An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Maria King Presentation Primary School

Sexton Street  Limerick

 Roll number: 20018H

 

Date of inspection:  29 November 2007

  Date of issue of report:  22 May 2008

 

 

 

WHOLE-SCHOOL EVALUATION

1.     Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of school management

3.     Quality of school planning

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

5.   Quality of support for pupils

6.     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 Maria King Presentation Primary 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 an informal meeting with some parents. 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, 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.

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

This school is located in the inner urban area of Limerick city. It is a co-educational school up to the end of first class when the majority of boys transfer to the neighbouring all-boys school, Scoil Íosagáin. St. Michael’s National School is also nearby.  Scoil Maria King shares its own school grounds with the Presentation Pre-School, the Presentation Secondary School and Central College. Three major transition periods occur, from pre-school to junior infants, from first class to a follow-on primary school for boys and from sixth class to post-primary school. The school has been prioritised as a Primary Urban Band 1 school in the School Support Programme (SSP) under the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan for educational inclusion.  Central to the DEIS initiative, from which the school receives considerable additional benefits,  is an expectation on the part of the Department of Education and Science (DES) that it will concentrate on the early identification of pupils at risk of underachievement; on improving literacy and numeracy standards; on supporting and engaging parents in their children’s education; on the adoption of a whole-school approach in addressing issues of educational disadvantage and social exclusion; on enhancing attendance; on educational progression, retention and attainment and on enabling smooth transition from primary to post-primary school.

 

The profile of the school has undergone major changes in recent years. Newcomer children currently comprise 48% of the school’s enrolment of 242 pupils, with 21 nationalities now being represented among the school community. While many of the children come from the immediate urban area, a number of the family homes are distributed throughout Limerick city and its suburbs. Therefore, in contrast to the past, the wider school community does not now comprise a precisely defined distinct entity. In addition, the profile of the families is not homogeneous as they vary in the degree of disadvantage, motivation and knowledge of English they present, irrespective of cultural background. Although, slightly improved in the current year, attendance continues to be problematic in the school.

 

The school’s ethos is clearly articulated in its mission statement which emphasises that it imparts a Catholic education in the tradition of the Presentation order. Whereas the values expounded in the mission statement are fully in keeping with national priorities in education and are embedded in the work of the school, to ensure that the school continues to gain full direction from its mission statement, the wording of the statement could now be revisited with a view to ensuring that it is sufficiently ambitious and challenging, taking the present school context factors into account.  Perhaps it could be strengthened with a supplementary statement suggesting that continuous improvement in outcomes for learners is central to the school’s strategic direction.

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The evaluation period coincided with a transition period between the operation of the pre-existing board of management and the process of putting a new board of management in place. It is understood that the board is facilitating the reactivation of a parents’ association. The pre-existing board met once a term and more often when necessary. It concerned itself with matters of school accommodation and maintenance as well as staff appointments, which it managed particularly successfully, as is evident in the calibre of teachers the school has attracted.

 

The board is aware that concern has been expressed in regard to possible health and safely issues surrounding car parking in the playground and is seeking to rectify this situation. The board’s attention is drawn to its obligations under circular 11/95 Time in School, the length of the school day and the times at which breaks are taken to allow children in infant classes to have sufficient and timely rest periods. It is imperative at this point, that members of the new board would acquire, through appropriate training, a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.

 

Unfortunately parental representation on the new board from the newcomer community has not been enabled. Parents are informed of the school’s policies but the board has put few structures in place to encourage the active participation of parents, pupils and other members of the school community in whole-school planning. In addition, greater efforts should be made to disseminate translated documents already in the educational system as well as to translate the information booklet provided on initial enrolment. The board should be cognisant of developing appropriate linkages between personnel during the transitions the children make to the school from pre-school or other settings and upon leaving the school to follow-on primary schools.

 

The board has drawn up an action plan under the DEIS scheme outlining its intention to improve literacy, numeracy and attendance standards and also to improve parental and community involvement. It is noted that the current action plan covers a period ending in 2009. The board should now develop a more detailed school development plan which would anticipate how the school will evolve over a longer time period, of perhaps, 5 years. This plan should specify time-related objectives to be met and should outline the clear responsibilities and financial implications of meeting these objectives. In the immediate future, this plan should receive intensive focus from the entire school community and should be at the heart of school improvement measures.

 

Issues which the new board should address as a matter of urgency, therefore, concern management of the whole-school planning process, management of the school’s financial performance and overseeing the planned improvement in learning standards, in particular.

