An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Dublin 7 Educate Together National School

Fitzwilliam Place North, Grangegorman, Dublin 7

Uimhir rolla: 20131D

 

Date of inspection:  6th March 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 Dublin 7 Educate Together National School. 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 parents. 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

 

Dublin 7 Educate Together National School is a co-educational school, catering for 222 pupils from junior infants to sixth class in the current academic year. Established in 2000 on Henrietta Street, it relocated to its present temporary accommodation in St. Joseph’s School for the Deaf in 2002. This campus is shared with a number of other schools and the building presents many challenges to its smooth organisation and management. The school has expanded very rapidly, growing from three teachers in 2002 to twelve full-time teachers at present. It is still unable to accommodate the number of pupils presenting for enrolment and applies its enrolment policy to select pupils for the limited places available. The school hopes to move to purpose-built temporary accommodation in September 2009 and this should enable it to increase enrolments. Pupil attendance rates are high and this should be further ensured by the development of a school attendance strategy in line with the Education (Welfare) Act (2002). Under the patronage of Educate Together, the school espouses the principles and ethos of the Educate Together charter. The school’s mission statement aspires to create a safe and happy learning environment, where the potential of all pupils is nurtured and realised.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and it discharges its functions in a most proactive and productive manner. Members of the board have been assigned roles and responsibilities, while sub-committees are formed to manage and progress specific matters. Individual members give generously of their personal time and professional expertise and it is evident that they work effectively as a board. Many board members have availed of training across a range of domains offered by Educate Together. Meetings are convened on a very regular basis and detailed minutes are maintained of board business. Agendas and relevant documentation are circulated electronically in advance to ensure the efficient use of meeting time. Among the commonly discussed issues are the management of the temporary premises, health and safety matters, policy development and school procedures. Board members are kept well informed on the operation of the school through the acting principal’s report, the treasurer’s report and inputs from sub-committee members. School finances are carefully managed and accounts are certified annually.

 

Board members are involved in the policy development process through participation in policy sub-committees and all policies are discussed at board level prior to ratification. Commendably, the board holds an annual strategic review meeting each January at which it outlines a range of organisational and curricular objectives within an annual plan and these are reviewed regularly. The board should satisfy itself that the integrity of the full school day is being maintained as laid out in Circular 11/95, Time in School, specifically in relation to pupils being present for the assembly time each morning. The assembling and reception of pupils should be more easily managed once the school relocates to purpose-built accommodation in September 2009. The priorities of the board going forward were cited to be the relocation of the school, maintaining the Educate Together ethos, ongoing policy development and improving partnership with the wider school community. The board reported that the strengths of the school are the efficient communication structures, the teamwork among all school partners and the caring atmosphere in the school. Effective communication with parents is maintained by a range of means, including the weekly newsletter, the school’s website, the yearly report and the annual meeting with the parent body.

 

2.2 In-school management

The acting principal was appointed to the post in September 2008 and is very familiar with the operation of the school. She promotes the welfare of the pupils and endeavours to foster positive relationships and collegiality among the staff. Ongoing communication with parents is prioritised and there is a welcome for the significant involvement of parents in the life of the school. A commitment to continuing professional development is evident in her practice and she is participating in the Misneach programme to support newly appointed principals, offered by Leadership Development for Schools. She plays an active role in the compilation of the whole-school plan and a range of curriculum, organisational and administrative duties are suitably attended to. It is recommended that the principal ensures that the school register is maintained in accordance with Rule 123 (1) of the Rules for National Schools. Going forward, there will be an opportunity for the principal to use the time currently expended on the organisation of school accommodation to focus further on the quality of teaching and learning in the school.

 

The acting principal is supported by the acting deputy principal and four special duties teachers. The duties of the in-school management team are clearly delineated and encompass an appropriate blend of leadership roles. Owing to the recent establishment and developing nature of the school, members have taken on broad a range of duties to respond to ongoing curriculum, organisational, pastoral and practical needs. The in-school management team meets formally once per month outside school hours to review progress and determine priorities for the school. Communication with the wider teaching staff is facilitated informally and through staff meetings. As the school has developed, the duties have been reviewed informally on a number of occasions in order to address planning and organisational priorities. It is recommended that a formal, systematic review of the duties attaching to the posts of responsibility be introduced to ensure that  they continue to reflect evolving school needs. Consideration should also be given to individual team members drafting and submitting an annual action plan to the staff and board of management to outline proposed activities for the year, followed by an annual review of achievements.

