An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Galvone National School
Kennedy Park, Limerick
Uimhir rolla: 20184 B
Date of inspection: 05 March 2009
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Galvone National School, Kennedy Park, Limerick. 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, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Galvone National School is a twenty-teacher school situated in the Southill area of Limerick city. The school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Limerick and is part of the Delivering Equality of Opportunity In Schools (DEIS) Initiative (Band 1 – Urban). Specifically, additional supports have been allocated to this school to support the school’s endeavours in strengthening early education and to support its efforts towards improving the literacy and numeracy standards of its pupils. Under the DEIS Initiative, it is anticipated that the school would place sustained emphasis on the involvement of parents, family members and the community in the pupils’ education. It is also anticipated that the school would work in collaboration with external bodies to enhance attendance, educational progression, retention and attainment in the school.
Galvone National School also receives additional resources under the Early Start project, the School Completion Programme and other Department of Education and Science initiatives to tackle educational disadvantage. It is a co-educational school and it draws from the immediate catchment area of Southill. Pupils who attend Galvone National School reside in the surrounding housing estates of Janesboro, Rathbane, Kennedy Park, Glasgow Park, Kincora Park, Carew Park, Keyes Park and O’Malley Park. Pupils from the Travelling community also attend the school and there are three newcomer pupils in the school at present. On 30 September 2008, there was a total of 137 pupils enrolled in Galvone National School.
School attendance records are conscientiously maintained and the Educational Welfare Board is notified of prolonged absences in accordance with the terms of the Education (Welfare Act) 2002. Many of the pupils have a fractured and discontinuous engagement with education. As a result, these pupils are not achieving to their full potential. The school is commended on the initiatives it has engaged in to date and it is recommended that it further engage with parents to improve attendance rates.
The school’s Mission Statement is reflective of the characteristic spirit and vision of the school. It was evident during the evaluation that there is an awareness of the school’s philosophy and a concern for the welfare of the pupils among the teaching staff and the general school community. This characteristic spirit is outlined in school documentation as follows:
‘Galvone National School values the uniqueness of each individual within a caring school community. We strive to cultivate relationships based on mutual respect. We encourage each child to become a kind, considerate and respectful person and responsible member of community. We endeavour to create an environment where all children are cherished equally and encouraged to reach their full potential.’
The school strives to promote the values of ‘…respect, friendship, kindness, courage, confidence, responsibility, honesty, self-discipline and happiness’ among the pupils. The school’s motto is also reflective of the characteristic spirit and vision of the school, emphasising the values of respect, kindness and building the ‘child’s self-confidence through affirmation and encouragement.’
The board of management in Galvone National School is properly constituted and is supportive of all school-related activities. It convenes on a monthly basis and it endeavours to comply with statutory requirements. Board members stated that concern for the welfare of the pupils, the review of school policies and the management of finances were among the most commonly-raised issues at board meetings. Procedures are in place for monthly reporting to the board regarding the school’s financial status, while accounts are also certified annually. An overall maintenance plan is also being developed which focuses on the upgrading of the school’s internal accommodation facilities. These features of good practice are commended.
The main priorities of the board of management are directed at implementing appropriate intervention measures towards the development of pupils’ life skills and providing a safe, secure environment for pupils within the general school environment. The board reported that it was satisfied with the manner in which the curriculum is taught in the school. The positive school climate, the happiness of the pupils, the school’s work ethos, the level of parental and community involvement and the quality of support for individual pupil needs were cited, by board members, as strengths of the school. It was also reported that the acting principal provided “great motivation” to the teaching staff, that pupils demonstrated energy for learning and that the whole school community worked together in a collaborative manner.
Many of the pupils who are enrolled in Early Start do not subsequently transfer to the mainstream settings in Galvone National School. To ensure that the benefits of the existing very good Early Start provision within the school are not dissipated, it is advised that the classes for pupils from three to seven years of age be prioritised as a distinctive key element in their own right, within the overall structure of the school.
The board should now oversee the development of a strategic plan to ensure that transitions through the early years’ settings in the school will be managed so that they occur in a seamless, effective manner for the pupils. At present, the Early Start setting is located separately from the Junior and Senior Infant classrooms. Every effort should be made in the future to locate pupils in their early years in adjacent classrooms.
The main focus of the board’s activity should be clearly and explicitly placed on ensuring that this school makes a measurable impact on standards of literacy, numeracy and well-being among the pupils.
It would, therefore, be entirely appropriate for this board to devote a large proportion of its time to supporting the development of in-school structures and processes which will focus on ongoing self-evaluation and school improvement. It is now recommended that the board should frequently reiterate its commitment to improving standards of attainment.
The board should seek an updated report from the principal at each board meeting on the progress of literacy and numeracy attainment. The board should organise for each post-holder to submit a plan for the implementation of their responsibilities and it should also seek an annual report on the outcomes of this implementation process. It is further advised that the board ensures that the remits of post-holders clearly focus on policy making, implementation and evaluation of curricular areas.
It is also recommended that the board undertakes a review of the school’s Enrolment Policy, pertaining to the enrolment of pupils with special educational needs, to ensure that statutory obligations pertaining to the Education Act (1998) and the Equal Status Acts (2000-2004) are fulfilled.
The in-school management team in Galvone National School comprises the acting administrative principal, the acting deputy principal and ten special duties post-holders.
As the principal recently assumed leadership of the school in an acting capacity in September 2008, she is currently defining and establishing this role in the school. She already possesses a deep knowledge of and interest in the school community. She motivates many members of the staff and has established a high level of ethical and personal credibility. The acting principal exemplifies professional standards and sets high expectations for pupils in their daily routines. She has established a favourable work climate and continues to nurture a positive school climate and very good working relationships among the staff.
The acting principal leads the whole-school planning process. Priorities for development have been identified. The in-school management team, together with the DEIS advisor, have engaged in formal action planning. Curriculum leadership is at an early stage of development in this school.
The acting principal’s work in leading and managing the in-school management team is effective. She is endeavouring to promote a culture of team work and members of staff are encouraged to undertake leadership roles to bring about school improvement.
