An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Glór na Mara Primary School

Tramore, Co. Waterford

Uimhir rolla:20116H


Date of inspection: 3rd December 2008





Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of supports for pupils


School response to the report








A whole-school evaluation of Glór na Mara Primary School was undertaken in November 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on aspects of the school’s provision including management, teaching and learning, planning and supports for pupils, with a particular focus on the provision of English as an Additional Language (EAL).  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.



Introduction – school context and background


Glór na Mara Primary school is a co-educational primary school situated in the scenic coastal town of Tramore in Co. Waterford. This school was formed following the amalgamation of two long established schools in the town, namely the Star of the Sea for girls and Edmund Rice Primary School for boys. The school is under the trusteeship of the Sisters of Charity and under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Waterford and Lismore. At present, the school is housed in the two former premises of the old schools and these are located on opposite sides of a busy road. The school authorities are frustrated that they have not been given permission for work to commence on the new extension to the Star of the Sea building that was promised as part of the amalgamation process. This would mean that the whole school would be housed on one campus.  


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




Total number of teachers on the school staff


Number of mainstream class teachers


Total number of teachers working in support roles


Number of language support teachers


Special needs assistants


Total number of pupils enrolled in the school


Number of pupils with English as an additional language




1.             Quality of school management


1.1         Characteristic spirit, mission or vision


The school firmly upholds the Catholic ethos of both the patron and the Sisters of Charity, the trustees of the school. According to its mission statement, the school aims to develop the whole person, body, mind, soul and heart in an atmosphere of care, understanding, respect, cooperation and hope where all are accepted and valued with Christian love. There has been considerable change in the profile of the pupils attending Glór na Mara Primary school over the past number of years. Newcomer pupils began to arrive in the school in 2000. In the beginning, the majority of pupils were from families who were either refugees or asylum seekers. A number of these pupils have stayed long-term, while others have moved on.  Friendships, integration and a feeling of belonging quickly helped to assimilate these children into the school. There are currently 89 pupils attending the school who were born in other countries such as Nigeria, India, The Congo, Moldova, Lithuania, Somalia, Poland, Ghana and Hungary to name but a few. This represents 20% of the school population. During the WSE process, it became obvious from interactions with staff and pupils that this school strives to live out and uphold the values enshrined in its mission statement and always endeavours to integrate the diversity of social, religious and cultural backgrounds of the student population.


1.2         Board of management


The board of management is properly constituted and they meet an average of three times during each term and more often if the need arises. The board is committed to the development of the school and some members assume specific roles such as secretary and treasurer. Duties are carried out competently. The board takes an active interest in aspects of policy making and policies and plans come before the board for ratification.  The principal’s report to the board demonstrates the wide variety of activities that take place in the school. However, the report should also refer to the outcomes of teaching and learning in the school.


An ongoing priority of the board is the building extension project that was promised as part of the school amalgamation in 2000. The maintenance of two buildings is of huge concern to the board as it is a drain on resources. Two school secretaries are also required for administration duties. The school principal is constantly going from building to building to meet with parents or to deal with issues that arise, and the teaching staff rarely gets a chance to meet as a group. The board reports considerable frustration because of the lack of progress with the school building in spite of the time and energy spent by the chairperson and other board members in trying to advance this project. While awaiting developments in this area, the board has been active in the maintenance of the existing buildings. An ongoing maintenance plan ensures that both school buildings are in good condition. Summer and emergency works schemes over recent years have included the replacement of windows, emergency temporary repairs to the heating system and repairs to the flat roof of the Star of the Sea building. The Edmund Rice building also underwent refurbishment during the summer of 2008 as the board was conscious that all staff and pupils should be provided with safe, attractive and comfortable working environments while awaiting the new building.  


The board has been active in securing all necessary and available supports to meet the needs of all pupils in the school. As the support-teaching team has grown in recent years, especially in the area of language support, the board has been able to provide suitable classrooms without the need for temporary accommodation.


