An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil na mBuachaillí Naomh Eoin Baiste
Uimhir rolla: 20155R
Date of inspection: 7 March 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil na mBuachaillí Naomh Eoin Baiste. 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 representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Scoil na mBuachaillí Naomh Eoin Baiste is a 13 teacher single-sex boys’ school under the patronage of the Catholic Archbishop of Cashel and Emly. The school is located in Cashel and caters for the education of pupils from the town and the immediate hinterland. The school is a participant in the Giving Children an Even Break by Tackling Disadvantage Scheme (GCAEBS) an initiative of the Department of Education and Science. The school is also a participant in the Green Schools’ Initiative.
The school which was constructed in 1983 and shares a campus with Scoil na gCailíní Naomh Eoin Baiste and the Deanery school. The principal reported that the three schools, though independent, co-exist in a spirit of mutual co-operation and friendship, sharing, facilitating and co-operating with each other. Secretarial and caretaking staff is shared among all three schools. The three schools also share school development planning facilitators and jointly agree topics for curriculum development.
The mission statement of Scoil na mBuachaillí Naomh Eoin Baiste states that its aim is to provide a safe friendly effective and stimulating educational environment for the pupils in its care. It also aims to promote the principles of respect, truth, equality and seeks to promote confidence, self-esteem and communication skills. Affirmation of faith and celebration of difference to enable pupils to learn to show respect for themselves and others is a cornerstone of the mission statement. The mission statement commits the school to strive to help children to attain goals and to develop their potential and talents. A very positive and successful approach to the management of pupils is evident throughout the school. Regular school assemblies are used to promote and reinforce positive behaviour. The holistic development of pupils including pupils with special educational needs is promoted to a very good standard.
Since the last school report in 2000, the junior boys’ and senior boys’ school have amalgamated and the principal of the junior boys’ school was appointed principal of the amalgamated school in 2002. In 2005 the school enrolment decreased resulting in the loss of a teacher. According to the principal and the board of management the greatest challenge posed for both teachers and parents during the last three years has been the issue of multi-grade classes. In the school year 2007/2008 due to an increase in enrolment there are 208 pupils on roll resulting in the appointment of a new teacher in September 2008. This will result in a return to single classes. Projected enrolments indicate that the enrolment of the school will remain stable for the foreseeable future.
In general the attendance of the majority of pupils at the school in the months prior to the whole school evaluation and for the previous year was satisfactory. However, figures provided by the school indicate that there is a significant rate of absenteeism among a number of pupils. Management fulfil its duties appropriately with regard to the reporting of school absences as required by the Education and Welfare Act (2000). The board of management in collaboration with the school staff has devised a school attendance strategy in accordance with the Education and Welfare Act (2000). It is recommended that this strategy be implemented rigorously and that parents be made aware of their responsibilities in respect of their children’s regular attendance at school and the consequent effect that frequent absenteeism has on academic achievement over the eight-year cycle in the primary school. It is also advised that this strategy be reviewed in consultation with all the stakeholders and that a copy of the revised policy should be sent to all parents.
The board of management exemplifies good practice in the context of co-operative school management. The board members give generously of their time and have recently attended training. Their interest, support and commitment to the school is commended. The chairperson of the board of management visits the school regularly and is very supportive of the principal and staff. The board of management is properly constituted and meets at least twice each term and more often when the need arises. In general, statutory obligations are observed and the board ensures compliance with Department of Education and Science regulations. Agenda and minutes of board meetings are recorded. The treasurer submits a financial report at each meeting and the accounts are certified every two years.
The principal and staff in collaboration with the board have formulated a range of organisational policies. In this academic year board members have engaged in the review of the Health and Safety and Child Protection Policies in collaboration with staff and parents. Board members read all organisational draft policy documents and make suggestions and amendments. These policies have been ratified by the board and dated and signed by the chairperson of board. The board has also ratified a range of curricular plans. It is recommended that the Board of Management in collaboration with the staff review the enrolment policy in order to ensure compliance with the Education Act (1998) and the Equal Status Acts (2000 to 2004). Conditions for enrolment cannot be applied to pupils with special educational needs, to foreign national pupils or Traveller children. The principal stated that the Relationships and Sexuality Policy (RSE) policy has yet to be developed. It is recommended that the RSE policy be formulated in consultation with the partners and that the content objectives for all class levels be clearly outlined in this process, recorded in the plan and disseminated to parents. It is important that all content objectives of the RSE be implemented under the SPHE curriculum.
