An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Holy Rosary Primary School
Old Court Avenue, Tallaght, Dublin 24
Roll number: 19878E
Date of inspection: 13 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 26 April 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Holy Rosary Primary School, Old Court Avenue, Tallaght. 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 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.
Holy Rosary Primary School is a co-educational, vertical school in the Catholic parish of Boharnabreena under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. The school was established in 1985 to cater for the educational needs of the newly developed area of Allenton, to which many families had been relocated from the inner city. The school has grown from a four teacher school in 1985 to its current position of an enrolment of 471 pupils with thirty teaching staff. Attendance is carefully monitored and the school is proactive in implementing strategies to encourage regular attendance and an appreciation of learning. The characteristic spirit of the school is encapsulated in its mission statement which recognises and embraces diversity within the community and endorses the development of the individual pupil in a secure and challenging learning environment.
A rapid house-building programme over the past ten years has resulted in over one thousand private houses being built in the area. Enrolment is multi-racial and multi-denominational with pupils from different social strata, reflecting the concurrent changes in many parts of Ireland. In addition, thirty percent of the pupils currently enrolled are from countries outside of Ireland. Most of these pupils and their parents do not have English as their first language
The school is accommodated in a semi-permanent building which was built in 1985. The site on which the school is built is pleasant, with mature trees, well attended shrubs and playing pitches. However, the changes in the landscape and the increase in local population have presented new challenges to the school, most notably the increasing demand for school places. For this reason the board of management applied for an appropriate building a number of years ago. In the interim twelve temporary classrooms have been placed on site.
The school currently benefits from Department of Education and Science initiatives received under the School Support Programme. The resources provided under this initiative have given the school a favourable pupil teacher ratio and have provided funding to purchase educational resources.
The board of management is properly constituted. Members of the board, particularly the chairperson, are a visible supportive presence in the school and all actively engaged in discussion at the pre-evaluation meeting. The board operates in a very focused manner; it reflects and considers carefully the matters at hand and is committed to the continuing development of the school. An area of concern for the board over a number of years has been the improvement in the school building. While this has been identified as a major priority, it is admirable that it has not dominated all proceedings.
The board meets every two months and more frequently if circumstances warrant. Minutes of the meetings are carefully kept and accounts are audited annually. Issues pertinent to the effective management of the school, including the quality of teaching and learning in specific areas of the curriculum are discussed. The board is compliant with Department of Education and Science regulations and with legislative requirements. The board is actively involved in the development and review of both school policies and individual posts of responsibility. It is important that the board ratify, sign and date curriculum as well as organisational policies.
Communication with parents is very good and is fostered and promoted. A newsletter is produced annually and continuing informal contact is maintained. The involvement and facilitation of all nationalities and the wider community is promoted and encouraged. Consideration should now be given to the production of an annual report by the board to inform parents of on-going progress about all aspects of the school.
The principal provides visionary leadership for the school. In his work he embodies the characteristic spirit and ethos of the school. His ability to manage change in a wide range of areas is exemplary. He fosters positive relationships among all members of the school community. This contributes greatly to the school’s positive climate and welcoming, open atmosphere. The quality of pupil management and of teaching and learning are high on his priority list. As a reflective practitioner, he leads planning and manages staff effectively. He provides meaningful support for newly qualified teachers and successfully delegates responsibility to staff members.
The principal is ably supported by an in-school management team comprising a deputy principal, privileged principal, three assistant principals and seven special duties post holders. The team consists of experienced and more recently qualified teachers. Each team member has a clearly defined role consistent with the guidelines of the Department and containing elements of curriculum, pastoral and organisational duties. The roles of team members are regularly reviewed and willingly changed as necessitated by the needs of the school. As a group they are committed to the ongoing development of the school. In this regard they take a leadership role on planning teams to enhance pupil achievement, to progress the implementation of policies and to promote on-going evaluation. This ensures that the quality of teaching and learning is central to the work of the school. The working teams meet on a regular basis and the full in-school management team meets once a term. They contribute significantly to decision making and school leadership and play an important role in fostering team spirit, mutual support and a collaborative working atmosphere in the school. Members of the in-school management team report on their work regularly at staff meetings. An excellent relationship exists between the in-school management team, principal and all staff members.
