An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Bohola National School
Claremorris, County Mayo
Roll number: 19914F
Date of inspection: 3 April 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006
This Whole School Evaluation Report
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Bohola National School, Claremorris, Co Mayo. 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 inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Bohola School is a five-teacher, co-educational primary school situated in the parish of Bohola, Co Mayo. There are currently 103 pupils enrolled. Almost all of the pupils come from the parish of Bohola. It is expected that enrolment figures will remain steady in the immediate future. Pupils’ attendance is carefully monitored and pupils display very good attendance patterns.
The school building dates from 1987. There are four mainstream classrooms in the school. There is also a staff room, office, a large general-purposes room, and a learning-support/resource classroom which also serves as a computer room.
The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Achonry. The board of management is properly constituted and meets once a term, more often if necessary. Agenda are provided, minutes are taken and policies are discussed and ratified at board meetings. The board of management supports and monitors the work of the school and maintains close contact with school personnel. The board is to be commended for its interest, commitment and support for the school. The board’s main priority to date has been to improve the infrastructure around the school. This includes seeking to install sensor-activated lighting and laying footpaths on all approaches to the school. Some members of the board have received training on the role and function of boards of management under the auspices of the Catholic Primary School Managers’ Association (CPSMA).
The in-school management team consists of the principal, the deputy principal and one special duties teacher. The principal’s administrative and organisational duties are carried out competently and diligently. The principal has a clear vision for the school and provides commendable leadership in all areas of school life. Roll books, registers and all school records are carefully maintained. Formal staff meetings are held once a term.
Roles have been defined for the deputy principal and the special duties teacher. These are included in the school plan. The duties pertaining to these posts are carried out conscientiously. An appropriate balance among curricular, organisational and pastoral duties is evident in this work.
School personnel are deployed in an efficient manner. The work of the teachers, as well as the work of the secretarial and cleaning staff, contributes to the smooth running of the school.
The school building is well maintained and emphasis is placed on utilising space in the school for work purposes, wherever possible. This was seen clearly in the recent conversion of an unused corridor area into an office for the principal and secretary. The garden to the front of the school and the yard to the side and rear are also laid out to maximise their use for curricular work and recreation. The school is clean and tidy both inside and outside.
The board of management has invested appropriately in a range of resources to support the implementation of the curriculum in each curricular area. The school is well equipped with material resources and all classrooms are arranged and decorated to provide a reasonably stimulating learning environment for pupils. There is a good stock of concrete materials for Mathematics, a wide selection of Physical Education equipment, an impressive variety of musical instruments, and an adequate selection of books available in the school. These resources are reasonably well utilised during teaching and learning activities in most classes.
Some attention is given to the development of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and there are computers available in each classroom as well as a supply of appropriate software to support a range of curricular areas.
Commendable work has been undertaken in the development of the school plan. The school has received the support of a number of cuiditheoirí and facilitators from national in-service training initiatives and this support and advice has contributed to the success of the school planning process. The board of management ratifies all administrative policies and curricular plans prior to their inclusion in the school plan. Policies are also sent to parents for their comments prior to their adoption. This allows parents to make a meaningful contribution to the school plan.
The school plan is clearly laid out and includes a wide range of relevant organisational and administrative policies and procedures. Curricular policies have been developed in all of the curricular areas in which the school has received in-service training. School policies are clear, focused and relevant to the school’s needs.
The school’s mission statement, philosophy and aims are clearly articulated in the school plan. Among the administrative polices developed are policies on enrolment, administration of medicines, school tours and supervision. A code of behaviour and anti-bullying policy, as well as a health and safety statement, are also available.
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 and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). 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.
The school plan helps to ensure continuity in curriculum provision throughout the school. Teachers are committed to implementing a broad and balanced curriculum across most curricular areas. In some curricular areas, however, Visual Arts in particular, more effective whole school planning is needed to ensure more successful implementation across the school.
Teachers’ classroom planning is appropriate. Long-term and short-term schemes of work are prepared and monthly progress records (cuntais míosúla) are kept. Individual learning programmes are developed and regularly reviewed for pupils with special educational needs and for pupils experiencing learning difficulty. These records are maintained by individual teachers and copies are filed in the learning-support and resource room. Classroom timetables are set out in accordance with the conditions of Circular 11/95 (Time in School).
Respectful teacher-pupil relationships are developed in all classes. Orderly learning environments are created, although some classrooms should be laid out in a more stimulating manner to motivate pupils further. Pupils are well behaved and eagerly participate in the learning experiences provided. A reasonable variety of methodologies and approaches is used throughout the school. Language games, drama, pair work, circle work, group work, teacher modelling, project work and discussion are among the methodologies used. There is a strong emphasis on the exploration of the local environment in all classes.
