An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Raphoe, County Donegal
Roll number: 71230R
Date of inspection: 16 November 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Deele College, Raphoe, Co. Donegal. 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 principal, 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 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.
Deele College, operating under the auspices of the County Donegal Vocational Education Committee (VEC), is one of two post-primary schools in the town of Raphoe, in the east of the county. The school caters for students from diverse, mainly rural, backgrounds and currently there is an enrolment of 440 including two students from the Traveller Community who are totally integrated into the school community. Enrolment numbers are expected to grow over the next few years. The vast majority of students travel to school by bus from a catchment area of approximately twenty miles, which stretches to the border with Co. Derry. As a number of students have quite an early start to the day, the school organises a breakfast club each morning. This support is commended. The guidance counsellor attends the breakfast club to meet with students.
The school participates in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity In Schools (DEIS) initiative and thus receives a total ex-quota allocation of 22 hours for Guidance from the Department of Education and Science (DES). Currently, the co-ordinator of the local School Completion Programme (SCP) cluster is based in Deele College. The guidance counsellor, who previously worked as the home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator in the school, has been in the position only since the beginning of the current school year. The principal reports that a team approach to guidance delivery is developing in the school. This is commended.
Deele College has the services of a full-time HSCL co-ordinator and the local parish priest teaches Religious Education (RE) and acts as part-time chaplain. The school also has the services of a designated National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) psychologist.
Guidance classes are provided in third year and in Transition Year (TY). Guidance classes are offered on a modular basis in senior cycle and the guidance counsellor also teaches Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) to two pre-Leaving Certificate classes. Individual appointments are provided throughout the school on request or by referral.
The guidance counsellor states that school management is supportive of Guidance and there are good facilities for Guidance in Deele College in the form of an office with two computers with broadband access, photocopier, phone and fax. At present shelving and storage facilities to accommodate career materials in the office are being extended. This is commended. A number of notice boards provide guidance-related information for students and a guidance notice board in the staffroom advises teachers of up-coming events. A general notice board in the all-purpose area provides useful addresses and contact numbers of local support organisations.
The guidance counsellor plans to provide display facilities for guidance materials in the classroom and to include a section on careers as part of the school library. This is commended as students will have greater access to materials for independent study and research. The guidance counsellor states that access to the computer rooms for guidance classes is good; however, broadband is provided via satellite which slows connectivity. Access to ICT facilities is arranged on a modular basis for senior students and by collaboration with colleagues at other times. In the course of guidance planning it is suggested that the school would discuss the arrangements in order to ensure access to ICT facilities for Guidance and to explore ways of providing independent access for students outside class time.
There is a good sense of care for students in the school as evidenced by the supports and initiatives available. Deele College is commended on providing a very wide range of education programmes for students, e.g Junior Certificate, Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP), Transition Year (TY), the Leaving Certificate (Established) and the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programmes (LCVP).
A care team comprising the principal/deputy principal, HSCL and SCP co-ordinators and learning support teachers is co-ordinated by the guidance counsellor and meets monthly. Ongoing contact with class teachers and the SPHE co-ordinator is maintained informally. This is commended and as a means of building on this support it is recommended that the SPHE co-ordinator be included in the care team. It is recommended that the school consider timetabling meetings of the care team in order to facilitate optimum attendance and to provide a formal structure in terms of transfer of information on students and keeping of records. Such a formal approach would consolidate the good work that is already being done by individuals and small groups. Pastoral care issues and concerns are also discussed at the weekly meetings of management and assistant principals.
Links with senior management are maintained through informal meetings. Preliminary consultation has taken place between the guidance counsellor and the deputy principal to discuss subject choice for next year. Both self-evaluation and student evaluation of the guidance programmes are planned by the guidance counsellor for the end of the year. This is commended as results will inform guidance provision.
Deele College is commended for having engaged with a number of outside agencies to provide information and support for students, e.g Youthreach, FÁS, Junior Achievement Ireland, Garda Youth Diversion Programme (LEAF), Donegal Local Development Company and local youth support projects such as Daybreak. The family support group Springboard, funded by the HSE, provides a drop in centre and outreach workers for families and collaborates with the school to support students. The school also participates in the Comenius Project (Encompass Programme) through which it is linked to schools in Paris and in Northern Ireland. Deele College also participates in cross-border, student development projects such as the LET and the KEY projects. A new initiative in the school is the business partnership with Donegal Creameries where a group of pre-Leaving Certificate students receive extra support in the area of business studies, career and job selection skills.
