An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Subject Inspection of Guidance

REPORT

 

St Davidís CBS

Artane, Dublin 5

Roll number: 60471F

 

Date of inspection:† 18 May 2007

Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007

 

 

 

Subject Inspection Report

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

Planning and Preparation

Teaching and Learning

Assessment

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance

 

Subject Inspection Report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Davidís CBS, Artane. 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 two days during which the inspector visited classrooms, viewed guidance facilities, interacted with students, met with teachers, held discussions with the principal and with the guidance counsellors. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the guidance counsellors. 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.

 

 

Subject Provision and Whole School Support

 

St Davidís CBS, an all-boys voluntary secondary school, operates under the trusteeship of the Christian Brothers and espouses the philosophy of Blessed Edmund Ignatius Rice. The school caters for students from diverse, urban backgrounds. Currently there is an enrolment of 527 boys, including thirty newcomer students. The school has ten feeder primary schools and approximately ninety-five per cent of students come from the local catchment area of Artane, Beaumont, Coolock, Donnycarney and Darndale.

 

Since the school participates in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan it receives a total ex-quota allocation of 27.5 hours per week for Guidance from the Department of Education and Science. Commendably St Davidís provides a further allocation for Guidance, funded by the School Completion Programme (SCP) and the Christian Brothers' Trust. Currently the school guidance team comprises two qualified guidance counsellors, one in a full-time and one in a part-time arrangement and two members of staff who are timetabled to provide support and/or counselling to individual students. The two guidance counsellors work closely together, with one doing class and group work predominantly and the other primarily providing counselling support to students who need it. In the course of guidance planning it is recommended that the school reviews the current division of tasks to ensure that both guidance counsellors have opportunities to develop skills in the delivery of both general guidance and personal counselling.

 

The school has the services of a designated National Educational Psychological Services (NEPS) psychologist and representatives of the local branch of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) have met with the psychologist who is willing to arrange in-service for members in response to identified needs. This is commended as a model of good practice in collaboration.

 

While guidance provision is targeted primarily in senior cycle, St Davidís is moving towards greater provision in junior cycle. Building on the ongoing support structures operating in the school it is recommended that, in the course of guidance planning, the school reviews the current arrangements for delivery of Guidance in order to ensure the best possible and most equitable deployment of resources across all year groups.

 

The school regards provision of personal counselling as an important part of the guidance service and of student support. Lists of students are prepared through monitoring of student attendance and behaviour and these students are referred for counselling and/or individual support. A guidance module is timetabled in Transition Year (TY). Classes are timetabled for the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) class group and Guidance is delivered to all other year groups by means of lesson periods borrowed from subject teachers as required. Individual appointments are offered to students in all year groups as needs arise.†

 

Management in St Davidís is very supportive of Guidance and there are very good facilities for Guidance in the form of an office with broadband access, phone, shelving and storage. The office also houses a well stocked careers library and can accommodate small group work. Each guidance counsellor has a laptop computer. A counselling room is also available. A large notice board outside the guidance office provides guidance-related information for students. At present, both guidance counsellors work out of the same office. In the course of guidance planning it is recommended that the school arranges the provision of separate, individual accommodation so that both guidance counsellors are facilitated to perform their roles simultaneously. The guidance office is linked through an intranet to the schoolís administration network and to the schoolís network which is shared with other departments, class rooms and the student network. While there is no specific budget for the guidance department resources are provided as required.

 

The guidance counsellors state that information and communications technology (ICT) facilities in the school are good and access to the computer room for guidance classes is timetabled for both TY and LCA students. Access for other groups is by arrangements with colleagues. All classrooms have broadband access and a number have a data projector. In the course of guidance planning it is recommended that the school reviews access to ICT for guidance delivery. Commendably links have been established from the school website to career-related websites.

 

There is a good sense of care in the school which is evidenced by all the supports and programmes provided for students. A student support team which includes the members of the guidance team, the home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator and the SCP co-ordinator operates in the school. It is to be commended that regular, monthly meetings are held, minutes recorded and maintained in a folder. This folder was made available during the evaluation visit. The principal/deputy principal attends some of the support team meetings and a copy of the minutes is provided to senior management. At the time of the evaluation visit it was reported that attendance by one of the guidance counsellors was not always possible at all meetings. It is recommended that the school timetables these meetings in order to facilitate optimum attendance by all members.

 

Referrals for counselling and extra support, along with feedback on and review of student progress, are discussed at meetings of the support team. Commendably an evaluation was carried out in May of the work undertaken by the support team during the year. To date, a total of sixty-six students were receiving ongoing support. The team identified a need for more in-service and suitable sources are now being considered. This level of commitment to students is commended.

