language outlines the diversity in the oral language skills of pupils and this is, for the most part, commendably reflected in teachers’ practice in classrooms. Helpful guidance is provided with regard to procedures for development in oral language, reading and writing. The plan addresses the wide range of assessment modes to be employed and advocates a collaborative approach in devising individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) for pupils who receive individual teaching. The plan also provides direction on organisational planning and guides teachers in the use of a graded library in each classroom. Parental involvement with regard to paired reading is outlined together with structures for involving parents in supporting their childrens’ learning in the classroom. The DEIS literacy plan is now in its third year of implementation. An innovative strategy has been devised in response to the explicit literacy needs of pupils. Targets have been productively set, supported through defined actions, within specified timeframes. The school is highly praised in its success to date with regard to targets achieved in improved outcomes in standardised reading tests. Appropriately, assessment features prominently in the provision for English. All teachers maintain progress records in aspects of this area of the curriculum. Some records are further commended for their outline of reflective practices in relation to assessment that influence planning on a class and individual pupil basis.

 

Mathematics

The school presents a coherent plan for Mathematics. The planning process demonstrates high levels of collaboration and reflects the outcomes of the school’s self-evaluation. The agreed rationale outlined in the plan is the raising of the standard of attainments in Mathematics through the sharing and dissemination of the most effective approaches. Commendable emphasis is placed on the central role of language in teaching and learning. The use of the immediate environment as a resource is also promoted. The clear structure and presentation of the plan contributes to its accessibility by the school community. The plan is further supported by the implementation of the three-year DEIS Plan for numeracy wherein specific targets are set through precise identified interventions throughout the school. This action plan sets challenging but achievable aims and indicates how developments will be resourced, assigns responsibility and outlines how effectiveness will be evaluated. Specific actions have been effectively determined for mainstream and support teachers. These include increased usage of concrete materials, the establishment of specific numeracy targets for pupils at each class level and renewed emphasis on developing problem-solving strategies. The developmental planning process practiced in the school facilitates the implementation of specific prevention and intervention actions.

 

History

The comprehensive whole-school plan for History demonstrates a collaborative process of development facilitating an authentic common understanding of the school’s history programme. Strand units are allocated to each class level and topics of in-depth study have been selected for middle and senior classes. Text books have been used in the selection of some topics. It is clear that the school plan significantly influences content selection at class level although implementation of agreed methodologies is less apparent. When reviewing the plan it is recommended that greater direction be given regarding approaches to ensure that topics revisited under the strand of Myself and My Family provide for greater continuity and progression in content and skills while avoiding repetition. Adjustment to the time allocated to Social Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) in some junior classes is recommended because time currently allocated to this area of the curriculum is insufficient. Appropriate provision is made for the contribution of parents, grandparents and the wider community in supporting the implementation of the history curriculum.

 

Individual teachers’ planning

At classroom level teachers place emphasis on delivering a broad and balanced curriculum which is rich and challenging. All teachers diligently prepare long and short-term plans and record progress in each of the curriculum areas. Classroom planning commendably reflects teacher awareness of whole-school curricular plans and of the principles of the primary curriculum. Teachers organise their planning in line with the respective strands and strand units of the curricular areas. In most cases, teachers make reference to specific learning objectives, resources, teaching strategies and assessment. A variety of templates is used to address the planning and recording of work, all of which have commendable elements. However, in the interest of uniformity and increased team effectiveness, it is recommended that staff consider further refining the agreed formats for long and short-term planning. Monthly progress is recorded consistently on an agreed template and it is now recommended that this work should connect more closely with the overall assessment priorities of the school. The collection of data in relation to specific curricular areas over a defined period of time would thereby provide the school with additional information which could be used to further refine support provision. Planning currently provides for the modification of learning tasks in core curriculum areas to meet the needs of less able pupils. In order to address the specific needs of pupils at all levels of ability, it is recommended that the type of work that pupils engage in be further differentiated in additional areas of the curriculum. Such an approach would fruitfully extend differentiated group and individualised teaching and learning.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

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

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 English

The quality of teaching in English is very good. The school recognises the central role of language in developing pupils’ knowledge and understanding. The teachers are aware of the range of ability throughout the school and have prioritised a focus on oral language competence. Some very effective teaching strategies were observed where modelling, structured discussion and guided practice were used successfully to scaffold pupils’ cognitive development. Specialised intensive interventions have been successfully introduced. These are focused on improving literacy skills at junior level, the generation of enthusiasm for reading in middle classes and the development of comprehension strategies in middle and senior classes. Most pupils at junior level respond enthusiastically to story, enjoy using concrete materials as a stimulus for talking and recite rhymes with enthusiasm. In most other contexts pupils participate fully in group discussions and respond to visual stimuli in discrete oral language lessons. However, some variety exists in the standard of oral competence in the school. In a few learning contexts, pupils were subdued or occasionally unclear in responding to questions. It is advised that good practice in extending oral competence as demonstrated in many classrooms be extended throughout the school as a whole with a renewed emphasis on clear diction and on maintaining eye contact in oral responses. As part of this further development of the literacy programme it is recommended that specific oral language indicators be developed for each class level.