The teaching staff comprises twenty mainstream class teachers, four learning support teachers, two language support teachers, one special class teacher, one support teacher, one shared home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator and the principal. One full time and four part time special-needs assistants, a secretary, a caretaker and part-time cleaners are also employed. The effective deployment of staff ensures that teachers experience a variety of classes and that a combination of experienced and recently qualified teachers work collaboratively at every class level and within the special education team. Continuing professional development (CPD) is a noteworthy element of practice and is informed by the priority needs of the school. It contributes to the highly effective team work and the quality of teaching and learning. The willingness of the staff to engage in whole school professional development over a number of years indicates their commitment to school improvement. Additionally, knowledge and expertise gained by individual teachers through attendance at specific courses is reported to all teachers at staff meetings. The special-needs assistants are directed in their work by class teachers and this work is overseen by a member of the in-school management team. Their role in the classroom is very clearly articulated in the school plan and great efforts are made to ensure that they contribute to the successful inclusion of pupils with specific needs. The school secretary and caretaker are an integral part of the school. They provide valuable support throughout the school and their skills are highly prized and nurtured. A number of external tutors assist with the Physical Education programme. These include a Gaelic Athletic Association coach for hurling and football, a rugby coach, a dance teacher and a soccer coach. The collaboration of teachers with these tutors broadens the curriculum experience for the pupils.
The main school building is a single storey building with eleven classrooms. Twelve temporary classrooms have been added in the last ten years. The school accommodation is inadequate for the present enrolment. While the board has made valiant efforts to ensure that a suitable learning environment is available for all pupils, the accommodation lacks basic facilities such as an assembly or general purpose area, suitable rooms for special education, a library, a parents’ room, a reasonably sized staffroom and staff toilets. It is essential that the building project presently at planning stage be completed as soon as possible and that the accommodation meets all the needs of the school community. The school is cognisant of health and safety issues and is compliant with the various regulations. The current building is well maintained. It is cleaned on a daily basis and a phased maintenance programme is being implemented. The school and its environs have been greatly enhanced by the various artistic projects undertaken during the school’s annual Arts Week. Displays of pupils’ work both within the classrooms and on the corridors are praiseworthy. The school prides itself on the outdoor playing areas. In spite of the need to increase the number of temporary rooms in recent years, a large grass area and two small hard surfaces are still available for physical education and play. The hard surface area is too small for the current enrolment and this issue will need to be addressed when building is undertaken. The school is to be commended for making the premises available outside of school hours. It is used before and after school for curriculum and religious activities and for a parent and toddler group during the school day. A homework club is organised one day a week after school, on a voluntary basis, by teachers. Parents organise activities on the other four days.
The provision of resources has been a priority in the school for a number of years. Highly commendable work has been undertaken to ensure that resources are used effectively to support teaching and learning. Action plans for the provision of resources were drawn up by the planning team to rationalise, distribute and purchase educational resources in 2000. Each class has a range of resources which includes a core box of curricular materials and supplementary materials are centrally stored. The resources are well-managed and are continually updated. These resources, combined with individual teacher-devised materials, ensure that an attractive learning environment is created in all classes and that materials are effectively used to support active learning. Supplementary reading materials and other resources are very well utilised in special education settings.
Information and communication technology (ICT) resources are available both in class and in a dedicated computer room. ICT is very effectively used in supporting pupils with special education needs. At present, the computer room is used as a resource room and this has resulted in limited access to this resource. While computers are in many of the senior classrooms, limited use was evident during the evaluation. The use of ICT as a regular tool for learning should now be encouraged in all classes.
