An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Choill Mhic Thomáisín,

Kilmacthomas, County Waterford

Uimhir rolla: 20170N

 

Date of inspection: 18th June 2008

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Mhic Thomáisín. 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 of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report. A response was received from the Board of Management. Due to reasons which have been communicated to the Board, the response could not be published.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Choill Mhic Thomáisín is situated on the outskirts of the small town of Kilmacthomas in County Waterford. Traditionally, two schools had served the town; a school for girls run by the Sisters of Mercy, on the current site, and the Boys’ National School at the opposite end of the town. The present school was established following the amalgamation of these schools in 2002. It serves boys and girls from infants to sixth class and the current enrolment is 146 pupils. This figure is projected to hold fairly steady in the coming years. Additional funding is received under the Giving Children an Even Break scheme.

 

During the amalgamation discussions, a school building project was promised, which would mean modernisation of existing classrooms, along with the addition of extra classrooms and rooms for special education teachers. However, progress in furthering this project has been slow and the members of the board of management stated that this is a matter of great frustration to board of management members, the principal, school staff and the parent body. Indeed the parent representatives on the board of management spoke of the anger that exists amongst the general parent body. Many parents agreed to amalgamation in 2002 because of the promise of the new building that was guaranteed as part of amalgamation. In the absence of a new building they question the value of the amalgamation which has resulted in overcrowding of classrooms, pupils in prefabs and conditions that would have been significantly better if the schools had remained separate. 

 

School attendance levels are good for the majority of pupils in the school. Staff are to be commended for their efforts to increase pupil attendance levels even further for all pupils. During this school year, a number of initiatives taken by the teachers have had success in raising awareness amongst pupils and parents about the importance of good attendance. 

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

The school is under the patronage of the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore. The board of management is properly constituted and is very supportive of all school activities. It meets once per term but more often if the need arises. The chairperson is in regular contact with the principal and visits the school frequently, offering valuable support. Some board members have been assigned specific duties, such as the role of safety officer and treasurer, which are willingly and dutifully carried out. Accounts have not been audited up until now but the board has taken steps to begin this practice. At the recent meetings, the board expressed their disappointment around the amount of energy and time consumed in trying to further the proposed building project. They feel annoyed by the lack of pace in moving through the various planning stages and the lack of communication. As a result of the expectation of development work to begin, there is no maintenance plan for the current building. Matters are dealt with on a needs be basis.

 

In recent years, the parish acquired extra land to the rear of the school which allows for the expansion of the school building, and which also provides valuable play and recreation areas for pupils. The board oversaw a boundary wall being built around part of the field.

 

The board members expressed their satisfaction with the operation of the school and the achievements of the pupils. They reported that they generally do not take an active role in policy formation but policies are ratified by the board at meetings. They ensure that parents are made aware of policies through letters issued to all parents and through the parents’ representatives on the board of management.

 

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The in-school management team consists of the principal, the deputy principal and two special duties post holders. The principal, who has full time learning support teaching duties, has established very good working relationships with her colleagues, the board of management, the parents and the pupils. She has coordinated the development of the school plan and has initiated strategies to promote attendance. She is currently working as a learning support teacher but both the board of management and the principal were advised that this is in breach of DES guidelines as issued in Circular 07/03, Section 14(b). 

 

The principal reported that she is ably supported by the deputy principal and the post holders. At the time of the evaluation, the deputy principal was on personal leave. Her duties include the area of resources for art and science as well as the mentoring of new teachers in the school. The other post-holders have responsibilities in the areas of information and communication technology (ICT) and sport. It is important that these duties are reviewed on an annual basis so that duties are matched to priorities and emerging school needs, and to ensure that responsibilities of all post holders include curricular, organisational and pastoral care duties. Currently, the in-school management team do not hold formal meetings but these should now be considered.

 

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

Staffing in the school consists of a teaching principal in the learning support role, six mainstream teachers, a learning support teacher shared with another school, a part-time language support teacher and a part time resource teacher. The part-time resource teacher is funded from the money received from the Giving Children an Even Break grant. A substitute teacher was working in one classroom as one of the teachers was on personal leave during the evaluation. Ancillary staff in the school includes a Special Needs Assistant, a part time secretary and a cleaner. The special needs assistant carries out her duties with commitment and care. The efficient secretary and cleaner provide valuable support to the school. Staff meetings are usually held once per term.

