An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Réalta na Maidine B.N.S.
Uimhir rolla: 19846O
Date of inspection: 27 February 2009
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Réalta na Maidine N.S., Listowel. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of its work. 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Scoil Réalta na Maidine is an eleven teacher boys’ school situated in the town of Listowel. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Kerry. Total enrolment in the school has declined over the last few years, reflecting demographic trends in the locality. There are currently 163 boys enrolled in the school. Pupil attendance is carefully monitored and good levels of attendance are attained by the majority of pupils. The present school building was constructed in 1959. Significant improvements have been made to the premises and the pupils and the wider community benefit considerably from these developments.
The school’s mission statement seeks to promote the holistic development of the individual child and to “inculcate in the pupils an appreciation of Irish culture, language, history and traditions”. It strives to “promote excellence in teaching and learning and, in collaboration with the wider community, to develop a strong sense of community among the educational partners”.
The board of management provides strong and effective leadership to the school. Individual members of the board communicate a clear and shared understanding of the school’s organisational structure. Roles and responsibilities are clearly outlined and board members undertake these responsibilities very effectively. Meetings of the board are convened on a monthly basis, minutes are carefully recorded, available finances are very carefully managed and school accounts are audited on an annual basis. The board’s decision making procedures are open, clear and effective and commendably promote the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion. Members of the board are collectively committed to supporting the work of the school, to improving the quality of teaching and learning and to the enhancement of the quality of educational provision available to the pupils.
The board of management is committed to collaborative and collegiate whole-school planning. The contributions of parents to the planning process are sought through regular communication with members of the parents’ association. Whole-school policies are discussed, approved and ratified at board meetings. A copy of the current whole-school plan is available for viewing in the parents’ room. To facilitate further enhancement of the work of the board it is recommended that a strategic plan, arising from the school’s engagement in a process of systematic self-evaluation, be drafted. In this plan, consideration might be given to the setting of realistic and achievable targets which focus on school improvement initiatives. Consideration should be given to the use of evidence relating to the quality of educational provision and pupil achievement from a variety of sources. Structures should be put in place to support and encourage the active participation of parents, pupils and other members of the school community as appropriate.
The in-school management team comprises an administrative principal, a deputy principal and three special duties post holders. The principal, who was appointed to the position in September 2008, has succeeded admirably in establishing a high degree of professionalism. She demonstrates a wide range of effective leadership skills and has effectively maintained the ethos of teamwork and collegiality which exists among the staff. She places pupils’ learning and achievement at the centre of management and improvement activities and she develops productive partnerships with the staff, board, parents, pupils and with the wider community.
The in-school management team demonstrates a high level of commitment to continuing whole-school improvement. Members collectively and individually make a significant contribution to the creation of a school climate that is characterised by positive relationships. Specific duties have been allocated to each post holder and these assigned duties are discharged in a highly professional manner. Formal meetings are held once a term to outline progress made in relation to the duties assigned and to discuss how best the team might support current whole-school initiatives. This good practice is highly commended. It is now recommended that the duties of the in-school management team be reviewed on an annual basis to reflect the changing priorities of the school and that individual members be awarded a stronger role in leading improvement and innovation and in systematically evaluating the quality of the school’s provision for its pupils.
The board is highly commended for the significant developments made in relation to the management of its resources. It ensures that the teachers’ skills, abilities and expertise are utilised to meet the needs of the pupils and to improve educational provision. External tutors work effectively under the guidance of class teachers. Two special needs assistants make a valuable contribution to the inclusion and care of the pupils to whom they are assigned. The school’s accommodation is now of a very high standard. Classrooms, the general purpose room and the parents’ room have recently been redecorated and refurnished. The playing pitches and the hard court area have been improved. The board recently celebrated the official opening of a modern purpose designed computer room. An extensive and well organised range of resources is available to teachers to support the learning and teaching process and these resources are effectively utilised across the curriculum areas. Teachers, pupils and members of the wider community are encouraged to use these resources independently and responsibly. The board has devised a plan to address the further development of the school building and its environs and to ensure the ongoing maintenance of the school to its present high standard.
