An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Whole School Evaluation
Baggot Street, Dublin 2
Uimhir rolla: 19896G
Date of inspection: 15 October 2009
A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Chaitríona na was undertaken in October 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and Geography. The board of management 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 Chaitríona is a Catholic co-educational primary school catering for children in the Baggot Street area of inner city Dublin. The school participates in Band I of DEIS, the Department of Education and Skills initiative for educational inclusion. An administrative principal is provided to the school under the School Support Programme of DEIS. A significant number of pupils come from international backgrounds where English is not their first language. The school is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin and in the trusteeship of the Mercy Sisters. The attendance level of the pupils is good.
The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Mainstream class teachers
Teachers working in support roles
Special needs assistants
The school is characterised by an open and welcoming atmosphere. The school’s mission is to create a nurturing, caring and Christian environment, where children can enjoy achieving to their full potential. The staff fulfils this mission by implementing a wide range of curricular and extra-curricular programmes for the pupils. Teachers succeed in creating a positive learning environment in which all pupils are treated with respect, fairness and equality. The Christian ethos of the school is evident in the creation of sacred spaces in the classroom and corridors, the daily recitation of prayers, morning assemblies and regular religious celebrations.
The board of management is properly constituted and functions in a competent manner. Meetings are convened twice per term and minutes are maintained. The school’s finances are audited annually. The board is to be commended for the standard in which the school building and grounds are maintained. The board have been proactive in acquiring a range of resources to support teaching and learning, particularly in the area of Information and Communication Technology (ICT). They ensure that Departmental regulations regarding the length of the school year and school day, the retention of pupils and class size are observed. The board has been involved in the formulation and review of some whole-school plans. They have plans to devise and implement a three-year strategic plan for the development of the school. It is advised that the board of management systematically review school policies as part of this strategic plan.
Relationships between the board, staff, parents and the wider community are good. The chairperson formally meets with the principal on a regular basis and maintains informal communication with the teaching staff. The board supports the work of the staff by attending activities and celebrations within the school.
The principal is an effective manager and has led the school through considerable change. She has successfully guided the development of whole-school policy, programmes and initiatives. Her vision for raising educational standards in the school is being successfully realised by the dedicated and effective teaching staff. She fosters very good relationships with the parents and the wider community.
The in-school management team comprises a deputy principal and two special duties teachers. The stated duties have a balanced remit of duties in accordance with the terms of Circular 07/03. There is a procedure in place for the review of posts within the school. The team carry out their individual duties in a committed and capable manner. It is recommended that the curriculum leadership roles of the in-school management team be developed. The establishment from time to time of sub-committees, led by post holders, to address priority areas should be considered. The development of clear communication structures for the advancement of this work between the board, principal, in-school management team and staff should also be considered.
The management of staff is good. Staff members are afforded the opportunity to work in a range of educational settings. Mentoring for newly-appointed teachers (NQTs) is available using external support services and internal expertise. The staff has participated in a variety of professional development courses which has enabled them to implement a range of specific literacy and numeracy programmes. The school employs two special needs assistants; they work effectively with class teachers and with their assigned pupils.
The quality of accommodation is very good. Classrooms and corridors are bright and attractive and serve to display and celebrate pupils’ work across the curriculum. A large, general purpose room is used for PE lessons, Drama and whole-school events. Of particular note is the high level of attractive print-rich displays with specific emphasis on literacy skills throughout the school. Externally, the school has a hard surface area and a school garden. The garden contains a good variety of plants, vegetables and fruit. It is successfully used by all classes to observe seasonal changes in the immediate environment.
Classrooms are well resourced. They have a plentiful supply of materials to support teaching and learning in most curricular areas. Most classrooms have an interactive whiteboard. The well-equipped computer room is used frequently by all classes. The school also has a good range of materials to support teaching and learning in a number of strands units of the geography curriculum. The provision and use of a wider range of good quality maps and globes to support the development of the pupils’ geography skills is recommended.
Very effective structures are in place to promote positive relations between the school, the parents and the wider community. Teachers are available to meet informally with parents on a daily basis at assembly time. Annual parent-teacher meetings are held. All parents are invited to meetings at the beginning of each year to outline programmes of work for the forthcoming year. Written reports are furnished to parents once a year. In addition, parents are presented with a portfolio of their children’s work at the end of the year. School newsletters are issued to parents at least once a term. Parents are welcomed in the school and are in regular attendance at morning assemblies. The principal and Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator conduct frequent home visits.
The parents’ association actively supports the work of the school. Plans are in progress for the association to become affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (Primary). The parents support the work of the school through fundraising and participation in school events such as the sports day, end-of-year prize giving and a Christmas fun in-school day. The newly-refurbished parents’ room is used for courses, meetings and as a space to relax socially. The parents support the pupils’ learning through in-class educational initiatives including ‘shared reading’ and ‘maths for fun’.