There is good communication among the board of management, parents’ association and the staff of the school. Parents’ representatives on the board ensure that the views and opinions of the parent community are represented at board level. While the board plays an active role in reviewing school policy and in ratifying curriculum plans, it is recommended that the board of management should move from a functional role to a strategic management role in the future. It should actively engage in the development of management policies and collaborate with the staff in prioritising areas for development. This action plan would enable the board to identify realistic and achievable targets, which would outline how the school’s priorities would be resourced, implemented and evaluated. Copies of relevant policies and decisions are disseminated to the school community through the school’s internal communication systems. The board of management was fulsome in the praise of the staff of the school and expressed its satisfaction with the quality of educational provision in the context of the broad and balanced curriculum being delivered in the school. The board stated that “character building, fair play and development of manners were the hallmark of the school.”
The board continues to maintain and improve the school building and its facilities. In general the school is in a good state of repair internally and externally. The school grounds are maintained to a very high standard and the school is cleaned thoroughly on a daily basis. Internally the heating system and maintenance are of good quality. The board is to be commended for the maintenance of the school and for the recent refurbishment of the flooring in the classrooms. The security of the school building at night, traffic congestion and the early arrival of pupils to the school are causes of concern for the board and a subcommittee of the board is investigating these matters. The board has developed an action plan for further improvement of the school building and has made application to the Department of Education and Science for funding.
The principal provides good leadership to the school and carries out his administrative duties effectively. The principal stated that the board is very supportive of the staff and the school. The principal has established a strong team spirit and positive working relationships with staff and parents and is committed to the ongoing development of the school. A very positive atmosphere has been established and effective communication structures are implemented. Further strategic planning in terms of the development, implementation and monitoring of the school plan is required and school based review and self-evaluation should be undertaken and organised by the principal.
The principal is supported very effectively by the in-school management team, which comprises a deputy principal, deputy principal (personal basis) and three special duties post-holders. The roles attached to these posts are clearly defined. The board of management has one further special duties post to fill. The special duties for this post will include responsibility for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Science and interviews for this position will take place in the near future.
It is recommended that the board in pursuing a focus on continuous school improvement review the responsibilities of post-holders frequently so that each member of the in-school management team has responsibility for designated curricular, pastoral areas and administrative tasks. These responsibilities should be linked to action planning and reflect the changing needs of the school. The in-school management team has formal meetings with the principal once a term. Issues raised at these meetings are brought to the attention of the staff. It is recommended that minutes of these meetings be formally recorded. Formal staff meetings are convened once a term in accordance with departmental circulars. Teachers are afforded the opportunity to contribute items to the agenda and minutes of decisions taken at the meetings are recorded.
The staff comprises an administrative principal and seven mainstream class teachers. Four teachers provide supplementary support for pupils with learning difficulties and pupils with special education needs. One teacher provides language-support for newcomer children. Three full-time and one part-time special needs assistant (SNA) are employed to support pupils with special educational needs. During the evaluation period three substitute teachers were working in the school. While the school does not have a written rotational policy, personnel are deployed in an effective manner. Teachers are provided with opportunities to indicate their class preferences each year and classes are allocated according to the needs of the school following a discussion with staff. The formulation of a rotational policy is advised to ensure that teachers are afforded the experience of teaching in a variety of classes and contexts. However, the final decision regarding the deployment of staff is a function of the principal.
The school shares a number of facilities with the girls’ school and these include the general purpose room and the secretary’s office. The school has ten classrooms. Seven are utilised as mainstream classrooms, one classroom has been divided and accommodates two resource teachers, one classroom is utilised as a library/ computer room and the final classroom provides accommodation for the resource teacher for Traveller pupils (RTT). This classroom will be required in the academic year 2008/2009 as a mainstream classroom leaving the RTT without accommodation. The school also has one language support and learning support room. The school has a staffroom, principal’s office, indoor and outdoor storage areas, staff toilets and disabled toilet. Externally the school has two tarmacadam areas and a games pitch. Classrooms are well organised and stimulating learning environments are created.
Department of Education and Science grants for the purchase of resources to enhance curriculum implementation are appropriately utilised and are complemented by fundraising activities organised jointly by the board, the staff and parents. Currently the school has 25 computers. Ten computers are located in classrooms and learning support rooms. The school has a designated computer room with 15 computers, all of which are networked and have broadband access to the internet. The use of the computer room is timetabled and some teachers use this facility to support teaching and learning.
Consideration should be given at staff level to further developing the potential of ICT in the computer room and in classrooms. A wide range of other technological equipment is also available in the school. Some ICT equipment is deployed in individual and learning support/resource/language classrooms. The learning of specific ICT skills to enhance learning in some curricular areas is a feature of the provision in some classes. It is recommended that in future planning the integration of ICT in the teaching and learning process should be further emphasised. The use of hand-held devices, including laptops, might also be considered when purchasing ICT equipment in the future as they would provide greater flexibility and access in individual classrooms. This facility would be useful in providing pupils with opportunities to write collaboratively and also to present their work to a wide variety of audiences.
