An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Mhuire Senior National School
Blakestown, Mulhuddart, Dublin 15
Uimhir rolla: 19694R
Date of inspection: 1 February 2010
A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Mhuire Senior National School was undertaken in February 2010. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Science. The board of management 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.
Scoil Mhuire Senior National School is a co-educational school located in the parish of Blakestown in west Dublin. This area has become demographically mature and caters for an ethnically diverse local population. The school participates in the School Support Programme of Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), the action plan of the Department of Education and Skills for educational inclusion.
The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Mainstream class teachers
Teachers working in support roles (including one based elsewhere)
Special needs assistants
Scoil Mhuire is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. The provision of a holistic education in a caring and secure environment is central to the school’s ethos and vision.
The board of management is properly constituted and is functioning in an effective manner. It meets at regular intervals and members display commitment to the school, its pupils and the staff. Accounts are audited on an annual basis and the board ensures that suitable resources are available for teaching and learning. The board is to be commended for the high standard of cleaning and maintenance that pertains in the school. During the evaluation it expressed as its main concern the maintenance of a safe and happy learning environment for all the pupils.
The in-school management team consists of the administrative principal, a deputy principal, an assistant principal and six teachers with special duties posts. The principal, since her recent appointment, has successfully led the development of the school plan and is currently overseeing its implementation. A commitment to the welfare of the pupils and staff is central to the principal’s leadership. She takes a proactive role in the nurturing of a very positive pastoral and caring atmosphere throughout the school. In the immediate future, the principal’s administrative capacity and leadership skills should continue to remain focused on the implementation of the whole-school plan and a systematic review of its effectiveness on teaching and learning.
The middle management team carries out a range of duties with a high level of dedication. Its members report regularly at staff meetings and provide the board with an annual report. As tasks are completed and curriculum policies become further embedded, it is advised that the duties of the in-school management team be reviewed to reflect the ongoing and emerging needs of the school. The team should place further emphasis on monitoring, implementing and evaluating the impact of the school plan in relation to expected pupil learning outcomes.
Parents are regularly informed about the life of the school community. Induction meetings are convened to inform parents with regard to policies and school procedures. Effective communication between the junior and senior schools ensures a smooth transition for pupils. Plans are underway to document key policies in a school information booklet as a further means of sharing information with the parents of new pupils.
Parent-teacher meetings are organised annually and commendably, parents receive a report on their child’s progress twice yearly. As the need arises, parents are facilitated to consult with teachers. Parents are supportive of the work of the school and are involved in a number of curriculum-related initiatives. At a meeting with the inspectors, parents reported that they were satisfied with the quality of the education provided in the school.
The management of pupils is very good and the teachers are highly commended for creating and maintaining the positive learning atmosphere that prevails in the school. The teachers and board of management have devised a code of behaviour and an anti-bullying policy in consultation with parents. It is evident that these policies are consistently and effectively implemented. Pupils are enthusiastic learners, well-behaved and display pride and interest in their work. During the evaluation, high levels of focused pupil participation were noted in all contexts. There has been a significant improvement in pupil attendance in recent years. However, the continued and consistent implementation of the school’s attendance strategy is recommended to further improve access to school for a number of pupils.
A whole-school plan has recently been devised. This school plan will serve as a firm foundation during future reviews of planning and enable greater specificity to be developed in this regard. A range of statutory and organisational policies is in place. The school’s enrolment policy and code of behaviour requires review, however. Policies have been developed for all curricular areas. In future reviews, it is recommended that all aspects of policies reflect the unique context of the school and the community which it serves. The creation of an action plan to ensure the progressive implementation of the whole-school plan and to monitor its effectiveness is advised.
Teachers have developed individual classroom planning in a conscientious manner. With regard to the variability in this planning, it is recommended that the school develops a common approach to the planning process and that a monitoring process be agreed in order to support adherence to this approach. Progress records are maintained, outlining in various levels of detail areas of the curriculum which has been addressed each month. These can be effectively used in the process of school self-review.
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.
Cuireadh plean scoile ar fáil don Ghaeilge le déanaí. Nuair atá an plean á athbhreithniú b’fhiú ábhar teagaisc cinnte céimnithe a leagan amach do gach rang leibhéal. Tá caighdeán réasúnta maith Gaeilge le sonrú i measc roinnt daltaí agus caitheann na hoidí díograis le múineadh na Gaeilge. Cuirtear roinnt acmhainní ar fáil agus baintear úsáid bhreá as teicneolaíocht an eolais agus na cumarsáide i dteagasc na Gaeilge i roinnt ranganna. Den chuid is mó, baineann na hoidí úsáid as an nGaeilge go leanúnach mar theanga teagaisc agus mar theanga bhainistíocht ranga. B’fhiú an nós seo a leathnú ar bhonn uile-scoile. Moltar freisin straitéisí a fhorbairt chun an Ghaeilge a úsáid go neamhfhoirmiúil mar theanga chaidrimh scoile.
Baintear feidhm as rangtheagasc chun eiseamláirí teanga a mhúineadh i nGaeilge agus tá stór maith foclóra ar eolas ag na daltaí i roinnt ranganna. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as straitéisí éagsúla chun cumas éisteachta agus cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt. Chun a chinntiú go bhfuil forbairt á dhéanamh go céimniúil ar chumas labhartha na ndaltaí, tá gá ionchur nua teanga a roghnú agus a theagasc go rialta i ngach rang. I gcuid mhaith ranganna, tá gá freisin, le haire a dhíriú ar cheart-úsáid na mbriathra agus na n-aimsirí i dteagasc na Gaeilge. I ranganna áirithe, aithrisíonn na daltaí cnuasach breá rann agus amhrán go soiléir, taitneamhach. Ar an iomlán, leiríonn na daltaí suim sa Ghaeilge agus glacann siad páirt sna ceachtanna Gaeilge go toilteanach.
Bunaítear an léitheoireacht ar leabhair saothair agus léann roinnt daltaí le tuiscint agus le líofacht áirithe. Moltar fíor leabhair a úsáid chun eispéireas níos saibhre léitheoireachta a sholáthair do na daltaí. B’fhiú, chomh maith, scileanna léitheoireachta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt go céimniuil ar bhonn uile-scoile agus béim a chur ar an bhfoghraíocht agus ar an bhfóineolaíocht. Ar an iomlán, bunaítear na cleachtaí scríbhneoireachta ar leabhair saothair. Sonraítear samplaí áirithe de scríbhneoireacht phearsanta i measc líon beag daltaí. Moltar an dea-chleachtas seo a fhorbairt a thuilleadh. Tá obair scríofa na ndaltaí go deas, néata agus déanann na hoidí monatóireacht chuí ar a gcuid iarrachtaí.
Moltar athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an bplean scoile agus scileanna labartha agus cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt ar bhonn céimniúil uile-scoile.
A whole-school plan for the teaching of Irish has recently been devised. When this plan is reviewed, specific graded content should be outlined for each class level. Some pupils display a fairly good standard of Irish and teachers teach the language with enthusiasm. A variety of resources is provided and information and communication technology (ICT) is used effectively in some classrooms. For the most part, teachers use Irish as the medium of instruction and also in classroom management. This practice should be extended to all classrooms. It is also recommended that strategies be developed for Irish to be used informally throughout the school.
Whole-class teaching is the methodology used to teach language exemplars and pupils in some classrooms have acquired a good range of vocabulary. Effective strategies are used to develop pupils’ listening and communication skills. To ensure that pupils’ communication skills are developed systematically, new language inputs should be selected and taught for each class level. There is also a need for further emphasis on the teaching of verbs and their tenses in many classes. In particular classes, pupils recite a fine selection of rhymes and perform songs with clarity and enthusiasm. Overall, pupils display an interest in the Irish language and they take part willingly in lessons.
Reading lessons are based on the material provided in workbooks and some pupils read with some degree of fluency. To provide a richer reading experience for pupils, the provision of appropriately graded reading material is recommended. It is recommended that pupils’ reading skills are developed incrementally and that there is appropriate emphasis on pronunciation and the development of phonological skills. Workbooks are mainly used for writing activities. In a few instances, however, samples of pupils’ creative writing are in evidence. This noteworthy practice should be extended. Pupils present their work carefully and neatly and this work is appropriately monitored by the teachers. A review of the whole-school plan for Irish is recommended to develop pupils’ speaking and communication skills systematically.
