An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

 Queen of Angels National School

Wedgewood, Dundrum, Dublin 16

Uimhir rolla: 19723V

 

Date of inspection:  March 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 Queen of Angels National School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management.  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment 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

Queen of Angels primary school is one of two Catholic primary schools under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin in the parish of Balally in Dublin 16. The school caters for a very diverse population which includes a significant number of Traveller and newcomer pupils. The school also caters for a number of pupils with special educational needs. The school population has declined over the past decade. In 1996 there were 492 pupils on roll. At the time of the Whole School Evaluation, enrolment was 326 pupils. The school building is very well maintained and the grounds are spacious and attractive. The school is well known for its sports achievements and the staff, pupils and parents are particularly proud of these. A wide range of extra-curricular activities is provided and made available to all pupils.

 

The school is in Band 2 of the DEIS scheme. Poor attendance by a large number of pupils is a very significant challenge for the school. A number of strategies have been put in place in recent years to address these attendance matters.  For example, the school operates a breakfast club, a homework club and an infant club. An attendance secretary has been appointed to monitor attendance. The Home-School Community Liaison co-ordinator and the School Completion co-ordinator both work closely with the families of pupils whose school attendance is very erratic. It is envisaged that the impact of the various attendance strategies will be evident in the medium to long term.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board manages the school effectively. It meets regularly, keeps audited financial accounts and maintains detailed minutes of its meetings. The board complies with  legislation and Department regulations regarding mandatory policies and is involved in ratifying all curriculum policies and plans and in monitoring some of these. The board manages the finances and the school building effectively. It fosters good communication with the parent body and consults parents on issues as considered appropriate. The board is commended on its vigilance in ensuring that the integrity of the school year is maintained for the pupils.  Regular contact is maintained by the chairperson with the school though weekly meetings with the principal. The board is very committed to the school. It is aware of the diversity of the school population and supports the principal and staff in their efforts to meet pupil needs.

 

The board is commended on its use of self-review and critical reflection on its own work and achievements. The key challenge now facing the board is that of engaging closely with the principal in the review and improvement of pupil learning outcomes. The development of a strategic action plan is critical in this regard. This will require the clear identification of priorities, the setting of realistic targets and the provision for regular review. Strong curriculum leadership and close monitoring by the board should help to ensure that the plan is effectively implemented.

 

2.2 In-school management

The principal has a long association with the school and is very familiar with this particular school population. He is hard-working and is an able administrator. He is highly visible in the school and in the community, and for many years has ensured that sport, and the participation of both boys and girls in all sports, are central to school life.  He puts a great deal of time into managing discipline issues, addressing individual special needs cases and monitoring and promoting attendance. He fosters an open-door policy in the school and promotes an inclusive approach to all.  In recent years the number of pupils presenting with learning, social and pastoral needs has increased. Strong curriculum leadership, that takes into account the particular characteristics and needs of the school, is now required to address this changing situation.

 

At present the in-school management team comprises three assistant principals, the deputy principal and the principal. This group is supportive of the principal and meets on a regular basis. Responsibilities for the organisation of the curriculum plans, for the care of school equipment and teaching resources and particular school activities have been assigned to the post-holders. These posts are reviewed annually and are determined by the particular strengths of each teacher. The post-holders fulfil their duties on an individual basis. It is recommended that the responsibilities of the in-school management team be reviewed as matter of priority and that curriculum leadership is included as an integral element within the responsibilities of each post. The development of an in-school management team is essential to support the Principal in developing and implementing a whole-school action plan that incorporates curricular, pastoral and organisational dimensions.

 

2.3 Management of resources

There is a wide range of skill and expertise among the staff and, with the development of curriculum teams and other collaborative approaches, these skills could be utilised more effectively. Members of staff are commended for undertaking professional development courses on an individual basis. Special needs assistants are deployed very effectively in supporting pupils. They ensure that pupils are well cared for in school and they contribute effectively to the pupils’ personal and social development.

