An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
St Patrick’s National School
Calry, County Sligo
Uimhir rolla: 19942K
Date of inspection: 27 March 2009
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St Patrick’s National School. 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 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.
St Patrick’s National School is a co-educational primary school situated approximately three miles from Sligo town. It is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Elphin. The school opened in 1989 following the amalgamation of the old Calry and Doonally national schools. It currently caters for 235 pupils and attendance is generally good. The population of the area has increased dramatically in recent years which necessitated the building of an extension in 2005. This consisted of three additional classrooms, a general purpose room, a new staffroom, three support classrooms, a library/computer room and some ancillary accommodation. This spacious building is circular in shape and its layout facilitates the easy movement of personnel. A footpath funded through the local Development Association now links the school grounds to the church and the community pre-school facility. This is a caring, inclusive school with a strong sense of community. The school is characterised by a high level of parental involvement and interest in all school-related activities.
The board of management is competent and efficient in executing its duties. It is properly constituted and many members have given a long, dedicated service to the school. The board convenes regularly and roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. The board is highly supportive of the work of the school and is commended on the recent extension and improvements to the school building. It presents extremely well, providing high quality accommodation for teaching and learning. The board uses available finances in a very effective manner. It is also commended on the development of the car park, facilitating easy access to and from the school. Whole-school policies have been drafted and discussed. The chairperson visits the school regularly and provides managerial, practical and pastoral support. Communication is very good between the board, the school, parents and the community. Board members expressed satisfaction with the achievement of the pupils, the good ambiance in the school and the support of the principal, staff and parents.
The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal and four special duties post-holders. A positive school climate permeates the school where staff members willingly support each other and equally receive very good support from the various partners. Purposeful leadership is an acknowledged factor in the high standards being achieved by many pupils in this school. The principal has spearheaded the new school building project. He has stewarded the growth in enrolment and has been instrumental in accessing a wide range of educational resources. He has been to the forefront in tabulating assessment data and his role in compiling aspects of the school plan is to be acknowledged. He fulfils his administrative functions competently in accordance with departmental guidelines. He brings considerable expertise to his duties in relation to leading and managing the school and his work is very effective overall. He is clearly committed to the welfare of the staff and pupils and is proactive in nurturing a positive school environment. The deputy principal gives dedicated support to the principal and her contribution to the management of the school is very much valued.
A good balance exists between the organisational, curriculum and administrative duties assigned to post holders. However, at present the curriculum duties relate primarily to the compilation and organisation of resources. Therefore, it is recommended that the in-school management team reviews all of the duties assigned to posts and that curriculum leadership responsibilities form some part of each post. These posts should then be reviewed on an annual basis in line with the needs identified by the school. It is recommended that members of the in-school management team meets on a more regular basis with a view to managing their duties in a more cohesive, purposeful manner. Their commitment to their posts and the work of the school is recognised and commended.
The school community benefits from a fine building and environs. There is a new set-down and parking area which facilitates the safety of all users. The school has invested in a wide range of appropriate infant activities and resources which is used very effectively. Each classroom has a considerable array of appropriate charts, concrete materials and resources. Overall, an extensive range of learning resources is available to support teaching and learning in the various subject areas. The school is well equipped with standard office equipment. The computerised library lending system is applauded. Each of the three new classrooms has a store room attached; it is recommended that these storage rooms be used creatively to store resources for particular subject areas.
The majority of staff members have been teaching the same level for many years. It is therefore recommended that a clear policy on staff rotation be devised and implemented. The day-to-day functioning of the school is supported through the administrative skills of the secretary. The work of the caretaker is acknowledged. A range of tutors is invited into the school to support aspects of curriculum implementation at particular times during the year. These are managed very well by the school to ensure breadth and balance of skill development for the pupils.
It is apparent that the school fosters good relations and open communication with the school community. One teacher and her class have been involved in devising the creative school website and they are to be commended on their work. The overall commitment of parents to the life of the school is laudable. Equally, the purchase of a suite of computers and interactive whiteboards by them is worthy of much commendation. The parents value the good reputation for high academic standards that has achieved by this school over the years. The in-school support given by some of the parents in areas such as story-telling, computers, reading, chess and gardening is most praiseworthy.
Very positive relationships exist between the teachers and pupils and among the pupils themselves in this school. In all cases, pupils are enthusiastic and motivated in their work. The quality of engagement between staff and pupils is very high. Pupils presented as well behaved, mannerly and co-operative during lessons. The pastoral needs of the pupils are well managed and their holistic development is nurtured.
The overall quality of school planning is good. The school plan comprises a bound suite of documents which has being developed in consultation with staff members, board of management and parents. The organisational section of the school plan contains the school’s mission statement together with policies and procedures for many aspects of the life of the school. It is recommended that all policies be reviewed on a cyclical basis. All of these documents would benefit from the inclusion of a formulation date, review date and ratification date. The school needs to update its information and communications technology (ICT) policy to reflect the advancements made in this area in the school. The policy on yard supervision needs to be reviewed. The revised policy should include updated protocols and procedures. In all policies, particular attention needs to be paid to clarifying roles and responsibilities.
The quality of curricular policies is good. They are, however, somewhat general in content and it is recommended that they cater further for the higher achieving pupils within the school. The Irish plan needs to outline aspects of grammar to be taught to specific class levels including, in particular, the order in which verbs should be taught. Planning in English would benefit from further reference to the development of creative writing. The English plan needs to note how focused listening skills are taught. The gardening project needs to form part of the science plan. These policies require the insertion of action plans to reflect areas for development. It is recommended that this further work in curricular areas be undertaken on a collaborative basis and spearheaded by the post holders.
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.
The quality of classroom planning is good. All teachers engage in long-term and short-term planning but they use a variety of planning templates. Staff members need to collaborate and choose a common template for planning and recording of monthly progress from the range of samples already in use throughout the school. They should also consider initiating collaborative classroom planning across the various class levels. It is recommended that all staff members plan according to the objectives of the curriculum. Short term planning should focus on the progressive development of skills and on the use of a variety of methodologies and resources.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Very high standards are being achieved by the majority of pupils in this school across the curriculum. These high standards are testimony, in particular, to very good teaching. Teachers are encouraging and affirming of their pupils and they work hard to ensure the maximum participation of the pupils in the learning process. The teachers create a vibrant, appealing and stimulating environment for the pupils in their care. The pupils are challenged to engage themselves actively in the learning process. A comprehensive range of co-curricular and extracurricular activities is available to pupils. The introduction of more frequent school assemblies would enhance the good work underway in the school.
Pupils with special needs are suitably supported and encouraged in their learning tasks. They are happily integrated. It is recommended that the teachers differentiate even further to take account of the high achieving pupils in their care. Whole-class teaching is the predominant strategy adopted by teachers. This approach works very effectively in this context. While some pair work, group work and individual work are also undertaken, the opportunities for expanding these methodologies further in some classrooms need to be exploited.
Gabhann éifeacht bhreá leis an teagasc agus leis an bhfoghlaim atá ar bun sa scoil seo i dtaca leis an nGaeilge. Tá ullmhúchán an-sásúil á dhéanamh ag na hoidí go léir don Ghaeilge. Is rí-inmholta an dóigh ina bhfuil ionchur an-chinnte teanga mar chuid lárnach de na próisis fhoghlama ar fad. Léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint an-mhaith ar an ábhar atá á phlé sa rang.
Baineann na hoidí leas an-tairbheach as an nGaeilge mar theanga bhainistíochta ranga agus baintear feidhm as cluichí cainte chun ábaltacht an pháiste an teanga a chumadh a fheabhsú. Moltar ábhair eile a mhúineadh trí Ghaeilge chun comhthéacs fírínneach a chruthú don teanga. Moltar, mar shampla, téarmaíocht a ghabhann le cluiche faoi leith sa Chorpoideachas nó téarmaíocht sna hAmharcealaíona a mhúineadh trí Ghaeilge.
Múintear an léitheoireacht ar bhealach an-struchtúrtha. Tugtar taithí leathan do na daltaí cineálacha difriúla téacsanna a léamh, ina measc áirítear fíorleabhair bheaga agus téacsanna a scríobh cuid de na daltaí féin. Fágann seo go léann na daltaí na téacsanna ranga go cruinn agus tugtar faoi deara go bhfuil tuiscint an-sásúil ar fad ag mórchuid acu ar a bhfuil á léamh acu. Moltar abairtí iomlána i nGaeilge a chur ar taispeáint mórthimpeall na seomraí.
Sonraítear go bhfuil caighdeán breá á bhaint amach ag na daltaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil. Bhí réimse éagsúla téacsanna á scríobh ag formhór na ndaltaí sna hard-ranganna. Chonacthas sampla an-bhreá de scéalta a scríobh na daltaí iad féin foilsithe i bpasáistí na scoile. Is éifeachtach mar a bhaintear leas as eiseamláiriú agus comhscríobh i ranganna áirithe. Moltar an dea-chleachtas seo a fhorbairt ar bhonn uile-scoile chun acmhainn scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt a thuilleadh, go háirithe faoi mar a bhaineann sé le forbairt a dhéanamh ar an scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach. Moltar, freisin, breis oibre a dhéanamh sna cóipleabhair sna meán-ranganna.
