An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Mullingar Educate Together National School

Mullingar, Co Westmeath

Uimhir rolla: 20188 J

 

    Date of inspection: 4 December 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of supports for pupils

Conclusion

 

 


 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Mullingar Educate Together National School was undertaken in December 2008. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The evaluation focused on aspects of the school’s provision including management, teaching and learning, planning and supports for pupils, with a particular focus on the provision of English as an Additional Language (EAL).  The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Mullingar Educate Together National School was established by a group of parents in 2004 and opened with twenty four pupils and two teachers in temporary accommodation. The school has grown rapidly and recently relocated to a new sixteen classroom permanent building at Rathgowan. Pupils who enrolled when the school was established are now in fifth class, and the school will cater for pupils from Junior Infants to sixth in the next academic year. The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Total number of teachers on the school staff

19

Number of mainstream class teachers

8

Total number of teachers working in support roles

5

Number of language support teachers

5

Special needs assistants

7

Total number of pupils enrolled in the school

210

Number of pupils with English as an additional language

145

 

 

1.             Quality of school management

 

1.1         Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The school operates under the patronage of the Educate Together organisation. It proclaims itself as multi-denominational, child centred, co-educational and democratically run. A positive and inclusive atmosphere is palpable in the school. Its mission and vision statements promote equality of access for pupils from all backgrounds and the creation of a positive and comfortable atmosphere in which every child has the opportunity to learn and to take part. These aspirations are apparent in the enrolment of pupils from very diverse backgrounds and in the number of pupils receiving support for EAL.

 

1.2         Board of management

The work of the board of management is very effective. The board is commended on its management of the rapid expansion and on its early success in securing permanent accommodation. The board is constituted in accordance with departmental guidelines and its membership reflects the multicultural nature of the school’s enrolment. Regular meetings are convened and financial records are certified externally. Board members are knowledgeable about their roles and they carry out specific duties to support the smooth running of the school. Commendable use of sub-committees allows for consultation in the whole-school planning process and the board regularly reviews the school plan to meet changing needs. Members of the board express satisfaction with the educational standards in the school and are anxious to ensure that supports are provided to EAL pupils to facilitate their full inclusion in all school activities.

 

1.3         In-school management

The quality of leadership in the school is highly commendable. The principal relates very well with staff, board members, parents, pupils and the wider community. She has led the school very effectively since its establishment and has been very successful in managing its smooth running. She has been central to the planning process and has drawn on her previous professional experience to ensure that pupils’ learning needs are addressed. She also ensures that there is a co-ordinated system in operation to support pupils with additional needs, including EAL pupils. The in-school management team is also comprised of a deputy principal, an assistant principal and five special duties teachers. The principal and the other members of the in-school management team, convene regular meetings to discuss strategies and to share expertise.

 

All members of the in-school management team fulfil their specific duties very conscientiously. These duties include a range of curricular, organisational and pastoral responsibilities which have been identified as priorities. The in-school management team contributes to the inclusion of EAL pupils through the timetabling of language support, promotion of multicultural events and the organisation of a buddy system for newly enrolled pupils. Other duties carried out by members of the team include developing links with the wider community through participation in projects such as the Green Schools, sports events and curriculum based competitions.

 

1.4         The management of resources

The management of staff is very effective. The secretary, caretaker and special needs assistants carry out their own duties very effectively. Among the teaching staff, roles are well defined and there is an atmosphere of support and co-operation. Teachers meet regularly on a voluntary basis to share their skills and to engage in self-directed and externally-facilitated professional development. Many teachers in both mainstream and support roles have availed of professional development relevant to the needs of EAL pupils. Provision of support teaching for EAL pupils is well co-ordinated and includes a laudable balance between in-class and withdrawal models.

 

The quality of accommodation is very good. The school building is new and its classrooms and resource rooms are ideal for teaching and learning. The staff and the board are commended on ensuring that the new building has been transformed into a lively and stimulating learning environment through the deployment of suitable resources and equipment.

 

The management of resources is very successful. Displays in the corridors and the classrooms reflect the ethnic diversity of the school community and provide pictorial and language cues for a variety of topics and concepts. In all classrooms and support rooms, resources are used very effectively during lessons to foster understanding and to enable pupils participate in discovery learning. The use of resources for EAL teaching and learning is very effective.

