An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Baldoyle, Dublin 13
Roll number: 91342R
Date of inspection: 29 November 2006
Date of issue of report: 21 June 2007
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Pobalscoil Neasáin, conducted as part of a Whole School Evaluation. 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 two days during which the inspector visited classrooms, viewed Guidance facilities, interacted with students, held discussions with teachers and reviewed school planning documentation. Following the evaluation work, the inspector provided oral feedback on the outcomes of the evaluation to the principal and the teacher.
The school receives an allocation of 17 hours for Guidance from the Department of Education and Science and this will be greater next year due to increased numbers. The permanent guidance counsellor is currently absent on sick leave and attempts made by the school to employ a qualified substitute have proven unsuccessful. At present Pobalscoil Neasáin shares with another local school the services of a part-time teacher, who completed a guidance module as part of the Higher Diploma in Education. This teacher is available to deliver only 10.40 hours of the guidance allocation and liaises with another part-time teacher in the school who delivers one class period of guidance to a Transition Year (TY) group. Notwithstanding the efforts being made by current personnel, as Guidance is a whole school activity and as schools are expected to use their full allocation for guidance purposes, it is recommended that the school authorities, as a matter of priority, explore ways in which arrangements could be put in place in order to ensure that the total allocation of hours is used for the delivery of Guidance and Counselling by a qualified guidance counsellor during the next and subsequent school years.
Currently guidance is timetabled in TY, in fifth and sixth years. It is recommended that, in the course of guidance planning, the school would consider if it is necessary to timetable these groups consecutively for three years or whether a modular approach to guidance delivery would facilitate a better balance in guidance provision between junior and senior cycles. Students met with in the course of the evaluation also identified a need for guidance provision in junior cycle. The teacher delivering the guidance programme has allocated time to provide individual appointments for sixth year students, primarily, and seeks to encourage students to avail of resources in the guidance office.
Pobalscoil Neasáin has excellent facilities for Guidance in the form of an office with computer and broadband access, laptop, phone, television and video, whiteboard, shelving, storage and a library of careers materials. This office also accommodates small group work and a class room nearby is used for guidance classes. The teacher delivering guidance also provides guidance related information on five separate notice boards which are updated regularly. This is commended. Access to the computer room and internet facilities for guidance classes for senior students is available and access to computers is also provided from time to time for students by teachers outside class time. This form of access is commended as it encourages and supports independent learning and it is recommended that the school formalise such access in the course of the guidance planning process. It is recommended that access to the computer room for guidance classes would be considered and determined as part of the school planning process. There is no allocated budget for guidance; however funds are provided in keeping with procedures in the Community School sector.
There is a good sense of care for students in the school and every teacher is encouraged to adopt a pastoral as well as an academic role. Currently there is no formal, clearly defined school care team. However, a group comprising the principal, chaplain, year heads, SPHE co-ordinator and tutors meets as the need arises. It is recommended that the school explore the establishment of a student support/care team which would consolidate the work of all personnel involved in student support. A formal structure should be drawn up for meetings of the care team in terms of time and keeping of records. Such a collaborative care team approach would further enhance the good work that is already being done by many individuals and small groups and would ensure that any students at risk are identified and supported as early as possible.
Links are ongoing between senior management and the guidance department and good support is provided for guidance in the school. Referrals to outside agencies are effected through the office of the principal in consultation with parents. Pobalscoil Neasáin is commended for engaging with a range of outside agencies and organisations to support students, for example Baldoyle Family Centre, Edmund Rice Office, local gardaí, local drop in centre, ACCORD, Sticks and Stones anti-bully programme. Some students participate in the Rainbows programme outside school and the chaplain plans to introduce the corresponding second level programme Spectrum into the school next term. This support for students is commended. Currently the school does not have the services of a designated NEPS psychologist which results in delays in assessment of students.
The chaplain and the teacher in charge of guidance work in close collaboration and report a demand for counselling. However, there is no qualified counsellor in the school. Students are referred to the chaplain by tutors and teachers or through personal contact with the chaplaincy office. Notwithstanding the fact that the chaplain is available to students, it is recommended that school management would prioritise the need to provide a counselling service for students.
The teacher in charge of guidance has used planning material previously in the school as well as documentation from the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) and consulted with management, school chaplain and year heads to build on the initial stages of guidance planning in the school and a good deal of work has been completed. An initial draft guidance plan has been developed and programmes have been drafted for TY, fifth and sixth year students. While this is commended it is recommended that the school would establish a guidance planning committee to progress the planning process. This committee should represent staff, students and parents and it is recommended also that representative(s) of the local business community would be involved. A student needs’ analysis should also be carried out to inform the planning process. Planning documentation also lists guidance priority areas for future development and this is commended.
Pobalscoil Neasáin has an induction programme for in-coming first years which begins with visits by senior management to the feeder primary schools. This is followed by an open day for pupils and parents and a common assessment day, in keeping with the arrangements for post-primary schools within the Howth Deanery area. The year head for first year visits school to meet with teachers and obtain feedback on pupils. Formerly the year head would then liaise with the guidance counsellor who was a member of the transition team. An information session for parents, which has included a guidance input on subject and level choice, is held annually in May for parents of incoming students. It is recommended that such a guidance input would continue to form part of this information session, in keeping with the requirement of Section 9 (c) of the Education Act 1998.
All first year students have an opportunity to taste optional subjects so that they are better informed to make choices for the Junior Certificate. Before entry to first year parents of incoming students choose probable subjects options for their children, in order to optimise the benefit of taster lessons it is recommended that the school would reconsider the need for this procedure. The chaplain meets with each first year individually to assist the settling in process.
The Transition Year programme is compulsory in Pobalscoil Neasáin and each class group is timetabled for guidance. Areas of study currently include job selection skills, the world of work, study skills, examination techniques, time and stress management, opportunities after the Leaving Certificate and career analysis. A review of the year’s work and a student survey are also included in the programme. TY students also participate in a work experience programme over the course of the year. Pobalscoil Neasáin has engaged with the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) a US youth agency which, in partnership with Business and Innovation at Dublin City University (DCU) provides information for a group of TY students on the development of entrepreneurial skills.
Students in senior cycle are also timetabled for a weekly guidance class. Emphasis is placed on application to CAO and UCAS during the first term for sixth year students. Pobalscoil Neasáin is commended on engaging with the Access programme with Dublin City University (DCU). A panel of guest speakers from colleges of further and higher education, training courses and from the world of work provide information to senior students. Visits to college open days and career events are arranged. The guidance department has identified a need for a policy on student attendance at open days held during the school week. This is to be encouraged. It is commendable that the teacher delivering the guidance provision has consulted with sixth year students in drafting class programmes. It is recommended that an evaluation by students would also be carried out at the end of the year as this will inform the content of future programmes.
There is ongoing informal liaison between the teacher delivering guidance and the teachers of learning support and members of the pastoral care team. It is recommended that this collaboration be further developed by the adoption of a cross-curricular approach between related areas, for example Guidance and SPHE programme content, the arrangements for guest speakers in various subject departments, in order to enhance student support and avoid overlap of content provision.
The teacher delivering guidance also collaborates with LCVP staff to assist with the completion the career investigation section of the course and the work diary. Currently work experience for the LCVP is completed during TY and there is no discrete class for the completion of the Link Modules, other than through withdrawal from other subjects. It is recommended that the school engage with the LCVP support service as part of the Second Level Support Services to assist the planning of this Leaving Certificate programme option.
Parents are encouraged to make appointments with teachers as required and the teacher delivering guidance attends parent-teacher meetings. Year heads in Pobalscoil Neasáin are very involved in all aspects of subject and programme choice. It is essential that there would be a guidance input both for students and for parents at times of programme, subject and level choice.
In the course of the evaluation one Transition Year class and one Leaving Certificate class were visited. The lessons were well planned and structured. There was evidence of continuity with previous lessons. The aims of the lessons were explained to students and the pace and content of the lessons were appropriate to the class groups. The good practice of recording attendance at the beginning of classes was noted.
The sixth year lesson began with a reminder of the forthcoming study skills seminar and college open days. This is commended as students are encouraged to decide whether they wish to attend or not and make the necessary arrangements. The lesson was built around a handout relating to application to the CAO. Students were encouraged to ask questions to assist clarification. In order to support independent learning it is recommended that students be encouraged to take responsibility for the timely and appropriate completion of applications to post Leaving Certificate choices.
In the Transition Year class work began with an overview written on the whiteboard of what will be covered in lessons up to the end of term. The main topic of the lesson was the world of work. Good use was made of a handout to maintain interest in different types of job, why people work and what qualities employer seek in employees. A variety of methodologies was used in the lesson including questions and answers and student work on sections of the handout. During student work the guidance counsellor went around the class encouraging participation and answering queries.
Questioning was used to check understanding and initiate comment and discussion. The further use of questions targeted to individual students rather than to the class in general is recommended to encourage participation. In one lesson good use was made of references and examples appropriate to the age group in the explanation of aspects of employment such as dress codes, differences between jobs. The use of the whiteboard to note new terminology is recommended.
Good rapport and mutual respect were evident between guidance counsellor and students. Students were at ease and received positive affirmation and encouragement. A friendly and relaxed class atmosphere encouraged engagement and participation on the part of students. Continuity was maintained by reference to developing topics in the following lessons.
Currently the teacher delivering guidance has no qualification in testing and thus is not involved in assessment of students using psychometric instruments. In the course of school development planning it is recommended that the school would consider the formulation of a policy on testing including the instruments used, access to and feedback of results.
Interest inventories from QualifaX and Career Directions are used to assist students with subject and course choices. The teacher delivering guidance maintains records of meetings with individual students and minutes of meetings with staff members. The school chaplain begins profiling of students in first year and these records are added to as students’ progress through the school. Records are also maintained by year heads.
Tracking of student destination has been carried out by the guidance counsellor up until the last two years. Past students are welcome to return to the school for support and information.
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 teacher delivering Guidance and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.