An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Teampall Toinne
Ballyporeen, Cahir, County Tipperary
Uimhir rolla: 20129Q
Date of inspection: 16 October 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of SN Teampall na Toinne, Ballyporeen. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for its further development. During the evaluation, the inspector 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 the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. He interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. He reviewed school planning records and teachers’ written preparation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management 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.
This school occupies a neat and attractive site within the village of Ballyporeen. It serves a well-established rural community and at present has a total of 118 boys and girls on roll, from infants to sixth class. The staff consists of a principal and four teachers, one of whom functions as a learning support/ resource teacher (LS/RT). The current building was officially opened in 2004 and replaced an adjacent two-classroom schoolhouse. Dating from 1899, this structure was preserved and now serves as a convenient ICT centre. Under the patronage of the Bishop of Waterford, the school’s ethos is based on principles of inclusiveness and equality, and a key aim is to foster a vibrant sense of self-esteem and a sense of respect for oneself and others. The teachers make a worthy effort to enable all their pupils reach their potential as caring and self-assured persons. Their aspirations are reflected in a wide range of written plans that are characterised by a clear desire to promote the academic, imaginative, social, emotional and spiritual development of its pupils. With its attractive tarmacadam frontage and surrounds setting off the architecturally pleasing modern building, the school provides a safe and secure environment in which to learn and it is clear that the children treat the school building and site with due care and respect. As might be expected given the age of the school, the decorative order within and without is excellent.
2.1 Board of management
The board of management meets on a regular basis, generally up to five times per year and in addition is prepared to convene at short notice when urgent matters rise. In particular, meetings were more frequent in the period prior to the commencement of the construction of the new school and also throughout the duration of the project when specific issues had to be addressed. In this regard, their generosity and dedication to the best interests of the community is acknowledged. It is clear that the board of management is intent on promoting the welfare of the school and it exhibits a willingness to discharge its evolving role in a conscientious fashion. To this end, for example, it oversees school policy at draft stage and gives assurance that the various documents are in compliance with legislation and departmental regulations. A task that now presents will involve the board in reviewing policy that was set out within the last few years, and in the light of changing circumstances it is appropriate that it sets definite dates for reviewing decisions and plans deemed appropriate when first drafted.
2.2 In-school management
The principal discharges his duties in a conscientious manner and is diligent in his efforts to ensure that the high standards so long a hallmark of this school are maintained. To this end he undertakes a comprehensive range of management tasks and relies on his colleagues only in a limited way to support him in the enterprise. Further, he has charge of two classes, a necessary arrangement but one that limits his discretion in addressing administrative demands within the school day. Fortunately, he receives an admirable level of support from the school secretary in dealing with routine pressing tasks and, in addition, teaching colleagues are willing to offer a measure of support when requested to do so. It is unfortunate, however, that the school does not have a deputy principal: no staff member is prepared to discharge the range of duties outlined in the relevant policy document. This is a significant weakness in the management of the school and affects the quality of service offered. It is a matter that needs to be addressed by the board with a sense of urgency, and a resolution to the problem might be found in a specification of a less comprehensive range of duties to be discharged by a willing prospective deputy principal. The special duties teacher’s duties include a responsibility for curriculum development in respect of Geography and Physical Education and she also has charge of the school savings scheme. In addition, in tandem with the principal she supervises pupils at games and manages enrolment procedures and first aid supplies. Her contribution is significant and her efforts are appreciated.
2.3 Management of resources
The children are divided in the usual manner for a mainstream four-teacher school: one teacher takes infants (33 pupils); another takes first and second classes (27 pupils); another takes third and fourth classes (31pupils), and the principal has charge of fifth and sixth classes (27 pupils). This arrangement works well in ensuring that best use is made of teacher talent and interests at this time. It is unfortunate that some class groupings exceed the directed twenty-eight per room, but this issue will be resolved in the forthcoming school year when an extra teacher is appointed in accordance with the increased enrolment secured in September 2006. The contribution of the learning support resource teacher (LS/RT) is organised on a withdrawal from classroom basis and a special needs assistant function under the purposeful direction of the relevant teacher. There is also a part-time school secretary who is assigned meaningful support duties and her work is characterised by high standards of willingness and efficiency. The caretaker also functions on a part-time basis and his contribution is appreciated by the staff and board.