 

1.5         Management of relationships and communication with the school community

The quality of parental involvement in the life of the school is very high. Since its establishment, parents have been very active in the parent, teacher and staff association to support the development of the school. Newsletters, parent-teacher meetings and information nights provide parents with information about their children and about school events. Some school documents are translated into the home languages of EAL pupils to ensure that language is not a barrier to communication. Parents assist with fundraising and policy formation, organise social events, and support curriculum initiatives. Multicultural events such as the Big Day Out and the Picnic are organised by parents in conjunction with the staff to foster inclusiveness and ownership in the school community. Parents contribute effectively to the learning and teaching especially in areas such as gardening, music, visual arts, languages and songs from different countries, archaeology, fire safety and the work of various professions.

 

1.6         Management of pupils

The management of pupils is very effective. Two pupil representatives are elected from each class to the students’ council so that pupils’ opinions are considered during policy making. The code of discipline and classroom rules reflect the school’s ethos and the values of the ethical curriculum. During the evaluation pupils presented as co-operative, respectful and contented. The school’s atmosphere and the range of pastoral care duties carried out by the in-school management team foster the inclusion and engagement of EAL pupils in the life of the school. The use of a Buddy system for new pupils in the playground and the use of peer tutoring at classroom level are representative of successful support initiatives. All EAL pupils are placed in age-appropriate classes on enrolment and sustained support teaching assists their integration into the school.

 

 

2.             Quality of school planning

 

2.1         Quality of whole-school planning

The quality of whole-school planning is very good and there is a commitment to self-evaluation and review. Through the use of board sub-committees, and in-school management and staff meetings, the process of consultation is very inclusive. All plans required by legislation have been ratified and implemented. Commendable action planning is in evidence for the review and development of the EAL plan and the DEIS initiative. The plans for English and Mathematics are comprehensive and outline the agreed approach to methodologies, use of resources, assessment and supports for pupils. All teachers have copies of the plans to assist them with classroom planning and this is useful in providing for continuity and progression.

 

2.2         Quality of whole-school planning for EAL

The quality of whole-school planning for EAL is highly commendable. A comprehensive plan for the teaching of EAL clearly identifies the methodologies, strategies and assessment modes to be used while supporting EAL pupils and gives direction for language teaching so that pupils can access knowledge across the curriculum. It is commendable that the whole-school plan reflects the Primary Language Proficiency Benchmarks and the Primary Assessment Kit. As part of an action plan for EAL, a process of multilingual consultation has been initiated to identify the needs of newly enrolled pupils and their parents. It is envisaged that a communicative programme will be devised to cover fifty two language functions and that this can be used with EAL pupils and their parents. Some school plans, policies and circulars are translated into the home languages of EAL pupils to improve communication and understanding.

 

2.3         Quality of classroom planning including planning for EAL

The quality of teacher planning is good in many classrooms, with some instances of very good planning. All teachers provide high quality long-term plans for their teaching, reflecting the aspirations of the curriculum and the school plan. There is variation in individual teachers’ approaches to short-term planning and while some plan lessons with objectives on a weekly or fortnightly basis, others use a longer-term format. It is recommended that, in reviewing the school’s policy on classroom planning, guidelines should be formulated to ensure that short-term planning in mainstream classrooms fully complies with departmental requirements. Most teachers’ planning outlines effective strategies for differentiating lesson content to meet the variety of learning needs within their classes. Planning for assessment was integral to teacher preparation in most instances and all teachers record assessment information methodically. In mainstream classrooms, most teachers identify and plan for the language needs of EAL pupils. Language-support teachers plan very effectively for the EAL pupils and there is a commendable level of consultation between the mainstream and support teachers to ensure a co-ordinated approach to meeting language needs.

 

2.4         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         Teaching of English and English as an Additional Language

The quality of teaching in English is very good and all teachers ensure that the four language skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing are addressed in a balanced and integrated manner. Teachers use a variety of teaching methodologies to motivate pupils during English lessons and to cater for the range of learning styles and ability levels among their pupils. Oral language is developed very purposefully through structured discussion of themes and through the modelling of language. Circle time, role play and collaborative groupwork are used very effectively to encourage pupils to speak. Through the effective use of in-class support teaching, in conjunction with the class teachers’ differentiated approaches, EAL pupils are integrated very well into English lessons, and there is an emphasis on equipping pupils with the necessary vocabulary to access the curriculum. A whole-school approach to phonological awareness, handwriting and spelling is in evidence. Pupils are taught a range of word recognition skills to assist them in their reading. Print-rich learning environments have been created in all classrooms through displays of posters and pupils’ work. Large format books, reading corners and well stocked classroom libraries were noted throughout the school and pupils have access to age-appropriate reading material in various genres. Pupils’ writing skills are developed very effectively in all classrooms and there is commendable practice in many classrooms with regard to developing the writing process, the use of writing frameworks, writers’ workshops and story planners.

