An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Saint Kevinís Community College
Fonthill Road, Clondalkin, Dublin 22
Roll number: 70042L
Date of inspection: 14 April 2008
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Kevinís Community 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 team 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
St. Kevinís Community College is an inclusive school that operates under the auspices of County Dublin Vocational Education Committee (VEC). Students from two main local feeder primary schools and a wide range of other schools are enrolled. A fairly large number of newcomer students, many of whom require English language support are now represented in the schoolís population. St. Kevinís presents as a bright and welcoming place for learning and a wide range of programmes and supports for students are provided.
The school management reports that Guidance provides a very necessary and essential support for studentsí learning and progression into adult life. Guidance is delivered in an integrated way with counselling. Students attending the school can avail of a very comprehensive range of educational, personal and career supports. These support measures are well planned and delivered in a very systemic way throughout the school. For many years the school has participated in the School Completion Programme (SCP) and is now also included in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative. The VECís own psychological service provides good support for staff members who plan and deliver interventions for students who have been identified as requiring extra support. Educational and psychological assessments for individual students are completed by visiting psychologists, who link effectively with the guidance team and with other staff. Training and expertise for staff is also facilitated when required by the psychological team based on the schoolís and studentsí needs. †The degree to which such an effective level of well-integrated supports for students are managed and delivered in a climate of co-operation is to be highly commended.
The school has an eleven hour ex-quota allocation for Guidance based on student numbers. This allocation is augmented by an extra 22 hours provided under the Guidance Enhancement Initiative. Guidance is managed and delivered effectively in the school by a guidance team made up of two professionally trained guidance counsellors with support from a number of other staff. This team co-operates effectively and works closely together to plan and deliver Guidance that is student focussed and responsive to needs. In addition to Guidance support, a psychologist is also employed through the SCP to work with students who require more in-depth and long-term counselling support to address personal or family issues. Appropriate information and advice about ways to support students who are receiving in-depth counselling is sensitively shared by the psychologist with the guidance team. It is reported that this extra layer of personal counselling support complements very effectively the counselling provided for students through Guidance.
The school prides itself on being a caring school that focuses on meeting studentsí needs. To manage the wide range of supports available and plan individual interventions for students, a student-support team that includes a number of staff and Guidance has been created. This team meets weekly to discuss students who require extra support and to plan targeted responses to their needs. The home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator has developed extremely good contacts with homes and liaises with parents to triangulate and implement interventions planned for students by the student-support team. Extensive lines of communication are in place between staff, outside agencies and homes. The main aim of the school is to assist students to maximise their performance and their full participation in school. Interventions with students and parents are well monitored and records of all meetings are maintained. Parents are welcomed to the school to meet with guidance personnel and are assisted by the HSCL co-ordinator to develop high expectations for their children. The school is to be commended for developing such an effective student-support team and strong links with parents.
Two dedicated offices have been provided for Guidance, which provide good accessibility for both students and parents. The offices are well resourced with good storage space and each has full broadband access. Notice boards for the display of information about college open-days, career events and third-level and further education application requirements are also provided in accessible locations in the school. All students have access to Guidance and to one-to-one counselling support when required, and to information and communication technology (ICT).† Students are encouraged to make good use of available guidance software and to explore a full range of college and career websites. This is effective practice.
Timetabling for Guidance in the school reflects a good balance of provision between junior and senior cycles. Guidance is delivered in a variety of modes that include one-to-one, group and classroom sessions. This is commendable.
Regular contact is being maintained by the guidance counsellors with school management personnel who are reported to be very supportive of whole-school Guidance. Guidance also links closely with the schoolís pastoral system, the chaplaincy and with the Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) programme. The referral of students for support within the school operates efficiently and the referral of students for extra assistance to outside agencies is handled sensitively and effectively.
A critical incident policy has been developed with the involvement of the VEC, the psychological service and the guidance team. †A committee that includes the guidance team has also been formed to develop a comprehensive anti-bullying policy for the school.
