An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Cill Bharróg, Baile Átha Cliath 5
Roll number: 19777V
Date of inspection: 9 November 2006
Date if issue of report: 4 October 2007
Whole school evaluation report
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Gaelscoil Míde. 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 representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with students and teachers, examined students’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to 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.
Gaelscoil Míde was established twenty five years ago and has been located for a number of years in Kilbarrack, in Dublin. The school was founded in Donaghmede and for a while was located in Baldoyle. It is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. The number of pupils in the school has remained steady in recent years and at present there are 223 pupils on the rolls. The school caters for boys and girls from the surrounding area and from suburbs and towns in North Dublin. Pupils in the school achieve a high level of attendance.
The aim of the school is to create a Gaelic, Christian environment in which each pupil’s ability and resources will be fully developed. Special emphasis is placed on providing a richness of art and culture and on encouraging the pupils’ respect for their Irish heritage. The immersion policy in relation to language acquisition applies in the school. All aspects of the learning programmes, except English, are taught through Irish, which is used consistently as the school’s language of communication. The Irish-speaking community which has been developed within the school, among the parents and among the wider community illustrates that members of the school community understand and are faithful to the basic objectives and characteristic spirit of the school. The school authorities have done excellent work over the years in creating a real bond between members of the school’s community and it is clear that the community is extremely proud of the school.
The composition of the board of management is in accordance with the practices and rules of the Department of Education and Science. The board functions effectively. Meetings are held regularly and a report from the principal and a treasurer’s report are presented at each meeting. The board demonstrates a good understanding of its duties in the management and development of the school. The board cultivates active dialogue among the school community. A fine information booklet in Irish and English is provided to inform parents of school activities. The chairperson is in constant contact with the principal and has a good understanding of the staff’s potential. The board members report that they are concerned at the high costs of running the school in the context of the grants available. They cite insurance costs, school cleaning and school heating among the major costs facing the board at present. In the past few years the board’s priority has been to improve the school’s accommodation. Now that a brand-new building has been obtained, the board is undertaking a celebration of the school’s twenty five years in existence.
The principal has provided excellent leadership in the twenty three years he has spent in the post, and the board, parents and staff recognise the great work he has done in guiding the school towards the vision held by the founders of Gaelscoil Míde. He cultivates a collaborative, open atmosphere in the school and greatly appreciates the cooperation he receives from the school community. He administers the school’s affairs effectively in collaboration with the deputy principal and the three teachers with posts of responsibility. Staff meetings are held monthly. Different teachers take the chair and minutes are taken of the meetings. A report from the principal is always one of the items on the meeting’s agenda and each teacher has the opportunity to place items on the agenda.
The in-school management team functions effectively, and even though a formal structure does not apply as regards meetings they consult with each other on a daily basis to make decisions that benefit the school. The relationship and cooperation between them is based on mutual respect and mutual trust. A wide range of duties is assigned to each member of the in-school management team, but it is clear that the members are happy to take on extra duties as needed. Their responsibilities concern coordination of aspects of the curriculum and duties regarding school organisation and pastoral matters. For the sake of consistency and transparency, it would be worth developing a more formal structure for the in-school management system.
There are ten teachers on the staff and a learning support teacher from another school in the locality works in the school for two and a half days a week. Teachers are given the opportunity to teach at various class levels, which enhances the development of their professional experience. It is reported that teachers attend a range of courses and lectures to develop their teaching skills. The arrangement by which training in information and communications technology is to be provided for teachers after school time is commendable. External tutors provide support in the presentation of aspects of physical education and the manner in which mainstream class teachers work in collaboration with them is commendable. A part-time secretary and part-time maintenance man provide great support in the daily functioning of the school.
The school community is extremely proud of the brand-new building constructed this year. The building is bright and comfortable. It contains eight classrooms as well as offices, a staff room and rooms for learning support. There is a fine hall in the school with a movable stage and there is a spacious playground to the rear of the school. Excellent use is made of the hall during school times and the way in which this facility is made available for after-school activities is commendable. The building and surroundings are very well cared for since the staff and pupils moved in earlier in the year. It is reported that at present a commercial company has been employed to look after the cleaning of the school. The board is reviewing this system due to its cost.
A fine range of resources is available to support teaching and learning. Productive use is made of the class libraries as a source for pupils’ learning and a range of concrete material is used productively in the teaching of mathematics. The use of audiovisual equipment, musical instruments, physical education equipment, art equipment and computers and software, together with a range of charts and educational games, greatly enhances the richness of learning in various aspects of the curriculum. The staff and pupils take good care of these resources and there is a fine storage space in the classrooms in the new building.
