An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Phádraig Naofa

Cnoc An Chlochair, Droichead Na Bandan, Contae Chorcaí

Uimhir rolla:  19977G

 

Date of inspection: 30 September 2008

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Scoil Phádraig Naofa was undertaken in September and October 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on aspects of the school’s provision including management, teaching and learning, planning and supports for pupils. A particular focus was placed on the provision in English, Mathematics and English as an Additional Language (EAL) during this external evaluative process. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

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

Total number of teachers on the school staff

15

Number of mainstream class teachers

8

Total number of teachers working in support roles

6

Number of language support teachers

3

Special needs assistants

7

Total number of pupils enrolled in the school

197

Number of pupils with English as an additional language

65

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Scoil Phádraig Naofa is an all-boys’ school operating under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of the dioceses of Cork and Ross. The school was founded in its present location on foot of an amalgamation in 1994 of St. Patrick’s Senior School and St. Fintan’s Junior School. The current school premises is a former convent secondary school which was built in 1965 and refurbished in 1994. The school is funded under the normal rules for national schools.  Additional funding is availed of under Deis (Band 2) and the school participates in the School Completion Programme (SCP) and shares the services of a Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) teacher. Scoil Phádraig has been particularly successful in cultivating a welcoming, inclusive and caring atmosphere for its diverse population of boys, more than a third of whom are newcomer pupils. Mutual respect between teacher and pupil contributes significantly to the creation of a happy and effective teaching environment.

 

1.2 Board of management

This school is well managed. Good structures are in place and well-defined democratic procedures for decision making are followed. The board is properly constituted and school accounts are certified annually. The board has had significant involvement in policy formation over a wide range of organizational issues and clearly promotes the involvement of all the relevant partners in the planning process. The board’s record of making resources available is highly commendable and it has made laudable efforts to raise funding from a variety of sources so that optimum conditions prevail to promote good teaching and learning. Notable progress has been achieved in recent times in providing for new technology and extra library resources. The effective inclusion and educational provision for EAL pupils in Scoil Phádraig is proactively supported by the board.

 

At this time the board ought to consider further development of its very good practice by strategically planning for future developments and, in particular, by renewing efforts to involve parents from the newcomer community to a greater extent in its activities. The provision of more suitable and expansive playing space for the boys continues to be a challenge and it is recommended that the board prioritise this objective in the long tern interests of overall optimal educational provision for its pupils. Advice was provided in relation to a review of the board’s enrolment policy.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of an administrative principal, deputy principal, assistant principal and four special-duties post-holders. The principal’s inclusive, collegial style ensures that teamwork is highly developed and that staff members are empowered and encouraged to develop their own capacities for leadership.

 

All post-holders work diligently and collaboratively to promote the aims and objectives of the school. Efforts by the team to put in place and co-ordinate effective whole-school approaches to support EAL provision are particularly praiseworthy. While communicating with a school population that uses in excess of twelve different languages poses huge logistical and other problems it is noted that the team has been quite successful in communicating with the diversity of parents and ensuring that their needs and concerns are well attended to. Duties of post-holders reflect school priorities and in an effort to further enhance good practice it would be appropriate that in the next review of posts additional emphasis might be placed on leading specific curricular initiatives and on evaluating the impact of existing policies.

 

1.4  The management of resources

The management of staff is highly effective in that teachers’ skills and abilities are constructively deployed in the best interests of pupils. Special needs assistants work diligently under the guidance of teachers and make a worthwhile contribution to provision. Support for EAL pupils is characterised by teamwork and a clear sense of purpose. Efforts made to develop a model of provision which includes a significant level of in-class support are proving successful to date and bring an added focus to the work of the support team in providing all children with the necessary skills to fully access the curriculum. Some staff members have availed of training in teaching EAL and there are plans to avail of an on-line course in the near future. Those who have gained expertise in this area are generous in sharing their knowledge with other teachers and this sharing has lead to growing awareness of EAL issues and has impacted positively on practice throughout the school.

