An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil an Chroí Naofa
Foxford, Co. Mayo
Uimhir rolla: 19812U
Date of inspection: 2 November 2009
A whole-school evaluation of Scoil an Chroí Naofa, Foxford was undertaken in November 2009. 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, Mathematics and Geography. 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.
Scoil an Chroí Naofa is located in Foxford. It caters for boys and girls from infants to sixth class. It has an autism unit attached to the school. The school community has just secured a new extension to the school. This development ensures there are adequate learning environments for both mainstream and special education classes. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Achonry.
The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Mainstream class teachers
Teachers working in support roles
Special needs assistants
1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision
The school has a mission statement which promotes inclusiveness and tolerance. It aims at providing a holistic education for all pupils through care and encouragement and through the provision of a broad and balanced curriculum. The enrolment policy of the school, which is open and welcoming to all pupils, supports this vision.
1.2 Board of management
The board of management is very effective in its role. It meets regularly and minutes of all meetings are maintained. All members show a deep commitment to the continual improvement of the school. A maintenance plan for the school is regularly updated and the board has undertaken significant development of the school grounds and buildings in recent years. It has been commendably involved in fundraising for such projects. Roles and responsibilities have been assigned to various members and each role is carried out very effectively. The board is also involved in the planning process. The chairperson, newly appointed to the school, is already a very visible presence in the school and ensures compliance with Department circulars and guidelines.
1.3 In-school management
The principal is a very efficient leader. He has established an atmosphere of openness and collegiality among his staff. He promotes an ethos of inclusivity. The principal shows a commitment to ongoing professional development, both for himself and for members of the staff. He encourages teachers to use their skills and talents throughout the school.
The in-school management team consists of a deputy principal, an assistant principal and four special-duties teachers. While duties have been assigned to all members, there is significant overlap. It is recommended that a full review of duties be undertaken, with contracts signed by all post holders. Duties should reflect the ongoing needs of the school to ensure continuous school improvement. They should also ensure a balance between periodic projects and ongoing tasks. Where curricular duties are assigned it is imperative that appropriate curricular leadership ensues. It is further recommended that formal meetings be organised to ensure middle management duties are progressing and evolving.
1.4 Management of resources
The school community has just secured a new extension to the school ensuring spacious learning environments for all pupils. The completion of this project reflects significant fundraising by parents, staff, board and community, as well as Department funding. The school is very well resourced. Resources are well used and managed. Teachers’ suggestions regarding resources and teaching aids are welcomed by management and facilitated where possible. A school cleaner and caretaker effectively undertake a number of daily tasks to ensure the school is maintained to the highest level of cleanliness.
1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community
The quality of management of relations and communication with the school community is very good. There is high quality communication between the board, staff, principal and parents. The school issues annual school reports on pupils’ progress to parents. There are also annual parent-teacher meetings and informal meetings regarding pupil progress. Regular newsletters and information notes are sent home to parents. The school has a very supportive Parents’ Association. They are a very positive group with a clear vision for their involvement in the future of the school. They take great pride in the school and are eager to undertake any projects which will further the education of their children. They have established priorities for the school year which include the development of the school website.
1.6 Management of pupils
The quality of pupil management is very good and contributes significantly to the effective learning in each classroom. Pupils are friendly and welcoming. They are very well behaved at all times and interact appropriately with their peers, teachers and school personnel. They show a clear understanding of school rules. There are very good systems in place to promote good behaviour. Pupils with special educational needs are very well supported and managed within individual classrooms and in the general school environment. The code of behaviour, which is very clear, has been given to all parents.
2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning
The school has a wide range of plans and policies in place. The quality of organisational policies is very good as they are clear, unambiguous and in line with Department circulars and guidelines. The quality of curricular planning is fair. While all plans have some contextual basis there is a lack of whole-school approaches in some curricular areas. There is a need to document some of the very successful practices and procedures observed in individual classrooms. Where whole-school decisions have been made, not all teachers observe them in their individual planning or in their practice. It is recommended that the staff devise a long-term plan which identifies their curricular and organisational priorities. They should also develop a planning diary and action plans to document current priorities in different areas.
The quality of individual teacher planning varies from fair to very good. The very good practice observed includes the full use of the agreed template for short-term planning, the use of curricular objectives rather than textbook content and explicit planning for skill development and language development. It is recommended that a whole-school approach to long-term planning be devised to support individual teachers. While teachers generally plan for approaches to differentiating support for pupils with additional needs, it is recommended that they specify the learning outcomes for such pupils. Monthly progress reports are compiled by each teacher and are maintained centrally by the principal.
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.
The quality of teaching in English, in the majority of classes, is good. In these classes lessons are effectively structured and paced. There is good breadth and balance in all strands of the taught English curriculum. A majority of teachers place a good emphasis on oral language development. Teaching is particularly effective where teachers plan for specific vocabulary development and skill development. It is recommended that all teachers make additional use of pair work for class discussions. Poetry is used very successfully in all classes. Infant teachers promote the recitation of nursery rhymes to very good effect. All pupils can recite poems with energy and emotion. Some teachers integrate poetry commendably with Drama. Pupils in middle and senior classes can discuss the conventions of poetry competently and are proud to discuss their own poetry compositions.
The quality of English reading is good. All classrooms are rich in print with stimulating displays. A wide range of methodologies is used across the school to ensure pupils experience success in reading with a good emphasis placed on skill development. There is however a need to group pupils for reading in mainstream classes to ensure that all pupils can progress at their own rate. It is recommended that the use of reading schemes be discussed at whole-school level and that individual teachers would implement the decisions made. The teaching of phonics is undertaken with great enthusiasm at infant level and is yielding impressive results. While a whole-school approach is in place for phonics it is not being implemented by all teachers. There is also a disparity between the phonics scheme and the spelling scheme in the school. It is recommended that teachers review practice in these areas to facilitate more effective teaching of phonological awareness and spellings.
The quality of writing varies from fair to very good. The best practice observed was where regular writing opportunities were presented to pupils, in a variety of genres. While a majority of pupils can discuss the conventions of different genres, they would benefit from the ongoing development of each genre. In some classrooms there is an over-reliance on textbook activities which focuses on lower-order questioning and grammatical tasks. A majority of teachers correct pupils’ work on a regular basis. Some teachers are very effective at stimulating interest in writing through the use of word-webs, story wheels and class books. Pupils experience the writing process at different class levels. Their work is displayed very attractively.
The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good. Teachers prepare structured lessons using a variety of approaches to ensure effective learning. Concrete materials and visual aids are used at all levels to promote understanding. Learning is very often linked to pupils’ own experiences and in a majority of classes pupils are encouraged to ask questions. Pupils generally display competence across all strands although it is recommended that teachers group pupils for Mathematics to ensure they can work at a level that facilitates most progress. A majority of teachers place a very good emphasis on number facts, mental Mathematics and the language of Mathematics. It is however recommended that teachers make additional use of pair work to provide opportunities for pupils to use new vocabulary in different contexts. While a whole-school approach to problem-solving is included in the school plan a majority of pupils show a lack of understanding of the steps to be taken to solve mathematical problems. It is recommended that the chosen approach be implemented by all teachers.
The quality of teaching and learning in Geography is reasonably good. The school plan in Geography is supplemented by an environmental audit and a list of resources and websites to support its implementation. A key feature of Social Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) in the Primary School Curriculum (1999) is the emphasis on developing pupils’ knowledge and understanding of their own locality and using this as a platform for study of more general historical and geographical phenomena. It is recommended that the school plan for SESE highlight the many interesting historical and geographical features in the Foxford area. It is further recommended that teachers compile a bank of illustrative resource material based on the local area.
In previous years the school has undertaken projects which celebrate Foxford’s historical links with Argentina. This good work is highly commended. However, currently much of the work in Geography is textbook-based. The pupils’ written work is similarly linked to textbook material. It is advised that teachers plan a variety of learning experiences in addition to the study and completion of text-based materials and tasks.
During the evaluation some very good practice was observed. Lessons were well structured and good use was made of stimuli and visual resources that captured pupils’ interest. In most classes pair-work was used effectively to foster active participation and there was a good focus on the pupils’ own environment as a basis for learning. In some senior classes due emphasis was placed on the development of graphical skills. In the junior classes, appropriate use was made of the school grounds to develop early mapping skills. There is potential for further investigation of the local school environment through trail work at all class levels to develop a broader range of geographical skills. In most classes pupil progress in Geography is monitored through teacher observation and questioning, teacher-designed tests and the completion of tasks. Maps and globes are features of most classrooms and are appropriately used to establish concepts of spatial awareness. The school is currently working towards achieving its first Green Flag.
The quality of assessment is good. A variety of assessment modes is used to good effect in the school. These include teacher observation, pupil profiles, quizzes and games. It is recommended that the results of teacher observations be used to reteach specific objectives to individual pupils. Standardised tests are carried out in English and Mathematics. It is recommended that teachers analyse the results of standardised tests in English and Mathematics to establish a clear picture of the school’s strengths and areas for development in these subjects. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is used to assess the literacy skills of pupils in senior infants. It is recommended that pupils be selected for the Forward Together programme with a support teacher based on these results. The Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP) is also used for the assessment of infants. It is recommended that a system for tracking progress be put in place to ensure that there is a comprehensive profile of each pupil by the end of their primary schooling. In support classes use is made of some diagnostic assessments. It is recommended that these assessments be further exploited to pinpoint the needs of pupils in receipt of support.
4.1 Pupils with special educational needs
Scoil an Chroí Naofa has a three-teacher team involved in supporting pupils with special education needs. This team comprises a full-time resource teacher, a full time learning support teacher and a teacher for the school’s autism unit. The quality of service varies significantly from poor to very good. Some commendable practices were observed, particularly in the autism unit, where individual plans were devised for pupils based on their needs as identified by specialist reports. These plans show very clear timed targets. It is recommended that individual plans be supplied to the parents of each child in receipt of support. The quality of resources, methodologies and approaches used by the majority of support teachers is praiseworthy. There are some significant gaps in the records maintained for pupils in receipt of learning support. It is recommended that this be addressed as a matter of urgency. It is further recommended that the school policy on support for pupils be reviewed in the light of circular 02/05 to ensure the effective implementation of the staged approach.
4.2 Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups
A part-time teacher of English as an Additional Language (EAL) provides support to the newcomer pupils. The quality of this provision is good. Resources devised by Integrate Ireland Language and Training are used in the delivery of the language-support programme. The language-support setting is prepared as a language-rich environment and contains some good quality resources. A range of strategies and active learning approaches that support vocabulary development is practiced. Formalising channels of communication with mainstream teachers would enhance pupils’ learning.
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, March 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management wishes to thank the inspectors for the professional and courteous manner in which the evaluation was carried out. We are delighted that the report recognises the positive teaching environment that exists in the school, the effectiveness and commitment of the Board of Management and Parents’ Association and the hard-working, conscientious and dedicated staff. We are also pleased that the report acknowledges very good standard of pupil behavior.
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 Board of Management and school staff regard the WSE process as an opportunity for reflection and development. We have commenced the implementation of the findings and recommendations within the report.