An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Gaelscoil Donncha Rua
Shannon, Co. Clare
Roll No. 19849U
Date of inspection: 15 November 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Gaelscoil Donncha Rua, Shannon. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for its further development. 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. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days, during which the inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning records and teachers’ written preparation and met 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.
This all-Irish school was founded 22 years ago in 1984 in Shannon town and was named in honour of the poet, Donncha Rua Mac Conmara (1715 – 1810), who was a native of Co. Clare. The school operates under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killaloe.
The school’s main aim is to provide an education for the pupils through the medium of Irish and therefore most communication in the school is undertaken using the Irish language. The school’s stated mission is to ensure that the education in Gaelscoil Donncha Rua will have a beneficial effect on the pupils. The school aims to develop each pupil to his or her full potential and to prepare the pupils for their future.
During its 22 years of existence, the school has been situated in various temporary locations in Shannon town including Kincora Flats, the Credit Union building and the grounds of St. Patrick’s Comprehensive School. It has been located on its current site since 1990, when 2.5 acres of ground were allocated to the Department of Education and Science by Shannon Development. One acre of this site has been fenced off for the school, which is located in a central position in Shannon town, opposite the Fire Station and Shannon Town Hall. It borders on a public play area and on Shannon Leisure Centre. The school has been subject in the past to vandalism and in the year 2000 the school was unfortunately destroyed by fire and almost all of its records were lost. The school however, has prevailed in spite of many of these setbacks.
The enrolment is currently 54 pupils and is predicted to remain at this level in the immediate future. The staff comprises three teachers including the principal. In addition, a teacher for children with special educational needs is shared with St. Senan’s N.S. The pupils travel to the school from a wide surrounding area, rural and semi-urban, including Bunratty, Newmarket on Fergus, Kilkishen and Cratloe, as well as from Shannon town itself. The parents of these pupils have consciously chosen to select a school where the teaching occurs through the medium of Irish. Therefore, since the pupils come from homes which can vary widely in geographical location, the parent body is comprised of families who are mainly linked by their interest in the Irish language.
It is noted that attendance in the school is poor. Board of management members expressed concern at the significant number of pupils who were absent for more than twenty days in the last school year. One explanation appears to be that a small proportion of pupils take extended holidays in school time. It is recommended that the board of management should monitor and promote attendance at the school and should take appropriate steps to reduce levels of absenteeism including the drafting of an attendance policy as soon as possible.
The board of management is properly constituted and generally meets once each term. It occasionally meets more often depending on the issues which arise. It is recommended that more frequent meetings might now be arranged. Minutes of board meetings are maintained. The school’s financial records however, are poorly presented at present. To ensure that it has established and continues to maintain systems whereby the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations can be assessed, the board should seek advice immediately in regard to the satisfactory maintenance and presentation of school accounts. Arrangements should be made to ensure that the school accounts are audited annually. A major concern of the board in recent years has been the provision of a permanent school building. It has also been concerned with safeguarding the existing accommodation. The board has been very committed to maintaining this school structure to a high standard. Nevertheless the board is reminded of its obligations under the Education Act in regard to ensuring that the school complies with legislation and departmental regulations. The board also has obligations in relation to policy development and overseeing the quality of teaching and learning in the school. Key policies in the school have been drawn up, such as an enrolment policy, a code of behaviour and a child protection policy. The health and safely statement is at present being reviewed, an undertaking which should be concluded as a matter of urgency. It is necessary to ensure that all policies are ratified and dated.
In general, the board is not involved in the drafting of curricular whole school plans and policies but devolves this responsibility to the teaching staff. These documents are presented to the board in draft format for discussion and some of them are then ratified and dated. It is recommended that the board would now become proactive in the drafting of plans, policies and procedures and that it would familiarise itself with guidelines in relation to ratification and review of school policy generally. The chairperson of the board meets frequently with the principal. All board members should ensure familiarity with the day to day running of the school. The duties of the post-holder should be reviewed on an annual basis to ensure that these duties are in keeping with the ongoing needs of the school. It would be appropriate that the principal would prepare a report on progress in terms of planning and assessment of teaching and learning in the school for each board meeting.