Crucially the board should now focus its full attention on improving performance in literacy and numeracy in the school. The board should seek regular reports on standards in the school and it should ensure that these reports are informed by a rigorous process of school self-evaluation.

 

2.2 In-school management

This is the third academic year of this principal’s leadership of the school. His work has been characterised by his enthusiasm and dedication to the school and his development of a supportive work environment in which teachers feel they share a common responsibility for coordinating activities. The principal has established effective innovative lines of communication as he is sensitive to developing collegiate relationships and is consultative in his approach. He has developed links with the local community, actively sourcing funding for resources.

 

To redress a degree of inconsistency and imbalance in his curricular leadership, the principal should now place greater focus on leading and managing the whole-school planning process, on frequently monitoring learning outcomes in curricular areas and on creating, reviewing and improving structures for self-evaluation and accountability within the school.  In moving forward, the principal could be supported by the Leadership Development for Schools (LDS) national programme established by the Department to promote school leadership.

 

The operation of the in-school management team to date has been underdeveloped and its potential for assuming a key leading role in driving forward the school’s commitment to developing high levels of quality and continuous improvement in learning outcomes has not been sufficiently exploited. The duties of post-holders have been allocated to reflect the perceived priorities of the school but the operation of the group as a clearly defined team structure within the school should be strengthened at this point. On an ongoing basis, there is a need to ensure that staff with additional responsibilities have clearly defined and understood remits which meet the current needs of the school and its pupils. Therefore, the board of management, with the staff, should redefine these duties on a regular basis in line with the school development strategy.

 

At present all post-holders have been given responsibility, in addition to their other duties, for co-ordination of an area of the curriculum. It is recommended that these responsibilities would now be extended to include responsibility for overseeing implementation, assessment and review of this area of the curriculum. To undertake effective co-ordination and school-based self-evaluation of the curricular areas for which they have been given responsibility, post-holders could, in the future, assist in reviewing learning outcomes as detailed in the monthly report (cuntas míosúil), co-ordinate assessment measures undertaken by class teachers, tabulate the results of tests administered and, informed by class teachers, draw up a brief annual report on the implementation of the curricular area. This annual report would advise the board of management on attainment levels and on the resources and professional development required for successful ongoing delivery of teaching and learning in the particular area of the curriculum.

 

This in-school management team should be facilitated in meeting regularly and in observing formal meeting procedures. The team, as a whole, should consider how it might ensure regular communication between it, the board of management and the evolving parents’ association.

2.3 Management of resources

Teachers’ skills and abilities are at present utilised very well to meet pupils’ needs and to improve provision. Staff morale is very high and staff members feel valued, consulted and supported. Their professional development is actively facilitated. One external tutor is employed by the Presentation order to provide Irish dancing lessons. Five special needs assistants (SNAs) are employed, one of whom, a native of Poland, is employed as part of the School Completion Programme.

 

Whereas the dimensions of the classrooms are not as large as modern classrooms, the accommodation is clean and maintained to a high standard. During the evaluation period, a new external playing area for younger children was being put in place in a secure area of the playground. All class teachers have access to a wide range of appropriate curricular resources. Very little of the material currently in place, however, reflects the cultural diversity of the pupils.  The school has invested recently in upgrading its information and communications technologies (ICT) infrastructure and all classes now have access to the internet. The intention is to expand on this infrastructure in the immediate future. In the senior classes, digital projectors are used for project work. It is recommended that a reasonable proportion of the proposed ICT expansion should be aimed at increasing contact and liaison between the school and other nations and that independent learning strategies already being developed among some pupils are extended to all age groups in the school. 

 

Because the school receives significant extra financial support on foot of its DEIS Band 1 status, there is a need for constant vigilance in regard to the extent to which present financial arrangements ensure best value, particularly on the use of finance to improve and maximise pupils’ learning.  Prudent action on the part of the board of management to secure optimal impact of funding is required, a matter which should be prioritised by the new board. Guidelines on the appropriate use of funding, issued by the Social Inclusion Unit of the Department in March 2007, should be used as the basis for the financial plan.

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school shares a home school community liaison (HSCL) post with Scoil Íosagáin. During the evaluation period, it was evident that there are positive and progressive relationships in place between the HSCL service and the parents of most of the pupils. Efforts are made on an ongoing basis to ensure that the most marginalised pupils are supported socially and academically. The language, literacy and numeracy priorities of the school are communicated to the parents, although some relevant portions of the school’s documentation should now be translated.  Several courses are provided for the parents throughout the year, ranging from language courses for the newcomer parents to cookery classes and mother and toddler classes. A parents’ room is provided. Linkage with other services and agencies in the area is in place.

