An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Scoil Eoin Baiste

Garrynadur, Lispole, Tralee, County Kerry

Roll Number: 19986H

 

Date of inspection:  10 February 2009

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

Quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Eoin Baiste. 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 parents. 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 pupils’ 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 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.

 

 

1.     Introduction – school context and background

 

Scoil Eoin Baiste is a rural, co-educational primary school situated approximately ten kilometres east of Dingle. This is a Gaeltacht school under the patronage of the local Catholic Bishop. Five class teachers, one support and one resource teacher are employed in the school. The school was built in 1993 following an amalgamation of two local schools, Scoil na Min Airde and Scoil Chluain Cumhra. Currently the school has two temporary classrooms and the community hall is rented.

 

 

2.     Quality of school management

 

2.1 Board of management

 

The school’s board of management is constituted in accordance with the rules and procedures of the Department of Education and Science. Meetings are scheduled at least five times during the school year. Reports are presented at board meetings by both the principal and treasurer. It is evident that members of the board have an interest in, and an understanding of, the school’s ethos. Board meetings are conducted through the medium of Irish and minutes of every meeting are recorded. The board provides appropriate support to the principal and to the teachers. It is evident that the chairperson of the board maintains regular contact with the principal and with the school staff. Communication with the school community is also fostered through board representatives. While there is no parents’ association in operation in the school it is stated that parents readily collaborate with the board and with the teaching staff. It is recommended that the question of establishing a parents’ association in the school be discussed.

 

The board is to be commended on the list of priorities it has decided upon for its term of office. This list is divided between short term and long term priorities. Board members have recently attended appropriate training courses and plan to attend further courses in the future. This practice is commended.

 

The board fulfils its obligation under the Education Act 1998 with regard to the inclusion of statutory policies in the school plan. Drafts of policies on various aspects of the curriculum are presented to the board for approval and sanction. Review dates are included in some policies and some are signed. It is recommended that the board now includes a review date and signs every policy. Policies are reviewed on a regular basis. 

 

2.2 In-school management

 

The school employs a principal, deputy principal, special duties teacher and a privileged assistant. The principal manages school activities in a competent and professional manner. In the course of the evaluation visit it was evident that the principal receives full support from the staff in promoting good manners and good standards of behaviour among pupils and in effecting the whole school planning process. Members of the in-school management team are allocated particular responsibilities consisting evenly of administration, curriculum and pastoral care tasks. This good practice is highly commended. Regular meetings of the in-school management team take place informally. The team has set clear targets which include collaboration and support for the principal with regard to school management, the development of a positive atmosphere in the school and the promotion of Irish. The in-school management team places emphasis on communications with parents and with the community in general. This objective is achieved through sending out letters and newsletters to inform the appropriate parties. Staff members attend professional in-service courses in the Education Centre in Dingle every Monday so as to enhance their training. 

 

2.3 Management of resources

 

School accommodation is of a high standard. The school building is kept clean, tidy and well decorated. The school yard and environs are maintained to the same high standard.

 

The board of management has made available a range of teaching aids in each classroom in addition to a wide range of charts, maps and learning support resources provided by the teachers themselves. These resources are well used to reinforce learning and add considerably to good practice in the school and to the teaching of pupils. The provision of extra rooms and a multipurpose room in the school has been established as a priority by the board of management. In addition to this, it is proposed to provide technology resources in each classroom. These plans are highly commended.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

 

Promotion and development of communication with the partners is an aim of the board of management, the principal and the in-school management team. The atmosphere in the school is entirely laudable and parents and the general community are welcomed in the school. During the pre-evaluation meetings the inspector met with the parents’ representatives on the board of management. The parents stated that they are very satisfied with the work of the school and with the dedication of the staff. Parents were very complimentary of the variety of activities provided for their children in the school.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

 

Pupils display a high level of respect for each other and for visitors to the school. A very positive community spirit is evident in the school. The teaching staff provides very good training for students with regard to manners, good behaviour, cooperation and learning. This is an excellent foundation for the work of the school and for the good education provided to pupils. In this way pupils have learned how to make the best effort in their work at all times.

 

 

3.     Quality of school planning

 

3.1 School planning process and implementation

 

Under the direction of the principal excellent work has been done to develop a school plan. It is stated that the teaching staff draft policies and that, prior to approval, these are examined by the board of management according to their level of experience and expertise. Included in the approved policies are: the code of behaviour; anti-bullying policy; admissions policy; school attendance strategy; equality statement; health and safety statement; homework policy; internet usage policy. A review date has been included in the majority of these policies. It is recommended that all other policies be assigned a review date and that a timeframe for the review process be set out.