 

St Davidís has a system in place through which students who are experiencing difficulties are sent to the care room. Records are maintained by the teachers supervising in the care room and students are referred for counselling and extra support to members of the support team. Referrals to the guidance department also come from senior management, the co-ordinators of HSCL and the SCP, class tutors, subject teachers and from parents. Students may also self-refer. A confidential support referral form has been developed for staff. However, the guidance counsellor states that teachers frequently refer students through an informal meeting with one of the guidance counsellors. Within guidance planning it is suggested that the school reviews its referral procedures to ensure the most effective system operates.

 

Year heads and class tutors also consult informally with the guidance counsellors, the HSCL co-ordinator, the teachers of students with special educational needs and the teacher in charge of the schoolís programme of study skills and examination techniques to discuss or refer individual students. Student attendance records are closely monitored and protracted or regular absences are followed up and students referred to the support team as required. It is recommended that the support team discusses how a system could be put in place to encourage all students to attend the counselling/support sessions as arranged in order to reduce the need for support team personnel to go to class rooms to collect and meet with students.

 

Commendably the HSCL department has established strong links with a very wide range of support agencies and organisations where both students and their families can receive support. When necessary, extra tuition for students and parental educational support is provided from sources both within and outside the school. Referrals to outside agencies are effected through the office of the principal in consultation with parents, the HSCL and guidance departments. Work is ongoing on documenting all the procedures that have been developed through which the school liaises with a large number of organisations to provide extra assistance for families and through which the school supports parents in supporting their sons. It is recommended that when all the referral procedures are fully documented they be included in the school guidance plan.†

 

It is commendable that St Davidís is working on a critical incident response plan and a draft, prepared by the guidance counsellor and the school development planning co-ordinator, has been presented to staff. In preparing the final draft of the policy document it is recommended that the school networks with other local schools as such collaboration will provide additional support and assist all participants. The school should also refer to support materials available from NEPS. †

 

Links between the guidance department and senior management are maintained informally through ongoing, almost daily, contact. The guidance department reports informal communication and collaboration with the special educational needs department and states that an effective informal network is working in the school. The school reports good knowledge of students and their families within the staff and this is regarded by the school as a strength in the support of students.

 

 

Planning and Preparation

 

Guidance planning has been initiated in the school and to date the emphasis has been on student support. Elements of the plan have been presented to staff and to the board of management. A programme of guidance activities and class contact for the current year has been developed. Much of the current planning activity takes place within the student support/care team and between the guidance and the HSCL departments. This collaboration is commended and it is recommended that the school now builds on this work by establishing a sub-committee to progress the guidance planning process. Information to support this work on planning is available in publications such as Planning the School Guidance Programme, issued 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, relating to studentsí access to appropriate guidance, published by the Department of Education and Science and the Departmentís template for guidance planning, available on www.education.ie. It is also recommended that input from staff, the student council, parents and representatives of the local business community be sought. A student needs analysis would also inform the planning process.

 

As personal counselling is important in the school and a number of staff members are engaged in providing counselling and support for students it is recommended that the school develops a counselling policy as part of the student support system. This should be ratified by the board of management and included in the guidance plan.

 

Since 2004 St Davidís CBS has in place a well-established transition programme for incoming first year students. This is co-ordinated by the HSCL department in collaboration with the local HSCL cluster group which includes primary and post primary schools. Guidelines for good practice have been developed detailing the aims of the programme and the roles of parents, the primary school, the post-primary school and the community. This collaborative approach is commended. The transfer programme, which is implemented throughout a full year, begins each September with a visit by fifth class boys from local primary schools to St Davidís where a tour of the school and general information is provided. Students from the Transition Year who act as buddies for first years meet with the pupils and activities are arranged. This is followed by an open evening when fifth and sixth year pupils and their parents are invited to view school facilities and meet with members of staff. Enrolment and assessment take place in October and confirmation of admission notified to parents. As all of the notifications do not issue at the same time it is recommended that the school explores ways of forwarding all of the letters at the one time.†

 

St Davidís reports good feedback on pupils from the primary schools. Subject choice is decided by incoming students in April before entry and the principal states that there is flexibility to change class groups at mid-term and at the end of the first term. The school hosts an information evening for parents of incoming students to provide information on school structures and procedures. It is recommended that a guidance input on the import of subject and level choice be included in this session. In this regard parents could be directed to the information now available regarding subject choice on www.qualifax.ie. In order to assist students with subject choice it is also recommended that the school considers providing taster classes so that incoming students can make a more informed choice of subject and level.

