An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Claremorris Boys’ National School

Claremorris, County Mayo

Uimhir rolla:  19915H

 

Date of inspection: 21 May 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

Conclusion

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Claremorris Boys’ National School was undertaken in May 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, Irish, Mathematics and Music. 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 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

This boys’ school is situated in the town of Claremorris, County Mayo. There are five full-time teachers and two part-time teachers on the school staff. Pupils are enrolled from second to sixth class. All of the pupils live in the parish of Claremorris. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam.  

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

113

Mainstream classes in the school

5

Teachers on the school staff

7

Mainstream class teachers

4

Teachers working in support roles

3

Special needs assistants

1

 

Pupil enrolment has increased quite substantially over the past few years. There were 88 pupils enrolled in 2006. The increase in enrolment is partly due to factors such as the building of new houses in the town and the enrolment of newcomer children. It is expected that enrolments will remain around the current level for the foreseeable future.

 

The school building was opened in 1987. Accommodation comprises four mainstream classrooms, two learning-support classrooms, one language support classroom, a recently-established school library, an office, a staff room and a kitchen. Some learning-support tuition takes place in the school library. The school is clean and tidy and is well-maintained inside and outside.

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school’s mission statement emphasises “the development of the whole child”. The mission statement is reflected in the school ethos, in classroom practice and in interactions between teachers and pupils. The characteristic spirit of the school is one where pupils’ spiritual, intellectual, social and physical growth is fostered. Many opportunities are provided for pupils to develop their abilities through academic endeavours, sporting activities and environmental projects.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is constituted in accordance with agreed Departmental procedures. The chairperson of the board of management visits the school regularly and there is constant ongoing contact between the chairperson and the school principal. There are usually two meetings of the board of management during each term. Members of the board are assigned specific roles in line with best practice.

 

Minutes are kept of all board meetings. According to the minutes of the most recent meetings, the main issues discussed concern the day-to-day running of the school and ongoing maintenance matters. The discussion of correspondence and a report from the principal on the work of the school form part of all board meetings. A financial report is also delivered at each board meeting.

 

It was confirmed that the board’s current priorities include the maintenance of high standards in the school and further developing school policies. To date, there has been some attention given to policy formulation, development and ratification at board meetings. It is recommended, however, that the development and review of school policies become a formal item on the agenda and a more regular part of board meetings in the future.

 

The board of management has invested in the provision of a wide range of teaching resources to enhance the teaching and learning process for pupils. The recent establishment of the attractive and well-stocked school library, in conjunction with the parents’ association, is particularly commendable. The board has undertaken a broad programme of work on the development of the school grounds, including worthwhile improvements to the school playing field. It is recommended that work continues in the future to enhance the visual appeal and learning environment of the school.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal has been in charge of Claremorris Boys’ National School since 2006. Since that time, he has worked conscientiously to maintain and raise standards in the school. He is keen to improve school facilities to enhance the teaching and learning process. The principal has shown good leadership in encouraging the school staff to follow his vision for the school. The principal’s priorities include providing further teaching resources, continuing to improve standards in reading, and maintaining high standards in Mathematics. The principal believes that the school library has played a crucial part in encouraging pupils to read. The principal fulfils his administrative duties competently.


The deputy principal and the special duties teacher provide effective assistance to the principal in various aspects of school organisation and management. The duties of these teachers are outlined in the school plan. The curricular, administrative and pastoral duties attached to these posts are attended to diligently.

 

Two staff meetings are held each term. Minutes are kept as a record of these meetings. Decisions on school matters are usually made by consensus and the teachers work well as a team. The work of the special needs assistant, the school secretary and the caretaker provide valuable assistance in the running of the school.

  

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

At the time of this evaluation, the school’s parents’ association was in the process of affiliating with the National Parents’ Council. At the pre-evaluation meeting held with the inspector, the officers of the parents’ association confirmed that parents play an active role in school life. Funds raised by parents assisted in establishing the school library and the provision of external coaches and equipment for sporting activities and the school Sports’ Day. Parents also help to organise the school’s participation in the annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in Claremorris.

 

The parents’ representatives highlighted that there was a spirit of openness in the school and they stated that there was good communication between the school and parents. Officers of the parents’ association communicate regularly with the wider parent body through newsletters. Parents are aware of the school planning process and parents’ representatives were closely involved in the formulation of the relationships and sexuality education (RSE) policy. Parents were also consulted on the school’s code of behaviour, enrolment policy and homework policy. It is recommended that parental input continue to be sought on all school policies as they are reviewed in the future.

