An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Saint Kevin’s College
Finglas, Dublin 11
Roll number: 60581M
Date of inspection: 7 February 2008
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St. Kevin’s College. 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 the guidance counsellor and reviewed school planning documentation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and to the guidance counsellor. 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.
St. Kevin’s College is an all-boys school under the trusteeship of the Irish Christian Brothers. It is situated in the well established suburb of Finglas on the north side of Dublin city. The majority of students are drawn from local primary schools but a number also come from outside the immediate area. Due to changing demographics the school experienced a declining enrolment for a number of years. Currently there are 289 students, but an upward trend in enrolment is reported and an increase in the number of first-year students for the next academic year will raise student numbers to over 300. The school is now included in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity for Schools (DEIS) programme. This initiative is assisting with the development of a range of new supports for students who are considered to be at risk of not achieving their full potential. An attendance officer has been appointed to monitor attendance and new strategies are being planned to increase contacts with parents.
Guidance is long established in the school and is well supported by management. Due to current enrolment there is an allocation from the Department of Education and Science of eleven ex-quota hours for Guidance. One guidance counsellor manages and delivers Guidance in the school with good support from other teachers. Currently, there is an emphasis on providing guidance support for students who are making transitions and the provision of one-to-one and group sessions for senior cycle students. All students can however access one-to-one support to address educational, career or personal issues. This approach is commendable as it facilitates students to discuss issues which may hinder their learning or full participation in school. It is recommended however, to enable all students to access Guidance, that some more of the time available should be concentrated on supporting students in junior cycle. As time is limited, this new emphasis could be achieved through greater co-operation between Guidance and the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Religious Education programmes.
The school has a pastoral system and a home-school-community liaison co-ordinator. Both of these systems interface effectively with Guidance. However, no formal student support team or care team has yet been created. It is suggested that the development of such a team would strengthen guidance and counselling provision in the school. This team should meet regularly to discuss and plan for the needs of individual students and arrange appropriate interventions. It would also facilitate more structured internal referral of students within the school, and further support the work of the home school community liaison co-ordinator.
Good networks have been established by the school with all relevant support agencies including the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the National Education Welfare Service (NEWB) and other bodies who provide counselling for adolescents. Referrals to these agencies are sensitively handled and ongoing support is provided by Guidance to students and parents. The school also prides itself on the valuable connections that are established with a wide range of employers, businesses and employment-support groups. These contacts support students engaging in work experience and provide valuable insights into the world of work. The continued involvement of past pupils in the life of the school is particularly notable and commendable.
Good facilities are available in the school for Guidance. A dedicated and well-located office facilitates good access for students and parents to meet with the guidance counsellor. This office is suitably equipped with broadband and a full range of guidance resources are displayed. Parents are welcome to come to the school and meet with the guidance counsellor. Students wishing to access information from third-level or further education websites can do so in the school’s computer room. However, as student numbers are now set to rise and the pressure on existing computer-room facilities will therefore increase, it is suggested that the development of a resource room for Guidance with information and communications technology (ICT) should be considered. Well sited display boards in the corridors keep students informed about college open days and career events.
A critical incident policy has been drafted for the school but no actual plan is yet in place. It is recommended that priority should be given immediately to the drafting of a full critical incident plan with the involvement of Guidance and the whole-school community.
The school is engaged in school development planning and has developed a range of appropriate policies. The school has developed a guidance policy as a basis for the planning of this support for students. The guidance plan has been drafted with support from staff. It is reported that a small planning group is now meeting to further guidance planning objectives and identify priority areas for development. A draft guidance programme for junior and senior cycle has been developed. It is recommended that the guidance plan should contain more whole-school elements, include more Guidance inputs for junior cycle students, more linkages with the SPHE and RE programmes and a full list of all assessment instruments applied to students.
Further assistance to complete the guidance plan can be accessed from the Second Level Support Service (SLSS) www.slss.ie and the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE). Two documents may also be consulted that have been circulated to schools, Planning a School Guidance Programme (NCGE 2004) www.ncge.ie and Guidelines for second level schools on the implications of Section 9c of Education Act 1998, relating to students’ access to appropriate guidance (DES 2005) www.education.ie. It is recommended that, at the end of this academic year, the amended school guidance plan should be presented to staff, parents and students for consultation and then to the board of management. This plan should be updated annually to address new and emerging needs.
Beginning when prospective students are still attending primary school, the senior management team visits the feeder primary schools to meet with staff. The guidance programme for in-coming first-year students assists parents and students to become well-informed about subject options and suggests ways to cope with this important transition. Information about the school and the subject options available is provided during a parents’ open night which is attended by the guidance counsellor who makes a power-point presentation explaining the role of Guidance. To further inform parents about the implications of subject choices, it is recommended that Guidance with the support of subject departments, should prepare a small booklet on subject choices for both junior and senior cycle transitions. This document should be reviewed annually and placed on the school’s website www.stkevinscollege.ie. Students and their parents should also be referred to the information module on the Qualifax website: Leaving Cert. and Junior Cert. Subject Choice www.qualifax.ie. This site provides comprehensive information on the long-term implications of subjects chosen in junior cycle.