 

In the course of the year representatives from St Davidís are also invited to the feeder primary schools to meet with parents and provide information and presentations on the school to pupils. Special arrangements are put in place to meet the requirements of children with specific needs and provide information to their parents on, for example, how students in the schoolís special class for students with additional learning needs such as autism, are integrated into the life of the school. All of these activities to support students and parents are commended.

 

At the beginning of the new school year the HSCL co-ordinator visits all first year groups to explain the role of the department. All first year students are met individually by a member of the student support team as part of the settling-in process. Students identified as needing extra support are referred to the guidance team. This is commended as a model of good practice in student support. Currently a member of the support team also visits first year groups and meets with first year students individually, as required. The guidance counsellor borrows class periods to visit all first year groups to explain the role of the guidance counsellors, introduce the guidance service and to explain access and procedures. Individual appointments with the guidance counsellor are also offered. It is recommended that all of these worthwhile support activities be co-ordinated and introduced to first year students at the beginning of the year in a more structured way so that students are informed of the roles of key support personnel and that the team approach to student support is enhanced.

 

The guidance counsellor meets with second year class groups for one or two class periods per year to encourage students to consider their educational goals and examine how these objectives and student test results may link with career opportunities. Students are given the task of researching a career area through use of the internet and interviewing job holders.†

 

In third year a guidance module is delivered over one or two class periods to assist students with programme and subject choice for senior cycle. It is recommended that this module be extended and, as far as is possible, linked with the decision-making module in the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme. Such collaborative planning will ensure co-ordination of delivery of these interlinked aspects of SPHE and Guidance. The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs) are administered and individual appointments are offered to students to discuss choices. †

 

St Davidís CBS offers a very wide choice of subjects and programmes to students. The guidance counsellors, in consultation with the principal, are closely involved in subject choice for senior cycle which begins with an open choice form completed by students. Choices are then further refined and possible subject blocks are developed using Facility software. The school hosts an information session for parents and a presentation is delivered by the guidance counsellors on subject choice and the options available after the Junior Certificate. Parents are welcome to make appointments with the guidance counsellors to discuss individual choices. In collaboration with parents, support teachers, the co-ordinators of HSCL and SCP, the guidance department works with students considering early school leaving. Students are encouraged to remain in school, individual appointments and counselling are offered and the HSCL will accompany students and parents to Youthreach and training centres, if required.†

 

The Transition Year is optional in St Davidís and, at present, there is one class group. Guidance is provided through a double period on a six-week modular basis to five groups of four students. The primary aim of the module is to enable students to develop life skills which include self development, career exploration and career management. Students explore their strengths, career options and interests as means of developing self-awareness and positive self concepts. Work is carried out on the import of subject and programme choice. Research skills are developed through the use of websites such as www.careerdirections.ie, †www.monster.ie and www.fas.ie. †

 

All students follow the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) in fifth year and a number of guidance tasks are completed within the programme including a career investigation. The school organises a competition to determine the best career research project, awards a prize and the winning project is forwarded to compete in the Dublin North East Schools Career Project. The guidance counsellor borrows class periods from colleagues to deliver a guidance module.

 

One of the guidance counsellors co-ordinates the schoolís activities as part of its participation in the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) with Dublin City University (DCU). Second year students participate in the summer school, fifth year students are invited to take part in the Discover DCU and the Achievement Awards programmes which the Access department organises. One of the guidance counsellors co-ordinates the LCVP work experience programme and students are encouraged to find their own placements. An evaluation sheet is prepared for employers and staff members collaborate in carrying out work placement visits.

 

In the current school year there is one group of students in LCA which is divided for delivery of the guidance module and the two guidance counsellors are timetabled simultaneously to facilitate this. Guidance classes are not timetabled in sixth year and the guidance counsellors borrow class periods from other teachers to deliver a guidance module during the first term. Students attend college open days and other career and course information events and a panel of guest speakers provides information on courses and career areas. Individual appointments are offered to all students to discuss options available after the Leaving Certificate. In consultation with subject teachers students are prepared to make application to the CAO. The school hosts an information session for parents on career choice and CAO application procedures. Students are invited to attend this session also to reinforce learning. Individual appointments are arranged for parents as requested. Information on the Access programme is provided to students and parents. A representative from the DCU access office meets with students to explain procedures and encourage applications.

 

The school has developed a programme in study skills and examination techniques which is delivered, a few times per year, to third and sixth year students by a member of staff in collaboration with the guidance counsellors. As an essential part of the programme, information on how best to support students during examination time is sent out to parents before the Certificate Examinations begin. This is commendable. Supervised study facilities are offered to students after school.

 

Parents are encouraged and welcome to contact the guidance department as required. The guidance counsellors also meet with parents at parent-teacher meetings and in an informal setting at school events. Parents are invited to an awards evening which the school hosts to acknowledge and celebrate student achievement. The school, through the HSCL department, makes every effort to assist parents by organising personal supports from sources such as the Northside Counselling Service and Parentline. Supports for parents, families and students are organised with the family counselling service in Mater Dei Clinic, the Turas Family Bereavement Counselling Centre and the JLO office.

 

Apart from links established with industry through the work experience programmes the school also liaises with a very wide range of outside agencies and organisations to provide information and support for students.†

 

The guidance counsellors are members of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC). The school facilitates attendance at local and national in-service, relevant guidance and training events and the local professional development sessions to support counselling. The school funds counselling supervision for a member of the guidance team who provides counselling to students.†

 

 

Teaching and Learning

 

In the course of the evaluation one Transition Year (TY) group and one fifth year LCA class group were visited. Both class groups were small as the school divides these classes for guidance.

 

The focus of the lesson for the TY group was self-awareness and the development of interview skills. The aim of the lesson, which was clearly explained to students, was to increase awareness of personal talents and to develop a pro-active approach to job-seeking. The lesson began with a handout relevant to the topic of work skills and personal strengths which was read and explanations given. Good reference was made to post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses and to websites such as www.manifestyourpotential.com, www.qualifax.ie and www.careerdirections.ie. An explanation of what is included in the websites was provided and students were encouraged to access the sites. The guidance counsellor used questioning to check understanding and initiate comment and discussion and students were asked to underline relevant words in preparation for the worksheet to be completed later during the lesson.

 

Commendably there was discussion on the studentsí current knowledge of the world of work in the form of their part-time job experiences and students were encouraged to ask questions of parents and relatives regarding work. Students then completed the worksheet. A lot of help and individual attention was given by the guidance counsellor to students as they completed their task and provided feedback on what they had written. Students were positively affirmed and encouraged and there was good participation on the part of students. The guidance counsellor reminded students of their strengths by reference to the awards presented by the school and the Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs) which were positively described as demonstrating to students what they do well. Students returned the completed worksheets at the end of the class period. In order to reinforce learning it is recommended that salient points and new terminology, for example, the website addresses, be noted on the whiteboard.

 

The focus of the LCA lesson was the completion of a scholarship form and a crossword based on the world of work. As there were only two students present the guidance counsellor was able to give individual attention to each student as they engaged in their work. Students were encouraged and positively affirmed and there was excellent participation on the part of students who were very keen to complete the task and stayed on at the end of the lesson in order to do so.†

 

The pace and content of the lessons were appropriate. In both groups a friendly and relaxed class atmosphere and good working relationships were evident. Good rapport and mutual respect were evident between guidance counsellors and students.

 

 

Assessment

 

In order to determine levels of achievement in the core subjects, school-developed tests in Irish, English and Mathematics are set for incoming students before their entry to St Davidís.† The AH2 is also administered by the guidance department and the results of the tests are used to compile class groups. Since the AH2 does not have Irish norms and it has not been up-dated in recent times it is recommended that the school reviews the use of this test. In this regard the school should refer to the Circular Letter 0008/2007 and the accompanying information regarding tests on the Department website (www.education.ie). Useful information and support for testing procedures could be sourced also through IGC branch in-service. The guidance counsellor also administers the Young SPAR reading test to identify students who may require extra help with reading. Results are then communicated to the learning support department.††

 

The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs) are administered to third year students to assist with subject and programme choices. There is ongoing collaboration between the guidance and special educational needs departments regarding the administration of tests and return of scores. The interest inventories available on the QualifaX, Career Directions and UCAS websites are used with senior cycle students to assist career and course choices.

 

Tracking of Leaving Certificate students is done both by the guidance counsellor using statistics from the CAO system and the notes of career plans recorded by the deputy principal when the Leaving Certificate results are being distributed to students. Past students are welcome to return to school or to meet with the guidance counsellors for further information and support.

 

The guidance counsellors maintain student profiles and records of meetings with students from first year onwards as students attend the guidance department. Record forms for guidance meetings with students in each year group, support/counselling report forms and appointment slips have been developed by the guidance department. A list of all students attending for extra support/counselling is sent electronically to the principalís office. A file is maintained on the administration network where records of meetings with students can be entered by members of the guidance team on a spreadsheet. It is recommended that all members be encouraged to maintain a record of meetings with students and that all such records be updated on a regular basis.†

 

 

Summary of Main Findings and Recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths and areas for development 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 principal and the guidance counsellors at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.