An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
North Dublin Muslim NS
c/o St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys
Navan Road, Cabra, Dublin 7
Uimhir rolla: 20152L
Date of inspection: 28 November 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of the North Dublin Muslim NS. 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 and the two patron’s nominees on the school’s board of management. Representatives of the parents’ association did not attend the scheduled meeting with the evaluation team. The principal did not attend the pre-evaluation meeting with the staff. 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. No member of the board of management attended the scheduled post-evaluation meeting. 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.
The North Dublin Muslim NS is a twelve-teacher co-educational, national school catering for pupils from junior infants to sixth class, under the patronage of the Islamic Foundation of Ireland. The school is situated in rented accommodation on the grounds of St Joseph’s School for Deaf Boys in Cabra, Dublin 7. It was established in 2001. The school’s catchment area is very wide, with children travelling from areas such as Lucan, Blanchardstown, Clonee and Tallaght. All of the pupils are of the Muslim faith. For the vast majority, English is not their first language and for some, it is a second or third language. The principal reported that there were 107 pupils enrolled at the end of September 2008. However, it is difficult to ascertain the exact numbers enrolled at present as there are inconsistencies and anomalies between entries in the class roll books, the Attendance Book (Leabhar Tinrimh) and the Register (Clár Leabhar). Based on information supplied by the principal, it is apparent that there has been a significant decrease in the numbers of pupils enrolled since 2006.
The school’s vision is outlined in a home-school agreement document. Its mission statement states that it seeks to “develop children’s individual talents to their fullest potential in an Islamic environment which promotes self-discipline, care and respect for others.” However, there is no evidence that this vision has been shaped or reviewed by the school community and it is not embedded in the school’s work or reflected in its practice. There is no evidence of an ethos that focuses on pupil achievement, development and success. Expectations regarding equality, diversity and inclusion are not articulated.
The school is not in compliance with the requirements of Section 22 of the Education Welfare Act (2000). It does not have an attendance policy and there is no evidence of the monitoring of pupil absences. Figures for average attendance are not available. An examination of the roll books shows that significant numbers of pupils are absent for a considerable portion of the school year. Consequently, it is recommended that the school adopts an active approach to encouraging attendance, involving all partners in the school community. It is further recommended that formal procedures are put in place to monitor attendance, to enable the school to report attendance accurately and for the correct completion of roll books and other departmental documentation. Pupils transfer to a range of post-primary schools. The school does not have strategies in place to ensure that pupils transfer successfully or to assist in securing enrolment in a post-primary school.
There has been a continual turnover of staff in the school. The whole mainstream teaching staff resigned in June 2008. The board has had to make twelve appointments since then. No member of the teaching staff has completed their probationary period. Only four of the teachers are fully qualified within the Irish system. This presents a major challenge to planning and to delivering a continuous and cohesive experience for pupils.
Members of the board of management state that the board is properly constituted. However, some resignations have occurred since its establishment and there is uncertainty as to whether those positions have been filled. The board meets regularly and the current board keeps minutes of its meetings. Meetings are primarily concerned with organisational matters. Board members do not have an understanding of their roles and responsibilities regarding issues such as managing the whole-school planning process, staff, accommodation and teaching and learning. There are significant weaknesses in the board’s implementation of statutory requirements. The school is in breach of the guidelines in Circular 11/95 with regard to the length of the school day. While pupils are in attendance for the required number of days each year, the school does not adhere to the standardised school year. The board of management will not allow the school to implement the Music curriculum. The current board is reminded that, as outlined in Section 30 of the Education Act (1998), the curriculum, as determined by the Minister, should be taught in the school.
Accounts of the school’s finances since its inception are not available. It is not possible to ascertain how previous monies and specific grants have been spent or what bills have been paid and what amounts are still owed. There are few records of previous expenditure and there is little physical evidence of that expenditure in the school in terms of maintenance, resources and equipment. Information on available finances is not communicated to the school community. It is recommended that the board continues to make strenuous efforts to ensure that its finances are put in order; that Department monies and grants are used in accordance with departmental guidelines; that satisfactory records of income and expenditure are maintained and that the accounts are audited on an annual basis.
Decision-making procedures at board level are not transparent. The decisions taken are not communicated effectively to the school community. Some whole-school plans and policies have been drafted. However, the majority are not relevant to the context of the school. None is signed or ratified. Several polices that relate to the care, welfare and protection of children and that are required by legislation, have not been formulated. There are no obvious structures in place to support and encourage active participation by the board or by teachers, parents and pupils in whole-school planning. The board has not devised an action plan for future development.
The board is reminded that the chairperson’s signature on salary forms constitutes a declaration that the Rules for National Schools have been upheld. It is therefore recommended, as a matter of priority, that the board consult the “Boards of Management of National Schools: Constitution of Boards and Rules of Procedure” (DES, 2007) and that the board avails of training opportunities to enable it to discharge its duties and responsibilities in accordance with the Education Act (1998).
