An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Eoin

Kilbarrack, Dublin 5

Uimhir rolla: 19935N

 

Date of inspection: 23 October 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

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Eoin, Kilbarrack, Dublin 5 was undertaken in October 2009. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and Geography. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The board of management 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Eoin is a co-educational national school catering for pupils from junior infants to sixth class. It is under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. The majority of pupils come from the Kilbarrack area of Dublin 5.

 

The table below provides an overview of the school’s current enrolment and staffing:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

251

Full-time teachers on the staff

19

Principal teacher

1

Mainstream class teachers

12

Teachers working in support roles

6

Special needs assistants (full time)

5

Special needs assistants (part-time)

1

 

Figures for projected enrolments indicate that pupil numbers will remain at about current levels for the next three years. Attendance is generally good. 

 

 

1.   Quality of school management

 

1.1  Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school provides a well-ordered, caring and secure learning environment and sets out to provide for the holistic development of all its pupils. Scoil Eoin is included in Band 1 of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity to Schools (DEIS) action plan and consequently, it benefits from additional funding and supports under the School Support Programme.

 

1.2  Board of management

The board of management is constituted correctly, meets regularly and carries out its functions in accordance with required procedures and practices. Specific responsibilities have been assigned to individual board members and a number of sub-committees have been established to oversee aspects of the school’s work such as maintenance and cleaning. Financial records are appropriately maintained and audited.

 

Discussions with board members and a review of the minutes of recent meetings confirm that the board is committed to the development of all aspects of the school and that it discharges its responsibilities in a positive, proactive manner. Improving pupil attainment is a particular priority and it is noteworthy that discussions relating to teaching and learning are a regular feature of board meetings. Furthermore, the board has taken steps to support the continuing professional development of the teaching staff.

 

The board has been involved in the development of the school plan and all elements of the plan have been discussed and ratified at board level.

 

1.3  In-school management

The principal fulfils all his duties with considerable enthusiasm, energy and commitment. Since his appointment three years ago, he has been very successful in developing many aspects of school planning, organisation, and internal management. He has promoted change in a measured, diplomatic way and ensured the provision of a safe, affirming learning environment for pupils. He is to be commended for his commitment to developing the school building, developing relationships with parents, and developing procedures and practices with regard to the organisation of the school, the management of pupils’ behaviour, and the promotion of teachers’ planning. It is recommended that the principal should now focus on the instructional leadership aspect of his role in order to enhance the quality of teaching and learning throughout the school.

 

The in-school management team comprises a deputy principal, an assistant principal and five teachers with special duties posts. Specific responsibilities with organisational, curricular and pastoral dimensions have been defined for each member of the team and posts are reviewed every two years. Team members provide a written report to the board each year outlining progress in their area of responsibility. It is good practice that formal meetings of the in-school management team are held on a regular basis.

 

In order to build on this good foundation, it is recommended that the in-school management team, in conjunction with the principal, should devise a set of specific teaching methods and strategies to achieve the learning targets that have already been set, particularly in the areas of literacy and numeracy. 

 

1.4   Management of relationships and communication with the school community

All teachers are deployed appropriately and a good range of resources for teaching and learning has been acquired. The school is set in very attractive grounds and all facilities are carefully maintained.

 

A dedicated parents’ room facilitates parental involvement in the school. The involvement of parents in their children’s learning is also supported by the home school community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator who is newly appointed to the school. The HSCL co-ordinator provides a number of activities for parents and while there is commendable variety in these activities, it is recommended that the school should develop a coherent rationale for parental involvement and seek to ensure that all activities are underpinned by a clear purpose.

 

Communication between home and school is good; parent-teacher meetings are held in November each year and reports are sent home in February. Representatives of the parents’ association report that, in general, they are satisfied with the quality of teaching in the school.

 

1.5   Management of pupils

The management of pupils is good. Pupils are respectful towards their teachers and each other and school rules and routines are implemented consistently. One senses a positive learning environment in classrooms, along corridors and throughout the school generally.

