An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Deanstown Avenue, Finglas West, Dublin 11
Roll number: 60571J
Date of inspection: 20 March 2007
Date of issue of report: 6 December 2007
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Patrician College, Finglas which was conducted as part of a whole school evaluation. 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.
There is a long tradition in Patrician College of providing guidance support for students. A full-time ex-quota post with an allocation of twenty two hours for Guidance is available and the school also has a Home School Community co-ordinator. The school’s guidance counsellor manages the planning and delivery of Guidance throughout the school, and works in close co-operation with management, programme co-ordinators, the HSCC co-ordinator, learning support and other staff. The high level of close, informal co-operation between staff benefits the provision of support for students and is to be commended. A school care team which is chaired by the HSCC has been recently re-activated and is beginning to formalise contacts between support staff. Regular meetings for student support staff are arranged. This care team is a worthwhile development as it supports liaison with parents and provision of supports for students generally. It is recommended therefore, that this team should be further expanded to include Guidance and Social Personal Health Education (SPHE), and that the planning of additional strategies for student supports should be undertaken in a whole school planning context.
Guidance is well supported in the school. The allocation of 22 hours for Guidance is augmented by the funding of additional hours to meet students’ personal counselling needs by the School Completion Programme (SCP). This co-ordinated approach to addressing students’ needs is to be commended, as good additional assistance is being provided for those who are experiencing difficulties in school. The guidance counsellor liaises closely with the SCP counsellor to provide assistance and support for students.
A dedicated office has been provided that has good accessibility for students and parents. The office is well resourced with storage space. Timetabling for Guidance in the school reflects a good balance of provision between junior and senior cycles. Guidance is delivered in one-to-one, group and classroom sessions. All students have access to Guidance and to one-to-one counselling support when required and to information communication technology (ICT) in the ICT room. However, good and regular access to ICT for the exploration of college and career websites and guidance software is now crucially important for senior cycle students planning a transition to third level or further education. It is therefore recommended that the school should explore the possibility of creating a resource area with ICT for Guidance, which could be shared with learning support. This facility could provide an area for group Guidance sessions to be held, the display of Guidance materials and would facilitate students under supervision to explore websites and avail fully of all guidance software possibilities. Regular contact is being maintained with management who are reported to be very supportive of Guidance. The referral of students for support within the school operates efficiently and the referral of students for extra assistance to outside agencies is handled sensitively and effectively.
A whole school guidance plan is not yet completed, but an initial draft of the plan which contains programmes for each year group has been developed. This plan recognises the need for Guidance to meet the educational, personal and vocational needs of students. It contains a comprehensive array of interventions for students to assist them to develop effective study skills and a good awareness of all the career and further educational opportunities available to them. In this academic year, it is planned to complete all sections of the draft plan and then engage in a consultation process with staff, parents and students. Once this process is completed, the whole school guidance plan should then be presented to the board of management as a school planning document. Further Assistance in developing the guidance plan can be accessed in the booklet, Planning a School Guidance Programme (NCGE 2004) which was issued to schools or can be accessed at www.ncge.ie.
The school aims to maximise the number of students who complete junior and senior cycles and reach their full academic potential. A particularly good feature of the guidance programme for junior cycle is the way in which the guidance counsellor meets with all class groups. This contact guarantees that all students become familiar with Guidance and can begin building an awareness of possible progression routes from the time they enter first year. Guidance works closely with the learning support co-ordinator and with the Junior Cycle School Programme (JCSP) to meet a wide range of Special Education (SEN) needs. However, to consolidate further this excellent contact with junior cycle students, it is recommended that Guidance in junior cycle should be planned in closer co-operation with SPHE to prevent overlap in the delivery of vocational or other topics. This liaison could be managed through the school’s care team.
Students transferring from primary school are assessed with support from Guidance to identify their individual needs. They then receive good support in settling into the school and develop viable learning skills. Students are also encouraged to seek support to address personal issues. Contact by Guidance with second years continues the development of good awareness of personal strengths and interests. Third year classes are actively assisted to make programme and subject choices for senior cycle. Subject teachers, year head and tutors are also recognised to play a valuable role in supporting students to gain accurate information about the career possibilities of different subject areas. Parents are invited to become very involved with the school to support students to stay on in school and complete both junior and senior cycles.
