An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

 

Department of Education and Science

 

Subject Inspection of Guidance

REPORT

 

Coláiste Daibhéid

An t-Ardán Theas, Corcaigh

Roll number: 71124S

 

Date of inspection: 12 and 13 May 2008

 

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

 

Subject provision and whole school support

 

Planning and preparation

 

Teaching and learning

 

Assessment

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance

  

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Coláiste Daibhéid. 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 two days 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 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

 

Coláiste Daibhéid is a small, co-educational, all Irish second-level school near the centre of Cork City. It is named after Michael Davitt, one of the founders of the Land League. The aim of the school is to provide second-level schooling through the medium of Irish for students whose primary education was in the various all-Irish Gaelscoileanna in the Cork city area, and for those with an interest in learning through Irish. The school was founded in 1993 under the City of Cork Vocational Education Committee (VEC) and moved to its present location, close to major bus routes, in 1999. Accommodation for the school is provided in two buildings. One of these is on the South Terrace, in which students in the senior cycle are accommodated. The other, approximately 100 metres away in Buckingham House, is part of the St John’s Central College complex and is where junior cycle students are accommodated. The number of students enrolled has been stable at approximately 145 in recent years and projections for the 2008 – 2009 school year are for an enrolment of 155. The incumbent principal has been in office since the beginning of the current school year, having been deputy principal for the years prior to that. The school is well presented in buildings of character and the efforts of students in redesigning a central open area are commended. Plans have been drawn up for the provision of a building on a single site close to the current campus.

 

It is clear that the support of students in their educational, personal, and vocational lives is a priority for staff and management of Coláiste Daibhéid. Not only are students known by name but the majority of parents are also known to staff. This knowledge, and the ongoing informal communication which is a feature of the school, facilitate rapid responses to any issues that arise. The collaboration of senior management and the qualified guidance counsellor ensures that appropriate action is identified and implemented when the need arises. The guidance counsellor is also a language teacher and is a whole-time staff member. It is clear that the hours devoted by the guidance counsellor to the practice of Guidance are in excess of the allocation. A commendable balance has been achieved between work with individual students and with groups of students, and there is a consciousness of the need for balance in work with students at all levels in the school. The allocation of ex-quota hours for Guidance by the Department of Education and Science is based on the number of students enrolled. The allocation for a school with an enrolment of under 199 students is eight hours per week. The timetabled provision of Guidance at Coláiste Daibhéid is approximately five and a half hours. It is recommended that the use of the full ex-quota allocation for Guidance be clarified in accordance with the terms of Circular PPT12/05 and in the context of whole-school guidance planning.

 

Commendable progress has been made in the provision of facilities for the practice of Guidance. An office has been allocated which is conveniently situated in the junior cycle building. Ongoing discussion is taking place between the guidance counsellor and senior management about the provision of technology and office equipment, and good progress has been made in this regard. In addition to normal office furniture and storage facilities, the office is equipped with a computer and telephone, and a library of guidance-related information is accessible in a small adjoining room. Broadband internet access is not yet available in the guidance office and it is recommended that, as an essential resource for Guidance, this be addressed as a matter of priority. A suite of modern computers has been recently installed in a well-organised information and communications technology (ICT) room. Plans for the use of the facility are to be included in the school’s guidance plan.

 

The communication systems, as befits a small school, are effective and largely informal. Continual contact is ongoing between senior management and the guidance counsellor, and between the guidance counsellor and staff providing support for students with special educational needs. In view of the major changes that have taken place in recent years in provision for special educational needs and in view of the potential expansion of the school, it is recommended that the links between those with student support functions be formalised in the course of whole-school guidance planning. A major advantage of ongoing, informal communication between staff at the school is the rapid response to issues as they emerge. It is clear that students are well known to staff and that staff responses to the individual needs of students are sensitive, effective and immediate. Referrals to appropriate staff, such as the guidance counsellor, and to agencies external to the school, are well managed through collaboration between staff and management. There is a laudable willingness among students to use the available resources when necessitated by their own needs or by the perceived needs of their peers.

 

Planning and preparation

 

The school has engaged with the school development planning process. Policies and procedures are in place, many of which, such as those relating to child protection, anti-bullying, and behaviour, have implications for the work of the guidance counsellor. Subject-department planning, including guidance-department planning, has progressed well in the context of a small school. Much informal work has been done in setting up systems for the guidance and support of students. The guidance infrastructure is now well advanced, as already mentioned above. There is, at the national level, a strong current emphasis on whole-school guidance planning. It is suggested that the guidelines of the SDPI and the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) be consulted as they relate to, for example, the identification of short-term, medium-term and long-term planning issues, time-limited actions and the application of some formality to processes such as meetings. The guidance counsellor, as a member of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, has access to information and continuing professional development in this regard. Useful information on the planning process is to be found in the NCGE document Planning the School Guidance Programme (2004), the NCCA A Curriculum Framework for Guidance in Post-primary Education (2007), the Inspectorate of the Department of Education and Science Review of guidance in second-level schools (2006) and 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). Further documents outlining the whole-school guidance plan are to be found on the Department of Education and Science website at http://www.education.ie and on the SDPI website at www.sdpi.ie. It is recommended that these resources be used to advance whole-school guidance planning and to formalise the existing links between those with student-support functions, both within and outside the school. The whole-school guidance programme, for example, encompasses elements of subjects such as Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), Religious Education (RE) and Science, and of programmes such as Transition Year (TY) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). The links with these should be clarified so that the individual plans of those subjects and programmes may be adjusted to reflect their guidance links. Similarly, access to the school’s resources, such as ICT, by classes and by individual students, would also be an important issue for inclusion in the whole-school guidance plan.

 

The provision of Guidance to all classes on a planned, intermittent basis and to classes such as TY and sixth year on a timetabled basis, is an effective part of the current guidance programme. It is also a good foundation for the whole-school programme. It is recommended in SDPI literature that a review of a school’s current strengths and challenges should part of the initial phase of school development planning. The whole-school guidance programme should be a medium-term result of such a review. The programme should include the contributions of subjects such as SPHE and RE and programmes such as TY, LCVP and the links with, for example, the special educational needs department. The involvement of parents and students in consultations regarding school processes is an ongoing feature of the informal communication that is a strength of the school and should be an important asset to whole-school guidance planning.

 

Links have been established between the school and the wider community. Work experience for students in LCVP and TY is facilitated by employers and is reported by staff to be operating well.

 

Teaching and learning

 

One lesson was observed in the course of the inspection. The lesson was well conducted. The topic of gender stereotyping was introduced and placed in the context of previous lessons, and lessons to follow, on this topic. Terms and references were clear and good definitions and summaries of unfamiliar terms were given. Students were also asked to recall similar terms used in previous lessons. As an aid to the process, a worksheet was distributed to each student and clear directions were given as to its use. The worksheet was subsequently used to stimulate discussion of commonly held stereotypical beliefs. Good use was made of a variety of questions to advance the discussion. The mixing of higher order questions with those demanding responses that are more factual is commended. The whiteboard was used in a commendably unobtrusive manner in the course of the lesson.

 

Students were courteous and respectful, even in the course of fervent discussion. Hands were raised to indicate willingness to respond and students’ responses showed interest and evidence of reflection. Humour proved to be a useful tool in diffusing tension and was skilfully applied. It was also noted that examples used were current and local and were appropriate to the level of understanding of students. Knowledge absorbed by students in previous lessons was well-displayed and showed engagement with the topic. Although desks were arranged in rows and columns, the arrangement facilitated discussion in small groups of two or three. Students were clearly comfortable with this mode of work and engaged well with the tasks assigned. Issues such as the influence of societal factors on personal decisions were gently introduced and were in keeping with the TY aim of enabling students to examine such influences on their personal, educational, and vocational choices.

Assessment

 

A review of psychometric tests is under consideration. An aptitude test is administered to TY students in the first term of that year and results are reported to students in the course of individual interviews. This is good practice. This test is used to help students to clarify career and course decisions and is used in conjunction with other interest inventories to further this aim. A test of general ability is being considered for administration to incoming first-year students as a yardstick for monitoring academic progress, especially in the initial years in the school. Useful information regarding available tests is to be found on the Department website in documents linked to the circular letter cl.0099/2007 regarding grants towards the purchase cost of test materials for Guidance, learning support and special education needs in second level schools. The Qualifax and Career Directions websites are among the web-based resources which will be found to be helpful both to students and staff in providing extensive information and easy-to-use instruments as aids to educational and career planning.

 

Good practice is observed in record keeping. Meetings with students are noted and files are kept in secure storage. Other meetings, with staff for example, are generally informal and records are in keeping with the level of formality of these meetings. The initial destinations of most students who have sat the Leaving Certificate examinations are known to staff. The intention to use the recently installed telephone to gather this information is commended.

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

 

  • The school is very supportive of students.
  • The school is small, and effective informal systems are in place.
  • Teachers have a strong role in the support of students.
  • The Guidance provided is well balanced between individual work and work with groups of students.
  • Personal, educational and vocational guidance are well balanced.
  • Collaboration is the norm between the guidance department, senior management and staff.

 

 

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

 

  • It is recommended that the use of the full ex-quota allocation for Guidance be clarified in accordance with the terms of Circular PPT12/05 and in the context of whole-school guidance planning.
  • It is recommended that priority be given to the provision of broadband internet access in the guidance office.
  • It is recommended that some further formality be applied to the planning and process of students’ guidance and support.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Published, September 2008

 

 

 

 

Appendix

School Response to the Report

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

Inspection Report School Response Form

  

            Area 1 Observations on the content of the Inspection Report

 

Fáiltíonn an Bhoird roimh an tuairisc ar an gcigireacht ábhair ar Threoir. Ba mhaith linn ár mbuíochas a gabháil don cigire don slí proifisiúnta agus cothrom gur thóg se na dualgaisí sa scoil. Táimid mór-bhuíoch comh maith go rabhamar ábalta an gnó ar fad a dhéanamh tré Ghaeilge áthas orainn gur aithníodh go dtugann an scoil an-tacaíocht do scoláirí mar is é sin bunluach na scoile atá lonnaithe go mór anseo.

Táimid sásta, mar a léiríonn an tuairsc, go bhfuil córas éifeachtach neamhfhoirmeálta i bhfeidhm agus tuigimid go gcaithfimid níos fhoirmeáltacht a chur ann nuair atá líon na daltaí sa scoil ag ardú.

 

 

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

Trácht ar na mórmholtaí

 

1.       Tógaimid faoin moladh faoi úsáid an leithdháileadh iomlán go luath.

2.       an leathanbhanda idirlín curtha ar fáil.

3.       Tógaimid chun breis foirmeáltachta a chur leis an plean treorach mar chuid de phleanáil i mbliana.