 

The school building, which is currently awaiting refurbishment, comprises of five classrooms, a general purpose area which acts as a store, a resource room and the staff room, and a small office. Two temporary buildings are also located to one side of the school building. One temporary building acts as a classroom and the other is a learning support/resource room for two teachers. There is ample yard and field space for pupil recreation, thanks to the recent acquisition of the field to the rear of the school.

 

A good supply of resources is available in the school to support the teaching and learning in many curricular areas, and many are used to great effect. Some classrooms have nice displays of both handmade and commercially produced charts and posters which contribute to print-rich and stimulating environments for the pupils. The general purpose area in the school is used as the storage area for the resources available for the teaching of PE, Science and the Visual Arts. Computers have been placed in all classrooms, many of which have been funded through parents’ association fundraising activities.

 

Extra and co-curricular provision is made through the service of external coaches. Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) coaches provide skills instruction in hurling and football, and a drama teacher, funded by the parents’ association, provides drama classes to all pupils.

 

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

It was reported that very positive lines of communication exist between the parents, the principal and the staff. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held annually, but parents are always made to feel welcome in the school. The parents’ association is not currently affiliated to the National Parents Council but this may be considered going forward. This association plays an active part in the school. They have become involved in the organisation of an annual book fair, a breakfast morning, and regular fundraising activities for the school. One of the posts of responsibility includes attendance at meetings of the association. This positive link with the teachers allows for more open communication between the school and the parents. Parent representatives are also members of the Green School Committee. Regular contact is maintained with the school community through the use of letters and newsletters. To date, the parents’ association has not played a role in the development or review of school policies but consideration should now be given to strengthening this role, and acknowledging the perspective that parents can bring to the planning process.  During the evaluation, the inspectors met with one of the parent representatives on the board of management. This parent reported that parents are happy with the operation of the school and pupil achievement.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

Management of pupils in this school is generally positive. Pupils demonstrate respect in their relationships with each other and with staff. They are well behaved and cooperate willingly. A positive, caring environment has been created for the pupils by the staff. Reward schemes are in place in many classrooms. A school code of behaviour has been put in place and parents are required to sign this on enrolment.

 

 

 

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

It is evident that considerable time and effort has gone in to the development of the school plan. Generally, planning is coordinated by the principal, and teachers are involved in discussion and drafting of plans and policies. The principal acknowledges the assistance that has been provided by the various support agencies such as School Development Planning Support and Primary Curriculum Support Programme. It is evident that planning is an ongoing process. A planning diary lists the planning priorities for the present school year. These include the completion of a vision and mission statement. It is advised that completion of this be given priority, and could include input from all members of the school community. A large number of policies have been developed. These include a comprehensive statement on health and safety, a code of behaviour, and policies on anti-bullying, administration of medicine, enrolment, learning support and special educational needs and school lunches. The board of management is advised to review the enrolment policy to ensure that it complies with legislation.

 

Curricular plans have been developed for most subject areas and a planning diary outlines plans for the completion of the remainder. There is great variety in the value of the information and guidance contained in these plans. Some give good direction and outline the whole school approach that has been adopted towards the implementation of particular areas. Others consist simply of lists of objectives and some general information that provides very little guidance to teachers.  All curricular plans should now be revisited and reviewed on a phased basis to ensure that they are being fully implemented and to ensure that they are informing practice throughout the school. Plans should give guidance towards the implementation of effective, spiral based approaches to all curricular areas. The present plans could act as a starting point for the school in reviewing its current practice. The review will also provide an opportunity for the effectiveness of current practices in some subject areas to be assessed. Certain priorities for change and development will emerge during the review and strategies for addressing these identified priorities in relation to aspects of curricular areas should be devised. Clear systems for review, development, implementation and evaluation should be devised. It is advised that the principal would assume clear responsibility for this process. Assistance should be provided by the in-school management team.

 

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools(Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

 

Classroom planning in general is undertaken systematically. In accordance with Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools, all teachers provided both long term and short term planning to support their teaching and credit is due to those who put considerable thought and effort into their planning. The format of both long term and short term plans varies amongst teaching staff. In some classrooms the planning is significantly influenced by the textbooks. In other instances, there were clear links between long-term and short term planning, and commendable emphasis is placed on planning for the delivery of key elements of the strands and strand units of various curricular areas. The staff should consider devising common templates for both long and short term planning so that continuity and progression through all classes is ensured and so that a greater emphasis can be placed on clarifying expected learning outcomes for the pupils in the context of the school plan and the curriculum. A monthly progress report is collected and stored centrally by the principal. This report should clearly outline the content covered during the month. All teachers should ensure that the monthly report only outlines the work completed

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Overview of learning and teaching

 

In general, the quality of teaching in the school was good. Teachers use a combination of traditional and modern approaches in their lesson delivery. This is characterised by a blend of whole-class teaching combined with the use of group and pair work in all classrooms. A good range of resources has been made available to teachers and these utilised to good advantage in many classrooms. Pupils seem happy in their learning and were responsive when talking about the work that has been covered in their classrooms. Teachers are aware of learning needs of pupils and are striving to improve standards in all subject areas.

