An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Clonaslee Vocational School
Clonaslee, County Laois
Roll number: 71470O
Date of inspection: 15 May 2007
Date of issue of report: 8 November 2007
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Clonaslee Vocational School. 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 the guidance counsellor. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Clonaslee Vocational School is located in Clonaslee Co. Laois and is under the auspices of County Laois Vocational Education Committee. The present school opened in 2000 on a new site to replace the previous vocational school. The well-designed building facilitates the provision of quality learning and teaching and provides a very conducive environment for education. It is reported that some additional classrooms will shortly be added to provide additional facilities. The school caters for students who live in Clonaslee and the surrounding rural areas. The current enrolment is 188 students.
Guidance has been available for students in the school for some years. The guidance allocation for the school is 8.8 hours. The ex-quota guidance allocation is shared between two schools, Clonaslee Vocational School and Portlaoise Community College. Students in the school have access to formal guidance support two days a week. Guidance is well integrated with the school’s pastoral structure, receives good support from management and is delivered using a whole school approach. It is reported that the teaching staff is very co-operative, facilitates access for the guidance counsellor to classes to provide advice for students about subjects and progression options. A pastoral care committee has been formed to plan and monitor individual support measures for students and liaise with parents. This approach is commended.
Guidance is delivered using a variety of modes: one-to-one guidance and counselling interviews, timetabled classes, and occasional group sessions with students. All students in the school have access to personal counselling support when required. A dedicated office is provided for Guidance in the adjoining sports building. This office is suitably equipped and has adequate room for the storage of guidance materials and students’ files. However, the location of the office is somewhat remote from the school and somewhat inaccessible for students. It is therefore recommended that consideration be given to moving the guidance office to the main school building. A notice board for Guidance notices should be located near this room to display all career and college information. It may be possible to arrange a shared office for Guidance with other staff members as space in such a small school building is limited. The school has developed good information communications technology (ICT). The guidance programmes can avail of classrooms with ICT for group sessions.
Contacts have been established with all relevant national and local agencies and appropriate referrals are made for students where required. A critical incident response is in operation with support from Guidance.
The school has eight main feeder primary schools. Good contacts have been established with these schools to facilitate the gathering of relevant information about pupils and assist in their smooth transfer into first year. The educational and personal needs of students are assessed with support from Guidance. Guidance plays a vital role in assisting parents and students to choose subject options and to gain maximum benefit from all that the school can provide.
The guidance plan for the school is being developed with whole school support. The views of staff about Guidance have been surveyed and the results of this survey have identified priorities for future development. The draft guidance plan outlines guidance provision in all year groups and the topics to be delivered. This draft plan will shortly be presented to staff, parents and students for consultation. It is recommended that the whole school guidance plan should then be completed to guide the development of guidance programmes and student support systems in the school. Further Assistance in developing the guidance plan can be accessed in the booklet, Planning a School Guidance Programme (NCGE 2004) which has been issued to schools and is also available at www.ncge.ie. In addition, the school guidance plan should detail all links between Guidance and all school programmes. The plan should be reviewed annually and adjusted to meet needs as they arise.
Because of the small number of hours available for Guidance there is a concentration of structured guidance at transition year (TY) and at senior cycle levels. It is reported that most students now progress from junior cycle into senior cycle. Students in TY and senior cycle classes have access to a wide range of individual and group guidance supports. These enable them to make appropriate subject choices, develop good self management skills, explore work experience and choose viable transition options into higher and further education and training. Students in junior cycle currently receive less structured guidance support. However, occasional guidance inputs are planned and delivered to assist them to make subject choices and develop good study skills. Individual counselling support is also available when required to address personal issues.
Owing to the constraints of time available for Guidance, the guidance programmes are less well developed in junior cycle. An induction programme in first year allows students to sample subjects and discuss changes to selected options early in the first term. Students in third year are assisted to make subject and programme choices for senior cycle. As all students need access to appropriate Guidance, it is recommended that some more structured guidance inputs be arranged for students in second and third years to allow them to begin exploring individual vocational options and career paths. This should be arranged using a whole school approach in co-operation with staff and in conjunction with the social personal and health education (SPHE) programme.
Students in senior cycle have access to a comprehensive range of guidance supports to assist their learning and transitions. The draft plan outlines good provision of guidance for TY and all senior cycle students. There is very good co-operation between Guidance and the TY and the Leaving Certificate Vocational (LCVP) programmes. The guidance counsellor liaises with the programme co-ordinators to support delivery of appropriate Guidance programmes. Excellent one-to-one supports are provided by Guidance for students engaging in work-experience, and for those completing LCVP Links Modules or personal assignments in TY. Students can also meet individually with the guidance counsellor to discuss higher and further education options and to plan personal career paths. The guidance programmes throughout senior cycle are informative and supportive of students planning transitions to third level and further education and training courses.
Those 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’ nights and through one-to-one meetings with staff.
Good linkages have been established with a range of third level and further education colleges and FÁS. A number of visits for students to third level college open-days and career exhibitions are arranged each year. This is to be commended as it contributes to students’ knowledge about the opportunities available outside of their own county and immediate district.
The school facilitates the guidance counsellor to attend guidance meetings, and to avail of all other personal career development opportunities: guidance cluster meetings, personal- supervision and careers events.
In the course of the subject inspection, one timetabled sixth year class taking LCVP Links Modules was visited. The session was held in a well equipped ICT room. Each student was completing a work-experience assignment for the Link Module. The methodologies selected to present and develop the topic were well chosen and appropriate to the age and developmental level of the students. Good advance planning for the class was in evidence and viable learning objectives were established from the outset of the lesson. The topic was well introduced and good brainstorming at the beginning of the session was used to full advantage to make sure that all students understood how to complete the assignment. In addition, good use was made of the overhead projector and informative support materials were supplied. The views of students were sought and targeted questioning was deployed effectively to elicit detailed responses. These responses were listened to and students’ ideas were built upon very effectively in the process of the discussion. Each student then worked independently to complete their assignment and received individual support from the teachers when required.
Throughout the session, students were actively engaged, demonstrated very competent communication and ICT skills, were well organised and could each make useful contributions to the discussion about work experience. The inspector interacted with students who could each explain how they had planned the assignment content and could explain how useful they had found the work experiences.
Excellent rapport and respect between teacher and students were evident. Excellent management of the classroom and of the time available to complete the task were also evident. Students’ work was stored in folders that demonstrated that a quality guidance programme had been implemented.
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. 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 administration of the AH2 test be phased out and that more suitable tests be considered. Good use is also being made of the Young Cloze and NRIT tests. The Differential Aptitude Test (DATS) is administered to all students 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. The initial destinations of all students leaving the school are being mapped annually to inform school planning.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
· Guidance provision in the school is flexibly delivered to meet students’ needs with support from management and staff.
· Guidance and counselling support is available for all students.
· Structured guidance support is provided for all students in TY and throughout senior cycle to enable them to make appropriate transitions.
· The initial destinations of all students transferring to third level and further education and training are mapped.
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 be completed to inform school planning and the on-going development of students’ supports.
· To improve students’ access to Guidance, it is recommended that the guidance office be relocated to the main school building..
· To augment the Guidance that is already available to students in junior cycle, it is recommended that some additional guidance inputs on vocational topics be planned in conjunction with the SPHE programme.
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.