The school’s parents’ association, which is affiliated to the National Parents Council (NPC) primary, is very active and its role in the school epitomises the value placed on parental involvement. All parents are invited to attend one nightly meeting each term and the committee itself meets once a fortnight within school hours. Their positive contribution to the school is wide and varied. They organise almost all after school activities and fundraise regularly to finance them. The committee actively encourages participation in the school community by welcoming new parents on a one to one basis and by organising coffee mornings. Regular contact is maintained with all parents through the school newsletter. Diversity is celebrated and promoted by listening to the needs of all parents and responding to these through practical tasks such as translating documents, organising family fun days, first aid training and by bringing issues of importance to the immediate attention of the principal or other relevant personnel. Parents assist in delivering a highly organised and effective paired-reading scheme and a shared Mathematics scheme which are overseen by the HSCL co-ordinator. They also run poetry writing and art competitions for pupils and assist teachers on school tours.
Relationships within the school are characterised by mutual respect. A happy atmosphere is apparent and it is evident that pupils feel cared for and valued in the school. A core principle on which everything is based is fostering supportive relationships and all teachers’ attitude to children is positive. This school has been to the forefront in promoting positive behaviour for a long number of years. The school’s mission statement informs the manner in which pupil behaviour is managed. It recognises the rights of the child and the rights of all those involved in the school to be safe and to be treated with respect and sensitivity at all times. The school’s code of discipline and anti bullying policy- Key for Discipline (KFD)- is based on a positive and whole school approach. This code was drawn up, agreed upon and ratified by pupils, parents, management and staff and adheres to the Equal Status Act 2000. The importance of a positive teaching style and its impact on the quality of relationships is particularly highlighted in the code. The effectiveness of this approach is evident in the positive, happy, productive environment in each class. The desired behaviour is promoted and the unwanted behaviour immobilised with the assistance of rewards. This fosters both self esteem and self confidence in the pupils. Following the successful participation of pupils in the Green School Project further expansion of pupils’ role in school life, through the establishment of a students’ council, should now be considered as a means of broadening their responsibility and involvement.
3. QUALITY OF SCHOOL PLANNING
The level and quality of school planning in the school is exemplary. Planning has been an on-going priority for some time and the staff is aware that meaningful planning is a process that requires particular skills. The teaching staff of the school takes prime responsibility for planning but the parents have been involved in some aspects of policy development such as, discipline, anti-bullying, relationships and sexuality education and healthy eating. The board is aware and supportive of the school planning process and has ratified some policies. A school planning team has been established to lead the process in developing organisational policies and curricular plans. School audits are regularly carried out, priorities identified and action plans drawn up. The significance accorded to planning is highlighted by the time given, inside and outside school hours, by staff members to the process. In light of the effective planning to date, it is now timely that pupils’ learning outcomes become the focus of future planning.
The school plan is presented in an accessible format and a copy is provided for each teacher. The school’s mission statement is prominent in written form in the plan and is on display in the school. It is also highly visible in practice and it informs all aspects of the life of the school. The organisational policies, which emanate directly from the school’s vision and needs, are clearly articulated and directly influence the day-to-day running of the school. The curricular plans reflect clearly the principles of the primary school curriculum, the needs of the pupils and the school context. Relevant policies are synopsised and written in accessible language and are given on leaflets to parents. Evidence of on-going monitoring and review is available through the eight action plans for this year.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
One of the major strengths of this school is the fact that curriculum policies provide a backdrop for teacher’s individual planning. The teachers are to be highly praised for the level of collaborative planning undertaken. All teachers in each class group meet on a fortnightly basis to devise short-term plans. A common framework is used for long term planning and recording of progress. Some excellent examples of short term planning providing clarity and direction for teaching through the use of content objectives and the identification of a wide range of learning experiences are available. This practice should be developed across all classes. Greater attention to differentiated learning in relation to the development of content and skills should be considered.