 

The officers of the parents’ association stated that they were satisfied with the quality of education provided in the school. Parents are kept informed of school events by regular newsletters from the principal. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually and a written report is sent to parents on the progress of their children at the end of each school year.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

There is a good working atmosphere in this school. It is clear that pupils are happy and motivated to learn. Commendable emphasis is placed on ensuring that the pupils are well-behaved and mannerly. They are welcoming to visitors and are confident and articulate in discussing their school work and interests. Pupils are supervised appropriately during recreation periods.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning has several positive aspects and the school is committed to further developing the school plan in the future. Good use has been made of the assistance available from the national support programmes in the school planning process. Policies are developed in draft form by the school staff. The board of management then discusses these draft policies and makes recommendations as necessary, prior to their ratification. An increase in the involvement of parents in this process would greatly enhance the partnership approach in the best interests of the pupils.  

 

The school plan contains a wide range of administrative policies. These include an enrolment policy, a code of behaviour, and a health and safety statement. These policies are in line with legislative requirements and Departmental guidelines. A written attendance strategy was in the process of being formulated during the whole-school evaluation period.

 

Curricular plans provide useful information on the programme of work for each area of the curriculum. As these plans are reviewed, however, it is recommended that in future they include more detail for each class level to ensure greater continuity and progression throughout the school. While the school has identified the need to review some policies, it is recommended that the review of policies be more systematic in the future.  It is recommended that a three-year action plan be set out to identify policies for review in a more co-ordinated way and to provide more focus in the planning process.

 

The quality of classroom planning is good overall. Teachers provide regular long-term and short-term schemes of work, although some teachers’ long-term plans should include more detail about the specific context and needs of their classes. Clear written plans should be provided where whole class groups are withdrawn from the mainstream classroom for dedicated tuition.

 

Monthly reports from all classes are provided in an agreed format. The monthly reports are maintained centrally by the principal to provide a record of the work covered in each class. Most teachers also provide useful records of individual pupils’ progress. This practice is praiseworthy and should be extended to all classes.

  

2.2 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.

 

 

3.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá cáilíocht na foghlama agus an teagaisc sa Ghaeilge i Scoil na mBuachaillí, Clár Chlainne Mhuiris go maith ar an iomlán. Tá iarracht déanta sa scoil le blianta beaga anuas an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn ag gach leibhéal ranga. Tá cumas labhartha inmholta ag na daltaí i mbeagnach gach rang agus tá na daltaí seo in ann cumarsáid a dhéanamh as Gaeilge ar na téamaí den churaclam. Moltar, áfach, níos mó béime a leagan ar chothú scileanna cumarsáide na ndaltaí i gcuid bheag de na ranganna. Cothaítear spéis na ndaltaí san fhílíocht go héifeachtach agus múintear dánta go cumasach sa chuid is mó de na ranganna. B’fhiú, áfach, a thuilleadh béime a leagan ar an obair seo i gcuid de na ranganna. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as áiseanna léirithe le linn an teagaisc sa chuid is mó de na ranganna. D’fhéadfaí áiseanna léirithe a úsáid níos minice i gcuid de na ranganna, áfach, chun foclóir a leathnú agus chun cabhair a thabhairt do dhaltaí comhráití a bhunú i mbeirteanna.

 

Cothaítear an léitheoireacht Ghaeilge go héifeachtach i bhformhór na ranganna agus léann daltaí sna ranganna seo le líofacht agus tuiscint. Sa chuid eile de na ranganna, moltar go leagfaí níos mó béime ar mhúineadh na bhfocal nua agus go léifeadh na hoidí sleachta léitheoireachta do na daltaí i dtús báire chun aird a dhíriú ar dhea-fhoghraíocht na teanga. B’fhiú do na hoidí sna ranganna seo éisteacht le daltaí aonair ag léamh níos minice chun an próiséis foghlama a fheabhsú. Tá cló sa Ghaeilge le sonrú sa timpeallacht ar fud na scoile.

 

Cothaítear scileanna scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge go maith agus tá samplaí de shaothar scríofa na ndaltaí le feiceáil sna cóipleabhair agus ar taispeáint sna ranganna. Leagtar béim inmholta ar ghnéithe éagsúla scríbhneoireachta, ach go háirithe scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil agus scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach.

 

 Irish

The quality of learning and teaching in Irish in Claremorris Boys’ School is good overall. A special effort has been made to improve Irish in the school over the past few years. The pupils in most classes have commendable oral Irish skills and these pupils are able to make conversation on the various themes of the curriculum. It is recommended, however, that more emphasis be placed on fostering pupils’ conversation skills in a few classes. Pupils’ interest in poetry is fostered effectively and poems are taught competently in most classes. It would be worthwhile, however, placing more emphasis on this work in some classes. Effective use is made of visual aids in most classes. Visual aids should be used more regularly during the teaching process in some classes, however, to expand vocabulary and to assist pupils to construct conversations in pairs.

