An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science


Whole-School Evaluation



Gaelscoil Bhrian Bóroimhe

Swords, County Dublin

Roll number: 20095C


Date of inspection: 7 December 2007





Whole school evaluation

Introduction – school context and background

Quality of management in the school

Quality of planning in the school

Quality of the learning and teaching

Quality of support for pupils

Summary of findings and recommendations for further development




Report on Whole-School Evaluation


This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Gaelscoil Bhrian Bóroimhe. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school in general and makes recommendations for further development of the work of the school. As part of the assessment, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, with the teachers, with the board of management of the school, and with representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a period of some days during which the inspectors visited classrooms and observed the teaching and learning. They interacted with the students and teachers, examined the students’ work and interacted with the class-teachers. They reviewed school-planning documentation and the written preparation done by the teachers. They met various staff-groups as appropriate. Following the evaluation, the inspectors provided oral feedback to the staff an to the board of management on the outcomes of the evaluation.  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.



1. INTRODUCTION – school context and background


Gaelscoil Bhrian Bóroimhe was founded in Swords in the year 1999 as an all-Irish interdenominational primary school for boys and girls. Special recognition is given to the Christian spirit. A joint Catholic/Protestant spirit is promoted in the school. The school operates at present in a temporary building in Applewood, Swords, Co. Dublin. The school authorities hope to provide a new school building in the future. The school grew rapidly from the outset. The enrolment at present is 237 pupils. The teaching staff comprises an administrative principal, nine class teachers, a learning support teacher and a resource teacher, as well as a learning-support teacher who is shared with another school in the area. The staff also includes a secretary, two cleaners and three special needs assistants. The total number of pupils is increasing rapidly. The level of school attendance is very satisfactory and an admirable effort is made to obviate absenteeism. An effective system of recognition for pupils with a good attendance record operates in the school.


Praiseworthy emphasis is placed on promoting Irish culture and every effort is made to develop and celebrate it as often as possible. A special emphasis is placed on taking part in Irish games, on playing Irish music and on practising Irish dancing. The whole curriculum, excepting English, is taught through the medium of Irish. Irish is used creditably as a medium of communication throughout the day. The children are encouraged to use it as often as possible and it is evident from this evaluation that the pupils have a high regard for the language. The teachers make every effort to use Irish as much as possible in the community. It is clear that the pupils are proud of the school and of the progress made in developing the language as well as Irish culture in the school.


2. The quality of management in the school


2.1 The Board of Management

The board of management operates ably and effectively. Meetings are convened regularly and minutes carefully kept. Reports from the principal and from the treasurer are presented to the board members at every meeting. Responsibilities are shared equally. The chairperson keeps in regular contact with the principal. She meets the teaching staff regularly also, on an informal basis. The board participates productively in formulating policies, especially those concerning administration. It is recommended that this participation be further developed in future, to cover the formulation of curriculum policies. The development of the school and the organisation of the construction of the new building are among the main priorities of the board at present. The board considers that there still are big challenges involved in further developing the use of the language among the whole school community.


2.2 In-school management

The principal works in a skilled manner, providing first-class leadership. He promotes a pleasant cooperative atmosphere in the school, by encouraging open communication and involvement by everyone in decision making. The school community recognises this clearly. He succeeds effectively in guiding and managing school matters, in partnership with the vice-principal. Staff meetings are held regularly and it is evident that effective learning and teaching methodologies are the main concerns of these meetings. The teachers cooperate professionally and positively with the principal, especially in developing the whole school plan.


Four of the teachers have posts of responsibility. These posts are concerned with matters of administration, curriculum and pastoral care. It is recommended that as the school continues to develop, curriculum matters be more closely linked to the responsibilities of these posts. The responsibilities involved in the posts are regularly reviewed. The in-school management team undertake their work enthusiastically and professionally. They also consult one another regularly. This team greatly enhances the effectiveness and good management of the school. Great co-operation is evident between the school secretary and the in-school management team. The secretary makes an admirable contribution to the effectiveness of school management in general. The amount of time spent by members of this management team in organising events outside of school hours is very commendable.


