An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Charleville, County Cork
Roll number: 71080B
Date of inspection: 11 February 2009
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Mannix 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 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.
Mannix College is located in spacious, well-maintained buildings in Charleville. The school is part of the scheme of the County Cork Vocational Education Committee (VEC) and provides for students in a co-educational setting. The school is inclusive and has a rich cultural mix of students, many of whom are newcomers. One hundred post-primary students and forty-one post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) students are enrolled. The school caters well for the needs of individual students. In the context of planning for the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan in which the school is currently engaged, and in the light of demographic changes in the school, it is recommended that some consideration be given to whole-school approaches, or to inter-school approaches, to issues related to enrolment. The issue, for example, of the balance between those with and without additional educational needs in the cohort of incoming students is one that might profitably be addressed in collaboration with the other post-primary schools in the town.
The current ex-quota allocation for Guidance is eleven hours, of which three hours are allocated as part of the school’s participation in the DEIS action plan. The hours are used fully by the guidance counsellor, who also holds a post of responsibility for the administration of FETAC accredited courses. The school’s guidance provision is of a very high standard. The ex-quota allocation is used effectively and this is a major factor in the commendable integration of, and collaboration between the core student supports in the school. Similarly, the allocation is well utilised in the guidance department programme. The programme is equitably divided between the various year groups and makes provision for interventions with individual students as well as with class groups. The collaboration of the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Religious Education (RE) departments in the delivery of components of their subjects common to Guidance is commended. The involvement by the guidance counsellor, as a member of staff and as holder of a post of responsibility, in the general administrative and educational functions of the school, in addition to guidance functions is noted. Such involvement, coupled with ongoing informal communication, with senior management for example, facilitates guidance inputs into curricular planning and collaboration with colleagues in support of students. Similarly, links with external social, business and community interests, such as membership of the local committee for Home-School-Community Liaison (HSCL), are important to the school-wide delivery of guidance supports. Mock interviews, arranged for the day after the inspection, are an excellent example of community involvement spanning twenty-six years in support of the school. While the variety of non-guidance activities can be useful in the maintenance of contacts with staff and students and in the development of skills that enhance guidance provision, it is recommended that the time assigned to non-guidance responsibilities should be kept under review in the context of whole-school guidance planning.
The level and form of communication is appropriate to a school of its size. Much communication is informal and is based on good relationships generally among staff. In particular, the student-support team, currently composed of the guidance counsellor, HSCL co-ordinator, who is also the link person with the School Completion Programme, and senior management, is the forum in which immediate decisions are made regarding the day-to-day needs of students. A member of staff is undergoing training in preparation for a return to the school in September 2009 as special educational needs co-ordinator, and will be a member of the student-support team. In the guidance department it is notable that this informality is well balanced by meticulous attention to record keeping. Referrals to the guidance department and from the school are managed in this context of clear records and processes, and appropriate consultation with staff, management and parents.
The facilities for Guidance are good. The guidance office, which is accessible and reasonably private, is located near the centre of the building. Equipment includes appropriate information and communication technologies (ICT), such as broadband internet connection, telephone and printer, and a variety of storage suited to the needs of the guidance department, such as secure cabinets for confidential materials, and open shelving for the display of guidance information. Access to the school’s advanced ICT facilities for group guidance and for the use of individual students is readily available by arrangement with relevant members of staff, who are reported to be most helpful in this regard.
Very good progress in planning is being made by the school. Subject-department planning in a school of this size, where many of the departments are of one staff member, is more relevant where the engagement is with cross-curricular planning more than in the formalisation of departmental structures. This is the case at Mannix College. The school’s participation in the DEIS action plan, current developments in the special educational needs department and the clear commitment to planning for student support through the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI), all point to a strong interest in the current phase of school planning, that of teaching and learning. Planning is ongoing and is achieved through a good combination of formal and informal practice. A document seen in the course of the inspection, for example, listed the dates of planning meetings proposed for the current year. The school plan includes an annual calendar. The co-operation of the other post-primary schools in the town in the preparation of the calendar is commended.
It was noted that some documents referred to career guidance. When references are made in documents and in other places to the work of the guidance department, it is recommended that the officially correct term Guidance be used, where appropriate, and in view of the school’s clear commitment to personal, educational and vocational guidance. It is also noted, however, that the documentation of plans and processes is clear, and in keeping with good practice.
