An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Beaumont Hospital School
Beaumont Hospital, Dublin 9
Date of inspection: 28 April 2009
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Beaumont Hospital School. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers and the school’s board of management. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
1. Introduction – school context and background
Beaumont Hospital School is a two teacher hospital school recognised by the Department of Education and Science and operating under the patronage of the Board of Beaumont Hospital. The school caters for children of primary and post-primary age who are in-patients in Beaumont Hospital and also caters, on an outreach basis, for children who are in-patients in the National Orthopaedic Hospital in Cappagh (Cappagh Hospital).
From September 2001, the Department of Education and Science funded the provision of fifteen hours teaching per week in Beaumont Hospital. In January 2003 a recognised school was established, with an allocation of one teacher. More recently, a second teacher has been allocated in order to allow the school to meet increased needs within Beaumont and to provide a service to Cappagh Hospital following the closure of the one-teacher school that had operated in that hospital.
The school’s enrolment at any time depends on the number of children admitted to hospital, their state of health and their length of stay. At the time of the evaluation there were seven pupils on roll, five in Beaumont and two in Cappagh. Typical daily enrolment of about twelve children.
The education needs of the pupils are affected by the nature of the illnesses or conditions for which they are receiving treatment. In Beaumont, the school caters for children in the hospital’s paediatric ward, and also for children in other wards. The paediatric ward is a national referral ward for neurosurgery. Patients attend for treatment of brain tumours, epilepsy, acquired brain injury and other brain-associated conditions. It is also the national centre for the cochlear implant programme and has a regional intake of ear, nose and throat patients. The other hospital wards cater for a wider range of conditions, including the treatment of respiratory conditions and oncology. In Cappagh Hospital children are admitted for orthopaedic surgery and, while well enough to engage in school work, are likely to be restricted in their movement during their stay. In addition to these pupil-related factors, the school must have regard to specific environmental considerations that are important in the hospital context. Due to infection control issues, some children in the paediatric ward can be taught only at the bedside, while children in wards other than the paediatric ward are taught within those wards rather than the classroom.
The school’s mission statement commits it to the delivery of high quality educational opportunities to patients in a supportive environment, complementing the best quality medical care being provided in the hospital. The school aims to maintain continuity in the child's education and contribute to the normalisation of the child's life when in hospital and the maintenance of the pupil role.
The board of management has recently been reconfigured, with expanded membership to take account of the school becoming a two-teacher school. The board is properly constituted in accordance with Department of Education and Science requirements and taking into account the particular circumstances of a hospital school. The membership is representative of the school community; it embodies a range of expert knowledge relevant to the school context, from the areas of medicine, nursing, education, administration and patient advocacy. The chairperson, who works within the hospital as patient services representative, maintains a supportive relationship with the school staff and is available for consultation at short notice.
The range and professional level of hospital personnel on the board ensures that the school can avail of valuable policy advice and practical expertise. It also indicates that the role of the school is valued within the hospital community. School accounts are professionally audited. Meetings are conducted in accordance with an appropriate structure. A review of the minutes of recent meetings indicates that the board remains in touch with the working of the school and ratifies school policy documents.
The principal provides effective leadership in relation to all aspects of the work of the school. She maintains open and constructive relationships with stakeholders within the hospital and keeps abreast of developments within the field of hospital-based education and the wider educational world. Day-to-day organisation and management are carried out efficiently. Information technology is used effectively to support school administration. School records are well maintained. The principal receives extensive and flexible support from the second teacher in relation to the organisation of teaching and learning within the school.
The school’s staff of two teachers, including the teaching principal, is proactively managed in order to provide a flexible response to diverse needs in different physical settings. The teachers collaborate effectively to provide classroom-based teaching and ward-based teaching in Beaumont and to provide for the needs of individual pupils, off-site, in Cappagh. Care is taken to minimise loss of time in moving between locations. Efficient use is made of the single classroom base by ensuring that one of the teachers is available for classroom-based teaching for the maximum possible time and by having the two teachers working together as a team in the classroom for some periods. The teachers meet weekly to co-ordinate their planning and a formal staff meeting is held once a term after school.
School management is supportive of continuing professional development for staff. The teachers’ strong commitment in this regard is seen in their active use of a range of professional support services and their participation in relevant courses and seminars. The services and facilities of relevant hospital departments are availed of to support staff in relation to areas such as occupational health and health and safety. In order to build on good practice in this area it is recommended that a professional development policy be developed and included in the school plan.
