An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Gaelscoil Chill Dara

The Green Road, The Curragh, Co Kildare.

Roll number: 20023A

 

Date of inspection: 25 February 2010

 

 

 

 

Whole-school Evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of school management

Quality of school planning

The quality of learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Conclusion

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Whole-school Evaluation

 

A whole-school evaluation of Gaelscoil Chill Dara was undertaken in February 2010. This report presents the findings of the evaluation and makes recommendations for improvement. The assessment focused on the quality of teaching and learning in English, Irish, Mathematics and Drama. 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.

 

 

Introduction – school context and background

 

Gaelscoil Chill Dara is situated on the Curragh and has a wide catchment area which includes Newbridge, Kildare, Naas, Kilcullen and Rathangan. The school was founded in 1995 and is under the patronage of Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna LánGhaeilge Teo.

 

The following table provides an overview of the enrolment and staffing in the school at the time of the evaluation:

 

 

Number

Pupils enrolled in the school

419

Mainstream classes in the school

15

Teachers on the school staff

20

Mainstream class teachers

15

Teachers working in support roles

4

Special needs assistants

2

 

 

1.         quality of school management

 

1.1          Characteristic spirit, mission or vision

Gaelscoil Chill Dara aims to provide primary education through the medium of Irish to the children of the locality. They also aspire to promote the all-round development of the pupils in their care. The whole school community is actively involved in implementing this vision.

 

1.2          The board of management

The board functions effectively. It is evident that they wish to preserve the school’s ethos and to provide good governance to the school. Board meetings are conducted professionally and members are informed of a wide range of issues relevant to school life, including staff recruitment, enrolment of pupils, accommodation matters and correspondence to the school. Finances are carefully managed and a treasurer’s report is presented at every meeting. To build on this good practice, the board is advised to decide on the information from each meeting that is to be conveyed to members of the school community and the manner in which it should be conveyed, at the end of each meeting. This decision should be recorded in the minutes.

 

1.3          In-school management

The in-school management structures are effective. The principal was appointed when the school was founded and displays strong loyalty to the school and its ethos. He practises a democratic leadership style and seeks to empower other staff members. There are six others on the in-school management team and each has specific responsibilities which are subject to change as school priorities require. Regular meetings of the in-school management team are convened and a wide range of topics considered at each. It is noted, in particular, that topics directly related to teaching and learning are discussed at these meetings and it is now recommended that further emphasis be placed on curriculum leadership in the school. In this way the principal, in co-operation with the in-school management team, could play a leading role in the development and renewal of curriculum plans, as well as monitoring the continuity of the various subjects throughout the school. This process should influence teaching and learning at mainstream class level.

1.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

A healthy relationship exists between members of the school community. A supportive atmosphere is perceived among the teachers, a specific role is assigned to parents and a link is forged with the school and Irish-speaking communities.

 

Specific modes are available for the provision of information to parents. In regard to information on their own children’s progress, parents are welcome to approach teachers informally to discuss their child as the need arises. Formally, as well as an annual written report and a parent-teacher meeting, parents are given their child’s standardised test results and a meeting is organised at the start of the school year to provide parents with information on the curriculum for the year. The issuing of a written report in the middle of the school year is commended, as it increases the potential of the report to influence pupil progress. At the junior level, parents are kept regularly informed of material covered in class and of ways in which they can support their children. This is good practice and the staff should explore ways of extending it throughout the school. Information on school matters is also shared with parents. The wide range of relevant information on the school website and the information brochure issued every year for parents of new pupils are particularly praiseworthy. Parental involvement in learning is facilitated through the organisation of specific projects in music and reading in which parents participate. The school is advised to continue and to develop these projects.

 

The parents’ association functions effectively. The committee prioritised the establishment of a functional relationship with all parents and with other members of the school community. The emphasis they place on the development of communication modes and on the fostering of parental participation in policy development is recognised, as these are very valuable elements of the work of parents’ committees.

 

1.5 The management of pupils

Pupils are managed very well. They are treated with kindness and understanding and are well looked after. A student council and a Green School’s committee operate in the school and these greatly enhance pupils’ participation in school life.

 

 

2.         quality of school planning

 

2.1          Whole-school planning and classroom planning

The school’s administration policies are of a high standard. They fulfil the main planning requirements and suit the school context. The school is advised to draft an equality statement.

 

All curriculum plans are based on the structure of The Primary School Curriculum (Department of Education and Science, 1999). The plan for English is of a good standard. It offers valuable guidance on appropriate content for the various levels across the strands and strand-units of the curriculum, and it has a worthwhile section on pupils with learning needs and on using assessment data to support class work. The structure and content of the plans for Social, Environmental and Scientific Education, Social, Personal and Health Education and Music are helpful for teachers completing long-term planning. They also enhance the ability of the staff to ensure continuity in those subjects throughout the school.

 

The plans for Irish, Mathematics and Drama could be further developed in order to derive similar benefit from them. In the Irish plan the various strategies pertinent to the communicative approach at different classes should be outlined, and the developmental plan for language idioms, currently in use in some of the classes, should also be included. The mathematics plan would benefit from developing the sections on mathematical skills and on the use of appropriate concrete material. The plan for Drama would be enhanced if a whole-school approach to the elements of drama and the strategies and conventions of drama were laid out.

 

There is evidence of board of management and parental involvement in the planning process. Pupil participation in the drafting of the code of discipline is also commended. The school is now advised to undertake a systematic review and development of its curriculum policies and it is recommended that a strategic plan for this purpose be developed.

 

The teachers’ long-term and short-term plans and their monthly progress records are of a high standard. The majority of them are based on curriculum objectives, long-term plans indicate a defined programme of work for the period, short-term plans delineate the subject-matter to be covered and monthly reports provide a comprehensive overview of the month’s work. The staff is now advised to consider the advantages of a whole-school approach to short-term planning, and are reminded of the importance of curriculum objectives for this planning. Teachers in special educational needs (SEN) settings are also advised to share their planning with relevant mainstream class teachers. An individual education plan (IEP) has been prepared for each pupil with low incidence SEN. In most cases there is an obvious link between the recommendations of the relevant educational psychological report and the IEP. It is now recommended that this link be evident in every IEP. It is also recommended that the objectives and content of IEPs be reviewed at least once during the school year.

 

Teachers are asked to ensure that their own timetables comply with the minimum weekly time frame recommended in the Primary School Curriculum and with the organisation of the school day as outlined in Circular 11/95 from the Department of Education and Science.

 

2.2          Child protection policy and procedures

Confirmation was provided that, in compliance with Department of Education and Science Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the 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 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 been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.

 

 

3.         The quality of learning and teaching

 

3.1          Language

Irish

Teaching and learning of Irish operates to a very high standard. Very good consideration is afforded to the four curriculum strands and very effective teaching methodologies are used. The principles of immersion education are applied and infants display a commendable understanding of oral work. Throughout the school pupils are provided with attentive listening opportunities through the use of tapes from various dialects. Conversational lessons are presented in a stimulating way. Teachers ensure that each lesson includes defined communicative periods and praiseworthy attention is focused on pronunciation. Pupils in the junior classes are able to use Irish to fulfil their basic communicative needs and, as the children progress through the school, they use Irish to conduct authentic, effective communication. Reading skills are systematically developed, appropriate reading activities are undertaken to practise those skills and pupils approach reading confidently. The wide range of reading material, including big books, novels and newspapers, available in the classrooms is praised. Writing skills are very effectively developed. Classrooms are commendably print rich; pupils write in various genres and gain experience of the writing process through drafting and redrafting their work.

 

English

Adequate provision is made for the implementation of the English curriculum which is introduced to pupils in senior infants. Oral language competencies are fostered through the implementation of a variety of discrete oral language lessons and through integration with the development of reading and writing skills. In order to further develop pupils’ oral language capabilities it is recommended that an oral language programme, based on the content objectives of the curriculum, be developed and established throughout the school. Emergent reading skills are successfully developed and large format books are used to model the reading process in the infant and junior classes. In the middle and senior classes pupils are exposed to a broad range of reading materials to foster a love of reading and to develop comprehension skills. Silent reading is promoted to encourage pupils to become independent readers. Throughout the school reading is endorsed by well-stocked school and class libraries which have a supply of age-appropriate books in a wide variety of genres. Pupils in some classes experience a rich and varied repertoire of poetry and it is recommended that this practice be extended to all classes. Pupils’ functional and creative writing skills are developed throughout the school and expressive and communicative abilities are enhanced through the writing process. The conventions of spelling and grammar are effectively taught in the context of the pupils’ general language development.

 

3.2 Mathematics

Mathematics is taught effectively. Lessons at every level are clearly presented, the language of mathematics is emphasised and pupils are afforded an active role in lessons. Good use is made of information and communication technology and of a variety of resources to illustrate concepts and a mathematics-rich environment is evident in all classes. Pupils derive pleasure and benefit from topics such as weight, capacity and 3D shapes. They show creditable progress in all curriculum strands and tackle problem solving confidently. In order to further improve this good practice a greater emphasis could be placed on the development of mental computation and on the use of basic mathematical skills in a variety of contexts. Some learning tasks are differentiated and it is recommended that this methodology be more widely employed, in order to deal more comprehensively with the varying mathematical abilities of pupils.

 

3.3 Drama

The school is now engaging with the drama curriculum. During the evaluation, effective strategies, such as drama games, still imaging and hot-seating, were observed at various levels throughout the school. Drama was also used to support learning in other curricular areas such as History, English and Irish. It is now necessary to embed Drama as a central element of pupils’ learning experience in the school and to adopt a whole-school approach to the provision of experience to pupils in all aspects of drama, using the various dramatic strategies and conventions. It is also recommended that group work be more frequently utilised in drama, and that the process of drama be emphasised to a greater extend in some classes. To support the implementation of the drama curriculum teachers are advised to devise a drama contract, outlining the basic rules for drama classes, and to provide a store of equipment in every class to help pupils assume various roles.

 

3.4               Assessment

There is an effective system for assessment at whole-school level. Standardised tests are administered regularly and the tabulation of results facilitates comparison of individual pupil’s achievement in the three areas: Mathematics, English and non-reading intelligence and indicates an individual pupil’s progress over a certain number of years. It is now recommended that this data be used to inform the process of differentiation in the school. At mainstream class level, teacher-designed tests in Irish, English and Mathematics are administered termly to every pupil from first class onwards and other assessment modes, such as checklists and individual pupil profiles, are used. This range of assessment methods could now be broadened and a whole-school approach to assessment in mainstream classes could be adopted. To ensure the effectiveness of such an approach the main objectives in the various subjects to be assessed and the ways of recording assessment data and reporting it to other teachers and to parents should be considered. In support classes, suitable diagnostic tests are administered to pupils with SEN. It is now recommended that the system of recording the results of these tests be developed, so that the individual pupil’s progress can be clearly indicated.

 

 

4. Quality of support for pupils

 

4.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The standard of teaching and learning for pupils with SEN is good. The learning-support team comprises three full-time teachers and one part-time teacher and they share the care of SEN pupils systematically between them. The regular communication between the SEN teachers and class teachers and the communication between SEN teachers and parents is commended. Stimulating learning environments are created in the support rooms. They are resourced with a variety of appropriate support materials including computers, and are print and number rich. The quality of teaching is good, a variety of teaching methodologies is employed and recognition of common words, the development of phonological awareness, the use of a range of reading strategies and the understanding of mathematical concepts are all integral parts of the programme. Support is mainly provided through withdrawing pupils, in groups or individually, although there is some in-class support. More beneficial learning outcomes would be achieved by in-class work if it operated in the context of differentiated learning activities. It is also recommended that an in-class support plan be devised for pupils displaying learning needs in the mainstream classes who are on the first stage of the continuum of support. The special needs assistants give creditable assistance to specific pupils and to the school in general through their work.

 

 

5. Conclusion

 

The school has strengths in the following areas:

 

 

The following key recommendations are made in order to further improve the quality of education provided by the school:

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Published, June 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

  

 

 

Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report     

 

The teachers, management, parents and pupils of Gaelscoil Chill Dara thank the inspectors for their sensitivity, understanding and professionalism during the evaluation. The report acknowledges the healthy, lively community that has been created around the school.

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.     

    

Decisions of the board of management that are to be communicated to the school community are now clarified. We will continue to develop curriculum leadership in the school, despite the reduction in the management team due to government cut-backs. We have drafted an equality statement. We will examine ways to co-ordinate short-term planning more effectively. We are proud that the excellent work of our teachers, particularly in regard to the teaching of Irish is acknowledged. We have taken steps to improve oral English and mental arithmetic as well as devising drama contracts for the different class levels.

Evidence was provided to the inspectors that we have a very clear system for recording assessment results.