Planning is a priority for the school and all subject departments are engaged in planning. A very comprehensive guidance plan for the school is being drafted. This draft plan has been developed following consultation with staff. It contains a mission statement and outlines guidance inputs for each year group. It is recommended that the plan include the linkages between Guidance and all school programmes such as SPHE, Junior Certificate Schools Programme (JSCP), Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA), Leaving Certificate Vocational (LCVP), subject departments, support services and outside agencies. In addition it should contain a list of all tests and interest inventories administered to students. The inclusion in the plan of learning outcomes for each year group and school programme is also recommended. A particularly good feature of the draft plan are the areas that have been identified for development, such as holding mock interviews for senior cycle students and the provision of an extra information session for parents to introduce the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational (LCVP) programmes. This demonstrates the value of consulting with staff and conducting a survey of studentsí needs to inform guidance planning. This is good practice.
More information about how to complete the school guidance plan is available from the School Development Planning Initiative www.sdpi.ie and the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE). Two documents may also be consulted, 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 studentsí access to appropriate guidance (DES 2005) www.education.ie. It is recommended that once redrafted the guidance plan be presented again to staff, parents and students for a final consultation and then to the board of management for ratification. The plan should be reviewed annually to remain responsive to needs.
Guidance is available to all students in the school with a particular focus on supporting students who are making transitions. The transfer of students into the school in first year is well organised by the school and is supported by the guidance team. Good liaison takes place with primary schools to induct students into the school and to provide information and support for parents. An information event is arranged for parents of incoming first-year students. The guidance team attends this and other meetings arranged for parents to explain how the school operates and the implications for students of choosing subject options. It is 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 as this provides comprehensive information on the long-term implications of making subject choices in junior cycle.
Throughout junior cycle good contact is maintained with students by the guidance team. Strong links have also been forged with the pastoral system through participation in the student-support team. Very close co-operation between personnel delivering Guidance and SPHE guarantees that students address a wide range of personal developmental and social issues and can access counselling and educational guidance support. To develop further the existing guidance programmes for second-year and third-year students, it is recommended that some additional inputs on career topics be planned and included. This could be completed through co-operation with the SPHE programme. Introducing the topic of careers would assist students to begin exploring a range of possible career avenues well in advance of making individual subject and programme choices for senior cycle. It would also encourage dialogue between students about possible career routes, and enable them to become more informed about how to achieve personal goals through accessing †further and higher education. The use of ICT could be encouraged to assist this research and websites such as Career Directions www.careerdirections.ie and www.careersportal may be useful.
When making the transition to senior cycle, students are assisted individually to make suitable choices regarding available programmes and subjects. The Transition Year (TY) is not currently on offer in the school. However, with the school driving forward the aim of encouraging more and more students to complete the Leaving Certificate, the option of providing TY should be kept under constant review by the school and the VEC. It has been found in other similar schools that TY provides a valuable extra year for students wishing to progress into higher education.
In senior cycle, students can also opt for LCA or the LCVP.† Guidance integrates fully with these programmes and provides classroom, small group sessions and one-to-one support for students to develop good study skills and explore progression routes. The programmes provided for each year group integrate well with the LCA and the LCVP career exploration modules and with work experience. This provides students with opportunities to explore the world of work and develop insights into possible future career routes. Guidance provides information on courses for students and encourages them to explore college websites independently using ICT. All senior cycle students can avail of a high degree of one-to-one support to explore fully their individual talents and all avenues for progression. Those wishing to make the transition to third-level education receive very good assistance to evaluate viable options and to make their applications to the Central Applications Office (CAO) for entry to universities and colleges in Ireland. Students have good access to ICT and are supported to make applications to the CAO via the internet. Those choosing routes into Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses and to FAS (the National Training and Employment Authority) apprenticeships or courses are also facilitated in every way to make good choices. As already identified by the guidance teamís survey of studentsí needs, the provision of mock interviews for students in senior cycle would be a valuable way to extend existing provision of Guidance. This could be arranged with support from the parentsí council, established local business networks and past pupils.
Excellent links with the wider community outside the school and with local business organisations are established and fostered. It is reported that links with the Clondalkin Partnership Access Programme and Business in the Community has supplied excellent support and valuable contacts for students. The good relationships maintained with technology companies such as INTEL are providing students with wider options for advancement in the areas of technology and the sciences. These contacts are encouraging young people to consider a wider range of careers and course options at third level. It is reported that more and more students each year are choosing to complete their second-level education and are advancing into third-level and higher education. Excellent links with the Third Level Access programmes in colleges such as NUI Maynooth are providing valuable support for the school and encouraging more students to become role models for their peers by entering third-level education. Another big section of the student cohort that graduates each year transfers into apprenticeships or to further education or training courses. School staff and the guidance team are to be commended for the efforts that have been made to promote this advancement of students from the Leaving Certificate and for providing on-going support for these students.
The school is very supportive of Guidance and the guidance team is encouraged to access all available continuous professional development training and to avail of personal counselling supervision. This is to be highly commended.
In the course of the inspection visit, a guidance lesson with a third-year class group which was jointly taught by the guidance team was attended. The methodology chosen to present and develop the topic chosen was very appropriate to the age and developmental level of the students.† Good planning was in evidence and viable learning objectives were established from the outset of the lesson. The topic was well introduced and good support materials were supplied. Good quality learning was in evidence throughout the lesson with students working to complete the task set. Questioning was used effectively to encourage students to engage with the lesson topic and to develop their thinking about programme options for senior cycle.
A good classroom atmosphere prevailed throughout the lesson and this supported the achievement of good learning outcomes. †Good rapport between the students and the teachers was evident. Students were fully engaged in active learning throughout the lesson. Classroom management was excellent and students responded well to the encouragement they got from the guidance team. Those in the group who required particular help were assisted to understand the topic of the lesson and to complete the set assignment. The provision of folders for guidance information sheets encourages students to store the work completed and this provides good continuity between lessons.
Appropriate and purposeful use is being made of assessment modes, tests and other instruments to assess studentsí learning and individualsí needs and interests. In Guidance, assessment is used very effectively to assist students to explore individual aptitudes and plan suitable career paths. The school guidance plan should document the range of tests administered and all interest inventories.† The suitability of tests is being reviewed regularly within the school.† It is advised that reference should be made to the Circular Letter 0008/2007 on testing in schools, which is available at www.education.ie †to assist with the selection of tests for Guidance and learning support. The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATS) is administered to all students and they receive individual feedback on their results. This is being used effectively to make subject and programme choices in senior cycle. Other aptitude tests and interest inventories are selected and administered to meet particular studentsí needs. In addition full use is being made of Qualifax to explore third-level and further education and training options using ICT. It is recommended that students be introduced to the new website Careersportal at www.careersportal.ie to complement Career Directions and Qualifax.
Good records of all one-to-one sessions held with students are being kept and all follow-up actions to be taken are fully minuted. Individual student files are compiled and stored appropriately to provide maximum individual support on an ongoing basis. All meetings held with staff and management are recorded. The initial destinations of all students leaving the school are being mapped annually to inform school planning. This is good practice.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
∑ The school is providing a commendable range of learning and personal supports for students.
∑ Guidance is provided as an integrated support for students with personal counselling.
∑ Guidance is well integrated with the schoolís pastoral system. The guidance team liaises effectively with the student-support team, the psychological service and with all aspects of care support within the school.
∑ Guidance supports parents by providing advice about subject and programme choices.
∑ Guidance is viewed as a process and new ways are being explored through the guidance plan to extend the range of supports currently being provided for students.
∑ Good contacts are maintained with a wide range of outside agencies, business organisations and further and third-level colleges.
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 guidance counsellors and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published October 2008