An Roinn Oideachais agus EolaŪochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Christian Brothersí School
Castleredmond, Midleton, County Cork
Roll number: 62360G
Date of inspection: 20 November 2008
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Christian Brothers School (CBS), Midleton. 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.
As a school in an area that has undergone rapid development in recent years, the CBS in Midleton is presented with a number of interesting opportunities for development. The school has a growing enrolment. More than five hundred students are now enrolled. The expansion of the school to cater for eight hundred students has been proposed. As a Catholic boysí school under the Edmund Rice Schoolsí Trust (ERST), there is a strong commitment to pastoral care, respect, honest endeavour and Irish culture in a Christian learning environment. The school plan is wide-ranging and shows dedication to good planning and to the inclusion of all students. The guidance department is in an interim phase at present, and, with increasing enrolment and in collaboration with senior management, is in a strategic position from which to advance whole-school guidance planning.
The guidance counsellor at the time of the inspection was in a temporary position arising from the maternity leave of the normal holder of the post. The guidance department is well established and is accommodated close to the schoolís main building. The office is comfortable and is equipped with appropriate office equipment. This includes shelving and a filing cabinet suited to the storage of a variety of types of information, and for the display of guidance materials. Information and communication technologies (ICT), such as broadband internet, a computer, printer, and telephone, have been installed and are suitable for guidance administration and for work with individual students. The office is also suited to counselling. Access to ICT for group Guidance is arranged in co-operation with the staff member responsible for ICT provision. In view of the importance of easy access to ICT for guidance purposes, it is recommended that a review of such access be a factor in the whole-school guidance plan.
The ex-quota allocation for Guidance is based on enrolment. The current ex-quota allocation to CBS, Midleton, is seventeen hours per week. Of these, approximately thirteen hours and fifteen minutes are used by the guidance counsellor, who attends the school on three days each week. The use of the remaining hours is less clear. This should be addressed in the context of guidance planning. According to Department of Education and Science Circular PPT12/05 the ex-quota allocation will be twenty-four hours per week from September 2009 and the use of this resource for Guidance should be carefully planned and clarified.
The weekly class-contact hours of the guidance counsellor include a double period of timetabled contact with Transition Year (TY) students. The remaining hours are used to provide a balanced programme of planned intermittent inputs into all year groups. These include contacts with class groups, small groups and with individual students by appointments arranged by the guidance counsellor, through referrals by staff and by student self-referral. The system of referrals is reported by staff to operate effectively. It is recommended, however, that, in the course of school development planning, consideration be given to the issue of the relationship between the system of student management and the support system, especially in the case of students who face suspension. Fine distinctions may be made between the personal and disciplinary needs of staff and students, and between the schoolís disciplinary and support procedures. It is suggested that this should be part of the process of clarification of roles and responsibilities, which is part of good planning.
In keeping with the schoolís mission, there is widespread collaboration among staff in support of students. Much of this is informal. It is recommended that a small student-support team be formed, comprising staff with core student-support responsibilities. It is suggested that the formalisation of student-support structures, such as those provided by the guidance department, special educational needs department, chaplaincy and Religious Education (RE) department, and the student management team, be considered in the context of whole-school guidance planning. Self-review among staff is ongoing and interesting ideas for the development of collaborative practice are in evidence. It is suggested that a member of the student-support team attend year headsí meetings, to strengthen current collaborative practice and communication in this regard. It is reported that the studentsí council is democratically elected and is representative of all students. This is commended, and it is suggested that such a resource may add a valuable dimension to the process of reviewing studentsí needs.
The high quality of the school plan, seen on the schoolís website, indicates a strong perception of the advantages of planning in general and of the formalisation of the plan using the structures proposed by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI). This is commended. It is good planning practice to reiterate the basic values against which evaluation may proceed. The school is commended for its regular reference to its mission statement in the school plan. In some departmental plans and school policies, similar good practice is observed.
The guidance-department plan includes a summary of the guidance inputs into most class and year groups, and into programmes. It also lists the links between the department and the wider community, including parents. The changes mentioned at the beginning of this report present good opportunities for the guidance department, and for management, in the development of an integrated, whole-school guidance programme. The inclusion of a list of identified needs is a significant element of the guidance-department plan, showing a clear commitment to self-review and improvement. Some of the identified needs will rely on solutions proposed by staff in general. These include the co-ordination of visits to, and from, the school, the induction of new students prior to and during first year, and the increasing demands on the counselling resources of the school due to increasing enrolment and greater diversity in the student population.
Good practice in schools in dealing with such issues has included the formation of a whole-school guidance-planning task group, using the structures recommended by the SDPI. In the context of schools with a strong pastoral-care department or chaplaincy, it has been found useful in preserving the integrity of the guidance department, the additional educational needs department and the chaplaincy, to use the term student support as the overarching term to describe the collaborative work of these departments. A recommendation has already been made regarding the formalisation of such work. Whole school planning, of which whole-school guidance planning is an integral part, is a requirement of the Education Act 1998 and may be taken to include much of the collaborative work of these departments. It is recommended that the whole-school guidance-planning task group should be relatively compact and should include those with core student-support responsibilities, such as the guidance counsellor, the special educational needs co-ordinator, the pastoral care or chaplaincy co-ordinator. Other staff interested in a whole-school approach to the support of students and a representative of the student-management structure of year heads and class teachers may add important perspectives to such a task group.
The recent publication of Looking at Guidance on the Department website at www.education.ie provides many examples of good practice in Guidance. Current good practice at CBS Midleton may be enhanced by the consideration of its findings, not only by the recommended planning group but also by staff in general, and by management. Other areas for inclusion may be decided following a perusal of documents such as A Curricular Framework for Guidance in Post-primary Education, published as a consultative document by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) in 2007. This gives a detailed outline of the roles of subject departments such as Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE), RE and Home Economics in the delivery of elements of those subjects common to Guidance. Reference should be made to the proposed programme in both the whole-school guidance plan and in the guidance-department plan. Guidance planning is ongoing and has entered the whole-school phase of planning. A draft whole-school guidance plan has been presented to the board of management with some useful proposals for the development of the guidance department. It is suggested that priorities in this regard might include planning for continuity in the provision of guidance, an issue that has been dealt with effectively to date, links with management, and the development of the whole-school guidance plan.
The National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) document Planning the School Guidance Programme, available at www.ncge.ie, is a good guide to the process of whole-school guidance planning. Much useful information in this regard is also available on the Department website at www.education.ie and on the SDPI website at www.sdpi.ie . Consideration should also be given, in the longer term to the modular whole-school guidance planning diploma course being offered by the NCGE. In this context, provision should be made in the whole-school guidance plan for the continuing professional development (CPD) of guidance staff. The Institute of Guidance Counsellors (IGC) manages the provision of professional counselling support for guidance counsellors, using resources provided by the Department of Education and Science. It is recommended that the guidance counsellorís timetable be arranged to facilitate attendance at these sessions and at other CPD events organised by the Institute.
The school has varied its approach to the TY programme. Three different models have been applied to its design and the current, more academically oriented model is stated in school documents to be the most successful. Issues that have been addressed in reaching this conclusion have included decisions regarding the provision of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme and of the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP), and the stage at which optional Leaving Certificate examination subjects are chosen by students. Students opt for senior cycle subjects and programmes during third year. The LCA is provided when a sufficient number of students express interest in participating in the programme. It has not been provided in the current year. The timing, in third year, of studentsí decisions regarding optional Leaving Certificate subjects should be reconsidered. Some flexibility exists during TY in cases where students wish to change from one optional subject to another. It is recommended, however, that, in the spirit of TY and in accordance with its aims, a broad range of experiences should be presented to students participating in the programme and that personal, educational and vocational decisions should be informed by these experiences. Similarly, students who may, ultimately, opt for the LCA may feel out of place in a TY programme that is more academically inclined, rather than in one in which the inclination is towards personal and vocational development.
Procedures for dealing with critical incidents are well developed and have been modified in the light of experience. It is suggested that a more formal, written outline of the procedures would add clarity and would facilitate their communication to all staff, and to others as appropriate.
One lesson was observed in the course of the inspection. A small TY class engaged with the topic of curriculum vitae preparation. The lesson was conducted in the ICT room and students sat at individual workstations throughout. The arrangement of the equipment enabled rapid responses to the needs of students for additional help in accessing the relevant information. The use of the ICT room for guidance lessons is commended since access to web-based information is an essential element of the guidance programme. This was confirmed by the effective use of the technology by students to identify and to complete an online assessment of talents. The use of the Qualifax website to gather further information about identified talents, and the career areas to which they might apply, enhanced studentsí learning and is commended. Similarly, the learning environment was enhanced by the attractive display of wall-mounted information, posters and studentsí work. Some initial difficulties involving the technical adjustment of computers to expedite internet access were quickly overcome and the lesson progressed following a concise and accurate introduction to the topic. Students are commended for their spontaneous helpfulness in resolving technological difficulties. It is recommended that any unnecessary barriers to easy access to ICT be identified at a whole-school level and that proposals for their removal be made by staff in the context of ICT planning.
In addition to a comprehensive knowledge of employment and recruitment issues, information regarding current affairs and the relevance of personality characteristics were very well integrated into the lesson. A handout that was distributed during the lesson was augmented by comments and directions for the completion of the online questionnaire. Students responded well to all directions and to questions which were well considered and took into account the level of ability and interests of individual students.
Collaboration between the guidance department and the special educational needs department is commended. This is particularly apparent in the assessment of incoming students. A test of general ability is administered early in the calendar year of entry. The results of the assessment are used, along with other information gathered during the admission process, to identify students for whom further intervention by the special educational needs department is indicated. In addition, studentsí progress through first year is monitored, using the results of the assessment as a baseline from which achievement may be judged, and in the context of mixed-ability classes.
The assessment of studentsí aptitudes is carried out in fifth year, as part of the senior cycle guidance programme. The programme includes individual interviews with students during which the results of the aptitude test are discussed. The process of clarification of studentsí personal, educational and career decisions is augmented by a range of interest inventories, including those associated with web-based resources such as Qualifax and Career Directions.
The guidance department is commended for its record keeping. The process observed in the course of the inspection included the recording and confidential storage of information and decisions made by students in the course of guidance interviews and the recording of meetings with other staff on issues related to Guidance.
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, October 2009
Submitted by the Board of Management
Area 1†† Observations on the content of the inspection report†† ††
The Board of Management and Staff welcome the overall positive report on Guidance in the school.
The main strengths identified in the evaluation are consistent with the Boardís views. The inspectorís comments that there is ongoing collaboration among staff in support of students and ongoing self-review are appreciated.
We will continue to build and develop these strengths.
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 increased allocation for 2009/2010 has enabled the appointment of a permanent Guidance Counsellor which should cater for the Guidance needs of the school for the immediate future.
The recommendations regarding the formation of a small student-support team, a whole-school guidance planning team and access to ICT are being given serious consideration.
The Guidance Counsellorís timetable in 2009/2010 allows for attendance at CPD events.
The timing of studentsí decisions regarding optional Leaving Certificate subjects is reviewed annually. It is linked to the model of TY which we operate. This model is reviewed annually. The review includes pupils, parents and teaching staff and is conducted to ensure that the model used is best suited to the particular year group.† In 2009/ 2010 three classes opted for TY and one class for Leaving Certificate Year one (5th Yr.).†