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Scoil Choilm Community National School


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Scoil Choilm Community National School
Porterstown Road, Clonsilla, Dublin, 15
Phone: 01 821 3352

Uimhir Rolla: 20241 K

   The provision of supports for children in a multi-ethnic/multi-cultural society, with
           particular regard to children whose first language is other than English


  Submission from Treasa Lowe, Principal of Scoil Choilm Community National School,
                                 Porterstown Road, Clonsilla, Dublin, 15


Scoil Choilm was established in a temporary building, at short notice and under emergency conditions in
September 2007 under the temporary patronage of the Archbishop of Dublin. There were about 90 children of
school going age in the parish of St. Mochta’s, Porterstown, who could not be accommodated in the two
Catholic schools in the parish. Most of these children were of international newcomer background and only a
minority were Catholic.

A total of 81 junior infants were enrolled when the school opened in September 2007. The school has grown
incrementally since then with a new intake of junior infants being admitted each year. Scoil Choilm currently
has pupils in junior infants, senior infants, and first class. There are, at present, 217 pupils on roll.

It is anticipated that Scoil Choilm will be a three stream, co-educational school which will cater for children
from Junior Infants to Sixth Class.

Scoil Choilm in its current location:

In September 2008, the school moved to its permanent site and high quality new 16 classroom school building
on the Porterstown Road in Clonsilla. The school is now located back in the catchment area, which largely
comprises of Porterstown Parish and some outlying estates. There are two other Primary schools in the
catchment area, both of which are under the Patronage of the Catholic Archdiocese, namely Saint Mochta’s
National School and Saint Patrick’s National School, Diswellstown. Ultimately Scoil Choilm CNS will share a
campus with Luttrelstown Community College on the Porterstown Road site.

Patronage and management:

Scoil Choilm is currently under the patronage of the Minister for Education & Science. The Minister has
appointed a single manager to manage the school on his behalf and in the absence of a board of management.
Patronage of the school will transfer to County Dublin Vocational Education Committee following enactment of
the necessary primary legislation. Under the new patronage, a board of management will be established in
accordance with Department of Education rules relating to the constitution of Boards of Management.

School Admission Policy:

Scoil Choilm CNS aims to promote the full and harmonious development of all aspects of the child: intellectual,
physical, cultural, moral and spiritual. Scoil Choilm seeks to provide a high standard of education where each
child is encouraged to reach his/ her personal potential. The school is committed to a spirit of inclusion,
equality and harmony where each child and member of the school community is valued and treated with

As one of two schools in Dublin 15 in which the new Community National School model is being piloted, Scoil
Choilm caters for children of all faiths and none. It is the policy of Scoil Choilm to respect, celebrate and
recognise diversity in all areas of human life. Children attending Scoil Choilm will be taught and encouraged to
view diversity as something which reflects the community in which they are living and Ireland’s increasingly
multi-cultural society. The school encourages the children committed to its care to have a pride in what makes
them different and a belief that difference, when respected and valued, gives strength and vibrancy to the total
school community and the wider community in which they live.

Composition of enrolment in Scoil Choilm

The tables below, showing the nationality of children, their parents and the religion/ belief of the children,
reflect the inclusive nature of the school’s admissions policy.

                                      Religion / Belief of pupils
             Catholic      Orthodox      Pentecostal      Other          Muslim    Hindu       Not
                                                         Christian                   &       Indicated
 Scoil            47          25             14                57          52       2+1         19
                 22%        11.5%           6%               26%           24%     1.5%        9%

Total     = 217

                          Nationality of pupils
                  Irish      Other        African      Asian      Others
                            European                            /Nationality
  Scoil            129         47            31          9           1
                  59%         22%          14.5%        4%          0.5%
Total    = 217

                           Nationality of parents1
                   Irish        Other         African3      Asian        Others
                              European2                                /Nationality
     Scoil           18            78             91          30             0
                    8%            36%           42%          14%

Total = 217

The curriculum and curriculum development:

Scoil Choilm Community National School follows the Revised Primary School Curriculum as set out by the
Department of Education and Science. The teaching of all subjects is in line with the recommendations as set
out by the Department. The school is subject to Department inspection processes. Gaeilge is taught, in the
same way as in any other National School.

