An Roinn Oideachais and Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Gairmscoil Chú Uladh
Béal an Átha Móir, Contae Dhún na nGall.
Roll number: 71242B
Date of inspection: 9 November 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Gairmscoil Chú Uladh. 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 and viewed Guidance facilities. The inspector interacted with students and teachers, reviewed school planning documentation, and had discussions with the principal and with teachers. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and to the teacher in charge of Guidance. 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.
Gairmscoil Chú Uladh, established in 1982, is located in the Gaeltacht Lár in County Donegal with the aim of providing ‘education through Irish in the Gaeltacht’. The school does not have a fixed catchment area and therefore students come from the surrounding district and from other places in the county which are almost twenty miles distance from the school, for example Letterkenny, Glenties and Stranorlar. At present there are 134 students, boys and girls, on the school roll and the principal estimates that the number of students will increase in the future. Six of the feeder schools are located in the Gaeltacht area and the majority of students come to school by bus.
This year Gairmscoil Chú Uladh was invited to take part in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative, but as the cluster of schools has not yet been determined the additional resources have not been confirmed to the school. The school had an allocation of eight hours per week from the Department of Education and Science for guidance provision and now as a result of participation in DEIS the school has a total allocation of eleven hours per week. At present the school does not have a qualified guidance counsellor. A teacher, who has completed one year of a guidance course, is in charge of Guidance and there is on-going cooperation between this teacher, the deputy principal who is responsible for pastoral care and teachers of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) in the school. While this cooperation and all the good work being done in the school at present for the benefit of students is commended, it is recommended that the board of management consult with the Chief Executive Officer of the Vocational Educational Committee soon so that arrangements can be put in place for the appointment of a qualified guidance counsellor in the school.
At the moment seven hours per week for Guidance is allocated to the teacher in charge of Guidance, even though this allocation is not fully written on the school timetable. And although the deputy principal has not obtained a counselling qualification, a ‘listening’ support is provided for students as the need arises. It is recommended that the total allocation for Guidance provided by the Department be used for the delivery of Guidance for the rest of this year and in subsequent years, and that the full allocation be written on the timetable.
A priest from the parish attends the school as a part-time chaplain. Informal meetings are held between the teacher in charge of Guidance, the principal, the deputy principal, the SPHE coordinator and the chaplain. This group operates as a care/support team for students. This approach is commended and it would now be opportune for the school to provide a more formal structure, with regular meetings and written minutes, for this group. Such a structure would further enhance the good work that is already being done, would assist the early identification of students in need of extra support and would facilitate feedback on students.
The school has the services of a nominated psychologist from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) who supports students and teachers. Gairmscoil Chú Uladh is a small school and a friendly atmosphere, good relationship and spirit is reported within the school community. The school recognises the number of students as one of the main advantages, as the teachers have accurate knowledge of all the students.
Guidance classes are timetabled for the Transition Year and senior students. Commendably, students have an input into the guidance programme at the beginning of the year and again in the evaluation at the end of the year. The teacher in charge of Guidance carries out a self-evaluation of the year’s work. Guidance modules are provided also for classes in the junior cycle. This provision of Guidance is highly commended. Students can arrange individual appointments with the teacher in charge of Guidance as required.
Due to shortage of space there is no guidance office in the school and the teacher in charge of Guidance works in the principal’s office, rotating with the school secretary. A new building is being constructed to add to the school’s facilities. When construction is completed it is recommended that the board of management make arrangements for the provision of an office with suitable facilities for Guidance.
The teacher in charge of Guidance has a laptop computer with broadband connection and there is also a computer in the classroom but this is not yet connected to the broadband system. The teacher in charge of Guidance states that students have good access to the computer room for guidance lessons as required. CAO and UCAS applications are completed on-line. The school organises classes in computers for each year group and Transition Year students undertake the ECDL. Information on career guidance matters is displayed on notice boards in the classroom and in the school hall and a collection of documents and materials relating to Guidance is being compiled in the classroom.
Gairmscoil Chú Uladh offers courses for the Junior Certificate, Leaving Certificate (Established), and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme examinations. The Transition Year programme is optional and this year one group is undertaking the programme. Liaison and cooperation is reported between the teacher in charge of Guidance and the principal regarding subject choices and programme coordination.
The school reports excellent engagement with the local community and with the external agencies/bodies. Visits are organised to local employers and past-pupils return as guest speakers to support senior students. The school liaises with the local community regarding students’ cultural activities - for example a concert presented last year by students of the school and the local community celebrating the area’s heritage, culture and traditions.
Gairmscoil Chú Uladh is commended for engaging with the Health Service Executive (HSE), Údarás na Gaeltachta, Comhairle na nÓg, FÁS, an Garda Síochána and the Restorative Justice scheme to provide support for students. Students from the Gairmscoil participate in the annual concert and in Cór na nÓg organised for Vocational Education Committee schools. The school has participated in European Programmes since 1995 - for example the European Studies Programme and the East-West Programme through which links have been established with other schools in Ireland, Wales and England and with students from Italy, Germany, Spain and Malta through participation in the Comenius Programme.
Due to lack of space in the building there is no canteen facilities in the school however a grant will be available through the DEIS initiatve to provide school meals and the school is in contact with a local company regarding the preparation of lunchboxes for the students. The school does not have a fixed annual budget for Guidance but the principal reports that funds are provided to the guidance department as required.
