An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Subject Inspection of Guidance

†REPORT

 

St Caiminís Community School

Tullyvarraga

†Co Clare

Roll number: 91447I

 

Date of inspection: 18 April 2008

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

Subject provision and whole school support

Planning and preparation

Teaching and learning

Assessment

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

 

 

 

Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance

 

 

 

Subject inspection report

 

This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Caiminís Community School, Tullyvarraga, Co Clare. It presents the findings of an evaluation of the quality of provision of 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 deputy principal, the guidance counsellor and counsellor 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 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.

 

Subject provision and whole school support

 

St Caiminís is a co-educational community school with a current enrolment of 700 students - 351 girls and 349 boys.† The school has fifteen feeder primary schools and its students come from mixed social backgrounds and from urban and rural areas. The school caters for all levels of academic ability as well as for students with special educational needs. There are approximately twenty-eight newcomer students attending and two students from the Traveller Community. The school offers all of the senior cycle programme options to its students (Transition Year (TY) Leaving Certificate (LC) Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) and Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA)). A majority of senior cycle students take LCVP.

 

St Caiminís receives thirty ex-quota hours per week for Guidance from the Department of Education and Science. A qualified guidance counsellor delivers twenty-two of the hours and another member of staff, who is a qualified counsellor, delivers the remaining eight hours. Each of the five sixth year classes has a timetabled guidance class per week. There are two timetabled guidance classes per week for LCA2 and one for LCA1. The guidance counsellor also visits LCA students during their work experience. Classes are provided to other year groups as required by arrangements with subject teachers. In the 2007/08 academic year, the school became involved in the piloting of the Be Real Game which involved one class per week delivered by the guidance counsellor. The remainder of the guidance programme is delivered on a one-to-one basis.

 

Facilities for Guidance are good.† The guidance counsellor has an office which is well located, spacious and equipped with information communication technology (ICT), ample shelving and secure storage facilities. Careers materials are stored in the office.† It is recommended that the materials be located in either the library or in a location that is easily accessible for students. This would also ensure less intrusion in the office-based work of the guidance counsellor. The guidance plan has identified this issue for attention. There is currently no dedicated classroom for Guidance and all guidance classes are held in an ICT room.† While it is important that students have access to ICT for guidance purposes, many guidance classes do not involve its use and the layout of ICT rooms does not easily facilitate some of the methodologies used in guidance classes, for example, group work.† It is recommended that a dedicated classroom for Guidance be considered by school management.† The classroom can also be used to display guidance materials and guidance related information.† It is also recommended that a small number of computers be installed in the room.† This would provide greater flexibility and efficiency in the delivery of the guidance programme.† The County Clare VEC Youth Service in Ennis keeps one of the two guidance notice boards up-to-date on a weekly basis.††† †

 

The school has a pastoral care team which comprises the principal, deputy principal, year heads, the guidance counsellor, the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) co-ordinator, the chaplain, the special educational needs co-ordinator, the student staff officer and members of the critical incident team.† The team meets formally every month.† The guidance counsellor and the counsellor meet formally every week. Regular informal meetings between the guidance counsellor and other members of staff also take place, particularly with programme co-ordinators, the SPHE co-ordinator and year heads. It is recommended that there be closer collaboration between the guidance counsellor and the SPHE teachers in the planning and delivery of the common elements of both programmes for junior cycle students.

 

The guidance counsellor meets with the principal formally at a weekly planning meeting but daily informal meetings also take place. Throughout the year, all teachers and year heads for each year group have one or sometimes two formal meetings with the principal, deputy principal and guidance counsellor. The level of communication and collaboration between the guidance personnel and other members of staff is commended. ††

 

Students are referred to the guidance counsellor mainly by the year heads but they may self-refer or be referred by their parents. Counselling is provided, when necessary, either by the guidance counsellor or cousellor.† Where further assessment or counselling is necessary, students are referred to a number of outside support agencies which include the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the Health Service Executive (HSE) support services and a number of community support services. The school is well supported by NEPS and by the HSE services.† †††

 

The school has a critical incident response policy and in the case of a critical incident it consults with NEPS. †A number of other policies have been developed or are in the planning stage.† It is recommended that the school consider developing an equality policy as it caters for diverse groups of students as well as boys and girls.

 

 

Planning and preparation

 

The schoolís guidance plan is well advanced.† A planning group has been established and consultation with all stakeholders has commenced.† It is recommended that representatives of parents, students and the local community, particularly local businesses, be co-opted onto the planning group. The plan sets out the overall guidance programmeís aims and objectives, outlines the aims and programme for each year group and provides information about the guidance activities undertaken in the school. The links between the guidance programme and other subjects are clearly set out. †This is commended. The plan also sets out an action plan for its further development which includes a timescale.† This is also commended.