Detailed individual education plans devised by the special education team (SET) in collaboration with class teachers, are available in all teachers’ folders. These guide practice within the class and support from the SET is consistent with mainstream class work. The effectiveness of planning in this school is apparent in its impact on teaching and learning and on the delivery of a balanced curriculum for all pupils. Collaborative planning ensures consistency and continuity in curriculum implementation and progression from class to class.
4.1 Overview of Teaching and learning
Due to the principal’s vision of promoting quality teaching and learning, supports are in place to ensure that all pupils experience positive learning experiences. Teaching in general is well structured and successful whole class, group and paired work was observed. Teachers’ awareness of the changes in emphasis due to the Primary School Curriculum (1999) is apparent and good examples of engaging pupils in their own learning are available in many classes. In these classes the effective use of resources and the active involvement of the pupils in learning results in pupils being motivated and achieving the learning objectives. Pupils enjoy focused and structured activity working in pairs, practising newly learnt skills and working in effective collaborative groups. Within mainstream classes the practice of differentiation, particularly in relation to literacy and numeracy, needs continued attention.
Tá múineadh na Gaeilge mar thosaíocht forbartha ag an scoil i mbliana. Chuir an bord bainistíochta in iúl dúinn ag an gcéad cruinniú go raibh béim á gcur i mbliana ar chaighdeán na Gaeilge a fheabhsú. Chuige seo tá coiste pleanála Gaeilge bunaithe agus tá oide ceaptha mar coordaitheoir. Tá na hoidí ag déanamh iarracht an Ghaeilge a úsáid mar theanga cumarsáide sna ranganna. Moltar an stráitéis seo a leanúint. Feictear frásaí na seachtaine ar thaispeáint timpeall na scoile agus cuirtear na frásaí in iúl do na tuismitheoirí. Is léir go bhfuil dearcadh dearfach ag an bhfoireann i leith na Gaeilge agus tá fonn orthu í a fheabhsú. Tá sé socraithe go mbeidh tacaíocht ar fáil don fhoireann trí chuiditheoir Clár Tacaíochta don ChuraclamBunscoile (CTSB) i rith na bliana.
Tá clár foilsithe le haghaidh múineadh na Gaeilge oiriúnach in úsáid ar fud na scoile agus is léir go bhfuil formhór na n-oidí ag déanamh iarracht chur chuige an churaclaim a chur i bhfeidhm sna ranganna. Bunaíonn siad na ceachtanna ar théamaí ón gcuraclaim. Feictear teagasc ranga agus obair bheirte, cluichí teanga, rainn agus amhráin in úsáid go héifeachta i bhformhór na ranganna. Tá stór focail oiriúnach dá n-aois ar eolas ag na daltaí. Ba chóir deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí an teanga iomlán a úsáid agus a chleachtadh go cumarsáideach. Tá cuid de na hoidí ag claí go rialta leis na téicsleabhair, áfach agus b’fhiú leathnú a dhéanamh ar ábhair na gceachtanna agus áird a dhíriu ar na tréimhsí cumarsáide. Sna meán agus na hard ranganna, bunaítear an léitheoireacht agus an scríbhneoireacht san iomlán ar na leabhair saothair agus tá sé ar chumas na ndaltaí na leabhair sin a léamh agus ceisteanna shimplí bunaithe ar na téics a fhreagairt. Moltar athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an bplean scoile atá in úsáid faoi láthair agus ábhair agus scileanna teagaisc níos soiléire a leagain amach ag diriú aire ar fhorbairt agus leanúnachas ó rang go rang. Moltar raon níos leithne d’ábhair léitheoireachta a chur ar fáil chun na scileanna léitheoireachta a fhorbairt a thuilleadh. Chun feabhas a chur ar na scileanna scríbhneoireachta moltar deiseanna níos mó a thabhairt do na daltaí abairtí, teachtaireachtaí, scéalta agus scríbhneoireacht pearsanta a chumadh.