 

Teachers demonstrate an appreciation of the benefits of drawing from a repertoire of approaches in the teaching of reading. Infant classrooms are print-rich and provide a most stimulating learning environment. Very well structured pre-reading lessons were observed. Phonological awareness is systematically developed with appropriate emphasis on onset and rime and word attack skills. Pupils are familiar with the conventions of books. Intensive in-class guided teaching is a regular feature of practice in infant classrooms where silent reading and reading aloud are skilfully directed. Pupils are exposed to a wide range of reading material and they display good understanding of genres. Commendably, in some instances pupils maintain personal records of books read. Reading trees feature in many classrooms in accordance with the school plan. The class novel is aptly used in many middle and senior classes although consideration should now be given to extending the range of approaches used in order to encourage greater enthusiasm in reluctant readers. The use of libraries is a feature of the work in all classrooms. A suitable range of large format books is used appropriately in junior classes to promote an interest in reading. While class libraries are generally sufficiently stocked it is recommended that the range of reading material be extended to include books and magazines with factual content.

 

Dedicated areas for writing feature in many classes wherein pupils’ written work in a variety of genres is attractively displayed. Process writing shows creditable outcomes in many classes. Pupils’ work in copybooks demonstrates the range of written activity which is developed as free, creative and functional writing. In many classes pupils are effectively supported with prompts to improve the outcomes of written work. Support includes the use of checklists, word-prompt boxes and writers’ chests. The coaching of pupils on constructive self and peer-evaluation of written work is a most commendable feature in some classes. It is suggested that this excellent practice be extended throughout the school. A comprehensive policy statement outlines proposed practice for the teaching of handwriting. Attention to handwriting begins in infant classes wherein teachers maintain checklist of pupils’ ability to form letters by tracing and from memory. Clear guidelines on whole-school approaches to handwriting are outlined in the plan, yet differences exist in the school regarding style and quality of pupils’ handwriting and in the standard of written presentation. Review of the policy and practice on handwriting is now recommended. The school plan demonstrates an awareness of the intrinsic value of poetry. Its place in the curriculum with regard to enhancing the emotional development of pupils and the development of their imagination is clearly outlined. Pupils explore poetry, its sentiment and its structure. They are trained in analysis of the conventions of poetry. The plan outlines a rich and varied repertoire and points to the benefits of children reciting poetry. However, as pupils move up through the school emphasis on recitation is limited. This aspect merits further development in some learning contexts.  

 

3.2 Mathematics

The overall quality of teaching is very good. Many teachers are particularly well informed on innovative approaches to teaching Mathematics and creative practices are embedded in classroom practice. The teachers’ reflective practices impact positively on the teaching and learning. They provide clear explanations in lessons and new content is successfully introduced in a manner relevant to the pupils’ lives. For the most part teachers ensure that teaching approaches, learning tasks and content are appropriately matched to the diversity of pupils’ learning needs. Commendably new learning builds on previous understanding of concepts. The pupils participate with enthusiasm in mental mathematics and loop games which are organised in many classes to reinforce concepts. In most classes, praiseworthy emphasis is placed on the acquisition of mathematical language where learning is reinforced through language-rich, attractive teacher-designed and commercial resources. Cooperative teaching strategies are used in junior classes, with the Ready Set Go Maths programme currently operating effectively in all infant classes. Maths Recovery approaches are employed with pupils in first class while whole-school agreement has been reached on a wide variety of other strategies to improve attainment in numeracy. Such approaches serve to impact positively on the school as a learning community. To further build on good practice it is recommended that the approach to the teaching of subtraction be kept under continuing review.

 

The pupils display a very positive attitude to learning. Their understanding is clearly reflected in their questioning, their responses to questions and in their written work. Particular achievement was noted during the evaluation in regards to pupils’ ability to solve problems which was commendably supported by their skilful use of learned strategies. The pupils clearly demonstrate a command of concepts in the areas of shape and space, place value, measures and early mathematical activities. Active learning methodologies and the use of manipulative materials feature prominently throughout the school. Assessment is a prominent aspect of the teaching and many teachers use a variety of checklists and tasks to assess attainment on an individual and whole-class level.  In some contexts pupils demonstrate knowledge of their own learning needs. These pupils are actively encouraged to reflect upon their own learning and to become aware of their own strengths and learning requirements. They receive feedback from their teachers and are then enabled to recognise the steps they can take to improve attainment. Such practice is most praiseworthy.

 

3.3 History

The quality of teaching in History is good. Whole-class teaching is complemented by the use of purposeful group activities. Teaching is structured and paced appropriately to stimulate pupils’ interests. Many lessons recall pupils’ previous learning. Where active learning strategies are employed pupils practice collaborative research skills. In many classrooms fruitful integration with Geography is practised. Consideration should now be given to greater integration with Science and to the use of the local environment. Most classes have a dedicated area for SESE subjects with suitable time lines displayed in many learning contexts.  Some good practice was seen where pictorial clues demonstrated change and continuity in personalised timelines. Careful attention is paid to teaching subject-specific cognitive language. The teaching of story in infants and junior classes is linked purposefully to real events and to pupils’ experiences in order to develop their understanding of chronology. In some instances active participation in story is encouraged in order to develop pupils’ empathy and to maximise their participation. Time and chronology are developed through appropriate sequencing activities. Pupils can confidently discuss, retell and record a range of stories including elements of myths and legends from Ireland and from other cultures. Most pupils display a sound overall knowledge and understanding of the content of topics covered. It is considered that a greater emphasis throughout the school in the future on development of the skills of working as a historian would deepen this understanding. Where pupils are regularly provided with opportunities to use historical evidence they display commendable development of the skills of working as a historian.

 

Age-appropriate artefacts are used in many classrooms. The quality of pupils’ interaction with these resources varied to some degree. The quality of learning outcomes was high in classes where time was allocated to fully explore artefacts and where pupils were scaffolded in their exploration. Some class libraries support learning in History. Learning is recorded neatly in copybooks, on worksheets and on impressive walls displays. Most pupils are enabled to discuss their learning.

 

Aspects of the local historical environment have been explored with visits by some pupils to Norman habitation sites at Knockgraffon and Cahir Castle. Some classes have attended the restoration celebration for the Main Guard in Clonmel while others participated in the National Heritage Week programme with walking tours of historical sites in the town.  Political history has also been addressed with visits to the school by a local Teachta Dála which preceded a visit by some pupils to Dáil Éireann. It is advised that greater emphasis now be placed on the teaching of local history and on a greater use of teachers' expertise in this area to enrich pupils’ understanding of their local environment and local heritage.

 

3.4 Assessment

A wide variety of assessment strategies is used at individual-class level and includes teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests, photographic records, work samples, portfolios and projects and the monitoring of pupils’ written activities. Purposeful checklists are maintained in many contexts which document the pupils’ attainment in a number of subject areas.  Teachers’ reflective practices which were noted in the analysis of assessment results in many classrooms are highly commended. In some instances formative assessment strategies were observed to significantly influence the effectiveness of teaching and learning in English and Mathematics. At whole-school level pupil attainment is monitored primarily in English and Mathematics. Early intervention strategies include the use of the Middle Infants Screening Test in all senior infants’ pupils in January each year. The Young Group Reading Test is also administered to 1st, 2nd and 3rd classes each September. The Non-Reading Intelligence Test (NRIT) is administered to 2nd and 5th classes each November. All classes from 1st to 6th are tested in the Drumcondra Reading and Mathematics Standardised Tests. The analysis of the results of these tests is commendably led by members of the special education team. The school is praised in this analysis which is used to inform targets for improved attainment in literacy and numeracy as part of its DEIS initiative.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

School policy provides suitable direction in relation to the school’s provision for pupils with special educational needs (SEN). Currently, supplementary teaching in English and Mathematics is provided for lower-achieving pupils. This is complemented by the implementation of prevention and early intervention programmes in junior classes. In-class support is provided in a range of classes to enhance competence in literacy. The school is praised for its on-going commitment to the implementation of innovative intervention programmes in response to pupils’ assessed needs.

 

Supplementary teaching is provided by a large team of SEN teachers. Members of the team have engaged in a wide variety of relevant short-term professional development courses. Opportunities are provided for the sharing of relevant knowledge and skills among colleagues. The implementation of a more structured approach to develop the capacity of the SEN team is advised. The SEN team engages in on-going formal and informal communication with class teachers. This practice is praiseworthy because it facilitates the exchange of pertinent information in addressing the learning needs of individual pupils. As a means of further facilitating the co-ordination of SEN provision within the school, it is recommended that responsibility for coordination be allocated to a nominated member of the SEN team.

 

A wide range of resources appropriate to the needs and abilities of the pupils is available and suitably employed. The efforts of SEN teachers to provide stimulating teaching environments in the context of space constraints are acknowledged. Individual profiles and learning programmes (IPLPs) are drawn up for pupils who receive additional supports. The IPLPs result from consultation between class teachers and SEN teachers. Parental involvement and pupil input are facilitated during this process. At the end of each instructional term, the success of the intervention is evaluated, following which, decisions are taken regarding each pupil’s need for further support. In many instances the development of clear and specific learning targets in IPLPs is adequately informed by school-based and external assessment. It is recommended that these assessment outcomes be used consistently in devising learning targets and in structuring subsequent interventions.

 

Overall, the SEN teachers work productively in co-operation with class teachers in mainstream settings. In many instances, supplementary teaching on a withdrawal basis is delivered in a structured manner that is responsive to individual pupil’s particular learning needs. Increased differentiation and attention to the specific learning needs of individual pupils are advised in some withdrawal settings. The commitment of the special needs assistants (SNAs) in fulfilling their assigned responsibilities is praised and teachers ensure that SNAs work successfully under their direction.

 

Very good progress in pupil learning and achievement is evident. Pupils engage enthusiastically in the range of activities provided. The SEN team are successful in promoting the pupils’ self confidence and in encouraging them to become independent learners. Particular commendation is deserved because of the school’s success in raising pupil literacy standards. In this context, it is recommended that increased SEN time and personnel resources be directed to the targeted improvement of pupils’ mathematical attainment.

 

 

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

A number of newcomer pupils for whom English is an additional language (EAL) attend the school. A policy, detailing the school’s approaches to EAL provision, has been drafted recently. School policy and practices successfully promote inclusion and the culture of newcomer pupils is actively celebrated in the school. Newcomer pupils receive additional language support based on the outcomes of their assessed language-learning needs. Suitable programmes of learning are devised following consultation with relevant class teachers. Language support is provided on a withdrawal and in-class basis. It is delivered in a structured manner for set periods of time and with parental approval. A combination of teaching approaches that includes direct instruction, teacher-modelling, games and structured group work is used purposefully. It is advised that the pupils be provided with regular opportunities to engage in play, including role-play, as a means of fostering their expressive language competence. A range of stimulating resources is usefully employed to support the pupils’ learning. The pupils demonstrate creditable progress in language development, in literacy and numeracy and their participation in mainstream curriculum learning is suitably supported. The school is praised for its encouragement of the parents of its newcomer pupils to access language classes in the local community.    

 

The HSCL programme is carefully managed and is successfully guided by the school’s aim of maintaining high levels of communication between home and school. Home visits to parents of specially identified pupils form part of the work of the HSCL co-ordinator. Contacts are established with parents of junior infant children and with parents of children who enrol in the school for the first time during the school year. School lunches are provided to some pupils and three members of staff are employed to provide this service through the Better Ireland Programme. The HSCL co-ordinator has worked effectively in collaboration with the SCP to establish a successful homework club four afternoons per week. Parents have supported in-class activities in Mathematics, in reading and in Visual Arts in junior classes. They have been invited to participate in school garden activities. The garden has achieved notable recognition and praise in local competitions. The coordinator collaborates with the Resource teachers for Travellers (RTTs). Traveller pupils are integrated successfully into school life. The HSCL coordinator assists in monitoring attendance and the school enjoys attendance levels significantly above national norms.  Another feature of the co-ordinator’s work is liaising with the many community and other support groups which are active in South Tipperary. The school, through the HSCL scheme and through the principal, has established strong links with Barnardos. The school’s commitment to addressing educational disadvantage under DEIS is praiseworthy and an inclusive culture permeates all interactions within the school community. Very positive home-school links ensure optimal provision for the pupils in this school.

 

 

5.     Conclusion 

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published March 2010

 

 

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 and staff of St Oliver’s N.S. wish to sincerely thank the inspectors involved for the professional and cooperative manner in which the Whole School Evaluation was carried out in our school.

 

We are very pleased that the many positive aspects of our school received due recognition and we intend to implement the key recommendations in the report.