An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Royal School Cavan
College Street, Cavan
Roll number: 61080S
Date of inspection: 13 March 2008
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in The Royal School Cavan. 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 principal, the deputy principal, three other members of staff, viewed guidance facilities and reviewed school planning documentation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, the deputy principal and the three staff members. 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.
The Royal School Cavan, a co-educational, voluntary secondary school, was founded in 1611. It operates under the trusteeship of the Protestant (Local) Board of Education, a board set up under the Educational Endowments (Ireland) Act of 1885. The school has a board of governors which delegates to the headmaster the duties of principal and day-to-day manager of the whole school, boarding and day. The school which is fee-paying caters for students from the local area and from within a forty mile radius of Cavan town. Weekly boarding facilities are provided for approximately eighty students. This year the school, along with the four other Royal Ulster Schools, is celebrating the four hundredth anniversary of receiving the charter for its foundation. There are eight main feeder primary schools. Currently there is an enrolment of 206, evenly divided between boys and girls and including twenty-six international students.
The school receives an ex-quota allocation of eleven hours for Guidance from the Department of Education and Science. Despite advertising, the board of governors has been unable to secure the services of a qualified guidance counsellor. The school has made efforts to have a member of staff go forward for initial training and expects to have a member of staff participate in training next year. It is recommended that the school pursues all avenues in order to expedite the appointment of a qualified guidance counsellor for the school. For a number of years Guidance was delivered by the headmaster solely. In the school year 2007/08 two members of staff, along with the co-ordinator of the TY and the headmaster who is still the main provider, are involved in guidance delivery in the school. All individual work with students is done by the headmaster and the two members of staff have been timetabled to provide guidance classes in Transition Year (TY) and in fifth year. The co-ordinator of the TY programme organises and prepares students for the work experience module of the programme and arranges for a panel of guest speakers to attend the school weekly during the course of the programme. The school has the services of a designated National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) psychologist.
The target groups for guidance are predominantly senior cycle. Individual work is done by the headmaster with third year students as they determine their levels for the Junior Certificate examination. Individual appointments are also provided for TY students as they decide subject choice for senior cycle. Leaving Certificate students are offered individual interviews with the headmaster at intervals throughout the year to discuss course and career choices. There is a strong supportive culture in the school whereby students in each year group are encouraged to arrange individual appointments with senior management, a form teacher, year head, chaplain, or with a member of staff to whom they relate to discuss any issues of concern they may have.
The TY co-ordinator meets with third year students in the last term to introduce the TY programme and invites input regarding modules to be included in the programme. The headmaster reports that a team approach to guidance delivery is developing and that currently, while there is no formal guidance input in first and second years, relevant guidance topics which overlap with Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) are delivered as part of the SPHE classes. While this cross-curricular approach is commended, it is recommended that, in the course of guidance planning, the school reviews the current arrangements for Guidance delivery in order to address the imbalance in provision between junior and senior cycles.
As all individual Guidance is delivered primarily by the headmaster, the office of the headmaster and the facilities therein are used for meetings with students and for completion of online applications. Guidance materials are available in the school library and a notice board with guidance-related notices is displayed outside the headmaster’s office. In preparation for next year it is suggested that the school explores the setting up of a designated guidance office with appropriate facilities. Members of the guidance team state that access to the computer room for guidance classes is excellent. Each classroom is networked, is equipped with an ICT station and access to computers is available to students after school and outside class time. This is commended as it encourages students to develop self-management and independent learning skills. Meetings of guidance personnel are informal at present and the full group has not met to date. It is recommended that a structure of regular meetings be established and minutes of meetings be recorded.
Currently, The Royal School offers the Junior Certificate, the Transition Year (TY) and the Leaving Certificate (Established) programmes. Staff members have discussed the introduction of the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programmes (LCVP) but the school decided not to proceed with the programme then. In the course of school development planning it is recommended that the school further explores the introduction of this programme as an option for senior students.
There is a good sense of care for students in The Royal School Cavan as evidenced by the supports available. The school has a long tradition of care and support for students being provided by the headmaster and his family. Along with the headmaster, housemasters and matrons provide the primary support for the boarding students. The school’s pastoral care system is embedded in this practice and the family atmosphere in the school is one that has been fostered over the centuries. Staff members state that there is a high level of informal interaction between staff and students and that the size of the school facilitates good knowledge of students and familiarity with families.
A well-defined structure of referral for both disciplinary and support issues operates in the school. The role of the form teacher is pastoral rather than disciplinary and form teachers meet their classes on a daily basis. A referral sheet is used by the form teachers to refer students to the year head for support or in the case of a disciplinary issue. Referral to outside agencies is effected through the office of the headmaster in consultation with parents, year heads and deputy principal. Building on the structures that currently exist, it is recommended that the school explores how the guidance counsellor will be included in the care/support group and what forum will be used for the transfer of information and keeping of records.
At present, students’ personal counselling needs are met by members of staff of both the day and boarding school. As need arises students are referred to private counsellors outside the school or to the local general practitioner (GP). It is suggested that, in the interim until a qualified guidance counsellor is available, the school should explore the possibility of employing a part-time counsellor to further provide in this area. It is also suggested that the school details, as part of the guidance plan, the counselling services that are available to students.
The Royal School Cavan has established strong links with local business, charitable and support organisations, local sports clubs, and colleges of further and higher education. Support is also provided to the school by the Monaghan Youth Information Service, the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) as appropriate. All of this collaboration in the interests of students is most worthwhile and worthy of praise.
The Royal School has completed a good deal of work on a critical incident response plan and a crisis response team has been established. Commendably the draft plan is available to stakeholders on the school’s website. The school has engaged with materials published by NEPS, lists of relevant telephone numbers have been compiled and a network established with other local schools. This approach is commended as it will provide additional support and assist all participants. It is suggested that the detail of the draft plan now be discussed at a staff meeting or a staff planning session.
A planning group comprising headmaster, deputy principal and school planning co-ordinator operates in The Royal School Cavan. Guidance planning is well advanced and to date the work has been done primarily by the headmaster in collaboration with the other members of the school planning group and the vice-chair of the board of governors who is also the school chaplain. The draft guidance plan will be presented at the last staff planning day of the school year 2007/08 for discussion and consultation with staff members. Following this process the school intends to publish the draft plan on the school website and invite input from parents. This approach is commended. In order to build on the work completed to date and to assist senior management it is recommended that a guidance planning committee be established to include all members of staff directly engaged in guidance delivery. Input from the student council and from representative(s) of the local business community into the planning process is also recommended. Information to support planning is readily available in recent publications such as Planning the School Guidance Programme, issued by the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE), and Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the Implications of Section 9 (c) of the Education Act, relating to students’ access to appropriate guidance, published by the Department. A template for guidance planning prepared by the Department is available on its website (www.education.ie). A student needs analysis focusing on provision and delivery would also inform the planning process.
The Royal School Cavan has a transition programme for incoming students which begins with members of staff visiting the feeder primary schools. The school hosts an open day for fifth and sixth class pupils from the catchment area when pupils are shown around the school campus and games and activities are organised. The school website and a well-presented school prospectus provide clear information for incoming students and their parents. An information evening is arranged for parents of incoming students when presentations are made regarding curriculum, student supports, subject choice and school facilities. Individual interviews are provided for incoming students and their parents on request. An induction day is organised as term begins when the first year students meet with their form teachers, year head, teachers and mentors from senior cycle.
The school offers a wide range of subjects both at junior and senior level. Science and Business Studies are core subjects in junior cycle. Commendably, subject sampling is provided for first year students in Home Economics, Technology, Technical Graphics, Art and Music and final choices are not made until mid-term. This is commended as it enables students to make more informed choices for Junior Certificate. The headmaster offers individual appointments to students and parents as students decide options. Scholarships and bursaries are offered to students. Grants, which are means tested, may be provided to students to cover fees.
Commendably, subject sampling is provided also in the TY. The school reports that the majority of senior cycle students take eight subjects for the Leaving Certificate programme and every effort is made to facilitate students in their choices. In order to promote the gender equality policy of the school and to encourage students to consider as wide a range of subjects as possible it is recommended that the school reviews subject option bands for both junior and senior cycle. When the school has secured the services of a qualified guidance counsellor it is recommended that a guidance input be provided for students and parents as students decide subject and programme choice.
The TY is compulsory and at present there are two class groups. Commendably work experience procedures and policy are well documented and included in the school plan. Attendance at mock interviews at the end of the school year is compulsory for TY students. The school’s TY website is under construction.
As The Royal School is located adjacent to the border with Northern Ireland a number of senior students attend college open days and other career and course information events in both jurisdictions. While the school organises attendance at a small number of events, students are encouraged to attend specific guidance events of particular interest to them either in small groups or individually with parents. In order to formalise these worthwhile procedures it is recommended that the school engages with the parents’ association and with the student council to develop a policy on student attendance at open days and at career events. Senior students have access to the QualifaX and UCAS websites. Students submit applications to the Central Applications Office (CAO) and to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) as well as to colleges of further education, training and post-Leaving Certificate courses (PLC).
Commendably good use is made of the school website to provide access for parents and students to school literature, policies and information. Parents are represented on the board of governors and all parents are encouraged and welcomed to contact the school for information or support as required. The school hosts a TY prize-giving and presentation at the end of the year to which parents of TY and of third year students are invited. Parents of TY students are offered individual appointments as requested. Apart from the regular parent/teacher meetings the school hosts an evening for parents with a guest speaker and an opportunity for parents to meet with staff in an informal setting. This commitment to parent support is commended. An annual awards presentation, to which parents are invited, is organised by the school to acknowledge and celebrate student achievement in both academic and non-academic spheres.
On the day of the evaluation visit no guidance classes were timetabled and thus, no lessons were visited. Folders containing planning documentation were provided to the inspector by the two members of staff involved in guidance delivery to class groups. Programmes, with identified learning outcomes, have been formulated for senior cycle classes in consultation with the headmaster and with the co-ordinator of the Transition Year programme. A weekly delivery plan has been developed. Materials have been downloaded from relevant websites and the commitment of the teachers to planning is acknowledged and commended. It is recommended that the information base be extended to include information and research on further education, training courses and job opportunities. With regard to student engagement in the identification of personal strengths and talents it is recommended that time be allocated within the planning of lessons to deal with any emotional issues that may be evoked for students in the course of dealing with particular content.
Video and DVDs are used and students engage in career investigations. Handouts are prepared and distributed to students. It is recommended that a copy of the National Framework of Qualifications and a list of guidance related websites be displayed in the computer room in order to encourage and support independent learning among students. Evaluation and review procedures at the end of the year with the class groups are recommended to inform programme planning for the next school year.
All psychometric testing in the school is carried out by the learning support teacher. Tests used with first years in September include the Group Reading Test, the Non-verbal Test and the Neale Analysis of reading ability. The results are used to identify students in need of additional learning support. Senior students have access to interest inventories such as those available on the internet, including the QualifaX and UCAS websites.
The school hosts an annual scholarship examination in English, Gaeilge, Geography and Mathematics for incoming students. A number of boarding scholarships are awarded based on the results of this examination.
Profiling of students begins as soon as students have their first individual guidance meeting. One set of student files is maintained and these are stored in the headmaster's office where only the headmaster has access.
Tracking of Leaving Certificate students is carried out and recorded by the headmaster. Lists of initial destinations are provided to staff and to the board of governors. Past students are encouraged and welcomed to return to the school for further support, information and advice when required.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development, the following key recommendations are made:
A post-evaluation meeting was held with the principal, the deputy principal, the two members of staff timetabled to take guidance classes and the TY co-ordinator at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published October 2008