While it is evident that the in-school management team’s organisational functions have been clearly defined, most of the post-holders’ roles are not clearly linked to the school’s priorities or targets. Members of the in-school management team meet regularly and the management team is beginning to self-evaluate in some areas of the curriculum. This is particularly evident in the areas of literacy and numeracy. As a result of this review process, pupils are banded for instruction on the basis of their attainment on standardised tests in English and Mathematics in some classes. It is now advised that self-evaluation of this nature be embedded in the school’s culture.
While organisational changes in class structures have been implemented with a view to improving outcomes in literacy and numeracy, curriculum leadership in these areas requires clear vision and purpose. A shared understanding of what constitutes good practice should be further developed among the in-school management team.
Considering the vital importance of the early years, already clearly recognised in DEIS documentation, it is recommended that a post-holder be allocated over-arching responsibility for co-ordination of teaching and learning in the early years.
Improving learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy have been identified as the school’s main priority by the members of the in-school management team who reviewed the DEIS plan in the school. While the school has one teacher functioning as a Reading Recovery teacher, additional personnel should be trained as Reading Recovery and Maths Recovery teachers and resources should now be targeted at improving pupil outcomes in literacy and numeracy.
The resources, both personnel and material, are employed appropriately in this school. There are twenty members on the teaching staff. This comprises the acting administrative principal, nine mainstream class teachers and ten teachers who work in a support capacity. The special needs team consists of three learning support/resource teachers (LSRT), two resource teachers for pupils with special educational needs, two special class teachers for pupils with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and a resource teacher for Travellers (RTT), who is shared with another school. There is also a Home-School-Community-Liaison (HSCL) teacher and a teacher employed to cater for the needs of the pupils in the Early Start initiative. During the course of this evaluation, English language support for three newcomer pupils for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL), was made available through the provision of part-time teaching hours by Limerick Vocational Education Committee (VEC).
Five full time special needs assistants (SNAs) are appointed to assist pupils with special educational needs. One child-care assistant caters for the needs of pupils, as appropriate, in the Early Start initiative. The secretary provides valuable administrative support to the principal and the staff. The school grounds, environs and internal accommodation are well-maintained by the caretaking and cleaning personnel. Members of the school’s ancillary staff are commended for the valuable contribution they make to the work of the school.
The school building provides a safe and attractive environment for pupils and parents. All available accommodation is used effectively to meet the curricular and physical needs of the children. Appropriate space is provided for mainstream classes, support classes, staff, storage, display of pupils’ work and extra-curricular provision. The board of management has an ongoing plan to maintain the school building and grounds.
In general, a limited range of resources was observed in use for learning and teaching with the exception of the infant and early start classes, where a wide range of concrete materials was used to support the learning and teaching effectively. In some instances, other mainstream classes were under-resourced and this could restrict several aspects of the work. Information and communication technologies (ICT) resources are available for use in a separate classroom. While the standard of equipment available in the computer room was of a high specification, very little use of these resources by the pupils was observed during the evaluation period.
It is evident that close relationships between home and school have been established in Galvone National School. A commitment to ensuring the meaningful engagement of parents in the life of the school is apparent, while a policy on Home School Community Liaison is also included in school planning documentation.
The parents’ association was re-established in this school in April 2008 and is instrumental in the organisation of fundraising activities, events and school performances. These activities have, in the recent past, included attendance at the Irish Chamber Orchestra’s Music Performance, the organisation of Coffee Mornings, a Soccerthon and other sporting events including Sports Days, dancing, golf, and swimming activities. The parents’ association reports that it facilitates communication with the broader school community and the general parent body. Meetings of the Parents’ Association in Galvone National School are convened on a weekly basis.
It is reported that members of the parents’ association in this school have availed of training from the National Parents’ Council (NPC) and that parents have an awareness of the school planning process. It is also reported that they have engaged in the development of the school’s policy on Bullying, Homework and Life Skills. Parents’ representatives stated that individual parents have an involvement in the development of Individual Education Plan (IEP) for their children, as appropriate. Parents also contribute to curricular initiatives including the One Book - One Southill project, Shared Reading schemes, and the Maths for Fun programme and after-school computer skills training.
The parents’ representatives further outlined that parents feel well-informed about the life of the school and that parent-teacher meetings are convened on an annual basis. It was stated that school reports on pupil progress are issued and that teachers are ‘very approachable’. Parents also report that parental concerns are dealt with appropriately and that the level of support provided to cater for pupils’ needs is very good.
The acting principal fosters a school climate which treats all pupils with respect, fairness and equality. In general, pupils co-operate with the school’s rules, code of behaviour and initiatives to prevent bullying. Many pupils are eager and motivated in their learning. On occasion, a number of pupils do not contribute fully to classroom activities and school life and efforts to motivate these children to learn can present a challenge to teachers in their work.
Opportunities are provided for pupils to develop their self esteem, responsibility and intrinsic motivation. The pastoral needs of the pupils, including those with specific learning, emotional, behavioural or social needs are managed very effectively and pupils’ holistic development is nurtured.
The quality of the organisational aspects of whole-school planning is very good. The board of management, the acting principal, the teaching staff and the parents have all been engaged to varying degrees in the development of the school plan. Co-ordination of the development of the school plan has been assigned to post-holders. The acting principal leads the whole-school planning process, the development of this process is managed collaboratively and it is evident that very comprehensive documentation for the organisation of the school has been devised.
The school plan includes approximately thirty-nine policy statements which deal with specific organisational areas and which are reflective of the school context. Policies are signed by the chairperson of the board of management, and in some instances, by parent representatives, as appropriate. Measures have also been undertaken to ensure that all teachers have a copy of the school plan. These features of good practice are commended.
Policies for all eleven areas of the curriculum have also been very comprehensively devised. The quality of these curricular plans is good. These plans are formulated in a structured manner and are generally reflective of the principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999).
Further attention needs to be given to the implementation of the whole-school plans. The principal, together with the in-school management team, should review the implementation of policies in literacy and numeracy to ensure that agreed practices and approaches are implemented consistently at each class level. This will involve the staff reviewing their practices regularly, generating evidence on teaching approaches and pupils’ outcomes, and self-evaluating the effectiveness of the plans. To ensure that whole-school plans are enacted at class level, the staff should align teachers’ classroom planning with the school plan. The identification of learning outcomes for literacy and numeracy on a weekly basis would assist the staff in monitoring the progress of pupils and the effectiveness of the teaching approaches employed.
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.
All teachers presented classroom planning in accordance with Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools. However, there is scope for development in the area of individual teacher planning at mainstream class level. At present, variation occurs in the structure of this planning, which in some cases is based on a traditional commercial framework and in other instances features a combined short term and monthly progress record. It is recommended that an approach to short-term planning be devised, which would be fundamentally based on meeting identifiable pupil needs in the particular context of this school and which would assist in the tracking of progress towards meeting these needs.
The identification of agreed learning outcomes should be prioritised and shared among mainstream class teachers and support teachers. There is, therefore, an urgent need to draw up an agreed, common template for short-term planning which will be primarily focused on identifiable short-term learning outcomes.
Planning for differentiation requires further development at all class levels. Teachers’ short-term planning in literacy and numeracy should be appropriately modified to take account of the needs of pupils who present with learning difficulties or who are following individualised educational programmes.
There is also scope for development in planning for assessment. Ongoing observation of pupils by teaching and support personnel as recommended in Assessment in the Primary School Curriculum: Guidelines for Schools (NCCA, 2007; p.46), should become a key component of delivery of the curriculum. Records of these observations should feed into structured monthly records on pupil progress.
In summary, future short-term planning templates and monthly progress records should become key instruments for gathering evidence and identifying where pupils are in their learning, where they should be going in their learning and for identifying how they will get to the next point in their learning.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
In general, classroom interactions are positive and commendable efforts are made to establish a good rapport between pupils and teachers in both mainstream and support settings. Strong and supportive relationships exist, pupils’ self-esteem is promoted and their efforts are affirmed and valued. During the lessons observed, pupils, in most classes, were interested, engaged and enthusiastic about their learning. However, a significant cohort of pupils continues to underachieve in literacy and numeracy.
In the Early Start and infant class settings, very good team work was observed between teachers and support personnel. Teachers displayed empathy with their pupils, familiarity with the pupils’ home backgrounds, knowledge of the curriculum and the capability to deliver lessons using age-appropriate play-based methodologies and resources. The work is generally well integrated and suitable thematic approaches are adopted. Group teaching and whole-class teaching occurs. Instances of shared sustained thinking between teacher and pupil were recorded, as were well-timed interventions aimed at moving pupils to the next stage of development. A very good range of material resources is used to support the teaching of the various curricular areas. Although smaller than average in dimensions, every effort has been made to ensue that the physical environment of the classrooms is attractive and stimulating for learning and teaching.
It should be ensured that the very good aspects of the existing Early Start approach should continue or be replicated in the infant classes. These aspects include flexible timetabling of activities, an age-appropriate focus on play, sustained shared thinking occurring during the interaction between adults and small groups of children and close observation by these adults of the approaches to learning adopted by the pupils.
It is evident at infant class level, that the pupils enrolled have a wide variety of learning styles and learning needs. At present, the teachers in the infant classes initiate their very good practice with a new cohort of pupils who present with extremely varied levels of attainment. While teaching styles are varied and skilled at present, there is a need to match the teaching approaches with the learning needs of the pupils to a greater extent. To achieve this purpose, it is recommended that the lessons be delivered predominantly in small group situations. It will be important to ensure that play-based approaches will be adopted, thereby giving greater scope to the teachers to intervene and to suggest the next step in learning in an age appropriate manner.
To ensure consistency and cohesion in pupils’ learning experiences, it is vital that additional learning support be given to pupils within the context of their own classroom, where practicable. In the future, the occasional interruptions which occur at present in the dynamic of the classrooms due to the arrival or departure of pupils who are in receipt of additional support teaching should be avoided.
During the course of the evaluation, it was evident that the teaching staff displayed a concern for pupil welfare. In most settings throughout the school, well-organised, print-rich learning environments were created. In general, very good pupil behaviour was observed and pupil application to tasks and behaviour was managed productively. In some classes at junior, middle and senior class level, there was an appropriate balance between teacher-directed activity and the promotion of active discovery, participative methodologies, collaborative tasks and pair work.
It is now important to ensure that these features of good practice are extended to all class levels and that a balance in teaching approaches is addressed. In some classes at junior, middle and senior class level, there is an over-reliance on the use of the textbook and there is a lack of challenging learning experiences provided for the pupils. Differentiated teaching strategies and activities should now be further developed and implemented to ensure that teaching and learning experiences are tailored to individual pupil need, as appropriate. Emphasis should also be placed on expanding pupils’ higher order thinking skills and on the further development of pupils’ language, literacy and numeracy skills across the curriculum. Frequent revision, consolidation and reinforcement of concepts should also be ensured. The practice of collaboration between mainstream and support teachers through in-class interventions and models of support should also be further extended throughout all class levels in the school.
Tá cáipéisíocht chuimsitheach, struchtúrtha léirithe sa phlean scoile i leith polasaí na Gaeilge. Feictear go bhfuil clár teagaisc córasach, céimniúil á soláthar, ina léirítear na cuspóirí atá le sroichint i snáitheanna éagsúla an churaclaim ar fud na scoile. Leagtar béim sa phlean seo, chomh maith, ar an gcur chuige cumarsáideach. Déantar trácht faoi leith do na tréimhsí cumarsáide; na feidhmeanna teanga; snáitheanna an churaclaim; comhtháthú na snáitheanna; na téamaí; na straitéisí agus na modhanna múinte; an Ghaeilge neamhfhoirmiúil; an phleanáil; na háiseanna; éagsúlacht chumais; comhtháthú le hábhair eile; measúnú; obair bhaile; forbairt foirne; tuismitheoirí agus an Ghaeilge; comhionannas; cur-i-bhfeidhm an phlean; athbhreithniú; daingniú agus cumarsáid.
