An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Catherine McAuley NS

59  Lower Baggot St., Dublin 2

Uimhir rolla: 19705T

 

Date of inspection:  4 April 2008

 

 

 

 

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

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School Response to the Report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Catherine McAuley 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 parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management.  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment 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.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Catherine McAuley National School, Baggot St, established in 1980, is a co-educational special national school for boys and girls with specific learning disability. The pupils who attend the school have, following psychological assessment, been identified as having a specific learning disability. At the time of this evaluation the school was operating at full capacity and there were 81 pupils on roll. Pupils are generally between the ages of eight and 12 years of age when they enrol and are placed in a class in line with their age. As a rule, pupils enrol for a period of two years after which they return to a mainstream primary school or proceed to post primary education. The pupils come from a wide catchment area including areas to the North and West of Dublin, and from counties Meath and Kildare. The majority of the pupils avail of the transport service provided through the Department of Education and Science.

 

The school functions under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and the trusteeship of the Sisters of Mercy. While it is a Catholic school, it also caters for pupils from a number of other religious denominations. It supports the principles of inclusiveness and equality of access and participation, respect for diversity of opinions, beliefs, traditions, languages and way of life in society. The mission statement of the school states that it is committed to the holistic development and the full potential of each pupil, particularly those who are disadvantaged or marginalised. The school is conscious of the importance of the pupils’ self-esteem and endeavours to enhance this through the cultivation of a positive school environment and the involvement of the pupils in a wide range of cross-curricular activities. School records indicate that the attendance level of the pupils is good.

 

 

 2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meets on a regular basis. Meetings of the board address a wide range of matters, including finance, accommodation, maintenance, school policies, staff appointments, enrolment, teaching resources, and the professional development of staff. Appropriate minutes and financial records are maintained. The board of management plays a critical, practical and strategic role in the growth of the school and the provision of suitable facilities and resources. School policies are regularly ratified and reviewed. In this regard, it is recommended that the current school enrolment policy be updated in the light of the changing context of provision for pupils with specific learning disability. At the time of this evaluation the board had a number of applications with the relevant sections of the Department of Education and Science in relation to the upgrading and extension of the school accommodation. Regular and ongoing contact with the school is maintained by the chairperson and members of the board. A very high degree of satisfaction with the quality of education provided to the pupils was expressed by members of the board. The commitment of the board of management to the pupils, the work and development of the school and to the support of the principal and staff is evident in the wide range of activities carried out by the board over many years. The support of the board of management for the mission and ongoing development of the school is highly commended.

 

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team is made up of the principal, deputy principal and teachers with special duties posts of responsibility. The teachers comprising the middle management team carry out their additional duties in a committed and professional manner. The principal is highly professional, dedicated and diligent in attending to the variety of duties associated with her role as principal. She consistently and effectively attends to the curricular, organisational, and pastoral needs and concerns of the school. She endeavours to ensure that the pupils have their educational needs addressed in a safe and child-friendly environment, where they are appropriately challenged and supported to achieve their potential across the range of curricular areas. She has overseen and collaborated with her colleagues in the implementation of a range of programmes and initiatives to meet the changing needs of the pupils and developments in the education of pupils with specific learning disability. She liaises effectively with the parents of the pupils and addresses issues and concerns that arise. Communication with the parents and guardians of the pupils is actively supported and the involvement of parents in the school is encouraged. Good cooperative practice, an inclusive school community and high staff morale are in evidence across the school.

 

The principal is very ably supported by a dedicated, committed and creative team of deputy principal and three teachers holding special duties posts of responsibility. They meet on a regular basis, and working collaboratively, they proactively address the current and emerging organisational, curricular and pastoral issues of the school. The duties and responsibilities of the post holders are decided following a process of whole-staff consultation. Current areas of responsibility include Mathematics, Drama, dyslexia/reading, teaching resources, information technology, mentoring of new staff/substitute teachers, development of the library, health and safety, and child-care and protection. The responsibilities of the post holders are reviewed annually and duties are amended to take account of the changing needs of the school.