 

2.3 Management of resources

The management of the human and material resources in this school is good. The staff comprises an acting principal, eleven teachers and a shared resource teacher who is not based in the school. The school has five new staff members in the current year, owing to a secondment, two career breaks, job-sharing arrangements and a shared post with a local school. The recently developed policy on discretionary leave should ensure that this level of staff replacement will not be necessary in succeeding years. Staff members are deployed effectively within the school and teachers are rotated regularly to ensure they develop their skills across a range of teaching contexts. Job-sharers communicate with each other through a journal and in person on an ongoing basis. Staff members participate in a range of continuing professional development courses, most notably summer courses and school-based training. The school has participated in the National Pilot Project on Teacher Induction in the past. It is recommended that the school develop a formal programme for the induction of all new staff members to ensure that they are familiar with school policies and procedures, and are supported in their roles. The full-time secretary undertakes an array of administrative and communicative duties and was praised by the management and staff for her efficient contribution to school organisation. The school is cleaned to a high standard by the part-time cleaner and maintenance is undertaken as necessary. A selection of co-curricular and extracurricular activities is organised by an after-schools committee and is provided by external tutors, all of whom have been Garda vetted.

 

Notwithstanding the considerable internal and external constraints posed by the school’s temporary accommodation, the board of management and staff have invested much time and energy into creating a bright and productive learning environment. Classrooms are located on a number of floors within the building and the high ceilings and classroom configuration lead to poor acoustics in some classrooms. Procedures for the safe movement of pupils within the school are applied appropriately. The classrooms and corridors serve to attractively display and celebrate the work of pupils across the curriculum. The school has built up a broad range of curriculum resources to support teaching and learning, especially in the areas of English, Mathematics, Physical Education, Music and support teaching. A book rental scheme is operating within the school. Each classroom has at least one broadband-enabled computer and some good use of information and communication technology (ICT) was observed during the course of the evaluation. Externally, the school has a hard surface and grass areas, which it shares with other schools on the campus. A general purpose hall on the campus can be rented for specific school occasions and functions. The school makes good use of its proximity to the city centre and organises a range of outings to museums, theatres, local parks and amenities on an ongoing basis.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

In line with its ethos, the high quality of relationships and communication among the school community is one of the key strengths of this school. Good internal communication is facilitated by regular staff meetings and ongoing formal and informal procedures. The school is developing a staff intranet which should prove valuable for in-school communication. It is praiseworthy that a large proportion of time at staff meetings is devoted to discussing curricular issues and to facilitating collaborative school planning. The active parent-teacher association is long established and it meets monthly to plan events to support the work of the school. Such work includes the organisation of lectures for parents on topics of interest, fundraising activities, support for school events and involvement in curricular and extracurricular activities. Effective structures are in place to ensure ongoing communication is maintained between the board, staff and parent-teacher association. A skills register is maintained of parental interests and expertise and these skills are profitably availed of to advance policy and practice within the school. Parent representatives expressed satisfaction with the quality of education provided for their children in all curriculum areas. The positive disposition of parents and the high levels of interest should be harnessed further to support the delivery of specific aspects of the curriculum throughout the school.

 

Communication between the school and parents is facilitated both formally and informally. Parents are encouraged to visit classrooms during the assembly time each morning. The weekly newsletter, the notice board in the foyer, the useful school website and the annual school meeting ensure that parents are kept well informed on developments within the school. An opportunity to discuss each pupil’s progress is facilitated through the annual parent-teacher meetings and parents are encouraged to raise any concerns on an ongoing basis. A detailed individual written report on all aspects of development and learning, tailored to the needs of various class levels, is issued at the end of each academic year.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