During the WSE, it was observed that first class pupils are dismissed one hour before the end of the official school day. This practice is not in accordance with the time allocation specified in the Primary School Curriculum. First class pupils are deprived of five hours of teaching time each week which amounts to a substantial loss of teaching time in a full school year. This practice should be reviewed as a matter of urgency to ensure that the school complies with Department guidelines.


Senior pupils are assigned to infant and junior classrooms at lunch time while these pupils eat their lunches in the absence of the class teachers in the Star of the Sea building. Teachers are assigned to supervise on each corridor of the building and the distance between the supervising teacher and individual classroom can be significant. There are obvious dangers in continuing this practice. Parents’ representatives raised this as a concern in the course of the evaluation. They reported that many parents of both sixth class pupils and of infant and junior pupils are not happy with the arrangements. While it is commendable that pupils are allowed to eat their lunches in the comfort of the classroom, lunchtime supervision arrangements should immediately be reviewed by the board of management to ensure that there is adequate supervision to ensure pupil safety.




1.3         In-school management


The in-school management team comprises the principal, a deputy principal, two assistant principals and three special duties post holders. The principal has given loyal service to the school both as a teacher for a long number of years and as principal since September 2005. He carries out administrative duties in a competent manner. His leadership style promotes delegation and encourages collaboration and cooperation from members of staff. The staff devotes time, effort and their talents to developing and advancing worthy initiatives for the good of the school. This willingness on the part of staff members to engage productively in areas of curriculum development should receive the continued support and commitment of the principal. New ideas and initiatives should continually be nurtured in helping the school to move forward and develop in the future.


The middle management team is currently in a period of transition and during the evaluation, a number of posts were yet to be filled as a result of retirements during the summer of 2008. The duties of the middle management team vary between curricular, organisational and pastoral care duties. While the duties for some post-holders have remained the same for a number of years, the duties attached to recent posts have been chosen in line with the needs of the school following consultation with staff members. The duties of all post holders should now be reviewed to ensure that they are in line with current school needs and with circular 7/03. Review of posts should become a regular feature of school organisation. All post holders should have a specific curriculum leadership role. These roles should be chosen in line with the strengths and interests of the post holders. The principal should facilitate the middle-management team to engage collaboratively with other staff members in order to gather ideas and to coordinate planning activities. Meetings of the middle management team are usually held once per term in advance of staff meetings. The agenda for the staff meetings is discussed. These meetings of the middle management team should be broadened to include opportunities for members to report on the work that they are engaged in and to discuss other school issues at a management level.



1.4         The management of resources


The teaching staff consists of the principal, seventeen mainstream class teachers, four learning support/resource teachers and three language support teachers. Three special needs assistants ably assist in catering for the needs of a number of pupils with special educational needs in the school.  The school has two secretaries and a caretaker who carry out their duties efficiently.  Many staff members are conscious of the benefits of continuous professional development and attend a variety of courses on a regular basis to become more informed about certain areas of education such as new approaches and methodologies. This is supported by the board of management through part funding the cost of courses. ICT has been identified as a major area for staff development in the future and a plan is currently being devised for its advancement. There is also regular sharing of the experience, knowledge and skills of the staff members within the school on an informal basis. Staff should now consider the extension and further development of this good practice. One member of the EAL team completed an on-line course and circulated the material from this course among other members of the EAL team.


Ten mainstream classes are housed in the Star of the Sea building with seven in the Edmund Rice building. A number of support rooms have been created in each of the buildings. In some instances, similar class streams are located in different buildings and this has been reported as a challenge for teachers in meeting to plan programmes collaboratively. Another concern is the distance infants and younger pupils have to travel independently from their classrooms to toilets. While the extension to the Star of the Sea building will resolve these issues, an interim measure could be considered through a review of classroom allocation, especially in the case of infant classes.


A good variety of teaching and learning resources is available in the school and these have been catalogued according to subject and appropriate class. Most classrooms have a considerable range of appropriate charts, posters, illustrative materials, resources, games, a computer linked to broadband as well as good supplies of concrete materials for Mathematics. These contribute to the creation of some stimulating learning environments. Classrooms also have well-stocked libraries with books to suit all levels within the class. Corridors and common areas are used effectively to display samples of pupils’ work attractively. Some of these celebrate the diversity of cultures amongst the pupils in the school. EAL classrooms also celebrate the cultural diversity of the pupils and these are well stocked with appropriate resources for teaching.


1.5         Management of relationships and communication with the school community


Regular communication takes place between school and home on both a formal and informal basis. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually and a written school report is sent home at the end of the year. Additional meetings are also facilitated when necessary. Letters are sent home to keep parents informed and a newsletter is prepared regularly. The school is supported by an active parents’ association which is not affiliated to the National Parents’ Council. The committee meets regularly and is proactive in representing the general parent body and articulating their views. All parents are invited to meetings and EAL parents have recently started to become more involved in the association. The parents association has been very successful in organising a number of fundraising activities for the school. They also review and offer opinions about draft policies that have been prepared by the staff. Members of the association expressed interest in becoming members of committees involved in drafting or reviewing certain school policies. This model was used successfully a number of years ago when a committee, made up of teachers, parents and board of management members, worked successfully on the development of a Relationships and Sexuality Education policy. This allowed for open discussion and the development of a deeper understanding between the partners. This model should be further developed in the future as relevant policies are reviewed.


The parent’s association pays for transportation to school games and swimming, and parents help with the organisation of the sports day. They organise after-school activities and provide funding to each class teacher on an annual basis to help with the purchase of resources. Very good communication exists with the school principal, the staff and the board of management. Parents also participate as committee members with the Green Schools Programme and have made valuable contributions over the years. A very successful cultural week was organised during the last school year and this facilitated the involvement of parents from a number of cultural backgrounds. All parents were invited to the concert which celebrated the cultural diversity of the pupils. Some parents arrived in their traditional costumes and shared some of their traditional foods with the staff and pupils. Staff reported that this activity was very successful in facilitating the meeting of parents and helped in the development of an understanding and appreciation of cultural differences.


1.6         Management of pupils


Teachers adopt a variety of successful strategies and approaches in their classrooms and pupil behaviour is managed on a day-to-day basis in a very positive manner. Pupils were mannerly and very courteous during the evaluation and were willing to engage in discussions and offer opinions confidently when sought. There is a strong and commendable emphasis on the development of pupil self-esteem in mainstream classrooms and in support settings. One example of this commendable practice is a sixth class social skills programme. This programme was devised by members of the support team to aid the development of social skills and self-esteem amongst pupils and has proved very successful. Particular emphasis is placed on welcoming new pupils to the school and ensuring they integrate well. This is facilitated through the use of a buddy system. This effective integration is evident in the classrooms and in the playground. At the beginning of this school year, decisions were made regarding the reassigning of pupils in junior classes to ensure that class levels are balanced and also to provide new socialisation opportunities for the pupils. This was done in consultation with parents and has proven very successful. This practice may also be considered in future years.



2.             Quality of school planning


2.1         Quality of whole-school planning


A commendable suite of organisational and curricular policies has been devised by the staff. The content of the documentation produced is of good quality. The policy on enrolment is in line with the welcoming sentiments of the mission statement. However, the board of management currently maintains the right to defer enrolment of pupils in exceptional circumstances. This practice should be reviewed by the board to ensure it complies with all current legislation. The provisions of the code of behaviour are in line with National Educational Welfare Board guidelines. Some useful documents have been devised including a welcome pack for new and temporary teachers, as well as an induction booklet for new parents.


Curricular plans have been devised for most subject areas and there are plans in place to complete the remainder. All teachers are provided with a folder of curriculum plans to direct their own classroom planning. The plan for English gives some guidance to teachers, including a clear plan for phonics. Plans are now in place to develop the English plan further to ensure that it has a stronger impact on classroom practice. It should contain more specific guidance to teachers on the implementation of all aspects of the English programme. The plan for Mathematics outlines decisions made regarding certain aspects of mathematical language, the teaching of tables, as well as approaches to some number operations. This plan offers good guidance and should continue to be implemented in all classes.


2.2         Quality of whole-school planning for EAL


The quality of whole-school planning for EAL is good. The schools’ policy was developed by members of the EAL team and outlines the current practices in the area. It describes the process of assessment of new pupils at both infant level and throughout the school. It also outlines the buddy system that is in place to help new pupils to integrate into a new class. A list of the approaches and methodologies to be employed by teachers of EAL is included to ensure that successful practices developed over the past number of years can be maintained. The policy is currently available only in English. The school should now consider the translation of the policy to other languages to make it more accessible to a wider range of parents. This could be done in conjunction with parents of EAL pupils who speak English.


2.3         Quality of classroom planning including planning for EAL


All teachers prepare conscientiously for their teaching. Teachers show awareness of the value of preparing long-term and short-term plans. These outline the content and methodologies applied by teachers and help in pacing the work to be covered. A monthly report is prepared by all teachers and these are stored centrally by the principal. The monthly reports are very useful documents and should be used more in monitoring and analysing the implementation of various aspects of the curriculum throughout the school. Some teachers make specific reference to meaningful differentiation in their planning. This good practice should now be shared and extended throughout the school and collaboration between class and support teachers should help in this.


2.4         Child protection policy and procedures


Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.



3.             Quality of learning and teaching


3.1         Teaching of English and English as an Additional Language


The quality of teaching in English is praiseworthy and a wide variety of interesting practice was observed during the WSE. In the infant and junior classes, oral langauge is given due attention and pupils participate in a wide variety of activities to develop competence in oral language skills. Activities observed included paired discussion work, games for vocabulary development, action songs and rhymes, as well as the use of story. In middle and senior classes, oral language was linked with good quality discussion around class novels. In addition, senior classes engage in worthwhile debates around topical issues. A love of poetry is fostered throughout the school. In the infant and junior classes, pupils learn a wide variety of poems. In the middle and senior classes, there is more emphasis on discussion and appreciation of poetry. Instances of pupils choosing to read poetry anthologies were observed and praised. In order to develop this area further, more emphasis could be placed on learning poems in the middle and senior classes.


Pre-reading skills are developed conscientiously in infant classes and built upon in the junior classes. Print rich environments were obvious and included samples of pupils’ own work, word walls and colourful reading material. Aspects of phonological awareness are well taught through the use of rhymes and games and a phonics programme is implemented by all teachers. Big books and language experience charts are used appropriately to consolidate many key reading skills. Team teaching is organised with the learning-support team in junior classes, for structured work on high frequency words, onset and rime and letter sounds. This is very well planned and should be continued and developed further. The development of the school plan should reflect elements of this excellent practice and provide a starting point for building on this in the future. Shared reading is a feature of work in some classes and senior pupils undertake worthwhile ‘buddy reading’ projects with junior classes. In middle and senior classes, well-structured lessons in reading were observed. Class novels are used widely and are well chosen to match pupil ability and interest. High levels of engagement were noted during the WSE. The use of library books and additional readers is well managed and pupils are encouraged to read on a very regular basis. Pupils were keen to discuss and critically evaluate the books they had read. Pupils displayed knowledge of authors and various genres of the books. Some teachers provided one to one support for pupils with additional needs, including EAL pupils.


Due emphasis is placed on early writing skills in the infant and junior classes and pupils are given plenty of opportunities to write. Pupils are provided with good examples of writing being modelled in various genres. Some well-structured differentiated writing activities are organised in junior classes and writing areas are created to encourage pupils to write freely.  Displays of pupil written work were of a high standard in all classes. Writing could be further developed through the organisation of shared writing activities in infant classes with the help of the support team. In both middle and senior classes, pupils are given opportunities to write in a variety of genre and for a variety of audiences. Some excellent examples of integrated activities were noted during the WSE. Work in copybooks is well presented and pupil work is also displayed attractively by means of both ICT and compilation of work into class books. Work is monitored carefully by the teachers and very good practice around responding to pupils’ written work was observed. The variety in approaches leads to very positive learning outcomes for the pupils.