In general the quality of teaching in English is satisfactory. In some classes purposeful, discrete oral language activities promote pupils’ receptive and expressive language. It is recommended that this good practice be extended more consistently to all classes. Further development of the whole-school plan should outline appropriate discrete oral language strategies to address curriculum objectives at each class level. It would also be useful to include oral language targets and assessment modes for each class level. This would help in ensuring progression in pupils’ oral language skills and provide for consistency of approach throughout the school. Pupils in a number of classes are exposed to a suitable range of poetry. The exploration of poetry at a whole-school level should be considered to facilitate all pupils in the appreciation and recitation of poetry.
While adequate reading standards are in evidence in the main, scope for development exists regarding the achievement levels of some pupils. Pupils’ interest in reading is suitably promoted through the provision of print-rich environments in the majority of classrooms. A range of reading materials including graded readers and class novels is judiciously used to ensure pupils’ exposure to a good range of literature. Some pupils display good decoding skills and reading strategies. It is necessary to ensure, however, that instructional reading material is more closely aligned to the needs of particular pupils and to their levels of interest. There is need to create a stronger link between the work of mainstream and support teachers in developing reading skills of pupils with special educational needs. This would provide opportunities for such pupils to develop reading strategies and to practise reading frequently in a graded, developmental manner.
Pupils’ independent reading is facilitated by the range of appropriate literature available in classroom libraries and in a well-organised and well-stocked school library. In promoting reading competence, it is recommended that the teachers pay increased attention to preparing pupils for reading texts with increasingly complex language structures. The further promotion of shared-reading initiatives involving parents should be investigated by the school staff.
Pupils’ attainment in writing is good overall. The school has adopted the First Steps writing programme to facilitate pupils’ writing development. Centres of interest are created in most classrooms to stimulate pupils’ interest in writing. Pupils are provided with regular and structured opportunities to experience writing across a range of genres and for a variety of purposes and audiences. Some pupils have a good knowledge of the conventions of print and display neat cursive-style hand writing. Some good examples of pupils’ writing are in evidence and their work is celebrated through attractive displays in most classrooms. The use of information and communication technology (ICT) in the writing process is commended. Pupils are afforded opportunities to practice free writing regularly. It would be worthwhile to undertake analyses of pupils’ examples of free writing to identify common errors and then, to use mini-lessons to correct these errors. Further opportunities for pupil-teacher conferencing, and self and peer-editing would also enhance provision.
Teaching and learning in Mathematics is of a good standard generally. Many pupils demonstrate an appropriate understanding of number, place value, shape and space, measures and data. Oral mathematics is an integral aspect of some teaching. Further extension of these effective strategies is recommended at whole-school level. To guide this approach, a broader range of oral mathematics strategies should be explored and documented in the whole-school plan for Mathematics. From the lessons observed, it is evident that there is generally an appropriate amount of discussion between the teacher and pupils during mathematics lessons. It is recommended, however, that further time and resources be devoted to teaching mathematical vocabulary and eliciting this vocabulary from the pupils. This is particularly important for pupils whose first language is not English. For the most part, pupils demonstrated a good ability to record number stories and to perform age-appropriate mental and written computation. Further engagement with the composition of number stories will develop and extend pupils’ problem solving abilities.
Practical and written tasks are prudently chosen and well planned. To cater for the wide range of pupil attainment in Mathematics and to ensure the more able pupils are appropriately challenged further consideration should be given to delineating specific differentiation strategies and learning tasks for pupils. While all strands of the Mathematics curriculum are explored, the strand of number is given particular attention in some classes. There is a need in such cases to maintain a balance across all strands of the Mathematics programme.
The work of the pupils is regularly monitored and useful feedback is provided. Clearly designated mathematics areas have been well developed in a number of settings. Commendably, in a number of classrooms, teacher-designed visual aids are provided and are specifically relevant to the class context. There is potential to ensure this good practice applies in all classrooms and to extend the mathematics environment to the circulation areas of the school. The school provides a range of appropriate mathematical equipment, illustrative materials, text books and teacher-reference books. There is evidence of effective practice in the management and use of these resources. The potential of the school’s internal and external environment as a resource for active learning in Mathematics should also be further exploited.
The quality of teaching in Science is good with some very good examples of practice observed during the evaluation. The school has made a substantial investment in the procuring of equipment and the level of resourcing is particularly high. Teachers use a wide range of methodologies including, group work, talk and discussion, demonstration, and some investigative work using concrete materials. Commendably, careful attention is given to eliciting pupils’ ideas and prior knowledge at the commencement of lessons. Throughout the majority of the lessons observed, prediction and observation skills were carefully developed.
In general, pupils are making good progress in Science. Pupils demonstrate a satisfactory knowledge of the topics that have been taught, particularly in relation to living things and aspects of energy and forces. Pupils display a positive attitude and great enthusiasm for investigative experiments. While most of the lessons were directed carefully by the teacher, some further opportunity for pupils to engage in planning their own fair tests and experiments is recommended as an effective method of developing a broader range of science skills.
Elements of design and make activities are a feature of practice in a small number of classrooms. Further opportunity for hands-on learning activities across a broader range of strands and a whole-school approach to design and make activities is also recommended. Assessment in Science is undertaken by means of end-of-term tests. Teacher observation is also used as a method of assessment and the participation of pupils in various activities is noted by the teachers and shared with parents. Some samples of pupils work in Science are recorded in copy-books. However, there is scope at whole-school level to review present methods of pupils’ independent recording in Science and to broaden the range of assessment strategies in this curriculum area.
Informal assessment procedures are undertaken through the use of teacher-designed tests. A variety of approaches is in evidence. A whole-school approach is recommended to ensure that assessment and programme planning are more closely aligned. Standardised tests in Mathematics and reading are administered and collated sequentially, tracking individual pupil and class progress. The results of these tests are filed and stored methodically in the school. Written work across the curriculum is carefully monitored on a regular basis.
Records of individual pupils’ progress based on teachers’ observations and teacher-designed tests are maintained by the majority of teachers. A consistent approach to recording assessment results at individual class level is recommended to ensure that more targeted learning strategies and activities can be identified. Extended use of diagnostic testing is recommended to enhance the design of specific learning programmes for pupils with special educational needs.
A whole-school policy has been devised to guide the provision for pupils with special educational needs (SEN). It is necessary however, to incorporate the staged approach to SEN intervention and include strategies for its implementation in the school plan. Stimulating and attractive print-rich and number-rich learning environments are provided in support rooms and a wide range of appropriate resources are used effectively during lessons.
Informative learning programmes and individual education plans (IEPs) have been devised. In some instances, however, targets should be delineated more specifically. Regular communication between support teachers, class teachers and parents is reported. It is advised that increased opportunities be provided for the involvement of parents and pupils in the development and review of learning programmes. A systematic approach to detailing and recording pupil progress and the achievement of targets is also advised. A positive rapport is in evidence between the support teachers and their pupils. The pupils experience learning in an encouraging and supportive environment. Lessons are well-structured and contain a suitable range of learning activities that usefully address pupils’ needs. In most instances, positive pupil progress is in evidence in accordance with their abilities.
The members of the support team are commended for their recent analysis of standardised assessment results and the subsequent implementation of an action plan to improve standards in Mathematics. Lessons in Mathematics in support rooms are delivered in an effective manner, with very good provision for the development of specific mathematical concepts, purposeful learning activities and focused consolidation. Very carefully structured Mathematics Recovery lessons support pupils in acquiring and applying a range of effective strategies for number operations. This initiative has been particularly successful in the school.
It is recommended that mainstream and support teachers further collaborate to meet pupils’ needs in a co-ordinated way and to closely monitor their progress. Opportunities for in-class support should be identified and implemented to enable pupils receive support in the natural class environment and to enhance differentiation in the teaching process.
Pupils with English as an additional language (EAL) are effectively supported in second-language acquisition through withdrawal of pupils in groups and through in-class support. The Primary School Assessment Kit is gainfully utilised in compiling pupil learning profiles, in identifying learning targets and in the consistent monitoring of pupil progress in EAL. Language lessons are well-structured and learning activities are based on pupils’ second language needs. Pupils demonstrate an eagerness to learn. There is need, however, for further collaborative planning for in-class support to ensure that EAL pupils are appropriately targeted during activities.
The home-school-community liaison (HSCL) programme seeks to promote co-operation between parents and the school. Current practice contributes to progressing this partnership through the development of some supportive linkages between the home, the school and selected community agencies. Targeted home-visits are routinely conducted to promote pupils’ participation in school. Parental involvement in the education of their children has been initiated through programmes such as “Maths for Fun” and “Science for Fun”. A variety of courses is organised to develop parents’ own personal skills which includes craft, Gaeilge and ICT. A parent’s room is used as a welcome “drop in” centre for parents’ coffee mornings. To encourage and support the involvement of a wider body of parents, it is recommended that the school actively promotes and gives all reasonable assistance to the establishment of a parents’ association. This would further assist in supporting the work of the school and promote more effective links with the general parent body on a formal basis. To assist in this endeavour it is necessary to develop a policy and a strategic implementation plan for the HSCL programme in the school. The school works closely with a range of agencies to help them address the needs of individual pupils. The wide range of activities organised through the Equal Opportunities Programme (EOP) facilitates pupils’ sustained engagement and participation in the education process.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· A very caring and affirming school atmosphere exists which serves to create a nurturing and supportive learning environment for pupils.
· Pupils are friendly, courteous and eagerly engage in all classroom activities.
· The board of management discharges its responsibilities in a diligent manner and conscientiously promotes the welfare of pupils and staff members.
· The in-school management team in conjunction with all other members of staff ensures the very smooth day-to-day administration and organisation of general school activities.
· The school staff is commended for recent self-evaluation practices particularly in relation to identifying pupils’ learning needs in Mathematics.
· The recent progress in whole-school planning led by the principal is commended.
· Cothaítear suim na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge go dícheallach agus léiríonn cuid de na daltaí cumas áirithe sa Ghaeilge. (Interest in the Irish language is nurtured diligently and some of the pupils
display a certain level of proficiency)
· Pupils’ writing skills are being developed progressively throughout the school
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· The in-school management team’s administrative capacity and leadership skills should further focus on the effective implementation of whole-school planning and a systematic
review of its effectiveness on teaching and learning.
· It is recommended that strategies be devised to facilitate the establishment of a parents’ association, which would assist in supporting the work of the school and in promoting links
with the general parent body on a formal basis.
· The further development of strategies to facilitate consistency in and a common approach to individual teacher planning is recommended.
· It is recommended that a whole-school approach be adopted to systematically develop pupils’ oral language and literacy skills.
· Ní mór scileanna labhartha agus cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt go céimniúil sa Ghaeilge ar bhonn uile-scoile agus an teanga a úsáid go neamhfhoirmiúil mar theanga
bhainisteoireachta ranga agus mar theanga chaidrimh na scoile. (Pupils’ speaking and communication skills should be developed incrementally at a whole-school level
and the language should be used informally for classroom management and communication throughout the school)
· It is recommended that mainstream and support teachers further co-ordinate provision for pupils with special educational needs and introduce in-class support.
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 June 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management and staff of Scoil Mhuire Senior would like to thank inspectors for their recent evaluation. The Board welcomes the inspectors’ affirmation of recent progress in whole school planning, self-evaluation practices and the supportive learning environment that prevails throughout the school. Given the challenges of a DEIS (Band 1) school, we are happy that the inspectors acknowledge the very caring and positive school atmosphere that the Board and staff have strived to create. The Board regrets that the evaluation made no reference to the very valuable contribution of Special Needs Assistants to our pupils and our school.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
We have commenced the implementation of the findings of the report as follows:
- Middle management posts have been reviewed in line with the recommendations.
- Continuing efforts are being made to establish a Parents Association and the NPC are assisting in this process.
- A committee has been formed and has commenced work on developing a common approach to the planning process.
- Ongoing work and planning prioritises the development of a whole school approach in pupils’ oral language and literacy skills.