Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Glandore Road, Dublin 9
Roll number: 60840K
Date of inspection: 12 November 2007
Date of issue of report: 17 April 2008
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Maryfield 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 school counsellors 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 of the school was given an 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 of this report.
Maryfield College is a voluntary secondary school for girls. There is one main local feeder primary school and students also attend from a number of other schools in north Dublin. The school has extensive and well-tended grounds that provide good opportunities for sports. Enrolment is currently 635. It is reported that the numbers of students applying for entry each year exceed the amount of places the school can offer.
Guidance has been provided in the school for a long number of years. Management values the contribution that Guidance makes in providing a structured support for students making transitions, choosing subject options, designing career paths and addressing personal concerns. Currently the school has an ex-quota guidance allocation of twenty-eight hours. Guidance is delivered as an integrated support with counselling. The guidance counsellor manages Guidance provision in the school, and is supported by two other staff members who provide additional personal counselling for students. Working as a team, a range of educational, career and personal guidance interventions are planned and provided for students. This work is managed and co-ordinated by the school’s guidance counsellor. This whole-school approach to guidance effectively complements the school’s pastoral system, and guarantees that students can access assistance from a wide range of staff. This approach to providing support for students is to be highly commended. All students can access both Guidance and counselling support directly, or can be referred by parents or staff.
The available ex-quota allocation of twenty-eight hours for Guidance is used appropriately. Guidance is augmented by additional time provided directly by the school for personal counselling interventions. The guidance counsellor and the staff members who provide counselling work closely as a team. Regular meetings are held to plan workloads and suitable interventions for students are agreed. This approach to the provision of integrated guidance and counselling support is to be commended.
Timetabling for Guidance reflects a fair balance of provision between junior and senior cycles, with the major emphasis on assisting students in senior cycle to deal with transitions and develop a good understanding of their individual interests and goals. Guidance is delivered using a variety of modes that include one-to-one, group and classroom sessions, guest speakers and visits to appropriate sites outside of the school. A care team that includes Guidance has been created to plan and manage supports for students. This team meets regularly both formally and informally and works closely with the school’s pastoral system to identify students who require additional support, and then appropriate interventions are planned and provided. This targeted use of available resources within the school is to be commended. Regular meetings are held with management to discuss students’ needs and the expansion of available guidance provision to meet these needs. The development of the school guidance plan is now serving to focus management and staff on the real potential of this valuable resource. Good internal and external referral systems for students have been established and are functioning efficiently.
Good facilities are provided for Guidance. The guidance office is suitably equipped and has an adjacent area that serves as a careers’ library. However, the guidance office, while accessible to students is somewhat sequestered within the school building. It is suggested therefore, that consideration be given in the future to the relocation of this facility to a more public area of the school. The career’s library does not currently have information communication technology (ICT) resources to allow students to access information about third-level colleges or careers. This would be a useful additional resource for students to encourage them to access information using the WWW. Notice boards for the display of information about college open-days, other career events and application requirements are also provided in accessible locations in corridors. These carry up-to-date information.
The school is very supportive of the use of ICT and provides good access for Guidance to the ICT room for classes. Good use is also made of the school’s website to provide information for parents.
The guidance team has been involved in drafting the school’s critical incident response plan. The school is very anxious to promote all aspects of social inclusion and provide for the needs of all students including those with learning support or special educational needs. The guidance counsellor therefore liaises with the learning support and with the social personal health education (SPHE) departments to plan appropriate supports.
The school has recently drafted a whole-school plan. This identifies areas for current and future development and will serve as a useful guide for the school staff engaging in all aspects of school planning. A whole-school guidance plan has also been developed and presented to staff, management and parents for consultation. A good feature of this plan is the way that a consultation process took place to ascertain guidance needs from the wider school community. To make parents fully aware of Guidance in the school and the range of supports it provides, it is recommended that the school’s guidance plan, once ratified by the current board of management should be placed on the school’s website, so that it can be viewed by the whole school community.
The guidance plan has been well developed over a number of years and contains a guidance programme for each year group and school programme. It states that planning for guidance is a process that attempts to be flexible to meet current and emerging needs and that the guidance plan will be up-dated annually.
Beginning when prospective students are still attending primary school, senior management visits the feeder-primary schools to meet with staff. The guidance programme for in-coming first years 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 subject options is provided during a parents’ open night which is attended by the guidance team who make a power-point presentation explaining the role of Guidance. To further inform parents about the implications of subject choices students and their parents are referred to the 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 subject choices made in junior cycle.
The guidance team is now further reviewing its role in this induction process and plans to undertake some visits to local primary schools in 2008 to meet with teachers and students. This development is to be commended, as this new approach will appropriately complement the considerable range of supports already being afforded to students and parents.
Guidance in junior cycle is delivered through direct involvement by the guidance team and in co-operation with staff that provide personal counselling, pastoral support and the Social Personal Health Education (SPHE) programme. The guidance programmes for junior-cycle year groups focus on providing personal development, educational support for learning and opportunities for students to explore interests. To further augment this good provision of support it is recommended that some modules on career topics be inserted in the guidance programmes for second and third years. These could be delivered with support from SPHE and would provide opportunities for students to begin discussing possible vocational interests in advance of making subject and programme choices for senior cycle. Students in third year are provided with comprehensive information about subject and programme choices. Parents are kept informed about available choices and attend special events arranged for them. They can also meet directly with the guidance counsellor.
Students entering senior cycle can choose Transitions Year (TY), the Leaving Certificate or the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). Guidance is available for students to discuss programme options and the subjects to study. In senior cycle students are supported to make on-going decisions and take an active role in deciding their career interests and future pathways. A detailed and comprehensive programme is planned for each year group and programme in senior cycle. This plan itemises the themes and areas to be completed month by month. To bring these programmes to a higher level of planning, it is suggested that learning outcomes for each section should be included and communicated directly to students. This would allow them to become more engaged in and responsible for their own learning.
The guidance counsellor works closely with the TY co-ordinator and team to plan a suitable programme of guidance interventions. Students are assisted in groups and individually to acquire job-search skills and are supported to plan meaningful work placements. During the year they are encouraged to self-evaluate and to make full use of the experiences gained in the world of work to begin focussing on possible career-paths and interests. At the end of the programme, students are facilitated to make subject-choices for Leaving Certificate.
Timetabled sessions are arranged for senior cycle classes. This timetabling allows an extensive and well-considered guidance programme to be delivered to students. In addition, all students are interviewed individually to discuss individual choices and plan applications to third level or further education colleges. However, as the time available for Guidance is limited, it is recommended that the school should consider reviewing the current timetabling arrangements for sixth year LCVP students. It should be possible to re-timetable guidance hours for these classes once the Central Applications Office (CAO) process has been completed in February to meet other needs identified in the school guidance plan. Students can seek additional support to discuss options or concerns by appointment. It is commended that information sessions are arranged for parents to provide information about transitions.
Students wishing to make the transition to third level education receive good assistance to explore viable options and to make applications to the 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 good access to ICT and can make applications to the CAO via the Internet. Those choosing routes into Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses 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.
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.
The school encourages and supports staff to engage in all continual professional development opportunities and to attend personal supervision for counselling.
In the course of the inspection two sixth year Leaving Certificate classes were visited. In both instances the methodologies selected to present and develop the topics were well chosen and appropriate to the age and developmental level of the students. Suitable methodologies were chosen to allow for variety of delivery and to maximise participation by students. A respectful rapport was evident between staff and students.
