An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna
Department of Education and Skills
Whole School Evaluation
St Mary's National School
Enniskeane, Co. Cork
Uimhir rolla: 19595P
Date of inspection: 25 November 2010
St Mary's National School is a co-educational, primary school under the patronage of the Catholic Bishop of Cork and Ross. It is situated between the twin west-Cork villages of Enniskeane and Ballineen. 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.
The school aims to provide a broad and balanced education in a spirit of co-operation and respect. The positive nature of the school climate and atmosphere is a noteworthy feature of the school.
One hundred and eighty pupils are enrolled in the school and, for the most part, are taught in single-grade classrooms.
2. Summary of Findings and Recommendations for Further Development
The following are the main strengths of the work of the school:
The school is well managed by a diligent board of management.
The school is led by an efficient principal who has successfully overseen many praiseworthy school initiatives.
Effective whole-school planning practices are in place and very good curricular and organisations policies have been produced.
The school buildings and grounds are maintained to a high standard, providing a comfortable and stimulating environment for pupils and staff.
Teachers display a strong spirit of commitment and generosity of time in their work.
Overall, very good standards of teaching, learning and pupil achievement were observed during the evaluation.
The school is supported by a very dedicated and industrious parents' association.
The following main recommendations are made:
It is recommended that the current practice of deploying support teachers in a mainstream context be discontinued.
It is recommended that the resulting increased capacity in support-teaching be used to provide in-class support in Mathematics and early-intervention programmes in the infant classes in the form of targeted station teaching.
3. Quality of School Management
The school is well managed by a diligent and committed board of management. The board discusses and ratifies school policies and oversees their ongoing review. The chairperson provides strong support to the school through regular communication with the principal and staff. The board had been particularly successful in ensuring the ongoing development and maintenance of the school building and grounds.
One classroom is assigned to fifth and sixth classes combined. At present, fifth class is withdrawn from this classroom for most of the school day and is taught separately by a number of teachers including the learning-support and resource teachers. This arrangement does not comply with the Department's regulations and should be reviewed by the board without delay.
The board should review its practice of employing external tutors and, in particular, it should ensure that the payment for same is not by direct levy on parents.
The principal is proactive and diligent in fulfilling his role. He provides effective leadership and has capably overseen a number of very successful initiatives, particularly in relation to whole-school planning and the development of ICT throughout the school. He is well supported by a dedicated in-school management team who fulfil their responsibilities assiduously.
The teaching staff consists of the administrative principal, seven mainstream class teachers and four support teachers. Teaching and learning takes place in seven permanent classrooms, a general purpose room and two temporary classrooms. The school is surrounded by ample recreational spaces including a large playing field. The rooms are comfortable and well furnished. All are well equipped with a wide variety of resources, interactive white boards and other information and communication technologies (ICTs). In addition, the school has developed a very well-appointed ICT room, consisting of twenty-four computers. Attention is placed on environmental awareness and the school's success in this regard is evident in the award of two green flags by the Green-Schools programme. The committed contribution of ancillary staff members is acknowledged and appreciated by the management and teachers.
The school is supported by a dedicated parents' association and parents give willingly of their time in supporting school initiatives. Important information is conveyed to parents on a regular basis through a variety of sources. Responses to parents' questionnaires issued as part of the evaluation indicate that parents are very positive about the work of the school and the education provided to their children.
The pupils in this school are very courteous, friendly and co-operative. Responses to the pupils' questionnaire indicate that the vast majority of pupils like coming to school, feel safe in school and enjoy their classroom work.
4. Quality of School Planning and School Self-evaluation
The whole-school plans produced are very good. They include detail of agreed principles and practices across a range of curricular and organisational areas. Teachers prepare effectively for their lessons and maintain records of pupils' progress. Staff members could beneficially explore opportunities for greater linkage between whole-school planning and individual teachers' planning.
The principal and staff engage in a number of school self-evaluation practices, which have contributed to the successful implementation of some curricular and organisational projects. To assist with more formal and systematic development of school self-evaluation, staff and management should consider referring to the Department of Education and Science publication, Looking At Our School, 2003.
School authorities provided evidence that, in compliance with Primary Circular 0061/2006, the board of management has formally adopted the Department's Child Protection Guidelines for Primary Schools. Evidence was provided to show that these child protection procedures have been brought to the attention of management, school staff and parents; that a copy of the procedures has been provided to all staff (including all new staff); and that management has ensured that all staff are familiar with the 3 procedures to be followed. A designated liaison person (DLP) and a deputy DLP have been appointed in line with the requirements of the guidelines.
5. Quality of Teaching, Learning and Pupil Achievement
The overall standards of teaching, learning and pupil achievement observed during the evaluation ranged from good to very good. In all classes, a strong emphasis is placed on pupil-centred, active learning with commendable use of integration, group teaching and differentiated learning strategies.
Déanann na hoidí an-iarracht dearcadh dearfach i leith na Gaeilge a chothú i measc na ndaltaí. Cruthaítear suíomh Gaelach torthúil sa scoil agus is inmholta mar a n-úsáidtear an Ghaeilge mar theanga bhainisteoireachta sna rang sheomraí uile. Éiríonn go geal leis na hoidí suim na ndaltaí a mhúscailt le réimse leathan straitéisí a úsáidtear. Cabhraíonn na straitéisí éifeachta seo go mór le scileanna labhartha agus éisteachta na ndaltaí a fheabhsú. Cuirtear béim chuí ar chothú na léitheoireachta sna meán ranganna agus sna hard ranganna. Moltar ábhar léitheoireachta sa bhreis a úsáid chun scileanna na ndaltaí a chothú a thuilleadh fós. Tá caighdeán ard le sonrú in obair scríofa na ndaltaí.
A concerted effort is made by staff to promote Irish throughout the school. A print-rich environment is created in the school and the use of Irish in conducting the routines of school life is praiseworthy. Pupils' interests are cultivated through the use of a wide range of strategies. These strategies are used effectively to develop the pupils' speaking and listening skills. An appropriate emphasis is placed on fostering the pupils' skills in reading in the middle and in senior classes. A broader range of reading material is advised to engage pupils further in the reading process. The standard of pupils' writing in copybooks is very good.
English is well taught throughout the school. Emergent reading and writing activities form an effective basis in the junior classes. Pupils' reading and writing skills are further enhanced in middle and senior classes, with good standards observed throughout. A wide variety of reading material is available and class novels feature in middle and senior classes. Pupils benefit significantly from their participation in a number of reading activities, including, Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), shared reading, and paired reading between pupils in fourth class and senior infants. Very good examples of writing in various genres are attractively displayed. Pupils are exposed to a variety of poems, as well as being afforded opportunities to compose their own poetry.
The quality of teaching and learning in Mathematics is very good. Teachers present content clearly, give clear explanation to pupils and provide well-structured learning activities. An objective-based approach to pupils' learning was a praiseworthy feature of some classes and the extension of this practice is encouraged. Lessons commence with productive mental mathematical activities and the development of mathematical language is addressed consistently. Problem-solving skills are developed effectively. While the quality of presentation in copybooks is of a high standard, a greater emphasis on recording work in copybooks is advised.
Effective practices were observed in the teaching of Geography. A variety of resources and materials are successfully used to support active engagement by pupils in their learning. The majority of classrooms feature displays of pupils' work and visual resources, including maps and a globe. Pupils display a good knowledge of geography and are keen to discuss topics learned. A more consistent emphasis on the development of skills, through project work for example, would beneficially complement pupils' learning.
Teachers employ a variety of formal and informal assessment techniques to monitor and record pupils' progress. An examination of scores attained in standardised tests in literacy and in numeracy indicates pupils are making good and very good progress respectively. Results of assessment tests are used to inform planning and to identify pupils for support teaching.
6. Quality of Support for Pupils
The support team consists of a learning-support teacher, two shared resource teachers and a part-time teacher of English as an additional language. The teachers work in close collaboration with class teachers. The school's Individual education plans/individual profile and learning programmes (IEP/IPLP) are characterised by a measured degree of detail and it is evident that they inform pupils' programmes of work. Pupils' progress is monitored systematically in determining the achievement of identified learning targets.
Most support is provided on a withdrawal basis, either individually or in small groups and is complemented with some in-class support. The extension of in-class support, including support in Mathematics and early identification and intervention strategies in the infant classes, is recommended.
Regular and formal meetings of the support team is recommended to further enhance special needs provision in the school. As this is the base school for two shared specialeducation teachers, it is advised that cluster meetings of the relevant principals be convened to routinely plan and review arrangements.
Published October 2011