An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Whole School Evaluation
Scoil Eoin Naofa
Sraid an Teampaill, Sligo
Uimhir rolla: 19974A
Date of inspection: 9 March 2007
Date of issue of report: 21 February 2008
1. Introduction – school context and background
2. Quality of school management
3. Quality of school planning
4. Quality of learning and teaching
5. Quality of support for pupils
6. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development
This report has been written following a whole school evaluation of Scoil Eoin Naofa. 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 the inspectors visited classrooms and observed teaching and learning. They interacted with pupils and teachers, examined pupils’ work, and interacted with the class teachers. The inspectors 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.
1. Introduction – school context and background
Scoil Eoin Naofa is a thirteen teacher school located in the centre of the town of Sligo. A very positive learning climate is nurtured in this school and many impressive samples of good practice were in evidence during the evaluation. High standards are being achieved by a significant number of pupils, especially in the areas of literacy, Mathematics, Irish and Physical Education. Provision for the diversity of needs presented by pupils is of exceptionally high standard. It reflects considerable effort on the part of the principal, the staff and the school board of management to promote inclusiveness in all aspects of teaching and learning in the school and, in so doing, to access and use effectively all available supports. The school’s approach in this regard is an exemplar of good practice. A warm and extremely empathetic atmosphere is in evidence in the school and a very positive, mutually respectful rapport exists between pupils and staff members. Thus, the high academic standards, the quality of supports for pupils, the celebration of the dignity and uniqueness of the child and the commendable dynamic and proactive leadership of the school, as evidenced in this evaluation, are worthy of the highest commendation.
2. Quality of school management
2.1 Board of management
Scoil Eoin Naofa is managed by a committed board of management nominated by the patron and constituted in accordance with section 14 of the Education Act, 1998. The board meets regularly and a satisfactory record is kept of all proceedings. Financial accounts are maintained appropriately. The school functions in accordance with Department of Education and Science directives on the length of the school day and school year. There is evidence of good communication between the board and the parent community and between the board and the teaching staff. The board plays an active role in ratifying school policies and reviewing curriculum plans. The recent priorities of the board have been the updating of the school premises, the provision of resources for literacy, the implementation of insightful policies and the maintenance of high academic standards in the school. The board is to be commended for its ongoing work in engaging with these identified priority areas. Recent physical infrastructural improvements overseen by the board have included the installation of new windows, the reconstruction of the toilet blocks in the school and the painting of all rooms and corridor space. As a result of this action, the school presents as a very attractive, well-maintained building. Plans are in place to extend the school playing fields further through a local land-swap arrangement with Sligo Borough Council. A feasibility study in this regard is being undertaken in consultation with Sligo Borough Council. The forward planning of the board is to be commended. Equally, the board has been active in recent years in the school’s evolution from being a boys’ senior school to being a co-educational school, encompassing the full spectrum of classes from junior infants upwards. Current enrolment stands at 164 pupils and there is an expectation that this will increase in the coming years. The board has also been very active in responding to the challenges associated with the school’s recent history and it has been most successful in its management of how these challenges have impacted on the pupils and teachers in the school. All concerned are to be commended for their positive actions and their sensitivities in this regard. The board promotes policies for the explicit welcoming of newcomers, in the spirit of the inclusiveness that is very actively and effectively promoted by the school authorities. The school’s board is concerned about the effect that the building of the mid-route by-pass of the town has had on its catchment area. The board is also anxious to access training for board members to deal with governance issues. This concern should be raised with the Trustee and with the local education centre.
The school has an active parents’ association, which is very supportive of the school. The focus of this association is mainly on fund-raising to support extra-curricular activities and to enhance the facilities in the school. The association liaises with the board of management through the parents’ representatives on the board, ensuring that the views and opinions of parents are communicated.
2.2 In-school management
The in-school management team consists of the principal, the deputy principal and four special duties post-holders. The principal is a dedicated, diligent and professional practitioner, fulfilling his leadership and administrative duties with enthusiasm and exemplary dynamism. His approach to school planning is energetic and extremely progressive. Very positive working relationships have been created with his colleagues. The principal displays a deep interest in and commitment to the welfare of all pupils and he has been particularly committed to those pupils with special educational needs. He has created excellent relationships with a huge number of external agencies and personnel who are centrally involved in many aspects of school life, in particular with the Centre for Integrated Education. He has been particularly forward-thinking and proactive in leading the school to its greatly enhanced present thriving state. Sports are a central feature of life in this school and the role of the principal in nurturing positive attitudes and practices in relation to all dimensions of sporting life must be acknowledged. His interest in fostering a love of games is reflected in many endeavours, to include the enthusiasm he has demonstrated in the setting up of golf lessons, and liaison with external agencies for the provision of sports coaching. The deputy principal works closely with the principal in the day-to-day running of the school. A range of duties has been assigned to the post that reflects both curricular and administrative responsibilities. The duties attached to the posts of responsibility, however, are not sufficiently defined. They need to be clearly laid out in the school plan and should reflect a balance between pastoral, organisational and curricular responsibilities. Some revision of these posts is now recommended. It is also recommended that the in-school management team works even more collaboratively in a team-based, formal manner to address whole-school issues and to actively nurture a partnership approach to agreeing on and achieving the aims of the school with the whole school community.
Staff meetings are held once per term in line with Departmental Circular 25/03. These meetings allow staff to plan curricular, organisational and extra-curricular activities. An agenda is drawn up prior to meetings in consultation with staff and minutes of the meetings are formally recorded. There is a very real sense of purposeful direction and planned action on the part of the school staff in relation to the manner in which they deal with issues that arise in the school and this is to be commended.
2.3 Management of resources
There are six teachers engaged in mainstream class teaching in this school. An equal number of teachers are involved in special education contexts and there is one full-time learning support teacher and a resource teacher. A special class is in place in the school as well as two speech and language classes. A teacher is also employed to support the English language development of newcomers. In a highly innovative manner, this school has a Centre for Integrated Education which serves pupils who have physical and sensory disabilities with mild to moderate learning disabilities. A range of personnel from the Health Service Executive (HSE) is involved in the delivery of this service and high levels of cooperation exist between all agencies. The school participates in the School Completion Programme and again, many presenters visit the school delivering specific, targeted programmes. The lack of duplication, the specificity of these inputs and the cohesion between all partners are testimony to the good planning that is in place around the contributions of these personnel and this merits high commendation. The support teachers work primarily in withdrawal contexts. Planning for even more in-class support in particular areas of the curriculum could further develop this service. The school also benefits from the services of six special needs assistants (SNAs) whose enthusiasm, professionalism, initiative and high standards of work are to be commended. It is noted that there is most laudable consultation and collaboration between all teachers and the SNAs. Their participation as dynamic and reflective team members is valued most highly by the teachers. A very professional secretarial service is also provided in the school. The pupils are equitably distributed among mainstream classrooms.
Indoors, the school is bright, attractively decorated and very well maintained. The pupils’ many achievements in a range of activities are celebrated at the main entrance. An attractive parents’ notice board, located inside the front door, highlights the many activities the school organises for parents on a regular basis. The main corridor is used as a display area where seasonal montages, presentations of pupils’ projects and displays of other creative work are a prominent feature. At present, some frásaí na seachtaine are displayed in corridors. At the time of the evaluation, there was laudable emphasis on seachtain na Gaeilge in classroom displays in the main corridor.
A commendable range of teaching and learning resources is available in the school and teachers use these resources effectively. In most classrooms observed, audio and visual materials are skilfully used both to stimulate children’s interest and to mediate the sharing of new knowledge. Information and communication technology (ICT) equipment is evident and is in regular use in all classrooms and in the well-equipped computer room. Classrooms are print-rich and visually stimulating for pupils with appropriate charts, maps and posters on display. A range of materials is provided to support the teaching and learning of language. Small books are used in some classes in the school to very good advantage and this approach should be further extended on a whole-school basis. Classroom libraries are quite well stocked and organised, with good quality English language fiction materials. Although reading materials are, thus, available to pupils, it is recommended that the breadth of books be extended to include even more non-fiction material, graded readers and big books. Plentiful supplies of visual materials such as charts and flashcards are used successfully during English reading lessons. Important aspects of reading such as prefixes, suffixes and polysyllabic words, which encourage word identification competency and reading are on display in all classrooms. The skilful use of hands-on materials to engage children communicatively in pair work and drama during the teaching of oral Irish merits much favourable comment. The strong focus on the provision of a wide range of imaginative props to promote drama in Irish is also laudable. It is recommended that additional Irish language books, including large-format books and small books, be acquired for use in storytelling. Material for the teaching of phonology in Irish should be sourced and used on a systematic basis so as to promote the further development of phonological awareness and word-attack skills in this language.
2.4 Management of relationships and communication with the school community
It is evident from the pre-evaluation meeting with the parents’ representatives that very effective communication structures and positive relationships exist between the school staff and the parents. It was also reported that the relationship between the board and the parents is excellent. Parental involvement in the children’s education is encouraged and supported by the board and the teaching staff. Parental support is particularly strong with regard to the development of pupils’ early literacy skills. This is evident in their involvement in paired reading initiatives. Parents organise fundraising events for additional resources and supports for the pupils. These events include an annual Christmas raffle, bag packing in local supermarkets, the organisation of Holy Communion parties in the school hall, the purchase of school resources, and the specific purchase of a whole-school phonics programme. The parents have also been involved in fundraising for the purchase of a sound system in the hall, as well as the purchase of trophies and medals for school sports tournaments. They are also active in organising various sports activities. Parents can discuss their children’s progress at the annual parent-teacher meeting and school reports for all pupils are sent home. Parents reported that they were happy with the level of feedback they receive from the school with regard to their children’s progress. Although the Past Pupils’ Union is no longer in existence, its contribution to the school in the past through its support for the provision of improved facilities and, in particular, its fund-raising for the construction of the school hall is greatly appreciated.
2.5 Management of pupils
A very effective code of behaviour and a thoughtfully devised anti-bullying policy are implemented consistently in the school. The effectiveness of all discipline strategies is constantly under review. The pupils’ excellent behaviour contributes to effective learning in the classrooms. The pupils are eager to engage in discussion and participate fully in guided and discovery-based learning. Positive behaviour is reinforced in classrooms and emphasis is placed at all times on the development of pupils’ self-esteem.
3. Quality of school planning
3.1 School planning process and implementation
A culture of review and reflection is evident amongst all involved in the school planning process. All policy statements are clear and coherent. The views of parents are sought on draft policies. The board ratifies all school policies which, together with the school’s curricular programmes, form the school plan. The plan is extremely well presented and has been developed in accordance with guidelines issued by the School Development Planning Service (SDPS). All curricular plans required for implementation of the Primary School Curriculum (1999) are in place. Whole-school curriculum planning provides an excellent framework to support a structured and developmental approach to teaching and learning in this school. All strands and strand units of curriculum areas are addressed at planning level. Care and attention is paid to ensuring that a balance is maintained between strands. Integration, linkage and differentiation are core principles underpinning the planning process. This planning plays a significant role in ensuring that there is continuity and progression from year to year and consistency in approach and emphasis from class to class.
3.2 Classroom planning
The overall school plan is clearly and purposefully reflected in teachers’ short term and long term planning. The teachers’ work reveals a keen understanding of purposeful curriculum planning. There is evidence that teachers are successfully implementing many of the methodologies and principles of the Primary School Curriculum (1999). The timetables of teachers are organised to facilitate the implementation of the curriculum plans and appropriate attention is afforded to linkage and integration within and between subjects. Much valuable help and support has been provided to the teachers by the cuiditheoirí from the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (PCSP), in assisting with curriculum development in the school. Individual teachers’ planning is highly satisfactory, with teachers providing long term and short term notes with definite links to curriculum objectives. A monthly record of progress is maintained in all classrooms and the principal keeps copies of these progress records. Teachers deliver a broad and balanced integrated programme to their pupils and there is satisfactory evidence of progression and continuity in the curricular programmes from the junior section to the senior section. Insightful evaluation of pupils’ progress is presented and clearly detailed. Equally, the planning for provision for pupils with special educational needs is highly commendable.
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 Guideline for the Protection and Welfare of Children (Department of Health and Children, 2004) and Child Protection: Guidelines and Procedures (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 and deputy designated liaison person have been appointed in line with the requirements of the Departmental guidelines.
4. Quality of learning and teaching
4.1 Overview of learning and teaching
The quality of teaching and learning observed during the evaluation in Scoil Eoin Naofa was excellent. In all cases, children were very engaged with lesson content. They displayed level of attainment in terms of the expected learning outcomes of the lessons observed. It is clear that this attainment is the result of a high standard of teaching, supported by reflection on the part of the teachers in relation to the implementation of curriculum objectives.
Classroom practice reveals that many areas of the curriculum are taught with expertise, empathy and creativity. There is a highly effective and tangible emphasis placed throughout the school on the development of pupils’ self-esteem. Pupils are taught in whole class, group and individual settings, as appropriate. The structure of lessons also ensures that an appropriate balance is maintained between oral and written work and between the time pupils spend engaging with the teacher and that spent working independently. Lessons are paced skilfully and experiential learning is central to each lesson. Pupils are often provided with opportunities to learn using concrete materials and they are encouraged to learn co-operatively and actively. It is evident that new learning is consistently building upon what has previously been taught. Equally, very effective recapitulation of lesson content is a feature in many classes.
Where possible, teachers ensure that classroom activities are rooted in the children’s everyday experience in innovative, challenging and meaningful ways. There is clear evidence that linkage between curriculum areas is effectively promoted so as to ensure conceptual understanding and consolidation. The learning environment created in all classrooms is excellent. It supports and records the children’s development across a range of competencies. Written work is presented very carefully and this is regularly monitored by the teachers. Encouraging comments are used to reward the children’s high standard of written presentation.
Tá plean scoile don Ghaeilge ullmhaithe ag an bhfoireann teagaisc chun na prionsabail atá rianaithe sa churaclam Gaeilge a chur i gcrích i dtreo go mbeidh leanúnachas ó rang go rang. Tá pleanáil shásúil ag na hoidí iad féin bunaithe ar an bplean scoile agus tá an phleanáil don chomhtháthú sásúil chomh maith. Déantar pleanáil d’úsáid acmhainní trasna na scoile agus bhí taispeántais áille d’obair agus de thionscnaimh sa Ghaeilge ar na ballaí sna seomraí ranga agus i halla na scoile. Is féidir leis na daltaí na taispeántais seo a léamh agus cur síos a dhéanamh orthu go muiníneach. Baintear úsáid éifeachtach as raon leathan d’acmhainní léirithe agus de leabhair mhóra chun an curaclam Gaeilge a chur i bhfeidhm i bhfórmhór na ranganna. Moltar an sár chleachtas seo mar mhodh chun tuiscint na ndaltaí a fhorbairt i bhfoghlaim na teanga. B’fhiú, afách, níos mó pictiúir mhóra a úsáid don teagasc chun na nathanna cainte nua a chur in iúl do na daltaí sa bhunroinn, ach go háirithe. B’fhiú abhár foghraíochta breise a chur ar fáil chun éifeacht a chur le múineadh na foghraíochta sa bhunroinn. Chonacthas sárchleachtas i múineadh na Gaeilge san ard-roinn le linn na meastóireachta. Déanann na hoidí sa roinn seo iarracht gníomhachtaí bríomhara a chur os comhair na daltaí agus tugtar go rialta faoi na snáitheanna uilig. Tá modh na cumarsáide in úsáid tríd an scoil agus tá caighdeán sásúil bainte amach ag na daltaí sa teanga labhartha. Baintear usáid an-mhaith as gníomhaíochtaí éisteachta le linn na gceachtanna agus usáidtear an stór focal nua i gcomhthéacsanna eile go maith. Múintear pointí gramadaí san ard-roinn agus baintear usáid as cairteanna usáideacha agus abairtí chun daingniú a dhéanamh ar an bhfoclóir nua. Eagraíodh obair ghrúpa agus obair phéire go maith agus rinne na daltaí cumarsáid shásúil ag baint úsáide as na struchtúir theanga. Tá tuiscint teanga shásúil ag na daltaí agus eiríonn leo cur síos a dhéanamh ar ábhair atá pléite ag na hoidí ranga roimhré. Moltar anois pleanáil bhreise a dhéanamh chun scileanna díospóireachta agus drámaíochta na ndaltaí a fhorbairt níos faide. Tá na daltaí ábálta ceisteanna a fhreagairt go sásúil bunaithe ar chluas-tuiscint san ard roinn.
Léann na daltaí go cruinn as na téacsleabhair sna meán ranganna agus sna hardranganna. Tugtar faoi deara go bhfuil tuiscint acu ar a bhfuil á léamh acu. Bfhiú, afách, stór níos leithne de leabhair léitheoireachta agus chomhléitheoireachta a chur ar fáil chun píosaí éagsúla léitheoireachta a chur os a gcomhair chun an fhíorléitheoireacht a chothú. Bhí taispeántais d’abairtí iomlána agus de dhánta faoin timpeallacht ag baint úsáide as teicneolaíocht an eolais i roinnt ranganna agus moltar an cleachtas seo. Tugtar faoin scríbhneoireacht go caighdeán sásúil trasna na scoile. Léiríonn samplaí d’obair scríofa na ndaltaí sna cóipleabhair go ndéantar éagsúlacht topaicí a chlúdach agus déantar monatóireacht ar an scríbhneoireacht go struchtúrtha ar bhonn rialta. Tá múineadh na filíochta le moladh i mórchuid de na seomraí ranga. Cumann na daltaí san ard-roinn a gcuid filíochta féin agus is féidir leo léirmheas an-mhaith a dhéanamh ar fhilíocht atá foghlamtha acu. Déanann cuid de na hoidí measúnú ar dhul chun cinn na ndaltaí sa léitheoireacht agus sa scríbhneoireacht Ghaeilge go rialta. Déantar taifead go minic ar dhul chun cinn na ndaltaí ag baint úsáide as seicliostaí agus scrúduithe rialta ar na h-ábhair atá múinte. B’fhiú go mbeadh forbairt air seo ionas go mbeadh measúnú sna snáitheanna éisteacht, labhairt, léamh agus scríobh ó na naíonáin go rang a sé sa scoil.
There is in place a school plan for Irish which is based on the principles outlined in the curriculum and which ensures continuity and development from class to class. Teachers’ individual planning is in line with the whole school plan. Teachers have also planned effectively for the integration of Irish across the curriculum. Planning for the use of materials and resources is undertaken. There were attractive displays of materials and project work through the medium of Irish on the walls in classrooms and in the school corridor. Pupils can read and discuss some of the displays with confidence. Effective use is made of illustrative resources in some classes to stimulate discussion; this practice is commendable. Continued use of pictorial resources and big books, particularly at the junior section of the school, as a means of developing the pupils’ understanding of the language, is recommended. Further phonological materials could be sourced for the junior section to augment the phonics programme. Some very good practice in the teaching of Irish was observed during the evaluation in the senior section of the school. Teachers in this section use active teaching methods and all strands are integrated very well. Communicative methods are used throughout the school and the pupils have achieved a satisfactory standard in oral Irish. Good use is made of listening activities during the Irish lessons. The new vocabulary taught is developed by using it in different language contexts. Irish grammar points are taught very well at the senior section, using useful charts and structured sentences to reinforce the tenses and the new vocabulary. Group and paired activities are organised very well and the pupils communicate effectively using the new language structures. Pupils have a good understanding of the language and they can discuss to a satisfactory standard topics which have been taught by the class teachers. Further planning could now be undertaken to develop pupils’ debating and drama skills. Pupils can answer questions based on comprehension exercises very well at the senior section of the school.
Pupils can read accurately from textbooks in the middle and senior sections and they can understand the texts that they read. It is recommended that further stocks of Irish texts and library reading materials be sourced for the school in order to develop the whole book approach to literacy. Full sentences based on themes such as the environment are features on displays in most classrooms. This work is praiseworthy and the use of information technology in designing these displays is also noteworthy. Writing is undertaken to a satisfactory standard across the school. Samples of pupils’ writing in copybooks show that a variety of topics is covered. Teachers monitor the development of their written work in a structured way throughout the year. The teaching of poetry is undertaken to a satisfactory standard across the school. Pupils in the senior section compose short poems and discuss and appreciate poems that they have learnt. Some teachers assess the reading and writing of pupils in Irish on a regular basis. These teachers also record pupil progress using checklists. Regular tests are given, based on the content taught. This process could be further developed on a whole school basis so that assessment in listening, speaking, reading and writing would be recorded developmentally from infants to sixth class.
The teaching staff has developed collaboratively a detailed school plan in English, based upon the strands and strand units as set out in the curriculum. Accordingly, teachers plan a very satisfactory programme of activities for pupils addressing the three strands of the curriculum. English is taught very well across the school and standards are very satisfactory. In all classrooms there is evidence of excellent practice with regard to comprehensive planning for oral language activities, for differentiated reading activities and for group work within the classrooms.
Oral language is dealt with comprehensively in all sections and specific oral language lessons are planned and taught. Pupils generally display very satisfactory oral competency. Particular emphasis is placed on the development of pupils’ emergent reading skills in the junior classes and a good programme of reading is organised throughout the school. Classrooms are wonderfully print-rich and encourage the reading habit from the earliest stages. Very good use is made of large format books in the junior section, thus facilitating an integrated language experience for the pupils. The pupils’ phonological skills are being developed in a structured way and generally the pupils’ phonological skills are sound. Across the school pupils are encouraged to read for pleasure and there are libraries with a range of reading materials in some classrooms. This provision for additional books should be made available for all classrooms. Some class libraries have coded library books, organised so as to cater for the range of reading abilities presenting in the classroom. This is excellent practice and should now be extended to all classrooms. Pupils read fluently and confidently in the middle and senior section and here class novels are used to support the school’s reading scheme. Excellent practice was noted in the senior section in the use of newspaper articles as a means of developing the pupils’ higher order thinking skills and as a stimulus for discussion, analysis and for writing activities. Pupils across the school display a commendable enthusiasm for poetry. They confidently and competently recite a commendable range of poetry and explore links to other areas of the curriculum. Poems are used as a stimulus for discussion in many classes and pupils are encouraged to compose their own poems. The school has an annual book fair to encourage and promote reading in the school.
The pupils’ writing skills are being developed to a very satisfactory standard across the school. Considerable effort is invested in developing the pupils’ cursive penmanship skills from the infant classes upwards. The standard of the pupils’ handwriting is laudable. The commendable work invested in the development of the pupils’ spelling skills, their knowledge of grammar and punctuation across the school is evident in the pupils’ writing. Dictation is used to excellent effect in some classrooms to scaffold the pupils’ writing skills and this praiseworthy practice should be extended. A good balance is achieved between functional and creative writing and ICT is used effectively to support the pupils’ work. The pupils have engaged in writing in different genres and process writing is undertaken to a high standard in many classes. Pupils are stimulated to think and to develop plots and characters in an effective manner. The children enjoy sharing their work at class level and at school assembly. Consideration should now be given to the publication of the pupils’ work in the form of class anthologies or a school year book, which would celebrate further the pupils’ creativity. Teachers employ a range of assessment modes and the pupils’ copybooks, in particular, are well monitored across the school. Spelling tests are a feature of all classrooms, with evidence that teachers have differentiated spelling in respect of pupils of differing abilities. Standardised reading tests administered across the school indicate very satisfactory pupil performance. Portfolios are kept of pupils writing in some classes. Many teachers effectively use checklists to monitor the pupils’ progress across the curriculum strands and strand units. This practice should be further developed in some classes.
German lessons are in place in senior classes in the school under the terms of the Modern Languages in Primary Schools Initiative. This service is provided by a visiting teacher. The quality of teaching observed was of a high standard and pupils showed confidence in their use of language content and skills.
In Mathematics, a school plan has been prepared where teachers have considered whole school approaches to significant curricular themes including, among others, the development of problem solving skills, the development and use of mathematics language, the use of calculators and assessment and record keeping. All class teachers have long term and short term planning available for Mathematics. Planning is closely linked to curriculum objectives. Breadth, balance and linkage to the whole school plan are in evidence in the planning across the school. Teachers plan whole class learning programmes and differentiate programmes of work in respect of ability groups within the classrooms. Records are kept of teaching targets, based on the differing needs and abilities of the pupils, particularly those higher achieving and lower achieving pupils.
All classrooms have stimulating mathematical displays and illustrations with ICT being used effectively to enhance the quality of display. Emphasis in the school plan is placed on practical experiences using hands-on, exploratory approaches, with the children having access to structured and concrete materials. This approach is facilitated throughout the school through the provision of an educationally valuable and carefully selected supply of structured and concrete mathematical materials at each level. Some active methodologies are in evidence across the school and pupils have the opportunity to engage in pair work or group activities. Pupils participate in differentiated tasks to suit their levels of ability. They display an enthusiasm for Mathematics and enjoy collaborative learning opportunities. They demonstrate a very satisfactory knowledge of number facts and have little difficulty with the basic number operations. Mathematical language is developed very well through the use of a mathematics-rich environment and through the consistent use of mathematics terms and language from class to class. Teachers stretch the pupils very well in Mathematics by asking challenging questions, thus developing their conceptual understanding. The standard of completed work in Mathematics is highly commendable. Pupils’ work is monitored carefully and constructive comments are made in pupils’ copybooks. A range of assessment modes is used by teachers to assess pupil progress. There is evidence that some teachers give regular mathematics tests. This is commendable practice. Standardised testing in Mathematics is undertaken on an annual basis.
4.4 Social, environmental and scientific education (SESE)
Teachers plan an excellent programme of geographical activities to allow pupils explore their own immediate environment as well as the world around them. They successfully plan themes to link the three SESE subjects. Some excellent teaching and learning was observed in this area of the curriculum during the evaluation. A wide range of resources is available to teachers to support pupils’ learning and there is evidence that teachers research topics and provide a range of self made resources to support their interesting lessons. Emphasis is placed on developing the pupils’ skills and concepts and, through exploration of the local environment, helping pupils develop a sense of place. Some excellent displays of project work undertaken were viewed during the inspection, with projects on climate change, fish and animals, and projects on various countries particularly noteworthy. Commendable use of the internet to research topics of interest was noted in one classroom. Weather is studied and recorded carefully in some classes. Pupils’ mapping skills are developed and samples of the children’s maps were observed. A significant amount of work is carried out in the Environmental Awareness and Care strand of the geography curriculum. The separation of waste is carried out regularly in all classrooms, with the school overall making tremendous efforts towards reducing the amount of waste generated by recycling. Pupils are taken on field trips to study significant geographical features of the local area. Participation in the Greens Schools Project is to be commended. The care of the beautiful rockeries and gardens around the school shows a collaborative and practical interest in the environment. Children speak knowledgeably and enthusiastically about the aspects of Geography which they have studied.
The standard of planning and preparation undertaken by all teachers for the teaching of History is most commendable. Working from the curriculum objectives, the teachers display imagination and creativity in the lessons they deliver to their pupils. In all classes, the teaching is stimulating and challenging and is supported by the use and display of documents, artefacts and primary historical sources. There is evidence that the teaching staff, with the support of the board, have researched local history. These themes are integrated effectively with other curricular areas. Timelines are used effectively in many classes and emphasis is placed on the development of the sense of time and chronology. Commendable emphasis is placed on the pupils acting as historians, working in pairs, looking for evidence about life in the past. Teacher questioning is used efficiently to stimulate the interest of the pupils. A number of worthwhile projects, with an appropriate focus on local history and on photographic records, have been researched and the pupils discuss their work and presentations with confidence from a secure knowledge base. The standard of the project work undertaken by the pupils is highly laudable. The pupils respond positively and are enthusiastic about the topics they have studied. Assessment in most classrooms is based on teacher observation and teacher designed tests, which are conducted on a regular basis. All classes should record the results of assessments in History and use them as a basis for further planning.
Teachers plan a suitably broad programme of scientific activity for the pupils and time is allocated on the weekly timetable for the teaching of Science. The programme of scientific work is linked to other SESE subjects as well as being successfully integrated with other areas of the curriculum. The provision of a wide range of resources to support the teaching of Science enables the setting up of simple investigations in which the pupils are actively and enjoyably engaged. Collaborative investigative work is organised regularly for the pupils and their scientific skills are being nurtured and developed. A broad range of work is undertaken across the four strands of the science curriculum. Investigation tables, which display the pupils’ simple investigations, are available in some classrooms and enhance the science programme. Pupils can confidently discuss the outcomes of their investigations. They use an appropriate vocabulary and appeared very enthusiastic about their work. All classrooms have attractive nature tables and beautiful seasonal displays. Teachers use the pupils’ ideas as a starting point for learning. During the evaluation some excellent teaching was observed. Pupils worked collaboratively in groups on practical investigations while the teachers capably challenged their ideas. Teacher observation is the technique mainly used to assess pupil progress in Science. The results of these observations should be recorded to ensure pupil progress in this area of the curriculum.
4.5 Arts education
Planning is based on the structure and content of the curriculum and ensures a broad and balanced programme. Appropriate teaching time is allocated to Visual Arts. The classroom environment supports pupil learning and a wide range of materials and resources is used effectively in the delivery of the programme. Pupil engagement with the activities is effectively organised. The samples of pupils’ work that are displayed in all classrooms and along the corridors, combined with evidence from the school plan and teachers’ individual planning, indicate that pupils have explored a wide range of themes, topics and media from all six strands of the visual arts curriculum. Many of these are suitably linked with other areas of the curriculum. Pupils are generally active in exploring, experimenting and enjoying art activities. Teachers encourage the pupils’ creativity and allow the pupils to use their imaginations and to make their own decisions in their creative work. There is evidence that pupils, as well as making art, are encouraged to look and respond to their own work, the work of their peers and the work of artists. Talk and discussion is a feature of these classes and pupils develop a visual language and a visual awareness of the elements of art. Art is integrated very well with project work particularly for History and Geography in all classes. The projects on display in all classrooms illustrate the high standard of pupils work in this area of the curriculum. A visiting teacher is also facilitated through the School Completion Programme. There was evidence of some excellent practice of team teaching for this area of the curriculum during the evaluation. Pupils are taken on school visits to art galleries and the pupils can discuss the work of various famous artists with confidence. Teacher observation is used to assess the pupils’ work and portfolios of children’s work are maintained.
Teachers plan a broad programme of musical activities, which includes listening and responding, performing and composing. There are obvious links to other curricular areas. This curriculum area is very well resourced and the children are exposed to a broad range of musical forms from traditional through to classical and modern music. Children listen and respond to a wide variety of musical forms. Some very good active learning experiences are organised for the pupils. Songs are taught carefully in a structured manner. Pupils in all classes sing a wide repertoire of songs in Irish and English. Tin whistle tuition is available in some sections and could be developed further. The school choir performs songs for the First Holy Communion Day, Confirmation Day and school masses. They also participate in fundraising by carol singing at Christmas and they are invited annually to entertain patients in local care centres. Pupils clearly enjoy performing a wide repertoire of musical styles. Much work is carried out on rhythm and pulse and percussion instruments are used with good effect to this end.