The school has never had a permanent principal. The board has advertised for a principal, but without success. The current acting-principal, who has not yet completed the probationary process, assumed leadership of the school in September 2007 following the resignation of three previous acting-principals. She articulates an interest in maintaining stability within the school staff and assumes the role of organiser to cater to the social and logistical needs of parents. However, the acting principal needs to have a greater understanding of the role of principal as defined in Circular 16/73 and in Sections 22 and 23 of the Education Act (1998). There are significant weaknesses in the leadership of the school and these are reflected in a number of areas including school and classroom planning, curriculum implementation and teaching and learning. In order to address this deficit, organisational and curriculum leadership must be prioritised. The need for effective whole-school planning and classroom planning must be addressed. Sufficient emphasis must be placed on teaching and learning as the central focus of the school. Significant weaknesses are also apparent in the management of the school. These occur in the management of pupils, the co-ordination of the teaching staff’s work, the allocation of classes, the organisation of the school, the correct maintenance of records of attendance, roll books and returns to the Department as well as to other bodies, timetabling arrangements and their observance and arrangements in connection with the Free Books scheme for necessitous children. The issues to be addressed in each of these areas are outlined in the relevant sections of this report. Many of the issues involve breaches of the Rules for National School. It is imperative that the principal ensures that the Rules for National Schools and the recommendations of Department circulars are upheld in the school. If the school continues to have an acting-principal, even for the immediate future, this principal should be a fully qualified and probated teacher who should receive support and training for the role. The board is reminded of the stipulations of Circular 02/02 which state that only qualified primary teachers who have successfully completed their probation and who have served at least five years in a recognised primary school in Ireland are eligible for consideration for the role of Principal. The board is further reminded that Leadership Development for Schools (LDS), a national programme established by the Department, provides professional-development opportunities for principals and deputy principals.
As a result of the major changes in the staff composition, postholders have not been re-appointed. At the time of this evaluation no middle management team existed. It is imperative that the appointment of post-holders occurs and that the school adheres to the correct selection and appointment procedures. When these posts are re-allocated, the school is advised to follow the recommendation of Circular 07/03 Appointments to Posts of Responsibility, and ensure that each post-holder’s duties cover curriculum, academic, administrative and pastoral matters as outlined in Section 4(b) of the circular. Clear job descriptions must be provided and procedures put in place to systematically monitor and review the duties attached to each post. The capacity of the middle management team should be extended to enable them to engage in curriculum leadership. Support structures and training will be required in order for this to evolve successfully.
The teaching staff comprises the acting-principal, seven mainstream teachers, one learning-support teacher and three language-support teachers. Almost all of the staff have been appointed since June 2008. Class sizes vary considerably from six pupils to thirty pupils and the board is advised to arrange for a more equitable division of pupils per teacher. There is no evidence that the board promotes and attempts to sustain a school climate that is characterised by teamwork and professional engagement. The current teaching staff meets after school hours on a fortnightly basis and the teachers are commended for giving freely of their time for this purpose. The possibility of holding staff meetings as recommended in Circular 14/04 was discussed with the staff. While staff members contribute individually to the work of the school and display a level of commitment to the school, staff morale is low and staff turnover is a regular aspect of school life. The school is unable to provide support for newly-qualified teachers, newly-appointed colleagues or for teachers who are experiencing professional difficulties.
There is one special needs assistant (SNA) employed. He contributes to the inclusion, care and hygiene needs of pupils. There are no procedures or policies in place to outline the SNA’s duties and roles. These duties need to be agreed, written down, ratified by the board and implemented. The school secretary has been absent from work since June 2008.
External personnel are employed by the board to teach religion. They work in all classrooms for 45 minutes each day teaching the Qur’an and Arabic. Pupils in middle and senior classes also attend prayers for 20 minutes each day with additional time required for preparation. This impinges on curriculum delivery time. Accordingly, it is imperative that the integrity of the school day be maintained and that the suggested minimum timeframe for delivery of the six curricular areas as advocated in the Primary School Curriculum be adhered to. Some of the class teachers absent themselves from class during these times. It is essential that the pupils are supervised at all times by qualified and recognised teaching staff and that class teachers continue to have teaching contact with pupils throughout the school day.
The school is temporarily located in rented accommodation. The building is in need of decoration, repair and updating. Corridors and classrooms are dark and the school is spread over several floors of the building. Sanitary facilities are inadequate. The accommodation consists of seven classrooms, rooms for learning and language support, a computer room, a staff room, a prayer room and offices for the principal and secretary. Yard space is shared with another primary school. Partitions used to screen classrooms from corridors are unsatisfactory and classroom work is regularly disrupted by noise levels in the corridors. While a new cleaner has been recently employed, the school would benefit from more thorough and consistent cleaning. It is the responsibility of the board of management to ensure that the building is suitable to the needs of the pupils and teachers and that it is adequate for the purposes of teaching and learning.
