BASIC INFORMATION SHEET (BIS) - PRIMARY SCHOOLS A. i. School: St Colman’s Primary iii. Date of Inspection: W/B 4/10/99 Saval, Newry ii. School Reference Number: 503-6572 iv. Nature of Inspection: General B. School Year 1995/96 1996/97 1997/98 1998/99 1999/2000 Year 1 Intake 17 16 26 8 10 Enrolments Primary 112 118 129 117 117 Reception 6 10 0 7 8 Nursery Class/Classes 0 0 0 0 0 Special Unit 0 0 0 0 0 The enrolment for the current year is the figure on the day of notification of inspection. For previous years it is the figure in the annual return to the Department of Education. The calculations at C and D should be based on the total of the primary and reception enrolments only. C. Average Attendance for the Previous School Year (expressed as a percentage): 95.06% Primary & Nursery Special Reception Unit Unit D. i. Number of Teachers (including the principal and part-time teachers): 5 - - (Full-time equivalent = 25 teaching hours) ii. PTR (Pupil/Teacher Ratio): 25 NI PTR: 19.9 iii. Average Class Size: 25 iv. Class Size (Range): 14-32 v. Ancillary Support: Number of Hours Per Week: i. Clerical support: 15 ii. Official Making A Good 10 Start Support: iii. Making A Good Start funding 10 additional hours and other classroom assistant support: vi. Number of pupils with statements of special educational needs: 0 vii. Number of children who are not of statutory school age: 8 viii. Number of families in school: 80 ix. Percentage of children entitled to free school meals: 6.4% 1. INTRODUCTION 1.1 St Colman’s is a co-educational primary school situated in the rural parish of Saval on the outskirts of Newry. Almost all the children live within the parish; the majority travel to school by bus. While the numbers have fluctuated a little, the trend in enrolment over the last five years shows a gradual increase. Plans for the provision of a new school building are at an advanced stage. The school has identified about 10% of the children as requiring additional support with their learning. 1.2 The arrangements for the inspection of pastoral care included the completion of questionnaires by two-thirds of the parents, as well as meetings with parents, governors and children. Most of the returns indicated satisfaction with the quality of the school and confidence in its staff. The most common issues raised related to the constraints imposed by the present accommodation and the implications of children learning in composite classes. These matters are addressed within the report. 2. SUMMARY OF MAIN FINDINGS 2.1 St Colman’s is a happy school. The staff work well together, and the children are well behaved and respectful. The quality of pastoral care is very good. 2.2 The teachers work hard to make best use of the accommodation and create a stimulating environment for learning. 2.3 The school fosters good links with its parents and the local community. Prior to the inspection the parents and governors indicated their general satisfaction with the quality of education being provided in the school and confidence in its staff. The most common concerns related to the accommodation and the need for composite classes. 2.4 The children enjoy their work in the classroom and respond well to their tasks. 2.5 Through structured play the key stage 1 (KS1) children extend their language and mathematical ideas as well as their social skills. 2.6 They develop their imagination and feelings through art and design, learning to produce work which expresses a personal view, and also in music and dance. Given the constraints of the accommodation, provision for games, athletics and swimming is satisfactory. 2.7 The children develop early confidence to express themselves orally. They make suitable progress with reading; by year 7 most are fluent readers and can research material for themselves. They gain independence and make steady progress with writing; the processes of drafting and revising require more attention. The standard of written presentation is generally acceptable. Some of the older children are able to compose their work on the computer, but the use of information and communication technology (ICT) generally is limited. 2.8 The children make generally sound progress in all areas of mathematics, developing their understanding through practical activity and investigative approaches and acquiring some flexibility in their thinking. 2.9 The children develop and apply their skills in language and mathematics across a suitably broad curriculum. In science and technology they make judgements after first-hand experience and record their own findings. Their work in history and geography develops their understanding of change and of location. 2.10 The teaching is competent and often good. The teachers know the children well and effectively stimulate their interest and concentration. 2.11 Work in the composite classes is satisfactorily matched to the children’s age and ability. Those having difficulty with learning are well supported; on occasions, more challenging demands could be made on the more able children. 2.12 The children’s work is satisfactorily marked and monitored. Additional recording of developments arising from structured play in KS1 would be useful in monitoring the children’s progress and development. 2.13 Support for those children needing special help in English or mathematics is well organised. 2.14 The school is well managed. The principal gives a strong lead, and the staff maintain a shared vision for the children’s curricular, social and moral development. The strengths of teachers and ancillary staff are well deployed. 2.15 The comprehensive range of succinct and helpful school policies needs to be supplemented, in most of the subjects of the curriculum, by a whole-school overview of intended continuity and progression in the children’s learning. The new format adopted by the teachers for their individual planning has the potential to refine the focus of classroom activity and assessment. 2.16 Staff development activities have helped the teachers to develop their teaching and their understanding of standards. 2.17 St Colman’s is a good school which is serving the community well. The report highlights its strong sense of community, with staff who work efficiently together and exercise good pastoral care of the children, and good teaching with beneficial outcomes in the children’s confidence and learning. The school intends to work further on refining its planning and on developing its use of information and communication technology (ICT). 3. ETHOS 3.1 St Colman’s is a happy school with a firm sense of community. All the staff work well together and display a strong sense of collegiality. The atmosphere in lessons is friendly and relaxed; relationships between the children and the teachers are very good. The children are well behaved and show respect for each other; especially in the composite classes, they were observed sharing, taking turns and helping each other. 3.2 The quality of pastoral care is very good; it supports the children’s personal and social development. The children are encouraged to be imaginative, and their personal thoughts and opinions are valued. They feel secure and are confident in their teachers’ concern for their welfare and safety. The school has policies covering care and protection issues, including discipline, bullying and drugs, as well as for investigating complaints; its procedures are in line with the guidance given in DENI Circular 1999/10. 3.3 The buildings are well cared for, and sensible organisational practices make the best use of the limited accommodation. The teachers create an attractive environment in which displays of the children’s work record topics as they are studied, celebrate their achievements and provide stimuli for work in progress. Educational visits provide further support for curricular activities. 3.4 The school fosters good links with its parents and with the local community. The children have contacts with the local senior citizens’ club, and regularly support charity appeals. They have achieved success in local and regional events and competitions. They also attend a range of curricular activities organised by local secondary schools. 4. THE QUALITY OF LEARNING AND TEACHING 4.1 The children enjoy their work in the classroom. They are keen to participate in and contribute to the activities, and respond well to their tasks. Most settle to work quickly, displaying interest and satisfactory levels of concentration. 4.2 The provision for structured play in KS1 ranges from satisfactory to good. Through it, the children extend their language and mathematical ideas and have access to a range of practical and creative experiences. They also develop their social skills, learning to work co-operatively without overt supervision. By year 3/4 the play is well integrated with learning in other areas of the curriculum. 4.3 The creative and expressive subjects contribute to developing the children’s imagination and feelings. In art and design they experiment with and use a range of materials, including clay, often to illustrate or relate to their work in other parts of the curriculum. Sometimes, their work reflects the influence of paintings they have examined and discussed; some of the KS2 children’s work is personally expressive and very well presented. In music also the children have opportunities to be creative as well as to perform and, in KS2, to learn the recorder. The work in dance provides further aesthetic experiences; within the constraints of the accommodation, it is satisfactorily supported by games, athletics and swimming. 4.4 The children begin to develop confidence in expressing orally their own thoughts and ideas from the early stages. At times, their contributions are lengthy, and they are learning to listen attentively to one other. In the youngest classes, for example, they have opportunities to speak to the rest of the class about books they have taken from the class library. By the end of KS1, most of the children turn to their reading books whenever time becomes available, and read with a suitable degree of competence and confidence. By year 7, most of the children have become fluent and, in some cases, expressive readers. 4.5 The children’s early experience of writing makes use of their own ideas and words; by the end of KS1, they are developing a suitable degree of independence, for example in writing diaries, and display an emerging control of sentence writing. In KS2, they have opportunities to read for research in areas such as science, using reference books to select and make notes for themselves. The children make steady progress with writing. The use of information technology (IT) is limited mainly to word processing; some of the older children were able to compose their work on screen, but processes of drafting and revising require more attention. Suitable dictionaries are available to support the work at each stage; writing tools of this kind need to be given greater prominence in the classroom. Most of the children’s written work is presented to an acceptable standard. 4.6 Through using materials and undertaking practical activities which establish and confirm their understanding, the children enjoy and develop confidence in their mathematical learning. They learn to use appropriate language, and reinforce their developing skills through regular practice. They have frequent opportunities to engage in mental calculation and recall. The children estimate, as well as measure and calculate, and the older classes begin to develop investigative approaches. Almost all make sound progress in their understanding of number, measures, shape and space and handling data; some older children show flexibility in their thinking and can explain the methods they use. 4.7 The children develop and apply their skills in language and mathematics across a suitably broad curriculum. For example, in science and technology their study of different aspects of the human body has provided a variety of opportunities for collecting and displaying data; the older children predict and then report their experiments with physical forces, and tabulate their results. A key experience in each class is the making and recording of independent or collaborative judgements after first-hand experiment and experience. 4.8 The children’s understanding of change and development is built also through early monitoring of weather and seasonal differences, recording personal history and examining artefacts from the past. Specific historical periods studied in KS2 extend the children’s local knowledge, or illuminate other areas of classroom activity. In geography, several classes have linked plans of the proposed new school to their own plans of their classroom; and the younger children were able to identify their addresses on a schematic map of the area. 4.9 The teachers work hard; their teaching is always competent and often good. Lessons are well prepared and generally conducted with good pace. The teachers know the children well; they gain their initial interest effectively and establish a purposeful focus. They use a variety of approaches to build the children’s ability to concentrate and to work sensitively together. They are good at establishing links between the current topic and previous learning, and increasing the children’s perception of the relevance of their work. 4.10 The teachers generally cater well for the children in composite classes, often with valuable additional classroom assistance. They match the work satisfactorily to the children’s age and ability and attend well to the needs of different groups and activities in progress. They are adept at supporting children having difficulty, and often do so in an unobtrusive manner. On occasions, opportunities for making more challenging demands of the more able children were missed. 4.11 The teachers monitor the children’s progress satisfactorily. Written work is regularly marked, with appropriate levels of correction and praise which match the school’s agreed policy. More use could be made of formative comments to improve work and take learning further. Records are maintained of the children’s activity and progress in reading. Similar records would be useful for recording the children’s learning in structured play in KS1. Brief reports are issued to parents annually. 4.12 Educational plans are prepared, and reviewed on a termly basis, for children who are identified as needing special help in English or mathematics. The specification of the learning difficulties and the targets for improvement could be refined further. The children’s needs are met satisfactorily, mainly within their own classroom but with additional support on three afternoons a week from the KS1 teachers. An additional teacher is appointed to provide periods of more intensive support during the year. 5. MANAGEMENT ARRANGEMENTS 5.1 The school is well managed, and its finances are organised efficiently. The agreed school development plan supports on-going progress and revision of practice; it is kept under review in order to accommodate and respond to the extended process of providing new accommodation. The strengths of the teachers and ancillary staff are well deployed to maximise their contribution to the life of the school. 5.2 The staff of the school work closely together to maintain a shared vision for the children’s curricular, social and moral development. The principal gives a strong lead in developing and supporting the collegial approach which has led to agreed priorities and procedures; these are encapsulated in a comprehensive range of succinct and helpful policies. Those for each area of the curriculum need to be supplemented by a whole-school overview to support the intended progression in skills and understanding; work has already begun on this in mathematics. The teachers have adopted a revised format for their individual planning which begins to identify the anticipated outcomes of the children’s learning. There is a need to refine these statements further in order to guide the choice of learning activities and the assessment of the children’s progression through each subject. 5.3 The school’s programme for staff development has supported the developments in planning and aspects of subjects such as art and design and science and technology. Initial training of a teacher-leader for information and communications technology (ICT) has taken place. At regular staff meetings the teachers discuss the children’s progress and compare samples of their work. This helps to build a shared understanding of quality and of standards across the school. 5.4 The plans for new accommodation are at an advanced stage. The staff work hard to minimise the restrictions imposed by the present premises. 6. CONCLUSION 6.1 St Colman’s is a good school which serves its community well. This report has noted its strong sense of community, with staff who work efficiently together and exercise good pastoral care of the children, and good teaching with beneficial outcomes in the children’s confidence and learning. The school intends to work further on refining its planning and on developing its use of ICT.
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