An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Belmont National School

Cloghans Hill, Tuam, County Galway

Uimhir rolla: 20040A

 

Date of inspection: 22 November 2007

  Date of issue of report: 22 May 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 Belmont National School was undertaken in November 2007. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Physical Education (PE).  The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Belmont National School is located in the parish of Milltown in north county Galway. The school provides a rich and varied learning programme and enjoys a very good reputation in the community. The school has done much innovative work in the areas of Social, Environmental and Scientific Education and in modern languages, areas that are beyond the scope of this report. The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

54

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

4

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The teachers in this school place a high value on courtesy, creativity and hard work, something that is reflected in the atmosphere of the school. The management and staff are to be commended on the strong whole-school ethos that exists. The school plan sets out the vision, mission and aims of the school. These place a particular emphasis on developing social and civic skills and attitudes as well as pride in the pupils’ local and national heritage.

 

1.2 Board of management[h1] 

The board of management is properly constituted and meets at least once a term. The board is to be commended for the fine work that has been done to maintain and develop the school buildings and grounds. Recent works completed include the provision of a car park and improvements to the recreation area. The school garden has been used as a resource for learning for many years. Recent improvements to the garden include the provision of raised beds and a perimeter fence. The board is highly supportive of the work of the teachers. Board members express pride in the range and quality of the curricular and extra-curricular activities offered by the school. The board is considering making an application to the Department of Education and Science’s Planning and Building Section for funding for a general-purposes room.


 

1.3 In-school management

The school principal was on leave at the time of the evaluation. The acting principal oversees the day-to-day operation of the school effectively as well as teaching the junior classes. There is commendable consistency in the teaching approaches used in the different classes. Exemplary collaboration was observed between the learning-support and class teachers in the classroom setting. Two teachers have posts of responsibility in addition to their teaching duties. They are to be commended for the contribution they make to in-school management. Each of the posts has an appropriate balance of curricular, organisational and pastoral tasks.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Parents and other community members contribute to the work of the school and take great pride in its achievements. The development and maintenance of the school garden, the organisation of school outings and sports days and various fundraising activities are among the activities in which they are involved. There is an annual musical and dramatic performance at Christmas for parents and the wider community.

The school provides an induction meeting for the parents of pupils commencing junior infants as well as a structured programme to support pupils and their parents with the transition to post-primary school. The latter is based on the ‘OK Let’s Go.’ resources produced by City of Galway Vocational Education Committee. The school holds parent-teacher meetings in the first term and sends a written report on each pupil at the end of the school year.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

It is evident from observation in the classroom and recreation area that pupils have developed good habits with regard to work and general behaviour. The teachers set high expectations in this regard as well as fostering an enthusiasm for learning among the pupils. The school plan includes an appropriate code of behaviour as well as a policy and procedures to prevent bullying.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

Whole-school planning is of a very high quality. The planning process involves self-evaluation exercises, effective collaboration between staff and board members, and consultation with parents. The resulting school plan is practical and user-friendly. It contains policies and programmes that are commendably specific to the needs and resources of the school. It is clear that the teachers engage whole-heartededly with the planning process and that they are committed to its implementation. The school is therefore able to provide a consistently high quality of service to the pupils.

The organisational section of the school plan includes clear, useful policy statements on a range of areas. The content reflects accurately the practice observed in the school during the evaluation. It is recommended that the Health-and-Safety Statement be revised so that it identifies specific hazards and how they are to be addressed. The curricular section of the school plan is an excellent working document. It sets out an appropriate programme for each curricular area. The planning for English is particularly good and includes simple targets that pupils are expected to achieve at the end of each school year.

 

The quality of classroom planning is generally very good. The long-term and short-term planning done by teachers is very practical and adapts the Primary School Curriculum effectively for the various learning needs of the pupils. Each teacher prepares a practical, user-friendly account of the work completed during each month. All of the classroom planning documents are presented in a clear, reader-friendly, professional way that facilitates sharing of information among colleagues.

 

2.2 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 Language[h2] 

 

Gaeilge

Tugtar faoi mhúineadh na Gaeilge go córasach, coinsiasach i ngach seomra ranga. Taispeántar flúirse de chairteacha i nGaeilge chun foghlaim na ndaltaí a éascú agus a bhuanú. Baineann cinnteacht inmholta leis an teagasc ar an iomlán agus sonraítear straitéisí dea-mheáite in úsáid sa tréimhse réamhchumarsáide den fhoghlaim. Bíonn struchtúr cuí ar na ceachtanna agus baintear úsáid as áiseanna agus gníomhaíochtaí oiriúnacha chun ábhar an cheachta a chur i láthair agus a chleachtadh. Baintear feidhm thairbheach as raon d’ábhair léirithe. Úsáidtear an drámaíocht agus an véarsaíocht go sciliúil sa teagasc. Oibríonn na daltaí ina mbeirteanna chun frásaí agus múnlaí nua a chleachtadh. Cothaítear líofacht na ndaltaí le linn na gceachtanna.

Ó cheistiú na ndaltaí, is léir go bhféadfaí níos mó taithí fós a thabhairt dóibh ar úsáid na Gaeilge i gcomhthéacsanna cumarsáideacha. Moltar don scoil stráitéisí a aithint agus a chur i bhfeidhm chun úsáid na Gaeilge la haghaidh cumarsáide a chur chun cinn i measc na múinteoirí agus i measc na ndaltaí.

 

Irish

Irish is taught systematically and conscientiously in every classroom. A wide range of Irish charts is displayed to make it easier for pupils to understand and remember what is taught. There is a commendable sense of purpose to the lessons and well-judged strategies are used in the pre-communicative phase of the learning. The lessons are well-structured and appropriate resources and activities are used to present and practise the lesson content. There is effective use of a range of illustrative materials. There is skilful use of drama and verse in the teaching. Pupils work in pairs to practise new phrases and structures. The pupils’ fluency is developed during the lessons.

From questioning the pupils, there is evidence of scope for further opportunities for the pupils to use Irish in communicative contexts. It is recommended that the school identify and implement strategies to increase the use of Irish for communicative purposes among the teachers and pupils.

 


 

English

The school’s provision for English is excellent. There is effective planning for English at whole-school level and at classroom level. A rich, balanced programme is delivered with great skill by the teachers. The quality of the teaching is very high and this is reflected in pupil achievement. The teachers are to be commended on the emphasis that is placed on oral-language development as a foundation for achievement in reading and writing. There is effective use of discrete oral-language lessons as well as opportunities for language development in other curricular areas. It is evident from questioning the pupils that fine work has been done on the development of vocabulary and fluency. The provision of a dressing-up box and mirror in the junior room would provide further opportunities for socio-dramatic play and language development.

 

The school’s reading programme is broad and varied. Each teacher provides a print-rich environment so that pupils encounter text informally on a regular basis. Fine work is done in the early years to develop the pupils’ phonological awareness and basic sight vocabulary. There is appropriate emphasis in all classes on word-identification and comprehension strategies. There is commendable collaboration between the learning-support teacher and the class teachers in the development of reading skills. In particular, there is excellent use of peer-tutoring in the senior classes. As well as teaching pupils how to read, the school has been successful in developing the pupils’ sense of the purpose and the pleasure of reading. The classroom libraries are well-stocked and well-organised. Buddy reading and shared reading are key parts of the reading programme. There are regular outings to local libraries and to readings by established children’s authors. The teachers present a range of appropriate poems to the pupils. It is evident that the pupils are enabled to respond to poetry and to discuss their preferences.

 

The school provides excellent opportunities for pupils to develop their writing skills. A cursive handwriting style is developed consistently throughout the school. The writing programme is rich and varied. During the year, the pupils write reports on events in the life of the school. These are collected and published in an end-of year magazine. Pupils have also produced books of their favourite recipes. One of the classrooms has an excellent writing corner with various resources to stimulate and support the pupils’ creative writing. There is effective development of the pupils’ drafting and editing skills and samples of finished work are displayed in classrooms. It is evident from these displays that there is good use of information and communications technology in the development of the pupils’ writing skills. It is recommended that the school provide further opportunities for pupils to share their own writing and to encounter the work of other children by participating in the ‘Write-a-book’ project, which is organised by the local Education Centre.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good. Each classroom has various displays that make it easier for the pupils to understand and remember mathematical concepts, procedures and vocabulary. The teachers plan their lessons carefully and make good use of illustrative materials and other resources. The teaching is purposeful and dynamic, with a judicious combination of whole-class teaching and group work. Mathematical language is taught in a systematic way in all classrooms with clear outcomes and appropriate illustrative materials. There is effective use of appropriate activities and resources to develop the pupils’ ability to memorise number facts and perform mental computation. The pupils have developed good habits with regard to the recording and presentation of their written work. This is monitored effectively by the teachers. The school has an ample supply of equipment for most areas of the Mathematics curriculum although the provision of greater quantities of certain items, such as balances, would allow more pupils to have ‘hands-on’ learning opportunities.