The board has failed to make available a sufficient range of teaching and learning resources to the teachers and pupils in the school. There is little evidence that Department grants, which were issued to support curriculum implementation, have been spent appropriately. This lack of resources impacts negatively on the ability of the teachers to deliver a broad and balanced curriculum to the pupils and restricts several aspects of the work of the school. In most cases, resources used in classrooms have been made by the teachers themselves, or have been purchased by them from their own funds. The board is reminded of its obligations under sections 12(5) and 15(f) and (g) of the Education Act (1998) with regard to the efficient use of resources and grants.
There are two parents’ associations in the school – a mothers’ association and a fathers’ association. The principal reports that both groups meet independently and organise activities for the school community. However, neither the parents’ representatives on the board of management nor representatives of the parents’ associations attended any of the scheduled meetings with the evaluation team. While parents participate in some social events, these opportunities are not sufficient to enable them to contribute to their children’s educational provision. Procedures for communicating with the teaching staff, parents and the wider school community have not been adequately developed. In particular, the school has no system for communicating with parents with minority languages, parents who speak little English or who have literacy difficulties. At the time of the evaluation, no written policy on how the school deals with parents’ concerns was available. Parents encountered during the evaluation declared themselves to be unhappy with the educational provision in the school. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually. However, it was reported that a number of parents do not attend these meetings for a variety of reasons. The board of management is reminded of its statutory obligation to report to parents, teachers and other staff on the operation and performance of the school on an annual basis as stated in Section 20 of the Education Act (1998).
Effective communication with staff and parents will be important to help the school to improve. Through better communication, all members of the school’s community can become more involved in the life of the school. This should improve the school’s image and increase attendance at parent meetings as well as facilitating an increased commitment to the board and to the school.
While the majority of pupils are well-behaved and are courteous, polite and respectful, the management of pupils is unsatisfactory and requires urgent attention. The school has a code of behaviour but it was unavailable to the evaluation team during the course of the evaluation. A code of behaviour that was provided after the evaluation is in need of urgent review and it is recommended that the revised code is based on the recommendations contained in Developing a Code of Behaviour: Guidelines for Schools (NEWB 2008). The school’s anti-bullying policy was not available during the evaluation and there is no evidence of an anti-bullying policy having been implemented. While the current staff has prioritised improving pupil behaviour, and has made some progress already in this area, there are very significant discipline problems in a few classes.
The nature of the school’s accommodation requires that a comprehensive code of behaviour as well as a detailed Health and Safety policy and Child Protection Guidelines be established as a matter of priority in order to ensure pupil safety on stairs, in toilets, in support rooms and in other areas of the building and on the grounds. The board must also ensure that the pupils are under the supervision of qualified teachers at all times during the school day and that it is aware of all occasions when pupils and teachers leave the school premises during school hours.
There are very significant weaknesses and deficiencies in the whole-school planning process and the quality of whole-school planning is very poor. There is little evidence of collaboration or active participation in the process. Those plans that have been produced are not presented in a format that is accessible to teachers, parents and other members of the wider community. No policies have been ratified or signed by the board. Policies have been drawn up on the use of mobile phones, homework and sexual harassment. The Health and Safety policy is from another school whose building bears no relation to this one. The school’s enrolment policy needs to be amended and the references to the deferral of enrolment of children with special educational needs should be deleted. The school imposes an enrolment fee and it is uncertain how this money is used. This policy needs to be examined immediately as no fee should be imposed on parents who wish to enrol their children in school.
It is recommended, therefore, that the board engages immediately in a process of whole-school review, aimed at devising a three-year development plan and at addressing all the issues identified in this report. This development plan, in accordance with Circular 18/99 and section 21 of the Education Act (1998), should contain a strategy for improvement, clear priorities and assigned responsibilities for overseeing its implementation, clear success criteria as well as effective methods for monitoring and evaluating progress. It should outline a timeframe within which the required plans and polices should be developed and implemented.
Curricular plans have been produced for English, Gaeilge, History, Geography, Science and Learning Support and the school has availed of the services of cuiditheoirí for English and Gaeilge from the Primary Professional Development Service (PPDS). It is evident that much of the work that went into the production of these plans occurred in the period immediately prior to the evaluation. All of these plans are generic in nature and do not take into account the school’s context, ethos, or the backgrounds and cultures of the pupils and their families. They offer no guidance to teachers to help them to ensure that the curriculum meets the needs of pupils or to develop and maintain cohesiveness and progression throughout the school in the delivery of the curriculum.
It is strongly recommended that these existing curricular policies be reviewed and that policies for the other subject areas be developed as a matter of urgency. Each policy should provide clear guidance to teachers in relation to the content to be taught at each class level, an examination of the pedagogic principles underlying each curricular area and the most effective teaching methodologies and organisational arrangements for enabling pupils to learn efficiently and effectively. An indication of how resources and materials might be utilised to ensure that the objectives of the curriculum are achieved by pupils at different class levels should be included. Each plan should also contain a range of strategies which will allow for appropriate assessment of pupil achievement and development in each curricular area. The plans should then be filed in a format that is easily accessible to all.
