An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Réalt na Mara

Passage West

 Co. Cork

Uimhir rolla: 20105C

 

Date of inspection:  28 April 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

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 Scoil Réalt na Mara. 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 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

 

Star of the Sea Primary School is situated in the town of Passage West and approximately nineteen kilometres south of Cork City. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross. It caters for pupils from junior infants to sixth class and, in the main, receives pupils who come from the immediate environs of the town. There are 341 pupils currently on roll. It is anticipated that numbers will increase further as there has been considerable growth in the town population since 2002. This school is an amalgamation of the local boys’ and girls’ schools which took place in 1999. Initially the school operated on two sites until 2002. All classes are now accommodated on the one site, previously known as the boys’ school campus.

 The school’s mission statement underpins the staff’s worthy efforts to promote the full and harmonious development of its pupils. Teachers are sensitive to their needs and are intent on maintaining close links with the community. Parents, staff and pupils are congratulated on commendable attendance levels. 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and has a clear understanding of its roles and responsibilities. Meetings are convened monthly, minutes are maintained and financial accounts are carefully documented. A considerable amount of the board’s time has been expended on the acquisition of suitable accommodation. A site has been acquired and approval has been granted by the Department of Education and Science for a new school. The board is committed to providing an appropriate learning environment for both pupils and staff and attend conscientiously to the maintenance of current facilities. Policies are discussed and ratified as necessary. The board has policies and procedures in place to facilitate compliance with relevant legislation and circulars issued by the Department of Education and Science. However, it is noted that the infant school day falls short by thirty minutes and therefore contravenes the terms of  Time in School Circular 11/95. It is recommended that the board acts to ensure that the length of the school day for infant classes complies with Department regulations. It is also noted that it has been customary for the school to close for a half-day as early as 10.45am in advance of school holidays. The board is urged to address this issue in order to maintain the integrity of the school year.

 

The chairperson meets with the principal regularly and gives freely of her time in supporting him in the management of the school. A routine meeting of board members and staff is encouraged in the ongoing promotion of positive relations. The board supports the continuous professional development of staff and has provided funding for identified in-service courses.

 

2.2 In-school management

The in-school management team is comprised of the principal, the deputy principal, an assistant principal and five special duties teachers. The principal is diligent and conscientious and is committed to the progressive development of the school both organisationally and structurally. His endeavours in securing a new school building and in maintaining current accommodation to an acceptable level is commendable. Duties, both pastoral and organisational are assigned to post-holders which are carried out attentively and contribute positively to school management and organisation. The in-school management team meets regularly and staff is routinely informed of decisions and progress. The potential now exists to enable in-school management personnel to develop their instructional leadership roles in guiding future teaching and learning on a whole-school basis. To this end, the regular examination of monthly progress records is advised to monitor the progress of curriculum implementation. It is recommended that a review of assigned duties be conducted regularly to address the ever changing needs of the school.  

 

2.3 Management of resources

A conscientious effort is made to ensure that all necessary resources, both personnel and material are appropriately deployed. Arrangements are well established to ensure that teachers get a variety of teaching experiences while in the school. Commendably, staff has participated in a variety of in-service courses in their ongoing professional development. Meetings are convened each month and an agenda is circulated to all staff members in advance of meetings. Matters organisational and curricular are regularly discussed and minutes are recorded. Ancillary staff provide a high measure of administrative support and their efforts are greatly appreciated by the principal and staff.

 

The main school building accommodates four classrooms with a further nine prefabricated classrooms situated around the school grounds. The board of management has invested generously in a wide range of resources to support curriculum implementation. Staff is advised to review current storage processes to facilitate greater accessibility to and retrieval of equipment. The school is well resourced, in particular, in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). However, staff is urged to revisit current ICT usage considering that a number of computers in the school’s designated computer room remain unused for a substantial time period. Classrooms are arranged and decorated to provide attractive learning environments for pupils. Corridors and entrance areas are decorated attractively with pupils’ work.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

A meeting with the officers of the parents’ association indicates that a positive relationship exists between the board of management, teachers and the general parent body. The school recognises the value of good communication and to this end a school newsletter is issued termly. Parents receive two reports each year documenting pupil progress and achievement. Parent-teacher meetings are organised and prospective parents of new entrants are invited to an induction meeting. Parents are involved in a number of initiatives to support the school. These include extensive fundraising, ongoing support for school events and policy development as required. Parents are also suitably represented on the joint action committee to secure a new school premises.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

A positive code of behaviour, well balanced in terms of rewards and sanctions, is implemented in a fair and consistent manner. Teachers have a genuine concern for the welfare and progress of pupils. They are encouraged to respect adults and show support for fellow pupils. This positive disposition is reciprocated in the respect and co-operation which pupils offer to teachers and to other staff members. Pupils are happy and valued while in school.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

Considerable progress has been made in the whole-school planning process. The staff have engaged productively with the support services to progress whole-school planning. A range of organisational and administrative policies has been devised to facilitate the day-to-day functioning of the school and to respond to the requirements of relevant current legislation. Policies are informative and are in accordance with the school’s mission statement. It is now appropriate, however, that the elements relating to the enrolment policy be amended to comply with current legislation under the Equal Status Act (2000). All existing policies and plans have been considered and ratified by the board of management. Policies are well presented and accessible to the school community. Parents are involved in policy formulation in key areas such as the code of discipline and the healthy eating policy. Parental involvement in curricular policy formulation could gainfully be developed further.

 

Curricular policies have been developed for most subjects and are reflective of the content and methodologies of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). In more recent times various members of staff have taken responsibility for the co-ordination of different curriculum plans in consultation with all staff. Action plans have been formulated to address areas highlighted for development. It is suggested, however, that priority be given to the development of all outstanding policies. Thereafter, it is recommended that staff engage in systematic ongoing review of all policies emphasising the need to ensure greater linkage between plans and classroom practice.

 

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). It is now necessary to ensure that these child protection procedures are brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents and that a copy of the procedures be 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.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers engage in long and short-term planning, maintain monthly progress records and provide a commendable range of visual aids and materials to support teaching and learning. Long-term plans are comprehensively devised in line with respective strands of curriculum areas. Some planning delineates specific curriculum objectives and skills to be developed while others are primarily content-focused. It is recommended that the good practice of delineating content objectives and clarifying pupils’ learning outcomes in some classroom planning be further extended. This planning should also take account of differentiated objectives for pupils at different ability levels. It is advised that clear guidelines be provided in the whole-school plan to inform individual teacher planning. A variety of approaches is used in the recording of monthly progress. It is recommended that a whole-school approach be adopted and clarity provided regarding the detail required in monthly progress records to enable effective monitoring of the curriculum.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

Teachers adopt a range of strategies in addressing pupils’ learning needs. Well-structured whole-class teaching, together with challenging higher-order questioning is a worthy feature of methodologies observed. Pair and group-work were noted in a number of classes. A supportive structure to address targeted groups of pupils with learning difficulties is in place in the form of in-class support. In the further development of productive classroom practices staff is advised to consider further opportunities for group work activity and for greater differentiation in pupil learning. To this end, teachers are advised to create more inclusive learning experiences for pupils presenting with special educational needs. Overall, classroom climate is positive, interaction between teacher and pupil is productive and pupils are interested and eager for learning challenges.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Leagtar amach plean fiúntach uile-scoile don Ghaeilge ina n-áirítear aidhmeanna agus cuspóirí an ábhair maraon le forbairt ar na heiseamláirí teanga agus cur síos ar an gcur chuige d’fhorbairt na scileanna teanga faoi na téamaí éagsúla. Is inmholta an treoir shoiléir atá tugtha sa phlean i leith múineadh na filíochta, na foghraíochta agus na gramadaí. Tuigtear go bhfuil sé beartaithe ag an bhfoireann athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an bplean ar bhonn uile-scoile. Moltar, áfach, nasc níos soiléire a chinntiú idir an phlean scoile agus an cleachtas sa rang. Chuirfeadh sé go mór le forbairt chumarsáide na ndaltaí dá mbeadh an t-ionchur teanga atá le múineadh, na modhanna teagaisc agus na straitéisí cumarsáide imlínithe i bpleanáil ghearrthréimhseach na n-oidí.

 

I gcoitinne baintear feidhm thairbheach as rainn agus as amhráin chun fuaim agus rithim na Gaeilge a chur ar chluasa na ndaltaí sna ranganna naíonán agus baineann taitneamh lena bhfoghlaim. I ranganna eile forbraítear scileanna éisteachta na ndaltaí trí straitéisí agus trí thascanna oiriúnacha a eagrú. In ainneoin sin, léiríonn roinnt daltaí cumas lag tuisceana. Moltar an scéalaíocht agus an fhilíocht a chur chun cinn níos mó mar straitéis teagaisc do mhúineadh agus d’fhoghlaim na scileanna teanga go háirithe sna meán agus sna hard ranganna. B’fhiú, freisin, an Ghaeilge a úsáid go neamhfhoirmiúil ar bhonn níos rialta sa scoil chun cumas labhartha na ndaltaí a fheabhsú.

 

Baintear feidhm fhónta as puipéid, as pictiúir agus as ábhar léirithe chun tacú leis an teagasc. I gcuid de na ranganna múintear ionchur teanga cuí agus baintear feidhm oiriúnach as cleachtaí éagsúla chun na struchtúir teanga a dhaingniú. Tacaíonn an bhéim a leagtar ar úsáid na mbriathra le habairtí simplí a chumadh i roinnt ranganna. I gcásanna eile, áfach, leagtar an iomarca béime ar mhúineadh na n-ainmfhocal, rud a chuireann bac le cothú líofachta sa chaint. Ní mór a chinntiú go múintear eiseamláirí teanga go córasach agus go dtugtar deis do na daltaí an teanga a úsáid i gcomhthéacsanna cumarsáideacha. Tá gá, chomh maith, lena chinntiú go mbíonn gach dalta rannpháirteach san fhoghlaim le linn na gceachtanna.

 

Múintear an léitheoireacht go céimniúil i gcuid de na ranganna agus tá sé ar chumas roinnt daltaí léitheoireacht a dhéanamh le cruinneas. Baintear úsáid den chuid is mó as leabhair shaothar mar théacs don léitheoireacht. Tuigtear go bhfuil sé i gceist ag an scoil soláthar breise de leabhair a chur ar fáil. B’fhiú clár céimnithe a chur chun cinn do thús na litearthachta i rang a dó agus téacsanna éagsúla, fíor leabhair ina measc, a úsáid go forleathan. B’fhiú, chomh maith, béim a leagan ar fhorbairt scileanna na léitheoireachta a thuilleadh fós ag úsáid raon straitéisí teagaisc. Ní mór plean cuimsitheach a rianú agus a chur i bhfeidhm don léitheoireacht Ghaeilge.

 

Déanann na daltaí cleachtaí éagsúla scríbhneoireachta bunaithe cuid mhaith ar leabhair saothar agus scríobhann siad sleachta áirithe go neamhspleách chomh maith. Ní mór próiseas na scríbhneoireachta a chleachtadh go rialta chun scileanna na ndaltaí a fhorbairt le go mbeidh sé ar  a gcumas téacsanna éagsúla a scríobh go neamhspleách. Mar gur eispéireas cumarsáideach í an scríbhneoireacht, b’fhiú deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí a bheidh ag obair i mbeirteanna agus i ngrúpaí. Ní mór straitéisí a rianú do phróiseas na scríbhneoireachta sa phlean Gaeilge agus monatóireacht rialta a dhéanamh ar a chur i bhfeidhm.

 

Irish

Aims and broad objectives are outlined in the whole-school plan for Irish. Development of language exemplars and approaches for the teaching of different language skills are also delineated. Clear direction is given with regard to the teaching of poetry, pronunciation of the language and grammar. It is the intention of the staff to review the plan on a whole-school basis. In this review it is recommended that greater links be established between the school plan and classroom practice. It would also greatly benefit the further development of pupils’ communicative skills if the language input of lessons, methodologies and learning strategies were identified in teachers’ individual short-term plans.

 

In infant classes, in general, songs and rhymes are used to good effect to familiarise pupils with the sounds of the language. Pupils enjoy their learning during these lessons. In some classes appropriate strategies and formal tasks are designed to develop pupils’ listening skills. However, some pupils display poor ability to understand the language. Story and poetry, particularly in the middle and senior classes, could be further utilised to enhance teaching and learning of all language skills. Incidental Irish should also be spoken more regularly and extensively throughout the school to improve pupils’ language competency.

 

Resources such as puppets, pictures and charts are purposefully employed to teach the language. In a number of classes suitable language input is taught and sufficient practice is given to pupils to consolidate language structures. The use of verbs is well practised in some classes but too much emphasis is placed on the teaching of nouns in others. Some pupils are capable of structuring simple sentences but in general pupils’ ability to communicate lacks fluency. There is a need to teach language exemplars systematically and to provide pupils with opportunities to use the language in a communicative context. Progressive development of language exemplars and structures is required on a systematic basis throughout the school. Teachers should ensure that all pupils participate in the Irish lesson.

 

Reading skills are taught systematically and some pupils read in Irish with a good degree of accuracy. Workbooks are primarily used in the teaching of reading. The school is currently procuring a supply of Irish books and it is anticipated that pupils will be exposed to a wider range of suitable reading material. Further consideration should now be given to providing a structured early literacy programme in second class using a range of texts to include real books. Pupils’ reading skills should also be further developed using a range of appropriate strategies. A comprehensive whole-school plan for Irish reading should be devised and implemented.

 

Pupils written work is based primarily on workbooks with some lessons developing independent writing skills. To develop pupils’ abilities to write in different genre, process writing should be systematically promoted. Group and pair work would enhance the development of this communicative skill. A whole-school plan for process writing should be devised and its implementation should be monitored regularly.

 

English

A comprehensive whole-school plan for English has been adopted and content objectives are clearly delineated for each class grouping. Guidelines are provided for teaching and learning in English, particularly in the areas of oral language, poetry, reading and writing. While there are many commendable features in this plan, its implementation should become more evident in classroom practice.

 

Appropriate attention is paid to the development of pupils’ oral language skills which are taught through discrete oral language lessons, through reading, writing and through integration across curricular areas. Suitable activities, using a range of resources, are developed to enhance pupils’ listening skills. A commercial oral language programme is used prudently in some classes. The staff has been innovative in compiling additional material suitable for the promotion of pupils’ language development which is used to good effect. Creditable use is made of story, poetry, large format books, textbooks and workbooks to engage pupils in talk and discussion in the infant classes. In the middle and senior classes pupils are provided with opportunities to engage in debate, reporting and storytelling. Pupils in some classes enjoy and experience a repertoire of poetry appropriate to their age and stage of development allowing them to hear, recite, enjoy, appreciate and compose their own poetry. This good practice should be extended to all classes. The school is to be commended for the focused manner by which they sought to improve pupils’ oral language competency. In the further development of this oral language programme, discrete lessons should target the development of specific oral language skills and the enrichment of pupils’ vocabulary.

 

Emergent reading skills are developed gainfully in the junior classes. Print-rich environments and the supply of large books contribute to fostering an early interest in reading. Suitable emphasis is placed on reading readiness activities including knowledge of the conventions of print, basic sight vocabulary and word identification strategies. There is a systematic approach to developing pupils’ phonological and phonemic awareness skills and structures are in place to monitor the acquisition of sight vocabularies. In general, pupils read with a level of accuracy, fluency and comprehension appropriate to their ages. Further emphasis on the development of specific reading skills during lessons would greatly enhance pupils’ competency in reading, particularly those pupils who may be experiencing some difficulties. In addition to graded reading schemes class novels are employed in some classes to encourage reading for pleasure. This good practice should be extended to all classes to further augment the reading culture. Parental involvement in the Children and Parents Enjoy Reading (CAPER) programme is acknowledged. Other approaches such as Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) time and paired reading are also regularly implemented to foster pupil reading. It is recommended that further emphasis on group teaching approaches and on the provision of more differentiated instruction in specific skills be employed.

 

Handwriting skills are very well developed from an early age and the quality of pupils’ handwriting in general is praiseworthy. Pupils throughout the school engage in an extensive range of functional writing tasks that cultivate an understanding of writing conventions and grammar. Pupils in some classes engage in a range of writing genres. However, there is limited opportunity provided for pupils to edit and redraft their writing and to use information and communication technology to facilitate the writing process. To further develop pupils’ creativity and independence in writing at all class levels, personal writing tasks and the use of process writing should be a more regular feature of the English lesson. Presentation of written work in copybooks is regularly monitored and, in general, of a high standard.

