An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Limerick School Project
O Connell Ave., Limerick
Roll number: 19934L
Date of inspection: 10 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Limerick School Project. 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 inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors 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.
Limerick School Project, is an eleven-teacher school situated in the centre of Limerick city. There are 213 pupils enrolled and the school caters for boys and girls from junior infants to sixth class. The pupil population is diverse and comprises children from twenty two different nationalities who have settled in the Limerick area. Pupils are drawn from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds. All eight mainstream classes are single grade. The enrolment in the school is stable.
When the school was founded in 1989 a limited company was set up to act as the Patron Body. The Patron Body devolves the direct management of the school to the board of management. The school’s ethos outlines an educational philosophy that states: no child is an outsider; ….promotes the fullest development of ability irrespective of gender, class or stereotype and which encapsulates this ethos in a democratic partnership uniquely combining the involvement of parents with the professional role of teachers. This ethos was evident in the day to day interactions between parents, teachers, pupils and members of the board of management.
The characteristic spirit of the school, as reflected in the school ethos and as evidenced in the general atmosphere throughout the school during the evaluation process, is one of caring inclusiveness, where all pupils are cherished equally. A warm and welcoming atmosphere was evident during the inspection and is reflected in the positive interactions among pupils, parents and teachers. The unique ethos of the school attracts pupils from a wide catchment area in Limerick city and county. The average attendance of pupils is very good. The last whole school evaluation was conducted in 1999.
The board of management meets monthly and provides very effective leadership to the school community. The board has a clear and shared understanding of the school’s organisational structure and it contributes to the curricular programmes and extra-curricular activities that take place in the school. Statutory obligations are observed and the board endeavours to ensure compliance with Department of Education and Science regulations. The board monitors financial expenditure very carefully. The board members reported that although a new heating system was installed when the new school was opened in 2002 it was unreliable and required a substantial degree of maintenance. The board also reported that significant financial resources had been expended on the completion and correction of faults in the new building over the past three years. Furthermore they reported that the cost of such maintenance has been a considerable financial burden on the whole school community. The board is very conscious of its responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for staff and pupils. The health and safety statement is regularly reviewed and all visitors are made aware of their responsibilities in this regard through signs which are displayed throughout the school.
Board members have been assigned specific responsibilities which they carry out with dedication and commitment. The board is involved in the whole-school planning process. School policies are discussed and ratified at meetings. After an evaluation of the planning documentation, the board was advised that a review of the school’s enrolment policy should be considered in order to ensure compliance with the current legislation and also to reflect the inclusive practices observed in the school in respect of the enrolment pupils with special educational needs. The board and staff are aware of the challenges of the increasing enrolment of pupils with English as a second language in the school. With this aim in mind they have prioritised the development of a plan to ensure the inclusion and integration of all foreign national children and their parents/guardians in all aspects of Limerick School Project life.
The board ensures that parents are informed of policies as they are devised and welcomes the input of the parents’ association on these policies. On occasion the parents’ association and the board have met to discuss issues of common concern. The board reviews the duties of the members of the in-school management team on an annual basis
The members of the board of management bring a range of personal expertise to the decision-making process in the school. The members of the board are commended for their high level of interest in the management of the school and for their role in the provision of a high-quality education for its pupils. At the pre-evaluation meeting the board of management expressed its satisfaction with the quality of educational provision in the context of the broad and balanced curriculum being delivered in the school.
The principal is committed to the ongoing school development process. She provides effective leadership to the school and has succeeded in creating a climate that is characterised by open communication, collaboration and mutual respect. The duties of the role are discharged in a professional and caring manner, daily administrative and organisational tasks are capably undertaken, school activities are well organised and official records are carefully maintained. A review of the whole-school planning process has been initiated and a number of plans have been reviewed with the co-operation of the staff. The principal delegates responsibility for the review and development of school policies to special duties post-holders when appropriate. The instructional leadership role of the principal will be pivitol in the implementation of whole-school plans in the classroom in the future.
