An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Moyne Community School
Roll number: 91436D
Date of inspection: 20 November 2008
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Moyne Community School. 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 counsellors and reviewed school planning documentation. Following the evaluation visit, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal, deputy principal and to the guidance counsellors. The board of management of the school was given an opportunity to comment on the findings and recommendations of the report; the board chose to accept the report without response.
Moyne Community School attracts students from a wide rural hinterland and a large number of feeder-primary schools. Current enrolment totals 611 students, and management reports that this level of enrolment is not expected to drop significantly in the near future.
The school provides an impressive range of programmes and subject choices for students. Guidance is well established and two guidance counsellors make up the school’s guidance team. This team works collaboratively to plan and manage the delivery of Guidance, with support from other teachers. Management is supportive of Guidance and values the contribution it makes to support students making transitions, selecting subjects and programmes, planning career paths and addressing personal issues. Due to the enrolment numbers, and participation by the school in the Guidance Enhancement Initiative (GEI) there is an allocation of thirty three ex-quota hours for Guidance. This generous allocation provides good scope for the provision of Guidance for students in all year groups and school programmes. Guidance currently plays a crucial role in assisting students with decision-making at all major transitions and in ensuring that students gain full benefit from participating in Transition Year (TY), Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA), Leaving Certificate Vocational (LCVP) and the established Leaving Certificate. It is recommended however, that care be taken by management to assign, on an annual basis, all allocated guidance time appropriately, in order to maximise the support provided for students. In particular, the application of more flexible timetabling approaches for Guidance, in conjunction with a number of curricular subjects in senior cycle should be considered. The possible deployment of modular timetabling for Guidance is an option that should also be explored. This would increase the guidance team’s contact with more students in both junior and senior cycles. Modular timetabling would also facilitate the guidance team to rotate more easily between class groups in senior cycle once the main components of guidance modules have been completed. It would also enable them to focus attention on particular groups of students in senior cycle who share similar career interests and need assistance to explore these areas.
It is commendable that good information and communications technology (ICT) is available throughout the school and efforts are being made by management to further develop this facility, as resources become available. It is therefore recommended that ways be explored by the guidance team to arrange that more guidance lessons are scheduled to take place in the school’s ICT rooms.
The school has a dedicated and well-equipped guidance suite with good ICT. This facility is commended, as it provides good working conditions for staff and an ideal and easily identifiable location for students accessing Guidance and counselling support in the school. A lap-top computer and a media projector have been allocated to this department. This is a very useful resource for delivering Guidance and providing information for students. Additionally, students, have access to ICT in the careers library area of the guidance suite. This is commendable as it provides easy access for them to explore independently college and career websites, and to complete college applications. It is suggested that the provision of another computer in the careers’ library should be a priority for the guidance department, when resources permit.
Very close contact is maintained with parents and the school views the care of each student as a priority for staff. Evidence shows that Guidance is playing a crucial role in supporting this objective. The guidance team liaises effectively on an ongoing basis with members of staff to deliver a wide range of educational, career and personal supports for students. The school care team, which includes Guidance, meets monthly on a formal basis to discuss and monitor interventions for individual students who require extra support. On a day-to-day basis, the guidance team meets informally with staff to monitor individual students and provide necessary care as it is required. All students can access one-to-one counselling support directly from the guidance team or can be referred by staff and parents. Excellent linkages with all local support agencies such as the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), local businesses, Youthreach, FÁS, third level and further education colleges are being maintained. The referral of students to external agencies for extra support is handled expertly and sensitively by the school. In order to further improve communications between the guidance department and the whole- school community it is suggested that information about Guidance, which is supplied to parents, should be placed on the school’s website.
The school is developing a critical incident policy with support from the guidance team. This work should be advanced immediately as a priority by management.
The school is actively engaged in developing and revising a range of school policies. A comprehensive and well-documented guidance plan has been drafted. This has been developed with whole-school support following an analysis of students’ needs and a consultation held with staff and parents. A separate guidance programme is included in the plan for each year group and school programme. The guidance plan is evaluated annually by the guidance team and has been presented to the board of management for approval.
The plan contains clear aims and objectives for Guidance in the school, identifies how the plan dovetails with school polices and outlines a set of priorities for future development. This is commendable as it provides a firm basis for raising awareness about Guidance throughout the whole-school community and identifies how the further development of supports for students may occur. A particularly commendable aspect of guidance planning is that students in senior cycle are asked annually to evaluate the guidance programme they have received. The information gathered from this survey is then used to inform future planning. It is suggested that this practice be extended to all year groups using a simple set of questions to elicit responses.
To further advance guidance planning and aid evaluation of the programmes, it is recommended that learning outcomes be established for each year group, that time frames for the completion of each of the tasks be indicated and that links with all school programmes such as Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE), Religious Education (RE), TY, LCA and LCVP be clearly documented. 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, which have been 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) are available at www.education.ie. Information about how to develop a curricular framework for Guidance and ways that it can be integrated with all aspects of the school curriculum may be accessed at www.ncca.ie
The guidance team attends parents’ events annually and assists them and their children to make good subject and programme choices. Students and parents should also be referred to the information module on the Qualifax: Leaving Cert. and Junior Cert. Subject Choices www.qualifax.ie. This website provides comprehensive information on the possible long-term implications for students of choosing subjects in junior and senior cycles.
The guidance team visits the main feeder primary schools to meet with pupils before they transfer to the post-primary school. Students in first year are then assisted by Guidance to settle into the school and are encouraged to interact with guidance staff for personal advice or counselling. Each first-year student is interviewed so that a profile on each student can be constructed and to provide an opportunity for personal interests or concerns to be identified. To further develop the existing guidance programmes for students in second and third year, it is recommended that some additional inputs on career topics be planned and included. This could best be achieved through close co-operation between Guidance and the SPHE programme. Introducing topics on careers to junior cycle students encourages them 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 facilitate discussions about the levels at which subjects should be studied. Engagement with career exploration also facilitates dialogue between students about possible career routes, and informs them about how to achieve personal career goals through accessing further and higher education. The use of ICT could be deployed to assist their research into careers and websites such as Careers Directions www.careerdirections.ie and Careers Portal www.careersportal may be found useful in this regard. Students in third year are assisted by the guidance team to choose the TY programme or transfer directly to Leaving Certificate.
The guidance programmes for Transition Year (TY) and for senior cycle classes are comprehensive. All students are interviewed individually to plan individual transitions and address personal issues. As the school population now exceeds 600 and demands on guidance time are expanding, it is recommended that more timetabled guidance sessions be planned with senior classes using a rolling modular approach.
Commendably, a number of guest speakers are invited to address students and provide insights into the world of work and third level or further education. Good links are maintained with a number of third-level colleges such as National University of Ireland Maynooth, National University of Ireland Galway and some Institutes of Technology. Students are facilitated to attend a number of open days in third-level colleges and visits to other locations are arranged based on students’ interests.
The school reports that the TY programme is very popular and that more and more students are now opting to take this programme. Guidance makes an important input to TY and supports students to gain maximum benefit from all the opportunities provided. It is particularly noted that good use is being derived from the Real Game which is a valuable tool for learning. The use of mock interviews is commended as this provides students with important and transferable life skills.
Students who wish to make the transition to third-level education receive good assistance to explore all viable options and make applications to the Central Applications Office (CAO) www.cao.ie for entry to universities or third-level colleges in Ireland, and to Universities & Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) www.ucas.com for application to third level in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Students are facilitated to complete applications to the CAO and to UCAS using ICT in the school. Students who choose alternative progressions into Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses or training courses run by FÁS or seek direct employment are also facilitated in every way to make appropriate personal choices. Parents are kept fully informed about progression opportunities at parents’ events and through one-to-one meetings arranged with the guidance counsellors.
The guidance team is facilitated by management to avail of available continuing professional development (CPD) and to attend supervision sessions for counselling.
In the course of the inspection of Guidance two guidance lessons, one each with a year one Leaving Certificate (Established) class and a Leaving Certificate Applied class, were attended. The methodologies selected to present and develop the lessons topics were well chosen, and were appropriate to the age and the developmental levels of the students.
Good advance planning of the lessons in both instances was in evidence and suitable support materials for students had been prepared. The topics were well introduced to students and were delivered at a suitable pace. Learning goals and the expected outcomes to be achieved were established at the beginning of the lessons. This provided a good scaffold and structure for effective learning to take place. The questioning of students was used to good effect from the outset of the lessons to elicit their understanding of the topics and of the assignments to be completed. In one lesson, very good use was made of ICT to provide a set of visual stimuli for students who may otherwise have found it hard to focus on the topic without this type of sensory support. Good use was made of peer learning in both lessons. This is commendable as it facilitates students to share ideas and knowledge and build self confidence through using applied- learning techniques.
The lay out of the classrooms was suitable and conducive to learning. It is suggested however, that in future lessons, even more use could be made of brainstorming students’ ideas about chosen topics at the beginning of sessions, and that all comments made by students are recorded and summarised on a whiteboard for reference and summary purposes.
All students were fully engaged and attentive during the lessons. They demonstrated good listening and competent learning skills. They also displayed good knowledge about the lesson topics and completed their assignments diligently. Very good rapport and a high level of mutual respect were evident between the teachers and students throughout the lessons. Classroom management was excellent with students displaying an orderly approach to learning. Follow up of the lessons was signalled at the end of the sessions and students’ completed work was saved in individual folders which will allow them to refer back over the year’s work. These are examples of good practice and are to be commended.
Appropriate use is being made 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 their learning needs and career interests. The school guidance plan should include a full list of tests and other instruments that are administered. 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. This could be used to stimulate ideas about the choice of new tests or interest inventories for use with students. Good use is also being made of tests such as the Differential Aptitude Tests (DATS) which is administered to all students who then receive individual feedback on their results. The information gathered is used effectively to assist students to make subject and programme choices in senior cycle. Other aptitude tests and interest inventories are selected and administered to meet particular students’ needs. In addition full use is being made of Qualifax to explore third-level and further education and training options using ICT.
Good records of all one-to-one counselling sessions held with students and all follow-up actions planned, are maintained. Individual student files are compiled and these are stored appropriately to provide maximum individual support. The initial destinations of all students leaving the school, which are presently being collated informally, should be documented annually on a formal basis. The information gathered about these destinations should be used to inform school and guidance planning.
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:
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 March 2009