| 12.2°C Dublin

Disadvantaged areas have schools that are top class


Counting the cost of education...

Counting the cost of education...

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Counting the cost of education...

Standout examples of how primary schools serving some of the country's most disadvantaged communities are overcoming challenges and driving high performance among pupils are included in recent inspectors' reports.

Among them is the all-girls Scoil Phadraig Naofa Cailini, on the outskirts of Limerick city, which has received a number of awards for excellence in science and maths and has participated in the BT Young Scientist exhibition for primary schools.

The school serves a mixed population with a number of pupils for whom English is an additional language and some pupils who live in areas of severe disadvantage.

At the time of the inspection in October 2014, it had 230 pupils and enrolments were rising.

Given the school context, pupils were achieving very good standards in maths, and good standards in literacy, according to the Whole School Evaluation (WSE) report arising from the inspection.

"Significantly, these standards are steadily improving as various initiatives become embedded in the practice of the school", it states.

In maths classes, both mental maths and maths language strongly feature and among the initiatives mentioned is Mighty Maths, described by inspectors as a very beneficial intervention, which had been piloted in infants and was now being extended to junior classes.

Pupils showed an obvious positivity towards Irish and were willing and able to engage in conversation with peers, teachers and visitors.

They had good comprehension skills and could read with good fluency, the Whole School Evaluation (WSE) report states.

The report also notes the high quality support received by pupils with special educational needs, achieved through careful screening, targeted supports and ongoing assessment of progress.

Inspectors praised the school's engagement with the Department of Education's School Self-Evaluation (SSE) regime, which included the gathering and analysis of data on teaching and learning, which, in turn, enabled an effective focus on areas of greatest need in terms of both literacy and numeracy.

Another example is O'Connell's boys primary, in Dublin's north inner city.

Among the 153 pupils are a significant number for whom English is an additional language.

Catering for second to sixth classes with a class for pupils with autism spectrum disorders, the school is in Band 1 of the Department of Education's DEIS programme for disadvantaged areas.

A recent WSE commends the school for its robust self-evaluation and describes the overall quality of teaching and learning at the school as very good, with teachers demonstrating a high level of insight and an appropriate awareness of needs.

In maths, inspectors say an analysis of standardised test results show that pupil attainment is surpassing ability levels.

Where the very best practice in the teaching of maths was observed, frequent opportunities were provided for pupils to engage in the resolution of collaborative, multi-stage problems.

Teaching and learning of drama was also described as very good with a broad range of strategies allowing pupils to enter the fictional world with ease, and many examples of meaningful integration between drama and other curriculum areas, the report states.

Inspectors said O'Connell's was successfully promoting a reading culture through the provision of an excellent library and initiatives designed to improve reading ability and attitudes.

Pupils also displayed a positive disposition to Irish and participated with enthusiasm with learning activities prepared for them, the report states.

Inspectors described as commendable the quality of provision for pupils with special educational needs and said the teaching observed in support settings was exemplary.

Irish Independent