Department of Education and Science

An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

 

 

Whole School Evaluation

REPORT

 

Doohoma National School

Ballina, Co. Mayo

Roll Number: 14193Q

 

 

 

Date of Inspection: 07 June 2006

Report Issue Date: 26 October 2006

 

 

 

1.      Introduction – school context and background

2.     Quality of School Management

2.1 Board of management

2.2 In-school management

2.3 Management of resources

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

2.5 Management of pupils

3.     Quality of School Planning

3.1 School planning, process and implementation

3.2 Classroom planning

4.     Quality of Learning and Teaching

4.1 Language

4.2 Mathematics

4.3 Social, Environmental and Science Education

4.4 Arts Education

4.5 Physical Education

4.6 Social, Personal and Health Education

4.7 Assessments and achievement

5.     Quality of support for pupils

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

5.2 Other supports for pupils: pupils who are disadvantaged and pupils from minority or other groups

6.     Summary of results and recommendations for further development


Whole School Evaluation

 

This report has been written following a whole-school evaluation of Doohoma N.S. 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, inspectors held pre-evaluation meetings with the principal, the teachers, the school’s board of management and parents. The evaluation was conducted over a number of days during which an inspector visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. The inspector interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspector 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; a response was not received from the board.

 

1.      Introduction – school context and background

 

Doohoma National School is situated in a Gaeltacht area on the northwestern coast of Mayo approximately 22 km southeast of Belmullet. The school is recognised as a Gaeltacht school and the staff consists of two mainstream teachers and a resource teacher. A learning-support teacher comes to the school on a shared basis as well as a rural co-ordinator under the Giving  Children an Even Break (Rural) scheme. When the last school report was provided in 1995, it was projected that there would be a decrease of approximately 50% in enrolments by 2000 due to the declining population. This has occurred and 30 boys and girls now attend the school. The Doohoma area is recognised under the CLÁR Programme for Revitalising Rural Areas, an initiative of the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Although housing development is impacting on nearby villages, development has not yet occurred in the village of Doohoma itself. The enrolment figure will fall again in the next school year and is likely to remain in the twenties for a number of years to come. The number of Irish speaking families in the area has also declined and English is the first language of the majority of pupils attending the school. This creates problems for this Gaeltacht school and presents a challenge for the staff in promoting Irish as the language of communication and instruction in the school.  

 

A Catholic ethos is fostered in the school, which is under the patronage of the Bishop of Killala. The school functions as a focal point in the area and is closely involved with the local community, the church and local organisations. There is a helpful and supportive relationship between the staff members and they willingly co-operate to achieve school objectives and develop pupils’ abilities and strengths. The participation of the different partners in the functioning of the school is welcomed and the school benefits from the continuing work and advice of the board of management and the strong support of the parents.

 

2.     Quality of School Management

 

2.1 Board of management

The board of management was appointed according to appropriate procedures and meets at least once a term to manage school events and discuss educational matters. The business of meetings is usually conducted through English and during the evaluation the greater part of the meetings with the board was conducted in English at the members’ request. At normal board meetings, minutes are usually read and reports are given by the treasurer, the principal and a teachers’ representative who holds a post of responsibility. The school greatly benefits from the individual skills of board members who assume responsibility for different tasks in order to fulfil management functions effectively. The most time consuming aspect of the meetings is dealing with funding and schemes that are available to the school. This includes the rural social scheme, the language assistant scheme, the lunch scheme, the scheme to tackle disadvantage, funding from CLÁR and Department of Education and Science grants. In recent years funding was used to provide a range of teaching aids, to repair the school roof, change windows, improve the yard surface and to paint the premises. It would be of value to set aside time during meetings also to study circulars and legislation which impact on the life of the school and affect the responsibilities of the board and the staff. The priorities for the future have been clearly identifed by the board in a planning diary. It is the intention now to provide a suitable indoor centre for Physical Education, to drain the football pitch, to develop the school garden and to support the organisation of Irish classes for the school community.

 

The board plays an active role in the development of school policies and a school plan is in place in which there are appropriate policies concerning health and safety, behaviour, enrolment, attendance and child protection. With regard to Section 9 of the Education Act, 1998, the board should formulate an action plan in consultation with the teachers and parents in order to afford proper status to Irish in the school. Resources and strategies are required to strengthen the speaking of Irish and to facilitate the teaching of all curricular areas through Irish. It is of benefit to the school that classes commenced after Easter to promote Irish and the Gaeltacht culture among the community. The board merits praise for making the school available for the classes and the teachers who are involved in organising these classes deserve credit also. The school is complying with Department of Education and Science regulations as regards length of the school year and school day, class size and pupil retention. The board accepts its responsibility in relation to the deployment of teachers and with regard to this, the board is reminded that it must ensure that every teacher who works in the school is capable of communicating effectively with pupils through Irish.

 

The board strives hard to foster relations and communication between the school and the parent body. The representatives on the board of management are very willing to present parents’ opinions to the board and parents have the opportunity to raise matters at meetings that are organised from time to time to discuss school policies. Certain policies are presented to parents when they initially register pupils and policies are also sent to them at home. At school level, notes and letters are regularly issued in which school events are announced and staff are now considering issuing a newsletter as another communication aid. Although an end of year report is discussed at a board of management meeting, a procedure for providing parents with an annual report on the operation of the school should now be agreed. It would also be worthwhile to enquire into the possibilities of establishing a parents’ association under the guidance of the National Parents Council as another formal interface between the school authorities and the parent body.

 

The board also supports the fostering of appropriate communication among members of staff. Meetings are organised during the school year to give teachers an opportunity to work collaboratively on the formulation of curricular and organisational policies and to discuss the implementation of the curriculum. Communication between the board and staff is facilitated by the fact that there are two teachers on the board of management. At the same time, it would be beneficial if the board met with all of the staff at some point during every school year in order to discuss aspects of education.

 

2.2 In-school management

Particular management resonsibilities are documented for the principal and for one holder of a post of responsibility with special duties in the school. Both co-operate effectively to organise school events and to supervise pupils properly. The principal interacts professionally with all parties involved in the school and there is an open and friendly atmosphere evident in the school. The talents of all teachers are recognised and they are given opportunities to utilise and strengthen those talents, for their own benefit and for the benefit of the pupils. The staff willingly supports the principal in implementing good discipline in the school and in systematically completing the whole-school planning process. Administration duties are properly fulfilled and school records are accurately maintained and kept up to date.

 

In addition to supporting and supervisory responsibilities, the special duties incorporate activities relating to computers, art, religion, drama and sport. The holder of the post is also responsible for contacting Primary Curriculum Support Programme ‘cuiditheoirí’ and co-ordinating planning meetings with other schools in the area. All duties are undertaken in a willing and capable manner. It would be beneficial to the school if the post duties were regularly reviewed to ensure that they meet the prioritised needs of the school in relation to organisational, curricular and pastoral matters. It would be beneficial to arrange a schedule for that purpose and to include it in the school’s strategic plan.

 

2.3 Management of resources

There are two mainstream teachers on the school’s staff. One of these teachers works in the junior classroom with the infant classes and first class. The second teacher works in the senior classroom with third, fourth, fifth and sixth classes. The classes are given the opportunity to come together at times to participate in Music and Visual Arts activities. There is also a resource teacher on the staff, but because there are no longer any pupils in the school who fall within the responsibility of the teacher, the service is shared among four schools in the area and a new base school will be organised in the cluster for the coming school year. A learning-support teacher provides a service to three schools in the area and Doohoma N.S. receives three visits per week to provide supplementary teaching in English and Mathematics. The rural co-ordinator is shared among four schools and the service is provided once a week to Doohoma N.S. with one additional day per month. The most common approach adopted by the support teachers is that of pupil withdrawal from the classroom. It would be beneficial to gradually incorporate a combination of methodologies into the practice, to spend periods of time working in conjunction with the class teachers in order to promote a range of agreed strategies in the school and to support the pupils while they work in the classroom.

 

The importance of the teachers’ professional development is recognised by the board and teachers are aided and supported in attending suitable courses. A list of these courses is recorded in the school plan. However, the staff development policy could be expanded further to communicate the strategies in the school that allow teachers to experience different classes and roles. It would also be beneficial to record a procedure for the sharing of information between colleagues after teachers attend courses.

 

In addition to the teaching staff in the school, a language assistant spends an hour a day supporting the teachers in promoting Irish. One drama tutor and two music tutors also come to the school and one parent teaches French to the senior classes. Even though all of these are valuable activities, it would be worthwhile to review the number of people who work in the school in any one week. It is necessary to ensure that there is an appropriate balance between the curriculum strands to which these activities relate, that the minimum suggested timeframe for each curricular area is adhered to and that the activities are included in the class teachers’ planning. A caretaker and a secretary are also employed in the school on a part-time basis.

 

The staff  is fortunate to have a wide range of teaching and technological resources provided by the board in order to support the school’s programme of instruction. They are used capably                                                                                                            to promote learning through activity and discovery. In particular, commendable use is made of technology to record the board’s accounts, minutes and business, to present school policies to parents, to prepare school and classroom planning and to project work with pupils. A range of software packages is also available in each classroom and these are used specifically to focus on individual pupils’ needs and to present challenging and encouraging material to small groups and class groups. It would be beneficial to include a list of the resources in the school plan and to make clear reference to the ways in which technology can support teaching and learning in each curricular area at the different class levels.

 

The school building and environs are attractive and well-kept and everyone who has helped with improvements to the school and with maintenance over the years deserves high praise. The school was built in 1971 and the building consists of an office, store, toilets, kitchen and four classrooms. One of the classrooms functions as a technology room, library and learning-support room. The mainstream teachers use two other rooms and the fourth room functions as a staff room and general-purposes room. The classrooms provide comfortable accomodation. They are bright, clean and well ventilated and there is adequate space to implement the 1999 curriculum successfully. The room used as a general-purposes room is too small to accommodate Physical Education activities and the board of management is hopeful that an application to the Department for a grant to refurbish the building and provide a suitably sized general-purposes room in the future will be successful. Outside, there is a basketball court, a football pitch and a yard with games marked out on its surface.

 

2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community

Approximately eighteen families attend the school and it is reported that the staff and the board receive great support from parents. School meetings are very well attended, parents provide great assistance at special occasions and they work enthusiastically to enhance school finanaces. They strongly support the implementation of the curriculum by helping to organise school sporting activities, by working with their children on projects and by coming to school at times to impart skills and knowledge to pupils. Homework journals are systematically used to make regular contact with parents and pupil progress reports are sent home twice a year. Meetings are organised to give parents an opportunity to discuss their children’s achievements and contact, both formal or informal, is also welcomed during the school year. Parents’ representatives reported that the parents have great respect for the school and the staff were highly praised for the open door policy that is in place in the school and for the invitation extended to parents to be active in school life. The school does not however, have a parents’ association, and it would be beneficial if one were established to further increase the parents’ role in their children’s education.

 

2.5 Management of pupils

There is notable co-operation among the teachers in relation to pupil management and an anti-bullying policy has been articulated by the staff in collaboration with the parents and the board of management. A positive working atmosphere is perceived in the classrooms as well as good co-operation between the pupils and the teachers. Visitors are treated in a well-mannered and friendly way by the pupils and pupils show respect towards each other during work, play and sporting activities.

 

3.     Quality of School Planning

 

3.1 School planning, process and implementation

The school plan is being developed gradually in partnership with the school staff, the board of management and parents. Both the staff and the board are involved in articulating policies and meetings are held with the parents from time to time to obtain their views on certain new policies, such as the policies on sexual and relationships education. Target dates have been set for reviewing some of the policies and it is recommended that they should be included in the strategic plan for the school and that review dates for other policies be set according to priority. It is commendable that the manner in which parents can support implementation is described in some policies. It would be beneficial to formulate such statements in conjunction with the parents and to include them in other appropriate policies to give recognition to the important role of the parents in implementation.

 

Included in the present school plan is a statement on the ethos and aims of the school along with policies on health and safety, enrolment, administration, planning, transport, vocational development, healthy lunches, substance use, homework, information and communication technology, learning-support education and special education. Evidence was provided to confirm that the board of management and the 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 an Science, 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.

