An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Saint Patrick’s National School

Diswellstown, Dublin 15

Uimhir rolla: 20130B

 

Date of inspection: 24 October 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

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Saint Patrick’s National School was undertaken in October 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

 

Saint Patrick’s National School was established in September 2001 to cater for the educational needs of families in the Dublin 15 area which was one of the most rapidly growing areas in the country at the time. The school building incorporates 24 classrooms, 12 resource rooms, a library and a large gymnasium. The hall and sections of the building are part of the prototype ‘Shared School/Community Facility’ and are managed by an executive committee which is chaired by the principal. The complex is jointly funded by the Department of Education and Science and Fingal County Council.

 

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

 

 

Number

Total number of teachers on the school staff

37

Number of mainstream class teachers

25

Total number of teachers working in support roles

6

Number of language support teachers

4

Special needs assistants

6

Total number of pupils enrolled in the school

682

Number of pupils with English as an additional language

173

 

 

1.             Quality of school management

 

1.1         Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Saint Patrick’s National School is a co-educational primary school under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin. It caters for pupils from junior infants to sixth class. In accordance with its mission statement, the school provides a well-ordered and secure educational setting, in which the intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and cultural needs of pupils are identified and addressed. The characteristic spirit of the school is one of openness with a focus on the celebration of diversity. Parental involvement is actively encouraged and members of the parents’ association have been successful in supporting the school through all stages of its development. The entire school community is to be commended for its commitment to realising the school’s vision by helping to create a learning environment in which all pupils are afforded opportunities to develop their full potential.

 

1.2         Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and undertakes its duties in a comprehensive and dutiful manner in accordance with legislative requirements. It is evident from the pre-evaluation meetings and from observations during the evaluation that the board is enthusiastic, energetic and committed to the administrative, organisational, financial and legal aspects of school management. School accounts are audited annually. The board of management has formulated and ratified a broad range of policies both organisational and curricular to facilitate the whole-school planning process. These include policies on equality, the code of conduct and staff development, in addition to policies relating to specific curriculum areas. It has participated in the dissemination of school policies to the wider school community. The board of management has cooperated assiduously with the other school in the parish on the formulation of a common admissions policy which supports the principles of inclusion and equality. The inclusion and educational provision for pupils for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL) has been actively supported by the board of management. Health and Safety is one of the main concerns of the board and during the inspection a concern was expressed regarding the safety of children due to the risk from trees overhanging the school yard, particularly in windy weather. Members of the board have been very involved in the on-going development of all aspects of the school and their action plan focuses on the provision of a two classroom extension and a pedestrian entrance from Diswellstown Road to the school. The board recognises its responsibility towards on-going professional development of staff and commits a budget annually for this purpose. The board is to be praised for its ongoing commitment to the school.

  

1.3         In-school management

The quality of leadership in the school is very good. The highly efficient work of the principal in leading the school to the present stage of development is acknowledged. Through dedication and hard work, the school has responded effectively to the diversity of the changing needs of the school community. The principal acknowledges that the execution of his role is greatly enhanced by the immeasurable support of the administrative deputy principal who co-ordinates EAL and special educational needs (SEN) within the school. This high standard of leadership and collaboration was evident during the evaluation. The principal and the administrative deputy principal oversee all aspects of school management and maintain a visible presence throughout the school. They display a high level of awareness of the quality of pupil progress in each classroom. The leadership team is ably assisted by the fourteen members of the in-school management team. All members have clearly defined roles and responsibilities and they undertake these responsibilities dutifully. Responsibilities are regularly reviewed and amended in line with evolving school needs. Given the developing nature of the school, consideration should be given to the enhancement of the school’s approach to the induction and mentoring of new members of staff in order to capitalise on the school’s participation in the national induction programme and to utilise the contribution of the teaching expertise currently within the school. Some excellent examples of strategies for effective communication by the team with the diversity of parents, the community and outside agencies were observed during the evaluation.

 

1.4         The management of resources

The management of human resources in the school is commendable with regular rotation of responsibilities in all areas based on experience and expertise. Teachers are afforded opportunities to engage in professional development both within and outside the school. The team of six special needs assistants perform their duties with dedication. The large team of ancillary staff consists of four cleaners, two full-time caretakers shared with the community facility, a part-time caretaker, a secretary, a part-time accountant and a house keeper. Their role is integral to the smooth operation of the school. The school accommodation and the resources for teaching and learning are excellent. Accommodation and resources for EAL teaching and learning are very good. The board has invested in a wide range of educational resources for use in classrooms. These include a set of interactive whiteboards for the senior classes, which were purchased with parental assistance. The school environment supports cultural and linguistic diversity as evidenced in the many and varied colourful celebrations of inter-culturalism along the corridors and in the classrooms. The development of the school’s website is a highly positive aspect of the work of the school.

