An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Saint Brigid’s National School

Lettercallow, Lettermore, County Galway

 

Roll Number: 13952G

 

Date of inspection:  13 October 2009

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of supports for pupils

Conclusion

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Saint Brigid’s National School was undertaken in October, 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school.   The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Music. 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

 

This Gaeltacht school is situated on the south coast of Kilkerrin harbour in the parish of Lettermore at Lettercallow on Garumna Island.  The surrounding locality continues to be a strong Gaeltacht area where more than 90% of the community state they use Irish on a daily basis.  The area is famous for its natural beauty, the wisdom of the learning and the richness of the inhabitants’ Irish language and culture.  The building comprising two classrooms was erected in 1892, an extra room was erected in the school yard in 1991 and the school was refurbished.  The small school yard was surfaced with tarmacadam in 2004 and a new wall was erected around the school yard in 2008. At the back of the school there is a basketball court and continuous use is being made of this space as the pupils’ play area.  The school building which in good condition is maintained in a clean neat and comfortable condition for the small number of pupils attending the school at present.  Two parents clean the school on a weekly rota, and most of the maintenance work is done locally on a voluntary basis which is indicative of the respect for the school in the locality.  This is a challenging developing school which participates in many local and national activities in the areas of art, literature and sport, and deserves credit for the Green Flag which is fluttering in front of the school again this year.

 

The number of pupils enrolled in the school has reduced since the school was opened.  It is thought the school will continue to be a two-teacher school in the short-term.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

21

Mainstream classes in the school

6

Teachers on the school staff

2

Mainstream class teachers

2

Teachers working in support roles

3

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

 

The majority of pupils hail from families where at least one of the parents speaks Irish.  However, many of the pupils enrol in the school having English only as their home language.   This matter presents many difficulties for the school’s staff and board of management, and both deserve praise for the effort and imaginative approach to the cultivation of Irish in the school, so that the pupils can obtain appropriate benefit from the education service.  Local committees also organise many related cultural and Irish activities so that Irish is being used on a daily basis in the people’s lives, and is also being heard in the school’s environment.  The vision of the school’s partners is to strive to cultivate an affectionate, happy and safe atmosphere so that pupils can make progress with their intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and cultural lives.  In this manner, the school is cultivated as an inviting and welcoming place by teachers who are professional and effective in their roles, and a child-centred uniform education service is ensured for every pupil in accordance with his or her ability.

 

1.2 Board of management

 

The board of management has been elected in accordance with the rules of the Department of Education and Science, the roles with special responsibility on the board are identified appropriately and the work is carried out through the medium of Irish.  At least three meetings are convened annually or more frequently if special projects are being undertaken, and minutes of meetings and expenditure are maintained.  The board members understand their responsibilities and a health and safety statement, behaviour policies and decisions regarding enrolment, special education, bullying, equal opportunities, child protection and a strategy for supervision are recorded in the school plan together with a wide range of other curricular activities.  Parents are made aware of their children’s progress at yearly meetings and other contacts both formal and informal are welcomed during the school year.  The school plan is being reviewed at present in the context of this report, and a plan focused on section 9(h) of the Education Act (1998) should be inserted. Contact should also be made with the local language centre which is being resourced by the Gaeltacht Authority, as well as the other interested Gaeltacht organisations in order to reach agreement on the plan focused on section 9 (h) of the Act.  The various ways for sharing ownership of the new plan with parents, as well as common practices in this regard, were discussed with the board.

 

1.3 In-school management

 

The two teachers registered on the school’s staff hold the posts of responsibility of principal and deputy principal respectively.  Both teachers accept responsibility for the school’s administration. Three part-time teachers work in the school, and in future, staff meetings should be convened on a whole-school basis so that the part-time teachers can participate in the review process which is recommended as a consequence of this report.  The teachers are competent and conscientious and ensure that a well-defined progressive education programme is made available to the pupils.  The staff makes good use of the available opportunities for professional development and the use being made of the curriculum support programme in this school is commendable.  Good teaching methods are being practised, equipment and support software are being used regularly and independent learning skills are being cultivated in the pupils.  In the forthcoming review of the school plan it is recommended, to focus on section 9(h) of the Education Act, to define a policy on the investment and use of technology in the school, define the posts of responsibility as well as taking into consideration a developmental plan for standards under the Development of Educational Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) scheme.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

During the pre-conferences, the teachers were praised for their professionalism, and the parents and board of management voiced their satisfaction with the work of the school.  The parents’ representative gave special praise  to the teachers for the help and welcome  offered by the school to all pupils.  Regular meetings are convened with the parents regarding the pupils’ progress, and home-school cooperation is practised on the basis of paired reading and other learning activities.  The community is very proud of the school, it is maintained in a neat and clean manner both internally and externally and support is given to the school by the community as required.  The school is the only public service centre in the locality and the building is used for public meetings and other activities.  The rooms and corridors are inviting and stimulating with pupils’ work on Local History and other projects on display.  The school should provide a periodic newsletter to publicise interesting activities about the school as well as the pupils’ work, and this is a wonderful resource for cultivating the use of technology in the school and for keeping the community up-to-date.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

The school presents a kind open relationship and the board of management confirmed that there was no need to implement the provisions of the code of discipline so far.  A specific atmosphere of mutual respect and workmanship prevails in the school, people are on first-name terms and a wide range of opportunities, equipment and technological resources is available to support a more interesting programme of work.  An interesting work programme was ensured for the pupils resulting in a high attendance level at all times and where pupils are loath to lose any school day.  The manner in which past pupils and pupils in senior classes take good care of the younger pupils during various school activities is commendable.

