An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Christian Brothers’ School
Tramore, County Waterford
Roll number: 64923L
Date of inspection: 13 October 2008
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Christian Brothers’ School (CBS), Tramore. 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.
Situated on an elevated site overlooking Tramore Bay, CBS Tramore caters for 472 boys. The school’s catchment area is relatively large, covering much of east County Waterford, with some students coming from Waterford City.
CBS Tramore operates under the trusteeship of the Edmund Rice Schools Trust (ERST) and it is clear from school documents, and from practice observed, that the principles of ERST are fundamental to the everyday running of the school. It is a commendable feature of school planning documents that the aims of the school are clearly stated from the outset and that they act as the guiding principles for the development of all the policies and the range of systems, including the support system for students, which operate in the school. The school’s aims include partnership and caring in the school community, excellence in teaching and learning, transformational leadership and nurturance of faith and spirituality. The inclusion of transformational leadership among the aims exemplifies the school’s proactive approach to the management of change. Its success in this regard may be seen in the relatively smooth transition in senior management following the recent appointment of a new principal and deputy principal. Similarly, the high quality of relationships and communication in the school is both a factor in, and a consequence of, well established structures and strong values. A meeting attended in the course of the inspection, for example, had clear objectives, was administratively formalised, and was conducted in the context of clearly understood relationships and roles. Such an environment is conducive to a good guidance system for students.
CBS Tramore has a range of well-established systems in place that facilitates the smooth running of the school as a learning organisation. This is a tribute to those in senior management, both past and present, through whose leadership these systems have been developed in collaboration with staff. Systems observed in the course of the inspection included supports for students, communication and reporting. The quality of each of these is dependent on the qualities of the others and, from the evidence gathered during the evaluation, it was clear that this is high in CBS Tramore. Among the factors that have facilitated the development of very good systems are a clear commitment to care and to Christian values, sound planning practices and open channels of communication.
CBS Tramore is highly commended for its demonstrated commitment to Guidance by providing five hours per week from its own resources in addition to the ex-quota allocation of seventeen hours per week provided by the Department. In keeping with good practice, Guidance encompasses personal, educational and vocational dimensions. The resources available for Guidance are very well planned for and are used by the guidance counsellor who works in collaboration with other staff. These include those whose formal roles involve the support of students, such as those in middle-management positions and those who co-ordinate work experience, the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP). Teachers of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) collaborate with the guidance counsellor in ensuring that SPHE is delivered to students according to an efficient and balanced plan that reflects the curricular content that is common to both SPHE and Guidance. Those involved in core student supports such as the special educational needs co-ordinator and chaplain are in continual contact with the guidance counsellor and share membership of various teams relevant to their areas of responsibility. The balance between timetabled class contact, planned intermittent contacts with classes, and work with individuals is well maintained and is reported by the guidance counsellor to be under regular review.
The facilities for Guidance are, in all respects, very good. An office, which is suited to counselling, is equipped with appropriate electronic technology and administrative facilities. One classroom is equipped with a small library of guidance-related materials and publications, and students’ access to guidance information on the internet is facilitated in the guidance office and the computer room, as appropriate.
A formal student-support team was set up in September 2008 and its functions include the identification and prioritisation of the immediate needs of students. The team includes the principal and deputy principal, guidance counsellor, special educational needs co-ordinator, chaplain and a special-needs assistant. The school is to be commended for establishing this structure as it serves to provide ongoing links between student needs and management and it also enables liaison with outside agencies that provide support to students. Since most of its members also participate in the whole-school guidance planning team, it is suggested that the team could serve as a useful route through which ideas for the development of the guidance plan might emerge.
The planning systems in place for Guidance at CBS Tramore are clear evidence of the effective leadership of senior management. The planning is based on a firmly rooted philosophy of education and on the assimilation, by staff, of its inherent values. In the guidance department self-review is ongoing. There is an implicit recognition among staff of the importance of student support in achieving high quality engagement with learning. Whole-school guidance planning documents seen in the course of the inspection show that guidance planning is ongoing and comprehensive. Reference is made to both the service and the curricular aspects of the guidance programme. The roles of those involved in the delivery of the programme, in addition to the guidance counsellor, are well outlined, showing further evidence of the systemic nature of guidance and student support in the school.
While a whole-school guidance planning team comprising the guidance counsellor, special educational needs co-ordinator, chaplain, principal, deputy principal and other staff with responsibility for TY, LCVP, Religious education (RE), and student management has been established, responsibility for leading the whole-school guidance planning process has been delegated to the guidance counsellor. The variety of responsibilities held by the members of this team displays an active involvement by staff in the running of the school, a commendable openness on the part of staff to new experience and a willingness on the part of management to delegate responsibilities. The level and nature of provision for students with special educational needs shows that a whole-school approach to supports has been adopted and that supports are well integrated. This is highly commended.
The guidance planning team has been active since mid-2008 and has made good progress in developing the guidance plan in the context of school development planning and of revising the existing guidance department plan and programme. In the course of whole-school guidance planning, it is recommended that Guidance and other supports for students be reviewed in order to identify areas of overlap between, for example, Guidance and pastoral care, that might be merged efficiently into the integrated student-support system. School documents confirm that the school development planning process has been ongoing. Some of the policy elements are at the review stage and, in this context, given the time that has elapsed since the last staff update, it is recommended that staff be refreshed on guidelines in the area of child protection. The participation of senior management and of the core student-support staff, namely, the guidance counsellor, special educational needs co-ordinator and chaplain, in this review process is commended. Existing plans show a well-balanced approach to guidance provision at all levels, and the collaboration of teachers of subjects such as SPHE and RE in its delivery. Participation by the guidance counsellor in meetings of the SPHE team is commended. The guidance programme includes the induction of new students, and provision for students, individually and in groups, at the other major transitional stages. As Programme Co-ordinator in the school, the guidance counsellor is well placed to engage with staff involved in programmes such as LCA, LCVP and TY and to ensure that the relevant elements of these programmes are incorporated into the whole-school guidance plan. Access to information and communications technology (ICT) by staff and students for guidance purposes is good.
The strength of good relationships in the school is reflected in the interplay between the guidance department and senior management, staff and parents. Similarly, links to outside agencies such as the institutions of further and higher education and training, and to external agencies that provide other supports for students, such as the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), are good. It was also reported by staff that the local business community is supportive of the school in providing work experience for students taking the senior cycle programmes for which this is a requirement.
The practice of recording the outcomes of meetings in which the guidance department is involved is highly commended. Such meetings include guidance planning meetings, student-support meetings and meetings with individual students.
The guidance department is encouraged and facilitated to engage in continuing professional development (CPD). It avails of this through training and support provided to members of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors and other organisations.
The lesson observed in the course of the inspection was well planned and executed, beginning with a roll call, some brief announcements, and a clear introduction to the lesson. A work-experience pack was distributed to each student and some instructions were given as to its contents. The lesson was one of a series to help LCA students in their preparations for work experience. Effective use was made of a variety of teaching methods that were appropriate to the topic and to the developmental stage of students. Students were seated in a circle, facilitating discussion of the topic both in the general group and in pairs. When worksheets were distributed, students used tables to which they could turn while completing the exercises. The logistical arrangements contributed to the smooth and effective running of the lesson.
Students were asked to consider their own needs and the needs of employers in relation to work and work experience. Good use was made of the white board to summarise their responses and to focus the subsequent discussion. Students were prompted to participate by means of gentle encouragement and by the judicious use of questions. The skilled use of higher-order questions to stimulate thought was observed. Work was checked immediately and further questioning revealed a good understanding by students of the concepts such as reliability and punctuality, used throughout the lesson. There was a commendable emphasis on ensuring that students chose work that would suit their needs and interests.
Relationships in the classroom were good and were complemented by the frequent use of students’ first names and by the use of respectful humour. Students were engaged throughout the lesson, following instructions, responding with meaningful answers to questions and completing assigned tasks as directed. It was clear that substantial learning took place during the lesson and that the experience was a pleasant one for all.
The procedures used in the management of the various transitions for students are well co-ordinated and effective. These involve the close collaboration of the guidance department and special educational needs departments. This is particularly the case in the school’s procedures for the admission of new students who have special educational needs. These include programmes of information giving, assessment, induction and placement that draw heavily on the resources of both departments and on senior management, and extend for almost a year.
Further evidence of good practice was observed in the school’s assessment programme, particularly during the transition of new students from primary to post-primary school. A range of standardised assessments is used to measure general ability and competencies in literacy and numeracy. The test instruments used are carefully considered and their use is regularly reviewed. This is good practice. The results of the assessments are used to ensure that first-year classes are of mixed ability, to identify students who may need further interventions by the special educational needs department, and to provide some base-line data to be used to monitor students’ progress, especially in the early stages of the junior cycle. The school’s recent participation in the standardisation of the Cognitive Abilities Test reveals a positive attitude to the benefits of such research, and a longer-term commitment to the common good.
Interest inventories, including those associated with the Qualifax and Career Directions websites, are used as appropriate. The consideration of additional test instruments for use with students early in the senior cycle is ongoing and reflects the commitment of the school, and of the guidance department, to self-review.
Test materials, including the records and results of assessments, are stored securely. In common with other documentation seen in the course of the inspection, these records are of a high standard.
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 welcomes the very positive report on the teaching and provision of Guidance at the school. It reflects the high standards and dedication of the Guidance Department. The report was very fair and balanced and it is a comprehensive overview of the quality of teaching and provision of Guidance in the school. The Board of Management wishes to congratulate the Principal and Guidance Counsellor.
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 Board of Management will continue to provide the necessary support and resources that will facilitate the Principal and staff in the implementation of the findings and recommendations of the inspection report. All suggestions and recommendations as per report (page 6) will be implemented as a means of building on existing strengths and to address areas for development.
The Board of Management also wishes to acknowledge the courteous and professional manner in which the Inspector carried out the subject inspection and is of the opinion that the inspection process and outcome will greatly benefit the school in its SDP.