An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science 

 

Subject Inspection of Guidance

REPORT

 

Pobalscoil na Rosann

Dungloe, County Donegal

Roll number: 91407T

 

Date of inspection:  15 May 2008  

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning

Assessment

Summary of main findings and recommendations

School response to the report

 

 

Report on  the Quality of Provision in Guidance

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in Pobalscoil na Rosann, Dungloe, County Donegal. 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 principal, the guidance counsellor, four members of staff 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 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.

  

 

Subject provision and whole school support

 

Pobalscoil na Rosann, operating under the trusteeship of County Donegal Vocational Education Committee (VEC) and the Catholic Bishop of the Raphoe Diocese, is the only post-primary school in the Rosses area of County Donegal and caters for students from diverse, rural, backgrounds. Students come from the local town and from a wide catchment area in west Donegal which includes twelve feeder primary schools. Currently there is an enrolment of 435 including six newcomer students and the school expects numbers to increase over the next few years. While Pobalscoil na Rosann is an English medium school a number of students come from Gaeltacht homes and have attended all-Irish Gaeltacht primary schools. School management is considering the introduction of a stream to enable these students to continue their studies through the medium of Gaeilge.

 

The school receives a total ex-quota allocation of twenty-two hours for Guidance from the Department of Education and Science. This includes 0.23 of a whole-time equivalent (WTE) post from the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan in which the school participates. At the time of the evaluation visit the guidance counsellor was delivering eighteen hours of the guidance allocation and also teaching two classes of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE). As well as delivering the guidance modules in the Transition Year (TY) programme the guidance counsellor was also teaching two other modules within the TY programme. Another member of staff works with the guidance counsellor for one period per week to deliver Guidance in fifth year. It is recommended that the school authorities ensure that the total ex-quota allocation for Guidance is used for the delivery of Guidance throughout the school in the next and subsequent school years.

 

Pobalscoil na Rosann is included in the School Completion Programme (SCP) initiative and a project worker funded by the SCP works six hours per week in the school. The school also has the services of a full-time chaplain and a home-school-community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator. The principal reports that Guidance is an integral part of the school curriculum and the current emphasis is on providing career role modelling for students. The school has introduced a programme of guest speakers, including past students, who provide talks for students on a variety of career areas.

 

Currently Guidance is targeted primarily in senior cycle with classes timetabled, one period per week, in fifth and sixth years. Commendably the school has introduced the ‘Be Real Game’ in the TY programme and a module on programme and subject choice for Leaving Certificate is delivered to each group also. The guidance counsellor delivers the guidance module in the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme and, also, the Preparation for the World of Work link module and the career investigation section of the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). 

 

The school is moving towards some provision of Guidance in junior cycle through the work of the Junior Achievement Ireland and the SCP programmes with groups of students. However, it is recommended that, within the planning process, the school reviews the current guidance schedule to explore additional ways of addressing the imbalance in provision between junior and senior cycles. Inputs for junior cycle could be further discussed and planned in collaboration with other subject departments such as the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) and Religious Education and other school personnel who offer pastoral support to students. At the time of the evaluation the TY option was compulsory and a module on subject and programme choice was provided within it to all students. However, from the school year 2008/09 the TY will be optional and it is recommended therefore that this module now be provided in third year. Individual appointments and personal counselling are offered throughout the school on request or by referral. Group work is provided for specific tasks and in response to identified needs.

 

School management in Pobalscoil na Rosann is supportive of Guidance and an office with computer, broadband access, phone, shelving and storage is provided and was being refurbished at the time of the visit. A careers library with six computers is located next door to the guidance office. Guidance-related materials are also stored in the guidance office and two large notice boards in the corridor provide guidance-related information for students. The assembly space is available to the guidance department for presentations to larger groups of students and the parents’ room may also be used for meetings with individual parents and for pastoral care meetings. Access to the computer room for Guidance is facilitated by arrangement with colleagues and such collaboration is praiseworthy. However, as the most up-to-date information regarding courses is available via the internet, it is recommended that the school considers ready access to information and communication technology (ICT) facilities for guidance classes within the school development planning process.

 

Pobalscoil na Rosann is commended for providing a wide range of subjects for students within the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate programmes. The school also offers the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). The school states that a significant number of students use the results of the LCVP link modules for the calculation of CAO points. In response, the school makes every effort to facilitate the requirements and the vocational subject groupings of the LCVP. However, the principal reports that any student wishing to take the Leaving Certificate (Established) programme is accommodated. At the time of the evaluation, all senior students were taking either the LCA or the LCVP. Plans are in progress for the introduction in September 2008 of the Junior Certificate School Programme (JCSP). This development is commended as it provides an option for junior cycle students.

