An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Leitir Mucú National School

Leitir Mucú Camas

 County Galway

Roll number:13951E

 

Date of inspection: 12th May 2008

 

 

 

 

Report of Whole School Evaluation

Introducion – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of School Planning

The quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

Report of Whole School Evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Leitir Mucú National School in May 2008.  It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for its further development. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Music.

 

 

Introducionschool context and background

 

 

Two temporary teachers are currently working in this Gaeltacht school which is situated in the parish of Rosmuc. This parish is renowned for the number of writers and traditional artists that originated in this area over the years. The school is situated on the main road between Casla and Sreeb in a rural area approximately thirty miles west of Galway city. This school is the only public centre functioning in this community and there has been a significant drop in the population of the area over the past forty years. As a consequence there has also been a significant drop in school enrolment to the extent that only eleven pupils are currently enrolled in the school. At present there are no infant classes or second class in the school and the indications are that the enrolment will further decrease.

 

The issue of amalgamation was raised with the Board of Management at the meeting prior to the evaluation and the board confirmed that the parents of the school would be unhappy to accept such a change at present. This school was opened in 1893 and had three classrooms on a very confined site in terms of space and level. The building remains much the same as when it was built although boys’ and girls’ toilets have been installed within the school. There is no toilet for teachers or any additional rooms added to the school. The empty classroom is used for the additional services now provided in the school such as a home-school coordinator within the D.E.I.S. programme and a learning support teacher. There is a hard surface playground at the back of the school that extends the length of the school, and a shelter that is decorated with designs representative of the locality, and there is a small green area to the front of the school. There is also a small boggy area across the road that dries up in good weather and that could be used for games if it was improved. 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.

 

 

The table below provides the general information on the staff and pupils registered in the school at the time of this evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

11

Mainstream classes in the school

5

Teacher(s) on the staff of the school

2

Teacher(s) in mainstream classes

2

Teacher(s) assigned to a support role (shared post)

2

Special needs’ assistants

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission and vision of the school

All pupils in the school are from Irish speaking families and the majority of the pupils are native Irish speakers with a strong command of the language. The mission of all parties in the school is to provide an equal opportunities child centred education for all pupils based on their abilities. The mission statement of the school indicates that the school wants to create a happy positive atmosphere where pupils can develop and grow and are prepared for their part in the wider world. The mission statement includes a statement on the importance of parental support in order to achieve its aim. To this end a happy and positive learning environment has been created where all pupils have an opportunity to develop and to learn in preparation for the next phase of their education. The school is making worthwhile efforts to include the parents in the learning activities of the school and this is a role change from the traditional partnership of the school. The staff of the school, although both are temporary teachers, are commended for the efforts made in taking responsibility for focusing on raising standards in the school in cooperation with the D.E.I.S. coordinator.  

 

1.2 The board of management

The board of management has been selected in accordance with the regulations of the Department of Education and Science, the officers have been recognised appropriately and they conduct their business through Irish. Meetings are held at least three times each year and minutes are kept on decisions made and on expenditure. The board is aware of its responsibilities and the school plan includes a health and safety statement, a code of conduct and policies on enrolment, special education, healthy lunch, equal opportunities, child protection and a supervision policy as well as a wide range of other curricular activities. Some of these policies require updating on account of legislative changes. The criteria applied in regard to the distribution of classes needs to be changed and children’s ages need to be factored in to the organisation of classes. The school plan is also being reviewed in light of this report. The account books are submitted annually to an independent accountant to have them audited. It was confirmed that the chairperson of the board meets with the principal on a regular basis. Correspondence received is usually discussed and reports are received from the principal and from the treasurer at ordinary board meetings. It was indicated that the board’s priority is to increase the number of pupils attending the school.

The school plan needs to be amended to include a plan on methodologies outlining the differentiated approach to teaching and learning, a staff development plan, an enrolment plan and a plan relevant to article 9 (h) of the Education Act (1998). Parents are informed of pupils’ progress at least once or twice a year and other informal contacts with parents are welcomed during the year.   Discussions took place with the board regarding the various ways in which parents might be included in the ownership of the school plan as well as discussing the usual practices in regard to this. It would be worth making contact with the local language unit under Údarás na Gaeltachta, as well as other relevant Gaeltacht organisations to agree the aspect of the plan pertaining to article 9 (h) of the Education Act.