3.2         Mathematics


The quality of teaching in Mathematics is very good. The school is well resourced in terms of mathematical equipment and most teachers make very good use of materials in teaching the subject. Helpful Mathematics corners were noted in many classrooms to display relevant resources and allow pupils opportunities to explore the equipment. In some classes, very good use was made of data projectors to help illustrate concepts. In all classes, lessons were well structured and practical work was undertaken in most classes to aid in concept development. Some teachers plan for the development of specific language of particular topics in Mathematics and some excellent language reinforcement activities were observed during the WSE. A textbook is used for reinforcement of various aspects of the programme by many teachers. This should be supplemented with daily practice in oral and mental Mathematics to aid in the development of recall skills. The school plan also provides guidance on the use of strategies for problem solving but this should receive more attention in classroom work. Group work is utilised effectively in many classes and this aids the provision of differentiated support. This good practice should be further developed throughout the school. The emphasis on mathematical language development and the development of differentiated group work are important elements of a good programme in Mathematics. They are also of significant benefit to EAL pupils, high achievers and pupils with learning difficulties. Teachers should incorporate these elements into all lessons. The pupils’ copies were neatly presented and demonstrated balance across the strands. The use of copybooks should be a feature of the work in Mathematics in all classes.  Pupils in all classes were confident and knowledgeable when questioned on various aspects of the Mathematics programme. 





3.3         Assessment


A variety of assessment modes are used throughout the school. These include checklists, profiles, teacher devised tasks and tests, work samples and standardised tests. Samples of pupils’ work are maintained and used by most teachers to assess pupil progress. Examples of work maintained include book reviews, project displays, work in copybooks and assessment folders. Some pupils are engaged in weekly reflection on their learning and this very good practice should be shared and built upon.


The Middle Infants Screening Test is used for senior infants and standardised tests in literacy and numeracy are administered on an annual basis to pupils from first to sixth classes. The results are examined to identify pupils who are entitled to learning support. Further analysis of these results should be undertaken in order to assess overall standards and progress in English and Mathematics throughout the school. Test results of individual pupils should be tracked and this should inform the work and programme of class teachers. It would be especially beneficial to those pupils not entitled to learning support, but who would gain from specific class-based interventions in both English and Mathematics. This analysis could also inform decisions around the targeting of resources.



4.             Quality of supports for pupils


4.1         Pupils with special educational needs


A high level of dedication to teaching and commitment to pupils is very evident amongst the learning support and resource teaching (LSRT) team. Willingness to innovate and to work as a team and a commitment to professional development among the whole team is highly commendable. Teachers give of their time freely to attend courses and share the good practice learned with fellow LSRT staff. Much innovative practice was in evidence during the evaluation. Imaginative use is made of visits outside of the school and of the pupils interests. A laudable social skills programme was developed for sixth class pupils. The LSRT team has also devised an early intervention programme for pupils from senior infant and first classes. The programme involves a mixture of team teaching and group withdrawal and should be of great benefit when it becomes embedded in the life of the school.


A very well thought out school plan has been devised by the LSRT team and is to be discussed soon by the whole school staff and subsequently by the board of management.  On an individual level, teachers in the LSRT team plan for their work with great care and dedication. In addition to preparing schemes of work and recording progress, teachers are to be commended for the way sophisticated resources are prepared and used for certain projects and topics. In all cases teachers’ long-term and short-term planning is based on pupils defined needs.


The LSRT team implements a variety of assessment modes to gather information on pupils in order to target resources efficiently. Teachers draw on material supplied by the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS). Teachers also devise their own assessment mechanisms such as tasks and tests, work samples, progress reports, profiles and check-lists. Records are maintained carefully. The results of standardised tests help inform decisions around learning-support and resource teaching.


The LSRT team provide the pupils with teaching of a very high quality. Many instances of excellent practice were observed during the WSE. These included instances of the use of motorised construction and technology, the incorporation of scanned materials and graphics into stories written on computer, the use of science lessons to develop language awareness and the use of rhyme in early intervention lessons.