 

4.3 Mathematics

An examination of mathematical scores attained in standardised tests demonstrates that pupils are making fair progress in accordance with age and ability. A sizeable number of pupils are experiencing considerable difficulty in Mathematics and this presents as a cause for concern for staff. 

 

Teachers give comprehensible explanations to pupils, present content clearly and in most cases, provide appropriate and structured learning activities. Exercises in the memorisation of number facts are a commendable feature and revision tests are administered at regular intervals. In the junior classes the recitation of number rhymes promotes number concepts. Designated mathematics areas and many high quality charts to support pupils’ learning are in evidence in many classrooms. The use of a range of games to enable pupils develop and consolidate key number skills is commendable practice in some classrooms and merits further development on a whole-school basis. Pupils are well-trained to organise and present their written work. While many pupils demonstrate high levels of motivation and a sound knowledge of mathematical concepts, it is evident that a greater emphasis on developing concepts through active learning would benefit those pupils experiencing difficulty. To this end, an increased use of concrete material in learning activities is recommended. In the further development of good practice staff is urged to develop a consistent whole-school approach to the teaching and acquisition of mathematical language. There is a need to involve pupils in greater discussion and to link concepts to real life practical situations to further develop problem-solving skills consistently. The importance of oral work as a daily routine to help pupils revise, consolidate and apply their learning was highlighted and discussed during the evaluation. The regular grouping of pupils is recommended by way of addressing pupils’ diverse learning needs in Mathematics.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

A wide range of topics is covered in the History programme that allows pupils become aware of the individuals, groups, events, cultures, beliefs and values which have affected the lives of people in the past. While commercial texts are used in the delivery of the History programme other praiseworthy strategies are utilised. Time lines, artefacts and photographic evidence is purposefully employed in considering aspects of change and continuity. Pupils own personal histories are competently explored through praiseworthy compilations of the “Family Tree”. Pupils are encouraged to critically evaluate information presented through discussion and group-work activity. Pupils’ engagement in project work enhances their understanding of History, with commendable attention given to the historical aspects of the locality. The teaching of History is enriched by successfully linking it with other aspects of the curriculum.

 

Geography

A whole-school plan has been developed to facilitate the delivery of the Geography programme. Aims, objectives and suitable methodologies for its implementation are clearly identified. However, greater refinement of the content to be taught at some class levels is advised. Pupils’ sense of space and place is being developed incrementally through the exploration of a range of human and natural environments in the locality, in Ireland and in the world. Maps are prominently displayed in most classrooms. Active learning methodologies which include discussion, simple mapping and practical tasks are employed to enhance pupil learning. Pupils’ are afforded opportunities to participate in field trips and local trails. A more clearly defined programme of local geography for each class level should be identified. Progress in Geography is monitored through teacher observation, questioning and the completion of tasks. For the purpose of consolidation, greater emphasis should now be placed on pupils’ recording of topics completed. ICT is deployed judiciously to enhance pupil learning in this area of the curriculum. 

 

Science

Lessons in Science are carefully structured, well-paced and developed. Pupils’ ideas are elicited at the beginning of lessons and their ideas are successfully used to develop understanding. Commendable attempts are made to relate activities to everyday situations. Pupils exhibit considerable enthusiasm for Science and they are suitably challenged by a range of activities. The language of Science is appropriately developed through regular discussion. Teachers afford pupils frequent opportunities to engage in experiments and sufficient attention is given to the development of skills in prediction, investigation and in recording. ICT is recognised by staff as a valuable resource in the teaching of Science and forms a central focus of the work undertaken by a number of teachers. The potential of the school’s immediate environment is explored to varying degrees. This is an area that should be targeted for additional exploitation as it is a valuable resource for pupil learning, most notably, in the area of conservation and care. The provision of nature and investigation tables in classrooms is encouraged to further promote Science throughout the school. Staff should usefully consider an increased emphasis on designing and making activities in the further development of pupils’ skills.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The strands of the Visual Arts curriculum are addressed in a balanced manner. Pupils are given many opportunities to develop their skills and creativity in a range of media with appropriate stimuli provided at the commencement of lessons. The pupils develop an appreciation of Art through regular engagement in looking and responding activities in both peer work and in the work of the artist. Creative art work is attractively displayed throughout the school, reflecting the range of materials and techniques to which the pupils are exposed. The integration of the Visual Arts with other curricular areas is successfully and frequently exploited. Commendably, examples of pupils’ work are maintained in portfolios and, on completion of the pupils’ tenure in primary school, a wide-ranging collection of art work is compiled.

 

Music

Pupils are enabled to listen to and respond imaginatively to a variety of music. Appropriately they are taught a repertoire of rhymes and songs in Irish and in English, sometimes accompanied with body or instrumental percussion. Musical literacy is undertaken and pupils purposefully explore some musical elements. The work of an external tutor provides pupils with opportunities to sing in the school choir and to perform at assemblies, at seasonal events and at liturgical services. Pupils from third to sixth class are taught recorder and regular opportunities are afforded to the school band to perform at local and city events. Given the range of musical activities that pupils engage in, consideration should be given to the time allocated to this subject within the weekly time frame as outlined in the Primary School Curriculum (1999).

 

Drama

Whole-school planning for the teaching of Drama has recently been initiated. Various strategies such as hot seating, games, mime and role play are used skilfully to enable pupils to enter into the fictional world and to reflect on and contribute to Drama. Circle time and improvisation are also employed purposefully to integrate dramatic activity with the exploration of topics in other curricular areas. Full participation of pupils is encouraged and facilitated through the creation of a safe environment. Poetry and story are used creatively as stimuli and group work is successfully organised. Productive engagement in post-drama reflection and discussion was observed.

 

All pupils participate in a drama programme under the direction of an external tutor over a period of two terms. It is reported that the tutor ably assists in developing pupils’ drama ability and in school productions. To further enhance the drama programme, it is recommended that the whole-school plan, when complete, should guide the work of the external tutor. Further linkage between the class teachers’ drama programme and that of the external tutor is required. Teachers’ timetables indicate that in some instances, insufficient time is allocated to the delivery of the drama programme. Therefore, attention should be given to the minimum weekly time for drama activity as outlined in the Primary School Curriculum (1999).

 

4.6 Physical Education

A wide range of activities is conducted by teachers in Physical Education (PE) and pupils engage in all activities with energy and enthusiasm. Creditable attention is given to the development of skills across a variety of strands. Clear and precise direction is a salient feature of lessons and they are well organised to include warm-up and cool-down activities. The use of Irish is a noted feature during some lessons and presents as a worthwhile opportunity for its increased use on a whole-school basis. Staff is commended for their commitment to the provision of an after-school programme in Gaelic games, in soccer and in athletics.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

A comprehensive whole-school plan for Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) has been devised which reflects the characteristic spirit of the school and the developmental needs of pupils. It details policies on healthy eating, substance use, bullying and other related policies. A spiral approach to the teaching of SPHE is adopted. Making the Links programme which incorporates material from the Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE), Walk Tall and Stay Safe is gainfully used to assist teachers in planning for SPHE. Commendable emphasis is placed on fostering a positive and caring atmosphere within the school.

 

During discrete SPHE lessons a range of suitable topics is explored using a variety of participative methodologies including class discussion and circle time. Story is also used to good effect to develop listening skills and to enable pupils to explore and to discuss a range of topics. The use of group work to promote collaborative learning is a positive feature of the SPHE lesson. Appropriate emphasis is placed on dealing with topics related to pupils’ own experiences. Pupils are enabled to make informed decisions and choices about SPHE dimensions of their lives. However, the delivery of more challenging material is advised. Developing pupils’ self-confidence and self-esteem, in some classes, merits further attention.

 

4.8 Assessment

Staff is commended on the quality of assessment procedures and record keeping in operation throughout the school. Pupils’ individual records are maintained centrally, are well organised and readily accessible. Teachers use a variety of assessment tools to monitor pupils’ progress and attainment across a wide range of curricular areas. Standardised tests are administered in both literacy and in numeracy to all classes from senior infants to sixth class annually. Attention is clearly drawn to the importance of assessment for learning as well as assessment of learning. Results are carefully recorded on a recently constructed school data base and are analysed and subsequently used to inform teaching and learning processes. Further diagnostic testing is administered to inform learning programmes for pupils presenting with special educational needs.   