The in-school management team comprises the principal, the deputy principal and three special duties post-holders. An appropriate range of duties, curricular, pastoral and organisational, has been delegated to all the post holders and these duties are fulfilled in a professional and committed manner. The members of the in-school management team are dynamic and share a commitment to school improvement and development. Meetings of the school council, parents’ association and the in-school management team are synchronised with board of management meetings in order to facilitate effective communication among pupils, parents, staff and the board. This arrangement facilitates collaborative decision-making and establishes clear communication throughout the school community. An account of the board of management minutes is published in the Thursday newsletter Nuacht which is distributed to all families attending the school. This weekly communication is an effective tool in ensuring openness, transparency and the engagement of the school community in school related activities.
The resources available, both personnel and material, are effectively deployed in this school. The teaching staff comprises the principal, eight mainstream teachers and two teachers who work in a support capacity. The board of management has facilitated a job-sharing arrangement for two mainstream class teachers during the current academic year. The special needs team consists of a learning support teacher and a resource teacher for special educational needs. Many of the teachers in the school have experience teaching at different class levels, however, it is recommended that a policy on staff rotation be formulated, agreed and opportunities provided for all teachers to experience a variety of class levels. The board of management supports the professional development of the teaching staff and teachers attend courses that are relevant to their professional roles.
The school employs a teacher on a part-time basis to provide language support teaching to ten pupils in this school. Two external tutors in collaboration with the teaching staff provide additional activities for pupils in creative/modern dance and Physical Education.
There are two special needs assistants, one part-time and one full-time, appointed to support pupils with special educational needs. These assistants make a significant contribution to the support and overall development of their assigned children.
A full-time secretary provides valuable administrative support to the principal and staff. The school is cleaned daily by a part-time caretaker employed by the board of management. He also maintains the school by painting and decorating during school holidays and this contributes to the maintenance of a bright, clean and safe learning environment.
The school has a wide variety of material resources and these resources are used effectively to enhance the teaching and learning. There is a small central library and each classroom is also equipped with a good range of reading materials and reference books in the classroom library. Reading materials and big books have been purchased for the infant classrooms but the range of materials for literacy development for this age group should be extended. The development of display areas for books, particularly in the infant and junior classrooms, should be considered. The teachers devise their own materials, work-cards and charts to support various areas of the curriculum. The teachers make judicious use of published materials to support teaching and learning. The school has a computer room with twelve computers and each classroom and the support-teaching room is equipped with computer hardware and relevant software. These resources are used at various times during the school day to support different areas of the curriculum.
The school was constructed in 2002 to accommodate 240 pupils. The board of management reports that the building required substantial investment to ensure that all the systems specified in the original plans were completed to a satisfactory standard. The board maintains the building to a very high standard.
The accommodation comprises eight mainstream classrooms, a library, a computer room, a staffroom, one large room for the members of the special needs team, a large general purposes room and a kitchen. Two toilets for the staff are provided and these are adjacent to the secretary’s office. The principal’s office adjoins the learning support room.
The interior of the school is bright and pleasant and this creates a learning environment that is both attractive and stimulating. All teachers have created neat, well-organised, visually-stimulating classroom environments and all have decorated their classrooms attractively with commercially produced and teacher-made charts, pupils’ writing, artwork, and some projects. The corridors serve as a valuable display area and seasonal montages, collages and pictures feature prominently in celebration of the creative activity of children of varying ability. Outdoor facilities include a hard surface play area. An outdoor garden has been prioritised for development at the side of the school.
All of the furniture in the classrooms is modern and in an excellent state of repair. The teaching area provided for the members of the special needs team is shared. This arrangement is satisfactory for most of the time and the teachers timetable access to the space effectively, however, on occasion this arrangement may be inappropriate and consideration should be given to providing a separate teaching base for one of the teachers.
The parents’ association meets regularly, makes a very significant contribution to school life and is very supportive of the work of the school, the principal and the board of management. The parents’ association is not affiliated to the National Parents’ Council. The parents’ association maintains close communication with the principal and the board of management and on occasion meets jointly with the board. A teacher representative is present at all parents’ association meetings. The association also facilitates social activities such as the Christmas fair, an annual table quiz, sports day and an annual outing to Currachase Forestry Park and other annual events.
