An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole-School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Fhionnbarra

Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh, Co. Cork

Uimhir rolla: 19637F

 

Date of inspection:  06 June 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

 

This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Scoil Náisiúnta Fhionnbarra in June 2009. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the Principal, the teachers, the school’s Board of Management and the Parents’ Association and the work was completed in a number of days. During this time, the inspectors visited classrooms in order to assess the quality of teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, and examined pupils’ work.  They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation. They met with various staff groups, as appropriate. At the end of the evaluation, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the work of the school as a whole to the staff and the Board of Management. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Fhionnbarra is a co-educational school, situated in the historic parish of Uíbh Laoire in mid-Cork. It is a Gaeltacht school under the patronage of the Bishop of Cork and Ross, which was built in 1982. There are five class-teachers, a Learning Support Teacher, a Resource Teacher and a Special Needs Assistant on staff. In addition, a Language Assistant visits the school as a support for Irish. At present, the school has one temporary classroom, as well as a modern general purposes room.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

At the time of the evaluation, the composition of the Board of Management was not altogether in keeping with the Department of Education and Science regulations but it was ensured that the matter was put to rights shortly afterwards. Specific advice was given on this matter at the post-evaluation meeting.

 

Meetings of the Board are held at least once a term and it is evident that the members have a commendable appreciation of the ethos of the school, particularly in its role as a Gaeltacht school. The Board provides appropriate support for the newly-appointed Principal and teachers in the fulfilment of their duties. The communication which is in the process of being developed with the school community is commended. Particular praise is due for the efforts made most recently to establish a Parents’ Committee and it is apparent that this important initiative is destined to benefit the school as a whole.

 

The Board is to be congratulated on the list of priorities selected by them for their term in office. In this context, particular emphasis is being placed on additional permanent accommodation, on administrative policies and on financial matters.

 

The responsibilities of the Board as regards the making available of school policies on various aspects of education, as provided for in the Education Act 1998, were discussed. Heretofore, this provision had been deficient but particular praise is due to the newly-appointed Principal for the significant work which she has completed in this area, in collaboration with the school staff and Board. It is understood that the Board will play a central role in planning in the future.

 

The Board employs an accomplished secretary on a part-time basis, as well as a cleaner for two hours each day. In addition, the school has access to a caretaker, as required. The work of these employees is highly commended.

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The school has a Principal, Deputy Principal and two special duties teachers on staff. The Principal capably directs the work of the school. It was clear during the evaluation that the Principal is given strong support in the effective administration of the work of the school. Responsibilities relating to school administration and curriculum have been agreed with the in-school management staff. This good practice is commended and it is to be expected that it will be reviewed as appropriate to the circumstances of the school in the future. The in-school management team meets regularly and has now agreed on a clear set of objectives.

 

The in-school management team now places an admirable emphasis on the importance of communication in the work of the school as a whole.

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

A high standard of accommodation applies in the case of this school. The efforts expended in maintaining the neatness and appearance of the building, as well as of the school environment, are highly commended.

 

An impressive range of teaching aids has been made available in every classroom by the Management Board, together with a very appropriate supply of charts, diagrams and teaching aids supplied by the teachers themselves. High praise is merited by the strides recently made as regards new technology. Its importance was discussed and advice was given on its use in a Gaeltacht setting. The management of resources in the school is highly commended.  

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

It is a principal objective of the Board of Management, the Principal and the staff as a whole to  function openly and collaboratively with all relevant parties. The positive relationships to be observed in the school during the evaluation is most worthwhile and the welcome extended to parents and the school community in general is praiseworthy.

 

At the pre-evaluation meeting, the inspectors met with the recently established Parents’ Committee. Members of the committee intimated that too strong an emphasis had previously been placed on a narrow curriculum, but they also indicated that they were satisfied with the curriculum now being implemented. They expressed full support for the Principal and the school. The interest shown by the Parents’ Committee in the work of the school is commended. They were advised in relation to affiliating with the National Parents’ Council.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

The pupils clearly demonstrate their regard for one another and for visitors to the school, and it is apparent that a very positive spirit prevails among them. The staff imparts to them a very impressive training in manners, behaviour and learning.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

Important work as regards formulating a school plan has been done since February 2009, under the direction of the Principal. During that time new policies have been produced and existing policies have been reviewed with the assistance of the Support Services. Among the items which have recently been developed, or have been reviewed, are: the two languages, Mathematics, Science, Social, Personal and Health Education, Code of Behaviour, Reports and Assessment. Among the areas which have been identified as priority items are: History, Geography and Visual  Arts.  Advice was given as to the drawing up of a timetable for the review period in the case of the various policies.

 

Evidence was provided, in accordance with the Department of Education and Science Circular 0061/2006 (Primary), to confirm that the Board of Management had formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the attention of management, staff and parents had been drawn to these child protection procedures; that copies of the procedures had been supplied to all members of staff (including new staff members); and that the management has ensured that all staff members understand the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person has been appointed, and a deputy has been named, in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

 

Samples of teachers’ planning, both short-term and long-term, which were of a high standard, were seen during the evaluation. Particular praise is merited by the emphasis placed frequently on breadth and balance in this work, together with the impressive care taken in some instances in setting down highly appropriate teaching objectives. However, specific advice was given as regards giving clarification at particular levels in relation to the structure of lessons and accuracy in language. It is thought that a school template for short-term preparation should now be supplied. Learning programmes are prepared for the pupils who attend the Learning Support and Resource Teachers, and these are very suited to the needs of those pupils.

