An Roinn Oideachais agus Eolaíochta
Department of Education and Science
Subject Inspection of Guidance
Dromcollogher, County Limerick
Roll number: 71850B
Date of inspection: 28 September 2006
Date of issue of report: 22 February 2007
Report on the Quality of Provision in Guidance
This report has been written following a subject inspection in Hazelwood College, 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, deputy principal (the DP is also the principal guidance counsellor in the school) and with other guidance counsellors, viewed facilities for Guidance, 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, deputy principal (in his role as guidance counsellor).
Hazelwood College is a rural vocational school within the Co. Limerick VEC. It serves a wide catchment area and has approximately 15 feeder primary schools. Most of its students are from rural areas, with mixed social backgrounds. There is a commitment to providing for the holistic development of all students in the school and to assisting them in maximising their potential. There is a very low drop-out rate before the Leaving Certificate and a high percentage of the students gain places in third level institutions. The school attributes this to the supports it provides for its students and also to its participation in the University of Limerick (UL) and Mary Immaculate College of Education (MIC) Access programmes. However, as the school is not included in the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) initiative, from this year it will no longer qualify for participation in these Access programmes. This is causing great concern as the school fears that without the additional supports provided by the Access programmes many students will not now consider third level options or avail of places offered.
There are currently just over 500 students (this includes 37 Post Leaving Certificate (PLC) students) enrolled. The PLC students are not based in the new school but are integrated with Vocational Training Opportunities Scheme (VTOS) students in another campus in the town.
Based on the 05/06 enrolment, the school has 17 hours per week for Guidance in the current academic year. Three guidance counsellors deliver the Guidance programme and have a total of 15 hours allocated to them. Three of the hours are allocated to the PLC students. The Guidance programme for the PLC students is delivered by a guidance counsellor who is employed by the VEC under the Adult Education Guidance Initiative (AEGI). This guidance counsellor does not deliver any of the Guidance programme in the school. The deputy principal is the main provider of Guidance with eight hours and the remaining four hours are allocated to the third qualified guidance counsellor who is also the Home School Community Liaison officer for the school. Guidance classes are timetabled for Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) years 1 and 2. Apart from classes that are borrowed or provided when teachers are absent Guidance is delivered on a one-to-one basis. All first, fifth and sixth year students are met individually and students in any year can be referred to the guidance counsellors by year heads, if considered necessary. Students can also self refer. There is a Student Support Team in the school which comprises the two guidance counsellors, the special needs co-ordinator and the year head of first years. The team meets for two class periods each week. This structured approach to the provision of supports for students is commended. Links with management are informal. The school has links to two Health Service Executive areas, Cork and Limerick, where it can access social workers and a clinical psychologist when required. It is also served by a NEPS psychologist who assesses mainly students with special needs. There are links with the local doctors and when necessary students are referred through them for counselling which is provided by local qualified counsellors. The school pays for counselling when required and the guidance counsellors liaise with the counsellors. There is a homework club in operation in the school.
As the two guidance counsellors who are based in the school have other responsibilities, their offices are shared between their two functions. Both offices are well equipped and have a computer, internet access, telephone and storage. There is a file on each student which is maintained by the guidance counsellors but can be accessed by relevant members of staff and by the crisis response team. The school is very well equipped with ICT facilities and there are additional computers in the library for students to use for Guidance purposes.
A crisis response team was set up initially to prepare a strategy to deal with issues around suicide but its remit has now extended to include other crisis situations. Five teachers, including the two guidance counsellors, are trained in responding to the consequences of suicide. The team works with a link person in the VEC who in turn works between the VEC and the Health Service Executive. The guidance counsellor who is also the deputy principal is the school’s child protection liaison officer.
The school operates an anti-bullying week each year which includes awareness raising activities. As part of the activities, all students attend a play around bullying issues. The school is commended for addressing this issue and for the level of awareness among staff members of the many kinds of bullying that can operate in a school setting.
For students who do not participate in sports, there is a lunchtime programme of board games.
Students are tracked after they leave school and their first destination is documented. Irish classes and a summer camp conducted in the Irish language are run in conjunction with MIC.
The school is forming an orchestra this year and Music is offered on the curriculum. A musical or concert is staged annually.
Formal planning of the Guidance programme has commenced. A planning team is being established and is expected to be operational by early October 06. The two school based guidance counsellors are currently participating in the training course on Guidance planning which is run by the National Centre for Guidance in Education (NCGE) and this is commended. This course is operated through a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) with attendance at a number of workshops. It is recommended that the planning team consult the following to assist them in developing the plan: the NCGE document, Planning the School Guidance Programme, the Inspectorate’ document Guidelines for Second Level Schools on the Implications of Section 9 ( c) of the Education Act 1998, relating to students’ access to appropriate guidance, and the template on Guidance planning available on the Department’s website.
The school implements a comprehensive transition programme for its incoming students which is commended. All feeder schools are visited by the guidance counsellors and prospective students are invited to the school to experience secondary school life and to attend classes which are provided specially for them. The HSCL officer visits the parents of students as appropriate, and contact is made with the parents of students with special needs. There is an open night for parents where they are invited to meet with the guidance counsellors. Subject choices are made in the May preceding entry. There is scope however for students to change their options if they are unhappy with their choice. There is some take up of non traditional subject options by boys and girls, but generally take up is along traditional lines. It is recommended that the school review this and seek ways to become more proactive in encouraging take up of subject options based on ability, interest and career opportunities rather than on gender stereotyping. All incoming students are administered the AH 2/3 and the Cloze Reading Test in the November preceding entry.
The first day of the new school year is reserved for first year students to assist them in becoming familiar with the school. All first year students are met individually by a guidance counsellor. These interviews take place in the first term during which their interests, hobbies and subjects are discussed. Any difficulties being experienced by a student are identified and discussed. During the first term all first year students spend a week in an outdoor education centre and the guidance counsellor attends the centre during the week in order to develop the student/guidance counsellor relationship. There is also a “buddy system” in place whereby Transition Year students act as mentors for first years. The guidance counsellor works closely with this initiative to address any difficulties. The guidance counsellor also works closely with the Social, Personal and Health Education (SPHE) team and this is commended as there is an overlap between aspects of the SPHE and Guidance curricula and the planning and delivery of these can be integrated. As part of the Access programme, first years visit UL and undertake a scrapbook project on the college. This project is now in doubt due to the non inclusion of the school in DEIS. There are no formal Guidance classes for first years.
Classes are borrowed for Guidance for second year students. Individual students are met by the guidance counsellor if referred by teachers or year heads or if they self refer.
All third year students are met individually before they sit the Junior Certificate examination. The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATS) are administered in the second term and students and parents are provided with information about the senior cycle programme options available in the school. Students make their subject choice for senior cycle after discussions with the guidance counsellor and after receiving their DATS results. A number of students from the current third year are included in an initiative funded and supported by the rural development partnership company “West Limerick Resources” and by the County Limerick VEC. Through this initiative, funding is available to provide extra tuition for these students as required.
It is recommended that Guidance classes for junior-cycle students be timetabled to assist students in developing self management skills such as: study skills, time management, coping with stress, awareness of own learning style, teamwork skills, examination technique, understanding the value of education and connecting it to life in society (personal, social and economic), understanding the importance of subject choice and level of study, introduction to independent learning, introduction to ICT as a tool to access guidance related information. Some of these topics can be delivered in conjunction with SPHE.
Transition Year is optional but is promoted by the school. The TY Guidance programme includes visits to higher level institutions, work shadowing with UL students, work experience, visits to career events, career investigation and an introduction to Qualifax. Speakers are invited into the school to provide information on specific careers. For the first time, a designated careers’ night has been arranged in the school when all speakers will be invited to visit on the same evening. All senior-cycle students will attend the event which the guidance counsellors consider will be of greater value to them as they can choose to attend talks in areas of interest to them. It was reported that TY students study all subjects on the school’s senior-cycle curriculum.
Students may opt to take either the Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP) or the Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) programme in senior cycle. The fifth year Guidance programme is similar to that of TY but also includes the link modules that form part of the LCVP and the LCA Vocational Preparation and Guidance module. All fifth year students are met individually and may change their optional subjects after consultation with the guidance counsellor and parents. They attend a study skills seminar and visit FÁS, Higher Options, and college open days. They have access to ICT for Guidance purposes.
All sixth years are met individually three times during the year. They attend the seminar on study skills and prepare for attending Higher Options in order to maximise its value. They also prepare for CAO application and college choice. The Access programmes provide additional support for those students who require it. Students continue to receive the Guidance related modules which form part of LCVP and LCA. The necessity to meet with all sixth years individually three times should be reviewed. This should be considered in the context of the guidance counsellor being available to see those students who may require more than three interviews. Independent research on courses, careers and other relevant Guidance issues should be encouraged from junior cycle.
The Guidance programme for PLC students includes a programme of personal development and preparation for the world of work. Students are interviewed individually and participate in group activities with the aim of developing self management skills. They prepare CVs, make job applications, plan for interviews, engage in mock interviews, carry out career research. These activities are combined with the development of personal skills.
There are parent teacher meetings for all year groups and in addition there is an open day for the whole school community, including incoming students and their parents, on the 2nd Saturday of September each year. Parents are invited to visit teachers in their rooms on open day. The guidance counsellor gives a formal presentation and parents are invited to make an appointment with the guidance counsellor as required. The HSCL officer visits parents as necessary and liaises with the student support team.
The two school based guidance counsellors are currently participating in the NCGE VLE course on Guidance planning. They are not attending personal supervision. It is recommended that they should be facilitated to attend the professional supervision which is organised through the Institute of Guidance Counsellors.
There are only two timetabled Guidance classes and on the day of the inspection visit the LCA students who have these classes were engaged in out of school activities. It was not possible therefore to observe a Guidance class. Access to a sixth year class was arranged and aspects of Guidance were discussed. All of the students were very positive about the Guidance programme they have received to date. The aspects they found most helpful were: the advice they received about subject choice and its relationship to particular areas of study, the information they received about course and career options, the visits to career events and the information they received from visiting speakers. All expressed a desire to have more Guidance with suggestions that there should be Guidance classes and that it should be integrated more into the Leaving Certificate programme. A desire for more time to carry out independent research on courses and careers was also expressed.
The AH 2/3 and the Cloze Reading Test are administered to the incoming first years in the November preceding entry to the school. The tests are used to identify students who may require additional support when they come to the school. Classes are taught in mixed ability groupings in first year. It is recommended that the school review the use of the AH tests as these tests do not have Irish norms and have not been updated.
The Differential Aptitude Tests (DATS) are administered to third years. Students receive feedback on their performance on these tests in the context of choosing subjects for senior cycle. Parents are encouraged to participate in this process.
Students are referred to the NEPS psychologist for assessment if they experience difficulties making academic progress.
Tracking of students’ destinations is part of the Guidance programme.
A file on each student is set up by the guidance counsellor when he/she enters the school and is added to throughout their time in the school. The files are kept in a secure filing cabinet in the guidance counsellor’s office.
The following are the main strengths and areas for development 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 guidance counsellor, who is also the deputy principal, and with the principal at the conclusion of the evaluation when the draft findings and recommendations of the evaluation were presented and discussed.