An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Naomh Pól
Glenamoy, Co. Mayo
Roll number: 13882L
Date of inspection: 28 March 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Naomh Pól, Glenamoy. 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 inspector held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which the inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. She interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. She reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. 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.
Scoil Pól Naofa is located between Belmullet and Ballycastle, in the Erris region of north county Mayo. The school has Gaeltacht status, although English is the first language of all the pupils. It caters for boys and girls from infants to sixth class. It is under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Killala. The current enrolment is 32 pupils. The school has two mainstream class teachers. There is a learning support teacher and a resource teacher based in the school. These teachers are also shared with other schools. The school has access to a rural co-ordinator under the DEIS initiative. Attendance in the school is generally very good.
2.1 Board of management
The board of management of Scoil Pól Naofa is properly constituted. It has assigned specific roles and responsibilities to some of the members, including that of chairperson, treasurer and secretary. The board meets twice termly and maintains detailed minutes of these meetings. It gives valuable support to the school staff in administrative, curricular, policy and resource areas. The chairperson visits the school on a regular basis. The board ensures that the school grounds are well maintained. It has elected a health and safety representative. Board members expressed great satisfaction with the education provided by the school.
2.2 In-school management
The principal is a very dedicated, energetic leader. She has created a shared vision for the school. There is open communication within the school community. A broad curriculum is provided and it is noted that pupil standards are high. The principal ensures the school avails of all services to combat the rural disadvantage of the area. She has instilled a positive working climate in the school. She ensures learning is central to all activities. The principal works consistently to develop policies that address the needs of the school. She has also a central role in the maintenance of positive pupil behaviour and attendance.
The in-school management team consists of a deputy principal and a special duties teacher. They work conscientiously for the benefit of the pupils. The principal meets with the deputy principal on a daily basis for half an hour, after the school day. There is discussion of issues relating to the curriculum, the organisation of the school, school planning and the needs of individual pupils. The in-school management team gives valuable assistance to the principal. Their duties are largely of an organisational and pastoral nature. It is recommended that these posts be reviewed to ensure they address the needs of the school. It is also recommended that particular attention be given to directing curricular implementation.
2.3 Management of resources
The most valuable resource in Scoil Naomh Pól is the dedicated teaching staff. The staff receives support from the DEIS co-ordinator and from a cúntóir teanga funded by Muintearas. Teachers work together to share good practice in Physical Education, Music and the Visual Arts. A special needs assistant (SNA) has recently joined the staff. She works under the guidance of the teacher and is ably assisting with school work. A part-time caretaker is also employed.
The school building, dating from 1972, houses two mainstream classrooms, a staffroom/office, a learning support classroom, toilets and cloakrooms. A portacabin is used by the DEIS co-ordinator and also for storage. The pupils have access to a tarmacadamed yard area to the front of the school and a large grassy area to the rear of the school. The grounds are maintained to a high standard. A naíonra has been established recently in the community centre, near the school. There has been an improvement in the standard of spoken Irish of pupils enrolling in junior infants.
The teachers have invested in a wide range of material resources for each curricular area. The provision of a collection of educational toys and games is of significant benefit. Parents are invited to borrow these resources for home use. It is a very worthy scheme and great credit is due to the school for its development. Both classrooms house a variety of concrete materials, books, charts, maps, posters and computers. There is a good supply of resources in the support classrooms also. This includes jigsaws, literacy games, posters, books and computer software.
2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community
The school has effective communication with the parents and the wider school community. Parents have meetings with teachers on an annual basis to discuss the progress of their children. They are also welcome to contact the school at any time. Parents have been represented on committees for the drafting of specific policies. They assist teachers on school trips. At the beginning of school holidays, the school community comes to mass and meets the pupils and teachers. Each year, enrolling infants are invited into the school with their parents for an open day.
This term the DEIS co-ordinator is visiting homes of pupils in this school. Parents have access to courses through the co-ordinator. A cookery course is currently being organised. The staff is very satisfied with the interest and support of the parents. The school does not currently have a parents’ association.
2.5 Management of pupils
There is a very high standard of behaviour among the pupils. They are respectful and well-mannered in their dealings with adults in the school. Teachers promote independence and self-confidence among the pupils. The school has a very clear, effective code of behaviour. It places a commendable emphasis on the promotion of positive behaviour. Pupils display respect and care for one another. They are particularly sensitive to pupils with different needs.
3.1 School planning, process and implementation
The staff has a commendable school plan in place. It includes organisational policies and curricular plans. The planning process involves the whole teaching staff. Parents are welcome to come into the school to view the plan. For the drafting of certain policies, a committee is formed comprising parents, teachers and members of the board of management. The board discusses plans and policies on a regular basis. Teachers use the curricular plans for their own classroom planning. There is effective implementation of a long-term plan for Social, Personal and Health Education, and Science. The school plan is reviewed regularly.
It is recommended that the school use a planning diary to record specific priorities at the beginning of the school year. This will aid the effectiveness of the planning process. It is also recommended that the current good practice evident in different areas of the curriculum be documented.
Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and staff have taken appropriate steps to develop policies in line with the provisions in Children First: National Guidelines for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, September 2004). Evidence was also provided to confirm that the board of management has adopted and implemented the policies. A designated liaison person has been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
3.2 Classroom planning
Class teachers prepare long-term and short-term schemes of work based on the approaches set out in the school plan. Appropriate attention is given to the needs of the different class groups. The diverse range of learning experiences planned for the pupils is particularly commendable. Comprehensive education plans for pupils with special educational needs are prepared and implemented successfully. Monthly progress reports are compiled by each teacher and kept in the school.
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The teachers work together very effectively to ensure the full implementation of the school plan. Progress and continuity is evident in all curricular areas. The pupils’ intellectual, creative and physical development is promoted through the use of a wide range of learning activities. .Teachers plan for visits outside of the classroom in order to develop pupils’ understanding of their local environment. Visiting experts are invited in to share their skills with the pupils. Pupil achievement is very high in all curricular areas.
Irish is taught effectively in a structured way. A wide variety of activities and resources are used to reinforce the language. Pupils experience Irish as a living language and have a very positive attitude to it. There is great variety and creativity in the teaching approaches used. Standards in Irish are generally very high. Lessons in this curricular area provide pupils with opportunities to learn new vocabulary and to use the language in different contexts. Creative approaches are used to foster the use of Irish by the pupils. Pupils compose their own songs to practise new vocabulary. The language functions are taught effectively through pair work. Pupils are enabled to express themselves effectively through Drama activities that are based on real-life situations. It is recommended that the staff implement a whole-school approach to promote the use of Irish during recreation time.
The junior classes are exposed to a print-rich environment. Pupils therefore experience the link between literacy and oral work. Pupils at all levels read with confidence. Novels are used in the senior classes. They show a great interest in reading the wide range of library materials available. There is commendable variety in the range of writing tasks provided. Pupils write for a range of occasions and audiences.
The teachers place an exemplary emphasis on the teaching of Irish culture. Pupils do set-dancing as part of their Irish lessons. They also enjoy recitation.
The teaching of English in the mainstream classes and in the support classes is of a high standard. The infant pupils can recite a broad repertoire of rhymes and stories. A suitable phonological awareness programme is used. The class teacher is aided in this by the DEIS co-ordinator. It is recommended, however, that an early-intervention programme be devised for the infant classes to ensure mastery of early reading skills.
Oral-language skills are developed through class discussions and the use of a variety of visual aids. Poetry is used to enhance pupils’ expression and diction. Pupils recite a broad range of poems, including their own compositions, chorally and individually.
In the junior classes, all reading activities are done in small groups. The teacher listens to individual pupils reading every day. In the senior classes a clear development is evident. Use is made of class novels, newspapers and other texts. The class library has a wide range of reading materials. Pupils read with fluency and confidence. They enjoy discussing favourite books and authors. Parents are given a significant role in the development of reading. The DEIS co-ordinator provides practical advice to parents to support the development of literacy.
The school creates many opportunities for pupils to write independently. There is a structured approach to the teaching of spelling and grammar. A whole-school approach to handwriting is now recommended.
All strands and strand units of the Mathematics curriculum are addressed. The school has invested in equipment for all areas of the programme. Activities are drawn from a variety of sources and teaching is not over-dependent on the pupils’ textbooks. Pupils use concrete materials to aid comprehension. Material is related effectively to pupils’ experiences and their environment. Teachers encourage pupils to ask questions and ensure that they are active in their learning. There are regular opportunities for pupils to collaborate on tasks. There is commendable collaboration between the class teachers and support teachers. It is recommended that mathematical language be taught in a more structured way and integrated with the teaching of Irish and English.