A room in the administrative area of the paediatric ward is set aside as a classroom. This classroom can accommodate up to six pupils but this capacity is reduced if a pupil is accompanied by medical apparatus. Classroom space is used very efficiently. In addition, a small store room is available for storage of files and for other school administrative functions. There is adjacent access to an open-air courtyard which can be used for some curricular purposes. It is acknowledged by school and hospital management that the classroom is restricted in terms of space. This must be balanced against the fact that the convenient location allows pupils to be taught in a school-like environment while remaining close to nursing supervision. In the light of the competing demands for space in the hospital environment the flexibility and convenience of the location is an important consideration. Bearing this in mind, however, it is recommended that options for the provision of additional classroom space should be kept under review.
In Cappagh Hospital, while much of the teaching is done at the bedside, a small but adequately sized teaching base has been provided in a central location within the children’s ward area.
A wide variety of suitable resource materials is available to support teaching and learning. Teaching aids, textbooks and reference books, relevant to all areas of the curriculum and to all age-groups, are carefully stored, catalogued and readily accessible. Provision for information and communication and technology (ICT) is very good. Pupils have convenient access to desk-top or laptop computers. The availability of laptop computers significantly enhances the learning options available to pupils who are confined to wards and is of particular benefit to post-primary age students who may be preparing for examinations. The school has acquired an extensive range of educational software. Broadband internet access further expands the range of resources available. Peripheral devices are used to facilitate pupils with restricted abilities or motor difficulties.
Observation and interviews carried out during the course of the evaluation indicated that the school maintains highly positive relationships with relevant professionals in the hospital setting, with parents and with the pupils’ home schools. It is clear that educational provision is regarded within the hospital as an important contributory factor in the patient’s care and recovery. Both Health and education staff express satisfaction with the quality of communication and cooperation. An annual report on the working of the school is provided to the hospital CEO. The school exercises appropriate care in complying with the health and safety requirements of the hospital. The principal attends a weekly multidisciplinary meeting within the paediatric ward. A ward sister from the paediatric ward, who is a member of the school’s board of management, provides a valuable daily communication link with the school principal.
Communication with parents is facilitated by the fact that many parents, with the encouragement of the hospital, spend a significant amount of time supporting their children in hospital. The school adopts an open, welcoming approach to communication with parents, while discreetly encouraging them to allow the children the normalising experience of unaccompanied attendance at school. Contact is established by phone and e-mail with the pupils’ home schools in order to gather relevant information on the pupils’ school programmes and interests. Similarly, information on the progress and engagement of the pupils in the hospital school is communicated to the home school at the end of the hospital stay.
The positive collaborative practice established between hospital and school in Beaumont is replicated in relation to the delivery of education to children in Cappagh Hospital. Effective communication structures have been put in place to ensure that the principal is aware of, and can respond flexibly and efficiently to the needs as they arise in either hospital.
The pupils are highly engaged and well supported. The interaction between teachers and pupils and among the pupils is positive and affirmative. The teachers create an atmosphere that is responsive to the physical and emotional needs of the pupils in the hospital setting, while maintaining a purposeful educational approach and affirming the pupils’ capabilities. Pupil behaviour is sensitively and unobtrusively managed.
Very good practice is evident in relation to school planning and organisation. Essential organisational and curricular policies and procedures are in place and are documented in the school plan. Policy documents are well written, using an appropriate structure and are capable of guiding school practice. A summary document provides a useful outline of key policies and procedures. In relevant areas, school policies take account of the corresponding hospital policies and in these areas school management benefits from expertise available within the hospital. Information technology is used extensively and effectively to facilitate the planning process.
As the school is now at the point where a full range of curriculum policy documents have been developed and ratified, it is suggested that these documents could be reviewed on the basis of a multi-annual schedule whereby a number of policies would be reviewed each year.