Pupils in Dublin 7 Educate Together National School generally present as confident and articulate. Many pupils have the skills to express themselves on a wide range of topics with competence. In some instances, there is scope for improving pupils’ ability to listen and show respect for others. It is recommended that these competencies be developed through strategies that reinforce pupils’ listening and turn-taking skills. Positive affirmation of pupil behaviour is used throughout the day and pupils generally display a pride in their school. Further use of classroom and school assemblies is recommended to develop a sense of personal responsibility and to foster a greater sense of community within the school. The display of democratically-agreed classroom rules, based on the school’s ethos and code of behaviour, is recommended to support this process. The establishment of a student council should be considered to enable pupils to have a positive input at a whole-school level and to involve them further in democratic processes.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

The overall quality of whole-school planning is good. The school has developed an impressive number of procedural and administrative policies in response to educational legislation and evolving school needs. There is considerable evidence that these have been developed democratically and collaboratively by teachers, parents and board members through policy sub-committees. Drafts of policies are shared with the wider school community using the school’s website or in hardcopy upon request. The policies are reviewed on a cyclical basis and the school’s booklet for parents containing pertinent information and policies is updated annually. Many policies are also posted on the school’s informative website. A folder containing both organisational and curricular policies in a clear and accessible format has been provided to all teachers and the board of management. It is recommended that the comprehensive draft Health and Safety policy be finalised and ratified without delay owing to the constraints posed by the current temporary school accommodation. The review of the school’s enrolment policy currently underway should ensure that existing good practice and relevant equality legislation are reflected in its provisions, thereby no longer allowing for the deferral of enrolment pending the provision of an assessment or appropriate resources. Procedures for the enrolment of pupils in the special class for pupils with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) should be included in the enrolment policy. As acknowledged by the school, an equality statement (including gender equality) should be prepared in line with the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004 and recent employment legislation. Policies developed in recent times have been ratified by the board, evidenced by the signature of the chairperson.

 

School planning at a curriculum level is good. A curriculum plan is in place for most subjects and the school is currently developing a plan for Physical Education and Drama. All policies should include a review date and going forward, be signed by the chairperson of the board upon ratification. Overall, these plans provide valuable information on the implementation of each subject within the school under the structure of the curriculum. In the main, these follow a set format and include good detail under a broad range of appropriate headings, which is sometimes further augmented by useful supplementary information in accompanying appendices. As some of the plans are reviewed and developed, they would be enhanced by further elaboration on the content for each class level, approaches to assessment and strategies for differentiation. In this way, they will become a more valuable tool to inform individual teacher planning and to ensure the delivery of a broad, balanced, spiral and developmental curriculum throughout the school. Owing to the recent development of many of the curriculum plans, there is scope for them to be further embedded into individual teacher planning and 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). 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.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers comply with Rule 126 governing preparation for schoolwork and the overall quality of individual teacher planning is good. The school has compiled folders of curriculum objectives and resources to inform classroom planning at each class level. While most teachers’ timetables are accurate, a revision of some is required to ensure they comply with the minimum time framework set out in the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Classroom planning reflects teacher awareness of the principles of the curriculum and is organised along the strand and strand unit structure. Long-term planning is completed by most teachers on an agreed school template, which details information on the strand, strand unit and on how linkage and integration will be facilitated. It is recommended that this template be revised to allow for the inclusion of curriculum aims, information on the methodologies and resources to be used and the strategies for assessment and differentiation. The school template for short-term planning is comprehensive and the detail included by teachers is generally good. Teachers working in support settings prepare good plans to inform teaching and learning, based on the needs of individuals and groups. Monthly progress records are maintained by all mainstream teachers using an agreed template. The scope for including a detailed account of work completed in this template is limited and consideration should be given to its revision. Support teachers annotate short-term planning to provide a monthly account of pupil progress. Monthly progress records are stored centrally and these should be further used to monitor the continuity and progression of curriculum implementation throughout the school.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