I ranganna áirithe, feictear go bhfuil tuiscint chóir ag na daltaí ar ábhar an cheachta agus go múintear foclóir cuí dóibh atá in oiriúint dá gcuid taithí. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar mhéan teagaisc i rith na geachtanna sa Ghaeilge agus baintear feidhm thorthúil as áiseanna an ríomhaire chun tacú le léiriú an cheachta.
I ranganna áirithe eile, áfach, tuigtear go bhfuil dúshlán ag baint le heaspa suime na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge. Is léir ag leibhéal na méanranganna agus na n-ardranganna go bhfuil foclóir Gaeilge na ndaltaí teoranta agus go bhfuil scileanna laga cumarsáide ina seilbh.
Moltar, mar sin, go mbaintear feidhm as éagsúlacht leathan modhanna teagaisc i ngach rang chun scileanna cumarsáide na ndaltaí a fhorbairt agus chun a gcuid spéise in ábhar an cheachta a mhúscailt. Is fiú go mór, mar shampla, obair-i-bpéirí, gníomhaíochtaí ról-ghlacaidh agus fearas léirithe spreagúil a úsáid go laethúil chun ceachtanna a chur i láthair. Ba chóir a chinntiú freisin go bhfuil cnuasach leathan scéalta, dánta agus amhránaíochta Ghaeilge á foghlaim agus ar eolas ag na daltaí. Is fiú freisin, tabhairt faoi ghnéithe d’ábhair eile an churaclaim a mhúineadh trí mhéan na Gaeilge.
Sa léitheoireacht, moltar scileanna léitheoireachta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt go foirmiúil trí thimpeallachtaí saibhir-i-bprionta na Gaeilge a sholáthar tríd an scoil, trí straitéisí focal-bhriseadh a chur chun cinn, trí anailís a dhéanamh ar fhocail agus trí scileanna fóineolaíochta na ndaltaí a leathnú. Is fiú machnamh a dhéanamh freisin ar úsáid níos forleithne a bhaint as áiseanna an ríomhaire chun próiseas na scríbhneoireachta a fhorbairt, chun tacú leis an scríbhneoireacht phearsanta agus chun saothar scríofa na ndaltaí sa Ghaeilge a fhoilsiú agus a thaispeáint.
Tá sé rí-thábhachtach go gcinntítear cur-i-bhfeidhm na dtrí tréimhse cumarsáide i ngach ceacht Gaeilge. Moltar deiseanna rialta labhartha a thabhairt do na daltaí agus a chinntiú go gcuirtear ar a gcumas an Ghaeilge atá ar eolas acu a chleachtadh i suímh fíor-chumarsáideacha agus i gcomhthéacsanna éagsúla go minic. Ba chóir a chinntiú, freisin, go ndéantar daingniú agus dul siar rialta ar ábhar atá múinte agus foghlamtha cheana féin ag na daltaí.
Comprehensive, structured documentation is presented in the school plan regarding the school’s policy in Irish. It is apparent that a systematic, progressive teaching programme is presented, where the objectives to be attained in the various strands of the curriculum throughout the school are detailed. Emphasis is also placed, in this plan, on the communicative approach. Particular reference is made to the phases of communication; the language functions; curricular strands; integration of the strands; themes; strategies and methodologies; informal Irish; planning; resources; differences in ability; integration with other curricular areas, assessment, homework, staff development; parents and Irish; equality; implementation of the plan; review; reinforcement and communication.
In some classes, it is evident that pupils have an appropriate understanding of the content of the lesson and that relevant vocabulary is taught to them which is suitable to their experience. Irish is used as the language of instruction during lessons in Irish and productive use is made of computer resources to support lesson presentation.
It is acknowledged that, in other classes however, the pupils’ lack of interest in Irish can present a challenge. At middle and senior class level, it is evident that pupils have a restricted range of vocabulary and that they possess poor communicative skills.
It is recommended, therefore, that a wider variety of methodologies be implemented in every class so that pupils’ skills of communication are developed and that their interest in the language is encouraged. It is worthwhile, for example, ensuring that pair-work, role-play activity and attractive illustrative material is used on a daily basis to present lessons. It should be further ensured that a broad repertoire of Irish stories, poems and songs is learned and is known by the pupils. Consideration should also be given to teaching another aspect of the curriculum through the medium of Irish.
In reading, it is advised that pupils’ reading skills are formally developed through the provision of a print-rich environment in Irish throughout the school, through the promotion of word-attack strategies, through undertaking regular word analysis activities and through the expansion of phonological skills. It should also be ensured that further use is made of computer resources to develop the process approach to writing, to support personal writing, and to publish and display pupils’ written work in Irish.
It is very important to ensure that the three phases of communication are implemented in every Irish lesson. It is recommended that frequent oral language opportunities be given to pupils and it should be ensured that they are enabled to practise the Irish they have learned in authentic situations and in various contexts on a frequent basis. It should also be ensured that regular consolidation and revision is undertaken of content previously taught to and learned by the pupils.
The school plan for English has recently been developed and was ratified in February 2009. Very useful work has been undertaken in outlining how the strand units within the strands of the English will be implemented in the main combinations of standards. The appendices to this document outline very clearly how practical aspects underpinning the English curriculum such as the teaching of phonics, the use of textbooks and the emphasis on grammar will be implemented throughout the school.
While the work already undertaken in drawing up the plan deserves affirmation, the policy focus of the current plan should now be augmented. Particular consideration should be given to the specific language needs of the pupils in this school. The trigger questions provided in the support services prompt documentation should be used systematically to ensure that policy formulation occurs and is documented. Particular aspects upon which specific policy is required are the teaching of language in the early years and identification of the means by which teachers will plan and track progress from week to week and month to month. A major expansion of the section on assessment in English should now be facilitated.
In terms of delivery of the oral language curriculum, whole-class teaching approaches will not meet the language needs of individual children. Approaches to delivery of the oral language curriculum therefore will need to incorporate adult/child interaction in small group situations. Strategies should be structured to work on existing language strengths as well as compensating for language deficits. The school should draw up its own programme in this regard based on the objectives of the oral language curriculum.