 

A good start has been made in the development of policies in the curricular areas implemented to date and the time is now opportune to review policies in order to define content clearly and to address thoroughly the spiral nature of the curriculum in the multi-class context. It is necessary to ensure continuity, progression and balance in the teaching programmes at every class level and specific planning should address the pupils’ needs as regards Irish in each of the curricular areas.

 

3.2 Classroom planning

All teachers make preparations for teaching including long-term schemes, short-term schemes, individual education programmes and monthly reports. They provide a range of charts and illustrations and create an atmosphere of learning throughout the school by attractively displaying the students’ writing, projects and artwork. The planning, for the most part, is in line with the strands and strand units of the curriculum and the use of the immediate environment as a motivating tool at some class levels is commendable. It would be beneficial to identify on a school basis the local contexts that can be used in each curricular area and to include these in the planning for each class level in the interest of continuity and consistency. The lack of vocabulary in Irish hinders the pupils’ flow of speech in some curricular areas. Whole-school strategies should be undertaken and included in the class planning in order to promote a suitable range of vocabulary from the junior classes onwards and to ensure confidence in communication through Irish in a wider range of topics as the pupils progress from class to class.

 

Different modes of assessment are used to guide classroom planning in certain curricular areas. It would be worthwhile to analyse formally the assessment results in each curricular area in order to differentiate activities appropriately at the different class levels and to implement a co-ordinated programme in conjunction with the support team working in the school.

 

4.     Quality of Learning and Teaching

 

4.1 Language

 

Irish

The teachers work diligently to promote interest in the language among pupils. Good use is made of gestures, charts, pictures, labels, large books, newspapers and stories to achieve understanding of a certain range of language and to encourage the students to practice continuous speech. Beneficial emphasis is placed at certain class levels on developing the pupils’ ability to pose questions. This practice should be addressed early in the pupils’ school life in order to enhance communication in Irish throughout the school-day. A lovely collection of rhymes and poems is taught at each class level and recitations are lively and enjoyable. The pupils’ language is successfully enriched through playing games and producing small dramatic sketches. The way the singing tradition is promoted from the infant class onwards is commendable and newly composed songs, traditional songs and sean-nós songs are sung with enthusiasm.

 

It is now important to emphasise language fluency and to plan on a whole-school basis in order to develop Irish as the language of communication in the school, both in the classroom and in the yard. To this end, it would be of value to include the language of the other curricular areas in the Irish programme under the main language themes. It would be beneficial to identify sub-themes that would develop a suitable range of language functions and vocabulary to serve the language requirements of other curricular areas as well as the pupils’ language needs while playing in the yard. To that end the material should be clearly differentiated for the different class levels and the valuable support of the language assistant should be included in the planning.

 

A firm basis for the development of literacy is laid through placing emphasis on reading games, on the phonology of Irish and on word recognition. Opportunities are provided for pupils to engage in collaborative and silent reading. Beneficial use is made of large books, small books, newspapers, magazines, real books and technology to present the pupils with a wide range of reading material. On the whole, the pupils read accurately and they display a good understanding of the content.

 

The pupils are given valuable opportunities to undertake different kinds of writing exercises in Irish based on the subject matter of conversation and reading. Development in the work from class to class is evident and judicious emphasis is placed on syntax and grammatical accuracy as the pupils progress in the school. It would now be beneficial to place more emphasis on independent writing in Irish and to integrate written exercises with other curricular areas in order to broaden further the pupils’ range of communication skills through Irish. On the whole, written work is neatly recorded but it would be worthwhile to detail a staged approach to achieving a cursive syle of handwriting.

 

English

Aspects of oral language development, reading and writing are successfully linked at all class levels to provide an integrated approach to the teaching of English. News, rhyme, poetry, story, structured play, drama, brainstorming, discussion, questioning and response are among the strategies used to engage pupils in oral communication. Listening skills are effectively developed at most class levels and pupils participate willingly in oral activities. Interesting contexts are created for pupils to explore and use language in class and group settings, and to develop confidence in presenting views and opinions to a listening audience. Pupils engage with a good range of poetry at each class level and develop praiseworthy standards of recitation as they progress through the school. Further development in this area should emcompass the analysis of language usage and the identification of specific poetry techniques at appropriate class levels.

 

The skills of reading are conscientiously developed in a print rich environment where there is ready access to a wide range of reading materials including games, graded schemes, small books, dictionaries and library books. The development of phonological and phonemic awareness is carefully addressed through appropriately differentiated activities and pupils display a good knowledge of letter names, sounds and letter groupings. Group and individual work is specifically structured to address a wide range of reading abilities in each classroom. Further emphasis will be placed on addressing pupils’ individual reading needs in the forthcoming school year through linking and co-ordinating learning-support activities and programmes being developed under the DEIS initiative in the school.

 

Early writing skills are effectively developed through a variety of tasks and pupils are given regular opportunities to write in various genres and for different audiences. Some experience of webbing, drafting, editing and redrafting is undertaken and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are used beneficially to support writing activities at certain class levels. Samples of pupils’ writing are attractively displayed and incorporate poetry, story, class books and project work. Consideration should now be given to reviewing the use of copybooks as a format for developing and monitoring writing skills as pupils progress through the school.

 

4.2 Mathematics

Basic Mathematical concepts are presented to the pupils systematically and little rhymes, activity and questioning are beneficially used to consolidate the learning. The teachers recognise the importance of activity methods and guided discovery and the range of concrete materials provided in each classroom is commendable. It is also commendable how mathematical concepts and properties are investigated with the aid of the senses. The pupils display a creditable understanding of aspects covered, are quick at oral computation and are competent in choosing strategies to solve problems. Significant difficulties are noted, however, in the handling of certain aspects of the programme through Irish. It would be worthwhile now to examine closely the language of Mathematics in each strand unit and to integrate it systematically with language development lessons in Irish when possible. It would be beneficial to agree the language of common procedures on a whole-school basis and in the interest of clarity and consistency, to document it in the school plan, along with the successful strategies that are used in the school for memorisation of number facts. Worksheets and copies are used to record written work and it will enhance presentation skills in general if a whole-school approch was agreed with regard to the layout of work in copies.

 

4.3 Social, Environmental and Science Education

 

History

The school staff is participating in the in-service programme in History this year and the implementation of the curriculum from the infant class onwards has started. Good use is made of traditional stories to arouse interest in the past and to instill an understanding of the sequence of time. The pupils listen attentively to the stories and show a great interest in examining the content and in retelling events. The programme broadens as the pupils progress and effective use is made of a range of strategies to discuss a series of topics and to practice the skills of the historian at the same time. Some aspects of local history are studied and the pupils are sometimes given the opportunity to work with local historians as happened recently when a study was conducted on the area’s placenames. The school has started a collection of artefacts and it would be beneficial to add to this and to collect other historical sources such as old local maps, old newspapers, photographs and a suitable range of books to fully undertake this aspect of the curriculum.

 

Geography

The pupils are doing some interesting work in this curricular area and the staff now intends to articulate a whole-school plan after attending this school-year’s inservice programme. Currently, the teaching material is based primarily on the locality. The pupils’ attention is focussed on their own family, life in the area, the weather, seasonal changes and some physical aspects of the area and the country. Pupils are given the opportunity to go on walks in the area with an expert and the work is effectively integrated with work in the Visual Arts. The school is participating in the national project FÍS that is organised by the National Centre for Technology in Education in conjunction with the Mayo Education Centre.  As part of the work, the pupils are skilfully guided to study the weather, forecasting signs and the effects of weather on life. Excellent use is made of the school’s technology for this purpose and students are given the opportunity to try their hand at video technology to produce a film based on the work. In order to develop the Geography programme in the school, a whole-school plan that ensures breadth, balance and progression in the multi-class context of the school should now be undertaken. It would also be beneficial to provide a range of maps, charts and information books to support teaching through the Irish Language. 

