An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

St. Audoen’s National School

Cook St, Dublin 8

Uimhir rolla:  20104A

 

Date of inspection: 20 November 2009

 

 

 

 

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 St. Audoen’s National School was undertaken in November 2009. 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, Mathematics and Geography. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

  

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

156

Mainstream classes in the school

 8

Teachers on the school staff

13

Mainstream class teachers

8

Teachers working in support roles

5

Special needs assistants

4

 

1.     Quality of school management

  

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

St. Audoen’s National School is a 156-pupil, co-educational, Catholic primary school operating under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. The school’s mission statement is clearly articulated in the school plan. It aims to create a safe learning environment where the potential of all pupils is nurtured and realised. In so doing, the school aspires to nurture happy, confident pupils who are enthusiastic, independent and respectful. This characteristic spirit is manifest in the broad curriculum that is implemented, the breadth of school activities provided and in the positive and respectful interactions between teachers and pupils and among pupils themselves. The school receives additional funding under Band 1 of the Department of Education and Skills’s DEIS initiative. Very good efforts have been made by the principal and staff to encourage good attendance. Formal strategies are in place. While overall attendance levels at the school are high a small number of pupils miss more than twenty days.

 

1.2 Board of management

      The board of management carries out its management duties competently. It is committed to the welfare of all pupils and staff and is supportive of the many education initiatives and developments undertaken at the school. It is properly constituted in accordance with Department of Education and Skills (DES) guidelines. The board ensures that regulations regarding the length of the school year and day, the retention of pupils and class size are observed. It meets at least five times a year and more frequently if required. Minutes of the meetings are maintained. The school’s accounts are certified annually. School organisational and curriculum policies are developed and ratified by board members. The board maintains effective communication with parents through the parents’ representatives on the board. 

 

1.3 In-school management

      The principal provides excellent leadership and management to the school. He is highly committed and dedicated to school improvement and to fostering strong community links. He is very well respected among the school community and is honest and open in his communications. The school is very well organised and all administrative matters are dealt with thoroughly. The principal is very focussed on teaching and learning and monitors the achievement levels of pupils at the school carefully.  He successfully promotes a culture of school self-evaluation.

 

      The principal is diligently assisted by the in-school management team.  The team comprises one deputy principal and three special duties post-holders. Individually and collectively, the members of the in-school management team contribute to the efficient management and leadership of the school. It is important that the duties of the post-holders are regularly reviewed to ensure that they reflect the current and emerging needs of the school.

 

1.4 Management of resources

Commendable efforts have been made by the principal, staff and caretaker to ensure a safe environment in the building and grounds for all pupils.  The school building is maintained to a very high standard. The principal has been very proactive in seeking support for the school from local businesses and community initiatives. He has successfully secured funding for the construction of play facilities in the school yard. A pre-school funded by the Eastern Health Board operates in part of the school building.  Teaching personnel are appropriately deployed in line with Departmental guidelines. The school employs four special needs assistants. It has a part-time secretary and full-time caretaker who make a valuable contribute to the effective day-to-day functioning of the school.

 

The school is very well resourced to support the implementation of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). There is a comprehensive supply of teaching and learning resources available in all classrooms and these are used to good effect during lessons. These include books and materials for languages, the Visual Arts, Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE), equipment for Mathematics, and Science and various other charts and visual aids. Attractive learning environments have been created in the classrooms. The school has an extensive range of up-to-date technological equipment. All classrooms have an interactive whiteboard, internet access and each classroom has at least one computer and printer. In addition, the school has a very well-equipped computer room. All classroom libraries are well stocked. 

 

1.5 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

There is open and effective communication with parents. The school has a welcoming atmosphere. The principal maintains a highly visible presence, particularly during school opening and closing times. A general meeting of parents is held annually where school issues and policies are discussed and approved. The principal meets parents of all junior infant pupils individually prior to starting school. Parents are kept informed of various aspects of school-life through the use of attractively-presented newsletters, homework journals, notes and the school prospectus. Formal and informal meetings between teachers and parents are complemented by annual written reports to parents on their children’s progress. Although there is no formal parents’ association there is a tradition in the community of support for the school.  A number of parents are actively involved in fundraising and in various school activities. Parents are included in the formulation of a number of policies. These include policies on school uniform, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), discipline and healthy eating.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The pupils are managed effectively at all class levels. Relationships between the teachers and the pupils are very good. Rules for good behaviour are on display, and in some cases, democratically decided. Routines and expectations regarding behaviour are clearly explained and understood by all. A positive code of discipline and behaviour is successfully implemented throughout the school in a manner that accords with the provisions of the Equal Status Act 2000. The pupils are respectful towards each other, their teachers and other staff members. 

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. Curriculum plans and an extensive range of organisational policies have been collaboratively devised under the direction of the principal and in-school management team. A whole-school review was recently undertaken leading to the formulation of a comprehensive DEIS action plan. The plan sets out specific targets for the school in the areas of literacy, numeracy and attendance. The school’s organisational policies are clear and informative and reflect the context of the school. Detailed curriculum plans have been developed for all curriculum areas. A schedule for review of school policies and plans is in place. When reviewing curriculum plans it is important to ensure that the content is specific to the school context and is suitably differentiated for the varying abilities of pupils.

 

All teachers engage in long-term and short-term planning.  An objectives-based approach is used by some teachers.  Some efforts have been made by teachers to meet individual pupil needs through the preparation of differentiated worksheet tasks and extension activities. Individual teacher planning should take full account of individual needs and differing pupil abilities. An agreed template for recording monthly progress is followed. 

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Skills Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Skills, 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 English

The teaching of English is effective. Lessons are well structured and appropriately paced.  The teachers use a variety of methods including whole-class, pair work and individual teaching. They demonstrate effective questioning techniques. Stimulating, print-rich classroom environments have been created for language learning. The pupils’ receptive and expressive language skills are suitably developed through discrete oral-language lessons and through the integration of language learning with other areas of the curriculum. The pupils communicate confidently and competently across a range of themes. During reading lessons the teachers ensure that word attack skills are carefully taught. Commendable phonics work is carried out by the teachers in the infant and junior classes.  The pupils’ reading is listened to regularly in all classes. Ability-grouping for reading is in place in the middle and senior classes. Throughout the school most pupils read fluently for their class level. They demonstrate good word attack skills and comprehension ability. Effective support is provided to the small number of pupils who have difficulty with reading through the Reading Recovery programme, and through individual help by class and support teachers. Poetry is taught very well.  In the infant classes good emphasis is placed on the teaching of nursery rhymes. The pupils in other classes can recite a range of poems enthusiastically and confidently.  They are given opportunities to compose their own poems and to respond to the poetry of others.

 

Approaches to the teaching of writing in the school vary. In all classes the pupils are provided with opportunities to engage in a range of functional writing tasks. In some classes pupils engage in process writing across a variety of genres.  In these classes very good samples of diary entries, character profiles and letter writing were observed. In other classes the pupils write less frequently and in fewer genres. The pupils in all classes should be afforded opportunities to regularly engage in process writing and experience the full breadth of writing genres. The standard of the pupils’ writing in terms of presentation, spelling and handwriting is good.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Mathematics is taught very well in the school. Lessons are well structured, concepts are clearly explained and insightful teacher questioning is used to aid the development of pupils’ understanding of mathematical concepts. A variety of manipulatives and resources are used meaningfully by all teachers to support learning. Mathematical problems are related to real-life situations and to the local environment. Overall the teachers are making very good efforts to teach the language of Mathematics. There are mathematics-interest areas in every class. The enjoyment of Mathematics is successfully fostered by the teachers.

 

The overall achievement of pupils in Mathematics is good but a small number of pupils in every class experience difficulty with core elements of the programme. A greater level of individual and group teaching is recommended to respond to the significant variation in pupils’ abilities at all class levels. The pupils require regular and structured opportunities to develop their mental mathematics and problem-solving capacities. Pupils’ copy work is neatly completed and regularly corrected by the teachers.