The school’s child protection policy operates within the context of the child protection policies and protocols in place in the hospital, with appropriate adjustments to take account of the particular requirements of the school. Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, and school staff; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
The teachers’ planning provides for a flexible response to the needs of children who are enrolled on a transient basis and at short notice. Short-term and long-term planning, and recording of progress, are conducted in a manner that reflects the particular circumstances of the hospital school. The teachers collaborate in planning themes and projects that enable the inclusion of pupils of diverse ages and ability levels. A significant number of such themes and projects have been documented and accompanying resource materials, in hard copy or on computer, are provided. In the short-term, the focus of planning is on meeting the needs of individual pupils for continuity in their ongoing education, and on responding to learning needs arising from side effects of medical conditions. Practical aspects of planning aimed at ensuring ready access to appropriate resources, which are critical factors in the hospital school, are very well managed.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The overall quality of learning and teaching is consistently high in terms of suitability and range of content and methodology. All areas of the Primary School Curriculum are well catered for. Support is provided to older pupils across a commendable range of subject options at post-primary level, including English, Irish, French, History, Geography, Mathematics, Applied Mathematics, Accounting, Business Studies, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Pupils are actively engaged in learning activities. Space and time are effectively and efficiently used. Lessons proceed from high quality, systematic, regular, and collaborative planning, linked to the respective curricular areas and differentiated to meet individual needs. All aspects of teaching take account of individual pupil needs related to age, ability and medical conditions. The extensive and creative use of cross-curricular themes and projects allows for pupils of different ages and stages of education to work together and provides a counter balance to the necessary focus on individualised learning.
The use of information and communication technology (ICT) is a particularly well developed aspect of teaching and learning in the school. ICT is used extensively as a learning tool in classroom and ward-based teaching and is integrated into lessons across the curriculum. Pupils use a range of computer programmes to record their work in print and pictorial formats, to consolidate academic skills and to develop their own computer literacy. They share experiences with pupils in other hospital schools through an audio-visual internet link. Valuable resource materials are sourced from internet sites and software products. The availability of laptop computers and a variety of useful programmes significantly enhances the school’s capacity to support post-primary pupils across a range of examination subjects.
Sa phlean scoile tá plean don Ghaeilge ar fáil a chuireann comhthéacs na scoile san áireamh. Léiríonn na h-oidí tiomantas don achar seo den churaclam agus muinín as a gcumas i labhairt na Gaeilge. Déantar cúram de chumarsáid neamhfhoirmiúil sa seomra ranga. Tugtar deiseanna do na daltaí úsáid a bhaint as an bhfoclóir atá sealbhaithe acu agus leanúint ar aghaidh le gnéithe den obair a bhí ar siúil in a scoileanna baile. Baintear úsáid thairbheach as ríomhchláir oiriúnacha chun tacaíocht a thabhairt do scoláirí iarbhunscoile atá ag ullmhú do na scrúduithe stáit.
The school plan contains a plan for Irish that takes into account the context of the school. The teachers are committed to this area of the curriculum and are confident in their own command of the language. Attention is given to the use of Irish for informal communication in the classroom. The pupils are provided with opportunities to use the vocabulary that they have acquired and to continue with work that they have been doing in their home schools. Good use is made of suitable computer programmes to support post-primary students who are preparing for state examinations.
The oral language, reading and writing strands of the English curriculum are planned and delivered in an effective, creative and flexible manner. In the classroom a range of rich language- experience contexts are created through the inventive use of cross-curricular themes linked to stimulating topics or stories that allow for differential engagement of pupils across age and ability levels. A wide range of fiction and non-fiction reading material, to suit individual needs and interests, is available. Pupils at all levels have opportunities to consolidate and extend their reading and writing skills. Appropriate compensatory or learning support is provided where skill deficits are identified.
In Mathematics, there is strong and appropriate emphasis on individualised teaching and learning based on assessment of the pupils’ current level of functioning and the work being undertaken in their home schools. Basic skills are consolidated and developed. The use of computer assisted learning is particularly beneficial in this area, in relation to the practice of computational skills and also in enabling post-primary pupils to maintain continuity in their preparation for state examinations. The emphasis on individualised learning is suitably balanced by the inclusion of mathematical problem-solving tasks in group-based, cross curricular topics.
The school’s approach to Social, Environmental and Scientific Education allows for pupils to continue work on History, Geography and Science topics, using textbooks from their home schools, while also participating in group and individual work related to projects and themes initiated within the hospital school setting. Taking into account the necessary constraints of the hospital setting and health-related issues for individual pupils, activity-based and discovery learning are skilfully promoted. Pupils are encouraged to research History and Geography topics using reference books and internet sources. Simple experiments and a range of on-going observation and recording activities provide a suitable focus for Science.
4.5 Arts Education
The pupils participate in an extensive range of Visual Arts activities many of which are linked thematically to work in other curricular areas. All strands of the Visual Arts curriculum are represented; pupils engage with a variety of materials and techniques, producing commendable work, samples of which are attractively displayed in the classroom area. ICT applications are used to explore the illustration of stories through visual animation.
