An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Holy Family National School
Ballyshannon, County Donegal
Roll number: 20150H
Date of inspection: 29 April 2006
Date of issue of report: 15 December 2006
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Holy Family N.S., Ballyshannon. 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 students and teachers, examined students’ 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; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Two schools were amalgamated in 2001 to form Holy Family N.S., now a seven-teacher co-educational mainstream primary school, located in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal. The original schools were Our Lady of The Angels N.S, run by The Sisters of Mercy and St. Josephs Boys N.S, under the management of the De La Salle Brothers. There are 150 pupils currently on roll and projections indicate that enrolment will increase in the future. The school is housed in two separate buildings, one of which caters for the junior classes and the other for the middle and senior classes. The school serves the needs of pupils of the Magh Ene parish on the south side of Ballyshannon. The school receives additional funding from the “Giving Children an Even Break through Tackling Disadvantage” (GCAEB) rural scheme.
Attendance patterns are satisfactory. Management fulfils its duties effectively with regard to the reporting of school absences as required by the Education and Welfare Act 2000. The school nurtures a sense of positive values in the children to ensure a good learning environment and regular attendance at school. The school’s philosophy as outlined in the school plan aims “to promote the full and harmonious development of its pupils recognising the dignity and diversity of each pupil”, “to create a safe and happy environment for the pupils” and “to pursue the highest educational standards for the children”. It is evident from this evaluation that this school is effective in fulfilling these aims.
The ethos of the school is reflected in the very warm and welcoming atmosphere that was evident during the period of evaluation. The principal and staff provide a stimulating and very high quality learning environment for their pupils. The characteristic spirit of the school is also reflected in the daily positive interactions among pupils, parents and teachers. Pupil behaviour during the course of the inspection was exemplary at all times.
Holy Family N.S. is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Clogher. It is managed by an active and committed board of management nominated by the patron and constituted in accordance with section fourteen of the Education Act 1998. The board is functioning effectively and is very supportive of the principal and staff. There is also very good communication between the board, staff and parents. The major priority of the board is the development of a new school following the amalgamation process which took place in 2001. The board recorded their dissatisfaction with the current National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and the delay with the assessment process. A number of pupils have been assessed with funding from the Parents’ Association. A satisfactory record is kept of all proceedings and financial accounts are presented to parents at the Annual General Meeting at the beginning of each school year. The board displays a keen interest and considerable enthusiasm for all aspects of school life and in particular, in new initiatives in the school. The chairperson of the board meets with the Parents’ Association once a year to brief them on issues of concern to the school and the board publishes its financial report. The board is also aware of the support needs of pupils and is very familiar with recent legislation in education. The board play an active role in contributing to and reviewing school policies and curriculum plans. It is recommended that all plans are signed and dated on ratification by the board.
During the post evaluation meeting, the board also discussed the need for training for board members in their roles. Parents’ representatives on the board ensure that the views and opinions of the parent community are represented fully. The board continues to maintain and improve the school and its facilities to a very high level. The school is cleaned daily and the building, both inside and out, is maintained to a very high standard as are the gardens and surrounds where the planting of shrubs and flowers in the school’s precincts enhances its appearance greatly. The school as a whole presents as a bright and stimulating educational environment for pupils.
The effective and energetic in-school management team includes the principal, deputy principal and two post-holders. They work very well together to provide efficient leadership and direction to the school. Post-holders have been allocated a broad range of duties and the team share responsibilities in respect of the management of pupils, discipline, pastoral care and the development and implementation of a range of curricular and administrative policies. The duties of post holders have been described in the school plan and these are in accordance with departmental guidelines. Pupils are properly supervised and discipline is very good. All post-holders adopt a professional and responsible attitude to their duties, which ensures that the school functions smoothly and effectively. While an informal review of posts takes place, it is now recommended that there be a regular, formal review of posts of responsibility by the board to reflect the changing curricular, organisational and special educational needs of the school. There is an excellent team spirit among the in-school management personnel and they are firmly committed to the enhancement of the school. There are open lines of communication between all staff members. There is evidence of good forward planning by the management team and records are kept of tasks, thus creating a commendable co-operative ethic. Tasks are efficiently delegated among all staff members. Staff meetings are held regularly and are used productively to support development planning. All staff meetings include curricular, organisational and special education provision.