 

 

4.2 Language

 

Gaeilge

Tá dearcadh dearfach á chothú i leith na Gaeilge agus cuirtear béim ar an dteanga labhartha a fhorbairt tríd an scoil. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge go minic mar theanga chaidrimh sna seomraí ranga. Sna bunranganna agus sna ranganna sóisearacha, úsáidtear raon straitéisí chun scileanna éisteachta agus labhartha na ndaltaí a fhorbairt mar ba chóir. I ranganna  áirithe, baintear leas sciliúil as rainn, orduithe, ceisteanna, gníomhaíochtaí i leathnú foclóra chun an teanga a mhúineadh. Sna bunranganna, cabhraíonn na scéalta sa leabhar mór agus an obair beirte dea-eagraithe le daingniú na teanga. Úsáidtear réimse d’ábhar corportha chun an foclóir nua a chur i bhfeidhm. Sna hardranganna, cuirtear béim ar scileanna éisteachta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt agus ullmhaítear píosaí cainte chun obair beirte a dhéanamh. Moltar a thuilleadh deiseanna cumarsáide a chruthú do na daltaí i ngach rang tríd úsáid breise a bhaint as obair beirte agus míon-drámaíochtaí. Ba chóir i gcónaí an cur chuige cumarsáideach a leanúint chun ceachtanna éifeachta a chruthú. Tá sé tábhachtach sprioctheanga cinnte a mhúineadh agus trí thréimhse a bheith i ngach ceacht. Moltar gan modh an aistriúcháin a úsáid.

 

Tá cleachtadh réasúnta maith sa léitheoireacht agus bunaítear na ceachtanna ar na téacsleabhair. Ba chóir réimse níos leithne d’ábhar léitheoireachta a úsáid agus moltar raon níos leithne modhanna múinte a chur i bhfeidhm chun scileanna na léitheoireachta a fhorbairt a thuilleadh. Moltar freisin scileanna focal aithint a mhúineadh, chomh maith le stráitéisí fóneolaíochta, focal bhriseadh agus brí focail nua a phlé.

 

Sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna, déanann na daltaí cleachtaí ar an scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil agus scríobhann siad an nuacht ina gcóipleabhair go rialta. Tá cuid mhaith de na ceachtanna bunaithe ar an dtéacsleabhar arís. Moltar anois, deiseanna a chruthú do na daltaí scríbhneoireacht phearsanta a chleachtadh go céimniúil tríd an scoil.  

 

 

Irish

A positive attitude to the Irish language is fostered and emphasis is placed on the development of spoken Irish through the school. Irish is frequently used in the classrooms. In the infant and junior classrooms, a variety of strategies are used to develop pupils’ listening and speaking skills accordingly. In some classes, skilful use is made of rhymes, orders, questions and activities in vocabulary extension in order to teach the language. The stories in the large books as well as the well organised paired work help in the consolidation of the language. A range of concrete materials is used to emphasise new vocabulary. In the higher classes, there is an emphasis on the development of pupils’ listening skills and conversational pieces are organised for paired work. It is advised that extra chances for communication are created in all classes with extra use of paired work and mini-dramas. The communicative approach should always be used in the creation of effective lessons. It is important to teach specific language and to have three parts to each lesson. It is also advisable not to use translation.

 

There is reasonably good practice in the teaching of reading and lessons are based on the textbooks. A wider range of reading material should be used and a wider variety in teaching approaches is advised to develop reading skills further. Word recognition skills should be taught, along with strategies for  phonics, word-attack and discussion on meaning.

 

In the middle and higher classes, pupils practice functional writing and they regularly write ‘news’. Many lessons are based on the textbooks. It is now advisable to create opportunities for pupils to engage in personal writing on a developmental basis through the school.

