An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Holy Family Senior National School

Swords, County Dublin

Uimhir rolla: 19877C

 

Date of inspection:  6 February 2009

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Holy Family Senior National School, River Valley, Swords, County Dublin. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Holy Family Senior National School caters for boys and girls from third to sixth class who come from the River Valley and surrounding areas of Swords in north County Dublin. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and shares a campus with the neighbouring junior school. The school serves a diverse population and currently twenty percent of its pupils are children of non-Irish background. In September 2008, there were 523 pupils on roll and indications are that the overall enrolments will fall slightly next year but return again to current levels the following year. School rolls and records are carefully maintained and attendance rates are generally satisfactory.   

 

The school was established in September 1985 and for some time was accommodated in the same building as the junior school. In January 1987, classes moved to the current building which comprises twenty permanent classrooms. Three of these rooms have now been partitioned to form smaller rooms for learning-support or resource teaching and a number of pre-fabricated classrooms have also been acquired. Additional accommodation includes a staff room, principal’s office, secretary’s office, and storage rooms. A general purposes hall, shared with the junior school, completes the accommodation. One of the rooms currently being used by a learning-support teacher is a former store room and is unsuitable to accommodate even small groups of pupils. It is recommended that the board of management should assign one of the smaller pre-fabricated rooms to this learning-support teacher. Outside, the school has a tarmacked play area, car parking space and some grass areas which have been very attractively planted with trees, shrubs and flowers. The school and its grounds are maintained to a very high standard and are regular winners of the Fingal Cleaner Community Award Scheme. 

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meets approximately every six weeks or more often if required. Decisions of the board are appropriately minuted and financial records are maintained carefully. Members of the board have been assigned specific functions related to the board’s overall management responsibilities. The post of treasurer is currently vacant but it is expected that this position will be filled at the next scheduled meeting. The school plan notes that “… the school promotes and values the notion of life-long learning for all teachers and all staff are encouraged and supported to develop personally and professionally.” The board has designated funds for continuing professional development of staff members and some teachers have engaged in post-graduate studies.

 

Interviews with board members and a review of the minutes of recent meetings indicate that maintenance of the school’s infrastructure and environment are the current priorities of the board. The very commendable condition of the grounds and the attractive, well-maintained buildings are testament to the commitment and attention of the board. School caretaking staff, teachers and pupils are also commended for the high quality of the school environment.   

 

The board has put in place appropriate systems to review and ratify school policies. While the board is fully committed to school development and is diligent in fulfilling its duties, it is recommended that it should now focus on playing a greater role, at a management level, in the matters relating to teaching and learning and the achievement levels of pupils. 

 

2.2 In-school management

The principal, who is in his second year in the post, is dedicated to the educational well-being of all pupils in the school. He displays very effective leadership skills and sets a high standard for all school activities. He has analysed the standardised test results in English and Mathematics for the past number of years and has set the improvement of literacy and numeracy levels as his main priority. The principal holds the respect of the board, staff, parents and pupils and he fosters a culture of co-operation, professionalism and diligence throughout the school. Relationships between the school and its parent body are very positive and cordial. 

 

The in-school management team comprises a deputy principal, three assistant principals and eight teachers who hold special duties posts. The board has assigned specific organisational, pastoral and curricular responsibilities to post-holders and duties are reviewed periodically to ensure they meet the changing needs of the school. The in-school management team meets regularly with the principal and contributes effectively to the management and leadership of the school. Members of the team take a lead role in the whole-school planning process and priorities for action have been identified. It is now recommended that the process be taken a stage further by putting in place systems to monitor and evaluate the extent to which the action plan is being implemented at class level. 