The school has prioritised the teaching of Irish for development this year. The board indicated at the pre-evaluation meeting that improvement of the standard of Irish is a priority. To this end, a planning committee has been established and an Irish co-ordinator appointed. Teachers are focussing on increasing the use of Irish as a means of communication throughout the school day. It is recommended that this practice be continued. An Irish phrase of the week is displayed throughout the school and this phrase is communicated to parents. The teaching staff demonstrates a positive outlook towards the teaching of Irish and an interest in improving standards. Additional in-service support from the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) for staff during the year has been arranged.
An appropriate scheme for the teaching of Irish is used throughout the school and the majority of teachers implement the principles of the curriculum in their classrooms. Lessons are based on the themes of the curriculum. A variety of methodologies, including the use of whole class teaching, pair-work, language games, songs and poems, are used effectively in many classrooms. Pupils demonstrate suitable vocabulary development. Caution is advised in relation to the over reliance on textbooks and it is recommended that greater attention be given to the communicative approach with pupils being provided with additional opportunities to communicate regularly in Irish. In general the development of reading and writing in the middle and senior classes is primarily based on workbooks. Pupils display an ability to read and answer simple questions based on the text. It is recommended that a review of the school plan be undertaken and that the content and skills will be clearly identified to ensure continuity and progression from class to class. A broader range of reading materials should now be made available to further develop pupils’ reading skills. Pupils’ writing skills should be enhanced through the promotion of personal writing in a variety of genre.
The school is to be commended for the attention given to the various aspects of the teaching of English. Continual review of planning and implementation has resulted in adapting the programmes to suit the needs of the pupils from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. A range of interventions has been introduced to raise the levels of achievement of pupils. All strands of the English curriculum are implemented.
In infant and junior classes the language experience approach is successfully utilised in a structured manner. Great attention is given to the development of pupils’ listening skills and very good listening skills generally are evident. Very effective oral language lessons, based on specific oral language development objectives, were observed. Highly successful language activities are appropriately linked with reading, writing and with other areas of the curriculum. As pupils progress to middle and senior classes, the use of a published oral language programme assists in ensuring continuity and progression. Pupils perform action poems with enthusiasm.
A formal and structured approach to reading is apparent at infant and junior level. An agreed phonics programme is consistently delivered and appropriate attention is given to the development of sight vocabulary. The involvement of parents in paired-reading in these classes is highly commendable and very well organised. An early intervention programme supervised by the special education team provides structured in-class support for the different ability levels of the pupils. The development of reading skills through a planned phonics programme continues in middle and senior classes to support pupils with special education needs. In these classes the use of an agreed reading scheme supports continuity in the development of reading skills for all pupils. Generally pupils read with appropriate levels of fluency. However, it is important to provide for the varying ability levels within classes. The reading skills of all pupils should be enhanced through appropriate attention to phonics in all classes. Greater variety of reading materials within classrooms should be considered to support a differentiated approach. Closer monitoring of pupils’ reading at senior level and the extension of the highly successful in-class interventions at junior level should guide future practice. An interest in reading is cultivated through the creation of dedicated library areas and the introduction of class novels.
The school’s identification of English writing as a priority for development and the subsequent introduction of First Steps as a strategy for improvement is to be highly commended. This practice ensures successful structured development and progression of writing skills. It assists in the development of pupils’ imaginative and emotional response, and it pays due attention to the writing process. In all classes very good examples of written work in a variety of genres are available in pupils’ copies and are celebrated in classroom displays. A specific spelling programme is well implemented. Pupils’ written work is properly monitored and the teachers’ positive written comments complement the school’s Key for Discipline approach.
The school is involved in the Modern Languages in Primary Schools initiative. Through this initiative pupils in fifth and sixth classes are taught Italian. Classes are conducted in Italian by a native Italian speaker. Games and real life scenarios are effectively used to stimulate pupils’ interest in the language. Pupils enjoy lessons which enable them to communicate simply in Italian and they demonstrate understanding of the content of lessons.