The management of pupils is excellent. The school succeeds in providing a positive learning environment that inspires motivation and promotes achievement. The teachers develop the pupils’ independent-learning skills successfully. The pupils’ behaviour is exemplary. Very good systems are in place to promote positive behaviour in the playground. Individual pupils’ achievements are acknowledged and celebrated through class-based and school-wide reward systems. The school organises a wide range of co-curricular and extracurricular activities such as music lessons, Gaelic football lessons and ICT workshops to nurture the pupils’ abilities and interests.
The quality of whole-school planning is good. The organisational policies provide practical supports and guidance on legislative, procedural and administrative matters. The teachers productively use their monthly staff meetings and in-school planning days to engage in whole-school planning. They prepare, draft and present plans to the board of management. It is advised that an attendance strategy be devised in line with the Education Welfare Act 2000. The school plan is available to parents in the office and relevant policies are mediated to them as the need arises. A school website is presently under construction. This website should be used as a mechanism for making policies and school procedures more accessible to parents.
The school has made considerable progress in the development and implementation of their three-year DEIS action plan. It is based on the needs of the school and identifies specific targets for developing language, literacy and partnership with parents. The English and Mathematics plans are of a high standard. These comprehensive plans outline clear guidance for the teachers’ individual planning. The geography plan outlines the strands, strand units and skills to be addressed within each year group. To ensure continuity and progression in the teaching of the content and skills of the Geography curriculum the plan should be expanded to include comprehensive programmes from infants to sixth class. Furthermore, it is recommended that field trips be planned in terms of how they can contribute to the achievement of specific curriculum objectives.
The quality of classroom planning is good. All teachers prepare long-term and short-term plans. These are directly informed by the school’s curriculum plans. For the most part, short-term plans are guided by the principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). A good range of methodologies and resources is outlined in plans. Short-term plans need to be more focussed in terms of the learning outcomes for pupils with varying levels of ability and learning needs.
Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Skills Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Skills, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
The successful targeting of literacy is a significant strength of the school. The school’s approach to English is comprehensive, consistent and developmental. Considerable emphasis is placed on oral language development throughout the school. A programme has been formulated for each class level and this ensures that the pupils’ oral language competence is extended incrementally. Very good use is made of active-learning methodologies, games and resources to advance the pupils’ speaking skills. Oral language learning is successfully linked to the First Steps writing programme. In general, pupils speak confidently and are keen to engage in discussions on a range of selected themes. At all class levels the pupils can recite a wide range of poems with enthusiasm and expression.
The teaching of writing is very good. The consistent implementation of the First Steps writing programme ensures that writing is taught in a structured and systematic manner. The pupils experience writing in a variety of genres. Good attention is placed on the writing process. Well-resourced, free writing tables are effectively utilised to engage the pupils in periods of free writing. Early-writing skills are taught in a progressive manner. The pupils’ handwriting is neat, well organised and is monitored regularly. Individual writing is displayed attractively in corridors and classrooms throughout the school and some fine examples of early writing, procedural and recount writing were noted. The teaching of reading is good. The pupils’ reading skills are enhanced by print-rich environments, well-stocked libraries and a structured phonics programme. Class novels, library books and supplementary readers are used in most classes. The pupils benefit from the comprehensive foundation in early-reading skills in the school. Many pupils read confidently and with fluency. The pupils in junior and middle classes demonstrate very good word-attack skills. In the senior classes the range of reading abilities is very wide. It is recommended that reading material be closely matched to the individual pupils’ reading ability. A broader range of reading material, in addition to the class reader, should be used to ensure the pupils are reading at instructional level. A specific focus on the teaching of comprehension skills is further recommended.
The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is good. The language of Mathematics is taught in a focused way to each class grouping. Lessons are generally well structured and based on clear objectives. Teaching encompasses a broad range of methodologies including whole-class teaching, group work, pair work and individual work. A wide range of resources is judiciously used in all classes to support the development of mathematical concepts. Teachers prepare mathematics-rich environments to reinforce learning through the display of posters and the celebration of the pupils’ work.
Most pupils are making good progress in Mathematics. All pupils enjoy Mathematics and participate eagerly in activities. Their written work is well structured and monitored closely. The pupils in infant classes engage in a wide range of early-mathematical activities with competence and enthusiasm. Some pupils in middle and senior classes display good knowledge of number facts and successfully engage in problem-solving activities. There are also a number of pupils facing challenges in Mathematics. Teachers provide separate programmes where multi-class settings apply. It is recommended that pupils be grouped according to ability and that support teachers and mainstream teachers work together to provide differentiated programmes of work for individuals or groups of pupils. The structure of all lessons should incorporate provision for mental mathematics and tables in order to reinforce computation skills.