 

1.5         Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The quality of parental involvement in the life of the school is good and this is actively encouraged. The school website, the weekly newsletter and the information booklet for parents support this aspect of the school. Every effort is made to develop links between EAL parents and the school through the organisation of EAL coffee mornings and inclusive visual displays within the school. The school community is mindful of the need for the translation of key school documents into a number of relevant languages. At present volunteers from the body of parents support translation when required. Consideration should be given to the inclusion of links on the school website to relevant translation services to facilitate this process. The use of the school as a community recreational centre after school hours by the local community is reflective of the central role played by the school within the wider community.

 

1.6         Management of pupils

The management of pupils is very good. During the inspection the behaviour of the pupils was exemplary. High quality interactions were observed between teacher and pupil and pupil and pupil and were based on mutual respect. Pupils are effectively integrated into the life of the school through the pupils’ council which was formed in 2007. Through this innovative means, the opinions of the pupils are sought on matters such as the current review of the school’s anti-bullying policy and plans are in place to involve the pupils’ council more in the planning process. This practice is commendable. EAL pupils are placed in age-appropriate class settings throughout. Procedures for the induction and integration of pupils into the school are well set out in the school’s information booklet for parents. The work of the school leadership and the in-school management team on this aspect of the school adds greatly to the spirit of inclusiveness which pervades the school.  

 

 

2.             Quality of school planning

 

2.1         Quality of whole-school planning

The quality of whole-school planning is good. Whole-school planning as a collaborative process is embedded in the school procedures. Planning committees are formed and the cycle of policy development, implementation and review is well established. Policies in the area of school organisation and administration are completed in order to ensure the smooth running of the school. They include policies on a broad range of areas such as, enrolment, inclusion, equality and partnership with parents. Many curriculum plans have been completed and ratified by the board of management. An in-house Curriculum Core Content Booklet has been devised for each class level. This is a valuable resource to assist teachers in completing specific long and short-term plans for their classes. It is recommended that the annual review of the school’s Curriculum Core Content Booklet should consider the use of a common template for each curricular area in order to make it more manageable for teachers. The curriculum plan in English is a valuable document which gives teachers specific guidance in implementing all strands of the curriculum. The curricular plans for Mathematics, Irish, Social Personal and Health Education, Drama, Special Educational Needs and EAL are at various stages of development. An action plan should be formulated in which specific plans are prioritised for completion. The plans should then be ratified, signed and dated by the chairperson of the board of management and include a date for review. Given the school’s commitment to self-evaluation and planning for school improvement, these recommendations should be easily accomplished in the spirit of self-reflection.

 

2.2         Quality of whole-school planning for EAL

The quality of whole-school planning for EAL is good. Communication of school policies and plans in accessible formats to the diversity of parents is good. The school recognises the necessity for further policies to be translated and is addressing this issue. The use of visual communication throughout the school is good. As part of the further development of planning and provision for EAL pupils, policies on teaching and learning of language should have more focus on the development of language structures and communication skills to complement thematic work in the classroom. Consideration should also be given to the incremental monitoring and recording of all stages of pupil progress in language with roles and responsibilities of all involved clearly outlined. 

 

2.3         Quality of classroom planning including planning for EAL

The quality of classroom planning is good and in general, teachers prepare comprehensive short and long-term planning documents for their individual classes. Collaborative planning takes place among teachers with similar class levels on a monthly basis. Detailed monthly progress records are maintained. All teachers use the school’s Curriculum Core Content Booklet to inform individual planning. In some cases this replaces individual long-term plans. There was evidence of very good practice in some classes where teachers formulate individual long-term plans to meet the specific needs of the class. These plans contained very good examples of planning for differentiation and assessment.  It is recommended that this practice be extended to planning in all classes in order to meet the specific needs of all pupils based on their particular learning requirements and abilities. There was evidence in some instances of planning for a variety of methodologies to cater for the range of pupils’ learning styles. This practice should be extended throughout the school. The planned review of the school policy on assessment should aim to further extend its use as a core element in the teaching and learning cycle. Some good evidence of planning for EAL pupils in mainstream classroom contexts was observed. Overall, planning for EAL pupils in support settings was good with further scope remaining for planning to develop listening skills. The link between classroom planning and language-support planning should be strengthened through enhanced communication both formal and informal, between class teachers and language-support teachers. Given the reflective and collegial approach observed during the evaluation and the recent inclusion of EAL teachers in class level planning sessions these recommendations should be implemented without difficulty.

