An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Portlaw NS

Portlaw,  County Waterford

Uimhir rolla: 19970P

 

Date of inspection: 9 February 2009

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Portlaw NS. 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 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.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

The school is situated in a rural village in the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore. As a result of an amalgamation in 1991 this school now caters for boys and girls. The current enrolment is 244 pupils. The building and school accommodation has changed in the past number of years, with two permanent extensions added and a special unit for pupils with hearing impairment established in 2005. The school plan states its philosophy as providing for a holistic education essential to the moral, social, cultural and academic development of individual pupils. School management believes that such a philosophy offers the basis for the cultivation of desirable qualities of integrity, honesty and concern for the welfare of others.

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

There have been considerable changes in personnel on the board of management in the last number of years, including four changes in the role of chairperson. These changes and the consequent lack of continuity have hindered the work of the board. However, the new board is properly constituted and endeavours to comply with its obligations under Department of Education and Science regulations and the Education Act (1998). The board is commended for its commitment to the school community. It is advised however, to source training in order to broaden the understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the board of management. Board members have been assigned specific tasks. Meetings are convened monthly and detailed minutes are maintained. An agreed report is now issued to staff following each meeting. The board monitors financial expenditure very carefully. However, accounts had not been signed off by the board for the six years prior to this whole school evaluation. A review of the minutes of meetings confirms that an array of issues including supervision arrangements, school accommodation and health and safety is currently being addressed. It is clear that the board endeavours to make a positive contribution to the functioning of the school.

 

Significant difficulties exist with regard to communication throughout the school. Communication between the board of management and the principal is poor. Communication between the board and both the in-school management team and the general school staff is also poor. These weak channels of communication affect the quality of relationships within the school and impact negatively on the effective management of the school. The board should now take cognisance of its role in promoting positive relations within the school community. To this end, it is suggested that the board meets with staff on a regular basis.

 

Both organisational and curricular policies have been compiled. Some are comprehensive. The board, however, has not ratified many of these policies, nor is there evidence of collaborative involvement in the process of policy formulation. Policy development involving staff, parents and members of the board provides an appropriate opportunity to begin collaborative processes within the school. It is now recommended that the board develop a written action plan for the completion of the school’s planning portfolio. This plan should include strategies for involvement of the whole-school community.

 

2.2 In-school management

Currently the principal does not maintain a visible presence in the school. He has, however, successfully led the school to notable achievement in the Green Schools project and has developed information technologies to a high standard including the creation of an impressive school website. The role of the principal should now be developed in the areas of communication, leadership and in the management of human resources. To facilitate the effective and efficient functioning of the school, pupils, staff, parents and members of the board need greater opportunities to communicate with the principal. As a matter of priority collaboration between the principal and the board should be improved and parents should be provided with clear channels of communication with the school.

 

The in-school management team (ISM) is comprised of the principal and five special duties teachers. The work of the team currently lacks structure and organisation. It is recommended that, as an immediate priority, the team meets regularly in a formal capacity. It is advised that an agenda be agreed in advance of meetings and that a member of the team would report regularly to the staff through the forum of staff meetings. The in-school management team should take a proactive role in formulating action plans for implementation and review of the school plan. Formal structures for regular communication with the board of management should also be developed. It is further recommended that the duties assigned to the members of the in-school management team be reviewed to reflect accurately the current needs of the school.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The teaching staff consists of an administrative principal, eight mainstream class teachers, four full-time special education needs (SEN), teachers one of whom is deployed in the unit for hearing impairment. Allocation of classes and distribution of pupils is decided by the principal in discussion with staff. Some staff rotation among teaching posts has taken place over the last number of years. It is recommended, however, that a formal policy on staff rotation be agreed to provide opportunities for all teachers to experience a variety of classes and contexts throughout their careers in the school. Class size is a cause of significant concern with thirty-six pupils currently enrolled in the junior infant class and thirty-three pupils enrolled in a third class. The board of management is acutely aware of this unsatisfactory situation and has stated its intent to review the enrolment policy with immediate effect. Teachers participate in an ongoing programme of professional development and in-school training courses have been arranged recently to facilitate staff training in Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) and Non-violent Crisis Intervention. Staff meetings are convened at least once a term and roles in relation to chairing and recording of decisions are systematically rotated.