The teaching of Geography is very good. Best practice in the teaching of Geography in this school includes the use of active-learning methodologies and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The language of Geography is successfully taught and appropriately applied by the pupils. They have a good sense of place and space in terms of Europe and the wider world. Most pupils have a good knowledge of international cultures and backgrounds. The school is twinned with a school located in North Kerry; the pupils are very knowledgeable about this location. The school should identify a selection of places within each of the provinces of Ireland to be studied in depth from third class to sixth class to ensure pupils have a thorough sense of place for a range of contrasting places in Ireland.
Field trips in the locality and to other places of geographical significance are regularly undertaken. There is some good practice in the teaching of graphical skills. The pupils are provided with opportunities to draw maps of simple journeys and plans of their classrooms and bedrooms. In classrooms where maps are clearly displayed the pupils can identify major geographical features of the world. The pupils have well-developed geographical investigation skills. They can confidently question, predict, analyse, research and record. The pupils have developed very good attitudes towards the environment and demonstrate competent knowledge of environmental issues through their successful participation in the Green Schools Programme.
There are good assessment practices in this school. These are informed by the comprehensive assessment policy. The teachers employ a broad range of assessment modes including standardised tests, teacher-designed tests and checklists. A portfolio of pupils’ work is maintained from the pre-school year to sixth class; this practice is to be commended. Assessment for learning approaches, incorporating pupil-self-assessment and peer assessment, is being developed throughout the school. This good practice promotes the culture of independent learning nurtured among the pupils. Standardised tests are administered annually to all classes from first class to sixth class; the Middle Infant Screen Test is administered to pupils in senior infants. The results of these tests are used to select pupils in need of support teaching. As the staff develops their practice in this area it is recommended that they engage in the detailed analysis of tests’ results in order to plan for differentiated programmes of work to support individual pupils or groups of pupils.
The principal and staff ensure that the individual needs of all pupils are central to the work of the school. This is evident in the caring and inclusive environment created in all settings. The Special Education Needs (SEN) team comprises a newly-appointed, shared-learning support teacher and a special class teacher. The learning support teacher attends this school three days per week; she supports pupils in literacy and numeracy. The special class is provided for pupils with mild general learning disabilities. Policy in this area is led by the principal. Support for all pupils is provided on a withdrawal basis. Comprehensive Individual Education Plans (IEPs) containing clear targets have been devised by teachers for pupils in need of additional support. The teachers present well structured lessons and, in some cases, incorporate a good range of resources and methodologies in their instruction. The school liaises frequently and productively with external agencies in their support of SEN provision.
This newly-emerging SEN team needs to develop a unified approach to special education needs provision. To this end, formal structures should be put in place to facilitate cohesion in all aspects of SEN provision. Specifically, agreed approaches to planning, programmes of learning, use of methodologies, resources and assessment approaches are required.
This school is inclusive in all its practices and is welcoming and affirming of all. A good range of additional supports is provided for pupils. Departmental grants and funds generated by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) are used to support the implementation of a wide selection of co-curricular and extracurricular activities. In addition, this funding enables members of staff to engage in relevant professional development courses. Appropriate, well-structured early-learning activities are provided for pre-school pupils in the admissions class. A shared Home School Community Liaison Officer (HSCL) is appointed to the school and carries out a range of duties including home visits and the organisation of a number of workshops and programmes for parents.
A newly-appointed language support teacher provides support for pupils for whom English is an additional language (EAL). Support is provided on both a withdrawal and an in-class basis. In the absence of an EAL policy the teacher plans programmes of work in response to the pupils’ needs. There is appropriate emphasis on developing the pupils’ social language and vocabulary in lessons. The teacher makes appropriate use of games, pictures and resources in supporting pupils. The development of a whole-school policy for EAL by all members of staff is recommended.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The school is characterised by an open and welcoming atmosphere, where all pupils are valued and affirmed.
· The principal is an effective manager and has led the school through considerable change.
· The quality of teaching is very good.
· Teachers have succeeded in raising standards incrementally in literacy and numeracy.
· The quality of teaching in Geography is very good.
· The board of management functions in a competent manner.
· The management of the pupils is excellent.
· The quality of accommodation is very good.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· The curriculum leadership roles of the in-school management team require development.
· Reading material should be closely matched to the individual pupils’ reading ability and a specific focus on the teaching of comprehensive skills should be adopted.
· Support teachers and mainstream teachers should work together to provide differentiated programmes of learning for individuals or groups of pupils in Mathematics.
· The review of policy and practice in special education needs and language support is recommended.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published June 2010