2.3 Resource management

Responsibilities are shared equally among the teachers. Responsibilities for classes are switched about, so that everyone experiences different classes and contexts. Commendable emphasis is placed on the professional development of the teachers by their regular attendance at training courses. The teachers take part in professional development courses, which is commendable. The special needs assistants work effectively under the guidance of the class teachers.


The building is kept in good condition and the cleaning staff deserve the highest of praise. The classrooms, corridors and hallways are kept really clean and neat. Administrative and learning support facilities are admirably adapted to the needs of the school. The school authorities have provided a wide and praiseworthy range of teaching aids for the staff.  The school makes very effective use of concrete materials, books, big books, research material for science and geography, teaching equipment for mathematics, aids for language teaching, classroom libraries and resources for special needs pupils. These resources are very useful and are used attractively during lessons. The teachers themselves prepare very laudable illustrations for teaching and learning also. Every classroom has been provided with a computer, as well as software for specific areas of the curriculum. The teachers make great use of the internet. It is recommended that the provision of software throughout the school be now reviewed, especially in the areas of Geography, Science and History. Although it is difficult to source Irish language versions of software, the remarkable efforts already made by the staff to provide technological resources are commended.


It is abundantly clear that the school staff work really hard during school hours. The operation of break times is not strictly in accordance with Circular 11/95 from the Department of Education. This situation was discussed with the school authorities and it was agreed that the timetable be emended in accordance with the rules of the Department of Education and Science.


2.4 The management of relations and communication with the school community

It is obvious that communication between the school and the parents is good. Clearly there is an open, respectful relationship between them. A weekly newsletter is issued to parents. Formal parent-teacher meetings are held each February to discuss pupils’ progress. Parents also receive an annual report on their children’s progress. Parents are afforded many opportunities to participate in the life of the school. Various events are held during the school year, which give them a chance to play a part in the life and culture of the school. Activities such as the following are organised: an ‘Open Night’ for the community, a golf competition, a school walk, a concert featuring the National Children’s Choir, outings, a school concert, a céilí, an art exhibition and Christmas carols. Parents are welcome to participate in these events. It is recommended that it would benefit both pupils and parents in the future, if the range of these praiseworthy activities was broadened to include other activities such as ‘Paired Reading’.


The school has a parents’ association known as ‘Friends of the School’. This group is very active and gives great support to the school. Parents are involved in fund-raising, repairing school computers, organising post-Communion and post-Confirmation school parties, painting, gardening, organising swimming and dancing lessons, working on the ‘Green School’ project, and organising information nights. During the evaluation, the inspectors met with representatives of the parents’ committee. The parents informed the inspectors that they were very satisfied with the standard of education provided in the school. They appreciate their regular meetings with the teachers and the way they are sincerely welcomed to the school for those meetings.


2.5 Pupil Management

It is obvious that the pupils have great respect for one another, for staff-members and for the school environment. This respect plays a key part in creating a positive atmosphere in the school. There is a kind and pleasant relationship between the school staff and the pupils. A strong emphasis is placed on praising and encouraging good behaviour among the pupils. The pupils’ conduct is truly praiseworthy. The teachers make every effort to develop the pupils’ self-confidence. It is evident that the pupils clearly understand the school rules and respect them. The school’s code of conduct and discipline and its bullying code are carefully implemented.



3. The quality of planning in the school


3.1 The planning-process in the school and its implementation

The teachers and the board of management collaborate in formulating the school plan. Every teacher and every member of the board has a copy of the plan. Copies of relevant policies are dispersed to the parents. The staff discusses the school plan frequently and various aspects of it are regularly reviewed. It is now recommended that an implementation date and a review date be named at the end of every part of the plan. At the start of every school year, the teachers set out their specific priorities regarding the school plan. A very comprehensive range of administrative plans has been compiled in the school. These are really clear and have been adapted to the needs and context of the school. The school staff have undertaken valuable work in recording information relevant to the principles of the curriculum in the school plan. These plans are remarkably comprehensive. They refer to the vision and aims of the various areas of the curriculum, to approaches and methodologies, to skills, to assessment, to special-needs students, to the timetable, to homework, to resources, to technology, to planning, to individual teachers’ reporting, to staff development, to parental involvement and to communication with the public. Fresh planning for English, History and Geography is in train in the school at present. It is considered that it would be advisable to appoint a curriculum coordinator for each area of the curriculum. It would also be worthwhile to keep an extra record of the areas of implementation of the curriculum that need to be reviewed. The questionnaire being compiled for the teachers at present is a good way of assessing the effectiveness of the school plan. This work is praiseworthy indeed. Laudable work is being undertaken on providing guidelines for teachers in relation to planning for their class work. The board of management, the parents and teachers have taken part in the process so far. It is considered that the results of this work would be all the better if greater participation by the parents and the board of management was elicited in the future development of plans for the curriculum.


