An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Drumcondra, Dublin 9
Roll number: 91344V
Date of inspection: 3 February 2008
Date of issue of report: 22 May 2008
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Pobalscoil Rosmini. 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 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 on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Pobalscoil Rosmini is a well established and inclusive school with 377 students. The school aims to maximise opportunities for all and develop new approaches to learning and the provision of care for students. All levels of attainment are represented in the student cohort and special provision is made for students with learning or other disabilities. Due to its history, the school has developed particular expertise in catering for students with sight impairment by including them completely in the life of the school. This inclusive policy supports a vibrant and challenging learning atmosphere in which students are treated equally and where all talents and skills are recognised and celebrated. An awards system operates in the school to recognise, celebrate and reward personal achievements.
Students are drawn from a large number of feeder primary schools in the locality and further away. Contacts have been established with all these schools and visits are made by staff to meet with primary teachers to gather information about students’ learning and other needs. The school has long engaged with pilot initiatives designed to support school completion. It is now included in the Delivering Equality of Opportunities in Schools (DEIS) programme, which is supporting the school to develop even more targeted supports for students and their parents.
There is a long tradition of the provision of guidance in the school. Management and staff consider that Guidance is a vital support for students and parents. Guidance is provided as an integrated model with counselling, so that students can avail of a wide range of personal, educational and career supports and one-to-one counselling. Due to current student numbers, an allocation of 17 ex-quota hours is available for Guidance and this allocation will soon rise due to inclusion in the DEIS programme. Good support is being provided by Guidance for students making transitions and opportunities to explore a very wide range of career choices are supported. Guidance is managed and delivered by the school’s guidance counsellor with support from a wide range of staff.
Due to the development of school planning, a more whole-school approach to Guidance is now being adopted and even more structured approaches towards the support of students are being explored. This integrated planning approach is very evident in the way that Guidance has established good linkages with all school programmes, subject departments and parents and is now identifying new areas for development. These co-operative approaches are to be commended as they demonstrate how Guidance can support whole-school planning and subject and programme development. An effective pastoral system operates in the school. However, as the school is now included in DEIS the creation of a student support team to include Guidance should be considered. This would support the full integration of student support services in the school.
There is presently some imbalance evident in guidance provision between junior and senior cycles. To address this imbalance and prevent overlap in provision of student supports, it is recommended that closer co-operation between Guidance and the Social Personal Health Education (SPHE) and Religious Education should be considered to plan additional support strategies for students in junior cycle.
Good facilities are provided for Guidance. The guidance office is well located and is accessible to students and parents. It is suitably equipped and presently houses the career library. However, as the demands on Guidance are expanding, the creation of a resource area with direct access to information communications technology (ICT) adjacent to this office should be considered. This would facilitate the holding of group guidance sessions and provide students with the opportunity to directly access third-level college or career websites. Notice boards for the display of information about college open-days, other career events and application requirements are also provided in accessible locations in the corridors. These carry up-to-date information.
Excellent linkages have been established with all appropriate external support agencies and bodies. Good contacts are maintained with the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), and the support provided by this body is praised by management. Networking with groups like Business in the Community, past pupils and employers has forged worthwhile alliances for the benefit of students.
Active planning is prevalent throughout the school. A number of polices have been ratified and some have been reviewed. A committee has recently been formed to draft the school guidance plan. A wide consultation has taken place to inform the content and direction of this plan. This is a commendable approach and shows involvement between Guidance and the whole-school community. This consultation has identified areas for future policy development. A guidance programme for each year group and school programme is drafted.
Further assistance to complete the guidance plan can be accessed from the Second Level Support Service (SLSS) www.slss.ie and the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE). Two documents may also be consulted that have been circulated to schools, Planning a School Guidance Programme (NCGE 2004) www.ncge.ie and Guidelines for second level schools on the implications of Section 9c of Education Act 1998, relating to students’ access to appropriate guidance (DES 2005) www.education.ie. It is recommended that, at the end of this academic year, the amended school guidance plan be again presented to staff, parents and students for consultation and then to the board of management for ratification. All school policies relevant to student support should be attached to the guidance plan. The guidance plan should be reviewed annually and adjusted to meet newly presenting needs.
Guidance actively supports the smooth transition of students into first year and assists them to settle into the school. Dedicated meetings are organised for the parents of incoming first years. The guidance counsellor attends these meetings and explains the role that guidance plays in providing educational, career and personal supports for students. However, in order to keep parents fully informed about the subjects provided in the curriculum and all optional subjects offered, it is recommended that a small information booklet for parents be developed. Developing this booklet should be co-ordinated by Guidance with support from the subject departments within the school. It should provide outline information about all optional subjects and expected outcomes and also indicate the possible career implications for students who choose certain subjects or groups of subjects. The need for students to consider taking subjects at higher level to attain particular career objectives should also be stressed to parents. Once completed this information should be placed on the school’s website. It is further recommended that students and their parents be referred to the module on the Qualifax website www.qualifax.ie Leaving Cert. and Junior Cert. Subject Choices. This provides comprehensive information on the long-term implications of subject choices made in junior cycle.
All first-year classes meet with the guidance counsellor and are assisted with educational and personal concerns effectively and sensitively. On-going assessment of students is conducted by the guidance counsellor to ascertain learning or other needs. As already mentioned in this report, closer contact with the SPHE and RE departments is urged as it would further consolidate the integration of Guidance within junior cycle. Contact is maintained by Guidance also with second-year classes. However, it is recommended that some additional inputs on career topics be included in the guidance programme for second-year classes. This would encourage students to begin exploring personal interests and possible career areas well before subject and programme choices for senior cycle have to be made. It would engender early curiosity in students about the adult world and the world-of-work and complement the aims of the Dublin City University’s Access programme, which is now targeting students throughout the school to raise individuals’ expectations about progressing to third-level education. This development of the guidance programme for second year would also dovetail well with the programme provided in third year. This programme provides students with good educational and personal support to complete the Junior Certificate, and plan the transition to senior cycle.
Guidance programmes for senior cycle groups are well planned and provide an interesting range of inputs and supports for students and parents. The Transition Year (TY) programme is reported to be a popular choice for students and is well subscribed with numbers each year. A particularly good feature of the guidance programme for TY has been the recent introduction of the ‘Real Game’. Using this tool, groups of students are assisted to actively explore real life situations and develop good decision-making skills. The school is to be commended for piloting so effectively this internationally recognised Guidance resource. To completely involve students in their own learning it is recommended that the guidance programme for each year group be shared with students at the beginning of each academic year and entered in their journals for reference. The LCA programme is provided which enables students to adopt a modular approach to learning and the exploration of the world of work and the widest possible range of opportunities for progressions. Guidance is very supportive of this programme and provides good support for students.
Students wishing to make the transition to third-level education receive very good assistance to explore all viable options and to make applications to the Central Applications Office (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. Visits to a number of third level, further education colleges and career events are arranged annually. A panel of outside speakers is drawn up each year that includes past pupils. It is suggested that this list should be included in the school guidance plan. Mock interviews are arranged for all Leaving Certificate students who also take part in a specially arranged interview workshop.
Students have access to ICT in the school and can make applications to the CAO via the internet. Those choosing routes into Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses and to apprenticeship training with FÁS, the National Training and Employment Authority, 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.
The school is very supportive of staff wishing to engage in continual professional development (CPD) opportunities. The guidance counsellor is facilitated to attend regular personal supervision for counselling sessions and all career events.
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, Business in the Community programme, national qualification bodies, local guidance counsellors and employers. Links with counselling services in the community are also maintained.
In the course of the inspection one Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) lesson was attended. The methodology selected to present and develop the lesson topic was well chosen and very appropriate to the programme and the age and developmental level of the students. Good advance planning of the lesson was evident. The topic was well introduced and questioning was used to good effect to elicit students’ understanding of the themes to be covered. Well-chosen support materials were supplied and were used effectively to build on lesson planning. The lay out of the room was used very effectively to encourage the students to confer in small groups to complete the set assignment. Learning goals and the outcomes to be achieved were well established at the beginning of the lesson. This approach provided a good scaffold and structure for learning.
All students were very actively engaged during the session and demonstrated good listening, attention and collaborative skills. Good rapport was evident between the teacher and students. Working in groups, the students considered the set assignment and prepared materials for a group presentation. Students who made presentations demonstrated good communication skills and good understanding of the context of the assignment.
Classroom management was excellent with students displaying an orderly approach to learning. Follow up on the lesson was signalled at the end of the session.
Appropriate use of assessment tests and psychometric instruments is being made in the school to assess learning and individuals’ needs. The school guidance plan however does not document the range of tests and other instrument being administered or ways that testing outcomes are used to advise students. It is advised therefore that reference should be made by the school to the current Circular Letter PPT 0008/2007 on testing in schools, which is available at www.education.ie. This could stimulate ideas about new tests to be selected. The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATS) is administered in Transition Year and the results are discussed on a one-to-one basis with students. This forms a good starting point for students wishing to discuss career possibilities and third-level options.
Good records of all one-to-one sessions held with students and of all follow-up actions to be taken are maintained. Individual student files are compiled and stored appropriately to provide maximum individual support. The initial destinations of all students leaving the school are being documented informally. It is recommended however, that all students’ initial destinations be formally mapped to inform school and guidance planning and to raise students’ expectations of achievement.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· Pobalscoil Rosmini is a fully inclusive school where Guidance is provided effectively to meet the needs of all students.
· The whole-school guidance plan is being developed with the support of a small planning committee. A wide consultation has been organised with the whole-school community to identify priorities and areas for development.
· One-to-one guidance and counselling support is available to all students.
· Very effective approaches have been developed by Guidance to support the delivery of a wide range of educational, career and personal supports for students.
· Students receive individual assistance to explore a wide range of career, third-level and further education options and devise individual career plans.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· It is recommended that work should continue towards completing the school’s guidance plan. Once completed it should be presented for ratification to the board of management. This plan should be updated annually.
· As the school is now in the DEIS programme, it is recommended that a student support team be established that includes Guidance to plan and manage a full range of individual interventions for students.
· To enable parents to be fully informed about available subject options, it is recommended that a small booklet be developed by Guidance with the support of subject departments to explain all these choices. This information should also be placed on the school’s website.
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.