 

English

The school plan for English outlines the whole school approach to key aspects of the English programme such as the development of sight vocabulary, spelling, grammar, comprehension and the writing process. This practice is commendable. It is now recommended that this plan be revisited so that other key areas could be included such as phonological awareness, the use of novels and penmanship, and also so that the areas already documented such as the approach to writing, can be reviewed and updated in line with best practice. It is also recommended that a plan be devised to ensure the full implementation and continuous evaluation of policies. This may be overseen by a member of the middle management team.

 

In infant and junior classes, pair work discussion was used to develop oral language skills. This is a commendable approach as pupils are trained at a very early age to work in pairs in order to develop oral language skills. There is good exploration of poetry in junior classes and lessons in poetry are also used effectively to consolidate and develop reading skills. In middle and senior classes, oral work is based on cross-curricular topics and this helps in the development of certain language skills. However, a more focused approach to the development of further specific oral language skills should be now be implemented across the school.

 

Some effective approaches to the teaching of reading were observed during the evaluation. These included the development of word identification skills and emphasis on the development of phonics and phonological awareness. In the infant and junior classes, Letterland was in use for the development of phonics. Pupils have learned many rhymes and such rhymes could form the basis of work in both phonics and phonological awareness.

 

A graded reading scheme is in use throughout the school and novels are introduced in tandem with the reading scheme in middle and senior classes. Some good use and exploration of novels was observed during the evaluation in senior classes. It is recommended that the use of novels should be greatly expanded upon in the school. Paired reading takes place in some classes and this is proving beneficial to the pupils concerned. In most classrooms, pupils have access to a wide variety of reading material and this serves to increase interest in reading. In order to encourage further reading in some classes, copies of the books mentioned in extracts for the class readers are in the class library and pupils are encouraged to read these books.

Pupils in all classes engage in a variety of writing activities. In infants and junior classes, pupils write their daily news and engage in writing tasks in other genres and across the curriculum. Some interesting samples were on display during the evaluation. It is advised that over emphasis on daily news is reviewed as there is need to move beyond this formula and develop more variety and more challenging writing activities. It would be important to stress that such writing activities should be preceded by a strong emphasis on discussion.

 

Some good examples of writing in various genre were noted in middle and senior classes. In some classrooms, examples of this work were attractively on display. During the evaluation a systematic approach to writing was very much in evidence in one classroom. Here, pupils are encouraged to write creatively and imaginatively and are encouraged to share their writing with the class. Further interest is developed by the use of incentives such as competitions in the class to find the best stories written for an assignment. In reviewing the approach to writing in the school, it is recommended that pupils’ independent writing skills in particular should be developed from infants to sixth class. It is recommended that thought be given to the development of a more systematic approach to penmanship and the use of copies throughout the school.

 

 

 

Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative

This school is a participant in the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative, which began initially in the boys’ school but continued in the new school after amalgamation. Classes in French are held once a week for fifth and sixth classes, but as fourth and fifth class are in the same classroom, fourth class pupils also take part. Teachers are very pleased with the progress made by students in the language. Another component of the participation in this programme was a recent visit from a student teacher from France. This teacher spent two weeks in the school and worked in each classroom demonstrating French cooking, teaching songs and helping in project work.

 

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

A positive aspect of the school Mathematics plan is the common approach to mathematical language for the teaching of number operations that has been agreed by the staff. While the implementation of this plan was observed in some classrooms, it should be ensured that these approaches are being adopted by all teachers. During the evaluation, the use of a range of effective methodologies was observed in some classrooms. Lesson content was presented clearly and mathematical language was reinforced appropriately during guided-discussions. Some very good use was made of concrete materials in many classrooms. Children were given opportunities to use manipulatives and engage in active learning in order to build on concept understanding.

In one observed lesson during the WSE, a realistic shopping experience had been devised for the pupils. The SNA helped with this work and in all it proved a very worthwhile experience for the pupils. In another classroom, good used was made of notation boards in teaching the concept of decomposition. There was also evidence of differentiation as more challenging tasks were provided for pupils in the more senior class of a dual class setting. In some classes, children were given opportunities to develop their skills in estimation in a meaningful way. Practice in mental Mathematics and tables games are a feature of some classes and are used to great benefit. This provides an opportunity for regular practice across all strands and strand units and provides pupils with an opportunity to make links between the various concepts that they have grasped.  At infants and junior class level, most of the recorded work in Mathematics is undertaken in the textbooks or workbooks. Very little work is undertaken in copies. It would be advisable from as early an age as possible for pupils to learn how to lay out their work in Mathematics in an independent form and therefore more use of work in copybooks would aid the development of such skill.