 

Ancillary staff contribute significantly to the running of the school. The school secretary works diligently in supporting school administration and has fostered positive and caring relationships with pupils with whom she interacts. The care-taker and cleaner carry out their duties effectively in the maintenance of the school and its environs.

 

The original school building dates from the early 1930s and has been extended and refurbished to include additional classrooms, some provision for learning support and office accommodation. A temporary prefabricated building has also been installed to accommodate the special unit for pupils with hearing impairment. Sixth class is also accommodated in a temporary building. Current accommodation is inadequate and necessitates the use of the staff room as a learning support room. This causes considerable disruption to the provision for learning support. The board of management is currently reviewing the inadequacies in accommodation. It is recommended that the board progress the building initiative to include a review of the now vacant old school building and consider its suitability for upgrading and refurbishment. The outdoor facilities consist of a hard court playing area. The board should direct attention to the size of this facility and consider how best to accommodate the numbers of pupils using the yard.

 

An array of resources to support teaching and learning across the curriculum has been acquired through departmental grants and the successful fundraising activities of parents. Inventories for resources are available in some subject areas and this is useful in supporting teachers individual planning. An extension of this practice to include the listing and dissemination of resources available in all subject areas, to all staff is recommended. Resources are stored in a central location and in classrooms. ICT is used to good effect to support teaching and learning.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

All partners in the school community are focused on the creation of a positive school climate. However, the vision is hindered by levels of communication that are currently very poor. The school community would greatly benefit from a clearer understanding and articulation of their respective roles in support of the schools’ vision. This process should be led by the principal and should include the expertise of support service personnel. It is recommended that all issues related to communication be addressed without delay and that an action plan be put in place to foster greater levels  of communication, in a structured manner, among all stakeholders in the school community. The principal should lead this initiative through engaging in frequent communication with all ancillary and teaching staff. Structures should also be established to ensure that parents have a direct line of communication with the principal. It is recommended that links be established between the parents’ association, the principal and staff. It is further advised that the board of management liaise with staff in a formal context. Meetings with the in-school management team and informal interaction are further recommended in order to develop trusting professional relationships.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

Pupils present as being well behaved and participate enthusiastically in their learning. The school staff creates a safe caring and inclusive environment for them. Positive behaviour is promoted. In a minority of cases where difficulties emerge in relation to inappropriate behaviour, individual intervention strategies are implemented at class level and in the learning support and resource contexts. The school should, however, review existing practices of detention and written activities assigned to pupils in this context.  

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

A number of organisational policies have been drafted. A comprehensive policy on Health and Safety has been devised and policies on administration of medicine, healthy lunches and supervision are among those to be ratified by the board. During the evaluation it was noted that pupils who were not four years of age by 1 September were enrolled and placed in Junior Infants. This contributed to class sizes being in excess of that recommended by the Department of Education and Science. The Rules for National Schools, Rule 64(1) states that a child may not be allowed to attend or be enrolled in a national school before the fourth anniversary of his birth. Circular 27/85 further advises that pupils should not be admitted to first standard unless s/he has reached the age of six years by 1 September of the school year in which s/he is enrolled in that class. It is therefore advised that the board of management review the school’s enrolment policy with specific attention directed to the age at which pupils are enrolled.

 

Whole-school plans have been formulated in most curricular areas. In some instances collaboration among staff in devising policies has resulted in comprehensive documents which outline whole-school approaches and methodologies in curricular areas. Plans formulated in Science and Visual Arts are particularly comprehensive. All plans have been presented recently to the board for ratification. The board expressed a wish to ratify policies after due consideration and in a timely fashion and consequently a number of policies have not yet been ratified. It is recommended that the board, in consultation with the staff, agree a time frame for the ratification process and make arrangements for professional discourse on curricular plans.

