An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Whole School Evaluation
Gaelscoil Pheig Sayers
Unit 40 Northpoint Business Park, Mallow Road, Cork
Date of inspection: †30 November 2009
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Gaelscoil Pheig Sayers. 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 schoolís manager, the patron and representatives of the parentsí association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupilsí work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachersí 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 manager. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
Gaelscoil Pheig Sayers is a co-educational all-Irish school under the patronage of the Bishop of Cork and Ross. It was established in 1987 on the north side of the city. Since its establishment the school has operated in temporary accommodation in a number of locations. This involved a period of time in a† GAA club followed by the occupation of rented rooms in a local secondary school. At present the school is located in a business park on the outskirts of the city and caters for pupils from infants to sixth class with a current enrolment of 98 pupils.
The principal is on administrative leave and the deputy principal resigned from his post at the beginning of this school year. Over the past number of years it has been necessary to appoint substitute teachers for considerable periods of time. The school has experienced significant difficulties in its endeavours to recruit fully qualified teachers. The current staff have all been appointed in the past three years. These changes have impacted negatively on the quality of teaching and learning in the school.
In this particular socio-linguistic context as an all-Irish school most pupils start school with no ability to speak the language. This is a designated disadvantaged school. Under the DEIS programme additional services and resources have been provided by the Department of Education and Skills.
Significant difficulties are evident in the delivery of the curriculum. Challenges now exist for both the management and staff of the school to raise the standard of pupil achievement and to manage school activities in an effective manner.
The board of management resigned three years ago. The school has made very little progress in formulating curricular, administrative or statutory policies required under legislation. Presently, a single manager acts on behalf of the schoolís patron. His dedication and commitment to his work is highly commendable. He greatly supports both teachers and parents in the development of the school. It was reported to the inspection team that the patron is fully satisfied with the administration of the schoolís finances and it was confirmed that accounts have been recently certified. The managerís efforts to solve the schoolís difficulties are acknowledged. However, it is now necessary to appoint a board of management to support him in this work.
The school has an acting principal and an acting deputy principal, both appointed recently. The acting principal succeeds in creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere in the school and works conscientiously to fulfil her duties. A cooperative ambience is evident among teachers who †display an interest in the growth and development of the school.
The school lacks leadership. There is no in-school management structure. Although duties have been allocated to the post holder, it is necessary to ensure that these duties address the pertinent needs of the school with particular reference to curriculum leadership. An in-school management structure should be established. It is also necessary to agree a clear succinct statement of vision for this schoolís unique context and to outline the central role of each individual teacher in the implementation of this vision.
School records are not maintained as required. It is recommended that all school documents be updated and completed in accordance with the Departmentís guidelines.
As the school is located in a public business park considerable difficulties exist in ensuring the safety of pupils. Efforts have been made by the school authorities to address traffic issues. However, it is now necessary to take further action to guarantee the safety of pupils during all school activities. The building itself is comfortable. Staff and parents deserve credit for improving the standard of accommodation. The location of this school, however, is not suitable as an educational institute. It is understood that discussions have been initiated with a view to procuring a more suitable site.
Work has commenced on the decoration of corridors with photographs and samples of pupilsí work. It is necessary, however, to place greater emphasis on creating an attractive learning environment in a number of classrooms, in organising and displaying pupilsí work and in general, in improving the overall standard of order and neatness.
Although a range of resources, computers and library books has been provided recently, poor organisational structures militate against their beneficial use. During lessons in some classes, good use is made of concrete materials. This practice should now be extended throughout the school. It would also be prudent to limit the number of workbooks in use in subject areas in order to further develop teaching and learning.
A sum of money is collected weekly from pupils for curricular activities that are organised during the school day. It is recommended that this practice be reviewed. It is also necessary for staff to ensure that administrative matters do not encroach on pupil-teacher contact time. A part-time secretary was recently appointed to support in the daily functioning of the school.
A parentsí association has been established. Parents organise a variety of activities to support the work of the school. Their commitment to this work is commendable. Members of the association display a keen interest in the promotion of the school. They understand the challenges to be overcome and they indicate a full willingness to support the manager and staff.
Formal meetings are convened with parents to discuss their childrenís progress. However, written progress reports are not provided. It is recommended that an annual report of pupilsí progress be issued. Last year the school organised a meeting for parents who wished to enrol their children. Further consideration should now be given to developing other useful strategies to engage in regular communication with the school community.
Pupils are very well behaved. They display an interest in learning and undertake their work with enthusiasm. Staff should now formulate and implement a code of discipline. In some classrooms greater effort should be made to improve the learning atmosphere. It is also imperative that all teachers raise their expectations of pupilsí ability to learn and to achieve.
The use of Irish is of particular importance in this school. It is recommended that staff develop clear procedures to extend the use of the language in the school environs and during all school activities. It is essential that additional strategies be designed to motivate pupils to speak the language continuously as the schoolís medium of communication.
There is no school plan. The various curriculum documents on file have not been discussed on a whole-school basis and the teaching programme has not been agreed by staff. The planning process has not been developed appropriately. This weakness impacts significantly on curriculum implementation and on standards of education.
Management and staff are now advised to prioritise the formulation of a school plan which is based on the specific needs of the school. Particular attention should be afforded to the development of administrative policies required by legislation. The development of curricular plans for the various subject areas, especially literacy and numeracy, should be prioritised. It is recommended that a cyclical review process be adopted to school planning and that a strategic plan that addresses the needs of the school be compiled.
A child protection policy is not available. Confirmation was not provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Skills Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools(Department of Education and Skills, September 2001). Confirmation was not provided either that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have not been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
Despite the absence of whole-school plans and policies, the conscientious work of some teachers in their preparation for teaching and learning is commended. Nevertheless, significant weaknesses exist in the planning provided for many other classes. Plans do not always specify appropriate learning targets and they do not make provision for differentiation nor for the use of varied methodologies or resources. It is necessary to ensure that monthly progress records document accurately the work completed during the month.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
Many pupils demonstrate good academic ability and a positive attitude to learning. However, their learning needs are not always catered for appropriately. The creditable standard of teaching observed in some classrooms is acknowledged. To further extend this good work on a whole-school basis, greater emphasis should now be placed on the implementation of curriculum objectives for each subject area. A broader range of methodologies should also be practised. Additional attention should be given to structured, focused teaching, to consolidating concepts and to the development of skills. Provision should also cater for the varying abilities and learning styles of pupils. Overall there is significant scope for improvement in pupilsí learning and in their standard of achievement.
Some pupils present with creditable ability in the use of Irish as the schoolís language for communication. A number of pupils display a good understanding of the topics discussed in class. Pupils recite poetry with enjoyment. Specific language input is purposefully taught during lessons at some class levels and pupils are provided with regular opportunities to use the language taught in a communicative context. It is recommended that this practice be extended to all classes as it is evident that many pupils experience significant difficulties in the continuous use of language. There is a need to further develop pupilsí language skills. It is also necessary to avoid the translation method during lessons. Phrases required by pupils during play and learning activities should be taught as a core element of the Irish language programme. Additional emphasis should also be placed on the use of poetry and story in the further development of pupilsí language competence.
A graded reading scheme is used in the teaching of reading. A small number of pupils read a variety of texts with reasonable accuracy. However, it is evident that many pupils have significant difficulties in understanding and in reading texts. A whole-school phonological programme is required and greater emphasis should be placed on the development of pupilsí reading skills. Although a range of reading material is available in the school, it is recommended that the reading experience be extended. It is essential that the reading programme be reviewed especially with regard to the practice of commencing English and Irish reading at the same time.
Some good written work is in evidence at particular class levels. In general pupils engage appropriately in functional writing exercises. However, it is apparent that many pupils experience significant difficulties in writing basic sentences in Irish. More copying exercises rather than creative tasks are being undertaken. Rarely do pupils write personal stories. They have little understanding of basic writing skills, spelling patterns or punctuations rules. Presentation of written work in copybooks is poor. To address these difficulties, it is necessary to develop basic writing skills, to expose pupils to a wider range of genres and to engage in the ongoing monitoring of pupilsí work. To ensure that pupilsí literacy skills are being appropriately developed it is necessary to devise a comprehensive literacy programme and implement it in a systematic manner.
In English, some pupils display an ability to express their views orally in an age appropriate manner. Commendably, some teachers read well-chosen stories which act as a valuable stimulus for dramatic activity. In some classrooms pupils recite poetry with obvious enjoyment. It is advised that greater emphasis be now placed on learning poetry in all classes and a rich and varied repertoire of poems be taught.
Some consideration is paid to the development of pupilsí oral language skills during reading and writing activities. However, greater allocation of time and attention to the discrete oral language lesson is required. In many instances both English and Irish are used interchangeably during the teaching of English. In order to encourage expanded use of language and further develop pupilsí thinking skills, it is recommended that this practice be discontinued and that teachers consistently signal the beginning and end of the English period.
The development of pupilsí phonemic and phonological awareness is given due attention in some classes. In other classes, however, insufficient consideration is given to the acquisition of these skills in a developmental manner. Some pupils read with a degree of fluency while other pupils experience significant difficulties. A whole-school approach to the development of reading skills during structured lessons is necessary. Laudable strategies to augment the reading programme have been adopted in certain classes supported by the acquisition of additional reading material.
Pupils are provided with some suitable writing activities but in many instances the range of work undertaken is limited and insufficiently monitored. Greater attention should be given to the cultivation of process writing and to regular opportunities for pupils to write creatively in a wide variety of genres. Significant difficulties in spelling and grammar were noted in the senior classes. A whole-school grammar, spelling and punctuation programme should be implemented to ensure improvement in the mechanical aspects of writing. There is a focus in some classes on the teaching of appropriate letter formation but some inconsistency was noted in the standard of handwriting across all class levels. Greater emphasis should be placed on the teaching and modelling of penmanship skills and the regular application of these skills to pupilsí written work. As a priority the development of a strategic whole-school approach to raising literacy attainment in this school is required.
In general mathematics is taught in an agreeable manner and pupils participate actively in lessons. Some teachers make good use of concrete materials in the teaching of concepts and judicious use is made of mathematical games in some classrooms. In these classes commendable emphasis is placed on oral work and challenging questioning further promotes pupil ability. This good practice should be extended throughout the school.
It is evident, however, that pupils do not have an acceptable standard of achievement in mathematical skills. Many pupils experience difficulty in understanding basic concepts and in solving fundamental problems. Greater emphasis should be placed on the teaching of mathematical language and on guided discussion. It would greatly assist pupil learning if further monitoring of work took place in some classes. However, it is important that only teachers correct pupilsí work. A whole-school approach to teaching the various aspects of the mathematics programme is urgently required.
Good use is made of story to cultivate pupilsí understanding in History and attractive displays are used to consolidate learning at particular class levels. It is evident, however, that there is significant scope for improvement in the development of pupilsí skills as historians. It is also necessary to provide pupils with further opportunities to record their learning in copybooks. It is recommended that a broad and balanced history programme be taught and that pupilsí learning be firmly reinforced during lessons.
Geography is well integrated with other subject areas. The development of pupilsí map reading skills at particular class levels is commendable. In other classes, however, pupils demonstrate limited understanding and knowledge of topics already taught and have great difficulty discussing geographical subjects with competence. In order to improve standards of learning, attention should be directed to the development of pupilsí geographical skills. It is also necessary to ensure that concepts are taught purposefully and consolidated consistently during lessons.
In the teaching of Science creditable work is evident in some classes. Pupils in these classes participate enthusiastically in learning activities. Productive use is made of suitable resources to develop conceptual understanding and to cultivate curiosity. Emphasis should, however, be placed on the teaching of scientific terminology and the development of pupilsí skills. The learning programme in both middle and senior classes should address all strands of the curriculum. Greater emphasis should also be placed on recording topics completed in order to provide opportunities for pupils to consolidate learning.
Some interesting examples of pupilsí art work are displayed around the school. The integration of this work with other areas of the curriculum and the teaching of the language of art during some lessons is commendable. Pupils are presented with opportunities to paint and to draw. However, a wider range of experiences across all strands of the visual arts curriculum should be provided. It is also necessary to foster pupilsí creativity with greater emphasis placed on the visual elements of art activities.
Pupils sing a pleasant repertoire of songs and the recent opportunity to perform publicly was a positive experience. In some classes the progress evident in learning tin whistle is commendable. Good use is made of the percussion instruments available in the school. It is necessary, however, to implement a broad and balanced programme of work in this curricular area. The central role of teachers in the teaching of Music should be explored and fully developed.
Drama is suitably integrated with other areas of the curriculum and at particular class levels appropriate use is made of some strategies to foster pupilsí imagination and creativity. Teachers have planned to stage a Christmas concert this year which will help to advance various elements of the drama programme. In addition to this staged performance, it is necessary to emphasise drama as a creative process which should provide pupils with opportunities to explore drama. With future training planned, it is timely for staff to focus on the process of drama in a structured manner.
Lessons are conducted in an orderly manner and pupils enjoy them. Good use is made of PE equipment but it is necessary to ensure that lessons are appropriately structured. Additional emphasis should be placed on the teaching of skills and all activities should have focused learning outcomes. It is recommended that the learning programme be implemented within the timeframe suggested in the curriculum.
Staff members avail of support from external tutors in the teaching of dance, games and swimming and it is intended to employ additional trainers in the future. These supports should, however, be utilised as opportunities to upskill teachers in the delivery of the curriculum.
The sincere efforts of staff to create a positive atmosphere in the school are creditable. Pupils in infant classes are provided with worthwhile opportunities to participate in structured play activities. A range of strategies are being employed in some classes to develop pupilsí social and personal skills positively. It is recommended that these strategies be developed on a whole-school basis. It is also recommended that all aspects of the learning programme be coordinated to ensure that the curriculum is being implemented in an ongoing and consistent manner.
In some classrooms teacher-designed tests are administered and pupilsí work is monitored carefully. Folders containing samples of pupilsí work maintained at particular class levels are †worthwhile. Although standardised tests are administered and results documented, further† attention should be given to their use to address pupilsí learning needs. Results obtained in standardised tests do not always accord with pupilsí reading ability. In order to ensure the effectiveness of these tests it is necessary to maintain accurate ongoing records of each pupilís achievement. It is recommended that staff develop assessment procedures on a whole-school basis in accordance with the guidelines of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.
A special needs policy has been compiled but has not been discussed by staff. Pupils are not selected for learning support in accordance with department guidelines. Circular 02/05 should be implemented fully.
Pupils from first class to sixth class are in receipt of additional support. Four pupils participate in the early intervention programme, Reading Recovery. Procedures pertaining to the scheme are implemented. However, it is necessary to ensure that pupils are selected in accordance with the programmeís criteria. It is also recommended that consideration be given to the implementation of team-teaching to avoid ongoing withdrawal of pupils from class. It is also necessary to implement an early intervention programme for those pupils in junior classes who are not making satisfactory progress in literacy. The special needs assistant who undertakes her work with understanding and enthusiasm deserves much praise.
It is necessary to review the process by which learning programmes are prepared for individual pupils to ensure that teachers and parents are involved in the formulation of the IEP and also receive a copy of it. The learning targets as outlined in the IEP should be more specific and more appropriate to the learning needs of pupils. There is no proper record of individual pupilsí progress. It is imperative that progress records be maintained accurately in accordance with identified learning targets.
During support sessions pupils are affirmed in their learning. A reading programme with an emphasis on the development of phonemic and phonological awareness is implemented appropriately. Suitable resources are used to support the teaching process. However, it is now necessary to consolidate the learning. Additional time should be allocated to providing support in Mathematics, especially for those pupils who are experiencing significant difficulties in this subject. In accordance with departmental guidelines a complete review of provision for pupils with special educational needs should be undertaken.
The school welcomes all pupils. Additional support is made available to those in receipt of grants from the Department of Health and Children and from the Health Services Executive. Although the home-school liaison programme is available in the school on a part-time basis since April 2007, a school plan for the implementation of this scheme has not been compiled and very little development took place until this current school year. Meetings are convened with parents and they are encouraged to participate in reading and in mathematical activities. This practice is beneficial for pupilsí education. Some home-school visits have also been organised. It is recommended that staff formulate an action plan for the implementation of this scheme in order to benefit from the various services offered.
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 of the schoolís manager where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published, June 2010
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1†† Observations on the content of the inspection report†† ††
As the manager of the school I acknowledge that this is a honest truthful and comprehensive report. At the same time it is important for me to reiterate the context of the whole-school evaluation. As is said again and again in the world of literature, context is paramount. In this case, the context is turbulent, the acting principal was only appointed two weeks prior to the evaluation. In truth, considerable improvements have taken place since then. There is a renewed spirit evident among staff, a spirit of cooperation, diligence to work and basic structures are being established. I commend the spirit and sincerity of the staff.
Area 2†† Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
Since the whole-school inspection two sessions of in-service have been delivered. Two policies, Child Protection and Code of Discipline, are almost complete. New structures are being established from class to class with regard to curricular subjects and teachersí creativity is evident in organising a number of school activities, namely Christmas concert, competitions and games.