The board of management has not formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001) and no policy on Child Protection has been developed. This is in contravention of the Department’s Circular 0061/2006 and of the Children First – National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, September 1999). It is strongly recommended that the circular and guidelines be implemented immediately and that a policy be developed as a matter of urgency.
There is evidence of very significant difficulties regarding written preparation and recording in mainstream classrooms and the quality of classroom planning is very poor. Some teachers provide long-term planning. The majority provide only short-term planning. However, this short-term planning does not include all subject areas. In many cases, where there is no whole-school planning for a subject area, and where the teachers are not providing long-term plans, there is little reference to the Primary Curriculum in the short-term plans and, consequently, work done is based primarily on textbooks, workbooks and photocopied sheets. Much of the available classroom planning is general in nature and is not sufficiently specific to have a positive impact on teaching and learning. In a few cases, short-term plans examined demonstrated little reference to the Irish curriculum. A limited range of assessment is planned to evaluate pupil achievement and progress. However, the information does not impact sufficiently on the effectiveness of teaching and learning and does not inform future learning. The quality of support teachers’ planning varies. In general, learning targets have not been established for individual pupils. Some of the plans are not based specifically on the pupils’ learning needs or are not informed by appropriate assessment information.
It is strongly recommended that the teachers acquaint themselves immediately with Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools, the revised text of which is available in Guidelines for Probationary Teachers in Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, 2005) and on the Department’s website. This requires that each teacher prepares a long-term and short-term plan of work in every subject in accordance with the Primary Curriculum. Teachers are also required to provide a progress record at the end of every month, the custody of which is one of the duties of the principal teacher.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The overall quality of teaching and learning is poor. In a small number of classrooms the teachers create a satisfactory learning atmosphere. In the majority of cases, however, teaching approaches are not matched to the content, learning needs and stages of development of the pupils. Much of the classroom dialogue is teacher-dominated and the pupils are passive in their learning. In many classes, there is little evidence of the implementation of the range of teaching methodologies and strategies advocated in the curriculum. There is little evidence of differentiation and many of the learning tasks do not provide the support and challenge needed to cater for the diversity of individual needs. The pupils’ existing knowledge, backgrounds and experiences are seldom explored as the starting point for the acquisition of new understanding. Many lessons are characterised by uninspiring work and slow-paced delivery. In a minority of cases, there is a failure to deal successfully with poor pupil behaviour. A very limited range of resources is used to enrich the pupils’ learning experiences. Due to the lack of resources, the majority of teachers rely on textbooks as the primary teaching and learning resource. The potential of information and communication technologies (ICT) is not adequately exploited.
Some of the pupils display a positive attitude to learning. Nevertheless, the standard of pupil achievement across the school is low. In many areas their skills, knowledge and understandings do not reflect the learning outcomes outlined in the curriculum. The majority of pupils are not challenged and stimulated by the learning activities. In many classes, written work is poorly presented and is restricted to a limited range of responses.
The poor quality of teaching and learning needs to be addressed immediately. Good organisation, appropriate classroom management strategies and effective classroom planning must be prioritised as pre-requisites for improvement. Appropriate learning objectives need to be set based on what the pupils would be expected to know, understand and be able to do. The school must provide the context for this classroom planning through effective whole-school planning based on the Primary School Curriculum. It is recommended that the pupils are provided with opportunities to develop their skills of working independently and to partake in purposeful, collaborative learning activities. Challenging learning experiences could be created across the school by providing opportunities for the pupils to take an active role in their learning and to engage in discussion, debate, problem-solving, expressing opinions and asking questions. Teachers’ questions need to be skilfully used to probe understanding and improve pupils’ listening and speaking skills. Increased pace and momentum in lessons, widespread use of teaching resources and manipulatives and greater variety in lesson activity will help motivate the pupils and maintain their engagement with the lesson content.
Tá caighdeán teagaisc agus foghlama na Gaeilge an-lag agus ní mhúintear teanga chumarsáideach, bainteach le foclóir agus abairtí dearfacha go dúthrachach sa scoil. Cé gur forbraíodh plean scoile don Ghaeilge i Feabhra 2008 faoi stiúir agus le tacaíocht ón gClár Tacaíochta don Churaclam Bunscoile, níl tionchar ar bith ag an bplean seo ar ullmhúchán na n-oidí ná ar a gcur chuige sna seomraí ranga. Fágann sin nach bhfuil na bunphrionsabail ná na haidhmeanna atá rianaithe sa churaclam Gaeilge á gcur i gcrích sa scoil. Comh maith le sin, tá timpeall leath de na hoidí le haitheantas sealadach ag múineadh Gaeilge gan an Scrúdú Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge bainte amach acu. Ag am na tuairisce ní raibh aon tacaíocht ar fáil do na ranganna seo agus bhí caighdéan teanga an-íséal bainte amach ag na daltaí. Moltar go ndéanfaí athbhreithniú ar an easnamh seo go práinneach. Léirítear in imlitir 25/00 go bhfuil freagracht dáiríre ar bhord bainistíochta na scoile deimhin a dhéanamh de go bhfuil na structúir agus na hacmhainní atá riachtanach le haghaidh teagasc éifeachtach i nGaeilge curtha ar fáil i ngach seomra ranga agus do gach dalta sa scoil.