  

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.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

Teachers prepare appropriately for their work and present long and short-term written preparation. Considerable variety exists in templates used and in the content recorded. Monthly progress reports are appropriately completed and these records are maintained by the principal. The school plan documents the intention of the staff to adopt an agreed approach to the recording of monthly progress, thus supporting more efficient review of whole-school curricular plans. Implementation of this proposal is now recommended.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1

Overview of learning and teaching

Overall the quality of teaching and learning is good. Teachers employ a wide variety of strategies and approaches to deliver the curriculum at different class levels. Group work is regularly and productively organised and pupils are provided with opportunities to engage in paired work, project work and independent research. Linkage and integration are facets of established practice in each classroom. Concrete materials are used competently in many instances to engage pupils in activity learning and to develop conceptual thought. Good emphasis is placed on the use of the environment as a resource and as a stimulus for learning. Talk and discussion constitute key teaching strategies in all curricular areas.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Is inmholta an aidhm atá ag an scoil atmaisféar Ghaelach a chothú agus an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn mar theanga bheo. Dá bharr sin déantar iarracht mhacánta dul i muinín na Gaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh lastigh agus lasmuigh de na rangsheomraí. Cleachtann na hoidí modhanna bríomhara múinte agus baineann siad leas fónta as straitéisí ar nós puipéid, cluichí teanga agus teicneolaíocht fáisnéise agus cumarsáide agus na cumarsáide chun na daltaí a spreagadh. Leantar clár sistéamach de nathanna cainte, seanfhocail agus feidhmeanna teanga atá in oiriúint do chumas agus d’aois na ndaltaí i ngach rang. Tá sé ar chumas na ndaltaí abairtí shimplí a chruthú. Baintear úsáid rianúil as an Drámaíocht agus as an bhfilíocht chun an teanga a shaibhriú agus chun suim na ndaltaí a neartú. Úsáidtear comhrá beirte agus rólimirt go forleathan chun taithí a thabhairt do na daltaí an teanga atá foghlamtha acu a úsáid. Tá saibhreas ábhair phriontáilte le feiceáil timpeall na scoile le fógraí agus le lipéid ar taispeáint, cleachtas a chruthaíonn bunús éifeachtúil do thús na léitheoireachta agus na scríbhneoireachta. Léann a lán daltaí na téacsanna ranga le líofacht chreidiúnach. Moltar, anois, réimse níos leithne d’ábhair léitheoireachta a chur ar fáil do na daltaí chun eispéireas leathan léitheoireachta a sholáthar dóibh. Saothraítear an scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil agus chruthaitheach go córasach agus déantar an obair a chlárú go hordúil. Is dúshlán anois é d’fhoireann na scoile forbairt a dhéanamh ar cumais labhartha na ndaltaí ar bhealach sistéamach, i ngach rang.

 

Irish

The school has the admirable aim of promoting Irish and developing it as a living language.  As a result, a worthy effort is made to develop Irish socially, inside and outside the classrooms. Teachers practice lively methodologies and regularly use strategies as in puppetry, language games and information and communication technology to encourage pupil learning. A systematic programme of phrases, proverbs and functions of language appropriate to age and ability is taught in each class. Pupils are enabled to construct simple sentences Drama and poetry is regularly utilised to enrich the work and to strengthen the interest of pupils. Pair-work and role-play are used widely to enable pupils to utilise language. A print-rich environment is evident throughout the school with notices and labels on display, a practice that supports the early development of reading and writing skills. Many pupils read with creditable fluency. However, it is recommended that more opportunities be provided to read a variety of texts to provide pupils with a wider reading experience. Functional and creative writing tasks are developed systematically and the work is recorded neatly. The challenge for staff in the future is to systematically develop the pupils’ oral language competences.

 

English

A school plan to support effective curriculum implementation has been formulated. However, this plan has not been ratified by the board of management. It is recommended that staff engage in further review and direct attention to whole-school approaches to phonological awareness, poetry and handwriting, prior to presentation for ratification. Whole-class teaching was a dominant feature of practice though impressive examples of collaborative group and pair work were also observed in some classes. An extensive programme in oral language is undertaken throughout the school. Pupils are encouraged to ask and answer questions and to express opinions and feelings using a wide vocabulary. Topical issues are discussed in a structured manner and higher order thinking skills are effectively developed. Oral language skills are suitably integrated with other curricular areas. All classes have regular experiences of poetry and rhyme. A suitable print-rich environment is evident in all mainstream classes and, in general, class libraries are well stocked. It is recommended that investment in books be continued to include a broader range of class novels in an effort to encourage more reluctant readers. While the teaching of reading was observed to be appropriate there is scope for improvement in standards attained throughout the school. A suitable foundation of basic reading skills is taught in the junior classes, but more emphasis should now be placed on early intervention strategies. Some good practice was observed in shared and paired reading approaches. It is recommended that these approaches be extended throughout the school with a whole-school focus on improved attainment in reading as an immediate priority. In some instances good practice was observed in the development of higher order comprehension strategies. Pupils benefit from emphasis placed on the writing process and impressive samples of writing in different genres, many enhanced by the use of ICT, are displayed in most classes. A good balance is achieved between functional and creative writing and brainstorming strategies are used to develop pupils’ existing vocabulary, though consideration should now be given to a broader exploration of genres.

 

4.3 Mathematics

A whole-school plan which outlines the approach to the development of a Mathematics programme has been formulated. The plan delineates agreed whole-school approaches to key areas of problem solving, methodologies, language and strategies for differentiation. It makes reference to the strands and lists the skills to be developed. However, further consideration should be given to articulation of the strategies employed in the teaching of Mathematics and how they can be applied to all strands and strand units in order to ensure continuity and progression through the school. Most classrooms have a generous supply of mathematical resources though increased supplies of counting materials should be provided in junior classes. Most resources are centrally stored and access is effectively managed. Resources are frequently and effectively used to support learning.  Teacher designed and commercially produced charts covering a wide range of topics are prominently displayed. Well-structured lessons were observed and a balanced programme is taught in all classes. Teachers engage in fruitful discussion with pupils and mathematical terminology is regularly reinforced. Many pupils display age appropriate understanding of shape and space, measurement and number. Problem solving strategies are suitably developed. However, whole-school attainment in standardised tests in Mathematics is not wholly satisfactory. Staff have analysised attainment results and intervention strategies are now in place in some classes. In-class support is provided to one class on a daily basis while mathematical station activities are collaboratively organised between mainstream and learning support teachers in one other context.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

Teachers prepare individual plans which incorporate the strands of the curriculum. Timelines feature in most classrooms and are used to advance chronological understanding. Pupils are motivated through story, artefacts, photographs and project work. During lessons observed pupils’ contributions were welcomed and channelled appropriately through targeted questioning. Family histories are used effectively in the junior and middle classes to develop the concept of continuity and change over time. Middle and senior classes engage in project work and lessons are enhanced through the use of ICT. The school has enjoyed success in national competitions and has produced work to a very high standard on local history projects. Trails have been pursued and an impressive school website encourages pupil participation in heritage trails, which also include worksheets and photographs to mark the school’s own chronology. It is recommended that staff now work collaboratively to document current practice and agreed methodologies and to formulate a whole-school plan for History.

 

Geography

There is a draft whole-school plan for Geography in place. It outlines in some detail curricular and organisational strategies for the implementation of the programme at whole-school level. The quality of teaching observed was very good particularly at senior level where pupils’ curiosity about the world was aroused through well-structured lessons, group activities and instruction in the use of reference material. The programme is purposefully centred on the pupils’ familiar environment. Junior pupils display an appropriate knowledge of weather and the local environment, and have been introduced to early map work. Pupils’ sense of place and space is being developed systematically. Commendable project work is undertaken in several classes. Maps and globes on display in most classes are used to good effect to support teaching and learning.

 

Science

A comprehensive policy has been formulated which guides the implementation of Science very effectively. Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on Science with a long established and successful engagement with the Green Schools project, frequent participation in external workshops and the development of virtual nature trails on the schools’ website. Provision is further enhanced through visits from local experts, local guided forest trips and school tours with a scientific theme. Effective lessons were observed in the strand of living things and in energy and forces wherein emphasis was placed on pupil involvement and the development of scientific skills such as predicting, questioning and observing. The concept of fair testing is being appropriately developed during experiments. Pupils engage in investigations in a most enthusiastic manner and clearly benefit from structured lessons undertaken with keen attention to safety and environmental awareness. To build on current good practice, it is recommended that the school devise a conservation code and increase usage of information and communication technologies in supporting learning in Science.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The work done in Visual Arts throughout the school is very good. Learning experiences in Visual Arts are directed towards the provision of a broad and varied programme of activity as outlined in the whole-school plan. The programme of learning emphasises the importance of developing pupils’ creativity and facilitating creative expression in visual and tactile forms. Opportunities are provided at each class level for pupils to explore the strands, and judicious use is made of a range of materials and resources to develop pupils’ skills in both making art and in looking and responding to art. Attractive displays of pupils’ work are developed in classrooms and areas of the school are decorated in celebration of pupils’ efforts and achievements. The structure and pace of lessons observed were very good and commendable emphasis was placed on teaching the language of art in some classes. This practice should be extended and developed through identifying specific vocabulary in the school plan. While teacher observation is used to assess pupils’ work, the implementation of a range of assessment modes, as outlined in the plan would extend the progressive development of pupils’ skills as part of a whole-school approach.

 

Music

Teaching and learning of Music is very good. The music programme is underpinned by a detailed school plan. A music co-ordinator has been appointed to monitor its implementation. The programme enables pupils to participate in a wide range of enjoyable music-making activities, such as performing, listening, responding to and the identification of rhythmic patterns.  The musical elements of pitch, tempo and pulse are suitably developed through interrelated activities. Aspects of music literacy including notation, rhythm, beat, pitch and interval training are explored. Pupils sing well and opportunities are provided to listen and respond to music in a variety of genres. A visiting music teacher contributes to the development of pupils’ competence in playing the tin-whistle. Pupils who play instrumental music are encouraged to perform for their peers.

 

Drama

The delivery of this curriculum area is effective. Discrete time is allocated to drama lessons across the school. In addition, drama conventions are used as a learning tool in other subject areas. A whole-school plan has been recently formulated. It is evident from lessons observed in some classes, that activities are clearly structured and that pupils derive enjoyment from the tasks undertaken. Thought-tracking approaches, the creation of still images and the formulation of a drama contract are among the strategies utilised in the implementation of this curricular area. An agreed list of stimuli, whole-school strategies and methodologies for each class level and appropriate use of resources supports teaching and learning in Drama.

 

4.6 Physical Education

The school has devised a broad programme in Physical Education (PE). The majority of the activities take place in the school’s hard surface play area. This area has been pleasantly decorated with a variety of recreational games and also incorporates a basketball court. The adjacent community play area and the local GAA facilities are also regularly utilised. The school is well resourced in terms of PE equipment which is used extensively during activities. Clear and precise instruction is given and lessons are carefully structured to include appropriate warm-up and cool-down activities. Specific skill development is promoted and pupils engage in activities with energy and enthusiasm. Commendable attention is given to the development of skills in gymnastics, in athletics, in aquatics, in court and in field games. Additional support is provided by a GAA and by a rugby coach in the areas of games. Pupils regularly engage in hurling, in football, in soccer, in tag rugby and in basketball competitions. Pupils’ success is suitably celebrated through photographic displays throughout the school. The school’s participation in “Get Active Week” is a noted success, with pupils exposed to a wide variety of activities. The annual field day and fun run, involving staff, pupils and parents, are much valued activities. To ensure that pupils experience a balance of strands in physical activity, staff is advised to develop a whole-school plan for PE that will serve as a useful guide in the implementation of this curricular area.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE)

The quality of SPHE lessons observed during the evaluation was good. The school, in its planning documents, recognises the formative role SPHE has to play in the social, personal and health dimensions of the child’s education. The Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) and the Walk Tall and Stay Safe programmes form the core of the SPHE syllabus and duly enhance pupils’ knowledge and skills in this curriculum area. Valuable lessons, which focus on awareness of self, respect for others and matters relevant to the general welfare of pupils are regularly taught. Circle Time is utilised to good effect to promote oral discussion and debate. The strand Myself and the wider world is given considered attention to ensure aspects such as citizenship and media education are suitably developed. In the further development of the school’s SPHE programme staff might usefully consider establishing a school council to further develop pupils’ leadership, decision-making and communication skills.

 

4.8 Assessment

The school has devised a good assessment policy. Appropriately, this document embraces the concept of assessment for learning, which informs teaching and learning strategies.

 

Teachers are commended on the quality and detail of their progress records. They use a variety of assessment modes to assess pupil progress. Teacher-designed tests, portfolios, and checklists were noted during the evaluation. The practice of administering standardised tests is well established. These tests are administered to all classes from senior infants to sixth class. The results are recorded carefully and communicated to parents. A good range of diagnostic and screening tests are administered in the further assessment of pupils’ learning needs. Currently practice in the area of pupil testing takes place at two distinct periods; May/June for the testing of literacy and October for numeracy testing. As a developmental point, it is suggested that staff focus on determining an agreed and appropriate time for pupil testing. This would serve to ensure that those in need of supplementary teaching would avail of the maximum allocation of time that can be provided. In the ongoing development of assessment procedures, staff is urged to utilise the data emanating from standardised testing to track pupil achievement on an annual basis. Staff is further advised to develop a formal written assessment policy for the hearing impaired unit. Appropriate assessment materials should be devised from the documents produced by The Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP) and staff is encouraged to use instruments developed for assessment in sign language.

 

 

5.    Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has documented a worthy policy on the provision for pupils with special educational needs. The detail therein is informative and is in accordance with the school’s caring ethos. The staged approach to assessment, identification and programme development is identified and implemented effectively. Appropriately, the policy highlights the role of support learning as a collaborative responsibility shared by all.

 

The special education team in the school consists of three learning support/resource teachers (LSRT). The school has been allocated fifty two hours resource teaching time for low-incidence pupils and 1.6 teachers under the general allocation model of special needs provision. Teachers work conscientiously to provide supplementary teaching in both literacy and numeracy. In keeping with best practice, they liaise regularly with class teachers, with parents and with external agencies. Imaginative and focused programmes of work that incorporate the use of ICT are prepared for individual pupils in accordance with deliberations and ongoing assessments. Individual education plans are prepared on the basis of a careful diagnosis of needs and these are characterised by a measured degree of detail and relevance. Plans include specific targets and a clear timeframe for review. Targets are informed by evidence gained through careful monitoring of pupil progress. Support is provided on a withdrawal basis, either individually or in small groups and by in-class support. Teachers work in close collaboration with parents through the literacy recovery programme Forward Together, among others. They make commendable attempts to address pupils’ learning needs at the earliest possible opportunity. The six special needs assistants provide appropriate support in facilitating pupils to access the curriculum. They make an important contribution to pupil learning in their respective classes under the careful guidance of class teachers. Within the context of an evolving school plan, formal time to meet and discuss special education needs as a team should be identified. Staff members are advised to further develop their prevention strategies through the introduction of a structured early intervention programme to support a number of pupils in the early years.

 

In the unit for the hearing impaired, the school employs one full-time teacher and two special needs assistants (SNAs) to address the needs of two pupils with specific learning difficulties. The diligence and care of these staff members is duly acknowledged. However, as one pupil is due to transfer to another school, the viability of the unit in its current form causes concern. Management is advised that fully trained and probated teachers should be employed to serve the needs of pupils in this highly specialised setting. Teachers should avail of training opportunities provided by the Special Education Support Service, and other professional development in this area in order to support pupils in the specialised unit.

 

Staff members use clear language, both vocally and in sign, in supporting pupils’ learning. Commendably, pupils, teachers and SNAs are learning sign language which will facilitate further communication and an increased sensitivity to identified impairments. Visual cues, work schedules and a purposefully structured learning environment are utilised in a careful and considered manner to promote on-task engagement. Management is alerted to the inadequacy of the lighting facilities in the unit and is urged to make appropriate provision for pupils. The teacher and special needs assistants work collaboratively in helping pupils to improve socialisation, behaviour and basic life skills. The school has established some good inclusive practices, with pupils from a variety of classes visiting the unit, at agreed times. Pupils in the unit also join the mainstream classes for PE, for Art and for Science, thus affording them beneficial access to the wider school population.

 

5.2 Other supports for pupils; disadvantaged, minority and other groups

The teaching staff strives to ensure that the education provision is tailored appropriately to meet the needs and abilities of all pupils. A book rental scheme is in operation throughout the school.

 

 

6.        Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

·         The new board of management are cognisant of the need for school improvement.

·         Teachers are conscientious and diligent in their work and are commended for their commitment to the welfare of pupils.

·         Teachers maintain detailed pupil progress records and attainment is closely monitored at class level.

·         The use of Irish is actively promoted in interactions between pupils and teachers.

·         The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is of a high standard.

·         The school provides effective and praiseworthy provision for the curriculum in Science and in Music.

·         Information and communication technologies are being consistently developed throughout the school. An impressive school website has been created.

·         The pupils participate with interest, enthusiasm and co-operation in the learning activities throughout the school.

·         The school is attractively decorated with impressive samples of pupils’ work.

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

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, December 2009

 

 

 

 

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 of Portlaw National School is in broad agreement with the content of this report. 

The BOM wishes to strongly endorse the main strengths identified in the evaluation

 

 

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 BOM wish to state our policy objectives for the two years remaining of our term of office:

We intend to address outstanding financial issues and as a BOM to have signed off accounts up to the end of our term.

We intend to have a clear comprehensive school plan, formally adopted, with policy objectives achieved or outlined for further action.

 

The BOM formal response to matters highlighted in the evaluation:-

 

3. School Plan

Since the evaluation the school stakeholders have worked hard to update the school plan. A collaborative process has commenced which includes consultation of draft plans with the parents and teaching staff of the school.  Since the evaluation twenty school policies have been adopted by the Board of Management.

The school plan will be available in hard copy to all in the school community and also on the school website.

 

4. School Calendar

A detailed school calendar has been agreed by the BOM, Principal and teaching staff of the school whereby staff meetings and in-school management meetings are outlined for the year ahead.

5. School Finance

Detailed accounts have been finalised for the school year 2007-2008.  The accounts for the school year 2008-2009 are currently being finalised.  The BOM will hold meetings with the staff and the Parents Council to outline in a fully transparent manner the school accounts and the associated budgets. 

 

6.  School Enrolment Policy

A new school enrolment policy has been adopted in accordance with the rules for national schools and circular 27/85 as recommended by the inspection report.

 

7.  Building Project

A new prefabricated building has been installed over the summer.  Sixth class and an additional resource room are provided in this new prefab.  The immediate accommodation needs have now been met.  It is still the BOM’s long-term objective that a new permanent school extension be built. 

We will endeavour to progress this project during the remainder of our term of office despite difficulties in receiving replies from the school building unit of the DES .

 

8.  In-School Management

The in-school management team now meets on a regular basis with a pre-set agenda so that the in-school management team can take a pro-active role in formulating action plans for implementation and review of the school plan.

  

9.  Assessments

Assessments of pupils are now being carried out as per the recommendations of the Inspectors in the Report. 

 

10.  Board of Management members training

Two members of the BOM have already completed the CPMSA course and it is the intention of the Board of Management to enrol other members in similar courses.

 

11.  Communications

It is the intention of the Board of Management to put in place formal structures and meetings to assist improvements in communications.

 

12.  Resources/Maths

Additional maths resources have been purchased for the junior classes in response to a recommendation in the evaluation. A Paired Maths project, for a designated time period, is undertaken in Second class annually.

This programme has proven to build strong communication links between parents, teachers and pupils.

 

13.  Subjects and Teaching

The BOM agree with the report that there is a very high level of teaching standard in Portlaw National School throughout the various subjects.  We wish to acknowledge the personal commitment and teaching expertise of the staff and the contribution of Special Needs Assistants and Ancillary Staff in the school. 

 

14.  Parents Council

The Parents Council continue their pro-active support of the school.

They have fundraised for books and an electronic white-board over the last few months.

The Board wishes to acknowledge this valuable support and input from the Parents Council and the wider community in the Portlaw area.

The Parents Council was also involved in raising funds through a community charity event for interactive whiteboards for the school.  Just recently there was a very successful fun run held in the school where all children engaged in the fun run on the day.  Staff and parents supervised the event and refreshments were provided for all by the Parents Council.  The Board wishes to acknowledge this valuable support and input from the Parents Council and the wider community in the Portlaw area.

  

15. Conclusion

The Board of Management wish to express their appreciation of the approach and professionalism of the team who visited Portlaw National School in 2009 and carried out this whole School Evaluation on behalf of all the Stakeholders, the Patron, D.E.S., B.O.M., Teaching and Ancillary staff, Parents and especially the pupils in whose interest all our efforts are united. We look forward to assembling the objectives of Portlaw National School as the prime institution of the Community and we wish to thank the inspectors for their contribution with this evaluation.