An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole School Evaluation



Pollathomas National School,

Ballina, County Mayo

Roll number:16283E


Date of inspection: 18 October 2007

Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008




Whole school evaluation

Introducion – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of School Planning


Summary of findings and recommendations for further development






Whole school evaluation


A whole school evaluation of Pollathomas National School was conducted in October 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 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.



 Introducion – school context and background


Pollathomas National School is a small Gaeltacht school situated 20 kilometres from Belmullet in north County Mayo. Boys and girls from infants to sixth class attend this school. This school is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killala. School attendance is generally 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


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


Special needs’ assistants




1.     Quality of school management



1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision of the school


The school mission is published, in English, in the school plan. The holistic development of pupils is promoted through the provision of a broad curriculum. Respect is promoted between pupils and teachers, as is the respect of pupils for one another. The school acknowledges its Catholic ethos. It is recommended that a stronger emphasis be placed on Irish in the mission statement.


1.2 Board of management

The board of management was constituted in accordance with the regulations of the Department of Education and Science. Two board meetings a term are held and minutes are kept of these meetings.  Some board members have a specific role: chairperson, treasurer, secretary and health and safety officer. The board gives strong support in regard to school organisational matters to the staff.  A computer room is currently under construction.  It is noted that the board is entirely satisfied with the education provided, and in particular with the improvement in Irish in recent years.    




1.3 In school management


The principal provides very effective leadership to the staff. She displays great commitment and diligence and the board of management, parents and teachers are aware of this.  She promotes an atmosphere of openness and collegiality among the school community. The daily administration of the school is conducted effectively. A staff meeting is arranged each term. A commendable emphasis is placed on curriculum priorities and on curriculum development. The staff works consistently on the challenges that face the school, although action plans are not always in written format. It is recommended at this point that the planning process be progressed by attending to the implementation of the school plan.


1.4 Managing relationships and communication with the school community


There is an open and effective communication between the teachers and the school community. Parents hold the staff of the school in high regard. Meetings are held each year with the parents to discuss the progress of their children. Parents are welcomed to the school at any time. Letters are regularly issued to parents to inform them of upcoming school events.


The school has an active parents committee in place. A meeting is arranged each term. Significant financial support is provided to the school. A party is arranged each term for the pupils. An annual sports’ day is also organised. The school building is upgraded on an ongoing basis. Most recently they organised the building of a new kitchen for the staff, the resurfacing of the playground and the painting of the school.


Members of the parents committee express an interest in school planning. It is recommended that plans and policies be made available to parents. It is also recommended that, when appropriate, small committees be formed to deal with certain policies. 


1.5 Management of pupils


Pupils are generally courteous and mannerly. It is recommended that the code of behaviour be reviewed to include the participation of parents and pupils. It is recommended that those effective strategies that are applied to encourage good behaviour be outlined in the school plan.



2.     Quality of School Planning


2.1 Whole school planning and classroom planning


The quality of planning in the school is of a reasonable standard. The staff, under the guidance of the principal, has developed a school plan. A range of policies relevant to the administration of the school have been developed. Some of these are too general. The good practice observed in classrooms is not always documented. Most of the policies have been written in English although this is a Gaeltacht school. It is recommended that the policies and plans in the school plan be reviewed so that they are suitable for the particular context of this school.


The quality of classroom planning is good. Teachers provide written planning for their work in all curricular areas. The teaching methodologies and the resources used are appropriately described. Some of the teachers have effectively provided for differentiation in their schemes of work.  It is recommended that all teachers would apply this good practice. The schemes of work do not always reflect the details and strategies outlined in the school plan. It is recommended that the school plan be reviewed to make teachers aware of all the curriculum plans.

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.





3.1 Overview of teaching and learning



The standard of Irish is quite high in terms of fluency and comprehension.  Most teachers are effectively developing language skills. Pupils have a higher standard of Irish in those classes where the teacher avoids the translation method, and where there is a print-rich environment. The communicative approach is being promoted through structured lessons and a variety of teaching methods. Poems, songs, language games, posters, role play and stories are used to encourage pupils to speak.  Some teachers listen carefully to pupils’ spoken Irish (while they are engaging in pair work or group work) without correcting them and then base short lessons on the mistakes they hear from pupils. This practice is highly commendable It is recommended that an action plan be developed to promote spoken Irish in the school yard and while pupils are working in pairs or in groups.


