An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Carrowteige National School

Ballina, Co. Mayo

Uimhir rolla: 15032U

 

Date of inspection: 22 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 support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

A whole school evaluation of Carrowteige National School, Ballina County Mayo was conducted 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 Irish, Mathematics and Geography. 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

 

Carrowteige National School is situated in the Erris area on the northwest coast of County Mayo. It is a Gaeltacht school and the majority of pupils hail from Irish-speaking families. The pupil attendance is generally very good. The school participates in the school support programme Developing Educational Opportunity in Schools (DEIS). The table below presents general information about the school staff and the pupils enrolled in the school at the time of the evaluation.

 

 

 

Number

Pupils on school rolls

31

Mainstream classes in the school

8

Teachers on the school staff

3

Teachers in mainstream classes

2

Special class teachers

0

Learning support teachers

1

Special needs assistants

0

 

 

1.   Quality of school management

 

1.1   Characteristic spirit, mission or school vision

The school patron is the Catholic Bishop of Killala. The school vision recognises the importance of developing the full potential of the pupil. This vision also places high emphasis on the Gaeltacht context of the school. The characteristic spirit of the school is reflected in good communication and positive relationships within the school.

 

1.2 The board of management

The school’s board of management has been appointed in accordance with the Department’s guidelines and it functions entirely through the medium of Irish. The board convenes five meetings during the course of the year and special meetings are also convened when required. Some of the board members have specific roles: chairperson, treasurer and secretary and it is recommended now that a health and safety officer be appointed. Minutes of meetings and a financial report were available for this inspection and it is clear from them that financial matters are in order. The main priority for the board at present is to provide an outside ramp and this matter should be completed urgently.

New policies are discussed at board meetings. It is recommended that the board reviews the school’s enrolment policy to ensure it complies with the statutory requirements of the state. It is recommended that the board signs off on each policy and develops a review procedure.

 

1.3 In-school management

The principal engages in full-time teaching duties and deserves credit for the work which she does regarding the promotion of Irish and keeping accurate and up-to-date school records. Moreover, she enjoys practical helpful co-operation from the teachers. She has a pleasant relationship with the school community and she knows all the families well. The greatest challenge facing her now is the full review of the implementation of the school plan. It is recommended that the principal receive assistance from the support services in order to carry out this task.

 

The principal gets commendable support from the deputy principal. The special duties are delegated on an informal basis. The functioning of the in-school management team should now be placed on a more formal footing, and there should be a full review of the duties attaching to each post in accordance with the circular letter 07/03.

 

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Although the school does not have a parents’ association at present, there is open and effective dialogue between the teachers and the school community, and parents are welcomed at any time when they feel the need to discuss a matter with the teachers concerning their children. It is reported that the parents hold the teachers in very high regard. The parents are given the opportunity to discuss test results and their children’s progress at meetings which are convened once a year. The parents get a written report on their children’s progress at the end of each school year. The parents’ participation is significantly furthered by the provision of the programme Mathematics for Fun.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

The pupils of Carrowteige National School are well-mannered. The majority of them are interested in their lessons and in the different activities which the teachers organise for them. The pupils co-operate very effectively together, they show respect for the teachers and they welcome visitors. The code of discipline and rules are applied fairly and appropriately.

 

 

2.   quality of school planning

 

2.1 Whole school planning and planning for the classroom

In general the standard of planning is reasonable. While a range of administrative and curricular policies are available in the school plan, the plan does not provide guidance for the work of the school. Many of the plans are too general and do not provide sufficient support for the effective implementation of the curriculum at classroom level. It is recommended that the school plan be reviewed to tailor it to the particular context of this school. In particular, there is a need to review completely the programme of work for infants. It is recommended that a comprehensive plan be developed for the teaching and learning programme, to take pedagogical issues into account to ensure that a satisfactory curriculum with breadth and balance is provided, and which will be in accordance with the principles and practices of the Primary School Curriculum.

 

Each teacher provides written preparation for teaching in all areas of the curriculum. In some of the short-term plans, the clear identification of learning objectives and the teaching methods to be used is commendable. The teachers provide monthly progress reports and there is some variety in the practice in this regard. It would be better to adopt a whole-school approach for this aspect of the work, and also to highlight in it the importance of skill development as well as the acquisition of knowledge.

 

Appropriate learning programmes are prepared for the pupils who attend the learning-support teachers. The support teachers confer informally with the class teachers regarding the learning needs of the pupils.

 

A stimulating learning environment is created in the classrooms, and the manner in which the pupils’ work is celebrated through the interesting display of samples of their work throughout the school is commendable. The teachers deserve credit for the fine range of resources which they prepare in support of the teaching and learning.

 

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

 

Irish

The standard of learning and teaching in Irish is very good. Irish is used as the medium of instruction and communication in this school except during the teaching of English. Most of the pupils reach a high standard in Irish. The teachers place due emphasis on the pupils’ oral skills. In the infant and junior classes, the lessons are presented energetically and skilfully. Different techniques are used to encourage the pupils to speak. Vocabulary and common sayings are taught carefully and pupils are given the opportunity to be actively involved in the work through the use of drama and role-play. In the middle and senior classes the lessons are taught productively and enthusiastically. The pupils’ vocabulary and speaking ability are extended cleverly. Almost all pupils can talk about themselves and about a lot of other subjects in a fluent manner. The pupils recite rhymes and poems expressively. A rich selection of printed material is on display in the classrooms.

 

The pupils’ reading and writing skills are cultivated effectively. The program Séideán Sí and a range of textbooks are being used to foster reading skills. It would be worthwhile to make a significant investment in the purchase of modern Irish books for the school library. A wide range of creative and functional writing is undertaken in the school. The work is well monitored and pupils are given the opportunity to display their work in all the classrooms.

 

3.2 Mathematics

In general a reasonable standard is achieved in Mathematics, but it is clear from the results of the standardised tests and the pupils’ responses during the evaluation, that there is scope for development in this aspect of the curriculum. Good practice was observed in those classes where mathematics games and active methods are being used to consolidate mathematical concepts. In the middle and senior classes group work, pair work, related themes and concrete materials are used to explore mathematical concepts and the work is being integrated in a realistic manner with other curricular areas. It would be worthwhile now to direct attention towards the use of these methods in every class throughout the school.

 

Additional equipment is required to implement activity and discovery methods in the infant and junior classes. It is also recommended that a number-rich environment be established throughout the school. It is recommended that more emphasis be placed on mathematical problem-solving and on the memorisation of number facts throughout the school. The majority of pupils record their work neatly and with clarity. The teachers monitor this work systematically.

 

3.3 Geography

The standards of teaching and learning in Geography are good. The pupils’ interest in Geography is being fostered effectively and there is some progression from class to class. The pupils’ understanding of the various concepts is being cultivated sensibly. Pupils’ understanding of the immediate environment, the lives of the people and the physical features of the environment, countries and foreign lands is being developed. Maps and globes were observed in every classroom and they were being used appropriately. The use being made of the digital projector during the teaching of lessons in the senior classes is commendable. The school is attempting to achieve Green Flag status for the first time and in this regard environmental awareness and care are being cultivated. The school garden has been developed recently. This work is being integrated in a beneficial manner with art and other curricular areas. It is recommended that more attention be given to the development of skills and language development as well as knowledge in this aspect of the subject.

 

A school plan for Geography has been laid out but it is too general and it provides insufficient support for the implementation of the curriculum at classroom level. It is recommended that the plan be reviewed to make it appropriate to the particular circumstances of this school. It is recommended that the school plan and individual teacher planning be connected, that the range of classroom work be clarified in the school plan, and that the topics chosen from the main themes at every level be recorded in order to ensure continuity and progression from class to class.

 

3.4 Assessment

Standardised tests in English and Mathematics are administered to every pupil from first class onwards and the Middle Infants Screening Test (MIST) is used for senior infants. It would be worthwhile now to do an analysis of the outcomes of these standardised tests on a whole-school basis in order to identify areas of the work programme where additional development is required. In all classes, copybooks and pupils’ written work are being monitored on a regular basis.  In the senior classes additional strategies are also being used such as teacher observation, checklists, collections of work, work samples, projects, tasks and school-based tests in the assessment process. This good practice is commendable. A record of pupil progress is maintained in the school files but some of them are incomplete. It would be worthwhile to make better use of this information as an instrument for evaluating the effectiveness of teaching and learning strategies, and to assist classroom planning, group and individual work.

 

 

4.   Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The school implements the staged approach in accordance with Department of Education and Science circular 02/05, although this approach is not outlined in the school plan. The learning-support teacher operates on a shared basis with other primary schools in the locality. The resource teacher provides support to one pupil. Both teachers are required to spend time travelling from school to school. It is recommended that the school reviews the operation of the scheme in order to provide a better service. The learning-support teacher, the resource teacher and the home-school-community liaison teacher provide additional teaching in English and Mathematics to those pupils who have learning difficulties. Comprehensive preparation is being undertaken. Individual pupil programmes are being provided for each pupil for whom teaching and learning targets have been identified and details of the pupils’ daily progress are maintained. It is recommended that the class teachers be provided with a copy of the work programme for their pupils. The positive help and encouragement being given to the pupils is commendable.

 

The support and resource teaching is being provided in a vacant classroom. This room is also used as a staff-room and as a storeroom for school resources. It is recommended that the board develop this space to provide a dedicated space for learning-support teaching.

 

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

The coordinator, who has been appointed in accordance with the provisions of the scheme Developing Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS), works in the school for one day each week. He organises a wide range of activities to support the pupils, including additional teaching in Mathematics. Classes for parents in the areas of education and health are organised on a regular basis. The staff has developed a long-term plan for the DEIS project in order to achieve the literacy and numeracy targets. It is recommended that this plan be reviewed. A healthy lunch is provided to the pupils on a daily basis.

 

 

5. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

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

 

 

 

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, March 2010