The leadership in the school has established excellent working relationships with teachers, pupils, ancillary staff, parents and the wider community. This is hugely motivating to the staff. Talent is recognised and creativity is encouraged within the school and some teachers are involved in cooperative teaching. It is now recommended that this cooperative teaching should be developed further across the school. Official documents are carefully maintained. The overall work of the school reflects the effective and efficient leadership approach within the school. Distributed leadership is also in evidence in the school and this practise is commendable.
Teaching and non-teaching personnel are well managed with evidence of very open, positive staff relations. Communication within the school is excellent and the atmosphere in the staff room is friendly and positive. The school is extremely well presented and maintained. An exceptional standard of hygiene, décor, neatness and order is in evidence throughout both buildings, which contributes to the creation of a welcoming atmosphere and a very pleasant working environment. The teachers have enhanced their working environments and have created attractive and stimulating learning and teaching areas through the judicious use of colourful charts and displays. The corridors are adorned with display areas where seasonal montages, collages, presentations of pupils’ projects and displays of work are a prominent feature. All necessary resources, both material and personnel, are effectively deployed to achieve the aims of the school for all pupils.
The teaching staff consists of a teaching principal, five mainstream class teachers and one full time learning support teacher. The school also has the services of a shared part-time resource teacher for pupils with special educational needs and a shared resource teacher for travellers, both of whom are based in other schools. The special needs assistant is employed with commendable flexibility to assist pupils with special educational needs (SEN). Consideration should be now given to organising language support teaching for international pupils.
A secretary provides valuable support to the principal and teaching staff. The school has a committed caretaker who plays a significant role in the upkeep of the school and its grounds and gardens and ensures that the standard of accommodation is maintained at current high levels.
An excellent range of teaching and learning resources is available in the school and equipment is efficiently managed and organised. Many teachers produce useful home-made resources to assist in the pupils’ understanding of the content and concepts taught and this practice is highly commendable. Curricular grants have been wisely spent and there is a plentiful stock of teaching materials available in the school. Considerable investment has been made in information technology with computers and internet connections available in all classrooms. Good use is made of information technology to support the teaching and learning process across the school. There is an extensive range of physical education equipment, science equipment, mathematics equipment, percussion instruments, a range of videos, board games and visual arts supplies in the school. Teachers generally use these resources very effectively in their teaching. Libraries are well stocked, and there is excellent provision of large format books in the junior rooms and a considerable amount of parallel readers in all classrooms.
The school has a very comprehensive school plan that has been compiled in three sections, organisational, curricular and resource/infrastructure. The plan is very well presented and has been developed in accordance with the guidelines from the Department of Education and Science (DES). All policy statements are clear and coherent.
The process of planning in the school is well advanced with evidence that it is a highly organised, collaborative process with set targets and timescales. Parents have been centrally involved in the planning process and there is evidence with regard to the use of questionnaires for parental views on school policies. The school is to be commended for the range of policies in place, which facilitate the effective functioning of the school. The Relations and Sexuality Education policy is under review at present and other agencies have been organised to present information to parents in this subject area. It is recommended that review dates be built into all policies and dates of ratification recorded.
All required curricular plans in line with the Primary School Curriculum are in place and all teachers have a copy of the sections relevant to their classes, thus ensuring that they are working documents. It is recommended that an abridged version of the school plan should be provided for substitute teachers and temporary staff. Overall, there is evidence that there is ongoing monitoring of curriculum implementation followed by evaluation and review. Plans are in place for the development of an information booklet for parents that will include the key organisational policies. The prompt document and templates developed collaboratively by the Department of Education and Science the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP), the School Development Planning Support (SDPS) and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) have been consulted and used effectively in the review of curricular plans.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff are taking 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, 2004) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). A designated liaison person and a deputy liaison person have been appointed in line with the requirements of the DES guidelines.
The school plan is being implemented effectively and is highly evident in all classroom practice. Individual teachers’ planning is very satisfactory with definite links to curriculum objectives. All teachers provide long-term planning together with short-term notes and some exceptional practice was noted. Teachers meet regularly to plan collaboratively for the junior, middle and senior sections of the school. Differentiated planning was organised in respect of pupils’ varying needs in all classrooms. There were some exemplary thematic, integrated approaches in evidence in some classrooms. Team teaching between the support teachers and the classroom teachers should be explored further as a possible means of supporting pupils with learning difficulties. A comprehensive monthly record of progress is maintained in every class. Copies of these progress records are kept centrally.
Teachers deliver a broad and balanced programme to their pupils and there is satisfactory evidence of progression and continuity in the curricular programmes from class to class. Further development in the planning for ICT skills on a whole school basis is recommended. Teachers plan to use a variety of teaching methodologies and this is evident in classroom practice. All teachers use active-learning experiences, discovery-based approaches and participative methods frequently. There is a balance between pair work, group work, individual work as well as whole-class teaching. Pupils also engage in project work in History and Geography and in a range of open-ended scientific investigations. Good emphasis is placed on the environment as a resource and as a starting point for learning with many impressive projects having been undertaken in the immediate school environment. Individual pupil learning plans are put in place and being implemented collaboratively by all teachers. An excellent range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities is planned for all pupils. The parents give highly commendable support to out of school activities in the areas of music, drama and sport. Teachers bring a variety of educational visitors to the school to address pupils.
Tá ullmhúchán an-shásúil don Ghaeilge, bunaithe ar théamaí an churaclaim, á dhéanamh ag na hoidí go léir. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar theanga bhainistíochta i ngach rang agus lasmuigh de na ranganna cloistear an Ghaeilge á húsáid go minic. Déantar comhthathú éifeachtach idir an Ghaeilge agus abháir eile an churaclam, go háirithe sa Cheol agus sa Chorpoideachas. Ó thaobh na gceachtanna Gaeilge de, cuirtear béim ar straitéisí agus úsáidtear raon foinsí chun cumarsáid a fhorbairt tríd an scoil. Is léir go ndéanann na hoidí an-iarracht atmaisféar fabhrach don teanga a chruthú ar fud na scoile agus sna rangsheomraí. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as modheolaíochtaí taitneamhacha ar nós scéalaíocht, drámaíocht, ról-ghlacadh, obair le púipéidí, mím, obair i bpéire, ceistiúchán agus cluichí teanga. Baintear úsaid an-éifeachtach as dramaíocht trí Ghaeilge agus moltar an sár-chleachtas agus an t-ardchaighdeán atá bainte amach ag na daltaí san ard-roinn. Baineann na daltaí sult agus taitneamh as na gníomhaíochtaí suimiúla go léir atá ag dul ar aghaidh i ngach seomra.
Tríd an scoil tá cumas cumarsáide na ndaltaí ag forbairt mar is cóir agus moltar go leanfaí le modh na cumarsáide a úsáid. Caitear díogras le teagasc an chomhrá agus baintear úsáid as acmhainní difriúla agus cruthaitheacha agus modheolaíochtaí teagaisc éagsúla chun an fhíorchumarsáid a chothú. Tugtar aire ar leith do na tréimhsí réamhchumarsáide agus iarchumarsáide chomh maith i ngach rang.
Dírítear aird ar chruinneas sa léitheoireacht Ghaeilge agus léiríonn formhór na ndaltaí sna hardranganna cumas sásúil inti. Baintear úsaid éifeachtach as foinsí éagsúla chun an léitheoireacht a fhorbairt sna hardranganna. Sna méanranganna agus sna hardranganna úsáidtear úrscéalta agus foinsí eile mar ábhair léitheoireachta agus is léir go mbaineann na daltaí taitneamh astu. Tugtar faoi theagasc na peannaireachta go cúramach agus déantar an obair scríofa go slachtmhar néata. Tá éagsúlacht le sonrú sna cleachtaí scríbhneoireachta agus caighdeán sásúil bainte amach ag na daltaí. Baineann na daltaí go léir mórthaitneamh as na rainn agus na hamhráin atá ar eolas acu. Tá gach dícheall a dhéanamh chun an scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach a fhorbairt i ngach rang. Tá caighdeán ard le sonrú san obair scríofa atá curtha i gcrích ag na daltaí sna cóipleabhair agus sna taispeántais ar na ballaí sa mheánranganna agus san ardroinn sa scoil. Moltar na trialacha caighdeánacha Gaeilge a úsáid chun tógáil ar an obair atá á déanamh san ghné seo den churaclam.
