An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta

Department of Education and Science

 

Subject Inspection of Guidance

REPORT

 

Boyne Community School

Trim, County Meath

Roll number: 91508C

 

Date of inspection: 22 October 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 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

 

Boyne Community School is a co-educational school with a current enrolment of 585 students comprising 477 males and 108 females, excluding eighteen students who are taking Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) courses. The school was established following the amalgamation of a boys’ school and a vocational school. The number of girls attending is increasing on an annual basis in line with the school’s policy to achieve a greater gender balance in the student population. The school serves the local community and its students come from the town of Trim and from surrounding rural areas. The school is included in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan for educational inclusion. Boyne Community School caters for students of all levels of academic ability and offers the full range of junior and senior cycle educational programmes. A Post-Leaving Certificate (PLC) course in Business Studies is also offered. Newcomer students and students from the Traveller community attend the school. There is a unit for students with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). There is a breakfast club and a homework club in the school.

 

Boyne Community School receives an ex-quota allocation of twenty-seven hours and thirty minutes per week from the Department of Education and Science for Guidance. Fifteen hours and thirty-five minutes of this is allocated by the school to a qualified guidance counsellor who delivers the educational and careers elements of the guidance programme. A qualified counsellor and the chaplain deliver the personal counselling elements of the guidance programme and receive the balance of the ex-quota hours for this work. There is a whole-school approach to the delivery of aspects of the guidance programme. Subject teachers assist the guidance counsellor in providing information about their respective subjects when students are making subject choices and also when they are considering the level at which to take specific subjects. This is commended as good practice.

 

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 Boyne Community School. A planning team was established in 2005 and a planning process commenced with a guidance needs analysis. To that end, each member of the team as well as first-year students completed a questionnaire. The Guidance Planning document, produced by the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) was used by the team in the process. At each planning team meeting, a template is used in which the areas discussed, the decisions taken, the work to be undertaken and the preparation for the next meeting are recorded. The plan includes the guidance policy of the school, the guidance programme for each year, details of the activities to be undertaken and the members of staff who will deliver each activity. Related policies, such as the school’s assessment policy, the policy for attending outside events, and areas for development are also included. The school is commended for the planning work that has been completed to date.

 

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 Cool School anti-bullying programme and runs a dedicated anti-bullying week each year during which some of the lessons that have been developed as part of the programme are delivered to first and second-year students. First-year students undertake a ‘round-robin’ of optional subjects, whereby they sample subjects before making their Junior Certificate choices. This is commended as good practice. It is recommended that students and their parents should be directed to the Leaving Cert and Junior Cert Subject Choice module on the Qualifax website. There is a mentor programme for first years which is co-ordinated by the chaplain. The guidance counsellor collaborates with the SPHE teachers, the year heads and subject teachers in delivering the first-year guidance programme. This collaboration is an example of good practice. The chaplain provides counselling support as required. The chaplain delivers the Rainbows programme.

 

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 Enterprise studies are not taken for group guidance as these classes are timetabled at the same time as the study periods. It is recommended that all senior cycle students have guidance classes. Information about application procedures for applying to the Central Applications Office (CAO), applying for further education courses and training, procedures for grant application, preparation for interviews, preparation of curriculum vitae (CV), and preparation for moving away from home to attend college or training are some of the topics and activities that are included in guidance lessons and all students should have the opportunity to benefit from these lessons. Ways should be explored through which timetabled guidance classes can be provided to all fifth-year and sixth-year students.

 

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.

 

 

Assessment

 

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:

 

  • Boyne Community School is committed to providing for the academic and personal development of all its students.
  • There is a whole-school approach to the planning and delivery of the guidance programme. A significant number of the teaching staff contribute to the delivery of the guidance programme.
  • There is commitment at management level to provide Guidance to every class throughout the school. There is a guidance programme for each year.
  • Guidance planning is well advanced in the school and a planning team has been in place for a number of years.
  • There is balance between class or group guidance and one-to-one counselling.
  • Parents are well informed about guidance-related issues and activities and contribute to the guidance programme by organising mock interviews.
  • The school has well established contacts with local support services, higher and further educational establishments and employers.
  • The school provides students with opportunities to sample optional subjects in first year before they are required to make choices for the Junior Certificate.

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

  • The guidance plan should be formalised and presented to the board of management for ratification.
  • Representatives of the parents, students and the local community should be co-opted onto the guidance planning team.
  • Students should have greater access to ICT for guidance purposes.
  • Some guidance activities, for example career investigation and introductions to websites such as Qualifax, should be introduced in junior cycle.
  • The timing of the administration of the DATs and interest inventories should be reviewed.
  • Ways should be explored to provide guidance classes to all senior cycle students.

 

 

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