4.2         Pupils with English as an additional language


The school has provided language support since 2001. Practice has developed and provision for EAL pupils is generally good. The school plan outlines the systems in place for meeting the needs of these pupils, including initial and ongoing assessment, the programme of work to be followed and suitable teaching strategies and approaches. Once pupils are enrolled in the school, they are observed in the classroom setting to determine language levels and competencies. Junior infants are initially given in-class support while pupils in higher classes are withdrawn in small groups.


Teachers have recently begun to use the assessment material provided by the Department for some pupils and this is providing useful information on pupil language needs. These should now be utilised with all EAL pupils. The test results enable effective selection of appropriate learning targets for EAL pupils. Some teachers prepare individual profiles for their pupils which outline pupil interests, strengths, priority learning needs and specific language targets. Sometimes these targets are common to a group of pupils. The practice of preparing individual profiles should now be adopted by all members of the EAL team in consultation with the class teachers. Pupils from middle and senior classes should also be involved in this process. Standardised tests are used when the teachers feel that a pupil has reached a suitable level of competence. The results of these tests are used to inform decisions about continuance or discontinuance of language support. Individual short term planning is of a high standard with clear programmes outlined in the four areas of listening, speaking, reading and writing for most pupils. Regular testing of pupils takes place and records of results are maintained in pupils’ individual folders.


Language support is provided to pupils in class and on a withdrawal basis. The in-class support is mainly with infant and junior pupils for sessions in structured play, art or physical education. These sessions provide natural settings for the language-support teacher to observe and interact with the EAL pupils as well as provide necessary language. Further use of this effective approach should be considered throughout the school. Pupils in senior classes could benefit from this type of support during reading and Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) lessons, or during project or group work. Pupils in receipt of language support in middle and senior classes report that aspects of History and Geography provide the most challenge for them while in the classroom.


During the withdrawal sessions, teachers provide a good standard of instruction and employ an effective blend of teaching strategies and methodologies. Resources are effectively used and pupils participate actively in a variety of games and challenges. Support room environments are print rich and celebrate the diversity of pupils in the school.  


EAL teachers communicate informally on a regular basis with class teachers. This arrangement should be formalised to ensure regular and effective two-way communication between EAL and mainstream class teachers.


Efforts are made to communicate with and involve parents in helping their children with the acquisition of English and their adaptation in the school. However, communication can be difficult with some parents because of their level of English. The school relies on established parents of EAL pupils to inform new parents of school policies and this practice is informal. The school should endeavour to translate the school policy on EAL with the assistance of some willing parents so that new parents without English can be kept informed. This could be further developed with translations being made available of other key school policies.



5.             Conclusion


The school has strengths in the following areas:



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



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, October 2009







School response to the report


Submitted by the Board of Management





Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report    


The Board of Management welcomes the Whole School Evaluation inspection report and acknowledges the work undertaken by the inspection team in compiling same. The Board acknowledges the report to be a fair representation of the workings of the school community – Board of Management, Staff, Parents’ and Pupils. The Board welcomes the strengths as outlined in the report under Conclusion, Section 5, P.10.


However, under Section 1.2 regarding length of school day, the Board wishes to clarify the following. “Schools are permitted to reduce the school day by one hour for children in infants and first class…The decision to apply this concession rests with the Board of Management.” (DES Primary Circular 11/95-Section 3 The School Day). Accordingly, Glór na Mara operated school hours for First Class pupils as allowed by this circular. “Primary schools may reduce the school day by an hour for children in their first two years at primary school… and in their third year at primary school, commonly called First class.” (



Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.         


·         The Board, in consultation with staff, has reviewed arrangements for the supervision of all pupils at lunchtimes. New arrangements, subject to review, have been put in place.

·         A system for the analysis of test results at both class and whole-school level is currently being put in place.

·         During the 2009-2010 school year a three-year plan will be devised in consultation with staff to address the recommendations contained in the report regarding in-school management and curricular planning.