 

The challenge of enabling EAL pupils to access the curriculum to the maximum possible degree is clearly being addressed in Scoil Phádraig and a growing awareness of interculturalism is evident. It would be appropriate at this stage to build on initial exploratory efforts by way of  appropriate whole-staff training on these challenging issues.

 

The board is commended for ensuring that current school accommodation and recreational areas are suitably maintained. The board employs a part-time caretaker and various contractors to ensure appropriate standards of maintenance. Among the board’s current priorities are plans to renovate existing toilet facilities. Recent developments in regard to hygiene are praiseworthy.

Available yard space is used to good effect but would, however, benefit greatly from having permanent and exclusive access to a playing pitch of suitable size. Currently, the board of the adjacent girls’ primary school generously allows access to its green area and for this the board of Scoil Phádraig is most grateful. This sharing of resources is a good example of the purposeful collaboration between these schools which both serve the same community. Future long term strategic planning between both school communities might consider the advantages of further collaboration. The advantages of amalgamating these two adjacent schools might be considered in the context of overall optimal educational provision.

 

The board is also commended for ensuring that investment in resources for teaching and learning is ongoing and considerable. The expenditure of €15,000 on library resources to coincide with the introduction of Reading Recovery and Literacy Liftoff initiatives has benefited all pupils including those receiving EAL tuition. The board committed a further €20,000 in the past year towards the installation of IWBs. The school is fortunate in being able to locate EAL and special needs classes in full-sized classrooms, which are particularly well-resourced and attractively decorated with pupils’ work and engaging educational materials. Display areas in the school feature multi-lingual greetings as well as culturally diverse project work. Further development of this practice together with the celebration of the various cultures of EAL pupils is recommended at this time. A review of the policy guiding the integration of information and communications technology (ICT) into provision for EAL would also be helpful.

 

1.5  Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school’s active parent association contributes meaningfully and positively to school life. In addition to its role in raising funds for extra resources for the school the association is proactive in various other areas. Most recently the association successfully drafted and was instrumental in implementing a traffic policy aimed at solving significant difficulties at school opening and closing times. The association has also been involved in policy initiatives on Health and Safety, Healthy Eating and the Green School Project. Parents organise functions to celebrate First Holy Communion and Confirmation, Halloween and Christmas as well as the graduation of senior pupils. They also assist with athletics coaching. Parents of EAL pupils have been encouraged to come to meetings and have done so. Language difficulties have inhibited their continued participation however and their involvement tends to be limited to assisting with various school events. The principal attends part of each parent association meeting and thus helps to ensure that co-operation between parents and the school is maintained at a beneficial level.

 

Parent-teacher meetings are held annually and written reports are forwarded to parents at the end of the school year. The school has produced a comprehensive information booklet for parents of pupils enrolling at the school as well as a booklet on co-operative discipline. Communication with parents is also effected by regular note or letter and a comprehensive newsletter is published at year’s end and at Christmas. The school provides information for Polish parents via a dedicated notice-board in the school and notes issued to parents are occasionally translated.

 

1.6  Management of pupils

The management of pupils is excellent. Much commendable effort has been expended in cultivating mutual respect between staff and pupils and among pupils themselves. Pupils are very well behaved and engage enthusiastically with their work. EAL pupils were observed receiving in-class support and support in groups withdrawn for that purpose. In all situations their engagement was positive and teaching in these situations provided very good support for them. Peer tutoring of EAL pupils is encouraged and facilitated through suitable seating arrangements. EAL pupils in senior classes have completed project work on their native countries and presented this work to their classmates. Age appropriate placement of EAL pupils is school policy. Considerable effort is expended by staff to ensure that possible difficulties at enrolment and transfer to second level are minimised. The services of an interpreter are engaged, when necessary, at enrolment and pupils are assisted in various other ways also. Pastoral care issues are dealt with on a case-by-case basis by a team headed by the principal.

 

 

2.     QUALITY OF SCHOOL PLANNING

 

2.1 Quality of whole-school planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. The school has a comprehensive range of policy documents covering both curricular and organisational issues. Most policies are signed and implementation and review dates are generally set. .  The work of policy formation has involved considerable co-operation on the part of the education partners. A strategic prioritisation of policies for review however would be helpful at this stage

 

2.2 Quality of whole-school planning for EAL

The quality of planning for EAL is very good. Policies impacting directly on provision for EAL pupils ensure that such provision is well planned, managed and delivered. Whole school policies for English, Mathematics and EAL inform classroom planning and impact positively on teaching and learning. Greater emphasis on planning for the celebration of cultural diversity and further development of existing good practice in relation to promoting cognitive academic language proficiency is recommended. 

 

 2.3  Quality of classroom planning including planning for EAL

The quality of classroom planning is very good. Teachers’ planning is appropriately referenced to the strands and strand units of the Primary Curriculum. A suitable range of teaching methods provides for diverse learning experiences in all classes. Classrooms are well-resourced and good use is made of these resources to assist learning. The curriculum is suitably differentiated to meet the diverse needs of pupils. Summative assessment practices are well-established in the school and it is now opportune to place greater emphasis on embedding techniques to assist assessment for learning.  Commendable progress has been made to ensure that classroom planning facilitates EAL pupils’ access to the broad curriculum.  Class teachers and language support teachers co-operate effectively in planning for the needs of EAL pupils. Planning in support contexts is of a high standard. Individual Education Plans are carefully formulated to reflect needs identified in assessments. Checklists and folders of pupils work are excellent features of recording progress in this area.

 

2.4   Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

 

 

 

3.     QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING

 

 3.1  Teaching of English and English as an Additional Language

The quality of teaching in English is of a high standard. A comprehensive whole-school plan has been developed to support effective curriculum implementation. In both planning and practice teachers emphasise the acquisition of language skills across the four main areas of active listening, speaking, reading and writing. Teachers are acutely aware of the stages of language acquisition for EAL pupils from the silent phase, to social interaction to developing academic language. The planning and delivery of in-class support ensures that the needs of all learners are met in a satisfactory manner.

 

The development of oral language is successfully promoted through discrete lessons, as part of the reading and writing process and as an integral part of learning in all curricular areas. Pupils regularly experience rhyme and poetry. Pupils in senior classes were impressive in their ability to internalise and discuss poetry that deals with issues of race. Integration of EAL pupils in junior classes was particularly good while very good practice in differentiated group work was observed in the middle classes. A structured spiral phonics programme is implemented across all classes and this is underpinned by in-class intervention in phonological awareness in infants. Reading Recovery and Literacy Liftoff are key components in the school’s strategy to improve literacy levels. In addition to the materials used for these programmes a wide variety of texts, including class novels, provide supplementary reading material for pupils. Print rich learning environments predominate and the significant investment in library resources adds greatly to the promotion of reading skills. Pupils’ engagement with the writing process helps to develop their imaginative, expressive and communicative abilities. Pupils draft and edit their work in various genres and good handwriting habits are cultivated throughout the school. The school has adopted the First Steps programme to promote writing skills. Samples of pupils’ work are attractively displayed and celebrated and it is recommended that greater use of ICT would be made to enhance the final product in the future.

 

Pupils’ achievements across the strands of the English curriculum are impressive for the most part. The school has devised an action plan to further improve literacy standards especially among those pupils in the average band range of achievement. In-depth analysis of test results has been carried out and achievable targets set. The school is commended for the work done to date in this area and with very good practice evident throughout the school should have little difficulty in meeting those targets.

 

 3.2  Mathematics

The quality of teaching in Mathematics is very good. Planning in this area provides for a broad and balanced programme of teaching in all classes. Concepts are explained clearly and skills developed appropriately. Mathematics teaching is well resourced enabling a concerted focus on the use of concrete materials. Teachers prioritise the development of specific mathematical language and in this regard the use of the Interactive White Board (IWB) is particularly helpful in displaying key visuals. Group work, in the context of the provision of in-class support, enables EAL pupils to interact confidently and to build on their prior knowledge and access the mathematics curriculum at cognitively appropriate levels. In-class support is carefully planned by staff and features careful evaluation of needs, the setting of achievable targets and the teaching and assessment strategies needed. Peer tutoring, which can further the understanding of concepts through the use of EAL pupils’ first language, needs further encouragement.

 

Pupils' achievement in Mathematics is good. They respond well to appropriate tasks and questions across the various strands and handle the language of Mathematics competently. Summative assessment, using the Sigma-T standardised tests, indicates satisfactory progress. The school has targeted numeracy as an area for development in its DEIS three-year plan. The plan has lead to careful analysis of the outcomes of standardised tests to target the specific needs of pupils. Greater emphasis on developing skills of estimation in conjunction with the teaching of problem-solving skills can further enhance practice.

 

3.3 Assessment

Teachers use a wide variety of assessment strategies including teacher observation and questioning, checklists, work samples, teacher-designed tasks and tests, portfolios and projects, and monitoring of pupils’ written activity. An appropriate range of standardised assessment tools is effectively used also as part of the school’s assessment policy. The Belfield Infant Assessment Profile and Middle Infant Screening Test are used in Infants. Mictra-T , Drumcondra Reading and Sigma-T tests are used in the other classes. Results of tests are carefully tabulated and analysed. The introduction of a system for tracking individual pupils’ progress on these tests is commendable. Knowledge gained from tests is purposefully used to influence teaching and learning on an ongoing basis. Records of progress are shared with parents and it is opportune at this point to re-examine the school’s reporting policy to accommodate the NCCA guidelines on this issue. In the case of EAL pupils excellent assessment practice has developed. Systematic use of the Primary School Assessment Kit together with checklists for the silent period and pupil profiles ensure careful monitoring of progress and guidance towards the formulation of Individual Education Plans. The promotion of self-assessment as an integral part of assessment for learning at this point should enable pupils to take greater responsibility for their own learning.

 

 

4.     QUALITY OF SUPPORTS FOR PUPILS

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school has a detailed whole school policy on the education of pupils with special educational needs (SEN). The SEN team comprise highly experienced professionals who are committed to delivering a high quality service to their pupils. Very good assessment practices ensure that those pupils needing assistance are quickly identified and suitably monitored on an on-going basis. Collaboration with parents in planning for and monitoring the pupils’ progress is central to the effective delivery of support. Individual Education Plans (IEPs),  Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) and group plans are carefully compiled and regularly reviewed. Planning and progress records are systematically maintained. Teaching in SEN settings is highly structured to promote the application of learning strategies that will accelerate pupils’ development as independent learners. Teachers stimulate pupils’ interest through the use of a variety of visual and concrete materials and the effective use of ICT. Reading Recovery and Literacy Liftoff are progressing well and an early intervention programme is in place to address literacy needs in infants. The support team and class teachers are commended for the excellent efforts being made to introduce a suitable balance between in-class support and support in SEN settings.

 

4.2 Pupils with English as an additional language

The delivery of support to EAL pupils involves very good teamwork on the part of all teachers in the school under the guidance of the principal. The three members of the EAL team have developed highly competent practice in addressing the needs of EAL pupils. The Primary School Assessment Kit is rigorously used to establish initial language proficiency and to monitor progress thereafter. Individual profiles of proficiency are used to record progress and achievement in the skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. EAL teachers were observed providing in-class support. This support was carefully planned with class teachers and geared towards accessing the mainstream curriculum. In withdrawal settings a range of suitable materials and software is used to promote communicative skills.

 

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

Various additional supports are provided for pupils in Scoil Phádraig. School lunches are funded by the Department of Social and Family Affairs and this initiative ensures that all pupils receive nourishing food during the school day. The Home School Community Liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator develops valuable links between home and school and organises Free English language classes for newcomer parents. The school’s participation in the School Completion Programme (SCP) has had a positive effect in terms of improving school attendance and both HSCL and SCP programmes are important components of the school’s pastoral care provision.

 

 

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, February 2009