 

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

 

Moltar an cúram a dhéantar de theagasc na Gaeilge sa scoil i gcoitinne. Éiríonn leis na hoidí atmaisféar an-dearfach a chothú ina leith agus úsáidtear í mar theanga chaidrimh go rialta. Cuirtear na ceachtanna i láthair le samhlaíocht go minic agus baintear feidhm as seifteanna torthúla d’fhonn na daltaí a mhealladh chun rannpháirtíochta ag leibhéil éagsúla. Moltar go speisialta an aire a dhírítear ar shaibhriú na teanga go háirithe tríd an úsáid a bhaintear as Séideán Sí. Cuireadh comhairle ar fáil faoi úsáid an chúrsa seo agus moltar feasta gan ach an cúrsa sin a úsáid. Déantar cúram rialta den bhfilíocht agus aithrisíonn na daltaí í go so-thuigthe. Déantar forbairt chórasach ar chumas léitheoireachta na ndaltaí sa scoil. Moltar go speisialta an t-ullmhúchán a dhéantar don litearthacht maraon leis an úsáid a bhaintear as saghasanna éagsúla téacs ag leibhéil ar leith. Dá réir sin léann a lán de na daltaí go cumasach. Moltar feasta na dea-chleachtais seo a chur i bhfeidhm ar bhonn scoile uile.  Dírítear ar theagasc na scríbhneoireachta go torthúil ón mbonn aníos de réir a bhfuil molta sa churaclam. Múintear na bunscileanna go cumasach agus de réir mar a théann na daltaí ar aghaidh éiríonn leo raon breá dá gcuid tuairimí a chur i scríbhinn go sciliúil.

 

Irish

 

The care taken with the teaching of Irish in the school in general is commended. The teachers succeed in creating a very positive atmosphere in regard to it and it is regularly used as a language of communication. Lessons are often presented imaginatively and productive tactics are utilised so as to encourage the pupils’ participation at various levels. Particular praise is due for the attention paid to the enrichment of the language through the use of Séideán Sí. Advice was given on the use of this course and it is recommended that in future only this course would be used. Poetry is regularly taught and the pupils recite it intelligibly. The reading abilities of the school’s pupils are systematically developed. The preparation for literacy, and the use made of various types of texts at particular levels, are especially commended. Accordingly, many of the pupils read proficiently. It is now recommended that these good practices would be implemented on a whole-school basis. The teaching of writing is addressed productively from its foundations, as is recommended in the curriculum. Basic skills are capably taught and, as the pupils progress through the school, they succeed in skilfully committing an impressive range of their ideas to paper.

 

English

 

English is taught competently in the school generally and high standards are frequently achieved. Due emphasis is placed on oral language development at many levels and several pupils express their views competently and confidently. The focus on language enrichment exercises at various class levels ensures that the pupils’ quality of utterance is frequently enhanced. Poetry is taught on a regular basis and the pupils clearly enjoy their experiences in this regard. A print-rich environment is carefully planned at all class-levels using a judicious blend of teacher-prepared and commercially produced materials. Pupil work is also used to good effect in this regard. Accordingly, the key basic skills of reading are taught very purposefully and as the pupils progress through the school they read a pleasant variety of text fluently. Reading for pleasure is an attractive feature of the school’s overall approach to the promotion of literacy. Differentiation strategies are also used very effectively. Pupils take part in a range of very purposeful writing activities at a variety of class levels. The quality of some written work in a variety of genres is impressive and is attractively displayed in the classrooms. The results of standardised testing in English suggest that many pupils are making significant progress.

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

Mathematics is effectively taught at various class levels. Of particular value, for example, is the amount of new equipment now available in the school which is of great assistance in linking the work with the children’s own lives. The attention paid to oral work and to the language of Mathematics in the majority of classes is commendable also. In addition, very fine examples of teaching were observed, in which the emphasis was productively placed on a high standard of thinking skills and problem solving. As regards problem solving, the manner in which pupils are trained in some instances to compose problems themselves is very worthwhile. It is now recommended that this good practice should be further developed on a whole-school basis and in the context of the school plan.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

 

The strands and strand units of the History programme are very sensibly addressed in the school in general. A very beneficial training is imparted in relation to many of its aspects, local, national and international, and many of the pupils willingly discuss what these involve. The use made of storytelling, group work, class work and project work, in order to stimulate the pupils’ interest, is commended. The work based on the local historical environment in some instances is also commended. Advice was given as to how this aspect could be further developed in the future.

 

Geography

 

Geography lessons are skilfully based on the strands and strand units as set out in the curriculum. In addition, maps, photographs and other appropriate aids are used during lessons. The structure of the work in general is commended and the subject is frequently interlinked with other curricular areas. Many of the pupils participate enthusiastically in the activities and record their work tidily in general. The importance of the local environment was discussed during the evaluation and it is understood that a greater emphasis will be placed on this aspect in the near future.

