An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Coolock, Dublin 5
Roll number: 60550B
Date of inspection: 26 March 2009
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Chanel College, Coolock, Dublin 5 conducted 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 two days during which the inspector interacted with students, held discussions with the principal, the acting deputy principal and the guidance counsellors 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 counsellors.
Chanel College is a single sex boys’ school with a current enrolment of 425 students. A majority of its students come from the districts of Dublin North East where the school is located. The students come from mixed socio-economic backgrounds. The school is included in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) action plan for educational inclusion. Chanel College is committed to catering for the needs of all its students and this is reflected in the wide range of supports it has put in place for this purpose. It provides after-school study for Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate students. After-school study is provided for other year groups in co-operation with a local youth project (Sphere 17). There is a school meals programme and a book grant programme in addition to a range of other supports, including personal counselling. The further development of Guidance is a stated priority for the school. One of the aims of the school is to increase the participation of its students in third level education. The school introduced four new subjects to its curriculum in 2006 and it plans to introduce more in the future.
Chanel College receives an ex-quota allocation of twenty-two hours per week from the Department of Education and Science for Guidance. A further three hours and thirty minutes are provided each week by the school from its other resources. Two guidance counsellors deliver the guidance programme. One of the guidance counsellors provides personal counselling as required and delivers the guidance programme to the junior cycle students. The guidance programme for senior cycle students is delivered by a teacher who is currently training as a guidance counsellor. The guidance activities of the trainee guidance counsellor are supervised by the acting deputy principal who is a qualified guidance counsellor.
Facilities for Guidance are limited at present, but it is planned to improve this situation in the near future. The guidance counsellor who provides personal counselling has a dedicated office but its location, close to classrooms, is not ideal for the provision of personal counselling which requires confidentiality. There are plans to upgrade the school library and to allocate an area in it for guidance related materials and resources. The school is also considering the allocation of rooms which are currently being upgraded, as a guidance suite. These rooms are ideally located to provide each guidance counsellor with an office as well as facilities to undertake one-to-one interviews and personal counselling and to conduct guidance classes and group work. It is recommended that these facilities be designated for Guidance. There are two display boards for guidance-related notices and these are well positioned in the school.
The school has a care team which it calls the student support services (SSS) team. There is a designated co-ordinator for the team. The team comprises the SSS co-ordinator; the principal; the deputy principal; the two guidance counsellors; the chaplain; the learning support teacher; and the home-school-community-liaison (HSCL) co-ordinator. The roles of the guidance counsellors and those of the other members of the team are set out in the guidance plan. The team meets formally for one class period per week and minutes of the meetings are recorded. Students are referred to the team through the SSS co-ordinator, referrals are discussed by the SSS team and appropriate interventions are agreed. The SSS co-ordinator reports on these decisions to the relevant year heads and form teachers. When considered necessary by the SSS team, a student will be put “on report”. A guidance counsellor then meets the student and explains the procedure to him using a report card. Parents are contacted by the HSCL co-ordinator so that they can support the school in operating the system. The guidance counsellor monitors progress in a supportive way and based on the responses of the teachers, who record the student’s behaviour during classes on the report card, the student may go “off report”. This system of combining monitoring of behaviour with the provision of appropriate personal support is commended.
The principal meets formally with the guidance counsellors every week and informally on a regular basis. Students are referred to the guidance counsellors by the year heads , the class tutors, through the SSS co-ordinator or they may self refer. The school is commended for establishing links and availing of the services that can assist it in providing the supports necessary to meet the particular needs of some of its students. It has established links with a wide range of outside support services and an outside counsellor attends the school for two days every week. When considered necessary, students are referred to the counsellor or to one of the outside services. There are a number of specialist counselling services to which students can be referred, these include: The child and Adolescent Mental Health Service of the Mater University Hospital; Pieta House Centre for the Prevention of Self-Harm or Suicide; St Benedict’s Resource Centre; Teen (Between); Teen Counselling Mater Dei; Northside Counselling Service. The Family Support Agency of the Department of Social and Family Affairs provides funding for the Rainbows-Spectrum programme which operates in the school. It also provides resources for personal counselling for students if required. The school has not had the service of a psychologist from the National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) for two years. The support provided by the NEPS psychologist in the past was valued by the school.