Tá dearcadh dearfach á chothú i leith na Gaeilge tríd an scoil. Tá plean úsáideach forbartha don Ghaeilge sa scoil, ach ba chóir a chinntiú go gcuirfí níos mó béime ar chur i bhfeidhm éifeachtach i ngach rang. Is féidir le cuid mhór de na daltaí iad féin a chur in iúl go muiníneach, ach ba ghá a thuilleadh béime a chur ar na feidhmeanna teanga uile chun scileanna labhartha na ndaltaí a fhorbairt go céimniúil. Moltar freisin an Ghaeilge a úsáid i bhfad níos minice mar theanga caidrimh sna ranganna uile i rith an lae. Sonraítear modh an aistriúcháin in úsáid i gcuid de na ranganna. B’fhiú an cleachtas seo a sheachaint as seo amach. Tá cnuasach leathan rann, filíochta agus amhránaíochta ar eolas ag na daltaí tríd an scoil.
Forbraítear scileanna léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta go réasúnta cúramach sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna. Moltar gníomhaíochtaí scéalaíochta idirdhealuithe a chur os comhair na ndaltaí ar bhonn rialta as seo amach, chun an caighdeán tuisceana agus líofachta a ardú, de réir leibhéil chumais na ndaltaí. Moltar feidhm a bhaint as drámaíocht, cluichí agus gníomhaíochtaí éagsúla chun an foclóir nua a chur i láthair agus é a chleachtadh i mbeirteanna agus i ngrúpaí. Baintear dea-úsáid as prionta sa timpeallacht i ngach seomra ranga.
English is reasonably well-taught overall in the school. A detailed school plan has been developed and this has helped to ensure a whole school approach to the teaching of English. Oral language development is appropriately emphasised and good articulation and proper expression are encouraged. Pupils at all class levels can recite a selection of rhymes and poems, many with actions and movement.
The junior classrooms provide a suitable print-rich environment and this work should be expanded throughout the school. A good foundation of basic reading skills is laid down in the junior classes, but even more emphasis should now be placed on early intervention strategies to tackle learning difficulties as soon as possible. Appropriate emphasis is placed on modelling the reading process and shared reading has also been introduced to positive effect. Teachers in all classes should read aloud for their pupils far more regularly. The stock of graded books available to ensure that pupils read a selection of books, appropriate to their age and ability, should be increased still further.
Class novels are used to enrich the reading programme in the senior classes and pupils clearly enjoy the work based on these. There is a wide variety of library material available in the school. Some of the class libraries are well stocked with both fact and fiction books. Other class libraries, however, should be organised in a more attractive way to further encourage reluctant readers.
The pupils benefit from the emphasis placed on the writing process and there are impressive examples of writing in different genres on display in most classrooms. Good use is made of ICT in some classes to display pupils’ stories and poems. The acrostic poems written by the pupils in the junior and middle classes are particularly praiseworthy. Grammar and spellings are taught well across the whole school.
The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken conscientiously at all class levels. The majority of pupils display commendable knowledge of mathematical terms across a range of strands and strand units. The emphasis placed on Early mathematical activities in the junior classes is especially commendable. Standardised test results from first class upwards provide evidence of high standards reached in Mathematics by the majority of pupils. Pair work and group work are used effectively in some classes to consolidate mathematical concepts. The Mathematics corners that have been assembled and the mathematical posters on display in most classes contribute to the development of a maths-rich environment. A wide range of mathematical equipment is available and these materials are used skilfully in some classes to enhance pupils’ learning. A good standard of presentation of written work is evident in almost all classes with most pupils recording their work accurately and neatly.
A broad programme is implemented in History in all classes. Pupils demonstrate commendable knowledge and understanding of the range of topics they have studied. In the junior classes, commendable work has been undertaken on the strand Myself and my family. The development of skills as a historian is emphasised in these classes also and, as part of this, the examination of evidence is highly commendable. The strand Story is particularly well covered in all classes. There is a strong emphasis on project work in the senior classes and the completed projects are of a good standard.
Commendable emphasis is placed on the study of local History and pupils can describe local sites of historical interest clearly. In assessing pupils’ progress in History, and in SESE in general, it is recommended that text-based tests be avoided in future, especially where pupils are experiencing difficulty in reading.
Teachers are to be commended for the balanced implementation of the three strands of the Geography curriculum and their efforts to develop pupils’ sense of place and space. Pupils’ interest in their own locality is appropriately emphasised in all classes. Opportunities are provided for pupils to actively care for their immediate environment as is evident in the school’s recent application for the Green Flag award as part of the Green Schools Project.
Very good use is made of project work to enable pupils in the senior classes to develop their geographical, investigative and research skills. Maps are displayed in most classrooms and emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ mapping skills. The work on drawing fantasy islands is particularly praiseworthy. Pupils in the middle and senior classes also show commendable knowledge of the physical and political Geography of Ireland.
The Science curriculum is reasonably effectively implemented throughout the school. Pupils in some classes have performed practical experiments, as part of the strand Energy and Forces. A school garden has been developed and this resource is used to enhance Science lessons from time to time. Bulbs and seeds have been planted in all classrooms and Science or discovery tables have been set up in most classrooms. This practice should be expanded throughout the school. Pupils display an admirable knowledge, understanding and interest in the themes studied to date and most pupils can communicate well using pertinent and relevant scientific language. Good questioning skills are used to encourage pupils to reflect critically on biological and physical aspects of the world, such as on the life cycle of the frog and on the colour of light.
The quality of work in the Visual Arts in some classes is of a high standard. Most of the strands of the curriculum are well covered, but there should be more variety offered in Visual Arts overall. For example, there should be a better balance between 2-d and 3-d activities throughout the school. Pupils’ art samples are displayed attractively in most classes and pupils are encouraged to express their ideas and feelings in looking at and responding to art. There are some impressive examples of integration with other curricular areas, for example by using the clocks made by pupils in lessons on Time in Mathematics.
The standard of Music education in the school is very high. The strand Performing is particularly well covered. Pupils can sing a wide range of songs in both English and Irish in most classes. They also play percussion and melodic instruments very skilfully. Pupils are given beneficial opportunities to listen, respond to and compare different types of Music. Suitable attention is given to the elements of Music through a range of enjoyable activities in rhythm, tempo, pitch and dynamics. The action songs performed in the junior classes, and the integration with Drama and English as part of this, are very impressive. The school choir sings in the parish church every Sunday and recently performed live for Mid-West Radio.
A whole school programme has not yet been fully implemented in this curricular area. Drama is effectively used, however, to enhance pupils’ understanding in other curricular areas, for example in English and Music. Particularly commendable use is made of role play and still images in the junior and senior classes. These learning experiences have contributed to the development of pupils’ self-esteem and co-operative skills.
The PE curriculum is implemented effectively throughout the school. A whole school plan is being developed and this should enhance the programme on offer still further. Lessons are well structured and appropriate emphasis is placed on the routine of warm up, drill and skill practice, games and cool down, according to pupils’ age and stage of development. The development of a team spirit is carefully nurtured. Good use is made of suitable equipment and pupils enjoy participating in the various activities. The strands Dance and Games are particularly well taught. Football, hurling and Olympic handball are among the sports in which the school is involved.
The positive, caring atmosphere cultivated in the school contributes greatly to the development of pupils’ social skills. Whole class discussion, group work, listening games and circle time are the main methodologies used in SPHE.
The strand units Growing and changing and Safety and protection are very well-covered. Particular emphasis is placed on how pupils change as they grow and on road safety. Commendable work has been undertaken in the development of the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) policy involving all partners. This policy is due to be fully implemented in the current school year. Pupils are mannerly and respectful in their interactions with each other and they demonstrate good communication and interpersonal skills.
Pupils’ progress in curricular areas is monitored and recorded on a regular basis. Teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests, homework assignments, project work, and standardised and diagnostic tests are among the assessment tools currently employed to assess pupils’ progress.
Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered in English and Mathematics once a year. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to senior infants once a year. The results of the standardised tests are filed centrally and are used to objectively analyse pupils’ progress and to assist in the identification of pupils needing supplementary support and teaching. Even more emphasis should be placed on tracking the progress of pupils experiencing learning difficulty from now on. The assessment of History and Geography should be reviewed to ensure that it is appropriate to pupils’ needs. School attendance records are diligently maintained and the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) is notified of prolonged absences in accordance with the terms of the Education (Welfare) Act (2002).
A learning-support and special educational needs policy has been developed and outlines the school’s procedures for early intervention, screening, planning, implementation and review. Parental permission is sought prior to pupils receiving supplementary teaching. There is evidence of reasonably good collaboration between the learning-support service and class teachers. This work needs to be emphasised to a far greater degree in future, however, to ensure that pupils experiencing difficulty receive the best support possible.
It is recommended that the learning-support and resource service be reviewed in its totality to take account of recent changes in teacher allocation in the school. The provision of more effective early intervention strategies and a more co-ordinated approach to tackling pupils’ difficulties in English and Mathematics should be priorities in this work. Withdrawal of pupils from their mainstream class should be kept to a minimum.
Pupils attending learning-support are active in their learning and display reasonably good progress in the concepts taught. Individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) developed include general information regarding each pupil’s strengths, priority learning needs, objectives, materials and resources. Learning targets are clear and are linked to pupils’ learning needs. They are also reviewed each term. Parents receive a copy of their child’s IPLP. This ensures that both parents and teachers are clear about the objectives and learning targets of the learning-support and resource programme.
Bohola School is a participant school in the Breaking the Cycle scheme. The rural co-ordinator for this scheme visits the school weekly and has organised several successful meetings with parents. The recent commencement of a paired reading programme and of Maths for Fun helps parents to play a more active and enjoyable role in their children’s education. The review of the learning-support and resource service should also incorporate a review of the Breaking the Cycle service.
A caring, friendly and welcoming atmosphere is created in this school. All pupils are treated equally and the school has an open enrolment policy.
Positive relationships are fostered with parents and a high level of parental involvement is a feature of the school. Formal parent-teacher meetings are organised annually. Parents are also encouraged to discuss pupils’ progress, especially where concerns exist, on an informal basis with teachers throughout the school year. Information on school activities is conveyed to parents through a monthly newsletter. A school magazine is also published every year.
There is no parents’ association in the school, despite several attempts in the recent past to establish one. Parents, however, express their satisfaction with the broad range of learning opportunities provided in the school and the high level of support for pupils.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development of the school identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made: