An Roinn Oideachais and Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Ráth Cairn, Áth Buí, Contae na Mí.
Roll number: 71991T
Date of inspection: 23 May 2007
Date of issue of report: 21 February 2008
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Pobail, Ráth Cairn. 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 and viewed Guidance facilities. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, reviewed school planning documentation, and had discussions with the principal and with the teacher delivering part of guidance provision. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and to the teacher delivering Guidance. The board of management was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Coláiste Pobail Ráth Cairn, founded in 1986, is located in the Meath Gaeltacht. It is an Irish-medium college and Irish is acknowledged as the normal language of communication in all the school’s activities. Four of the feeder primary schools are Irish-medium primary schools. The school has quite a wide school catchment, including the surrounding area and the surrounding towns for example Navan, Trim and Athboy. The majority of the students come to school by bus. At present there are 101 students, boys and girls, enrolled in the school.
The school receives a total allocation of eight hours per week for the provision of Guidance from the Department of Education and Science. At present a qualified guidance counsellor from Meath VEC comes to the school for 1.45 hours one day per week to provide a guidance class for the students in the senior cycle and to meet with individual students for one class period. In addition to those arrangements there is a part-time teacher, with an allocation of 3.55 hours, who also delivers part of the guidance provision in the school. There is ongoing collaboration between this teacher, the principal, the guidance counsellor and the class teachers.
The school attempts to provide guidance support for each class in the school and therefore a class period has been allocated each week for each class so that all students have the opportunity to meet the teacher delivering the guidance provision. The principal reports that Guidance is important in the school and that each member of staff is involved in the provision of Guidance in the school. The principal and the teacher delivering the guidance provision have access to the guidance counsellor by phone as required. The principal reports good assistance and support from the guidance counsellor. This collaboration on behalf of the students is commended. A psychologist from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) has been nominated for the school and the principal reports that the Service provides good support.
Though the teachers in the school have not attained counselling qualifications, the students are provided with a ‘listening ear’ as required and the students themselves choose which teacher to go to in order to obtain information, support, assistance or advice when needed. Despite this and the good work being done in the school at present, the board of management is advised to consult with the Chief Executive Officer of the Vocational Educational Committee as soon as possible to make arrangements for the appointment of a qualified guidance counsellor in the school for the amount of time allocated for Guidance. It is also recommended that the total allocation provided by the Department should be used in full for Guidance for the next school year and in subsequent years in order to achieve equality of provision between the junior and senior cycles.
A small room suitable for group work is used for Guidance however, at present, this room is not suitable for counselling. Students use the room for study also. It is recommended that the number of Guidance notices in the room be increased to develop a learning environment and to motivate students. The phone in the principal’s office is used as there is no phone in the guidance room. A section of the school library has been set aside with a collection of documents and books relating to Guidance. The teacher delivering the guidance provision uses this room to meet individual students and to show videos. It is recommended that the board of management arranges to have a specific office with appropriate resources provided for Guidance.
The Guidance department has two laptop computers and the school has a broadband system. There is a computer and an overhead projector in each room. The teacher delivering the guidance provision says that the students have plenty of access to the computers in the computer room for the guidance lessons as required. Applications for the third level colleges are submitted via the internet. The students have permission to enter the computer room, outside of organised classes, to use the computers. This approach is commended as the students’ independent learning skills and self-management skills are cultivated. The principal has posted notices with information on vocational guidance in the main corridor of the school. It is recommended that the school erects a specific notice board for Guidance so that all notices regarding Guidance may be on the one board and the students made aware of this location.
The teacher delivering the guidance provision and the guidance counsellor frequently work together in the same class and have regular informal meetings. It is recommended that the minutes of these meetings be recorded. Coláiste Pobail Ráth Cairn is a small school and cooperation among the members of the teaching staff and a friendly atmosphere within the school community are reported. The school acknowledges the number of students as one of its strengths as the teachers have accurate knowledge of all the students. The principal says that a support/care team is operating informally in the school. This approach is to be commended and it would now be worthwhile for the school to implement a more formal structure, with regular meetings and written minutes, for the group of teachers supporting students in order to augment the good work in progress, to assist the early identifaction of students requiring additional supports and to facilitate a system of feedback on students.
The school is to be commended as an awards day is organised in the school each year at which prizes are presented to the students for academic achievement and personal feats. Parents and extended families are invited to attend. The school organises a daily homework club for the students in which supervised study is provided and students assisted as necessary. Students from all years are welcome. A book rental scheme is organised for the students in the junior cycle.
Daily liaison and cooperation between the principal and the teacher delivering the guidance provision is reported. This good practice is commended.
The school is commended for consulting with the NEPS psychologist while the team was working on the formulation of the critical incident response policy. Coláiste Pobail has produced a draft plan to deal with critical incidents. During the plan’s development the school is advised to liaise with neighbouring schools. This cooperation will provide support and benefit all participants. The school is also advised to contact the NEPS psychologist during the preparation of the final draft of the policy.
While there is not a fixed annual budget for Guidance in the school the principal reports that funds are provided to the guidance department as required.
Guidance planning has commenced in the school, in that a programme has been made out for the provision of guidance in the senior cycle and in third year. In addition to this the school has set out procedures for activities for example transfer from primary school, subject choice and participation in the educational programmes. This work was done very much by a process of cooperation between the school management and the teaching staff. The principal reports that guidance provision is reviewed at staff meetings. The school should now establish a small committee to build on the planning work done and to advance the guidance plan. Information on planning matters is contained in the publications - Planning the School Guidance Programme published by the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE), Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the Implications of Section 9 (c) of the Education Act (1998), relating to students’ access to appropriate guidance published by the Department of Education and Science and the Guidance template developed by the Department for guidance planning and provided in Irish on www.education.ie. It is also recommended that input from the parents, the student council and an employer representative be included to build on and advance this work; a student needs analysis should be carried out to enhance the guidance programme.
Coláiste Pobail provides courses for Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate (Established) examinations. There is an optional Transition Year (TY) programme but there are no students taking it this year. The school is advised to consider providing the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) in the school so that senior students would have a choice of programmes. It would be worthwhile for the school to promote the Transition Year programme to stimulate student interest in the programme.
Coláiste Pobail Ráth Cairn has established a transfer programme from primary school for new students entering the school and the deputy principal is coordinator of the programme. The programme’s activities begin with an open evening in the school when school pupils and their parents visit Coláiste Pobail before the children enter second level school. An information evening is organised for parents of incoming students with a question and answer session on the school subjects. It is recommended that the school provides a guidance input at this time for parents regarding the full implications of subject choices and subject levels. In this regard information on subject choice is available for parents on the website www.qualifax.ie. The principal interviews the parents and pupils before they enter the school and a two-day induction programme is organised at the start of the year for incoming students.
It is commendable that first year students have an opportunity to sample new subjects for the first month before making a decision on subject choices for the Junior Certificate examination. The school should develop this good practice and provide a guidance module when first years students are making their subject choices. This year time is set out in the timetable to give students an opportunity to make individual appointments with the teacher delivering the guidance provision and it is reported that almost eighty per cent of students have made appointments. This approach is commended and it is recommended that the school ensures for next year that an individual appointment is arranged for each new student with a member of the teaching staff to help the settling-in process in the school.
Guidance classes are not timetabled for the students in the junior cycle. However liaison is reported between the class teachers and the teacher delivering the guidance provision. The teachers redirect students to the teacher delivering the guidance provision or to the guidance counsellor when necessary.
Third year students can make an individual appointment with the teacher to discuss and consider senior cycle subjects. The school is commended for organising an information evening for third year students and their parents with a presentation by the guidance counsellor on subject choices for the Leaving Certificate. However, it is recommended that the school provides a guidance module in third year so that all the students will have access to information concerning subject choice and decision making to build on the information evening. It is commendable that the students are given a chance to sample the new subjects during fifth year before making a decision for the Leaving Certificate.
The Transition Year programme is optional in Coláiste Pobail Ráth Cairn. This year, due to a lack of interest, no class is taking the programme. Senior students have timetabled weekly guidance classes with the guidance counsellor. In the first term of fifth year students focus on drafting a career action plan. The guidance counsellor provides a checklist to students to help them investigate careers and prepare a plan, and the students, parents and guidance counsellor sign off on the prepared plan. In addition the students undertake a project to gather information on a career or company. An external organisation visits the school to provide a seminar for the students on motivation and study skills. The parents’ committee assist in the funding of these activities.
During the senior cycle the students develop job search skills and gather information on third level courses, Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses, work, training and coaching opportunities. Students have access to websites such as www.qualifax.ie, www.cao.ie www.ucas.com and www.careerdirections.ie. At the beginning of the year sixth year students and their parents are invited into the school to receive feedback from teachers, plan the approach for the Leaving Certificate year and discuss the responsibilities of all participants. As well as the school reports twice a year and the parent-teacher meetings, a monthly report is sent home for examination students to provide the parents with feedback on the students’ progress. All these activities are commended as support for the students and their parents.
Guest speakers visit the school from the training services agencies to speak to the students about courses and working life. Students attend college open days and other guidance related events. When the school is organising travel to these activities members of the teaching staff have to accompany the students as the guidance counsellor is working in another Vocational Education Committee school.
Parents are invited to contact the school, or to visit if they wish, to talk to the teachers on any worries they have concerning their children.
There is a strong link between Coláiste Pobail and Údarás na Gaeltachta. An Údarás representative visits the school to undertake mock interviews with students as part of the guidance programme and to provide information to Leaving Certificate students on apprenticeships available in the Gaeltacht.
The school reports a good liaison with the local community and with the external agencies/institutions. Coláiste Pobail is commended for establishing links with the Health Service Executive, Údarás na Gaeltachta and FÁS to provide support for the students. Visits are organised to local employers and former students return as guest speakers to support the senior students. This approach is commendable as it cultivates a link with the former students and they are regarded as good role models for the Leaving Certificate students.
When necessary, students are referred to the NEPS psychologist via the principal’s office in collaboration with parents. The Rainbows programme is available outside the school, in Navan.
During the evaluation one third year call group was visited. There was evidence of good planning for the lesson with objectives and learning outcomes set out and presented clearly to the students. The focus of the lesson was clear and the pace was appropriate for the class. During the lesson a variety of teaching methodologies was observed.
The teacher had done excellent preparatory work for the class. Use was made of a PowerPoint presentation on study skills and examination techniques. The class objectives were shown and various colours used on the slides so that the students would know when to take down additional notes. During the presentation students were asked questions and the answers were discussed. It is recommended that more discussion take place on the difficulties students have in sitting down and undertaking study.
The teacher gave additional information and hints to the students on preparing for the examinations. Reference was made to next year’s work when the students would be taking down notes for the Leaving Certificate. In reality the lesson had three parts: study skills, preparation for examinations and the examination itself. It is recommended that these parts be broken down and more time spent on each part so that the students will have more opportunity to consider and discuss the material. Though the content was suitable for the class, for the most part, it would be worthwhile undertaking the work on study skills earlier in the year.
After the presentation the students were given worksheets with a story about a student doing the Junior Certificate and avoiding study. The story was read and the students worked in pairs to solve the questions. The students were diligent and engaged in their work. During this work the teacher went around, checking, providing support and assistance to the students.
The atmosphere in the classroom was good, with good communication and mutual respect observed between the teacher and the students. The students were encouraged to tackle the subject. There was obvious cooperation, students were praised for their efforts and received positive affirmation during the lesson.
The good practices of taking down the attendance record and assigning homework were noted.
The guidance counsellor assesses incoming students on entering Coláiste Pobail in order to identify the students’ learning needs. Students complete interest inventories such as those available on the internet for example on QualifaX, Career Directions to assist in subject choice and course choice.
The teacher delivering the guidance provision makes effective attempts to keep accounts of meetings with the students and to note them in the diary. The school reports that the support teachers keep a record of their meetings with the students and that they keep a copy of the school reports in a folder. The guidance counsellor and the teacher delivering the guidance provision discuss and collaborate concerning the first year students. The principal records student initial destinations and past students are welcome to return to the school to get more information on courses or careers.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths the following key recommendations are made:
A post-evaluation meeting was held with the teacher delivering the guidance provision and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.