An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Gaelscoil Chloch na gCoillte
Scartagh, Clonakilty, County Cork
Roll Number: 20006A
Date of inspection: 12 December 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Clonakilty Gaelscoil. 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.
This school was established in 1994 and has since functioned on a number of temporary sites. It operates at present in temporary premises but it is a great source of satisfaction for all relevant parties that a permanent site has recently been secured. The school consists entirely of prefabricated rooms and these frequently give rise to difficulties, particularly during inclement weather. Nevertheless, great credit is due to the staff for their diligence in implementing the school curriculum.
It is apparent that the school has made substantial progress since its establishment and that there is considerable demand for places in it. The school serves the needs of children from the locality primarily and the majority of pupils have a very good attendance record. It is a particular point of satisfaction that a significant number of its past-pupils transfer to the All-Irish Unit incorporated into one of the local post-primary schools.
The patron of the school is An Foras Patrúnachta. Being an All-Irish school, the Irish language plays a central role in the life of the school and it is clear that the Principal and teachers have succeeded in creating a very positive atmosphere in the school. The parents are acknowledged as being central to the life of the school and their opinions are regularly sought. The staff are to be complimented on the amount of time which they devote to activities associated with the general education of the pupils.
2.1 Board of Management
The Board of Management discharges its responsibilities capably and meetings are convened as recommended and more frequently as required. Particular praise is due for the role played by the Board and the parents in the formulation of the School Plan.
Apart from the Board's concerns in relation to the accommodation, the appropriateness of the training available to teachers as a preparation for teaching in All-Irish schools is a further matter of great disaffection for them. During the evaluation, the Board members expressed their satisfaction with the progress of the pupils.
2.2 In-school management
The school has made evident progress under the capable direction of the Principal. The orderliness and organisation of the work as a whole are highly commendable, as well as the emphasis which she places on teamwork. Her efforts to accord proper recognition to the talents of the whole staff are also praiseworthy.
There is a Deputy Principal in the school and three other staff members hold posts of responsibility. The duties of these posts are allocated in accordance with the priorities of the school and the talents of the staff and they afford the Principal significant support in her work. The in-school management team meet once a term and the decisions which they make are carefully minuted. Their endeavours to discharge their responsibilities in co-operation with the whole staff to promote the school ethos are well justified. In addition, the manner in which the in-school management fosters the participation of parents through Science, Art, Cookery and aspects of Physical Education, is admirable.
Many worthwhile examples of good class management were observed in the course of the evaluation. The pupils are equitably and fairly treated and they are exhorted to work in a measured and systematic manner. The range of teaching methods, which are widely implemented as is recommended in the curriculum, is highly commendable.
2.3 Management of resources
New technology is exploited very effectively in order to supply print and highly stimulating demonstration materials throughout the school and it is clear that the pupils derive great benefit from that which is provided. The opportunities which the pupils are afforded for accessing information and for publishing their own written work, are also praiseworthy.
All the classrooms have libraries and these are widely used. It is recommended that the variety of books in both languages be further expanded, so as to present a sterner challenge especially for the more able readers. An attractive range of Mathematics teaching materials is also made available and the use made of these is most worthwhile. Advice was given as to how this range of materials could be extended gradually.
2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community
It is obvious that communication between the members of this staff is of the highest quality, and is found to be of great assistance in the work of the school as a whole. The Principal and in-school management play a major role in this regard and it is attested to in the on-going support in the form of funding given by the school community. The Parents' Committee have expressed their satisfaction with the education being provided by the school.
2.5 Management of pupils
The staff are to be highly commended on the wonderful training which they impart to pupils in regard to behaviour and politeness. Accordingly, they co-operate willingly with one another. During the evaluation particular note was taken of the admirable attention paid to ability differences in all classes. This includes the care which is taken of gifted pupils.
3.1 School planning process and implementation
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.
The comprehensive system of planning which has been developed in the school is most laudable, not only from the organisational point of view but also from the point of view of curriculum. Every teacher has an electronic copy of the school's policies and it is apparent that the system of planning exerts a strong influence on the classwork.
