An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Limerick East Educate Together National School

Mungret College, Mungret, Limerick

Uimhir rolla: 20175A

 

Date of inspection: 21 October 2009

 

 

 

 

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

Conclusion

School response to the report

 


Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Limerick East Educate Together N.S. was undertaken in October 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Mathematics and History. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Limerick East Educate Together N.S. is a six teacher, mainstream school under the patronage of Educate Together. One teacher on the staff is ex-quota and could be redeployed to another school during the school year. In the interim the board of management has allocated this teacher teaching duties. The school was established in September of 2004 and has, this September, moved to permanent premises in the grounds of Mungret College. Pupil enrolment has increased steadily since its establishment. Pupil attendance is good. At present there are seven mainstream classes in the school with pupils at each class level from junior infants to fifth class. Next year the school should have its full complement of eight mainstream classes.

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

76

Mainstream classes in the school

7

Teachers on the school staff

6

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

2

Special needs assistants

2

Ex- quota teachers

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Limerick East Educate Together School supports the Educate Together Charter upholding the principles of a co-educational, multi-denominational, child-centred, democratically run school with the active participation of parents in its daily life.  The school offers an ethical education programme to all its pupils and in addition to this it enables groups of parents who wish to use the facilities of the school outside of school hours to organise specific doctrinal instruction classes. It strives to meet the individual needs of its pupils and is successful in the creation of a school climate in which the identity of every child is guaranteed active support.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meets on a monthly basis. Minutes of these meetings are recorded. A financial statement is presented at each board meeting and a summary end-of-year financial report is also compiled. It is now recommended that this report be audited on an annual basis. Individually and collectively the board plays an active part in the daily life of the school. Board members are frequent visitors to the school and are involved in the organisation of many school events. This good practice is highly commended. The promotion of equality of opportunity and a sense of fairness is strongly evident in the work of the board. Religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity is recognised, valued and promoted as a positive feature of the school and its community. To date, much of the work of the board has centred on the successful procurement of a more suitable permanent school premises. The present building is suitable for purpose and well resourced. The board plays an active role in the drafting of organisational policies and these are of a good standard. It has outlined a strategic plan in which outstanding plans and policies might be addressed. It is now recommended that, in compliance with the Education Act (1998) Section 9 (k), the school establish and maintain systems whereby the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations can be assessed, including the quality and effectiveness of teaching in the school and the attainment levels and academic standards of pupils. It is further recommended that the board comply with Department of Education circular 0002/2009 relating to the employment and deployment of teachers. This should ensure that all posts are advertised and that ex-quota teachers are assigned duties in keeping with Department guidelines.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team comprises a principal, deputy principal and a special duties teacher. The team works collaboratively in the best interests of the school and its community. The principal provides very effective leadership to the school. She discharges her duties in an effective manner. She has established productive partnerships with the immediate community and she is well acquainted with the pupils and their families. She provides a clear strategic direction based on a vision which takes into account the views and needs of all those with a stake in the life of the school. The deputy principal and the special duties teacher provide valuable support to the principal. Both have been assigned a range of administrative, pastoral and curriculum responsibilities which they discharge effectively and efficiently. The need to keep posts of responsibility under review on a regular basis in line with changing school priorities was discussed during the course of the evaluation.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The school has established very good relationships and communications with the school community. High levels of parental involvement in the work of the school are encouraged. A very active and supportive parents’ association contributes significantly to the effectiveness of the school. Parents participate in a range of classroom activities, in the organising of extra-curricular events, and in activities such as paired reading. They willingly share with the school their interests, expertise and skills. These good practices are highly praised. Regular newsletters keep parents informed of school events and successes. Parent-teacher meetings are held annually and end-of-year school reports are formally issued to parents of pupils from first class. In order to further the good practices observed it is recommended that the board draft a policy in relation to the maintenance of pupil records which should outline what records are maintained and how information compiled on individual pupils might be best communicated to parents.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The management of pupils in this school is highly effective, caring and empathetic. During the evaluation period, the pupils presented as well mannered, confident and co-operative. Their behaviour and social relations show genuine concern for and tolerance of others. The school works collectively to create a climate where mutual trust and respect are actively promoted. Teachers are alert to the emotional, physical and social needs of individual pupils. In keeping with its ethos, the pupil is formally recognised as a participant in the education process and as a valued part of the learning organisation. The student council is well established and meets on a monthly basis. It provides pupils with a voice and consequently, their views can be heard, listened to and acted upon when appropriate. Members of the council say that they appreciate this and are proud of the changes to school life that they have instigated.