 

The challenge for the school in the area of Mathematics is to further extend and develop the examples of good practice mentioned above, and to ensure their systematic implementation in all classrooms. 

 

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

The History plan gives good guidance in the approach to History across the school. Interesting features of local history in the area have been highlighted and divided out appropriately between the classes. Advice is given on the use of suitable approaches including the use of oral evidence, pictures, photographs and the use of artefacts. A number of local history trails are contained in the plan and it was reported that these are used regularly by various classes.

 

Elements of the history programme are taught in all classes. At infant and junior level, there is due emphasis on the personal history of the pupil, story and the sequencing of events. A history textbook is used in middle and senior classes to cover a broad range of topics.

 

In some classes a commendable effort is put into developing the pupils’ sense of time and chronology and time-lines are actively used and referred to. Some teachers have placed praiseworthy emphasis on the use of project work and the study of local history. These elements of best practice observed during the evaluation should be further extended and implemented by all teachers to ensure a continuous, broad and balanced curriculum for the pupils.

 

Geography

The plan for Geography lists and divides the features in the local area to be covered by various classes. Good use is made of the pupils’ local environment as a starting point for many geography lessons. This begins with the school grounds, the local town and the numerous interesting physical features in the locality. Pupils engage in map drawing and studies of physical and human Geography. There is due emphasis on developing a sense of care and respect for the environment. There are close links fostered with the science programme in this area. Some project work is engaged in, particularly focusing on various countries around the world. Pupils demonstrated a good knowledge of facts and figures from these places during discussions. Further use and development of project work should be considered going forward.

 

Science

The children engage in a range of practical activities as part of the science programme. The immediate environment is well utilised and pupils are given opportunities to engage in nature walks and explore and investigate areas of the school grounds and other local features. Some classrooms have interesting investigation tables and pupils have planted seeds and flowers. They demonstrate a keen awareness of environmental issues such as recycling and energy conservation and the recent acquisition of the ‘Green Flag’ demonstrates the level of commitment to this project. Pupils, parents and teachers had an active role in the committee and organised events and activities to raise awareness.

 

In some classes very interesting and worthwhile examples of integration were observed whereby activities in Science and the Visual Arts were combined. The pupils’ planting of sunflower seeds was a springboard for learning about the conditions for growth in plants. The pupils learning in this area was reinforced through visual representation using fabric and fibre collage. This work was on display and provided the pupils with visual stimulus for recalling facts learned. In addition, pupils have created SESE booklets incorporating an integrated approach. The topics covered in these pupil-made booklets can again be easily recalled as the pupils themselves have been instrumental in putting the books together. Overall, the combination of pupils creating their own textbooks and meaningful integration with other subject areas ensure high levels of success in the teaching of SESE in certain classes. In some classes it was noted that certain topics were repeated. It is important to ensure a broad and balanced spiral approach to Science throughout the school.

 

 

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The Visual Arts are well developed in the school. A good supply of resources is provided in the general purpose area of the school. There were some nice displays of pupil’s art work across various strands on display in classrooms. Pupils are also given opportunities to respond to the work of various artists and their interpretations were also on display in both the junior and senior classes.

 

Music

The planning process has begun in the area of Music but teachers are advised to develop this further so that the plan can provide guidance in the implementation of all the strands and strand units. Some teachers prepare carefully for music lessons and provide pupils with opportunities to engage in enjoyable song singing and good performance work with both percussion instruments and tin whistle. Songs in most classes are taught regularly and consistently with great skill and in the junior classes singing is accompanied to great effect by electronic keyboard. This good work is continued in middle/senior classes where pupils engage in focused listening activities. Such lessons were observed during the WSE and both the process of the lessons and the pupils engaging responses were of a high standard. Teachers could now consider the compilation of a list of core songs in both English and Gaeilge that should be taught at each class level. In this way, pupils will have confidence in singing when asked.

 

 

Drama

An external teacher visits the school each week and takes each class for drama lessons. This activity is paid for in full through funding provided by the parents association. Pupils actively participate in these lessons and they are proving beneficial. Some teachers also use drama in their classrooms and integrate it cleverly with other curricular areas. The teaching staff are up-skilling themselves during observation of this external teacher and may feel competent to undertake the full drama programme themselves in due course.

 

 

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

The school is currently developing a plan for Physical Education. Good use is made of the outdoor facilities available to the school and a broad programme of work is undertaken in the area. A good supply of resources is available to teachers and these are stored centrally. The lessons observed during the evaluation were competently organised. There was good emphasis on active participation and skill development and pupil activities promote team and group work.  The school participates in a number of sporting activities and competitions in Gaelic football, hurling, camogie, athletics and soccer. They have had various successes in a number of areas. It was reported that the school receives great support from parents and the local Gaelic Athletic Association(GAA) club in organising these activities. Swimming is organised for classes from second class onwards.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

The school provides a positive climate and atmosphere for pupils and there is a genuine concern for the welfare of all pupils. A two-year plan has been devised by the school to ensure the implementation of a broad and balanced programme in Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) throughout the school. This programme was being followed in many classrooms during the evaluation. A variety of resources are used including Walk Tall and Stay Safe. Important topics such as road safety and personal safety are covered in the programmes in the junior and infants classes. In all classes, pupils are helped to explore feelings and emotions and both topics on self-identity and self-confidence are treated in a considerate manner. Talk and discussion, circle time, story and role play are used effectively to explore many aspects of the SPHE programme and pupils participate actively. The school’s healthy lunch policy as well as the Food Dudes programme have had good success in raising pupil awareness of the value and importance of health and nutrition.

 

4.8 Assessment

 

The development of a plan for assessment is a current priority on the planning diary of the school. A wide variety of assessment modes including formal and informal methods are utilised in the assessment of pupil learning. Informal modes include regular monitoring and correction of pupil work as well as pupil observation. There is also use of teacher designed tests and tasks in various subject areas. Standardised testing is carried out annually in Mathematics and English. The results from these tests are kept centrally and are generally used to select the pupils in need of supplementary teaching. In the development of the assessment policy, consideration should be given to the importance of analysing all assessment data. This analysis should be used to inform planning for certain curricular areas. This would enable review of the effectiveness of particular approaches and provide the necessary information to allow for differentiation of approaches within classrooms.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

A plan for special needs has been devised and this outlines current practices in the school. The special educational needs team is comprised of four teachers. This includes a full time special education teacher, a shared learning support teacher, based in a neighbouring school who spends five hours in the school each week, one part-time resource teacher funded with a grant received under the DEIS programme, and a part-time language support teacher. Members of the team work between two rooms. Two members work in temporary accommodation adjacent to the school, while the other two work in the open common area in the centre of the school. This is a busy area of the school and also acts as the staff room and the entrance to the office. Consideration should be given to the temporary partitioning of this area to reduce the level of distraction to teachers and pupils.  Overall the standard of teaching observed during the evaluation was good and based on the pupils’ learning needs. Content, teaching methods and the range of resources used by the teachers were matched appropriately to the pupils. The work observed during the WSE involved the use of mathematical equipment for teaching particular concepts, work on phonics, word recognition and comprehension skills in English. Appropriate resources are at hand to support lesson plans and files are kept of samples of pupils’ work. Use is also made of ICT.

 

Provision for pupils is organised mainly by withdrawing pupils individually, in pairs and in large groups of up to seven pupils. There is a limited amount of in-class support in the area of Mathematics and phonics at infant level. Currently, class teachers and support teachers collaborate informally. However, it is recommended that the staff of the school should review the current provision for special educational needs. The concept of learning support should be embraced as a whole school approach as opposed to an individualistic, withdrawal based model. The starting point for this should be the adoption of the staged approach to the organisation of special needs in the school as is outlined in DES Circular 02/2005. While the provision for pupils at stage two and three is currently prioritised, it is also important that pupils at stage one be identified. Class teachers should outline how the needs of these pupils are being dealt with within the classroom setting and the type of differentiated approaches that are in use. The current use of the withdrawal model should be complemented with further use of in-class support, in both the areas of prevention and remediation of learning difficulties. In all cases, there should be regular and ongoing communication between support teachers and class teachers so that there is continuity in pupil’s learning.

 

Planning in the area of special educational needs is generally good. Individual Education Plans (IEPs) have been prepared for all pupils and these outline the strengths, the learning needs and the learning targets for pupils. Fortnightly plans are prepared to outline the programme to be followed and a daily record of work completed is maintained. It is now advised that the IEP should be updated regularly to indicate when targets have been reached.

 

 

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

 

The school currently has a total of five international students and language support is provided by two of the part time teachers. Pupils are withdrawn for sessions to aid them in their acquisition of the language and these are proving very beneficial.

 

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:

 

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published, November 2008