 

From an examination of policies relating to the implementation of the curriculum it is evident that these policies were developed through comprehensive discussions among staff members. This is a practical approach to planning which responds to the learning needs of pupils. The implementation of the school plan is regularly monitored and reviewed during staff meetings. At this stage of the process policies have been prepared for every aspect of the curriculum.

 

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). Confirmation was also provided 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 members of staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff understand the procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

 

All teachers prepare a long term plan to support their teaching. These plans are based on the Primary Curriculum 1999. It is now recommended that more emphasis be placed on the school context in these plans. Short term plans are also developed and some aspects of these are of a high standard. It is recommended that in future a school template be used for these. Learning plans are developed for pupils attending learning support and resource teachers. These plans include the needs of the pupils as well as the targets to be achieved. It is recommended now that these targets be more specific.

 

4.     Quality of learning and teaching

 

4.1 Language

 

Gaeilge

Cuirtear béim thorthúil ar theagasc na Gaeilge tríd an scoil. Cothaítear atmaisféar spreagúil ina leith agus úsáidtear í mar theanga chaidrimh na scoile. Sna naíranganna agus sna bunranganna, cuirtear na ceachtanna i láthair go bríomhar ceardúil agus baintear feidhm as seifteanna éagsúla chun na daltaí a mhealladh chun cainte. Múintear foclóir agus nathanna cainte go cúramach agus tugtar deiseanna do na daltaí a bheith gníomhach san obair trí dhrámaíocht agus ról imirt. Eagraítear cluichí teanga ó am go chéile agus baineann na leanaí taitneamh agus sult as na himeachtaí. Úsáidtear dlúthdhiosca chun cleachtaí éisteachta a dhéanamh agus glacann na daltaí leis na treoracha go fonnmhar. Déantar cúram rialta den rannaireacht agus aithrisíonn na daltaí í go beoga. Bíonn na daltaí gníomhach san obair agus léiríonn siad dul chun cinn rialta sna ceachtanna. Sna bunranganna, lorgaítear obair chuí sna cleachtaí scríofa agus tugtar deiseanna éagsúla do na leanaí tabhairt faoin scríbhneoireacht sna cóipleabhair. Aimsítear caighdeán inmholta san obair. Moltar go mór chomh maith an tslí ina mbaintear úsáid as leabhair móra agus as an clár Séideán Sí ins na ranganna seo.

 

Sna meánranganna agus sna hardranganna, múintear na ceachtanna go díograiseach is go táirgiúil. Leathnaítear foclóir agus cumas cainte na ndaltaí go sciliúil agus taitníonn an obair go mór leis na daltaí. Léiríonn na daltaí tuiscint bhreá ar an nGaeilge agus pléann siad nuacht, caitheamh aimsire, ceachtanna agus a saol féin go héasca. Déantar idirdhealú inmholta sa teagasc agus cuirtear riachtanais na ndaltaí san áireamh go tuisceanach. Múintear scileanna na léitheoireachta go muiníneach agus baintear feidhm as leabhair a oireann do na ranganna. Léann na daltaí go hábalta is go cruinn. Leagtar amach an obair scríofa go néata. Déantar maoirseacht rialta ar an saothar agus gnóthaítear caighdeán ard san obair i gcoitinne. Is léir go bhfuil dul chun cinn an-bhreá déanta sa Ghaeilge ar bhonn scoile.

  

Irish

Considerable emphasis is placed on teaching Irish throughout the school and a stimulating atmosphere regarding the language is fostered. Irish is the language of communication in the school. In the infant and junior classes lessons are delivered in a lively and professional manner and a variety of strategies are employed to entice pupils to speak. Vocabulary and speech idioms are taught with care and opportunities provided for pupils to be active in the learning process through drama and role play. From time to time language games are organised from which the children derive great enjoyment. Compact disks are used to practise listening comprehension and pupils eagerly follow instructions. Recitation is practised on a regular basis and pupils perform with gusto. Pupils are active in their school work and display consistent improvement in the lessons. In the junior classes teachers insist on appropriate levels of work in written exercises with a range of opportunities given to pupils to write in their copybooks. The standard of work achieved is admirable. The manner in which more advanced books and the programme series Séideán Sí are used in these classes is also highly commended.

 

In the middle and senior classes lessons are taught diligently and effectively. Vocabulary and oral competence are skilfully extended and pupils take great delight in this work. Pupils demonstrate very good understanding of Irish and discuss news items, pastimes, lessons and their own lives with ease. It is to be commended that differentiated teaching strategies are in common practice and pupil needs are responded to with understanding. Reading skills are taught with confidence using books which are appropriate to the classes. Pupil reading is proficient and accurate. Written work is neatly set out. There is regular supervision of all work and, generally, the standards achieved are very high. Excellent progress has been made in Irish on a whole school basis.

  

English

The teaching of English in the school is of a high standard. An extensive programme in oracy development is undertaken throughout the school and the children are encouraged to ask and answer questions and to express their thoughts and feelings using varied language structures and vocabulary. All classes enjoy rhymes and poetry on a regular basis. The poems chosen for the classes are interesting and topical and effectively broaden their language experiences. In junior classes admirable care is taken to develop the pupils’ reading skills and these are further developed across all classes. The development of phonological awareness, the blending of sounds in words for reading and the segmenting of words into sounds for spelling are appropriately developed. Differentiation strategies are also effectively used. Pupils read text material fluently in most cases from a variety of books and novels and are encouraged to use the library facilities. A print-rich environment is developed in all classes using a variety of commercial charts, teacher-prepared materials and pupils’ work. Pupils participate in a range of purposeful writing activities throughout the school. It is recommended that the variety of writing genres be extended further and that collaborative writing be incorporated into the overall work. Pupils are encouraged to produce assignments where both creative and functional writing are presented to a high standard and these are corrected consistently by the teachers. Samples of pupils’ work are displayed attractively and celebrated in all classes. Additional opportunities for pupils to draft and edit their own writing using ICT are recommended.

 

4.3 Mathematics

 

A school plan for Mathematics has been developed which includes all the strands and the strand units. A very effective link is established between Mathematics and the pupil’s everyday life.

It is to be commended that emphasis is placed on oral practice and pupils are asked challenging questions which require them to concentrate at different levels. Excellent use is made of concrete material to affirm concepts.

 

The teaching programme is appropriately graded from class to class. Judicious use is made of textbooks in teaching and it is evident that oral work is practised on a regular basis in order to link meaning and learning. It is recommended that mathematical language be recorded during lessons.

Active methodologies and mathematical games are common practice in the junior classes. In all classes pupils record written work carefully. A high standard of problem solving in Mathematics is in evidence in the school. The continuation of these good practices is recommended.

 

4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education

 

History

A range of topics is taught including local, national and international history items. Storytelling and family histories are used in the infant and junior classes to develop the concept of continuity. Individual, group and project work are used in the middle and senior classes. The historical walks organised during the school year are highly commended. Individuals and groups are invited into the school to speak to pupils and to stage historical plays. 

 

Geography

Lessons in geography are skilfully based on the environment of the pupils and effective use is made of maps, photographs and concrete materials during lessons. A very appropriate link is fostered between the geography lessons and the other subject areas in Social, Environmental and Scientific Education. Great benefits are derived from discussion, storytelling, photographs and trips in order to develop pupil knowledge. It is recommended that geographical skills now be developed during lessons.

 

Science

Appropriate provision is made by teachers for all strands and strand units in the curriculum. In the classrooms where science lessons were observed pupils were afforded a range of opportunities to work scientifically. It would now be worthwhile to develop working scientifically during lessons so as to re-enforce learning. Pupils record their work in their copybooks and include their own drawing. This good practice is commended.

 

The entire teaching staff demonstrates a very positive attitude towards this subject. The school has participated in the Discovery Science programme and it is planned to part-take the scheme to achieve the Green Flag for the school. Everyone concerned is to be commended for their participation in these projects.

 

4.5 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

A broad programme of visual arts with a high standard of work is being implemented in the school. The experience and imagination of the pupils as well as the work of artists are skilfully applied. The school provides a good range of materials and art equipment to which every teacher has access. Effective use is made of the activities in art to support the integration of the other strands and strand units of the curriculum. The manner in which pupils’ individuality and creativity are fostered during these learning activities in the different strand units is to be commended. Pupils display a very good understanding of the skills and concepts of art in their work.

 

Music

Members of staff are musically very talented and ensure the promotion of music in the school. Pupils are familiar with a lovely store of songs in Irish which they sing in a very harmonious manner.

The songs chosen are appropriate for the range of voices. The number of opportunities given to pupils to sing songs in parts is admirable. Infant classes are given an opportunity to use percussion instruments. The music corners arranged at various levels are commended. The structure and pace of the lessons as well as the participation of pupils is also commendable. Pupils in the middle and senior classes play the tin whistle in a melodic way. The manner in which pupils are motivated to respond to music in different ways is commendable. The school receives support from Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhe (Corca Dhuibhne Heritage) and from Ealaíon na Gaeltachta (Arts in the Gaeltacht) to employ an external teacher to train pupils in sean-nós (traditional style) singing.

 

Drama

In the classes where evaluation was carried out in this subject it was evident that the medium of drama is used very effectively to stimulate pupil imagination. Pupils are given opportunities to illustrate stories and to explore conflicts and emotions in an imaginative context. Teachers have a deep level of understanding of all the elements involved in drama and this adds significantly to the outcomes of the work.

 

 

4.6 Physical Education

 

Physical Education (PE) lessons take place in the school yard and in the community hall. A high standard was evident in the lessons observed during the evaluation visit. Game skills were competently developed and there is a general emphasis on skill development. The pace and structure of the lessons is commended. Pupils demonstrated a positive attitude towards PE. Both teachers and pupils wear sports gear during the lessons. Dance steps are expertly taught as part of the programme.  At various times during the school year pupils participate in weekly swimming lessons and the school takes part in the local football competition. Pupils derive great enjoyment and benefit from these activities.

 

4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

 

The positive, respectful atmosphere evident in the school is an important basis for the development of the pupils’ social and personal skills and for their understanding of a healthy life style. This development is promoted on a continuous basis informally in the various aspects of the curriculum. Lessons are delivered in a stimulating manner and pupil participation is skilfully encouraged. Learning activities are varied and a pleasant working and learning atmosphere is evident throughout the school. Effective use is made of circle time in order to allow pupils to engage in discussion on aspects of their lives.

 

4.8 Assessment

 

There is a whole-school policy in operation for the assessment of school work. A range of assessment instruments are used to assess pupil progress. Teacher devised tests are administered on a regular basis to assess various aspects of the curriculum and pupils’ written work is consistently monitored. Standardised tests in English and Mathematics are used annually and results are recorded. These results are used to assess pupil needs in literacy and numeracy and respond to those needs. It is recommended that more focus be placed now on the use of diagnostic tests.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

 

A special educational needs policy has been developed by the school staff. It is recommended that a review be carried out to ensure that this policy is in keeping with Circular 02/05 Organisation of Teaching Resources for Pupils who Need Additional Support in Mainstream Primary Schools. The school employs a full-time learning support teacher and a part-time resource teacher. The learning support teacher works in the staff room and the resource teacher is accommodated in a prefabricated room. Pupils are allocated learning support services based on the results of standardised tests and the advice of the class teacher and the parents. As part of the learning and resource support individual educational plans (IEPs) are devised to set out learning objectives and to record learning outcomes. Each class teacher has access to the individual pupils’ learning plans. 

 

A wide range of software materials is in use to affirm pupil conceptual understanding through the medium of new technology. Particular attention is given to pupils experiencing reading difficulties in English and in Mathematics. The literacy skills of these pupils are developed especially. The positive support, help and the confidence building provided to these pupils are praiseworthy. Regular contact is maintained between parents and teachers. These pupils are withdrawn from the classroom and given support in the learning support room or in the resource room. It is recommended that the development of the support system within the mainstream classes be discussed in the interests of enhancing pupil learning experiences.

 

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

 

Currently there are no pupils from minority groups attending the school. Since the foundation of the school there has been a tradition of providing practical help discreetly to pupils who are in need of extra support. This practice is facilitated by the open and respectful interactions that exist between parents and staff members. Pupils from all backgrounds are welcomed and the school’s aim is that all pupils enjoy and get pleasure from their time in school. Teachers ensure that every pupil participates in school activities and in extracurricular activities. Since this is a Gaeltacht school, attention is focused on developing the oral competency of each pupil in Irish.

 

 

6.     Summary of findings and recommendations for further development

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

 

 

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

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the staff and board of management where the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published, December 2009

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The Board of Management is happy to accept the school report.

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection

               activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.          

 

·         A Parents’ Association has been established in the school from the beginning of the school year.

·         The school is registered and has commenced work, at present, on achieving a Green Flag during the revision period for all school policies.

·         Co-operative writing opportunities are given to pupils I English and in Irish

·         The school is making enquiries, at present, in relation to Diagnostic Tests.