An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Our Lady’s National School
Milltown, Dublin 14
Date of inspection: 1 May 2008
A whole-school evaluation of Our Lady’s National School (NS) was undertaken in April 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 Science. 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.
Our Lady’s National School is a six-teacher, Catholic co-educational primary school situated on St. Columbanus Road, Milltown, serving the parish of Clonskeagh. The school receives additional grants through its participation in Band 2 of the DEIS programme, the Department of Education and Science (DES) initiative for educational inclusion. Enrolment has been steady for the past few years and is projected to increase slightly over the next three years. 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
7 (1 part time)
Mainstream class teachers
Teachers working in support roles
3 (1 part time)
Special needs assistants
The school is under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. The ethos of the school is evident in the creation of sacred spaces in the classrooms, the daily recitation of prayers, annual May processions and other religious celebrations within the community. Photographs of these celebrations are attractively displayed on the corridor walls. The school’s mission is to create an environment that promotes self worth and develops the pupils’ emotional, social, physical and intellectual needs. The staff fulfills this mission by implementing a wide range of curricular and extra-curricular programmes for the pupils. Parents and teachers succeed in creating a positive learning environment in which all pupils are treated with respect, fairness and equality.
The board of management is properly constituted and functions in a competent manner. Meetings are convened at least once per term and more often whenever the need arises. Minutes of these meetings are maintained. The school’s finances are audited annually. The board ensures that Departmental regulations regarding the length of the school year and school day, the retention of pupils and class size are observed. Some board members have received training in the past. It is advised that all board members receive training to assist them in the fulfilment of their management roles and in their work in curricular and organisational planning.
Curricular and organisational policies are discussed and agreed by the board. Curriculum plans, developed by the staff, are presented to the board for ratification. It is recommended that the board work towards a more collaborative engagement with the process of planning leading to the systematic review and development of the organisational policies and curriculum plans of the school. Relationships and communications between the board, staff, parents and the wider community are very good. The chairperson formally meets with the principal once per week and maintains regular informal communication with the teaching staff. The board promotes and affirms the work of the staff by attending activities and celebrations within the school.
The principal provides effective leadership. He has a long association with the school. He has created a positive school climate and has established excellent lines of communication within the staff and school community. He sets high expectations for the staff and the pupils in all their daily routines. He manages the school with competence and efficiency. He has overseen the development of a comprehensive school plan.
The principal is supported by the deputy principal and a special duties teacher. They have a balanced remit of duties in accordance with Circular 07/03. Their duties are carried out diligently and with pride on an individual basis. Consultation within the team regarding in-school management activities takes place on a regular but informal basis. It is advised that these posts be reviewed on a regular basis in order to meet the changing needs of the school and to contribute to shared leadership. All staff members outside of the management team are commended for their hard work and commitment to a wide range of supports for pupils within the school.
There are very good relationships and channels of communication evident between home and school. There is a parents’ association in place and parents are actively involved in the life of the school. They are encouraged to participate in school events, meetings and extra-curricular activities. They have been involved in devising some organisational policies. There are flexible arrangements in place for parents to meet with teachers. In addition to the open-door policy for meeting with parents, formal parent-teacher meetings are held once a year and written reports are sent on pupils’ progress twice yearly. Comprehensive information is provided to parents about the school’s routines, procedures and achievements through notes and termly newsletters. Worthwhile opportunities are exploited in the termly newsletter to remind parents of the importance of reading and discussing books with their child. Commendably, some events are made available to the parents in DVD format.
Pupils are managed very effectively. They are well behaved, mannerly and courteous. The pupils are proud of their recent achievement in the Green Schools Programme and this has promoted positive attitudes towards their environment. The staff develops the pupils’ talents by providing opportunities to participate in a range of activities including hurling, soccer, basketball, the Write a Book project and a large variety of other local initiatives and competitions.
The quality of whole-school planning is good. The school has developed a wide range of curricular, organisational and administrative policies. The organisational polices which address procedural issues and legislative requirements were drawn up in consultation with the staff, board of management and parents. The school’s enrolment policy should be reviewed to ensure that it complies with legislation regarding enrolment of pupils with special educational needs. The school has compiled a relevant three-year action plan to target priority areas, as required by all participants in DEIS. Overall, the school’s curriculum plans are comprehensive and reflective of the content, skills and methodologies of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). These plans provide particularly good guidance to teachers and copies should be made available to the teaching staff.
All teachers prepare long-term and short-term plans. The quality of long-term planning in all classes is good. The practice whereby the school plan directly informs some teachers’ individual programmes of work should be extended to all teachers. There is scope for development in individual teachers’ short-term plans. It is recommended that a whole-school approach to classroom planning be agreed to allow greater clarity in planning for specific teaching objectives and to reflect the principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). All teachers compile monthly progress reports.
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.
Baintear caighdeán maith amach i dteagasc na Gaeilge agus moltar go háirithe mar a mhúintear an teanga labhartha. Cuirtear na ceachtanna i láthair go beoga, anamúil agus tá saibhreas ábhair phriontáilte na seomraí le moladh. I bhfórmhór na ranganna úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go hiomlán mar theanga chaidrimh sna ceachtanna Gaeilge, agus cuireann sé seo go mór le tuiscint na ndaltaí. Baineann an príomhoide úsáid rialta as an nGaeilge i rith an lae. Sna naíonáin agus sna bunranganna úsáidtear comhráite, dramaí, samplaí pictiúrtha agus ábhar dilís éagsúla chun foclóir na ndaltaí a leathnú agus a shaibhriú. Tá réimse leathan de ghníomhamhrán ar eolas ag na daltaí agus aithrisitear iad le taitneamh. Sna hardranganna méadaítear an Ghaeilge labhartha go críochnúil trí úsáid a bhaint as modheolaíochtaí díreacha. Moltar an cnusach leathan d’rainn atá ar eolas ag na daltaí ag an leibhéal seo.
Ar an iomlán sroichtear caighdeán creidiúnach sa léitheoireacht, agus tá an chuid is mó de na daltaí in ann an t-ábhar léite a phlé go sásúil. Chun tuilleadh forbairt a dhéanamh ar chumas léitheoireachta na ndaltaí moltar réimse níos leithne d’ábhar léitheoireachta a úsáid. Bíonn na ceachtanna san scríbhneoireacht bunaithe ar téamaí na gceachtanna agus ar an ngraiméar. B’fhiú anois don scoil taithí sa bhreis a thabhairt do na daltaí ar chineálacha éagsúla téasc a scríobh. Chuirfeadh samplaí de shaothair scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí le saibhreas ábhair phriontáilte na scoile freisin.
Good standards are achieved in the teaching of Irish; approaches to the teaching of oral language are particularly commendable. Lessons are presented in a stimulating manner and the print-rich environments created are praiseworthy. Irish is used as the language of instruction throughout most lessons, contributing significantly to the pupils’ understanding of the language. The principal regularly uses Irish during the day. In infants and junior classes, discussion, drama, pictures and creative resources are used to extend and enrich the pupils’ vocabulary. The pupils have a wide range of action rhymes which they recite eagerly. In senior classes conversational Irish is taught skilfully by means of direct teaching methodologies. The pupils’ knowledge of a variety of poems is praiseworthy at this level.
In general, standards in reading are age appropriate and most pupils display ability to discuss content in a satisfactory manner. To further develop the pupils’ reading abilities it is advised that a wider range of reading material be employed. Writing activities are based on lesson themes and grammar. Consideration should be given to extending the writing genres in all classes. Samples of pupils’ writing endeavours should also be used to contribute to the print-rich environment in Irish.
Oral language is taught to a very good standard at all class levels. An effective oral language scheme has been implemented throughout the school. Games, group and pair work are used to advance the pupils’ oral language skills. Pupils can discuss their interests and a variety of other topics fluently and enthusiastically. A selection of poems and rhymes can be recited by the pupils in every class. The pupils’ ability to discuss their responses to poetry and to make comparisons with other poems studied is particularly praiseworthy. The school avails of performers, visiting theatre companies and story tellers through the School Completion Programme. Attractive teacher-designed and commercially-produced posters are used to support the teaching of phonics and poetry.
In general, there is a good standard of reading across the school. Appropriate emphasis is placed on developing early reading skills. Most pupils read well in the middle and senior classes. Good use is made of the class novel in senior classes and pupils can confidently discuss the plot, characters and their reactions to various events in the story. A suitable variety of reading material is well-organised in class libraries. The school takes advantage of events such as World Book Day and Readathons to encourage and foster a love of reading.
In general, standards achieved in writing are good. Pupils engage in a range of early writing activities in the infant classes and daily writing experiences are promoted. All pupils write in a variety of genres, including creative writing, report writing, poems, book reviews, character profiles and letters. Some classes engage effectively with the writing process and this needs to be consistently developed from the junior classes to the senior level. Samples of pupils’ work in writing are attractively displayed in most classes. The pupils’ involvement in the Write-a-Book competition motivates them to write and illustrate their books with a sense of purpose and pride. Some use is made of ICT by pupils during the writing process, in presenting their work and in learning about phonics using a range of software. More regular use of ICT as a teaching and learning tool to support the three strands of the English curriculum is advised. There is scope for development regarding the monitoring of written work in copy books in some classes. Consistent examining of written work in all classes is recommended.
Overall, the quality of teaching is good. A broad and balanced programme is implemented. Features of good practice in all classes include the creation of a mathematics-rich environment, competent use of concrete resources, some use of pair and group work, integration with other subject areas and use of the local environment. The integration of Mathematics with Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Physical Education (PE) is a laudable feature of provision in the junior classes. Good practice was observed in the teaching of tables in the middle classes and merits extension throughout the school.
The standard of pupil attainment in Mathematics is generally good. In the infant and junior classes pupils engage competently in mathematical activities including matching, ordering, counting, sequencing, partitioning and number work. The pupils can recite with enthusiasm a range of number rhymes and can use mathematical equipment appropriately. The majority of pupils in middle and senior classes demonstrate good computation skills. Work in copy books is well structured and ICT is used by pupils to present work in various strands.
The school makes excellent provision for Environmental Awareness and Care. Pupils are enthusiastic in the promotion of recycling and litter management and are proud of their school and environment. A broad and balanced programme is implemented. Lessons are clearly structured, pupils are actively involved in the learning activities and good levels of participation are evident. Pupils’ contributions are welcomed during lessons. A wide variety of resources is utilised to support concepts, skills and terminology. Commercial posters, teacher-designed charts and samples of pupils’ work are displayed in most classrooms.
Pupils develop scientific skills including observing, predicting, analysing, experimenting and questioning. The skill area of recording and communicating needs further development throughout the school. While some lessons include design and make activities, they are teacher- directed and need to be more exploratory based. It is recommended that the school devise a plan for developing the designing and making skills in order that the pupils have the opportunity to explore materials, plans designs, make models and evaluate their effectiveness.
There is some good practice in relation to assessment. Standardised tests in English and Mathematics are administered to pupils from first to sixth class every year. They are used to identify pupils who are in need of learning support or other supplementary teaching. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to pupils in senior infants. This ensures that early intervention can help pupils experiencing difficulty as soon as possible. Excellent practice was observed in some classes regarding the systematic recording of the pupils’ social development and their progress in English and Mathematics. This good practice should be shared among all staff members. All teachers administer teacher-designed tests to assess pupils’ understanding of concepts taught. It is recommended that analysis of these tests becomes a feature of future practice to inform teachers’ short-term planning and to identify pupils’ specific learning needs.
There is good support for pupils with special educational needs (SEN). The school has the service of a full-time learning support teacher and a part-time resource teacher. A comprehensive learning support policy has been developed in accordance with the Learning Support Guidelines (DES, 2000) and Special Education Circular 02/05. Support for pupils with special education needs is provided primarily in the areas of literacy and numeracy. This support is provided primarily on a withdrawal basis, with some provision for in-class teaching. A number of pupils receive support in social development and low-incidence learning needs
The SEN team approach their work in a professional manner and has developed positive working relationships with the pupils in its care. There is good communication evident between support teachers, mainstream teachers, parents and the principal. The support rooms are bright and attractive with print-rich environments. Resources are well-organised, easily accessible and efficiently utilised by all support teachers.
The quality of teaching and learning is good. Lessons are well-structured and teachers adopt a variety of approaches and methodologies including ICT, active learning, guided discovery and use of the environment. Support teachers carefully develop Individual Education Plans (IEPs) in collaboration with all the relevant partners. All support teachers provide weekly schemes; the inclusion of clear objectives and methodologies is advised to enhance these plans. Two special needs assistants (SNAs) are employed to support pupils with special educational needs and they carry out their duties conscientiously. It is advised that the roles of the SNAs be clarified in relation to support of pupils.
The school provides very good support for pupils from disadvantaged or minority groups. A language support teacher has been appointed to support pupils for whom English is an additional language. This teacher carries out her duties in a thorough and professional manner. The School Completion Co-ordinator provides a wide range of assistance to pupils attending the school. Lunches for pupils are provided by the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The inclusion of all pupils into every aspect of school life is a notable feature of good practice in this school.
The school has strengths in the following areas:
· The principal provides effective leadership.
· There is a positive school environment created by all the teaching staff.
· The management of pupils is highly effective. They are well behaved, mannerly and courteous.
· Excellent relationships and communications are fostered between the school, board of management, parents and local community groups.
· The school is to be commended for the organisation of a variety of curricular and extracurricular activities for the pupils.
· Pupils’ communication skills in Irish are very good.
· The quality of provision in Environmental Awareness and Care in Science is of a high standard.
The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:
· It is recommended that a whole school approach to classroom planning be agreed.
· It is recommended that the school devise a plan for developing the designing and making skills in Science.
· It is recommended that the outcome of formal and informal assessment procedures be analysed and used to inform the short-term planning process.
· It is recommended that the board have a greater level of engagement with the process of whole-school planning.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discusse
Published January 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
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 school’s enrolment policy referred to at paragraph 2.1 had been reviewed as required.