 

2.3 Management of resources

For the current school year (2008-2009) the school is staffed by an administrative principal, nineteen mainstream class teachers, two teachers of special classes for children with a specific learning difficulty, three learning-support teachers, two full-time and two part-time resource teachers for children with special educational needs, and two full-time teachers for children whose first language is not English. In addition, the school participates in the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative and a teacher of French works for fourteen hours a week with pupils of fifth and sixth classes. The school is one of a number of feeder primary schools for Fingal Community College and it participates in the same School Completion Programme. A member of staff with a promoted post has been designated as co-ordinator for the programme. The school also has six full-time and one part-time special needs assistants, a school caretaker and a full-time and part-time secretary.

 

A wide range of educational resources has been acquired with generous support from parents. Most recently, ten interactive white boards have been installed and a well-equipped computer room was set up some time ago. All school resources are carefully tabulated and well managed. The very effective use of resources in Science to support pupils’ learning is particularly commendable.  

 

All teachers in this school are diligent and committed to the holistic development of the pupils. During discussions at the post-evaluation meeting with staff about how learning support is delivered, the problem of fragmentation of the learning experience for individual pupils and the lack of co-ordination between the work of class teachers and support teachers were highlighted. It is recommended that the school should evaluate the way in which teaching resources are deployed to ensure that all pupils experience an integrated and coherent learning programme and that the exclusive reliance on a model of withdrawing pupils from class for additional support should be reviewed.  

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

An active parents’ association exists in the school. It is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (Primary) and meets on the first Monday of each month. The parents’ association of the senior school frequently arranges joint activities with its sister organisation in the junior school. A major concern for parents at the moment is the safety of children as they exit the school due to the volume of traffic in the area. Discussions have taken place with the local council and An Garda Síochána with a view to addressing the problem and some traffic calming measures and a voluntary one-way system have been put in place. The parents’ association has also been active in the physical enhancement of the school grounds. Markings on the school playground have been painted by parents. They also run a school shop on a voluntary basis, selling copybooks, pencils and other stationery to pupils. Parents also assist in organising an annual book fair, sports day, Christmas and Easter fund-raising raffles and they help in a practical way by providing refreshments at all school functions.

 

Good communication between home and school and a culture of openness and equality are strong features of the school. The mission statement notes that “the school values such precepts as respect, kindness, justice, fairness and tolerance and seeks to ensure that all relationships within the school are conducted with due regard to these precepts.” A school booklet, providing information about school routines and procedures in addition to policies on homework and discipline, is supplied to all parents. Additionally, a well-organised web site (www.holyfamilysns.ie ) contains useful background information, a school calendar and details of current activities. The school sends a newsletter to parents periodically and information about individual pupils is provided through the homework journal. A progress report on each pupil is sent to their parents every year and parent-teacher meetings are held after the reports are received. This spirit of collaboration and partnership between home and school contributes significantly to the cultivation of a positive school ethos and the sense of a whole-school community.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

The school’s code of behaviour and its anti-bullying policy underpin the positive, healthy conduct that is in evidence in the school. The school plan states that “the principal and staff aim to make the school a centre of excellence in which high professional standards are maintained and where pupils learn in a safe, supportive and happy environment.” The ultimate aim of the behaviour code is “the fostering of self-discipline relative to the maturity of the pupils.” Expectations of pupil behaviour are high and the high standard of conduct, evident during the in-school evaluation, attests to the effectiveness of the school’s policies. The inspectors witnessed settled, well-organised classrooms, good behaviour in corridors and positive, respectful interactions between pupils and teachers. 

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

The quality of whole-school planning is good. Policies required by legislation such as enrolment, health and safety and a code of behaviour have been drawn up. An effective planning process has been put in place whereby committees, led by the relevant post-holder and informed by the various support services, have overseen the development of curriculum plans. To optimise the impact of these plans, it is recommended that curriculum objectives should now be delineated for each class level. A process of re-evaluation and review of the plans has also been initiated and ambitious targets for the revision of some plans have been set for the current school year. The decision to undertake an action plan to effect improvement in English literacy is particularly commendable. It is evident from discussion with the principal and staff that plans are reviewed on the basis of solid information from standardised tests and other in-school assessments. To further refine the planning process, it is recommended that the actions required of teachers to ensure the delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum in a co-ordinated and developmental manner should be specified and that systems to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the plan at class level should be devised.    

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers provide both short-term and long-term plans for their work in classrooms. Long-term planning is outlined in time-bound units and is effective in ensuring that a broad range of strands and strand units in each curriculum area are addressed. Various practices exist with regard to short-term planning. There is scope for this planning to be more specific in terms of identifying the learning objectives to be achieved, ensuring that these are sufficiently differentiated to take account of varying ability levels, and to make further provision for the assessment of individual pupil’s progress. Furthermore, it is recommended that learning-support teachers ensure that their plans dovetail with those of class teachers in order to provide a coherent, co-ordinated programme of learning for children with learning difficulties. A particularly commendable feature of planning in this school is the newly-devised template to record monthly progress which is very effective in linking pupils’ learning with the objectives of the curriculum. This provides a comprehensive account of progress in each class. 

 

3.3 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.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

The school vision recognises “that a claim to true professionalism must be based on the delivery of a standard of knowledge, expertise and level of service warranting such.” The professional approach to teaching and the quality of teacher-pupil interactions in all classrooms is of a high order. Pupils were seen to be respectful and co-operative and an atmosphere conducive to learning was evident throughout the school. In all classrooms and on corridors, attractive samples of pupils’ work are displayed. A good stock of educational resources has been built up and the recently acquired interactive white boards add considerably to the quality of presentation of lessons. During the evaluation, a range of teaching approaches was seen and some excellent teaching was observed. In some instances, very effective examples of activity-based learning were seen where pupils were fully engaged in meaningful tasks that extended their learning and challenged their thinking. In other cases, whole-class teaching was observed where pupils’ attention was held while detailed explanation of lesson content was delivered. However, in many instances, inspectors found that teaching was over-dependant on the content of textbooks and insufficient emphasis was put on developing pupils’ critical higher-order thinking skills. While levels of pupil achievement are satisfactory in the main, the inspectors consider that pupil attainment and learning standards could be extended further. In order to achieve improved standards it is necessary for all teachers to agree the expected outcomes at each class level for all curriculum areas and to have a shared understanding of what constitutes best practice.     

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá caighdeán breá ag baint le teagasc agus foghlaim na Gaeilge i roinnt ranganna sa scoil seo. Tá cur chuige dearfach le sonrú agus is rí-inmholta an chaoi go bhfuil ionchur an-chinnte teanga mar chuid lárnach den fhoghlaim sna ranganna sin. Baineann na daltaí sna ranganna seo úsáid as cluichí cainte agus as drámaí beaga chun cumarsáid fheidhmiúil a dhéanamh. Is féidir le cuid de na daltaí sna ranganna seo brí a bhaint as téacs agus iad ag léamh. Scríobhann roinnt acu scéalta beaga deasa le líofacht shásúil. Moltar an dea-obair seo a leathnú ar fud na ranganna uile mar, ar an iomlán, tá caighdeán Gaeilge íseal bainte amach ag cuid mhaith de dhaltaí na scoile seo. Níl taithí shuntasach acu ar a bheith ag éisteacht le teanga líofa á labhairt. Moltar béim sa bhreis a chur ar fhorbairt na héisteachta agus béim a chur ar éisteacht le caint leanúnach, ach go háirithe. Moltar modh an aistriúcháin a sheachaint. Moltar tús áite a thabhairt don drámaíocht agus don díospóireacht chun saibhreas teanga a chothú. Níor mhiste freisin bun-struchtúr na teanga a mhúineadh ar bhonn céimnithe. Moltar struchtúr an cheachta a chur in oiriúint do bhuanú an fhoclóra. Léann cuid mhaith daltaí na téacsanna ranga le deacracht fheiceálach agus tugtar faoi deara gur beag tuisceana atá ag cuid acu ar a bhfuil á léamh acu. Moltar anois an léitheoireacht a mhúineadh ar bhonn níos struchtúrtha agus níos cinnte. Moltar aird sa bhreis a dhíriú ar scileanna fonaiciúla, comhthéacs agus ar fhocail a bhriseadh síos ina siollaí. Moltar caighdean níos airde a éileamh ó na daltaí i ngach réimse den Ghaeilge. Chun na caighdeáin a ardú a thuilleadh, moltar cur chuige uile scoile a cheapadh i dtaca leis an litearthacht Ghaeilge, ach go háirithe. Níor mhiste comh-thuiscint a chothú maidir leis an gcaighdeán ar chóir a bheith ag súil leis ag gach rang léibhéal.  