Tugtar treoir do na hoidí i leabhráin an churaclaim Gaeilge maidir le roghnú straitéisí teagaisc agus úsáid acmhainní chun scileanna labhartha, éisteachta, léitheoireachta agus scríbhneoireachta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt, ach is beag aird a tugtar do na treoracha seo. Le linn an mheasúnaithe, léiríodh samplaí de cheachtanna ina raibh an bhéim ar an gcur chuige traidisiúnta, ar aistriúchán chuig Béarla, ar cheisteanna a chur agus a fhreagairt ag an oide féin agus ar an slua-aithris, in ionad forbairt a dhéanamh ar scileanna aonánach éisteachta, tuisceana agus labhartha na ndaltaí agus ar an gcontanam cumarsáideach. De thoradh ar sin níl cumas ná muinín ag líon suntasach daltaí in úsáid na Gaeilge agus tá deacracht ag a bhformhór abairtí agus ceisteanna simplí a chumadh chun inchur creidiúnacha a bheith acu in obair bheirte nó sa scríbhneoireacht. Ní chuireann formhór na n-oidí ullmhúchán sistéamach ná acmhainní teagaisc agus timpeallacht phrionta ar fáil do mhúineadh na teanga. Ina ionad, bítear ag brath an-iomad ar théacsleabhair na scéime Treo Nua agus ar chuid de na postaeir a ghabhann leis mar bhúnús don teagasc agus don fhoghlaim.
Tá gá le haistriú meoin agus athbhreithniú bunúsach maidir le pleanáil agus teagasc na Gaeilge ina iomlán sa scoil. Tá dualgas ríthábhachtach ar an bpríomhoide agus ar na hoidí maidir le chur i bhfeidhm an churaclaim. Comh maith le sin, tá sé de dhualgas ar ghach oide ullmhúchán scríofa don fadtéarmach agus gearrthéarmach a chur ar fáil. Caithfear cur leis an bplean scoile don Ghaeilge maidir le modhanna múinte. Ba chóir freisin úsáid thairbheach a bhaint as flúirse fearais agus acmhainní teagaisc chun an bhéim a chur ar úsáid na teanga mar theanga cumarsáide scoile, i mbainistíocht ranga agus sna gnéithe éagsúla curaclaim. Ba chóir modh an aistriúcháin a sheachaint. B’fhiú freisin aithint a dhéanamh ar na míreanna cumarsáide, ócáidí fíor-chumarsáide, modhanna múinte, scéalta, agallaimh, amhráin agus rainn chun deiseanna a thabhairt do na daltaí bheith gníomhach san obair. D’fhéadfaí é seo a dhéanamh trí rólghlacadh, agallamh beirte agus drámaíocht a reachtáil. Chuige seo beidh gá le infheistíocht bhreise a dhéanamh in acmhainní mar phostaeir cuí, leabhair mhóra, sraith leabhair scéalta agus rannta. Caithfear freisin íomhá na teanga a ardú sa scoil i gcoitinne.
The standard of teaching and learning in Irish is very poor and the language of communication, involving specific vocabulary and sentences is not taught diligently in the school. Even though a school plan was developed for Irish in February 2008 with the guidance and support of the Primary Curriculum Support Programme, the plan does not influence the teachers’ preparation or their approach in the classrooms. That means that the basic principles and the aims that are outlined in the Irish curriculum are not achieved in the school. Furthermore, almost half of the teachers with temporary recognition are teaching Irish without having attained the Scrúdu Cáilíochta sa Ghaeilge (Qualification Examination in Irish). At the time of the evaluation, there was no support available for these teachers and the pupils had achieved a very low standard of language. It is recommended that this deficiency is reviewed urgently. Circular 25/00 outlines the responsibility placed on the board of management of the school to ensure that the structures and the resources that are necessary for effective teaching in Irish are made available in every classroom and for every pupil in the school.