The fact that good resources have been provided for the teaching of oral language is acknowledged. While there is also a general consciousness of the importance of developing oral language, there is a need now to clarify and focus on specific outcomes and to explicitly extend the children’s thinking skills and the emotional and imaginative responses of the pupils. There is a need to document progress in oral language development using tools such as the Drumcondra English Profiles.
The quality of teaching in English ranged from satisfactory to good and a small number of very good lessons were observed. Overall there is scope for improvement in the approaches adopted.
There is a need to allocate specific daily uninterrupted teaching time for the teaching of literacy. In line with the findings of the Educational Research Centre (ERC) in its report Reading Literacy in Disadvantaged Primary Schools (2004), it is recommended that at least ninety minutes per day be allocated to the classroom teaching of English in schools with high levels of disadvantage and low levels of achievement.
The banding approach to the teaching of English reading which was recently adopted at particular class levels constitutes a strategy aimed at maximising teaching time through differentiation. The rationale and approaches underpinning this co-ordinated timetabling of the teaching of English should be extended. These decisions should become the starting point for collaborative planning for English at class level. Each class teacher should outline in their long-term planning how whole-school approaches will be implemented in the standard for which they are responsible. Strategies such as Literacy Lift-Off should be implemented collaboratively with the support teaching team at all class levels. The provision of a wide range of parallel readers will be necessary to facilitate this approach. The use of a range of reading materials, including parallel readers, novels, high interest-low ability texts, should be further promoted and the over-emphasis on the class reader as a basis for reading lessons should be de-emphasised. The reading material in use should be extended to involve non-fiction and the use of ICT. A greater amount of independent reading should also be facilitated. The whole school approach to exploring the novel The Ice Man by Tom Crean was reported to be a very worthwhile initiative. A number of classes have begun to engage with class novels and this practice is to be commended.
It is recommended that the good practice already adopted particularly in the early years and the approaches to differentiation which have been initiated in the middle and senior classes should now be extended. The positive influence of the structured focus at whole-school level on the teaching of phonics is acknowledged. However to ensure improvement in individual attainment in reading and writing, classroom management arrangements for the teaching of English need to be more varied and flexible.
Support teachers and class teachers should work collaboratively in supporting children with reading difficulties. Teaching time should be focused on teaching reading strategies and on the maintenance of running records. Pupils should have opportunities to read new texts and to read familiar texts on a daily basis. Pupils should be taught how to respond to a text at a variety of levels. Further attention needs to be given to developing pupils’ cognitive responses and emotional and imaginative responses to different texts. It is recommended that teachers engage with the First Steps Reading initiative. Group work in the senior classes should involve the examination of and response to the author’s choice of language, characterisation and punctuation. There is a need to involve the pupils in this focus on improvement and to celebrate short-term progress. Ongoing observation and informal recording by the teachers should focus on monitoring the pupils’ abilities to express feelings and reactions to characters and to formulate and articulate imaginative ideas in response to story and poetry.
The development of the writing programme has been positively influenced by the introduction of the First Steps Writing programme. Some good examples of process writing were observed. The conventions of grammar are appropriately taught as they arise in the context of the oral, reading and writing work.
The quality of the whole school planning documentation in Mathematics is good. The curricular policy is organised under the following headings: strands, strand units, approaches and methodologies, assessment and record keeping, children with different needs and equality of participation and access. The documentation outlines each class plan in the following manner: strand, strand units, content/learning objectives and the resources to be used during teaching and learning. Long-term planning provided by most teachers was good. In some cases, classroom teaching and learning was mediated through clearly-delineated objectives in the short-term planning documentation presented. This practice is commendable.
In the early years, very good lessons in Mathematics were observed. Charts and concrete materials were used effectively and the lessons were well-paced and appropriate to the learning needs of the pupils. In many cases, the lessons were based on the prior knowledge of pupils.
Mathematics-rich environments were in evidence in some classrooms. Concrete materials were also in use in some classes. In some contexts, there was appropriate emphasis on oral work and problem solving in Mathematics and where this practice was observed, appropriate challenges were provided for the pupils. In some classes, active learning, appropriate use of resources and teacher-devised worksheets were used to support learning.
The emphasis on mathematical language was a feature of good practice in most classes. Some differentiation and use of mathematical trails enabled pupils to engage with mathematical concepts in the immediate environment. Good revision of basic number facts was observed in most classes. In general, pupils were engaged in their learning and responded well to the activities organised by the class teachers.
During the evaluation period, high quality interaction which enabled pupils to progress was observed between teachers and pupils in some classes. In this regard, teachers exhibited very good questioning skills which supported pupils’ higher order thinking skills. Oral problem solving and problem-of-the-week activities were implemented appropriately in many of the classes observed. This good practice is commended and should be extended and implemented consistently in all classes.
Despite the good practice observed during the evaluation period, a significant minority of pupils continue to experience significant difficulties in Mathematics. There is a need to ensure that a differentiated curriculum is delivered in all classes that is suitable to the learning needs of the pupils. The structured and co-ordinated approach to support teaching and learning in senior classes provides a model of effective practice for other class levels. There is a need for the development of pupil work in smaller groups, collaborative work and structured tasks to facilitate group and independent work. Formative assessment and tracking of pupil progress in respect of concept acquisition, problem solving skills and knowledge attained should be undertaken on a weekly basis.
A detailed and very comprehensive plan is presented, pertaining to the school’s curricular policy in History, which is specific to the school context. A systematic programme of work from infant to sixth class level is detailed, while inventories of appropriate resource material and relevant websites are also clearly documented. Emphasis is placed on local studies, the history of the immediate locality and various city landmarks. Community links are also highlighted, while skills development, methodologies, organisational planning, equality of participation and access, are among other areas to which reference is also made.
During the course of the evaluation, the use of story and sequencing were observed in History lessons. In some mainstream classrooms, attention was paid to developing pupil knowledge of local studies and to integrating this work with other areas of the curriculum. Timelines and interest centres dedicated to the specific area of History were also displayed in some classrooms.