 

There is a good sense of care for students in the school as evidenced by the supports and programmes available. Local knowledge of students and their families is regarded as a strength in the school and students are reminded of supports available to them during assemblies. A pastoral care team comprising the principal, deputy principal, guidance counsellor, chaplain and HSCL co-ordinator operates in the school. Weekly meetings are scheduled and minutes are recorded. This formal structure is commended as it facilitates optimum attendance and provides an effective forum for the transfer and sharing of information regarding students. Year heads and tutors attend the meetings as necessary. Ongoing informal contact is also maintained between individual members and the principal meets with each member of the pastoral care team individually each week. The guidance counsellor works closely with year heads, members of the special educational needs (SEN) department and with the HSCL co-ordinator to identify students who would benefit from additional supports and from participation in SCP activities. Supervised study is offered for two hours after school to senior students.

 

Referrals to the guidance department can be made by the pastoral care team, senior management, year heads, tutors, teachers and parents; students may also self-refer. In consultation with senior management, members of the pastoral care team meet with parents as necessary. Commendably procedures have been established for student appointments, both individual and group, with the guidance counsellor. There is ongoing informal contact between the SEN and the guidance departments and, as the need arises, both departments refer students to outside agencies in consultation with the principal and parents.

 

Pobalscoil na Rosann is commended for having engaged with a considerable number of outside agencies to provide information and support for students for example the training and employment authority Foras Áiseanna Saothair (FÁS), Donegal County Council, County Donegal VEC, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Fáilte Ireland, Youthreach, Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta, local business, colleges of further and higher education in the Republic of Ireland and in the UK. The school has identified a need to provide lifelong learning opportunities for the local community and is currently exploring how appropriate courses could be provided. This development is commended.

 

Links with senior management are maintained through weekly and ongoing, informal meetings. Issues relating to the timetabling schedule and subject choice as well as pastoral care concerns are discussed at the weekly meetings with management and decisions are recorded. Evaluation of the guidance programmes is in the initial stages with the pastoral care team and with management. The onward development of this evaluation process is encouraged as results will inform provision of Guidance. While there is no specific budget for Guidance the school provides funding as required and in keeping with community school regulations.

 

 

Planning and preparation

 

Guidance planning is in the initial stages in Pobalscoil na Rosann. A working group was established in 2007 to progress the planning process and to date aims and objectives have been set out, programmes have been developed for each year group and protocols and procedures have been established regarding certain aspects of the programmes. Aspects of the plan have been presented to staff. Building on the work achieved to date, it is recommended that the school progresses the guidance plan to include a student needs analysis in respect of provision and delivery. Input from staff, parents, students and from representative(s) of the local business community into the planning process is also recommended. In addition to the scheduled meetings of the pastoral care team the guidance counsellor meets informally each week with the HSCL co-ordinator and also with the chaplain. Informal links are maintained with the year heads and with the teachers of SPHE. It is recommended that a record of these meetings and of the decisions made be maintained and circulated among the parties concerned.

 

Commendably Pobalscoil na Rosann is working on the development of a critical incident response plan led by the chaplain. A response team is being established of which the guidance counsellor is a member and lists of phone numbers have been prepared. Plans are in place to present the document to the teaching and ancillary staffs. It is recommended that in formulating the final draft of the policy document the school networks with other local schools as such collaboration will provide support and assist all participants. Engagement with the materials published by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is also suggested.

 

Pobalscoil na Rosann has a transition programme in place for incoming students which begins with visits by the principal, deputy principal and HSCL co-ordinator to the primary schools when presentations are made to sixth class pupils and an information pack with a CD providing a virtual tour of the Pobalscoil is distributed. This use of ICT to inform students and their parents is commended. The school issues an attractive brochure which provides clear information on school personnel, school structures and supports offered to students.

 

In March, prior to entry, the school hosts a two-day induction programme for incoming students. Students are collected and brought to the Pobalscoil where they participate in sample lessons, tour the school campus and meet with key school personnel. Commendably Pobalscoil na Rosann has established a peer mentoring system which operates over the course of the year, primarily during lunch times, and has engaged with Donegal Youth Services to provide training. The mentors are introduced to incoming students during the induction days and organise fun activities as part of the programme.