 

 

2.     Quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole-school and classroom planning

 

The standard of whole-school planning is influential and progressive.  It was agreed to make changes to aspects of the plan during the course of this report, and to have a definite structure in place through which the plan would be discussed with the parents.  It was also agreed that copies of the personal education plans would be available to the parents of special needs pupils and to provide written reports at the end of the school year.

 

The personal planning is referenced to the school plan, the strands, strand units and curricular principles are recognised, the learning programme is differentiated in its delivery and the pupils’ progress is recorded on a regular basis.  A wide range of pedagogy is used in the methodology and both teaching and learning are stimulating and influential.

 

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

While Irish is the main language for intimacy and conversation in the community, pupils with English as their home language attend the school.  This puts significant pressure on teaching through Irish, especially in the junior classes.  Structured emphasis is placed on the development of conversation skills in Irish and the pupils speaking ability in the language when leaving primary school is commendable.  The spirit of the pupils’ cooperation and achievement is evident in the methodology and language enrichment and extension of vocabulary are cultivated as an intrinsic element of the work.  The Séidean Sí scheme is being used to support the language programme and the pupils make good progress in acquiring the basic skills.  Regular use is being made of the school library to cultivate silent reading, and it is recommended that more investment be made in the stock of Irish books.  Higher-order thinking skills are cultivated and the pupils achieve a good standard in accordance with their natural ability.  The pupils indicate a wide range of ability in the tests and more emphasis should be placed on differentiated activities in order to make the work challenge more equitable.  A wide range of composition and writing is undertaken in the school, attention is focused on the mechanics and the pupils are participative and buoyant in writing activities and competitions.  More use could be made of the internet to cultivate friendship contact and a communication network with other schools.

 

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, circle time and discussion are used to develop the communicative approach and an excellent anthology of story, poetry and rhyme is offered and recited in both classrooms. Parents are encouraged to engage in shared reading exercises with the pupils. Continuous use of library books is a central feature of classroom practice and personal reading is encouraged through a ‘drop everything and read’ approach. Writing is taught in a developmental fashion with editing and re-editing being a feature and with emphasis placed on early skills such as hand-eye co-ordination and fine motor skills. Pupils’ progress is monitored through a variety of assessment procedures including teacher observation, questioning, written tasks, correction of copies and standardised tests.

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

A structured programme is organised in Mathematics based on the curriculum, the school plan, and textbook, as well as the teachers’ individual planning.  Memory work is emphasised as a regular exercise in the programme as well as a focus on mathematical terminology in both languages.  The use being made of workshops and concrete material to develop an understanding of the basic concepts is commendable. A separate programme should be designed for the more able pupils.  The curricular strands are covered in a structured manner and pupils are given the opportunity to develop skills of prediction and estimation.  It is recommended that in the short-term, priority be given to the developmental programme in Mathematics, which has been designed as part of the DEIS programme.

 

3.3 Music

 

The various strands in Music are being covered, music production, song singing, instrumental playing, as well as listening and responding to various compositions, are being practised.  Aspects of Music such as pulse, time, pace, dynamic and structure are emphasised through inter-related activities, and there are special music corners in the classrooms.  A graded scheme in music literacy should be designed and agreement at school level is required on the traditional songs to be practised in the various classes.  The pupils participate in the Irish Academy scheme in order to practise instrumental Music.  Annual concerts are organised in the school and the pupils have an opportunity to present the native arts to audiences.  The pupils enjoy modern Music as well as listening to the work of the great composers.

 

3.4 Assessment

 

There is significant variety in the assessment methods being used by the teachers in the school, ranging from teacher observation, check lists, work collections, work samples, projects, some individual profiles, individual work programmes, tasks and teacher-designed tests as well as standardised tests.  The main use being made of them is to provide an insight to parents regarding the progress being made by the pupils.  The recording and analysis of standardised and criterion-referenced tests should be accumulated on an ongoing basis, and the class scores should be maintained for the class groups from year-to-year.  Significant use should also be made of the assessment results in order to differentiate the work programme for individual pupils during the work practices.

 

 

4.    Quality of supports for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

A learning support and resource teacher provide additional service to the school and the correlation and coordination among the teachers for the benefit of the pupils is commendable.  The learning support teacher provides additional teaching in English and Mathematics to pupils with learning difficulties.  This service is of material significance in terms of the development of the appropriate skills for the pupils in question.  The resource teacher provides support service to other pupils with special needs, and the care being devoted to the development of perfection skills, word analysis and phonology is commendable.  Further pillars should be added now to the work programme of the learning support and resource services by introducing modules on the development of self-confidence, the development of industriousness, decision-making and analytical exercises.

 

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

 

The school confirms that local similar pupils comprise the school’s total enrolment at present.  The school is registered under the DEIS scheme and the coordinator creates significant additional opportunities for the pupils and parents to clarify the extent of the work programme.  Attention could be focused now on the development of the parents’ attitude and understanding of the relationship between additive bilingualism and other educational advantages, as well as the advantages which accrue from perfection of the mother tongue to be in accord with the language of the school.  The staff should define an action plan for this area of work in cooperation with the local schools and with other interested cultural organisations.

 

 

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 board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published, June 2010