An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Beneavin De La Salle College
Finglas, Dublin 11
Roll number: 605110
Date of inspection: 25 September 2008
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Beneavin De La Salle College. 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 was given an opportunity to comment in writing on the findings and recommendations of the report; a response was not received from the board.
Beneavin College has a long tradition of providing guidance and personal counselling support for students. Polices have been developed with whole-school support that effectively underpin a well-established pastoral care structure that includes Guidance. The pastoral approach includes a class tutor who provides pastoral support and a year-head structure that assists in the on-going management of students. The school campus has recently been extensively refurbished to provide a very modern environment for learning. The building is very well maintained and a good atmosphere of mutual respect is evident between staff and students. Guidance is viewed by management as a valuable resource for the school that supports both pastoral and educational provision for students. It is reported that the student population is more varied than previously and now includes a number of newcomer students. Some of these students require English as an additional language (EAL) support which is being provided by the school. Newcomer students are also assisted to integrate fully in the life of the school. In addition, a number of students are currently in receipt of extra learning support to meet their special educational needs.
The school caters for boys living in upper Glasnevin, Ballymun and Finglas and also the wider hinterlands of north and west Dublin. The school prides itself on being a caring school and on providing students with a wide range of educational, career and personal opportunities. A commendably high level of support is available to students to address educational or personal difficulties. A full range of programmes, including Junior Certificate Schools Programme (JCSP), Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA), and a wide range of subjects for both junior and senior cycle are offered. The school has excellent Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Teachers and students are being encouraged by management to acquire the necessary skills to fully exploit all that this important information and learning tool can offer.
The school has an allocation of 17 ex-quota hours for Guidance, based on the enrolment numbers, and an extra five hours are provided through participation in Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme. The guidance service is very well established in the school. Guidance is available to students in both junior and senior cycle and is integrated with the curricula and with all programmes. A good combination of methodologies is deployed to provide guidance throughout the school. Timetabled classes, one-to-one interviews and occasional classes borrowed from other staff are some of the approaches employed. Students making important transitions into and from the school are targeted for particular support by Guidance.
Guidance is well integrated into most aspects of curricular and programme delivery and is provided for all year groups. A full-time guidance counsellor manages Guidance planning and delivery with support from school management and a wide range of staff. Guidance is provided for students as an integrated model with counselling. Personal one-to-one counselling is available to all students who can self refer for an appointment, or can be referred where appropriate, by staff or parents.
Guidance integrates well with the school’s pastoral structure. The stated aim of Guidance is to provide a holistic range of approaches to meet students’ diverse needs. The recent creation of a student support or care team that includes the guidance counsellor is a laudable development. This group meets weekly to plan assistance for individual students who are deemed to require extra support. Guidance or counselling support can be arranged for these students on an individual basis or other supports are provided, where appropriate. The care team liaises with a wide range of local agencies. It is also reported that most staff members volunteer as mentors to ‘at risk’ students to provide individual supports. The establishment and delivery of these responses to meet students’ needs are to be highly commended.
Since the recent refurbishment of the building, there is a well-appointed guidance suite with an office and a careers library with space to accommodate students doing group work. This facility is well located in the school and is accessible to students and parents. The suite is well resourced with good storage and display space and has broadband access. Notice boards for the display of information about college open-days, other career events and application requirements are prominent in the corridors. The careers library has ICT for students, and a data projector is available. There is also excellent access to ICT for students throughout the school.
Regular contact is maintained by Guidance with management, who are reported to be very supportive of whole-school guidance and its development. The referral of students for support between staff in the school operates efficiently, and the referral of students to the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and to a range of outside agencies is handled sensitively and effectively. Parents are kept informed about Guidance during parents’ evenings and other events. This is good practice.
The school facilitates the guidance counsellor’s attendance at personal supervision for counselling sessions and other continuous professional development events.
A Critical Incident Response Plan that includes Guidance has been developed by a team in the school.
Good progress has taken place in developing the school guidance plan. The plan was drafted following an analysis of students’ needs and a consultation that was undertaken with management staff and parents. The plan is therefore reflective of identified whole-school issues, is well advanced and indicates progressive development. Links between Guidance and all school programmes are included. The plan has been presented to management, staff and parents and also to the board of management for ratification. Guidance is however, still developing responses to meet students’ needs, new programmes are being introduced such as Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and new strategies are being introduced in the school due to participation in DEIS. It is therefore recommended, that the school’s guidance plan be reviewed annually and adjusted accordingly to meet presenting needs. Furthermore, the views of the student council should be formally sought to include the student voice in all such consultation processes. Although links with school programmes are included in the permanent section of the guidance plan, it is recommended that links between Guidance and programmes and with all outside agencies and bodies be also fully documented in the individual guidance programmes for year groups.
Assistance to update the guidance plan can be accessed from the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) www.sdpi.ie and the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE). Two documents were 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) and these can be accessed at www.education.ie.
Good clarity is evident in guidance programmes established for each year group and programme. Guidance is available to students throughout their time in the school and especially when they are planning and making transitions. First-year students entering the school have an induction programme and are supported by Guidance to settle into the new education environment. Guidance also assists them to come to a good understanding of their strengths and aptitudes and address personal issues and behaviours in an understanding and supportive atmosphere. Approaches used such as ‘circle time’ conducted with groups of junior cycle students provides opportunities for individuals to share and learn from peers. Parents of incoming first-year students are assisted by Guidance through information sessions arranged in the school and through one-to-one contact with the guidance counsellor. Students and their parents should also be referred to the information module on the Qualifax website: Leaving Cert. and Junior Cert. Subject Choice www.qualifax.ie. This site provides comprehensive information on the possible long-term career implications of subjects chosen in junior cycle. A greater involvement for Guidance, in visiting primary schools and meeting with pupils in sixth classes and their teachers, should be explored by the school.
The guidance programmes for second-year and third-year classes are satisfactory and link well with provision for first-year students. To augment these programmes however, more focus on providing career topics is recommended. These inputs could be delivered through the co-operation of Guidance with the SPHE programmes for these year groups and build on existing good practice in this regard. Involving second-year and third-year students in discussing careers would facilitate their exploration of a range of possible career avenues well in advance of making individual subject and programme choices for senior cycle. Additionally, it would focus their attention on the level at which these subjects should be studied to achieve personal career goals. The use of ICT could be deployed to assist research about careers, and websites such as Careers Directions www.careerdirections.ie and www.careersportal.ie may be useful. Throughout junior cycle students receive frequent and well-planned individual assistance from the guidance counsellor who liaises closely with year heads and subject teachers.
The guidance programmes for senior cycle classes are comprehensive and responsive to students’ needs and interests. Students are assisted in groups and individually to develop good study and research skills and explore a wide range of progression routes. A range of guest speakers is invited to address students and visits to a number of career events and third-level or further education colleges are facilitated. Guidance aims to assist each student individually to plan a meaningful career path to meet their needs. Guidance inputs strongly into LCA and LCVP and engages fully with the students’ completion of career investigation modules and assignments. Senior-cycle students are encouraged to explore a very wide range of possible progression routes. They receive a high level of assistance from Guidance to become proactive and independent learners with well-established personal goals.
Students wishing to make a transition to third-level education are assisted to explore viable options and make applications to the Central Applications Office (CAO) www.cao.ie for entry to universities and colleges in Ireland, and to the United Colleges Application Service (UCAS) www.ucas/uk.co to apply to third level in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Students can make applications directly to the CAO and to UCAS on line in the school. Those wishing to progress into Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses and to other training or employment routes such as FÁS apprenticeships are also facilitated in every way to make good personal choices. Parents are kept fully informed about progression opportunities for their children at parents’ events and through one-to-one meetings with staff.
The guidance plan documents good links with local business, national agencies, local care organisations and contacts with third-level access programmes and further education colleges. These links are effectively managed to embed the school within the community and to provide supported referrals for students’ progressing from the school or seeking extra assistance.
In the course of the inspection two lessons were attended, one with a first-year group and the second with a sixth-year class. Classroom management and rapport between staff and students in both sessions were excellent. The layout of the room was effective in encouraging full participation by students. Both lessons demonstrated the value of good lesson planning and continued at a pace that facilitated learning by all. Goals for learning were clearly stated at the outset of each lesson and good summaries were provided at the end to consolidate learning. The atmosphere in the classrooms was warm and businesslike. Targeted questioning was used very effectively and students were encouraged to contribute to the discussions and share opinions. Pertinent questions were well answered by students who behaved very respectfully and approached the lesson topics with interest and a good display of informed knowledge.
Students were affirmed and supported through the lessons and individuals were assisted as the need arose. Content of topics was well chosen, suitably challenging but inclusive of all levels in the groups. Very good practice was observed in the first session when ‘circle time’ was used to encourage students to discuss a topic and listen closely to each others comments. The integrated ICT available in the room enabled topics to be presented in a format that was visual and attractive. Continuous two-way interaction between the teacher and students ensured that all participated productively in the lessons. Lessons displayed high quality, purposeful and well- directed teaching and learning.
Appropriate use is being made in the school of assessment procedures to support students’ learning and other needs. Aptitude tests, school entrance tests and psychometric instruments are administered to students to assist them to explore learning needs and career interests. The school guidance plan documents the tests and other instruments that are administered. However, 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 to stimulate ideas for the selection of new tests or interest inventories.
Good records of all one-to-one counselling 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 formally collated annually. The information gathered about these destinations is used to inform school and guidance planning. Guidance is also available to students who have left school and require advice about career choices. This approach is to be commended as the school exhibits a deep duty of care towards all its students, and recognises that some of them may need extra support to make successful transitions.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
· The school guidance plan has been developed following an analysis of students’ needs and a consultation conducted with management, staff and parents.
· Guidance is viewed as a valuable whole-school resource that integrates effectively with all school programmes, and provides a wide range of educational, career and personal supports for students.
· Guidance is delivered as an integrated model with counselling.
· Contacts with local support agencies, business organisations and third-level and further education colleges are being effectively managed.
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
· To support the further development of the school guidance plan it is recommended that learning and achievement outcomes be included in the programme for each year group and that all links with programmes such as SPHE, LCA and LCVP and all outside agencies and bodies be fully documented.
· It is recommended that, when the school guidance plan is being revised, students be included in the consultation process.
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 December 2008