Irish reading is formally introduced at the end of the second year at school. An interest in reading is encouraged through the use of big books and a wide range of library books. Flashcards, display charts and a variety of texts are used to excellent effect in some classes. Pupils read with confidence and understanding but it is recommended that an emphasis be placed on pronunciation in Irish in order to promote accuracy. 


The standard of writing is fair. Pupils do not, in general, have enough opportunities for independent writing. In the higher classes pupils engage in a wide range of writing activities including stories, letters, news, notices and book reviews. It is recommended that the staff discuss a whole-school approach to the development of written Irish.



The standard of English is high. The spoken language is developed through structured play, poems, rhymes, charts and language games. Infants have excellent opportunities to learn rhymes and to engage in specific oral language lessons in English. It would be worthwhile to make more use of pair work with a view to developing communicative skills.


Pupils are progressing well in English reading. This begins in junior infants and is systematically developed throughout the school. An appropriate emphasis is placed on phonological awareness in the infant classes. It would be worthwhile, at this point, implementing a whole-school approach to this aspect of reading. The development of reading skills is commendable in some classes. Pupils are given opportunities to regularly use computer software and the internet. The following good practice is also evident: paired reading; the use of the novel, and the use of a range of print materials in the classrooms. It is recommended that all teachers would apply these practices.


Writing is taught successfully. Penmanship is carefully developed throughout the school. Grammar and spelling are taught systematically and developmentally. The writing process is promoted in most classes. Pupils gain experience of a wide range of writing genres.


3.2 Mathematics


The standard of Mathematics is high. Most of the pupils enjoy this subject. Lessons are systematically prepared and emphasis is placed on pupil participation. An effective range of teaching methods are used. Concrete materials and visual materials are used to very good effect. Pupils work in groups, in pairs and individually. The staff has devised effective whole-school approaches to mental Mathematics and problem solving. In most classrooms an environment is created that motivates learning in mathematics. It is recommended that teachers emphasise the development of mathematical language in Irish.


3.3 Physical Education


Because the school has no hall the implementation of this subject depends to a large extent on the weather. The board of management hopes to build a school hall in the near future and this will greatly enhance the teaching of this subject. The pupils experience quite a wide range of activities and they enjoy these lessons. The physical activities conducted by the teachers in the junior classes each morning are commendable. Teachers are to be congratulated for the gender equaity promoted in Physical Education. Teachers place an appropriate emphasis on the structure of lessons: warm-up, skill development, mini-games and cool down. The most effective practice observed included teachers organising pupils into groups, teaching new vocabulary and explaining the structure of the lesson before leaving the classroom. It is recommended that smaller groups be organised by teachers to allow pupils to participate more fully. It is further recommended that assessment in Physical Education be devised by staff.


3.4 Assessment


The teachers use a range of assessment strategies on a whole-school basis. Although teacher observation has been mentioned as an assessment method the teachers do not keep a record of the progress they see from these observations. Pupils’ written work is regularly corrected. Formal assessment is conducted from first class onwards in English and Mathematics. The Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST) is conducted with senior infants. Meetings are arranged with parents once a year to discuss these results and the general progress of pupils. It is recommended that more use be made of profile checklists as a method of assessing subjects other than Irish, English and Mathematics.





4.1 Pupils with special educational needs


Pupils with special needs are provided with an effective support service. Support is provided in English and Mathematics. Two pupils receive support from the resource teacher. The school complies with the staged approach as outlined in the Department of Education and Science’s circular (02/05), but this practice is not included in the school plan. Comprehensive planning is provided. Individual education programmes are prepared for each child. Meetings are held with parents to discuss these programmes. It is recommended that a meeting be organised each term to discuss pupil progress with parents and to make them aware of the individual education plan for their child. Structured lessons are organised that are based on the needs and interests of the pupils. Pupils are motivated through games and competitions. Although this is a Gaeltacht school, the additional support services are provided entirely through English. It is recommended that this be discussed and that whole-school strategies be put in place that focuses on pupils’ needs. It is further recommended that Irish be used in the school by support teachers for informal interaction with pupils.


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


The school receives support from a DEIS (Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools) coordinator. As part of this work, the range of books and computer software is in the process of being developed. A reading initiative has begun in the school but this has not been written into the DEIS plan. Parents receive valuable support through home visits and adult education courses. Classes on ‘Mathematics for fun’ and ‘Science for fun’ are organised. It is recommended that the school promote Irish amongst the parents.



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.