An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Tonragee National School
Tonragee, Achill, County Mayo
Roll Number: 16113C
Date of inspection: 9 October 2009
A whole school evaluation of Tonragee National School was conducted in October 2009. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for its further development. 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 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.
Tonragee National School is a small rural school. It is situated between Achill Sound and Mulrany in west Mayo. It is a Gaeltacht school, although English is the mother tongue of the majority of the pupils. The majority of the families attending the school have returned from England and they do not speak Irish. Very little Irish is spoken in this locality. This provides a challenge for the teachers to cater for the learning needs of the pupils, while at the same time ensuring that Irish is the language of communication within the school. An extension to the school building, with new facilities was built in 2008. The building is clean and neat, and it is decorated in a stimulating and attractive manner with charts and educational resources, together with samples of the pupils’ work on display. The school participates in the school support programme Developing Equality of Education in Schools (DEIS).
The table below presents general information about the school staff and the pupils enrolled in the school at the time when the evaluation was being conducted.
Pupils on school rolls
Mainstream classes in the school
Teachers on the school staff
Teachers in mainstream classes
Learning support teachers
Special needs assistants
1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or school vision
The school patron is the Catholic Archbishop of Tuam. There is a strong learning spirit in this school. The school endeavours to develop the pupil in a holistic manner. The school’s vision recognises the importance of providing a good broad education to every pupil. The school has been making praiseworthy efforts in recent years to promote the Gaeltacht status of the school and to promote Irish in the school and the locality.
1.2 The board of management
The school’s board of management is properly constituted. Meetings are convened regularly and minutes are maintained. When the extension was being built recently, the board convened many additional meetings to organise and discuss the work. In general, the business of meetings is conducted through English, and during the evaluation most of the meetings with the board were conducted through English at the request of the board members. The board understands and accepts its responsibilities to promote Irish in the school in accordance with Section 9 of the Education Act (1998). The board has implemented an action plan to teach all subjects through Irish with the exception of Mathematics, which is being taught in both languages. It is stated that the board is fully satisfied with the education which the school is providing, and especially with the improvement in Irish in the school in recent years. The board deserves praise for the level of support being given to the staff to provide good facilities in the school. Expenditure is being controlled and minutes and financial reports were made available to this inspection. It is recommended that the board provides a health and safety statement for the new building as soon as possible.
1.3 In-school management
The principal works professionally and diligently and with noteworthy effectiveness to give excellent leadership to the staff and pupils in the school. She performs her work with competence and enthusiasm. The principal has a vision that the school would be a motivating and enjoyable centre of learning for every pupil, and the manner in which she succeeds in implementing this vision is commendable. She deserves special credit for her efforts in the promotion of Irish as the school’s language of communication and teaching medium.
The principal receives commendable support from the deputy principal. A culture of co-operation and collaboration is evident in the school. It is clear that the staff is committed to an ongoing process of reflection, development and improvement. The staff of the school demonstrates a strong interest in continuing professional development. The board is advised to review posts of responsibility regularly to ensure that they meet the changing needs of the school.
1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community
Very good relations are noted among the school’s education partners. The parents indicate satisfaction with the educational provision. They take a very active part in the life of the school, and they have a very important role in organising school events, supporting the Christmas concert and the celebration of the sacraments. The parents’ loyalty to the school emanates from the relationship which is cultivated with them, and special credit is due to the principal for her role in the development of this relationship. The parents are made welcome at any time when they wish to discuss any matter concerning their children. Meetings are arranged annually to discuss pupil progress with the parents, and written reports on pupil progress are sent home at the end of the school year. It is recommended that the board builds on this good relationship and establishes a parents’ association in the school.
1.5 Management of pupils
It was observed during the evaluation that the pupils were well-mannered, friendly and co-operative. A code of discipline is included in the school plan and is shared with the parents. It is clear that the code of discipline is based on positive affirmation, and on the cultivation of respect between teachers and pupils, and among the pupils themselves. The effective teaching methods ensure pupils are eager and motivated in their learning.
2.1 Whole school planning and planning for the classroom
The standard of planning in the school is good. A wide range of administrative and curricular policies is laid out clearly and is being implemented. Recently a start has been made on making all policies available through Irish and English, and it is expected that the whole school plan will shortly be available in both languages. It is recommended that the school devise a process for the regular review of the school plan.
The teachers prepare short and long-term plans for their teaching in a regular and conscientious manner. The very attractive manner in which each learning area is organised and decorated by the teachers is commendable.
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.
Although this is a Gaeltacht school, English is the mother tongue of the majority of the pupils. The teachers make every effort with the teaching of Irish in this school and as a result, the standard of spoken Irish attained by the pupils is commendable. Language skills are being developed effectively throughout the school. The pupils demonstrate appropriate understanding of the subject matter they have heard. They recite rhymes, poems and songs with understanding, meaning and enjoyment. A lot of emphasis is placed on enjoyment and the use of the language in activities such as stories, two-person interviews, role-play, drama and language games. Pupils in the middle and senior classes are capable of sustained conversation on a variety of themes.