An assurance was given, in accordance with Primary School Circular 0061/2006 from the Department of Education and Science, that the board of management has formally accepted the Guidelines for Primary Schools on Protection of Children (Department of Education and Science, September 2001). An assurance was also given that the attention of management, school staff and parents was directed to these procedures for the protection of children; that a copy of the procedures was provided for all members of staff (including all new members); and that the management has made sure that all of the staff understand the procedures to be followed. A liaison officer has been named and a substitute liaison officer appointed, as required by the guidelines.


3.2 Classroom planning

The teachers undertake both long term and short term planning effectively. The work programme is clearly laid out, with effective continuity and progress very much in evidence. A comprehensive account of activities and of methodology is included in these plans. Emphasis is also placed on providing a wide range of learning experiences for the pupils. Differentiation, assessment and integration are described in the schemes. In certain cases, it would be worthwhile to provide a more in-depth description of ways for undertaking differentiation and integration. A template is used very effectively on a whole-school basis to provide practical assistance for teachers with their short-term planning. Preparation of equipment and resources is an individual part of teachers’ preparatory work. A monthly record is kept of the progress of the teaching in the various areas of the curriculum. It is now recommend that more space be provided in the templates used, to specify work progress in greater detail.



4. The quality of the learning and teaching


4.1 An overview of the quality of the learning and teaching

The teachers approach their work in a lively and capable way. Lessons have an effective pace and structure and it is evident that the students are encouraged to participate in them. Great use is made of various resources to explain concepts and to give the pupils opportunities to work with concrete materials. Creative integration with other aspects of the curriculum is undertaken and drama is used impressively as a learning aid. Effective use is made of groupwork and of project work to develop pupils’ independence as learners. It is obvious that the pupils derive great pleasure from the lessons and that they are proud of their work.



4.2 Language



Pupils are achieving a high standard in Irish. The teachers place very effective emphasis on the development of communication skills on a formal and informal basis throughout the school. The pupils have a wide-ranging vocabulary and their oral language is rich and fluent. Irish is impressively used as the language of communication throughout the school. A communicative approach and an excellent input of language are evident in the formal lessons. The pupils demonstrate great ability in understanding and speaking the language. They participate enthusiastically in lessons. The teachers sustain this interest imaginatively. Clever, creative use is made of drama, role-play, sketches, language games, gesticulation, music, storytelling and poetry to encourage the pupils to speak and to offer them effective language opportunities. It is obvious that the pupils enjoy and benefit from these exercises. The pupils also show their involvement through the stimulating questions they ask their teachers. The teachers are commended for their openness to these questions.


Big Books are effectively used in the junior classes to broaden the pupils’ language range. The classrooms are very attractively decorated with labels and with printed matter. There is genuine variety in the texts in the class libraries. The differentiation provided in the teaching of reading in the school is truly praiseworthy. The teachers choose the various texts very carefully to suit the individual pupils’ ability. The pupils read with verve, accuracy and the appropriate pace. It is obvious that they have a clear understanding of what they are reading. Their discussion and analysis of the texts they read is remarkable. It is obvious from their personal writing activities that they enjoy composing their own material. It is recommended that this valuable work be extended through the provision of more opportunities for creative writing during lessons. The teachers deserve great credit for their use of songs and poems in various lessons. The pupils show a special interest in poetry, which is impressive.



English lessons are delivered in a lively and engaging manner. Pupils clearly enjoy these lessons. Teachers adopt a variety of teaching approaches, with whole class teaching being the dominant mode of delivery. However, in a number of the lesssons observed, teachers made very effective use of group work and pair work. Pupils display strong oral language abilities and appropriate attention is given to the development of the pupils’ oral language development. They discuss and debate particular topics with enthusiasm and ability. Teachers make use of a variety of stimuli to prompt and develop such oral work. A structured and systematic approach to the teaching of phonics is in place in the school and pupils show strong competencies in their phonic abilities. Lessons make appropriate provision for the development of the pupils’ word attack skills and pupils show strong competencies in their spelling abilities. Classrooms are suitably print rich. An examination of the results of standardised tests reveals that pupils are making very good progress in their reading. Pupils read with fluency and accuracy. Lessons observed made very good provision for the development of the pupils’ comprehension skills. All classrooms have well stocked libraries. In some cases, teachers adopt a differentiated approach to reading material. In so doing, the close liaisons between the class teacher and learning support teachers are commended. In particular, a variety of reading schemes are used most effectively in the selection of such differentiated reading material. The school is commended on this endeavour and it is recommended that further endeavours of this kind be investigated. Since its inception, the school has been proactive in augmenting its stocks of library books. Such work is commended. In a number of instances, most especially in the more junior classes, parents are encouraged to comment on their child’s reading on a nightly basis. Such practice is commended. It is recommended that in building further on such practice, the school give some consideration to the adoption of ‘Paired Reading’.


Teachers make very good use of the writing process and pupils clearly enjoy this work. In particular, very good provision is made for the writing and appreciation of poetry. This aspect of the English curriculum is creatively integrated with a number of other subject areas. Pupils reveal a keen interest in poetry and can recite a range of poems with enthusiasm. In many classrooms, samples of the pupils’ written work are on display. It is recommended that the school consider wider opportunities for the display and celebration of the pupils’ written work. An inspection of the quality of the handwriting in the pupils’ copies across a range of class levels revealed some disparities in levels of quality. It is recommended that the school adopts a more consistent whole school approach to handwriting. Suitable and careful attention is devoted to the development of grammar and spellings.


4.3 Mathematics

A comprehensive school-plan has been laid out for Mathematics. Emphasis is placed, in this plan, on looking after all elements of the programme, using stimulating methodology. Helpful guidelines have been prepared for the teachers, on a whole-school basis, with regard to teaching the language of mathematics, developing skills and solving problems. It is evident that this plan has a positive effect on the mathematics lessons, especially regarding the use of appropriate language.


A mathematics-friendly environment is created in the school by displaying charts and posters in the classrooms. Mathematics tables are displayed in some classes and it is recommended that the teachers extend this good practice throughout the school. It would be worth having more mathematical labels on display in the corridors and in the school hall. The teachers use an admirable variety of teaching methods to stimulate and maintain pupils’ interest in the lessons. There is effective pace and structure in the lessons and it is obvious that the pupils enjoy them thoroughly.


Great use is made of various resources to illustrate and explain concepts. Beneficial opportunities are provided for the students to undertake practical tasks, making use of concrete material and of the school environment. It is evident that the pupils are enjoying the experience of the world of mathematics. Concepts are productively linked to the life and environment of the pupils. It is recommended that in the future, an effort be made to use this strategy even more widely. Very effective use is made of group work and of discussion in presenting various concepts and to develop the pupils’ skills. They demonstrate impressive mental arithmetic and reasoning skills. The pupils are afforded good opportunities for making estimates in many of the lessons. It is now recommended that this valuable work be further developed. The impressive way that teachers welcome and respond to pupils’ questions while work is in progress is strongly commended. The teachers show great ability in solving any problems that arise. Work is set out neatly in the copybooks and this written work indicates that the pupils are making remarkable progress. Pupils’ advances in this area of the curriculum are regularly and effectively monitored.


4.4. Social, Environmental and Scientific Education



Effective planning is undertaken for the teaching of history. Timelines, history-based posters and maps are on display throughout the school. The teachers prepare attractive teaching aids to stimulate pupils’ imagination and their interest in the history lessons. Stories are used to develop the pupils’ skills as historians. Excellent use if made of drama in many of the lessons to develop pupils’ concepts of time, chronology, cause and effect. Pupils participate enthusiastically in lessons. Appropriate attention is also focused on aspects of local history. In certain classes, pupils undertake history projects. It would be worthwhile to share and celebrate this impressive work further with other pupils in the school and with the parents.



It is obvious that the pupils derive both pleasure and benefit from the geography lessons. Stimulating teaching aids are used effectively to arouse pupils’ interest. The local environment is impressively used as a source of study. The pupils indicate an impressive interest in and knowledge of their natural environment. The school takes part in the ‘Green School’ project, which helps to develop pupils’ awareness of their own environment. Great use is made of the internet in some classes to research different strands of information. The teaching staff are advised to broaden the use of this good practice by developing the supply of software available to all classes in the school. Geography is effectively integrated with other areas of the curriculum. Projects on different strands of the curriculum are undertaken at appropriate junctures. This work is praiseworthy and it is recommended that it be shared and celebrated more consistently with pupils in other classes.



The various strands of the science curriculum are clearly catered for during teaching. A balance between information, activity and discussion is evident in the lessons and the pupils are encouraged to play a productive part in them. Effective use is made of group work and pupils are afforded various opportunities to work scientifically. It is evident that they enjoy the science lessons. Pupils’ written work indicates that they are making remarkable progress. They are given opportunities to practise design and construction. The pupils tackle estimation tasks enthusiastically. The textbook is used as a back-up in some classrooms. Projects and various sources are frequently used to decide on learning objectives. It is recommended that this praiseworthy teaching approach be more widely used. Effective use is made of the ‘Discovery Primary Science’ programme and the school has won public acclaim for such work. For some time now, the school has been compiling an array of resources for the teaching of science, an effort which greatly enhances such work. Good examples of pupils’ work in the strand ‘Living Things’ and in the area of planting are on display. It is now recommended that teachers consider how wider use might be made of a garden to further develop this valuable work. It would also be worth sharing and celebrating the scientific work being done by pupils in the senior classes, with the younger pupils and with the parents.


4.5 Arts Education


The Visual Arts

The whole-school plan for visual arts is really comprehensive. All strands are satisfactorily served. There is a creditable emphasis on the creative process in relation to all the strands. Good examples of pupils’ work in paint, drawing, clay, fabric and fibre, print and construction are on display throughout the school. It is evident that teachers make effective use of pupils’ experience and imagination. The children enjoy art and it is evident that they feel they are achieving a worthwhile result.



It is evident that the pupils in this school really enjoy music. They sing a wide range of songs in Irish and English sweetly and melodiously. They are afforded regular opportunities to listen and respond to music, to investigate sound and to understand music. Creditable use is made of various instruments to make music. The tin-whistle is widely taught in the school and it is clear that the pupils are achieving a high standard. There is an appropriate emphasis on literacy and on becoming aware of different aspects of music such as beat, tempo, rhythm, structure and style. The visual arts are creatively integrated with other aspects of the curriculum, for example creative writing in English. The senior classes participate admirably in public events every year, among these, the National Children’s Choir.



Great use is made of drama as a teaching method in this school. All the teachers are commended for the creative way they apply and use it cleverly as an aid to teaching other aspects of the curriculum. Effective use is made of drama in History, Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and English in particular. The pupils take part enthusiastically in drama and it is clear that they are achieving a high standard. The teachers are commended for the positive approach they use to encourage the pupils to use their imagination in these lessons. At regular intervals, various classes present short dramas both in and outside the school. This good practice is very praiseworthy.


4.6 Physical Education

A comprehensive balanced programme is provided to cover all the strands of the Physical Education curriculum. The pupils take part enthusiastically in the lessons and they are given a variety of opportunities to develop their skills. There is a strong emphasis on dancing in the school, especially Irish dancing and it is evident that the pupils are achieving impressive results in this area of the curriculum. A wide range of specialist resources is available for Physical Education. The teachers explain clearly, when teaching specific skills, what precisely the expected learning outcomes are. A wide range of activities is organised for after-school hours, among them being football, swimming, hurling and athletics. The teachers are commended for the time and energy they generously invest in these activities. It is noted that the school football team recently won a prize in the Fingal Competition Series.


4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education

The commitment invested in integrating Social, Personal and Health Education into the life of the school is recognised. The effects of this programme are reflected in the good behaviour and self-confidence of the pupils and in the good atmosphere which permeates the whole school. The strands and strand units relating to this aspect of the curriculum are effectively taught at every level. In particular, laudable emphasis is placed on strands relating to ‘Myself’ and ‘Myself and Other People’. The pupils show a great interest in these lessons and they are afforded various opportunities to present, explain and discuss their opinions. Effective use is made of activities and group work to encourage the pupils to take part in conversation and debate. During lessons, creative integration is undertaken with other aspects of the curriculum, such as drama and art.


4.8 Assessment

The school has formulated an excellent plan for assessment. This plan specifies the time of year that assessment is done and the kind of assessment that would suit each class. The plan indicates the role of each teacher and provides a comprehensive checklist for every class. The methods used to assess progress include questioning, teacher observation, tests set by the teacher, homework, class work and pupil profiling. A variety of tests are used, for example Belfield Infant Assessment Profile, Middle Infant Screening Test, Scrúdú Mata Beo, Micra T Test, Sigma T Test, Drumcondra Test (Mathematics), Schonell Test, Ballard and Westwood Timed Arithmetic Test, Non-Reading Intelligence Test, and Assessment Profiles for Irish in Gaeltacht schools and Gaelscoileanna. The results are used effectively, especially for identifying pupils with special needs.


5. The quality of support for pupils


5.1 Pupils who have special educational needs

The teachers work really hard at providing fairly for pupils who have special needs. The school staff includes a full-time learning support teacher and a full-time resource teacher, to serve the needs of pupils who have learning difficulties, especially in the areas of literacy and numeracy, and also to serve those who have been identified as having special needs. A second learning support teacher, shared with another school in the area, works with the infant classes. The class teachers collaborate in a professionally discerning way with these supplementary teachers to provide this support on a whole school basis. The support teachers use a remarkable variety of approaches, including working in the classrooms with the class teachers, withdrawing pupils from class for special tuition, group work and individual tuition.


A comprehensive school policy has been formulated to provide support for pupils who have learning difficulties or special needs. The principal, the learning-support teachers, the resource teacher, the class teachers and the board of management have all participated in drawing up this policy. Due attention is paid to following the criteria as set out by the Department of Education and Science in this support work. The emphasis placed on promoting a policy of early intervention in infant classes is commended. The parents indicate their satisfaction with the implementation of this intervention. In the interests of excellence and the consolidation of progress to date, it is now recommended that the policy be reviewed.


The teachers pay admirable attention to practising a whole school approach to catering for pupils with special needs. The principal, the class teachers, the learning support teachers and the resource teacher all collaborate willingly with the special needs assistants and with the parents. They use individual education plans and learning checklists productively during their work, to provide for these pupils. They use standardised tests to great effect also to identify pupils’ needs and to assess their progress. They create a happy atmosphere for the pupils in the classrooms and in the special learning support and resource teaching rooms. The teachers treat these pupils with great kindness while working with them and it is evident that the pupils’ self-confidence and their learning are being steadily developed.


The learning support and resource teachers prepare their lessons carefully. The school authorities make generous provision for teaching and learning resources which particularly helps them in their work. The teachers compile worthwhile long term and short term schemes for their pupils and keep satisfactory progress records.


5. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development


The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

·         There is a happy, positive and cheerful atmosphere in the school.

·         The staff work professionally and enthusiastically.

·         There is a strong sense of Irish culture in the school.

·         Lessons have effective pace and structure, and the pupils are encouraged to take a meaningful part in them.

·         There is a high standard of teaching and learning in the school.

·         Teachers plan their work in a timely manner.

·         The pupils show great interest and pride in their work.

·         The teachers show a praiseworthy interest in their pupils’ welfare.


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

·         It would be of benefit to undertake more creative writing in Irish.

·         In the interests of excellence, continued emphasis should be placed on the recording of curriculum policies in the school plan.

·         The school strategy for developing handwriting on a whole-school basis should be reviewed.

·         It is recommended that the provision of software throughout the school for Geography, Science and History should be reviewed.

·         It is recommended that the progress made in the provision of reading schemes in English be further developed.

·         It is considered that it is time to review the plan for catering for pupils with special needs.


Post-evaluation meetings with the staff and with the board of management were organised, meetings at which the draft outcomes and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.





Published June 2008