An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Baile an Ghóilín, An Daingean, Co. Kerry
Roll number: 61301I
Date of inspection: 9 October 2007
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Íde. 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 guidance counsellor. The board of management was given the opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report, and the response of the board will be found in the appendix to this report.
Coláiste Íde is a girls’ boarding school three kilometres from Daingean Ui Chúis, Co. Kerry in which students are educated through the medium of Irish. The school was run by the Sisters of Mercy from 1927 to 1996. Responsibility for the operation of the school was assumed by a board of governors shortly after that. A thirty-five year lease of the property was signed by the board in 2001. The buildings were once the residence of Lord Ventry and are surrounded by 150 acres of the original estate on a wooded site on the shores of Dingle Harbour. An extension was added to the building in the mid nineteen twenties to accommodate the school. Almost all students are boarders. Students come from a variety of backgrounds and from all parts of Ireland. A small number of students are from other countries. 111 girls are currently enrolled, the highest number in the school’s recent history. The need for larger rooms to accommodate the growing numbers has prompted the board of governors to initiate a plan for the provision of extra classrooms and specialised rooms.
The values of the school are clearly stated and are in keeping with the values of the Mercy Congregation. There is strong evidence that students are supported in a Catholic environment with deep roots in Irish culture and traditions. Support for students is a priority for the school. As a boarding school, support structures have been established which go far beyond what would normally be found in a non-boarding post-primary school and are in place at all times at which students are present. It is clear that all staff members have roles in the place of parents and that these roles are essential to the operation of the school. It is also clear that a process of reflective practice is ongoing on both a formal and informal level and is highly commended. It was noted in the course of conversations with staff during the inspection that a common, underlying interest in the wellbeing of students was so all pervasive that it was part of the fabric of normal interaction.
The school has an allocation of eight hours for Guidance. The hours are being used efficiently in the provision of a well-balanced service. Third years, fifth years and sixth years are timetabled for one forty-minute lesson of Guidance per week. The remainder of the hours are used to provide guidance lessons to first years and second years on a planned intermittent basis and to provide personal, educational and vocational counselling to individual students and to small groups of students. One example of this provision is a six-week induction programme that has been devised for first years by the guidance counsellor in collaboration with the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) co-ordinator and sixth-year students. Such collaborative practice, which is essential to whole-school guidance, is typical of the work of teachers in the school. A commendable review of students’ needs recently revealed a need to provide some guidance input into second year. This need is being addressed. It is interesting to note that the finding of the review reflects a similar need nationally as revealed in the Review of Guidance in Second-level schools (2006) published by the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Science and available at www.education.ie . The school’s review also exemplifies the clear evidence of reflective practice that was observed in the course of the inspection.
The guidance office is equipped with office furniture, technology and equipment appropriate to its functions as a counselling room and information centre. Facilities for the display and storage of guidance related materials such as test materials, CDs and information leaflets, are provided. Guidance information is also presented on notice boards throughout the school and by means of the new computer system which is accessible to students during guidance classes and during afternoon sessions, when student access to the system is allowed. The information and communication technology (ICT) room is reported by the guidance counsellor to be readily accessible.
The small number of the staff and the good relationships between them facilitate continuous interaction and collaboration. The guidance counsellor and principal meet formally at a fortnightly meeting. Relatively informal and overlapping teams function as middle-management, student-support and guidance-planning teams and communication is, thus, facilitated and effective. The principal is the special educational needs co-ordinator and consults continuously with the guidance counsellor and other staff in matters related to student guidance and support, school guidance planning and administration. Communication is very good and systems are in place to manage referrals within the school and to external agencies. Contact with parents is maintained on a continuous basis, mainly through written and telephone communication due to the distance between the school and the homes of the majority of students. The guidance counsellor attends parent-teacher meetings which take place on a regular basis throughout the year.
The formal planning process was initiated in 2004 and a considerable body of work has been in train since then. The process has progressed through the stage of policy formulation and the establishment of subject specific planning with inputs from the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) regional co-ordinator. A guidance planning team has been set up comprising the guidance counsellor, principal who is also the special educational needs co-ordinator, religious education (RE) and SPHE teachers. This is a laudable development and it is recommended that regular meetings be organised to move the process forward. The development of a pastoral care system is also contemplated. Because of the possibility of overlaps between whole-school guidance and pastoral care, and in order to maximise the use of time, the team involved in planning should identify and prioritise common areas for development in the context of the available planning guidelines. It may be possible to categorise some of these issues under the title Student Support and, in this context, to examine issues such as communication and the identification and management of students in need. Available planning documentation includes the Department of Education and Science (2005) Guidelines for Second-Level Schools on the Implications of Section 9(c) of the Education Act 1998, Relating to Students' Access to Appropriate Guidance and Planning the School Guidance Programme published in 2004 by the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) and used in conjunction with its modular whole-school guidance planning diploma course. Other current information about guidance planning is available on the website of the Department of Education and Science at www.education.ie under the education personnel link, and of the SDPI at www.sdpi.ie
The guidance counsellor attends the school on two days each week and provides a service combining in-class work and work with individual students. Class contact is timetabled for senior classes and for third year, and with other classes is on a planned, intermittent basis. Collaborative practice in Coláiste Íde ensures that the guidance programme is comprehensive and relatively informal. The more formal elements, such as the induction of new students and subject choice, are managed in the same spirit of collaboration that pervades the work of the school. The formalisation of procedures for dealing with critical incidents is currently under review. Sessions on study skills, run by an external agency, are arranged in collaboration with management and staff. The guidance and support work of the school is complicated by the need for a twenty-four hour service in boarding schools. Continuity in the guidance service is managed by the principal, particularly in the areas of personal and educational guidance. It is recommended that, in the process of whole-school guidance planning, reference be made to the links between the service during school hours and that provided during the evening and night hours. Meetings between those who provide support for students by day and by night might prove useful in the identification of common areas of concern. The issue of referrals to outside agencies such as the health services and the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), for example, might be one of those. Current practice in the school has lain a good foundation for this work.
Elections for membership of the newly constituted students’ council were being organised at the time of the inspection. The students’ council will provide additional means by which the needs of students may be reviewed and prioritised, especially in whole-school guidance planning. The process may be similar to that leading to the recent decision to introduce rugby training. A very extensive and stimulating programme of extra-curricular activities is provided throughout the week, including weekends, and is regularly reviewed with the help of students. The decision to introduce rugby training was taken in response to students’ requests that were made in the course of such a review.
The school has extensive links with the wider community and these links are used to good effect in the service of Guidance. The religious ethos of the school is maintained by contacts with and inputs from local clergy and through the work of the religious education teachers. During the 2006 – 2007 school year, speakers who visited the school included representatives of universities in Limerick, Cork, Galway and Dublin and of organisations such as CURA who offer social and personal supports to people in need. Local enterprises, particularly those whose functions are performed through the medium of Irish, were highlighted for students and visits to their work places were arranged. Days for personal reflection and development were also organised for senior students during the year, as were career interviews for third-year, fifth-year, and sixth-year students.
The guidance counsellor is a member of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) and attends meetings and sessions of continuing professional development, including professional counselling support, provided by the Institute.
One lesson was observed in the course of the inspection. The standard of instruction was high. The lesson was well planned and structured. The normal formalities of initial greetings and roll call were observed and the lesson progressed in an atmosphere of mutual respect and openness. First names were used throughout. Previous work was recapitulated and the lesson was summarised at the beginning and prior to its conclusion. The lesson was conducted in English partly because the texts from which some of the material was drawn are unavailable in Irish. A number of handouts were used which were appropriate to the topic. The use of a mixture of visual and text-based material and the effective use of the blackboard are commended. Handouts included worksheets related to the categorisation of jobs, one of which showed photographs of famous people whose occupations were considered and categorised by students. Clear instructions were given for the completion of the work sheets and reference was made throughout the lesson to the topic and to current affairs. The use of small group work is commended. Students were requested to discuss, in pairs, the issues raised during the lesson and this, combined with effective questioning, provided a varied and stimulating atmosphere in the class. The lesson was well paced and the assigned tasks were completed promptly and within the time allotted.
Students were initially subdued but responded well to questions and to the materials presented during the lesson. It was clear from the responses and questions of students that much thought had gone into the process of occupational choice. It was also clear that the lesson was relevant to their needs and appropriate to their level of understanding.
A general assessment of all first-year students is carried out early in that year and comprises a range of tests designed to aid the identification of students’ special educational needs and to aid the monitoring of students through the early stages of the junior cycle. The instruments used include tests of literacy, numeracy and general ability. A set of aptitude tests is administered to third-year students after the pre-examinations and is used to help students in their subject choices and vocational decision-making. A list of test instruments has been added to recent Department of Education and Science circulars regarding grants towards the purchase of test materials for Guidance and special educational needs and is a useful source of current information about tests.
Interest inventories are used, especially in the senior cycle, as a further aid to students in the process of decision-making leading to vocational and course choices. These include paper-based inventories and those associated with the web-based Qualifax and Career Directions sites. The paperwork associated with these tests and instruments is kept in accordance with the principles of confidentiality associated with psychometric testing. Similar care is taken of students’ profiles kept by the guidance counsellor and of documents compiled in the process of interviews with students.
The guidance counsellor tracks the initial destinations of students after the Leaving Certificate examination. The information gleaned is used in Guidance classes to illustrate the course, training and career possibilities following the Leaving Certificate and for general planning purposes in the school.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths 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.
Published, June 2008
Submitted by the Board of Management
Inspection Report School Response Form
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection
Tá coiste tacaíochta do mhicléinn bunaithe sa scoil agus sa scoil chónaithe, a bheidh ag freastal ar riachtanaisí tréadach/treorach agus sláinte na ndaltaí. Ar an gcoiste tá an Príomhoide, an Bainisteoir, an Leas Phríomhoide, an Leas Bhainisteoir, Múinteoir GairmThreoir, na Múinteoirí Teagasc Creidimh, Múinteoir OSPS, An Comhairleoir an Príómh Féitheoir, Banaltra agus Féitheoir. Is iad an chéad ceathrar a bheidh ag bualadh le chéile chun nasc a dhéanamh idir seirbhís an lae agus seirbhís na hoíche.