 

The quality of pupils’ learning in all strands of English is of a high standard in relation to their age and ability levels and relative to the length of time pupils have spent in the school. Most pupils demonstrate comprehension in their listening skills and teachers are careful to provide visual or physical cues for those EAL pupils whose English is not yet developed. The majority of pupils contribute confidently during oral discussion and those with language difficulties are encouraged and supported. Pupils’ achievements in reading are commendable and they demonstrate good word-attack, recall and comprehension skills. In all classes pupils have explored suitable poems and many of these are recited with expression and accuracy. Pupils’ written work is of a high standard, regularly monitored and neatly presented. Samples of written work in a variety of genres are displayed and pupils are very proud of the final drafts of their creative writing.

 

3.2         Mathematics

The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good and is firmly based on the strands and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum. The programme is fair and balanced in all classrooms and teachers create many opportunities for pupils to experience mathematics in real-life situations especially through the use of the school grounds and the local environment. Oral Mathematics and the use of appropriate mathematical language are suitably developed throughout the school though further refinement of this practice and greater linkage with other language activities is recommended in some cases. Good samples of group work and the use of apparatus to reinforce particular concepts were in evidence and pupils undertook problem solving tasks in a methodical fashion. Good quality games activities facilitated the consolidation of number facts and the linkage with Drama, Visual Arts and Irish in many classrooms was especially commendable. Pupils demonstrated great skill in computation, estimation, data representation and problem solving tasks and they verbalised their understanding of the various concepts with confidence and precision. 

 

3.3         Assessment

A wide variety of assessment modes is implemented throughout the school, including standardised and diagnostic tests at whole-school level. The assessment data from these tests are used in diagnosing particular learning difficulties and in prioritising support teaching for pupils with the greatest needs. Standardised assessment information is also communicated to parents at specially convened parent-teacher meetings. In individual classrooms, teachers make good use of teacher observation, teacher-designed tests, skills checklists and portfolios to assess and record pupils’ progress. Extensive assessment records are maintained in all mainstream and support classrooms. Assessment information is shared between staff members and is used to differentiate lessons according to learning needs.  The assessment of EAL pupils’ language needs is very effective and reflects best practice. Using the Department assessment kits, extensive records about the progress of all EAL pupils have been compiled and these include information on their mastery of listening, speaking, reading and writing skills.

 

 

4.             Quality of supports for pupils

 

4.1         Pupils with special educational needs

A very effective whole-school approach to supporting pupils with special educational needs in literacy and numeracy is evident in the school and this approach is closely aligned to the Department’s learning-support guidelines. Early intervention strategies and use of the staged approach are features of the school’s provision for these pupils. Resources are well targeted at those with greatest needs.  The special education team communicates well with mainstream teachers and there is collaboration between teachers and parents in identifying learning targets for pupils in the individual education plan (IEP) and individual profile and learning plan (IPLP) documents. Support teaching is focussed very well on diagnosed needs and assessment information is used effectively for this purpose. The quality of teaching in support classrooms is very good and teachers are very effective in using resources to facilitate understanding.  The Reading Recovery programme is used very successfully and it is envisaged that the Maths Recovery programme will be introduced in the next academic year. Provision of support teaching for pupils with special educational needs is delivered principally through the withdrawal model. Relative to their ability levels, pupils with special educational needs are making good progress towards reaching the educational targets set for them.

 

4.2         Pupils with English as an additional language

Five language teachers provide additional language support for EAL pupils in the school. Provision is co-ordinated by a member of the in-school management team. The whole-school plan for EAL teaching is comprehensive and provides very good direction for all teachers. The initial assessment of EAL pupils’ language abilities is commendable and it assists with resource allocation and programme planning for these pupils. The quality of classroom planning by EAL teachers is very effective and is well co-ordinated with mainstream teachers’ planning, especially where in-class supports are to be deployed. High quality interaction and EAL support teaching were observed in both withdrawal and in-class provision settings. EAL pupils are making commendable progress in English and the school’s system of ongoing assessment is very useful in recording this progress. Effective systems of communication are in place to ensure that information on EAL pupils’ progress is shared among staff members and also communicated effectively to parents.

 

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

In accordance with its ethos, the school embraces the diversity of its enrolment and serves the needs of pupils from many nationalities and cultural backgrounds. The school receives additional support to meet the needs of disadvantaged pupils through the DEIS initiative. Communication with parents is enhanced through the home visits made by the shared home school community liaison teacher. Valuable support in social skills is provided for a number of pupils through the intervention of the family support worker under the School Completion Programme. The school uses its own funding and contributions from local charities to provide compassionately for the material necessities of disadvantaged pupils, as these arise.

 

 

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, June 2009