In other classrooms, however, lessons in History were predominantly textbook-based and there was little evidence of pupils’ familiarity with collaborative work. It is now important to ensure that attention is paid to extending the implementation of active teaching strategies and collaborative methodologies throughout all classes in the school. Poor pupil response and recall of work previously completed was also apparent in some classes. It should be ensured, therefore, that regular revision and consolidation of topics be undertaken and that frequent opportunities be availed of to further develop pupils’ language skills in a cross-curricular manner. While some samples of pupils’ work in History were attractively displayed in the school’s corridors, it is now advised that pupils’ involvement in project work be extended and that samples of this work be celebrated in their immediate learning environments.
The quality of teaching and learning in Geography is good. The quality of the whole-school plan is good and it is evident that the plan incorporates experiences in Geography which are relevant to the school context. In the infant classes, exploration of the school grounds is undertaken and good emphasis is placed on observation skills. Pupils in middle and senior classes exhibit a good knowledge of the local environment. This knowledge has been extended and pupils also display competence in their knowledge of the geography of County Limerick and the county towns.
In classrooms where the teaching of Geography was observed during the course of the evaluation, lessons were well paced and teachers displayed good questioning techniques while interacting with pupils. Good illustrative materials, including local and national maps, were used by the teachers to consolidate the children’s learning. When the opportunity arose, teachers integrated the teaching of Geography and History very effectively. In general, the teaching in Geography was teacher-directed, but pupils were provided with opportunities to interact with their peers through class-based discussions. There was evidence of project work in most classes and it is reported that, in the future, field-trips are planned for pupils at middle and senior class level. Displays of local landmarks were in evidence in some public areas and the pupils were very willing to engage and to share their knowledge in this regard.
The teachers provide appropriate planning for the teaching of Science. The programme planned provides satisfactory coverage of the strands of the Science curriculum. Activities are chosen and structured to stimulate pupils’ interest and curiosity. The school provides supplies of appropriate resources for the Science programme. Lessons observed show that the equipment is well used to develop the appropriate skills and concepts. The pupils hypothesise before experiments, plan and test out ideas and use the available apparatus well. Wide discussion work takes place in the course of the lesson and pupils are able to describe the findings of their experiments. They use appropriate scientific language when discussing the experiments and they can handle the resources with ease. The pupils have access to wild areas, gardens and other habitats within the school grounds. The school participates in the Green School Initiative and pupils are encouraged to eliminate litter and to collect items for organic mulch. These are all very commendable actions to train pupils in good citizenship. It is recommended that the work undertaken be further enhanced by providing pupils with further opportunities to engage in fair testing and designing and making activities.
A whole school planning document has been developed for the implementation of the Visual Arts curriculum in the school. Its main focus is on providing a breadth of artistic experiences for the pupils across all the strand areas of the curriculum. The school plan aims to ensure that learning in and through Visual Arts can contribute positively to children’s sense of personal and cultural identity and to their whole development. Pupils are provided with purposeful and enjoyable experiences of different art media and are given every opportunity to explore, imagine and design pieces using these media. The whole-school plan outlines core lessons which are covered on a yearly basis at each class level in the various strands Clay, Drawing, Paint and Colour, Construction, Print, Fabric and Fibre. There is a need to further develop the lessons planned for the middle and senior classes in Fabric and Fibre.
The lessons observed were managed appropriately and a good range of stimuli was used to promote the language development of the pupils and to cultivate an appropriate language of art among them. A good range of pupils’ work is displayed attractively in the classrooms, the corridors and in the entrance area of the school.
A clear policy pertaining to Music is outlined in school planning documentation, where the objectives pertaining to the strands and strand units at each class level are detailed in a systematic and progressive manner.
During the course of the evaluation, Galvone National School participated in a music initiative provided and delivered by personnel from the Irish Chamber Orchestra (ICO). This project entitled ‘Sing Out Galvone’ focused on introducing pupils to singing, composition and song writing activities. The sessions were also aimed at improving pupils’ skills in listening, responding, concentration and engagement with collaborative work. Rehearsals and end-of-term performances, to which members of the whole-school community were invited, also formed part of this initiative.
In lessons where the teaching of Music was observed, singing, listening and responding activities were developed. Aspects of music literacy including rhythm, notation, beat, pitch were also explored in some classes. It is now important to ensure that pupils are taught and have the ability to sing a broad repertoire of songs in Irish and English in a harmonious manner and at a standard appropriate to each class level. A school choir has been established and violin classes will be made available to pupils in the coming schoolyear. The Bluebox Music Therapy Initiative is also availed of by ten pupils throughout the school.
Dramatic activity is addressed through the effective use of large format books and story in the infant and early years classes to stimulate pupils’ response. In classrooms where Drama activities were observed, pupils engaged well with the lessons presented. Where formal Drama lessons were observed during the course of the evaluation, teachers facilitated extension work, which enabled pupils to script their own dramas. This work was further extended through teacher scaffolding. Drama is used in many classes as a cross-curricular tool to support the development of the pupils’ emotional and imaginative skills, particularly in subject areas such as English and Irish. Drama is also used to facilitate role-play, by providing opportunities for pupils to act and create scenarios relating to favourite characters from the world of sport. Through the implementation of this activity, it was evident that pupils’ self-esteem was being developed in an appropriate manner.
Good physical education facilities are available in this school. These include a grass area and hard-surfaced area which is suitable for basketball and other major games. The school also has access to the local soccer club pitch, which is adjacent to the school. This pitch is used for major games and during activities in athletics, when favourable weather conditions prevail. The general purposes room is used to facilitate the gymnastics and dance strands of the curriculum. The school has a very good supply of physical education equipment which is used to very good effect during lessons.
A broad and balanced curriculum is provided across all strands including aquatics, outdoor and adventure activities, gymnastics and athletics. External coaches provide instruction under the guidance of the class teacher in hurling, golf, soccer coaching and swimming. Very good lessons were observed in gymnastics, in which optimal use was made of resources. This enabled all pupils to participate actively in the development of specific physical education skills. Very good attention is paid to the warm-up and cooling down phases of the lessons. Positive personal qualities of fair play and co-operation are also actively encouraged. A good balance is struck between competitive and non-competitive activities.