One class included an input by a guest speaker who provided information for students about National University of Ireland, Maynooth. Students were encouraged to engage actively with the speaker in an exchange of information and had prepared in advance areas to explore and questions to ask. Good advance planning was in evidence and viable learning objectives were established from the outset. A hand out had been prepared and was distributed to enable students to document the information they received and point out areas that may require further research using ICT. This use of ICT to research information is to be commended. The selection of external speakers who can interact effectively with students is also a positive feature of the guidance programme.
The other lesson dealt with CAO application practice and took place in the well-equipped ICT room. Each student had a computer to explore the relevant website and complete the set assignment. The room is equipped with full Broadband access and has excellent facilities to encourage individual research of selected college and other websites. The topic was well introduced. Good and informative support materials were supplied. All students were actively engaged, demonstrated very competent computer skills and could carry out the task set by the teacher without assistance. Students were given clear information about how to use the website and were encouraged to begin completing their individual applications to the CAO before the deadline on first February 2008. Students asked questions that showed good understanding of the task set and worked quietly and competently. Very good reference was made to the National Qualifications Framework to guide students to choose course levels. This can be accessed at www.nqai.ie . To further enhance the good learning taking place, it is suggested that students should be given a homework assignment of drafting personal CAO applications for the next class held. This would provide a good point of reference for each student to begin refining her choices of courses well in advance of completing the final application.
In both lessons classroom management and atmosphere was excellent. Very good learning was in evidence. The students listened attentively, carried out tasks in an orderly manner and made good use of the available time to complete set tasks and assignments.
Appropriate and purposeful use is being made of assessment modes, tests and other instruments to assess students’ learning and individuals’ needs. In Guidance, assessment is used very effectively to assist students to explore individual aptitudes and plan suitable career paths. The school guidance plan documents the range of tests administered and all interest inventories available. The suitability of tests is 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 to assist with the selection of tests for Guidance and learning support. It is also suggested that the administration of the AH2/3 tests should be phased out and that more suitable tests should be considered.
The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATS) are administered to all students in fifth year as age appropriate, and they receive individual feedback on their results. This is being used effectively to assist students to make subject and programme choices in senior cycle. Other aptitude tests and interest inventories are selected and administered to meet particular students’ needs. In addition full use is being made of Qualifax to explore third-level and further education and training options using ICT.
Good records of all one-to-one sessions held with students are being kept and all follow-up actions to be taken are fully minuted. Individual student files are compiled and stored appropriately to provide maximum individual support on an ongoing basis. All meetings held with staff and management are recorded. It is suggested that the initial destinations of all students leaving the school should be formally mapped annually to inform school and guidance planning.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
· The school has a guidance service which is well planned, managed and delivered to meet students’ educational, career and personal needs.
· Guidance and counselling are provided using an integrated and whole-school approach.
· The school guidance plan has been developed after a full consultation with staff, parents and students.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· As the school guidance plan has been well developed it is recommended that an annual review of the plan should take place, and that the amended plan be presented to the board of management.
· In order that junior cycle students in second and third year can begin exploring individual career interests, it is recommended that some modules focussing on career topics should be included in the guidance programmes in co-operation with the SPHE programme.
· In order to further maximise support for senior cycle students making transitions and to facilitate more targeted access to one-to-one guidance, it is recommended that a review of current timetabling for Guidance should take place.
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.
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Board of management welcomes the report as a fair and accurate affirmation of the work done by the Guidance and Counselling team in the school. The inspection was a fruitful and useful experience for all involved
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
1. The School has discontinued since 2/2/2008 the use of AH 2/3 tests for incoming 1st years in favour of more suitable tests.
2. School management is actively examining changes in the careers timetable after February in Sixth Year.
3. The recommendation in relation to career topics in 2nd and 3rd year SPHE poses challenges currently being discussed by Guidance and SPHE departments.
4. The replacement of the existing careers office/library by a more modern and accessible suite has been agreed in principle by the Board of Management.
5. The issues above form part of an ongoing review of the Guidance Plan and will be presented to the Board of Management by the end of the school year.