3.2 Classroom planning
The whole staff go to great lengths in the preparation of their long-term and short-term schemes, in which specific learning objectives are clearly laid down. A very useful template has been designed for classroom planning and this is productively used by the majority of staff. A similar template could in future be used to advantage on a whole-school basis. Very appropriate monthly review reports are kept and are regularly consulted.
4.1 Overview of the quality of learning and teaching
Numerous examples of very purposeful teaching were observed in the course of the evaluation, including class teaching, group teaching and paired teaching. Particular credit is due for the attention paid to language enrichment at particular levels and it is recommended that this good practice should in future be extended throughout the whole school. With this is mind, it is thought that additional analysis of the language needs of the pupils would be worthwhile, as a support for the enrichment activities advocated. In the light of all of this, it is thought that the pupils are making significant progress in general, as evidenced by various sources including the pupils' written work in both languages.
The importance of self-assessment by teachers was beneficially explored during the evaluation.
Múintear comhrá na Gaeilge go torthúil go minic sa scoil. Is inmholta go mór an struchtúr soiléir a bhaineanna le mórán de na ceachtanna agus tríd sin an tslí ina sealbhaítear na heiseamláirí teanga go rialta taitneamhach. Anuas air sin moltar an cúram a dhéantar de bhuanú na hoibre. Léitear roinnt mhaith scéalta Gaeilge do na daltaí agus labhrann alán díobh go han-líofa agus iad i mbun fíor-chumarsáide. Is gné fíor-spéisiúil den obair mar a ghlacann na daltaí le riachtanais speisialta a bpáirt go bródúil sa chumarsáid. Cuireadh comhairle ar fáil faoi mar ab fhéidir Séideán Sí a chur in oiriúint do ranganna nach bhfuil an clár seo fós ar fáil dóibh.
Múintear scileanna na léitheoireachta go cumasach tríd is tríd. Moltar go mór an aire a dhírítear ar fhíor-leabhair ag leibhéil éagsúla maraon leis an dua a chaitear le soláthar sliochtanna oiriúnacha as leabhair ar leith do na daltaí. Cuireadh comhairle ar fáil faoi théacsanna breise a fhreastalódh a thuilleadh ar an léitheoireacht mar chaitheamh aimsire.
Dála na leitheoireachta caitear go sciliúil le teagasc na scríbhneoireachta sa scoil trí chéile. Leagtar béim inmholta ar an gcruinneas agus ar an néatacht go minic agus is mór is fiú an freastal a dhéantar ar an saorscríbhneoireacht in áiteanna. Moltar anois go leathnófaí na dea-chleachtais seo a thuilleadh ar fud na scoile ar fad.
Conversational Irish is productively and frequently taught in the school. The obvious structure which is apparent in many of the lessons is particularly praiseworthy and, arising from this, the manner in which linguistic patterns are internalised, regularly and enjoyably. In addition, the attention given to consolidating the work is commendable. A wide selection of Irish stories are introduced to the pupils and many of them speak very fluently while engaging in real communication. It is a matter of particular interest that the pupils with special needs participate with pride in these conversations. Advice was given as to how Séideán Sí could be adapted for classes for whom this programme has not yet been made available.
The skills of reading are capably taught overall. The attention paid to real books at various levels of the school, together with the efforts made to supply pupils with extracts taken from particular books, are particularly commendable. Advice was offered as regards additional texts which could further extend recreational reading.
As is the case with reading, writing is skilfully taught throughout the school. Accuracy and neatness are frequently emphasised and the care taken with free writing in some classes is commended. It is now recommended that these examples of good practice should be extended to all classes in the school
The pupils’ aural and oral language skills in English are purposefully and systematically developed throughout the school. The extent to which the beginning and end of the English lesson is signalled is particularly effective and ensures that the pupils express their views with ease. Their command of the language is indeed very praiseworthy and they clearly enjoy participation in a variety of activities that are skilfully designed to promote confidence and fluency. The existing practice of reading to the pupils is of considerable value and could now be further developed on a whole-school basis.
The relevant reading skills are taught very competently in the school and as a result many pupils read with ease. Paired reading programmes are used effectively and silent reading is also promoted to good effect. Many well chosen novels are also in use at various levels while reading for information also features prominently in some instances. Existing good practices such as those referred to above together with a language experience approach could now be further developed within the context of the school plan.
The writing skills are fruitfully promoted in line with curriculum requirements. Many opportunities are provided to allow the pupils to write in a range of genres and for a variety of purposes. Accordingly many samples of high quality writing were noted during the evaluation.
A carefully graded approach to the teaching of Mathematics is frequently practised in the school. The emphasis placed on the pupils' own activities and on practical work during teaching is very commendable and it is clear that pupils find these to be very beneficial. In addition, it was observed that very effective use is made of the wide range of equipment available in the school. Problem solving is capably addressed, as is evaluation in some situations. These examples of good practice could be further adopted to advantage on a school-wide basis. The pupils record their findings very carefully and discuss these with enthusiasm. Suggestions were made as to how this recorded work could be further exploited.
Stimulating programmes in History are purposefully presented. There is a laudable emphasis on local history and regular opportunities are given for exploring the neighbourhood. The attention devoted to the time-line in the course of this work is praiseworthy and very effective use is made of attractive teaching aids. The outcomes of all of this work are methodically recorded in copybooks.
Geography is successfully taught throughout the school. Very good use is made of a wide range of stimulating materials in order to present the subject imaginatively. The pupils also derive great benefit from the exploitation of new technology, which frequently forms a central element in project work. The attention paid to the pupils' own activities during classes is commendable.
Appropriate Science programmes have been drawn up for all the various levels of the school. A creditable emphasis is placed on experiments in certain classes and it is apparent that a wide range of skills are being fostered accordingly. This aspect of the work could now be further extended to the school as a whole. It is a cause of satisfaction that there is not an over-emphasis on the use of textbooks in the teaching of Science in the school.
A high standard is achieved in the Visual Arts throughout the school, despite a lack of facilities at times. The pupils are capably taught to observe and respond to art, and impressive exhibitions of the pupils' work and of the work of local artists are organised in the school.
Music is proficiently taught at the different levels in the school, as is advocated in the curriculum. The melodiousness cultivated in the singing and the attention paid to instrumental music, as well as the opportunities afforded to the pupils to listen to a wide selection of world music, merit special praise. The manner in which teachers share expertise with one another is also commendable.
Very productive drama work was observed throughout the school and the way in which this work is integrated with other aspects of the curriculum is highly praiseworthy.
As regards the teaching of Physical Education, there is a great lack of facilities in the school. Nevertheless, the teachers are generally successful in presenting certain important aspects of the programme. In this context, athletics, games' skills and gymnastics merit special mention. It is clear that successful outcomes are achieved in these areas.
It became clearly evident in the course of the evaluation that Social, Personal and Health Education is carefully nurtured throughout the school.
A wide range of assessment methods is implemented in the school and the approach to record-keeping and the provision of the necessary reports is laudable. Good examples of the beneficial influence of assessment on teaching and learning were observed during the evaluation. The importance of this was discussed and broad agreement was reached in regard to it.
The comprehensive policies developed by the school in order to provide for pupils with special educational needs are commendable and it is apparent that they are very well catered for. Supplementary assistance is provided in Mathematics and English and the degree of co-operation between teachers in this regard is highly beneficial. In addition, valuable programmes have been drawn up for the use of parents of such pupils. Parents are regularly consulted and the formal six-weekly review of progress is very worthwhile. Some of the support teaching is carried out in the classroom and it is anticipated that this commendable practice will now be further extended. The importance of planning and assessment was discussed.
Funding has been made available for Even break and important after-school work is carried out.
The following are the main strengths 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 with the Board of Management, at which draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.