 

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 and learning in English is good. Most classrooms and corridors are stimulating print-rich environments that assist in consolidating learning and celebrating the work of pupils. The pupils’ confidence and competence in the effective use of communication skills is developed systematically throughout the school through the enhancement of listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. The focus on listening skills and turn-taking skills is central to most classes and should now be extended to all classes. Oral language development is emphasised, both as a discrete element of English lessons in many classrooms, and as the basis for work across all strands. In the infant and junior classes, the development of phonological and phonemic awareness is suitably addressed through the use of a structured phonics programme. Noteworthy use is made of large-format and picture books to foster a love of books and an enjoyment of reading among pupils. Reading skills are nurtured throughout the school through the use of reading schemes, library books and reading materials. The use of class novels is very well established and developed throughout the school. Overall, some very good examples of creative and functional writing were observed during the inspection. Writing skills are being developed effectively at all levels and pupils are encouraged to write in a variety of genres and for a range of audiences. There is commendable focus on the development of the writing process and in some classrooms ICT is used for the presentation of the final drafts. Pupils’ work is generally well monitored and corrected. Pupil attainment in English is good as is evidenced by the confidence and competence with which they speak and read, the quality of their written work and the results attained in standardised tests. There is scope for development in the differentiation of work in many classes, particularly for EAL pupils, to ensure that they can fully participate in lessons. The further use of pictorial symbols, gestures, the use of picture dictionaries and the use of active learning methodologies and the provision of differentiated activities is recommended to enable all pupils to access the curriculum. During the course of the evaluation there was evidence of the effective use of bilingual books which were developed by the school. Structured in-class support for EAL pupils was not a prominent feature of lessons observed and it is recommended that this model of delivery be further developed to complement the current practice of withdrawal from class. There is also scope for the development of the systematic monitoring of pupils’ progress in the area of EAL through the development of individual pupil’s language profiles in order to enhance the effective language support provision. Pupils are afforded the opportunity to explore and respond to poetry, to compose their own poems and to recite a range of rhymes and poems confidently. Many very good samples of pupils’ written work were on display during the evaluation.

 

3.2         Mathematics

The quality of teaching in Mathematics is commendable. The mathematics programme incorporates all curriculum strands and strand units. Many teachers employ a variety of teaching approaches in the course of mathematics lessons. Effective whole-class teaching was observed during the evaluation and some teachers use group teaching to optimise opportunities for active participation by all pupils during mathematics lessons. In some classes, pair work is used very effectively to facilitate discussion of mathematical concepts and to enable pupils to work collaboratively to solve problems. There is evidence of effective use of a wide range of appropriate resources throughout the school. These resources include mathematics apparatus, mathematics charts, appropriate textbooks and other visual aids on display in mathematics corners in each classroom. Teachers provide additional worksheets as required in order to focus pupils’ attention on particular skills and topics. Good use is made of ICT through the use of interactive whiteboards to present new topics in a stimulating manner. This is most effective when combined with opportunities for all pupils to use concrete materials to explore new concepts and to consolidate those already encountered. Teachers continuously assess pupils’ progress in Mathematics. Pupils’ written work in Mathematics is corrected systematically and teachers provide pupils with helpful feedback on their work. Many teachers make further specific provision for pupils with additional learning needs in Mathematics, by setting differentiated tasks appropriate to their abilities. It is noted that provision of in-class support by special education teachers is being introduced. This approach should be further developed throughout the school in order to extend the range of support provided. As the school plan for Mathematics is developed, it should emphasise the need to use a variety of teaching methodologies at all class levels. The need to ensure that all pupils are challenged suitably during mathematics lessons should also be emphasised. In addition to catering for pupils who are experiencing difficulties in Mathematics, provision should also be made for more able pupils. The quality of pupils’ learning in Mathematics is very good as evidenced by the pupils’ ability to talk about Mathematics. Their adeptness in completing set tasks indicates that, in general, they have high levels of attainment. They have learned strategies for problem solving and are able to apply these skills appropriately. They show a positive attitude towards Mathematics, and they engage readily during lessons. While pupils have opportunities to discuss concepts with their peers, there is a need in some classrooms to focus on the use of precise mathematical language. Suitable attention is given to mental Mathematics and there is good consolidation of number facts at each class level.

 

3.3         Assessment

Teachers use a variety of techniques to assess and record pupils’ progress. Standardised tests in reading and Mathematics are administered annually to identify pupils who may be experiencing difficulties and to track all pupils’ progress as they advance through the school. All teachers observe and monitor pupils’ work during lessons and all regularly check work completed in copybooks, workbooks and on activity sheets. Most teachers devise frequent tests to assess pupils’ understanding of topics covered during lessons. Samples of pupils’ work in several curriculum areas are retained in folders in many classrooms. Worthwhile use of a wider range of assessment instruments was also observed. For example, some teachers have devised checklists to record pupils’ achievement in specific areas of the curriculum, and some also keep anecdotal records of their observations regarding pupils’ educational progress. While all of these assessment modes are in use throughout the school, not all are used in every class. The school has identified assessment as an area for development, and it is intended to develop a whole-school policy on assessment in the current school year. It is recommended that the school refer to Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum: Guidelines for Schools which was disseminated to schools. This should support the greater use of assessment outcomes to inform all teachers’ individual planning.

 

 

4.             Quality of supports for pupils

 

4.1         Pupils with special educational needs

Significant work has been devoted to planning for pupils with special educational needs, and the draft school plan for this area has been revisited several times in order to ensure that suitable procedures are in place for pupils requiring additional support. The draft plan is an informative document which guides the provision of extra supports for pupils throughout the school. It is recommended that this valuable document be brought before the board of management for ratification. Pupils are screened for additional support based on observation by mainstream class teachers and by the use of standardised assessment test outcomes where relevant. Further diagnostic tests are administered by support teachers in order to identify specific areas of difficulty for pupils. Many of the teachers working in support roles are very experienced teachers, who use a range of effective strategies to focus on pupils’ specific learning needs. All support teachers offer additional teaching in both numeracy and literacy. This support is provided, for the most part, on an out of class basis. Some learning support also takes place in mainstream class settings, which is a positive development. There is some evidence of links between planning by mainstream class teachers and support teachers. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) have been devised for all pupils in receipt of additional support teaching. These IEPs are very informative documents, containing valuable information gathered from an extensive range of sources, regarding pupils’ learning strengths and needs. Support teachers plan lessons to incorporate activities designed to address pupils’ identified learning needs. Teachers prepare an excellent range of resources and they ensure that pupils use these resources purposefully during support sessions. The high level of pupils’ engagement observed and their ability to complete assigned tasks indicate the effectiveness of the support provided by support teachers. Copies of IEPs are provided where relevant in the school setting and they are disseminated to parents in order to facilitate the co-ordination of support provided in mainstream settings, in support settings and in the home. This good practice consolidates and affirms good home-school links and communication.

  

4.2         Pupils with English as an additional language

The quality of support provision for EAL pupils is good. The inclusive school environment reflects values and affirms linguist, ethnic and cultural diversity. The school’s commitment to providing an inclusive school environment is evident. Pupils are encouraged to maintain a connection with their own culture and language through curricular activities, language resources and colourful displays in classrooms and corridors. Four teaching posts, one of which is shared, are assigned to the provision of supplementary support to sixty-nine pupils. There are also nineteen EAL pupils in junior infants whose language needs are being assessed on an on-going basis. Support is delivered in small groups through a combination of withdrawal and in-class support. The predominant model is withdrawal. Overall, the quality of the learning environments is very good and supports pupils in their acquisition of language. Teachers undertake a range of initial assessments on EAL pupils and the results of these are used to inform programme planning for individuals and groups. Such assessments include materials devised by Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) and the recently published Primary School Assessment Kit. A long-term programme of work is devised for each pupil or group of pupils and specific objectives for groups and individuals are further detailed in teachers’ short-term planning. The quality of the teaching observed was generally of a high standard and was characterised by an emphasis on oral language development based on the pupil’s language needs. A range of methodologies is in use, including language games, experiential learning, listening exercises, ICT and pictorial representations. Positive interactions were observed in EAL support settings and this gives pupils the confidence to use newly acquired language. It is recommended that communication between classroom teachers and language-support teachers become more systematic and formalised in nature in the best interest of sharing responsibility for the learning and language needs of each EAL pupil. This would also facilitate the development of individual pupil language profiles and progress records based on teacher observation and class work.

 

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

The school is an inclusive school as indicated by the school’s stated policy which is in keeping with best practice. Pupils in need are supported in a discrete and sensitive manner in keeping with the school’s ethos of inclusivity.

 

 

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, June 2009

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

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 and Staff of St Patrick’s N.S. would like to thank the inspectors for their commitment to a thorough inspection of the work of the school.

We are heartened with their affirmation of the good practice and high standards of teaching and learning in our school.

We welcome the acknowledgement of the strong emphasis on leadership, cooperation, inclusivity and communication with, and involvement of, parents.

 

 

 

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

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          

 

We fully endorse the recommendations, many of which had already been identified and are part of our school action plan, which will inform and guide school planning for the foreseeable future.