 

A wide range of resources are provided, monitored and stored in central locations throughout the school. A very well equipped computer room has been established recently and is being used effectively.  The parents’ association has provided funding for school equipment over the years and all curriculum areas are well resourced.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The parents’ association is properly constituted and meets regularly. It is primarily involved in fundraising and its members speak very highly of the commitment of the teachers and the flexible arrangements that are in place for teachers to meet with parents. While a significant number of parents live outside the catchment area, efforts are continually made by the school to keep in contact with them. The school website, the newsletter, the school journal, the good behaviour booklet and the general open-door policy in the school all ensure that home-school links are fostered. Through the HSCL scheme, parents have been involved in Maths for Fun and Paired Reading over the years.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

According to the mission statement, the school aspires to be inclusive, emphasising that all pupils are treated equally. The code of behaviour, in place since 1998, is familiar to pupils, teachers and parents and leads to good order. The pupils are generally well mannered. A copy of the school rules is displayed in each classroom and parents are directly involved, through the use of the good behaviour notebook, in fostering and promoting good behaviour. Approaches to behaviour management are not consistent throughout the school. It was noted that pupils are very well behaved where they are engaged in their learning, are appropriately challenged and where mutual respect is fostered. Similarly, good behaviour was also found in classes and settings where high expectations are set and individual learning needs are met. The school is commended on the recent introduction of assembly time. There is great scope in this initiative to celebrate achievements and to build pupil self-esteem and confidence.  Pupils participate enthusiastically in the wide range of after-school activities provided for them. A social skills programme has been developed for some pupils and it is now recommended that such a programme be extended to all classes through the school. 

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

A range of planning activities has been undertaken by the staff. Curriculum plans are in place for almost all curriculum areas and these have been collectively agreed by the teachers. Polices relating to the organisation of the school and those required under legislation have also been completed. Summaries of the plans and policies are available on the school website. This is a commendable initiative and should be refined in future years.  The organisational polices give direction to the staff to address particular issues and to ensure that the same approach is taken by all. The curriculum plans are consistent with the general aims and broad principles of the primary school curriculum. They now need to be customised to the specific needs of the school’s pupils. Furthermore, they should give greater attention to teaching and learning approaches in the context of this particular school.

 

It is essential that the school now engages in a whole-school planning process where curriculum priorities are identified, targets and associated approaches are agreed and a process for monitoring and evaluation are clearly outlined. Assessment information already available and the good practices already established in the school should guide the review process. External supports, such as the School Support Service, should be availed of as appropriate.  

 

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

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers plan on both a long-term and short-term basis. The quality of that planning varies. Some excellent examples of effective planning were evident during the inspection. For example, in a number of cases learning objectives were focused, teaching approaches were named, provision was made for different learning needs and appropriate processes for assessment were identified. It is recommended that this good practice be shared and adopted by all teachers. It is also essential that all short-term plans reflect the overall school plan and the named learning priorities. Monthly progress reports vary in format and style. The use of a standardised school template to record the monthly progress of each class is recommended in order to assess whether particular learning targets have been achieved at each class level.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

The quality of teaching and learning varies considerably through the school. In some classes, teachers confidently set clear learning objectives with relevant tasks designed to aid pupil understanding. They set high expectations, use appropriate resources, employ differentiated techniques and create classroom environments where pupils are motivated to learn. Effective questioning techniques are also used by these teachers and they ensure that activities are appropriately challenging. They also encourage pupils to be active in their own learning and to focus clearly on the development of basic concepts and skills. These teachers also monitor progress carefully. Some teachers through the school integrate topics very effectively and make learning meaningful and interesting for the pupils. In other classes, lessons are poorly structured, there is an over-reliance on the text book and pupils are neither appropriately challenged nor properly engaged in learning tasks. Lessons in such classes are not based on assessed pupil need or on particular learning outcomes and pupil motivation tends to be very low.

 

It is recommended that the school review current practice regarding teaching methods and approaches. Staff members need to identify the teaching approaches and strategies that are working effectively in the context of the achievement of appropriate learning objectives. Specific targets should be identified for particular pupil groupings with a built-in, regular review process. With strong curriculum leadership, the skill and expertise of individual staff members can be utilised more effectively to ensure high quality teaching approaches for all pupils.   

 

4.2 Language

Gaeilge

Tá eagsúlacht léirithe i gcáilíocht na foghlama agus teagaisc sa Ghaeilge tríd an scoil agus sa chaighdéan atá á bhaint amach. Mar shampla, tá caighdeán maith á bhaint amach sa Ghaeilge labhartha agus scríofa sna hardranganna ach go háirithe. Múintear fílíocht, foclóir agus scéalta go héifeachtúil. Sna bun ranganna agus sna méan ranganna cuirtear béim ar fhoghlaim na rannta agus an fhoclóir agus baintear úsáid as cluichí mar mhodh theagaisc, ach i bhformhór sna ranganna sin ní raibh sé ar chumas na ndaltaí cumarsáid éifeachtúil a dhéanamh trí mhéan na Gaeilge.