4.4 Social, Environmental and Scientific Education
Teachers have prepared a school plan for History. It is effectively integrated with other areas of the curriculum. Classrooms have timelines on display and excellent use is made of class museums. Story is used very effectively in all classes and historical fiction is used in the programme. There is effective development of historical skills.
In the teaching of Geography, pupils explore a range of topics and draw upon a range of materials, including maps and atlases. They record and present their findings in a variety of formats. Teachers place a commendable emphasis on the local area in the teaching of Geography which develops the pupils’ understanding of their local environment. There is an appropriate balance between the development of knowledge and the acquisition of skills.
A good start has been made to the implementation of the Science curriculum. Pupils are presented with opportunities to develop skills while learning scientific concepts. They are encouraged to experiment, to hypothesise, to predict and to share their ideas. Lesson content is linked skilfully to the pupils’ life experience and to the local environment. Various habitats are being developed on the school grounds. It is recommended that further use be made of the school environment in the learning programme.
4.5 Arts Education
Appropriate activities are used to expand the pupils’ skills across the various strands of the Visual Arts curriculum. A broad programme is laid out for each class and the results are on display in individual classrooms. Work on Fabric and Fibre is particularly commendable and sewing skills are taught to all pupils. Excellent work is also carried out in the area of Clay. Team-teaching is used occasionally during the year. Pupils are brought to local exhibitions and pupils enjoy discussing the work of different artists. It is recommended that pupils be given more opportunities to examine their own work and to respond to it. It is also recommended that teachers focus more on the elements of art during this work.
The teaching of Music is clearly very successful. Pupils engage enthusiastically in singing and instrumentation throughout the school. Percussion instruments are made by pupils and used in rhythm exercises. The school has a good supply of musical instruments, with a view to developing the pupils’ appreciation and performance of music. In senior classes pupils compose their own songs.
Teachers are attending in-service training for Drama this year. Drama is taught very effectively in this school. It is linked effectively with other curricular areas to enhance comprehension and discussion. There is an emphasis on tone of voice, facial expression and body language in Drama lessons. Pupils engage ably and enthusiastically in activities. Pupils are enabled to express emotions through Drama. Pupils participate in these activities in a purposeful, meaningful way.
4.6 Physical Education
The teachers use school equipment effectively to develop a range of physical skills among the pupils. Lessons are taught in the classroom or in the school yard when the weather permits. Pupils enjoy Irish dance and games in particular. There is an emphasis on participation and enjoyment. There is very good provision in this curricular area for pupils with special educational needs.
4.7 Social, Personal and Health Education
The positive school climate is greatly aiding the social, personal and health development of the pupils. Pupils are enabled to express their ideas, values, understanding and to demonstrate their social skills. There are opportunities for open discussion and the various activities are managed in an orderly manner. Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) is successfully integrated with other subject areas. Support teachers teach certain modules of the SPHE programme to small groups, for the benefit of pupils with particular needs.
4.8 Assessment and achievement
Assessment of pupil work and progress is undertaken conscientiously using teacher observation, teacher-designed tasks, written tests, work samples, work profiles and projects. Standardised tests are used to good effect from senior infants onwards to assess literacy and numeracy.
5.1 Pupils with special educational needs
The school has the services of a learning-support teacher and a resource teacher. The special-education team prepare specific education plans for the pupils in receipt of support. These are based on the outcomes of diagnostic testing. A large number of resources are available to pupils. All teachers meet with psychologists and other health professionals to ensure pupils’ needs are met. It is recommended that there be more frequent meetings with parents to discuss pupil progress. There is effective communication between support teachers and class teachers. It is recommended that the school implement an early-intervention programme as part of the learning-support policy.
5.2 Other supports for pupils: (Disadvantaged, minority and other groups)
The school has the services of a rural co-ordinator under the DEIS scheme. He works with groups of pupils to target literacy and numeracy needs and to develop skills in the area of information and communications technology. The co-ordinator works discreetly with parents and carries out home visits. Courses for parents are organised in the locality. The co-ordinator has also organised a number of activities to facilitate pupils’ transition to post-primary school. The staff has developed a long-term plan under the DEIS scheme to target literacy and numeracy.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development 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 when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 2: Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection