An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Roll number: 14866S
Date of inspection: 21st November 2007
A whole school evaluation of Bullsmouth National School was conducted in November 2007. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for further development of the work of the school. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Physical Education. The board of management 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.
Bullsmouth National School is a two teacher school. It is situated in a Gaeltacht area on Achill Island, on the west coast of County Mayo. This school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Tuam. Boys and girls from infants to sixth class attend this school. There are 32 pupils currently on roll. School attendance is very good. The last school report was conducted in 1998.
The table below provides some general information on the staff of the school and on the pupils enrolled during the evaluation period:
Pupils enrolled in the school
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the staff of the school
Teachers in mainstream classes
Teachers assigned to a support role (shared post)
Special needs’ assistants
The school has a mission statement. Efforts are made to cultivate a happy atmosphere in the school in order to promote the holistic development of pupils. Although this is a Catholic school, pupils from other religious backgrounds are welcomed into the school. It is stated in the mission statement that the school will “always attempt to promote Irish in the school”. It is recommended that the school would promote Irish as the first language of the school amongst the teachers and pupils.
The board of management was constituted in accordance with the appropriate procedures. Board meetings are held regularly and minutes are kept of these meetings. Some board members have particular roles: chairperson, treasurer, secretary and health and safety officer. The board attends appropriately to the development of the school building. A new hall was recently built with assistance from the Department of Rural, Community and Gaeltacht affairs, and Coiste Forbartha Dhún Ibhir. New windows were also installed in the school. The school board now intends to develop the area at the back of the school.
The principal is a fairly effective leader. She works on policy drafts for the school plan but these are not distributed amongst the teachers. The administration of the school on a day-to-day basis is conducted in a moderately effective way. The roll books and school registers are not completed in accordance with Department regulations. A staff meeting is held once a term but the pupils are usually in attendance at this time. It is recommended that the principal seek the support of Leadership Development for Schools in order to develop leadership skills.
There is reasonable management of the relationships and communication between the school and the wider community. Meetings are held annually with parents in order to discuss the progress of pupils. Letters are sent to parents to inform them of various events. It was noted that there is currently no parents’ association in the school. It is recommended that the school would support and encourage any initiative on the part of parents to set up a Parents’ Association, as provided for in Article 26(3) of the Education Act (1998), as well as providing more opportunities for parents to participate in the work of the school.
The pupils in the school are welcoming and respectful. The school has an agreed code of behaviour which places an appropriate emphasis on strategies to promote good behaviour. Good listening habits and good behaviour are cultivated amongst the pupils in some instances. Difficulties were, however, evident at times. It is advisable that the school would ensure that appropriate practices with regard to the management of pupils be put in place in a consistent manner.
2. Quality of School Planning
The quality of organisational policies is good. They are clearly laid out. These policies are written in English despite the fact that this is a Gaeltacht school. Some of the policies are out of date relative to the circulars that have issued from the Department of Education and Science in recent years. In some cases, the practices recorded in the policy statements do not comply with current practice in the school. The quality of curriculum planning is of a mediocre standard. Many of these plans are too generic in nature. It is recommended that the school plan be revised in order to reflect the context of this particular school.
The following good practices are evident in individual teachers’ planning. Specific objectives are outlined and reference is made to teaching methodologies and the use of resources. In some particular cases, however, the long-term planning is based on the pupils’ textbooks. Every teacher maintains a monthly progress report. It is recommended that the school seek the support of the School Development Planning Support (SDPS) in order to develop a whole-school policy on teachers’ planning.
It was confirmed, in accordance with Circular 0061/2006 from the Department of Education and Science, that the Board of Management has formally approved the Guidelines for Primary Schools on Child Protection (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). It was not confirmed, however, that the focus of management, of the staff of the school and of the parents had been directed towards the practices in regard to child protection. Neither was it confirmed that copies of this policy had been distributed to staff members (including new members); or that management has ensured that these practices are being followed. A designated liaison person and a deputy designated liaison person have been appointed as required by the guidelines. It is recommended that a copy of the policy be given to all staff members.
The standard of Irish is fairly good throughout the school. Despite the fact that this is a Gaeltacht school, Irish is not the management language in the classroom. Oral work in the morning is structured. Songs and language games are used effectively to motivate the pupils. Pupils in the senior class can speak at length about various topics. Drama is used commendably to develop an interest in Irish. Pupils have difficulties using verbs. It is recommended that Irish be developed as the first language of the school. It is recommended that additional emphasis be placed on pair work in order to promote the communicative approach.
The standard of Irish reading is fair. Formal reading usually begins in second class depending on the ability of the pupils. The pupils in general read confidently, but not necessarily accurately. It is recommended that their interest in Irish books be developed by reading big books or novels to the pupils. Irish books should be stocked in the library to encourage pupils to read of their own volition. It is also recommended that lessons based on pronunciation in Irish be prepared in order to develop accuracy in reading.
The standard of writing is poor. The majority of writing activities are textbook-based. There is little variation in these activities. Not enough emphasis is placed on the skills of process writing. Creative writing is not developed. The teachers do not regularly correct pupils’ errors, and this interferes with the development of writing skills.
The standard of English is good throughout the school. English is plentiful in classrooms. Pupils can express themselves effectively and they display ability in asking questions. Despite this, it is recommended that discrete time be spent each week on oral language development in English. It is recommended that emphasis be placed on communication skills and language use in different contexts. There is too much emphasis placed on whole-class teaching. It is recommended that a wider range of teaching methodologies be applied.
The standard of reading is good. There is a library in both classrooms with an appropriate range of books. Interest in reading is developed by reading stories to the pupils. They have opportunities to bring books home. It is recommended that books of a higher standard be read to the pupils in first and second classes. Early reading is taught carefully and systematically. Pupils can read new words confidently. Phonics is effectively taught in the junior classes and this greatly enhances pupils’ reading ability. It is recommended that this good practice be applied in the senior classes.
The standard of writing is fair. Early writing is taught regularly. There is not enough emphasis placed on process writing. The computer is seldom used to publish pupils’ work. There is not enough variation in the writing tasks. Too much emphasis is placed on textbooks. It is recommended that pupils’ creative writing be promoted throughout the school. It is further recommended that visual materials to support pupils’ writing be displayed in the classroom.
The standard of Mathematics is fairly high. Pupils are positively disposed towards Mathematics. This subject is taught through English. In the junior classes, an appropriate emphasis is placed on number rhymes. The lessons are effectively structured and paced. Mathematics is connected to the pupils’ lives, which greatly enhances understanding. Too much emphasis is placed on whole-class teaching. It is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on pair work and on group work to develop the language of Mathematics. It is recommended that whole-school strategies be developed for problem-solving and for mental Mathematics. Structured play should be organised on a daily basis for infants in order to develop early-mathematical skills.
Physical Education is effectively taught through Irish. An appropriate emphasis is placed on the structure of lessons, including warm-up and cool-down activities. Pupils enjoy the activities. Attention is always given to participation and gender balance. Pupils with special needs participate in these lessons. It is recommended, however, that a more appropriate use be made of the special needs’ assistants to develop pupils’ skills. Stations are used effectively as an approach to skill development. Too much emphasis is sometimes placed on whole-class teaching. It is recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on pair work, particularly with the junior classes.
The pupils’ work is assessed and their progress is monitored by means of teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks and samples of pupils’ work. Although teacher observation is mentioned as an assessment method, teachers do not maintain written records. Standardised assessment tests are administered in English and Mathematics from first class onwards. The staff intends to use the ‘Middle Infant Screening Test’ for the first time in the third term. It is recommended that standardised tests be used with infants to identify learning difficulties at an early stage. It is recommended that greater use be made of checklists or profiles to assess subjects other than Mathematics and English.
4. QUALITY OF SUPPORT FOR PUPILS
A reasonable service is available for pupils with special educational needs. The school does not follow the systematic approach as outlined in Circular 03/05 of the Department of Education and Science. Most teachers plan comprehensively but not every teacher provides a long-term scheme, a short-term scheme and a monthly progress report as required by Rule 126 of the Rules for National Schools. An individual programme is provided for each pupil. Meetings are arranged with parents to discuss this programme. It is recommended that a meeting be held each term to discuss the progress of pupils with parents and to inform them of the pupil’s individual education programme. Lessons are prepared based on the needs and interests of pupils. Sometimes the pupils are motivated by using games and competitions. It is recommended that an emphasis be placed on language development in the support setting.
A coordinator appointed under the Providing Equal Opportunity for Schools (DEIS) initiative works in the school one day a week. She arranges a wide range of activities to support pupils. They are currently involved in the scheme ‘Cycling Safety’ organised by Mayo County Council. Classes pertaining to education and health are regularly arranged for parents. The coordinator has strong associations with community groups, including Meitheal Mhaigh Eo, the local playschool, CorrAcla Teoranta and Mayo Education Centre. Courses are provided for teachers on the island. The staff has completed a long-term plan as part of the DEIS initiative in order to achieve objectives in literacy and numeracy. It is recommended that the DEIS coordinator would implement a language programme in Irish with groups of pupils.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The board of management is working hard to provide resources for pupils to support their education.
· The pupils are welcoming and courteous.
· The school has formed a close relationship with various community groups who provide grants to the school to secure resources and equipment.
· Teachers use school resources effectively.
· Physical education is being taught effectively and the pupils enjoy this subject.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made.
· It is recommended that Irish be promoted as the first language of the school and that every subject be taught through Irish.
· It is recommended that a wider range of methodologies be used to systematically develop pupils’ skills.
· It is recommended that a whole-school approach to teachers’ planning be devised, consistent with the stated requirements of the Primary School Curriculum.
· It is recommended that the policy on child protection be discussed with all members of staff and the chairperson of the board of management as a matter of urgency.
· It is recommended that a greater emphasis be placed on the development of writing in both Irish and English.
· It is recommended that the school plan be reviewed so that it is appropriate to the context and the practices of this particular 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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
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 policy on child protection has been discussed by all staff members and the chairperson of the board.
The board of Management is happy to take all the recommendations on board.
Published September 2008