Effective planning has led to the availability of a wide range of resources to support the teaching and learning of Mathematics. Clear guidance is provided for the teaching of the language of Mathematics, tables, problem solving and oral work. Good practice is apparent in the linking of strands and relating Mathematics to every day life. Pupils enjoy Mathematics and display appropriate levels of understanding of a number of strands: data, shape and space and aspects of number and measurement. Teachers are to be complimented for their use of games and activities to enhance the recall of number facts. A Mathematics environment is created in most classrooms. Much of the teaching of Mathematics is based on textbooks. However, good examples of collaborative work and active engagement of pupils were observed. This effective practice needs to be extended across all classes and will be assisted by teachers identifying the learning activities to be used to support understanding in their planning. The understanding of place value requires further attention and this could be enhanced by linking number operations to other strands such as measures. Further development of estimation skills and the break down of steps are needed to ensure teaching for understanding and that pupils can apply these strategies across a range of areas.
Teachers use a range of assessment methods to evaluate pupils’ progress. Standardised tests are undertaken annually. Commendable use of analysis of these results ensures that the very able pupils and pupils with learning needs are being supported appropriately. In using test results for future planning it is important that strategies to support in-class differentiated learning are devised to ensure that adequate and appropriate support is provided for all pupils, especially those in the middle range of ability. Pupils’ written work is carefully monitored.
Although a whole school plan has not yet been developed for the teaching of History, individual schemes suggest that teachers have a keen understanding of the principles and methodologies outlined in the curriculum. Individual planning indicates that a broad and balanced curriculum will be implemented and examples of well-planned integration opportunities are included. Methodologies, including cooperative work, project work, field work, use of the local environment and timelines are successfully used in various classes. Pupils’ skills are appropriately developed through engagement with historical evidence including photographs. ICT is used effectively in the senior classes to record field work. Evidence of impressive reporting skills by pupils on their project work on Ancient Greece was observed. Stories and pupils’ personal timelines are used to good effect in infant and junior classes to develop the concept of time and chronology. Overall, pupils demonstrate interest and good levels of knowledge and understanding, particularly in the strand area of change and continuity. The good practice observed should form the basis of a written plan to ensure continued implementation of a broad and balanced History curriculum.
The use of a variety of methodologies and the development of geographical skills are elements of good practice in the implementation of the Geography curriculum. Successful linkages between Geography and Science are evident. Resources such as maps and globes are skilfully utilised to support teaching and learning. Throughout the school the concept of space and place is well developed. Praiseworthy examples of the development of map-reading skills through clever use of the local environment were observed in the junior classes. A number of noteworthy projects have been undertaken by the school including the Green School Project and the Comenius Project. The use of the Comenius project to enhance pupils’ knowledge of their own country and of the European Union is well organised ensuring progression from class to class. Pupils react positively to Geography lessons and enjoy working outside in the local environment. They display good levels of knowledge and comprehension in areas covered particularly in the strands of environmental awareness and care and natural environments. It is now timely to develop a school plan on the delivery of this curricular area to include the good practice, to ensure its continuation and to monitor achievement.
The school plan for Science contains effective guidance for the delivery of a broad and balanced curriculum. Appropriate attention is given to the implications of safety issues in planning lessons and a comprehensive supply of resources is available to support teaching and learning. Lessons commendably focus on developing pupils’ ability to work scientifically and successfully promote the skills of observation, prediction, classification and recording. The language of Science is well prepared and there is good integration of Science with Geography and Mathematics. Pupils engage very well in lessons and they display appropriate knowledge of work undertaken. Excellent use is made of the local environment and national interest days such as National Tree Day are appropriately used to focus on topics. A well-organised Science week is held each year. The challenge now for teachers is to ensure a child-centred approach to fostering and developing the skills of a scientist and to enable pupils to expand their ability to question. Caution is advised in relation to the use of textbooks so that they do not dominate activities.
4.5 Arts Education
Commendable work is undertaken in implementing the Visual Arts curriculum. A comprehensive school plan guides teaching and a broad and balanced curriculum is delivered. A wide range of resources is available to support teaching and learning. Attractive displays of Visual Art projects are on view in the school corridors and classrooms. Pupils knowledgably describe the processes undertaken and the work indicates a high level of progression from class to class. An appropriate balance of two dimensional and three dimensional activities in a range of media is promoted. Visual Arts activities are very effectively linked with other curricular areas and pupils demonstrate interest and enjoyment in lessons. Highly praiseworthy work is undertaken during an annual multi-cultural arts week when pupils are exposed to and experience art from a variety of cultures. The art week involves collaboration by pupils, teachers, parents and visiting artists and excellent examples of these projects have become part of the fabric of the school.
The teaching of Music in the school varies. The school plan in Music outlines a broad and balanced curriculum and effective linkages are made with other curricular areas. In the small sample of lessons observed some good examples of structured and directed activities involving all strands of the curriculum were in evidence. These lessons included enthusiastic song singing, playing of percussion instruments, listening and responding, composition and appropriate development of literacy skills. A school choir performs at church ceremonies and participates in Cór Fhéile na Scoileanna. It is recommended that a review of the linkage of strands be undertaken to ensure that the plan provides specific guidance for individual practice in relation to the use of a range of teaching strategies and coverage of all strands. An expansion of the range and types of songs should now be developed by establishing a list of core songs for each class group. Consideration should be given to the teaching of a melodic instrument to enhance pupils’ enjoyment and self confidence in performing.
Some good practice is evident in the delivery of the Drama curriculum. Discrete time has been allocated for drama in all classes in accordance with curriculum guidelines. Drama is used effectively as a teaching methodology across a range of curriculum areas in some classes, particularly at infant and junior level. Drama techniques such as role play and hot seating enhance other curricular areas including Social Personal and Health Education and oral language. Prominence is given to the performance of Drama in lessons and pupils’ enjoyment and confidence in their performance is evident. It is recommended that emphasis be given to the process as well as the performance element of Drama and that the development of the pupils’ own creativity should now be encouraged. The school is well positioned to benefit from the training for delivery of the Drama curriculum this year.
The school and staff are to be highly commended for the delivery of a broad and balanced PE curriculum in spite of a total lack of indoor facilities. A comprehensive school plan includes elements of all strands and is a guide for teachers in their individual planning. The small number of lessons observed indicate that Physical Education lessons are well-structured with appropriate emphasis being given to skills development and safety. A range of resources are used effectively to support teaching and learning. All pupils participate fully in lessons and their enjoyment is evident. Lessons given by external tutors are supervised by class teachers. These lessons are in line with curricular strands and complement the work of the class teacher.
The school is to be praised for the teaching of Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE). A comprehensive school plan guides practice and the principles of the SPHE curriculum are central to the ethos and culture of the school. Collaborative and co-operative skills, mutual respect and positive behaviour are commendably promoted. Pupils respond positively in a climate where the dignity of all is highly regarded and cultivated.
A wide range of programmes effectively used in the delivery of lessons include Walk Tall, Stay Safe and the Relationships and Sexuality Education programme. SPHE is successfully linked with other curricular areas such as Geography in developing understanding of citizenship in the wider world. Regular use of circle time and active methodologies including pair work, group work, role play and games stimulate pupils’ interest. Appropriate emphasis is placed on skills development with praiseworthy examples of lessons based on the cultivation of decision-making skills and relationships observed. Pupils demonstrate a clear understanding of the issues being explored and an ability to relate them to their own life experiences. A member of the in-school management team has been appointed as SPHE co-ordinator and this ensures that the school keeps abreast of initiatives in this area.
