An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Bhríde

Tír na Cille, County Galway

Roll number:19357W

 

Date of inspection: 27 February 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Report of Whole School Evaluation

Introducion – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of School Planning

The quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

 

 

 

 

 

Report of Whole School Evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Saint Brigid’s National School in February 2008.  It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for its further development. The evaluation focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Social, Personal and Health 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

 

This Gaeltacht school is situated on a lovely raised platform of rich foliage in a mountain glen on the shores of Lough Corrib at Ballinabrak. Rarely would one encounter a school site that is so neatly and beautifully kept, situated amongst natural and manmade resources that are accessible to the school. A well-kept community centre is nearby, including a multipurpose hall, a games area, kitchen, and showers. The location includes a play area with swings, climbing frames, swinging ropes, supporting trees, slides and a natural play and design area to the rear, and a well-equipped games field alongside. A marked basketball court is on the north side of the school and an organic garden is in the field alongside the school. These resources are located in an area covered with mature trees that overhang on shrub and flower gardens with an organic garden and green play areas stretching to the southern aspect of the site. There has been a significant reduction in this school’s enrolment, the school having six classes and fifteen pupils at present.

 

The table below provides general information on the staff of the school and on the pupils registered in the school during the evaluation period:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

15

Mainstream classes in the school

6

Teacher(s) on the staff of the school

2

Teacher(s) in mainstream classes

2

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

1

Special needs’ assistants

0

 

 

1.     Quality of school management

 

 

1.1 Characteristic spirit, mission or vision of the school

Although Irish is quite common in the area there are not many pupils from Irish speaking homes currently attending the school. The board of management and teachers in the school are commended for their diligence in regard to the teaching and learning of Irish in the school. A number of worthwhile cultural and language events are organised by local groups, so that Irish is heard in the school environs. Pupils have ongoing practice of speaking the language and many experiences in Irish by the time they finish in primary school. The Board of Management is commended for the level of support they provide for staff that create an appropriate learning environment for pupils, and pupils benefit from the educational supports made available to them both inside and outside the school. Those involved in the school aim to create a happy and positive learning environment, in cooperation with the families at home, so that each pupil can grow and learn in a manner that prepares them for the next step in their education. It is a good indication of pupils’ achievement that most of them continue into further education beyond the Leaving Certificate. 

 

1.2   Board of management

 

The board of management has been selected in accordance with the regulations of the Department of Education and Science, officers have been appropriately appointed to the board, regular meetings are held and minutes kept of decisions made and of expenditure. The meetings that took place in advance of, and after, the presentation of this report were conducted bilingually at the request of members of the board. In that regard it would be worth investing in up skilling members of the board, both in terms of language skills and other necessary office skills, so that they can enhance the support they are providing to the school. The board is conscious of its legal responsibilities and it has a health and safety and a code of behaviour statement as well as policies on enrolment, special education, bullying, equal opportunities, child protection and supervision arrangements, included in the school plan as well as a wide range of other curricular activities. It would be worthwhile now to include with these planning documentation information on methodologies and on staff development.  The school ensures that parents are informed of the progress their children are making by arranging annual parent teacher meetings and both formal and informal communication is welcomed throughout the year. The school plan is currently under review in light of this report and it is now recommended that a development plan on the school’s status as a Gaeltacht school and on the teaching of Irish would form a core element of this plan. The board needs to ensure that there is a stated policy in regard to Section 9 (h) of the Education Act, and that the relevant local associations are contacted as an integral part of the process of developing such a policy. It would also be helpful to seek the advice of the local language units that are funded by Údarás na Gaeltacht in the area, as well as other relevant Gaeltacht organisations. The various ways in which ownership of the plan could be shared with parents, and common practices in this regard, was also discussed with the board.

 

1.3 Inschool management

 

The two class teachers assume the main responsibility for the running of the school and they ensure a pleasant and safe atmosphere as well as having developed a broad education plan for the pupils. This requires a high level of work commitment as they need, without delay, to ensure the use of a high standard of communicative and functional Irish. Good teaching methods, resources and information technology are regularly used, and independent learning is encouraged in the way in which teachers work with pupils. It was agreed that elements of the plan would be reviewed as an outcome of this report, including aspects of the curriculum, an Irish version and a policy in regard to section 9 (h) of the Education Act.

 

1.4 Managing relationships and communication with the school community

 

This school is centrally involved in the community and parents participate actively in the various school activities. The professionalism and effectiveness of the teachers at meetings was highly praised at the pre-inspection meetings and parents confirmed that they were satisfied with the way in which the school was operating. Parents and elderly people from the locality visit the school during the year and pupils were shown how ‘Boxty’ was made during such an event last year. The community takes great pride in the school, it is beautifully maintained both inside and outside, and help is generously available when required. The team of people who maintain the school garden and the playground deserve particular mention for the attractive and inspirational learning environment they have created.

 

1.5 Management of pupils

 

An empathetic and open kind relationship was in evidence between all parties during the period of inspection and it is very infrequently that school management has to refer to the school discipline policy.  A mutually respectful atmosphere and a wide range of resources and materials are available as a support to the work programme. The various activities such as games, dancing, drama, swimming, concerts and school tours are organised on a whole school basis and the pupils in the higher classes provide encouragement and a gentle caring support to the younger pupils during these events.

 

 

2.     Quality of School Planning

 

2.1 Whole school planning and classroom planning

 

The quality of whole school planning is influential and progressive in this school and it is regularly reviewed in the context of pedagogical and curricular changes. It was agreed during this evaluation period to make some changes to the plan and to create a clear structure in which the plan can be presented to the parents. It was also agreed that copies of the individual education plans would be made available to the parents of pupils with particular needs and that written reports would be provided on all the pupils at the end of the school year.