 

3.3 Geography

Overall, the quality of the teaching of Geography is good.  The teachers deliver lessons which are interesting, well structured and paced appropriately. They explain new content and terminology clearly and they regularly question pupils to monitor understanding. A suitable range of resources such as photographs, maps, relevant illustrations and ICT is used effectively during instruction. In some classes pupils are enabled to engage in activity-based learning and work collaboratively on various tasks. The extended use of investigative, skills-based learning is recommended to develop the pupils’ skills of working as geographers in all classes. In some classes the teachers make very good use of the local environment as a means of developing the pupils’ awareness, enjoyment and understanding of aspects of the geography of the area.  They organise walks in the locality and individual teachers have started work on the development of trails. To ensure that pupils experience the full breadth of the geography curriculum in a spiral and developmental way the school plan for Geography should incorporate programmes of learning for each class level outlining specific targets in the relevant strands.  Key decisions should be made regarding the use of the local environment and the selection of content from local, national and European and global contexts.

 

The pupils demonstrate very good knowledge of the topics taught to date and a keen awareness of important environmental issues including recycling and energy conservation. The pupils’ sense of space and place, and graphical skills are developed suitably and the quality of their completed project work in a number of classes is praiseworthy.

 

3.4 Assessment

The school is commended on its use of summative assessment in a rigorous and formative way to effect improvement in pupil achievement. To this end, the principal has adopted a highly comprehensive approach to the analysis of the annual standardised test results. These tests, in both English and Mathematics, are administered annually to pupils from first to sixth class and the resultant data have been tracked systematically over the last decade to enable the school to monitor its progress against its stated DEIS targets. The school also administers both a screening test and reading test to all pupils in senior infants. Test data are used by the management team, in conjunction with the special needs team, to target support where it is most needed. A wide range of diagnostic tests is used by the special education teachers to determine further specific needs. In addition, class teachers meet with the principal to review the progress of both their class and individual pupils. Within the classroom settings, the teachers implement a variety of assessment modes, including, teacher-designed tests and tasks, teacher-observation, checklists and the sampling of pupils’ work. To complement this very good practice, consideration should now be given to extending the provision for both pupil self-assessment and peer-assessment and to enabling the pupils to modify their work in the light of formative feedback. In the EAL setting, the recommended assessment tools are administered appropriately and the resultant data is used to guide and inform subsequent teaching and learning.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The overall quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is very good.  The special education team comprises two learning support/resource teachers (LSRT) and one special class teacher. Four special needs assistants successfully support the inclusion of pupils with special educational needs (SEN) and promote the development of their independence. A comprehensive policy for special education has been developed. The policy incorporates the staged approach and is in line with Department circulars and guidelines.  Clear selection procedures have been agreed. The special education settings are attractive and a very good range of resources is available and in use. Detailed individual pupil learning profiles (IPLPs) and individual education plans (IEPs) are developed by the special education teachers for pupils availing of support.  These are based on pupils’ strengths and learning needs. Specific learning targets are set. The individual plans are reviewed at regular intervals during the year.  There is a high level of consultation by the SEN teachers with class teachers about their content. Parents are also consulted and a copy of the plan is made available to them. Lessons in the support settings are well structured and teachers use a variety of active methodologies to maximise learning. Pupils are praised and affirmed for their efforts. Support teaching is provided on a withdrawal basis.  The potential for developing further models of in-class support such as co-teaching and group-based teaching merits further exploration.

 

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

Pupils in St. Audoen’s National School experience education in an inclusive environment.  The school ensures that Department grants, in tandem with additional financial support from local businesses and community initiatives, are purposefully used to ensure all pupils access the full range of school activities. The school has a well-attended breakfast club and homework club. Effective language support for EAL pupils is provided. The teacher bases the lessons on the Integrate Ireland Language Training (IILT) themes. Pupils' contributions are encouraged during the lessons. The EAL teacher provides ample opportunities for pupils to practise and reinforce vocabulary through games and meaningful, appropriately-graded activities.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 The pupils engage with commendable enthusiasm in their learning and attain good levels of achievement.

·    There is very good assessment practice in the school.

 The board of management carries out its management duties competently and  

    it is committed to the welfare of all pupils and staff.

 

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

 

·         The school plan for Geography should incorporate programmes of learning for each class level, outlining specific targets in the relevant strands.

·         Individual teacher planning should take full account of individual needs and differing pupil abilities.

·         A greater level of individual and group teaching in Mathematics is recommended to meet the needs of all pupils.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and the board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published June 2010