 

Science

The teachers recognise the importance of practical investigation in the development of scientific skills. The pupils are given opportunities to make observations and predictions and small experiments are organised to investigate the properties of materials. Living things are studied and nature tables are kept in the classrooms. Pupils display a high level of interest in ongoing activities and knowledgable reports are given on the material covered. The school is very proud of the film ‘An Bradán’ which was made last school-year as part of the FÍS project. While working on that project, the pupils were given the opportunity to visit a fish factory in the area, to collect and present information, to create a story and to produce a play. It is commendable how the parents and local people assist with work in this curricular area and how the learning is integrated with other curricular areas. The staff has prepared a school plan in Science and it would be beneficial to review it now in order to clarify the breadth of work at the different class levels and to guide progression.

 

4.4 Arts Education

 

Visual Arts

The teachers coolaborate to present various aspects of the programme to the pupils and the pupils enjoy all the activities and benefit from them. A range of media is provided to promote the making of art and a great effort is made to display the pupils’ work. The displays indicate a wide range of activities, various techniques, skilful integration and good development. It would now be beneficial to broaden the range of work further in order to achieve a balance in the programme between making and doing activities and opportunities for observing and responding. To that end the school needs resources – magnifying glasses, prints of works of art, art books with suitable illustrations and extracts on the lives of artists and on different art forms. It would also be beneficial to set out a programme to promote the language of the visual arts systematically from the infant classes onwards.

 

Music

It is lovely how the music programme adds to the atmosphere and culture of the school. There is a strong music talent among the teachers and they work collaboratively to promote the elements of music in the school. The pupils sing a collection of lovely songs sweetly and tunefully in various styles in both Irish and English. Listening and responding to Music is also engaged in and the junior pupils are given opportunities to play percussion instruments as an accompaniment to certain songs. A music tutor comes to the school to enable students in the senior classroom to play bells. It is commendable how the teachers work in conjunction with the instructor to teach a rich variety of tunes and an awareness of music literacy is skilfully developed as part of the work. Another tutor comes to the school to teach a lovely selection of tunes to the students on the tin whistle. The pupils clearly enjoy all these activities, and benefit from them, and they have opportunities to perform music publicly during the school year. The development of a whole-school plan in Music has commenced and it would be beneficial if all these music activities were included under the appropriate strand units and if parts of the programme were aligned with the programme for cultural awareness in the school plan for Irish.

 

Drama

An integrated approach and discretionary time are used to promote aspects of drama in the school. Both process drama and production drama are practiced and activities are integrated beneficially with English and particularly with Irish. A drama instructor comes to the school to support the teachers in implementing the drama programme and the language support assistant also uses drama to promote fluency in Irish. Imaginative situations are ably created to explore people’s characteristics and to enable pupils to use mime to demonstrate emotions and feelings. The pupils’ range of vocabulary in Irish is enhanced through providing them with opportunities to communicate different contexts through drama. Confidence, personality and talent are strengthened and developed skilfully during all these activities.

 

4.5 Physical Education

Due to a lack of indoor accommodation, the implementation of this curricular area is highly dependant on the weather. The school yard, the basketball court and the football pitch are used to engage pupils in movement and sporting activities, athletics and adventure pursuits. The general-purposes room is used for dancing. A good range of equipment is provided in the school and used effectively to develop co-ordination, co-operation skills and games skills. Although the school is located on a lovely site beside the sea, it has no shelter from the wind and, as happened on the day of the evaluation, balls, cones, work sheets and equipment are easily blown away. Despite these difficulties, the Physical Education activities are directed competently and it is commendable how Irish is promoted during the activities. Full participation of the pupils is attained and they clearly enjoy and benefit from all the activities.

 

4.6 Social, Personal and Health Education

An integrated approach and discretionary time are used to achieve the aims of the programme in Social, Personal and Health Education. The school ethos also contributes greatly to the development of personal responsibility and the nurturing of habits of good behaviour. Circle time is organised in both classes to allow the pupils to discuss issues. The rural co-ordinator assumes responsibility for addressing certain aspects of specially-designed national programmes with particular groups of pupils.

 

Parents strongly support the policies set out in this curricular area. They operate in conjunction with the teachers to get the students to eat healthily in school and the school is currently taking part in a pilot scheme that provides special lunches. As part of the strand unit Safety and

 

 

Protection some classes are given the opportunity to discuss safety issues with parents who have expertise in promoting safety in various situations. The development of the relationships and sexual education programme is well under way and the parents are given the opportunity to discuss aspects of the programme with guest lecturers at specially organised meetings.

