An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

  

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

  

 

Rush National School

Rush, County Dublin

Roll number: 19660A

  

 

Date of inspection: 27 February 2006

Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

1. Quality of school management

1.1 Board of management

1.2 In-school management

1.3 Management of resources

2. Quality of school planning

2.1 The school planning process and the content of the school plan

2.2 Implementation and impact of the school plan

3. Quality of learning and teaching in curriculum areas

3.1 Language

3.2 Mathematics

3.3 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE)

3.4 Arts Education

3.5 Physical Education (PE)

3.6 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

3.7 Assessment and achievement

4. Quality of support for pupils

4.1 Provision for pupils with special educational needs

4.2 Provision for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds

4.3 Provision for pupils from minority groups

4.4 Home-school partnership

5. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development


This Whole School Evaluation Report

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Rush 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 students and teachers and examined students’ work. 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 was given an opportunity to comment on the findings of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

Introduction

 

Rush National School is a large co-educational vertical school located in north Co. Dublin. Over the past number of years enrolment has increased steadily as a result of major housing developments in the area. There are currently 675 pupils enrolled. Many pupils attending the school come from well-established farming communities in the area. While a broad range of pupils now attends the school, the familial atmosphere of a smaller community school has not been lost. The mission statement of the school emphasises its Catholic ethos and the role of the school in developing all dimensions of the lives of its pupils, in close collaboration with their parents and in the context of the wider community. The mutual respect between pupils, parents, the board of management and the school staff is evident across a range of interactions on a day to day basis.

 

 

1. Quality of school management

 

1.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meets on a monthly basis. Members of the board display a strong commitment to the development of the school and support its operation in practical ways. The chairperson visits the school on a very regular basis and takes a keen interest in school functioning and in the maintenance of the building and grounds. Roles and responsibilities of board members are well delineated and members participate in various sub-committees along with teachers and parents to carry out particular tasks related to the functioning of the school. Board members report that meetings are constructive and that the full participation of all members is actively encouraged.

 

In recent years the board has made significant progress in developing a range of policies to respond to the requirements of relevant legislation and to support the smooth running of the school. Policies are available to parents on the school website and in hard copy in the school. Suitable attention is paid to compliance with Department of Education and Science regulations with regard to time in school, class size and the employment of teachers. Effective channels of communication have been established to facilitate liaison between the board and other partners in the school. Two members of the parents’ council serve as members of the board of management and facilitate good communication between the two bodies.

 

 

1.2 In-school management

The principal, who was appointed four years ago, has been a member of the teaching staff for many years. The leadership demonstrated is characterised by close familiarity with the local community and the families of pupils, good interpersonal skills and good working relationships with colleagues, with the board and with pupils and their parents. The principal’s management of the day-to-day functioning of this large school is very effective. The holistic development of pupils is central to his philosophy of education. The significant changes that have taken place in relation to curriculum matters and the internal management of the school have been undertaken successfully under his leadership.

 

The in-school management team supporting the principal consists of a deputy principal, three assistant principals and nine special duties teachers.  A broad range of duties has been assigned to post holders. These include responsibility for curricular areas, for aspects of school organisation and for pastoral care. Post holders carry out their duties with competence and diligence and report to their colleagues at staff meetings in relation to aspects of their duties. The management team meets once a term outside school hours to discuss aspects of its work. While it is reported that areas of responsibility attaching to the various posts were outlined prior to interviews, detailed written job descriptions are not currently available. It is recommended that job specifications now be drawn up for all post holders and that all posts carry responsibility for curriculum development and for aspects of school organisation and pastoral care. It is further recommended that duties should provide opportunities for post holders to develop their professional leadership skills while, at the same time, responding to the developing needs of the school.

 

The pleasant and purposeful learning environment of the school provides clear evidence of the effectiveness of the school’s code of behaviour. Staff members ensure that pupils are well cared for, and pupils throughout the school are respectful of each other and of adult members of the school community. The development of pupils’ self esteem is clearly a priority with the staff.