All teachers have prepared very satisfactory plans based on the themes of the curriculum. Irish is frequently used as a medium of instruction in each classroom and as a medium of communication outside classrooms and among staff. Irish is effectively integrated with other curricular areas, particularly with Music and Physical Education. A range of resources and strategies is used to develop communication during the Irish lessons. It is evident that teachers make every effort to develop a positive approach to the language in the school. Effective and interesting methodologies e.g. storytelling, drama, role-play, puppet work, mime, paired work, quizzes and language games, are in use. Irish drama is used effectively and the high standard achieved in this area by the senior pupils is commended. Pupils enjoy the interesting activities which are organised in each classroom. The pupils’ communication skills are developed appropriately throughout the school and it is recommended this good practice be continued. The teachers approach the teaching of conversation with enthusiasm and various creative resources and teaching strategies are used to promote real communication in the language. Particular attention is afforded to the pre- and post-communication stages during Irish conversation lessons in all classrooms.
Emphasis is placed on accuracy in the teaching of Irish reading and most of the pupils in the senior section have satisfactory reading standards in Irish. Various resources are used effectively to develop reading in the senior section of the school. Novels and other reading materials from a wide variety of sources are used during reading lessons with obvious enjoyment by the pupils. Penmanship is taught carefully and writing tasks are presented neatly. Pupils writing tasks are varied and the standard achieved in this area of the curriculum is satisfactory. It is clearly evident that pupils enjoy the songs and poems that they have learnt. Every effort is being made to develop creative writing skills in each classroom. In the middle and senior sections of the school, high standards are evident in the writing exercises in pupils’ copybooks and in the writing displays on the classroom walls. It is recommended that standardised tests be used to build on the work in this area of the curriculum.
Teachers plan a broad programme of activities for pupils, addressing the four strands of the curriculum. They employ active methodologies within oral language activities, in the senior section in particular, which foster the development of higher-order thinking skills. A range of topics and activities for oral language development are planned for and explored by the pupils at all class levels. Pupils are confident speakers, displaying a wide range of general knowledge. In the junior section, emphasis is placed on the development of phonological awareness, sight vocabulary and on an awareness of rhyme. Emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ emergent reading skills in the junior classes and a solid foundation in reading is organised. Teachers create a stimulating print-rich environment in their classrooms. There is a wealth of reading materials available in all classrooms. Active listening skills are developed through the use of story and by exposing pupils to a variety of appropriate experiences.
The junior and middle classes have reading folders with supplementary readers enabling parents to support their children’s reading and allowing for feedback on books read. In the middle and senior classes both a structured reading scheme and class novels are in use. The use of the novel in the teaching and learning is praiseworthy. Teachers encourage the development of pupils’ comprehension skills through the effective use of questioning. The sound use of novels and the wide range of reading material available in the class libraries further enhance the reading programme. Pupils are highly motivated and were observed to be fully engaged in all activities and to display enthusiasm in their presentation of work covered in the English programme at all levels. A broad repertoire of poetry is explored and taught to excellent effect across the school. Pupils can discuss, analyse and appreciate poetry very well. A good balance is achieved between functional and creative writing at all class levels and writing for different purposes and audiences is undertaken. ICT could be further exploited across the school to support the writing process. Samples of the children’s written work in copies that were seen during the evaluation were of a very high quality and showed examples of a wide variety of writing activities. Children’s work is carefully monitored and strategies for ongoing assessment are in place. In general, pupils are achieving commendable standards in all aspects of the English curriculum.
The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken diligently throughout the school and pupil attainment generally is very satisfactory. A comprehensive school plan for Mathematics has been prepared where teachers at each class level have co-operated in delineating an appropriate series of topics and mathematical activities for skill development and the formation and understanding of concepts in each strand of the curriculum. In outlining methodologies for the transmission of an understanding of concepts, the emphasis is placed on practical experiences using hands-on, exploratory approaches, with the children having access to structured and concrete materials. This approach is facilitated throughout the school through the provision of an educationally valuable and carefully selected supply of structured and concrete mathematical materials at each level.