The board should now build on the interest and commitment of its members and of the wider school community by initiating the process of shaping the longer term future direction of the school. In addition to planning for a permanent school building, the board should become involved in drawing up a challenging but realistic school development plan which would prioritise the school’s areas for development and which would contain relevant time scales, costings and criteria by which success could be judged. Since board members have not availed of formal training to date, it is recommended that the advice of the School Development Planning Support Service might be sought to ensure that every aspect of the board’s activity is carried out at a level commensurate with best practice, taking the particular context factors of the school into account.
The principal has served in this capacity for 11 years and is held in high standing among the wider school community. The principal combines his teaching duties with his administrative duties and his responsibilities of leading and managing the school. The principal teacher also ensures that official documents including the attendance book, roll books and the register are kept up-to-date and fully maintained. This principal has a particular interest in drama, music and sporting activities. He has an informal management style which serves him well in maintaining good relationships with pupils, staff and parents. He has an in-depth knowledge of the backgrounds of the pupils and he demonstrates a sensitive attitude towards them. The principal is assisted in the in-school management team by the deputy principal.
The day to day running of the school is characterised by frequent informal interaction between staff members and good inter-staff relations. At this point in the school’s development however, it is very necessary to adopt greater formality and to put firmly in place the necessary procedures to ensure high quality instructional leadership. To ensure the optimal development of the school in the future, the principal needs to place greater emphasis on his leadership of teaching and learning by continuously monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the planning process in curricular areas and by examining the quality of outcomes. The duties allocated to the deputy principal are appropriate and she fulfils these duties with enthusiasm.
As the full implementation of the Primary Curriculum (1999) is behind schedule in the school, a coordinated analysis and adaptation of the curriculum to the particular context of this school should now become a major objective of the principal and of the board of management. There is a need to adopt a whole-school team approach to the achievement of this objective. The instigation of a formal school-based self-evaluation process will ensure that teachers will make an effective contribution not only to the teaching of the pupils in their own classes but also to the overall performance of the school. To assist with the development of a more cohesive team approach and to ensure a more systematic development of curricular policies, the advice of personnel from the Primary Curriculum Support Programme should be sought. The Department of Education publication Looking at our School – an Aid to Self Evaluation in Primary Schools (2003) can also be utilised as an effective tool in this process.
The teaching staff is appropriately deployed in the school and classes are allocated to teachers according to numbers of pupils. The various standards are taught as combined classes. At present, one class consists of a combined junior and senior infant class. First, second and third classes are combined, as are fourth, fifth and sixth classes. To ensure that teachers will benefit from the experience of teaching in a variety of class contexts and to ensure that the school in general will benefit from a sharing of expertise at different class levels, consideration should be given to utilising staff skills in a broad and flexible manner by exchanging classes for the teaching of some aspects of the curriculum. The board has to date been supportive of the professional development of staff. Priority should continue to be given by the board, the principal and the teachers to identifying their own professional development needs and to arranging that these needs are met, where it is feasible.
There are five free-standing prefabricated classrooms on the school site. These buildings were acquired in 2002. One of these classrooms is used for provision of care for pre-school age children. Three of the four remaining classrooms are allocated to the mainstream teachers. The fifth prefabricated building has been divided into sections and operates as a combined office, staff room and as an area which is used by the learning support/resource teacher. This building is also used to store the considerable amount of equipment for physical education which has been acquired by the school. Because the school has been subjected to vandalism in the past, the site is protected by a perimeter fence. The board of management has been for many years in consultation with the building section of the Department of Education and Science in regard to the provision of a permanent school structure. Board members expressed considerable frustration at the lack of progress emanating from these discussions. Play space used by the school includes its own paved playing area and occasionally the public area outside the perimeter as well as Shannon Leisure Centre which is nearby. The school also uses the playing pitches in Wolfe Tones GAA Club.