The overall quality of teaching and learning in this school is good. A productive and visually attractive environment is provided throughout the school which greatly assists in reinforcing learning and celebrating the work of pupils. There is an appropriate emphasis on delivering a balance of knowledge, concepts and skills across the curriculum in most classrooms. A wide range of teaching methodologies is used by some teachers to deliver the curriculum and to ensure the active participation and engagement of pupils in their learning. There is scope for the further extension of this practice throughout the school, especially in relation to ensuring pupils are active agents in their own learning and in developing their skills of working collaboratively. Lessons are generally well-paced and well-structured to motivate pupils and to consolidate learning. The use of concrete materials and curriculum resources to enhance teaching and learning was a positive feature of many of the lessons observed in the course of the evaluation. Good teacher questioning is used in many classrooms to introduce new topics, to elicit higher order thinking and to check for understanding. The quality of teacher-pupil and pupil-pupil relationships varies and further strategies should be implemented in some classes to improve pupils’ listening skills and ability to participate effectively in co-operative group work. There is good evidence that pupils’ written work is regularly monitored and corrected and oral contributions are valued and affirmed. Some differentiation of teaching and learning activities was observed during the course of the evaluation and there is scope for the development of this practice at a whole-school level. The input on differentiation during the forthcoming in-school planning day should assist the implementation of more effective strategies within the school. Pupils are generally interested in their learning and on the whole, they are achieving well across all curriculum areas.

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Ar an mórgóir, múintear an Ghaeilge go héifeachtach agus is léir go bhfuil iarracht mhacánta á dhéanamh ag oidí straitéisí éagsúla teagaisc a úsáid chun caighdeán na Gaeilge a fheabhsú tríd an scoil. Oibríonn na hoidí go díograiseach chun dearcadh dearfach a chothú i leith na Gaeilge agus chun cumas na ndaltaí sa teanga a fhorbairt. Cruthaítear timpeallacht Ghaeilge sa scoil seo trí phóstaeir agus lipéidí cuí a thaispeáint sna seomraí ranga. Baintear úsáid as an nGaeilge mar mheán teagaisc i rith na gceachtanna Gaeilge agus mar theanga bhainisteoireachta tríd an lae i gcuid de na ranganna. I bhformhór na ranganna, tugtar ionchur teanga maith do na daltaí agus baintear úsáid thairbheach as pictiúir, póstaeir, fearas corportha, rólghlacadh, obair bheirte, cluichí teanga, dráma agus scéalta chun tuiscint na ndaltaí ar fhoclóir nua a bhunú. Moltar tuilleadh forbairte a dhéanamh ar an dea-chleachtas seo ar fud na scoile chun scileanna cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fheabhsú agus chun a bhféin-mhúinín a chothú. Úsáidtear dlúthdhiosca agus cluichí i ranganna áirithe le haghaidh cleachtaí éisteachta agus glacann na daltaí leis na treoracha go fonnmhar. Aithrisíonn daltaí i roinnt ranganna cnuasach deas rann, dánta agus amhrán go taitneamhach, le tuiscint agus le dea-fhoghraíocht. Déantar cúram ceart den litriú, léitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil sna meán agus sna hard-ranganna. Léann formhór na daltaí go cruinn agus san iomlán, tugtar faoi deara go bhfuil tuiscint ar a bhfuil á léamh acu. Ó thaobh na scríbhneoireachta de, déantar cleachtadh rialta ar an scríbhneoireacht tríd an scoil agus go ginearálta, sroichtear caighdeán creidiúnach. Don chuid is mó, déantar comhtháthú éifeachtach idir obair ó bhéal, léitheoireacht agus scríbhneoireacht. Is inmholta mar a eagraíonn an scoil cúrsa sa Ghaeltacht le haghaidh daltaí i rang a sé gach bliain chun a scileanna sa teanga a fhorbairt agus chun suim sa chultúr a mhúscailt iontu.

 

Irish

By and large, the teaching of Irish is effective and it is obvious that teachers are making an earnest effort to use various teaching strategies to improve the standard of Irish throughout the school. Teachers work diligently to cultivate a positive attitude towards Irish and to develop the pupils’ competence in the language. An environment which supports Irish is provided in this school through the display of posters and labels in the classrooms. Irish is used as a medium of instruction during Irish lessons and for classroom management throughout the day in some of the classes. In most classes, the pupils receive a good language input and effective use is made of pictures, posters, concrete materials, role-play, pair work, language games, drama and stories to underpin pupils’ understanding of new vocabulary. It is recommended that this good practice be developed further throughout the school to improve pupils’ communicative skills and to foster self-confidence. CDs and games are used for listening exercises in some classes and the pupils follow the instructions with interest. Pupils in a number of classes recite a nice selection of rhymes, poems and songs pleasantly and with understanding and good pronunciation. Appropriate attention is afforded to spellings, reading and formal writing in the middle and senior sections of the school. Most pupils read carefully and in the main, they demonstrate an understanding of the content. With regard to writing, pupils are given regular opportunities to practice their skills throughout the school and on the whole, a creditable standard is achieved. For the most part, reading and writing are effectively linked to oral work. Commendably, the school organises a course in the Gaeltacht for sixth class pupils annually to develop their skills in the language and to stimulate their interest in the culture.

 

English

Teaching in English is of a high quality and the fostering of a love of English reading is a hallmark of good practice in this school. A broad and balanced programme is implemented and there is good evidence of continuity and progression in all aspects of the curriculum between class levels. All teachers create print-rich environments in their classrooms through the use of charts, class libraries and the display of samples of pupils’ written work. Pupils’ confidence and competence in the four areas of listening, speaking, reading and writing are developed incrementally throughout the school. Oral language development is correctly emphasised, both as a discrete element of English lessons and as the basis for work across the other strands. In many classes, pupils engage enthusiastically in reciting poems and rhymes, articulating personal responses to poetry and composing their own poems.

 

Reading skills are developed systematically throughout the school. Most pupils read fluently and articulately, as is evidenced by the high scores achieved by many in standardised tests. A structured approach to the teaching of phonics ensures that phonemic skills and phonological awareness are developed effectively and pupils demonstrate age-appropriate word-attack skills at all class levels. At the emergent reading stage, story and large-format books are also used to extend pupils’ vocabulary, develop comprehension skills and nurture an interest in reading. A number of strategies are used to build pupils’ reading confidence, including listening to the teacher, paired reading, shared reading and silent reading. Novels and parallel readers complement work undertaken with the class reader and some good use of classroom novels was observed during the course of the evaluation. It is recommended that the range of novels studied at each class level should be expanded and approaches to using the novel could be explored at a whole-school level. Visits to the local public library are organised and pupils are encouraged to view books and reading materials as exciting and pleasurable. There is scope for development in differentiating the English curriculum in some classes to meet the specific learning needs of all pupils. It is recommended that in-class support for pupils with additional needs in English should be initiated to complement the current predominant practice of withdrawal.

 

The pupils are provided with ongoing opportunities to engage in a variety of writing activities across a broad range of genres. Pupils undertake an array of early writing activities in the infant classes and have regular opportunities to experience the conventions of writing being modelled by teachers. During the course of the evaluation, impressive examples of writing for different purposes and for different audiences were observed. Confirmation of the pupils’ creative writing ability is also evidenced in the achievement of a Pushkin award in 2007 and 2008. Some good use is made of ICT in the writing process and to present pupils’ written work. In line with the school’s policy, pupils’ handwriting generally culminates in the development of a cursive style in the middle and senior classes. There is scope for a more consistent application of the handwriting policy and for the improved presentation of written work in some classes. Written work is generally well monitored and corrected. Grammar and spellings are well taught throughout the school.

 

4.3 Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics in this school is good. Concrete materials, posters with mathematical vocabulary and pupils’ mathematical work are constructively displayed in most classrooms to create a mathematics-rich environment. Lessons observed were generally characterised by the appropriate use of concrete materials to introduce, consolidate and reinforce concepts. A strong focus on the introduction and correct use of mathematical language was a feature of most lessons observed. In some classes, a reduced dependence on the textbook is recommended to reinforce pupils’ understanding of the practical relevance of Mathematics in their everyday lives and environment. An emphasis is placed on mental warm-up activities in Mathematics in many classes and this practice should be extended throughout the school. Further use of well-structured talk and discussion sessions and of interactive, participative methodologies would enhance the acquisition and consolidation of mathematical concepts. In the infant classes, counting, comparing, ordering, combining, partitioning and numeration are well introduced and developed. A very effective lesson focusing on developing pupils’ knowledge and algebraic skills was observed at this level. The pupils’ classroom environment is well used as a context for teaching and learning of spatial awareness in the junior classes and the potential of the classroom and school environment should be further explored at a whole-school level. Pupils’ concept of time is developed in the middle classes through the use of concrete materials and the textbook. Skilful questioning techniques, a focus on mental mathematics and the effective use of appropriate resources ensure that pupils’ concept of percentages is extended in the senior classes. It is important that differentiated teaching and learning strategies be put in place throughout the school to cater for the wide range of pupils’ abilities, as reflected in standardised tests. Overall, pupil engagement with Mathematics is quite high and a positive disposition to the subject is evident in the school.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

The quality of teaching and learning in History is generally good. Appropriate timelines are in evidence in some classrooms to enable pupils to develop a sense of time and chronology. This practice should now be extended. Praiseworthy examples of projects encompassing a range of strands, including a project on the history of the school campus, are displayed in the school. Teaching in the infant and junior classes is focused on the pupils’ personal and family history, and on developing a sense of sequence and chronology through the use of story. In some lessons, further provision of resources and a clearer explanation of the lesson objective would improve the development of pupils’ knowledge and skills. ICT, attractive timelines and posters are used to good effect in the middle classes to extend pupils’ familiarity with early peoples and ancient societies. The improved use of interactive methodologies and collaborative group work would further enhance the development of pupils’ skills of working as an historian, including the use of evidence, synthesis and communication. In general, pupils engage well with lesson topics and when given the opportunity, can discuss issues from various viewpoints with clarity.

 

Geography

Overall provision for teaching and learning in Geography is of a high standard. Commendable efforts have been invested in the auditing of the school grounds and the local environment to help teachers plan worthwhile fieldwork with their classes. Many classrooms display local, national and international maps, while globes are available in some classrooms. Pupils in the infant classes are exposed to the impact of seasonal change on animal life through talk and discussion and worksheet activity. The school makes good use of the farm on the school campus for regular fieldtrips to develop their geographical skills and this work is well linked to the strands of the curriculum. Good resources are used to develop pupils’ skills of mapping and graphing the local environment based on a problem-solving approach. The further application of active learning approaches and provision for the use of collaborative group work would further improve the learning process and learning outcomes. Linkage within the subject itself and integration with related curricular areas are regular features of geography lessons.

 

Science

There is effective provision for teaching and learning in Science in this school and all strands of the curriculum are implemented over a two-year cycle. Science displays, nature tables and growing plants are visible in most classrooms and these help stimulate the pupils’ interest in the living things strand of the curriculum. Regular timetabled visits to the adjoining farm provide further opportunities to observe the processes of life and to explore, develop and apply their scientific ideas and concepts through designing and making activities. Excellent use of collaborative group work and appropriate resources was observed in the infant classes to recognise, identify and explore the characteristics of living things. Pupils are enabled to work scientifically in the senior classes through investigation of the features of living things. Awareness of and care for the environment is being fostered by involving pupils in energy conservation, recycling and composting activities. Pupils from the school have participated successfully in the K’nex Challenge in recent years.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The quality of teaching and learning in the Visual Arts is of a high standard. Samples of pupils’ artistic endeavours displayed in classrooms and corridors, and stored in portfolios, indicate that pupils are afforded regular opportunities to develop their creative and artistic skills across all strands of the curriculum. Appropriate use is made of a wide range of materials and resources to develop pupils’ skills in both making art and responding to art. Opportunities are availed of to integrate the Visual Arts with other aspects of the curriculum in many classrooms, most notably in Mathematics and Music. In the lessons observed, poetry was used as a stimulus for creative activity in the fabric and fibre strand and commendably, pupils responded to one another’s work in a respectful manner. Skilful questioning is used to raise pupils’ awareness of elements of art in the work of other artists, especially tone, colour, shape and form. Some teachers make good use of sophisticated artistic language in their lessons and further opportunities should be provided for pupils to use this language to stimulate ideas and recall experiences. Art portfolios are maintained in some classrooms and it is recommended that this practice be extended or that pupils’ work be recorded digitally as a valuable tool in assessing progress across the visual arts curriculum.

 

Music

There is good provision for teaching and learning in Music in this school. Samples of musical notation, rhythm charts and posters of instruments are displayed in many classrooms to support work in the area. Rhythm exercises, the playing of percussion instruments and song singing were among the positive aspects of the teaching and learning observed. An appropriate emphasis is also placed on talk and discussion, which systematically develops pupils’ musical vocabulary. In many classes, pupils sing a broad repertoire of songs in both Irish and English. Work in the listening and responding strand provides pupils with opportunities to experience a wide range of musical styles and creative responses through the medium of the Visual Arts were noted during the evaluation. The exposure of pupils to work in the composing strand should be augmented in some classes. Pupils have an opportunity to participate in the annual Christmas concert. Consideration should be given to the establishment of a school choir to complement the musical activities undertaken at a classroom level and to provide a further platform for pupils to collaborate on performing musically at school and wider community events.

 

Drama

The quality of teaching and learning in Drama is generally good. Teachers use a range of strategies to implement the drama curriculum, including story, teacher-in-role and pupils-in-role. The quality of pupil engagement with the subject varied and where an appropriate context was set, pupils participated in an imaginative and mature way. Consideration should now be given to the development of a drama contract in each classroom to ensure an agreed secure and safe environment for dramatic activities. Drama strategies and conventions are also employed as a teaching methodology across other curriculum areas, most notably English and Irish. In the past, visiting drama groups have undertaken workshops within the school and some pupils attend dramatic activities after school. Elements of existing good practice and the insights gleaned from the recent cuiditheoir input in the school should be harnessed and documented in the development of the school plan for Drama.

 

4.6 Physical Education

This school makes good provision for the teaching of Physical Education. The school has built up a useful stock of equipment to implement the various strands of this subject area. The lessons observed were characterised by an appropriate emphasis on safe participation, enjoyment and skills’ development. Imaginative warming-up exercises are features of lessons and it is advised that lessons conclude with appropriate cooling-down activities. The use of incidental Irish and the successful integration of pupils from the ASD class were positive features of some lessons. The aquatics strand is being particularly well addressed as the school is fortunate to have a swimming pool on the campus where pupils from all classes avail of tuition. The cost of swimming lessons is met by individual pupil contributions and the school should explore alternative means of funding this aspect of curriculum implementation. A Gaelic football coach also provides tutoring in skills’ development to boys and girls within the school. After-school sporting activities provided by external tutors include football and basketball. The school participates in a number of national and inter-school competitions for boys and girls, most notably in football and athletics. An annual sports day is hosted where an emphasis is placed on enjoyment and family participation.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

Teaching and learning in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is generally good. School policies, including the code of behaviour, the anti-bullying policy and the child protection policy, also support implementation. Circle time, story and talk and discussion are among the strategies used in the delivery of the programme. Pupils speak confidently and articulately on aspects of the SPHE programme when an appropriate learning environment is created. The potential of the SPHE curriculum should be explored further at a whole-school level to ensure that pupils develop the skills to co-operate and work together during group activities. Relationships and Sexuality Education and elements of the Stay Safe programme are used to deliver particular aspects of the curriculum. The school operates a healthy eating policy which raises pupils’ awareness of the importance of a balanced diet.

 