 

1.3 Management of resources

The teaching staff consists of twenty-three mainstream class teachers, five full-time special needs teachers and a part-time English language teacher. It is school policy to offer teachers a range of teaching experiences from year to year. Classes are assigned by the principal, taking into account the needs of pupils and the preferences of teachers. Consideration might now be given to mobility between mainstream teaching and special education assignments to further enhance the shared understanding of the whole-school approach to meeting the needs of all pupils. The school authorities are to be commended for their proactive approach to developing an effective mentoring system to support newly-qualified teachers. The strategy of using the expertise of other colleagues to assist teachers in implementing some new aspects of the curriculum has been identified as a useful means of up-skilling teachers. The non-teaching staff consists of a full-time secretary, a full-time caretaker, three special needs assistants and a team of four cleaners. Clear roles and responsibilities have been drawn up for all non-teaching staff and they are suitably deployed to support pupils and to assist in the functioning of the school.

 

An extensive range of material resources is available to support teaching and learning throughout the school. These resources are well maintained under the guidance of special duties teachers. Resources include a good supply of computers and peripherals, a range of audio-visual equipment, well-stocked class libraries, a variety of mathematical manipulatives, science kits, musical instruments and educational charts and posters across a range of curricular areas. In general, resources are well utilised. A review of the school’s Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) policy should focus on the learning potential to be derived from regular use of the range of ICT resources in the school.

 

There are sixteen classrooms in the original school building. Prefabricated units have been acquired to accommodate a further seven classes, while support teachers work in smaller rooms in the main building and in one prefabricated room. An additional prefabricated classroom, not required for a mainstream class this year, provides a suitable setting for a range of school activities, including art-making. Teachers have made considerable efforts to provide stimulating learning environments in their classrooms through colourful displays and dedicated learning areas. In a few classrooms, however, space is not utilized to its full potential. More effective use of space in these rooms would accommodate pupils’ need to move freely to access learning areas. A fine hard-surfaced playground provides a suitable area for sports and recreation, and dedicated areas are assigned to pupils from various class levels to allow children to play in safety. A large indoor hall, an outdoor hard court and a games pitch are valuable assets to this school, where a significant emphasis is placed on providing a wide range of sports activities for pupils.

 

The school building and its environs are exceptionally well maintained and much credit is due to the board of management, the staff, the pupils and their parents in this regard. To enhance the physical environment of the school, the board has applied to the Department of Education and Science for funding to replace old windows and to upgrade some rooms in the main building, especially the staffroom, offices and meeting rooms. Additional car-parking facilities for staff are also planned.

 

 

2. Quality of school planning

 

2.1 The school planning process and the content of the school plan

The school plan includes an extensive range of policies that support the effective running of the school, together with policies relating to all curricular areas. All partners in the school community have been actively involved in the planning process. The establishment of a policy sub-committee with representatives of the board of management, of teachers and of parents gives practical realisation to the requirements of the Education Act to develop a school plan. Drafts of policies in relation to non-curricular areas are drawn up by the sub-committee and circulated to partners for consideration and feedback.

 

Significant work has been done in recent years in building on the experiences of teachers during in-service for the Primary Curriculum 1999. Policies for curricular areas have been developed during in-school planning days and during monthly staff meetings. The school has availed of the services of the Primary Curriculum Support Programme and the work has been co-ordinated by teachers with posts of responsibility. Final policies are then ratified by the board of management. Parents report that school policies are available to them, either in the school or on the school website. All teachers have a copy of the school plan.

 

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, 2004) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (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.

 

2.2 Implementation and impact of the school plan

Useful programmes of work for all class levels have been devised to give practical effect to the implementation of the school plan. In the case of some curricular areas, the school plan is impacting positively on pupils’ learning experiences, while in other areas further attention needs to be given to the principles underpinning the curriculum. In particular, the progression of content objectives and skills from class to class in the teaching of language requires further attention. To ensure that the school plan is impacting on teaching and learning, a review of the plan should be undertaken in a staged manner. The focus of this review should be the whole-school approach to the principles and approaches of the Primary Curriculum 1999, rather than the content of specific programmes of work. An audit of learning outcomes should form the basis for such a review and an action plan should be developed to ensure that the implementation of school policies is successful. Central to this action plan will be continuity and progression in terms of the development of skills and knowledge in the various curricular areas. It is anticipated that teachers with curriculum responsibilities would lead the review of the implementation of the school plan in those areas.

 

Teachers are given opportunities to collaborate in developing short-term work plans at all class levels. Variance in practice throughout the school with regard to individual teacher planning is noted. Some teachers set out clear learning objectives and outline the methodologies to be used, taking account of the school plan and the age-levels of pupils. In other instances, over-emphasis is placed on the content of textbooks as a basis for lessons, and insufficient account is taken of the varying levels of ability in classes. It is recommended that all teachers prepare short-term plans in accordance with the strands and strand units of the curriculum and that expected learning outcomes be clarified. Tasks should also be differentiated and closely matched to pupils’ learning needs. Regular assessment of the outcome of learning experiences would then form the basis for the next stage of planning. The focus of teachers’ collaborative planning sessions might then be the review and development of effective teaching strategies. All teachers maintain monthly progress records (cúntais mhíosúla). To support the continuity and progression of learning, the staff might consider developing a school template for the cúntas míosúil in which learning experiences and the development of skills are recorded as well as content taught.

 

 

3. Quality of learning and teaching in curriculum areas

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá plean scoile leagtha amach don Ghaeilge ina n-áirítear aidhmeanna na scoile i leith na teanga agus straitéisí len í a fhorbairt mar theanga chumarsáide. Is inmholta mar a leagtar síos, go céimnithe, eiseamláirí teanga a bheadh feiliúnach do gach rang leibhéal mar bhunús don Ghaeilge neamhfhoirmiúil sa scoil. Agus athbhreithniú á dhéanamh ar an bplean amach anseo, b’fhiú na heiseamláirí teanga do na ceachtanna foirmiúla a fhorbairt ar an mbealach céanna, le béim á chur ar leanúnachas ó rang go rang. Is fiú comhthéacs na dtéamaí a chur san áireamh agus iad á roghnú. Forbraíonn na hoidí plean fadtéarmach i gcomhairle lena chéile agus den chuid is mó úsáidtear an plean céanna do gach rang leibhéal. B’fhiú béim chuí a chur ar shnáitheanna an churaclaim agus an phleanáil á dearadh. Déantar an-iarracht timpeallacht Ghaelach a chruthú sa scoil agus cuirtear go leor imeachtaí ar siúl do sheachtain na Gaeilge gach uile bhliain. Is inmholta mar atá an Ghaeilge neamhfhoirmiúil á húsáid go rialta ag na hoidí agus ag na daltaí.

 

Sna ranganna naíonán baintear feidhm éifeachtach as straitéisí éagsúla ar nós rann, amhrán agus scéalaíocht chun rithim agus fuaimeanna na Gaeilge a chur ar chluasa na ndaltaí agus baineann éagsúlacht agus taitneamh lena bhfoghlaim. Is aoibhinn mar a bhaintear feidhm as foinn cheoil chun eiseamláiri teanga a inmheánú. Is leir ón idirtheanga a úsáideann na daltaí go bhfuil tuiscint acu ar an nGaeilge atá in úsaid agus go bhfuil forbairt chórasach ag teacht ar a gcuid scileanna teanga. I gcuid de na ranganna baintear feidhm iontach as scéalaíocht chun scileanna éisteachta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt agus chun a gcuid foclóra a leathnú. B’fhiú, go mór, béim a chur ar scéalaíocht i ngach rang. 

 

Sna meánranganna baintear feidhm mhaith as agallaimh faoi threoir mar ionchur teanga agus múintear struchtúir abairtí go hoiriúnach. Moltar deiseanna fíorchumarsáide a thabhairt do na daltaí chun an teanga a foghlamaíodh a úsaid agus a leathnú. B’fhiú chomh maith a chinntiú go bhfuil na daltaí ar fad in ann ceisteanna a chur le go mbeidh sé ar a gcumas cumarsáid a dhéanamh tré mheán na teanga. Cé go mbaintear úsáid as cluichí teanga go rialta, ní mór a chinntiú go bhfuil na daltaí uilig páirteach agus gníomhach iontu agus go bhfuil eiseamláirí teanga á bhforbairt lena linn. Chun teanga na ndaltaí a shaibhriú, moltar éagsúlacht a chur sna tascanna éisteachta agus béim ar leith a chur ar scéalaíocht. Tagann forbairt mhaith ar chumas labhartha na ndaltaí sna hardranganna agus spreagtar iad chun abairtí níos casta a chruthú sa gcaoi is go mbíonn sé ar a gcumas scéal leanúnach a chumadh go cruinn. I gcuid de na ranganna déantar leathnú ar chomhréir na n-abairtí agus spreagtar na daltaí ar bhealaigh praiticiúla, taitneamhacha chun iad a úsáid. Moltar an dea-chleachtas seo a leathnú go dtí gach rang. Múintear filíocht agus amhránaíocht ar bhealach an-fhiúntach agus baineann na daltaí fíorthaitneamh agus an-tairbhe astu.

 

Cuirtear tús maith leis an litearthacht luath agus múintear scileanna léitheoireachta go céimniúil. Tá gá, áfach, le timpeallacht shaibhir litearthachta a chruthú sa rangsheomra chun na daltaí a ullmhú don léitheoireacht. Ní mór chomh maith scéim chórasach d’fhogharluach na litreach a fhorbairt i ngach rang sa scoil. Sna meánranganna cuirtear béim chuí ar léitheoireacht fheidhmiúil trí chluichí léitheoireachta a chleachtadh i gcuid de na ranganna. Sna hardranganna baintear feidhm éifeachtach as drámaíocht chun scileanna léitheoireachta agus labhartha na ndaltaí a fhorbairt go héifeachtach. Is mór mar a chabhraíonn an taoiléitheoireacht a chleachtar i gcuid de na ranganna leis na daltaí brí ghinearálta a bhaint as an téacs agus dúil sa léitheoireacht a chothú dá réir. Baintear úsáid chuí as na háiseanna atá ag na hoidí don léitheoireacht ach ní mór éagsúlacht téacsanna, ar nós fíorleabhar, a chur ós comhair na ndaltaí le cinntiú go bhfuil forbairt agus saibhreas ag teacht ar an ábhar léitheoireachta agus go bhfuil cleachtadh rialta á fháil ag na daltaí uirthi.

 

Múintear an scríbhneoireacht go céimniúil agus cuirtear ar chumas na ndaltaí abairtí a scríobh go cruinn le scáfláil ón oide. B’fhiú anois tuilleadh dúshláine a thabhairt do na daltaí i struchtúrú abairtí níos iomláine agus i bhforbairt foclóra. Tá sé ar chumas na ndaltaí sinsearacha aistí simplí a scríobh.  Le tógail ar an gcaighdeán scríbhneoireachta atá bainte amach ag na daltaí cheana féin b’fhiú go mór plean cuimsitheach do phróiséas na saor- scríbhneoireachta a leagan amach don scoil ina hiomláine. 

 

English

An extensive whole school plan for English has been prepared. It has a good overall structure and is in accordance with the design of the Primary Curriculum. The participation of all teachers in the development of the plan has provided an opportunity to become familiar with the principles underpinning the curriculum. The plan provides direction in relation to teaching various aspects of the programme and includes extensive listings of resources that are of assistance to teachers in planning at different class levels. A review of the plan should focus on identifying key skills to be acquired at each class level, and a range of strategies to assess individual pupils’ learning.

 

Very good oral language development is evident throughout the school. A high standard has been achieved in developing pupils’ receptive language skills. Pupils attend very well to questions and display good aural comprehension ability. Good work is done in planning for and teaching expressive language skills from infant classes onwards. Big books, physical material, pictures, posters and daily drama are well used in developing oral language skills. Print-rich environments have been created in most classrooms.

 

Big books are well used in infant classes to develop pupils’ emerging reading skills, while full sentence flashcards develop reading vocabulary. In junior classes, comprehension skills are fostered effectively through picture reading and pupils’ skills of contextual analysis and understanding of word meaning are developed during story-time. Use is made of visual, tactile and audio-visual material in developing phonological awareness. In some classes the teaching of phonics is structured, sequenced and effective and throughout the school pupils in general can readily identify phonemes. It is noted, however, that many pupils need further practice in using their knowledge of phonics as a decoding strategy when reading.

 

In a small number of classes effective grouping structures for the teaching of reading were noted. In these cases pupils’ differing needs are addressed effectively. In general, however, reading material is not sufficiently differentiated within classes to meet pupils’ needs, with most pupils reading text at the same reading level. It is recommended that a range of reading sources be used throughout the school to match text to pupils’ abilities. An extension of group teaching of reading would also be of benefit in meeting the needs of all pupils.