A curricular policy in Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is included in school planning documentation. During the course of the evaluation, it was very evident that there is a shared concern regarding the general welfare of the pupils. A variety of initiatives is also being delivered within the school to address pupil need. The school’s mission statement and characteristic spirit also outlines its philosophy in this regard. It is evident that there is a very strong commitment to the development of a favourable school atmosphere, to the implementation of positive behaviour management strategies, to the development of appropriate conflict resolution approaches, to the promotion of mutual respect, to the affirmation of pupil effort, to the celebration of pupil success and to nurturing pupil self-confidence. Good emphasis is also placed on addressing the pastoral care and nutritional needs of pupils, as appropriate. School planning documentation and policies, relevant to the implementation of the SPHE curriculum, are presented in the areas of Child Protection; Behaviour, Discipline and Conduct; Anti-Bullying; Health and Safety; Substance Misuse Prevention; Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE); Sexual Harassment; Pastoral Care and Liturgical Celebrations; Healthy Eating; Special Needs Assistants; Visiting Coaches; HSCL Plan; Parental Involvement and the Administration of Medicines.
In general, good lesson development, effective use of story, cross-curricular integration and a variety of methodologies were in evidence during lessons in SPHE. Topics appropriate to the pupils’ experience and interest level were explored and good emphasis was placed on the safety of pupils.
The school’s assessment policy records the variety of tests available within the school and outlines the procedures for the administration, recording and sharing of standardised assessment data. Formal assessment occurs in English and Mathematics. The results of these tests are used to band pupils for additional supports in literacy and numeracy in the senior classes and to assist in the identification of pupils needing supplementary support and teaching. It is recommended that the staff develop and implement agreed assessment procedures for assessing pupils’ oral language development.
Standardised tests are administered on an annual basis and results of these inform decisions in relation to learning-support provision in both English and Mathematics. Early screening takes place at senior infant level and the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is conducted at the end of senior infants. It is anticipated that the Forward Together programme will be implemented following the administration of the test. It is now recommended that the MIST test be conducted in the fifth term of the infant cycle.
There is evidence in all classes that individual children’s work is monitored through the use of feedback in copies, informal observation and teacher-designed tasks and tests. Written progress reports are sent to parents on an annual basis. A parent-teacher meeting takes place annually and other individual meetings with parents are arranged where it is deemed necessary.
Formative assessment should be an ongoing part of the teachers’ work. The pupils present with a diversity of learning needs and learning challenges. Teachers, therefore, should observe pupils’ learning and gather important data on pupils’ progress on an ongoing basis. In this respect at present, there are some gaps in the recording of assessment information. The progress of individual pupils is tracked in some areas of the curriculum. Targets for pupils, especially those experiencing underachievement, within a short-term timeframe, are not specifically outlined and records of their progress in respect of these specific learning targets are not maintained in a systematic manner. Every opportunity should be taken in the future to review ongoing assessment information, to evaluate the quality of the pupils’ learning outcomes and consequently to improve the impact of teaching. Reflective practice and self-review should be embedded into classroom routines and discussion of the teachers’ practices, achievements or challenges should be shared among colleagues, as appropriate. Classroom practice should be periodically revised based on the outcome of these discussions.
The school has devised a comprehensive DEIS action plan and the teachers involved in this planning group are commended for their work. Whole-school data from summative assessment tests are compiled and analysed. In setting out priority areas for development, it is recommended that the school use current data contained in the standardised tests and other assessment data to inform the teaching and learning. The staff should analyse the assessment data closely and identify trends and emerging needs of the pupils. This will inform and assist in the setting out of specific targets and differentiated programmes of work for individuals and for differing ability groups.
In particular, assessment strategies, agreed at whole-school level, should be considered that will assess the impact of some of the initiatives being implemented in the school. It is recommended that assessment be a continuous and integral element of the teaching and learning process and that assessment should guide the teaching and learning experiences provided for the pupils.
The support teaching team in this school consists of two learning support teachers, a teacher assigned to the Reading Recovery initiative, two resource teachers, a shared resource teacher for Travellers and two resource teachers with specific responsibilities for pupils with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The school also has an allocation of five SNAs.
One learning support teacher supports the infant and junior class pupils. The second learning support teacher is assigned to providing support to the pupils at middle and senior class level.
The support team has met regularly during the school year 2008/2009 and this level of collaboration and streamlining of approaches should be continued. These meetings have facilitated the team in timetabling their work and in co-ordinating the supports for pupils.
Additionally, the school policy on Special Educational Needs and these meetings have facilitated the co-ordination of planning and a whole-school approach to the development of individual plans for pupils has been agreed. This is good practice and the acting principal and the support team are commended for undertaking this work. At future meetings, this group might consider aspects of its work such as the criteria used to judge the effectiveness of current provision, the setting of specific targets and the ongoing monitoring of pupils’ progress in relation to the targets devised, the level of differentiation in the banded contexts, and a focused approach to reading such as that suggested by the First Steps reading programme.
Three members of the support team use the NFER Nelson test to assess pupils and newcomer pupils in second class. A range of diagnostic tests is administered in the resource and learning support contexts and these include the Quest, Spar, Burt, Daniels and Diack and Jackson Phonics tests. Checklists in letter recognition and also number recognition are utilised to monitor the pupils’ progress in junior and senior infants. Support teachers have also devised a form called a ‘diagnostic window’ to assist them in compiling the data on the individual pupils’ outcomes in the various tests. This is a very helpful tool. The use of the Learning Support Guidelines (Department of Education and Science, 2000), the targeting of specific objectives in weekly plans and the ongoing formative assessment of pupils is now recommended.
The results of standardised tests and data from diagnostic tests inform the Individual Education Plans (IEPs). The IEPs for Mathematics are detailed and include specific objectives and learning targets. The individual plans for pupils in literacy are focused on reading, writing, grammar, phonics and oral language, comprehension strategies and word identification strategies. These plans are further developed into weekly group and individual plans and monthly progress records are maintained. The members of the support team liaise closely with parents and parents are advised on pupils’ progress.
