An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Gaelscoil de hÍde Roscommon
Roll number: 20126K
Date of inspection: 20th October 2008
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Gaelscoil de hÍde in Roscommon. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for its further development. During the evaluation the inspectors had preliminary meetings with the principal, with the teachers, with the school board of management and with representatives of the parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days in which the inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, they examined the work of the pupils and they interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed planning documents and teachers’ written preparation. They met with various staff groupings as appropriate. Following the evaluation the inspectors provided oral feedback to the staff and 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, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix of this report.
1. Introducion – school context and background
Gaelscoil de hÍde was established in 2000 under the patronage of An Foras Pátrúnachta. This co-educational school caters for County Roscommon. The school is growing each year. Attendance levels are high and the school does not have problems with absenteeism. There are ten teachers on staff: principal, seven mainstream teachers and two teachers with responsibility for special education. The school has also employed two special-needs assistants. The school is currently operating on a temporary site.
The board of management was appointed in accordance with correct procedures. The board has an effective chairperson who works diligently to meet the needs of the school. She is in regular contact with the school principal. Meetings are held every six weeks and minutes are recorded. The business of the meetings is mainly conducted through Irish. Some members of the board have particular roles: chairperson, treasurer, secretary and health and safety officer. The board places an appropriate emphasis on the development and growth of the school.
The principal provides effective leadership for the staff. She has a vision for the school which she shares with the board of management and with the staff of the school. Daily school matters are managed very effectively. A staff meeting is held each term. A commendable emphasis is placed on curricular priorities and on curriculum development. New teachers to the school receive great support with class planning. The board of management, parents and staff recognise this work. It is recommended that a mentoring programme be implemented in the school to provide in-class support for newly-appointed teachers.
Teachers with special-duties posts have specific responsibilities assigned to them. These responsibilities pertain to aspects of school administration, curricular responsibilities and pastoral care needs. These responsibilities are willingly fulfilled. Responsibilities in regard to the coordination of special education should be outlined in the school plan, as part of a post of responsibility. It is recommended that posts be regularly reviewed with a view to meeting the needs of the school.
The building is neatly and cleanly maintained. The classrooms are very bright and they are attractively decorated with displays of teaching resources and pupils’ work. The classes are evenly distributed amongst the teachers.
There is open and effective communication between the teachers and the school community. Meetings are arranged with parents twice a year in order to discuss pupils’ progress. A written report is also provided at the end of the year. Parents are welcomed to the school at any time. Letters are regularly issued to parents to inform them of school events. An information night is held each year and a short film depicting school events is shown to parents. The parents thoroughly enjoy the annual ‘picnic in the park’ social event for the school community. The school has an active parents’ association. They hold a monthly meeting and they give great support to the school staff.
A code of behaviour is included in the school plan and this is made available to parents. The anti-bullying code is effectively and fairly implemented in all classes. The pupils are generally courteous and well-mannered. Good habits of listening and behaviour are instilled in pupils in a majority of classes. It is recommended that classroom rules be reviewed and that this would be discussed on a whole-school basis.
The staff has a very high quality school plan. This includes a wide range of administrative and curriculum policies that have been clearly documented and are being implemented. The policies are written in Irish, with some translated to English. All members of staff participate in the planning process. The board of management discusses the plans and the policies on a regular basis. Teachers effectively implement a long-term plan. The school plan is regularly reviewed. The principal effectively monitors the decisions made by the staff.
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.
3.2 Planning for the classroom
The standard of classroom planning is very good. Teachers use an agreed whole-school approach when preparing their long-term and short-term schemes of work. The principal gathers the long-term plans at the beginning of each term. In the short-term plans teachers focus on specific objectives and make reference to teaching methodologies and the use of resources. It is recommended that all members of staff clearly differentiate work in their plans to provide for the learning requirements of pupils with specific educational needs. Teachers prepare monthly progress reports and these are retained in the school. The principal effectively monitors these records.
The standard of teaching and learning is, overall, good. A broad curriculum is provided for the pupils. Lessons are presented effectively. Teachers use a range of teaching strategies but it is recommended that pair work be used more frequently. In lessons where visual supports and concrete materials are used, pupils have a greater understanding of the concepts being taught. It is recommended that vocabulary be systematically taught in each subject. Lessons are effectively paced and structured. The practice applied by certain teachers, whereby the objective of the lesson is communicated at the beginning of the lesson, is commendable. It is recommended that this practice be implemented on a whole-school basis. It is also recommended that additional emphasis be placed on skill development throughout the curriculum.
Irish is a living language for the pupils and a positive attitude towards Irish is engendered in them. The commitment of teachers in regard to teaching the social aspects of the language is commendable. Pupils have attained a very high standard of Irish. Irish is used naturally by pupils in all school activities and in the school yard. Pupils generally participate fully in lessons. A very rich print-environment is created in classrooms. The language skills are effectively developed throughout the school. Pupils display an appropriate level of understanding. They recite rhymes, poems, and songs meaningfully and enjoyably. It is recommended that an ongoing emphasis be placed on poetry and recitation.
Songs, language games and drama are effectively used to encourage pupils to talk. Pupils in middle and senior classes can speak at length about various themes. The learning of Irish is more effective in those classes where the teacher uses visual materials during the teaching of new vocabulary. It is recommended that additional emphasis be placed on pair work to promote the communicative approach.
Irish reading formally begins in the second term of the first year. Interest in reading is encouraged by the use of big books in the junior classes and novels in the senior classes. Praiseworthy use is made of flashcards, charts and a variety of texts in some classes. Pupils read with confidence and understanding but it is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on pronunciation in Irish in order to promote accuracy. It is also recommended that more Irish books be stocked in the class libraries and that these would be attractively displayed so that pupils are encouraged to read them.
There is a good standard of writing throughout the school, particularly in classes where creative writing is systematically developed. A majority of written exercises are corrected by teachers. It is recommended that variety in written activities be promoted throughout the year and that these be corrected on a regular basis. The writing process is being very effectively implemented in some classes.
A whole-school plan for English has been developed with an appropriate emphasis on oral language, reading and writing. Most of the pupils can speak about themselves, their interests and a variety of other topics articulately and enthusiastically. It is advised that there be a greater emphasis on skill development in the discrete oral-language lessons. There is a print-rich environment throughout the school.
Current standardised-test results of reading are impressive and reflect the effective teaching of literacy in the school. A structured phonics programme is taught in the infant classes with an appropriate emphasis on the development of phonological awareness. The use of a graded reading scheme throughout the school ensures continuity and progression. However, it is recommended that class teachers differentiate their programmes of work to ensure that the needs of pupils at both ends of the ability spectrum are met. In the infant classes good use is made of big books while a novel is effectively taught in the senior classes. Reading for information and for pleasure is also steadily developed. Across the school, good use is being made of information and communication technologies to support the development of literacy.
Pupils engage in a variety of writing activities. Pupils’ handwriting is neat, well organised and is monitored regularly. A cursive handwriting style is introduced at second class and most pupils have developed a fluent and legible style of handwriting by the time they leave the senior classes. Brainstorming strategies are used effectively to stimulate pupils’ thinking and to build on pupils’ existing vocabulary. It is recommended that a wider range of writing activities be undertaken with less emphasis on textbook exercises. Samples of pupils’ completed work are displayed attractively and celebrated in all classes.
The school has a very good standard of Mathematics. A broad and balanced curriculum is taught. All teachers use posters and displays to support Mathematics in the classroom. A majority of teachers link Mathematics appropriately to pupils’ lives, which greatly enhances pupils’ understanding. Pupils are positively disposed towards Mathematics. They are encouraged to use concrete materials to support their understanding, but it is recommended that greater use be made of these. A wide range of activities is used to good effect. Pupils are usually encouraged to ask questions and they are actively engaged in learning. This work is appropriately monitored. It is recommended that greater emphasis be placed on pair work and on group work to develop the language of Mathematics. It is also recommended that work be differentiated to respond to the various needs within the classes. The staff has developed a whole-school strategy for problem- solving. All teachers follow the same steps. Such practice is commendable.
4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education
History is taught skilfully in all classes. It is integrated very effectively with other subjects, particularly Music. Students’ interest in History is awakened. An appropriate programme of work is presented to all classes to develop pupils’ knowledge and skills. Pupils are given regular opportunities to work as historians. In the junior classes, the emphasis is placed on pupils’ personal history. As they advance through the school, they acquire a balanced understanding of local, Irish and international history. Pupils are brought on local history tours each year. There is a time-line on display in each class which helps the pupils’ understanding of time and chronolgy.
In Geography, pupils are enabled to develop an understanding of space and of maps. Their interest in other countries is developed through the use of photographs, textbooks and information books. A lot of work is based on the weather, the seasons, people, communities and the local environment. Pupils in senior classes undertake project work. There is an active ‘green schools’ committee and it is evident from pupils’ behaviour that they eagerly assume responsibility for this project.
Teachers have a good plan in place for Science. This plan incorporates a yearly scheme for each class, and it includes a list of the equipment and resources available in the school. The application of these resources, and of practical experiments in Science, to develop pupils’ ability to understand, analyse and predict is commendable. It is necessary, however, to ensure that the language of Science is systematically and progressively used and developed at the various class levels.
The teaching of Visual Arts is good. Fine examples of pupils’ work are displayed in the classrooms and throughout the school. It is clear that pupils enjoy working with various materials. They are encouraged to reflect on the qualities and traits of the work of famous artists. They can provide a fair description of this work and of their own work. It is recommended that pair work be used to develop new vocabulary and appropriate terminology.
It is evident that teachers are succeeding in the teaching of Music. Pupils participate energetically when they are singing or playing music. There is a good connection made between Music and other subjects. Pupils have opportunities to listen to, and respond to, a variety of musical styles and traditions. A music teacher comes to the school once a week to teach traditional instruments to the pupils. Pupils participate in the Scór na nÓg music competition annually. Interesting musical events are organised in the school each year during Seachtain na Gaeilge. Every class participates in an annual Christmas concert. It is recommended that the elements of Music be taught on an ongoing basis and that teachers ensure that pupils have the necessary vocabulary to discuss aspects of Music.
This subject is effectively taught. It is cleverly linked to other subjects to consolidate pupils’ understanding. Pupils participate in the various activities in a proficient and lively manner. They clearly display high levels of self-confidence while participating in these activities. They enjoy Drama very much. It is recommended, however, that the elements and skills of Drama are promoted, while emphasising the rules of Drama in the classroom.
Teachers use the school equipment effectively to provide opportunities for pupils to develop their physical skills. Physical Education is taught in the classroom or in the school yard when weather permits. Students enjoy, and benefit from, all of the activities. Emphasis is placed on participation, play and skill development. The various needs of pupils are well catered for in Physical Education.
4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education
Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is presented to the pupils within a positive school climate and atmosphere. Teachers’ plans indicate that the programme taught includes all strands and strand units. Significant integration takes place between learning in SPHE and other aspects of the curriculum. Pupils’ social, personal and health development is promoted through various activities. There is great variety evident in these activities. The emphasis placed on counteracting bullying is commendable.
Appropriate assessment strategies have been outlined in the school plan and are being implemented regularly. Standardised tests are used to confirm pupils’ progress in English and Mathematics. It is recommended that the standardised results are analysed annually. The Belfield Infant Assessment Profile (BIAP) is used with junior infants and the Middle Infants Screening Test (MIST) is used to select pupils for the Forward Together Programme in senior infants. Such practice is commendable. Pupils’ copybooks and written work are regularly monitored in a majority classes. It would be worthwhile, however, to keep a record of common errors, particularly in English, and to base lessons on these. It is recommended that greater use be made of checklists or profiles to assess subjects other than Irish, English and Mathematics.
The school follows the staged approach outlined in the Department of Education’s circular (02/05), but this practice is not noted in the school plan. Teachers provide an individual plan for each pupil. The support teachers plan cooperatively with the classroom teachers. This plan is discussed with the parents of each pupil. It is recommended that the school would also provide parents with a copy of the plan. Pupils’ progress is regularly reviewed. It is recommended that criteria be outlined in the school plan regarding the discontinuation of learning support for certain pupils. The support teacher and the classroom teacher work cooperatively in some classrooms. It would be worthwhile for the school to make contact with the Special Education Support Service to help staff with the implementation of the new cooperative teaching system. The work of the special-needs assistant is guided effectively.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The board of management is commended for its work in providing for the needs of the pupils.
· The parents’ association is commended for the support it provides to the school staff, the financial resources it makes available and the interest that committee members have in educational matters.
· The principal is highly commended for her work regarding the establishment and development of this school.
· There is very effective communication among the various members of the school community.
· The teachers undertake their work capably and professionally.
· The school principal is implementing an exemplary planning process. The participation of the staff is encouraged.
· There is a very high standard of classroom planning.
· A positive attitude is encouraged in pupils regarding Irish. Irish is a living language for pupils in this school and they have achieved a very satisfactory standard of Irish.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that a mentoring programme be implemented by the principal for newly appointed teachers.
· It is recommended that teachers provide for differentiation throughout the curriculum and that additional use be made of pair work to provide pupils with opportunities to use new vocabulary and appropriate terminology on an ongoing basis.
· It is recommended that the staff develop assessment practices for all aspects of the curriculum.
· It is recommended that the board of management would review posts of responsibility on a regular basis.
· It is recommended that the coordination of special education form part of a post of responsibility.
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 March 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1: Observations on the content of the inspection report
The school staff and board of management are delighted with this report. We find it balanced and it gives a good insight into the great work taking place in the school. We wish to express our thanks to the two inspectors who came to our school to carry out this report. Their recommendations and opinions are certainly very helpful to us as a growing and developing 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
The report was read in a detailed fashion at a staff meeting on 9/1/09 and at a board of management meeting on 20/1/09. It is the intention of the staff to use the recommendations of the WSE in all future planning.
To date we have undertaken the following steps to implement the recommendations:
· The board of management has reviewed the posts of responsibility in the school.
· One teacher has been selected to lead special education in the school.
· We have contacted the Special Education Support Service and they will provide support to us with the implementation of team-teaching.
· We have started a whole-school approach to assessment across the curriculum, and this year we are focusing on Irish. We will use profiles to assess each strand of the Irish curriculum on an ongoing basis in each class.
· With regard to an in-class mentoring scheme for newly appointed teachers, it has been decided that this will be implemented from September 2009 onwards.
· We discussed ways in which we can make more use of pair work in all curricular subjects and shared our thoughts and experiences. We will make much greater use of this teaching methodology in the future.