 

The board should now focus on enabling greater access to the school for the entire school community and on tracking the benefits accruing from the increased funding it receives for this purpose. Frequent evaluation is required on the extent to which all parents, including parents from ethnic minorities, are being enabled to participate in in-school and out-of-school activities, whether the school is aware of the different expectations these parents have for their children, whether the first language of all pupils is valued in the school and whether different cultures are affirmed throughout display areas in the school. The school community should draw upon the document Intercultural Education in the Primary School: Enabling children to respect and celebrate diversity, to promote equality and to challenge unfair discrimination, produced by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) for advice in this regard.

2.5 Management of pupils

The school makes very good provision for the pupils’ personal development, and consequently the pupils have very good attitudes to their school and their work. Behaviour in and around the school is very good. Teacher–pupil relationships are excellent at all levels within the school. Opportunities for pupils to engage in decision making are enabled through pupils’ engagement in the Green School project. The school is encouraging pupils to be inclusive and co-operative in their play. Playground supervision is well managed. Incidents of indiscipline, when they occur, are dealt with sensitively.

 

3.     Quality of school planning

3.1 School planning process and implementation

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.

 

Although most of the school’s organisational policies have been drafted as part of a collaborative effort among the teaching staff, few policies have been ratified by the board. Therefore, it is timely to revisit, update and ratify all such policies following the basic principles as outlined in circular 18/99 which involve collaboration among all the school’s partners. Responsibility in regard to monitoring or evaluating the impact of organisational policies on school life and on teaching and learning should be assigned.  In particular, a periodic report on attendance patterns should be sought.

 

There is insufficient detail in the school’s DEIS action plan to allow for coherence in fulfilling the targets for literacy, numeracy, attendance and parental involvement among the school community. The plan currently in place lacks clarity in regard to roles and responsibilities in meeting learners’ needs and in reducing barriers to learning. The plan should now be expanded upon and the key roles and tasks of all stakeholders, including individual teachers, in fulfilling the aims of the plan should be delineated.

 

The school has not, in the past, adopted a culture whereby it looks critically at its own work on a regular basis.  The whole-school planning process aimed at school improvement should involve a cycle which includes the systematic monitoring of outcomes in curricular areas.  To ensure that implementation of the DEIS plan will result in significant improvements in learners’ experiences, achievements or standards of attainment, this omission should be addressed immediately.

 

The quality of the whole-school curricular plans is variable. Curricular plans of good quality have drawn comprehensively on the prompts supplied by the support services. They reflect the particular unique context of the school and they show how the school staff has reflected upon how it will adapt the aims and approaches recommended in the primary curriculum to Maria King Presentation School. Those policies which are weak do not provide clear guidance for classroom instruction, are generic in nature and show a poor understanding of the curriculum. The school is commended for drawing up a coherent ICT development plan. To ensure that whole-school curricular plans impact upon classroom activity, copies of whole-school plans should be in place in all classrooms.

3.2 Classroom planning

The quality and presentation of classroom planning is good. In many instances, however, it is recommended that fewer objectives are identified in short-term planning to avoid superficial coverage and unsatisfactory completion.  It is crucial however, in particular in situations where SNAs and support teachers are collaborating with class teachers, that mutual understanding and clarity is reached on a small number of specific learning outcomes which are being targeted. Planning for differentiation, at present, is weak in the school. Targets for pupils, especially for those experiencing underachievement, are not specifically outlined and are not being measured within a clear timeframe. A very positive aspect of the present approach to classroom planning is the collaboration occurring between teachers teaching parallel classes or consecutive classes. This cooperative effort could now be expanded into working groups and other fora which will assist in taking forward the work of the school.

 

In summary, the planning process is not, at present, well founded on information derived from self-evaluation, quality assurance or analysis of information on attainment and achievement. To support the implementation of the school’s DEIS action plan and to assist in reflecting on progress on an ongoing basis, it is suggested that the monthly progress records which are compiled by teachers and maintained centrally, might now include reflections on the degree of achievement of planned outcomes, in literacy and numeracy, in particular.

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

The quality of teaching varies from good to very good. Where teaching is very good, the teachers have acquired an excellent knowledge of the curriculum and draw upon the pupils’ own experience in motivating them to learn.  They set high expectations for the pupils’ behaviour and classroom routines are organised very efficiently. This ability to create a positive climate for learning and to provide a varied and considered range of skilful and well-paced teaching approaches augurs well for the overall potential of the staff to broaden the range of teaching strategies in the future.