 

Chun leanúnachas a chothú ó rang go rang, moltar plean scoile a leagan amach ina bhfuil treoracha soiléire a thabhairt do na hoidí maidir le múineadh na téamaí éagsúla, ina bhfuil leanúnachas léirithe ó rang go rang agus ina bhfuil béim sa bhreis ar scileanna éisteachta agus labhartha. B’fhiú breis béime a chur ar ar an gcur chuige cumarsáide i ngach rang agus deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí an fhoclóir agus na frasaí atá ar eolas acu a chleachtadh. Déanann cuid de na hoidí a ndícheall chun na Gaeilge a úsáid mar theanga caidrimh le linn na gceachtanna agus moltar an chleachtadh sin a fheabhsú tríd an scoil.

 

 

Irish

There is considerable variety in the quality of teaching and learning in Irish throughout the school and in the standards being achieved. A good standard in spoken and written Irish is being achieved in the senior classes in particular. Poetry, vocabulary and stories are taught effectively in these classes. In the junior and middle classes appropriate emphasis is placed on learning rhymes, extending vocabulary and using games as a teaching tool.  But significantly in most of these classes the pupils were unable to use the Irish that they had learned to communicate meaningfully. It is recommended that the school develop an overall school plan which clearly states the language to be learned at each level. This would ensure continuity from class to class, and enable the pupils to build on previous learning more effectively. More emphasis needs to be placed on pupils communicating though Irish and on providing sufficient opportunities for them to practise the Irish words and phrases that they have learned.  A number of teachers make very good efforts to use Irish as the language of the class when teaching Irish. This is commended. This good practice should be extended to all classes.

 

English

The quality of teaching and learning in English varies throughout the school. Print-rich environments are provided in most classes and a positive attitude to reading is fostered. Some very good teaching is evident  with some pupils being given excellent opportunities to explore poetry, to develop reading skills and to engage in a variety of writing genres. Efforts by teachers to differentiate material for pupils vary through the school. Greater differentiation is required to meet pupil needs. Particular language challenges face the pupils at the junior level of the school. While some very focused work on developing literacy and writing skills is taking place at this level, this good practice needs to be extended to all junior classes. Various phonics programmes are taught through the school. It is recommended that one clear approach be developed and taught consistently in all classes. Oral language, a key element in any literacy programme, is well developed in some classes. A clear whole-school oral language plan should be devised which caters directly for the pupils’ oracy needs. This plan should be implemented consistently through the school.

 

In short, it is recommended that the school plan for English be revised to ensure that the programme outlined is specific to the needs of the pupils and is implemented consistently. The excellent work on analysing English test data that is currently being carried out and the skills among the staff  can contribute significantly to this planning process. A library is housed in the central block and all pupils borrow a book once a week. The stock needs updating and as monies become available the library should be redecorated to create a more attractive and stimulating reading environment.

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

The quality of the teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good in some classes. Clear learning objectives and the appropriate use of concrete materials and resources are the hallmarks of this very good teaching. Pupils, in these classes, are given opportunities to engage in group tasks, to estimate and to solve problems. The content and approaches are also appropriately adapted to meet the varying learning needs and ICT is used effectively to reinforce learning. Many classrooms have excellent mathematics corners where materials and appropriate posters are on display. It was clear from the classroom visits and from examining the standardised tests that some pupils/groups of pupils are achieving very well in Mathematics. There are also many pupils facing challenges in Mathematics. It is recommended that more group teaching be included and that an oral Mathematics programme be introduced and implemented consistently in all classes. It is also essential that ongoing monitoring, consolidation and review are practised as key elements of the mathematics programme in all classes.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

The quality of teaching and learning in SESE is generally good. Topics in SESE are effectively integrated and there is a good balance of class and group teaching. In most classes there are very good displays of the pupils’ work in both history and geography and the development of the skills of the historian and of a geographer are emphasised. The development of mapping skills and geographical language in particular, is commended. Timelines, maps and posters are on show in some classrooms and pupils are exposed to broad programmes of work that are not based exclusively on the class text books. Pupils, in general, readily answer questions on topics covered and are enthusiastic in their responses.

 

The local environment is used very effectively as a resource for teaching and pupils are given a range of opportunities to become familiar with their own local place and space. The work done by the pupils in the context of the Green School Project is particularly commended. Nature tables were observed and pupils engage in the growing of plants while some individual pupils prepare hanging baskets of flowers. To build on the good work in SESE it is recommended that some teachers lead the development of a whole-school science programme where appropriate emphasis is placed on developing scientific skills and ensuring that the pupils cover a wide range of science content.