The school has the services of one full-time and one part-time secretary who are shared with the girls’ school. They are very professional and committed to the school and are commended for the excellent secretarial support they provide to the principal and staff. The school building and grounds are maintained to a very high standard by the full-time caretaker and the cleaning staff. The board is commended for its work in this area and for providing a safe hygienic environment for pupils and teachers alike.
The school’s parents’ association was established in 2005 and is affiliated to the National Parents’ Council (NPC) and meets in the school once a month. Members of the association have attended training sessions in relation to the establishment of the association and talks on education issues.
The principal and board of management supported the establishment of the association. The parents’ association is very active and provides support for the school and is an organised forum through which parents can make a positive contribution to their children’s education. Members of the association meet with the principal prior to and after meetings to discuss relevant issues. The members of the association were fulsome in their praise for the principal and the manner in which he communicates aspects of school life to the parent and wider community. The principal reports that the parents support the work of the school through their involvement in policy formulation, assisting at school events and organising very effective fundraising activities that have resulted in the provision of ICT, Science and Physical Education (PE) equipment. They also represent the views of parents and provide a forum for consultation with the principal on a range of relevant issues. Parents’ representatives on the board of management are consulted when administrative policies are formulated by the staff as part of the normal activities of the board. Communication with parents is further enhanced through the feedback provided through the annual parent-teacher meetings and the informal parent-teacher contact provided for in the school. The school is engaged in the Green Schools’ Environmental Project and a parent is an active member of the committee.
Parents are consulted in relation to the formulation of certain policies, however it is timely that they should be more widely consulted during the policy formulation and review process when appropriate. The parents’ association communicates with the wider parent body through notes and through the school magazine on a bi-annual basis. Parents’ representatives expressed their concerns about the adherence to the prescribed time allocated to the PE programme. They expressed their disappointment at the cessation of the swimming programme but understood that it was due to health and safety issues. The school identified this issue as a priority for future development. It is timely now to investigate how this health and safety issue might be addressed so that pupils may benefit from the aquatics strand of the PE programme.
The school is characterised by a caring atmosphere. A very good rapport exists between teachers and pupils. Most pupils are well behaved and respectful and actively engage with the tasks set for them by their teachers. The vast majority of the pupils are aware of and respect the class rules and the general school procedures. In general teachers’ classroom management and management of pupils was of a very good standard. The formal practice in operation in classrooms to acknowledge and reward positive pupil behaviour and discipline is praiseworthy. Pupils’ self-esteem is being developed at all class levels. Daily assemblies are organised and information and talks on particular topics are delivered. Pupils are actively engaged in the Green Schools Committee. The staff should build on this initiative and in the longer term, develop a pupils’ council with elected representatives from all classes representing the views of their peers. Furthermore, it is recommended that the views of this committee be brought to the attention of the teachers at staff meetings and of board members at board of management meetings.
Good work has been undertaken to date in relation to the development of school planning documentation, as required by section 21 of the Education Act, 1998. Considerable attention has been given to the process of curricular planning and to the development of organisational policies.
In line with the Department of Education and Science guidelines, many aspects of policy and procedures relating to the general administration of the school are described in the school plan. The school’s mission statement is clearly articulated and a health and safety statement has been compiled. The organisational section also includes sets of policies dealing with general organisation, behaviour, enrolment, anti-bullying, attendance strategy, substance misuse, learning support/special needs, home-school links, communication procedures with parents, information and communications technology development plan, school accident and emergency, welcome pack for substitute and visiting teachers, welcome pack for parents of newly enrolled pupils and acceptable usage policy. Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
Curricular policies are outlined in Irish, English, Mathematics, Music, Science, Geography, Physical Education, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and draft policies in Visual Arts, Drama and History. The planning activity in this school is collaborative in nature and the staff is commended for working as a team. The content of the documentation indicates that the staff has gained a broad knowledge and understanding of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) and that the teachers are enthusiastic in regard to the necessary adaptation of teaching methods which is fundamental to full implementation of the curriculum. Very good use has been made of supports available from Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP), School Development Planning Support (SDPS) and the Regional Curriculum Support Service (RCSS) in the development of policies to date.