4.8 Assessment

All teachers undertake some form of assessment to determine pupils’ understanding of concepts and the skills they have acquired across aspects of the curriculum. These include teacher observation, teacher designed tasks and tests, pupil profiles, checklists and work samples. Some of these assessment records are of a high standard. Standardised tests are administered in literacy and numeracy to pupils from first to sixth class in alternate years, and it is proposed to administer these annually going forward. Standardised test results are stored by teachers and are shared with parents. The Non-reading Intelligence Test is also undertaken in some junior and middle classes. However, there is scope for development in relation to the approaches to the assessment, recording and analysis of learning in this school. On the whole, there is a need for a more systematic and comprehensive approach to the monitoring and recording of individual pupil progress across all curricular areas, as outlined in the recently developed school policy on assessment. More importantly, there is wide scope for the use of this assessment data to inform the cycle of planning, teaching and learning. This assessment data should be collated to provide evidence of the progress of individual pupils throughout their entire school career. It is recommended that the results of standardised tests should be analysed and graphed at class and school levels in order to inform the planning and delivery of differentiated learning activities. Existing practice, the school’s assessment policy and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) publication, Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum – Guidelines for Schools, could be used to inform the implementation of a continuum of assessment within the school.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of support for pupils with special educational needs is good. Practice is informed by a recently developed school policy on the provision for special education. The special education needs team comprises a special class teacher for pupils with ASDs, a learning-support post filled by two job-sharers, a resource teacher and a shared resource teacher, working in the school for twelve hours per week. They support groups of pupils with high incidence needs in literacy and numeracy and individual pupils with low incidence needs. Commendably, many support teachers have developed experience and expertise in the area of special education through years of professional practice and engagement with continuing professional development. The principal and support team meet monthly to review progress and plan collaboratively. It is recommended that communication between support teachers and classroom teachers become more systematic and formal in nature in the best interest of sharing information on, and responsibility for, the learning needs and strengths of each pupil. A number of early identification strategies are in place in the school, such as teacher observation and screening tests, and these should be extended and formalised to identify and support pupils on stage one of the additional learning support continuum. Formal screening tests are administered in senior infants. The results of the standardised tests in English and Mathematics are used, in conjunction with teacher observation and other assessment data, in the selection of pupils for receipt of learning support. A range of diagnostic tests is used to identify individual pupils’ learning strengths and needs. Six experienced special needs assistants (SNAs) collaborate closely with teachers to effectively support the inclusion of assigned pupils in mainstream classes and to provide for the needs of pupils in the class for pupils with ASDs. As identified by the school, a policy on the roles and responsibilities of the SNAs should be included within the school plan.

 

Comprehensive individual pupil learning profiles (IPLPs), group plans or individual education plans (IEPs) have been developed for pupils in receipt of learning support or resource teaching. The quality of some plans and profiles is particularly high as they contain a wide range of information about the pupil, detailed information on assessment results and very specific learning targets. These plans and profiles are developed collaboratively and involve multidisciplinary input, where appropriate. They are reviewed once during the instructional year and are shared with all school personnel supporting the pupil. Good quality teaching and learning with individuals and small groups was observed in support settings during the course of the evaluation. Stimulating and attractive print-rich and number-rich learning environments are provided for pupils and a wide range of appropriate resources are available and used effectively during lessons. The teaching and learning observed was generally characterised by the use of a broad range of engaging methodologies to meet identified needs, affirming teacher-pupil relationships and active pupil engagement. Assessment data indicates that pupils are making good progress on their learning targets. While it was reported that some in-class support takes place, no such provision was observed during the course of the evaluation. It is recommended that the existing predominant model of withdrawal be replaced by a more balanced provision of withdrawal and in-class support, based on the needs of individual pupils. A more structured approach within the school towards provision for exceptionally able pupils should be considered, informed by the recently developed NCCA draft guidelines for teachers on Exceptionally Able Students.

 

The special class for pupils with ASDs makes good provision for the five pupils enrolled therein. The structure and organisation of the class and the teaching strategies used are effectively targeted towards addressing the triad of impairments and the sensory perception differences associated with ASDs. Pupils’ strengths as visual learners are exploited appropriately during lessons. The management of the pupils’ behaviour is generally good and social skills are taught directly, with socially acceptable behaviour being positively reinforced. Detailed IEPs, developed on a collaborative basis, are in place for most pupils to inform teaching and learning. It is recommended that all relevant documentation should continue to be pursued as a matter of urgency to develop any outstanding IEPs. In the meanwhile, attention should be drawn to the development of a behaviour management plan and pupil profile outlining the strengths and priority learning needs of each pupil, based on teacher observation and other available assessment data. Effective provision is made for the inclusion of pupils with ASDs in mainstream classes for selected curricular activities, while reciprocal visits are also organised. Pupils’ progress is regularly assessed, monitored and recorded.

 

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

The school uses various grants and resources to ensure all pupils are included in school activities and the material needs of disadvantaged pupils are met discreetly.

 

 

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:

 

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, December 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 Dublin 7 Educate Together NS welcome the positive findings of the WSE report which acknowledge and affirm the diligence of the staff in enhancing the learning environment and educational experiences of the pupils and the keen interest and active support of parents in the work of the school.

 

 

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

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.       

 

Work is in progress on those recommendations already identified by the Board of Management in its Strategy Plan and by the staff in its Planning Diary. The other recommendations will be considered by the Board and staff during the school year.