 

A majority of older pupils demonstrate good study skills and can use dictionaries and reference material effectively to support their learning. Lessons in poetry are taught effectively and pupils are enthusiastic in their response to poetry. The themes of poems are well explored through good questioning, and through class and group discussion.

 

In almost all classes the standard of handwriting is high and there is effective monitoring of pupils’ copybooks. Good standards were noted in pupils’ functional writing exercises. In senior classes, pupils write in a wide range of genres including stories, letters, articles and poems and almost all pupils write with very good levels of creativity in their free writing tasks. In junior and middle classes, it is evident that most pupils are able to express their own ideas in age-appropriate ways and with good fluency of writing style. It was noted, however, that the range of genres in which younger pupils write is limited. Focus is placed mostly on independent daily journals, some stories and creative activities arising out of workbooks. It is recommended that all pupils be given opportunities to write regularly from an early age in a wide variety of genres.

 

3.2 Mathematics

A school plan for Mathematics has been developed. The plan outlines the content of the curriculum and programmes of work at the various class levels, and sets out the broad aims and the key methodologies to be used in the delivery of the curriculum. In a review of the plan, consideration should be given to identifying strategies whereby tasks are matched to pupils’ ability levels. Analysis of the outcome of assessment tests and teacher observations should be used to identify aspects of the curriculum requiring additional emphasis.

 

Lessons in Mathematics are generally well taught. An extensive range of resources is available and regularly used to good effect in developing pupils’ conceptual understanding during lessons. Pupils manipulate physical material when exploring new concepts and talk and discussion are a feature of lessons in most classes. Emphasis is placed on teaching and using appropriate mathematical language. While whole-class teaching is the predominant methodology, in many cases pupils collaborate in pairs and in small groups when completing assignments. This approach fosters co-operative learning skills and facilitates teachers in supporting individual pupils as needed. At some class levels, group teaching is used effectively with learning activities matched to pupils’ abilities. It is recommended that this practice be expanded throughout the school, the better to meet the needs of all pupils.

 

In general, pupils throughout the school display a good understanding of mathematical concepts and an ability to apply them to solving real-life problems. They represent and interpret data at an age-appropriate level, they can identify a range of shapes and patterns in their environment and they have developed an understanding of a variety of concepts relating to measurement. Further use of oral problem solving activities across the strands of the curriculum is recommended in some classes, while some pupils require additional support in developing their computational skills. Pupils’ written work is carefully recorded and regularly monitored. In addition to annual standardised tests, tables tests and teacher-devised tests are in regular use. 

 

3.3 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE)

 

Geography

Teachers at the various class levels have collaborated in drawing up programmes of work to support the curriculum statement for the whole school delivery of the Geography curriculum. A review of individual teachers’ plans and progress records indicates that a broad and balanced programme is delivered covering all strands of the curriculum. Pupils’ written work confirms that they have engaged in a good variety of learning tasks. Significant emphasis is placed during lessons on developing an understanding of aspects of the locality and its community. Textbooks are used to support pupils’ learning and a range of geographical skills is developed during lessons. Very good discussion was noted during lessons observed and much of the learning was emerging from pupils’ own observations and experiences. Opportunities for integration with other curricular areas were well exploited.

 

History

A whole-school curriculum statement has been drawn up for History and teachers are currently designing programmes of work for various class levels. Teachers’ planning and pupils’ written work indicate that a range of historical topics from family, local, national and international contexts are explored during lessons. The selection of suitable themes for History fosters pupils’ interest and their understanding of change and continuity between past and present. Story is used effectively as a stimulus for lessons and to give pupils a sense of chronology. Pupils are enabled to listen, discuss, retell and record myths and legends from various backgrounds and develop empathy with characters in the stories. Through this process teachers have successfully fostered the development of important values and attitudes in the children.

 

Pupils have encountered elements of their own immediate past and that of their family through interviewing and recording grandparents giving accounts of their own childhoods. In lessons observed pupils acquired a sense of continuity and change in their own immediate environment through examining and exploring photographic evidence of features of the local environment and recalling their own personal knowledge of the area. It is reported that several aspects of local history are explored and pupils visit the many rich historical sites of the surrounding area. Collections of digital photographs are currently being collated to create an electronic bank of photographic evidence for local history. Projects are used to good effect to stimulate pupils’ interest and to promote independent research skills. In all lessons observed emphasis was placed on discussion, and a critical attitude to accounts of the past was fostered through appropriate questioning.

 

Science

A whole school plan for Science has been developed. It provides a good overview of the design of the Science curriculum and consists primarily of sequenced lesson content for all classes in the school across the different strands. The plan also delineates skills to be developed in working scientifically and includes notes on meeting the needs of pupils with learning difficulties. A good, detailed listing of available resources in the school for the teaching of Science has been produced.

 

A broad spectrum of lessons is taught throughout the school. Pupils engage well in all lessons and clearly work well together. Teachers use appropriate physical material and apparatus in demonstrating scientific concepts to pupils. They prepare photographs, posters and other visual materials to support teaching, and well-managed discussion of topics is a feature of lessons. Experiments are conducted from infant classes onwards. Very good visual material and equipment for manipulation are prepared to support simple experimentation. Teachers guide pupils effectively towards prediction during experiments. Pupils’ written work in recording the process and outcome of simple trials is well presented.

 

3.4 Arts Education

 

Visual arts

A valuable whole school plan for Visual Arts has been developed. It consists of suggested content and descriptions of technique for the different class levels in the school, incorporates sections on assessment, strategies towards addressing less familiar visual arts activity and a very useful listing of resources. A section on the fifth class school-based art project is also included.

 

Lessons in Visual Arts are well taught and high standards are achieved in many classes throughout the school. Teachers are well organised and lessons are very well structured. Techniques are demonstrated effectively to pupils. Good stimuli are chosen for lessons and good cross-curricular linkages are noted. A range of visual arts work is displayed in classrooms and pupils talk very positively about their experiences. Examples of work in paint and colour are extensively in evidence with high standards in creativity noted in pupils’ free painting. Fine examples of finished works in the strand of construction are on display, as are very appealing examples of work in fabric and fibre. Pupils respond with keen observation to works of art, both verbally and through other media.  A visiting artist works with pupils in fifth class for a number of weeks each year, and assists with the development of pupils’ artistic skills through well-designed projects. It is reported that this work has proven to be highly beneficial for the pupils. A review of pupils’ art portfolios in some classes provides evidence of the development of pupils’ artistic abilities over a period of time.

 

Music

A well-structured and clear whole school plan for Music has been prepared. It provides a good overview for teachers regarding methodology, cross-curricular linkages, timetabling, parental, community and external inputs and school music resources. The plan also includes content objectives for the three strands of the curriculum for most classes and these are suitably detailed. At the current time the content section of the plan is not complete. As it is further developed for all classes and reviewed, it will form a valuable whole-school structure for the teaching of Music.

 

Pupils are afforded good opportunities to engage in activities that develop listening and responding, performing and composing skills. Teachers use audio equipment to support the development of listening and responding skills. Singing is taught using repetition and audio-visual equipment. Pupils sing enthusiastically and competently, both accompanied and unaccompanied, and care is taken in selecting a suitable pitch to enable the development of the upper registers of pupils’ voices. A good collection of songs in Irish and English have been learned with different styles of singing being explored. Teachers and pupils have created instruments with which they explore rhythmic patterns and compose music. Good attention is paid to teaching notation in relevant contexts and pupils have learned to represent music and to play musical instruments. Pupils’ participation in choral celebrations and visits by musicians to the school enriches learning in this aspect of the curriculum.

 

Drama

The school is aware of the unique contribution of drama to pupils’ development and great emphasis is placed on its value in all classrooms. The board of management has employed an external tutor to augment pupils’ experience in this area of the curriculum and to aid staff professional development. Lessons are well structured providing pupils with a safe and supportive environment in which to make drama. Poetry is skilfully explored to afford the children a very enriching experience in this area of the curriculum. In lessons observed, activities encouraged improvisation, positive group interaction and creative expression in the spontaneous making of drama. The judicious use of story as stimulus for drama enables pupils to experience the drama process through assuming the characteristics, physical attributes and thought processes of other people. Pupils’ creativity, invention and communication skills are fostered through group work, allowing them to co-operate and shape the drama themselves. Drama in Rush NS is very much a creative process, improvisational in nature and allows children to project themselves imaginatively into situations in which they explore issues, emotions and concerns in a unique way. Activities are skilfully integrated with other curricular areas. It is very evident that pupils enjoy the drama experience and develop a high degree of self-confidence through it.

 

3.5 Physical Education (PE)

A comprehensive school plan for PE has been developed. The commitment of the staff to providing pupils with a broad and balanced PE programme is clearly evident. In addition to regular PE lessons, teachers provide extensive opportunities for pupils to participate in a wide variety of games both during playtimes and after school. Teams from the school participate in sporting activities locally and in the greater Dublin area.

 

Individual teachers prepare good short-term and long-term work plans to support the delivery of the curriculum. Additional support in teaching aspects of the programme is given by two dance tutors, and the collaboration of class teachers with the tutors provides an opportunity for teachers to develop their own skills. Lessons are well structured, conducted purposefully at an appropriate pace and foster the active participation of all pupils. Pupils engage in a wide variety of age-appropriate activities and the development of a range of skills is emphasised. The extensive range of PE equipment is well maintained and used effectively. The large school hall and the extensive outdoor facilities enable the staff to provide a wide range of sports activities.

 

3.6 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

A comprehensive whole-school plan for SPHE has been devised which reflects the characteristic spirit of the school and the developmental needs of its pupils. It outlines the school’s aims and objectives for SPHE and identifies appropriate methodologies for effectively implementing the programme. A detailed programme of work is delineated for each class level. A positive school climate where individuals are valued, cared for and respected contributes significantly to the success of the SPHE programme in the school. The school is a caring community that provides a well-ordered, caring and secure atmosphere for pupils, where their intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and cultural needs are identified and addressed. The staff is committed to the creation of good relations, mutual respect and a positive climate among themselves and between staff and children. This positive disposition is reciprocated in the respect and cooperation that pupils offer to teachers.

 

A wide variety of teaching approaches and active learning strategies is used in discrete SPHE lessons. Circle Time is used to good effect to elicit listening skills and to enable pupils to express their feelings and contribute their opinions in an appropriate manner. Language skills are developed appropriately to enable pupils to discuss and communicate social, personal and health aspects of their lives. In lessons observed pupils were facilitated to explore and appreciate the different aspects of friendship and relationships, and to identify and discuss various responses to conflict situations. The programme also provides opportunities for pupils to develop an understanding of the democratic way of life and individual and group rights and responsibilities. Lessons in SPHE enable pupils to develop an understanding of healthy eating and the importance of healthy patterns of exercise. Pupils are also enabled to acquire and improve skills of communication and social interaction. Many elements of the SPHE programme contribute successfully to the pupils’ personal and social development, including aspects of ‘Walk Tall’, ‘Stay Safe’ and ‘Substance Use’. The school has a very comprehensive policy for Relationship and Sexuality Education and staff implement it systematically in co-operation with parents.

 

 

 

3.7 Assessment and achievement

A school policy on assessment has been developed recently. The policy provides for the use of a range of informal and formal assessment strategies to assess pupils’ learning in various aspects of the curriculum, notably in English and Mathematics. Portfolios of pupils’ art-work in some classes facilitate the assessment of progression in skills through the year. Teachers in some classes maintain records of individual pupils’ mastery of skills and concepts, and of the development of a range of social skills. Standardised tests in reading and Mathematics are administered annually to pupils from first to sixth classes. The Middle Infant Screening Test is administered to senior infants while the school has devised its own junior infant screening test. The outcome of these tests, together with teacher observations, are a valuable tool in identifying pupils requiring support, as well as aspects of the curriculum that need additional emphasis.

 

The development of a wider range of assessment strategies across all areas of the curriculum is recommended. In particular, the development of individual pupil profiles will assist in matching learning tasks to individual pupils’ needs. Overall pupil achievement in all curriculum areas is good.

 

 

4. Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Provision for pupils with special educational needs

The school policy on learning support has recently been reviewed. The policy outlines the basis on which pupils are selected for supplementary teaching in the light of available resources. The current practice of supporting pupils in infant classes, in accordance with recognised best practice of early intervention, should now be formally included in the revised policy. It is also recommended that the policy include criteria for the discontinuation of pupils from supplementary support.

 

The support teaching team consists of four special education teachers, a resource teacher for pupils with low-incidence learning disabilities and a part-time English language teacher for foreign national pupils. Three special needs assistants support individual pupils within their mainstream class setting. A number of the support team have undertaken specific training programmes in recent years in the context of the policy of supporting pupils with special needs in mainstream schools. The teachers work closely as a team, share their experiences and have established procedures for regular contact with class teachers. They meet with parents of their pupils on an individual basis at least twice a year, and with parents as a group once a year. Teachers report that parents are very willing to work in collaboration with them. Pupils’ work is celebrated through display throughout the school and during an open day for parents held on an annual basis.

 

Supplementary support is primarily given in English and Mathematics. Some pupils participate in a range of activities that support the development of social skills and communication skills. Learning programmes have been drawn up for all pupils who avail of supplementary teaching. During lessons observed some very effective practice was evident where lessons were carefully structured and matched to pupils’ learning needs. In some cases, however, there is a need to match learning targets more closely to the individual needs of pupils and to ensure that the work being carried out during lessons is in line with the learning targets set for each pupil.

 

While support is generally given outside the class setting, some in-class support has recently commenced. It is recommended that mainstream teachers and the support team discuss a range of models of delivery of this service and that their decisions be informed by the recommendations in the Learning Support Guidelines, published some time ago by the Department of Education & Science.

 

4.2 Provision for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds

Teachers are sensitive to isolated instances of disadvantage among pupils and provide  resources to ensure that all pupils have access to the full range of school activities.

 

4.3 Provision for pupils from minority groups

A small number of foreign national pupils are currently attending the school. Part-time teaching hours have been sanctioned to provide English language support for these pupils and they are included in all activities in their mainstream classes. It is reported that the inclusion of pupils from minority groups has been a very positive experience for pupils throughout the school.

 

4.4 Home-school partnership

A statement on home-school partnership has been developed and it highlights the importance the school attaches to developing good communication and mutual respect between school and home. Regular newsletters keep parents informed of school activities, and communication is also facilitated through pupils’ journals. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually, and additional meetings can be arranged when required. An induction meeting is held annually for parents of new pupils, where they are made aware of the range of school policies and where to access them.

 

An active parents’ association has been in existence for many years. Officers of the association, who met with the team of inspectors during the evaluation, stated that they were happy with their input into the development of school organisational policies. They see their role as working on behalf of their children through supporting all partners involved in the school. They spoke very positively about the school, the rounded education provided for their children and the lovely ethos of the school. They are involved in co-curricular provision for pupils – assisting with playground supervision and sporting events. They reported that while there has been good continuity in the parents’ association over the years they would welcome more support from the general parent body.

 

 

5. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The close collaboration of all partners, under the guidance of a committed and diligent board of management, contributes significantly to the successful management of the school. Potential exists to develop the in-school management team’s contribution to curriculum decision-making.

 

  • Overall learning and teaching is of a good standard. Pupils display high levels of oral language skills in English and teachers employ effective strategies that facilitate hands-on learning in Mathematics. The organisation and management of learning could take greater account still of the need for more differentiated teaching.

 

  • The high quality of learning experiences provided in Visual Arts, Music and Drama enhances the holistic development of pupils and is in keeping with the mission statement of the school.

 

  • The provision of an extensive range of sporting activities for pupils, and the quality of the PE programme delivered in the school, provide effectively for pupils’ physical development.

 

  • The effective implementation of the SPHE policy, and the quality of the pastoral care provided for pupils, result in the active participation of pupils in all aspects of the life of the school.

 

 

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

 

  • The school should build on existing good practice in matching learning tasks to pupils’ abilities through the dedicated use of group teaching methods throughout the school.

 

  • The development of the in-school management team should focus on the role of post-holders in leading curriculum review and planning, with particular reference to its impact on teaching and learning.

 

  • I dteagasc na Gaeilge moltar tógáil go céimniúil ar na heiseamláirí teanga ó rang go rang agus taithí níos leithne léitheoireachta a chur ar fáil do na daltaí trí théacsanna éagsúla a sholáthar.

 

  • A review of the model of providing supplementary support for pupils with special needs should take account of the recommendations outlined in the Learning Support Guidelines.

 

 

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