An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
St. Fergus N.S.
Glin, Co. Limerick
Roll number: 20102T
Date of inspection: 6 October 2006
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of St. Fergus N.S. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
This school is situated in a very scenic hillside location overlooking the Shannon Estuary in Co. Limerick. The outer Shannon Estuary is located to the west of the school and depending on weather conditions, there may be excellent views from the school of Tarbert Bay and Tarbert Generating Station, of the Co. Clare coastline and of shipping moving through the estuary to the ports at Foynes and Aughinish. The pupils are drawn from the local village and its immediate catchment area. The school was built in 1964 and until 1999, the building housed two schools, a junior school and a senior school, which were amalgamated in that year. An extension to the school was officially opened in 1989. The school operates under the patronage of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Limerick. The school’s vision statement and ethos states that the school
endeavours to enable each child to develop his/her potential and values the individuality of each child. The school aims at each child becoming an independent and worthwhile member of society. This is to be achieved in a spirit of caring in a safe and happy environment. St. Fergus National School embraces the Catholic tradition. The mission statement states that the school exists for the pupil. It states that the school acknowledges that the primary and natural educators of the child are the parents and that the school provides a moral, intellectual and social education to equip the child to avail of further education so that he/she may live a full and useful life as an adult in society.
The enrolment has dropped from 145 to 90 in the past ten years. A recent significant factor in the enrolment has been the increase in the number of pupils from diverse national backgrounds. At present there are a number of children from Poland enrolled in the school. As a result, the school has received grant aid from the Department of Education and Science for the support of foreign national pupils.
There are five permanent teachers on the staff. The principal, who has been in the role of principal for 14 years, is a teaching principal. He was previously principal of St. Fergus Senior School and in 1999 he assumed leadership of the amalgamated school. There are four mainstream teachers and the fifth teacher is a full time Learning Support teacher. Pupil attendance in the school is good.
The board of management is properly constituted and it functions in accordance with Department of Education and Science regulations. To date, the board has met three times per annum, on a termly basis, but it intends to meet on at least five occasions during the current school year. Minutes are maintained by the board secretary. Procedures are in place to track income and expenditure on a regular basis and the treasurer presents a financial report at each meeting. The school accounts have been audited recently by an external auditor. Maintenance of the school is reviewed regularly and the building and grounds are kept in excellent condition by a part-time caretaker. The Chairperson visits the school on a weekly basis and in addition, he has regular informal meetings with the principal and the deputy principal. The work of the board of management has involved dealing with issues concerning maintenance of the building and the organisation of school-related events such as concerts, Holy Communion and other celebratory functions. Aspects of the school plan which have been prioritised during the current school year are discussed at board meetings.
Whereas the board has had little direct involvement in drawing up school policy and the teaching staff has made the main contribution to its development, the board has been centrally involved in approval and review of policy. It is to the credit of the board that it has led discussion on the appropriate integration in the school and in the community of the foreign national pupils and their families. The board ensures that the school complies with Department regulations in relation to the length of the school year and the school day, the deployment of teachers, class size and the retention of pupils.
Overall, the board of management is very effective in ensuring that St.Fergus N.S. is managed and administered efficiently and board members are committed to their roles and responsibilities as members of a board. It would however, be appropriate at this point, for the board to consider the future development of the school to an even greater extent than at present. To this end, it is recommended that the board would draw up a long-term school development plan which would prioritise the school’s areas for development and which would contain relevant time scales, costings and criteria by which successful implementation of the plan will be judged. The development plan should be challenging but realistic and should be reviewed annually. Some issues to be considered for the future might involve the provision of enriching environments for play, both internally and externally, supporting priorities identified as a result of the ongoing implementation of the curriculum and the continued development of meaningful involvement with parents of foreign national pupils.
The principal is effective in leading and managing the school. He has efficiently organised the whole-school planning process. As a teaching principal, he has led by example, through creating a positive school and classroom climate and by promoting good behaviour and attendance patterns. He has had an excellent influence on the school’s values, environment and culture and he has influenced the steps the school has already taken in implementing change in the curriculum. In recent times, he has facilitated the inclusion of the greater diversity of pupils in the school and through the provision of environmental print in Russian and Ukrainian, he has taken particular steps to welcome the parents of the foreign national pupils.