Since the school was established there has been a strong bond between the staff, the pupils’ parents and people in the district who were interested in Irish language matters. This relationship has been excellently developed over the years. The school authorities take it upon themselves, as set out in the Education Act 1998, to promote Irish in the local community. The school community initiated “Seiceáil amach i nGaeilge” in a local shopping centre and they organised Seachtain na Gaeilge in the area. They also established an Irish language Mass in each of the three parishes with which they were associated since the foundation of the school. Arising from the interest the school community has in drama, past-pupils, teachers and parents established the drama company Aisteoirí Míde. The school is closely linked with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (CCÉ) and it is reported that a branch of CCÉ organises summer courses in the school. The practice of making school documents available bilingually to facilitate parents with little Irish is commendable.
There is a very active parents’ committee functioning in the school. Parents play a central role in organising and supervising after-school activities. There are specific sub-committees for various activities. The swimming committee organises swimming lessons twice a week. The music committee organises classes after school hours to provide the opportunity for pupils to learn instrumental music. To protect parents from the financial burden of purchasing musical instruments, they have a scheme to loan instruments to pupils. Set dancing classes are organised for pupils after school hours also. To facilitate parents who wish to improve their Irish, the parents’ committee organises a conversation circle in the school one morning and one evening per week. The parents organise and fund buses to transport pupils to and from school. The parents’ committee organises regular social occasions to raise money for the school and to give parents the opportunity to meet each other. Contact is maintained with pupils’ parents by sending regular notes home and by issuing an annual newsletter. In recognition of the excellent work being undertaken, the Alquin Prize, the European Parents’ Association prize, was awarded to the school for the excellence of the cooperation between teachers and parents for the educational benefit of the children.
During the evaluation the inspectors met representatives of the parents’ committee. The parents reported that they were very satisfied with the standard of education in the school and with the extensive curriculum offered to the pupils. As a result of the open relationship between the parents and the teachers it was reported that they have regular contact with each other. The parents are given the opportunity to discuss their children’s progress with the teachers at formal meetings once a year and parents are welcome to make an appointment with the principal or with the teachers at any time to discuss any matters of concern to them. The parents greatly appreciate the manner in which the board of management and staff work with them to provide a rich educational experience for their children.
The child’s individuality is celebrated and the school’s vision recognises the importance of the pupil’s holistic development. A very pleasant relationship is evident between the staff and the pupils and amongst the pupils themselves. That relationship is based on respect and cooperation. The school’s code of behaviour emphasises the praise and cultivation of good behaviour. Good work practices are to be observed in the classrooms and there is a pleasant learning atmosphere in the school environment.
Under the direction of the principal considerable work has been done on the development of a school plan. Parents and the board of management are consulted as part of the planning process. It is reported that the teaching staff prepares draft policies and that members of the board of management, according to their experiences, examine them prior to approval. A range of policies has been provided which demonstrates that the school management has a good understanding of the most recent legislation and of the school’s specific requirements. Among the administrative policies developed are an anti-bullying code, a code of behaviour, an enrolment policy, a health and safety statement, a policy regarding dangerous substance mis-use, a policy regarding the safe use of the internet for all, a policy regarding homework and a policy regarding supervision of pupils. These policies are definite and clear and are provided in Irish and English. It is commendable that a summary of the priority administrative policies is recorded bilingually in a booklet given to each parent.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and the staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 1999, new edition May 2004) and Child Protection - Guidelines and Procedures (Department of Education and Children, April 2001). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the departmental guidelines.
It is clear from scrutiny of the policies regarding implementation of the curriculum that they were developed following comprehensive, continuous discussion among the staff. The approach to planning is practical and serves the learning needs of the pupils. As regards a teaching plan for English, it is noted that formal teaching of English is not undertaken until the pupils are in the senior infant class. It is recommended that the plan be reviewed to ensure that it is in accordance with the guidelines set out in the Primary School Curriculum 1999. Each teacher has a copy of the school plan. The implementation of the school plan is regularly monitored and reviewed during staff meetings. Policies have been prepared for each aspect of the curriculum by now, with the exception of Drama, and this work will be undertaken after teachers have attended in-service training. The provision of a computer room is being planned at present and it is intended to start a process shortly to achieve a “green flag” for the school. The curriculum plans contain practical guidance which supports teachers in preparing their own work plans. In order to further develop the planning process, it would be worth setting out an action plan and carrying out a systematic review of the implementation of the curriculum at each class level. It would also be beneficial to pay particular attention to the differentiation of work in order to further meet the learning needs of each pupil.