Teachers are enthusiastically engaging in training in the drama curriculum. Children are now engaging in many useful story-telling and acting-out drama experiences. The use of Drama and role-play to promote learning in Irish, in particular, is to be commended. It is recommended, however, that emphasis should shift from the use of prepared scripts to the active guided construction of language through imaginative work. Discrete drama lessons are a feature of most classroom timetables and the monthly progress reports indicate that elements of the three strands units are being delivered in some classes. Dramatic techniques such as role-play and mime are used effectively by teachers to enhance other curricular areas, including Irish, SPHE and oral language. The elements of Drama explored by teachers foster the pupils’ imaginative, intellectual and emotional development. The pupils’ collaborative skills are being nurtured as they co-operate and communicate in the making of drama. Pupils’ dramatic and musical skills are celebrated very well at the weekly assembly.
4.6 Physical Education (PE)
An excellent physical education programme is in place in the school, which has a fully equipped, spacious sports hall. Two outdoor pitches are also on site. A wide range of sports is taught: gaelic, soccer, golf, hurling, badminton, indoor tennis, basketball, volleyball and tag rugby. The pupils have opportunity to engage in games, dance, gymnastics, outdoor and adventure activities and athletics. Apart from water safety lessons which are carried out in the classrooms, aquatics is not currently part of the school programme. The Buntús programme is being followed. An annual sports day is held. Internal junior and senior league are organised. Visiting GAA and basketball coaches and a professional golf instructor come to the school on a regular and planned basis. The school’s hurling teams won the Cumann na mBunscoil competition in 2004 and they were runners up in two indoor competitions in 2005/06.
Many resources are in place to support the physical education programme. The school has compiled a very useful resource pack of guidelines for safe practice during PE and sporting activities. The pupils wrote very interesting accounts of the fun and games activities organised by the school for the Active Schools Week. This very good practice of integrating writing activities across the curriculum with areas such as PE is commended. ICT is used very well to publish the pupils’ accounts of these activities.
A well-organised PE lesson was observed in the sports hall during the evaluation. This lesson promoted the development of specific skills and ensured the participation and enjoyment of all the pupils. Good use was made of Irish in delivering instructions to the pupils. Teachers and parents support after-school sporting activities on a regular basis. This commitment to the children is praiseworthy.
4.7 Social, personal and health education (SPHE)
The school plan includes a policy for SPHE and all teachers plan individually for the teaching of this subject. There is a Relationships and Sexuality Programme (RSE) in place. Information evenings for parents have been organised but attendance has been poor. A member of staff has attended training to deliver the RSE programme to the senior pupils. Programmes such as the Stay Safe and Walk Tall are used as the basis for planning in all classrooms. All classrooms have discrete timetabled SPHE lessons and much learning is also achieved through cross-curricular work and discussion. A range of methodologies, including circle time and pair work, is employed to allow pupils explore topics including relationships, drug awareness, healthy living, hygiene, healthy eating, and school and classroom rules. The positive school atmosphere and ethos reflect a firm commitment to the development and extension of the pupils’ skills in this subject. The pupils demonstrate respect and offer full co-operation to their teachers. The staff’s contribution towards the building of confidence and self-esteem levels of the pupils is commendable. The positive attitude and behaviour of the pupils are indeed praiseworthy.
4.8 Assessment and achievement
A coherent and systematic approach to pupil assessment is articulated in the school plan. This is reflected in teachers’ planning and in their practice. Individual records of progress are maintained in most classes. These include details of assessment results, both formative and summative. A balanced collection of pupils’ work is collated in each class. Evidence of this is available in children’s copies and in classroom displays. These collections of work reflect growth in confidence and progression in the development and acquisition of core concepts and skills. Children’s work is corrected methodically by the teachers and there is effective feedback to the pupils and to parents.
Standardised testing in English and Mathematics is carried out annually using a variety of assessments according to class groupings. The results of all tests are carefully tabulated and filed and used to identify pupils experiencing difficulty. It is commendable that these test results are transferred from teacher to teacher. Teacher-designed tests and available assessment data are being effectively used to systematically inform planning, teaching and learning throughout the school. Particular attention is being paid in many classes to differentiating classroom programmes to make due allowance for individual differences and to adapting prospective teaching to take account of assessment results.
Effective testing and ongoing monitoring and observation of pupils’ work in Irish language skills are in place on an informal basis. In order to extend even further the planning for future learning in Irish, it is recommended that additional use be made of formal assessment modes, to include language profiles which would outline what new language has been learnt by children.
5. Quality of support for pupils
5.1 Pupils with special educational needs (SEN)
Support for children in this school is at an exceptionally high level. It is very obvious that this provision is the result of much reflection, planning, collaboration, and, indeed, vision. Highly effective early intervention strategies are in place and pupils’ needs are met through a range of approaches. These include learning support, resource teaching, one special class, two speech and language classes, as well as an integrated unit for children with physical and sensory disabilities with mild to moderated learning disabilities. There is much expertise and experience within the school’s special education team. The entire school community visibly demonstrates a very caring and supportive approach towards pupils with special educational needs
Inspection of work in the speech and language area and in the special class reveals excellent practice. A very positive and affirming atmosphere was noted in the classes observed. Pupils are actively involved in the lessons and clearly enjoy the teaching content. Planning for the delivery of this support is excellent. Individual profile and learning programmes (IPLPs) are developed using teacher-designed, diagnostic tests and appropriate input from class teachers. Laudable emphasis is placed on the identification of clear learning targets for all priority areas identified and on the investigation of alternative teaching strategies in cases where pupil progress is limited. Highly effective approaches and methodologies are deployed to encourage conceptual development. Effective strategies are used to develop the pupils’ oral language abilities, their phonological awareness and their abilities to recognise sight vocabulary. Similarly a number of successful strategies are adopted in the teaching of other curricular areas. A wide range of resources is being used, with creative and commendable use of ICT being evident. Levels of assessment are excellent, with the teachers using varied and holistic assessment tools to assess children’s abilities, interests and capacities.
Supportive and positive teacher-pupil interactions are in evidence in withdrawal contexts, to include learning support and resource teaching. These contexts provide for individuals, pairs and groups of pupils. Detailed, targeted, individual planning is undertaken by the support teachers in collaboration with the class teachers and the parents of pupils in receipt of support teaching. An individual plan is devised for each pupil and is regularly reviewed. Progress records are maintained. There is also evidence of frequent consultation with other agencies with regard to pupils with SEN. Appropriate short-term records are retained of material and activities covered with the children during supplementary teaching in both resource and learning support contexts. Very effective whole-school strategies are in place to ensure co-ordination with mainstream class teachers with regard to the provision of structured programmes which respond to pupils’ needs and which are to be used within these classrooms. Of particular note is the effective use of the Buddy system for literacy, where pupils from mainstream senior classes work alongside those in the special class. It is intended to pursue this approach further to include Mathematics. The staff is to be commented for its vision and farsightedness in relation to this important aspect of support for pupils with SEN. It is now recommended that the school includes even more team teaching and in-class provision in their delivery of support to these pupils.
Pupils in the Centre for Integrated Education are fully integrated into mainstream classes. This centre was set up to cater for children who have physical and sensory disabilities with mild to moderate learning disabilities. Pupils attend the centre for some sessions on a daily basis and receive physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy from Health Service Executive (HSE) personnel on a planned and continuous basis in this centre. The manner in which the therapy procedures, devised by HSE staff in conjunction with teaching staff, are subsequently adapted for mainstream contexts and used by teachers to provide follow-on work for specific children is most praiseworthy and ensures great cohesion and continuity of service. Continuity of provision is also ensured by the fact that a pre-school for children with significant learning disabilities is also in this school and, due to good planning for prospective provision, there is some degree of certainty that support services will be in place to meet the needs of these children when they are enrolled in the school.
5.2 Other supports for pupils: disadvantaged, minority and other groups
This school is participating in the School Completion Programme (SCP). The programme co-ordinator, facilitators and teachers work well together to support pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds who have been identified to be at high risk of early school leaving. Pupils are targeted for support and the school aims to ensure these pupils have the most positive learning experience possible. Both the parents’ representatives and the teachers speak very favourably about the value and success of this programme. A variety of in-school and after-school activities is organised and funded through the SCP.
In-school activities include literacy and counselling programmes, sporting activities and arts activities. Out-of-school activities include football coaching, trips to the theatre, drama courses, art classes and funding for summer sports. A transfer programme is also organised to facilitate the pupils’ movement from primary to post-primary school. This commendable programme is organised in conjunction with local second-level schools. As well as preparing the children for transfer to larger post-primary schools, it allows the girls and boys from the parish to get to know one another prior to the transition
The quality of support for pupils for whom English is an additional language is of a very good standard. Pupils’ linguistic competencies are logged according to needs analysis of the Integrate Ireland Language and Training (IILT) framework. These language profiles are subsequently utilised in daily teaching activities. Planning is in evidence to indicate what work is to be covered within defined timeframes and expected linguistic outcomes of learning are delineated in respect of individual pupils. Pupils are placed in appropriate groupings, with cognisance taken of language competencies of group members. Pupils engage in excellent oral activities, with discussion and discourse an integral part of lessons. Some in-class provision is now recommended as a way of ensuring integration and immersion.
6. Summary of findings and recommendations for further development
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The standard of planning and implementation of school policies is excellent.
· This school is led by a very dynamic, hard-working principal who injects vision, inspiration and a culture of high expectations in the whole school community.
· The commitment of the board of management to ensuring that this school functions in a manner which promotes the dignity and uniqueness of each child is acknowledged.
· Very high standards in Irish, Mathematics, English and Physical Education have been noted. Teaching in these subjects is structured, purposeful and creative.
· The engagement of pupils in their learning is commended.
· Specific provision for pupils presenting with particular needs is exemplary.
· A cohesive, integrated, well-planned and highly progressive approach is adopted in respect of the many additional services, visitors, agencies and programmes that play a part of the effective functioning of this school.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· In order to facilitate reading for pleasure, the range of books in Irish and English should be extended and modernised.
· The duties attached to the posts of responsibility should reflect a balance between pastoral, organisational and curricular responsibilities. Some revision of these posts is now recommended.
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.