 

1.3 In school management

The two class teachers have posts of responsibility as principal and deputy principal in the school. They both assume a key role in the management of the school and they receive the advice of the other two part-time teachers who are involved in the school although these teachers don’t attend staff meetings regularly. They all contribute to ensuring that there is a happy and safe environment in the school as well as providing a progressive education programme for the children. Good habits of behaviour are practiced, resources and support software are regularly used and policies in regard to the use of technologies in education are in preparation with the assistance of the D.E.I.S. coordinator. A series of staff meetings were held last year, most of these after school hours. The support teachers could attend some of these meetings depending on their timing and on the issues placed on the agenda. Although the two classroom teachers are temporary teachers on the staff, they are commended for their diligence and professionalism and for the ownership and initiative they have taken in raising standards in this school. They are both conscientious and they seek to develop independent learning skills in the pupils. The learning support teachers are also commended, particularly in the efforts they are making through various schemes to improve the standards of literacy and mathematics.

 

1.4 Managing relationships and communication with the school community

At the pre-evaluation meetings the professionalism of the teachers was acknowledged and both parents and the board of management confirmed that they were satisfied with the way in which the school was operating. A lot of effort is being made to include parents in the education of their children through schemes such as D.E.I.S., and a pleasant and welcoming atmosphere is encouraged in the school. The building is kept neat and tidy, both outside and inside, and help is willingly available to the staff when required. The classrooms and corridors are appealing and attractively decorated with samples of the work completed by pupils, with aspects of the curriculum and other project work, and the photographs hanging in the corridor bear testimony to the growth of the pupils. Because of the wealth of traditional artists and writers that are associated with this parish it would be worthwhile to have their work formally included on the school programme. It would also be worthwhile, as an example of the use of technology in the school, if a newsletter was occasionally provided for the people of the area that would describe communal events as well the organisation and work of the school. This newsletter could also include interesting activities and work belonging to the pupils. 

 

1.5 Management of pupils

There is an open and kind relationship between all parties in the school, and the board of management confirmed that the code of discipline is only rarely used. A mutually respectful and cooperative relationship is evident in the school, first names are used by all parties, and a range of opportunities and resources are available for pupils through their work programme. The work programme itself is interesting for the pupils and there is always a very high level of attendance accordingly. Participation in local competitions and in other events, such as team games, dancing, drama, swimming, concerts and school tours are organised through the school. It is very good also to observe how older pupils keep an eye on younger pupils in the school playground or during events.

 

 

2.     Quality of School Planning

 

2.1 Whole school planning and classroom planning

It was agreed during this inspection that aspects of the school plan would be amended and that parents would be presented with these changes. It was also agreed that copies of the individual education plans would be available to parents of children with special needs and that written reports would be provided on each child at the end of the year. Although it is difficult for temporary teachers to take ownership of policies and strategies so as to influence the future direction of the school, these teachers are highly commended for the initiative they have taken to date in regard to this work. It is also necessary to invest significantly in the school library, particular in regard to Irish books and resources for science, mathematics and assessment in the school.

 

Recognition is given to the stated strands and strand units in the curriculum frameworks that form part of individual planning, differentiated teaching takes place in the delivery of the curriculum and a record is kept regularly of the progress of pupils. A range of methodologies is used in the approach to teaching, and the teaching and learning is motivational and effective. Regular meetings are held with parents regarding the progress of pupils and home school cooperation is practiced in the form of paired reading and other learning activities.

 

 

 

2.2 Policies and practices in regard to child safety

It was confirmed, in accordance with Circular 0061/2006 from the Department of Education and Science, that the board of management has formally accepted the Guidelines for Primary Schools on the Protection of Children (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). It was also confirmed that management, staff and parents were made aware of these practices in regard to child safety; that copies of these practices were provided for all staff members (including new members); and that management has ensured that all staff understand what procedures are to be applied. A designated liaison person and a deputy liaison person have been appointed as required by the guidelines.