 

3.3 Physical Education

The school programme for Physical Education (PE) is structured in accordance with the Primary School Curriculum and draws on various resources and programmes produced by sporting bodies, including the Gaelic Athletic Association’s (GAA) ‘Go Games’ initiative. On the evidence of the lessons seen during the evaluation, lessons are organised and managed effectively. There is appropriate use of warm-up and cool-down routines, including suitable stretching exercises. Each teacher organises age-appropriate activities for her class. There is exemplary use of the Irish language by the teacher during lessons in at least one class. There is an appropriate emphasis on the teaching and practising of skills in the areas of athletics, dance, games and aquatics.

 

Excellent work is done by class teachers on the development of skills in the area of movement and dance. A visiting tutor provides assistance with the teaching of Irish dancing. At present the school allows pupils in the senior classes to opt out of these lessons. It is recommended that this policy be revised so that no pupil is excluded or excused from these activities. The school should ensure that arrangements for the teaching of Irish dancing be such as to encourage the participation of all pupils, especially those who lack confidence and competence in this area. The school’s recreation area has been marked out for various yard games. These markings provide the basis for very good lessons in the junior classes, as well as being used by the pupils during recreation time.

 

3.4 Assessment

The school administers norm-referenced tests annually in English and Mathematics. The Middle-Infant Screening Test is also used for early identification of pupils who require additional support. A range of further diagnostic tests is administered by the learning-support teacher. Various teacher-designed tests are used regularly in each classroom and samples of pupils’ work are kept in portfolios for the purposes of assessment. Each teacher keeps a detailed monthly account of work completed. These are commendably clear and detailed and are a useful assessment tool for the individual teacher and the school. The teachers are to be commended also for the various systems that are in place for the recording and sharing of information regarding the progress of individual pupils.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

All of the class teachers adapt their lessons appropriately to cater for the various levels of ability in their classrooms. A number of pupils receive supplementary tuition from the learning-support teacher who is based here. This teacher also serves one other school. The teacher implements a policy of early intervention with pupils in the infant classes who have been identified as having specific developmental needs. The caseload is composed mainly of pupils with specific learning disabilities and pupils with speech-and-language disorders.

 

The quality of provision for these pupils is good. The teacher prepares an individual learning programme for each pupil. Parents and class teachers are involved in the preparation and review of these programmes. Appropriate systems are in place for short-term planning and the recording of progress.The learning-support teacher works in the classroom also to support the class teachers in the implementation of various programmes and methodologies, especially in the area of literacy.


 

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

 

There are no pupils from the above groups enrolled in the school at present. While the school has little experience of dealing with disadvantage and cultural diversity to date, its ethos is very inclusive and supportive. The school aims to develop the whole child and places a strong emphasis on supporting parents in the education of their children. The school’s book rental scheme reduces the financial burden on parents considerably. The school plan includes strategies to promote pupil attendance.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas.

 

·         The school leadership has been very successful in cultivating a strong whole-school ethos, ensuring that each teacher contributes to the achievement of the school’s aims.

·         The teachers engage positively with the whole-school planning process. The school plan provides a coherent educational programme that makes the best possible use of the available resources.

·         There is commendable consistency in organisational and curricular practices across the three classrooms.

·         The pupils behave courteously, work hard and show great enthusiasm for learning.

·         While high standards were seen in each of the curricular areas evaluated, the quality of teaching and learning in English is particularly high.

·         The teachers are to be commended on the positive, open manner in which they engaged with the evaluation process.

 

 

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

 

·         It is recommended that the school’s health-and-safety statement be revised so that specific hazards may be identified and addressed.

·         It is recommended that the school identify and implement strategies to increase the use of Irish for communicative purposes among the teachers and pupils.

·         It is recommended that the school ensure that all pupils participate in Irish dancing, especially those who lack confidence and competence in this area.

 

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.

 

 

 


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 [h2]Note changes to language section.