An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St. James’ Church of Ireland NS

Stradbally, County Waterford

Uimhir rolla:  19726E

 

 

Date of inspection: 18 February 2008

  Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

1.     Quality of school management

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

1.2 Board of management

1.3 In-school management

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

1.5 Management of pupils

2.     Quality of school planning

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

3.1 Language

3.2 Mathematics

3.3 Visual Arts

3.4 Physical Education

3.5 Assessment

4.     Quality of support for pupils

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

5.     Conclusion

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Stradbally Church of Ireland NS was undertaken in January 2008. 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, Visual Arts and Physical Education. .

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

St. James NS is a co-educational, Church of Ireland primary school serving the picturesque village of Stradbally and its environs. The present school received recognition from the DES in 1981 but the school building dates back to the seventeenth century and housed a school prior to the establishment of the present one. There are currently 30 pupils on roll and enrolment predictions indicate that this figure will hold over the coming years. The school changed from one to two teachers in 1994. 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.

 

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

30

Mainstream classes in the school

2

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

St. James’ NS is under the patronage of the Bishop of Cashel, Waterford and Lismore. The aims of the school are clearly outlined in the vision and mission statement. It is hoped to instil confidence in the pupils, thus enabling them to reach their potential academically and socially. Pupils are encouraged to have respect for themselves, others and the environment and to have an appreciation and respect for their culture and heritage. The school hopes that the pupils will develop into self-disciplined and well-balanced adults. While the school has Church of Ireland ethos, there is due respect for all other faiths in the school.

 

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The Board of Management is committed to the provision of effective education for the pupils in the school. They endeavour to support the work of the teachers and address issues of concern. Meetings are held once or twice per term and minutes are taken at each meeting. Copies of these were made available during the evaluation. A statement of finances is also given at meetings. However, the board is advised to begin the practice of an annual external audit of accounts in line with DES recommendations and the provisions of the Education Act (1998). The board plays a role in the review of policies and plans. The current building project has dominated the agenda of recent Board of Management meetings but a recent decision was taken to form a sub-committee of board members in order to pursue this project further. Much progress has been made and at the time of the evaluation, the project was at pre-planning stage. The board is also concerned with the general upkeep of the school and has always undertaken regular maintenance and painting. During the pre-evaluation meeting, the board raised its concern about issues that have arisen around communication with the recently formed Parents’ Association. It is the hope of board members that difficulties can be overcome and that a harmonious relationship can be resumed. At the time of the pre-evaluation meetings, steps had been taken towards organising a mediator to chair a meeting of all parties and at the post-evaluation meetings, the board reported that this mediation had proven successful.

 

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The principal is very dedicated and hard-working and provides outstanding leadership to the school. She is well respected amongst the school community and her meticulous organisational skills ensure the smooth and effective running of the school. Her attention to detail and commitment to the pupils lead to high operational standards. Her strong curriculum leadership has a positive impact on curricular development in the school. Since September 2007, the school is part of a cluster group in which there is a substitute employed to provide substitute cover for the taking of principal release days. The principal reported that this was a welcome development as it allows for continuity and familiarity for the pupils with the substitute, as well as allowing for the planning of days well in advance. 

 

There is much cooperation, collaboration and teamwork between the principal and the special duties post holder. This leads to effective collaboration on all aspects of teaching and learning. The special duties post includes a range of duties that are suitable for the two-teacher setting and complement those of the principal. They are commendably carried out by the post holder.  

 

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

Parental involvement and support is an integral part of the life of the school and parents play a very active role. This is acknowledged and highly praised by the teachers in the school. Parents are involved in fundraising activities, in organising talks for parents and they have opportunities to share their skills and talents in the school. They organise a weekly sports club after school, have organised a daily programme of ‘primary movement’ for all pupils, and undertake projects such as bulb planting, art lessons, designing a school crest, drama and bird observation, to name but a few activities. Parents are also part of the committee for the ‘Green Schools Initiative’ in which the school has participated for a number of years. A recent development was the formation of a parents’ association, affiliated to the National Parents Council. At the recent pre-evaluation meetings, the officers of the parents’ association were most praiseworthy of the work of the teachers in the school and reported that parents are pleased with the pupils’ learning experiences in the school. However, amongst the concerns raised was the need to develop stronger and more open communications with the board of management, which has subsequently been addressed.  

 

 

 

 

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

There is a sense of harmony and unity in the school and teachers and pupils work together in a well managed, caring environment. During the course of the evaluation, the pupils were courteous, friendly and well mannered.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole-school planning is good. A large number of policies have been drawn up by the teachers. These include statements on many aspects of school life including enrolment, homework, bullying, child protection, supervision and health and safety. Many have been ratified by the board of management but it is advised that all policies should be ratified and dated formally by the board. The parents’ association could be encouraged to develop a more active role in developing aspects of the school plan as policies come up for review.

 

Plans for all curricular areas have been developed. It is recommended that plans should be reviewed with a focus on the development of more accessible and effective plans in guiding practice within classrooms. They should be contextualised and should reflect some of the excellent practice observed in the school during the evaluation.  

 

The quality of classroom planning is good and all teachers prepare long-term and short-term plans. The template for short-term planning has been reviewed recently and is also used as the monthly report template. It is evident that teachers spend a great deal of time planning carefully in order to deliver all aspects of the curriculum to four classes. This demands high levels of preparation.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Múintear an Ghaeilge go hábalta sna ranganna éagsúla agus tá dearcadh dearfach i leith na teanga le sonrú sa scoil. Tá réimse d’amhráin agus rannta ar eolas ag na daltaí sna bunranganna. Úsáideann an múinteoir réimse d’fhearas suimiúil chun tuiscint na ndaltaí ar théarmaíocht agus ar fhocail nua a neartú. Baintear sár-úsáid as rólghlacadh i rith na gceachtanna ach moltar a thuilleadh deiseanna cumarsáíde a chruthú do na daltaí agus obair bheirte a fhorbairt chomh maith. Tugann na daltaí faoi réimse de ghníomhaíochtaí sna leabhair saothair atá in úsáid sa rang, chomh maith le gníomhaíochtaí simplí sna cóipleabhair. Sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna, tá leagan amach an-shoiléir ar na ceachtanna. Tugtar deiseanna rialta do na daltaí chun a nGaeilge labhartha a chleachtadh. Úsáidtear drámaíocht, rólghlacadh agus obair bheirte go hábalta agus go héifeachtach, agus baineann na daltaí an-taitneamh agus tairbhe as na gníomhaíochtaí seo. Tá caighdeán maith sroichte ag na daltaí sa léitheoireacht agus ullmhaíonn an múinteoir sliochtanna oiriúnacha bunaithe ar théama na gceachtanna. Tá an scríbhneoireacht bunaithe ar an gcómhrá chomh maith agus deánann na daltaí gníomhaíochtaí sna leabhair saothair agus sna cóipleabhair. Tugtar faoi phíosaí saor-scríbhneoirechta go rialta agus tá caighdeán maith á shroichint ag roinnt daltaí.

 

 

Irish

Irish is ably taught in classes and a positive outlook towards Irish is apparent in the school. Children in the infant and junior classes recite a range of songs and rhyme. The teacher uses a range of interesting equipment and visual aids in order to strengthen the pupils’ understanding of new terminology and phrases. Good use was made of role-play during the lesson but it is advised that extra opportunities for communication between pupils should be created, and pair work should be further developed. Pupils undertake a variety of activities in the workbooks in use by the class, as well simple tasks in the copybooks. In the middle and senior classes, lessons have a clear structure. Regular opportunities are created for pupils to practise spoken Irish. Drama, role-play and pair-work are used ably and effectively and pupils enjoy and benefit from these activities. Pupils have reached a good standard in reading and the teacher prepares suitable passages based on the lesson theme. Writing is also based on conversation and pupils undertake activities in workbooks and copybooks. Free writing tasks are undertaken regularly. Some pupils are achieving good standards in the language.

 

 

English

Both parents and the board of management can be assured that pupils are achieving high standards in the area of English. Oral language skills are well developed amongst the pupils in the school. Many opportunities are provided for pupils to engage in discussions across a wide variety of topics in all curricular areas and discrete lessons focus on the development of particular skills. As a result, pupils are able to engage competently and confidently in discussions on a wide variety of topics. Poetry is well developed in the school and pupils demonstrate a keen interest. They are provided with ample opportunities to study and respond to poems in various ways including drama, and to compose their own. Pupils in all classes respond well to this activity and composed some excellent poetry during the lessons observed.

 

Reading has a central position in the school and there is a very good standard of literacy amongst the majority of the pupils. A variety of teaching strategies is used in the teaching of reading. These include the use of large-format books, print-rich environments, a phonological awareness and a phonics programme, the use of a reading scheme and novels from first class onwards. This is supplemented by the personal reading material from class libraries. Novels are used extensively in the middle and senior classes and the approach used is praiseworthy. Pupils evidently enjoy the exploration of the novels and engage in a wide variety of activities to deepen understanding and develop skills. The ‘Reading Buddies’ scheme is proving an extremely worthwhile venture as pupils from middle and senior classes engage in peer reading activities with infant and junior classes. This is well organised and teachers have noticed significant benefits for all pupils.

Pupils engage in a variety of writing activities, both functional and creative. Pupils from senior infants upwards are given opportunities to engage in personal writing and demonstrate an eagerness to participate. High standards are achieved by the many pupils in the school.  Pupils make good use of personal word dictionaries for the spelling of words in the junior classes. Samples of a wide variety of writing genres were evident in both copybooks and on display areas. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is used effectively in the draft, edit re-draft process in the junior classroom.

 

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken effectively throughout the school and is managed particularly well in the multi-class settings. Mental Maths is developed through daily practice in all classrooms and the productive use of mathematical games to arouse interest and apply concepts is to be commended. All strands are covered appropriately. In the infant and junior classes, highly effective use is made of active methodologies which provide pupils with opportunities to develop mathematical skills as well as appropriate mathematical language. Concrete materials are used with great effect and there is great emphasis on a hands-on, practical approach. In the middle and senior classes, active methodologies and discovery learning are central features of lessons. The language of Mathematics is developed through discussion and activity and use of appropriate manipulatives. Pupils demonstrate a good knowledge of a range of mathematical concepts and apply these appropriately. Written work is well monitored. The learning support teacher assists in classroom activities with a particular focus on those in most need of assistance.

 

 

3.3 Visual Arts  

 

A broad and balanced programme is delivered in the area of Visual Arts. Pupils are given opportunities to engage in activities from all strands of the curriculum. Samples of the pupils’ work are attractively displayed in the classrooms and pupils are keen to discuss these. Opportunities are provided for pupils to experiment with a variety of art materials, media and techniques. Individual expression is encouraged. They are also given opportunities to discuss, to appreciate and to respond to the work of various artists from different eras in art history, right up to modern and contemporary artists. In all classrooms, art lessons are frequently linked with other aspects of the curriculum. In the senior class, pupils used clay to represent houses from the famine era and in the junior class pupils used the medium of paint to explore mathematical concepts.

 

 

 

 

 

3.4 Physical Education

 

Facilities for Physical Education (PE) are limited in the school and the delivery of a broad and balanced programme is dependent on weather. The hard surface area is limited and the school also has the use of a limited grass area. However, teachers are to be highly commended for their imaginative approach to making the most of the current facilities. While inclement weather conditions curtailed the use of the outdoors for a planned orientation activity during the evaluation, interesting lessons were carried out within the classrooms. In the infant and junior classes, pupils did simple movement lessons, cleverly linked with Drama. Pupils in the middle and senior classes participated actively in dance lessons. The school has used DES grants and money provided through fundraising to acquire resources for Physical Education and has the use of the local soccer pitch for outdoor games during summer months. The school has plans for an expansion of play areas as part of the current building project.

 

 

3.5 Assessment

 

The school policy on assessment clearly outlines the procedures for assessment in the school. A variety of approaches are adopted. Teacher observation is used effectively in all classrooms and work is carefully monitored. Teacher designed tests are used for regular monitoring of various aspects of the curriculum. Standardised tests are administered annually in both literacy and numeracy and these are mainly used to select pupils who may be in need of supplementary teaching. The Middle Infant Screening Test is administered to senior infants. Teachers keep results in tables and these are shared with parents at both formal and informal parent teacher meetings and in the school report.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The school receives five and a half hours of learning support time each week from a shared teacher, based in another local school. A cluster policy has been drawn up by the three schools in the cluster and this is reviewed bi-annually. This practice is to be commended. The school policy outlines roles and practices in learning support. However, it is recommended that this be reviewed to take account of the staged approach that is outlined in Circular 02/05. It is also advised that Learning Plans be developed for pupils receiving learning support so that class teachers, the learning support teacher, parents and pupils are clear on learning needs and targets. The learning support teacher provides worthy support to pupils in the areas of literacy and numeracy. While withdrawal is the primary method of support, some in-class support is also organised particularly in the area of Mathematics.  

   

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

 

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

 

-

 

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

 

 

 

Appendix

School Response to the Report

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Inspection Report School Response Form

 

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

In accordance with Section 18 (1) of the Education Act 1998 the Board of Management has secured the services of an accountant to audit the School accounts.  This will be done at the end of each school year.

The Board of management has studied the recommendations made in the report and shall act upon them.