 

Irish

There is a satisfactory standard of teaching and learning of Irish in some classes in this school. A positive approach is adopted and a highly commendable focus is placed in those classes on ensuring that a specific language input is an integral part of learning. Pupils in these classes use language games and small plays to communicate purposefully. Some of the children in these classes can make sense of text while reading. Some of them write small stories with satisfactory fluency. It is recommended that this satisfactory work be extended throughout all classes because, on the whole, a low standard of Irish is being achieved by many pupils in this school. They have little experience of listening to fluent language. It is recommended that additional emphasis be placed, in particular, on developing listening skills and on listening to continuous talk. Translation should be avoided. It is recommended that a central role be given to drama and debate to cultivate richness of language. It is also necessary to teach the structures of the language in a graduated manner. It is recommended that the structure of lessons be adapted to ensure that vocabulary is embedded. Many children read classroom texts with discernible difficulty and it is noted that they have little understanding of what they have read. It is now recommended that reading be taught in a more structured and more certain manner. More attention should be given to phonological skills, context and breaking up words into syllables. It is recommended that a higher standard be sought in every aspect of Irish. To enhance standards further, it is recommended that a whole-school approach to the teaching of literacy in Irish, in particular, be adopted. It is necessary to nurture a shared understanding of what standard is expected at each class level.

 

English

 

In terms of oral language, pupils demonstrate a good ability to express themselves clearly in discussion. They demonstrate an ability to present a personal viewpoint, to listen to others in a group and to arrive at a group perspective on particular subjects. Pupils engage in pair work on a regular basis as they research topics on the internet and when they participate in various paired reading activities. Encouraging pupils to discuss what they are reading in order to establish the main points would further enhance oral language development. With regard to the teaching of poetry, it is recommended that the school plan should provide teachers with further guidance on enriching the learning experiences for pupils. This guidance should include the identification of core poetry to be explored at each class level and recommend the learning of certain poems by heart. 

 

A textbook scheme and a broad range of novels form the basis for developing the pupils’ reading skills. School libraries, regular visits from Fingal County Council’s mobile library, and an annual book fair enrich the range of books available to the children. Systems such as paired reading and book buddies are used to support and motivate pupils to engage with books. While teachers question pupils skilfully on texts being read, it is recommended that the school should adopt a more prescriptive approach towards the teaching of English reading. In general, reading lessons should be structured to ensure that vocabulary enrichment, phonological skills, comprehension and ability to cope with figurative language are developed and consolidated systematically in all pupils and that additional support is provided to those less able. Keeping a running record of achievement and progress during reading lessons is also recommended.

 

Pupils engage in independent writing on a regular basis and are provided with opportunities to write in a variety of genres. Most pupils have a good knowledge of spelling and a satisfactory knowledge of grammar and punctuation conventions. Pupils, in their independent writing, demonstrate an ability to structure their thoughts coherently. While there is evidence in some pupils’ writing that they can manipulate words and structures in pursuit of style, this needs more particular attention so that it can characterise the work of a greater number of pupils. Pupils are provided with opportunities to type up some of their independent writing which is then attractively displayed in classrooms. While a uniform style of handwriting is taught and many pupils write legibly according to this style, an over-reliance on the use of pencils in senior classes generally militates against all pupils attaining a good standard of handwriting. It is recommended that the school plan should provide guidelines about when pupils move from using pencils to pens.    