The teachers provide short-term and long-term preparation for their teaching. In the long-term plans the programme of work is set out under the curriculum strands. The manner in which the learning objectives and teaching methods to be used are clarified in some short-term plans is commendable. In some of the plans however only the textbook material is recorded. The staff should consider discussing a whole-school approach to recording work plans to ensure that provision is made in their preparation for the breadth of the curriculum in each area of learning, and that the learning activities are differentiated to serve the learning needs of all pupils. This approach would facilitate the systematic implementation of the school plan. Teachers use a variety of practices to record the progress of work in monthly progress records. Consideration could be given to designing a school template for recording learning progress which would include recognition of the importance of developing skills as well as the acquisition of knowledge.
A stimulating learning environment is created in classrooms and corridors and the celebration of the pupils’ work through displaying samples of their work attractively throughout the school is commendable. The teachers deserve praise for the fine range of resources which they prepare to support teaching and learning.
Teachers throughout the school succeed in creating a very pleasant learning atmosphere in the classrooms. The presentation in various aspects of the curriculum is lively and stimulating and excellent practices were noted in some of the lessons observed during the evaluation. The teachers use teaching strategies which facilitate pupil participation and commendable emphasis is placed on basing learning content on the pupils’ environment. Worthwhile use is made of physical material to illustrate concepts in some of the lessons. It is clear also that regular use is made of a wide range of visual display as a stimulus for learning. Good use of information and communications technology to strengthen learning in some classes is noted. It is reported that the school has participated in three different Comenius projects over the years.
In general, whole-class teaching is mostly practised in the presentation of lessons. A large part of the learning is based on the textbook material in some of the classes. Support teachers work in collaboration with class teachers, and sometimes pupils are supported in groups within the classrooms. It is recommended that more use be made of group teaching, especially in the teaching of literacy and Mathematics, and that tasks be differentiated to better meet the needs of all pupils, especially the more able pupils. Further analysis of the pupils’ work and their achievements in tests could be used as a basis for the design of learning activities. Through their participation, pupils display an interest in their learning. In general fine progress is to be observed in the development of the pupils’ skills.
A high standard of Irish is noted among the pupils of this school and a real Irish atmosphere can be felt in the classrooms and in the school’s environment. The teachers undertake the development of the pupils’ language skills progressively and effectively. Pupils are enabled to function naturally through the medium of Irish as a result of formal lessons based on a graded series of textbooks and the consistent use of Irish as the educational and social language of the school. The service of the language assistant employed by the board of management provides considerable help to the pupils as they gradually gain experience in the use of Irish.
The pupils use spoken Irish capably as the language of learning and in their daily interactions. The teachers practice suitable activities to provide opportunities for pupils to communicate during lessons. Quality visual resources and language games are used on a regular basis to develop understanding of the language and its use. The pupils display a very good understanding of the syntax of the language. Poems and rhymes are taught on a daily basis. The pupils recite a nice collection of poetry well and they discuss the themes of the poems ably. In normal conversation, pupils can ask questions, create continuous stories and converse naturally and appropriately at each class level.
A fine store of library books is provided throughout the school and there is plenty of print to be seen in many classes as a support for the development of the visual vocabulary. The majority of pupils read fluently with a commendable phonetic accuracy and with creditable understanding. Fine practices were evident during reading activities in which emphasis was placed on the teaching of phonics and beneficial use was made of information and communications technology to strengthen learning. Pupils’ understanding of the content of reading material was cultivated through good questioning by teachers. It would be beneficial to build on these good practices and put further emphasis on the formal teaching of reading skills in some classes. Consideration should be given to developing a common understanding, on a whole-school basis, of suitable strategies for further development of pupils’ reading skills. Activities worth practising regularly include discussion of the subject of the text prior to reading, progression of phonetics work according to class level and silent reading. Textbooks and extracts from workbooks are the main sources of reading material, and it is reported that pupils in the senior classes read novels later in the year. The regular use of real books during formal reading lessons would provide opportunities to widen pupils’ reading experiences.