A clear school policy on assessment has been devised. This outlines a broad range of assessment strategies to be used. These include standardised tests, informal observation, project work and presentations and teacher designed tasks. Teachers are cognisant of the importance of testing and monitoring of pupils’ progress. Individual teachers keep on-going records of pupils’ performances in areas such as spelling and tables and copies of standardised test results are kept in teachers’ folders. A high quality record keeping and reporting system is in place. Teachers report to parents on their child’s progress at formal parent teacher meetings once a year and through an annual formal report. The special education team utilise a comprehensive range of diagnostic tests to construct a detailed account of the strengths and learning needs of individual pupils. Commendable work occurs in relation to assessment of learning. Consideration should now be given to focus on assessment for learning as part of the school’s assessment policy. This should include building up a set of assessment strategies such as criterion reference tests, samples and checklists to verify continuity and progression through the school across all curricular areas.
Teachers are to be praised for the attention that has been paid to developing a policy which ensures that support is provided for pupils with special educational needs and pupils with high levels of ability. The policy is informed by the Department’s Learning Support Guidelines (2000), and the Draft Guidelines for Teachers of Students with General Learning Disabilities (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment 2002) and is used to guide individual teachers’ planning. The naming of a member of the in-school management team with specific responsibility for liaising with outside agencies ensures consistency of approach and is very effective. Parental involvement is encouraged and regular formal and informal meetings take place.
Mainstream teachers and members of the special education team have developed a successful team-based approach to catering for pupils with special education needs. A range of teaching strategies are employed and very effective use is made of games, paired reading, cookery, in-class interventions and active learning methodologies. Support for pupils is organised on an individual or group basis depending on individual pupils’ needs. This child-centred approach is noteworthy in its support for the academic and life-skills needs of pupils. In reviewing the practice of withdrawing pupils for support, the commendable practice associated with the senior infant in- class intervention should be extended.
Well-developed individual education plans (IEPs) devised by teachers in consultation with parents are in place for all pupils receiving support. A comprehensive range of diagnostic tests are used to facilitate review of the individual plan and to contribute to specific targets for the individual pupil. These plans of work have very focused learning objectives and clearly identifiable learning outcomes. ICT is used to great effect to support teaching and learning and to review progress. Consideration should now be given to involving pupils, particularly at senior level, in the development of their own IEP.
A highly commendable pluralistic approach to diversity is evident throughout the school. The school’s mission statement and policies advocate the full inclusion of all pupils. A huge commitment on the part of all staff members ensures that practice is informed by this statement. Individual and cultural difference is celebrated and a sense of belonging is cultivated. A noteworthy feature of the school is the well planned inter-cultural opportunities which celebrate the diversity that exists in the school. The annual inter-cultural week is of particular importance and highly praiseworthy for promoting the active involvement of pupils, parents and the whole school community. Each year an art piece is constructed and each of these exhibits becomes a permanent recognition of the various cultures within the school.
The strong and beneficial home-school links and support for parents were acknowledged and affirmed by the parents’ representatives during this evaluation. A key aspect of the work of the school is building positive relationships with parents. The vision of the principal in relation to home-school community links influences practice. The Department resources, which include a support teacher, two language support teachers and a shared home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator, are very effectively used. A wealth of expertise and resources optimises the support available to pupils. A series of action plans which are regularly reviewed inform practice. Close liaisons with outside agencies such as Vincent de Paul and the Tallaght Youth Service are fostered. Parents are encouraged to partake in school and in-class activities which include paired reading and a mother and toddler group. The child-centred approach to providing English language support for pupils whose first language is not English is commendable. A highly organised and committed care team meet on a weekly basis. Each class teacher has an opportunity to bring difficulties experienced by pupils to the attention of this team. Issues are discussed and strategies implemented to support the needs of these pupils. This highly cohesive approach optimises the experience, resources and support available to ensure that all pupils are guided towards reaching their full potential.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
As a general observation the Pupils, the Board of Management, the Parents and the Staff of Holy Rosary NS found the experience of the Whole School Evaluation to be a very fair and positive one. In particular the Board would like to draw attention to the following:
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection a
Implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
Finally, Staff and management would like to thank the team for the courtesy and respect they showed to staff and children alike during their visit to our school. The process was positive, formative and a valuable experience for everyone in the school community.