To ensure the optimal development of the school in the future, the principal needs to place slightly greater emphasis on his leadership of teaching and learning in the school by monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the planning process in curricular areas, by examining the quality of outcomes and by giving priority to identifying the professional needs of staff.
The principal is supported in his work by an effective in-school management team. One teacher with special duties acts as co-ordinator of school planning activities. The Deputy Principal has special duties connected with the organisation of physical education in the school as well as other duties. These responsibilities are appropriately allocated at present. Overall, in-school management in St. Fergus N.S. is efficient and effective.
The classes are organised in the traditional manner in four mainstream groupings. Teachers
interact well with each other and a supportive team atmosphere is evident. A special
needs assistant works under the guidance of a classroom teacher. A combination of good
planning and caring interaction underpins this work and contributes effectively to the full
inclusion of the pupil in the mainstream classroom. An efficient secretary and daily cleaner also
provide excellent support to the school. External tutors or coaches who teach aspects of the
curriculum are involved in the teaching of swimming, gaelic football, art, music and dance.
The board of management has been very supportive in the past of the professional development of the staff. This encouragement should be continued, not only in regard to supporting the professional development provided in general to all teachers but also with a view to meeting whole staff and individual needs in this particular school context. To ensure that teachers will benefit from the experience of teaching in a variety of class contexts and to ensure that the school in general will benefit from a sharing of expertise at different class levels, consideration should be given to developing a policy of rotating the allocation of classes and of utilising staff skills in a broad and flexible manner.
As a consequence of the decline in pupil numbers, three classrooms of the original seven classrooms have become vacant. At present, these classrooms have been allocated for other purposes that support learning and teaching in the school. They are utilised as a computer room, a room for the learning support teacher and a room which is primarily used for the teaching of the visual arts. The four rooms in use as mainstream classes present constraints in terms of their dimensions. This is particularly apparent in the classroom in use for the infant classes. In addition a small room is used for one of the resource teachers. The second resource teacher is at present located in the room allocated for computer use. A general purposes room includes a small stage area. The secretary utilises the original staff room. The recreation area comprises a grassy area, two hard-covered play areas, an outdoor shelter, a basketball court and a games pitch. The school has access to the local GAA pitch and use of the community hall when required.
The school has recently focused on continuously improving the appearance of the school grounds. One of the projects it is undertaking is the ongoing development of a wild life garden. Current plans involve the pruning of trees and the introduction of bird boxes so that indigenous birds will be encouraged to settle near the school grounds. Utilising grant aid provided by the Limerick County Council Artist-in-Residence Programme, the school has employed a local artist to undertake “willow weaving” which involves the training of willow trees into animal shapes so that children can see them taking shape as they grow.
A broad range of resources which support the delivery of the curriculum throughout the school has been provided. Most classrooms have a considerable range of appropriate charts, maps and posters on display and these contribute to a stimulating learning environment. There is an extensive range of physical education, science and mathematics equipment, percussion instruments, videos, C.Ds and visual art supplies in the school. Library books are made available in the classrooms and the local library is used as an excellent resource for further access to library material. Teacher-devised materials are also provided. Extensive use of these material resources was observed during the evaluation period.
There is at present a lack of variety in the material resources provided to support teaching and learning in the early years. To ensure that pupils’ development and well-being continues to be promoted at infant level, the curriculum for this age group should be underpinned by the provision of materials and equipment which are developmentally appropriate and which support the provision of a variety of challenging and stimulating experiences.
Considerable investment has been made in information technology in the school. The designation of one of the empty classrooms as a computer room has been constructive, although at the present time, final linkage to broadband is awaited and should be prioritised. To ensure that the provision of information technology is not confined to one classroom and that such provision is perceived by all in the school as a supportive resource for learning and teaching, it would be worthwhile to provide a computer in each classroom with a similar link to the internet. Thus children will be enabled to recognise that the information they require may be presented in different electronic formats including image, photographs, video and sound as well as text.
The evaluation period occurred early in the school year. Some of the pupils’ work from the
previous school year was on display in project format in the general purposes room.
Representatives of the parents’ association expressed broad satisfaction with the manner in which the school is proactive in addressing any issues that arise, by attending to parents’ concerns both as a group and on a one to one basis. The principal interacts regularly with the parents’ association. The main medium of day to day home/school communication is through information notes conveyed by the pupils. One to one parent/teacher meetings are organised annually. Parents receive periodic information from the school about the progress of their children. All sections of the school plan are made available in the school for examination by parents. The parents have been actively supporting the board of management in applying for grant-aid from a number of sources and in planning for fund-raising for the provision of age-appropriate external play facilities for children from the infant classes.
As well as the emphasis placed on the local environment in teaching of curricular areas, the pupils are encouraged to contribute to their local environment outside the classroom. Examples of this involvement with the local community are the support given to the Tidy Towns Clean Up Project, involvement with the Heritage Centre, performance of Irish dance and music in the community hall and the provision of entertainment in a home for the elderly.
A continuing feature of St. Fergus N.S. is the excellent caring attitude of its teachers and the warm friendly atmosphere which pervades the school. Teacher/pupil and pupil/pupil relationships in the school are characterised by mutual respect and good humour. The pupils exhibit excellent behaviour patterns inside and outside the classroom. They appear to enjoy school, they work hard and take pride in their achievements. These very good pupil attitudes underpin teaching and learning in the school. They are the result of the positive approach and commitment by the staff to the pastoral care and overall welfare of the pupils and of the existence of a code of behaviour which is implicitly understood and implemented.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
The whole school planning process involves staff discussion and collaboration and the designation of a named member of staff whose responsibility it is to draw together all whole –school plans. Following examination of these whole school plans, ratification by the school’s board of management occurs. The organisational policies in place include those required by legislation or recommended by circular or guidelines. There is a very praiseworthy focus on maintenance of an action plan which is essentially a record of decisions made in regard to actions decided upon and responsibilities allocated, on an annual basis. This systematic focus on ensuring that school priorities are achieved is a clear indicator of the acceptance of responsibility by the school’s staff and management for continuous improvement of all aspects of school life. It is also an indicator of the willingness of staff to ensure that the curriculum is gradually embedded in school practice.
The whole-school plans in curricular areas contain evidence of the thought, effort and hard work which has been involved in drawing them together. There is however, some variation between the various curricular plans in terms of the amount and type of information they contain. There is a need at this point to decide upon and to document a clear procedure for the development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the school plan. Existing whole school curricular plans should be revisited on a phased basis. It is recommended that revision of the plan for English should be prioritised. Some aspects of the existing plans, which refer to content of planned lessons or which are essentially teaching resource material, could be presented separately. However, much of the material in the existing plans could be incorporated into the revised plans which should include reference to explicit aims, methodologies, resources, content (as appropriate) and assessment. It is recommended that the principal would assume clear responsibility for the monitoring of and review of implementation of the school plan.
Classroom planning in general is undertaken systematically and comprehensively. In accordance with Rule 126, long-term and short-term planning is in place in all classes. Progress records are maintained on a monthly basis and are retained by the principal. In terms of the content of plans there is evidence from the amount of detail they contain that a great deal of prior thought and reflection has been given to the content of lessons to be taught. As all mainstream classes are combined classes, some plans are delineated separately for each standard taught. There is reference in most individual planning to the learning outcomes envisaged in the primary curriculum. To ensure a focused approach on these outcomes of learning, to ensure clear linkage with the primary curriculum and to streamline the planning process, it is recommended that the staff would now agree on common templates for long and short-term classroom planning. These templates should allow for clarification of the broad learning outcomes in the long-term and of specific learning outcomes in the short-term for each curricular area. The methods to be employed and the content of lessons taught should be briefly stated. The priorities stated in the school plan in terms of approaches taken and methodologies employed should be clearly reflected. Appropriate resources to support the achievement of these learning outcomes should be identified. Long and short-term plans should include reference to the means whereby pupils with specific learning difficulties or special educational needs will be included in mainstream activities and will have access to differentiated activities which are based on their learning targets. There should be clear plans for the assessment of progress in learning. A template for monthly progress records in the school should also be agreed among the staff. Ideally these records would enable staff to track progress and would allow for reflection on the implementation of targets identified in the school plan.
The teachers might now consider how development of their own skills in the use of information technology could assist them in furthering the entire planning process. In summary, the planning process in the school in its entirety should be revisited to support an increased emphasis by all in the school on the cyclical process of planning, implementation and review of the school plan.
Overall, the quality of teaching and learning in this school is very good. Lessons are presented in a highly competent manner and the teachers succeed in creating secure and attractive classroom environments. Illustrative materials are used effectively to stimulate the interest of the pupils. Much of the teaching observed included skilled questioning which stimulated thought and development in the pupils. However, this work predominantly occurred on a whole-class basis which dissipated the benefit of these questioning skills for individual pupils. The teaching should be aimed at fully engaging the pupils so that they take part in discussions and respond to probing questions which will encourage them to talk through their ideas and so develop their understanding.
In the early years, as recommended in the curriculum, this mediating role of the teacher will be crucial in helping children to use imaginative play to extend and enrich their language ability and their conceptual framework. It is recommended that thought should now be given to the provision of a wider variety of materials and contexts which will facilitate children's play in the infant classroom. A greater amount of structured play should occur at this level. The teacher’s role should be to interact with individual children and groups of children, contributing to the particular activity, supporting it with collaborative talk and challenging the children appropriately.
With this aim in mind and considering the fact that all classes are combined classes within which a variety of attainment levels will naturally occur, group teaching as opposed to whole-class teaching should predominate in the future. There is a need now to develop a reasonable balance between pair work, group work and individual work as well as whole-class teaching throughout the school.
Concrete materials are used effectively in the teaching and learning process. Good emphasis is placed on the environment as a resource and as a starting point for learning. The teachers are commended for introducing experimentation, discovery learning and for providing opportunities for pupils in the middle and senior classes to undertake independent learning and project work. The engagement of the children in their learning is excellent. The planned further development of the ICT resources should enhance the pupils’ language, communication and collaboration skills and should also assist them to develop problem-solving skills.
Fothaítear timpeallachtaí sna rangsheomraí i gcoitinne atá fabhrach do mhúineadh agus d’fhoghlaim na Gaeilge. Saothraíonn na hoidí go han-díograiseach i múineadh na Gaeilge, baineann na daltaí an-taitneamh as na ceachtanna, déantar bainistíocht éifeachtach ar obair an ranga agus tá dearcadh deimhneach á chothú i measc na ndaltaí i leith foghlaim na teanga.
Baintear dea-fheidhm as modhanna éagsúla múinte sna rangsheomraí chun ceachtanna na Gaeilge a chur i láthair na ndaltaí. Spreagtar rannpháirtíocht na ndaltaí agus mealltar iad chun cumarsáide go cumasach, trí fheidhm thorthúil a bhaint as ceistiúchán, cluichí cumarsáide, obair-i-bpéirí, agallaimh, gníomhaíochtaí ról-ghlacaidh, amhránaíocht, drámaíocht agus imeachtaí éagsúla eile. Déantar sár-iarrachtaí suímh oiriúnacha a chothú chun fíorchumarsáid na ndaltaí a spreagadh, ionas go mbeadh deiseanna ag na páistí an Ghaeilge atá foghlamtha acu a chleachtadh.
Tá sár-thús curtha leis an léitheoireacht fhoirmiúil, feictear go léann na daltaí go líofa agus léiríonn siad tuiscint ar an ábhar. Baintear úsáid an-mhaith as na ceachtanna léitheoireachta mar ócáidí cainte chun foclóir na bpáistí a fhorbairt agus chun a dtuiscint ar mhúnlaí na cainte a dhaingniú. Tugtar faoi theagasc na scríbhneoireachta go críochnúil, cláraíonn na daltaí cleachtaí sa scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil ina gcóipleabhair go cumasach agus cruthaítear scríbhneoireacht phearsanta go minic sna hardranganna.
Learning environments are organised in the classrooms which are generally favourable to the teaching and learning of Irish. The teachers work very hard in teaching Irish, the children enjoy the lessons very much; the work in the classrooms is well managed and in general, a positive attitude towards learning the language is being developed among the children.
Very good use is made of various teaching techniques in the classrooms to present the Irish lessons to the children. Pupil involvement is encouraged and they are effectively persuaded to communicate through the productive use of questioning, games, pair work, interviews, role-play, singing, drama and other activities. Exceptional effort is made to create authentic situations which give opportunities to the pupils to communicate and practise the Irish they have learned. Formal reading in Irish has been well initiated. It is observed that the pupils read fluently and that they understand the reading material. The reading lessons are used as opportunities for conversation, for the development of vocabulary and to consolidate understanding of phrases. The teaching of writing is undertaken in a thorough manner. The pupils competently record their functional writing activities in copybooks and personal writing is frequently undertaken in the senior classes.