All teachers undertake planning for Mathematics and the teaching is approached with enthusiasm in all classes. Differentiated tasks and materials are prepared for pupils of differing abilities in all classes. Pupils are encouraged to take an active part in their learning in this subject area. The Mathematics textbooks support the programme and emphasis is placed on linking concepts taught in Mathematics to pupils’ experiences in the environment. The strategies include adopting an active learning and guided discovery approach through discussion, the development of mathematical language, engaging with concrete materials and co-operative learning. Regular revision is undertaken, the children record their work neatly and appropriately and the copybooks are extremely well monitored.
The consistent use of an extensive range of concrete, visual and structured materials is sustained throughout the school to assist pupils in the formation and understanding of number and spatial concepts and structure. Supplementary textbooks and other resources are also employed. Teachers also devise their own materials to support the programme and a range of games is used. The number rich environment in all classrooms effectively supports the pupils mathematical development. Suitable emphasis is placed on the acquisition of mathematical language in all classes. Pupils respond well to questioning; they demonstrate a satisfactory standard of mental arithmetic skills and are enthusiastic and confident in solving mathematical problems. They perform well at both oral and written tasks. Mathematics lessons observed were well-organised and well-structured and mathematical concepts explored in a logical and developmental manner. Good use is made of questioning to stretch and challenge the more able pupils. The use of mathematics investigation tables in some classrooms further consolidates work done in this area.
Standardised norm-referenced attainment tests, textbooks checklists and teacher-designed tests are used for both formative and summative pupil assessment. There is excellent practice regarding the recording of pupil progress in Mathematics in all classes. The results of the tests are analysed by class teachers and are used effectively for the revision of work and as a guide for further forward planning in this area of the curriculum.
Teachers plan a broad programme of activities to allow pupils explore their own immediate environment as well as the world around them. Teachers successfully plan themes to link the SESE subject areas. Emphasis is placed on developing the pupils’ skills and concepts and, through exploration of the local environment, helping pupils develop a sense of place. A wide range of resources is available to teachers to support pupils’ learning. There is evidence that most teachers undertake field trips, which allow pupils study significant geographical features of the local area. The use of digital camera and PowerPoint to allow pupils to deliver interactive presentations of their excellent project work is recommended. Teachers, in general, are to be commended for the active methodologies undertaken and for the hands-on approach to learning. The pupils speak knowledgeably about aspects of Geography which they have studied and some project work and assignments of very high quality were on display in classrooms and corridors. This area of the curriculum is integrated effectively with the Visual Arts and Music programmes.
A well-planned and wide-ranging History programme that gives children knowledge of the past at family, local, national and international levels. In many classes work covered is suitably integrated with other areas of the curriculum. Considerable emphasis is placed on pupils researching topics and on active-learning experiences in general. Timelines are used effectively and an emphasis is placed on the development of the sense of time and chronology. Local studies have allowed pupils explore changes that have occurred in the immediate environment. Some very interesting projects were seen during the evaluation, particularly in the senior section, where pupils understanding of the topics studied was very good indeed. The pupils respond positively and are enthusiastic about the topics they have studied.
Some exemplary lessons, project work and displays were observed in this area of the curriculum during the evaluation. Teachers deliver a very broad and interesting programme of scientific work that is linked to other SESE subjects as well as being successfully integrated with other areas of the curriculum. In all classes nature tables with seasonal displays are in evidence. Active learning experiences are arranged for pupils and a wide range of resources is used to support pupils’ learning. Emphasis is placed on the exploration of pupils’ ideas and on skill development. Prediction skills in particular are promoted. Pupils worked collaboratively in groups on practical investigations while the teachers capably challenge their ideas. Pupils appeared very enthusiastic and highly stimulated. Across the school pupils appear to have a good knowledge of work carried out. Much highly commendable work has been carried out on environmental projects. Recycling, the separation of waste and composting are regular features of school life and the community is involved in environmental projects with the school.
The teachers have embraced the principles of the Visual Arts curriculum in a comprehensive manner. Planning is based on the structure and content of the curriculum and ensures a broad and balanced programme. Portfolios of the children’s work, along with some excellent displays, indicate that they have been exposed to a broad range of techniques and have used a variety of materials. The displays of the pupils’ work in the public areas of the school are particularly praiseworthy. Classes are effectively organised and there is much evidence of cross-curricular work undertaken. A range of effective starting points for purposeful teaching is employed and pupils are afforded opportunities to explore activities through guided discovery methods, pupils are active in exploring, experimenting and enjoying the art activities. The emphasis was clearly on the creative process and pupil engagement with the activity was effectively organised. There is evidence that pupils, as well as making art, are encouraged to look and respond to their own work, the work of their peers and the work of established artists. Talk and discussion is a feature of these classes and pupils develop a visual language and a visual awareness of the elements of art. Pupils make art in all strands areas of the Visual Arts curriculum. For the most part, art making is focused correctly on the child as an artist, rather than using a template approach to art making. This approach is to be greatly praised and emulated. Teacher observation is used to assess the pupils work in art activities.
Teachers plan a broad programme of musical activities, which includes listening and responding, performing and composing. There are very worthwhile links to other curricular areas. Some teachers on the staff are very proficient in teaching Music. Songs are taught carefully in a structured manner. There is an impressive standard of vocal performance in all classrooms. Pupils have an excellent repertoire of songs in Irish and English. Much work is carried out on rhythm and pulse and percussion instruments are used to good effect. Pupils receive tuition in recorder across the school. A school musical is organised annually and the parent community is invited to see the pupils perform.
There is a wealth of talent in the school with regard to drama. The drama activities are undertaken to very good effect with the pupils, and particularly enhance curricular areas for the teaching of Irish and for the SPHE lessons. It was observed that drama contributes positively to pupils self esteem and to their oral abilities. It also facilitates development of the pupils’ imaginative processes as well as fostering their creativity and problem-solving skills. In engaging in dramatic activities with their peers, pupils’ co-operative and communicative skills are enhanced. Drama is integrated successfully with many other curricular areas. Links to SPHE, Irish and English were obvious in the excellent activities observed.
Sport and athletics are an important feature of school life. Physical education lessons are extremely well organised and monitored. Safety is prioritised during physical education lessons. Teachers plan for a broad physical education programme that provides a range of developmentally appropriate physical experiences for the pupils. The school has acquired an excellent range of PE equipment. The equipment is properly organised and carefully stored. The structured lessons observed during the evaluation focused on the participation of all pupils in the activities. The teachers organise a range of extra-curricular activities for the pupils and they engage in inter-school competitions. Visiting coaches assist with Gaelic and soccer training at intervals during the school year. An annual sports day is organised and parents are invited. Swimming lessons are undertaken for ten weeks in a local swimming pool (Ballyshannon Leisure Centre). Valuable links have also been established with the local post-primary school for basketball training, particularly for the senior pupils.
The school plan includes a policy for SPHE and all teachers plan collaboratively for the teaching of this subject. The planning for RSE should be reviewed and implemented in the school. Plans are in place to invite outside agencies to discuss this area of the SPHE curriculum with parents before delivering the programme in the school. Together with discrete timetabled lessons much learning is achieved through cross-curricular work and discussion. The programmes of work address pupils’ needs appropriately and effectively. A range of methodologies is employed to allow pupils explore topics including healthy eating, safety, school and classroom rules and bullying. The warm, welcoming school atmosphere and ethos reflect a firm commitment to the development and extension of the pupils’ skills in this subject. The entire school community visibly demonstrates a very caring and supportive approach towards pupils with special educational needs. The pupils demonstrate respect and offer full co-operation to their teachers. The staff’s contribution towards the building of confidence and self-esteem levels of the pupils through a variety of personal development activities is commendable. The positive attitude, enthusiasm, responsiveness and behaviour of the pupils are indeed praiseworthy. The school authorities have been particularly successful in establishing and maintaining high levels of communication between home and school. This has a significant impact on the well-being of pupils and on the high esteem in which the parents hold the school.
In some classes there is some excellent practise with regard to assessment of literacy and numeracy. This now needs to be extended across the curriculum. A range of assessment tools including teacher observation, monitoring of written work, teacher-designed tests and homework is used by the teachers to inform the teaching and learning in the school. Pupils’ work is regularly corrected and comments made by teachers on pupils’ copies are positive and affirming and point the way towards improvement. Early identification screening tests are used to identify infant pupils with learning difficulties. The administration of a range of standardised tests is carried out on an annual basis. Records of pupils assessments indicate very satisfactory pupil performance in English and Mathematics. The results are analysed and reviewed and the relevant supports and strategies are designed to enable the achievement of quality outcomes. The possibility of involving the pupils in self-monitoring as a means of developing the school’s comprehensive assessment policy, was discussed at the post-evaluation meeting. Written reports are sent to parents at the end of the school year and parents are facilitated to respond to the school reports. The further use of assessment in all curricular areas was discussed with the teachers at the post evaluation meeting to further enhance their approach to planning.
Procedures for the admission, enrolment and participation of all pupils with special educational needs (SEN) are in place in the school. Teachers are to be complimented for the effort that is made to ensure the inclusion of pupils with SEN in all classroom and school activities. A comprehensive whole school plan for learning support has been devised and is being implemented effectively. Some very effective teaching was observed in this area. There is evidence of appropriate provision and planning for pupils with SEN in the mainstream classes. An individual profile and learning plan (IPLP) for each child has been drawn up. These IPLPs were devised following consideration of the recommendations from psychologists and other professionals and also following consultation with each child’s parents. There was evidence of pupils involvement in drawing up the IPLPs and this practise is to be commended. All class teachers have copies of such plans in respect of their pupils and co-operate with support teachers to achieve the identified targets and plans are regularly reviewed. There is evidence that the support teachers monitor the pupils’ progress in a systematic way through the use of running progress records. A very positive, encouraging and motivating support teaching was observed during the evaluation. The pupils displayed a sense of achievement in the progress being made. Comprehensive records of children’s progress are maintained
In general, support and resource teachers operate a withdrawal system whereby pupils are taken, either individually or in small groups, from classes for focused tuition, with the exception of one class where there is a team teaching approach undertaken. It is recommended that the school should extend this method of delivering this support, to include support and resource personnel working in all classrooms. There are a number of international pupils in the school and language support should be organised to assist with their English language development. A meeting took place during the evaluation to discuss whole-school provision for pupils with special needs. Support teachers indicated their dissatisfaction with the quality of external supports available to the school for these pupils. Teachers’ concerns centred around the very lengthy period of time between the carrying out of formal assessments and the return of the reports to the school. They also indicated concern that the Parents’ Association had paid for a number of private assessments.
The school receives funding through the GCAEB initiative and funding is used for additional reading and writing materials for the pupils. It is clear that support is provided for those pupils at risk of educational disadvantage and early school leaving. Close links have been established with local voluntary agencies in support of disadvantaged pupils in the school.
The school has a small number of international pupils. Teachers make every effort to support the pupils by organising differentiated tasks and programmes to develop their language skills. The special education teachers include the international pupils as part of their caseload. These pupils, however, are inappropriately placed in this setting.
The provision for travellers in the school is very satisfactory. A high level of consultation and co-operation is maintained between the class teachers and support teachers in planning work programmes for pupils from the travelling community. This could be further enhanced by in-class support provision by the resource teacher for travellers.
A policy on home/school partnership has been formulated in conjunction with the Parents’ Association. It is evident from both the stated school policy and indeed from the meeting held with parents’ representatives on the Board of Management at the outset of the evaluation that very effective communication structures exist between the school and the parents. The school aims to build a school community committed to supporting all its pupils. The school enriches and extends the educational opportunities for the pupils by accessing talents of parents and community members. The parent community is involved in art programmes, the design of costumes for extra-curricular activities, organising musicals, quizzes and sports days and is also involved in recycling projects in the school.
The parents work very closely with the principal and staff and meet with class teachers as necessary. The parents of class groupings are met with regularly to discuss curriculum and organisational changes. The Parents’ Association is very supportive of the work of the school, both curricular and extra-curricular. The school has a range of communication strategies for linking with the parent community including newsletters, regular notes and letters. The school diary facilitates further two-way communication between home and school. As there are a number of international parents in the school a policy should be formulated regarding the methods of communication to these parents. Parents are enabled to discuss their children’s progress at annual parent-teacher meetings. School reports for all pupils are sent to parents at the end of the academic year and copies are filed in the school. Draft copies of all school policies are sent to the parents for their input.
It was stated at the meeting with the parents during the evaluation that they were very affirming of the staff in the school and that the provision to meet the educational needs of the pupils in the school was excellent. They also commended the school’s programme on transition to second level. Parents expressed their dissatisfaction with the NEPS service and also queried the delay regarding the building of the new school after the amalgamation was sanctioned.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development 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 with the board of management at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.