A part-time caretaker ensures that the school is regularly cleaned. Whereas the school has availed of grant-aid under the provisions of circular 18/05 for caretaking services, the school has not put secretarial services in place. There is an ensuing lack of clarity regarding responsibility for and organisation of day to day school administration. The absence of storage space and the limitations of the prefabricated classrooms have resulted, in certain instances, in the creation of a cluttered learning environment. Good practice exists in the infants’ classroom where cupboards provide space for storage of materials. This good practice should be extended to the other classrooms. Free-standing and mobile furniture which would facilitate storage of materials, the display of children’s work, items of interest and library books as well as investigation tables and mathematics areas, should now be sourced and provided. There is a need to ensure that all display is print-rich, is regularly updated and is of a high quality. The potential of the immediate local environment should be fully exploited. In summary, there is a need to make certain that all classroom environments in the school are conducive to the development of good self-management and presentation skills among the pupils.
The board is to be commended on the many resources which have been purchased to support teaching and learning in the school. The recent purchase of computers is a welcome initiative which has excellent potential for the expansion of the learning experiences presently provided for the pupils. There is a need however, to document and categorise the range of resources in place in the school at present, an activity which could be assigned to a school secretary or as an additional responsibility to a member of staff.
No parents’ association exists in the school. Representatives of the parents, however, expressed the view that parents and pupils were very proud of the school and that they valued the achievement of its pupils. There was satisfaction with the manner in which the school is proactive in addressing any issues that arise, by attending to parents’ concerns both as a group and on a one to one basis. The principal and teachers interact informally with parents, often on a daily basis. All sections of the school plan are made available in the school for examination by parents. The main medium of day to day home/school communication is through information notes conveyed by the pupils. One to one parent/teacher meetings are organised annually. Parents receive periodic information from the school about the progress of their children. The parents felt that a family atmosphere prevailed in the school. Parents have been involved in arranging field trips to the Shannon Estuary, to the Hunt Museum and to King John’s Castle in Limerick.
Management of pupils is underpinned by the strong sense of community within the school. The teachers are familiar with the relevant factors influencing the families of their pupils. It is evident that the pupils in the school respond positively to the interest which teachers show in their personal development, their educational progress and good behaviour. Pupils and teachers treat each other with mutual respect and no instances of unacceptable behaviour were observed. The Board of Management and parents have become involved in the process of drawing up a code of behaviour and discipline and in supporting the teaching staff with regard to its implementation. During the implementation of a school based self-evaluation process in the immediate future, this code of behaviour might now be revisited to ensure the highest possible degree of consensus among staff, pupils and parents about expected standards of behaviour within the school. Aspects of behaviour and courtesy such as the manner in which pupils interact within the classroom and enter and leave the classroom should be clearly understood and practised in a consistent manner. It is the principal's responsibility to ensure that the school’s code of behaviour and discipline is administered in a manner that is consistent and fair to all pupils. Staff should consider themselves responsible at all times for the behaviour of children and should respond promptly and firmly to any instances of unacceptable behaviour.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and 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, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 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.
The whole school planning process involves some staff discussion and collaboration. Following examination of these whole school plans, ratification by the school’s board of management occurs. The organisational policies in place include almost all of those required by legislation or recommended by circular or guidelines. The curricular plans currently in place should be re-examined to indicate that they include agreement made on whole-school aims and objectives in keeping with those of the primary curriculum and in the particular context of this school. A team approach to this process should now be adopted. The methods of achieving whole school aims and of ensuring continuity and progression and the means of assessing the extent of achievement of learning outcomes in the school, should all be clearly identified in the school plan. So that there will be a systematic focus on ensuring that school priorities are achieved, the inclusion of an annual action plan would be a clear indicator of the acceptance of responsibility by the school’s staff and management for continuous improvement of all aspects of school life. Such an action plan would also ensure that the curriculum is gradually and firmly embedded in school practice.
This school provides official documentation only in the English language. Because it is an Irish medium school all documentation such as the School Plan and teachers’ preparation documents must be provided in the Irish language.
Classroom planning in general is undertaken systematically. In accordance with Rule 126, long-term and short-term planning is in place in all classes. Progress records are maintained on a monthly basis. As all mainstream classes are combined classes, some plans are delineated separately for each standard taught. There is reference in some individual planning to the learning outcomes envisaged in the primary curriculum. To ensure a focused approach on these outcomes of learning, to ensure clear linkage with the primary curriculum and to streamline the planning process, it is recommended that the staff would now agree on common templates for long and short-term classroom planning. These templates should allow for clarification of the broad learning outcomes in the long-term and of specific learning outcomes in the short-term for each curricular area. The methods to be employed and the content of lessons taught should be briefly stated. The priorities stated in the school plan in terms of approaches taken and methodologies employed should be clearly reflected. Appropriate resources to support the achievement of these learning outcomes should be identified. Long and short-term plans should include reference to the means whereby pupils with specific learning difficulties or special educational needs will be included in mainstream activities and will have access to differentiated activities which are based on their learning targets. There should be clear plans for the assessment of progress in learning. A template for monthly progress records in the school should also be agreed among the staff. Ideally these records would enable staff to track progress and would allow for reflection on the implementation of targets identified in the school plan.
The teachers might now consider how development of their own skills in the use of information and communications technology (ICT) could assist them in furthering the entire planning process. In summary, the planning process in the school in its entirety should be revisited to support an increased emphasis by all in the school on the cyclical process of planning, implementation and review of the school plan.
Overall, the quality of teaching and learning in this school is good. Lessons are presented in a competent manner. Illustrative and concrete materials are used effectively in the teaching and learning process. The teachers have high expectations of the pupils’ abilities and the pupils respond very well to these expectations, working hard and conscientiously. Written work is regularly monitored. Some group activities were observed but the work predominantly occurred on a whole-class basis. It is necessary now to fully incorporate additional teaching approaches as promoted in the Primary Curriculum (1999) such as co-operative learning, learning through guided discovery and using the child’s experience as a base for learning. Greater use of the immediate environment as a starting point and on active learning should be developed. Considering the fact that all classes are combined classes within which a variety of attainment levels will naturally occur, group teaching as opposed to whole-class teaching should predominate in the future. A focus on collaborative problem-solving would provide further challenge in group settings. The planned further development of the information and communication technology resources should enhance the pupils’ language, communication and collaboration skills and should also assist them to develop problem-solving skills.
Oibríonn na múinteoirí go dian, diograiseach ag múineadh na Gaeilge agus cothaíonn siad atmaisféar spreagthach sna rangsheomraí. Bunaítear na ceachtanna ar théamaí éagsúla. Tá dul chun cinn sásúil á dhéanamh agus ar an iomlán, tá cumas maith ag na daltaí i labhairt na teanga. Úsáidtear modh na cumarsáide agus modh na dramaíochta maraon le pictiúirí, chun na ceachtanna a chur abhaile. Spreagtar na daltaí chun a bheith gníomhach san fhoghlaim. Is féidir le cuid de na daltaí ceisteanna ó bhéal a chur agus a fhreagairt gan stró sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna. Léann siad le brí agus freagraíonn siad ceisteanna atá bunaithe ar an ábhar léitheoireachta. Tá cnuasach maith de rainn Ghaeilge le geaitsíocht de ghlanmheabhair ag na Naíonáin agus aithrisítear dánta go fonnmhar sna bunranganna agus sna meánranganna. Ar an iomlán, tá an obair scríofa go soiléir agus cruinn.
The teachers work very diligently in teaching Irish and they develop a stimulating atmosphere in the classrooms. The lessons are based on various themes. Reasonable progress is being made and in the main, the pupils have a good facility in the spoken language. Use is made of the communicative approach, drama and pictures to consolidate the lessons. The pupils are encouraged to be active in their learning. Some of the pupils are able to pose and answer questions without difficulty in the middle and senior classes. They can read meaningfully and they are able to answer questions based on the reading material. The children in the Infant classes have memorised a good selection of Irish rhymes and in the junior and middle classes poems are recited enthusiastically. On the whole, the written work is clear and accurate.
Within the context of this all-Irish school, the teachers make commendable efforts to improve the children’s oral English. The children are able to express themselves and communicate their ideas and opinions with ease. Habits of turn-taking and listening are well inculcated. A wide range of teaching strategies is used in the junior classes, including the use of pictures, drama activities, games and props. Children talk to each other in pairs, to the whole class and to the teacher. It is recommended that the use of these strategies be extended to all classes. It is also recommended that the programme presently in place in the middle and senior classes should now be linked more closely to the content objectives for oral English as set out in the Primary Curriculum (1999).
The approach undertaken in the development of phonological awareness at the junior end of the school is praiseworthy. The school’s reading programme is based on the use of a number of big books, class texts, library books and novels. The children in the middle and senior classes read well and can retell, predict, adapt and compare the stories read to their own experiences.
Functional writing skills are developed at each class level and much of the work is based on comprehension and grammar activities in workbooks. While functional writing receives due attention in the senior classes, creative and personal writing could be extended to include a greater variety of genres. Planning for writing should be based on the recommendations in the curriculum. Drafting and editing could also receive more attention and the newly acquired computers in the school could be used to support this work. The children recite a number of poems with feeling and understanding.
The teachers are endeavouring very well to implement the Mathematics curriculum. Pupils respond well to questioning, they exhibit competency in oral mathematics and are generally enthusiastic about solving mathematical problems. A commercially produced series of textbooks and workbooks, supplemented by worksheets, forms the basis of the mathematical programme. The children enjoy working with concrete materials and this consolidates their understanding of mathematical concepts. In keeping with the recommendations of the curriculum, the use of concrete materials could now be extended to the senior classes to underpin a greater emphasis on problem solving and estimating. Strategies such as posing both open and closed questions and basing problems on the pupils’ immediate environment could be used to further explain concepts in these classes. The more widespread use of ICT, the creation of mathematical displays and number-rich environments and access to Mathematics investigation tables would further enhance provision.
A whole school plan for the teaching of History has not yet been formulated. The absence of a school plan creates inconsistency in the approach to the teaching of this area of the curriculum in the school. Pupils are generally given opportunities to develop their sense of chronology and to learn about key events in selected periods of History. There is some emphasis on the pupils’ own past and that of their families. The use of story to stimulate interest in lessons was observed as well as the use of strategies aimed at enabling pupils to identify with individuals from the past. There is need to fully incorporate the recommendations of the primary school curriculum in teaching and learning of History in the school. In particular it will be necessary to consider the adoption of teaching approaches which will take the local historical environment as a starting point for the development of skills. Pupils should be given opportunities to work as historians and their skills of analysis and in the use of evidence should be facilitated. The children should be enabled to examine a range of primary sources, documents, artefacts and photographs. Such objects of interest should be displayed on interest tables in the classroom.
The geography curriculum is taught in a traditional manner. The children have gained a satisfactory knowledge of the aspects taught. However, to some extent, there is reliance on the use of a textbook and at present the methodologies and structures of the primary geography curriculum are not being applied comprehensively on a whole-school basis. To ensure that a broad and balanced curriculum in keeping with the recommendations of the curriculum is delivered, there is now a need to draw up a comprehensive plan for the school which will ensure that the three strands dealing with human environments, natural environments and environmental awareness and care are taught with breadth and depth. More resources such as globes, charts and ordnance survey maps should be made available to supplement the work. The optimal location of the school should be fully exploited in developing the children’s knowledge and mapping abilities. The recent provision of ICT in the school will allow access to a growing range of relevant and stimulating resources. There is scope now for widening the range of investigations using a variety of media, including the internet as well as through first hand investigation, to enable pupils to build up a knowledge of the distinctive characteristics of their own place and to develop a critical understanding of the rapidly changing world in which they live.
In general the teachers approach the teaching of this area of the curriculum diligently and a range of activities is provided throughout the school in Science. The children are well-motivated learners and their contributions are welcomed. In some classes the pupils readily described the experiments which they had observed and in which they had participated. Resources have been acquired to support the teaching in this area and the compilation of a list of equipment available, as well as the creation of a central storage point in the school, would enable the more widespread and frequent use of these resources. It is recommended that a science investigation area be made available in every classroom. Effective planning in this subject area will ensure that there is consistency in the development of skills, knowledge and understanding, appropriate to the needs of all pupils. It will also provide sufficient investigative and experimental work for the children.
It is recommended that a comprehensive programme of work in the area of Visual Arts, be formulated for each class level for inclusion in school planning documentation. It is advised that learning experiences in Visual Arts be directed towards the provision of a broad programme of work across the six strands, which would ensure that learning experiences are implemented in a systematic and progressive manner throughout the school.
In some learning environments, it is evident that pupil effort in Visual Arts is celebrated. Attractive displays of pupil work samples, which are suitably integrated with other areas of the curriculum, are arranged in the immediate learning environment in these classrooms. It is recommended, however, that this feature of good practice be reflected in all mainstream classroom environments. Where the teaching of visual arts was observed, it was evident that pupil activity was managed in a competent manner. It is reported that occasional participation in competitions is also encouraged throughout the school. It is advised that consideration should now be given to the development of digital portfolios through a photographic record of work and that these could be supported through the use of the school’s ICT resources.
Music is taught in a competent and effective manner and aspects of music literacy including rhythm, notation, beat and pitch are being explored at all levels. Appropriate activities are also presented to promote pupils’ listening, responding and music appreciation skills. Productive use is made of a variety of resources including tapes, compact discs, percussion instruments and appropriate textbooks. Effective cross-curricular links have been established between Music and the areas of Drama and Visual Arts at all class levels.
It is evident that good standards have been attained in relation to pupils’ singing ability. Teachers’ expertise and competence in instrumental skills are acknowledged. Pupils sing songs through the accompaniment of teachers on the guitar, fiddle and accordion. It should now be ensured that a wide and appropriate repertoire of songs be taught at all class levels throughout the school.
The development of pupils’ instrumental skills is promoted through the provision of instruction in tin whistle. Pupils are facilitated in developing vocal and instrumental skills through participation in the school choir and school band and are also encouraged to take an active part in school-produced performances. The staff members involved in the direction of the school choir and in-school musical activities are commended for the effort and commitment in the undertaking of these tasks.
Teachers in this school are aware of the benefits of bringing the children’s experiences to bear on the examination of a particular aspect of life through drama and they create an environment in the classroom in which ideas, feelings and experiences can be expressed. In particular this emphasis on drama complements the communicative approach to language learning inherent in the Gaeilge curriculum in the school. In the middle and junior standards the teachers were observed to be encouraging the children’s desire and enjoyment of make-believe. In the senior classes the children were observed to be benefiting from the process of making drama in the classroom and thought had been given to linking drama with the encouragement of emotional and imaginative response in other areas of the curriculum. Pupil involvement in annual productions and dramatic performances, is also encouraged. Staff members involved in the direction and organisation of these activities are commended for their commitment in undertaking these tasks.
It is advised that a school policy on Drama be formulated for inclusion in school planning documentation, as appropriate.
Due to the proximity of the school to Shannon Leisure Centre, an extensive programme is being implemented in Physical Education. A wide range of resources has been purchased and donated to the school to supplement this area of the curriculum. Very positive levels of pupil participation and enjoyment are in evidence and the lesson observed was well structured and facilitated full pupil involvement. The development of games skills receives due attention. A tutor supplied by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and a tutor supplied by the Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA) support the teaching of games skills in the early autumn and summer terms. Among the games catered for are rugby, hurling, gaelic football and basketball. The school actively and successfully participates in competitions that promote these sports. It receives the full support of parents in this participation. The school also caters for the teaching of gymnastics and athletics. Irish dancing forms an integral part of this programme. An aquatics programme is successfully taught and swimming lessons, which include lifesaving lessons, are organised each Friday in the Leisure Centre.
The staff is conscientious in promoting healthy relationships and in encouraging courteous patterns of behaviour in general. Work is supplemented in Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) with relevant material from a variety of associated programmes. The SPHE curriculum is generally implemented well in the school and SPHE issues are also examined on a cross-curricular basis. Overall, the school promotes the personal development and well being of the pupils in a caring, and considerate manner. A positive learning environment has been established in the school. There are good relationships and communication between all the stake holders and pupils generally manifest courteous behaviour towards teachers, towards each other and towards visitors.
A policy on assessment is included in school planning documentation, where a range of assessment strategies is identified for use throughout the school. Informal approaches adopted include teacher observation, teacher-designed tests, pupil work samples and projects. Formal assessment procedures are also outlined in the school’s assessment policy. These tests include the Middle Infant Screening Test (MIST), Drumcondra Primary Reading Test (DPRT) and the National Reading Intelligence Test (NRIT). The results of these tests are filed centrally and are maintained in the school. Diagnostic testing is also administered by the support teacher.
It is advised that standardised tests in Mathematics be administered on an annual basis, so that the pupils’ progress and attainment levels are documented and recorded. It is further advised that consideration be given to the use of a computerised system, which would facilitate the analysis of assessment data by mainstream class teachers, the support teachers and the principal. Commercially produced reporting booklets are in use and reports on pupil progress are sent to parents at the end of each school-year. Consideration should now be given to the development of digital portfolios to facilitate the storage of individual children’s work samples in a variety of curricular areas.
The learning support/resource teaching area in this school is accommodated within a prefabricated classroom, a section of which is used as the school staff room and is also used for the storage of school resources. An organised learning environment has been created in this support setting and a range of teaching strategies and appropriate methodologies are implemented. Pupils are withdrawn from mainstream classes for support provision on an individual basis. A policy on the support for pupils with special educational needs has been formulated and is included in school planning documentation.
This school has the services of a shared learning support/resource teacher, who is based in St. Senan’s National School. This teacher provides supplementary teaching for four pupils and resource teaching for one pupil. An early intervention programme which is provided by the learning support teacher in collaboration with the mainstream class teacher, is implemented in the senior infant class pupils four times per week. This integration of support teaching in mainstream classes, through the provision of early intervention activities in literacy with pupils at infant level, is to be commended. It is recommended that consideration be given to the further expansion and development of this integrated model of provision in mainstream class settings.
It is reported that diagnostic testing administered by the support teacher includes QUEST, Aston Index and Jackson Phonics. The Newell Literacy Programme and the Phonological Awareness Training (PAT) programme are also employed in the support setting. Resources which support programmes in literacy, numeracy and ICT are in evidence in the support teaching area. It is reported that the MIST standardised test is administered on an annual basis and that the Forward Together Programme is implemented by the support teacher.
The programmes of learning formulated for pupils for whom supplementary and support teaching are provided, focus on the development of literacy, Mathematics, social and behavioural skills. This planning is comprehensively documented through the formulation and recording of individual learning programmes and an individual education plan (IEP). Weekly plans, daily records of work and individual pupil work folders are presented in a methodical manner. It is evident that some documentation is formulated through the support and use of ICT.
It is reported that consultation among the principal, mainstream class teachers and support teacher is undertaken in the development and formulation of pupils’ individual learning programmes. It is now advised, however, that consideration be given to facilitating the support teacher’s attendance at staff meetings which are convened in this school, so that communication and consultation regarding pupil progress is undertaken in a formal, collaborative manner.
Feedback regarding pupil progress is provided to parents at annual parent/teacher meetings. It is recommended, however, that parental input towards the formulation and review of IEPs and IPLPs be extended.
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.