Reading is generally well developed throughout the school with an emphasis on phonological awareness and on reading for pleasure and for information. The reading programme involves reading novels and visits to the local library. From First Class upwards, reading is based on a wide range of reading material which includes narrative, expository and representational text. Throughout the school, various strategies are used to develop pupils’ reading fluency and accuracy. Higher order comprehension strategies are actively developed. However, in the teaching of English generally, greater attention needs to be paid to utilising developmentally appropriate methods at the infant level. As recommended in the curriculum, 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. Aspects of the emergent reading programme which now should be emphasised at this level in the school are the provision of a print-rich environment, engaging in specific oral language activity, the use of language experience materials and collaborative reading of large-format books. Children should be 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.
Although there is a general consciousness among the staff of the importance of the development of oral language, even greater efforts should be made to explicitly extend the children’s thinking skills and to the children’s emotional and imaginative lives through oral language. Clear learning outcomes for the teaching of oral English in particular, which parallel those of the primary curriculum, should be stated in teachers’ long-term and short-term planning. To achieve outcomes in keeping with the learning objectives of the curriculum in oral language, more use should be made of a variety of approaches in oral work which involve whole-class, group work and individual teaching.
A traditional approach to the teaching of writing is adopted and the overall quality of work achieved is very good. However, in keeping with the focus of the curriculum, there should now be a greater emphasis on encouraging the pupils to clarify and refine their thoughts through the process of drafting and redrafting their writing. Pupils should be encouraged to write personal responses to a variety of stimuli and to write for real purposes and real audiences in a variety of genres. The writing process should be scaffolded by the teachers and pupils should in the future be helped to develop a command of the conventions of grammar, punctuation and spelling, as they arise in the context of the oral, reading and writing work. The use of ICT to benefit the writing process should be fully examined.
Clear emphasis is placed in teaching on all of the strands of the mathematics curriculum and lessons are paced skilfully. Experiential learning is central to the lessons. Pupils are provided with opportunities to learn using concrete materials and in general they are encouraged to learn co-operatively and actively. Regular revision is undertaken and the pupils record their work appropriately. The teachers make conscientious efforts to base the concepts on the environment of the pupils and to use environmental materials. Written work is monitored regularly and corrected carefully. During the evaluation, pupils demonstrated a good understanding of the topics they had studied. They explained accurately the processes involved in working out their problems and they were able to estimate and perform mental arithmetic tasks with ease. Close attention is paid to pupil progress and understanding during lessons. Pupil errors are analysed and additional help is given to pupils who have difficulty with concepts or problem solving. Overall the quality of teaching and learning in the Mathematics lessons observed during the evaluation was very good.
In keeping with the ethos and sense of community in this school, particular emphasis is placed on local studies. Teachers plan a broad history programme that gives children knowledge of the past at family, local, national and international levels. Project work is an extremely important element of the programme in this school. The children respond positively and are enthusiastic about the topics they have studied. Laudable emphasis is placed on pupils researching topics and on active-learning experiences in general.
A broad programme in social, environmental and scientific education is undertaken in the classrooms. In geography there is heavy reliance on the use of a textbook but resources such as maps and charts are available and used very effectively. These resources should now be supplemented with ordnance survey maps. The children have attained a wide knowledge of world geography. It is recommended however, that considering the optimal location of the school in terms of developing social, environmental and scientific education, the potential of using a thematic whole-school approach, the potential of using the immediate local environment and more broadly, of the entire Shannon estuary, to support SESE should be fully explored and exploited. Consideration of the individual skills and interests of the teaching staff also suggests the immense potential of this area of the curriculum for encouraging specialisation and a team approach to delivering the social environmental and scientific education curriculum. In support of this work, the potential of ICT resources for local and global communication should be taken into account.
A whole school plan has been prepared for the teaching of Science. A good range of materials suitable for providing pupils with a broad range of scientific experiences has been provided. Samples and exhibits are displayed on nature and interest tables. Work in class is very much activity based and the interest and curiosity of pupils are being suitably nurtured. Scientific skills such as observing, investigating, experimenting, predicting and recording are being very well developed in the pupils. The work observed relating to electricity was well prepared, involved whole class and group work and provided much scope for purposeful discussion. Parents who specialise in particular areas such as divining, bee-keeping and farming have been invited to give talks to the children.
Attractive displays of pupil work are arranged in classrooms and also in the pupils’ immediate learning environment. Pupil effort is celebrated, emphasis is placed on pupil enjoyment and on the developmental process, while occasional participation in competitions is also encouraged. It is noted that the school has availed of support from the Artist-in-Residence initiative. Effective cross-curricular work is undertaken through linking activities in the visual arts with learning experiences in drama at some class levels and this practice is commended. It is advised that consideration should now be given to the development of digital portfolios, through a photographic record of work, which could be supported by ICT resources.
In the classes where the teaching of Music was observed, it is evident that Music is taught in a competent manner. Aspects of Music literacy including rhythm, notation, beat and pitch are being explored. Appropriate activities are also presented to promote pupils’ listening, responding and Music appreciation skills. It is evident that good standards have been attained in relation to pupils’ singing ability, while productive use is made of a variety of appropriate resources including the electronic keyboard, percussion instruments, appropriate textbooks, audio-visual equipment, tapes and compact discs. It is recommended that consideration might now be given to the sharing of teacher expertise in this curricular area.
Pupils are facilitated in developing vocal skills through participation in the school choir and are also encouraged to take an active part in school-produced performances. Staff members involved in the direction of the school choir and in-school musical activities are commended for their effort and commitment in the undertaking of these tasks.
The development of pupils’ instrumental skills is promoted through the provision of instruction in tin whistle. This tuition is provided by an external tutor and pupils from first to sixth classes are afforded the opportunity of availing of this instruction on a weekly basis during one term of the school year.
Dramatic activity is undertaken at classroom level and is also employed as an effective strategy
throughout the school to ensure cross-curricular integration. Drama is also used to enhance
learning experiences in a variety of curricular areas, including the visual arts, Irish and English
oral language activities. It is evident that pupils derive enjoyment from the techniques employed
and from the activities undertaken.
The school uses its own general purposes room, the school playground and Ballyloughran Leisure Centre for physical education activities. An inventory has been taken of all of the equipment available to support this area of the curriculum. The school plan which was formulated in March/April 2006 indicates that it is planned to introduce the pupils to the strands of Athletics, Dance, Gymnastics, Games and Outdoor and Adventure activities. Children from first to sixth classes attend Ballyloughran Leisure Centre for a six week block of swimming lessons annually. The GAA provides blocks of coaching in gaelic games’ skills, particularly in gaelic football skills, in the school. Inclement weather limited the number of lessons observed. The lessons observed emphasised the participation of all pupils and the development of a range of skills. The children are involved in inter-school games and the staff is to be commended on its highly organised approach to this area of the curriculum.
The behaviour and mutual respect of teachers and pupils for each other reflects the success of the approach to social personal and health education. The staff draws upon programmes such as
Walk Tall, the Department of Education and Science RSE programme, the Stay Safe
Programme, Bí Folláin and other material in delivering the social personal and health
education programme. In keeping with the school’s mission statement, concern for the health and
safety of the child underpins the delivery of the programme and the interaction among all in the
school. The school is to be particularly affirmed for its work in creating an inclusive school
culture. The children in fifth and sixth classes enjoyed teaching the polish language phrases they
had learned to the inspector. Further work in the future should continue on using ICT to enhance
the intercultural experience of all pupils in the school and in mediating the curriculum in a way
that reflects cultural diversity.
The Micra-T standardised tests are administered in English from first to sixth classes. Standardised test scores achieved display good standards of attainment in the areas of literacy. Teacher-designed tests and assessments are also administered in the area of Mathematics. The Quest assessment programme is administered at the end of the first term with pupils from first class. It is anticipated that the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) will be administered to pupils at senior infant level during the final term of the current school year. It is recommended that, following this administration of the MIST test, consideration be given to the implementation of the Forward Together Programme for targeted pupils, as an early intensive intervention measure, in collaboration with parents. It is further advised that consideration be given to the use of a computerised system, which would facilitate the analysis of assessment data by mainstream class teachers, the support teachers and the principal.
Commercially produced reporting booklets are in use and reports on pupil progress are sent to parents at the end of each school year. Feedback in relation to pupil progress is also provided to parents at annual parent/teacher meetings. Consideration should now be given to the development of digital portfolios to facilitate the storage of individual children’s work samples in a variety of curricular areas.
A wide range of diagnostic tests is used in the support areas, including the Marino Schonell Reading Test, the Schonell Spelling Test, the Holborn Sentence Reading Test and the Rain Sentence Reading Test. These diagnostic tests facilitate the review of pupils’ individual education plans and contribute to determining specific targets for each individual pupil in receipt of support or supplementary teaching. A list of resources in use in the learning support and resource areas of the school are detailed in the school’s Special Needs Education policy. These include the Red Rocket, Flying Boot and Sparklers reading schemes, the Phonological Awareness Training Programme (PAT), Vowel Sound Dictionary and The Phonics Handbook/A Blueprint for Literacy. Teaching resources are also available in compact disc format, through the Reading for Literacy, Spelling Force, Jump Ahead Year 1 & 2 and Learning Ladder programmes.
Quality of whole-school policy and planning
A policy on Special Needs Education is documented in the school’s whole school planning documentation. This documentation states that it has been drawn up in line with the Learning Support Guidelines (DES, 2000) and Special Education Circular 02/05. Detailed guidance is provided in this policy on the following: the enrolment of pupils with special needs; inclusion, procedures for early identification; screening and referral; information regarding testing and results; intervention programmes; assessment practices and procedures; teacher planning; professional development; issues regarding teacher/teacher and parent/teacher communication; the role of the special needs assistant; the link with the school’s code of behaviour; issues pertaining to equality of access and participation; record keeping; success criteria; implementation and review.
Individual teacher planning in support teaching areas is documented through the comprehensive formulation and recording of pupil individual education plans, short-term plans, timetables, evaluations of pupil progress and summaries of work completed. There is evidence of effective collaboration and consultation among the principal, mainstream class teachers and support teaching staff in the formulation and development of pupils’ individual education plans. In some instances, strategies are in place to initiate and foster communication between parents and mainstream class teachers. It is advised that this practice be expanded to ensure that parental and teacher input is further incorporated into the formulation and review of individual education plans. Feedback regarding pupil progress is provided to parents at annual parent/teacher meetings and pupil work is effectively organised. It is recommended that, in relation to support teaching provision, strategies be undertaken to ensure that pupil progress is assessed on a regular, formal basis.
It is reported that liaison with other support personnel, including occupational therapists and speech and language therapists, has been established, as appropriate.
A collaborative approach to the provision of support for pupils is in evidence among the principal, mainstream class teachers and support teaching staff. This school has the services of a learning support teacher, under the General Allocation Scheme. A shared resource teacher is based in Ballyguiltenane National School and provides resource teaching for three pupils who are diagnosed with low incidence learning needs. A part time resource teacher, who is shared with three other schools, also provides resource teaching for one pupil. It is advised, that consideration be given to facilitating communication between the members of the support team, in order to review learning outcomes, pupil progress and the attainment of targets.
Pupils are withdrawn for support provision from mainstream classes, both individually and in groups, and a range of teaching strategies is implemented in these settings. The programmes of learning focus on the development of language, literacy, numeracy, social and behavioural skills. Practical activities are undertaken and a range of educational software is used in a productive manner in some support teaching settings. In general, learning environments in support settings are well-organised and are attractively decorated, where appropriate. It is recommended that the practice of providing stimulating, print-rich learning environments be extended to all support teaching contexts and that maximum use is made of the school’s existing classroom accommodation in this regard.
A combination of in-class support and a withdrawal model of supplementary teaching is provided to support the needs of pupils with learning difficulties and special educational needs. It is reported that efforts are being made to implement an integrated approach to supporting the learning needs of pupils in the mainstream context. This practice is commended and it is recommended that consideration be given to the further development of this integrated model of provision in mainstream class settings, as appropriate. It is further recommended that the learning support service be utilised to continue to provide intensive early intervention for pupils with the greatest priority learning needs, in accordance with the terms of the Learning Support Guidelines (DES, 2000).
There are currently eight foreign-national pupils in attendance in St. Fergus’ National School, who are included in all activities in mainstream classes. These pupils are in receipt of language support in English on a withdrawal basis. This language support provision was initiated during the current school year. The Integrate Ireland Language and Training Programme is effectively used to support the children’s oral language and literacy needs and it is evident that thorough preparation and productive planning is undertaken in this regard. It is recommended that the promotion of strategies to facilitate ongoing communication, consultation and liaison with parents be considered.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft
findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.