 

4.5 The Arts

 

Visual Arts

Many samples of the pupils’ good work in the Visual Arts are displayed effectively around the school building and in individual classrooms. All strands of the curriculum are being covered and pupils in general are able to talk competently about their work and to respond meaningfully to the work of others.  It is recommended that more opportunities be given to the pupils to use the language of the Visual Arts and to link art with real life.

 

Music

The quality of teaching and learning in Music varies considerably through the school. In some classes, excellent examples of teaching music literacy and rhythm were witnessed and pupils are given opportunities to compose their own pieces. Also in these classes the quality of song-singing is excellent and the range of songs being taught is quite comprehensive. The musical resources in the school are very good and readily available to all teachers. It is recommended that the school plan for music be reviewed in order that all pupils in all classes experience the three strands of the music curriculum as appropriate. The sharing of current good practice in music teaching among all the teachers is also advised.   

 

Drama

Drama is primarily used as a tool for teaching in this school. Some of the modes of drama such as role play, mime and story are used as teaching methods for exploring topics in Geography, English and History. Some good work was evident and good efforts are being made in some classes to use drama and to engage pupils in dramatic activities. The challenge for the school in the teaching of drama is to ensure that drama is used consistently in all classes to develop self-esteem and self-confidence in the pupils as well as to develop a greater understanding of themselves and their world.

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

The quality of teaching and learning in Physical Education is generally very good. Lessons are well structured, developmental and based on the acquisition of specific skills. Where very good practice was observed pupils were actively engaged throughout the lessons, were highly motivated and were clear on the learning outcomes. The PE programme implemented is broad and balanced and equal opportunities for participation by boys and girls are ensured. This is particularly commended. The school has an excellent range of PE equipment and the recent refurbishment of the school hall has been of wonderful benefit to the pupils.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

The school follows a particular whole-school programme based on a specific set of SPHE classroom materials that are in keeping with the principles and objectives of the Primary School Curriculum 1999. This ensures a developmental approach and is commended. It was noted that in some classes the pupils are very actively engaged in the lessons and the key messages are being reinforced. Many teachers work hard to provide a positive, supportive atmosphere for the pupils and staff. The staff members as a whole are encouraged to continue to do this as the school embraces all the current changes and challenges.

 

4.8 Assessment

 

Informal assessments such as written work and teacher-designed tests and tasks are routinely given and corrected. This information is then used to inform subsequent pupil learning experiences in some classes. It is recommended that classroom planning focus clearly on the expected outcomes of learning to ensure that this approach is used by all teachers. Standardised testing is largely the responsibility of the Special Education Needs (SEN) team. Significant work has been done in recent months on collating standardised test results and on tracking the progress of some pupils. The school is commended on the quality of the recording and reporting of this data.  

 

The key challenge for the school in the area of assessment is to interpret and to use these results, along with other school information, to plan for future learning on both an individual and class basis. The full involvement of all teachers in this process is critical to bring about an improvement in pupil attainment. A clear whole-school policy on assessment and the consistent implementation of that policy by all is vital in this regard.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school policy on pupils with special educational needs is currently being developed. The collaborative approach being taken to this work is commended and it will take some time before its impact can be determined. The policy is based on the staged approach to the identification of pupils who require support teaching and is consistent with the Department’s guidelines and circulars. As there is a large number of pupils who need various kinds of support it is timely that the school ensure that the policy under development reflects the needs of the school and outlines very specifically

(i)                   the whole-school approaches to be used by all teachers to address learning needs

(ii)                 the teaching approaches including options other than the withdrawal of pupils

(iii)                the role of setting targets based on identified needs and the systematic review processes to be used for assessing achievement

(iv)                the approach to planning to be used consistently by all SEN teachers

(v)                  the  ways in which communication between parents and class teachers with the SEN team can be fostered

(vi)                the allocation and use of appropriate resources.

 

The school currently provides support in Mathematics and literacy for all pupils from senior infants to sixth class. Some successful teaching techniques are used by the support teachers and some good results are being achieved with individual pupils. The primary method of support is withdrawal in small groups. Some pupils are assessed for support using diagnostic tests whereas others are withdrawn because they have been identified by the class teacher as in need of extra help. Good efforts are made to ensure that pupils benefit from the whole curriculum and do not consistently miss out on the same curriculum area. It is advised that in light of the developing policy on special educational needs and the emerging needs in the school, early intervention programmes with the junior classes should be considered as should options regarding other types of in-class support.

 

Some learning-support teachers plan very comprehensively, basing their targets and goals on results of diagnostic testing and ensuring that these targets are measurable and realisable within a defined period. As the SEN team becomes more established all support teachers should plan in this way.

 

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

 

The school has a range of supports in place to meet the diverse needs of its population. These include a language support teacher, a HSCL co-ordinator, the school completion programme co- ordinator and two teachers for Traveller pupils. The language support provision is of a very high standard and excellent progress is being made by the pupils. It is provided on both a withdrawal and in-class basis and planning for these pupils is focused with clear targets for learning identified and monitored. Whole-school celebrations of interculturalism have taken place in recent years and it is hoped that these will once again become a feature of school life. Traveller pupils are withdrawn for learning support each day in both Mathematics and literacy. A variety of teaching approaches is used and some pupils make significant progress over the year. Some of the practices regarding the organisation of pupils and the deployment of the teaching resources should be reviewed in light of the developing policy on special educational needs.  

 

The HSCL co-ordinator and School Completion co-ordinator are highly commended on the work they do to foster home-school links and to address the needs of pupils and families at risk. Many initiatives have been put in place under these schemes such as a homework club and a breakfast club, the Maths for Fun programme and the infant preparation day in June. Needs have been clearly identified and good action plans with specific targets have been put in place. Significant work has been done to develop positive relationships with families and pupils who are at risk. The school plans very effectively for the transition of pupils to post-primary school. The HSCL co-ordinator and the School Completion co-ordinator play a significant role in this work.  Excellent links have been created with outside agencies and pupils are evidently benefiting from this multi-agency approach. The establishment of a care team is an excellent initiative and should be part of a planned overall school approach to addressing needs.

 

While all the individual elements of support for pupils are working well it is recommended that a more whole-school approach to providing support be developed which would include monitoring progress very carefully and sharing responsibilities among all the school personnel.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         The principal, teaching staff and ancillary staff members are very committed and hardworking.

·         The board of management is very supportive of the staff and the pupils.  

·         The school has a high standard of accommodation and the pupils are taught in a very pleasant environment.

·         The school is inclusive in its practice and takes pride in all its pupils.

·         A range of initiatives has been put in place to address particular needs, for example, an attendance secretary to monitor attendance, the infant club, the breakfast club and the homework club.

·         The staff members have recently begun very meaningful work on a whole-school policy on special needs and on the development of a team approach to meeting the varying needs of the pupils.

·         The parents are committed to the school and contribute regularly to fundraising

·         Excellent work is being done by the HSCL co-ordinator and the School Completion co-ordinator to foster meaningful home/school relations and to use a multi-agency approach to meeting the needs of families at risk.

·         The school is clearly committed to making sport available to all pupils and it has had many significant sports achievements.

·         Staff members are aware of the significant challenges facing the school at the present time.

 

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

·         It is recommended that a whole-school action plan be developed and implemented to address the changing needs and challenges facing the school.

·         It is recommended that a focused team approach to in-school management be adopted.

·         It is recommended that opportunities for collaborative planning among the staff be provided and availed of as required.  

·         It is recommended that a clear whole-school policy on assessment be developed and that it is consistently implemented by all. 

·         It is recommended that strong curriculum leadership be provided in order to advance teaching and learning and to bring about improvement in pupil learning outcomes.

 

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 December 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The BOM wishes to acknowledge the courtesy and professionalism of the Inspectorate during their visit to Queen of Angels Primary School.

The BOM welcomes the very positive findings of the WSE report.  The BOM also welcomes the constructive comments and recommendations throughout the report.  In particular the BOM welcomes the Inspectorates’ appreciation of the exclusivity of the school and the pride taken in all pupils, in addition to the commitment and hard work of the principal, teaching staff, ancillary staff and parents.

 

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 and staff have begun the process of reviewing the report in detail.  It is intended to incorporate all WSE recommendations in the school’s strategic plan which will be implemented during the next five years.

 

To date, the key recommendations acted upon include:

 

·         New in-school management structures have been put in place

·         Structures for collaborative planning have been established on a whole-school basis

·         Early intervention strategies that were in the early stages during the WSE have been added to and are being developed further

·         Other key recommendations of the report will be initiated and developed in due course as part of our whole-school action plan