 

Science

 

A comprehensive programme in Science is addressed with great understanding. Creditable examples of highly productive teaching were observed during the evaluation, in which the pupils were given guidance on working scientifically and recording their work accurately. Particular praise is accorded to the level of care taken with plants, as well as to stimuli of a high standard made available by various teachers.    

 

4.4 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

 

A wide-ranging programme in Visual Arts is implemented in the school and the work in general is of a high standard. The use made of the pupils’ imaginations is commended, as is the use of the work of the great artists as a stimulus during lessons. There is an admirable range of art materials in the school and these are made available as required. The work done by a local artist in decorating the school environment is particularly inspirational. Arts activities are skilfully correlated with other curricular strands and strand units.

 

The pupils attractively demonstrate their understanding of Arts skills and concepts in their own work. 

 

Music

 

Some members of staff are musically gifted and an impressive programme is presented at particular levels in the school. The attention paid to rhythmical work, listening, the cultivation of melodiousness and the discussion of the subject in particular classes is very worthwhile. The teaching of instrumental music in some classes is also commended. The pupils sing an enjoyable collection of songs in both languages. Ways in which tunefulness might be better cultivated in future were discussed.

 

The school receives support under the scheme ‘Aisling Gheal’ with a view to promoting sean-nós singing in accordance with the local tradition.

 

Drama

 

Drama is used very effectively to stimulate the imagination of pupils in those classes in which this subject was evaluated.  The approach implemented in order to foster self-confidence and language ability is commended. The relevant teachers demonstrate a praiseworthy understanding of the various aspects of Drama, which greatly enhances the effectiveness of the work.

 

4.5 Physical Education

 

The school playground, the general purposes room, and the facilities of Coláiste na Mumhan and of Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh G.A.A Club are used to promote Physical Education in the school. A high standard was apparent in the lessons observed during the evaluation. Games skills are properly developed and, accordingly, the pupils project a positive attitude towards the subject.

 

Advice was given on the development of the subject, particularly in relation to educational gymnastics. It is thought that additional equipment must now be provided for this purpose.

 

4.6 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

Work of a high standard was observed in the classrooms in which Social, Personal and Health  Education was evaluated. The positive atmosphere cultivated in order to foster the social and personal skills of pupils is most valuable. This work is informally done in association with other areas of the curriculum. Formal lessons are presented in a stimulating manner and the participation of pupils is cultivated enjoyably. Particular praise goes to the opportunities afforded to the pupils to discuss appropriate topics relating to their own lives.

 

4.7 Assessment

 

In Scoil Fhionnbarra, a praiseworthy emphasis is placed on assessment in the teaching and learning process. Every effort is made to identify the more common difficulties and to assess the effectiveness of the work. The work of pupils in the ordinary classes is carefully monitored and a ‘Middle Infants’ Screening Test’ is used with Senior Infants, and standardised tests such as ‘Sigma T’ are used from First Class to Sixth Class. Diagnostic tests are administered, as  appropriate, to guide teaching and learning. The analysis of results issued to parents is commended. The progress of pupils is sytematically recorded at the end of each year.

 

High praise is merited by the co-operation that exists among teachers in relation to the efforts made to differentiate the work and to set out appropriate objectives for each pupil. The pupils are accordingly willing to learn most of the time.

 

It is now recommended that this good practice should be developed further, by beginning to draw up learning profiles on the learning of individual pupils and by developing the whole-school assessment plan on an on-going basis. 

 

  

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

The school has two support teachers for pupils with learning difficulties, as well as a Special Needs Assistant. They follow a programme which is entirely appropriate in the circumstances of the school. They implement the graded approach recommended in Circular 02/05 of the Department of Education and Science. In addition, the teachers make comprehensive preparation available. All of this work is in keeping with the whole-school plan for special needs education. Pupils are selected for this service following an analysis of the results of standardised tests and after consultation with the class teachers.

 

Pupils are taught either in groups or individually. An individualised programme is prepared for each pupil, indicating his/her abilities, main learning needs and a description of the programme being followed. The learning objectives set for each pupil are most suitable and attainable within a particular period of time.

 

Highly appropriate teaching methods are used so as to stimulate the interest of pupils and an extensive range of equipment is provided as a support for learning. The work is skilfully based on the recognition of common words, developing an awareness of phonemes and phonology and the use of an admirable selection of reading strategies. Additional work is done in Mathematics as required.

 

The positive atmosphere that obtains in the resource and learning support rooms is commended. Praise also goes to the contacts maintained between these teachers and the class teachers and the manner in which the quality of support for these pupils is discussed at staff meetings. It is clear that they continue to make progress and it is also apparent that the Special Needs Assistant is of great assistance in this process.

 

As a means of developing the good practices already in place, it would be worth placing further emphasis on providing support in the main classrooms in future. Advice was given as regards drawing up the learning objectives in consultation with parents. The importance of inputs from  other professionals was also discussed. 

 

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

 

There are no pupils from these groups attending the school. 

 

 

6.     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, December 2009