 

 

2.3 Management of resources

At the time of this evaluation the staff of the school consisted of an administrative principal, nine classroom teachers, one resource teacher for pupils with disability and six special needs assistants.  The enrolment allowed for the provision of two third classes, one combined third and fourth class, two fourth classes, two fifth classes, one combined fifth and sixth class, and one sixth class. The school has the services of a full-time caretaker. Cleaners attend the school daily. The school building and adjacent areas are well maintained.

 

Members of staff have availed of a wide variety of professional development courses, relevant to the work of the school and the specific needs of the pupils. Several teachers have postgraduate qualifications in special education. The school has also availed of the services of the School Development Planning Service and the Special Education Support Service. It is evident from the quality of work undertaken by the teachers across the school that the staff has a strong commitment to supporting the pupils in achieving maximum benefit from their time attending Catherine McAuley School. The special needs assistants contribute purposefully and effectively in relation to the care needs of the pupils, and in supporting individual and groups of pupils in the classroom, in collaboration with and under the direction of the classroom teachers.

 

The school accommodation is shared with another primary school on the campus. Most of the school is located in a three-storey building, while a number of classrooms and ancillary areas are in an adjacent building, which is easily accessed from the main school. The school has nine classrooms, a principal's office, and a small number of other ancillary rooms and areas. The pupils have access to a hard-surface playground area. The school rents a hall from the primary school with which it shares the campus, in order to provide for Physical Education and other activities. The school also has access to a football pitch in a nearby public park.

 

The classrooms and school circulation areas are used to display the work of the pupils and to celebrate their accomplishments in a variety of curricular and extra-curricular activities. The pupils’ artwork, thematic projects, examples of pupils’ writing, photographs of class activities and tables of interest, and visual aids made by staff or commercially produced are all attractively presented. The classroom environments are well organised to facilitate the pupils in the learning process. The staff is commended for the bright and attractive environment that has been established for pupils throughout the school.

 

Each class has a suitable variety of library books and materials appropriate to the reading abilities and interests of the pupils. The school has acquired and developed substantial information and communication technology resources. Each of the nine classrooms has approximately four computers, internet access and peripherals, along with a range of software materials and resources for literacy and Mathematics and other curriculum areas. The school has a broadband connection for thirty computers and has acquired three interactive whiteboards for use in classrooms. The school plans to have interactive whiteboards in all classrooms for the next school year.  Internet access and use of information technology is guided by the whole-school policies which address these areas of school activity. The school has also acquired a number of CD and DVD players, television, digital cameras and digital video cameras and two data projectors. A selection of education and reference software is located in a centralised storage area in the school. The educational resources include Physical Education equipment, Visual Arts materials, and Mathematics and Science equipment. Good use is made of all equipment to engage the pupils in the learning process in classrooms.

 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The principal and staff of Catherine McAuley School endeavour to promote and maintain positive relationships and communication with the parents and guardians of the pupils. A very useful information booklet has been produced by the school and this provides parents and guardians with key information regarding school policies and practices along with the variety of ways that parents can communicate with the school. Staff and parents communicate with one another by appointment and informally. Because many pupils live a considerable distance from the school, parents often contact the school by phone or by means of a note through their child's school journal. The more formal parent-teacher meetings are held twice during the school year. An annual school report is provided to all parents.

 

Parents support the work of the school through their contribution to the board of management. The school has had active parental involvement and a parents’ association over many years, even though the wide catchment area can make it difficult to bring parents together for official meetings. Information evenings related to the needs of the pupils are organised and newsletters are circulated. Particular efforts are made to include parents or guardians of new pupils. During the course of the evaluation a meeting was held with a group of parents. They spoke very positively on the work carried out by the staff of the school and praised the openness and accessibility of the principal and school team. One of the concerns raised by parents was the issue of pupils returning to the mainstream setting after attending Catherine McAuley School.  They suggested that additional supports should be made available to facilitate pupils on their return to the mainstream primary or post-primary school setting.