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1   Whole-school and classroom planning

The quality of whole-school planning is of a good standard. On its establishment, the school began the process of formulating a whole-school plan. All policies required by legislation have been drafted and ratified by the board with the appropriate involvement of parents. Key aspects of these policies are effectively communicated to parents. It is now recommended that the school draft a policy in relation to Relationship and Sexuality Education (RSE). Curriculum plans have been drafted for many subjects and these plans are of a very good standard. They are reflective of the school context, ethos and pupil needs and they offer good guidance to teachers in relation to the implementation of the Primary School Curriculum (1999).  Plans in the area of Social, Environmental and Scientific Education (SESE), Music, Physical Education and Ethical Education have yet to be developed. The school has outlined a plan to address these areas over the next three school years.

 

Individual teacher planning is presented in the form of long-term and short-term preparation. Timetables are organised to facilitate the implementation of all curriculum areas. Appropriate attention is afforded to linkage and integration between subjects, to assessment modes and to a variety of teaching methodologies and approaches. Some teachers formally plan a differentiated programme for learning to meet the individual needs of pupils in their care. This good practice should be extended to all teachers’ planning. Monthly progress records are maintained by individual teachers. Teacher planning however does not take enough cognisance of those whole-school plans which have been formulated and monthly progress reports are not used to assist in the monitoring of the implementation of the curriculum on a whole-school basis. It is therefore recommended that teachers devise a common approach to planning and reporting which would enable the school to monitor the effective implementation of the curriculum.

 

2.2 Child protection policy and procedures

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.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

English

The quality of teaching in English is of a good to a very good standard and pupil achievement is commensurate with pupil ability. Of particular note is the focus placed in the infant classes on the development of pupils’ emergent language skills in reading, writing and oral work. Good emphasis is placed throughout the school on the development of pupils’ oral language skills. Each teacher has timetabled discrete oral language classes and great care is taken to integrate oral language with other curriculum areas. It is now recommended that specific curriculum objectives be selected around which these discrete lessons might be focused. It is further recommended that an increased number of planned and purposeful opportunities for pupils to work in pairs and small groups be organised so as to provide them with the maximum number of opportunities to use the language they have acquired and to develop their communicative skills and cognitive development.  

 

In the teaching of English reading the teachers utilise a very wide range of methodologies to develop the pupils’ reading skills. Pupils’ sight vocabulary is incrementally developed, they employ a wide range of strategies to enable them to decipher new words and in general, they read selected texts with interest, confidence and growing skill. Pupils’ overall standards and progress in English reading are satisfactory. However, within the multi-class setting there is a wide diversity in pupils’ reading abilities. It is therefore recommended that teachers organise pupils into reading groups and that differentiated levels of work are organised to meet the specific learning needs of these pupils. It is further recommended that the print rich environment of the classrooms and the variety of reading material in the class libraries be further developed to support pupil learning in the area of English reading.

 

All pupils are making steady progress in English writing according to their abilities. Emphasis in the infant and junior standards is placed on correct letter formation and the provision of purposeful opportunities for pupils to write. Pupils in the middle and senior classes express their ideas clearly with appropriate vocabulary and punctuation and they demonstrate a good understanding of the functions of writing. Their copybooks reflect good examples of creative writing, dialogues, lists, letters and poetry. It is now recommended that increased emphasis be placed on the presentation of pupils’ written work and that a wider variety of presentation styles be reflected in the work they undertake not only in English but also in other curriculum areas.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Lessons observed in the teaching of Mathematics were in general, well-structured and paced. Learning outcomes were clearly identified and in some instances these were shared with the pupils. All teachers place an emphasis on the acquisition and consolidation of mathematical language and this practice is praised. Concrete materials and real life experiences are effectively utilised to support pupil learning. Pupils have a clear knowledge and understanding of mathematical concepts which are appropriate to their age, class level and their stage of development. Early mathematical activities are effectively developed in the infant classes. Pupils’ oral and written work reflects a comprehensive knowledge of number facts and memorization strategies. However, an increased emphasis might now be placed on the use of diagrams and illustrations in pupils’ written work. It is recommended that teacher planning and practice place an increased emphasis on the development of pupils’ mathematical skills, particularly the skills of communicating, expressing and applying and problem solving. Increased focus should also be placed on the delivery of a balanced mathematics curriculum where each strand is awarded equal emphasis on a termly basis. A more supportive mathematics rich environment should also be developed within individual classrooms incorporating investigation areas where space permits.

 

3.3 History

Pupils in all classes display a keen interest in History and clearly enjoy their lessons. Class discussions are skilfully managed enabling pupils to play an active part in their learning. Pupils’ contributions, opinions and questions are welcomed and valued and result in enhancing the learning experiences provided for them. Good lessons were observed in which the pupils were facilitated to investigate and examine significant events in the past of their families and the histories of people in other parts of the world. The teachers had prepared a wide range of resources including fact files, photographs, timelines and stories to support pupil learning. When questioned, the pupils displayed a comprehensive knowledge of the lessons taught and a keen sense of empathy with the lives and experiences of peoples in the past. However there remain significant areas of the History curriculum which are in need of development. As yet, the school has not devised a whole-school History plan and this has resulted in an over-reliance on commercial texts to determine the content of lessons. The school’s recent move to new premises has militated against the development of a comprehensive local history programme. A means through which the systematic development of skills and concepts associated with the History curriculum might be developed has not yet been identified. A bank of resources, which would support learning and teaching in History, has not been compiled. Furthermore supportive learning environments and the display of timelines should be created in all classrooms to enable pupils to develop their sense of time and chronology. It is now recommended that the school, in devising a whole-school History plan, should address these elements of the History curriculum in order to ensure that the pupils experience a broader, more balanced and meaningful education in History.

 

3.4 Assessment

The quality of assessment of pupil progress across the curriculum areas is good. Standardised tests are administered to all pupils from first to fifth class. The results of these are compiled on an annual basis to provide an individual profile of pupil progress in literacy and numeracy. This good practice is highly commended. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is administered to infants in their fifth term of school. A wide and comprehensive range of diagnostic tests are utilised to identify the specific difficulties of those pupils identified as in need of support. The results of these tests are effectively communicated to parents and data generated are used to devise very high quality individual education plans (IEPs) for pupils. These good practices are commended. It is reported that individual teachers utilise a wide range of assessment modes to monitor pupil progress in the various subject areas. These include the compilation of individual pupil profiles and portfolios and the use of rubrics, self and peer assessment and checklists. During the evaluation period teachers were observed to give good and timely feedback to pupils. Pupils’ written work is frequently monitored and the good practice of writing evaluative comments which outline why pupil work is good and how it might be improved was noted. Weekly spelling and tables’ tests are administered and lesson consolidation was of a good standard. While the area of assessment is addressed in the curriculum plans which have been drafted it is now recommended that the school devise a policy which outlines why and how pupil progress is to be assessed across the curriculum and which is reflective of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) guidelines for schools Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The quality of provision for pupils with learning needs and special educational needs is of a very high standard. The manner in which the IEPs are devised is of particular note. Using all available data and in consultation with parents these plans outline very specific learning objectives which address the identified needs of the individual pupil and which take due cognisance of the recommendations contained in reports compiled by relevant professional and the support agencies. The lessons observed were of a very high standard. Activities were organised which appealed to the learning styles of the pupils, which were highly focused and which actively engaged the pupils. Concrete materials and teacher designed resources are very effectively employed to support pupil learning. Information and communication technologies (ICT) is utilised to good effect and pupils are encouraged to set their own learning targets.  Early intervention programmes are organised in the infant and junior classes in the areas of literacy and numeracy.  Detailed records of pupils’ progress are maintained and reported to parents. It is evident that all pupils are making very good progress in their learning commensurate with their abilities.

 

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

It is clearly evident that the school makes very good provision for pupils from disadvantaged and minority groups. In keeping with its ethos, the school is alert to the emotional, physical and social needs of individual pupils. The promotion of equality of opportunity and participation is strongly evident in the work of this school. A temporary teacher of English as an additional language provides support for 17 pupils. Through a combination of individual and group withdrawal of pupils and in-class support she addresses the language learning needs of these pupils and works co-operatively with the class teachers.

 

 

5.     Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published, February 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 


Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

We are pleased to see your comments on the close collaboration between management and staff in the school.

 

We note that you observed the positive atmosphere and collective responsibility for the provision of quality learning experiences for the pupils.

 

Finally we are heartened by your comments on the quality of teaching and learning observed during visit to the school.

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

We have already begun work on our R.S.E. policy in the form of collaboration between staff, parents and the Board of Management of the school. This policy will be completed by June 2010.

 

Record keeping and assessment have been considered by the staff and plans on same will be completed by December 2010.

 

The staff is engaged in ongoing work on outstanding curricular plans. A timeframe has been agreed and curricular plans will be in place for all subject areas by 2012.

 

In future the use of group teaching in English Reading will be noted in teachers’ short-term plans as per the reports recommendations.

 

We have noted your remarks on Oral Language and staff will link discrete lesson plans with curricular objectives henceforth.