An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Roll number: 91508C
Date of inspection: 22 October 2008
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
Subject inspection report
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Boyne Community School, Trim Co. Meath, carried out as part of a whole-school evaluation. 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 a class which was conducted in the school library, viewed guidance facilities, interacted with students, held discussions with the principal, the guidance counsellor and chaplain 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.
Subject provision and whole school support
There are no timetabled classes for Guidance, except for PLC students. Instead, classes and small groups are taken for Guidance by arrangement. The guidance counsellor collaborates closely with the teachers of Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) in the planning and delivery of the guidance programme for junior cycle students and delivers the guidance programme to these students by arrangement with the SPHE teachers. Some senior cycle students are taken for guidance classes during study periods on the timetable. The guidance counsellor delivers the guidance module of the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme to students. The guidance counsellor also delivers a guidance programme to the PLC students and takes newcomer students for one class period per week. The guidance counsellor has commenced investigating the guidance needs of the students in the ASD unit. The delivery of the school’s guidance programme is balanced between class or group activities and one-to-one interviews. Most of the time for guidance, however, is allocated to senior cycle students.
Facilities for Guidance are fair. The guidance counsellor has a dedicated office with a computer and internet access. There is a telephone in the office but it does not have a direct outside line. There is good shelving in the office and secure storage facilities for individual files and records. There is a careers section in the school library. A small number of computers have been recently installed in the library and will be available for guidance classes in the future. There is a notice board for guidance-related information in the main reception area of the school.
There is limited access to information and communications technology (ICT) for guidance purposes. The school has two ICT rooms but one is allocated permanently to PLC students. The ICT teacher undertakes guidance activities during some ICT classes and this is commended. It is recommended that the guidance counsellor and ICT teacher collaborate to develop guidance activities for junior cycle classes, in particular second-year classes, who should be introduced to activities such as career investigation, and to websites such as Qualifax.
There is a care team in the school and the guidance counsellor attends some of its meetings. The chaplain is a core member of the team. There are links between the guidance counsellor and the chaplain, counsellor, the home-school-community-liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator, the special needs teachers, the learning-support teacher, programme co-ordinators and year heads. Links with management are through planning meetings and frequent informal meetings.
Any student in the school may self-refer to the guidance counsellor through a formal appointment procedure. Students are referred for personal counselling by the principal, deputy principal, the chaplain or year heads. Parents may also refer a son or daughter. When considered necessary by the counsellor, students are referred to outside support services. The school is supported by a psychologist from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and by the Health Service Executive (HSE) North East support services.
The school has a critical incident response team. The chaplain and counsellor are members of the team. A critical incident plan has been developed by the team which details the procedures to be followed in cases of critical incident. This is good practice.
Planning and preparation
Guidance planning is well advanced in
In order to progress the plan, it is recommended that records of meetings and original and supporting documents should be maintained separately. The documents which set out the rationale, the policy, the programmes for each year, lists of tests and resources used, names of the outside agencies to which students are referred and the names of all other bodies to which the school has links are currently in hand-written form. It is recommended that they be typed and set out in sequence for clarity. There is a template on the Department’s website which can assist in sequencing the plan. The plan should then be submitted to the board of management for ratification. A timeframe for evaluating and reviewing the plan should be determined by the team. It is further recommended that representatives of the parents, students and local community should be co-opted onto the planning team.
A transition programme for sixth-class pupils who are
enrolled in the school for the next academic year is in place. The programme
includes an open night and a subject ‘taster’ day. The guidance counsellor
collaborates with the special needs teachers in administering assessment tests
to first-year students and in identifying those who may require additional
learning support. The school participates in the
There is a focus on providing second-year students with detailed information about subject levels and the guidance counsellor works closely with subject teachers in providing this information. It is recommended that second-year students commence researching career areas in order to link the study of subjects to specific careers. Students could be required to complete a project on specific career areas using ICT. The project could be carried out during some ICT classes.
The guidance counsellor meets third-year students individually in relation to subject choice for senior cycle or if a student is considering leaving school after the Junior Certificate. The guidance counsellor provides information about senior cycle programmes and subject options in collaboration with subject teachers and programme co-ordinators. Third-year students participate in a study-skills seminar which is delivered by an outside organisation. There is an evening meeting for parents to provide them with information about senior cycle programmes and subject options. A handout has been prepared which provides information about the LCA and the LCVP. The handout also contains information about the value of studying specific subjects for particular careers as well as the subjects and levels that are requirements for certain courses. It is recommended that the Qualifax website address be included in the handout.
There is no Transition Year (TY) class in the current
academic year. The guidance programme in fifth and sixth years is delivered by
taking groups of students during study periods. However, students who are
taking Applied Mathematics or
Students are met on a one-to-one basis for educational and career guidance. Sixth-year students may participate in a seminar on study-skills delivered by an outside organisation. The timing of this seminar is being reviewed by the guidance team. The school participates in the Higher Education Authority (HEA) Access programme. Students are given a list of all open days and may opt to attend one or more of these, subject to the approval of school management and parents. All sixth-year students attend the Higher Options annual event. Information on apprenticeships is provided and for those interested, attendance at the FÁS Opportunities event is facilitated. Sixth-year students participate in mock interviews. The interviews are arranged by the parents’ association in collaboration with the guidance counsellor. Guest speakers are invited to the school and former students give talks on their experiences in college and on the careers they have pursued. The guidance counsellor uses some of the Be Real Game materials with LCA students.
The guidance counsellor delivers most of the guidance programme to the PLC students. The programme includes: the provision of information on courses, visits to college open days, preparation of CVs and letters of application and the provision of information on grants and accommodation. Mock interviews and work experience are arranged. Students are met on a one-to-one basis for educational and career guidance and when necessary are referred to either the chaplain or counsellor for personal counselling.
The guidance counsellor attends all parent-teacher meetings and all information nights for parents. There is close collaboration between the parents’ association and the guidance counsellor in the organisation of mock interviews. An information night for parents on the CAO is organised. A parent-to-parent course is provided for parents of first years. The course is delivered once per week over a five-week period. The school has developed an information leaflet for parents which provides an overview of all the support services available in the school for students. All of these initiatives are commended as examples of good practice.
The school has links with a number of higher education institutions, with colleges of further education, Youthreach and local employers.
The guidance counsellor is facilitated to attend continuing professional development (CPD) events and has completed module one of the planning course run by the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) through a virtual learning environment (VLE).
Teaching and learning
One guidance lesson was observed. The lesson was held in the school library with a group of fifth-year students. The activity undertaken was a follow-up to work commenced in a previous lesson. Students had identified the career areas they were interested in pursuing and had given this information to the guidance counsellor. The guidance counsellor distributed relevant college prospectuses and students were required to access information about third level courses that would lead to careers in the areas of interest to the students. Such information included entry requirements to the courses. The students worked independently and the guidance counsellor interacted with individuals to answer questions and provide further information.
The atmosphere in the class was very relaxed and students engaged with their task. Rapport between the guidance counsellor and students was excellent. In interactions between the inspector and the students, most of them displayed a comprehensive knowledge about the careers they intended to pursue.
It is recommended that students use ICT for the kind of research that was undertaken in the class. The use of prospectuses is time consuming and may not provide up-to-date information. Furthermore, some courses may change, be discontinued or new ones developed since the publication of a prospectus. College websites and websites such as Qualifax and Career Directions provide the most comprehensive and up-to-date information about courses and course requirements.
The Drumcondra Reasoning Test and the Non-Reading Intelligence Tests (NRIT) are administered to sixth-class pupils who have enrolled in the school. This takes place in the March preceding entry. The results of the tests are used to identify students who may require learning support. First-year classes are organised on a mixed-ability basis. When necessary, students are referred to the NEPS psychologist for assessment.
The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs) are administered during fifth year. It is recommended that the timing of the administration of these tests be reviewed, as the information obtained from undertaking these tests should be used to assist students in making subject choices for the Leaving Certificate and in making choices for higher or further education or training. Students have already made subject choices by the middle of fifth year and, as ascertained in interactions with students in the class visited, many fifth-year students have already made choices regarding the areas of study they wish to pursue after the Leaving Certificate. Senior cycle students complete a number of interest inventories. It is recommended that junior cycle students undertake some of the interest inventories which are available on websites such as Qualifax.
The initial destination of past students is tracked. Files are maintained on all senior cycle students and all files and records are stored appropriately.
Summary of main findings and recommendations
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 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 2009