The majority of pupils reach a high standard in reading. It is noted that good use is being made of suitable textbooks throughout the school. A good range of big books is being used in the lower classes. It would improve the teaching and learning of reading if more challenging activities were provided for some of the pupils. The standard of written Irish is good. Emphasis is placed on neatness and accuracy, and the emphasis being placed on free-writing and the writing process deserves special praise.
There is a good standard of English throughout the school. Commendable emphasis is placed on the development of oral language. Most of the pupils can speak about themselves, their interests and a variety of other topics articulately and enthusiastically. The work done on the recitation, study and writing of poetry in every class is particularly impressive. Pupils are encouraged to illustrate their personal response to a poem through Art and Drama. Effective strategies such as the use of listening comprehension and pair work enable the pupils to develop their listening and speaking skills.
The standard of reading of many pupils is good and a fine collection of books is available to them. Pupils’ phonological skills are developed in a structured manner. Very good use is made of the large-format book in junior classes as a springboard for developing pupils’ vocabulary, comprehension and prediction skills. Pupils are introduced to a range of novels from third class onwards to supplement the graded reading materials used. The selection of novels is used successfully to extend pupils’ knowledge and appreciation of language and to develop their skills of understanding and interpreting text. It is advised that strategies such as shared reading in the junior classes and peer tutoring in the senior classes be used to further enhance pupils’ reading experiences.
Commendable emphasis is placed on writing in all classes. Some very good samples of pupils’ work are on display in classrooms or are made into class books. Presentation and editing skills are good and pupils have regular opportunities to practise functional and creative writing. Teachers are to be commended for the systematic correction of pupils’ work and for providing pupils with positive and helpful suggestions for improvement.
A high standard has been achieved in this school in the teaching and learning of Mathematics. The results of the standardised tests, and the pupils’ responses during the evaluation, indicate a good level of understanding in the various concepts. Work in Mathematics is carefully graded, and accuracy in computation is fostered. Pupils are frequently provided with opportunities to learn in groups when engaged in problem-solving. It would benefit the learning in Mathematics if more use were made of mathematical display materials, and a number-rich environment were created in both languages. With a view to building on the good work taking place in the Mathematics classes, and to reap further benefit from the beautiful environment in which the school is situated, Mathematics trails could be designed based on the strands or topics of the curriculum.
There is clearly considerable enthusiasm for the teaching of Music throughout the school. Some teachers have musical skills of a very high standard and they are very willing to use their talents to promote the pupils’ singing and instrumental-music skills. The school choir sings a wide range of songs in Irish and English. The sweetness of the singing is commendable and the pupils enjoy singing in two-part harmony. The school band plays a wide range of instruments with skill and confidence. In the individual classes great care is taken with the introduction and development of literacy. Music is integrated meaningfully with other areas of the curriculum. The pupils are active participants in music programmes such as Music in the Classroom. The music of the great composers is listened to in order to develop listening skills. Clearly this curriculum is being implemented in a beneficial and integrated manner, and very effective use is made of appropriate resources during the teaching.
A wide range of assessment methods is used to monitor the pupils’ progress. Included are standardised tests, diagnostic tests, teacher observation, checklists and tasks and tests designed by the teacher. Accurate records of all results are maintained, and there is an effective system in place to ensure pupil progress from class to class is carefully monitored. It would be worthwhile now for the school to conduct non-verbal reasoning tests on the pupils, and to compare the individual pupil’s score in this test with the score in standardised tests. The pupils’ written work is corrected frequently. The staff deserves praise for its initiative in the early identification of pupils with learning difficulties and in providing early intervention.
4.1 Pupils with special educational needs
The school implements the staged approach in accordance with circular (02/05) of the Department of Education and Science. The learning-support teacher operates on a shared basis with other schools in the locality. An effective service is being provided to them. Support is being provided in English and Mathematics. Planning is detailed and clear. The learning-support teacher undertakes diagnostic testing to devise appropriate individual education programmes in consultation with the class teachers. The learning-support teacher operates in a small room which is attractively decorated and well-organised with helpful resources. The pupils visit this room mainly in groups, but support is also provided in their own classrooms. It is recommended that support teachers provide in-class support as far as possible. It is recommended that a significant investment be made in the range of books which is available in the learning-support room. Both the positive help being given to the pupils and the raising of their self-esteem are commendable.
4.2 Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups
The school avails of support from the co-ordinator of the scheme Developing Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS). He provides thorough and comprehensive planning for his work. He arranges a wide range of activities to support the pupils. Valuable support is provided to the parents through home visitation. Courses are provided to teachers in the locality. Mathematics for Fun and Literacy for Fun are organised. It is recommended that the school promotes Irish among the parents.
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
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The board of management and staff of Tonragee NS wishes to thank the inspector. She worked pleasantly and kindly with us and supported and affirmed us. She encouraged us with her professional advice and sincerity.
We accept her advice and guidance. We are making every effort to implement these.