The school is characterised by high levels of provision in respect of classrooms and ancillary accommodation. In addition to six permanent classrooms (four of which are in use as teaching bases), there is a learning-support room, a resource room, a library, a general-purpose room and the usual complement of offices and ancillary accommodation. In addition, the 1899 school building is used to advantage as a computer base. At the front, sides and rear there are generous play areas with tarmacadam surface and these have been usefully delineated to serve as basketball and soccer pitches; and provision has been made for the infants too by the painting on of numbered ladders and geometric shapes. In keeping with the school ethos and particularly its interest in good order and respect for others, the various facilities are well maintained and still exhibit the aura that attaches to the new.
Overall, the school is well resourced. There is a stock of basic learning materials in the infant room and in all classrooms there is a collection of library books. In addition, in each classroom there are many colourful commercial and teacher-made visual aids and these are used to considerable effect across the curriculum. Also there are Science materials which are used to considerable effect and basic musical instruments have been acquired recently. The photocopier, printers and scanner are used to advantage in the production of support materials, and there are TVs and VCR, together with an overhead projector, tape recorders and music players. Particularly notable is the school projector which is used to considerable effect in the senior classes in illustrating the learning. The principal has a particular interest in computer technology and the computer has featured strongly in the school for some years. The adjacent old schoolhouse hosts no less than twenty PCs and there is also a computer centre in an unused classroom in the main building. The emergence of a technical problem has limited the use of computers in the school for some time but it is envisaged that the matter will be resolved in the near future. It is hoped that the scene will then be set for a resumption of profitable work in this most crucial area of pupil learning and that all teachers will embrace the technology with growing confidence.
2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community
The parents’ association expresses a high level of satisfaction with the school and is particularly appreciative of the efforts of staff in making SN Teampall na Toinne a happy and welcoming institution. They meet with the teachers on a formal basis once per year and feel free to consult with them on an individual basis whenever they deem it necessary; and they regularly do so. Having only a very limited knowledge of the school plan, and not having been involved in a training programme they are happy to leave policy and curricular matters to the board and staff. Parental support is seen at its most evident in the area of fundraising, and in recent years they have made a significant contribution to the school’s finances. This has led to the surfacing of play areas with tarmacadam and this is commendable. Also, in the period leading up to the new building, and throughout its development, their support was critical. It is clear that the parents are willing to expand on their contribution to the school and to this end they have given some consideration to the production of a newsletter, and also they are favourably disposed towards advancing their ideas in respect of organizing a book rental scheme. To these ends it is appropriate that they engage with the principal and staff in a purposeful way and it is understood that they will be accorded a high level of encouragement.
2.5 Management of pupils
There is a busy atmosphere about the school, the children are enthusiastic and well-mannered and they demonstrate a positive attitude to learning across the curriculum. This is reflected in high attendance levels and lively, courteous interaction with each other and with their teachers throughout the day.
The school has prepared a comprehensive school plan. It is presented in the form of spiral bound volumes and, appropriately, covers both the organizational and curricular elements of the school’s operations. In all, the organizational elements cover twenty-seven volumes and in addition there are volumes for each curricular area. In the main, these documents prove most useful in identifying the work of the school and its underpinning philosophy, and they exhibit a high degree of relevance. Accordingly, they are reflected in the teaching and learning in all classes. Although the school board and parent body have contributed to some elements of the school’s planning in the past, such as in the areas of admission policy, health and safety, code of discipline, the major input has been made by the school staff. In essence, the contribution of the board has largely centred on ratification of policies prepared by teachers, and it appears that the parents’ representatives have little acquaintance with the school plan. On this basis, it is recommended that board and parents set themselves the challenge of becoming more familiar with various elements of the school’s planning documentation so that they may be better positioned to make a purposeful and useful contribution to the work of the school as it reviews its plans on a cyclical basis. In this they will be generously aided by the principal and teachers. In this regard, it is recommended that the process of review will have as a primary objective the systematic reduction of detail so that a higher level of clarity and conciseness will emerge.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person, the principal, has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
Each teacher prepares long- and short-term schemes of work for each curricular area, together with useful support documentation. In all cases, the planning is characterised by high standards of relevance and there is some evidence within of efforts to provide a measure of differentiation to cater for variance in aptitude and ability. At the end of each month teachers also maintain a progress record of lesson topics covered, together with records in respect of some individual pupils. Appropriately, this is copied for the principal to facilitate him in promoting continuity and progression. A notable feature of the preparation is seen in the earnest effort that is devoted to framing plans that are duly referenced to Primary Curriculum (1999) with its strands, strand units and objectives
In general the quality of teaching observed was good. Approaches adopted may be characterised as a practical blend of the traditional and the modern. This is reflected in a greater emphasis on whole class teaching, but in each classroom there is ample evidence of group and individual approaches also. The children exhibit a very positive attitude to learning: in general they are alert, responsive and happy and prove enthusiastic in demonstrating the range and depth of their learning. In broad outline, standards of achievement are creditable, with children in general making systematic progress from class to class.
Ta sé mar aidhm inmholta ag an bpríomhoide ach go háirithe an Ghaeilge a chur chun cinn mar theanga bheo sa scoil agus dá shon caitear dua le forbairt an chomhrá i ngach rangsheomra. Labhrann cuid mhaith de na daltaí le saoráid sho-ghlactha, aithriseann siad rainn go bríomhar taitneamhach agus is mór acu a gcuid cumais a léiriú don chuairteoir, sna hardranganna ach go háirithe. Tríd is tríd, sroichtear caighdeán creidiúnach san obair i gcoitinne - idir labhairt, léamh agus scríobh - agus is é an dúshlán atá faoin fhoireann chun an caighdeán a ardú a thuilleadh ná úsáid na Gaeilge mar theanga chaidrimh a chur chun cinn ar bhealach sistéamach amach anseo.
It is a praiseworthy aim of the principal in particular that Irish should be promoted as a living language in the school and, accordingly, in each classroom a considerable effort is made to promote the acquisition of the language. A sizeable proportion of the pupils speak with an impressive level of facility, and those in the senior classes especially are pleased to demonstrate their ability to the visitor. All in all, a creditable standard is being achieved – in oracy, reading and writing – and, in their effort to raise standards further, the challenge that presents itself to staff is that of using Irish systematically as a general means of communication.
Teachers are conscientious in efforts to ensure that purposeful oral interaction in English features in each classroom and to that end they engage the children in vibrant discussion on topics drawn from the different curricular areas. Appropriately, the work is rooted in Primary School Curriculum (1999) with its strands and strand unit components. The development of reading throughout the school is seen as a key instructional aim. From an early stage children acquire a useful sight vocabulary and then advance to a generally sound grasp of phonics. Graded books from a published scheme form the core of the reading material and, appropriately, this is supplemented by systematic encouragement to engage in library book reading. An examination of reading scores attained in standardized tests demonstrates that on the whole the children are growing systematically in competence and in accordance with ability. From first class up, there is a substantial collection of written exercises drawn from different areas of the curriculum and much of the work is advantageously correlated with Visual arts. There is some evidence too that the children write for different purposes and this might gainfully be extended within the context of the evolving school plan. Whereas some children exhibit impressive work, standards of presentation and legibility vary and this might usefully constitute another area for attention in the coming months.
Standards in Mathematics are generally sound, especially in respect of place value and number operations. In each classroom the work tends to follow the content and sequence outlined in a commercially produced scheme and this has the advantage of enabling a systematic treatment of the various topics prescribed in the curriculum. Further, the work is supplemented by a range of worksheets and materials produced by staff. At infant level the children acquire a suitable mathematical vocabulary and many elements of the work are presented during play activities where operations are underpinned by a purposeful use of concrete materials. In general, the older children prove confident and accurate at computation and this is clearly evident in their written work. However, in general their ability to deal with mathematical problems by applying acquired skills is less impressive and this is an area that might gainfully be addressed in a purposeful manner.
The school follows a history programme grounded on the principles embodied in Primary School Curriculum (1999) and organised in terms of strands and strand units of work. Teachers promote a lively interest in the past as they proceed through the commercial texts that form the central element of the programmes. Local history also features. The children exhibit a worthy appreciation of past events and much of the work is attractively integrated with Visual Arts.
The children are making systematic progress in Geography. Planning is comprehensive and a key feature is the development of the children’s knowledge and understanding of natural and human environments at home and abroad. A broad and interesting programme has been planned and followed conscientiously, and a sensible use of textbooks ensures there is a high level of continuity and variety from class to class.
The pupils follow a suitable Science programme that is grounded in the child-centered and activity principles embodied in the revised curriculum. The children are involved in the study of the natural environment and topics dealt with this year include water, air, electricity and life processes. A variety of materials has been collected, and in the senior classes in particular it is clear that the children are making significant progress in learning to work scientifically. Activity learning features frequently in tandem with vibrant discussion and speculation.
The Visual Arts are central to the work in every classroom. Some very attractive examples of the work are on display in the rooms and corridors and the pupils are justly proud of their efforts. Drawing and painting feature in all classrooms and print and construction are planned for later in the school year. Concept development and the related skills derived from the visual elements of the programme also feature, and it hoped that looking and responding will be accorded due prominence as the year progresses.
Song singing forms a central element of the music curriculum and regular attention is devoted to its development. Although standards in general are modest, the children sing with enthusiasm. Music appreciation also features in each classroom on occasion and the competent teaching of the recorder in the senior classes was reflected in a pleasing recital.
Drama features to a limited degree on the school programme and it is hoped that this area will constitute an area for development as part of the school’s development plan in the coming months.
Physical Education features regularly in the programme for all classes and the children engage in the various exercises in a highly enthusiastic manner. Teachers introduce the children to a range of activities, such as swimming, gymnastics and dance. It is fortunate that the school has a spacious general-purpose room and, in addition, it has the use of the nearby GAA ground for its field games. The principal in particular is commended for his dedication to the promotion of field games, and in the sphere of Gaelic games the school can boast of a proud record of achievement, both within the county and also nationally. Also notable is that the school does not confine itself to Gaelic games: volleyball, basketball and soccer also feature. Further, and appropriately, a deliberate effort is made to ensure that both boys and girls are enabled to participate in each field sport and regularly do so.
The school’s Social Personal and Health Education programme, including the RSE elements, provides regular opportunities for the pupils to develop their understanding of themselves, and its potential to promote personal development, healthy living and well-being is exploited by teachers at all levels. To a considerable degree the work is integrated with other areas of the curriculum and this leads to useful discussion.
Assessment activities form an integral part of each teacher’s approach and this is reflected in a process of systematic questioning as the lesson unfolds. A more formal process of testing takes place at end of term and the documentation supplied suggests that a considerable effort is made to ensure the tasks set are both challenging and comprehensive. The practice is complemented by the administration of standardized tests, such as the MICRA-T (reading) and the Sigma-T (Mathematics), and the results confirm that in general the children throughout the school are achieving at a standard that is well in keeping with age and ability. In addition, the learning support resource teacher (LS/RT) administers a series of tests that are diagnostic in nature and, having grown in experience and perhaps having gained a formal qualification in special needs teaching, it is hoped that this teacher will expand on the battery of tests that are employed. In its efforts to develop its assessment procedures further, the school should consider amending its recording arrangements so that the scores of each class over a period are available in one easily accessible document. This would facilitate the identification of trends and would encourage the development of a useful whole school perspective on achievement.
There is one full-time LS/RT on the staff who supports a total of thirteen pupils in English reading and Mathematics. The teacher liaises on a regular basis with mainstream colleagues and parents too, and arising from these consultations, and consultations with parents too, devises a programme that is centered on individual needs. This programme forms part of each teacher’s planning file and is an important element of individual attention provided for the child in the classroom. The chosen approach of the LS/RT is to withdraw the children from class and work with them on an individual programme that is characterised by a high degree of detail and relevance. In reading, a significant element of the support centres on the development of phonic skills and to this end the children proceed through a carefully graded phonics programme. In addition, and appropriately, reading of texts and writing also feature. There is also a special needs assistant who provides valuable support both within the classroom and during playtime.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Academic standards are sound and this is particularly true in the area of Irish conversation in the senior classes where there is a systematic, motivational use of the language throughout the school day.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Inspection Report School Response Form
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
At a meeting of the B. O. M. on the 6th December ’06 the contents of the report were discussed and there was general satisfaction among the members regarding the contents of the report.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
1. The B. O. M. are in the process of appointing a deputy principal at present.
2. Regarding Curricular Planning; the staff has taken it on to review and reduce each curricular area.
3. We have begun updating the various school policies.
4. Regarding writing letter box; displaying children’s work and implementing the recommendations.
5. Regarding Maths; The staff has taken on board the recommendation and aim to promote problem solving skills throughout the school.