The school also has links with a range of other support services which include: Artane Drugs Awareness Project; Parents Alone Resource Centre; The Juvenile Liaison Officer attached to Coolock Garda Station; Northside Community Law Centre; St Vincent de Paul Education Programme; St John’s Education Centre; the Youth Leadership Programme of the Northside Partnership. A list of all of the outside support services is included in the guidance plan.
The school has a critical incident response policy which sets out in detail the procedures to be followed in the event of a critical incident. There is a critical incident management team. The critical incident policy is a model of good practice.
Guidance planning is well advanced in Chanel College. There is a planning team which is co-ordinated by one of the guidance counsellors. It comprises the guidance counsellors and other relevant members of staff including the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) co-ordinator. It is recommended that representatives of students, parents and the local community should be co-opted onto the planning team. Input from these representatives could assist the team in identifying priorities for development, in evaluating the plan and in making links with relevant agencies and businesses. One of the priorities identified by the planning team for implementation is the distribution of a questionnaire to students and parents to ascertain their views about the guidance programme. The students’ and parents’ representatives could assist in the planning, distribution, collection and analysis of the questionnaire.
The guidance planning team meets formally every month and reports to the principal on the outcomes of the meetings. The team uses the document prepared by School Development Planning Initiative (SDPI) Planning the School Guidance Plan and the document prepared by the Inspectorate of the Department Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the Implications of Section 9 ( c) of the Education Act 1998, relating to students’ access to appropriate guidance, as aids in the planning process. It is recommended that the document Planning the School Guidance Programme, published by the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) should also be included as a reference. There is a template, designed to assist schools in developing their guidance plan available on the Department’s web site (www.education.ie). It is recommended that the planning documents, related documents and policies should be maintained in a separate folder to ensure greater clarity in reading the plan.
The planning team uses the action plan template from the SDPI planning document to set out priorities for development. One of the priorities is to provide a half-day’s input on guidance to all staff members with a view to having them more informed and more involved in the delivery of the guidance programme. This strategy to involve subject specialists in the guidance programme is commended as good practice.
The plan sets out the educational, personal and career activities for each year group. There is close collaboration between SPHE and Guidance in the planning and delivery of the guidance programme to junior cycle students. This is good practice.
There are no timetabled guidance classes for junior cycle students. Classes are provided by arrangement with other teachers. First-year students are provided with an anti-bullying programme and an input on study skills and motivation. They sample all optional subjects during the first term. The guidance counsellor takes each class at the end of the sampling period to assist students in choosing their optional subjects. It is recommended that the students and their parents should be referred to the Leaving Cert and Junior Cert Subject Choice module on the Qualifax website (www.qualifax.ie ) to assist them in making their choices. This sampling provision by the school is good practice as it ensures that students make informed choices based on experience and knowledge of what is involved in the study of each of the optional subjects on the junior cycle curriculum of the school.
The second-year programme concentrates mainly on issues related to personal development and is delivered through SPHE. The guidance planning team has identified as a priority the need to provide more educational and career guidance for second-year students. In the course of the inspection the possible content of a guidance module was discussed with the guidance counsellors and with the acting deputy principal. The module might include: activities to assist students in identifying their personal strengths and interests; the linking of the subjects they are studying to career areas; an introduction to career web sites; preparation to undertake a career investigation project.
Third-year students are introduced to information and communication technology (ICT) for guidance purposes and they complete interest inventories which are available on a number of web sites. It is recommended that these activities should be covered in the second-year programme. Students receive assistance with programme and subject choice for senior cycle. A booklet has been prepared to assist students and their parents in the process of subject choice. The information contained in the booklet is comprehensive and is an excellent resource which is tailored for the students in Chanel College. Students who may intend leaving the school after the Junior Certificate are met individually by a member of the guidance team to discuss their options.