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Supplementary support for pupils with special educational needs is delivered by four learning support/resource teachers (LSRT). Support for these pupils is provided in the areas of literacy and numeracy offering tuition primarily on a withdrawal basis individually or in small groups. Opportunities are provided to engage in some in-class support based on the needs of pupils. The staged approach to identification is incorporated into the school’s carefully documented learning support policy. Appropriate screening mechanisms are in place for the identification of pupils requiring supplementary support. Further consideration should be given to the inclusion of additional pupils in the learning-support programme.

 

The interactions observed between teachers and pupils receiving supplementary teaching were affirming and encouraging of pupils. In general, lessons are well structured and a supportive and stimulating environment is created for pupils. Judicious use is made of a range of resources to support pupils’ learning including the use of ICT. In most instances, teachers employ a variety of teaching approaches and learning strategies and these are adapted appropriately to suit pupils’ learning needs. A more active role in their learning, with greater exposure to a range of challenging reading material would consolidate and promote pupils’ reading competency.   Instructional programmes and appropriate software are gainfully used in support settings. Some detailed and comprehensive individual educational programmes (IEPs) and individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) have been designed and appropriately informed by school-based testing or psychological reports. Commendably, teachers liaise regularly with parents regarding individual pupil progress. In general, targets identified in the individual education plans are based on pupils’ priority learning needs. However, further refinement of these targets with greater emphasis on skill development is necessary to ensure that pupils’ specific learning needs are being addressed methodically. A more systematic approach to recording progress and achievement of targets is also necessary. Regular meetings between members of the special educational needs (SEN) team are convened. Formal collaborative planning meetings that would facilitate further development of specific learning targets for pupils concerned would be most beneficial.

 

The introduction of a structured early intervention programme would greatly support continued improvement in the area of literacy. Greater emphasis should be placed on providing support to younger pupils with learning difficulties. Appropriately, staff are now actively considering strategies to deal with poor attainment standards in Mathematics. To this end, the in-class model of support should be further explored to provide greater opportunities to target the specific needs of pupils in an integrated setting through the use of team and co-operative teaching approaches.

 

Five special needs assistants ably assist teachers in facilitating pupils to access the curriculum in the mainstream setting. They work in close co-operation with staff to provide quality care of pupils with special education needs and are to be commended for the dedicated manner in which they undertake their duties.

 

In one case where additional support is delivered to pupils with low incidence special educational needs through a shared resource post, the individual educational plan devised is of poor quality. The learning targets set are general in nature and not adequately specific to address the pupil’s learning needs. Short-term planning lacks detail and does not adequately inform classroom activity. A limited range of teaching approaches and learning strategies to actively engage the pupil in learning is employed. The lesson observed was poorly structured and insufficient resources were used. No progress records are maintained and there is limited consultation with the mainstream class teacher. Support in numeracy lacks focus and has no discernable link to mainstream classroom activity. Assessment strategies or diagnostic testing are not employed to assess pupil progress. Overall the provision of support in this instance is poor.

 

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

Twenty-six newcomer pupils from junior infants to fifth class are in receipt of language support, four of whom are receiving support for a third year. Staff is complimented on the quality of service offered to these pupils. Informative language learning profiles are documented for all pupils, progress is systematically recorded and proficiency benchmarks are routinely applied in identifying pupils’ learning targets. Staff succeed in creating print-rich learning environments where a wide range of resources are sourced and utilised productively. Support is provided on a withdrawal basis, either individually or in small groups, and is effectively complemented with in-class support. Pupils are making good progress in oral language, in reading and in writing.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

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:

Greater emphasis on Irish as a communicative language is recommended.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Published, January 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

With reference to P.11 and the final line in the summary of findings, the Board of Management wish to point out that the report is unclear with regard to the shared resource post for children with special needs. The Board is of the opinion that this lack of clarity unjustifiably reflects poorly on the SEN team based in the school and wishes to confirm that the shared post was not based in this school and that this post, which was of one years duration, 08/09, no longer exists.

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection

 

The Board of Management has dealt with the time in school issues beginning 1st September 2009. The Board of Management will ensure greater dissemination of the Child Protection Policy.

 

The school takes on board the recommendations regarding school planning and classroom management. The school will continue to devise and adopt strategies that enhance teaching and learning in Gaeilge, Maths and creative writing.