 

4.7 Assessments and achievement

The assessment methods used by the teachers in the school include teacher observation, checklists, work collections, work samples, projects, individual study programmes, profiles, tasks and tests designed by the teachers themselves and standard tests. They are used to give an insight into the pupils’ progress, to assist in planning class-work, group-work and individual work, and to provide information for parents. The pupils’ written work is regularly monitored but the copybook system should be examined and explored as another assessment aid in the different curricular areas. It would be beneficial to place greater emphasis on the role of assessment on a whole-school basis in order to get an accurate insight into the pupils’ progress from year to year in relation to the learning objectives, understanding of concepts, skills development and attitude formation. It would be worthwhile for the entire staff to discuss the formative, diagnostic, summative and evaluative roles of assessment and to agree assessment techniques on a whole-school basis in order to evaluate the effectiveness of teaching strategies, to identify pupils’ learning needs, to choose appropriate educational experiences for the pupils and to guide teachers’ planning.

 

The teachers record the test results of both standardised and teacher-designed tests. Individual learning programmes are regularly reviewed and monthly records are kept of the progress of the work. Parents are given the opportunity to discuss their children’s test results and progress at conferences organised for that purpose and written reports are sent home twice a year. All in all, the pupils show great interest in learning and they engage in the work of the various areas eagerly and diligently.

 

 

5.     Quality of support for pupils

 

5.1 Pupils with special educational needs

The learning-support teacher visits three schools in order to provide support to pupils who have learning difficulties or special needs. In Doohoma, pupils in third class and upwards are withdrawn from class. Nine pupils receive supplementary teaching in English and seven pupils receive supplementary teaching in Mathematics. Comprehensive profiles are kept on the pupils and clear planning is provided to meet the identified prioritised needs. A range of strategies is used to develop language and reading skills and to promote an understanding of Mathematical concepts. Regular contact is maintained with class teachers and pupils’ work is kept in individual files to aid contact and assessment. Parents are provided with opportunities to discuss the pupils’ learning programmes which are reviewed on a regular basis. Technological equipment, a range of software and many teaching aids are to be found in the school to support learning. As support services are being co-ordinated in the school in the coming school year, it would be worthwhile to ensure that an early intervention programme is established in the school. It would also be beneficial to agree a formal system of consultation with parents and teachers as part of the review process.

 

 

5.2 Other supports for pupils: pupils who are disadvantaged and pupils from minority or other groups

The school has been recognised along with three other schools in the area under the Scheme for Tackling Disadvantage. The schools share the services of a rural co-ordinator who provides additional support to teachers and parents in meeting the pupils’ learning needs while focussing

on literacy and numeracy needs in particular. The rural co-ordinator has been operating in the school for a year and usually works in the school one day a week. A timetable is prepared in conjunction with the class teachers and pupils are withdrawn in class groups in order to participate in pre-reading, phonological and reading activities. Stories are used to advance language skills and a range of activities based on mathematical concepts are effectively organised as part of the physical educational programme of certain class groups. Particular aspects of Social, Personal and Health Education are dealt with according to class groups and during the evaluation a programme on substance misuse was being undertaken with fifth and sixth classes. The co-ordinator intends to develop the service in the coming school year and to commence additional programmes in consultation with the teachers and parents in order to focus intently on literacy and numeracy needs.

Due to the fact that the school is situated in a Gaeltacht area the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs provides a support service under the Language Assistant Scheme in order to assist pupils in learning Irish, especially pupils who do not speak Irish at home. The assistant has excellent Irish and one hour a day is divided among certain groups of pupils in order to engage them in language games, conversation and drama so as to progress their compentency in spoken Irish. When the school plan in Irish is being reviewed, it would be beneficial to incorporate the assistant’s support programme in the plan and to develop it in line with the pupils’ prioritised needs in Irish and in other areas of the curriculum.

 

 

6.     Summary of results and recommendations for further development

 

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: