Saint Joseph’s Girls National School
Roll No.: 07651G Phone/Fax: 023 8833050
School Self-Evaluation Report
Evaluation period: 2012-2014
Report issue date: November, 2014
School Self-Evaluation Report
In discussing and developing this school self-evaluation report, in line with DES requirements, the Board of Management and school staff are mindful of the fact that the educational needs of our pupils are treated in a holistic fashion. While the focus of this report is Literacy and Numeracy, we see the development of these areas within the wider ambit of the social, personal and academic needs of the girls in our care. We endeavour, with the help of parents, to address these wider needs, always being mindful of the importance which a grounding in literacy – oral language, reading and writing – and in numeracy can play in the future lives of our pupils. It is against this background that the following report should be considered.
1.1 The focus of the evaluation
A school self-evaluation of teaching and learning in St. Joseph’s Girls National School, Clonakilty was undertaken during the period September, 2012 to June, 2014 in relation to Literacy. A further evaluation of progress in relation to Numeracy was carried out during 2013/14, and this is a report on the findings of the evaluation.
1.2 School context
St. Joseph’s Girls National School is a Catholic school under the patronage of the Bishop of Cork and Ross. It is a ten teacher school (8 teachers in single class groupings; 2 support teachers plus one part-time support teacher shared with another school) catering for 216 pupils from Clonakilty town and the surrounding areas. Attendance levels are high and the school adopts effective enrolment practices which are in line with National Education and Welfare Board (NEWB) and Department of Education and Skills guidelines. Due to demographic changes in the area in recent years, pupils of various nationalities and religious denominations, and none, have been welcomed in the school. The school also welcomes children with special education needs. The school participates in the An Taisce Green Flag programme for Environmental Awareness and the Health Promoting Schools Programme and is an active member of the community of Clonakilty.
A Whole School evaluation of the school was carried out by the Inspectorate from the Department of Education and Skills in 2010/11 and a report of the evaluation was published by the Department on 21st January, 2011 on its website. This report was used as a starting point for the current school self-evaluation process and suggestions in relation to literacy made by the Cigirí were incorporated into our planning.
Numeracy was selected as the second area of school self-assessment and findings are outlined in the attached report.
2. The findings
• Attainment of curriculum objectives:
Assessment tools indicate that the majority of pupils attain curriculum objectives relative to their class grouping, as set out in the 1999 Primary School Curriculum for English. Those pupils who are having difficulties, in particular children for whom English is a second or third language; children with specified special education needs or children who are struggling to achieve success in literacy/numeracy, receive additional or differentiated support either in class from the class teacher, from the learning support teacher, or from the resource teacher.
Informal assessment of learning in the area of English and Maths is carried out on an ongoing basis by class teachers to monitor attainment of curriculum objectives relevant to the pupil’s class.
Formal assessment by way of a standardised test (Drumcondra Reading Test for reading; SIGMA-T test for numeracy) is carried out at end-May/beginning of June for classes from 1st to 6th and parents are notified of the outcome. The DES is notified of summary results for 2nd, 4th and 6th classes in accordance with requirements. Occasionally other tests will be carried out at the start of certain initiatives (e.g. ‘Granpower Maths’) or to assess individual pupils in order to ascertain their areas of difficulty (e.g. Neale Analysis of Reading).
• Learning environment: Although the physical nature of the classroom setting is somewhat constrained by the structure of the school building and its configuration, and does not lend itself easily to group work, especially in larger classes in certain classrooms, the other factors associated with the learning environment are positive for pupils. They have a wide range of resources and learning tools, in particular reading materials and access to an interactive whiteboard in each classroom, which helps broaden literacy experiences for all pupils. Each classroom provides access to a computer or laptop for pupils to foster written work and it proposed to improve the situation with regard to technology for learning during 2014/15.
The learning environment is one of encouragement and boosting pupil self-esteem to aid learning, and pupils are encouraged to give feedback to their class teacher in relation to any difficulties which they may have, so that their learning can be maximised. The Literacy Lift off initiative, which has seen team teaching and in-class support from parents as necessary, has contributed to a successful embedding of literacy in the school, especially in junior classes.
Results of a survey of parents with regard to Literacy, completed in May 2013, confirmed the positive nature of the learning environment for pupils. Parental suggestions for improvements (e.g. additional books, ideas for novels) have been welcomed and are incorporated into this plan.
A parental survey in relation to Numeracy was carried out in November/December 2013 and indicated that parents welcome information from school in relation to their child’s progress, with weekly tests, signed by parents, being a useful indicator in this regard. The parents, through the work of the parents association, have funded resources in relation to maths in 2013 (e.g. ‘Maths Problem solving’ box and maths games in 2nd) while grandparents have assisted in school with 2nd class pupils as part of a ‘Granpower Maths’ initiative, which has created a positive learning environment for pupils in regard to maths, as shown in the feedback from the parents of this class in the numeracy survey.
