The Primary School Curriculum (1999) outlines the contents of children’s learning—the what and how of children’s learning—for children’s first eight years in school, from junior infants to sixth class. The curriculum aims to:
- develop each child’s potential to the full
- encourage a love of learning
- help children develop skills they will use all their lives.
The curriculum is presented in seven areas, some of which are further subdivided into subjects. These are:
- Language: Gaeilge and English
- Social, environmental and scientific education (SESE): history, geography and science
- Arts education: visual arts, music and drama
- Physical education
- Social, personal and health education (SPHE)
- Religious or ethical education is the responsibility of the different school patron bodies.
Range of learning experiences:
Pupils are provided with a wide range of learning experiences. Individual/pair/group work, various teaching methodologies, access to an excellent bank of resources, collaborative planning among teachers all ensure that there is a high level of pupil engagement. Innovative approaches are employed by teachers on an ongoing basis.
A range of formative and summative assessment tools are used across the school. Standardised and diagnostic tests and teacher designed tests are used to ascertain the pupils’ progress in literacy/numeracy and science.
Teacher observation, the use of Walt/Wilf/ and pupil self- assessment are an integral part of classroom teaching and learning. .
Teaching is differentiated by task, outcome and ability. Error analysis is carried out in areas such as phonics and maths. Use is made of First Steps-Map of Developments where key indicators in both oral language and writing are used; Drumcondra Oral Language Profiles, PDST Place Value Trajectory and of pre/post initiative assessment to ascertain children’s progress and to inform planning going forward. Teachers follow the progress of “Tracker Children” in each class in our three SSE subjects. Regular feedback is given to parents and their input on various initiatives is sought and forms part of our reviews.
Learning of pupils with Special Education Needs: A team of seven full- time teachers in collaboration with the principal plan to meet the needs of our SEN pupils. As stated above, early contact is made with the prospective parents whose children may have special needs. Advice and support is provided and where necessary, referrals are made. A staged approach is employed which is backed up by a range of wrap around school supports funded from SCP and CDYSB monies. All pupils accessing SEN supports, in addition to sitting standardised tests are also tested using a range of diagnostic tests. IEPs are drawn up for those with low incident diagnoses and are reviewed three times a year. Parents are involved in the setting of targets and where and when possible given set actions to carry out. Many of our SEN pupils have made significant improvements. This is as a result of targeted teaching by this group of highly committed teachers.
Literacy and Numeracy Achievements: Our school has brought about significant improvements in the areas of literacy and numeracy over the last few years. We have devised, implemented and reviewed plans on an annual basis. We have also devised, implemented and reviewed School Improvement Plans (SIP) for Science and Gaeilge in more recent years. Our SIP for our third subject – Science was drawn up two years ago and we are going for our second Primary Science Award in 2017-18.
In order to ensure that any new initiative is implemented correctly and that there is continuity of provision, staff willingly engage in CPD on an ongoing basis.
Teachers have been up skilled in various literacy and numeracy programmes (Ready, Set, Go Maths & Maths Recovery, Reading Recovery).
Numeracy: Four members of staff have been fully trained in Maths Recovery to date and many teachers have attended the class teacher Maths Recovery training days. This programme is implemented with pupils in senior infants and first class on a one-to-one basis who may be having difficulties in maths.
Teaching strategies from the programme are central to our Numeracy School Improvement Plan and are used in maths lessons throughout the school. We have used both the in-class support and withdrawal models of learning support and use the model we feel suits each particular class situation best. Ms. Boland and the Maths Recovery teachers developed a station teaching version of in-class support based on the Maths Recovery Programme, known as Numeracy Power Hour. This addresses the number strand directly and consequently impacts on achievements in the teaching and learning of all the strands of the Maths Curriculum. This initiative has been monitored and reviewed closely. Our research and assessment of it have indicated that it is greatly enjoyed by pupils and our pre and post Power Hour assessments show marked improvements in student’s attainment in Number. Feedback from parents is also very positive.
Literacy: In the area of Literacy, training in First Steps and Reading Recovery has been undertaken. CPD took place in relation to Building Bridges of Understanding last year and will continue in the coming year as the strategy is implemented. This is to ensure that proper embedding and understanding of the programme takes place. Some of the staff has been trained in Reading Recovery and it and Literacy Power Hour is a key part of our strategy to continue to raise literacy standards throughout the school. The focus of our SIP is to develop the receptive and expressive language abilities of the children and thus discrete oral language lessons are an integral part of teachers’ planning. There are specific expected learning outcomes for the development of literacy and numeracy. Our Junior classes have embraced the New Language Curriculum in Oral Language this year.
Teaching in Mainstream Classrooms:The quality of teaching is an essential component in ensuring that the children’s needs are best served. The management of pupils is excellent and this is aided by our very good Code of Behaviour and Anti- Bullying Code. Teachers prepare long and short term plans and these are submitted to the principal at the start of each term. A cúntas míosúil is handed in at the end of each month. Expected learning outcomes are clear, curriculum based and differentiated to cater for the needs/abilities of the children. Classrooms are well resourced and very well presented. Teachers have high expectations of the children which to me, as principal, is key in our school.
The teachers use a range of assessment tools, among them WALT and WILF, pupil self- assessment and of course standardised and diagnostic assessments to evaluate pupils’ understanding, progress and achievement of expected learning outcomes.
There is a high level of engagement between pupils and teachers and this is obvious in the manner that pupils interact with each other and with the staff.
Teaching in Special Education Needs contexts:
Our excellent SEN team under the guidance of the principal work very closely with class teachers to ensure that targeted teaching and learning takes place. Each of the team is assigned a specific class and is also part of either a literacy or numeracy initiative.
As per our SEN policy, the staged approach is used in supporting our children with special needs. Regular meetings take place to provide feedback and review progress. From the minute a child accesses any kind of SEN support, a file is opened on her/him and a record is kept of all assessments/supports given and actions taken.