Future approaches should involve less reliance on textbooks and worksheets to consolidate lesson activities. The staff needs to enable the provision of a greater variety of contexts for learning which will include creative and investigative activities where pupils use higher-order and critical thinking skills to solve problems and construct new meanings and understandings. It is recommended that strategies for the development of the teaching of thinking skills across the curriculum should now be explicitly stated in the school plan.

Despite the fact that children are organised to sit in groups in most classrooms, the approaches recommended in the Primary Curriculum such as those of organising pair work, meaningful collaborative group work, and independent learning should, in the future, replace the current dominance of whole-class teaching. In the early years, a focus on play-based approaches and structured play should now permeate the full programme.

 

Although pupils are fully engaged in learning in the classrooms and despite the fact that teaching is good, the quality of pupil learning varies in the school. Standardised test results and other evidence indicate that there is a significant cohort of pupils who are underachieving in literacy and numeracy. Whereas some pupils achieve satisfactory learning outcomes, on a whole-school basis, the skills, knowledge and understanding achieved do not reflect the learning outcomes as envisaged in the primary curriculum. Teachers should now involve pupils to a greater extent in their own learning by sharing planned learning outcomes with the pupils, by providing effective feedback and where possible, by involving parents in helping their children to achieve appropriate targets. In addition, there is a need to re-examine the internal learning environment in the school to ensure that it is culturally all-inclusive. The fact that twenty one nationalities are represented in the pupil cohort is unfortunately not currently reflected in the print observed in classrooms and corridors and in the content and themes of lessons. In addition, the cultural background of the pupils is not generally drawn upon in the aesthetic and creative areas of the curriculum.

4.2 Language

Gaeilge

caighdeán na múinteoireachta agus na foghlama sa Ghaeilge go han-mhaith i gcomhthéacs na scoile seo. polasaí ar theagasc na Gaeilge leagtha amach sa phlean scoile. Sa doiciméad seo, léirítear aidhmeanna na scoile i leith na Gaeilge maraon le sonraí ar béimeanna a leagfar agus nathanna cainte a múinfear i ngach rang. Cuirtear síos freisin ar na deacrachtaí a bhaineann le teagasc na Gaeilge i gcomhthéacs na scoile. Moltar an plean de bharr comh réalaioch agus atá an cur chuige. Cothaítear dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge sa scoil. Leagann na hoidí béim chuí ar an dteanga labhartha. Cothaítear suim na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge trí cheachtanna a chur i láthair go bríomhar, spreagúil. Bunaítear an t-ábhar foghlama ar théamaí a bhaineann le saol na bpáistí agus baintear úsáid as sraith téacsleabhar mar thaca sa teagasc agus san fhoghlaim. Ar an iomlán, baintear úsáid as an nGaeilge mar mheán teagaisc le linn na gceachtanna. Léiríonn formhór na ndaltaí tuiscint oiriúnach ar Ghaeilge bhunúsach. Aithrisíonn daltaí i roinnt ranganna cnuasach deas filíochta go taitneamhach. Forbraítear cumas tuisceana na ndaltaí go hoiriúnach le linn na ngníomhaíochtaí éisteachta. I dteagasc an chomhrá baintear úsáid thorthúil as ábhar léirithe agus as fearas corpartha chun tuiscint na ndaltaí ar fhoclóir nua a bhunú. Cleachtaítear gníomhaíochtaí cainte agus obair i bpéirí go héifeachtúil chun an t-ionchur nua teanga a chur abhaile. tús maith curtha leis an léitheoireacht fhoirmiúil sa Ghaeilge. Ag tógaint inniúlacht na ndaltaí san áireamh, na cleachtaí scríofa go sásúil.

 

 

Irish

The standard of teaching and learning in Irish is very good in the context of this particular school. A policy on the teaching of Irish is set out in the school plan.  In this document, the school’s aims regarding Irish are made clear along with some details of aspects which will be emphasised and phrases which will be taught at each class level. The difficulties encountered in teaching Irish in the school’s context are also described. The plan is to be praised because of the realistic approach it adopts. A positive attitude to Irish is fostered in the school. The teachers place appropriate emphasis on oral language. Pupils’ interest in Irish is promoted through the presentation of lively, stimulating lessons. Learning content is based on topics that relate to the pupils’ lives, and a scheme of textbooks supports teaching and learning. In general, Irish is used as the medium of instruction during lessons.  The majority of pupils display an appropriate understanding of basic Irish.  Pupils in some classes recite a good selection of poetry with enjoyment.  Pupils’ understanding of the language is suitably developed during the listening activities. In the teaching of conversation, productive use is made of visual resources and concrete materials to underpin pupils’ understanding of new vocabulary. Pair-work and communication activities are used effectively to reinforce the new language input. A good start has been made with formal reading in Irish. Taking the children’s prior attainment into account, the written exercises are satisfactory.

 

English

Overall there is scope for development in the teaching of English primarily because the Primary Curriculum in English has not been fully referenced in either the school plan or in individual planning. Where teachers have availed of advice in the First Steps approach, the teaching of writing, in particular, is highly commendable. However, despite a recommendation previously made in the 2000 school report and although teachers are placing emphasis on oral activity in class teaching, there is a general absence of a focused approach to this aspect of the curriculum. Teachers do not allocate discrete time to the specific teaching of oral language and do not plan for specific learning outcomes in oral language as set out in the curriculum. Of particular concern, considering the school’s designation in the School Support Programme is the absence of emphasis on the strand unit “developing cognitive abilities through language.”

 

The language programme at infant level does not reflect the additional advice given by the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP) and the NCCA (2001) on the teaching of reading in infant classes. As is recommended, to ensure longer-term benefit from and interest in reading, emphasis should now be placed on ensuring a solid language base before the introduction of formal reading. It should be ensured that environmental print is presented at eye level,  that teachers and pupils become engaged in sustained shared thinking,  that reading involves the use of language experience materials and collaborative reading of large-format books and that children are given opportunities to browse and “read” in a library corner. By and large, children should not begin a structured reading programme until some time during the senior infant class. As reading is taught most effectively when it involves the teaching of a broad range of strategies, it should not be assumed that all children will benefit from the excellent phonological programme in place in the school. As it is vital that children’s progress is tracked in the early years on a week by week basis, there is a need to expand the present approach to monitoring word recognition skills to include close scrutiny of the strategies individual children use in learning to read. It is also anticipated that the immediate expansion of the First Steps programme to include First Steps for reading will assist in the development of more all-inclusive work in reading. A paired reading programme is in place between the first class and the fifth class children which continues over a six-week period. The benefit to the fifth class children of this activity is doubtful. Throughout the school, there is an over-reliance on work sheets and far too much emphasis is placed on published reading materials. Children should be provided with a broad range of challenging, interesting reading materials and activities. Nevertheless, excellent work in reading novels is undertaken in the senior classes. Poetry is enjoyed and recited.

 

In general, there is scope to extend the breadth of the curriculum in English with the future balance being placed to a greater extent on emotional and imaginative development through language, as opposed to the present dominant focus on developing the skills of learning language.

 

4.3 Mathematics

The existence of the school plan which was devised in 2002 ensures that children are provided with the opportunity to access the full range of the mathematics curriculum. However, the plan does not delineate fully the approaches and methodologies to be adopted in the school in the teaching of mathematics and its impact on teaching is restricted as a result.  The plan needs to be revisited without delay adopting a systematic approach informed by prompt documentation. Crucially, progress in Mathematics needs to be constantly observed and monitored, in particular during the early years. It is commendable that teachers already identify learning objectives in planning. Greater use of assessment to guide planning and teaching is required so that questions can be appropriately targeted and differentiated learning activities can occur. At an age-appropriate level, it would be now advisable to share the planned specific learning outcome of lessons with the pupils at the commencement of the lesson so that pupils can become co-involved in assessing whether they have achieved the learning outcome prior to the end of the lesson.

 

Concrete materials have been provided and are in use in most lessons. In the early years and throughout the school, some thought should be given to varying the layout of classrooms during the mathematics lessons. In infant classes, the use of structured play allied with appropriate intervention by the teacher to enable further development to occur, should feature constantly.  Throughout the school, more emphasis should be placed on the thinking processes involved in problem-solving and on making connections with contexts both within and outside the classroom. To allow for in-depth problem solving, the pace of lessons needs to be varied so that pupils can have opportunities to explain the strategies they have used. Explicit links should be made to the children’s own real-life experiences. While teachers already administer their own tests, frequent analysis of the individual class and school results should occur to avoid pitching whole-class work at the middle ability range in the class and to allow for differentiated target setting. It is noted that future plans involve the initiation of a Maths Recovery programme in first class.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

 

History

The quality of the teaching of history in this school is good. Very good practice was observed in the senior and middle classes due largely to the employment of a wide range of effective teaching strategies. Although at the infant and junior levels, an important emphasis is placed on the exploration of personal and family history, the range of topics explored is too closely aligned to the textbooks in use. Pupils in these classes would benefit from the selection of content that is more immediately linked to their local environment and to their life experiences and personal interests. In reviewing the present whole-school history plan, particular attention should be placed on the systematic development of the strand which involves working as an historian.

 

  

Geography

The quality of teaching and learning in Geography is good.  Through their involvement in the Green School project, all pupils are encouraged to become active agents in the conservation of environments for future generations. The majority of the teachers effectively utilise the school environment, plans, maps, globes and the internet to enable the pupils to explore and learn about features in the immediate locality and in the wider world. Excellent projects in this regard have been completed by pupils in the senior classes.

 

The good practice in some classes of incorporating the experiences and rich diversity of the pupils who have lived elsewhere in the development of an understanding of place is commended and could now be extended throughout the school. In the future, particular emphasis should be placed on the extension of fieldwork beyond the immediate school environment. Integration with the social, personal and health education (SPHE) curriculum should be facilitated and a thematic approach should be planned, so that the children’s understanding of citizenship, community, human interdependence and relationships will be further developed.

 

Science

Very good practice was observed in the teaching of Science and in general, the quality of pupils’ learning is very good. Pupils in the majority of classes are encouraged and facilitated to work scientifically and to investigate and explore their physical surroundings. In the middle and senior classes in particular, pupils engage in experiments which develop their skills of observation, questioning and investigating, leading them to a greater understanding of the world in which they live. Pupils in the infant and junior classes are facilitated to explore the local flora and fauna but it is important that this feature of the science curriculum be supported by pupils’ engagement in fieldwork. While due attention is given to the development of pupils’ skills involved in working scientifically, the skill of designing and making is, in the majority of cases, neglected, a deficiency which should be addressed in the short term.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The teachers are to be commended for enabling the pupils to make a personal response to visual art forms across the six strands. Attractive displays in each classroom and along the corridors of the school reflect the range of art activities that the pupils experience. These displays indicate that a balance is struck between the creation of two-dimensional and three-dimensional art forms.

It is now recommended that, in reviewing the Visual Arts plan, care would be taken to ensure that there is continuity and development between classes. The range of artists and art forms to which the pupils are exposed should be extended. Increased emphasis should also be placed on ensuring that the activities in which the pupils engage will develop their skills and abilities incrementally.

 

 

 

Music

It is evident from teacher planning that the pupils in this school experience a broad and balanced musical programme, the three strands of Music forming the core of most music lessons. Action songs are very effectively utilised as a means of developing a sense of pulse and rhythm in the infant classes and the pupils derive great enjoyment and benefit from performing these songs.

All teachers organise purposeful listening and responding activities for the pupils, which encourage them to explore and listen to a range of sound sources.  Pupils sing a number of songs sweetly but the repertoire could be expanded to include an expanded range of songs and tunes originating from a variety of cultures, styles and traditions. Music literacy is well developed throughout the school and it is effectively linked with song singing, with the playing of melodic instruments such as the tin whistle and through engagement with a wide variety of percussion instruments. The use of ICT in the senior classes to enable the pupils to compose and record music digitally is particularly commendable.

 

Drama

Each teacher has allocated discrete time to the teaching of Drama and the majority of teachers have devised Drama contracts in collaboration with the pupils. As a result, the Drama curriculum is effectively implemented in this school. The school is commended for its participation in the “Film in Schools” project during the past three years and for effectively utilising this opportunity to promote and develop the dramatic skills of the pupils. Pupils in the senior classes make excellent use of digital cameras, camcorders and ICT to enable them to record various dramatic activities in the different classes.

 

4.6 Physical Education

The quality of teaching of physical education is good. All pupils actively engage in the lessons and they derive pleasure and benefit from the exercises and games. Good use is made of the range of physical education equipment available.  Emphasis is placed on the development of the concept of fair play, on the acceptance of success and failure and on the ability to co-operate in group situations. It is recommended however, that the implementation of the strands of aquatics, outdoor pursuits and dance be reviewed in order to ensure that the pupils are facilitated to access a broad and balanced physical education programme. 

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

All teachers organise discrete Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) lessons and the learning observed is well supported by the pre-existing positive school atmosphere and ethos.