Good attention is paid to the development of writing skills during functional tasks. Much of the work is based on exercises from workbooks and the pupils’ understanding of grammar is strengthened during these activities. In the senior classes appropriate provision is made for personal writing and the stories composed by the pupils are of a good standard. Additional opportunities should now be provided for pupils, from the early years onwards, to engage regularly in personal writing activities in a wider range of genres. In order to cultivate richness in the written work the writing process should be used to develop pupils’ writing skills.
Formal teaching of English commences in senior infants. Oral language development is well provided for during discussion of reading material and in discrete oral language lessons. During the evaluation good use of large format books was noted, as well as visual examples and spoken games to foster pupils’ speaking and listening skills. Good questioning techniques promote the development of pupils’ higher order thinking skills. Discussion is managed capably and the pupils speak fluently and confidently. Poetry is presented very vibrantly and the themes are explored competently.
Reading skills are taught in a structured manner. Good care is taken in practising the phonetic approach as an element of reading development. Many pupils have a good phonological awareness and they are able to use their knowledge of phonics productively and independently in the decoding process. A fine range of texts is used in the teaching or reading, and the use of novels from second class onwards is commendable. Whole-class teaching is practised mostly during reading activities. When significant differences in pupils’ abilities are observed in the class, group-teaching would be beneficial. Good practice is observed regarding language experience in the early years, where spoken, reading and writing activities are suitably integrated. A good emphasis is placed on the encouragement of pupils’ independence by developing study skills in the senior classes. Personal reading is encouraged throughout the school and Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) is practised regularly. There is a fine stock of library books in the classrooms to support this practice.
Very beneficial work is noted in functional writing activities, which are primarily based on a structured workbook scheme. Pupils’ penmanship is of a high standard throughout the school. The development of creative writing is undertaken in a structured and competent manner, especially with the senior pupils. During the evaluation effective teaching methods were noted in this aspect of the work and brainstorming and comprehensive discussion were used in lessons which had been well prepared. It was evident that a good many pupils write well with fine imagination. Creative writing is not practiced regularly in each class, however. It is recommended that additional opportunities be given to pupils to engage in personal writing in a range of genres and that the writing process, which is productively used in some classes, be extended throughout the school.
The school plan focuses commendable attention on the mathematical vocabulary to be used throughout the school, and on an agreed approach regarding the recording of work and the learning of facts. Recognition is also given to the importance of using concrete material to illustrate and internalise concepts. An appropriate mathematics programme, covering all strands of the curriculum, is taught systematically throughout the school. The teachers base their work plans on the school plan and on textbooks which pupils have.
In some classes the approach to teaching and learning of concepts and operations is thoroughly effective. Significant emphasis is placed on oral activities and on practising mental processing. Productive use is made of concrete equipment to illustrate concepts, and examples from the environment are used to internalise learning and locate it in real life experiences. The pupils display a good understanding of the appropriate use of mathematical terminology. Numerical operations are taught progressively through exemplars on the white board and with the use of manipulatives. Pupils succeed, especially in the early years, in dealing with numerical operations and solving simple problems without difficulty. Most of the pupils throughout the school have a good understanding of number operations that are appropriate to their age levels. In some lessons however there is an over-reliance on illustration and on written work from textbooks and it is not clear that regular use is made of concrete material or of guided discovery methods. In these lessons it would be worth focusing on encouraging pupils’ independence of thought and strengthening conceptual understanding by engaging in problem-solving activities, especially relating to fractions and time. Pupils throughout the school record their written work neatly and accurately and teachers monitor work comprehensively.
Class teaching was the most common approach noted during the evaluation. In general, it would be worth focusing further attention on the various abilities of pupils, when designing lessons, and adapting activities to suit their various learning needs. Continuous analysis and monitoring of pupils’ achievements in standardised tests and in teachers’ direct observations, would assist in differentiating learning activities, so that all pupils’ learning needs would be met, and that pupils would be attempting challenging questions which would encourage them to reflect deeply.
The teachers work plans show that all strands of the curriculum are covered in the history programme being taught. The pupils’ interest in History is skilfully aroused and productive use is made of storytelling and drama to develop their understanding of the lives of people who lived long ago. In the teaching observed during the evaluation the teaching material was presented in a very stimulating manner and the pupils’ participation was skilfully cultivated. Commendable emphasis is placed on local study, and project work is practised fruitfully to nurture the pupils’ independent learning skills. During questioning, the pupils displayed a good understanding of what they had learned about their own surroundings. A series of textbooks is used to support pupils’ learning.
Effective teaching methods are used during Geography lessons and the school plan contains guidance regarding topics for the school year at the various class levels. This approach facilitates individual teachers’ planning and the structuring of teaching from year to year. From the early years onwards the teachers base lessons on the personal experiences of pupils in order to develop their understanding of the world in which they live. Teachers strongly link investigation of topics with the use of maps in many classes, while globes are used in other classes. The manner in which this practice is included in most of the teaching is commendable. Pupils in the early years have a good understanding of nature around them and are able to speak knowledgeably on a range of topics they have studied. Pupils throughout the school display a good understanding of environmental phenomena. Most pupils in the middle classes and higher classes can speak very knowledgeably about aspects of the human and natural environment.
Whole-school planning for Science focuses suitably on the pupil’s thoughts and curiosity as a starting point for learning. It is obvious from the teachers work schemes that a comprehensive programme, which covers all strands of the curriculum, is offered to pupils. Stimulating work based on experiments is noted in some classes and fine resources are provided as a support for learning. During the evaluation effective use of equipment in the illustration of topics and concepts was noted. It was ensured that children had opportunities to handle equipment item by item to give them the experience of working as scientists and as a result the pupils were active at the very core of learning in these lessons. Close links were made with the child’s environment to strengthen learning. In other lessons however too much time was spent providing information. It would be worth monitoring balance in the structuring of lessons so that the pupils themselves will have the chance to take the initiative in learning. Pupils display an understanding of topics they have studied and they answer questions about the learning content with commendable accuracy.
Special emphasis is placed in the school on the development of pupils’ aesthetic abilities. A plan is provided at school level which gives clear guidance to teachers regarding the teaching of a comprehensive programme, and recognition is given to the value of practising a thematic approach to strengthen learning across the curriculum. The variety in the examples of artwork on display throughout the school shows that pupils are given the opportunity to practise various techniques during lessons. Pupils’ creativity was encouraged appropriately in the activities observed during the evaluation. Particular individuality was noted in the drawing, construction and pottery activities which arose from other aspects of the curriculum. Limited creativity however was evident in some of the artwork on display. It would be worth placing additional emphasis on creativity and individuality as central features in each artistic task undertaken by the pupils. The pupils show a very positive attitude towards the visual arts and the oral discussion directed during the lessons is of a high standard.
Much attention is paid to the teaching of Music throughout the school. Every pupil from first class onward learns instrumental music and a sub-committee of the parents’ association organises music classes two afternoons per week after school hours. The scheme through which musical instruments are loaned to pupils is commendable. Pupils attain a high standard in playing music and they are given opportunities to perform on public occasions. The pupils sing a nice collection of songs sweetly and pleasantly. The teachers’ preparation shows that the various strands of the Music curriculum are taught regularly. Musical excerpts for each class level are set out in the school plan, as a basis for activities in listening and responding. Special emphasis is placed on the teaching of Irish music and it is reported that there is a strong link between the school and the local branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.
The school staff has a particular interest in Drama. For many years parents, past-pupils and teachers have run a drama company and this rich tradition is a great support for the teaching of Drama in the school. Storytelling is used as a stimulus for activities in which pupils’ understanding of themselves and of life is developed. Very effective use is made of drama as a teaching method during lessons in various aspects of the curriculum. It is reported that pupils produce a Christmas drama annually for the parish community and that the school organises concerts regularly in the area. There are fine resources in the school which support the development of drama and the production of plays.
The physical development of the pupils is advanced effectively during the Physical Education classes and it is clear from the school plan that the various strands of the curriculum are attended to. Use is made of the very fine school hall, a spacious playground, a local swimming pool and a comprehensive range of equipment in the teaching of the curriculum. School teams play a very active part in sports leagues with other schools in the area. Cumann Snámha Ghaelscoil Míde, under the direction of parents, organises swimming classes after school hours.
Lessons in Physical Education are taught skilfully and commendable emphasis is placed on enjoyment and on pupil participation during the activities. The activities are well structured with clear, precise instructions being given to the pupils. Pupils’ gross motor skills and fine motor skills are developed and they cooperate productively with each other. Lively activities were noted in games, in gymnastics and in creative movement during the evaluation. Additional assistance in implementing the curriculum is given by basketball and dancing tutors and by coaches from the GAA. The teachers work on a productive basis in collaboration with these external trainers. The staff has commenced the assessment of pupils’ skills on an individual basis during physical education activities, which is commendable.
