An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Enniscorthy Vocational College
Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford
Roll number: 71630K
Date of inspection: 6 December 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 the Vocational College, Enniscorthy, County Wexford. 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 held discussions with the deputy principal, the counsellor, viewed guidance facilities, visited a classroom, interacted with students and reviewed school planning documentation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the deputy principal. 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.
Enniscorthy Vocational College is a co-educational school within the County Wexford VEC. It has a current enrolment of 723 students. Students come mostly from Enniscorthy town but there are some students from rural areas attending. The school has thirteen feeder schools and caters for students from diverse backgrounds and with a wide range of abilities, including those with learning difficulties. There are three learning support teachers in the school and currently there are five special needs assistants. The school is in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme. The school offers all available programmes in junior and senior cycles as well as Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. Currently there are forty seven students following the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) and thirty six following the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme. There are three hundred and twelve students taking Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses.
There is a strong commitment to the care of each student in the school and the guidance counsellor co-ordinates the care team which consists of class tutors, year heads, learning support teachers, the co-ordinator of JCSP and the Home/School/Community Liaison officer. There are formal monthly meetings of the care team and informal meetings take place if and when required. There is a whole school approach to the welfare of the students and the school is committed to providing individual attention for students who are experiencing difficulties. There is a counsellor to provide one-to-one counselling and there is a strong commitment to Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). However, there are no established links between Guidance and SPHE and no formal collaboration between the guidance counsellor and SPHE teachers. As there are common elements in both the Guidance and SPHE curricula, it is recommended that there should be collaboration in the planning and delivery of these elements. The Department’s document on the implications of Section 9 (c) of the Education Act 1998, outlines the common elements of both programmes.
There is a ‘meitheal’ programme operating in the school. Sixth year students are trained, during the summer of fifth year, to act as buddies/mentors to first years on an individual and class basis. There is also an anger management programme which is co-ordinated by the guidance counsellor. A breakfast club and homework club are operated and there is evening study in the school. The school is commended for its commitment to the holistic development and welfare of its students.
The school has a low drop out rate and its students follow a range of higher and further education and training options. Students go to Universities and Institutes of Technology, a number take up apprenticeships and many take PLC courses. Links have been established with Waterford Institute of Technology, Carlow Institute of Technology, The University of Wales and South Bank University, London and FÁS centres. The school participates in the UCD New Era programme.
As the school is in the DEIS programme, it currently receives 38.5 ex quota hours from the Department for Guidance. At the time of the visit, the guidance counsellor was on sick leave and the school had not been able to recruit a qualified substitute guidance counsellor, despite advertising on two occasions. It is recommended that efforts continue to recruit a qualified guidance counsellor. A qualified counsellor is employed by the school and is allocated 16.5 of the guidance hours to provide individual counselling. As there is a need for such individual counselling in the school, as identified by the DEIS programme, the allocation of guidance hours to a qualified counsellor is an appropriate use of the resource. In the absence of the guidance counsellor and the circumstances of not being able to get a substitute, other members of staff were undertaking essential guidance activities, particularly with the Leaving Certificate classes, at the time of the visit.
The school has contact with the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and with the Health Service Executive (HSE). It also has links with Youthreach. Some links exist between the school and local businesses and community, mainly for work experience placements, but these are not strong. It is recommended that the school develop stronger links with local industry, businesses and the community as a means of enhancing the guidance programme.
The school provides good facilities for Guidance. The guidance counsellor’s office is well equipped with ICT, including access to the internet. A counselling room was being set up at the time of the visit.
There is a month by month calendar of guidance and support activities, but there is no Guidance plan developed. It is recommended that planning be commenced as part of overall school planning, as outlined in the Department’s Circular PPT 12/05. It is recommended that a planning team be established and that the template on Guidance Planning, available from the Department’s website: www.education.ie be accessed and used in the planning process. The template has links to other planning documents. The document Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the implications of Section 9 (c) of the Education Act, 1998, relating to students’ access to appropriate guidance, which was sent to schools in 2005, should also be used in the planning process.
There are no Guidance classes timetabled. Classes are borrowed from other subjects as required. All senior cycle students are met individually by the guidance counsellor and students are seen individually by the counsellor when referred. A recent referral procedure has been implemented whereby teachers who wish to refer a student to the counsellor must fill out a form giving details of the reason for referral. This form must then be signed by the year head. The introduction of this procedure is commended as it will facilitate the counsellor in assessing the needs of students and in planning the counselling programme.
The principal and the HSCL officer visit all feeder primary schools and provide information about the school. In January preceding entry, an open night is held for prospective students and their parents when they can visit all the school facilities. Students following the JCSP do not study a modern continental language, but all other first year classes take all subjects up to Halloween. This is accomplished by providing taster modules in the optional subjects. This is commended as best practice as it assist students to make their choices based on experience of, and interest in subjects. Many boys choose Home Economics as an optional subject but girls continue to choose along traditional lines. The school reported that traditional boys’ and girls’ subjects are not timetabled at the same time. As part of guidance planning the school should consider strategies to achieve a more balanced take up of all subjects by both boys and girls. The class tutors meet all first year students and provide classes on study skills.
Second year students are met individually if necessary but no other contact is made with the year by the guidance counsellor. It is recommended that classes in Guidance be provided to all second year classes. Students have to make important decisions in second year which could have long term implications for later life choices and they need to have information concerning the consequences of choices made at this stage in their education. For example, they need to know the consequences of not taking a subject at higher level for the Junior Certificate or of not taking specific subjects. They also need to be able to connect the subjects they are studying to the world of work, by commencing career exploration. Second year students in particular often experience personal difficulties associated with adolescence and need to be assisted in developing the skills necessary to deal with some of these difficulties, for example, peer pressure, bullying, interpersonal relationships. It is recommended therefore that the guidance counsellor collaborate with the SPHE teachers for second years in developing class-based activities to assist students to: develop the skills to make choices, deal with personal and social situations, and commence independent learning.
The guidance counsellor borrows classes from other subjects to provide third year students with information about subject options in senior cycle. In addition to providing students with information, a list of the subject options is sent home to parents. There is also a parents’ night on subject options. The different programme options for senior cycle are also discussed with third year students. The school provides all of the Leaving Certificate programmes and this is commended.
Transition Year (TY) was introduced into the school recently (it was in its second year at the time of the visit). There is just one TY class and students must apply and demonstrate why they wish to take the programme. There are no Guidance classes in TY but students gain work experience and undertake mock interviews.
Students choose one of the three Leaving Certificate options in fifth year. The Guidance module which forms part of the LCA programme is timetabled. The guidance counsellor provides classes for the other fifth year students as necessary. Students have until the end of the second term in fifth year to change subject options. This flexibility is commended.
All sixth year students are met individually by the guidance counsellor. In addition, they attend college open days, visit career events and FÁS centres. As a number of students apply to British colleges, the school has to undertake the completion of UCAS application forms.
The school is well equipped with ICT facilities and until the present year, all classes had computer classes. From this year, only fifth and sixth years have classes. In the absence of the guidance counsellor, the computer teacher is facilitating the ICT elements of the Guidance programme. It was not made clear as to whether this included facilitating access to Qualifax or other web based Guidance sites. Most of the information required by students in relation to higher level, further education and training courses is available on line and it is essential that senior cycle students have access to ICT to access this information. Students should begin the process of accessing information about courses, training and careers as early as possible. It is recommended therefore that the policy to make ICT available only to senior cycle students be reviewed in the context of guidance planning.
Parent/teacher meetings are held for every year and open nights are held for the parents of certain years. A calendar is sent to parents outlining all school events. There are no other formal links between the guidance counsellor and parents. It is recommended that parents be consulted during the planning of the guidance programme and that formal links be established between the guidance counsellor and parents to involve them in activities such as mock interviews, organising speakers, establishing links with local businesses and the community.
In the absence of the guidance counsellor, it was not possible to observe a Guidance class. Discussions were held with the counsellor and the DEIS co-ordinator, both of whom provided information about students’ needs and the counselling and other support programmes in place in the school to respond to these needs.
No information was available on the tests used by the guidance counsellors as part of the guidance programme.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:
· Enniscorthy Vocational College provides a caring and supportive environment for all of its students.
· Management and staff in the school are committed to ensuring that all students maximise their potential and receive whatever supports are necessary to achieve this.
· There is a structured care team in place to provide supports for students.
· The school provides the full range of educational programmes available at both junior and senior cycles.
· A wide range of subject options is available and students have opportunities to experience subjects before making choices.
· The school has established links with a range of higher level and training institutions and participates in the New Era programme.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· All of the ex quota hours provided by the Department for Guidance and Counselling should be used for that purpose.
· Guidance planning should commence in the context of school planning. A team should be established to commence this work and the planning aids available should be used in the planning process.
· There should be a greater balance in the provision of Guidance for junior and senior cycles.
· There should be collaboration between the guidance counsellor and the SPHE teachers in the planning and delivery of the interlinked elements of both subjects.
· Some of the Guidance programme can be delivered on a class basis and should be timetabled accordingly. During planning it can be decided how many timetabled classes for each year will be required. For example, it could be one class per week for one term or one class per two weeks over a longer period.
· Students should have access to ICT for guidance purposes
· The school should involve parents and the local community and businesses in the planning and delivery of the Guidance programme.
Post-evaluation meetings were held with the deputy principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.