The principal, in-school management team and teachers are to be commended on the planning documentation formulated to date and it is recommended that the further development of curricular policies in this collaborative manner be continued. It is also recommended that, in relation to the development and review of curricular policies, consideration be given to outlining the content to be taught at each class level in all subject areas. The linking of individual teachers’ planning with the school plan would provide a systematic overview of the content to be taught at each class level ensuring progression in all areas of the curriculum. It is also advised that a more concentrated focus and emphasis be placed on the implementation of school plans in each of the curricular areas. To this end, it is recommended that consideration be given to reviewing and extending the scope of individual post-holders' existing responsibilities, where duties pertaining to specific areas of the curriculum have been assigned to the members of the middle management team. This strategy would ensure that the implementation, co-ordination and review of curricular policies are undertaken in a structured manner.
Individual teacher planning is undertaken in the form of long term and short-term preparation in accordance with Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools. All teachers are commended for the consistent work undertaken in this regard and for the manner in which long term and short-term planning are linked to the strand and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Long-term and short-term planning ensures that pupils experience a range of learning activities, an appropriate balance between whole-class teaching and group work is maintained, and opportunities are provided for pupils to participate in paired work, group work and project work. However, long- and short-term planning should also include a brief description of the topics and content to be covered together with procedures for ICT, differentiation, assessment and evaluation of pupil progress in each curricular area at appropriate stages in the instructional term. In some classes specific content objectives are outlined in each short-term plan. The inclusion of such specific objectives is commended and it is recommended that this practice be extended to all classrooms. The inclusion of one or possibly two specific content objectives from the primary curriculum in the short-term plan will help to focus the teaching and learning for that period of time.
To ensure consistency in individual planning, an agreed template might be devised which would provide a focus on the appropriate elements of the planning process. It is recommended that the key learning intentions stated in individual long- and short-term planning should in the future be clearly linked to the broad objectives as stated in the school plan. Monthly progress records in the form of cuntais mhíosula are also maintained which are largely based on reporting the broad content of lessons taught. A template for individual progress records might be devised to record content taught and the extent to which teaching and learning objectives have been achieved.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
A positive classroom atmosphere was in evidence in all classrooms visited during the evaluation. In general, good pupil-teacher relations underpin the characteristic spirit of the school. The majority of lessons observed during the evaluation were well paced and involved suitable teaching strategies and approaches. In general, the children present as motivated and interested learners. The majority of children demonstrate an eagerness to engage in class discussion and to perform assigned tasks. In general, teachers succeed in creating secure and attractive learning environments. The classrooms are generally print-rich environments. The children’s work is celebrated in wall displays and exhibits. The overall standard of learning is good. A teacher-directed approach is predominant throughout the school and the role of textbook should be reviewed. Further emphasis should be placed on assessment for learning, differentiation, collaborative and co-operative learning skills
Déanann pleanáil oidí aonair tagairt do Churaclam na Bunscoile (1999). Tá caighdeán sásúil á bhaint amach ag cuid mhaith de na páistí. Tá iarrachtaí fiúntacha á dhéanamh, i gcoitinne, chun atmaisféar fabhrach don Ghaeilge a chothú sna rangsheomraí. Baintear úsáid as ábhair chorpartha mar thacaíocht don teagasc i ranganna áirithe. Tá na ceachtanna á cur i láthair trí fheidhm a bhaint as puipéid agus fearas an mhúinteora. Go ginearálta úsáidtear modheolaíochtaí taitneamhacha, éifeachtacha mar shampla drámaíocht, ról-ghlacadh, agallaimh, obair i bpéirí agus ceistiúchán chun freastal ar chumas cumarsáide na bpáistí a fhorbairt. Léann na daltaí le tuiscint agus líofacht chuí i ranganna áirithe. B’fhiú áfach díriú ar raon níos leithne modhanna múinte a chur i bhfeidhm chun scileanna na léitheoireachta a dhaingniú mar shampla úsáid luaschártaí, scileanna focal-aithinte, straitéisí fóineolaíochta agus plé ar chiall na bhfocal agus an téacs. Tá éagsúlacht rainn agus filíochta a phlé i ranganna áirithe. Moltar anois raon de na dánta agus na rainn a chur de ghlan mheabhair.
Moltar freisin béim níos treise a chur ar phrionta sa timpeallacht a sholáthar agus saothar na ndaltaí a thaispeáint. Moltar breis béime a chur ar Éisteacht mar shnáith den churaclam. Ba chóir a chinntiú, anois, go soláthrófaí áiseanna oiriúnacha, a thabharfadh tacaíocht d’fhorbairt scileanna éisteachta i ngach rang. Ina theannta san ba chóir béim a chur ar thréimhsí sa réamhchumarsáid, cumarsáid agus iarchumarsáid a chinntiú le linn na gníomhaíochtaí labhartha, ar scéalaíocht leabhair, úrscéalta agus ar leathnú na filíochta. Tá scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúla agus scríbhneoireacht phearsanta le feiceáil sna cóipleabhair. B’fhiú áfach béim níos treise a chur ar scríbhneoireacht phearsanta agus úsáid a bhaint as an ríomhaire chun tacú leis an obair seo.
Individual teachers’ planning is referenced to the Primary School Curriculum (1999). Some of the pupils have attainted a satisfactory standard. In general, good efforts are made to cultivate a favourable atmosphere to Irish in the classrooms. In some classrooms concrete materials are utilised to support the teaching. The use of puppets and teacher designed materials are utilised in the presentation of lessons. In general, good effective teaching methodologies such as drama, role play, discussion, pair work and questioning are utilised to develop pupils’ conversational skills. Pupils read with appropriate understanding and fluency in certain classrooms. It is recommended that a wider range of teaching approaches such as flashcards, word recognition skills, phonological strategies and discussion of the meaning of the words and the text be used to ensure the consolidation of reading skills. A variety of rhymes and poem is explored in some classes. It is recommended that a range of rhymes and poems be memorised. It is also recommended that further emphasis be placed on developing a print-rich environment and on the display of pupils’ work in Irish. It is recommended that further emphasis also be placed on the development of the Listening skills strand. It is advised that a range of suitable resources be acquired that would support the development of listening skills in every classroom. Emphasis should also be placed on developing the pre-communicative, communicative and post-communicative phases during oral activities, on story book, novels and on the expansion of poetry. Formal and personal writing is evident in the copybooks. It is recommended that further emphasis be placed on the development of pupils’ personal writing and on utilising the computer to support this work.
The quality of teaching and learning in English is good and teachers at all class levels are commended for the manner in which they have adopted the principles of the curriculum. In some classes appropriate attention is paid to the development of children’s oral language skills, and opportunities for engaging in discussion across a range of curricular areas is organised. In English most pupils express themselves confidently and fluently in all classes. To ensure consistency across classes, it is recommended that a discrete oral language programme be introduced that is explicitly linked to the oral language objectives as set out in the English curriculum. Specific topics for oral language development should be planned for and explored by the pupils at all class levels. The development of a system that will monitor pupils’ progress in this area of the curriculum is recommended.
A good programme in reading is organised throughout the school. A variety of methodologies is utilised in all classes. Phonological awareness training is in use in some classes and it is recommended that one programme should be delivered consistently in all classes throughout the school. A variety of reading material is used including the classroom textbooks. Shared reading is organised in some classes and the class teacher communicates with the parents outlining the objectives of shared reading. Class novels are used in middle and senior classes. The pupils are provided with opportunities to respond to characters, situations and story details and in general are given broad experiences in terms of articulating a shared response to fiction. A repertoire of poems is explored and the pupils are encouraged to respond in different ways through miming, writing and comparing poems. Further emphasis should be placed on the memorising of a wide range of poems.
There is a good balance achieved between functional and creative writing at all class levels. Personal and creative writing commences in the infant classes. Pupils write short personal accounts and it is planned that they will complete simple book reviews. The teachers are cognisant of the importance of the writing process. This skill is further developed and emphasised in the junior, middle and senior classes where some book reviews, character reviews and a range of writing for different purposes and audiences is undertaken. Children are encouraged to write in varying formats. Some teachers use computers skilfully to support and present the work undertaken by the children. There is evidence of effective integration across a range of curriculum areas. Teachers use a range of assessment strategies including teacher observation, teacher designed tests, monitoring of written activities and standardised test results. The standard of literacy in the school is good with the majority of pupils in all classes engaging in oral, reading and written activities in a competent manner. Consideration should now be given to the implementation of a structured language development programme that is explicitly based on the objectives of the oral language curriculum. It is also recommended that the phonological awareness programme currently in use in some classes be implemented from second to sixth classes.
The teaching of Mathematics is undertaken effectively throughout the school and most pupils achieve a good standard. A wide range of concrete materials is available at all class levels and a Mathematics-rich environment is in evidence in some classrooms. This practice should be extended to all classrooms. All the teachers use a range of resources to support their work including textbooks, charts, number lines and mathematical equipment. The teachers are to be commended for the application of strategies such as mathematical games in their teaching. Activity based learning and strategies, skills and problem solving in Mathematics are also developed. In the infant and junior classes, pupils display a good understanding of number. Mathematical concepts are effectively taught in the infant and junior classes and this work is supported by the skilful use of manipulatives.
In general, in the middle and senior classes, the understanding of number work is consolidated and extended. Basic number facts and operations are taught and most of the pupils can discuss and solve mathematical problems. In general, mathematical concepts are developed through the use of concrete materials and concepts are linked to the pupils’ own experiences. In some classes emphasis is placed on the development of mathematical language in an incremental fashion.