 

 

2.      Quality of school planning

 

2.1        Whole-school and classroom planning

Considerable advances have been made in school planning in recent years under the leadership of the current principal. All policies required by legislation, for example a code of behaviour, enrolment, and health and safety policies, have been devised and ratified. These policies are sufficiently contextualised to impact positively on school life. It is good practice that a policy of staff rotation has been implemented allowing teachers to develop their awareness and understanding of pupils’ needs at all class levels.

 

Some curriculum planning has been undertaken. However, plans have not been drawn up for all curriculum areas; this needs to be addressed. The focus in planning should be on identifying practices to ensure good quality teaching and the provision of a co-ordinated learning programme for pupils as they proceed through the school. Specifically, arrangements for swimming require amendment to take account of the spiral nature of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) where optimum development is achieved by enhancing pupils’ skills on an incremental basis over time rather than concentrating on specific areas for a short period. Currently, pupils from third and fourth class are taken swimming each week for a full year. This results in an attenuated Physical Education programme with undue emphasis on the aquatics strand. It is recommended that this arrangement be reviewed. 

 

An effective process of action planning has been instigated in the school. Appropriate priorities have been identified in the areas of Mathematics, literacy, communication with parents, and enhancing pupils’ self esteem. The focus in the action plans for Mathematics and literacy is on identifying and implementing initiatives to support pupils’ learning. It is good practice that these plans are specific and it is commendable that a large number of teaching staff are prepared to take a leadership role for planned activities. However, while the plans generally describe a variety of commendable learning activities for pupils, it is recommended that a greater focus should be placed on identifying specific teaching strategies to improve attainment in these areas. 

 

Individually, all teachers engage in long-term planning. Where these long-term plans are delineated into appropriate time-spans they are particularly effective. Short-term planning is undertaken by all teachers. In some instances there needs to be greater correlation between long and short-term planning to ensure that a coherent and balanced programme is delivered to pupils. To optimise the impact on pupils’ learning, objectives need to be described more succinctly and more attention needs to be focused on identifying how teaching and learning will be differentiated to cater for varying ability levels, including the more able pupils.

 

A common template for recording monthly progress has been devised for use by class teachers. This is effective in maintaining an overview of curriculum provision through the school year. It is good practice that completed templates are signed and dated by the school principal and that copies of all monthly progress records are retained centrally.

 

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

 

English 

The quality of teaching and learning in English is satisfactory with some scope for development. The school plan for oral language development includes a wide range of suggested strategies and approaches. In many classes, teacher questioning is effective at probing pupils’ responses and encouraging them to elaborate on their thinking. Many pupils display a good knowledge of poems and rhymes and, at every class level, a commendable emphasis is placed on the use of story as a teaching approach. It is recommended that the development of oral language competencies should be a planned feature of all curriculum areas.

 

A rich stock of suitable reading material is available in every classroom and in the school library. Teachers have prioritised the improvement of reading standards in their action plans and, to this end, a structured approach to teaching phonics is followed. The Reading Recovery Programme is very effectively delivered with very good outcomes for individual pupils. Additionally, as part of this programme, Power Reading sessions are effectively organised in classrooms with commendable success in raising standards. Initiatives such as Reading Buddies whereby pupils in senior classes read with younger pupils provide a range of enjoyable learning experiences for pupils. During reading lessons, it is recommended that teachers keep a running record of individual pupils’ achievement and, once pupils have been taught how to decode text, the development of fluency and more sophisticated reading skills should be prioritised. Furthermore, it is recommended that the school action plan should describe specific teaching approaches to improve pupils’ reading, particularly in middle and senior classes.

 

Pupils in all classes experience a print-rich learning environment. Pupils are provided with many opportunities to write freely about their experiences. Their written work is carefully monitored and teachers appropriately scaffold pupils’ efforts in writing. A school-wide system of handwriting has been agreed and is being implemented. It is recommended that formal grammar should not be taught in junior classes and that a school-wide emphasis should be put on developing pupils’ spellings, particularly of words that are commonly used in their writing.

 

3.2        Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is satisfactory. Most teachers teach a broad and balanced programme and their short-term planning in Mathematics identifies specific objectives for learning. Some examples of very effectively differentiated questioning and provision of mathematical activities for both weaker and more able pupils were seen. In the infant classes particularly, there is a commendable emphasis on the teaching of mathematical vocabulary. An appropriate emphasis is placed on mental computation and on problem-solving at the beginning of each lesson. In the infant classes, story and visual resources are used effectively to develop pupils’ abilities to understand and solve mathematical problems.

 

The school’s action plan for Mathematics sets out to improve attainment by raising class averages by one percentage point. It is recommended that a more effective approach would be to identify pupils who are currently underachieving when measured against their ability levels, and to focus attention on improving outcomes for these pupils. Additionally, to ensure that lesson objectives are appropriately challenging, a greater emphasis needs to be placed on assessing prior learning before planning and teaching. Lesson objectives should be made explicit to pupils, particularly at senior level. Where new concepts are introduced, more time should be spent on discussion and on relating the concept to the environment and to the life experiences of the pupils. Greater and more effective use of concrete and visual resources is also recommended. Finally, the school should review its overall approach to mental arithmetic to ensure that pupils’ thinking skills are enhanced and their responses are usually given orally rather than having mathematical activities generally based on pencil-and-paper exercises. 

 

3.3      Geography

Teaching and learning in Geography is generally good.  Pupils are encouraged to develop positive attitudes towards the environment and the school grounds and local area are used effectively as starting points in many lessons. Pupils’ interest in growing flowers and vegetables is fostered in the school garden. A whole-school environmental audit of the locality has been completed. In many classes, pupils keep a daily record of weather conditions and changes in the seasons. Evidence that ICT facilities are effectively used was seen in some geography lessons. In some classes, there is an appropriate emphasis on developing pupils’ map-reading skills. It is recommended that the school should devise a whole-school plan to develop pupils’ graphical skills to ensure an incremental progression of concepts and skills as pupils move from class to class. Furthermore, the school should, over time, compile a bank of digital photographs of salient features in the locality that could be used to enhance the quality of Geography lessons.

 

3.4        Assessment

A good range of modes of assessment is utilised throughout the school including teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and tests, standardised tests and diagnostic tests. Assessment results are carefully tabulated and filed. Among individual teachers, anecdotal records, social interaction grids, oral language rubrics, pupil profiles and checklists for letter sounds and letter formation are maintained. It would be worthwhile to discuss these approaches and disseminate best practice school-wide to ensure continuity of assessment as pupils proceed from infants to sixth class.

 

 

4.          Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1        Pupils with special educational needs

The learning-support team in Scoil Eoin comprises five full-time learning-support and resource teachers, in addition to five full-time special needs assistants (SNA) and one part-time SNA. Most of the rooms in which learning support is provided are appropriately organised creating a purposeful approach to teaching and learning. The Reading Recovery programme is provided in the school under the School Support Programme of DEIS and is operating with considerable success. Some computer-based programs are also used to assess pupils’ attainment levels and to provide additional drill and practice support.

 

The current learning-support policy was developed following a review of existing practice. As a result, in addition to the withdrawal model of support, a greater emphasis has been placed on the provision of support through early intervention in the infant classes and through the use of in-class support in other classes. The early intervention process is proving to be successful with increasing numbers of pupils attaining better standards in English and Mathematics at the end of senior infants. This is very commendable. The process of in-class support is carefully timetabled and has been undertaken enthusiastically by teachers. In some instances it is working well. However, it is recommended that the school should now review current practice in this area and seek to bring about a greater level of coherence between the work of class teachers and the learning-support teachers. In terms of the provision of learning support by withdrawing pupils from the mainstream setting, consideration should be given to identifying how such lessons could best be structured to achieve optimum impact. The meetings of the learning support team, which take place regularly, could prove a useful forum for considering these issues. It is recommended that members of the learning-support team should consider undertaking further continuing professional development with a view to enhancing their expertise and skills in this area.

 

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

The school’s recently appointed HSCL co-ordinator has initiated her work in an enthusiastic and committed manner. Some suitable resources have been acquired and activities to promote a greater level of parental involvement have been successfully organised. Further in-class activities for parents are planned. It is now recommended that the school, in consultation with the HSCL National Team, should devise a multi-dimensional policy to promote partnership between parents and teachers with the aim of enhancing pupils’ learning.

 

The school shares the services of a resource teacher for Travellers with a neighbouring school. Some Traveller pupils are withdrawn from class for additional tuition in English. The teacher who currently provides this service will retire soon and it is recommended that the school should use the opportunity of this change to review current practice and to devise a more inclusive policy which addresses individual learning needs to a greater extent. 

 

The principal and staff of Scoil Eoin have built up a very close bond with parents and the wider school community which enables them to deal with any incidences of educational disadvantage in a sensitive and discreet manner. The school uses various grants and resources to ensure all pupils are included in school activities and the material needs of disadvantaged pupils are met in a sensitive and discreet manner.

 

 

5.       Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas: 

·         The school is managed very effectively by a committed, supportive board of management.

·         The school is led by a committed, enthusiastic principal.

·         The school is staffed by a dedicated team comprising both experienced and newly qualified teachers.

·         A wide range of educational resources has been provided. All of the resources are well utilised and carefully organised. 

·         The school receives willing support from parents and it has an enthusiastic parents’ association. 

·         A positive learning environment has been created throughout the school.

·         The Reading Recovery programme in English is successful in addressing the needs of individual pupils.

·         The Power Reading programme is successful in raising pupils’ reading levels. 

 

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

 

·         In addition to outlining a range of additional learning strategies, the school should describe specific teaching methods to address the needs of pupils, particularly in the areas of literacy and numeracy.

·         Greater attention should be paid by teachers to ensure that they teach well structured and appropriately challenging lessons.

·         A comprehensive HSCL policy which clearly describes the role and functions of the co-ordinator should be devised.

 

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 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

School response to the report

 Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

The Board of Management and staff thank the Inspectors for their thorough, professional and informative evaluation, for the positive manner in which the evaluation was conducted and efforts made to accommodate the school community.

The Board has great faith in the school staff and acknowledges challenges facing the school but also wishes to acknowledge great practice and commitment by a dedicated staff in an increasingly more complicated social and legal context.

The school has also felt the pressure of a reduced number of Post of Responsibility holders and inability to replace those on leave.

The Board thanks the Department for acknowledging the enthusiasm with which staff have embraced all the initiatives offered to them and expected of them.

 

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 principal is committed to focusing with greater intensity on the instructional leadership aspect of his role with strong approval of the Board. This includes promoting best teaching methodology from within the school, highlighting best practices and encouraging all staff to share skills and expertise – of which there is an abundance. The Board, principal and staff are concentrating efforts on improving the teaching and learning within the school.

Work has already begun with the in-school management team together with the principal devising a set of specific teaching methods and strategies to achieve learning targets.

A comprehensive Home School Community Liaison policy is nearly complete for presentation to and input from the Board. The timing of School reports has changed to reflect the academic-year progress more completely.

Ongoing curricular planning and professional development will continue as part of our staff meetings and curricular planning deficits will be succinctly addressed in this forum with additional support from the In-school- management and the principal. A focus on plans, practices and strategies to ensure and sustain good quality teaching and learning will be a priority.

A swimming review has taken place and will change from next academic year to reflect a less attenuated PE programme.

The Learning support timetable has been amended to support greater coherence between the work of the class teacher and learning support teacher through joint planning and teacher support.

An LSR Teacher is currently training in Maths Recovery – having been arranged last year - and further professional development has been promoted and accepted within the school.

The principal, together with the relevant promoted teachers are meeting to prioritise areas within Mathematics and English that merit special attention. Staff meetings will continue to include development in these areas.

While the Board acknowledges in 4.1 “ the early intervention process is proving to be successful ...“, it should be highlighted that this is a new development in Mathematics this academic year and much of the credit for better standards is due to more coherent planning, excellent creative teaching and less pressure due to smaller classes afforded by DEIS.

The Traveller education aspect of our SEN team is being collaboratively reviewed to bring it more under our SEN Policy of inclusion and address individual learning. The Board acknowledges the hard work of the past and present resource teacher for Travellers.

Our school planning day concentrated on Mental Maths with our Deis facilitator and feel confident that the recommended re focus will take place.

A Bank of digital photographs of salient features is currently being compiled and a whole school plan to develop pupils’ graphical skills is being formulated.

We look forward to you noting the positive changes on foot of this evaluation and welcome your continued cooperation.