The parents’ association is involved in the whole-school planning process and contributes to the development of policies including in recent times healthy eating and relationships and sexuality education. The representatives of the parents’ association reported that they were very satisfied with the educational provision in the school and in particular, parents reported that a broad curriculum is provided and a range of extensive extra-curricular activities are organised. Parent-teacher meetings are organised annually and parents receive a report on their children’s progress. The parents’ association communicates very effectively with the broader school community through the weekly newsletter.
The teachers in collaboration with the parents’ association distribute a skills sheet to parents asking them to identify skills that they would like to share with the school. This initiative has been very successful in providing support for curricular and extra-curricular activities in the school. While parents are actively involved in a wide range of school activities, they are regularly involved in providing support for infant pupils in the areas of ICT and Visual Arts.
The management of pupils in this school is excellent. The board of management and the teaching staff have devised a code of behaviour and anti-bullying policies that are implemented consistently in the school. The code of behaviour is circulated to parents. Pupils are encouraged within each classroom to devise their own simple rules in accordance with the school’s discipline policy and these are on display in each classroom. The pupils in the school are very well behaved and they display pride and interest in their work and co-operate willingly with their teachers during all class activities. They are eager to engage in discussion and participate fully in guided and discovery-based learning situations. Initiatives such as school assemblies contribute to the reinforcement of positive pupil behaviour and focus on the development of pupils’ self-esteem and self-worth. The student council is a very effective mechanism in providing pupils with opportunities to input their ideas at staff meetings and also at board of management level.
A very comprehensive whole school plan has been devised by the teaching staff. Most areas of the plan have been reviewed since September 2004 and it is evident that the teaching staff has dedicated considerable time and effort to the whole-school planning process. The plans are devised collaboratively by the teaching staff and are presented to the board of management for ratification. Copies of the school plan are available to parents and can be accessed in the principal’s office. A parent-information booklet referring to whole school aims is included in the plan. A school website is currently under construction and will provide an overview of all of the organisational and curricular policies when it is completed.
The curricular plans devised are of high quality and they provide guidance to the individual teacher in relation to long-term and short-term planning. In general, the teachers implement the methodologies, strategies and approaches outlined in the school plan.
The planning that has been carried out to date is very good. Most curricular policies, particularly those reviewed since 2004 delineate the learning experiences to be provided in each of the strands/strand units in order to ensure continuity and progression in each curricular area at each class level. This very good practice should be extended to all plans and in particular to those that have been prioritised for reformulation and review, History, Geography, Gaeilge, Science, SPHE and Visual Arts. The further development of the Oral Language section of the English plan should be considered as a priority.
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, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (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 accordance with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
Very effective long-term and short-term planning is undertaken by all teachers and monthly progress records are maintained. Classroom planning is based on the strands and strand units, objectives, learning experiences, integration opportunities, resources and the assessment strategies to be used. The long-term and short-term planning observed ensures that the pupils experience a diverse range of learning activities and that an appropriate balance between whole class teaching and group work is maintained and opportunities are provided for pupils to participate in paired work, group work and project work. The monthly progress records should be used by the teaching staff to ensure progression in the programme covered with the pupils and should contribute to the review of the implementation of the curriculum at different class levels.
Planning for learning-support provision consists of individual and group plans. Individual Profile and Learning Programmes, weekly planning and progress records and daily planning sheets as recommended in the Learning Support Guidelines (2000) provide the basis for the planning for learning support. The practice of support teachers working in mainstream classes is commended. The expansion of this practice is recommended where appropriate and the further development of specific activities to support the full inclusion of the children with learning difficulties in the mainstream classroom should be devised and delivered by the special needs team in collaboration with the mainstream teachers.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The quality of learning and teaching in this school is very good with some excellent lessons observed during the evaluation process. Learning and teaching were evaluated on the basis of observation of teaching, interaction with the pupils, a review of samples of work including pupils’ copybooks in each of the mainstream classrooms and display areas throughout the school. Teachers gave clear instructions to pupils, presented new content coherently and provided appropriate and structured learning experiences for the pupils. A wide variety of teaching strategies was observed at all class levels, including whole-class teaching, group work, and work with individual pupils. Some opportunities for structured and free play were provided in the infant classes, and this practice is commended. Some of the junior, middle and senior classes have engaged in work in the outdoor environment while other classes have indicated in their planning documentation their intentions of engaging in such work. Project work and group work is also a feature of good practice in most classes, and experimentation and investigation was observed in some classes during the evaluation process. In general, the quality of pupils’ learning is very good. Overall, general achievement in reading is very good. However, a small minority of pupils throughout the school are experiencing difficulty with reading. In general, numeracy skills are well developed and pupils achievement in this area of the curriculum is commensurate with their ability levels.
Forbraíodh polasaí na Gaeilge don phlean scoile i gcomhar le foireann na scoile agus feictear go bhfuil fianaise de phleanáil chuimsitheach sa cháipéisíocht seo. Cuireann oidí aonair ullmhúchán fadtréimhseach agus gearrthréimhseach ar fáil, agus léirítear pleanáil a thagraíonn do phrionsabail agus struchtúir Churaclaim na Bunscoile (1999).
Déantar iarrachtaí macánta atmaisféar fabhrach don Ghaeilge a chothú sna rangsheomraí agus feictear, freisin, go ndéantar bainistíocht éifeachtach ar obair an ranga. Freastlaítear go hoiriúnach ar phrionta sa timpeallacht a sholáthar i gcuid de na ranganna, ach ba chóir a chinntiú anois go leantar leis an gcleachtas seo i ngach rangsheomra. Moltar, anois, béim níos treise a chur ar phrionta i timpeallachtaí phoiblí agus sna rangsheomraí. Tá géarghá ann obair na ndaltaí a thaispeáint i slí a chabhraíonn le dearcadh dearfach a fhorbairt i measc poball na scoile iomlán.
Baintear úsáid as puipéid, fearas an mhúinteora agus luaschártaí chun suim na bpáistí a mhuscailt i gcuid de na seomraí. Cleachtar modheolaíochtaí taitneamhacha, éifeachtacha sna ranganna seo chun freastal ar chumas cumarsáide na bpáistí a fhorbairt. Dírítear na modhanna múinte seo ar ghníomhaíochtaí sa drámaíocht, ar ról-ghlacadh, ar agallaimh, ar obair i bpéirí agus ar cheistiúchán. Cloistear cumas labhartha sásúil ó na daltaí seo. Ach i dtromlach de na rangsheomraí níl an caighdeán labhartha mar ba chóir. Is fiú anois, a chinntiú go ndírítear béim na scoile go léir ar na modhanna a chuidíonn le forbairt cumas labhartha na ndaltaí.
Moltar anois, forbairt chéimniúil, chórasach a dhéanamh ar an bhfoclóir atá i seilbh na ndaltaí, ó rangleibhéal go rangleibhéal agus daingniú rialta a dhéanamh ar an obair seo. Ba chóir Éisteacht a fhorbairt mar shnáith den churaclam trí chleachtaí éisteachta a chur os comhair na ndaltaí go minic. Bheadh sé tábhachtach freisin, an clár foghlama don Ghaeilge a chur in oiriúint do leibhéil éagsúla cumais na ndaltaí i ranganna áirithe agus spriocanna soiléir foghlama a leagadh amach, chun gnóthachtáil na bpáistí a chinntiú thar raon leathan scileanna.
Léann cuid de na daltaí le tuiscint agus le líofacht chuí. Tá sé tábhachtach go bhfuil seans ag gach dalta léitheoireacht a dhéanamh de réir a gcumas. Moltar raon níos leithne modhanna múinte a chur i bhfeidhm chun bunscileanna na léitheoireachta a chothú go háirithe sna méanranganna: úsáid luaschártaí le linn na gceachtanna sa léitheoireacht; focalbhriseadh a chleachtadh agus plé a dhéanamh ar bhrí na bhfocal; straitéisí fóineolaíochta a chur i bhfeidhm agus plé rialta a dhéanamh ar mhianach an téaics. Cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil ina gcóipleabhair agus ina leabhair saothair. Maidir le forbairt an scríbhneoireachta chruthaithaigh, moltar úsáid rialta a bhaint as obair ríomhaireachta, nuachtlitir, filíocht suimiúil agus imeachtaí na scoile chun scileanna na scríbhneoireachta a chothú.
Moltar breis fiosrúchán a dhéanamh ar straitéisí a chumadh chun dearcadh na bpáistí i léith teanga na Gaeilge a fheabhsú. Moltar freisin go noibreodh na hoidí le poball na scoile agus na daltaí go léir chun an dátheangachas a chur chun cinn agus chun cultúr réalaíoch spreagúil a chothú i dtimpeallacht na scoile.
The policy in relation to the teaching of Irish was developed collaboratively by the school staff and there is evidence of effective planning in the documentation provided. Individual teachers present long-term and short-term planning and it is clear that that this planning is linked to the principles and structure of the Primary Curriculum 1999.
Genuine efforts are made to create a favourable atmosphere towards Irish in the classrooms and the work in classrooms is effectively managed. A print rich environment is fostered in some classrooms and it is recommended that this good practice be extended to all classrooms. Greater use of printed labels in the public areas of the school is also recommended. The work of the children should be displayed in a way that will encourage the development of a positive outlook in respect of the Irish language throughout the school.
Puppets, teacher generated materials and flashcards are used in some classrooms to engage the children. Enjoyable and effective methodologies are also used in these classrooms to develop the children’s communication skills. These methodologies are utilised though dramatic activity, role-play, working in pairs, and questioning. Where these methodologies are used children’s oral language development is satisfactory. In general, the standard of oral language is not what it should be. It is now timely that emphasis be placed on the use of effective methodologies throughout the whole school which will promote the oral language development of the pupils.
It is recommended that a graduated vocabulary development programme be implemented systematically from class to class. Listening should be developed as a strand of the curriculum through the provision of a range of listening activities on a regular basis. It would also be important that differentiated programmes of learning be provided to match the varying ability levels in the different classes and that clear learning outcomes are set out to ensure that the children’s activities span a wide variety of skills.
Some of the children read with fluency and understanding. It is important that every pupil has an opportunity to read in accordance with their reading ability. It is recommended that a wider range of teaching methodologies be implemented to establish fundamental reading skills particularly in the middle standards: the use of flashcards during reading lessons, the practice of word analysis and discussion of word meanings, the implementation of phonological awareness strategies and regular discussion around the meaning of the text. The children practice functional writing exercises in their copies and workbooks. In order to develop the children’s creative writing, it is recommended that regular use be made of computers, class newsletters, and school events to improve writing skills.
It is recommended that research be carried out to identify strategies to improve the children’s outlook in respect of the Irish language. Ii is also recommended that all the teachers, parents and pupils work together to improve bilingualism and to create a positive, stimulating and vibrant Gaelic culture in the school environment
Most pupils express themselves confidently in English in all classes. Oral language skills are developed in all classes and opportunities for engaging in discussion across a wide range of curricular areas are provided. The majority of pupils has very good listening and attention skills. However a small minority of pupils experiences oral language difficulties. The teachers have identified the development of a structured oral language programme as a priority to support the language and literacy development of these pupils. It is recommended that a discrete oral language programme, based on receptive and expressive language skills, should be taught at all class levels. The use of discretionary time for oral language activities is recommended and this will enable pupils with language deficits to experience structured oral-language activities on a daily basis.
Very good English lessons were observed in all classes. In general, the standard of literacy in the school is very good with the majority of pupils engaging in reading and written activities in a competent manner in all classes. Phonological awareness is developed in an effective manner in the infant and middle standards. Shared reading initiatives involving parents are also undertaken in infant classes. The approach to teaching the novel is particularly praiseworthy in the middle and senior classes. The pupils are given opportunities to respond to characters, situations and story details and in general are given broad experiences in terms of articulating a shared response to fiction. A wide repertoire of poems is explored and the pupils are encouraged to respond in different ways through dramatising, miming, writing and comparing poems. Consideration should now be given to the acquisition of additional high-quality reading materials for all class levels such as large format books and library books. The provision of display areas for books in the classrooms would be an attractive enhancement of the learning environments in the infant and junior classes.
The pupils engage in a range of writing activities, both functional and creative. Personal and creative writing commences in the junior classes. Pupils write short personal accounts and undertake simple book reviews. Pupils’ writing is developed and emphasised in middle and senior classes where book reviews, character reviews and a range of writing for different purposes and audiences is undertaken. Children also write their own poetry and are encouraged to write in various formats. Most teachers use computers skilfully to support and present the work undertaken by the children. The further use of ICT is recommended in order to facilitate a process approach to writing particularly in the middle and senior classes.
All teachers use a range of assessment strategies including teacher observation, monitoring of pupils’ copybooks, teacher designed tests, written activities and standardised test results. The Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP) is used in junior infants and the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is used in senior infants to track individual pupil’s progress. The Forward Together Programme is implemented when the need arises as a follow on from the MIST. The results of standardised tests inform the programmes undertaken in English and assessment information is used to assist teachers when grouping pupils and matching reading materials to the pupils’ needs. Through the use of diagnostic testing, the teachers have identified pupils’ spelling as an area in need of development. A whole school approach has been devised and is currently being implemented in all classes.
The majority of the pupils’ oral responses and written work indicate that pupils’ attainment is very good. The teachers use a range of resources to support their work including textbooks, charts, number lines and mathematical equipment. Learning outcomes are generally of a high standard. The school plan is specific in its objectives for all class levels and individual teacher planning is reflective of these targets and sets out a range of methodologies in order to achieve them.
Due care is taken to develop all strands of the Mathematics curriculum and the pupils have acquired a commendable level of understanding across all of the strands. Activity-based learning is utilised to develop strategies, skills and problem solving. Mathematical concepts are taught effectively in the infant classes and this work is supported by the skilful use of concrete materials. In the junior classes, the children understand number and place value and are able to solve simple mathematical problems. In the middle and senior classes, a broad and balanced curriculum is taught effectively. Most of the pupils can discuss and solve mathematical problems and the majority of pupils’ have a good understanding of mathematical concepts. Children record their work neatly and appropriately in textbooks and copybooks and this work is carefully monitored.
The school has, itself, identified the area of problem-solving as a key developmental area in the short-term. A range of strategies is being put in place to support this work and these strategies should include the use of the local environment, real life situations, mathematical workshops and trails. The collaborative nature of these activities will support pupil motivation in the pursuit of challenging and engaging learning experiences. The practice of developing mathematics-rich environments in all classrooms is advised. Greater emphasis on problem solving in an oral context during Mathematics lessons could also provide opportunities for pupils to develop and reinforce problem solving strategies and mathematical language. It is recommended that all teachers would devote discrete time to this work while encouraging the full participation of all pupils.
The teachers give regular tests in Mathematics and standardised testing is undertaken annually. The results are discussed at staff meetings and plans of action are devised accordingly. The use of Information Communications Technology (ICT) should be considered as an assistive element of these plans
The school implements a broad programme in History. Local studies are included in the middle and senior classes. Opportunities are provided for pupils to work in groups to review artefacts and other historical evidence. The provision of timelines in some classrooms contributes to the development of chronological skills. Guests are invited to the school to contribute in respect of a range of topics from the History curriculum when appropriate. This practice is commended. Pupils’ knowledge and understanding of the topics that have been covered to date this year
The teaching of Geography is carried out effectively in this school. The Primary Curriculum is used to plan and focus the work in this subject area. Pupils are afforded the opportunity of engaging with topics of local, national and European relevance in Geography. Maps and illustrative materials were in use in the middle and senior standards during the evaluation period. The extended use of Ordnance Survey maps is recommended as a strategy for investigation of the local environment.
It is evident that teaching and learning are focused on the development of local environmental awareness, through field trips, educational outings and school visits from local community experts.
Pupils’ project work is also neatly presented in their own learning environments and pupil participation is actively promoted and encouraged at all class levels. The extension of the use of ICT in this work would enhance pupils’ learning experiences.
The teaching of Science is very good in this school. Investigation and nature tables are provided in most classrooms and pupils are encouraged to engage in practical activities and to become involved in appropriate learning activities. The immediate local environment including the municipal park is used effectively to investigate Living Things and explore outdoor habitats.
The programme for learning in Science at all class levels provides pupils with opportunities to understand the physical and biological aspects of the world and the processes through which these are developed. A broad and balanced curriculum is provided through activities that enable pupils develop knowledge and skills that help them make sense of the world in which they live.
Practical investigation is the focus of scientific activity and this is achieved through the development of a broad range of enquiry skills including, observing, hypothesising, predicting, experimenting, planning fair tests and analysing results. Children in all classes are enabled to develop a framework of scientific ideas and concepts about Living Things, Energy and Forces, Materials, Environmental Awareness and Care through a programme that is activity based.
Studies of plants, animals and weather phenomena in the immediate and local environment also constitute part of the children’s learning experience in this curricular area. Pupils are capable of discussing items displayed on the nature/investigation tables. The development of a school garden will provide many opportunities for studying the strands of the Science curriculum.
The Visual Arts programme is taught effectively throughout the school. Stimulating and creative displays of children’s work are displayed throughout the school and this work indicates that children experience a wide range of media, techniques and skills. Opportunities for integrating the Visual Arts with other curriculum work are exploited to considerable effect. Painting, printing and drawing are complemented by three-dimensional craft and construction work. Children are encouraged to discuss their own work under the strand of responding to art. Portfolios of children’s work are maintained in all classrooms. In some classes appropriate emphasis is placed on the consistent development of expression, inventiveness and individuality.
The teaching of Music is very good and at each class level appropriate activities which address aspects of each of the content strands of the curriculum are included in the programme. All teachers display a commitment to the Listening and Responding strand in particular and pupils are very willing participants in this work. The elements of Music are explored through a range of enjoyable activities incorporating pitch and rhythm work, percussion activities, song singing, instrumental work, listening to music and music appreciation activities. Integration of Music with Physical Education, English and Social, Personal and Health Education was observed during the evaluation process. Instrumental music is taught from second class to sixth class. Pupils sing an appropriate range of songs well. In the senior classes the pupils read music and perform Music to a high standard.
All strands of the Music curriculum are taught effectively. Percussion instruments are in use to teach rhythm and pulse in most classes. The school as a whole develops the imaginative response to music to good effect. There is a need to ensure that this work is consistently delivered throughout pupils’ time in school and to encourage this learning throughout all curricular areas.
Drama is primarily employed in this school as a tool for enhancing various subject areas and for facilitating the establishment of cross-curricular links. It is evident from classroom practice that dramatic activity facilitates the delivery of aspects of the Irish and English (Oral Language) curricula.
The children also take an active part in school-produced performances. Staff members involved in the direction of these activities are to be commended for the time and commitment invested in the undertaking of these tasks.
Where Drama is taught as a discrete subject it succeeds admirably in the fostering of creativity and the children participate with enthusiasm.
The teaching of Physical Education is carried out with due reference to the school plan which is closely linked to the 1999 Curriculum. An external coach is employed jointly by the parents’ association and the board of management to deliver a programme in collaboration with the teachers based on the strands of the curriculum. The general purposes room is well equipped and has easy access to the schoolyard when conducting the lessons outside.
Pupils engage enthusiastically, co-operate meaningfully and achieve purposefully in this curricular area. Teaching is well-paced and organised to make the best use of time available for delivery. Pupils are constantly engaged and respond well to instruction. Achievement rates are high. Care is taken to provide a non-competitive learning environment where all pupils can participate fully. Discipline is well maintained. Pupils participate in basketball and unihoc games with other schools in leagues. Non-competitive games are regularly organised with other schools for pupils who wish to participate.
The atmosphere in the school reflects a firm commitment to the development of a positive, caring environment that cultivates pupils’ self-esteem and contributes to the skills, knowledge and attitudinal base relevant to this subject. All of the teachers are committed to fostering a school environment that promotes respect for diversity and a multi-cultural society. Circle time is used effectively to explore many aspects of the SPHE programme. In the middle and senior classes topics based on feelings, personal hygiene and safety in the home and on the roads and healthy eating are explored in a sensitive and caring manner. During these lessons the opportunity to debate the issues that arise further enhances pupils’ understanding of the topic and their oral language skills.
Many of the objectives are approached in a cross-curricular manner drawing on a range of specific programmes and materials available to the staff. Parental support in this area is strong. Guest speakers are engaged to give talks and presentations to parents and pupils on particular aspects of the programme.
A range of assessment modes is in use throughout the school. These include teacher observation, monitoring of pupils’ written work and teacher-devised tests. These are complemented by the administration of formal norm-referenced and standardised tests including the Micra-T, the Sigma-T and the Drumcondra Primary Reading Tests. Diagnostic tests are also administered and these include the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP) and the Middle Infants Screening Test (MIST). The information generated by these tests is used to help identify children who require supplementary support. In addition, an individual record card documenting pupils’ scores on standardised tests is maintained for each child providing a record of each pupil’s attainment as he/she progresses through the school. Formal consultative meetings with parents are convened annually and a written report is issued to parents on the progress of their children. Parents are also welcome to consult with teachers on an informal basis at mutually suitable times.
The results of standardised tests are monitored by the teaching staff and teachers are aware of trends in achievement. It is recommended that pupils’ progress in oral language skills should also be monitored. It is suggested that the staff use assessment information to assist them in differentiating the curriculum for pupils with special educational needs, language difficulties and learning difficulties in the mainstream classroom. Assessment information should be used to assist teachers in evaluating teaching strategies, in identifying individual learning needs and in choosing appropriate learning experiences.
The support provision in this school provides very effectively for a diverse and challenging range of pupil needs. An excellent school policy for special educational needs, documents the roles and responsibilities of the board of management, principal, special needs co-ordinator, mainstream class teachers, learning support teacher, resource teacher and special needs assistants. The school benefits from the services of one full-time learning support teacher and one full-time resource teacher who is shared for two hours per week with Our Lady Queen of Peace National School.
The school is to be commended for the implementation of the staged model of provision recommended by the DES Circular SPED 02/05. Support for pupils is provided for the development of literacy, Mathematics and for a small number of children in social and behavioural skills. A range of strategies is utilised including individual and group withdrawal to provide support for pupils. Support is also provided in an integrated way in individual classrooms where appropriate. The type of support provided is determined by the needs of individual pupils. Some pupils in the school present with emotional and behavioural difficulties.
All teachers prepare Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) or Individual Education Plans (IEPs) depending on the needs of the child. These plans are well prepared and contain specific targets. A wide range of methodologies is in use and the teachers have access to a wide variety of resources that have been acquired by the school over a number of years. Pupil profiles are drawn up in consultation with parents, class teachers, external agencies and the special needs assistants when appropriate. Plans are reviewed bi-annually and teachers record daily notes in respect of the activities that have been carried out. A wide range of software is in use to support pupils with special educational needs. In general, very effective use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) was observed during the evaluation period.
A teacher is employed on a part-time basis by the board of management to support English language development for ten pupils. Pupils are making very good progress. A wide range of teaching strategies is in use including the effective use of concrete materials.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The team spirit evident among a committed teaching staff, which is open to innovation and change.
· The high quality of teaching and learning delivered by professionally competent teachers.
· The principal demonstrates strong leadership qualities through collaborative management strategies.
· A strong and effective board of management whose members pursue their duties with commitment.
· Parents and teachers share common expectations in respect of the social, educational and emotional development of the pupils.
· The high level of parental involvement in school activities, extra-curricular and social events.
· Highly motivated pupils who display excellent behaviour and adhere to shared code of discipline.
· Pupils have positive self-esteem and are self-confident in their interactions with peers and teachers.
· The provision of a broad and balanced curriculum.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· A whole school approach in respect of the teaching of oral language is advised.
· The use of discrete time during Mathematics lessons to further develop pupils’ problem solving strategies and mathematical language though oral work is recommended.
· Moltar freisin go noibreodh na hoidí le poball na scoile agus na daltaí go léir chun an dátheangachas a chur chun cinn agus chun cultúr réalaíoch spreagúil a chothú i dtimpeallacht na scoile.
· It is also recommended that all the teachers, parents and pupils work together to improve bilingualism and to create a positive, stimulating and vibrant Gaelic culture in the school environment.
· It is recommended that the board of management review the school’s enrolment policy.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.