 

Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative

The school participates in the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative and French is taught to all pupils in fifth and sixth class. The school is fortunate to have a native French teacher to undertake this work and she provides lessons in oral French in an enthusiastic, dynamic manner. The wonderful fluency and intonation of the teacher provides an engaging and effective listening source for pupils. A very wide area of language has been covered within a short period of time and many pupils show advanced ability to discuss their hobbies, interests, family and school life in French. Teaching strategies are very effective, with a mixture of group work, pair work and class work being used. However, there is a need to check for understanding more frequently and to complete the assessment data section of the European Language Portfolio on an ongoing basis. 

 

4.3 Mathematics

Many examples of high-quality teaching and learning in Mathematics were observed during the evaluation. All classrooms have a good range of mathematical equipment which is used effectively and managed carefully. All teachers provide a broad and balanced programme of work in line with the Primary School Curriculum (1999); they plan appropriately for mathematics lessons and, in most cases, comprehensive records of progress are maintained on a monthly basis. In some classes, good oral work was observed where pupils’ critical thinking was challenged and their knowledge of particular mathematical concepts extended. Equally good standards were achieved by some pupils in key mathematical areas such as place value, numerical operations and problem solving. Ongoing assessment of pupils’ achievement through teacher-devised and standardised tests is a feature of the work and some pupils are provided with additional support by members of the learning-support team. In order to build on the good work already underway, it is recommended that class teachers and the learning-support team should work towards closer co-ordination of their activities and that the learning-support programme should be closely dovetailed with the mathematical themes being taught in class at any time.   

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE)

 

History

The overall standard of teaching and learning in History is good. A balanced programme, incorporating all strands of the history curriculum, is consistently delivered. In many cases, pupils’ skills as historians are effectively nurtured. Good project work was witnessed and pupils were seen to be knowledgeable about topics they had covered; the work on legend and Irish saints was particularly commendable. It is recommended that timelines be more extensively used as part of the history programme to develop pupils’ sense of chronology.

 

Geography

Interesting lessons in Geography were observed during the evaluation and excellent use was observed of interactive white boards being used to illustrate particular features of the landscape and to develop pupils’ understanding of geographical concepts. Very good work on teaching aspects of the geography programme through Irish was observed in one class and this integrated approach could be further extended to enhance pupils’ learning in both areas of the curriculum. A good range of resources including maps, charts and globes, is used effectively and samples of pupils’ work in copybooks and on display in classrooms and corridors provide evidence of the general good standard of the work. The excellent quality of the school grounds attests to the high standard of environmental awareness and care that is inculcated in all the pupils.

 

A key feature of 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 should highlight the many interesting historical and geographical features in the River Valley and wider Swords area. Compiling a bank of illustrative resource material based on the local area would also be a worthwhile undertaking. 

 

Science

Science teaching and learning is a significant strength of this school. Some examples of excellence in practice were noted during the evaluation and a programme of very rich content is delivered in many classrooms. Science lessons are well structured and, through working scientifically, pupils are provided with opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills. A review of the monthly progress records indicates that the majority of teachers deliver a broad programme across the four curriculum strands. A range of resources is used and opportunities are exploited to engage pupils regularly in active, experimental work. The school wormery and garden are particularly commendable features of the science programme.   

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

Very good quality work in the Visual Arts is on display throughout the school. This work shows that pupils are encouraged to pay close attention to detail and to the completion of work with care. A variety of media are employed and all strand units of the curriculum are represented. A highlight of each year is the Easter Bonnet Competition, which involves many strands of the visual arts curriculum and through which the pupils are afforded the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity.   

 

Music

Music is a particularly strong feature of the work of this school. The descant recorder is taught to all pupils and this provides a solid base in musical literacy. In some cases, pupils at senior level go on to play and read Music to a very high standard indeed. In all classes, pupils sing a repertoire of suitable songs in English and Irish. Listening and responding to Music is a core feature of the work in all classes and some good examples of composing were also observed. The school choir and instrumental group, which has achieved a very high standard, participates regularly in Cór Fhéile na Scoileanna and performs at local and national events and at all school-based ceremonies and festivities. The range of songs, the obvious enjoyment of the children, and the high standard of singing and playing are very commendable features of the work.

 

Drama

Drama is used on a regular basis to explore a variety of curriculum areas. Some good examples of pupils engaging in Drama to develop skills of empathy and reflection were seen during the evaluation. Techniques such as freeze frame and thought tracking were observed to be effective in assisting pupils to reflect on drama activities, thereby broadening their learning.

 

4.6 Physical Education

The school plan notes that the school views “…Physical Education as an integral part of the educational process, without which the education of the child is incomplete.” The school’s general purposes hall is used effectively as a venue for physical education lessons. In addition, all pupils are taken to a nearby pool for swimming lessons and parents participate voluntarily in helping out with this activity. The school has a wide range of suitable physical education equipment which is stored and managed effectively. Lessons are appropriately structured and a broad and balanced curriculum is delivered. The school, with support from parents, also provides a variety of extra-curricular sporting activities that are available to both boys and girls. Teams from the school have participated successfully in many sporting activities and competitions. Cross-country teams, trained by one of the teachers, have been particularly successful in competition. In co-operation with Fingal County Council, the school provides a cycling training programme for pupils and a cycling course has been marked out on the school playground. The overall commitment of staff to the pupils’ physical and social development is very commendable. 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

The general atmosphere of this school reflects a commitment to the development and extension of the pupils’ competences in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). Monthly progress records indicate that a comprehensive programme of work is conscientiously delivered and much cross-curricular work and discussion are also in evidence. Lessons are organised to ensure active learning experiences for pupils and very good work on anti-bullying programmes was witnessed.

 

4.8 Assessment

Standardised tests in English and Mathematics are administered in February each year in every class. The results are carefully tabulated and analysed. The findings of standardised tests have been used as a basis for discussion at staff meetings and as a starting point for the school action plan in English. Additionally, standardised test results are used to identify those in need of learning support in English and Mathematics. Other assessment procedures include teacher observation, teacher-designed checklists, tasks and tests. Learning-support teachers, special class teachers and resource teachers also use a range of diagnostic tests to establish the specific needs of individual pupils. 

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

In this school additional tuition is provided to some pupils in English and Mathematics. There are also two special classes for children with a diagnosed specific learning difficulty and support is provided to some pupils whose first language is not English. The entire school community visibly demonstrates a very caring and supportive approach towards all pupils, particularly those with additional needs. There is a good deal of expertise and experience within the special education team and a whole-school plan is in place. The interactions observed between the teachers and the pupils with special needs were affirming and encouraging and a very positive atmosphere was noted in the classes. Pupils actively engaged in the lessons and they clearly enjoyed the teaching content. However, while some pupils are progressing in relation to oral competency, records show that many pupils are making insufficient progress in English reading and writing. Individual pupil learning programmes (IPLPs) and individual education plans (IEPs) have been devised but there is a need to identify clear, time-bound learning targets and to investigate alternative teaching strategies in cases where progress is seen to be limited.

 

The current model of support delivery is one whereby pupils are withdrawn for periods of about forty minutes, either individually or in small groups, from their base class to a learning-support or resource room. In some cases pupils may be withdrawn by the same teacher for two separate periods in a day; other pupils may be withdrawn by different teachers for English and Mathematics. Occasionally, a pupil may receive support on a withdrawal basis in Mathematics or English and return to the base class where pupils may still be engaged in a lesson in the same subject. Devising suitable timetables to co-ordinate withdrawals represents a significant challenge for the school each year. In this evaluation, the inspectors found that the support programmes were not sufficiently co-ordinated and integrated with the work of class teachers which resulted in many pupils with special needs having an overall fragmented learning experience. It is recommended that the school should re-engineer the model of support to ensure that learning support and class work form a coherent, seamless unit for pupils. The inspectors recommend that this is best provided through a model of in-class support where support teachers and class teachers work as a team in a planned, co-ordinated fashion to ensure that targeted supplementary teaching is provided to pupils with additional needs. It is recommended that a revised approach should be fully researched, discussed and planned, with specific roles and responsibilities described for mainstream and support teachers, with the ultimate aim of ensuring that the key curriculum principles of integration and differentiation underpin the learning of all pupils, particularly those with special needs. The supports provided by Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS) and the Special Education Support Service (SESS) will be of particular assistance to the school in planning further strategies in this regard. 

 

The work in the two reading units is purposeful and well planned and pupils are making satisfactory progress in English reading. However, inspectors found that children’s experience of the full curriculum is somewhat limited and it is recommended that opportunities for pupils to have greater levels of interaction with their peers should be timetabled. All pupils should have access to the full Primary School Curriculum (1999) in accordance with their needs and the potential of curriculum areas other than English to contribute to children’s development in reading and writing should be fully realised. 

 

The school also has six full-time and one part-time special needs assistants (SNAs). These assistants provide very positive, caring support to pupils with additional needs. However, the practice whereby some SNAs hear children’s English reading in corridors should be stopped. It is imperative that the work of SNAs is of a non-teaching nature and complies fully with the terms of Circular Letter 07/02.

 

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

Additional support in English is provided to thirty-four pupils whose first language is not English. Current provision takes place through the withdrawal of children in small groups. Additional support is well planned and carefully documented with the emphasis on developing children’s oral, reading and writing competences. In line with the recommendation in section 5.1 above the school should now review the exclusive reliance on the model of withdrawing children from their own classroom to be given support. Many of the children have been in school in Ireland since junior infants and their levels of achievement in English are impressive. To build on this success, consideration should be given to providing targeted in-class support, which will challenge the children and ensure that they interact in a positive, constructive way with their peers.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

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:

In Irish, a close examination of teaching and learning is recommended to raise standards in all the language skills.

 

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 June 2009

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

The staff and Board of Management of Holy Family Senior National School welcome the many positive findings in the recent W.S.E. report.

 

The whole school community consider that the evaluation and, in particular, their interaction with the inspectors was a very positive experience.

 

We consider the report to be a fair and accurate evaluation of current practice and functioning of Holy Family Senior National School.  We regard the W.S.E., and the report emanating from it, as an appropriate opportunity to examine current practice and, with regard to the recommendations in the report, to address change, where needed, in order to provide the best possible service to the pupils in our care. 

 

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

 

  1. First steps have been taken to address the issue of the “fragmented learning experience” referred to in Section 5.1, (para 2).  This issue will be examined in greater detail to ensure that the school delivers the optimum service commensurate with the resources available to it.

 

  1. The principal and staff are aware of the need to improve the standard of Gaeilge throughout the school and in this regard a first step had already been taken before the W.S.E. took place by the production of a first draft of a 30 week, yearly plan in Gaeilge Neamhfhoirmiúl for all class groups in the school.  To ensure a continuation of the process, a redrafting of the Plean Scoile in Gaeilge will take place during the next school year with a view to improving standards throughout the school.  The one day of annual, in-school inservice will be dedicated to Gaeilge next year with input from P.P.D.S if available.

 

  1. The school acknowledges the positive comments in the report concerning the reading units.  The teachers in the units are aware of the opportunities presented by the whole school curriculum to develop the pupils’ literacy skills and, on foot of the recommendations, will further explore how such opportunities might be optimised.

 

  1. The “Action Plan” in English will involve more research, and probably inservice, with a view to improving content delivery in the classroom.  A new section, specific to the “Action Plan”, will be added to the Cúntas Míosúil to monitor the implementation of the “Plan” in each class.

 

   5.    A meeting of all postholders will take place during the month of June 2009 with a view to addressing all recommendations in the report. Specific whole-school strategies will be developed and prioritised

          to ensure that the recommendations, where possible, are implemented.