• Pupils’ engagement in learning: Pupils engagement in learning is monitored by their class teacher and if any areas of concern arise, these are brought to the attention of parents so that any concerns can be addressed and the pupil’s learning improve. Where possible, pupils who have difficulties in relation to literacy or maths will be offered learning support in an effort to meet their needs and give a boost to their learning. In 2014/15, we will continue to have one full-time Learning support teacher based in our school (and one shared one day per week with a local school).
Results of surveys carried out with pupils in the senior classes (3rd-6th), and teacher observation of pupils, indicate that the majority of pupils are engaged in Literacy in school. By the time they have completed 6th class, they are generally confident in oral language, which is fostered through classroom debates and discussions, presentation of projects they have done; school concerts for parents; participation in events such as LAMDA exams and Feis Maitiú; ‘show and tell’ and ‘our news’ for younger pupils. Pupil feedback indicates that they enjoy reading and are active in suggesting improvements to reading materials in their own class libraries. They engage actively in Literacy Lift off initiative in their class and in shared reading with younger pupils.
Surveys of a range of pupils from 2nd to 6th classes have been carried out in 2014 in relation to Numeracy (Maths) and they indicate that the majority of pupils surveyed (82%) said that they like maths. Areas of difficulty were also identified by them and will be borne in mind by staff.
• Learning to learn
Pupils are encouraged to use a variety of tools to help their own learning, both in school and at home, as all pupils have their own individual learning style and supports for learning, depending on their individual circumstances. In school, learning through visual and auditory methods is enhanced through use of the interactive whiteboard in all classrooms, and pupils may use any technology they have at home to research a topic they are studying in school, prepare projects, Powerpoint presentations etc depending on their class level. They are encouraged to use a dictionary, error check completed work, develop their own personal dictionary and use a range of strategies to aid development of their literacy and numeracy skills in order to help them learn. This skill is seen as key for pupils, particularly those transitioning to second level.
• Preparation for teaching
All teachers have a wide range of experience at different class levels and update their pedagogical skills on an ongoing basis through a range of continuous professional development courses relevant to school and classroom needs. Planning is focused on curriculum objectives and adapted as necessary to the needs of pupils in a class. Fortnightly and term plans are prepared by classroom teachers and Individual Education Plans by our resource teacher, in consultation with classroom teachers and parents. Plans relevant to group or classroom activities, as appropriate, are prepared by our Learning Support teachers in consultation with the classroom teachers.
• Teaching approaches
A variety of teaching approaches and styles are adopted, depending on the age and class level, or on learning needs of pupils. In-class support and small group work is incorporated into the work of the learning support teacher, while individual or small group work is normally implemented by the resource teacher. Group or pair work,
circle time, peer tutoring and whole class teaching is used by classroom teachers during the course of the day, depending on the curriculum subject area and needs of the class or pupil. In 2013/14, two classes – Senior Infants and 3rd class – were split for literacy and numeracy classes and teaching was shared for these key curriculum areas by the learning support teacher and the class teacher. Parental feedback indicates that this shared teaching was fully supported and welcomed by parents of pupils in those classes. Both classes will be kept together in 2104/15 for literacy and numeracy following this intervention, to allow Learning Support focus on several individual children/small groups in these classes.
• Management of pupils
Pupils are highly focused on learning and pupils display a willingness to learn and great co-operation with their class teacher and with school staff. Behavioural management issues are low and any issues of concern are brought to the attention of parents as necessary and as soon as possible.
• Assessment: The school uses a range of assessment tools to monitor pupil progress and to assist in diagnosis of difficulties which may arise in individual cases. Results are also used to assist in teacher planning and to co-ordinate learning supports for pupils. Standardised tests of English and Maths are carried out at the end of the year (Drumcondra Primary Reading Test/ SIGMA-T Maths) and other types of diagnostic testing is also used (e.g. Neale Analysis of Reading/ Schonell Spelling test/Non-Reading Intelligence Test etc) as necessary. The school also avails of the services of the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) for a small number of psycho-educational tests during the year. Assessment is also carried out in order to refer a pupil for assistance by outside specialists (e.g. Speech and Language therapy; Occupational therapy). This range of assessments is supplemented by teacher observation, classroom tests and teacher-designed tasks and tests (e.g. weekly spelling tests, dictation, end-of –term tests).
3. Progress made on previously-identified Literacy improvement targets
• The 2011 WSE report identified the purchase of additional reading materials in English for pupils, and that these materials be linked to appropriate interventions such as ‘Literacy Lift-off’. This work began after the Inspectors’ visit and continued in 2012/13 and in 2013/14. Significant funds were received from the Parents Association and the Board of Management to purchase books for classroom libraries and to begin the ‘Literacy Lift-off’ programme. In 2011/12 it took place in Senior Infants and in 2012/13 it took place in Senior Infants, 1st and 2nd classes. More reading resources were added for pupils in these classes in 2013/14, to cater for the increased interest in reading among pupils.
• The promotion of strategies to promote reading for pleasure in pupils was recommended in the WSE and this has been enhanced by the allocation of increased timetabling for Literacy in the school day. The ‘Drop Everything And Read’ (DEAR time) initiative has been very successful in encouraging pupils to read at their own level, using books of their own choice, during the day.
• The inspectorate recommended a CPD (continuing professional development) plan for staff to develop internal capacity in support of the developmental needs of pupils. This plan was developed and during 2012/13 staff attended specific training in relation to Literacy within the context of school self-evaluation; comprehension strategies and oral language development; spelling strategies. Several members of staff have also completed summer courses incorporating Literacy relevant to their class grouping. In addition, two members of staff attended a Speech and Language course in 2012/13 delivered by the HSE to help address language developmental difficulties in certain pupils.
• With the emphasis in 2014/15 on maths, several teachers have already attended in-service courses in relation to problem solving in maths using I.T. and more training is planned for 2014/15.
3.1. Progress made on previously-identified Numeracy targets
In the 2011 WSE report, DES cigirí suggested that “In order to further improve curriculum provision in Mathematics, it is recommended that more use be made of the environment in the exploration of mathematical concepts and that the use of calculators be promoted in senior classes.” Additional calculators and maths resources relevant to environment-related maths work were subsequently acquired by the Board of Management. These areas will be given a revised focus in the SSE plan for the next three years.
4. Summary of school self-evaluation findings with regard to Literacy
4.1 Our school has strengths as regards Literacy in the following areas:
- Pupils in general have a positive attitude to literacy. Pupils in 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th classes were surveyed and the majority of them say they like reading or are good readers, although a lower proportion say they find spellings easy to learn.
- Parents have been surveyed in relation to their child’s literacy and are on the whole positive with regard to the development of literacy skills in their child.
- The Parents Association is extremely supportive of literacy initiatives and have provided financial assistance for literacy resources
- Staff are conscious of the importance of literacy development and are constantly upskilling in this area. Details of courses undertaken by current staff are contained in our school’s CPD policy, which is updated annually
- The majority of pupils enjoy reading at home and a large proportion of pupils surveyed in 2012/13 and 2013/14 are members of the local library in Clonakilty
- A wide range of assessment tools are used to assess pupil progress and put interventions in place following consultation with parents and outside agencies, if necessary.
- Standardised tests in English and Maths are administered to all classes from 1st to 6th each year. Results from these standardised tests reflect the strong literacy focus in the school and improvements that have been carried out on an ongoing basis over the past few years.
4.2 The following areas are prioritised for literacy improvement:
- The continued promotion of reading at level appropriate to individual pupils, using graded readers (e.g. PM Plus) from Senior Infants to 2nd class as part of the ‘Literacy Lift Off’ initiative. Further books were acquired for these classes in 2013/14 to supplement readers already purchased and additional resources will be acquired in 2014/15 as necessary.
- The promotion of reading for pleasure for all classes, including reading as part of homework for certain classes and at specified times during the school day (e.g. ‘DEAR’ time after school lunch break)
- Targeted intervention at first class level in 2014/15 to promote literacy and numeracy (class will be split for Literacy and Numeracy again in 2014/15 using Learning support teacher and classroom teacher for 2 groups)
5. Summary of school self-evaluation findings with regard to numeracy
5.1 Our school has strengths in regard to numeracy as follows:-
- A cross-class selection of pupils have been surveyed and the survey has identified a positive attitude to maths among the majority of pupils.
- Pupils have a variety of resources at their disposal to improve maths learning – Learning Support & Resource staff; teachers who constantly upskill in relation to Numeracy; in-class resources such as interactive whiteboards; school grounds which facilitate maths trails
- Parents who are supportive of school efforts in relation to numeracy, through helping their child at home, and helping the Board of Management and school staff source materials and resource to aid successful delivery of the maths curriculum to all pupils
- Teachers who are committed to ongoing continuous professional development, including in relation to literacy and numeracy and who aim to help each pupil achieve their full potential
- Standardised tests show that the majority of our pupils ( 91 %) achieve a STEN score of 5 or more. This percentage is based on the totality of SIGMA-t tests carried out on pupils from 2nd/4th/6th in May/June, 2014.
5.2 The areas prioritised for improvement in numeracy are:
- A focus on tables (addition, substraction, multiplication & division) in classes from 1st – 4th with revision in 5th and 6th as necessary.
- The development of vocabulary specific to maths in all classes at the level appropriate to that class, in order to aid problem solving
- Incorporation of calculator work in classes from 4th to 6th to facilitate calculator operations, checking and review of work by pupils as necessary to aid their learning, in particular SEN pupils
- Incorporation of maths in the environment for all classes from Junior Infants to 6th over the course of the school year
6. Legislative and regulatory requirements: