An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Gaelscoil Uí Riada, Cardinal Way
Wilton, Bishopstown, Cork
Uimhir rolla: 19853J
Date of inspection: 14 February 2007
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Gaelscoil Uí Riada. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the work of the school as a whole and makes recommendations for the further development of the work of the school. During the evaluation, the inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management, and representatives of the parents’ association. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. They reviewed school planning documentation and teachers’ written preparation, and met with various staff teams, where appropriate. Following the evaluation visit, the inspectors provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the staff and to the board of management. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Gaelscoil Uí Riada is situated on an attractive site in Wilton on the South side of Cork City. It is a co-educational school with 279 pupils. There are 13 on the staff; the principal, ten teachers of mainstream classes and two in learning support. There are two others who deal with special education in a part-time capacity. The school was founded in 1984 and a beautiful new school was opened in 1999. The school community is succeeding in the principal aim, to provide an all-Irish school for the pupils of the area. A great respect for the language and a desire to speak it is perceived in the pupils of the school. Professionalism is the hallmark of every aspect of the school.
The board of management fulfils its role totally. It provides a valuable forum in which the participants who are members can express their opinions. The members of the board have plenty of experience and it is evident that they are providing faithful, continuous service to the school. A very high standard of school accommodation is ensured and the board assists the teachers in implementing the school plan by providing aids. Regular meetings of the board are held during which important topics such as policies, the good of the pupils and financial matters are discussed. Evidence was presented that the financial affairs of the board are managed very carefully. Parents are advised of school policies by means of meetings and newsletters. The board members and the parents’ association are agreed that the most essential aspiration at present is that the school community is wholly supportive of the characteristic spirit of the school and they wish to strengthen the all-Irish foundation stone even more among the whole school community. Because the school is not too big it is the opinion of the board and the parents’ association that it is easier for the adults to know every pupil and their family which enhances the development of the Irish school community.
The principal fulfils his role very capably. He ensures that there is a very effective management system in place and a good communication practice in operation in the school. He provides energetic, inspiring leadership in planning and curriculum matters and the principal plays a central role in the promotion of teaching and learning throughout the school. The principal, himself, often takes an active part in teaching. He urges creativity among the teachers and he gives them an opportunity to express their talents and their expertise totally. He affirms the staff’s efforts and he establishes a live communicative process. A culture of co-operation and support is perceptible throughout the school. It is evident that the principal and the teachers are given to a continuous process of reflection, development and improvement. Working methods and structures are developed within the school which expedite a parallel process of curriculum planning and organisation. Staff meetings are held regularly and the parents are kept informed re various proceedings through meetings and newsletters. It is ensured that all responsibilities relating to documentation from state organisations, including registry books and attendance books are fulfilled. There is detailed information available on the role of the deputy-principal and on the roles of other members of the internal management of the school. Each member of the internal management has written responsibilities and these various tasks relate to the care of the pupils, to administration and to the implementation of the curriculum. Meetings of the internal management are organised on a regular basis during which a review of how well role targets are being achieved is undertaken.
It is noted that the junior infants go home at one o’clock every day and that the senior infants stay present until two thirty in the afternoon. The board is reminded of the rules of the Department of Education and Science re Time at School and it is recommended that the school authorities ensure that the infant time-table is in keeping with the Policy of the Department.
There is a system in place that makes sure that there is a broad range of educational resources available in the school and assures that they are managed effectively. Over the years the board of management has put great toil and effort into trying to bring a new school to completion and great credit is due to the members of the board for their efforts. The building is now in fine shape for the implementation of the curriculum and the board of management gives due care to the upkeep of the building. The Gaelic Athletic Association provides fields for games.
The accommodation consists of ten classrooms, offices, staff room and a music room. There are also other small rooms that are used for learning support and there is one other room that has been fitted out for computers and this is a great resource. Outside, there are two school yards that are marked for different games and there is a curved green in which there are trees and plants. This can be used when the weather is suitable. There is a fine hall in the school which is used for a broad range of in-school and after-school activities. The management is very grateful to the local companies that have given support and finance to the school to build such a fine hall.
The school staff displays a keen interest in in-career development and the board of management supports them. The secretary and the caretaker of the school deserve special mention, two people who have fluent Irish and who help the teachers to promote the language as a natural means of communication within the school community. They assist greatly in matters of administration and it is noted that the building and the environment are kept in a neat, attractive condition. A wide range of resources are provided to support the development of the work in the school. There is plenty of materials and equipment available, between teacher-made resources and purchased materials. The aids are used very effectively. As well as this there is a wide range of reading materials and research in Irish and in English in the classroom libraries. Much use is made of information technology as a resource for teaching. Opportunities are given to the pupils to use the modern technology to enhance their learning in every subject. The pupils can use the computer to play games or to access information, to surf the internet and to cross-reference information. The computer is also used to organise a piece of writing and to present it neatly.
A programme of activities is organised which cultivates parents’ participation in the life of the school. The parents have opportunities to attend lectures, Irish classes and social nights as well as the events that relate to providing finance. It is evident that there is positive, regular communication between the parents’ association and the board, principal and class teachers. And it is also clear that there is a strong association between teachers and parents to support learning. The school authorities understand that the school has an important central role in the life of the parish and the surrounding area. The school is in continuous contact with local organisations such as, the Credit Union, the Gaelic Athletic Association and the Church Choir. Local sporting groups use the school hall in the evenings.
Efficient teaching methods and effective management assist in the awakening and retention of the interest and participation of the pupils. There is a balanced and structured code of behaviour in operation. It is evident that there is positive interaction between the pupils and the teachers in the school.
The planning process in this school assists the broad, balanced, realistic curriculum that relates to the ethos and distinctive requirements of the school. It is also evident that the school engages in continuous planning in the development of organisational policies and curriculum. Very worthwhile policies have been presented on the principal aspects of school administration. These documents indicate a deep understanding of the nature and character of the school and they give a clear guide to the process of implementation. With regard to the school enrolment policy it is recommended that the parents’ attention be brought to the terms of the Education Act, paragraph 29, in respect of the decisions of the school re enrolment. Great progress has been made with the strategic planning of the curriculum and plans for the various subjects have been presented. These plans are comprehensive and it is clear that they developed from rich discussion among the community.
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, 1999, updated issue May 2004) and Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools (Department of Education and Science, April 2001). 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.
It is noticeable that the school plan has an effect on the work in the class. The teachers prepare comprehensively and thoroughly for their work. This is to be seen in the long-term and short-term planning and in the implementation. The content of the schemes develops from the school plan and helpful resources are gathered accordingly. In planning matters the teachers define the learning objectives that are to be attained and the learning activities that aid the realisation of the objectives. The teachers who are working at the same level co-operate when they are planning the work and this practice is highly commended. Various methods of suitable assessments are used to gauge progress. Individual differences of pupils are taken into account and the teachers provide suitably for the pupils who have specific difficulties.
In the daily teaching, the various aspects of the curriculum are often integrated. Learning is based on the environment and activity and discovery methods are used. The centrality of the language in the teaching process is ensured. The pupils are inspired to learn and the ability of the pupils to learn independently is developed. As it suits, the teachers use different types of class organisation, between working in groups, working individually and teaching the class as a whole. Assessment is perceived as an integral part of the teaching and learning. Excellent use is made of the information and communication technology resource to enrich the learning across the curriculum. During the visits, pupils were observed composing pieces of writing, surfing the internet to access information and recording class work.
Is léir go bhfuil foireann na scoile an-tugtha don Ghaeilge agus go gcothaíonn na hoidí uile, dea-thoil agus an-bhá don teanga i measc na ndaltaí faoina gcúram. Sonraítear ardchaighdeán sa Ghaeilge ar fud na scoile. Bíonn na daltaí líofa sa Ghaeilge agus fonn orthu í a labhairt. Foghlaimíonn na daltaí raon leathan de nathanna cainte, rainn, dánta, agus amhráin. Dírítear ar an teanga a mhúineadh i gceachtanna dea-chéimnithe, agus leagtar an-bhéim ar thaitneamh agus ar úsáid na teanga i ngníomhaíochtaí cosúil le, scéalta, agallaimh beirte, ról ghlacadh, dramaíocht agus cluichí teanga. Bíonn taithí ag na daltaí ar imshaoil ina mbíonn an prionta fairsing agus ina mbíonn fáil acu ar leabhair. Tá raon cuíosach leathan leabhar Gaeilge ar fáil agus léann na daltaí le brí agus le cruinneas agus pléann siad ábhar na léitheoireachta go han-chumasach. Braitheann oidí áirithe nach féidir teacht ar réimse leabhar atá saibhir agus éagsúil go leor i gcomhthéacs na léitheoireachta. Tá moladh ar leith tuillte ag na hoidí as an slí ina úsaidtear úrscéalta chun Gaeilge na ndaltaí a shaibhriú agus tá rian na hoibre sin le sonrú i scríbhneoireacht chruthaitheach agus phearsanta na ndaltaí. Oiltear na daltaí go han éifeachtach chun filíocht a aithris agus a chíoradh go muiníneach. Cothaítear a spéis i gcumadh na filíochta freisin. Leagtar béim ar fhorbairt na scríbhneoireachta cruthathaí pearsanta ar bhonn rialta forásach.
It is evident that the school staff is very dedicated to the Irish and that all the teachers cultivate goodwill and a great love for the language among the pupils committed to their care. A high standard in Irish is perceived throughout the school. The pupils are fluent in Irish and have a desire to speak it. The pupils learn a broad range of oral expressions, rhymes, poems and songs. The teaching of the language is approached through well-structured lessons and much emphasis is placed on enjoyment and the use of the language in activities such as, stories, two-person interviews, role playing, drama and language games. The pupils have experience of an extensive print environment and have access to books. There is a fairly broad range of Irish books available and the pupils read with meaning and accuracy and they discuss the reading content very capably. Some teachers feel that a range of books that are sufficiently rich and variable in the reading context is not available. Special commendation is due to the teachers for the manner in which the novel is used to enrich the pupils’ Irish and the effect of that work is to be observed in the personal and creative writing of the pupils. The pupils are very effectively trained in the confident recitation and discussion of poetry in detail. Their interest in poetry composition is also developed. Emphasis is placed on the development of creative writing in a regular developmental manner.
Great care is given to the teaching of English and a very high standard in teaching and learning is to be observed throughout the school. Special emphasis is placed on structured lessons in the teaching of oral skills in English. In their approach, the teachers use various strategies very productively, including stories, poetry, conversation, discussion, interviews and drama. Proper attention is devoted to the teaching of reading skills and a commendable emphasis is placed on the cultivation of personal reading and on the discussion of poetry. In the junior classes activities are organised to realize the relationship between sounds and letters. In the senior classes high reading skills are developed through reading and dealing with a diverse range of texts. The pupils regularly experience discussions of the novel, doing research and using the library. The writing activities are thoroughly organised and there is good variety in the exercises. The creativity of the pupils is encouraged through the writing process and full use is made of the information and communication technology. Suitable assessment methods are used to discover pupils’ reading difficulties early.
Total immersion approach is used in this school and English is not taught to the junior infants. The senior infants start to learn English after they have spent a year in school. The board is reminded of the Department’s policy in respect of the curriculum in All-Irish schools and specifically re the teaching of English. Because of the necessity to immerse pupils without Irish in Irish early on in an all-Irish school it is understandable that only the least amount of recommended time be devoted to the teaching of English i.e. 2.5 hours a week.
A high standard is achieved in Mathematics. The lessons are taught carefully and logically. The teachers clearly present the basic concepts intelligently in real life situations and in cross-curricular contexts. Beneficial use is made of activity methods and concrete materials to consolidate the requisite concepts. The pupils solve written problems and they record their work neatly. The pupils answer oral questions with alacrity and commendable accuracy. Predicting and estimating skills are taught from the infants up. The work in Mathematics is carefully structured and accuracy is cultivated in computation. The pupils are often given opportunities to work in groups when solving problems.
In the teaching of History the teachers understand the importance of the balance attached to the acquisition of knowledge and the development of the skills as a historian. The young pupils love to listen to stories that stimulate the imagination and stories are chosen that are suitable from the point of view of interest and content. The pupils collect and record evidence and are beginning to understand the relationship between cause and effect. An active methodology is used and the pupils employ time lines, listen to stories and participate in projects. In the teaching of History in the more senior classes, emphasis is placed on reading, research, recording and discussion. Noticeable progress in project work is to be seen on display boards in the classroom and outside. Appropriate emphasis is given to family history, local history the country and the whole world. During the inspection visits, special recognition was given to the pupils for the imagination and hard work put into a project that was based on the theme ‘The History of Cork City’.
In Geography, emphasis is placed on the geography of the school, the locality, the country, the world and how people live. A variety of methods is used in the teaching of Geography including the demonstrative method and the discovery method. During the visits good practice was observed throughout the school and the pupils were seen using maps and globes and working on projects. The school environment is used very successfully to examine and investigate geographical and historical concepts. The results of this work are recorded in the form of very attractive maps and pictures in the classrooms. Excellent use is made of these visual aids to enhance the learning. A store of words with geographical functions is taught incidentally and the correct use of Irish is always advanced.
The pupils’ interest in science is awakened and an inquisitive mind is cultivated in them. Once again, in this case, the teachers ensure that that there is a balance in the plan between the acquisition of knowledge and practising the skills of the scientist. The teachers give the pupils opportunities to participate in research and discovery activities. In the science lessons, the ideas, personal knowledge and experience of the pupils are used as the first step of the lessons. The teachers direct and guide the inquisitiveness of the pupils towards aspects of the environment and the various parts of the curriculum are integrated. It is evident that the teachers do a lot of planning beforehand and they study thoroughly the school environment. Practical experiments are conducted in the classrooms themselves, as well, such as the growing of seeds and plants. It is clear that the pupils love to participate in small groups, observing, investigating and analysing elements and science materials, for example, working with magnets and learning about forces like electricity.
The imagination of the pupils is stimulated in the Visual Arts through a broad range of activities that are integrated with other aspects of the curriculum. The programme in the visual arts emphasises the importance of both making art and responding to art. The pupils are encouraged to observe art in the environment and the pupils are also brought on visits to local galleries. In the lessons the pupils use various techniques. The pupils have experience in the six strands: drawing, paint and colour, clay, construction, print and fabric and fibre. The work is very creditable. The pupils’ work in art is celebrated and the results of the work are attractively displayed throughout the school.
The pupils enjoy the music and they are enabled to participate in a broad range of pleasant activities. They have opportunities to listen to and respond to a wide range of styles and traditional music, including Irish music. The pupils are presented with a graded programme in the reading and writing of music and playing instruments. Central importance is given to singing and the pupils sing a wide range of songs from various cultures. Some of the teachers have a special ability in music and beneficial use is made of musical instruments during the lessons. The pupils really enjoy the singing and whistle lessons.
It is noted that external teachers from the Cork School of Music come in every week to teach musical instruments to about sixty pupils. In accordance with the rules attached to this service, the pupil’s parent must be present for the duration of the lesson. The lessons last from twenty to thirty minutes. The pupils pay for the music lessons. This teaching was observed and it was noted that the results of the work were of a high standard. It is also clear that the teaching programme is in keeping with the music curriculum for primary schools. The principal explained that it is ensured that pupils are not prevented from availing of any in-school activity for financial reasons and he explained that accordingly there is a support system operative in the school. The board is recommended to review the manner in which extra-curricular services are financed to ensure that the school is in keeping with the Department policy re teaching during school time.
The medium of drama is used very effectively to stimulate the imaginative capacity of the pupils. They willingly co-operate with each other in composing drama in Irish and in English. Opportunities are given to the pupils to illustrate stories, to investigate conflicts and feelings in imaginative contexts. The teachers also get support from an external teacher in providing a wide range of valuable, learning experiences for the pupils. The board of management pays for this provision. It is evident that this external teacher’s input has a positive effect on the ordinary class and accordingly the teachers’ skills in teaching drama are developed.
The pupils enjoy the movements in Physical Education and the activities are directed in a capable and enjoyable manner. Opportunities are provided to gain experience in the various sections of Physical Education and balance and development are ensured between the skills in dance, gymnastics, games and aquatics. As well as these, teams are organised for boys and girls to participate in football and hurling leagues. The school takes part in the Schools’ Shield Competition and in the City Sports as well. In the teaching of dance, the teachers get assistance from an external teacher with special qualifications. The standard of teaching was very high and due emphasis was placed on participation, enjoyment and pupil care in the lessons observed. All dance directions were given in quality Irish. The principal explained that the board of management pays for this provision.
The programme in Social, Personal and Health Education helps to prepare the pupils for citizenship that is active and responsible. SPHE is provided for the pupils through the positive outlook and atmosphere of the school. Strategies, such as, play, discussion and drama activities, co-operative games and audio-visual materials are used. Self-respect and self-confidence of the pupils are cultivated through positive discussion during the lessons. In SPHE the teachers use story-telling and circle work to develop the self-awareness and self-confidence of the pupils. A plan is in place for Relationship and Sexuality Education and the principal explained that some of the programme is provided by assistance from external services.
Continuous assessment is undertaken as an essential part of every curricular area and formal and informal methods are used to regularly assess the progress being made. As well as informal assessment instruments, diagnostic and standardised tests are also used. The results are recorded in a neat and helpful manner and the information is suitably shared. The results are examined on a school basis so that the assessment affects the teaching and the learning.
High priority is given by the school to pupils with special requirements and learning difficulties. When this new school was being built, the needs of people with physical disabilities were taken into consideration. An elevator and toilets, suitable for everybody, were provided. The doors and the corridors are wide and suitable for wheelchairs.
The class teacher accepts the fundamental responsibility for the progress of all the pupils in the class. At the infant level, priority is given to early recognition to avoid learning difficulties. There is regular communication between the class teachers and the special teachers and commendable emphasis is placed upon early intervention through teachers working together in the classrooms. As is required, suitable teaching programmes are provided for individual pupils and groups and a range of tests is in use. An accurate account of progress is kept. According to the teachers there is good communication between the teachers and the parents. The work of the assistant in special needs is organised with understanding. There is evidence that every effort is made to seek extra support from external services. The advice given by psychologists is accepted and programmes that affirm various therapies are followed. It is clear that there is a high level of co-operation between the board of management, the principal, the class teachers, the special education teachers, the parents and the professionals participating in the work.
Even though there is specific reference to special education and to learning support in the School Plan, the teachers now intend to review the plan in its entirety. In this context the teachers will be concentrating on the two groups of pupils who have special needs, the pupils who have learning difficulties and the pupils with disabilities and special requirements. It is recommended that consideration be given to choosing the most suitable strategies for the needs of individual pupils taking into consideration the experience and training of the teachers when responsibilities are being allocated to staff members.
When the school policy is being re-drafted in respect of pupils with sense disabilities, it would be worth examining closely, from time to time, the resources of the school to ensure that they are suitable, as far as possible, for pupils who have a hearing deficit or sight impairment. The travelling teachers of the hearing impaired could also be consulted to draft an agreement that would enable hearing aids to be functioning properly and to be used correctly.
There is a small group of pupils in this school from disadvantaged backgrounds and the school makes every effort to respond to the problems that are evident as a result. Extra help is available in the form of special grants and every use is made of them and other board resources to support these pupils. No pupils from minority groups attend the school at present.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The board of management gives wise leadership and continuous, faithful support to the school.
· Good organisation and competency epitomise the work of these teachers.
· The curriculum being provided in the school is full and entire.
· A high standard is achieved in every aspect of the curriculum.
· The teachers work hard and diligently as a staff; they share their time and talents generously and munificently in and out of school time.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that the board reviews the enrolment policy.
· It is recommended that the board adheres to department policy re the time-table, and the teaching of English in Junior Infants.
· It is recommended that the board review the methods by which extra-curricular activities are financed, to ensure that the school adheres to Department policy re teaching during school time.
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.