An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
St Joseph’s Christian Brothers’ School
Fairview, Dublin 3
Roll number: 60390F
Date of inspection: 30 November 2007
Report on the Quality of Learning and Teaching in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in St Joseph’s CBS, Fairview, Dublin 3, 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 one day during which the inspector held discussions with the principal and guidance counsellor, viewed guidance facilities, visited a classroom, interacted with students 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.
St Joseph’s is a boys’ school with a current enrolment of 237 students. There are, however, four girls in the current Leaving Certificate 2 class. The students in St Joseph’s come mainly from the local area and are from mixed social backgrounds. The school caters for all levels of ability. There are twelve newcomer students attending the school. The school is in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) programme, the Department of Education and Science’s initiative to combat educational disadvantage. A school completion coordinator has been appointed to six schools in the programme, including St Joseph’s.
St Joseph’s receives eleven ex-quota hours per week for Guidance from the Department of Education and Science. An additional 1 hour 40 minutes per week is provided from the school’s other allocations. There is a commitment to the provision of Guidance for all students throughout their second level education and a whole school approach to the delivery of the guidance programme has been adopted. This is commended. The school has a care team which meets formally every week and the guidance counsellor chairs the meetings. The care team also includes the principal, the resource teacher and the home/school/community liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator. Year heads attend the weekly meetings on a rotational basis. The guidance counsellor meets formally once a week with the learning support and special needs teachers. The HSCL co-ordinator, who is a qualified resource teacher, also attends these meetings. The guidance counsellor liaises informally with the principal on a daily basis and a formal meeting is held at the end of each term. The guidance counsellor works closely with the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) teachers and teaches SPHE to some classes. Aspects of the guidance programme are delivered by the SPHE teachers; these include study skills and homework management. This close collaboration in the planning and delivery of the common aspects of both programmes is commended.
The facilities for Guidance are reasonably good. The guidance counsellor has an office which is well equipped with a laptop computer, access to the internet, ample shelving and secure storage. The guidance counsellor uses the laptop in classes as well as for office use. There are two display boards for guidance-related notices and guidance materials are available on stands on the landing outside the guidance office. The school library has recently been renovated and the guidance counsellor plans to relocate the materials to a section of the library. There is no dedicated classroom for Guidance and the guidance counsellor shares classrooms for classes. The students have access to the ICT room for guidance purposes. It is recommended that consideration be given to the provision of a dedicated room for class guidance which would include a small number of computers. Much of the information required by students concerning courses, admission systems, training and careers is available on the internet and it would be desirable for students to be able to access these sources during guidance classes, particularly when group work is being undertaken.
Students are referred to the guidance counsellor through the care team meetings. They are also free to self refer or they can be referred by parents. The school is well supported by the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) and it refers students to a number of external agencies who provide counselling and support. The two agencies to which a majority of students are referred are Cúram Family Centre and Teen Counselling, Mater Dei Institute. Students from outside the area are referred to services closer to their homes. The Rainbows programme operates in the school, the guidance counsellor and two other teachers being qualified to deliver the programme. The school participates in the ‘Cool School’ anti bullying programme. A draft critical incident response policy has been developed. Up to the current academic year, the school was linked with the DCU Higher Education Access Route (HEAR) scheme but is now linked to the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT). For the future, all information about the access scheme will be delivered by the Access Department in DIT.
A draft guidance plan has been developed and has been presented to the board of management. The school policy coordinator initiated the development of the plan and the guidance counsellor led a process of consultation with the staff, the board of management, the parents’ council and the School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI). This is commended. It is recommended that a working group/committee be established to progress the plan. The group/committee should be led by the guidance counsellor and should include representatives from relevant members of staff, parents, students and the community. It is recommended that the following documents be consulted by the working group/committee: Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the Implications of Section 9(c) of the Education Act 1998, relating to students’ access to appropriate guidance, published by the Inspectorate of the Department, Planning the School Guidance Programme, published by the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE). A template, designed to assist schools in developing their guidance plan is available on the Department’s website (www.education.ie).
The aims and objectives of the guidance programme are linked to the school’s mission statement and to the values espoused by the school. The plan sets out the guidance programme for each year beginning with the aims and objectives of the programme.
The HSCL co-ordinator visits all feeder primary schools during the year preceding students’ entry to St Joseph’s. The primary schools complete a transfer form for each student who will transfer to St Joseph’s and students requiring academic or other supports are identified. The care team and the resource service plan how these supports will be provided. All incoming students undertake house-set tests in English, Gaeilge and Mathematics. There is an open evening in May for parents and all teachers, including the guidance counsellor, attend this evening. At the beginning of first year, all students are introduced to the guidance service and parents are informed about the service at a meeting held for them in September. All first years are met individually to ensure that they are settling in and to identify any difficulties they may be experiencing. A module on study skills is delivered in the SPHE class. Students take all optional subjects in first year and this is commended. The guidance counsellor provides an input on subject choice and its implications in the final term. It is recommended that the students and their parents be referred to the module on the Qualifax website, Leaving Cert. and Junior Cert. Subject Choice to assist in this process. Students are met on a one-to-one basis if they are referred by the care team or if they self refer.
Second year students participate in the Junior Achievement Ireland programme. It is run as part of the SPHE programme in the second term. The module The Economics of Staying in School explains the economic benefits to be gained from education and covers issues such as making informed choices about future careers. The second year SPHE programme also addresses study and homework skills. This coordinated planning and delivery of the second year guidance/SPHE programmes are commended. It is recommended that students undertake a project on careers, where they investigate a career area and connect their education to it. This would be a means of consolidating the work completed as part of the Junior Achievement programme. It would also ensure that students consider carefully the levels at which to take subjects in the Junior Certificate and subject choices for senior cycle. They should be introduced to relevant websites to assist them with their projects. Guidelines might be prepared by the guidance counsellor, in consultation with other relevant members of staff and Junior Achievement, to assist students in the investigation and completion of the projects. As for first years, the guidance counsellor meets with students referred through the care team or who self refer and if necessary referrals to outside supports are arranged.
Third year students participate in the Junior Achievement Ireland programme and a six-week module Personal Economics is delivered through the SPHE programme. A study skills seminar which is funded by the past pupils’ union is held in the first term. The union also part-funds supervised study and all students are encouraged to avail of the study facilities provided. This support for students is commended. The DIT access liaison officer has spoken to junior cycle students about achievement awards.
The guidance counsellor teaches SPHE to one group of third years and Religious Education to all third year classes. Students are identified through these classes for individual counselling and all students are met individually before the Junior Certificate examination. Third year students are also referred through the care team. The cross curricular approach to the planning and delivery of the third year guidance programme is commended.
Transition Year is mandatory for all students in St Joseph’s except in special circumstances. There is one timetabled class of Guidance per week for TY. Students do not have to choose Leaving Certificate (LC) subjects until the end of TY and this provides an opportunity to experience the full range of subjects offered by the school for LC. The guidance programme for TY is very comprehensive and includes the provision of information on the application systems for third level colleges and colleges of further education and training. Students are assisted in their preparation for work experience and are encouraged to take a placement for one of the two weeks of placement in an area they wish to consider as a possible career. The guidance counsellor works closely with the TY coordinator in the preparation of students for work experience and for evaluating its benefits. This approach ensures that students get maximum value from work experience and is commended.
A programme Success Skills is run in conjunction with Junior Achievement Ireland for TY students. The Junior Achievement volunteer and the guidance counsellor address a range of topics in the area of personal development during this eight week module. At the end of the programme, students visit the workplace of the volunteer and present themselves for interview and feedback. Students also undertake a community placement and they attend the FÁS Opportunities event. All TY students spend a week in Dublin City University (DCU) completing a web design course.