 

Individual planning is linked to the school planning and the curriculum principles. The strands and strand units are acknowledged, differentiated learning is accommodated while teaching the programme and an ongoing record is kept of pupils’ progress. A wide range of methodologies are used and this ensures that teaching and learning motivates the learners and has a positive influence on them. Meetings are held regularly with the parents to discuss their children’s progress and there is a good level of cooperation between school and home in terms of paired reading, language development for mathematics, and other learning activities.

 

 

 

2.2 Policies and practices in regard to child safety

 

It was confirmed, in accordance with Primary Circular 0061/2006 from the Department of Education and Science, that the board of management has formally accepted the Guidelines on Child Protection for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). It was also confirmed that the attention of school management, the whole school staff and the parents had been drawn to the procedures in regard to child protection; that a copy of these had been given to every member of staff (including new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff understand the procedures that must be followed. A liaison person and a deputy liaison person have been appointed as required by the guidelines.

 

 

3.     The quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1 Language

 

Irish

Significant emphasis is placed on teaching Irish and teaching through Irish in this Gaeltacht school. Although most pupils do not have Irish as the first language of the home, they manage to use the language with ease by the time they are finishing in primary school. In order to further emphasise the language enrichment of pupils it would be helpful, at this point, reviewing the school’s approach to the language. In addition to the conversation programme that is being implemented at present, the school also requires a systematically developed language enrichment programme, incidental language programme and communicative programme, so as to place an emphasis on language enrichment once pupils have acquired basic levels of proficiency. Séideán Sí is used as a support to the language programme and as a support to reading and pupils acquire creditable standards that reflect their natural abilities. A wide range of composition and writing is undertaken in the school, writing techniques are emphasised, project work and related thematic research is used and integrated with the curriculum areas. It would be worth purchasing more Irish books for the library as well as making more use of the internet to develop friendships and communicative networks with other Gaeltacht schools.

 

 

English

A broad 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. Comprehensive pre-reading and pre-writing programmes are implemented with good results, emphasis is also placed on the communicative approach through drama circle and discussion, an excellent anthology of poetry and rhyme is offered and parents are encouraged to engage in shared reading exercises with the pupils. Continuous investment in library books is a central feature of classroom expenditure and personal reading is a leisure activity practised by all the pupils. Writing is taught in a developmental fashion with editing and re-writing being a feature of the approach. Due emphasis is placed on early skills such as hand-eye co-ordination, gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Pupils’ progress is carefully monitored through a variety of assessment procedures including teacher observation, questioning, written tasks, correction of copybooks and the use of standardised tests. 

 

3.2 Mathematics

 

Teachers’ individual planning is influenced to a greater or lesser extent by the curriculum, the school plan, textbooks and classroom practices in Mathematics. A collective approach to identifying the Mathematics language that will be developed in Irish is recommended as well as collating the range of strategies to be used in developing the basic mathematical concepts. Group work is organised effectively to provide for the range of abilities of pupils in the different classes and concrete materials and pupil activities are used to good effect in order to implement the teaching objectives. Pupils are provided with worthwhile opportunities to develop their prediction and estimation skills and the strategies used in classes to develop problem solving skills are commendable.

 

 

3.3 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

The school ethos and the development of pupils’ understanding and feelings in regard to themselves have a significant impact on pupils developing a sense of responsibility in regard to school activities. Good behaviour and courtesy are developed in a sensitive way throughout the school. An integrated approach is used to fulfil teachers’ individual programme requirements and time is specifically provided to implement national programmes focusing on specific topics. The manner in which the relationships and sexuality programme is organised involves the exploration of specific issues by using games, pair work and individual work in classes is commendable. A worthwhile self-development programme has also been compiled to develop pupils’ self-confidence, their sense of presenting themselves and taking initiative, and this programme includes the use of the available resources in the school.

 

 

3.4 Assessment

Teachers use a variety of assessment methods including observation, checklists, work portfolios, samples of work, projects, some individual profiles, individual pupil programmes, tasks and tests that the teachers themselves have designed as well as standardised tests. These are mainly used to provide an overview of the progress of pupils and to provide information to parents. It would be worth maintaining sequential records of the results of standardised tests and compiling the reference criteria to be used in the subsequent analysis.

 

4.     Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The school enrolment policy ensures equal access and participation for all pupils, including pupils with special needs, in the work of the school. The learning support teacher provides an influential programme in English and in Mathematics for pupils who have learning difficulties and for pupils with special educational needs. The learning support teacher works on a shared basis with the other primary schools in the area and the work model most frequently applied is to withdraw children in groups or individually from the classroom. This practise should be reviewed to include classroom based work as well as integrating modules on self-esteem and self-confidence into the programme.

 

 

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

 

It was confirmed by the school that all pupils currently enrolled in the school are of a similar background and are from the local area.

 

 

5.  Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         The good behaviour and cooperation amongst pupils is commendable.

·         The positive attitude and diligence of the teachers in regard to curriculum implementation is commendable.

·         A beautiful and influential learning environment has been created in the school.

·         Good provision is made for pupils with learning difficulties and special needs.

·         The interest of parents in their children’s education and in the operation of the school is commendable.

 

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

·         An upgrading of the skills and plans of the board of management and the staff, in order to ensure the school’s future as a Gaeltacht school

·         Initiating a programme of skills’ improvement and language enrichment for Irish

·         The preparation and implementation of a school policy in accordance with article 9(h) of the Education Act.

 

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 September 2008