An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Árdscoil Rís, Griffith Avenue, Dublin 9
Roll number: 60420L
Date of inspection: 7 March 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 June 2006
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Árdscoil Rís. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of provision in Guidance and makes recommendations for the further development of Guidance in the school. The evaluation was conducted over one day during which the inspector visited classrooms, viewed Guidance facilities, interacted with students, held discussions with teachers and reviewed school planning documentation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and subject teachers. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Árdscoil Rís is a second level school catering for male students, where the provision of Guidance and counselling support for students is well established. The school enrols students from a number of local primary schools, and also accepts applications from a wide range of other primary schools on the north side of Dublin. There are good sports facilities available and a wide range of other recreational opportunities are also provided. Guidance and counselling support are provided as an integrated model in the school.
Árdscoil Rís prides itself on being a caring school where all efforts are made to cater for individual needs of students, and it aims to provide a rounded education to enable students to enter adulthood with competent skills. Good facilities are available for Guidance in the school. A large classroom is provided as a dedicated space to facilitate one-to-one sessions with students, and the display and storage of Guidance materials. This room is located close to an ICT room where Guidance classes can be held to allow Guidance software and websites to be accessed. Notice boards are provided in corridors on which information about college open-days and other career events can be displayed. However, the Guidance office does not have a connection to broadband. It is recommended therefore, that this should be provided to facilitate the sending and receiving of emails and accessing the world wide web.
Guidance is viewed as a whole school support, and every attempt is made to provide personal and career counselling for students. Students can self-refer to meet with the Guidance Counsellor or they can approach a class tutor or a year head if they need to discuss personal or other issues. The school does not have a care team, but staff in the school operates in a very collegiate way to plan a wide range of support measures for students. The Guidance service liaises closely with management, year heads, form tutors and subject teachers to identify students who are experiencing difficulties, and who may require some intervention to assist their learning. Good linkages are maintained between programme co-ordinators and the Guidance service to achieve maximum effectiveness. The timetable for Guidance reflects a good balance between the provision of group and of one-to-one sessions with students. Guidance time is managed to meet particular needs of individual students in co-operation with teachers. Counselling support, where appropriate and required, is made available for students wishing to explore personal concerns, issues with learning or career decision–making. Good contacts have been established and maintained with outside agencies to allow the referral of students requiring more in-depth counselling support or assessment by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS). The school speaks very highly of the support provided by parents and past pupils who contribute so much to assist the school in a wide variety of ways to support career awareness and work experience.
With an enrolment (2005-2006) of almost 500 students, the school has a current allocation of 24 hours for guidance (Circular L. PPT 12/05). Parents are invited to meet with the Guidance counsellor by appointment. In addition, the Guidance counsellor also attends parents’ nights’ to explain the role of guidance and counselling in the school, and to offer advice on subject and programme choices.
Although a comprehensive range of Guidance and counselling supports and interventions are provided, a whole school Guidance plan has not yet been drafted. It is recommended that the Guidance service with assistance of other staff should draft a school Guidance plan to include aims, objectives, and a programme for each year group. Assistance with this process can be found in Planning a School Guidance Programme (NCGE 2004), and Guidelines for Second Level School on the implications of Section 9 (c) of the Education Act 1998, relating to students’ access to appropriate guidance. Once drafted, the plan should be submitted to management, staff, parents and students for consultation, and when completed the plan should be presented to the board of management for approval as a school planning document. The school guidance plan should be up-dated regularly, and amended to allow for necessary changes.
At present, the Guidance Counsellor is not included in the school team that visits local primary schools to meet incoming students. However, students and their parents are informed about the Guidance service during the parents’ information nights and the induction day for in-coming first years. All one-to-one meetings with students are documented and records of all class work and lesson plans are kept appropriately. A big imbalance in the amount of time for Guidance allocated between junior and senior cycles is however noted. Students in senior cycle receive a good deal of quality support to make subject and programme choices, and third level/further education course choices. A very well designed educational Guidance programme for first year students is being implemented. However, all year groups should have access to an appropriately planned programme that includes both educational and vocational Guidance, particularly second and third years. Suitable interventions on vocational themes would develop students’ awareness of careers, and by the end of third year they would be ready to make more informed subject/programme choices for senior cycle. To achieve this aim, it is suggested that a cross-curricular approach to Guidance be adopted, and that some inputs on careers should be provided throughout junior cycle, in co-operation with other programmes such as Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE). In third year, students are assisted to develop good study skills, to learn time management and to learn examination techniques. Subject options for senior cycle are explained to both students and parents with the support of the subject teachers.
A comprehensive Guidance programme has been developed for senior cycle students. This programme includes provision for timetabled and informal group sessions, and one-to-one interviews to discuss individual career paths. Guidance is part of the transition year (TY) programme and has a strong vocational focus. The programme provided is wide-ranging and allows ample time for self-exploration and the introduction of a good variety of career themes. Students are assisted to make the most of their work-experience opportunities, to develop good communication skills and are required to complete a number of assignments on career topics. In particular, there is an emphasis on encouraging students to make full use the TY year to gain a good understanding of the career-value of selecting certain subjects (and groupings of subjects) for leaving certificate. This approach to Guidance is to be commended, as it provides students with good opportunities to develop an understanding of how to maximise their choices of available subjects. In scheduled Guidance classes, a wide variety of career themes are explored to enable students to make informed decisions about career options. As ICT is available throughout the school, it is recommended that even more use be made of it in planning Guidance classes with senior cycle students. This would contribute to the development of research skills and encourage them to become more proactive in their own learning. Guest speakers are invited to address career topic areas with students and visits to selected third level and further education colleges are facilitated as part of the Guidance programmes in senior cycle. Good contacts with college access programmes have been established. Those wishing to investigate FÁS training opportunities, direct employment routes or apprenticeships are also facilitated. The majority of students are now progressing directly from sixth year to third level or further education/training. It is therefore recommended that the school should map these initial progressions of students annually, to inform forward planning of college visits and of subject options.
In the teaching of Guidance throughout the school, some innovative approaches are adopted to introduce and deliver career and self-development topics. Groups of senior students are invited to participate in mock-interview sessions that are then video-recorded. These sessions are then discussed and analysed with groups to perfect students’ personal communication skills. In the class session attended during the inspection visit, the methodologies chosen were very suitable for the ability and age range of the group. Students were actively engaged in discussing the chosen theme throughout the lesson, which was introduced well by brainstorming students’ views and ideas on the topic. A range of well-chosen materials were used to cater for different individual learning styles. The type of questioning deployed developed students’ comments in a meaningful and productive way. Of particular note was the easy pace with which the class time was used to really good effect, and extra assistance was provided for students requiring extra support to complete the set tasks. A homework assignment was set for students to explore a list of websites that was designed to build on the theme just covered in the lesson. To improve this excellent session one step further, it is suggested that a widening of the focus of the theme to include work-experience in TY as well as summer employment would elicit even more input from students
The assessment of students is planned in an organised way and suitable tests are chosen and administered to meet particular learning needs. A good range of psychometric instruments and tests are available in the school, to assist students to make educational, vocational and career choices. The Guidance service supports other staff in the assessment of students’ educational needs upon entry to the school. Students in third and fifth year have access to a range of assessment instruments such as the Differential Aptitude Tests (DATS), and to a number of personal interest inventories to support individual career decision-making. Results of the DATS are supplied in one-to-one sessions with students to assist them to gain insights into their personal strengths and interests. The school is very supportive of Guidance and the participation of staff in all available continual professional development events is facilitated. In addition, with the support of management, attendance at professional supervision sessions to support counselling is also actively encouraged.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the Guidance Counsellor and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.