 

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

A well-documented and conscientiously-implemented school code of behaviour guides the staff in their approach to the management of the behaviour of the pupils. Good relationships and supportive interactions between the teachers, special needs assistants and pupils were observed during the period of evaluation. The pupils worked cooperatively and supported each other in the learning process in a commendable manner. Appropriate expectations are set for pupils regarding their class work and behaviour. Classroom rules, developed with pupils, are displayed in accessible format. Effective strategies have been put in place to support positive behaviour and to address unacceptable behaviour should the need arise.

 

The teachers are aware and sensitive to the importance of cultivating the pupils’ confidence and belief in their own capabilities. They identify and actively promote opportunities to encourage pupils and to enable them to have positive learning experiences across a range of curricular areas. The school is commended for the positive and constructive manner in which they manage the learning environment and support the beneficial engagement of the pupils in the learning process.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

Ongoing and substantial work has been undertaken in relation to school planning and as required by the education act 1998. An extensive school plan, covering organisational, curricular and pastoral areas has been developed. The school has endeavoured to respond in an appropriate and professional manner to the changing needs of the pupils. The school has constructively engaged in a process of whole-school planning on an ongoing basis, and has accessed The School Development Planning Service in addressing aspects of planning policy across the school. This has led to the formulation of a range of useful policies and procedures which inform school practice. The staff has demonstrated professionalism, initiative and commitment in developing and implementing a wide variety of programmes that aim to address the particular needs of the pupilsl.

 

The board of management has adopted the child protection policy of the Sisters of Mercy Order, a comprehensive policy published in 2002, based on national guidelines. All staff members are aware of school policy and procedures to be followed.  The School Information Booklet informs parents of the existence of the policy and its availability for parents who wish to consult it. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with requirements. The steps taken by the board of management and staff in the development of policies with regard to the provision of the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001) should also be set out in the school planning documents along with confirmation that the policy has been adopted, implemented and communicated to all relevant individuals. 

 

 

 

3.2 Classroom planning

The teachers employ an agreed and useful template for short-term classroom planning and completion of a monthly report. The planning template allows for particular emphasis on the language and literacy needs of the pupils. The teachers undertake careful planning and preparation for working with their pupils and differentiate with regard to the curriculum and methodologies employed in addressing particular learning needs. The planning provided by the teachers aims to present a broad and balanced learning programme, with due concern for the specific challenges, interests and experiences of individual pupils. Comprehensive and detailed preparation and planning is also undertaken in relation to providing supplementary teaching support to a number of pupils with additional disabilities. Records of progress are carefully maintained by the teachers

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

Throughout the school, teaching and learning activities are carefully planned and organised, well structured and effectively presented. A consistent and central focus of the overall programme of teaching and learning is the promotion of the pupils’ development of literacy. The teachers demonstrate very good knowledge of the curriculum along with a very good understanding of the particular needs of pupils with a specific learning disability. Suitable attention is given to the differentiation of lesson content and teaching strategies in accordance with the needs of the pupils. The pupils are given opportunities to participate purposefully in a broad variety of curricular and extra-curricular activities. The teachers are imaginative and creative in identifying opportunities to support and extend the learning experience of the pupils. The approaches used in classrooms provide for whole-class work, pair work, group activities and individualised activities.

 

 

Positive classroom environments are in evidence across the school and the pupils engage positively and progress in their learning. A good emphasis is afforded to active learning methodologies and the use of visual, auditory and tactile materials. Learning activities are made relevant to the experiences of the pupils and thematic approaches, integrating the curriculum areas, are effectively employed. An awareness of the learning styles of particular pupils is evident in the teaching approaches adopted in classrooms. A wide range of resources is effectively employed and good use is made of information and communication technology, using a variety of educational software, and more resources such as voice-recognition software. Pupils are skilfully supported in the learning process and their work and efforts are acknowledged and affirmed.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Go minic bíonn eolas áirithe ar an nGaeilge ag daltaí a thagann go dtí an scoil seo ó ghnáthscoileanna. Bíodh is go bhfuil díolúine ón nGaeilge ag na daltaí a fhreastalaíonn ar an scoil seo, tá sé tábhachtach ag an am céanna, go ndéanfaí deiseanna a sholáthar dóibh, chun gnéithe den teanga a bhlaiseadh ag leibhéil atá oiriúnach dá gcumas.  Tá cumas fiúntach ag roinnt de na múinteoirí sa Ghaeilge agus i dtaca leis seo, moltar polasaí scoile a fhorbairt, d’fhonn eolas ar eilimintí na teanga agus ar an gcultúr Gaelach a ardú trasna na scoile, de réir mar a fhoireann do riachtanais fhoghlama na ndaltaí.    

 

Irish

The pupils who enrol in this school from ordinary national schools will often have some knowledge of Irish. While pupils attending this school are exempted from learning Irish, it is important nonetheless, that they are provided with opportunities to experience aspects of Irish language at a level suited to their abilities. A number of the teachers have considerable competence in Irish and in this regard it is advised that school policy be developed with a view to increasing awareness of aspects of the language and Irish culture across the school, in a manner that takes account of the learning needs of the pupils.

 

English

The whole-school plan for English reflects the centrality of this curriculum area in the work of the school. The development of the pupils’ capabilities in literacy is a core aim of teaching and learning in all classrooms. The school plan for English comprises sections on reading and comprehension, oral language, written expression, spelling policy and handwriting policy.

 

The language and literacy development of the pupils is addressed both through structured class lessons, individualised pupil tasks and specific programmes, and through activities undertaken across all areas of the curriculum. The school aims to provide a unified approach to the fostering of the oral language, reading and writing skills of the pupils. An extensive range of commercial and teacher-prepared materials is used to support and enhance the engagement of the pupils in the learning activities. In light of the centrality of receptive and expressive language in the learning process, pupils are provided with ample opportunities to discuss ideas, express feelings, share views and opinions and describe experiences. Language activities incorporate whole-class activities, pair and group work, circle time and co-operative activities. Drama activities are also employed effectively in a number of classrooms to support the language development of the pupils. Thematic cross-curricular projects related to the interests and experiences of the pupils are a feature of classrooms throughout the school.

 

Across the school a comprehensive programme of structured activities is systematically employed to promote the pupils progress in reading and writing.  Due attention is accorded to the particular learning needs of individual pupils arising from their specific learning disability. Individualised programmes incorporate learning objectives and tasks to facilitate the pupils in developing and practising skills in phonemic awareness, word-attack, reading comprehension, spelling and writing. The school has successfully introduced the Wilson Reading System to support its work in this critical area. The Wilson Reading System is a highly structured reading and writing program that serves as an intervention for pupils with reading difficulties.  It aims to help pupils to learn the structure of words and language by directly instructing pupils to encode and decode fluently. This program was originally developed in the United States for pupils with dyslexia and was subsequently expanded to target the needs of pupils who were significantly behind their class level in reading. The teachers have undertaken training in the implementation of the Wilson Reading System. They report positively on the use of the programme and were observed in employing the system effectively in classrooms. A variety of workbooks and ICT materials are used to support the pupils in acquiring and reinforcing their knowledge and skills in aspects of literacy such as letter-sound correspondence, word identification and reading comprehension.

 

In all classrooms determined efforts are made to enable the pupils to have positive experiences of reading and literacy activities generally.  Poetry, rhyme and story are skilfully used to foster the pupils’ interest, participation and skills in reading. Pupils are provided with opportunities to explore a good variety of books and reading materials. A print rich environment is a feature of classrooms. The development of the pupils’ skills in writing is also given assiduous attention. Progress in writing is supported and encouraged. A variety of interesting and carefully graduated activities are undertaken through which the pupils have opportunities to write for different purposes and audiences.  Samples of the very good work completed by the pupils were to be seen in classrooms and effective use is made of ICT in this regard.  Handwriting and keyboard skills are also suitably promoted. The teachers attend to the monitoring and correction of the pupils’ work in a consistent and constructive manner. The development of literacy skills is integrated and supported across all curricular activities. From school-based assessment data, it is evident that the majority of pupils make important gains in reading over their period of attendance at Catherine Mc Auley School.

 

4.3 Mathematics

The approach to the teaching of Mathematics is set out in the school plan is aligned to the Primary School Curriculum. The plan outlines a number of the issues that are pertinent to the teaching of Mathematics with pupils who have a specific learning disability. It notes that most children with dyslexia experience a degree of difficulty with some aspects of learning in Mathematics and with the acquisition of mathematical facts.  However, while some pupils may be working at a curricular level a year or two below their class level, other pupils may need to be provided with more extensive and challenging material in their Mathematics programme. Teaching and learning activities in Mathematics are therefore carefully differentiated to accommodate the particular challenge that this area poses for many pupils.  A regular daily time of seventy minutes is allocated for Mathematics across the school and planning documents provide for all classes to undertake their programme at the same time of the school day.

 

Classroom activities endeavour to give pupils a wide range of opportunities that enable them to develop concepts and practice skills consistent with their learning needs. Learning targets are set for pupils and the lessons are well structured and differentiated to address the variety of capacities of the pupils.  The approach taken allows for whole-class activities, group work, pair work and individual teaching approaches to be undertaken as necessary. While for some pupils particular attention is given to the development of essential mathematical concepts and skills such as competency with number operations and computational skills, other pupils are provided with the broader programme according to their abilities. Good emphases in relation to active learning and problem solving are in evidence. The pupils were observed in engaging actively and purposefully in practical tasks, using concrete materials, discussing problems and recording data and the tasks undertaken were made relevant to their experiences. Conscientious efforts are made to enable the pupils to have positive and beneficial experiences in Mathematics and to reduce the anxiety or pressure some pupils may experience in this area of the curriculum.

 

Each classroom is equipped with a range of teacher-made and commercial resources and equipment. Visual aids, concrete materials, textbooks, calculators and worksheets are all employed to support the pupils’ learning.  ICT is used effectively in classrooms, particularly in relation to the practising of number operations and reinforcing of concepts, processes and skills. Teachers carefully monitor the work of the pupils and employ commercial tests in assessing progress.

 

 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

The programme of work undertaken in History is guided by a carefully considered whole-school plan based on the Primary School Curriculum. The approach adopted by the school recognises the importance of children experiencing aspects of the way historians carry out their work. Teachers aim to facilitate the pupils in acquiring knowledge and concepts, while at the same time developing important skills and attitudes in line with their stages of development. In the context of a broad and interesting programme of activities, the pupils are provided with opportunities to gain an appreciation of time and chronology, change and continuity, and cause and effect. Using a variety of methodologies, the pupils are provided with opportunities to explore the lives of people in other times and to develop an appreciation of life then compared with present day experiences. Some excellent examples of the work of the pupils can be seen in classrooms and on school corridors. The pupils participate with interest in the activities and can talk about and explain different aspects of their work. Good use is made of a variety of materials, including ICT. Story is also used effectively and the pupils’ development of the skills of listening, recalling and sequencing is skilfully supported.  Careful attention is given to the literacy needs of the pupils in this area and to the extension of vocabulary. The identification of feelings of empathy is given due consideration. The pupils have undertaken projects linked to aspects of local history, Irish history, Europe and ancient civilisations.

 

 

Geography

In Geography, the programme of work carried out is guided by the whole-school plan, which endeavours to bring relevance and meaning to the pupils’ activities in this area of the curriculum. The approach and aims adopted by the school is based on the Primary School Curriculum and provides the pupils with a variety of opportunities to investigate the interrelationships between the human and natural environments. Due attention is given to the development of an understanding of local, national, European and global themes. Where practicable, the activities undertaken are linked to the experiences of the pupils. Commendable use is made of the local environment, galleries, museums and places of interest, including amenities such as Merrion Square, The Grand Canal, and St Stephen's Green. Visual aids, photographs and other illustrated materials and books facilitate pupil participation in the lessons. Photographs of work and visits undertaken are attractively displayed.  ICT is also effectively employed to enable pupils to access and record information relevant to the work carried out in classrooms and on field trips and visits. Activities are suitably differentiated and there is an emphasis on cross-curricular thematic work as the pupils engage in activities that involve investigation, research, recording, discussion and sharing of information. Pupils can discuss the activities that they have been involved in and demonstrate a keen interest and concern in matters relating to the environment.

 

Science

Catherine McAuley School has developed a particular interest in Science education and was involved in the pilot project for the introduction of Science in the Primary School Curriculum 1999. Pupils throughout the school participate in a variety of activities to enhance their engagement in Science. The constructivist approach to Science, that is set out in the school plan, is based on the curriculum documents. One of the main aims of the programme is to facilitate the pupils in thinking scientifically. This involves the pupils in observing, questioning, discussing, predicting, analysing, exploring, investigating and experimenting. Teachers are also cognisant that the collaborative dimension of the activities undertaken in Science can contribute to the development of important social skills such as co-operation and shared problem solving and communication.

 

There is a good emphasis on hands-on, practical experiences in providing opportunities for the pupils to explore concepts and themes and to develop an understanding of Science. The school has also developed a working garden in grounds adjacent to the school premises. The pupils have an opportunity to enjoy planting a variety of flowers, vegetables and materials. Here, pupils are provided with opportunities to observe the garden as it develops and to take responsibility for weeding, pruning, watering and harvesting.  Activities such as composting and recycling are undertaken in a practical way. The school has access to the resources of ENFO and other local amenities. Lessons and activities are well structured and allow for the promotion of receptive and expressive language and literacy skills. Examples of aspects of Science and the natural environment are a feature of classrooms across the school, along with samples of the pupils’ own work and contributions.

 

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The school approach to the Visual Arts aims to provide creative and aesthetic experiences for the pupils through the provision of opportunities for exploration, investigation, invention and designing and making, in a variety of media. Teaching and learning in the Visual Arts aims to help the pupils to develop observational skills and sensitivity to the visual, spatial and tactile world and aesthetic experience. The teachers are conscious that the Visual Arts provide pupils with language and specific learning disabilities an alternative means to express their individuality. A wide-ranging programme is undertaken and the curriculum strands of drawing, paint and colour, clay, construction, print, and fabric and fibre are all explored. The school endeavours to enable the pupils to develop their potential in this curriculum area and to experience a sense of achievement in their work. The pupils enjoy participating in the activities and their efforts are acknowledged and affirmed.  Discussion of the work in the Visual Arts allows for the promotion of receptive and expressive language and the fostering of an awareness of emotions and feelings.

 

Suitable links are made with other curriculum areas and a wide range of cross-curricular themes and topics are explored. The school is well located in relation to galleries and museums and the pupils have occasions to experience the work of well-known artists on a regular basis. Over many years the school has been involved in a number of projects and at the time of this evaluation, the school was participating in an arts project in collaboration with Number 29, the ESB Georgian Museum. In classrooms and circulation areas throughout the school, the work of the pupils is attractively displayed and celebrated.

 

Music

In Music, school policy and practice are guided by the Primary School Curriculum and this curriculum area has been identified for further development planning. A number of the teaching staff has high levels of musical skills. Each of the strands of listening and responding, performing and composing is provided for and the teachers endeavour to offer positive experiences to their pupils.  Pupils are given a range of opportunities for listening to and appreciating music, using musical instruments and singing.  Some excellent work was in evidence in the classroom context and pupils were observed participating actively and beneficially in some very well presented music activities. The pupils also have good opportunities to listen to a range of traditions and styles of music, including, traditional Irish, classical and popular. Music is successfully integrated with other areas of the curriculum and is also an important part of school events and occasions throughout the year. The school participates regularly in the Music in the Classroom programme.

 

Drama

A detailed school plan based on the Primary School Curriculum has been developed for Drama. A number of teachers have specialist training in Drama. The school policy has been developed by the teachers taking into account the particular needs of their pupils. The school perspective is that Drama, as well as being an enjoyable activity can be an important learning tool for many curricular areas. Along with the aims of the Primary School Curriculum, the potential of Drama in making literacy activities more accessible and in helping to motivate pupils to engage with books are key elements of the approach. Some very impressive work in Drama was observed in the classroom context. Drama activities are constructively employed and integrated across the curriculum areas to support the pupils’ learning as they explored social and emotional contexts. Very interesting and effective use was made of role-play scenarios and improvisation as pupils were observed engaging in practising the skills of problem-solving and appropriate communication in relation to issues and situations relevant to their experiences. The participation of pupils is sensitively encouraged as they gain confidence in developing their communication skills in a supportive learning environment.

 

 

4.6 Physical Education

The programme of Physical Education carried out across the school aims to provide a range of activities to facilitate the pupils’ participation in regular, challenging physical activity that fosters the balanced development and the general well-being of the pupils. School policy for Physical Education (PE) is based on the Primary School Curriculum incorporating the strands of Athletics, Dance, Gymnastics, Games, Outdoor and Adventure Activities, and Aquatics. Along with regular PE lessons, the pupils participate in a range of sports activities including Soccer, Basketball, Hurling, and Dodge Ball. Swimming lessons are organised with a local pool. A good range of equipment and resources has been acquired to facilitate the implementation of the PE curriculum. While the school playground area is limited, the school also has the use of the hall and of a football pitch in a local public park. Lessons are well-structured, adapted to cater for the variety of pupils’ abilities and have a suitable emphasis on skill development.  Due regard is given to the needs and interests of the boys and girls in helping them to build positive attitudes towards PE activities. The teachers are conscious of the social and emotional dimension of the PE programme. Appropriate attention is given to the co-operative and recreational aspects of physical education activities, and the teachers emphasise the individual improvement aspect of PE rather than a comparison with others. During the period of evaluation, the pupils were observed participating in a range of enjoyable activities.

 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

The programme in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is based on the three strands of the Primary School Curriculum, Myself, Myself and Others, and Myself and the Wider World. This area of the curriculum is regarded as a key area of the pupils’ programme and a wide range of activities is provided throughout the school. The aims of the SPHE programme are achieved through the development and maintenance of a positive school climate, the teaching of discrete lessons, and the integration of SPHE topics with related areas across the curriculum. Constructive relationships between staff and pupils are facilitated and positive relationships among the pupils are encouraged and are in evidence throughout classrooms. Staff members are conscious of the need to provide opportunities to enhance the pupils’ self-esteem and aware that they may experience difficulties arising from their specific learning disability.

 

A wide range of policies is in place to support the implementation of the SPHE curriculum. These include programmes on Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), substance abuse, anti- bullying / racism, code of behaviour, child protection and health and safety. The school also draws on resources such as: The Walk Tall Programme, the RSE resource pack, the North Western Health Board Resource Pack, the Stay Safe Programme. A wide variety of methodologies is employed, including discussion, using visual and auditory aids, co-operative games, problem-solving activities, drama and role-play, and art activities. Opportunities to become aware of one's own feelings and those of others are, where appropriate, sensitively explored in classrooms. Due emphasis is given to the theme of making safe and healthy choices and in developing a sense of personal responsibility.

 

4.8 Assessment

In establishing the appropriateness of placement in this school for each pupil, a psychological report is required as part of the enrolment process. These reports, along with school reports contribute to the planning of an individualised education programme for each pupil. The teachers avail of a wide range of opportunities in regularly and conscientiously observing, monitoring and recording the work, progress and achievements of the pupils on an ongoing basis. Individual tasks, teacher designed tests, projects undertaken, checklists and folders of completed work assignments, are all beneficially employed in monitoring the progress of the pupils. The pupils are continually provided with constructive and supportive feedback on their work. Teachers are conscientious in maintaining monthly progress reports. The school has acquired a variety of commercial assessment materials to support assessment and evaluation practices in English and Mathematics, including norm-referenced and diagnostic tests. The school carefully stores records of assessment and pupil progress. Further consideration should be given to making wider use of information arising from norm-referenced and diagnostic assessment in programme planning for individual pupils. Parents are provided with written reports on their child's progress in specific areas of literacy and on all the curriculum areas, along with relevant aspects of their personal and social development.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Catherine McAuley School strives to address the particular learning needs of its pupils which arise from specific learning disabilities and associated learning difficulties. A comprehensive range of policies and practice has been developed and implemented across a range of organisational, curricular and pastoral areas to enable the school to address the specific learning needs of the pupils and to provide for their overall educational development. Individualised education programmes are devised and good systems of communication are maintained with parents to facilitate a shared approach to meeting the pupils’ education.  Differentiated teaching, in relation to content and methodologies is undertaken in classrooms. Pupils participate purposefully in the learning programmes and activities and were observed engaging actively and successfully in classrooms. With the pupils in the higher classes, consideration should be given to increasing the level of self-regulated learning activity undertaken by the pupils as these pupils prepare to transfer to Post-Primary education. The parents of the pupils report positively on the progress of their children during the period in which they attend Catherine McAuley School.

 

A number of pupils attending the school have additional learning needs such as attention deficit disorder or a specific language disorder. Supplementary teaching is provided to the pupils in cooperation with the class teachers. This additional support to pupils is provided in an imaginative, collaborative and effective manner. Individualised and group lessons and activities are provided. An effective school-based team system has been developed in which staff members come together, where necessary, to co-ordinate support in relation to the needs of individual pupils. Comprehensive programmes are put in place to address the particular needs of pupils with additional learning needs. Limited external support is available to the school from other agencies, such as the National Educational Psychological Service, and the Health Service Executive. The school authorities should bring its concerns regarding the adequacy of such support services to the attention of the National Council for Special Education.

 

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

The characteristic spirit of this school is inclusive and welcoming. Pupils from a wide variety of backgrounds attend the school and all are encouraged to participate actively in the life of the school. The school is conscious and proactive in accommodating pupils from disadvantaged and ethnic minority backgrounds. The school seeks to support and encourage the involvement of all pupils and their families in the various aspects of school life.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·       The chairperson and board of management, the principal and the in-school management team demonstrate ongoing vision, leadership and commitment to the

     sustained and progressive development of the school.

·        The principal, teachers and special needs assistants display consistently high levels of dedication and professionalism in their work with the pupils of the school.

·       Individualised, systematic and focused approaches are effectively employed across the school in the teaching of language and literacy to pupils with specific

     learning disabilities, and excellent practice was observed in classrooms.

·       The teachers demonstrate very good understanding of the needs of pupils with a specific learning disability and they are imaginative and creative in addressing

     the pupils’ learning needs and providing a broad, balanced and rich curriculum across the school.

·       The school staff has developed and carried out a wide range of interesting and challenging programmes and initiatives, making very good use of the Arts,

     the environment, Science and the local community amenities, in order to enhance pupil engagement and enjoyment of learning.

·       Accessible and effective arrangements have been established to facilitate good parent- teacher communication, and parents are enabled to contribute actively and

     positively to the work and development of the school.

 

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

 

·         School enrolment policy should be updated to take account of the changes in school procedures and in provision for pupils with a specific learning disability.

·         Consideration should be given to reviewing and developing school policy for Irish, appropriate to the learning needs of the pupils.

·         Further consideration should be given to the ways in which the information arising from the use of norm-referenced and diagnostic assessment materials could be

      used in programme planning for pupils.

·         Consideration should be given to increasing the level of self-regulated learning activities undertaken by pupils in the senior classes.

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published May 2009

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The BOM thanks the Inspectorate for their courtesy and professionalism, and for making the inspection process a positive experience for the school community.  The BOM welcomes the report as it recognises and affirms the high standard of education being provided at Catherine Mc Auley N.S.  The BOM welcomes the recognition given to the school in regard to the school commitment to excellence.  The BOM would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the on-going dedication, commitment of the staff, pupils, parents and the local community.

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection          

 

The BOM has noted the recommendations of the report and has started to implement them.