 

Pupils sit short assessment tests at the end of the sample lessons in the core subjects. This is commended as incoming students are not required to take a range of pre-entry tests. Primary principals are invited to events in the school and the principal reports good collaboration with the primary schools. This collaboration is commended as it enables the post-primary school to prepare additional supports, as necessary, for incoming students. Parents of incoming students are invited to an open evening to meet with staff, visit the school campus and clarify any issues of concern. The guidance counsellor makes a presentation on subject choice, the role of the guidance department and is available to meet with individual parents and to arrange appointments. In this regard parents could also be referred to the section ‘Leaving Cert and Junior Cert Subject Choice’ on the QualifaX website (www.qualifax.ie). At the beginning of the new term first year students attend the school for an orientation day before other year groups return.

 

Incoming first year students choose their optional subjects before coming to the Pobalscoil. During September the guidance counsellor borrows lesson periods from colleagues to provide information to students on subject and level choice and up until the mid-term break students have flexibility to change. The guidance counsellor liaises closely with teachers of first year to identify needs. Individual interviews are offered to students experiencing difficulty and contact is made with parents either directly or through the HSCL co-ordinator. All of this support to ease the transfer from primary school is commended. 

 

Students considering leaving school before completion of the Leaving Certificate are referred to the guidance counsellor who collaborates with the principal, parents, the HSCL and SCP departments to encourage school completion, with success reported in many cases. The SCP department offers modules in leisure activities for small groups of junior cycle students. Extra support is provided in goal setting and to increase student awareness of their strengths and talents. Currently the school is building a database of people and careers to provide successful role models for students and to facilitate students to acquaint themselves with career opportunities. This approach is commended.

 

The school engages with local youth support projects such as Daybreak and TY students participate in the cross-border initiative Knowledge of Enterprise for Youth (KEY). The guidance counsellor co-ordinates the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) programme through which the school is linked to NUI Maynooth. As part of the access programme the school engages with NUI Maynooth in the awards scheme offered to junior cycle students in Science, Mathematics and languages and senior students participate in the preparation for oral examinations in modern languages available in the Letterkenny Institute of Technology (LYIT).

 

Subject choice for senior cycle begins with an open choice and bands are developed as students refine choices. Appropriate guidance programmes have been developed and are delivered to senior cycle students. In fifth year the guidance counsellor works closely with a member of staff involved in guidance delivery in a form of team-teaching where class groups are brought together in the computer room for demonstrations and use of the internet for career research. Senior students have access to videos, CD/DVD presentations, QualifaX and Career Directions. A representative from Údarás na Gaeltachta attends the school to present information on apprenticeships available locally in the Gaeltacht region. Students are prepared to make application to the Central Applications Office (CAO), to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), to the post-Leaving Certificate (PLCs) courses and to training and apprenticeships.

 

Commendably the school is working on a draft policy and procedures regarding student attendance at open days and career and course information events. A number of visits are organised by the school and students make independent arrangements with their parents to attend events of specific interest to them. This approach enables students to develop self-management and time-management skills and it is recommended that input form students and parents be sought in finalising the procedures and the draft policy document. Pobalscoil na Rosann participates in the Science, Technology and Engineering Programme for Schools (STEPS) and modules in Science and Technology are offered in the TY to encourage students to consider science subjects in senior cycle.

 

Parents are encouraged and welcomed to contact the guidance department as required and protocols have been established regarding appointments. The guidance counsellor attends all parent/teacher meetings and provides an information session to parents of third year and TY students. Parents of sixth class pupils in the local primary schools are invited to participate in the courses arranged for parents in the Pobalscoil. This inclusive approach is commended. The school hosts awards evenings for TY and Leaving Certificate students, to which parents are invited, to acknowledge and celebrate student achievement in both academic and non-academic spheres.

 

The guidance counsellor is a member of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) and the school facilitates attendance at relevant guidance events, local and national in-service and the professional development sessions to support counselling.

 

 

Teaching and learning

 

In the course of the evaluation one third year group of students was visited. The lesson was one in a series of three and the focus was the content of Leaving Certificate programmes for the following year. Students in this group had already applied to take the LCA or the LCVP for senior cycle and were in the process of finalising their choices of subjects and of LCA vocational specialisms. The lesson was very well prepared and planned. The aims of the lesson were explained to students and the pace and content were appropriate to the class group.

 

A variety of methodologies was used in the lesson including questions and answers, handouts, career text book, use of the blackboard and individual work by students. The guidance counsellor alternated between the two groups. Students interested in taking the LCA worked on a handout which had been prepared by the guidance counsellor with questions based on an article on the LCA in the Student Yearbook and Career Directory. The LCA course, structure, subjects, modules and associated terminology were clearly explained. Good links were made to everyday use of the subject content. Progression routes were identified and good reference made to training opportunities in the local area such as the Tourism College in Killybegs and apprenticeships available through Údarás na Gaeltachta. Projects within the subject areas were explained in detail with examples.

 

A handout and explanation of the programme structure was provided to students considering the LCVP. Subject choices were discussed and students were reassured regarding time available to research subject content and the flexibility to change at a later stage. Using the career textbook, students considered the subject groups, the essential subjects and the usefulness of certain groups. The good practice of allocating homework was noted as students were asked to take the text book home for further study and discussion with parents.

 

A friendly and relaxed class atmosphere was evident. Students were at ease to ask questions and received encouragement and positive affirmation. There was excellent engagement and participation on the part of students. Good relationships and mutual respect were evident between guidance counsellor and students. 

 

 

Assessment

 

Testing in junior cycle is largely diagnostic and norm-referenced numeracy and literacy tests are used to identify students in need of extra support. It is recommended that the school considers alternatives to the AH2 and AH3 tests currently used in first year since these tests have not been updated in recent times and do not have Irish norms. In the course of school development planning it is suggested that the school considers formulating a testing policy. In this regard the school could refer to the Circular Letter 0099/2007 and the accompanying information regarding tests on the Department’s website (www.education.ie).

 

The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs) are administered to TY year students to identify areas of strength and to assist career choice. Results are returned and discussed individually with students. The interest inventory MUSAIC as well as the inventories available on Career Directions, QualifaX and UCAS websites is also used with senior students.

 

Student profiling begins in fifth year and profiles are added to in sixth year as students decide their CAO and UCAS choices. The guidance counsellor maintains records of meetings with students and a record of appointments is maintained in the guidance counsellor’s diary. Student records are contained in folders which are stored in a locked filing cabinet. The guidance counsellor states that counselling demand varies during the course of the year and commendably the chaplain and the guidance counsellor collaborate to support students in this regard.

 

Tracking of initial destinations of Leaving Certificate students is done currently by the guidance department with information from parents, staff, CAO and LYIT figures and from siblings in school. It is suggested that the information gathered be displayed on the guidance notice board in order to further encourage and motivate current students. Past students are encouraged and welcome to return to school or to meet with the guidance counsellor.

 

 

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths and areas for development identified in the evaluation:

 

·         Guidance is well supported in Pobalscoil na Rosann and good facilities exist for guidance delivery.

·         Guidance planning is progressing and guidance programmes have been developed for all year groups.

·         There is a good sense of care in the school and good structures have been developed to support students.

·         Career role modelling is being pursued by the school as a source of encouragement and motivation for students.

·         A critical incident response plan is being formulated and an emergency response team has been established.

·         A very good range of second level programmes and subjects is offered to students.

·         A transfer programme operates in the school to facilitate the successful transfer of incoming first year students.

·         Strong links have been established with a wide range of outside agencies and with providers of higher and further education and training to support students.

·         Weekly meetings are scheduled between the guidance counsellor and school management.

·         The lesson observed was very well planned and prepared. There was excellent participation and engagement on the part of students.

·         Good rapport and mutual respect were evident between guidance counsellor and students in a friendly atmosphere.

 

 

 

As a means of building on these strengths and to address areas for development the following key recommendations are made:

 

·         The school should ensure that the total ex-quota allocation is used for the delivery of the guidance provision throughout the school.

·         A student needs analysis vis-à-vis provision and delivery would now inform the planning process. The inclusion of input from students, parents and from representative(s) of the business community into the guidance planning process should be considered. 

·         In the course of guidance planning the school should address the imbalance in the provision of guidance between junior and senior cycles.

·         As the TY becomes optional the provision of a guidance module in third year on programme and subject choice for senior cycle is recommended.

 

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the principal and the guidance counsellor at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.

 

 

 

 

Published November 2008

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

School response to the report

 

Submitted by the Board of Management

 

 

 

 

 

Area 1:  Observations on the content of the inspection report

 

.

Area 2:   Follow-up actions planned or undertaken since the completion of the   inspection activity to implement the findings and recommendations of the inspection

 

·         Review of provision of guidance at Junior Cert is being considered by management.

·         Where as far as possible, the full allocation for guidance will be used for guidance.

·         Student and community input is being investigated and more involvement from Parents Council is taking place at present.