Students in senior cycle have access to a comprehensive range of guidance supports to aid learning and transitions. The draft plan outlines extensive provision of guidance provision for senior cycle and TY. Good linkages operate between Guidance and programmes such as the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). The guidance counsellor liaises with the programme co-ordinators to deliver a very wide range of guidance interventions for students. He also teachers the career investigation and careers exploration modules, and assists students engaging in work-experience to prepare and gain the maximum benefit from this engagement with the world of employment. In addition, students are free to meet individually with the guidance counsellor to discuss options and plan personal career paths. The guidance programmes are informative and supportive of students planning transitions to third level and further education courses. A comprehensive list of outside speakers, which is carefully planned to meet students’ interests and needs, is included in the guidance programme for senior cycle. Speakers are invited to address students to enhance their knowledge of the adult world and broaden their knowledge about careers. The involvement of students in LCA and LCVP in the work experience, career investigation and work exploration modules is providing good opportunities for the development of personal career interests and good communication skills.
Students wishing to make the transition to third level receive good assistance to explore viable options and to make applications to the Central Applications Office (CAO) for entry to universities and colleges. Students have access to ICT and can make applications to the CAO via the internet. Those choosing routes into Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses and to apprenticeships are also facilitated in every way to make good choices. Parents are kept fully informed at parents’ night and through one-to-one meetings with staff. Good linkages have been established with a range of third level and further education colleges, FÁS, many employers and community groups and the local area partnership in Finglas. Students who wish to transfer to Community Training Centres (CTC) once they have completed junior cycle are also facilitated and assisted to make a smooth transition.
The school facilitates the attendance of the guidance counsellor at guidance meetings, to avail of all other career development opportunities and attend career exhibitions and college open-days.
In the course of the inspection visit, scheduled first and a second year guidance classes were visited. In each of the lessons the methodologies selected to present and develop the topics were well chosen and very appropriate to the age and developmental level of the students. Good advance planning for the lessons was in evidence and viable learning objectives were established from the outset. The work completed by students in previous sessions was distributed and targeted questioning was used effectively to ensure that all students were fully aware of the previous topics covered. The chosen topics were well introduced, and suitable and informative support materials were supplied. All students were actively engaged in learning and responded well to questions put to them. Students with learning support needs were given individual attention and each was able to complete the assignment set at their own pace. Of particular note was the way that these guidance classes link with the work of teachers of other subjects such as learning support. The work completed by students in Guidance is then advanced through the ICT class each week to reinforce learning. This is an effective strategy as it facilitates students to recap on material already covered and to make good use of ICT. In both instances, a good rapport between staff and students was clearly demonstrated as well as excellent classroom management. All students were actively engaged in learning.
Good records of all one-to-one sessions held with students and of all follow-up actions to be taken are being maintained. Individual student files are compiled and stored appropriately to provide maximum individual support.
Appropriate and purposeful use is being made of assessment tests and other instruments to assess learning and individuals’ particular needs. In Guidance, assessment is used very effectively to assist students to explore aptitudes and plan career paths. It is recommended that the school guidance plan should document fully the range of tests administered as well as all interest inventories. The suitability of tests should be reviewed regularly within the school. It is advised that reference should be made to the Circular Letter 0008/2007 on testing in schools, which is available at www.education.ie. It is also suggested that administration of the AH2 and the AH3 tests should be phased out as they do not have Irish norms and have not been revised for some years. The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATS) is administered to all students and they receive individual feedback on their results. The DATS is being used effectively to assist students to make subject and programme choices for senior cycle. Other aptitude tests are selected and administered to meet particular students’ needs as required, and good use is being made of interest inventories and other instruments using ICT.
To inform school planning, the initial destinations of all students leaving the school are being mapped annually. It is reported that an increasing number of students are now completing senior cycle and progressing successfully to third level and further education and training courses.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
· Patrician College is a caring school that provides a comprehensive range of educational and personal supports for students
· Guidance is viewed as an important support for students making transitions
· All students in the school have access to appropriate guidance and a comprehensive guidance programme for each year groups and school programme is being implemented
· Guidance is delivered as an integrated model with counselling with support from the School Completion Programme
· Every assistance is being supplied for students to achieve, to complete senior cycle and progress to third level or further education
· The school care team has been re-constituted and is now co-ordinating student support measures
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that the whole school guidance plan should be completed to include the guidance programmes and all other support interventions for students. This plan should be presented to staff, parents and students and then to the board of management
· As the school is now developing a more formal approach to co-ordinate and deliver support provision for students, it is recommended that consideration should be given to the creation of a resource area with ICT to be shared between Guidance and learning support
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.