 

It is clear from the plan that the school has links with a wide range of support services, organisations and educational establishments. However, the names of all organisations and the service(s) they provide are not clearly set out. The use of acronyms is extensive throughout the document. It is recommended that in developing the plan, a list should be included which provides the full name/title of the organisations mentioned in the plan with the service(s) each provides indicated. It should also be indicated whether a service or organisation is public, private or voluntary. It is recommended that the following documents be consulted at future meetings of the planning group: Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the Implications of Section 9 ( c ) of the Education Act 1998, relating to studentsí access to appropriate guidance; Planning the School Guidance Programme. Both documents can be accessed on the Departmentís website www.education.ie.† A Guidance planning template with links to the documents and to other related documents is available on the website.† †††††

 

The guidance counsellor participates in the programme for incoming students. At an open night for the parents of the incoming first years the role of the guidance counsellor is explained. At the start of first year the guidance counsellor takes a class period with each first year to explain the role of the guidance counsellor.† All first year students take taster modules in optional subjects until the Halloween break.† This is commended. Classes are visited at the end of October to discuss subject options and subject teachers are involved in this process.† A meeting for parents is held to explain the implications of subject choice. This recognition of the importance of subject ††choice is commended.† It is recommended that parents and students be referred to the module Leaving Cert and Junior Cert Subject Choice on the Qualifax website during this process. First year students attend a mandatory seminar on study skills. Students are referred for individual counselling if required. Transition Year (TY) students are trained as mentors and each group of fifteen students has a mentor assigned to it.

 

Second year students participate in the Junior Achievement Ireland programme and the Young Scientist competition. A study skills programme is delivered on a class basis. As required, individual students are met on an individual basis.† It is recommended that second year students be introduced to the world of work through career investigation and research.† By connecting their subjects to specific careers and work, both paid and unpaid, students develop a better understanding of why they study particular subjects as well as their relevance to their future lives. Guidelines to assist students to undertake a career/work project could be developed. Students should be encouraged to complete their project to be presented at the end of a term or year event. †††

 

The guidance programme for third years focuses on senior cycle options.† Students undertake the Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs) and receive the results on an individual basis. The LCVP and LCA co-ordinators discuss these programme options with the students and subject teachers prepare information materials and talk to them about their respective subjects. This participation of subject teachers in the guidance programme is commended. At the beginning of the year, students attend a two-day study seminar delivered by an outside body. Parents are invited to an information session about senior cycle options and the implications of subject and programme choice and are met individually on request. This is commended. †As required, students are met individually.

 

Transition Year (TY) is optional in St Caiminís. At the time of the inspection, there was one TY class. A range of outside organisations assists with the TY programme, including the guidance programme. GE Capital/Finance works with the class under the auspices of Junior Achievement for eight weeks in the first term. The AIB bank assists in the preparation of curriculum vitae (CVs), filling out application forms, interview techniques with debriefing after interviews. Students participate in the Build a Bank challenge, which culminates in a major competition against other schools.† Work experience takes place for two weeks at the end of the first term and students are prepared for their placements.† Students are met individually to ensure they have obtained a placement and receive assistance in sourcing one if necessary. Two class periods are devoted to debriefing following work experience. This is commended. Students are provided with information about Leaving Certificate options and subject teachers provide information about their respective subjects to students and their parents. A meeting is held for parents to explain the programme options available for the LC and the implications of programme and subject choice. This is also commended.

 

The majority of Leaving Certificate 1 students follow the LCVP which involves the study of the two link modules Preparation for the World of Work and Enterprise Education. The guidance counsellor cooperates with other members of staff in the delivery of the two modules. Throughout the year, external speakers deliver talks to the students and students go to a careers exhibition and to careers workshops run by Intel.† During the 2007/08 academic year, the Be Real Game was piloted with a small group of students who were not taking LCVP. †††This involved one class per week which was delivered by the guidance counsellor. In the second term, with the assistance of the Science and Mathematics teachers, a group of five to six girls are selected for the Women in Science series of seminars in UCC. Students attend an open day in University College Cork (UCC) and groups attend workshops in Limerick Regional Hospital. The range of opportunities the students are provided with to research and attend career related events is commended.

 

Each Leaving Certificate 2 class has one class period per week for Guidance. In addition, all LC2 students are met individually.† The aims and objectives and programme for LC2 are set out clearly in the guidance plan. The programme is comprehensive and includes a wide range of activities such as attending career events, attending a study skills seminar, using the internet for research and assistance with third level, further education or training applications.

 

Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) 1 has a guidance class per week and LCA2 has two classes. The Guidance module of the LCA programme is delivered during the classes.† The guidance counsellor collaborates with another member of staff in preparing students for work experience and in monitoring their placements.† A record card is maintained on every students and the guidance counsellor assists students who may be experiencing difficulties during work experience.† Contact is made with parents and employer as necessary.† This is commended.† ††

 

Students in St Caiminís have good access to ICT for guidance purposes and this is commended.† However, as noted earlier, while some classes of Guidance are devoted entirely to internet research when all students need access to a computer for the full class period, many guidance lessons involve group work or other activities. Such classes could be more efficiently run in a dedicated classroom with a small number of computers for lessons which might include a range of activities.†

 

The school has an active parentsí council. The council works with the guidance counsellor in the planning and delivery of mock interviews and in sourcing speakers to make presentations to students on a range of career areas and related themes.† Parents attend meetings where they receive information about subject and programme options, study skills and examinations. Parents may contact the guidance counsellor to make an appointment to discuss any concerns they may have about their child and can choose to meet the guidance counsellor on their own or to have the principal or other relevant member of staff present.†† If parents have difficulty visiting the school, the guidance counsellor may visit them in their homes.

 

The school has links with a wide range of educational and training institutions, industries, employers, support services and community groups. Some companies work with the school in the delivery of the Junior Achievement programme. They also offer scholarships for senior students to attend the University of Limerick (UL) summer school.† Local businesses also offer scholarships for third level education.† Local firms seek to recruit for apprenticeships in the school and the school has strong links with FŃS. There are close links between the school and the Youthreach Centre in Shannon.

 

The guidance counsellor is facilitated to attend continuing professional development (CPD) events. Over the past three years, the guidance counsellor has attended CPD events organised by the local branch of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) which covered a wide range of guidance related topics.† The guidance counsellor also participates in the Department funded programme of professional support for counselling which is organised through the IGC.†

 

Teaching and learning

 

Two guidance classes were observed, both were LC2 classes.† Both classes were held in an ICT room.† The first class dealt with study skills and in particular how best to revise subjects for the Leaving Certificate.† Students worked in groups and each was required to set out a revision programme for a specific subject, using topics rather than time as the basis for revision. A member of each group was asked to volunteer to act as secretary to record the topics to be covered for the respective subject. The records were collected by the guidance counsellor to be collated and distributed as appropriate.† For the final part of the lesson, students were directed to access the website of NUI Galway (NUIG) which has a section on study skills.

 

Each group of students worked independently and displayed a high level of maturity.† There was excellent rapport between guidance counsellor and students and the class was managed efficiently despite the difficulty of organising groups in an ICT room.

 

The second class observed was the last class of the week and many of the students had undertaken LC oral examinations during the week.† There was a level of apathy and giddiness displayed by some students.† This was handled in a sensitive way by the guidance counsellor who empathised with the students and tailored the lesson to take account of the situation.† A relaxation exercise was used in the final part of the class and this proved very effective for all students. Excellent rapport between guidance counsellor and students was also evident in this class.†

 

Assessment

 

Incoming first year students take tests in English, Mathematics and Gaeilge which are set by the subject teachers. The Cognitive Ability Test 3 (CAT) Level E is administered in September to first years. All of these tests are used to identify students who may require learning support. †As appropriate, results are made available to the year head, the special educational needs co-ordinator, the learning support teachers and parents.

 

The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs) are administered to third years. The results are provided to students on an individual and small group basis.† Results are also made available to teachers, and as appropriate, to the special educational needs co-ordinator, learning support teacher and to the NEPS psychologist. If requested, parents are met to discuss the results.

 

Senior cycle students undertake a number of interest inventories including those on career and course websites. ††

 

There is no formal tracking of past-studentsí initial destinations but there is a lot of informal contact between the school and its former students.† Past-students deliver career talks and many are tracked through past-pupil reunions.† It is recommended that the initial destination of past- students be formally tracked as this information can be useful when evaluating and reviewing the guidance programme and in planning for the future.†

 

Records are kept on all meetings and on all students who are seen by the guidance counsellor. Records of all outside assessments are also maintained by the guidance counsellor.† All records are stored in secure filing cabinets and in accordance with legal requirements.

Summary of main findings and recommendations

 

The following are the main strengths identified in the evaluation:

         St Caiminís provides a caring environment which recognises the needs of all of its students and responds appropriately to these needs.

         There is a whole school approach to Guidance which is supported by management.

         The school has well established links with a wide range of local support services, industry, employers, educational and training institutions and the community.

         Guidance planning is well advanced.

         There is good contact between the guidance counsellor and parents and parents input into aspects of the guidance programme.

         Students participate in a number of guidance related activities and attend a wide range of career related events.

         The guidance programme for senior cycle students is comprehensive and balanced

         The guidance counsellor is facilitated by management to engage in CPD on a regular basis.

 

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

 

         A dedicated classroom for Guidance should be set aside which would include a small number of computers.

         Representatives of parents, students and the local community should be co-opted onto the guidance planning group.

         The documents referred to in the body of the report should be consulted in the planning process

         There should be greater balance in the provision of guidance at junior and senior cycles.

       Greater collaboration between Guidance and SPHE in the planning and delivery of the overlapping elements of both programmes would ensure that many of the objectives of the guidance programme for junior cycle students would be achieved.

 

Post-evaluation meetings were held with the guidance counsellor and 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  November 2008