An Roinn Oideachais agus Scileanna

Department of Education and Skills

 

Subject Inspection of Guidance

REPORT

 

Tralee Community College

Tralee, County Kerry

Roll number: 70550H

 

Date of inspection: 7 October 2009

 

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning

Assessment

Summary of main findings and recommendations

School response to the report

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance

  

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Tralee Community 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 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, the deputy principal and 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.

  

Subject provision and whole school support

 

Tralee Community College is a post-primary school in the scheme of the Kerry Education Service (KES). The school functions mainly as a provider of Post-Leaving Certificate courses (PLCs) to students from a wide catchment area around the town. Current enrolment is 563, comprising 470 PLC students and ninety-three boys and girls who are following mainstream junior and senior cycle curricular programmes. The majority of the latter group are from Tralee. The school also provides a range of evening courses for adults including professional courses in Accountancy and special needs assistant (SNA) training. It is clear that the school caters for a diverse population of students, in keeping with its policy of inclusion. The supports provided for students are of a high standard and are based on commendable collaborative practice among the staff. This is encouraged and facilitated by senior management in a climate in which responsible student behaviour is rewarded. It is noteworthy that such support and collaboration are considered by senior management to be essential to the wellbeing and subsequent success of students.

 

Although 470 are currently enrolled at PLC level, the enrolment approved by the Department of Education and Skills for PLC purposes is 350. The combined post-primary and approved PLC enrolment is, thus, 443. Fifty-six percent of the schoolís post-primary students are newcomers to Ireland. As a participant in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan, and in accordance with Circular PPT12/05, the ex-quota allocation from the Department for Guidance is twenty-two hours per week.

 

As a DEIS participant, the school engages in home-school-community liaison (HSCL) and in the School Completion Programme (SCP). The school also receives formal inputs from the Kerry Adolescent Counselling Service and is supported, through collaboration with members of staff, by the Kerry Diocesan Youth Service and local voluntary and sporting organisations. Among the many other supports provided are a mentoring system for first-year students by senior students, paired reading arranged between trainee SNAs and students in the junior cycle, a breakfast club and counselling, arranged through the SCP. This is very good provision.

 

There is widespread collaboration among staff and with senior management. Members of departments such as Religious Education (RE), Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and additional educational needs collaborate in monitoring studentsí progress and they do this in co-operation with senior management. Much of the information gathered is used formally and informally in planning the work of individual subject departments in accordance with studentsí needs. Those who teach English as an additional language, for example, collaborate with the additional-educational-needs department in sharing the results of language and literacy tests in the interests of developing a co-ordinated and developmental plan for individual students. Commendably strong links with the KES are maintained in this regard, especially in pro-actively devising strategies and policies for speakers of languages other than English. The schoolís participation in the English community of practice recently established by KES, is commended.

 

The facilities for Guidance were in development at the time of the inspection. They included the provision of a room with appropriate office and communication technology that was suited to the practice of counselling. A number of suggestions were made in the course of the inspection that, in the development of the facilities, should be taken into account. These included needs around ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of student clients and enabling studentsí access to information in printed and electronic formats.

 

Communication systems in the school are effective. They include ongoing informal contacts among staff members and with senior management, and formal meetings either as a whole staff or in the context of team meetings. Good practice was noted in the formation of the student-support team comprising representatives of the student-management or year-head system, DEIS, the additional-educational-needs, SPHE and RE departments and the guidance counsellor.

  

Planning and preparation

 

There were strong indications that the co-ordination and integration of the various supports provided for students were a priority for management and staff. It was clear, both from the comments of staff and from the documentation seen in the course of the inspection, that planning is ongoing and that self-review is a prominent feature of the process. The planning documentation of a number of departments, including that of the guidance department, seen was of a generally high standard. The school is commended for its consideration of participation in the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) modular course of whole-school guidance planning. Given the quality of supports for students provided by the school, such participation would provide an effective means by which the desired integration of supports might be achieved. It is worth noting that, although the course is available only to guidance counsellors, it is expected by the organisers that whole-school participation in the process be ensured through the formation of an integrative, interdepartmental planning team. It is recommended that a sub-group of the student-support team be formed to oversee whole-school guidance planning in collaboration with the school development planning co-ordinator. This group should include the guidance counsellor.

 

The guidance department plan is comprehensive, covering all year groups in the course either of planned intermittent contacts or formally timetabled contacts. In addition, it is clear that Guidance is practised in the educational, career and personal domains and includes inputs at the personal, small-group and class-group levels. This is commended, being in keeping with the Inspectorate Guidelines for Second-level Schools on the Implications of Section 9(c) of the Education Act (1998), relating to students' access to appropriate guidance (2005). The more recent publication Looking at Guidance, published by the Inspectorate of the Department in 2009 and available on the Department website, outlines many examples of good practice in Guidance and should be found useful in the process of whole-school guidance planning.

 

Strong links have been established with the local and regional community. These include collaboration with the business community in arrangements for studentsí work experience and of visits to the school by business people. The school-business partnership established with The Kerryman newspaper exemplifies such laudable connections. Similar arrangements are made with the institutions of further and higher education and training in the organisation of visits to the school and by students to those institutions. Participation in the Pathfinder scheme under the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) for fifth and sixth-year students is commended.

 

Links with organisations providing social care and support, such as the Kerry Diocesan Youth Service (KDYS), the Health Service Executive (HSE), and the Kerry Adolescent Counselling Service are at the core of the supports for students at Tralee Community College. Staff involvement in collaborative work with such organisations is highly commended. The level and nature of collaboration with other schools in Tralee in the provision of supports for students is a model to be emulated. The results may be clearly seen in, for example, the formation of a mentoring system whereby volunteers from the wider community are selected and trained as student mentors and in the community links established through HSCL. Other collaborative initiatives include a coping-skills programme for younger students and an induction programme for first-year students that includes a focus, in collaboration with KES, on the needs of students for whom English is an additional language.

 

Continuing professional development (CPD) is encouraged and facilitated by senior management. A number of staff members have achieved, or are in the process of achieving, masters in education degrees, or an equivalent. Provision is made for guidance counsellor attendance at CPD events arranged by the Kerry Branch of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, including professional counselling support. This is good practice.

  

Teaching and learning

 

The guidance counsellor had been appointed in the week prior to the inspection following the retirement of the previous incumbent at the beginning of the school year. The inspection coincided with the guidance counsellorís first day as an employee of the school. For this reason, learning and teaching were not evaluated in the course of this inspection.

 

Assessment

 

In addition to end-of-term assessments and the certificate examinations, students are assessed at the major transitional stages by the guidance department and the additional-educational-needs department. Initial screening of incoming students is completed by the additional-educational-needs department in the spring prior to entry. This comprises the assessment of levels of literacy and numeracy. The results of these tests are used to identify students for whom further interventions may be indicated. The relatively large number of students for whom English is an additional language precludes the use of standardised tests based on Irish norms for blanket screening for ability. A number of non-verbal tests of ability are available and might be considered for use with this cohort of students. To date, ability assessment has been carried out by the guidance department early in first year. Information gathered from the assessment of general ability is a useful addition to the early screening of students. Such data can be useful in informing the creation of mixed-ability classes and explaining discrepancies that may emerge between studentsí progress and studentsí abilities. It is recommended that consideration be given in the context of whole-school guidance planning to a more collaborative framework for the assessment of incoming students.

 

Other instruments used in the course of the guidance programme include interest inventories and an aptitude test, used mainly with senior cycle classes. Students have access to ICT facilities during guidance lessons and online instruments associated with, for example, Qualifax, Careers Portal and Career Directions are used as appropriate. The use of ICT in the provision of Guidance is commended.

 

Records seen in the course of the inspection were of a high standard. It is clear that staff are conscious of the need for accountability and transparency in dealing with students. It is also clear that records are used to inform planning, particularly concerning the planning of inputs in support of students.

  

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The supports provided for students are of a high standard.
  • Collaboration among staff is widespread and effective.
  • Senior management is supportive of the work of staff.
  • Guidance planning has commenced and is now in a developmental phase.
  • Planning documentation is of a high standard.
  • Strong links have been established with the local and regional community.

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths, the following key recommendations are made:

 

  • It is recommended that a sub-group of the student-support team be formed to oversee whole-school guidance planning in collaboration with the school development planning co-ordinator.
  • In the development of the facilities for Guidance, issues regarding client confidentiality should be taken into account.
  • It is recommended that consideration be given in the context of whole-school guidance planning to a more collaborative framework for the assessment of incoming students.

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the guidance counsellor, the principal and deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published, May 2010

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School Response to the Report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 


Area 1   Observations on the content of the inspection report    

 

The removal of the moratorium on the filling of promotional posts of responsibility would enable a more collaborative framework for the assessment of incoming students to be established, as recommended in the report.

 

 

Area 2   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

In the provision of facilities for Guidance, the issue regarding client confidentiality has been addressed.