St Dympna’s Primary School in Dromore, Co. Tyrone has been successful in its application for IQM Flagship status.
The Heart of the Community
St Dympna’s Primary School is a Catholic Primary School located in the village of Dromore in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. This is small town in a largely a rural area. The school is very much at the heart of the community which can be witnessed by its recent development of a memorial garden for Canon Breen, a well-respected member of the local clergy. The memorial garden was largely completed by support from parents and local business. The school has 7 classes, one for each year group and is led by an innovative and enthusiastic Principal who has placed inclusion at the heart of all that happens within the school.
ETI Acknowledges IQM Award
The school was inspected by the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) in January 2017. The report found that St Dympna’s Primary School achieved the highest possible inspection grade in Northern Ireland as having a high level of capacity for sustained improvement, and that outcomes for learners, quality of provision and leadership and management were all outstanding. The inspection findings are a credit to the school, the leadership and management (including Board of Governors) and all members of the school community. For the first time in any inspection report in Northern Ireland, the support of the Inclusion Quality Mark was referenced, including the Centre of Excellence status. The Principal reported that she was pleased with the acknowledgement, and paid tribute to the support she had received from IQM over the years for challenge and support.
The school has recently completed a minor works programme and extension. I was delighted to see the new classrooms being fully utilised. Credit must be paid to one of the teachers who spent several years having to use a sectioned off part of the dining/sports hall as a teaching space. Despite the natural noise levels, the teacher was able to manage her class well. I am delighted to see this teacher in a new classroom room which is furnished to a high specification, including sound absorbing carpets. A just reward for the years in the hall!
The standard of caretaking and cleaning within the school and its grounds are excellent. Despite the autumn leaf fall during the assessment, the corridors and outside space was maintained in an immaculate condition. It was obvious through speaking with the caretaker (Building Supervisor) and cleaners that they took considerable pride in their work, all designed to ensure the pupils had a safe and secure environment within the school.
Although Continuing Professional Development (CPD) remains a challenge for schools in Northern Ireland with the establishment of the Education Authority to replace the legacy of the Education and Library Boards, one of the impacts of the transformation has been the scaling back of advice, support and training. St Dympna’s Primary School is visionary and has taken bold steps to ensure that teachers and schools self-reflect and continue to offer staff development opportunities and continuing professional development through identifying and disseminating best practice, clustering and looking to new training providers. During conversation with the Principal, some caution was encouraged to ensure that new providers are quality assured and evaluated. The other significant difficulty over the 2016-2017 school year was the impact of industrial action from Trades Unions which has not only limited teacher engagement in CPD but also on teacher time to commit to school based development opportunities and meetings. Notwithstanding the limitations, St Dympna’s has continued to take novel approaches to continue to develop staff as part of its drive for inclusion.
Gifted and Talented developments continue to progress within the school and lessons observed reflect the stretch and challenge functions being deployed, as well as ensuring appropriate and meaningful differentiation for all pupils at the lesson planning and delivery stage. It was clear through the observations that the teachers had the pulse of their class, including the strengths, areas of difficulty and the challenges needed to address their needs. The school had developed the use of picture books for pupils in Key Stage II as an aid to reading and comprehension. I observed a lesson based on “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers. The lesson pace was appropriate and challenging, I particularly liked the lesson as I was left guessing just what was coming next as it was quirky and unpredictable, and left me wanting more. All the pupils in the class had a sense of wonder and awe within their learning as the lesson progressed. It was very encouraging to note that the pupils described their teacher as ‘being like this all the time’ and ‘yes, sure she is always this good.’ I wanted more of this lesson! Multi-sensory approaches that engaged the senses were used, alongside the OREO approach in literacy of the pupils giving Opinion, Reasons, Explaining and Reinforcing their opinion. I was of the opinion that secondary teachers of English would benefit from observing a lesson of this quality.
The school has taken a professional stance to the deployment of adult assistance for pupils with statements of special educational needs. I was assured that any requests for assistance are very carefully thought out to balance the child’s need for support within their special educational needs, alongside the need to preserve the integrity of the child’s independence. The assistants work in tandem with the teacher, so they are sure of their role and remit within the class and for the child for whom they are supporting. The links between the teacher and the adult assistants were almost intuitive and there was a seamlessness within the learning and teaching. The assistants blended into the fabric of the classroom, intuitive as to when it was time for the child to have independence in their learning. No assistant was noted as being underemployed or not aware of their specific role. The school’s leadership and management of assistants should be regarded as exemplary practice.
Engaging in Clusters
The school is instrumental in leading the engagement of cluster approaches across schools in its area, and it is particularly pleasing to note that a new link has been established with the Drumragh Integrated College in Omagh. Whist actions are being devised to take this initiative forward, the opportunities presented through the partnership are enormous for both schools. These actions may include strengthening transitions and Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 teacher exchange of ideas.
Find out more about the IQM Inclusive School Award
If your school is interested in obtaining the IQM Inclusive School Award or you wish to talk to a member of the IQM team please telephone:
028 7127 7857 (9.00 am to 5.00 pm)
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
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