The board’s management of relationships and communication with the school community is of a very high standard. An active parents’ association is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (NPC) and representatives have availed of training opportunities. They attend NPC meetings at regional and national level. The association regularly organises workshops and seminars for parents which address a range of topics. Members of the parents’ association report excellent relationships with the board of management and with the school. A representative of the board attends their monthly committee meetings. Formal meetings with the principal are arranged at least twice a year. Support to the school is provided through fundraising, by assisting in the organisation of school events and through attendance at school related activities. Parent teacher meetings are convened annually and parent representatives report that the school is willing at all times to meet with parents. End of year school reports are issued to the parents of all pupils. The board gratefully acknowledges the contribution of the parents’ association to the school and is appreciative of its support towards recent school accommodation improvements. The board has succeeded in establishing supportive relationships with many past pupils who willingly contribute their time and expertise in the interests of the school and who provide financial support for school related initiatives. Excellent working relationships have also been established between the board and local support agencies. The Learning Initiative North Kerry (LINK) , Kerry Diocesan Youth Services (KDYS), community based sports organisations and Listowel Credit Union are among the many local organisations who work with the school in the provision of supportive educational experiences to the pupils. The board is commended for making the school facilities available for community based initiatives and events.
The management of pupils is, in general, of a very good standard. A recently reviewed code of behaviour and an anti-bullying policy are effectively implemented. The school organises a wide range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities and all pupils are awarded equality of access and participation in these activities. Pupils, particularly in the middle and senior standards, are provided with a commendable range of opportunities to develop their leadership skills and to play an active and supportive role in the life of the school. During the evaluation period, the boys presented as confident individuals who display a very high sense of pride in their school and a commendable sense of place and belonging.
The school’s whole-school plan addresses a range of organisational policies and curriculum plans which have been developed as a result of a collaborative process involving the board, the staff and parents as appropriate. Eleven organisational policies have been ratified by the board and these are, in general, of a good standard and comply with legislative requirements and Department of Education and Science circulars and guidelines. The school’s enrolment policy in particular reflects the open and inclusive ethos of the school. Many of these policies have been recently reviewed and the board is praised in this regard.
Curriculum plans, addressing each subject area have been devised. The Science, Music, Physical Education and the Visual Arts plans are of a very good standard. However, many of the other curriculum plans are in need of review, particularly those which address the areas of literacy and numeracy. In reviewing these plans care should be taken to ensure that they develop and maintain cohesiveness and progression throughout the school in the delivery of the curriculum. It is important also to ensure that clear success criteria against which the plan’s effectiveness can be monitored and evaluated is identified. Roles of responsibility should also be addressed. It is therefore recommended that the board devise a school development plan outlining a timeframe within which each curriculum plan will be reviewed.
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.
All teachers prepare long and short term planning and monthly progress records are maintained. The quality of teachers’ classroom planning varies from being fair to good. Some teachers prepare programmes of work which are comprehensive in nature and are closely linked the strands and strand units of the Primary Curriculum. The absence of clear guidelines in some of the school’s whole-school curriculum plans has resulted in many teachers relying on the topics presented in textbooks to determine the content of their lessons. In these instances insufficient emphasis is placed on the identification of a range of teaching methods, on the effective use of pupils’ life experiences or interests or on the provision of a balanced curriculum to the pupils. It is therefore recommended that clear guidelines on individual classroom planning be included in the whole-school plans. It is further recommended that monthly progress records be used by the teaching staff to ensure greater progression in the programme of work covered with the pupils and that they contribute to the review of the implementation of the curriculum at different class levels.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The quality of teaching is of a high standard and very good progress has been made, in general, in raising the prior attainment levels of the pupils. The learning environments of all the classrooms are attractively organised. The majority of teachers share the purpose of their lessons with the pupils. Teachers’ explanations and instructions are unambiguous and pitched at an appropriate level. Discussions with pupils promote learning and build confidence and pupils’ contributions are encouraged and valued. Teachers’ questioning is skilled and pupils’ responses are listened to and used effectively. Care is taken to involve all pupils in the learning process. Lessons observed were, in general, well structured, paced and developed and they included appropriate content and learning activities. Resources are very effectively utilised by all teachers to support learning and teaching. While many teachers utilise a broad range of active teaching methodologies there is scope for development in the range of approaches employed. There is a need to strike a balance between whole-class teaching, small group and one-to-one interactions and to adopt a flexible approach to cater to the needs of pupils of varying abilities. Lesson consolidation is good in most classes though care should be taken to avoid the overuse of workbooks, worksheets and written activities as a means of assessing pupils’ progress. Pupils have a positive attitude to learning. This is developed by the provision of learning experiences that are relevant to pupils’ lives and interests. Pupils’ learning is reflected in their questioning, their oral work and in the quality of their written work. It is evident that significant progress is made by pupils from their prior levels of achievement and commensurate with their abilities.
Cothaítear suim na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge trí cheachtanna a chur in láthair go bríomhar, spreagúil i gcoitinne. Bunaítear an t-ábhar foghlama ar théamaí a bhaineann le saol na ndaltaí agus baintear úsáid as sraith téacsleabhar mar thaca don teagasc agus don fhoghlaim. Ar an iomlán baintear úsáid as an nGaeilge mar mheán teagaisc agus mar theanga chumarsáide i rith an lae scoile. Moltar an dea-chleachtas seo a leathnú ar fud na scoile. Léiríonn formhór na ndaltaí tuiscint oiriúnach ar Ghaeilge bhunúsach. Aithrisíonn daltaí i roinnt ranganna cnuasach deas filíochta go taitneamhach, le dea-fhoghraíocht. Chun breis forbartha a dhéanamh ar shaibhreas teanga na ndaltaí b’fhiú an scéalaíocht a chleachtadh go rialta ag gach rangleibhéal, cnuasach filíochta a chur de ghlanmheabhair agus dul siar go rialta ar dhánta atá foghlamtha cheana féin.
Forbraítear cumas tuisceana na ndaltaí go hoiriúnach le linn na ngníomhaíochtaí éisteachta. I dteagasc an chomhrá baintear úsáid thorthúil as ábhar léirithe agus as fearas corpartha chun tuiscint na ndaltaí ar fhoclóir nua a bhunú. Leagtar béim ar chruinneas foghraíochta sa chaint ar an mór gcomhair. B’fhiú anois an bhéim seo a chinntiú i ngach rangsheomra. Cleachtar gníomhaíochtaí cainte agus obair i bpéirí go héifeachtúil chun an t-ionchur nua teanga a chur abhaile.
Tugtar faoi fhorbairt bhunscileanna na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta go hoiriúnach. Baintear úsáid thairbheach as luaschártaí chun stór focal a aithint agus tugann na daltaí faoi thascanna simplí léitheoireachta go hábalta. B’fhiú breis phrionta a chur ar taispeáint agus fíor-leabhair bheaga a úsáid chun taithí léitheoireachta níos leithne a chur ar fáil. Bunaítear na gníomhaíochtaí scríbhneoireachta ar théacsleabhair agus tá na daltaí ag dul i dtaithí ar scríobh i nGaeilge de réir a chéile. Moltar breis éagsúlachta a chur sna gníomhaíochtaí seo chun chur le h-oiliúint na ndaltaí
Pupils’ interest in Irish is promoted through the presentation of lively, stimulating lessons in most classes. Learning content is based on topics that relate to the pupils’ lives, and a scheme of textbooks supports teaching and learning. In general, Irish is used as a medium of instruction during lessons in most classrooms. It is recommended that this good practice be extended throughout the school. . The majority of pupils display an appropriate understanding of basic Irish. Pupils in some classes recite a nice selection of poetry with enjoyment and good pronunciation. To further develop pupils’ richness of language, regular reading of stories, the memorisation of poetry and revision of poems previously taught are advised.
Pupils’ understanding of the language is developed during discrete listening activities. In the teaching of conversation, productive use is made of visual resources and concrete materials to underpin pupils’ understanding of new vocabulary. Commendable emphasis is placed on correct pronunciation during conversation lessons in most classes. It is now recommended that this emphasis be extended to all classes. Pair-work and communication activities are used effectively to reinforce the new language input.