Students are referred to the guidance department by teachers, care team, or they self refer. The guidance counsellor reports high demand for counselling. Referrals by the guidance counsellor and the learning support team to the NEPS, HSE and Youthreach are effected in consultation with the principal and parents. Student profiling has begun in the school and the guidance counsellor has consulted with the JCSP co-ordinator to discuss attainment targets for students within the programme.
To date, a good deal of work has been done by the guidance counsellor in guidance planning in collaboration with the principal, deputy principal, HSCL and SCP co-ordinators. The guidance counsellor has applied to participate in the continuous professional development in whole school guidance planning offered by the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) beginning in February 2007. This commitment is commended. School management has planned a staff development day for next term on the topic of student support, including Guidance and pastoral care. This is commended and it is recommended that the school formalise the current planning group led by the guidance counsellor as the guidance planning committee in order to progress the guidance plan. Input from staff, parents, students, and from representatives of the local business community into the planning process is also recommended. A student needs analysis vis-à-vis provision and delivery should be carried out also to inform the planning process.
Deele College has also engaged in work on a response to critical incidents and a number of staff have received training in first-aid and in the use of the school’s defibrillator as well as training from support groups within the HSE. It is recommended that the school would now progress to formulating and documenting their procedures. It is recommended that the school would network with other local schools in this regard as such collaboration will provide additional support and assist all participants. It is recommended also that the school would engage with the NEPS psychologist in preparing the final draft of the policy document.
Deele College has a transition programme for incoming students which begins with a visit by the principal to primary schools and an open day for prospective students and their parents. The principal and some staff members visit the primary feeder schools to speak to prospective students about the entrance day and to teachers of sixth class. The principal reports good collaboration and feedback from primary teachers.
The school also hosts an information evening for prospective parents and students during which an input is delivered by the guidance counsellor. The guidance counsellor is available to meet with individual parents or appointments may be arranged. A six-week programme of activities is hosted by the school where incoming students attend Deele College for two hours per week and participate in sports, computers, environmental studies and science experiments. An induction day takes place as term begins and TY students act as mentors to help first years settle in.
The mentors also run the school breakfast club. External mentors, in collaboration with the SCP co-ordinator, offer support to students. Deele College also offers after school study facilities and provides a pre-study snack to students, free of charge. A book rental scheme operates in the school and all first year students are provided with a transfer pack containing a calculator, atlas and dictionary, free of charge. This level of support for students is commended.
The guidance counsellor borrows classes from other teachers in first year to introduce the guidance service and to check in with first and second years each term. While this is commended, it is recommended that, in the course of guidance planning, the school would explore ways of addressing the imbalance in guidance provision between junior and senior cycles.
A report is issued to first year parents at mid-term in October and parents of each first year group are invited to an informal coffee morning where parents have an opportunity to meet with the year head, class teacher, principal, guidance counsellor, HSCL co-ordinator and learning support team. Roles and supports are explained again and the guidance counsellor provides information on subject choice. This commitment to parent support is commended as parents are afforded the opportunity to receive feedback on the settling in process of the students and raise any issues of concern. Parents are welcome and encouraged to phone and make appointments as required. Deele College also offers a ten-week swimming course to all first year students and awards are given to encourage effort.
Commendably, this year Deele College has introduced banding instead of streaming of first year students. Subject sampling is provided for students. This is commended as students are afforded the opportunity to make an informed choice for Junior Certificate. In keeping with section 9 (c) of the Education Act 1998 the guidance counsellor plans to provide a guidance input to first year students as they make subject choices.
JCSP students follow a reduced curriculum. It is recommended that the school ensures that parents are informed of the import of subject and level choice and the restricted curriculum as students decide on subjects and programmes. There is good collaboration between Guidance and the SPHE programme in the school and this cross-curricular approach is commended. Students at risk of early school leaving are referred to the guidance counsellor who collaborates with the HSCL and the SCP co-ordinators. While this informal collaboration between the HSCL, SCP and guidance departments is commended it is recommended that the school would formalise the existing co-operation, given the recent changes in personnel.
Guidance classes are timetabled in third year with a focus on creating awareness of subjects, the options available after the Junior Certificate and decision-making skills. The school organises a ‘subject choice week’ and hosts an information session for parents of 3rd year on subject choice, the TY option and the three Leaving Certificate programmes.
The TY is optional and at present there is one class group. Guidance is timetabled for one class period per week. Topics covered include research skills and career investigation, identification of personal strengths, skills and interests, work experience briefing and debriefing, programme and subject choice for senior cycle. In 4th year (pre-Leaving) Guidance is offered on a modular basis. Students review work done in third year guidance, are introduced to options after Leaving Certificate, continue work on job-search skills, explore their skills and interests and begin to compile a personal profile sheet. Within the 5th year programme final year students explore Post-Leaving Certificate options of education, training and work. FETAC and HETAC options and college costs are considered as well as job application procedures, stress and study management.
Senior students have access to videos, QualifaX and Career Directions, attend college open days and other career and course information events. As the school is located close to the border with Northern Ireland a number of students submit application to UCAS and attend open days in these colleges. The guidance department has identified a need for a policy on attendance at open days and it is recommended that this would be addressed in the course of guidance planning. Representatives from colleges and training organisations visit the school to provide talks and visits out are organised for students.
The guidance counsellor also delivers the guidance module of the LCA programme and facilitates the career investigation in LCVP. Deele College engages with a group from the business community to provide mock interviews for LCA students. The school hosts an information session for parents of Leaving Certificate students to outline CAO, UCAS and Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) systems and provide information on apprenticeships and grants to further and higher education. The guidance counsellor provides an input into all information sessions for parents and attends parent/teacher meetings.
Deele College participates in the Access programme with NUI Maynooth. It has also established good links with the Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT) which provides scholarships to students and facilitates visits by small groups to college laboratories as well as a panel of guest speakers.
Subject options for junior and senior cycles are organised by the deputy principal in consultation with the principal and the guidance department. Subjects are available in four separate arrangements of three blocks with students selecting one subject from each block. It is recommended that the school would consider the gender policy of the Department of Education and Science in organising subject choice to avoid stereotyping of certain subjects.
The guidance counsellor is a member of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) and the school is pleased to facilitate attendance at relevant guidance events, local and national in-service and at the local supervision sessions to support counselling.
In the course of the evaluation one third year class and one pre-Leaving Certificate class were visited. The lessons were well planned and structured. A notice board in the class room displays recent guidance materials providing a good reference point and learning stimulus for students. The guidance counsellor plans further development of storage and display areas for guidance materials in the class room. This is commended.
There was evidence of continuity with previous lessons. The aims of the lessons were explained to students and the pace and content of the lessons were appropriate to the class groups. All students are supplied with folders to contain their work. The good practice of recording attendance at the beginning of classes was noted.
In the third year class work began with reference to results of a career-related competition held in class the previous week. Good use was made of the competition to maintain interest in careers, results were held over to the end of the lesson with one student appointed as timekeeper and a recap on the quiz content was provided at the end of class for students who had been absent. Prizes were distributed and it was agreed that the scored sheets would be returned at the breakfast club. It was clearly evident that students enjoyed this particular activity.
A variety of methodologies was used in the lessons including questions and answers, handouts, use of the whiteboard and small group work. During group work the guidance counsellor went around settling groups, encouraging participation and answering queries. This was followed by excellent feedback from the students via a rapporteur and noted on the board. In order to facilitate participation and maintain interest it is recommended that feedback be taken one point per group randomly, as opposed to complete feedback from each individual group.
The guidance counsellor used questioning to check understanding and initiate comment and discussion. The further use of questions targeted to individual students is recommended to encourage participation. In one lesson in the course of discussion on the benefits of staying in school the opportunity was used to explain the relevance of the National Education Welfare Board (NEWB)These linkages are commended.
Good rapport and mutual respect were evident between guidance counsellor and students. Students were at ease and received positive affirmation and encouragement. A friendly and relaxed class atmosphere encouraged engagement and participation on the part of students. Continuity was maintained by reference to developing topics in the following lessons. The good practice of providing a summary of lesson content at the end of class was noted in both lessons. It is recommended that students be encouraged to write the salient points of the summary and file it in their folders. Commendably homework was allocated in both classes and students asked to record details in their diaries.
Testing in junior cycle is largely diagnostic and norm-referenced numeracy and literacy tests are used to identify students in need of extra support and to band students into ability bands in first year. The guidance counsellor collaborates with the learning support team in this regard. This co-operation is commended. In the course of school development planning the school should consider the formulation of a testing policy to include review of instruments used, access to test scores/results and how these are communicated to students.
Currently the guidance counsellor is planning to administer the Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs) and the Centigrade Test to fourth year (pre-Leaving Certificate) students to assist career choice and to identify areas of strength. Interest Inventories such as that available on QualifaX will also be used.
To date tracking of Leaving Certificate students has been done informally. However the guidance counsellor plans to introduce a phone survey in September. Past students are encouraged and welcome to return to school or to meet with the guidance counsellor for further support, information and advice.
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 counsellor at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.