The teaching and learning of Irish is very effective. All of the teachers plan very well for the teaching of Irish. A definite language input is central to the learning process. The pupils demonstrate very good understanding of the subject matter.
The teachers use Irish very productively as a classroom management tool and use language games to improve the pupils’ language ability. It is recommended that another subject be taught through Irish to create a real life context for the language. It is recommended, for example, that the terminology for a particular sport in Physical Education or the language in Art be taught through Irish.
Reading is taught in a very structured manner. Pupils are exposed to different texts such as reading small books and even some texts composed by students themselves. Pupils read the class text with accuracy and the majority comprehend what is read. It is recommended that full sentences in Irish be displayed around the classrooms.
It is apparent that pupils have reached a good standard in their functional writing. Most pupils in the senior classes have written in a variety of genres. Very good published samples of pupils’ writing were seen on school corridors. Modelling and shared writing experiences are used effectively in some classes. It is recommended that this good practice be extended throughout the school to further develop pupils’ writing ability, particularly in the area of creative writing. It is recommended that additional written work be completed in copies in the middle classes.
A comprehensive language programme is being pursued in the school and children are achieving high standards in all English language skills. Pupils display an ability to express their views with confidence and clarity. Higher order thinking skills are being actively developed during class discussions throughout the school. Children read and recite poetry with evidence of good understanding and enjoyment.
Particular emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ emergent reading skills in the junior and middle classes. A highly effective programme of reading is organised throughout the school. In many cases, very good use is made of the large format books in these sections, which allows for an integrated language experience for the pupils. This approach could be even further extended. Reading standards are very satisfactory in all classes and many pupils are very confident readers. Widespread engagement with novels and other reading materials is fostering positive attitudes to developing both love of reading and proficiency in it. Very effective strategies to develop pupils’ word attack skills in dealing with unknown words in unfamiliar contexts are in place in all classes.
The standard of pupils’ writing is particularly high; this writing is characterised by effective, appropriate and creative language use. Pupils are introduced to a variety of written genres and they demonstrate particular confidence in the narrative genre. The range of writing activities undertaken for different purposes and different audiences is praiseworthy. The use of ICT in in-class contexts could be used even more effectively to enhance the writing process. The teaching and learning of grammar is very good and pupils are highly skilled in their use and understanding of the mechanical features of writing. The standard of the pupils’ handwriting is, however, somewhat inconsistent. It is recommended that a whole-school approach to handwriting be implemented.
The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is of a high standard. Lessons are well structured and paced. Practical activities, the use of ICT and the appropriate use and application of mathematical language are emphasised in all classes. Relevant charts, concrete materials and games are all used effectively to support teaching and learning. There is evidence of very effective practice in relation to early mathematical activities, mental calculations and appropriate number operations. However, it is recommended that teachers display mathematics strategies on the wall and engage the pupils in more problem-solving activities. The principal and staff are commended on the monitoring of standardised test results and charting the progress of pupils. They have identified algebra and measures as areas for development as a result of this process. In this context, it is recommended that the teachers differentiate the programme even further to cater for the varying abilities within the classroom. In this regard, consideration should be given to planning for linkage and the formulation of mathematics trails.
The teaching of History is stimulating and challenging and a broad curriculum is explored. Good emphasis is placed upon designing lessons in this area appropriate to the pupils’ own environment and interests. Pupils articulate their ideas freely and openly and they recall salient facts in a satisfactory manner. Local history is well developed throughout the school. Children in junior and middle standards enjoy stories and legends and the programme here also provides for the development of an understanding of personal history, of chronology and an awareness of the lives of people down through the ages. Artefacts, timelines, photographs and diagrams are used judiciously to support lessons. Project work is used to very good effect in the teaching of History and the themes explored are successfully integrated with other curricular areas. The use of ICT for research purposes could be extended within the classroom.
The school implements a varied, interesting programme in Geography. There are regular opportunities for the pupils to engage in project work, field work and related computer work. The provision at all levels is comprehensive and enables the pupils explore a wide variety of strands and strand units. Pupils are skilfully motivated through the use of inspiring resources and methodologies. Aspects of the lives and environments of people in other countries are studied prudently through well-planned lessons. ICT is used very effectively to support teaching and learning. The school has been particularly successful in the development of pupils’ understanding of environmental awareness and care. Participation in the Green-Schools programme has proved beneficial and the school is working towards a third green flag.