It is clear from the relationship to be observed between the teachers and the pupils and among the pupils themselves that the personal development and well-being of each pupil is a central objective of the school’s philosophy and characteristic spirit. Opportunies are well exploited to develop pupils’ social and personal skills informally during activities across the curriculum and during extra-curricular activities. Empathy with sick people is cultivated by visits to a hospital in the area, and an understanding of the plight of the poor is fostered by making a collection at Christmas. Democracy is encouraged in the school through the input which senior pupils have in developing class rules and it is reported that some senior pupils are on Dublin City Council’s Comhairle na nÓg. The pupils’ social, personal and health skills are formally developed during discrete SPHE lessons in which a range of programmes such as Misneach, Bí Slán, Bí Sabhailte, Oideachas Chaidreamh is Gnéas, Walk Tall and an anti-bullying booklet provided by the school are used.
A range of assessment tools is used to assess pupils’ progress. Teachers regularly set their own tests for pupils in various aspects of the curriculum. The pupils’ written work is regularly monitored. The Non-Reading Intelligence Test is administered to pupils in second class and sixth class to assess their intellectual ability. Micra T and Sigma T tests are administered to pupils from first class upwards twice a year and a careful record is kept of the test results. It is clear from the discussion with the staff at the post-evaluation meeting that this practice is being reviewed and that the same test will not be set for pupils more than once a year from now on. It would be worth placing more emphasis on pupils’ attainments in a range of tasks designed by the class teachers, and recording the results.
The development of individual pupil profiles in the infant classes is commencing. It is recommended that this approach be developed systematically throughout the school and that assessment results be given a central place in the planning of learning activities which suit the various abilities of pupils. It would also be worthwhile analysing the results of standardised tests on a whole-school basis to identify aspects of the work programme which need further development. It is recommended that assessment be regarded as a central part of the learning and teaching process. Despite the fact that standardised tests to assess pupils’ attainments in Irish are not available, consideration could be given to using available language profiles. The manner in which mathematics tests are designed and adapted specially for the school by the learning support teachers is commendable.
There is a learning support teacher on the school staff and support is also provided by a support teacher who works part-time in the school. The teachers attended in-service training under the Primary Curriculum Support Programme and in consultation with the school staff a policy regarding learning support in the school was developed. The school plan sets out clearly the criteria used for the selection of pupils for supplementary tuition, and the criteria for discontinuation of that support. The teachers provide support in English and mathematics to pupils with learning difficulties or special educational needs. The manner in which the support teachers work in consultation with teachers in junior classes to implement an early intervention programme is commendable.
A range of tests is used to identify pupils’ learning strengths and to determine their main learning needs. Due to the relocation of the school shortly before the summer holidays this year, diagnostic tests were not administered to pupils until the start of the new school year. As a result, additional tuition did not commence for a month. It would be worthwhile in future paying attention to the amount of time spent in testing pupils and ensuring that most of the time is spent interacting with pupils during learning activities. To this end it is recommended that learning support commence very early in the school year.
Individual plans, in which clear learning objectives are outlined, are prepared for pupils. These work plans are drawn up in consultation with the parents and class teachers. Support teachers set out a comprehensive work plan and they record learning progress on a daily basis. Suitable rooms are available as locations for supplementary support and there is a good range of teaching resources in productive use to support learning. During the evaluation a very pleasant, supportive atmosphere was noted in the classes observed. Clarity in the approach to teaching concepts in mathematics was evident and commendable attention was paid to teaching English reading skills. Structured group teaching was mostly in use during the support sessions observed. The teachers reported that the pupils undertake individual activities regularly and that information and communications technology is used to develop skills. Some examples were observed of support teachers working in collaboration with class teachers in the mainstream classrooms. It was reported that the staff intends to build on the level of support given to pupils in their own classrooms, as recommended in the Learning Support Guidelines from the Department of Education and Science.
At present there are no pupils from minority groups attending the school. There is a tradition in the school since its establishment of providing practical support for disadvantaged pupils in a discreet manner, and the respectful, open relationship between parents and staff facilitates this practice. With financial support under the Giving Children an Even Break scheme the provision of school books to pupils who need them is ensured, as well as the opportunity for each pupil to take part in all school activities.
The following are the main strengths recognised in the evaluation:
As a way of building on these strengths and in order to focus on areas for development, the following recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and with the board of management at which the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.