In general, pupils solve problems satisfactorily, and continued emphasis on oral problem solving as a means of developing higher order thinking skills is recommended at all class levels. Particular emphasis should be placed on the development of pupils’ knowledge of number facts, memorisation strategies and the language of mathematics. The use of the local environment, real life situations, mathematical workshops and trails in all classes is recommended as a suitable strategy for the further development and consolidation of mathematical concepts. The acquisition of additional resource materials for Mathematics would ensure that activity-based learning could be facilitated more frequently in all classrooms.
A draft plan for the teaching of History in the school has been developed. The current plan outlines the strands and strand units that are taught at each class level. It is recommended that a section be included that outlines the assessment strategies that will be used in this area of the curriculum. The further development of this plan could also include an outline of the learning experiences that will be provided at each class level to support the development of pupils’ historical knowledge, skills and attitudes. The history curriculum includes studies from local, national and international contexts. In the junior classes emphasis is placed on personal and family history. Myths and legends are explored effectively in junior and middle standards and this work is very well integrated with the Visual Arts and oral language. Pupils in some classes are being provided with relevant and authentic historical learning experiences, with opportunities to work as historians and through the use of artefacts and materials that are linked to the local environment. In senior classes, pupil participation in learning/discovery methods is implemented through group-work and discussion. It is recommended that the skills of the pupils as historians be further developed through the use of the broadband technology that is now in the school to access and analyse primary sources of data now available online.
The school plan for this area of the curriculum is primarily based on the strands and strand units of the primary curriculum. While textbooks are used extensively in this subject area, the teaching and learning is based on the principles of the Geography curriculum. Pupils are also afforded the opportunity of engaging with topics of local, national and European relevance in Geography, while exploration of the local environment and engagement with project work constitutes part of the programme of learning in Geography, particularly in the middle and senior standards. Maps and illustrative materials are used in the middle and senior standards. The extended use of Ordnance Survey maps is recommended as a strategy for investigation of the local environment. Future teaching and learning should focus on the continued utilisation of the local environmental, field trips, educational outings and school visits from local community experts. The further development of geographical skills through appropriate fieldwork in parallel with the acquisition of geographical knowledge and concepts is recommended. Pupils’ project work is also neatly presented in their own learning environments and pupil participation is actively promoted and encouraged at all class levels.
The programme for learning in Science at all class levels constitutes elements of both natural and human environments. Knowledge and concepts linked with seasonal changes are explored in infant, junior, middle and senior classes. Studies of plants, animals and weather phenomena in the immediate and local environment also constitute part of the children’s learning experience in this curricular area. Pupils are capable of discussing items displayed on the nature/discovery table in a competent and knowledgeable manner. The Science curriculum in this school provides children with opportunities to understand the physical and biological aspects of the world and the processes through which these are developed. A broad and balanced curriculum is provided through contexts and activities to enable children develop knowledge and skills that help them make sense of the world in which they live. The school is involved in the Green Schools Environmental project which involves all pupils in a range of recycling initiatives. The schools’ green campaign motto Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Make the School Gleam and the Flag will be Green was implemented with particular emphasis placed on reducing litter and waste in the first year. Their efforts were rewarded when the school was awarded the Green Flag.
Simple experiments are undertaken; good use of scientific equipment; effective use of audio-visual equipment and pupil engagement with the discovery/investigative process was observed in some classes. It is imperative that the science curriculum is used as the primary resource when planning and implementing the Science programme in the school. Practical investigation should be the focus of scientific activity and this is achieved through the development of a broad range of enquiry skills including, observing, hypothesising, predicting, experimenting, planning fair tests and analysing results. Children in all classes are enabled to develop a framework of scientific ideas and concepts about Living Things, Energy and Forces, Materials, Environmental Awareness and Care.
The school has developed a good draft school plan for the Visual Arts which ensures continuity and progression in all six strands and two strand units throughout the school. The plan also includes the development of seasonal themes based on each of the strands. In general classroom environments support pupil learning and a range of materials and resources is used effectively in the delivery of the programme. In most classes displays of pupils’ work throughout the school creates a stimulating and an aesthetically pleasing environment. Pupil engagement with the activities is effectively organised and pupils are presented with opportunities to express their creativity in many of the strands of the curriculum. In some classes the pupils are afforded the opportunity to look and respond to the work of artists.
In the final review of the plan, it is recommended that emphasis be placed on the development of the creative process, experimentation and exploration utilising a wide range of tools and media in all six strands. It is also recommended that emphasis be placed on Looking and Responding to the work of artists and working in the style of the artist and that a range of resources be listed and provided to teach this strand unit in all six strands. Consideration should also be given to ensure that the emphasis be placed on the creative process and on continuity and progression as seasonal themes are developed at all class levels throughout the school. A range of assessment tools are outlined in the school plan. During the final review of the school plan staff should further discuss and examine strategies for assessment for learning and assessment of learning utilising the recent National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(NCCA) publication entitled “Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum, Guidelines for Schools” The inclusion of these assessment strategies into teachers’ long and short term planning would further extend the progressive development of pupils’ concepts and skills as part of a whole school approach.
Music is taught in an effective manner at most class levels. The concepts of music (rhythm, pitch, tone, timbre and pattern) are explored and percussion instruments are used as pupils respond to music. Music appreciation, composing and integration with other curricular areas are a feature of classroom practice at some levels. The pupils sing a range of songs and in some classes these activities are enhanced through the productive use of percussion instruments. However, during these activities it is important that children be given a comfortable starting note from a pitched instrument. The teaching of intervals, use of percussion instruments, composing and basic musical literacy needs to be further developed in a systematic manner so that children in all classes can experience a broad curriculum ensuring that there is continuity and progression from class to class.
Pupils take an active part in school-produced performances. A number of pupils from the middle and senior classes from the boys’ and girls’ school are participants in the school choir. They perform at local and national level.
A good whole-school draft Drama plan was formulated in the academic year 2007/2008 which the teachers are currently in the process of implementing. The teachers intend to review and redraft the plan at a school development planning day to be held after the Easter holidays 2008. The final draft of the plan will be presented to the board of management and the parents’ association before the end of the academic year 2007/2008. In the lessons observed teachers were exploring a variety of strategies to enable pupils to explore and make drama, reflect on the dramatic process and co-operate and communicate effectively through the drama process. Active learning methodologies including talk, discussion, mime, group work, teacher in role are successfully used to stimulate interest and to engage pupils fully in Drama. A number of curricular subjects to include Irish, English, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE), Music, and Visual Arts are integrated with drama activities. Teachers create a stimulating and safe environment in which ideas, feelings and experiences can be expressed. In general children had the ability to empathise and work as part of a group. It is recommended that the review of the drama curriculum should consider detailing a systematic overview of the content to be taught at each class level linked to the objectives to ensure progression in all areas of the Drama curriculum. Consideration should also be given to putting processes in place to enable the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the Drama plan.
A broad and balanced PE programme is provided in this school. Effective use is made of a grass area at the rear of the school, basketball court, hard surface area and the general purposes room in the school. These facilities contribute significantly to the provision of an appropriate programme in PE. Emphasis is placed on the development of skills and a wide range of PE equipment is available for use during lessons. External coaches from the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and Irish Rugby Union (IRFU) visit the school during the year and provide instruction for pupils from third, fourth, fifth and sixth classes. Each coach provides six forty minute coaching sessions for each class grouping.
Team sports are organised as an after-school activity and investment of teacher time in this area is acknowledged. The pupils in the middle and senior standards participate in and have achieved success in a range of inter-schools’ competitions. It is recommended that when planning for future programmes of work in this curricular area, a balance be maintained across all strands of the PE curriculum, including athletics, dance, gymnastics and outdoor and adventure activities. It may be possible in the future when health and safety issues have been resolved to re-introduce the aquatics strand of the curriculum.
The Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) policy was reviewed in 2007 and ratified by the board of management in 2008. The vision of the school states that it will enable each child to develop a positive self-esteem, enhance social and communication skills and equip him with the knowledge and ability to lead a healthy life. In general formal lessons in SPHE are well designed and implemented and address matters of particular importance to the pupils’ holistic development. In the lessons observed due attention is afforded to the range of strand and strand units, although greater prominence should be afforded to the Myself and the Wider World strand in all classrooms. Consideration should be given to planning an aspect of this strand for delivery each term. The inclusion of the curriculum objectives and activities /experiences for each class level should be clearly outlined in the SPHE plan. Whole-school planning for assessment and record-keeping in SPHE needs further consideration in order to ensure consistent implementation throughout the school.
The use of a range of active learning strategies was in evidence throughout the course of the evaluation. The majority of pupils engage very enthusiastically in the breadth of SPHE learning activities presented to them. It is evident that they are acquiring knowledge, understanding, values attitudes and skills and developing a capacity to relate this learning to their own experiences. Pupils are provided with opportunities to work collaboratively and were observed working in small groups. Teachers have participated in a range of professional development courses including Walk Tall, Absenteeism, Internet and the curriculum, Child Abuse Prevention Programme (Stay Safe), Green Schools seminar, Teaching English as an Additional Language(TEAL) and a range of special education courses. They are commended for their attendance at these courses which inform their practice and further enhance the educational provision in the school.
A range of co-curricular activities provides opportunities for promoting pupils’ SPHE-related learning. Pupils’ physical health and well-being are promoted through the implementation of the healthy-eating policy. The school also encourages pupils to engage in a range of sporting activities organised by the teachers after school. Pupils are also provided with opportunities to participate in local Arts fests, library events, historical parades and environmental events. This practice is praiseworthy and teachers are commended for their involvement in these extra-curricular activities.
A range of assessment strategies including teacher observation, monitoring of written work, teacher designed tests and standardised tests are used by the teachers to inform the teaching and learning in the school. The administration of standardised tests is carried out on an annual basis. Results are used to identify pupils who are eligible for learning support. The Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP) is carried out in junior infants. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is carried out annually in senior infants and the Forward Together Programme is implemented when appropriate. Micra T, Sigma T and Drumcondra tests are administered annually and the results are tabulated and analysed. The learning support, resource and language support teachers use a wide range of appropriate diagnostic tests to identify pupils’ individual needs.
Records are maintained in a methodical and consistent manner in the school. The children in the school are engaged with the curriculum in all classes and in all subject areas. In general, pupils achieve standards appropriate to their age and abilities in all areas of the curriculum. It is recommended that further thought should be given to an analysis of standardised test results carried out in the school. Attainment targets should be set on a whole-school basis and differentiation facilitated for pupils experiencing difficulty. The learning support/resource teachers should consider providing in-class support to these pupils in collaboration with class teachers. Furthermore it is recommended that thought be given to the development of a digital portfolio to facilitate the storage of individual pupils’ work samples.
The special education needs team in the school consists of one full-time learning support teacher, one full-time learning support/resource teacher (LSRT), two shared LSRT based in the school and one resource teacher for Traveller pupils based in Scoil na gCailíní Naomh Eoin Baiste situated on the campus. The support team in the school focuses on the development of literacy, Mathematics and social and behavioural skills. A very good school plan has been developed that outlines the roles and responsibilities of the personnel working with pupils with special educational needs. The learning support teacher provides an early intervention programme in senior infants. The MIST is used to identify pupils who may require support. The learning support teacher in collaboration with the parents work with pupils identified in need of support utilising the Forward Together Programme.
All of the teachers evaluated presented Individual Pupil Learning Profiles (IPLPs) or Education Plans (EPs) as appropriate in respect of the pupils in their care. Individual plans focus on phonological awareness training, spellings, comprehension skills, reading, writing, project work and the development of social and behavioural skills. These plans were of high quality. Pupils’ profiles are reviewed on a termly basis and teachers maintain short-term plans on a fortnightly basis. Daily records of work completed are also maintained. Some collaboration was evident among class teachers, resource teachers, special needs assistants (SNAs) and parents in the formulation of education plans for pupils with special educational needs. This practice is commended and its extension recommended.
All of the learning environments observed were stimulating and attractive with samples of pupils’ work displayed. There was also evidence of print-rich learning environments and a wide range of literacy and numeracy resources is available for use in these classrooms. Teachers engage with external professional agencies and incorporate the advice provided in individual programmes when appropriate. A wide range of diagnostic tests is used to identify pupils’ needs and the results are used to focus the teaching and learning of pupils with literacy and numeracy difficulties. Support teaching is provided by very committed teachers who are concerned with the holistic needs of their pupils. In general, the teaching was structured, focused on the needs of the pupils and the pupils were fully engaged in learning.
There is one full-time language support teacher who provides language support for 26 pupils in the school. The language teacher provides in-class support for junior and senior infants for six weeks at the beginning of the school year. After that period of time they are withdrawn for support. The remainder of the pupils are also withdrawn for support. All pupils are assessed using the Integrate Ireland Language Training (IILT) benchmarks. The programme for language support focuses on developing oral and reading skills based on a range of topics outlined in the (IILT) manual The teacher creates a very positive atmosphere during the teaching and learning process. The teacher has developed a very stimulating learning environment and creates a very good print rich environment. A wide range of illustrative materials and concrete materials is utilised. The teacher has engaged in on-line training course and this is commended. It is recommended that a defined whole school policy in respect of language support teaching should be formulated. Further development of the planning process to include more focused termly programmes, specific short-term targets and recording of pupils’ attainment in the monthly progress record is advised. The review sheets provided in the (IILT) manual for completion by class teachers should be utilised to ensure a collaborative approach in respect of the teaching and learning of the pupils. Further acquisition of materials to support teaching and learning should be acquired.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published November 2008