As most of the children attending Scoil Choilm are living in apartments the opportunities for them to play
outside are often very limited. A lot of the children in the school get very little physical activity outside of
school. Culturally for some children physical activity is not seen as something which is valued or important.
Thus, PE in school is vitally important to the children’s development and well being. The current lack of a
school hall limits the opportunity to fully implement the PE curriculum.

The staff in Scoil Choilm CNS, strive to provide a high standard of education and the school is developing a
school plan and school policies. Formalised group planning at class level takes place to ensure that there is
continuity in teaching and that the Primary School Curriculum is covered. The children’s progress is monitored
to assess the learning outcomes. This is done informally by teacher observation and class testing and formally
by standardised testing. The school adopts a holistic approach to education. It endeavours to help each
individual child reach his / her potential academically, socially, spiritually and physically.

The school has received assistance from the Primary Professional Development Service (P.P.D.S.) of the
Department of Education and Science in relation to various aspects of curriculum planning and development.
Support has been received in relation to:
    The development of school policies
    The development of various aspects of a school plan

Because this support is delivered to the entire staff, on site and following an inter-active model of staff
development, it has been particularly beneficial to the development of teaching and learning in Scoil Choilm.

The school also receives excellent support from National Educational Psychological Services (NEPS). Our school
Psychologist has worked closely with staff and parents in developing behavioural management strategies in an
effort to meet some of the acute behavioural challenges which the school faces.

The provision of support from DEIS has also been hugely beneficial to the academic and social development of
the pupils in our school.

  In the event of the parents having two different nationalities, the nationality of the mother is attributed
  The majority of parents of other European origin are Romanian
  The vast majority of parents of African origin are of Nigerian nationality

Provision of language support teachers and their deployment:

92% of the pupils attending Scoil Choilm are of International Newcomer background. For the vast majority of
these children English is an additional language. Because of these combined factors the challenges which the
school faces in delivering the curriculum and in classroom management are considerable. The children’s lack of
preparedness to benefit from a curriculum delivered through English, in a formal school setting, is exacerbated
by the fact that the majority of pupils have not attended any form of pre-schooling. They often present in
junior infants with very little or no English and no understanding of the expectations or structures of school.
The tendency of the parents to access television and radio channels in their own language and to socialise
mainly with those who share their native language further contributes to the children’s lack of exposure to
English, especially if they are the eldest child in the household.

Scoil Choilm has been allocated 5 language support teachers. This allocation has helped immensely in seeking
to address the linguistic and cultural challenges faced by the school. The most recent circular from the
Department on “meeting the needs of pupils learning English as an additional language”4 (EAL) encourages
flexibility in the deployment of language support teachers, it makes special allowances for schools where there
is a high percentage of pupils who do not have English as their first language however, although most children
will gain conversational language within a two or three year period, it doesn’t enable them to fully access the
curriculum. In order that this can be done, children need to be in receipt of EAL support for a much longer
period of time; I would suggest for the entire Primary school cycle.

Most of the teaching staff has participated in courses either on-line or through Dublin West Education Centre
on ‘Teaching pupils for whom English is an additional language’. As the majority of pupils have very little or no
English, intensive linguistic teaching and development takes place at all levels. The emphasis at infant level is
on developing oral conversational language.

In Scoil Choilm there is a vast array of cultures all of which have their own unique styles of parenting. This has
a major impact on the school. Many of the families of pupils in Scoil Choilm came to these shores as refugees.
Often their children bear the associated social and emotional scars. Some children have been separated from
their parents for long periods of time, or are being reared by members of the extended family. All of these
factors contribute to the emotional, social and behavioural difficulties manifested by a proportion of the pupils
in our school. These factors along with the linguistic difficulties pose major challenges for the staff.

In addressing the linguistic, cultural, behavioural, social and emotional difficulties the school has used the extra
EAL teachers to reduce the pupil teacher ratio. This was facilitated by virtue of the fact that the school had
enough extra classrooms to do this. This gave a pupil teacher ratio of 16:1 in Junior and Senior Infants and 22:1
in First Class. This favourable pupil teacher ratio has enabled the teachers to address the language and
behavioural issues. The availability of extra classrooms facilitates the development of this strategy for
confronting the linguistic and behavioural challenges.

Children with special education needs

The school’s inclusive admissions policy and the sometimes troubled personal history of the pupils coming to
Scoil Choilm have resulted in a relatively high level of pupils enrolling with special education needs. To
effectively address these needs the support of a special needs assistant (SNA) and often resource hours are
required. SNAs and resource hours are only deployed on the basis of an assessment carried out by a
psychologist. Scoil Choilm is limited to two such assessments per year. This provision is totally inadequate to
cater for its needs.

    Circular 0015/2009

Given the relatively high percentage of children with special education needs, it is imperative that an adequate
number of special education teaching (SET) rooms would be made available in the school. At present, this
problem is addressed by spare classroom capacity in the school, but as the intake of new classes increases,
these classrooms will be required for mainstream teaching and the remaining number of SET rooms will be
totally inadequate to meet ongoing demand.

DEIS Status:

In 2008, Scoil Choilm was classified as a band 2 school within the Department’s plan for delivering equality of
opportunity in schools (DEIS). As a consequence, Scoil Choilm has been able to avail of a wide range of
curricular and extra-curricular supports. The curricular supports include access to the First Steps in Writing,
Reading and Maths Recovery programmes. Under the DEIS scheme provision was also made for free school
lunches and after school clubs. These include sport, music and dancing and homework clubs. The majority of
pupils have very little interaction with after school activities and as a large proportion of parents struggle with
reading and writing in English the after school homework clubs have been invaluable to the educational
development of the children.

The extra funding through DEIS has also helped in developing a sense of community. The school runs many
events throughout the year to welcome and encourage parents into the school, in an effort to help them
engage with and understand the education system in Ireland and to become involved in the education of their
children. The school also avails of all the support from the DEIS coordinators and the School Completion

Given the school’s emphasis on inclusiveness and respect for diversity, one of the most serious shortcomings in
the school’s building provisions is the absence of a school hall. Without a common meeting area whole school
events are impossible. School concerts can only be held in individual classrooms. A marquee had to be hired
for the opening ceremony of the new school building in May 2009. Physical Education classes can only take
place out of doors – weather permitting. The social events for parents so necessary in building up a much
needed school community can only take place in spare classrooms. When the school has reached capacity
within the next two years, even this option will no longer be available.

Development of a Multi-belief Programme:

In keeping with the inclusive nature of the school’s admissions policy, the variety of beliefs of the children and
the expressed wish of the Minister for Education & Science, a new multi-belief programme is being piloted in
both of the Community National Schools. This programme is being developed on an action research basis
under the leadership of County Dublin Vocational Education Committee. A reference group, which is comprised
of representatives from all the major belief groups, acts in an advisory capacity to the programme researcher.
The programme incorporates what is common to all beliefs and is based on the child and their experiences.

General meetings of parents are held regularly and parents are kept informed of the programme and their
feedback is sought. Any questions or concerns they may have are addressed. Each week an interactive
worksheet is sent home with the children synopsising what was covered in class and allowing parents to relate
the classroom experiences of the child to be interpreted in the light of their own faith tradition.

 Story forms an important part of the lessons as do music and singing. The teachers meet with the programme
researcher and give regular feedback on lessons. The use of the interactive whiteboard enables changes to be
made in the programme, in the light of feedback from parents and teachers.

This multi-belief programme has played an integral part in the schools development and success. It has
enabled the school to become truly inclusive and reflects a respect for different cultures, faiths and beliefs.
The parents and teachers are enthusiastic in their support of the programme. In feedback sessions, parents
have identified the work sheets and other elements of the programme as a welcome opportunity to develop
their own faith tradition with their children based on the general work done in class.

Parental Education:

The school is fortunate to have such a strong link with County Dublin VEC. It has afforded us many
opportunities to foster parental education. From the onset several major concerns regarding the needs of
parents were identified namely:

       The lack of English among parents. It was felt that unless this difficulty was addressed parents would
        be unable or reticent to interface with the school and the education system in Ireland. Without English
        they would not be able to assist their children with homework. County Dublin VEC were in a position
        to offer English language classes to parents, as part of their Adult Education Programme. These classes
        take place during the school day in the school while the children are in class.
       A lot of parents are unable to read or write in English. Staff and management felt that it was
        imperative that efforts were made to address this problem in order for parents to help their children in
        the education system and to ensure that the children achieved an adequate level of literacy. Once
        again County Dublin VEC were in a position to offer ‘Homework Classes’ to parents which dealt with
        learning to read and write in English. Once again these classes were under County Dublin VEC’s Adult
        Education Programme.
       Parenting styles. A lot of cultural differences were identified with regard to parenting styles. The
        school found that there were a number of child protection issues coming to the fore. The school was
        interfacing with the HSE and Duty Care Social Workers on a regular basis. It was felt that education was
        of huge importance in helping parents understand the law in Ireland and what was expected of them.
        Speakers from the HSE were invited to the school on a regular basis to address these issues and give
        parents positive strategies for dealing with problems. It is proposed to run a series of talks for parents
        during the remainder of the year on parenting issues. Some of our DEIS funding will be used to
        facilitate these talks.
       Regular talks have been organised for parents on different issues such as helping your child with their
        homework – helping your child to read – dental hygiene – good nutrition – first aid.

Linking with the wider community:

Great efforts have been made to link parents and pupils with the wider community. This was seen as an
essential part of the schools development, as a lot of parents were concerned about their lack of integration
within their locality. This was not only a concern for parents but also for management and staff. Many of the
parents felt isolated and knew very few Irish people. Parents tended to mix only through their churches or
with those who share their first language. Links were made with many groups in the local community such as:

Westmanstown Gaels GAA Club, St. Mochta’s Football Club, The ICA, Parents and Toddler Groups, Gymnastic
Clubs, Dancing Clubs, a French Club and the local library and local parish organisations.

Representatives from these groups were invited to attend a meeting in the school and address parents
explaining what they do, where they operate from and how to join their groups. Huge success was evident in
relation to the GAA, local soccer club and library who also interfaced with the school coming in and helping out
with skill development in the children and thus encouraging them to attend Saturday morning sessions with
their parents. Parents greatly appreciated these efforts to assist in integration.

                                   Summary and recommendations
Scoil Choilm greatly appreciates the following support it receives to assist with the teaching and learning
outcomes of its current school population:

       The provision of a high quality school building
       The provision of the additional language support teachers
       The support and advice of the Primary Professional Development Service , the National Educational
        Psychological Services and the School Completion Programme
       The multiple curricular and extra-curricular supports flowing from the DEIS programme
       The alignment of the multi-belief programme to the ethos of the school and the faith/belief needs of
        the school community
       The support given by County Dublin Vocational Education Committee to address the learning needs of
        the parents
       The support provided by local community organisations to the integration of parents within the local

    However, the quality of the education currently being provided could be greatly strengthened by carrying
    out the following improvements in provision:
     The extension of EAL support for children for whom English is an additional language until they can
        fully access the curriculum.
     The provision of extra classrooms to facilitate the continuance of the current methods of implementing
        the school policy for addressing the needs of pupils learning EAL
     Providing extra assessment for children who are thought to have special education needs
     Providing extra SET rooms
     Providing a school hall

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