An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St Brigid’s National School

Brookfield, Tallaght, Dublin 24

Uimhir Rolla:  19782O

 

Date of inspection: 1 December 2008

 

 

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of supports for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

WHOLE-SCHOOL EVALUATION

 

 

A whole-school evaluation of St Brigid’s National School was undertaken in December 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on aspects of the school’s provision including management, teaching and learning, planning and supports for pupils, with a particular focus on the provision of English as an Additional Language (EAL).  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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

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

 

 

Number

Total number of teachers on the school staff

33

Number of mainstream class teachers

17

Total number of teachers working in support roles

15

Number of language support teachers

4

Special needs assistants

8

Total number of pupils enrolled in the school

354

Number of pupils with English as an additional language

120

 

 

1.             Quality of school management

 

1.1         Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

St Brigid’s National School is a co-educational school under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. It caters for pupils from junior infants to second class. The school is a designated DEIS Band 1 school. It participates in the Giving Children an Even Break initiative and the School Completion Programme. The school’s stated mission is to provide a safe, caring environment where students can develop a sense of independence, responsibility and self-confidence to enable them to achieve their fullest potential and become life-long learners. Central to its mission is that the school values literacy and inspires enthusiasm, commitment, pride and a willingness to challenge oneself and learn from others. The school’s commitment to its stated aims is reflected in the caring, supportive and respectful school atmosphere, the positive classroom interactions, the commitment of staff to work collaboratively and the contributions of teachers to extra-curricular activities. The Catholic ethos of the school is reflected in the daily whole-school assemblies that promote universal values and in the regular visits by the school’s chaplain. The school’s commitment to inclusive education is evidenced in the welcome afforded to pupils and parents of all ethnic groups and nationalities, the school signage and displays, and its celebration of the diversity of its population through an annual intercultural week.

 

 

 

1.2         Board of management

 

The board is properly constituted, meets regularly and maintains comprehensive minutes. Members of the board have clearly defined roles and several members have participated in associated training.   All aspects of the board’s work are underpinned by the overarching aim of providing a high quality education for the pupils in Brookfield.    The board is commended on producing plans for both the maintenance of the school building and the provision of teaching and learning resources. Of significant concern to the board, in recent years, has been the maintenance of the school roof, the playground and the staff car-park.  The board ratifies all school policies and actively engages in the development of organisational polices. Financial reports are furnished at each meeting and the school finances are audited annually. The school is in compliance with relevant legislation, guidelines and circulars. The board is welcoming of all pupils, including EAL pupils, and has put the necessary human and physical resources in place to cater for their needs. The board is commended on actively attempting to recruit a representative from minority groups. It is recommended that the board further consider ways in which it can enhance the communication of policies and school information to all parents.

 

1.3         In-school management

 

The quality of leadership in the school is very good. The principal exhibits well-developed administrative skills that enable her to manage the school in a highly efficient and effective manner. Her in-depth knowledge of the curriculum, and of educational issues generally, enables her to provide both inspirational and instructional leadership. Her primary focus is the provision of a high-quality, holistic education, and she sets high standards for herself, the staff and all pupils.  She plays a leading role in facilitating effective provision for EAL pupils. Her leadership style promotes a culture of team work and enables staff members to undertake leadership roles that promote school improvement through self-evaluation. The in-school management team play a key role in leading improvement and innovation in the school. The senior management team meets fortnightly and the full management team meets at least three times a year to discuss both management issues and matters related to the school’s development plan. The post-holders carry out their duties, which reflect the current priorities of the school, conscientiously. In addition to reporting to teachers regularly, they are commended on furnishing end-of-year reports to the principal. Formal staff meetings are held at least three times a year, the agenda for which is drawn up in consultation with staff. Minutes of these meetings are maintained and points for future action are noted. 

 

 

1.4         The management of resources

 

The principal ensures that staff are deployed appropriately and that their skills and abilities are used effectively to meet pupils' needs. To ensure that teachers are enabled to teach at all class class levels and in all settings, a formal policy on class allocation should be developed. The board supports the continuing professional development of staff through enabling them to attend relevant DES training, including EAL courses, and part-funding courses that complement the school development plan. Staff who avail of support are subsequently expected to disseminate their new information/skills to other staff members. Special needs assistants (SNAs) are deployed appropriately and carry out their duties conscientiously. The school secretaries, lunch lady and caretaker contribute very effectively to the smooth and efficient functioning of the school.

 

The school has invested in a good range of resources, including specific learning programmes, to support teaching and learning. Commercial resources, which are complemented by teacher-produced resources, are well-organised, accessible and used proficiently and effectively. The school is currently extending the range of reading materials to reflect the pupils’ various cultures and languages. The classroom environments are well-organised, stimulating and print-rich.  Several displays throughout the school promote and celebrate cultural diversity.

 

The main school building provides accommodation for fourteen mainstream classrooms, a general purpose room, a computer room and administrative offices. This is supplemented by three pre-fabricated classrooms and eight pre-fabricated resource-teaching rooms. The board is commended on integrating the pre-fabricated accommodation with the main school building. It is concerned by the disruption that the on-going maintenance of the roof has caused to the utilisation of the recently-refurbished ICT suite.  Those involved in the upkeep and cleaning of the school are complimented on their contribution towards maintaining a clean and safe environment for staff and pupils.

 

 

1.5         Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

The quality of parental involvement, including EAL parents, in the life of the school is varied. A range of procedures is in place to facilitate formal communication with parents. These include an initial meeting for new parents, the provision of a school booklet that contains relevant policies and procedures and the school’s open-door policy that is welcoming of parents’ friends who serve as translators. All school policies are provided in English. It is recommended that the school give further consideration to the communication of the school policies in an accessible format that accommodates the diversity of parents. On-going contact is maintained with parents by sending notes home and through the regular school newsletter. Teachers provide parents with an end-of-year report and provision is made for annual parental consultations. Parents are also welcome to make appointments to meet the teachers if concerns arise. The school is concerned by the low attendance of some parents at parental consultations and it is recommended that additional strategies to both facilitate communication and encourage their attendance be devised. The recently appointed home-school liaison co-ordinator has commenced work on enhancing communication with the wider school community. The school is commended on having established a pilot guided reading project in which the parents involved have participated with enthusiasm and commitment. To further extend the involvement of parents in the life of the school, it is recommended that the board renews its efforts to establish a parents' association.

 

 

1.6         Management of pupils

 

A positive and inclusive ethos permeates the school and pupils are treated with equality, fairness and respect. There is a strong emphasis on positive-behaviour strategies and the pupils are generally very well behaved. The pastoral needs of the pupils are managed effectively by the school care team in conjunction with the other staff members.  It is recommended that the published Code of Behaviour explicitly set out the procedures to be followed in the case of long-term suspension and permanent exclusion. Pupils are eager and motivated in their learning. A good range of extra-curricular activities is available and all pupils are welcome to participate. All EAL pupils are placed in age-appropriate settings.

 

 

 

2.             Quality of school planning

 

2.1         Quality of whole-school planning

 

The quality of whole-school planning is very good. The school plan encompasses curriculum and administrative policies that take due account of legislative and curriculum requirements and the school’s context.  In designing the plan, the staff has availed of the guidance of the support services. All staff participate in the development and review of all plans. The curriculum policies have been devised by the post-holders in conjunction with staff and the board has participated actively in the development of a comprehensive range of administrative policies. These policies, which are clear and accessible, include policies on enrolment, health and safety, anti-bullying and healthy lunches.  Consideration should now be given to the provision of specific policies on intercultural education and partnership with parents. 

 

A highly comprehensive English policy, which is specific to the school context, provides specific guidance to facilitate a consistency of approach to teaching and learning. All teachers have a copy of this plan and there is clear evidence to indicate that it informs classroom practice. The mathematics plan, which is clear and comprehensive, facilitates continuity and progression in the delivery of this curriculum area.

 

There is a high level of commitment to school self-evaluation. This is evidenced in the use of DEIS targets as a self-evaluation tool and in the revision of policies in the light of consultative school-review. The school monitors the effectiveness of new initiatives through the use of assessment data and anecdotal feedback.

 

 

2.2         Quality of whole-school planning for EAL

 

The school has produced a draft EAL policy which incorporates a yearly plan. This outlines general principles for the teaching and assessment of EAL pupils. Consideration should be given to the inclusion of strategies to enable EAL pupils to access the mainstream curriculum and to the inclusion of guidance on recording and communicating achievement. Clear guidelines regarding the organisation of EAL supports are in place. To facilitate the effective management of provision, the EAL teachers meet once a fortnight to review and plan for teaching and learning. The EAL teachers are available to meet with the class teachers on a fortnightly basis and consideration should now be given to the formalisation of this commendable provision.

 

 

2.3         Quality of classroom planning including planning for EAL

 

The quality of classroom planning is very good. All teachers are enabled to plan collaboratively with their respective colleagues and this commendable practice promotes the consistent application of the whole-school plan and facilitates continuity and progression in the delivery of the curriculum.  Best practice incorporates the use of clear learning objectives and targets that are linked to the school plan and make provision for assessment. There is some evidence of differentiation particularly to meet the needs of the lower-achieving pupils. The extension of this good practice to incorporate the needs of EAL and more-able pupils should help to ensure that all pupils are enabled to access the lessons and are challenged at a level commensurate with their abilities. Planning for EAL pupils in support-learning contexts is of a high quality and clearly serves to both inform and monitor teaching and learning.  In support settings, there is evidence of exemplary practice in the tracking of progress against explicit targets to inform the next steps in the pupils’ learning. All teachers maintain comprehensive monthly progress reports conscientiously.

 

2.4         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         Teaching of English and English as an Additional Language

The overall quality of teaching in English is very good. The provision of in-class support by the SEN team facilitates team teaching in the strands of reading and writing.  The highly effective use of this structure, which is based on shared learning objectives and the judicious use of resources and space, enables pupils to access the lessons. Lessons are highly structured and well paced. The school’s phonological programme is implemented consistently throughout the school. Pupils are enabled to master a good range of word-attack skills and demonstrate an interest in reading.

 

The teaching of writing is commendable. The structured approach to genre writing ensures that pupils are exposed to a variety of genres and are enabled to acquire the associated skills. Highly effective use is made of teacher-modelling and shared writing experiences. Pupils' work is presented neatly and is corrected regularly by teachers who provide affirmative feedback. Best practice includes the provision of differentiated support during the writing tasks.

 

To support the pupils’ language acquisition, good use is made of large format books, games, flash cards, photographs and word walls. Appropriate emphasis is placed on the acquisition of rhymes and poems. The overall quality of pupils' learning is good and assessment data indicate that they are making good progress.

 

The mainstream class teachers take responsibility for all pupils in their classes. Clear instructions are given to all pupils. Best practice includes a picture/word-rich environment, good use of the whiteboard and the use of gesture and demonstrations, teacher modelling, games, play, structured group work and experiential learning. To further enhance the EAL pupils’ participation in class lessons, consideration should be given to extending the use of teaching strategies that specifically promote a multi-lingual classroom.

 

 

3.2         Mathematics

 

The quality of teaching in Mathematics is very good. Lessons, which are very well structured and well paced, are based on clear learning objectives. Teaching encompasses a broad range of methodologies including whole-class teaching, group, pair and individual work. The explicit teaching of mathematical language and the use of practical activities enables all pupils, including EAL pupils, to access the curriculum. The effective use of resources, complemented by activity-based learning, enhances the pupils’ learning experiences and enables them to consolidate and apply their understanding of concepts. Best practice includes the specific teaching of problem-solving strategies and their application.  The teachers are commended on their consistent implementation of fifteen minutes of oral mathematics activities daily as outlined in the school’s DEIS action plan. Some provision is made for differentiated teaching and learning and the extension of this good practice should help to ensure that all pupils are challenged at an appropriate level. Pupils' work is neatly completed, regularly monitored and is given affirmative feedback. Provision is made for the explicit teaching of mathematical language to EAL pupils thus enhancing their access of this curriculum area. The school provides good-quality in-class support in infants and first class and it is noted that consideration is being given to extending this provision to second class.

 

The overall quality of pupils’ learning in Mathematics is good. Good levels of participation by all pupils, including EAL pupils, were observed in the mathematics lessons. The EAL pupils' achievement in mathematics varies according to their language competence and conceptual understanding. Pupils generally demonstrate a good understanding of the concept of number and shape, appear competent in the use of manipulatives and enjoy mathematics games. They generally demonstrate a good awareness of the language of mathematics at an age-appropriate level.

 

3.3         Assessment

Excellent assessment practices exist in this school. All teachers engage in both formal and informal assessment. They employ a broad range of assessment modes including standardised tests, teacher designed tests, rubrics and checklists. All pupils are assessed against the agreed school DEIS targets. To complement this good practice, consideration should now be given to enabling pupils to engage in self-assessment and to the establishment of portfolios to track, monitor and celebrate the pupils' learning. In the SEN settings, there are excellent examples of ipsative assessment and the formative use of both summative and diagnostic testing. Exemplary practice of ‘assessment for learning’ was observed during Maths Recovery.  In particular, the ability to amend pre-planned lessons in the light of pupils’ existing knowledge is commended. The EAL teachers have used the recommended assessment packs in a consistent manner and have used the data appropriately to inform teaching and learning.

 

The principal and management team are commended on their analysis of assessment data to track the overall impact of teaching and learning and, in particular, the impact of initiatives.  Their analysis is used to inform the school development plan through the targeting of areas for improvement and the subsequent monitoring of progress. The data is also used to identify pupils who engage in initiatives e.g. ‘The Wizard of Words’ and to monitor the impact of these initiatives.

 

 

4.             Quality of supports for pupils

 

4.1         Pupils with special educational needs

 

The school is commended on directing support to where it is most needed. A clear and concise policy on SEN has been formulated recently. It incorporates the staged approach and outlines clear success criteria for the continuation of support. Support comprises a variety of in-class and withdrawal approaches. To facilitate the best use of resources and maximise pupils' learning opportunities, the school has adopted a literacy strategy during which the SEN teachers provide in-class support. In the withdrawal settings, pupils participate enthusiastically in well-presented lessons that are informed by specific learning objectives as outlined in the group and individual education plans. The close monitoring of the pupils’ progress enables the school to make informed decisions regarding the continuation of support. Pupils are generally achieving in line with their targets.

 

 

4.2         Pupils with English as an additional language

 

EAL support currently comprises withdrawal teaching exclusively and the school has identified the need to extend this provision to include in-class support where feasible.  Within the withdrawal setting, the quality of support is very good. Teachers made competent use of a broad range of strategies including concrete resources, visuals and gestures to facilitate the pupils’ language acquisition, development and usage. The teachers assess the pupils' language proficiency regularly and use this information to inform their programmes of work. Teaching encompasses the explicit teaching of specific sentence structures and the consolidation of social language. Consideration should now be given to the explicit teaching of language that will enhance the pupils’ access to the mainstream curriculum.

 

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

The school has an open and inclusive enrolment policy. Appropriate provision is made to ensure that all pupils are enabled to engage in all activities. The board ensures that Department of Education and Science grants are used for the intended purposes. The resource teachers for travellers facilitate the inclusion of all pupils. A commendable range of activities, including after-school clubs, takes place in the school.  Yoga, music, speech and language therapy, and some after-school activities are funded by The School Completion Programme. Many other after-school activities are facilitated voluntarily by teachers. The school participates both in the ‘Friendship Group’ project facilitated by Barnardos and the ‘Wizard of Words’ pilot reading project.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Published November 2009

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

 

 

 

 

 

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