In the senior classes, the members of the support team work closely with the mainstream class teachers. Pupils are organised into different ability groups and are provided with dedicated supports in English and Mathematics for two hours daily. This ensures that each mainstream class is organised in three specific groups, based on achievement, who benefit from a dedicated teacher in a small group setting for almost half of the school day. This arrangement allows each teacher to focus on literacy and numeracy and ensures that pupils can benefit from individual support. In many settings this support is targeted on the pupils’ level of abilities and a specific programme is devised. In other settings, this support is linked closely with the programme devised for the more able pupils and does not specifically address the needs of all the pupils. In all class settings, it is recommended that the focus of the support in literacy should be based on the learning needs of the pupils. Where pupils with significant literacy difficulties are identified, the work should focus on familiar reading using a range of parallel readers, new reading, discrete oral language development and writing for a variety of purposes. Grammar exercises and functional writing tasks should be de-emphasised in these lessons. Structures to assist the formal collaboration of support teacher with mainstream class teachers should be a feature at all class levels.
Two teachers manage the needs of ADHD pupils. These pupils are well-integrated into the mainstream classes and are withdrawn for supports individually or in small groups. The focus of the programmes centres on the development of literacy and mathematical skills, and emotional development is also addressed. The practice of withdrawing pupils with high levels of achievement for supports in literacy and numeracy should be reviewed.
The usual strategy adopted by the special needs team involves the withdrawal of the children from the classroom for concentrated attention. This has a significant value, particularly in respect of certain children. However, given the crucial nature of integrating special needs children with their peers and to minimise disruption to the pupils’ experiences of the curriculum and the work of the mainstream class teacher, teachers are encouraged to work within the classroom on an increasing basis as part of their strategy with pupils with emotional and social difficulties. They may support emotional development and behaviour through guiding pupils during group work, project work, and classrooms assignments requiring persistence, attention to detail, and the application of independent learning skills.
Efforts are made to ensure that the education provision in this school is tailored appropriately to all pupils’ needs. This is manifested through the implementation of special initiatives and through the establishment of parental and community liaisons.
The home school community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator is a mainstream class teacher who is in her first year in her post as HSCL. The HSCL policy was devised following consultation among parents, principal and teachers and the policy acknowledges that the mutual role and commitment of parents is essential to promote positive learning experiences for the pupils in Galvone National School.
The HSCL teacher focuses on regular home visits. The primary focus of the visits is to link in with parents and to involve them at an early stage in their children’s education. The HSCL teacher also co-ordinates school based adult education initiatives. This encourages parents to see the school as the site for ongoing learning and support. She encourages parents to participate in these courses, co-ordinates the courses with Limerick Vocational Education Committee, meets with participants at the course and develops their relationship with the school.
The HSCL teacher supports the parents’ association and works with individual parents, who due to the Limerick Regeneration initiative have been re-located to various parts of the city, in organising transport for their children to school. She also co-ordinates specific supports for pupils in pastoral care, emotional well-being and care needs.
There is a very attractive parents’ room in the school and parents are encouraged to meet in this area. The HSCL teacher also organises and facilitates programmes which encourage parental involvement in curricular activities such as Maths for Fun, Literacy for Fun and Family IT.
The HSCL teacher is centrally involved in the Southill Local Committee Reading Project which is a locally-based literacy project for all children and families in the area. The project seeks to promote reading as a family activity and books were provided for each child and household. These resources were funded by the various area-based projects and groups. The HSCL teacher has been active in involving parents in literacy sessions in senior infant class.
The HSCL teacher fosters close links with the school completion programme. During the current academic term the HSCL, supported by the School Completion Programme (SCP) co-ordinator, is working closely with parents and the pupils in sixth class on a specially devised project ‘Mission Transition’ to support pupils’ transition to second-level school. Other projects which are organised with the SCP include the homework club and a focus on monitoring pupils’ attendance and engagement in school.
The HSCL teacher is involved in a variety of local committees and networks. She participates at various meetings where aspects of good practice are shared and initiatives are discussed and evaluated. As a result, school documentation such as enrolment forms and details of school closures have been translated in the home languages of the pupils in the school who have English as an Additional Language. This is a very positive development. The HSCL teacher attends family cluster meetings on a regular basis with other home school community liaison officers and therefore supports to families are co-ordinated.
The HSCL teacher prepares action plans for the various aspects of her work and contributes actively to the DEIS action plan. Short-term plans are also devised and these indicate broad activities that are planned by the HSCL teacher on a weekly and day-to-day basis. Monthly progress reports are also prepared. It may be helpful to link the short-term plans and the progress records to the specific action plans and to indicate the aspects of the action plans that are being covered or that have been achieved.
A resource teacher for Traveller pupils (RTT) provides for the needs of one pupil in this school. An integrated model of support provision is in place for this pupil. The RTT works in a shared capacity with Scoil Mháthair Dé Primary School, where support is also provided for thirteen Traveller pupils.
During the course of this evaluation, English language support, for three newcomer pupils for whom English is an Additional Language (EAL), was also made available through the provision of part-time teaching hours by Limerick VEC.
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:
• The whole-school commitment towards improving literacy and numeracy outcomes should be reinforced.
• It should be ensured that the various initiatives, in which the school is involved, have a contribution to make to improving literacy and numeracy attainment. In this regard, full engagement with DEIS interventions should be ensured to bring about and to lead improvements in learning and teaching throughout the school.
• Consideration should be given to developing agreed, whole-school assessment strategies, which will assess the impact of some of the initiatives being implemented in the school.
• It is vital that pupil progress is carefully monitored, that incremental achievement is supported and that major resources are focused on preventing underachievement.
• Sustained continuous professional development (CPD) opportunities should be addressed, which are specifically focused on implementing literacy and numeracy support interventions.
• It should be ensured that continued emphasis is placed on developing curriculum leadership.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, November 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of Management welcomes the report as it affirms the work and commitment of the board, teachers, parents and the wider community to the holistic education of our pupils.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
The priorities for Galvone National School include: