An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Drinagh Mixed National School
Dunmanway County Cork
Uimhir rolla: 19918N
Date of inspection: 21 October 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Drinagh Mixed National School was undertaken in October 2008. 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 Drama. 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.
Drinagh Mixed National School is a rural, co-educational, three-teacher primary school under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross. It is one of five schools serving the parish of Drimoleague in West Cork. The school was constructed in 1964. It is structurally sound and there is ample space provision for the current cohort of pupils. However, a number of long term maintenance matters need to be addressed and essential remedial works to the external areas of the school need to be carried out in the interest of health and safety. School enrolment figures have been consistent in recent years and this pattern is likely to prevail in the medium to longer term. Attendance rates for pupils compare favourably with published figures nationally.
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
Policy documents in Drinagh Mixed NS express a commitment to enabling pupils achieve their academic, intellectual, moral, spiritual, social, cultural and physical potential in a caring environment that promotes respect and personal responsibility.
The school staff expresses a sense of loyalty to the school and its characteristic spirit whilst pupils display a sense of belonging to the school community. An obvious pride in their work was exemplified by the pupils in their levels of achievement in all classes across a broad range of curricular and extra-curricular areas. The school is an important focal point in its community and admirable levels of parental support and involvement were apparent during the course of this external evaluative process. The work of the school was endorsed by the parents and no reservations were expressed about the quality of care and the levels of academic attainment therein.
Current plans to address long term infrastructural deficiencies in terms of accommodation and external playing and circulation areas can further cement good relations between the school and the community it serves.
Teaching and learning in Drinagh Mixed NS is admirably supported by the board of management. The board is properly constituted, meets regularly and provides a broad range of relevant and complementary skills and competencies which assist the staff in their work and provide direction and guidance to the school community. Minutes of meetings are maintained to a satisfactory level and agreed procedures are followed. Existing practice might be further enhanced by the annual certification of school accounts. Management in the school place a high value on staff morale, on building relationships within the school community and in the provision of a broad range of resources, human and material, to ensure all pupils gain optimum holistic benefit during their formative school years.
Current plans to develop school accommodation and grounds are at an advanced stage of planning. This essential work is an opportunity for the board to maximise community involvement in the school and to optimise the learning opportunities of the current and future generations of pupils in the locality.
The board has been involved collaboratively in developing and reviewing policies in a range of organisational, administrative and curricular areas. It is recommended that these policies continue to be reviewed in order to ensure compliance with current statutory obligations and to eliminate inconsistencies. The school’s Enrolment Policy should be reviewed to ensure that statutory obligations pertaining to the Education Act (1998) and the Equal Status Act (2000/2004) are observed. It would also be a worthwhile exercise to re-visit the School Rules document and re-state some of its content more clearly. Advice was also given to the board and the staff with regard to these matters.
The staff of Drinagh Mixed NS works collaboratively in the best interests of the pupils under their care. Individual staff members are deployed in ways that ensures the best possible use is made of their specialist knowledge and expertise. The collegial and supportive working atmosphere in the school and the quality of staff relationships are a marked feature of the school. The principal, who has successfully managed a significant period of change in the school, acknowledges the excellent support and professionalism of her colleagues as well as the commitment of the board, parents’ association and the broader school community.
In addition to informal collaboration there are assigned formal responsibilities as per normal DES procedures. These are clearly defined and each member of the in-school management team carries out her duties in a professional and conscientious manner. The team shares curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities and meets frequently. Duties are regularly reviewed in line with evolving pupil needs and changing school circumstances. Non-post holders and ancillary staff are to be commended for their generous contribution to the effective management of the school.
Considerable and worthwhile effort is expended in cultivating the close links and co-operation which exist between parents and teachers. Frequent written communication, parent/teacher meetings, sport and games, religious ceremonies, outings, school concerts and informal parent/teacher contact are among the many activities providing opportunities to develop trust and co-operation.
The school has an active and supportive parents’ association. The principal attends all meetings and works closely and effectively with the parents’ representative group. The association contributes to educational provision through fundraising and by assisting in a broad range of extra curricular and co-curricular activities and members are given adequate opportunity to participate in the life of the school.
The inspector met with representatives of the parents’ association and the parent representatives on the board of management as part of the whole-school evaluation process. Parents expressed a strong sense of loyalty to the school and its goals and felt valued and affirmed by the practices and attitudes of the board, the principal and the staff.
Pupils in Drinagh Mixed NS display impressive levels of belonging to their school community. Good relationships between teachers and pupils exist in and out of the classroom and they generally respond well to effective teaching consistent with their abilities. Pupils take pride in their work and recognise the importance of high standards of presentation and behaviour. The confidence and self-esteem of pupils are promoted through a range of internal practices as well as curricular and extra-curricular school and community activities. Visitors to the school are made feel welcome by management, staff and pupils.
Drinagh Mixed NS school is to be commended for its engagement with the planning process. A range of school policies has been developed in organisational administrative and curricular areas. These documents have been ratified by the board and are underpinned by a collaborative process.
Planning identifies clear realistic objectives for teaching and learning within the framework of the Revised Curriculum for Primary Schools and key skills and concepts are promoted through a range of age-appropriate methodologies and teaching strategies. Appropriate differentiation ensures that all pupils experience challenge and a measure of success and a suitable range of resources is identified and available to staff.
Systematic focused planning provides for continuity and progression of learning in the school and the staff is to be commended for the professional manner in which they engage with the whole-school planning process. Consolidation of good practice and its extension to all areas of the curriculum within an agreed timeframe is now recommended.
Some excellent practice was observed with regard to classroom planning. Detailed yearly schemes of work are drawn up and staff has adopted a common template for fortnightly planning of work. Observed positive pupil in-class responses correlate positively with good teacher planning as well as with the suitability of teaching methods, the provision of appropriate resources and realistic teacher expectations which result from effective use of assessment for learning. In-class work was observed to be well ordered and purposeful and suitable opportunities were provided for the development of the key skills of communication, the development of language across the curriculum and the application of number.
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.
Moltar dáiríreacht agus díograis na n-oidí maidir le teagasc na Gaeilge. Cruthaítear atmaisféar taitneamhach sna ranganna uile ó thaobh na Gaeilge de. Tugtar deiseanna éagsúla do na daltaí scileanna éisteachta a fhorbairt ach b’fhiú anois tuilleadh béime a chur ar éisteacht ghníomhach i gcomhthéacs na cumarsáide agus a chinntiú go bhfuil cuspóir faoi leith ag baint leis na cleachtaí éisteachta seo. Moltar luas agus struchtúr na gceachtanna agus múintear ionchur nua teanga go h-oiriúnach. Aithrisítear rannta agus dánta oiriúnacha sna ranganna go léir agus moltar an ghníomhaíocht agus an drámaíocht a chuirtear leo siúd. Eagraítear gníomhaíochtaí scríbhneoireachta éagsúla go rialta agus déantar monatóireacht inmholta ar shaothar scríofa na ndaltaí. Léann na daltaí le tuiscint agus le cruinneas.
Chun dul chun cinn breise a dhéanamh ag an bpointe seo moltar don fhoireann plean straitéiseach fadtréimhseach don Ghaeilge a ullmhú ina mbeadh béim chuí ar chumas cainte na ndaltaí. Sa bhreis air sin b’fhiú timpeallacht prionta-shaibhir a chothú agus breis bhéime a chur ar úsáid teanga ar fud na scoile. B’fhiú, chomh maith scéim mheasúnaithe don Ghaeilge a leagan amach chun éifeacht an teagaisc a mheas agus chun an obair a threorú agus a stiúradh níos fearr amach anseo.
Teachers are commended for the earnest fervour with which they approach the teaching of Irish. Positive classroom atmospheres were observed in relation to Irish in all classes. Pupils are afforded various opportunities to develop their listening skills. It is now recommended that these skills be extended to include active listening based on communicative language development within specific objectives. The pace and structure of lessons were praiseworthy and appropriate language development occurs on a regular basis. Suitable rhymes and poems are recited in all classes and the active and the dramatic presentation of this work is praiseworthy. Writing activities are regularly organised and carefully monitored. Pupils read fluently and with understanding.
A long term strategic plan with regard to communicative Irish might now be appropriate. This might be further enhanced by a print-rich environment as a further stimulus to communicative language throughout the school. It would also be helpful to examine appropriate evaluative processes which might direct and guide the teaching of Irish throughout the school.
English is taught effectively in Drinagh Mixed NS and print rich environments were in evidence in all of the classrooms visited during the course of this whole school evaluation. Language development was appropriately emphasised in all curricular areas. Pupils responded with confidence when questioned, enjoyed their learning and regularly applied what they had previously learned to new and unfamiliar situations.
Reading skills are particularly well taught and the results in standardised tests indicate commendable achievements at all levels throughout the school. Teachers are aware of the progress being made by individual pupils and adjust instruction and teaching methods accordingly in a structured and informed manner. Pupils are learning to read whilst, at the same time, reading to learn and printed material at appropriate levels of difficulty and interest is available in all classes.
Basic literacy skills are appropriately scaffolded and the development of phonological awareness, in the context of teaching basic reading skills, is carefully emphasised in the junior classes. This work is developed incrementally as pupils progress through the school. Pupils read widely for pleasure and for information from well-stocked and well-presented class libraries. Parents’ representatives acknowledged the great efforts made by the school to promote reading through paired reading and other initiatives. The cumulative efforts of the staff are evident in the quality and variety of written work presented by the senior classes.
Mathematics lessons are presented creatively and are well-structured in all classes. Pupils engage enthusiastically with the subject and their achievements in teacher-designed and standardised tests are commensurate to age and ability. Appropriate methodologies are used to develop mathematical skills and concepts and a wide range of concrete materials and suitable resources are available to assist teaching staff in this work. Activities are suitably challenging and purposeful and provide optimal opportunity for skill and concept development in basic numeracy and in simple problem solving. Work is appropriately differentiated to accommodate varying levels of ability and individual and/or group support is provided by the learning support teacher when necessary. Written work is neat, well organised and effectively monitored. Teacher expectations in mathematics are generally age-appropriate and tasks presented regularly raise pupil expectations and responses above the routine and the unimaginative.
As a means of enhancing existing good practice a strategic whole school approach to higher order mathematical thinking using problem solving might be a worthwhile long term objective in the context of future whole school planning for mathematics.
Planning for drama is guided by a short term action plan which was drawn up with appropriate advice and support from the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS).
All staff members now teach drama and good practice was observed throughout the school. Pupils embrace the subject with enthusiasm and adhere to the spirit of the drama contract which underpins this subject in all classes. Classes observed were consistent with the principles of educational drama and pupils were encouraged to project themselves into imaginative situations and experience the dilemmas, choices and actions of fictitious characters thus allowing the pupil to understand and practice life skills through a fictional lens in a safe and supportive environment. Drama has been prioritised in terms of whole school planning in the short term and the efforts of the staff to date to embrace this subject have been commendable.
Praiseworthy efforts have been made by teaching staff to familiarise themselves with the aims and objectives of the primary school curriculum and they have achieved notable success in planning age-appropriate drama lessons and in acquiring the ability and the confidence to create active learning situations through process drama.
Assessment is an integral part of planning for teaching and learning in Drinagh Mixed NS. Appropriate forms of assessment are used to good effect. Pupil and teacher expectations with regard to their work are clear and realistic. The pupils’ written work is regularly and consistently marked in ways that highlight individual pupil strengths and identify areas for development. Pupil prior attainments influence the selection and use of teaching methods and subject content. Homework set is appropriate to individual pupil abilities and through consistent monitoring individual pupil strengths are consolidated and their weaknesses are identified and addressed.
Current practice embraces a range of approaches including monitoring and correction of work, teacher-devised tests and tasks and standardised tests in English and Mathematics. Results of Micra-T and Sigma-T tests indicate steady progress and overall impressive outcomes on the part of the majority of pupils. Results are effectively used to address the learning deficits of weaker pupils.
Notwithstanding the above, it would now be worthwhile to engage in deeper analysis of standardised scores and to move towards the practice of profiling individual pupil scores as a means of optimising assessment for learning practices throughout the school. The school should also consider the value of providing annual written reports of pupil attainment to parents as a means of further enhancing good practice. Advice was given to the principal and staff with regard to current best practice in this regard.
Pupils with special educational needs receive support from the SEN team in the form of well planned learning interventions. The support team is comprised of a shared learning support teacher and a shared resource teacher who are available for 12.5 and 7.5 hours respectively. Neither of these teaching posts is based in the school. Following a staged process of intervention pupils are withdrawn individually or in groups for supplementary instruction by the learning support teacher. This additional support is used effectively in support of classroom teaching and learning and collaborative planning underpins the process.
Two pupils with assessed special educational needs receive effective intensive individualised support across each curricular area. The assigned SNA, in collaboration with the teaching staff, plays an important role in this regard. ICT is used effectively in the context of school SEN provision and a suitable range of resources is provided in support of the particular needs of individual pupils, when necessary.
Purposeful collaboration between mainstream class teachers, support teachers and parents in the development of individual education plans underpins the very good support provided. These plans set clear, specific and relevant learning targets within defined timescales and progress towards identified goals is constantly and meticulously monitored. Teachers, parents and other professionals and para-professionals meet regularly to discuss progress and planning. Close links are maintained with outside agencies and professionals in the interests of the pupils. Given the number of support hours currently available to the school and the possibility of further increases it would be wise for the board to monitor the situation and rationalise supports into one school based post were the opportunity to present itself.
There are no pupils from minority or other groups attending the school at present.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The school is true to its proclaimed ethos and presents an open door policy with regard to enrolment. This is underpinned by the principles of care and inclusiveness and the holistic development of all pupils is a key school objective.
· The quality of management and leadership is impressive at all levels within the school community.
· The school is a key focal point within the community it serves and high levels of mutual support are apparent.
· The quality of teaching and learning in the school are high.
· The staff exhibits a strong sense of loyalty to the school and work together in a constructively self-evaluative manner in support of high standards.
· The school is committed to improvement, reflection and self-evaluation in the interest of optimal standards of achievement for all pupils.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
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, April 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management and staff of Drinagh National School welcome the report on the Whole School Evaluation carried out in October 2008. We wish to record our appreciation for the courtesy shown to us by the inspector and for the fair manner in which the inspection was carried out. We welcome the constructive and positive nature of the report and the board is pleased to note the recognition given to the high quality of teaching and learning in the school.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
Activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
The Board and staff have thoroughly reviewed the report and there is a firm commitment to build on the strengths identified.
· The Board acknowledges the recommendations with regard to the infrastructural deficiencies raised in the report. We will continue to prioritise and address the issues as funds become available.
· The Board and staff have undertaken to review administrative documents as recommended.
· A comprehensive policy on Drama will replace the existing Action plan.
· With regard to further developing the communicative ability of pupils in the Irish language and the further integration of ICT we will consult the PPDS for support.