Though the school does not have a qualified guidance counsellor a good start has been made in guidance planning in the school with objectives, aims and target groups identified and a plan/programme set out for each year group. In addition, procedures have been set out by the school for activities, for example transition from primary school, subject selection and participation in the educational programmes. This work was done largely through a process of consultation and cross curricular planning involving the principal, the deputy principal, the teacher in charge of Guidance and SPHE teachers. This collaboration is commended and the school should now establish a small committee to build on the planning work already achieved. It is also recommended that input from parents, the student council and an employer representative be included in order to enhance and progress this work. A student needs’ analysis would also inform the guidance plan.
The school is commended for consulting Restore, a service of the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide assistance to schools in the North-West in time of tragedy, and Gairmscoil Chú Uladh has drawn up a draft plan for Coping with Tragedy/Emergency in School. During the development of the plan it is recommended that the school liaise with neighbouring schools. Such collaboration will provide support and benefit all participants. It is also recommended that the school consult with the NEPS psychologist in preparing the final draft of the plan.
Gairmscoil Chú Uladh has in place a transition programme for incoming students. The programme begins with the visit by the principal and class teachers to the primary schools to provide information and make a presentation about the school. An information evening is organised for the parents and pupils of sixth class in March, usually. Pupils take sample classes in the school during the open day and parents can arrange individual meetings if they so wish. An information evening is held in the school in October for parents, to discuss the progress of the new students. All these activities are commended as a support for students and their parents.
It is commendable that first year students have the opportunity to sample new subjects. While making subject choices for the Junior Certificate examination the school provides modules with the teacher in charge of Guidance to enable students to discuss and consider the subjects. Parents are welcome to contact the school, or to come in, to discuss choices. This practice is commendable and it would be worthwhile for the school to further develop current good practices and provide a guidance input to parents regarding the import of subject and level choices, when students are making their choices.
It is commendable that a guidance module is provided for second year students. Though Gairmscoil Chú Uladh is a small school, a wide range of examination subjects is offered for Junior and Leaving Certificates. A guidance module is provided in third year to assist students deciding subject and programme choices for Leaving Certificate. It is commendable that the school organises an information evening for parents of third year students with a presentation and an information booklet on subjects and programmes. When students have determined their option to enter pre-Leaving Certificate (fourth) year there is support and classes with the teacher in charge of Guidance. The subjects are surveyed and the subject blocks are prepared from the results. It is recommended that the school engage with the Department’s gender equality policy in order to avoid traditional subject choice stereotyping.
Weekly guidance classes are timetabled for Transition Year and senior cycle students. The guidance module in first term focuses on: creating a positive attitude among the students regarding careers and the world of work; developing a better understanding of themselves, their strengths and their qualities; preparation for work experience and selection of subjects for the Leaving Certificate. There is a work experience module on the Transition Year programme and cooperation between the teachers and the teacher in charge of Guidance. The employers complete evaluation forms and the teachers go through these with the students when they return from work experience. This approach, and the support it provides for the students, is commended.
The teacher in charge of Guidance is the coordinator of the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme and also the Transition Year and the school reports cooperation, liaison and collaboration between teachers of the programme, including the deputy principal. It is commendable that students are given the opportunity to sample new subjects during Transition Year before deciding on subjects for Leaving Certificate. Transition Year students are interviewed at Christmas and again at the end of the year as part of the programme evaluation. There is a liaison between the guidance classes and the work experience module to achieve this work. Marks are assigned for the interview and are sent home on the school report and students have an opportunity to review the interviews. This support is commended.
The school is commended for its policy regarding attendance of students at open days. The students are informed of open days and the school organises transport when a large group is visiting colleges. On other occasions the students make their own arrangements with their parents. This approach is commended as it encourages self-management skills in the students. Leaving Certificate students attend the Annual Seminar organised by the County Donegal guidance counsellors in Ballybofey.
There is a strong link between Gairmscoil Chu Uladh and Údarás na Gaeltachta. A representative of Údarás attends the school to assist Leaving Certificate students with study skills and to conduct mock interviews in the first term as part of the guidance programme.
Gairmscoil Chú Uladh is one of the participants in the Access programme through which the school is linked with NUI Maynooth to provide additional support for fifth year students and the University grants special prizes and awards to third year students to support and encourage them to undertake third level education.
The teacher in charge of Guidance makes effective attempts to maintain and record in the diary accounts of meetings with students. A record is also kept of meetings with teachers. Student destinations are tracked and recorded and they are welcome to return the school to obtain more information on courses or careers.
During the evaluation two lessons were visited, one in first year and the other in fifth year. Material relating to Guidance was to be observed in the classroom providing enhanced learning stimulation for students.
The classes observed were well planned with objectives and learning outcomes set out. The lessons observed had a clear focus and the pace and material were appropriate for the classes. During the classes a variety of teaching methods was observed.
Good use was made of handouts and other resources to direct attention and to support the students. In one class where the topic of the lesson was interview skills a video clip was shown and the students were asked to award marks to the applicants in the film. A discussion with the students followed and they had to justify and explain the mark they had given. This approach is commended as it encouraged the students to engage with the subject.
The layout of one of the classrooms is commended for assisting the interaction between the teacher and the students and was suitable for the topic under discussion. There was a good atmosphere in the classrooms and mutual respect observed between the teacher and the students. There was cooperation evident and the students were engaged in their work.
Good practice was observed regarding the keeping of attendance record and allocating of homework. The class work was linked to work already done by students and reference was made to planned activities, for example the interviews for the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme.
As the teacher in charge of Guidance is not qualified as a guidance counsellor psychometric instruments are not used for Guidance purposes. A representative from Údarás na Gaeltachta attends the school to assess students in fourth year regarding an apprenticeship scheme. Students use interest inventories available on the internet, for example on QualifaX, Career Directions and Careers World to assist in subject choice and course choice.
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 the principal and the teacher in charge of Guidance and at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.