 

Irish reading is fostered effectively in the majority of classes and pupils in these classes read fluently and with understanding. In other classes, it is recommended that more emphasis be placed on the teaching of new words and teachers should model the reading of extracts by reading aloud for pupils at the outset to emphasise good pronunciation in the language. It would be worthwhile for the teachers in these classes to listen to individual pupils reading more regularly to enhance the learning process. A print-rich environment in Irish is evident throughout the school.

 

Pupils’ Irish writing skills are fostered well and samples of pupils’ written work are to be seen in copybooks and on display in classrooms. Commendable emphasis is placed on various genres of writing, especially functional and creative writing.

  

English

The school plan for English outlines the importance of developing pupils’ oral, reading and writing skills in the language. The attention given to the implementation of the school’s oral language programme in the mainstream classes is commendable. Pupils’ higher-order thinking skills are carefully fostered and pupils at each class level are articulate, confident and knowledgeable in discussing a wide range of issues. Pupils in the senior classes are given regular opportunities to engage in stimulating discussions, with national and international affairs being regularly debated in these classes. Pupils study a variety of different genres of poetry in most classes and many of these are recited with commendable expression and feeling. It is recommended, however, that poetry receive more attention in some classes.

 

Overall, the teaching of reading is of a good standard in the school.  The well-stocked classroom libraries and the recent good work on developing the school library are having a positive impact on encouraging pupils to read. These libraries provide a wide variety of reading material. Library books are effectively used to expand the range of reading opportunities available for pupils. Reading records are maintained at each class level to monitor progress and to involve parents in encouraging their children to read. Reading lessons are well managed in most classes in the school and the exploration of new words and teacher modelling receives very good attention in these classes. Pupils in the majority of classes read fluently and with expression. These pupils demonstrate good comprehension levels. More emphasis needs to be placed on such introductory activities in some classes to improve pupils’ attention, interest levels and application.

 

A print-rich environment is in evidence in classrooms and public areas of the school. There are good samples of pupils’ written work to be seen in copybooks and on display. Evidence is provided in this work of the opportunities given to pupils to practise writing in a variety of genres. This work is clearly and attractively presented and regularly monitored in most classes, with good standards of handwriting evident. More emphasis, however, should be placed on neatness of presentation and on the regular monitoring of pupils’ work in some classes.

  

3.2 Mathematics

High standards are achieved in Mathematics across the school. Pupils in each class demonstrate good knowledge of the various areas of the mathematics curriculum. Most pupils demonstrate a good understanding of mathematical language, although this work should receive more emphasis in a few classes. Pupils’ ability in mental arithmetic and their knowledge of number facts are commendable. Appropriate emphasis is placed on problem-solving. Group work and pair work are regularly used in most classes. Group methods such as these should be more regularly used in the future to enhance the learning process for pupils during problem-solving activities. Teaching in Mathematics is frequently differentiated to cater for the range of pupil abilities. There is particularly impressive work covered on data and chance at each class level. Concrete materials are effectively used throughout the school to enhance teaching and learning. A maths-rich environment has been developed in most areas of the school, although this work should be further developed in some cases.

  

3.3 Music

The quality of learning and teaching in Music is very good throughout the school. Effective use is made of The Right Note music scheme to enhance and supplement the teaching of Music at each class level. Rhythm and interval exercises form a regular part of music lessons and music literacy receives due attention. Most classrooms are decorated with music posters and a wide range of music resources is available throughout the school. Pupils in every class can sing a wide range of songs tunefully in English and Irish. Many songs are performed with commendable instrumental accompaniment. Pupils in some classes are given regular opportunities to practise different forms of singing activities, for example canons and rounds. Pupils’ solo singing skills are impressively fostered. Individuals are given the opportunity to sing solo at annual school events and celebrations. Pupils at each class level perform and compose tunes impressively using percussion instruments. Listening and responding to Music is a regular part of music lessons at each class level. Pupils demonstrate good knowledge of a variety of styles of Music.

  

3.4 Assessment

The main methods of assessment used in the school are teacher-designed tasks, project work, experiments, and spelling and tables tests. Micra and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to pupils once a year. It is recommended that all teachers maintain records of relevant standardised tests results in their planning folders. This should ensure that test results are used more beneficially on a whole-school basis to enhance the teaching and learning process. Pupils who receive supplementary support are informally assessed using teacher observation to ascertain their learning needs. The formal diagnostic testing programme should be extended, however, to more accurately identify pupils’ specific learning needs and to set learning targets more effectively. Parents are provided with annual oral and written reports on the progress of their children.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

  

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has formulated a learning-support and special educational needs policy. Overall this is a clearly documented policy. It sets out the procedures used in the school to identify pupils who require additional support and contains relevant information about the staged approach to addressing pupils’ educational needs. There needs to be more detailed information in the policy, however, on how specific learning needs are identified and addressed by setting out the school’s approach to diagnostic testing. While it was confirmed that the learning-support and special educational needs policy has been ratified by the board of management, it is recommended that this policy be signed and dated to confirm ratification.

There is one full-time learning-support teacher based in the school. There is also a part-time learning-support teacher who provides ten hours learning-support tuition per week. The mainstream teachers’ professional opinions are taken into account when deciding to commence, continue and discontinue learning-support. Learning-support is provided in the dedicated learning-support classroom and in the school library. These rooms are comfortable and a good start has been made in developing stimulating print-rich and maths-rich environments. It would be worthwhile placing further emphasis on this work, however, to enhance the teaching and learning process.

 

Learning-support is provided in pairs or small groups. The allocation of pupils to particular learning-support groups is decided by taking into account a variety of factors, such as age-appropriateness, learning needs and compatibility. It is recommended, however, that the strategies used in allocating pupils to learning-support groups be reviewed to ensure that the support provided is specific to the needs of individual pupils.

 

Individual learning programmes are provided for each pupil attending learning-support. Parents receive a copy of these individual plans and they are consulted when the plans are reviewed. This practice is to be commended. Learning-support teachers provide useful short-term plans, and records are maintained of the work covered with each learning-support group. Some whole class groups receive tuition in Mathematics in the learning-support classroom. These efforts towards inclusive practice are laudable. There is a need, however, to provide clearly laid out long-term and short-term plans for these groups.

  

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

Pupils from a number of different countries attend Claremorris Boys’ National School. The school has implemented an inclusive and welcoming newcomer policy to address the needs of these pupils. This policy provides useful information about the school’s provision for translation and interpretation services, when required. The school’s efforts to communicate effectively with the parents of newcomer children are to be commended.

 

The part-time language support teacher provides nine hours’ tuition in English for ten newcomer pupils. It is recommended that a specific policy be formulated to set out the school’s practices in relation to language support. This should assist in the provision of more focused language support and help to better co-ordinate all the support services available in the school.

 

Language support is provided in a comfortable, recently-constructed classroom, accessed from the school library. The classroom is decorated with a variety of stimulating educational charts, although more pictorial aids should be provided to motivate pupils and help to expand their vocabulary and ability to discuss various themes. Clear plans of work are provided for each language support group and comprehensive notes are provided on the background, achievement and progress of individual pupils. Resources from Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) are effectively used to enhance the teaching and learning process for pupils.

 

Most pupils attending language support demonstrate a good understanding of English, although it is recommended that more emphasis be placed on extending pupils’ oral language development. Some pupils are reluctant to express themselves either in English or in their own language. Particular efforts should be made to encourage reticent pupils and more regular opportunities should be provided for these pupils to talk about topics in which they are interested.

 

The school has an inclusive enrolment policy. Pupils with special educational needs and pupils from disadvantaged and minority groups are welcomed in the school.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

·         The board of management is to be commended for its commitment to improving standards and facilities in the school. The board has provided for the purchase of a wide

      range of teaching aids andeducationalresources.

·         The principal is dedicated to his work, demonstrates good leadership skills, and is making commendable efforts to enhance the learning experiences provided for pupils.

·         The teachers are diligent in performing their duties and they work well as a team.

·         High standards of pupil achievement are evident in Mathematics and Music.

·         Good standards are achieved in various aspects of the teaching and learning of Irish, such as pupils’ oral Irish skills and their positive participation in Irish lessons.

·         Commendable emphasis is placed on developing pupils’ higher-order thinking skills in English and problem-solving skills in Mathematics.

·         Good opportunities are provided for pupils to participate in a range of extra activities, such as sports events and environmental work.

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

·         It is recommended that the work on enhancing the overall visual appeal of the learning environments of the school be continued.

·         It is recommended that a three-year action plan be set out to provide more focus and to encourage more parental involvement in the school planning process. Curricular plans should be reviewed

      to provide more detail on the education programme at each class level.

·         It is recommended that more emphasis be placed on the exploration of new words and teacher modelling of the reading process in Irish and English.

·         It is recommended that the use of diagnostic testing be extended to provide a better focus in the provision of special educational needs tuition.

·         It is recommended that the school develop a formal language support policy and that more emphasis be placed on oral work during language support activities.

 

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 November 2009