The guidance department plan is well formed. It is clear that the plan undergoes regular review in the spirit of the design-implement-evaluate-review cycle that is at the core of the SDPI approach to planning. Some of the guidance department’s short-term aims are included in the plan. This is commended as a useful part of the annual negotiations between subject departments and management regarding the formation of the school plan, particularly as they apply to short-term planning for the use of available resources. The guidance plan includes the programme for each year group. This is in keeping with the Draft Guidance Framework published by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in 2007, in which the curricular inputs by the SPHE department, for example, into the guidance programme are clearly outlined. It is also clear that, in addition to the provision of a balanced guidance curriculum, the service component of Guidance is also well spread throughout the school and is well integrated with the other supports provided. The plan includes references to the school’s procedures in the case of a crisis. Staff members have undergone some training in this area through the Health Service Executive (HSE). The collaboration of the HSCL, SPHE and special educational needs departments with the guidance department and, indeed, the collaboration of staff and management in general, is commended. Relationships between the guidance department and other staff appear to be very good and are the basis of continual communication regarding the provision of supports for students. The programme for the induction of new students is a good example of collaborative practice at Mannix College.
The introduction of the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP) in September 2008 involved considerable efforts in planning on the part of staff and had an integrating effect on cross-curricular collaboration. The planning repercussions are ongoing and it is clear that planning for Guidance, special educational needs and HSCL is of particular relevance to DEIS planning. The whole-school guidance planning team was established in September 2008. The team comprises the guidance counsellor, HSCL, SPHE and school-planning co-ordinators. The broad base of this team is commended, encompassing teachers of RE, Home Economics and the year head of sixth year. Progress to date includes the identification by staff of the needs of the school. It is proposed that a similar poll be taken of the needs of students. It is suggested that the elected students’ council is a vehicle by which such a survey might be carried out. These developments create an interesting environment in which to review current practice not only in teaching, but also in planning the review and prioritisation of whole-staff involvement in the provision of supports for students, in keeping with the school’s basic values as expressed in its mission statement. A useful guide to whole-school guidance planning materials is available on the website of the Department of Education and Science at www.education.ie .
Senior management is commended for its arrangement of the timetable that enables the participation of guidance staff in continuing professional development arranged by the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC), some of which is funded by the Department of Education and Science. The participation of staff in training and educational programmes in areas such as reflective teaching practice, applied suicide intervention skills training, bereavement and loss, and professional counselling support, is commended.
One lesson was observed in the course of the inspection. The aim of the lesson was the preparation of students for mock interviews, which were to take place on the day after the inspection. The lesson was well planned. In keeping with due formality, the roll was called and some general comments made while students settled. A clear outline of the lesson was given at the outset and its context was well established by reference to previous lessons and to the application process through which students had already progressed in preparation for their interviews. It was clear that the plans for the lesson were an integral part of the overall mock-interview plan and that each student had compiled a curriculum vitae and application form as part of the process.
Good use was made of the available technology and, although some difficulty was encountered in the screening of a video, skilful use was made of the whiteboard as an alternative. Students were seated at tables in a U formation that enhanced and personalised communication. Students were known by name and it was clear that, not only were the personal and career interests of students known, but that there existed a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the vocational and training areas to which those interests might be applied. Students’ experiences of work and interviews were elicited by the use of a variety of questions to illustrate the points being made.
The use of a role-play as part of the lesson is commended. Students were willing participants and observers of the process, making constructive comments at the conclusion of each session of role-play. Affirmative comments were made throughout the lesson and it was clear that these, the use of a variety of methods, and the positive relationships among those participating were factors in maintaining the engagement of students throughout the lesson.
The use of standardised assessments of incoming students is being considered in the context of the changes in the special educational needs department already mentioned. It is recommended that consideration be given to the assessment of the general ability of incoming students in the course of these deliberations. Good practice has been observed elsewhere, where the results of standardised test instruments have been used to ensure the distribution of students in a mixed-ability setting and to monitor the academic progress of students throughout their schooling. Such tests are also used to help to identify students who might benefit from further interventions by the special educational needs team.
A number of interest inventories are used in the course of the guidance programme, particularly in the senior cycle. These include the web-based inventories associated with, for example, the Career Portal, Qualifax and Career Directions websites.
While much of the collaborative work in support of students is effected on an informal level, as befits a school of its size, the records and documentation associated with the work are appropriately formal and highly commended. Good practice was observed in records of planning meetings, meetings with members of the student-support team and with students, and in the tracking of students’ initial destinations. Other notable documents seen in the course of the inspection included a series of leaflets, in colour, produced by the HSCL local liaison committee, with the support of senior management, that were attractively designed, clear and well finished.
The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:
As a means of building on these strengths, the following key recommendations are made:
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, June 2009
Area 1 Observations on the content of the inspection report
The Inspection was carried out in a very professional manner in accordance with the professional code and D.E.S Guidelines.
Area 2 Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the inspection
activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection.
The recommendations of the Guidance Inspection have been brought to the attention of the staff and Board of Management and will be implemented