Teachers are commended for the emphasis they place on active learning during lessons.  A key aspect of the school’s policy involves enabling many pupils to participate in Féile Luimnigh with the aim of further supporting their confidence and self-esteem.  It is now recommended that the potential of the SPHE programme to provide a context in which pupils can learn about various ethnic, social and cultural groups should be further explored and developed. Lessons which foster inclusiveness and regard for the heritage and perspective of others and which counteract prejudice, discrimination and inequality should form an integral part of the SHPE programme.

 

4.8 Assessment

Whereas assessment forms part of every teacher’s methodology, no whole-school assessment policy has been drawn up to date. This omission should be immediately rectified bearing in mind the guidelines for schools as contained in Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum (NCCA, 2007). Overall, it is essential in moving forward, that the school would initiate a full review of its current assessment procedures as a matter of priority. This review should focus on improving the systematic utilisation of appropriate assessment tools. The information gathered through monitoring and assessment should be used to facilitate differentiation in all teaching and learning settings.

 

The Micra-T and Sigma-T standardised tests are administered to all pupils from first to sixth classes in June each year. The good practice of administering the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP) in the Infant classes facilitates the early identification of children with special needs. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) test is administered to senior infants and first class annually. It is recommended that the school would now adopt the follow on programme, Forward Together in respect of the children identified through the MIST as needing support. Some modes of informal assessment in place include spelling tests, checklists, teacher-designed tests, portfolios of work completed and the monitoring of written work. Whereas many teachers note that they also observe pupil progress, it is unfortunate that, in most classes in the school, there is little evidence of evaluative comments in children’s work or meaningful linkage between assessment work and planning for teaching and learning.  End of year reports are issued to parents. The school is aware that, according to circular 0138/2006, the results of testing should be reported to parents in respect of their own children at the end of the each school year.

 

As it is key to future progress that specific learning targets for cohorts of pupils and individual children are selected and applied, it is recommended that the staff would now explore ways in which assessment data generated in the school can be used to inform the planning of a variety of learning activities, thus ensuring that these activities closely match individual pupil’s needs. In addition to the tracking and monitoring of progress, assessment outcomes could be effectively shared with children in an age appropriate manner and judicious feedback should be used to involve pupils and their parents in evaluating their progress.

 

5.   Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Support for facilitating the full inclusion of pupils with learning difficulties or special educational needs is provided by the twelve teachers who comprise the special education needs (SEN) team. These teachers are commended for their dedication and enthusiasm.

Provision and selection of pupils for support is informed by the Department’s Learning Support Guidelines and incorporates the staged approach to special education as outlined in circular 02/05. The provision varies between in-class support and withdrawal from the classrooms. Some pupils are supported by a number of teachers and consequently leave their classrooms frequently. As these multiple withdrawals can have the effect of interrupting access to the full curriculum, the skills of the team should now be pooled so that, as far as possible, these pupils will receive supplementary support delivered by one individual.  The current model of provision of in-class support needs to be further amended to ensure that greater collaboration between class teachers and support teachers occurs.  In particular, the school is advised to provide more focused in-class intervention in the area of language support for newcomer pupils.

 

Most members of the SEN team are involved in detailed planning and record keeping of Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs). It is recommended that IPLPs should now also be drawn up for pupils in receipt of language support. The practice of administering a broad range of diagnostic instruments might now be expanded to all SEN team members to enable them to plan more comprehensively for the learning needs of the pupils. Some IEPs currently include detailed time specific targets with clearly delineated measures to indicate success. It is recommended that the entire SEN team might now adopt a similar style of IEP writing which ensures that realistic, time-limited targets are recorded, monitored and assessed systematically.

 

In most special education teaching and learning settings in the school, a wide range of effective teaching methods is employed. Good quality learning outcomes are evident where pupil/teacher interactions are sensitive and positive and occur in an attractive learning environment. Some excellent practice was observed where a specific target from an education plan was taught effectively through games and active learning. This good practice should be extended where appropriate, to all of the special education settings.

 

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

Throughout this report reference has been made to the supports provided due to the inclusion of the school in the Primary Urban Band 1 schools identified for prioritisation in the School Support Programme (SSP) under the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme.  Reference has been made to strategies for facilitating the full inclusion of the diversity of pupils, special initiatives, parent and community liaison and liaison with and referral to support agencies. Reference has also been made to the quality of the intervention provided and to the quality of support for pupils. 

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         The school benefits from the existence of a highly skilled competent teaching staff and a supportive principal and board of management.

·         The school has acquired a wide range of material resources, including ICT resources. 

·         Some aspects of planning and organisation have been undertaken very effectively in the school.

·         The school has coped very well with fundamental change in its pupil profile in recent years. It views diversity in the pupil population as presenting both a challenge

      and an opportunity.

 

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

·         All aspects of management of the school need to be strengthened including the operation of the board of management and the structures, focus and organisation of

      in-school management.

·         The use of assessment as a fundamental and central aspect of classroom practice should be urgently addressed to improve literacy and numeracy standards.

·         The role of each member of the school community in ensuring that targets are reached under the DEIS action plan should immediately be defined and

       responsibilities

       for tracking school improvement measures accruing from the increased funding and staffing should be assigned.

·         The development of oral language, in particular in relation to improvement in thinking skills, needs to be urgently promoted throughout the school.

·         Measures should be identified and implemented to encourage all parents, including parents from ethnic minorities, to participate further in in-school and out-of-school

      activities. All cultures need to be affirmed in learning and teaching activities. 

 

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.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 welcomes the report's commendations on a comprehensive range of school issues.

 

These include: “The pupils have very good attitudes to their school and their work”

 

“Teacher-pupil relationships are excellent at all levels within the school”.

 

“Staff morale is very high and staff members feel valued, consulted and supported”.

 

 "The Principal is characterised by his enthusiasm and dedication to the school and his development of a supportive work environment in which teachers feel they share a common responsibility for coordinating activities".

 

"There is a positive and progressive relationship in place between the HSCL service and the parents of most of the pupils".

 

“The school makes very good provision for the pupils’ personal development”.

 

Behaviour in and around the school is very good”.

 

"The school is encouraging pupils to be inclusive in their play. Playground supervision is well managed and incidents of indiscipline, when they occur, are dealt with sensitively".

"Teachers' skills and abilities are at present utilised very well to meet pupils' needs and to improve provision".

 

“The quality of teaching varies from good to very good”.

 

“The standard of teaching and learning in Irish is very good in the context of the school”.

 

“It is commendable that Maths teachers already identify learning objectives in planning”.

 

"Teachers are to be commended for enabling pupils to make a personal response to visual art forms across the six strands".

 

"It is evident from teacher planning that pupils in this school experience a broad and balanced music programme".

 

"Teachers are commended for the emphasis they place on active learning during SPHE lessons".

 

“The school is commended for drawing up a coherent ICT development plan”.

 

"A very positive aspect of the present approach to classroom planning is the collaboration

occurring between teachers teaching parallel classes or consecutive classes".

 

"The Principal has established effective innovative lines of communication as he is sensitive to developing collegiate relationships and is consultative in his approach. He has developed links

with the local community, actively sourcing funds for resources".

 

 

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 evaluation period coincided with a transition period between the operation of the pre-existing board of management and the process of putting a new board of management in place. The previous board of management had a range of stated priorities viz. school accommodation and maintenance; development of additional resources; staff appointments. In this context, the board was responsible for:

 

·         Acquiring interactive whiteboards for each classroom

 

·         Upgrading the school ICT infrastructure to include access to the internet in all

       classrooms

 

·         Putting in place a state-of-the-art computer room

 

·         Providing digital cameras and camcorders to enhance classroom learning

      Commissioning a new under-cover playground facility

 

·         Planning, funding and developing a new library facility

 

·         Recruiting new staff members (e.g. eight new teachers joined the staff in the six months prior to the school evaluation)

 

·         Progressing linkages with the HSCL services and agencies

 

The present board of management has a new set of priorities.   These include:

 

·         The development of a five-year strategic plan for the school.

 

·         To define the role of each staff member in the achievement of the objectives of the strategic plan.

 

·         The development of a systematic learning/performance assessment and review infrastructure to be overseen by the in-school management team. This will include

       twice yearly presentations by staff members on projected and attained learning outcomes for all classes and learning support groups. (This is in response to the

       report's recommendation to "use assessment as a fundamental and central aspect of classroom practice").

 

·         To increase parental participation in school planning and activities. It is envisaged that focus groups will be organised for parents to give feedback to the board on a

      range of issues.

 

·         To undertake initiatives that will reflect the diverse pupil population. This will include a review of the mission statement; co-operation with a range of international

      schools on internet-linked project assignments; the development of an "international day" project in which each class researches and celebrates another country and

      culture and presents same to a range of peer classes; the translation of school related documentation into relevant languages.