A very broad range of work is undertaken across the four strands of the science curriculum. Innovative activities are planned and delivered by the teachers. Displays of investigative work that enhance the programme are provided in some classrooms. Lessons observed were of a high standard. Appropriate emphasis was placed on the development of scientific skills as well as on conceptual development. Pupils’ ideas were explored at the outset of lessons and on recapitulation at the end. Teachers are to be praised for the active teaching methodologies and the emphasis placed on investigative learning and experiments. Highly effective and appropriate use of interactive whiteboards was noted during some of these lessons. Pupils spoke knowledgeably about work previously undertaken. Plentiful opportunities exist in the school for pupils to work in the school grounds, propagating seeds and developing habitats and nature trails. The school has been participating in environmental projects run by Agri-Aware, including planting of potatoes, strawberries, and “incredible edibles”. Pupils have visited the local Lissadell House as part of this project to examine plants and habitats. The school has produced informative compact discs on this matter. Some pupils have also been involved in an about-classroom project on developing the school garden to attract wildlife. There is evidence in this school of a shared commitment to the creation of a positive vision for the future environment.
The standard of teaching and learning is highly commendable. Materials and resources are available and used effectively, including ICT. A broad and balanced programme of work is undertaken and an appropriate emphasis is given to looking and responding to the work of famous artists. A range of effective stimuli for purposeful teaching is employed. Talk and discussion are features of classroom activities. The pupils participate in art projects organised by Sligo County Council and competitions such as Feis Cheoil.
There is evidence of very good practice in the teaching of Music. Commendable progress has been made in the classes observed in the areas of musical literacy, composition, performance and listening and responding to music. Approaches to song-singing in parts and percussion work are highly lauded. Many teachers skilfully integrate elements of the music programme with other curricular areas. Pupils in the senior classrooms compiled a commendable scrapbook displaying elements of their music programme. The lessons observed were characterised by reinforcement of the musical elements taught and by an appropriate emphasis on the various strands and strand units.
Discrete time is allocated to the implementation of Drama and it is evident from the lessons observed that activities are clearly structured and that pupils are benefiting from the learning. Role-play, thought tracking, games, story, improvisation and mime are used effectively in lessons. Pupils engage enthusiastically with the range of ideas and topics. They work co-operatively in groups and respond willingly to their written and oral cues. Drama is used as an effective methodology in the teaching of Irish. The school is commended for its involvement in the FÍS film making project.
Pupils engage in a comprehensive range of physical education activities which are organised effectively to ensure maximum participation of pupils. Many opportunities for extracurricular activities are provided. The pupils have a noteworthy record of achievements in inter-school competitions as the school holds the boys’ and girls’ county basketball titles, the mini-sevens boys’ Gaelic football title and the Cumann na mBunscoil accolades at present. They have been also been successful in the area of athletics.
The lessons in Physical Education are well structured and include clear objectives and learning outcomes, supported by effective demonstration of skills. These lessons follow an appropriate sequence of warm up, skills practice, games and cool down activities. The development of team spirit in lessons has been well developed. The enthusiasm of the pupils for physical education activities was clearly evident in the lessons observed.
Coaches from the Gaelic Athletic Association visit the school regularly and impart football and hurling skills. The school has a spacious general-purpose room, large courts and adequate green grass and pitches to facilitate lessons. The annual sports day is organised by the parents and emphasis is placed on sport for all. Their level of involvement is commendable. The school is very well resourced through fundraising and other activities. All of the equipment is stored appropriately and is easily accessible.
The Social Personal and Health (SPHE) curriculum is implemented conscientiously by the teachers. Well-structured, whole-class and group-based talk and discussion are employed widely throughout the school. During lessons, pupils explore a range of issues involving safety, friendship, feelings and decision-making. Effective use is made of ICT in the delivery of SPHE lessons. A variety of well managed activities was in evidence including co-operative games, circle work, story, role-play and mime. Pupils engage with themes enthusiastically and creatively. The pupils develop interpersonal skills through group and paired activities. The emphasis on the development of appropriate skills during lessons is commendable.
Teachers assess their pupils continuously to assist them in the organisation of purposeful teaching and learning experiences for their pupils. Systematic correction of written work is a feature of classroom practice and very positive affirming comments are in evidence on the pupils’ textbooks. Some teachers commendably keep portfolios of children’s work and checklists for phonological awareness and the identification of core words. Checklists are used with regard to assessment of the pupils’ sight vocabulary in the junior section and regular assessments based on the mathematics programme are administered. Teacher-designed tests are administered in the middle and senior sections across a wide range of curricular areas. The results of standardised and teacher-devised testing are effectively utilised for the purpose of measuring and monitoring the children’s attainment and for identifying children in need of learning support or resource teaching. The results of all tests are carefully tabulated and filed and used to identify pupils experiencing difficulty.
A comprehensive policy for the operation of the learning support service for pupils with learning difficulties has been developed in line with the Learning Support Guidelines. This is being implemented by two full-time learning-support/resource teachers and a part-time teacher based in this school and working in two other local schools. Detailed, targeted, individual planning is undertaken by the support teachers in collaboration with the class teachers of pupils in receipt of support teaching. Individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) and individual education plans (IEPs) are devised for pupils and are regularly reviewed. It is notable that parents are encouraged to become involved with their children’s IEPs. There is also evidence of frequent consultation with other agencies with regard to pupils with special educational needs (SEN). The quality of teaching and learning in support contexts is of a very high standard. A very positive and affirming atmosphere was noted in those classes observed. Pupils are actively involved in the lesson and clearly enjoy the teaching experiences. The teachers use a wide range of strategies to develop the pupils’ oral language abilities, their phonological awareness and their abilities to recognise sight vocabulary. Similarly a number of effective strategies are adopted in the teaching of Mathematics.
Two special needs assistants support pupils effectively in integrating into mainstream classroom settings. While pupils are withdrawn from the mainstream classes for support tuition, they also receive support within their classrooms. Good team-teaching was observed during the evaluation whereby support teachers and the classroom teachers worked commendably well together in supporting pupils in the classroom. In these contexts, the support teacher had a very clearly defined role in teaching aspects of the literacy programme explicitly. There is a need to further define the complementary role of the class teacher during these team teaching contexts. Within the school’s special education team there exists much expertise and experience. A system of mentoring which would facilitate a sharing of expertise and resources will enhance and develop further the provision for pupils with SEN. Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on the pastoral care throughout the school.
The school does not receive any additional resources to promote educational inclusion and, at present, there are no pupils from minority groups attending. The open and inclusive climate in the school ensures that individual pupils are supported appropriately and sensitively.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· A strong commitment is displayed by the principal, teachers, the board of management, the parents and the wider community to the provision of a high quality educational experience
for the pupils in St Patrick’s National School, Calry.
· The quality of teaching and learning in this school is of a very high standard.
· The school building and surrounds are of a very good quality and the school is very well resourced.
· ICT is used very effectively to support teaching and learning across the curriculum.
· Effective staff collaboration and expertise contribute to the high quality of the learning-support/resource service in operation in the school.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that the members of the in-school management team review the duties attached to their posts of responsibility and that each assumes some responsibility for
· It is recommended that a policy on staff rotation be formulated and implemented to give staff members opportunities to teach in various class settings.
· It is recommended that all school policies be reviewed on a cyclical basis.
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.
Published November 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of St Patrick’s National School Calry is delighted with the positive and affirmative report as issued by the Department of Education and Science following the recent Whole School Evaluation at the school. We are particularly delighted that the efforts of all the stakeholders in the school, Board of Management, in-school management, teachers and parents were acknowledged and affirmed. We too acknowledge and commend the commitment of all these stakeholders in the provision of a high quality educational experience for the pupils in the school. The central aim of the school community is to provide a very high standard of teaching and learning and we note with great satisfaction that our success in this area is one of the main findings of the report. Great effort has gone into the provision of a top quality school building and cutting edge ICT resources and we are delighted that this is recognised in the report. Great emphasis is placed by all the staff on the provision of top quality service to those children in need of extra support and we are very pleased that our success in this area is another main finding in the report.
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
In relation to the recommendations in the report the school have agreed to take the following actions.
The in-school management team will meet on a more regular and formalised basis. An annual review of posts will take place with a greater emphasis on the curriculum aspect of each post. In this regard a cyclical approach has been adopted so that each curriculum area will be the focus of a post holder’s attention on a regular basis.
Promoting the progression of that curriculum area within the entire school will be the focus of that post holder’s attention during the relevant period. This process will also involve the reviewing of the school policy in this area so that each area receives due attention on a cyclical basis.
The school policy on staff rotation has been reviewed and updated. The implementation of the policy commenced on September 1st 2009 with approximately 60% of staff changing classes.
Finally the Board would like to thank the inspectors involved in the Whole School Evaluation in our school for the professional and competent manner in which they carried out their duties and for their accommodating and courteous manner in dealing with our school community.