The handbooks of the Irish curriculum provide guidance to teachers in selecting teaching strategies and in the use of resources to develop the speaking, listening, reading and writing skills of pupils, but little attention is given to this guidance in the school. During the evaluation, samples of lessons were observed where the emphasis was on the traditional approach, on translation to English, on the teacher asking and answering questions and on choral response instead of developing the individual listening, understanding and expressive skills of pupils and the conversational continuum. As a result, a substantial number of pupils do not have the competence or confidence to use Irish and the majority of them have difficulty in composing simple sentences and questions so as to have a creditable input into pair-work or writing. The majority of teachers do not make systematic preparation, teaching resources or a print-rich environment available for the teaching of the language. Instead, they depend too much on the textbooks of the Treo Nua scheme and some of the posters that accompany it as a basis for teaching and learning.
A change of attitude is needed and a basic review of planning and of teaching of Irish in its totality is required. It is the responsibility of the principal and the teachers to implement the curriculum. It is also the duty of each teacher to provide written long-term and short-term preparation. The school plan for Irish needs to include teaching methodologies. Effective use must be made of plenty of resources and teaching materials to emphasise the communicative use of the language, in classroom management and in the various aspects of the curriculum. The translation method should be avoided. Teachers should become familiar with relevant phrases, occasions for real conversation, teaching methods, stories, interviews, songs and rhymes in order to give the pupils opportunities to be active in the work. This could be done through role-play, pair-work and organising dramas. It will be necessary to invest in resources such as suitable posters, big books, and series of story and poetry books to achieve this. The profile of the language in the school as a whole must be raised.
The quality of the provision for English is poor across the school. Few of the teachers provide long-term plans for any aspect of the English programme and, in several cases, there is little cognisance of the breadth of the curriculum in short-term planning. The oral language programme, as espoused in the English curriculum, is not being implemented. Urgent consideration needs to be given to this area of the curriculum. A specific oral language programme, based on a thematic approach and on topics which are of interest to the pupils, should be devised. This programme should provide structured opportunities for pupils to extend their vocabulary, to develop listening skills and to use language in a variety of contexts according to the four strands of the English curriculum. An emphasis on specific curriculum objectives will also be required to enable teachers to monitor the extent to which individual pupils are developing these skills as they progress through the school. Attention should also be given to the introduction of a wide range of methodologies in this area to encourage the pupils to actively participate in lessons.
The standard of pupils’ reading is fair. There is some evidence of the use of big books in the infant and junior classes. In the senior classes, pupils use novels to broaden their reading skills. However, the reading programme and the teaching of reading throughout the school require immediate review. Creation of a print-rich environment, particularly in the infant and junior classes, alongside the more widespread use of big books and language experience charts, the development of a school-wide systematic phonics programme, and a coherent plan for the acquisition of comprehension strategies also needs to be addressed. There are small collections of library books in some classrooms. However, many of the books are very old and the quality is extremely poor. There are very few modern books or varieties of genres available to the pupils.
In some classes, functional writing skills are being developed but much of this work is based on comprehension and grammar activities from workbooks. A few opportunities are provided for the pupils to write imaginatively but, in general, classes would benefit from a much greater emphasis on the development of the writing process. Planning should ensure that the pupils experience classroom environments which encourage the development of personal writing in a variety of genres for a variety of audiences. The use of ICT would further enhance the writing process. Pupils’ written work should be displayed and celebrated throughout the school.
There is no whole-school policy for English as an Additional Language. No reference is made in classroom planning to those pupils for whom English is not their first language and there is little evidence of differentiation to cater for their needs in mainstream classrooms.
The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very poor. There is no whole-school plan for this subject. Consequently, there are significant deficiencies and inconsistencies in the teaching and learning in this subject area. Teacher expectations, as well as pupil attainment levels, are low. There is an absence of a co-ordinated approach to the development of skills and to the accurate and effective use of mathematical language which is so vital given the particular context of the school. The poor quality of assessment and the general lack of organisation of assessment data make it extremely difficult for the staff to appreciate the deficits in content and skill acquisition in the context of age-appropriate expected achievements.
Pupils at each level in the school display deficiencies in concept formation, acquisition and skill development and an inadequate understanding of work completed across all curricular strands. In particular, they display a poor knowledge and understanding of mathematical concepts and skills in number operations appropriate to their age, class-level and their stage of development. Oral work and written work also reflect poor comprehension of knowledge of number facts and memorization strategies. Problem-solving and estimation skills are inadequately developed and pupils display a poor knowledge of mathematical processes. There is little evidence of the pupils being involved in group or pair-work or in activity-based learning. Greater emphasis needs to be placed on the use of practical activities and games to develop the pupils’ mental competencies and to consolidate knowledge of number facts. The standards of teaching and learning in this subject area need to be raised significantly.
Mathematics merits a low level of visibility in the school and a maths-rich environment has not been created. There is little evidence of attractive and well-maintained mathematics display areas in classrooms. While some equipment had been ordered prior to this evaluation, the range of mathematical equipment available to support teaching the various strands of the curriculum is extremely limited. All classrooms need to provide number-rich environments with displays dedicated to mathematical concepts. A wide range of mathematical resources should be acquired immediately and used to promote guided discovery and to stimulate active learning across all curriculum strands. These mathematical materials must be efficiently managed and easily accessible to the teachers.