Basic reading and writing skills are suitably developed. Effective use is made of flashcards to develop pupils’ sight vocabulary and pupils undertake simple reading tasks competently. To further develop their reading skills, the provision of additional print in the environment and the use of small real books to extend the reading experience are advised. Writing activities are based on textbooks and pupils are becoming used to writing in Irish by degrees. It is recommended that the variety of writing genres be extended to enrich the pupils’ learning.
In general, pupils are making progress in English and they display good oral language skills. Pupils in the infant and junior classes develop good listening and speaking skills. They are afforded opportunities to observe simple commands, to develop an awareness of sounds and to respond to verbal and non-verbal cues that are used to convey meaning. In the middle and senior classes pupils learn to understand the conventions of oral language interaction, to expand their vocabulary and to explore and develop ideas and concepts through talk and directed discussion. There is however, significant scope for development in the quality of teaching and learning of oral language skills. Discrete oral language lessons which address curriculum objectives in each strand unit should be organised. This would ensure that important content objectives with regard to developing language skills in different social contexts are attended to. Emphasis should be focused on the development of pupils’ higher-order thinking skills, the development of emotional and expressive skills and to the promotion of pupils’ cognitive abilities across the curriculum areas. It is therefore recommended that a plan for the delivery of an integrated language learning experience for pupils be devised as a matter of priority.
Pupils are achieving good standards in English reading. The school is commended for the development of a reading culture in the school in which books and reading are viewed as valuable and pleasurable. A very good school library, which is well stocked with a variety of reading materials, assists greatly in this regard. The school is praised for the systematic use of graded reading schemes in all classes. These award pupils the opportunity to read at a level commensurate with their abilities. In the lessons observed, pupils were actively engaged in meaningful age-appropriate reading activities. They demonstrate a very good awareness of the conventions of print, they are facilitated to acquire very good word-identification skills and they apply these skills in identifying new words. The majority of pupils read fluently and can discuss the text with understanding. In the infant and junior levels a variety of learning activities were observed including the effective use of story and large-format books and the systematic development of phonological awareness skills and sight word knowledge. In the middle and senior classes teachers were observed to utilise a range of questions to nurture pupils’ comprehension skills and in most classes the development of word identification skills, such as syllabication to decipher unfamiliar vocabulary is emphasised. In all lessons pupils are awarded frequent opportunities to read aloud on a daily basis. However, care should be taken in some classes to ensure that appropriate emphasis is given to the differentiation of content and tasks to meet individual pupils’ learning needs and the avoidance of the delivery of content and learning activities as common whole-class activities. It is therefore recommended that teachers’ planning and practice incorporate differentiated approaches to a much greater degree in order to cater for the learning needs of all pupils.
The quality of teaching and learning in English writing is of a good standard. Supportive learning environments have been created in all classrooms and pupils’ written work is displayed to good effect. Good emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ emergent writing skills in the infant classes. In the junior and middle classes pupils develop an appreciation of the functions of the parts of speech and a control of the conventions of grammar, spelling and punctuation through their engagement in the writing process. In the senior classes pupils are facilitated to edit and refine writing and to develop a sense of appropriate presentation. In some classes pupils are facilitated to write in a variety of genres and for different purposes and audiences. This good practice might now be extended to all classes. Pupils’ written work is, in general, well presented and regularly monitored and evaluated. It is recommended however that a whole-school approach to the systematic development of pupils’ handwriting skills be developed.
Lessons in Mathematics are very well taught and pupils demonstrate a very good understanding of mathematical concepts and operations. Mathematics-rich environments have been created in the majority of classrooms and in a few classrooms very supportive mathematical investigation tables have been developed. This good practice might now be extended to all classrooms. A wide range of effective methodologies is used in the teaching of Mathematics in all classes. Concrete materials are utilised to very good effect particularly in the infant and junior levels. In the middle and senior levels pupils display an ability to apply mathematical concepts to a range of everyday situations. The effective scaffolding of pupil learning was observed at all levels. Pupils are facilitated to consolidate and apply their mathematical knowledge and skills through the use of information and communications technology (ICT) and this good practice is commended. Written work is neatly presented and in some instances it is accompanied by supportive illustrative work. Pupil progress in Mathematics would be enhanced through the further development of mathematical language and the placing of increased emphasis on oral mathematical activities and problem solving at all levels.
The pupils display a positive interest in History and speak knowledgeably about the themes and topics covered. They demonstrate an ability to understand and to empathise with the actions, beliefs and motivations of people in the past. An appropriate emphasis is placed on the exploration of the pupils’ personal and family history in the infant and junior classes. Time, sequence and chronology are well developed at these levels through the exploration of suitable stories and legends. The lives of early people and ancient societies are well explored in the middle classes and senior classes. Commendable examples of the effective integration of history with other curriculum areas are evident in the senior classes. Local studies are well developed though this aspect of the curriculum might be explored further through the arrangement of field trips and history trails in the local environs. The school is commended for inviting guest speakers to address the pupils on aspects of local and personal history. Artefacts, photographs and some samples of primary and secondary evidence feature in many lessons and this good practice might now be extended to all class levels. To further enhance current practice it is recommended that the whole-school History plan be reviewed to ensure continuity and progression in strand and strand unit coverage between classes. An increased emphasis might also be placed on the development of pupils’ skills to work collaboratively through their engagement in research and project work.
The teaching and learning of Geography is of a high standard. Of particular note is the use made of the local environment. Regular field trips to the local park are organised and very good use is made of the school environs in the teaching of weather, climate and atmosphere. A range of active methodologies and concrete materials is utilised to enable the pupils to become familiar with and to explore the natural and human features of their own locality, their county and their country. Aspects of the lives of people in other countries and their environments are studied in the middle and senior levels and some very attractive displays are organised in some classrooms. Pictures, maps and globes are productively utilised to develop pupils’ graphical skills and some very good work is undertaken in the development of pupils’ geographical investigation skills. This good practice might now be extended to all class levels. The school’s successful participation in the “Green Flag” project ensures that aspects of environmental awareness and care are very well developed throughout the school. A very active Green Flag committee, comprising pupils from the middle and senior classes, ensures that all pupils in the school are active participants in the conservation of energy and the promotion of an awareness of each individual’s role in the care of the Earth for future generations. The planned development of a school garden should further enhance pupils’ learning in Geography and contribute to their understanding of human and natural environments. There is scope for development in the written work of the pupils. It is recommended that illustrations, maps and diagrams, summaries and brief descriptions feature more regularly in the pupils’ recording of topics covered.
A very good school plan effectively informs teaching and learning in Science. Lesson content is well planned and a range of effective methodologies is used to encourage pupil participation and active learning. This good practice is highly commended. The board provides a broad range of concrete materials and scientific equipment to support teaching and learning in Science and these are used to very good effect by the teachers. Pupils display a very good understanding of scientific concepts and their application and they demonstrate a praiseworthy ability to apply their learning to everyday experiences and occurrences. The school’s involvement in the “Discover Science” initiative, in the “Knex Challenge” and its use of support materials such as “Eureka” assist in ensuring that the pupils are facilitated to access a broad and balanced Science curriculum. The pupils’ regular engagement in practical investigations and experiments enables them to develop their skills of working scientifically. They are encouraged to make observations, to predict and to analyse the results of tests and investigations. In order to further enhance pupil learning in Science, additional emphasis might be placed on the designing of fair tests and on the provision of opportunities for the pupils to explore, develop and apply scientific ideas and concepts through designing and making activities.
4.5 Arts Education
Attractive displays of pupils’ art work are arranged in all classrooms and along the school corridors in designated exhibition areas. This good practice is praised. Teacher planning and samples of pupils’ work indicate that the pupils are facilitated to explore each of the six strand units in the Visual Arts curriculum. However there is an overemphasis in many classrooms on particular strands, namely paint and colour and on the production of two-dimensional work. Additional emphasis should therefore be placed on ensuring that the pupils have equal access to each strand of the curriculum and that the looking and responding strand unit is emphasised in all six strands. In the lessons observed the teachers provided a very good stimulus for the art activity and the planned lessons successfully supported learning in other curriculum areas. Each pupil was provided with suitable materials to enable him/her to actively engage in the planned activity. Interaction with pupils however indicates that an increased emphasis should be placed on the development of the elements of art and on the promotion of the creative process. Regular opportunities should be provided for pupils to explore, experiment, observe and to make independent and collaborative decisions through working in pairs and in groups during Visual Art lessons. Provision should also be made for the development of skills and techniques appropriate to the age of the pupils and for continuity and development between class levels. It is therefore recommended that current practice in the teaching of Visual Arts be reviewed with a view to incorporating more fully the principles of the Visual Arts Curriculum.
A comprehensive music programme is presented to the pupils in this school. Of particular note is the manner in which the teachers prepare and deliver music lessons which reflect very good linkage between the strand units of the Music curriculum. Pupils have regular opportunities to create and compose music, to perform music and to listen and respond to music. They sing a variety of songs in Irish and in English tunefully. It is evident that they enjoy and benefit from their musical instruction. The school is highly commended for the organisation of a school band in which pupils from the middle and senior classes participate. The band was observed to play a wide range of tunes melodiously. In order to further enhance the musical education of the pupils, consideration might now be given to ensuring that the pupils are enabled to listen and respond to, and sing from, a wider repertoire of musical genres from different cultures and eras.
In Drama lessons, opportunities are provided for pupils to create improvised responses to fictional scenarios and real life situations. Active learning methodologies, including hot-seating, role play and paired and group work are effectively employed in these lessons. Pupils’ understanding is enriched and their self-esteem and expressive abilities are promoted through their engagement in the organised activities. They enter enthusiastically into fictional contexts enabling them to gain knowledge and insights into the lives of other people and to develop their personal and social skills. It is apparent that their emotional and imaginative responses are effectively developed through their participation in these lessons. In the current year the school arranged for the visitation of a local drama group who staged a production and organised drama workshops which focused on bullying and equality issues. This good practice is praised. The availability of a wider range of props would assist in further developing the good work undertaken in lessons. Drama contracts might also be negotiated with the pupils and displayed in the classrooms.
All pupils experience a broad and balanced Physical Education Programme. Teacher planning and practice indicates that good lessons are organised in each of the six strand units. The range of facilities and resources available to the school is impressive. An all-weather pitch, hard court areas, green field amenities, a spacious general purposes room and an extensive range of physical education equipment facilitates the teachers to organise a wide variety of learning activities and to ensure the active participation of all pupils. In the lessons observed due emphasis was placed on safety issues, care was taken to incrementally develop skills and to provide pupils with the opportunity to apply and develop the skills learned. Commendable emphasis is placed on achieving a balance between competitive and non-competitive activities. The principles of fair-play, co-operation and collaboration are very effectively promoted. Pupils are encouraged to engage in a range of extra-curricular activities, in the school sports day and in school teams. The school has established very good links with, and receives much support from, local sports organisations. The success of the school in promoting positive attitudes in the pupils towards physical activity is admirable and the school is commended in this regard.
The promotion of equality of opportunity and a sense of fairness is strongly evident in the work of this school. Positive steps are taken to ensure that pupils are treated equally, with respect and in a fair and just manner. Culture, disability, gender and special educational needs are not barriers to participation. The school climate provides a supportive and caring environment in which the child feels valued and appreciated. The Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) curriculum is effectively implemented in the school through the creation of a positive school climate, discrete SPHE lessons and in the promotion of an integrated approach which allows for many aspects of the SPHE curriculum to be dealt with in the context of relevant subject areas. Almost all pupils are making good progress towards the development of self-esteem, an awareness of personal safety and confidence in their own knowledge, skills and emerging values. They demonstrate independence of mind and co-operate well with others both socially and in school work. The range of educational experiences available to the pupils is commendable. Bullying and self-esteem workshops, a twelve week transition programme to prepare senior boys for their transition to post-primary school, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, a homework club, a six week “Sports for Fun” programme in Tralee Institute of Education are among the experiences afforded to pupils in the school. The board is grateful for the assistance of inter-agency and community support in providing these experiences to the pupils. It is now recommended that the “Relationship and Sexuality Education” policy be reviewed. It is further recommended that action be taken to ensure that discrete SPHE lessons attend to areas of the programme that are not addressed in an integrated manner and that continuity and development between class levels is assured.
The school has not yet devised a whole-school assessment policy though the area of assessment is very effectively addressed in whole-school curriculum plans. The absence of a designated person to monitor the implementation of this aspect of the plans however impacts on its effectiveness. Standardised tests in Mathematics and Reading are administered annually and the results are computerised and communicated to parents. This good practice is praised. The majority of teachers attend carefully to lesson consolidation, pupils’ written work is, in general, regularly monitored and evaluated. Spelling tests are regularly administered and some teachers maintain portfolios containing samples of pupils’ work and running records of pupils’ social and academic progress. A few teachers maintain pupil profiles. There is some evidence of the recording of pupil progress in various strands of Mathematics and a few teachers design tests to assess pupils’ knowledge and understanding in History and Geography. Very good practice was noted in the administration of diagnostic tests to ascertain the nature of the difficulties being experienced by pupils with learning difficulties. The results of these tests are effectively utilised to establish clear learning targets for these pupils. However, approaches to the evaluation and analysis of pupil learning outcomes lack rigour and are not sufficiently systematic. Assessment data generated is not used efficiently to analyse patterns of performance at different class levels or to chart individual pupils’ progress. Neither is it used effectively to guide teaching for groups of pupils and individuals within the classroom context. The analysis of assessment data should result in the provision being made within the classroom for individuals and groups of pupils with different abilities and aptitudes, ensuring that all are challenged and achieving at an appropriate level. It is therefore recommended that current practice in relation to the assessment and recording of pupil progress be reviewed and evaluated and that a whole-school assessment policy be drafted which reflects the principles of assessment of and for learning.
A good whole-school plan for pupils with special educational needs has been developed. It outlines prevention strategies, an early intervention programme, criteria for the selection of pupils for supplementary teaching, procedures for discontinuation of pupils and the various roles of the partners involved in the pupils’ learning. Effective links have been established with outside agencies, where required.
Support for pupils with special educational needs is provided primarily in the areas of literacy and numeracy. Much of the supplementary teaching takes place on a withdrawal basis either individually or in small groups. It is recommended that provision for in-class support be considered. A range of diagnostic tests is administered including the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) test which is administered in senior infants to identify pupils experiencing difficulties with the development of early reading skills. Early intervention strategies are used to support pupils who require additional assistance in developing literacy and numeracy skills, along with pupils in senior infant class. This practice is commended.
Detailed individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) have been devised for each pupil in receipt of learning support, resource teaching and resource teaching for Travellers. The clarity of both the learning targets that are based on the pupils’ priority needs and the teaching and learning approaches employed is to be commended. Teachers engage in appropriate short-term planning. Pupils’ progress is regularly recorded and reviewed at suitable intervals during the school year. Stimulating print-rich learning environments are created by teachers and a range of commercial and teacher-designed resources is effectively employed to support learning. Lessons observed were very well structured and each teacher ensured that all pupils were engaged in appropriate, meaningful learning activities. Pupils were intellectually challenged and they engaged purposefully in the tasks set. The interactions observed between teachers and pupils receiving supplementary teaching were very affirming and encouraging of the pupils. The continual, effective use of ICT and the choice of the high quality software employed to assist pupils in the development of specific auditory and visual skills is praiseworthy. Overall, the quality of the support for pupils with special educational needs is very good.
The quality of support for pupils from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds, for newcomer pupils and for pupils who are members of the Traveller community is of a very high standard. A part-time teacher of English as an additional language (EAL) provides very good support to newcomer pupils. A part-time resource teacher for Travellers (RTT) effectively supports those pupils who are members of the Traveller community. Although these pupils form a small minority of the pupil population great care is taken to ensure that they are awarded equality of access and participation in all aspects of school life. Pupils’ needs and concerns are dealt with sensitively. Staff members are alert to the emotional, physical and social needs of individual pupils. The staff is commended for working collectively to create a climate where mutual trust and respect are evident throughout the school.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
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, November 2009