Students make their subject choices at the end of TY and the fifth year timetable is developed around their choices. This is commended as good practice. Since its inclusion in the DEIS programme, the school participates in the Business in the Community initiative. Under this initiative, the school has been assigned a company to work with and the guidance counsellor liaises with the company co-ordinator in planning and delivering a programme to fifth years. The coordinator visits the school and delivers talks on a ‘Day in the Life’ of people in the different departments of the company. It is envisaged that some students will participate in a mentoring programme in which volunteers from the assigned company will become their mentors. Fifth years will participate in the DIT student shadowing programme in February of 2008. A study skills seminar is organised for fifth years and they are encouraged to participate in after-school study. They attend the FÁS Opportunities and other related events.
The sixth year guidance programme places an emphasis on individual goal setting and planning. Students are met individually to explore future choices and the educational requirements for various courses, training and careers. Students attend career talks delivered by visiting speakers and they attend career events and college open days. They use Qualifax, Career Directions and other relevant websites to access information.
All sixth year students participate in a mock interview scheme which is organised in cooperation with the parents’ council. Each year a local company is sourced in consultation with the parents and that company provides approximately ten members of its staff to act as interviewers. Each student receives a thirty-minute interview and a ten minute feedback. Written feedback is then sent to the school and given to each student to assist him in identifying his strengths and areas for development. This scheme is commended as it uses the resources available through parents and the community to assist in delivering an important aspect of the guidance programme.
In addition to supporting the study skills seminars and supervised study, the past pupils’ union provides scholarships and funding for extra classes where required. These classes are arranged through the school.
The school has well established links with a wide rage of businesses and with the community, higher education colleges, colleges of further education, training bodies and a large number of support services. The school makes optimum use of this network to support the guidance service in the school and this is commended.
The guidance counsellor is facilitated in attending continuing professional development (CPD) events.
A sixth year guidance class was observed. A PowerPoint presentation was used to provide information and stimulate discussion. The students had participated in mock interviews recently and the first part of the lesson dealt with feedback on their experiences. Using a brainstorming technique, students were asked to describe their feelings about the interview experience. A PowerPoint presentation followed which provided information on the interview process and interview techniques. The presentation included guidelines on the preparation for an interview; how to behave at interview; questions commonly asked at interview and questions that might be asked by the interviewee. Throughout the presentation, the students were encouraged to ask questions. At the end of the session they received hard copies of the presentation. In the final section of the class, students were required to complete a worksheet to help them prepare for future interviews. During this exercise the guidance counsellor circulated and spoke to all students individually to assist them in completing the worksheet. For homework, the students were required to complete the worksheet if not already finished and to look up the website of the company which would conduct more in-depth mock interviews with them later in the year.
The methodologies used throughout the lesson were varied and students’ interest was maintained. The classroom atmosphere was caring and mutual respect between guidance counsellor and students was evident. Management of the class was excellent and all students engaged fully with the activities and discussion. A discussion with the students about their future ambitions took place at the end of the class and all communicated in a mature and open manner.
At the end of the class, folders which had been distributed at the beginning of class and which were used to keep handouts and guidance-related materials were collected. The current practice is that the folders are collected and retained by the guidance counsellor between classes. The guidance counsellor intends to let the students keep the folders later in the year but indicated that they might be mislaid by the students if they were allowed to keep them at this stage of the year. It is recommended that this practice be reviewed as it would be expected that sixth year students should take good care of their own materials.
First year students undertake house-set tests in English, Gaeilge and Mathematics. Students in TY undertake interest inventories to assist them in carer investigation. It is planned to administer the Differential Aptitude Tests (DATs) in the future.
Students’ initial destinations are tracked informally by the guidance counsellor who keeps a record of these. The list of last year’s initial destinations was made available for examination during the inspection. While it is commendable that the guidance counsellor obtained the information, it is recommended that the method of tracking should be more structured and that a formal tracking system be put in place.
Detailed files on all students are maintained in secure storage and all interviews are recorded and entered in the respective files.
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 principal and the guidance counsellor at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published September 2008