While a whole-school plan has been recently produced for History, it does not delineate the strand units or the topics to be taught at the various class levels. As a result, classroom planning for the subject area is very general in nature and insufficient attention is paid to continuity and progression and to the development of pupils’ skills and understanding. Lessons observed covered a range of topics. Pupils in the middle classes display an interest in and knowledge of Irish myths and legends. It is recommended that the school plan be revised to ensure that a balance is maintained between the treatment of content and the development of skills and that a broad and balanced History curriculum is provided at all levels. It is also recommended that opportunities are provided for the pupils to work as historians, facilitating them in developing their skills of analysis, using evidence and working in the local environment. It is further recommended that historical time lines be displayed in all classrooms which will act as a constant point of reference as work is completed on local, national and international history.
The pupils experience a limited programme in Geography and the work in the majority of classrooms is of a poor quality. There are almost no maps on display. Some project work has been completed in the junior classes. In the middle classes, pupils’ knowledge of aspects of the geography of Ireland is satisfactory. In order to improve provision in this area, the school plan for Geography must encourage the teachers to select interesting topics, to take account of the majority of the pupils’ family origins in the Middle East and Far East and to provide a wide range of relevant resources. Active learning must be promoted in all classes and pupils must be facilitated to engage with the topics presented. In order to ensure the effective development of the skills of the geographer, pupils should also be afforded sufficient time, space and opportunity to participate in independent learning opportunities. The creation of a map-rich environment in the school, the development of a policy on intercultural education, as well as further recognition of the pupils’ native countries, would also enrich the Geography programme.
A whole-school plan for Science has been developed. However, it needs to be reviewed immediately in order to include a breakdown of the strand units for the various classes so that each class teacher has some guidance as to which sections of the curriculum they must work on each year. Planning indicates that some elements of the Science curriculum are being taught in some classes. The pupils are able to answer some questions on work recently completed. However, across the school there is no consistency in the development of skills, knowledge and understanding appropriate to the needs of pupils. There is little evidence of investigative and experimental work and an over-emphasis on the transcription of notes. The range of science equipment available to support teaching the various strands and strand units is limited. Opportunities were not provided for the evaluation team to observe a lesson in Science.
It is recommended that appropriate whole-school and classroom planning be put in place which provides contexts for work on integrated topics in Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE) in which knowledge and skills could be developed in a range of areas. This would provide opportunities for elements from the History, Science and Geography curricula to be explored concurrently and to contribute to the development of oral language, literacy, numeracy, aesthetic awareness, creative expression and communication skills.
There is no whole-school plan for Visual Arts. There are a few displays of pupils’ art work, predominantly from the paint and colour strand, in some classrooms. There is also some evidence of work in the area of looking and responding. Materials to support teaching the other strands of the visual arts curriculum are not in evidence. Opportunities were not provided for the evaluation team to observe a lesson in Visual Arts. It is recommended that a whole-school plan for the teaching of Visual Arts be drafted, that a wide range of materials be acquired to support teaching the six strands and that each class teacher plans for and teaches all strands of the curriculum on a regular basis.
There is no whole-school plan for Music. The board of management has not allowed the Music curriculum to be implemented in the school. The teachers have endeavoured to teach some aspects of the programme as well as the use of songs to support the phonics programme in Infants. It is imperative that the situation be addressed by the board as soon as possible and that a whole-school plan for Music, which suits the context of the school, is drawn up collaboratively by the board and staff.
There is no whole-school plan for Drama and, in the drama lessons observed, the teachers had no long or short-term plans. The standard of work in this subject area is poor. The lessons observed focussed on mime and in some cases, the teachers experienced significant discipline problems. It is recommended that a whole-school plan for Drama be drafted and that teachers plan for and teach the Drama curriculum as laid down in the Primary School Curriculum.
There is no whole-school plan for Physical Education (PE) and many of the teachers do not plan for PE on a regular basis. A limited range of resources is available to support the pupils’ learning in this subject area. The school has no available indoor space and PE is taught in the yard. The one lesson observed focussed correctly on skill development. Boys and girls attend separate swimming lessons in the nearby pool. Coaches from the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) provide football coaching for boys from first to sixth classes. It is recommended that a whole-school plan be drawn up to ensure that the pupils experience the full PE programme and that class teachers plan and teach the subject on a weekly basis. A general purpose area is available in the school and is used for purposes other than teaching and learning. This room could facilitate the teaching of PE and should be equipped for this purpose.
There is no whole-school policy on Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). The Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) programme has not been implemented. Standards of learning and teaching in SPHE are fair. There is little reference to the SPHE curriculum in classroom planning and few of the teachers plan for or teach the subject on a regular basis.
There is no whole-school policy on assessment. Standardised tests have been administered but, in some cases, the results have not been collated. The school’s learning-support policy states that the Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP) and Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) are carried out. However, the results are not available. At classroom level, there is little evidence of a systematic approach to the evaluation and analysis of learning outcomes and it is extremely difficult to analyse performance of pupils at different class levels or to track individual pupils’ progress.
It is recommended that a whole-school assessment plan be devised based on the document Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum; Guidelines for Schools (NCCA, 2007). This policy should outline how pupil progress might be assessed on an on-going basis and how that progress will be reported to parents. This plan should also outline how assessment data might be utilised in the interest of progressing pupil learning.
The school has one learning-support teacher, who was recently appointed to the position. No records of previous support or of pupils’ progress or of their specific learning needs were made available to her. A small range of diagnostic tests has been recently ordered. There is no evidence throughout the school or in the whole-school plan for learning support of the staged approach to assessment, identification and programme planning as outlined in Circulars 24/03 and 02/05.
Individual pupil learning profiles (IPLPs) are currently being developed. It is recommended that these include specific learning targets for the pupils. Support is provided in literacy and numeracy both on a withdrawal and on an in-class basis. The board of management must ensure that the learning-support teacher is equipped with the necessary materials to implement programmes. These should include a wide range of resources as well as access to computer software and to the necessary hardware so that in-class support can continue without disruption to other children. The teaching staff has a responsibility to ensure that these are used judiciously. The school must also ensure that all pupils who present with learning difficulties are adequately assessed to determine their needs. This assessment should include psychological assessment where appropriate.
School management must develop a policy for the safe-keeping of records and confidential information pertaining to the pupils. The board is also reminded of its responsibility to recruit and employ fully recognised and probated teachers to the learning support area. Details can be found in Circular 02/05.
Three posts have been allocated to supporting the additional language needs of 50 pupils for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL). This is a sizeable investment and allocation of teaching personnel. Almost half of all the school’s pupils are in need of EAL support. Despite this there is no school policy or plan to provide detailed information and guidance on the role of the EAL support teachers. There are no guidelines to inform practice regarding individual teacher planning, the content of the programme to be delivered, the approaches and methods to be used, the role of the classroom teacher in the delivery of the programme, the assessment processes to be used, the monitoring and recording of pupil progress, the sharing of progress records of EAL pupils and how communication with parents is facilitated. No school policy on intercultural education has been devised. Consequently, there is a lack of co-ordination with regard to the delivery of the programme. The teachers report that pupils are selected and initially assessed for language support through the assessment techniques outlines in Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) programme. A systematic file of the results of these assessments was not apparent during this evaluation.
Support is delivered on a withdrawal basis. In two of the three settings language acquisition is supported through the use of the thirteen themes devised by the IILT programme. These teachers provide short-term and long-term preparation. Resources include some teacher-designed and commercially-produced charts. However, the creation of attractive print-rich learning settings and the acquisition of further resources and suitable, varied and more modern reading materials is in need of urgent attention. The teaching observed was of varying quality, with some emphasis placed on pupils acquiring and using target language through the use of interactive methodologies. However, there is little evidence of an overall awareness of the centrality of oral language development or of the development of a repertoire of language required for socialisation and engagement with classroom learning and activities. There is also an imbalance in the incremental development of pupil confidence and competence in the four skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing. In some instances, there is scope for development regarding the inclusion of more specific detail on the teaching content of oral language with less emphasis being placed on spelling, phonics and on written comprehension and grammar exercises. There is little evidence of collaborative planning and there are no procedures in place for the sharing of planning and assessment documentation between classroom teachers and support teachers.
There is no school policy on supports for disadvantaged pupils. It is necessary that strategies are undertaken to facilitate the full inclusion of all pupils. This should include judicious use of the school book grants that have been paid to the school to enable all pupils to participate fully in school life. All pupils in the school should have adequate resources including textbooks to enable them to engage fully in teaching and learning.
The following is the main strength identified in the evaluation:
· The majority of pupils are courteous, polite and well-behaved.
As a means of building on this strength and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed. The board of management did not attend the scheduled post-evaluation meeting. A meeting with members of the board was subsequently organised at the request of the inspection team.
Published, June 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
· The Board wishes to state that it is a new Board formally appointed in December 2007, and subsequently the work that is being done by the Board in the school is still in its early stages.
· The new Board is still seeking financial records from the previous Board of Management and have sought a report on the school from the Department from its earliest foundation.
· The present Board welcomes its findings so as to proceed in building on outstanding school in terms of academic work and in terms of promoting an Islamic ethos.
· The staff in the school are all new staff and therefore are committed to improving their teaching abilities, and the standard 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.
· A planning day is planned for the 19th of May in Maths planning and intercultural day.
· A Summer Course is planned for the school staff on teaching methodologies and Whole School Planning.
· A report has been subsequently made on Whole School Safety by the Board to take place on child safety in April and a day is planned on the 21st of May on Child protection training for the staff.