Pupils ere enabled to participate actively in the listening, performing and composing strands of the Music curriculum. They listen to a variety of musical pieces from different genres. Musical performance is promoted through song-singing and the use of percussion instruments, tin-whistle and recorder. Where feasible, pupils with instrumental music skills are encouraged to bring their instruments to the hospital school setting. The use of music technology software facilitates composition activities and promotes understanding of the elements of music and ways in which they can be combined.
Notwithstanding the constraints of the hospital setting and pupil health issues, the teachers provide suitable outlets for Drama, in a manner that enhances the pupils’ educational engagement. Drama activities are incorporated within a number of cross-curricular themes. Role-play and mime are linked to stories, poems and history topics. Puppetry and video-computer work help to overcome pupil inhibitions and physical difficulties.
The teachers provide a Physical Education programme that is adapted to the needs and capacity of the pupils in the hospital setting. Activities are organised in the classroom area or in the adjacent, soft-surfaced courtyard. Activities involving stretching and relaxation and music are emphasised. Education in relation to healthy eating is provided in conjunction with the nursing staff.
The climate of interpersonal interaction and relationships within the school and hospital context is strongly supportive of the pupils’ sense of well-being and self-esteem. In selecting topics for specific lessons in the area of Social, Personal and Health Education, the teachers take account of issues related to length of stay, and the pupils’ emotional and physical health. Appropriate aspects of established programmes, including Be Safe and Walk Tall are incorporated. The use of drama strategies such as puppetry and video animation help to provide a safe context for exploring feelings.
Assessment of learning and assessment for learning are widely embedded within the teaching and learning process. In order to facilitate early engagement in positive and relevant learning experiences teachers have developed suitable initial strategies for establishing baseline information regarding the pupils’ prior attainment and interests. Learning content and teaching strategies for each pupil, thereafter, continue to be based on good assessment practice and on information from the pupil’s home school. A range of assessment modes is employed, with an initial emphasis on informal observation, followed by teacher-designed tasks and tests and judicious use of standardised tests. An individual education plan format is used to facilitate assessment and programme planning for some pupils, particularly those who have experienced disruption in cognitive function as a result of their medical conditions.
The school responds in a flexible and effective manner to the needs of the individual pupils, including those who have enduring special educational needs related to a disability, those who may have temporary or enduring cognitive difficulties related to their current medical condition and treatment and those whose needs relate mainly to the maintenance of continuity in their ongoing education. The school’s capacity to provide a supportive environment for all pupils, including those with identified special educational needs, is enhanced by the effective inclusion of the teachers as part of the hospital’s multi-disciplinary structure and the close cooperation between teaching and nursing staff at ward level. It is also facilitated by communication with the pupils’ home schools, both during the pupil’s hospital stay and in the context of transfer back to the home school or, in some cases, to other hospitals. Where it is anticipated that following discharge from hospital a pupil will be unable, for medical reasons, to attend school, the hospital school assists parents in the initiation of the process for provision of home-tuition support.
In keeping with the role and mission of the hospital, the school adopts an inclusive approach in policy and practices related to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and other minority groups.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The board of management provides effective support for the school within the hospital context
· The principal provides sensitive and effective leadership.
· Day-to-day organisation and administration are efficient and thorough.
· Planning and preparation at whole school and classroom level are well developed and appropriate to the particular circumstances of the school.
· The teachers are flexible, resourceful and creative in adapting their teaching to meet the needs of pupils enrolled at short notice and across a wide range of age and ability.
· The use of information and communication technology significantly enhances school administration, teaching and learning.
· Well developed use of cross-curricular approaches facilitates active, cooperative engagement of pupils of different ages.
· Mutually supportive interactions with hospital management and staff facilitate all aspects of the work of the school.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that a professional development policy be developed and included in the school plan.
· It is recommended that options for the provision of additional classroom space be kept under review.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published November 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management of Beaumont Hospital School would like to thank the inspector for the courteous and professional manner in which the Whole School Evaluation was undertaken. His positive affirmation and practical advice has been of benefit to our school. We are greatly encouraged that the Whole School Evaluation affirms the positive work being done, and that the professionalism, commitment and dedication of all the partners in education have been recognised throughout the school/hospital community. We are very pleased that the quality of teaching and learning in our school has been highlighted and that the delivery of a quality service enhancing the educational development of the child has been acknowledged. These aims are central to the mission statement of our 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
We take on board the recommendations for further development. The Board are in the process of developing a Professional Development Plan which will be included in the school plan.