In order to aid the transition from primary to post-primary education each first year student is interviewed by the guidance counsellor and is also supported to settle in by the school’s pastoral system. Guidance is provided for junior cycle groups through occasional classes that are arranged to introduce the guidance service and teach good self-management and coping strategies. Close liaison is maintained with parents who are welcomed to visit the school and meet with staff. However, in reviewing the guidance programme for second-year classes, it is recommended that some additional inputs on vocational and career topics should be introduced. These inputs would encourage students to begin earlier exploration of personal interests in possible career areas and engender greater curiosity about the world-of-work. It would also complement the Dublin City University’s (DCU) Access programme which is now targeting second-year students to raise their expectations about choosing to study at third level. This exploratory work would also dovetail well with the third-year guidance programme where good educational and personal support is provided for students taking the Junior Certificate, and planning the transition to senior cycle. Liaison between the school and the ‘Opt-In’ programme organised by the Finglas/Cabra Partnership provides good support for students considered to be at risk of dropping out of school. This type of contact with local organisations is highly commendable.
The transition year (TY) programme is provided for all students. All students can access one-to-one support from Guidance. However, it is recommended that the guidance programme should show closer linkages with this programme and occasional classes should be arranged to provide better continuity with the Guidance being provided in third year.
A detailed guidance programme is planned for each year group in senior cycle. Many students now choose the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). Students are facilitated to discuss, on an individual basis, all available programme options and the subject options most advantageous for them to study. Throughout senior cycle, students are supported to make on-going decisions and to take an active role in deciding their own career interests and future pathways. However, it is suggested that the guidance programmes should in future itemise the themes and areas to be completed month by month within school terms. Indeed, to bring these programmes to a higher level of planning, it is suggested that learning outcomes for each section should be included and that these should be communicated directly to students. This strategy would facilitate them to become more engaged in and responsible for their own learning. As student numbers are now set to increase over the next few years, it is suggested that consideration should be given by management to timetabling Guidance for senior cycle classes on a modular basis. In addition, more ways should be explored by the planning group to insert Guidance more effectively into the TY and the LCVP.
A good range of outside speakers are invited to address students and many past pupils return to fulfil this role and participate in mock interviews organised in the context of the LCVP. It is suggested that the opportunity to take part in mock interviews should be extended to include all students in senior cycle.
Students wishing to make the transition to third-level education receive very good assistance to explore all viable options and to make applications to the Central Applications Office (CAO) for entry to universities and colleges in Ireland, and the Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) for application to third-level in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.
Students have access to ICT in the school and can make applications to the CAO via the internet. Those choosing routes into Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses and to apprenticeship training are also facilitated in every way to make suitable choices. Parents are kept fully informed at parents’ events and through one-to-one meetings with staff.
The school is very supportive of staff wishing to engage in continual professional development opportunities (CPD). The guidance counsellor is facilitated to attend regular personal supervision for counselling sessions and all career events.
Good linkages are maintained internally with year heads and teachers. Regular meetings are held with year heads to discuss students who require targeted support. External links are established with a wide range of contacts including; third-level and further education colleges, FÁS, third level college access programmes, national qualification bodies, local guidance counsellors and employers. Links with counselling services in the community are also maintained.
In the course of the inspection visit one transition year lesson was attended. The methodology selected to present and develop the chosen topic was very appropriate to the age and developmental level of the students. Good advance planning of the lesson was in evidence and the topic was well introduced. Support materials were supplied for students and used effectively to build on lesson planning. However, it is suggested that learning goals and the outcomes to be achieved should be more firmly established from the very beginning of the lesson. This approach would provide an effective scaffold and context for learning. In addition, more use of visual materials such as the National Qualifications Framework poster should be displayed to support learning about the topic.
All students were actively engaged during the session and demonstrated good listening and attention skills. Questioning was used to good effect and responses and ideas were built upon to promote understanding of the chosen theme. However, the inclusion of some more active methodologies should be considered in future to augment questioning and make lessons less passive for students, and to support different styles of learning. It is also suggested that as guidance lessons are not currently timetabled, a guidance plan for each year group should be written into students’ diaries. This would provide a clearer picture of the programme being delivered and its context.
Classroom management was excellent with students displaying an orderly approach to learning. Good rapport was evident between the teacher and students. Follow up on the lesson was signalled at the end of the session. However, it is recommended that some work to be completed by students on the theme of the materials supplied should be set to consolidate further learning.
Appropriate use is being made of assessment tests and other instruments in the school to assess learning and individuals’ needs. The school guidance plan however does not document the range of tests and other instruments being administered or ways that testing outcomes are used to advise students. It is advised therefore that reference should be made by the school to the current Circular Letter PPT 0008/2007 on testing in schools, which is available at www.education.ie. This could provide ideas of new tests to be selected. The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATS) is administered in Transition Year; the results are discussed on a one-to-one basis with students. This forms a good starting point for students wishing to discuss career possibilities and third-level options.
Good records of all one-to-one sessions held with students and of all follow-up actions to be taken are maintained. Individual student files are compiled and stored appropriately to provide maximum individual support. The initial destinations of all students leaving the school are being documented informally. It is recommended however, that all students’ initial destinations should be formally mapped to inform school and guidance planning and to raise students’ expectations of achievement.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Guidance is well established in the school.
· All students can avail of guidance and counselling support on a one-to-one and group basis.
· Guidance liaises effectively with the school’s pastoral system and with parents.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· To provide whole-school guidance support for students, it is recommended that closer liaison be established with the SPHE, RE and all school programmes.
· To further develop the pastoral care system the school should establish a student support or care team that includes Guidance.
· It is recommended that the guidance plan should be completed and presented for consultation to staff, parents and students and then to the board of management. This plan should be reviewed and updated annually.
· In order to inform school planning it is recommended that the initial destinations of all students should be formally tracked.
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 November 2008