A short introduction traces the history of the school from the transformation of St. Columba's Church of Ireland National School to RMDS in 1988. The main elements of the report are set out below.
1.1 Characteristic spirit of the school The school’s effectiveness in applying its characteristic spirit or ethos to ensure the quality of education received by its pupils is one of its key strengths. This is successfully managed by the school’s authorities through clear lines of communication in which the importance of ethos is made explicit to all the school’s stakeholders. Consequently, the school’s ethos is clearly reflected in the school’s policy framework and can be readily discerned through the atmosphere of diversity and inclusion.
1.2 School ownership and management The school’s owners (R.M.D.S.A) are clearly committed to the provision of effective education in their school. The board of management’s commitment to actively shaping and leading the future direction of the school’s development is best exemplified by its support for the teaching and ancillary staff’s continuous professional development needs and the visionary role which it has played in compiling the school plan and ensuring that it is communicated effectively to the parents.
1.3 In-school management In-school management structures also operate at a high level. A team comprising Deputy Principal and four special-duties post holders ably assist the principal in aspects of school administration, planning and curriculum development.
1.4 Management of resources All necessary resources, both material and personnel, are deployed effectively for all pupils to achieve the aims of the school. The ninth teacher post is used effectively and flexibly to support teachers in differentiating the curriculum for less able pupils and supporting innovation in the teaching of poetry, visual arts and physical education. All teachers are given the opportunity to participate in decisions regarding the development and implementation of the school plan. The Principal’s role in the appropriate management of all personnel deployed in the school, her role in leading the school’s development, and providing for clear lines of communication between all stakeholders should be duly acknowledged. Optimum use is also made of the school accommodation in spite of limited hard play space, a confined staff-room and lack of adequate teaching space for the resource teachers and pupils with special educational needs. The board of management and wider school community are to be congratulated for their vision in addressing these deficiencies in securing planning permission for an ambitious further development of the school premises.
2.1 The School Plan A comprehensive school plan of very good quality is made available as a consequence of a highly consultative process involving all the school’s stakeholders. The plan clearly articulates the school’s educational philosophy and aims, and a broad range of transparent curriculum and organisational policies are provided, which give substance to the school’s mission statement.
2.2 Implementation of the School Plan One of the school’s notable strengths is the provision it makes for review, targeting of priorities and establishing procedures for implementing the school plan. All the school’s stakeholders are included in this process and the extent to which the school successfully manages and implements change can be identified as one of its particular strengths.
3.1 Curriculum planning and organisation Curriculum planning and organisation in the school are at an advanced level. with higher quality plans indicated in those subjects already introduced through the Primary Curriculum Support Programme (P.C.S.P) The proactive approach adopted by the teaching staff is commendable regarding the high quality of advanced planning that has already taken place for the implementation of the music and physical education (P.E) curricula even though these subjects have not yet been introduced by the P.C.S.P. The role which the board of management has played in planning for the music curriculum, is deserving of particular mention.
3.2 Co-curricular and extra-curricular provision The teachers have been successful in planning a range of co-curricular activities for pupils aimed at enriching learning and raising the value which pupils and parents place on life-long learning. A carefully thought out policy has been put in place to ensure that visits to museums, etc, are linked to the curriculum. An extensive range of extra curricular opportunities is also provided.
4.1 Planning and preparation Common planning templates for teachers’ long-term, short-term preparation and monthly progress reports have been agreed and will help ensure consistency in individual classroom planning. The long-term template should allow for greater flexibility so that teachers can plan thematically across the curriculum. A greater focus on securing specific objectives is recommended.
4.2 Teaching and learning Overall, the quality of teaching throughout the school can be considered good. A range of methodologies, including whole-class teaching, group teaching, individual pupil-support and collaborative learning are employed. A greater focus on the development of thinking skills such as deduction, inference and prediction is recommended in senior classes. Structured contexts need to be provided to a greater extent where all pupils can contribute to class discussions by speaking audibly and listening attentively. Pupils in all classes in the school are affirmed in their learning and teachers encourage and celebrate their achievements in a caring way. The resource teachers have inadequate workspace to withdraw these pupils individually in the majority of instances.
Gaeilge: A comprehensive school plan for Gaeilge have been developed by the school team, with appropriate emphasis place on the development of oral, aural, reading and writing skills. This plan demonstrates that the staff have a very good understanding of the principles underpinning the Gaeilge curriculum. Good effort is evident around the school in promoting the Irish language and developing positive attitudes to it. The staff are to be praised in particular, for the manner in which they have provided advice to guardians and parents regarding ways in which the Irish language can be supported at home.
English: A comprehensive school plan for English has been in place for a number of years and is of very good quality with regard to reading and handwriting. The extent to which a reading culture has been developed in the school is praiseworthy. Longitudinal analysis of standardized reading test scores indicates that the teachers have achieved significant success in raising the literacy levels of pupils throughout the school. The whole-school staff is deserving of great credit in this regard. In the senior classes, pupils should be encouraged to write for a wider audience and imitate a broader range of genre, such as play and speech writing, interviews, etc.
4.4 Mathematics Whole school planning in mathematics is at an advanced stage. Team-teaching is a notable feature of practice in the senior classes Teachers in the middle and senior classes might also usefully consider more widespread use of calculators and I.C.T solutions as a possible approach The most notable aspect of the school’s provision for mathematics is the firm emphasis placed on the assessment of pupils’ achievement. This is a very comprehensive and forward thinking assessment model, for which the teachers and school are deserving of great credit.
4.5 Social, environmental and scientific education (SESE) Geography: A school plan for geography teaching is in place but will need to be reviewed to address the revised curriculum for this subject area. The project methodologies used represent an excellent basis for enriching learning. If extended and developed, this approach should position the school very well to deliver on the new programme when introduced. History: The whole-school plan for history needs to be updated when revisions to the curriculum for this subject are introduced through P.C.S.P. Science: Good introductory whole-school planning has been initiated in the area of science. The quality of teaching and learning in science is generally good.
4.6 Arts education Visual arts: A school plan for the visual arts has been in place for a number of years. The individual quality of teaching and learning in the visual arts is good in all classes. Teachers integrate the content of lessons thoughtfully to enrich topics of study in other areas of the curriculum and work samples reflect an appropriate balance between strands in most classrooms.
Music: A comprehensive school plan for music has been developed by a working group comprising parents and members of the teaching staff who were committed to the development of music in the school. All parties are to be commended for the quality of the school’s provision in this area and for the extent to which the profile of music is extended through a range of extra-curricular activities. Teaching and learning in music is of very good quality and provides clear, progressive and systematic development of skills and competencies in music for all pupils. The spirit of teamwork, which supports the school’s provision in this area is deserving of particular mention.
Drama: The broad framework of a school plan for drama is already in place. Forthcoming guidance from P.C.SP will supplement and develop provision in this area. It is recommended that attention be paid to enhancing children’s skills in the specific elements of drama on a more systematic basis.
4.7 Physical education A very good school plan for physical education (P.E) is in place. The teachers are to be commended for their proactive approach in successfully developing and implementing this plan in advance of in-service training. P.E lessons in all classes achieve a good balance between competitive and cooperative games.
4.8 Social, personal and health education (S.P.H.E) Provision for the social, personal and health education of the pupils can be identified as one of the school’s particular strengths. Teachers and SNAs monitor playground behaviour carefully and deal proactively and sensitively with emerging pupil needs. All pupils are given the opportunity to contribute democratically to the school’s development though the student council. Fostering respect for diversity is underpinned by the school’s positive approach to a code of discipline and the pupils’ appropriate behaviour both inside and outside of the classrooms is a credit to the teachers and pupils and should be of considerable comfort to parents.
4.9 Assessment and achievement The school’s policy and approach to assessment and the range of assessment modes employed, are very advanced. The manner in which the school records and communicates pupil achievement to parents is also commendable and the level of analysis of pupils’ progress is deserving of particular praise. Overall, pupils’ achievement in standardised tests compares favourably with national norms. In general, their skills and knowledge across other areas of the curriculum are appropriate to their age, ability and class level.
5.1 Policy and provision for pupils with special needs The school plan contains a clear statement on enrolment policy for pupils with special educational needs. A vision statement should also include clear aims and objectives and involving parents would ensure consistent expectations for all parties. Teaching strategies are adapted appropriately to suit individual needs. The management of these pupils’ learning in the mainstream classes is supported by SNAs. School policy should determine the most appropriate models of supplementary teaching for individual teaching and this should ensure a greater balance between withdrawal and in-class support.
5.2 Policy and provision for learning support The learning support module in the school has clearly been successful in raising literacy levels in the school, and for this, the learning support teacher and staff are deserving of great credit. Careful attention is afforded to the early identification of learning difficulties in the final term of each year for Senior Infants. This is followed by structured intervention with the appropriate pupils with parental involvement under the guidance of the learning-support teacher.
5.3 Policy and provision for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds The school’s ethos and enrolment policy clearly allow for the inclusion of all pupils and review of the school development planning documentation indicates a desire on behalf of the school authorities to create a greater socio-economic mix within the school’s intake profile.
5.4 Policy and provision for pupils from minority groups The whole-school staff demonstrates great sensitivity to their cultural needs and a commitment to their integration in the school.
5.5 Supporting the pupil – home, school and community The school provides clear communication structures between home and school and the effectiveness of these structures is one of the school’s key strengths. Parents are encouraged to participate and contribute to school life fully through a range of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.
The following are among the strengths of the school identified in the evaluation: The school’s effectiveness in applying its characteristic spirit/ethos to ensure the quality of education received by its pupil. The extent to which the school successfully manages and implements change. The spirit of openness and partnership which underpins the planning process and the extent to which this is indicative of the school’s ethos. The effectiveness of the school’s communication structures in fostering positive home-school links and supporting the school’s ethos. The extent to which curriculum planning and organisation in the school are at an advanced level with provision for music and P.E deserving of particular mention. The extent to which a reading culture has been developed in the school and the success of the teachers and learning-support module in raising the literacy levels of the pupils Provision for the social, personal and health education of pupils. The manner in which the outcomes of assessment are monitored closely to ensure that appropriate achievement levels are garnered for all pupils, with the approach to assessment in mathematics deserving of particular mention.
The following recommendations are among the areas for development identified in the report: The curriculum-planning frameworks (when published by the D.E.S) should be used as a means of facilitating the review of curriculum implementation and supporting school self-evaluation. The development of teacher preparation templates should be continued to allow for differentiation and thematic approaches and to provide greater assurance that specific curriculum objectives are secured. The range of questions employed in whole-class teaching in the senior classes should challenge pupils to a greater extent. A greater focus on the development of thinking skills such as deduction, inference and prediction is recommended. Greater emphasis should be placed on the development of speaker-listener relationships. Structured contexts should be provided to a greater extent where all pupils can contribute to class discussions by speaking audibly and listening attentively. Whole-school planning and more systematic individual planning should provide for greater breadth and continuity in the development of pupils’ oral language and creative writing skills in English. Attention should be paid to enhancing children’s skills in the specific elements of drama on a more systematic basis. Drama should be used more as a tool to develop speaker listener relationships throughout the school. Teachers in the middle and senior classes should consider the more widespread use of calculators and I.C.T solutions as an approach to raising the attainment of pupils experiencing difficulties in mathematics and indeed all pupils. Teachers for pupils with special needs should be encouraged to work more within the classrooms and assist the class teachers in differentiating the curriculum for less able pupils.