An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St. Joseph’s National School

Tivoli Road, Dún Laoghaire, County Dublin

Uimhir rolla: 19938T

 

Date of inspection: 1 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 St. Joseph’s National School was undertaken in September 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and Geography. 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 to this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

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

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

124

Mainstream classes in the school

 7

Teachers on the school staff

13

Mainstream class teachers

7

Teachers working in support roles

5

Special needs assistants

5

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

  

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

St. Joseph’s National School is a thirteen-teacher co-educational Catholic primary school operating under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin and the trusteeship of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary. The school’s stated mission is to guarantee equity, justice and fairness to all and to help the pupils to achieve high standards of behaviour and education.  Commitment to that mission is clearly evident in all aspects of the functioning of the school. The pupils are treated kindly, respectfully and fairly.  The teachers have high expectations of the pupils in terms of their behaviour and educational attainment.  The individuality of each pupil is valued and nurtured in the rich curriculum programme presented to each class group. Pupils with special educational needs are enabled to participate fully in school-life. The school receives funding and support under band 2 of the Department’s DEIS initiative. Strategies are in place to encourage punctuality and attendance. Pupils in general display good levels of punctuality.  The attendance of a significant number of pupils is not satisfactory and is a cause of concern for school management and staff.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted in accordance with Department of Education and Skills (DES) guidelines. The board works effectively and its responsibilities are carried out in a focused and systematic manner.  It meets regularly and detailed minutes of the meetings are kept.  Board members are aware of, and very committed to, their duties in supporting the work of the school and in improving the quality of teaching and learning. The board complies with statutory requirements, departmental guidelines and circulars. Regulations regarding the length of the school year and day, the retention of pupils, and class size are observed.  The board plays an active role in developing and reviewing the school policies and plans. It makes significant and informed contributions to school procedures and practices. The board plays a less-active role regarding curriculum matters. Information on pupils’ achievement and progress should be provided to the board. It is recommended that the board develop strategies to support teachers in improving pupils’ achievement levels in targeted areas.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal gives strong leadership to the school. He has successfully created a culture of team- work, order and collaborative planning. Members of staff are encouraged to take leadership roles and are confident in contributing ideas, expressing concerns and making suggestions for improvement. The principal manages the whole-school planning process very capably. He has created structures to facilitate ongoing collaborative planning and promotes a consistent and agreed approach to individual planning. He sets high expectations for pupils’ behaviour, achievement and school attendance. The in-school management team works effectively to support the principal and the work of the school. The team comprises the deputy principal and four special duties post-holders. The work of the team is carried out diligently and thoroughly.  The post-holders’ duties are varied. The duties covered by the posts are in line with the guidelines contained in Department Circular 07/03 regarding Appointments to Posts of Responsibility. The duties are reviewed annually to ensure that they reflect school priorities and emerging school needs. The future challenge for in-school management is to guide the implementation of methodologies, specific programmes and assessment approaches on a whole-school basis consistent with the aims of the school’s DEIS plan.

 

1.4 Management of resources

There is excellent management and use of resources at the school. The accommodation, including the building and grounds, are maintained to a very high standard and provide a safe and stimulating environment for all.  A wide range of teaching and learning resources is available and used very effectively by teachers to support pupils’ learning. Each classroom has a core set of teaching resources. These include books and materials for languages, the Visual Arts, Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE), equipment for Mathematics and Science and various other charts and visual aids. The school has a very well organised storage room where supplementary resources are centrally stored, catalogued according to subject, strand and strand unit and are easily accessible to the staff. In addition to classroom libraries, the school has a well-stocked school library. Teachers are timetabled to use the library on a weekly basis, and parents are welcome to visit the library with their children after school. 

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The principal, staff and board cultivate positive relationships with the school community. A welcoming atmosphere is evident. The principal is a highly visible presence around the school. He and the staff are available to meet with parents.  There are good communications, both formal and informal, between school and home. Parents are kept informed of various aspects of school life through the use of homework journals, notes, newsletters, start-of-year booklet and a school prospectus.  Parent-teacher meetings are held annually.  Written pupil-progress reports are issued at the end of each school year. The school has an active parents’ association. Members of the association are involved in fundraising endeavours and assist with sports days and school-based events. The association communicates with the wider school community through the use of notes, posters and on an informal basis.

 

1.6 Management of pupils

Pupils are managed effectively at all class levels.  Relationships between the teachers and pupils are positive. Routines and expectations regarding behaviour are clearly explained and understood by all. Reward systems are in place. The pupils’ application, efforts and achievements are celebrated through the holding of weekly assemblies. The school deals effectively with behaviour issues through whole-school approaches to behaviour management. To this end positive behaviour programmes based on rewards and individualised behaviour targets have been developed. The teaching staff have attended professional development training in dealing effectively with behaviour problems.

 

 

2. Quality of school planning

  

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. It reflects the school’s long-standing engagement with purposeful whole-school planning. The whole-school planning process is collaborative, involving board members, teachers and parents. A whole-school review was recently undertaken leading to the formulation of a detailed DEIS plan. A copy of this plan has been circulated to parents. The school’s organisational policies are clear and informative and reflect the context of the school. A range of comprehensive curriculum plans for all areas has been developed. A schedule for review of school policies and plans is in place. It is important when reviewing the curriculum plans to ensure that they are contextualised to the specific needs of the school and its pupils. All teachers have a copy of the school plan.

 

Competent long-term planning is undertaken by all teachers. Teachers complete an agreed whole-school template for their short-term planning. Some teachers prepare excellent objectives-based planning on a short-term basis. It is recommended that all class teachers engage in this form of planning with emphasis on skills-based learning as well as a focus on content. It is further recommended that teachers’ planning take full account of the wide range of pupils’ abilities through the setting of specific and achievable learning objectives for individuals and groups of pupils. Teachers should ensure that their individual planning is fully consistent with whole-school curriculum plans. Monthly progress records are completed by all teachers and stored centrally. 

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Skills Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Skills, 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 English

In the teaching of English teachers display effective communication skills and present their English lessons in a well structured and clear manner. All classrooms provide print-rich environments.  Specific aspects of oral language are addressed competently by teachers. Lively discussions are ably led by the teachers across the curriculum areas. They elicit the pupils’ opinions competently. Pupils tell their daily news and are enabled to engage in talk and discussion and to develop their questioning skills. Some teachers use language games effectively. The school has a diverse pupil population with varying language needs. A detailed oral language programme fully reflective of the pupils’ diverse language needs should be developed. This programme should encompass specific objectives, methodologies, content, and assessment techniques for oral language teaching. Early-reading skills are taught in a satisfactory manner through the use of discrete lessons, posters and workbooks. 

 

Pupils can recite a selection of nursery rhymes and pupils engage in onset and rime activities. The school has recently introduced a new phonics programme. Teachers ensure that pupils have access to a wide range of reading material including class readers, supplementary readers, additional texts and novels. Shared reading between parent and child is promoted. Class novels are capably used in order to explore concepts of print, plot and character study. The pupils’ reading is heard regularly. While there are high-achieving pupils at all class levels a number of pupils are experiencing difficulties in reading. Teachers should ensure that all pupils are reading at instructional level. To this end a comprehensive review of all reading materials in use is recommended. Ability groups for reading should be put in place. Further attention should be given to the teaching of specific reading skills and to the consistent implementation of the phonics programme. There is very good practice in relation to the teaching of writing. The teachers are commended for the competent implementation of the First Steps programme for writing. Early-writing skills are appropriately developed in the infant classes with teacher acting as scribe and modelling the writing process. In the middle and senior classes pupils undertake a variety of writing tasks including, my news, character descriptions, diary entries, story-writing and book reviews. The quality of pupils’ penmanship is high.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Aspects of Mathematics are taught confidently in every class. The teachers succeed in developing an interest in and enjoyment of Mathematics among pupils. A range of resources is effectively used by teachers to support learning including mathematical equipment, charts, hundred squares and textbooks. The teachers make very good use of the environment in the exploration and application of new mathematical concepts. Common approaches to the teaching of mathematical language, symbols, operations and problem-solving have been agreed by the teachers and are implemented consistently. Lessons are structured appropriately. Talk and discussion are central to the lessons. Content is explained clearly. In general the pupils can apply relevant mathematical terminology accurately while exploring tasks and explaining processes and outcomes. The pupils in middle and senior classes display confidence in using calculators. In general the pupils’ knowledge of and ability to recall number facts is good. However the standard of learning varies considerably with a number of pupils in every class experiencing difficulty with core elements of the mathematics curriculum. Closer assessment and monitoring of pupils’ achievement in Mathematics by teachers is recommended. Teachers should analyse the outcomes of assessment to ensure that lesson content matches the pupils’ specific needs and abilities. More widespread use of group and individual teaching should be made in all classes.

 

3.3 Geography

The overall quality of teaching and learning in Geography is very good.  The teachers ensure that there is a very good balance between content knowledge, concepts and skills development. They use a broad range of approaches and methodologies including story, talk and discussion, surveys, concept-mapping and field work. The teachers present new content in an interesting and lively manner. Key learning objectives are shared with pupils and clearly explained by teachers at many class levels.  All teachers thoroughly reinforce and consolidate the pupils’ learning through effective questioning and extension work. They ensure that there is an appropriate focus on the teaching of the language of Geography. Interesting tasks and activities are provided by the teachers for the development of geographical skills such as mapping, observation and investigation. The strand of Environmental Awareness and Care is taught very well and the school’s recycling and energy conservation programmes are highly commended.

 

Local geography is particularly well taught. Teachers have compiled excellent fact files and folders of materials associated with the locality and other aspects of the curriculum. Pupils are afforded opportunities to develop their geographical skills through investigation of their local environment. The local environment is investigated appropriately to build on pupils’ geographical skills. Guest speakers are invited to the school to share their experiences with the pupils on a range of geographical and environmental topics. The pupils display competence in their knowledge of the topics covered. They have a strong sense of place and can confidently talk about and describe aspects of their local area. In particular pupils are knowledgeable about their families, homes and settlements, occupations of people in the community, local attractions, natural features and other aspects of the environment. The junior pupils can construct simple maps of their classrooms, homes, and their local area. This early work is competently built upon up through the school with excellent examples of pupils’ mapping skills at all levels. The pupils’ observation and investigation skills are well developed through photographing and sketching items of interest during their undertaking of field trips.

 

3.4 Assessment

The quality of the assessment approaches in special education settings is very good. This practice includes the close analysis of the data gathered during assessment, the setting of specific targets, the development of focused programmes of work based on assessed needs and the regular monitoring of the achievement of targets. Individual approaches to assessment within mainstream classrooms are in place. Standardised tests in literacy and numeracy are administered annually from first class upwards. The results of these are collated on a whole-school basis. Given the challenges regarding the improving of achievement levels in literacy and numeracy, whole-school approaches to assessment should be developed. The expertise existing within the school should be utilised to guide and co-ordinate this work. Teachers should analyse in detail the information gathered during assessment.  The outcomes of this analysis should be used by teachers to plan for differentiating the learning experiences of the pupils. Specifically in Mathematics the use of checklists containing criterion referenced, objectives-based targets is advised. With regard to literacy, assessment should be closely linked to the specific programmes in oral language, reading and writing that are taught.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

  

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

There are significant strengths in the provision for pupils with special educational needs (SEN) in the school. Policy formulation and planning approaches are very good. The SEN policy gives clear direction on the identification of pupils, the organisation of supports, the planning of programmes and on monitoring, assessment and review. The policy prioritises the provision of supplementary teaching for the lowest-achieving pupils and for those in junior classes for defined periods. Teachers prepare detailed individual education plans (IEPs) for each pupil availing of support. Their individual learning targets guide and inform the content of the lessons and the methodologies used by the teachers. Parents are consulted about the content of the IEPs. The pupils’ progress is reviewed in detail at regular intervals. Diagnostic testing is carried out during that review. A number of pupils are effectively supported through individualised programmes in Reading Recovery and Maths Recovery. Members of the special education team have begun to develop in-class models of support. It is important to ensure that such support is informed by clear, focused programmes of learning. The effectiveness of in-class support on pupils’ achievement should be closely monitored.

 

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

This is a welcoming and inclusive school. All pupils are affirmed equally including those with linguistic, ethnic and cultural differences. The school has an impressive range of supports in place for the diversity of its population. Effective support is provided to pupils for whom English is not their first language (EAL). The EAL teacher assesses pupils’ language needs carefully.  She uses the outcomes of the assessments to formulate programmes of work and to develop IEPs for EAL pupils. Lessons are carefully structured and are focused on the development of the pupils’ fluency, comprehension and confidence in using language. A school policy for EAL support is currently being developed.  A comprehensive programme of activities and courses is provided by the home school community liaison service (HSCL). Clear targets have been set regarding parental involvement in courses and school activities, the monitoring of attendance and punctuality and the provision of extra support to targeted pupils and families.  Parents’ courses include training in the development of computer skills and arts and crafts activities. The in-school involvement of parents is promoted through the provision of a parent/child oral language programme for junior infants, the use of story sacks, Maths for Fun and a well-structured shared reading programme. The school offers a range of supports to all pupils including a book rental scheme, homework club, breakfast club and a wide range of after-school activities such as basketball, tag rugby, volleyball, tennis, hurling and dance. Many of these activities are funded through monies received from Southside Partnership, the School Completion Programme and Dún Laoghaire Vocational Education Committee.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

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

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published June 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 wish to acknowledge the courtesy and professionalism of the Inspectorate in their work in St. Joseph’s during the WSE process. It was a very positive and affirmative experience for the school community.

 

They are particularly pleased with the commendations and strengths identified and are happy that they reflect strongly the commitment to provide a good primary education for each individual pupil in the school

 

 

Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the   inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

The Board of Management and staff note the key recommendations from the Inspectorate. It is intended to incorporate all WSE recommendations in the school’s strategic plans over the next three years.

 

Work has already commences in providing a specific programme for reading in the school. This programme will also help in the development of a whole school approach to assessment in reading.