There are currently two classes in Transition Year (TY). There are two timetabled classes per week in Guidance for TY classes. TY students undertake the Be Real Game, complete interest inventories; use ICT to access information; and undertake a career investigation project. Activities around personal development are included in the programme. Students attend career events and make programme and subject choices for the Leaving Certificate. The school puts forward the names of up to four TY students to participate in a youth leadership programme which is run by the Northside Partnership. TY students participate in work experience. The TY guidance programme is comprehensive and relevant and is commended
The school offers the Leaving Certificate (Established) and the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) to senior cycle students. The Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme was discontinued but it is planned to reintroduce it. The guidance programme for fifth-year and sixth-year students is comprehensive and relevant. There are two timetabled guidance classes per week for fifth-year students. The school participates in the higher education Access programme and is linked to Dublin City University (DCU). Through the programme students participate in a number of activities organised by DCU. They participate in a study skills seminar delivered by an outside organisation. The guidance programme includes: an introduction to the Central Applications Office (CAO) system; an introduction to apprenticeships; research on further education courses and opportunities; preparation of curriculum vitae and applications for employment. Information on third level grants and scholarships is provided. If required students are met by a member of the guidance team on a one-to-one basis for educational or career guidance. LCVP students participate in work experience. The fifth-year guidance programme is commended as it provides students with relevant information in good time to assist them in considering their options. It also helps them to develop personal skills in self-management.
There are no timetabled guidance classes for sixth-year students. Guidance inputs are provided through other classes by special arrangements with subject teachers. This arrangements works well as much of the groundwork in guidance is done during fifth year. Students are met individually for educational and career guidance. They attend career events and presentations made by guest speakers and by the admissions officers from third level colleges. They attend a study skills seminar delivered by an outside organisation. Through the Access programme students attend Easter revision classes and, as appropriate, make third level applications through the Higher Education Access Route (HEAR). The guidance counsellor also delivers the guidance-related units of the link modules, to students taking the LCVP. It is recommended that students have greater access to ICT for guidance purposes as the most up-to-date information about third level and further education courses and training is available on the relevant web sites.
In addition to the links that the school has established with support services, it also has links with third level colleges, Youthreach, The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) which is located in DCU, American Bank, Crown Paints, the local Chamber of Commerce, colleges of further education and training. One of the priorities identified by the planning team is to increase the links with businesses and this is good.
A fifth-year class was visited and a guidance lesson was observed. The lesson plan was made available to the inspector. The topic of the lesson was CAO application procedure and the lesson plan clearly set out the objectives and learning outcomes of the lesson, the lesson content, and the resources to be used. The lesson commenced with a roll call and folders were handed out.
The lesson was a follow-up to the previous one where students had used the web site Qualifax to research courses in the CAO system. The objectives of the lesson were to explain how the CAO application form should be filled in and to assist students in completing a form accurately. The guidance counsellor used a laptop and data projector to demonstrate how the CAO form should be completed. Students were then supplied with college prospectuses and a list of college courses and codes. They were required to identify the codes of the courses they might want to apply for and to fill in a CAO form manually as practice. The guidance counsellor answered questions and circulated to assist students in the process. The lesson was well planned and delivered effectively. The introduction to the CAO process in fifth-year is timely and provides students with the opportunity to become familiar with the procedures involved. The use of ICT as a teaching tool is commended as good practice.
There was excellent rapport between the guidance counsellor and the students. The students engaged with the activity, they displayed maturity in the questions they asked and worked independently when required. As a homework exercise, they were asked to access the CAO web site to become more familiar with the application system. This is a good homework exercise.
The following tests are administered to incoming first-year students: The Group Reading Test (NEFR Nelson); the Non-Reading Intelligence Test; Single word Spelling Test; Mathematics Assessment for Learning and Teaching (MaLT). The results of the tests are used to identify students who may require learning support and to ensure that all classes are constituted on the basis of mixed ability. This is good practice.
Students in third year and in subsequent years complete a range of interest inventories which are available on career web sites. The use of aptitude tests is under review. In reviewing the inclusion of aptitude tests in the guidance programme, it is recommended that the issue should be discussed by the guidance planning team and that the views of the students and parents should be sought. Aptitude tests can assist students in identifying their strengths and can be of value when choosing subjects for the Leaving Certificate. However, if students have undertaken activities to help them identify their academic strengths while they are in junior cycle, the use of aptitude tests for decision-making in senior cycle may have limited value.
The initial destination of past students is tracked. It is recommended that the information obtained from tracking students’ initial destination after they leave school should be analysed by the guidance counsellors and used to inform their future work.
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(s) and with the principal , at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.
Published December 2009