 

 

3.The quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Irish

Emphasis is placed on the teaching of Irish and on teaching through Irish in this Gaeltacht school. Irish is the main language of communication in the community and the children are fluent in the language when they come to the school. The pupils’ spirit of participation and enjoyment is evident in the way the language is taught, and language enrichment and vocabulary development are integral to this approach to the language. ‘Séideán Sí’ is used as a resource to support the language programme in the junior classes and the school library is used to develop recreational reading. It would be worthwhile investing significantly in contemporary books and books written by local authors for the library. Higher order thinking skills are regularly developed in the approach to teaching language, and pupils achieve well relative to their abilities. A wide range of composition and writing topics are selected and focus is placed on the mechanics of writing skills. Topics and research areas are selected from related curriculum themes. It would be of value to have more opportunities for pupils to present their work to wider audiences through the internet and through periodical publications from the school.

 

English

A structured English programme is taught in the school which places due emphasis on developing oral language skills, phonological awareness as well as structured reading and writing programmes of work. Drama, circletime and discussion are used to develop the communicative approach and an excellent anthology of poetry and rhyme is offered. Parents are encouraged to engage is shared reading exercises with the pupils. Continuous use of library books is a central feature of classroom practise and personal reading through a drop everything and read approach (DEAR) is practised by all the classes. Writing is taught in a developmental fashion with editing and re-editing being a feature with emphasis placed on early skills such as hand-eye co-ordination, gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Pupils’ progress is carefully monitored through a variety of assessment procedures including teacher observation, questioning, written tasks, correction of copies as well as the use of standardised tests. 

 

3.2 Mathematics

The teaching of mathematics has been clearly influenced by the approach recommended in the curriculum; a specific programme has been clearly outlined in the school plan and textbooks are used as a guide for exercises on problem solving. Mental work is regularly practiced as part of the programme and attention is given on an ongoing basis to the terminology of mathematics in both languages. The use of work stations and concrete materials to develop an understanding of the basic concepts is commendable. Group work supporting the range of abilities of pupils in the various classes is organised effectively and pupil activities are used to good effect to achieve the stated teaching objectives. Pupils have opportunities to develop their prediction and estimation skills and the strategies used to promote problem solving are commendable.

 

 

3.3 Music

An emphasis is placed in the school plan and in individual preparation on all the strands and strand units of the curriculum. Pupils participate in a scheme in the Gaelacadhaimh whereby they can practice instrumental music. An agreed graded programme is followed, all the curricular aspects are addressed and students sing sweetly in both languages. It would be advisable to place more emphasis on traditional music in light of the number of local musicians that have national recognition. The manner in which the pupils work cooperatively to refine their skills is wonderful. They also love listening to music and deriving meaning from contemporary music as well as listening to classical composers.

 

3.4 Assessment

Standardised tests are used to monitor the progress of pupils. The range of tests and the way in which they are administered in classrooms needs to be fundamentally reviewed. Other strategies such as teacher observation, checklists, compilations of work, samples of work, projects, profiles and tasks, as well as teacher designed tests should be considered. It would be worth using these to review aspects of students’ competencies as well as providing parents with an overview of the progress of pupils. A record of standardised and criterion referenced tests that have been administered should be recorded on a sequential basis and the class scores should be made available to teachers in their classrooms from one year to the next.

 

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

Although there is currently no pupil in the school with any specific disability the school admissions’ policy needs to be amended to include equal access and participation for all children including children with special needs. The learning support teacher provides additional support in English and Mathematics for pupils with learning difficulties and they benefit greatly from this intervention. The D.E.I.S. coordinator operates on a shared basis with other primary schools in the area and provides support of a sensitive and developmental nature to pupils and parents. 

 

 

4.2 Additional supports for pupils: disadvantaged pupils and pupils from minority or other groupings

 

It was confirmed by the school that all pupils currently enrolled in the school are of a similar background and are from the local area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         The good behaviour and cooperation of pupils is commendable.

·         The attitude, effectiveness and diligence of the teachers in regard to their work are commendable.

·         A positive learning environment has been created in the school.

·         Good provision is made for pupils with learning difficulties.

 

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

·         An upgrading of the school plan.

·         A plan to upgrade the building, eliminate dampness in the corridor  and provide a toilet for teachers

·         Review the current practices in regard to pupil evaluation.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Published November 2008