An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Mount Palmer National School

Kincon, County Mayo

Uimhir rolla: 20217N

 

Date of inspection: 16 May 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

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Mount Palmer National School was undertaken in May 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, Irish, Mathematics and Music. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Mount Palmer National School is a rural three-teacher school situated six kilometres west of Killala. This school is the product of the amalgamation in 2006 of three schools, namely Kilfian, Ratheskin and Annaghmore. The new school is accommodated in the renovated and extended Kilfian school. The school participates in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), an initiative of the Department of Education and Science to alleviate educational disadvantage. Pupil attendance is generally good.

 

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

52

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

3

Mainstream class teachers

3

Teachers working in support roles

3

Special needs assistants

1

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

The Catholic Bishop of Killala is the patron of the school. The stated aim of the school is to ensure that pupils “leave our care as well-balanced, well-adjusted, well-informed young people, prepared to realise their full potential”. It is evident from classroom observations that teachers make every effort to fulfil this aim.

 

1.2 Board of management

The board of management is properly constituted and meets regularly in accordance with the requirements of the Department of Education and Science. Members of the board have been allocated various tasks. The board’s commitment to and support of the school is commendable. The chairperson of the board has very close communication with the principal and staff through his frequent visits to the school. Policies are drafted by the staff and ratified by the board. Greater involvement by the board and by parents generally in policy formation should add to board and parental understanding of the work of the school and would increase further the high levels of co-operation and cohesion already in existence. It is advised that all policies be dated and signed by the chairperson of the board and that a system for the regular review of policies be instituted.

 

1.3 In-school management

The in-school management team consists of the principal, deputy principal and special-duties teacher. The principal has many years of teaching experience in the school and is very familiar with the families and the local community. He has displayed effective leadership during the amalgamation process. He has succeeded in establishing a positive school climate, where a culture of team work and co-operation is fostered. This contributes significantly to the positive, friendly atmosphere which is evident in the school. 

The other post holders share many of the daily tasks and actively participate in decision-making. It is recommended that the duties attached to the posts of deputy principal and special-duties teacher be revised, with a view to ensuring that each post has curricular, organisational and pastoral dimensions in accordance with Department of Education and Science Circular 07/03. It is also recommended that written contracts for post holders be provided.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

While there is no parents’ association in the school, a positive relationship is evident between the school and the local community. A notable feature of the school is the range of in-school activities in which parents are involved, which include Maths for Fun and Literacy for Fun. During the course of the evaluation a meeting was held with parent representatives on the board of management. Parents reported that they were happy with the quality of education provided. They also stated that there are many opportunities, both formal and informal, for them to discuss their children’s attainment and progress with teachers. However, written progress reports on pupils are not provided for parents. It is recommended that these reports be issued annually.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

Relationships between school staff and children are positive. Pupils’ very good behaviour both inside and outside of the classrooms is a credit to the teachers and to the pupils themselves. They demonstrate care and respect for one another and for their school environment.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

The overall quality of planning is fair. The school plan contains all administrative policies required by legislation or statute. It is recommended that the enrolment policy be amended to ensure that all sections comply with current legislation. Curricular policies have been developed in line with the strands and strand units of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). It is recommended that they be further adapted to the particular context of the school and the multi-grade nature of mainstream classes.

All teachers prepare long-term and short-term planning. Some very good quality planning was observed, which was detailed and specific to the needs of the particular class. Future reviews of individual classroom planning should focus on how the curriculum is differentiated to meet the needs of pupils with additional learning needs, specifically in the areas of literacy and numeracy. Monthly progress reports are completed by all teachers. It is recommended that these progress reports be used as a means of monitoring the extent to which teaching has achieved the planned learning outcomes. It is also recommended that staff give consideration to the drafting of an agreed format for long-term and short-term planning and for the recording of progress in each curriculum area.

 

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

 

Gaeilge

Labhraíonn na hoidí an Ghaeilge go cruinn, líofa. Úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar theanga chumarsáide sna ceachtanna Gaeilge i bhformhór na ranganna. Moltar an cleachtas sin a chur i ngníomh ar fud na scoile. De ghnáth cuireann an fhoireann an iomarca béime ar chaint an oide sna ceachtanna, ach baineann cuid acu úsáid as obair bheirte, as obair ghrúpa, as drámaíocht agus as cluichí éagsúla i roinnt ranganna. Moltar níos mó béime a chur ar na gnéithe seo i ngach rang chun scileanna cumarsáide a fhorbairt agus chun féinmhuinín a chothú. Is léir, ó bhreathnú ar cheachtanna, nach bhfaigheann na daltaí i gcuid de na seomraí ranga dóthain deiseanna cainte le linn an cheachta Ghaeilge. Is léir ó cheistiú na ndaltaí nach mbíonn taithí acu ar úsáid na Gaeilge mar theanga chumarsáide. Bíonn deacrachtaí acu, go háirithe, le cruthú abairtí agus le húsáid na mbriathar. Tá gá le béim sa bhreis a chur ar an gcur chuige cumarsáideach sa Ghaeilge.

 

Ar an iomlán, léann roinnt de na daltaí sna hardranganna le líofacht oiriúnach, ach is gá aird a dhíriú ar dhea-fhoghraíocht. Moltar béim a leagan ar fhuaimeanna na teanga a theagasc go foirmiúil agus scileanna léitheoireachta a fhorbairt go córasach. Tosaítear le scríbhneoireacht i rang na naíonán sinsearach. Moltar í a thosú i rang a dó, mar a mholtar i gCuraclam na Bunscoile. Is scríbhneoireacht fheidhmiúil is mó a dhéantar. B’fhiú níos mó deiseanna scríbhneoireachta a chruthú sna hardranganna, chun taithí a thabhairt do dhaltaí ar théacsanna éagsúla a chumadh, mar shampla nuacht laethúil, litreacha chuig cairde, ríomhphoist agus scéalta simplí.

 

Irish

The teachers speak Irish fluently and accurately. Irish is used as the language of communication in most of the classes. It is recommended that this practice be extended throughout the school. Usually the staff puts too much emphasis on teacher talk during lessons, but some teachers use pair work, group work, drama and various games in a number of classes. It is recommended that there be greater emphasis on these in every class to further the communication skills and confidence of the pupils. It is evident, from the lessons observed, that pupils in some classrooms do not get sufficient speaking opportunities during the Irish lesson. It is evident from questioning pupils that they lack experience of using the Irish language for communication. They have particular difficulty with constructing sentences and using verbs. There is a need for greater emphasis on the communicative approach in Irish.

Overall, some pupils in senior classes read with appropriate fluency, but  it is necessary to focus on correct pronunciation. It is recommended that language sounds be taught more formally and that reading skills be developed more systematically. Formal writing is started in senior infants. It is recommended that this work be started in second class, in accordance with the Primary School Curriculum. It is primarily functional writing that is engaged in. It is recommended that pupils experience a wider range of writing genres in senior classes, for example the daily news, letters to friends, e-mails and simple stories.

 

English

A useful whole-school plan has been developed for the teaching of English. Appropriately, specific topics are identified for discrete oral-language lessons and there is evidence of effective integration with other subject areas. Good quality whole-class talk and discussion feature prominently and many pupils demonstrate an impressive level of oral competence. Very effective questioning helps to develop higher-order thinking skills.

Very good standards are achieved in reading. Large-format books and novels are used very effectively and most classrooms have an attractively presented library. It is advised that a more structured approach to the teaching of phonics and word-attack skills be devised. In the senior classes very effective use is made of newspapers to develop pupils’ critical thinking skills.

Writing is taught systematically throughout the school. There is careful attention to letter formation and handwriting in the infant classes. Cursive handwriting is introduced in second class. More careful monitoring of written work is recommended with the judicious use of feedback to encourage improvement and development of pupils’ writing.

 

3.2 Mathematics

The teaching of Mathematics is good. There is a commendable emphasis on the development of mathematical language in all classes. Discovery learning, with concrete materials and oral discussion on findings, is used resourcefully at all levels to link Mathematics to practical experiences. This good practice is highly commended. It is recommended that illustrative materials and concrete resources be used in every class to further enhance the teaching and learning of Mathematics. Also, it is advised that the practice of providing regular tests, to encourage pupils to revise and consolidate their learning, be developed and that the results of these tests be systematically used to inform the provision of differentiated support.  

 

3.3 Music

Very good lessons were observed in the teaching of Music and teachers’ individual planning indicates that pupils at all levels are exposed to each of the three strands of the Music curriculum. Pupils in all classes sing a range of songs tunefully and confidently. They are provided with opportunities to perform music, as individuals and groups, using a variety of musical instruments. Particularly effective teaching of Music was observed in the infant room, where pupils were encouraged to compose their own percussion accompaniment for their song singing. This good practice is highly commended.

 

3.4 Assessment

The school policy on assessment outlines the test materials that are used. The Middle Infants Screening Test (MIST) is administered at senior infants’ level while standardised tests are used annually to determine pupils’ attainment in reading and Mathematics in all classes from first to sixth class. The school should now devise a coherent and systematic whole-school approach to pupil assessment. It should outline how individual teachers might undertake a variety of assessment techniques across the curricular areas. Pupil achievement should be closely monitored and recorded. It is recommended that written reports on pupil progress be issued each year, as outlined in Department of Education and Science Circular 0138/2006 ‘Supporting Assessment in Primary Schools.’

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

Pupils with special educational needs are supported by a learning support and resource teacher, who are shared with other local schools. Although there are no pupils currently eligible for learning-support in accordance with Departmental guidelines, supplementary teaching is provided for three pupils in literacy. Additional resource-teaching support is provided for one pupil with special educational needs for five hours. Very effective links have been developed with the Health Service Executive regarding provision of psychological support, occupational therapy and additional language support. In the classroom used for support teaching there is scope for greater use of relevant charts and displays of pupils’ work. The school is reminded of the need to create displays to make it easier for pupils to remember what is taught. Learning support is provided in literacy only. It is advised that support in numeracy be provided where it is required. It is recommended that greater opportunities for in-class support be investigated. It is necessary to review and amend the school policy for special educational needs to ensure that it complies with the staged approach as outlined in the Department of Education and Science Circular 02/05.

The quality of planning for pupils with special educational needs varies from very good to fair. In one case, there is meticulous record keeping, consistent monitoring of progress and careful planning of lessons. A wide range of activities, based on the priority learning needs identified by the relevant professionals, ensures that progress is being made at an appropriate level. It is advised that this good practice be adopted by all support teachers.

 

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

The school is part of a cluster of five schools that are served by a DEIS co-ordinator, funded by the Department of Education and Science. The co-ordinator is an enthusiastic and hard-working teacher. His role includes visiting homes, supporting teaching and learning in the school and providing a range of supports for pupils and their families. He spends one day each week in the school and provides lessons in literacy, numeracy and Science. He also co-ordinates parental involvement in the Green Flag initiative. DEIS funding is used to subsidise swimming lessons and visits by various speakers on aspects of the curriculum.

 

 

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 November 2009